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Posts tagged “Divas

Another Paige in the Book of Underrated Brilliance

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I was going to do a review of the PPV last night, but I think I’ll hold off on it.  Short form: I enjoyed it.  I thought the Wyatt Family would win the tag titles, but I was also of the mindset that if they won then Bray would win later as well, and I knew Bray wasn’t going to reign victorious.  It was a terrific match all the same: the Usos and the Wyatt Family have some good chemistry.

The briefcase ladder match was excellent, arguably the highlight of the evening, and it did the impossible in letting us think for ONE moment that Kofi Kingston was actually going to succeed, and the crowd was behind him too, which was even more incredible.  Did I get mad at the interference by Kane to help Seth Rollins win?  No.  Because “Plan B” is a terrific scapegoat, and while I didn’t care who won this match I was big on how it all played out.

Big E took on Rusev, and lost.  Again.  Proving that America is weak compared to the almighty force that is a Bulgarian with an American manager praising Russia (Reverend Father Pastor Uncle Sam Big E Langston the Third must not be preaching right).  I anticipate he’ll want a rematch soon.  And he’ll lose again.  Because… he does that.

Layla fought Summer Rae.  Layla beat Summer Rae.  But the focus wasn’t on those two but Fandango, who is likely grinning like Ludacris in a Ciara video anytime someone brings up this storyline.  Even so, he did deliver the line of the night when he said, “Fandango loves triangles.”  Me too, Dango.  Me too.  A lot of us do.

The brothers Rhodes took on Ryback and Axel, and for the life of me I wonder if Dusty was around them when they were children.  The gimmick is one thing.  The way Goldust was feeling up his brother upon their victory made me raise an eyebrow.  I mean, I can only look at Dusty here: the two are half-brothers, SOMETHING has to be in Dusty’s genes.

And of course, our main event pitted eight superstars against each other for the coveted dual belts of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship title, and while it wasn’t as exciting as the briefcase battle, it was more intense.  We were dealing with more grounded superstars, not flyers who leap from ladders and to ropes and then to the floor (another highlight, and a rather impressive one due to its flow).  Cena won, and that was no surprise.  Like I said, he and Orton were the safe choices, and perhaps that exactly what we need right now.  I assumed Orton would win, but I just wanted the tension that would come from Orton and Rollins being potential enemies so suddenly after they came together.  That can fester for a bit though.  More interesting to have a potential little feud between Rollins and Cena, but since it’s going to be Cena vs. the Authority… at least until they bring Lesnar back to the fray.  It’s all a web, but it’s easy to navigate.

Oh, and Adam Rose fought Damian “Paul Revere” Sandow.  Sandow is forever underrated and this match proved it yet again.  Here’s hoping they do him right in the future.

I think that’s it.  Uh… oh, wait, I forgot one match.  It was the second one, and it was for the Divas Championship.  Paige, the champ, took on Naomi, and it was the best match on the card.  Now what does that mean?  It means that as far as a wrestling match goes, no gimmicks, no fanfare, no bullshit, it was far and away the finest match in Boston that evening.

Imagine that?  In fact, it was a good night for Divas wrestling both qualitatively and quantitatively.  From the perspective of quantity, there were two.  One focused on Fandango’s love for triangles (it still cracks me up) and thus NOT the actual Divas, and the other focused on two athletes who can actually wrestle.  Quality wise, both matches were pretty good.

Eh.

Well, the title match was terrific, the other was okay.  Layla kicking Summer Rae will always be worth watching.  In any case, the awesome match put on by Paige and Naomi was met by the crowd with a lack of enthusiasm.  Shameful.  I can assume that this is partially because it was a Divas match, and that doesn’t sit right with me.  At what point do we turn our nose up at something the second we hear what it is?  Who does that?  Maybe it’s just me, but we should never judge a book by its cover (the cover this time is a Divas match).  To know a book’s worth, you have to read it through and through, page by page, resisting the urge to add an “I” to those words when they come up.

But let’s talk about the match and some of the build up.  It started with Paige fighting other Divas, because that’s what you do in the WWE: you fight people.  Eventually it came to Naomi, because Alicia Fox isn’t so much a thing anymore.  While the athletics of Naomi and Paige were never in question, it did come down to the possible feud.  The showings between the two have always seemed tense, even a bit aggressive, but respectful.  Enter Cameron, who is there because… I don’t know: let’s say because she’s light-skinned.  She comes through as “My time is now!” and whatnot, and even when Naomi was taking on Fox the other day, the focus of the commentary was on Paige and Cameron, who were arguing over something or the other, it doesn’t matter.

This is a glaring issue with this is how it seems like the Divas aren’t a priority in the company, and this dialogue and commentary doesn’t help.  I spent a minute tweeting about the match and the nonsense surrounding it, nearly exacerbated because I was actually pretty excited to see Paige vs. Naomi.  Sadly, as I’ve been saying:

https://twitter.com/da_infamous_DiZ/status/481235514096631808

https://twitter.com/da_infamous_DiZ/status/481235797442842624

https://twitter.com/da_infamous_DiZ/status/481236030897799168

https://twitter.com/da_infamous_DiZ/status/481236489062604800

Paige has been misused so far, and I don’t often say that anything has been misused.  Dolph Ziggler?  Possibly.  Zack Ryder?  Most definitely.  Kofi Kingston?  Perhaps.  And I’m sure they all have a story to tell, but Paige herself was doomed from the start by the virtue of her being brought in as a replacement for AJ.  You can try and convince me otherwise all you want, but from how she just won the title off of her to how at one point they had her dressing like her, Paige was brought in not because she’s arguably the best female wrestler alive (citation needed) but because AJ was going on sabbatical.  And it shows.  And it fucks with me because she deserves much better.

More than that: they just aren’t developing her character.  Like I fear Prince Devitt and KENTA might be in their WWE matriculations, she might be best served as a trainer or one who puts others over.  We know all three of the aforementioned can wrestle: KENTA could come into the company as a mid-card powerhouse with the sole intent to get revenge on the Second City Saint and the American Dragon for stealing his maneuvers (GTS and Busaiku Knee Kick respectively), but he could also be in the training facilities acclimatizing indie cats to the WWE style, or playing with the WWE style of wrestling himself.

But when it comes to developing character, especially with the Divas Champion, we’ve gotten little to nothing.  We know she was the NXT Women’s Champion, the FIRST NXT Women’s Champion, and we know that she’s one of the youngest champions in the WWE’s history.  We know she won it off of AJ in an impromptu match, but that’s all we’ve gotten from the whole of character arc.  Otherwise she’s your stereotypical babyface: she goes in, gets beat up, hulks up, straps on an impressive submission and wins.  That’s all fine and good, but it’s not great, and we know Paige is great.

Say what you will about Alicia Fox and the mess she was doing (might still be doing): they gave her character.  They let her develop that character. I remember Space Jam and how much I never really liked Lola Bunny.  She was okay I suppose, but she wasn’t a character so much as a caricature, a female counterpart to Bugs with breasts.  Fast forward a few years and you get The Loony Tunes Show.  Lola is in this too, but she’s a ditzy, well-meaning bunny obsessed with Bugs and from a rich family.  You know what that is?  Character.  And over the seasons, that character actually developed.  It’s the same with Alicia Fox.  At one point the only thing that defined her was how she kind of looked like Rihanna when she dyed her hair (and before that an “affair” with Edge (yeah, that’s right, I remember that!)).  Now she’s a spoiled brat who throws a tantrum anytime she wins OR loses.  She steals hats and paraphernalia, and yells at the crowd.  It’s not a perfect character but it is character.

When she and Paige were going to blows, it was one of my greatest complaints: she had character and Paige was merely the champion.  And after the little feud faded, Paige is still merely champion and Fox is somewhere or the other.  People were booing Fox and cheering Paige, somewhat, but I’m pretty sure they were booing Fox because she had personality, and kind of cheering Paige because she wasn’t Fox.  Personality and character go a long way: it’s hard to root for a character when you don’t know why  you should cheer for them.

https://twitter.com/da_infamous_DiZ/status/481234713495887874

https://twitter.com/da_infamous_DiZ/status/481234863589429249

I sit back and ponder on how big Paige could be if she wasn’t there to make the other Divas look better.  Corbin once alluded to how Paige might be greater than AJ because she can bring championship level material out of her opponents, and sure enough that’s a prerequisite for being a great worker in the business, but what else?  AJ had character, arcs, storylines and something (don’t ask me what that something is, it’s just a something) that other Divas, hell, other superstars period didn’t have, and she used it.  It was one thing that she could beat you in the ring: it was another that she could navigate between insanity and calm collectedness, face tactic and heel tactic; it was almost as if she was absorbing the mic work of Punk and improved ring work of Bryan (or maybe all Punk, I don’t know).  But she was given time and arcs to deal with, from jilted girlfriend, to abusive relationship girlfriend, to GM, to Best Diva in the World.  And Paige, so far, has none of that.  Just tremendous talent and hopefully time.

I hate to beat a dead horse, but AJ’s absence is Paige’s open door, and she hasn’t been given much to work with.  Maybe she can do something more with it, maybe she’s literally working with everything she has, it’s hard to say, but until they actually invest something in her more than just slapping the belt on her, she’s not going to be the breath of fresh air the Divas division needs.  It says something when the fans are more into (for better or worse) the grudge match between two women who want a guy who can’t say triangles without making someone laugh.  Much like the game Catherine or anything involving a twisted romantic triangle, it’s one of those scenarios that could have easily be solved had Fandango just stopped one of them and said, “I have a girlfriend”.  But that’s not compelling TV, is it?  Neither is Summer Rae implying she’s a natural blonde (oh my god, who the hell cares?!), and Layla pointing out her wonderful chest is something of an acquired taste.  One I acquired a long time ago but that’s neither here nor there; I just keep abreast of those kinds of things.  I mean, I’ve noticed them, I always have, I’d have to be knockers to not!  I mean bonkers.  It’s bust who I am.  Just.

Boobs.

It comes down to how unfortunate it is that someone who is blatantly talented can’t so much as get a response when she and another great talent put on the best match of a terrific evening of wrestling.  It’s terrible that the match two women have over a man who doesn’t care about either one of them garners more of a reaction than the quality that came on an hour before, even if the funbags were in full gear in the Layla/Rae match.  As I always say, praise and hatred are good: that shows that people are responding, even if they don’t appreciate you.  But apathy is death.  Apathy is worse.  Praise will bring someone to your funeral to mourn you.  Hatred will bring someone to your funeral to make sure you’re dead.  Apathy will keep someone at home watching Scooby-Doo and eating stale Pop Tarts, because somehow they let Pop Tarts get stale.

Now, everything above this paragraph was written before RAW, and now watching it we have the return of AJ.  She came back and promptly won the Divas Championship from Paige.  On one hand, it just goes on to confirm what I’ve been saying, and that’s disgusting.  On the other, it opens up the possibility that AJ and Paige can go on to feud and make even last night’s exquisite match seem tame in comparison.  Only time will tell, but for the love of God: can we PLEASE not just toss Paige aside?  She’s an awesome talent: she does not need to just fall to the wayside and simply be another page in the history of the Divas.  She can take the place that AJ occupied/occupies.

She can.

If that’s a tale they think deserves to be written.


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?

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


“I’ll Give You What For!” – The Truth About Originality

IGYWF“Imitation is the sincerest [form] of flattery.” – Charles Caleb Colton

Seriously; what is the deal with being “original?”

I could easily throw around cliché after cliché to prove a point here but it’s almost ridiculous how at this stage in the game pro wrestling fans will go out of their way to point out how one promotion is “obviously” copying off of another.  We’re not immune from doing such things here at L.E.W.D. Headquarters, so it makes me (in particular) highly qualified to speak on the subject and how annoying it is.

The fact of the matter is that no matter how much things change, people by and large hope and pray that everything remains exactly the same.  There are individuals still living in 2013 who believe in their heart of hearts that people of color shouldn’t be allowed to do anything except be seen.  There are people who believe that it’s poor people’s fault that they’re poor; there are men that still firmly believe women are objects, and there are folks who believe that they’ve amassed great amounts of wealth on their own without help from anyone living under the sun.

That’s just the ebb and flow of our society; a company introduces a new soft drink formula, people bitch and moan until Coca-Cola Classic returns to the shelves.  A beloved and not often discussed cartoon character gets killed, people bitch and moan so much that they barely notice or question the presence of the Family Guy rerun shown on December 1, 2013 in between all new episodes of The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, and American Dad.  People don’t really want anything original; we all want the same old s**t in brand spanking new packages.

For what it’s worth this is why some fans detest the WWE; the company continues to pander the same old s**t to their dismay, even if those same disgruntled fans won’t recognize the fact AND reality that the same old s**t earned the WWE $505 MILLION in revenue in the third quarter of 2013.  And exactly how much did your favorite company earn this past quarter…?

Back to the main point at hand; there is this unhealthy obsession with originality to the point where it’s sickening to read comments on who’s copying what and how one promotion did this or that to mask the fact that it read the predictability of their competition so well that it was able to rush a storyline to “prove” that they weren’t “copying” their competition.  Read that last sentence again and kindly remind yourself that pro wrestling fans also detest “predictability.”

Real talk: regardless of what anyone tells you, originality in the 21st century is about as dead as Juntao.  Ain’t s**t original about the iPhone 5sxlmfao, ain’t jack diddley original about the Xbox Seven or the PS99, and in the world of pro wrestling there is absolutely very little original stuff going on in any promotion that has a television deal with major or slightly minor network.  Hell, there just might be very little originality contained in this post you’re reading!

So why, I ask…why is it important for us fans to point out every single instance that a particular promotion is being “authentically original” with a storyline or character more so than any other promotion or corporate entity managed and operated by a carbon-based life form?  Better yet, why must one promotion be constantly identified as the creator of an idea or character?

cheatingThe first idea that immediately comes to mind is the concept of plagiarism, that thing we were told not to do throughout our entire  lives.  Copying another person’s work or stealing their intellectual property is a big no-no in this country, perhaps even around the world (I wouldn’t know what the laws are in Tibet because I live in the United States; never assume, you know…).  After all, if some individual spent an ungodly amount of time crafting or creating an idea or object only to have some d**k of a human being roll through, steal it, and claim it as his/her own, where is the justice in that?

The irony of it all is that we copy stuff that doesn’t belong to us all the time.  We copy things from text books, we copy songs off the radio and movies off of television.  Ideas for major motion pictures and even actor’s and actresses’ performances are based off of something else that has already happened or been expressed in some form or fashion.  Clothing styles from the 1980s have returned in 2013; gaming geeks are excited about Killer Instinct being ported to the Xbox One.  They made three Spider-Man movies with Toby Macguire before “re-booting” with the English dude.  Christian Bale was like the 80th Batman/Bruce Wayne, and if two movies with Michael Chiklis wasn’t enough they’re re-booting the Fantastic Four series; WHERE THE FACK IS THE ORIGINALITY EVERYBODY’S SO DAMNED EXCITED ABOUT?!?!?!?!

I surmise that “originality” is far more complicated than most would like to let on.  To critically think of “originality” makes people uncomfortable, and everyone loves being comfortable.  I surmise that most fans think of “originality” in a superficial sense, on a level that skims the surface of something they believe to be simple and about as deep as a kiddie pool.

To these fans, “originality” means coming up with an idea before someone else that no one else has even thought of.  That surely can’t be all to being “original,” because if it was, there are a ton of “original” ideas that tons of other pro wrestling fan analysts “stole” from yours truly.

I tend to view “originality” as something more intricate, something way more involved than just coming up with an idea we believe hasn’t seen the light of day by the time we have a god-like epiphany.  Originality is being able to take something—a concept, an object, an idea or a story—and present it in from a perspective that very few people have seen or acknowledged.  To an extent, originality is having the unique ability to take something and improve upon it in a way very few others have considered.

schooldazeFor example: movies about life in college have been done many many times over.  There are even movies about college life that are told from the perspective of certain groups of people, particularly African-Americans.  Movies like Spike Lee’s School Daze (a still from the movie of Giancarlo Esposito and Tisha Campbell-Martin is to the right), John Singleton’s Higher Learning, Charles Stone III’s Drumline and Sylvain White’s Stomp the Yard are all great examples of showcasing how Black folks deal with college and college-related issues.

Out of the four movies that I’ve named (and there are more, including George Jackson and Doug McHenry’s House Party 2), not nary a one of them have told the story of how a Black female lead character deals with with college and college related issues…that is an original story that’s waiting to be highlighted, filmed, backed and released by a major motion picture company.  Even Roger Kumble’s Disney kid-friendly film College Road Trip, starring African-American stars Martin Lawrence and Raven-Symone, deal more with the father’s perspective (Lawrence) on things than his daughter’s journey (Symone).  

The hysterically funny thing about it all is that I’m not the first person to make this observation about these types of films.

In pro wrestling originality has less to do with who came up with what idea or storyline first; instead, a promotion’s originality has everything to do with how a promotion can present that idea from a vantage point very few people saw coming or even knew existed.  If this is the criteria we use for condemning promotions for a lack of originality, then the top three would be guilty all day long without question or reasonable doubt.

Take the TNA Knockouts as another example.  I’ve contended for quite some time that something original within the division (and the company for that matter) would be to have the Knockouts featured in a major storyline line leading to a pay per view main event.  There are tons of arguments against such a idea, but when speaking of originality, which of the three major pro wrestling promotions have done that?

Instead of debating the pros and cons of trouncing down that path of originality, fans are left essentially arguing about apples and oranges when comparing the KOs to the Divas, all the while conveniently avoiding the conversation dealing with two Pacific Islander bodyguards protecting diminutive female champions…

gailleidAJ-Lee-Tamina-SnukaA third example can be seen in the WWE, where plans are good and underway for a Title Unification Match schedule for the upcoming TLC: Tables, Ladders, and Chairs pay per view.  World Heavyweight Champion John Cena will face off against WWE Champion Randy Orton in a TLC Match, where the winner will be declared the Unified/Undisputed/Irrefutable WWE World Heavyweight Champion.

This storyline doesn’t lack “originality” because it’s a “copy” of the title unification match that is forthcoming in TNA; rather, this storyline and the impending match lacks “originality” because it’s the same old s**t that happened or should have happened eons ago in WWE.  This relationship between John Cena and Randy Orton is something that the promotion tried their hand at long ago, the whole purpose being to paint Cena and Orton as the new age Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior.  To be honest they’re actually more like Hulk Hogan and Sid Justice, but that’s another story in and of itself.

This type of storyline is hard to swallow when the promotion has rested on its laurels for so long in creating new stars.  We could’ve had John Cena vs. Antonio Cesaro; we could’ve had a much better feud between John Cena and Damien Sandow.  We could’ve even had a rematch between John Cena and a night club…but yet we’re stuck here with an uninspired and unoriginal storyline that will ultimately lead to Cena being the WWE Champion once again with who knows what (and who cares) for the World Heavyweight Championship.  WWE doesn’t need TNA to be “unoriginal;” they do that very well on their own.

Thought I was boogie-jiving about the Hogan/Cena, Warrior/Orton thing?

Thought I was boogie-jiving about the Hogan/Cena, Warrior/Orton thing?

The bottom line is simple and sweet: we wrestling fans are way too intelligent to waste time bickering on the supposed superficial originality of one promotion over another.  All three major promotions are borrowing from one another liberally, and the excitement found within each promotion lies solely in how they tell their borrowed stories differently from the other guys.

It doesn’t matter which promotion came up with their Corporation vs. Little Guy storyline first; what matters is whether or not a given promotion tells that story better and differently than the other guys.

ROH, TNA, and CHIKARA all ran storylines that dealt with outside groups attempting to take control of each promotion.  Two of the three ended their angles with the promotion coming out on top, while the last promotion concluded with an angle that still has fans guessing, scratching their heads, and saying, “What the f**k just happened?”  Who, or what, is lacking “originality” in that department?

In the end we’re all still going to complain that a given promotion is “copying” off of another one, and that a given promotion has a creative team that is all over the place and must steal ideas from other promotions to remain afloat and relevant.  As text from a popular book says, “there is nothing new under the sun.”  There have always been title unification matches, there have always been factions, and the Pretty Mean Sisters (PMS) existed well before The Beautiful People and Laycool.  Never mind the fact or supposition that the promotions are copying one another; if we’re going to see the same damn stories over and over again, at least try not to insult our intelligence by telling it in a uniquely different way.

And if you find yourself celebrating a supposition that one promotion is copying another, at least try find something more compelling and thought provoking to dialogue about.


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!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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!


The Return of Quinn Pt. 10 (WWE)

We take a look at the WWE Diva’s Division, and what are some issues and interferences with what has kept them from prominence.

The Return of Quinn 2012-08-06 Pt. 10 (WWE)

And this is the final statement on the WWE overall atmosphere.

The Return of Quinn 2012-08-06 Pt. 10 (WWE Atmosphere)


RAW Review 4-30-12, a.k.a. “A Night of Lowered Expectations”

Another episode of Monday Night RAW is in the books, this one fresh off the heels of an extremely well produced and executed Pay-Per-View.

While most of us anticipated this particular showing of RAW to be off the charts as far as action, excitement, and entertainment is concerning, the actual end result was a tad bit…underwhelming.  If you read my previous piece, then you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say it was whelm deficient.

I’m sure many fans will disagree with that assessment for various reasons, but in my humble and 8-times-out-ot-10-right opinion, this show was just average; some pretty awesome things happened, but it was a particularly safe show and probably so on purpose.

Most of us here at L.E.W.D. learned long ago that not every show should be expected to be a five star offering; if this were to happen, then what exactly would a five star show be?  So habitually a company will offer a less than stellar show in order to bring fans expectations down slightly in order to enhance the potency of the next show or event.

Think of it like this: there was a reasonwhythe Divas match yesterday was placed between the CM Punk/Chris Jericho match and the Brock Lesnar/John Cena match.

Given that WWE Over the Limit is taking place in three weeks, it’s slightly understandable why the show lacked some chutzpah; the build for the WWE’s gimmick-less Pay Per View is potentially building up for the June 17 No Way Out event.  If you’ve seen the leaked poster for the Pay Per View, then you’ll too agree that tonight’s sub par showcase was a necessary evil.

With that intro out of the way, let’s look at a few of the things that made the show important:

  1. The Bellas get “fired;” Ash is partly wrong, and there’s a disturbance in the force.
  2. CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan at Over the Limit: Don’t blow your wad just yet.
  3. The Ace Crusher Returneth for John Cena

Eve fires both Bellas, opting not to renew their expiring contracts due to "the economy and budget cuts and all." Little known fact: Nikki Bella (left) has a lil' more meat on her bones than Brie #AshLikesTheThickOnes Photo: WWE.com © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Leave it to the WWE to throw another wrench in the plans of this idealistic sports entertainment pseudo-analyst…

I crafted quite the post yesterday detailing, in so many words, what I thought the WWE was going to do with the departing Bella twins.  My plans were whimsical and involved the missing-in-action WWE anti-Diva Kharma, the one person I was SURE would return tonight during the Bellas’ rematch to destroy the twins in one easy and swift motion.

At least I was right about the rematch…

My boss, a closet casual fan at best (which means he’ll talk about how silly pro wrestling is but will watch it with us for at least fifty minutes), made a very interesting comment after the Bellas’ blink-and-you’ll-miss-it title rematch:

Ash’s Boss -“Clearly there’s something more to the story than this…”

Ironically enough this singular thought from a semi-casual fan would serve as the theme for most of the show.  While we’ve yet to see even the slightest clue as to how Kharma will re-debut for the company, the Bellas’ weird departure has to be intertwined with a story line somehow, someway.

Curt Hawkins and Tyler Reks were “fired” in a similar fashion and they’ve received little corporate fanfare, noticeably missing the infamous “Best in all your future endeavors” WWE.com announcement that follows a release.  Only the WWE knows where they’re going with this, so we’ll just have to wait and see…

Words can't describe how epic this picture is...oh wait...YES! YES! YES! Photo: WWE.com © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved

In a move that shocked all of three fans in the WWE Universe, Daniel Bryan defeated Jerry Lawler in the Beat the Clock Challenge to become the #1 Contender for CM Punk’s WWE Title.  Suffice it to say that hundreds of thousands of WWE fans climaxed at this turn of events.

While this is great news for any fan of Punk and Bryan’s work together, this upcoming match is also something that we’ll have to watch unfold.  I’m not so sure we should get our hopes up so soon and mess ourselves over the anticipation of the match as opposed to the execution of the resulting story line and actual match.

CM Punk’s reign thus far can be summarized as five months of wrestling excellence. He’s actually wrestled everyone he’s had to defend his belt against; if we’re being honest with ourselves, Punk is actually one of the few “wrestling champions” out there.

But that’s about it; besides having a very strong showing during the street fight against Chris Jericho at Extreme Rules, Punk is still fighting for the one match/feud that will catapult him into super stardom.  He’s hungry for the match that will make his reign more important than John Cena.

With three weeks to go until the Over the Limit Pay Per View, there isn’t enough time for the WWE to craft such a feud between Punk and Bryan.  Sure it’s a great thing that we’ll get another classic wrestling match between two professional wrestlers that is guaranteed to get money, but it’s only going to play second fiddle to John Cena’s match against Johnny Ace.

This match is the answer to most fans’ prayers, but it is not and will not be Punk or Bryan’s defining WWE moment; that is still to come and we shouldn’t spooge our shorts until we get a better feel for how they’re going to build up to this match.  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…

I've kept the integrity of this picture to make a point; this is the man that was brutalized by Brock Lesnar 48 hours ago...at least he's wearing an arm sling. Let the hate begin. Photo: WWE.com © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Everyone was positive last night that Lord Tensai would be named as John Cena’s opponent at the Over the Limit Pay Per View.  I shuddered in my seat at the thought of that match mostly because…well…to me it just didn’t make sense.

But before we get to that point, we must recall that everyone was positive Sunday night that John Cena would be taking some much needed time off.  Cena’s cryptic speech at the conclusion of the Pay Per View, plus this tidbit from WWE.com had us all assuming that the Champ was going to gracefully bow out for awhile to heal himself.

Leave it to Mr. Invincible to do right by the fans and risk injuring himself even further for the business that he loves.  After defeating Brock Lesnar and summarily embarrassing the People Powered EVP of Talent Relations and the GM of both RAW and Smackdown,Cena had to return last night to reclaim his spot as the face of the company.

Earlier in the night, Johnny Ace attempted to redeem Brock Lesnar by bringing him out for whatever reason.  Lesnar’s mic time was spent explaining that his “loss” was really a “victory” seeing as all he intended to do was “bring the pain.”  And that is exactly what happened.

At that point, WWE COO Triple H entered the arena and attempted to put a leash on Ace’s monster…

Lesnar: "Me no likey ponytail man. Me want fly fly back...me want fly fly back NOW!" Photo: WWE.com © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Needless to say that didn’t work out well for the COO, who received a broken arm via the Kimora Lock from Lesnar.  Is it just me or does Triple H get beat up each time he comes out and tries to assert his authority as the COO?

Laurinaitis points a bony little finger at John Cena, intimidating the injured superstar greatly and causing fear to pool in the bottom of his jorts. Photo: WWE.com © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Laurinaitis then paints a picture for Cena, a pretty Crayola-drawn portrait of what he envisioned as the way to bring the best out of the superstar.  Cena and much of the audience in attendence hated Laurinaitis’ picture but, in a gesture of good will, promised to place in on the refrigerator for everyone to see.

Lord Tensai creeps into the picture and is teased as Cena’s upcoming opponent in one month.  As Cena hulked up and prepared for a two-on-one assault, Johnny Ace attacks him from behind and names himself as Cena’s challenger at the Pay Per View.

Oooh, burn! Photo: WWE.com © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved

This interesting turn of events left me feeling enthused and confused at the same time; I was conthused

While terribly happy that Lord Tensai would be far away from a Pay Per View match against Cena, I was bewildered at the progression of Cena’s story line in the form of one John Laurinaitis.  A parking lot conversation with DiZ cleared up a lot of that confusion, but also left me wanting more.

I guess that’s the purpose of a decent show, to leave fans eagerly anticipating the next show by giving them a cliff-hanging ending that reels them deeper into the story.  But a match between these two Johns, both of whom tend to excel in providing moments of blandness, kind of reminds me of the match between Vince McMahon and Bret Hart.  Who is going to carry who in this match?

Those thoughts aside, the development has intrigued me and much like the rest of the show, we’ll just have to…wait and see…

In the end, those are just my thoughts; the real question is, what do YOU think???


Extreme Rules Aftermath: Thoughts on Nikki Bella/Layla Divas Championship Match

Today fans of sports entertainment are collectively basking in the afterglow of last night’s WWE Extreme Rules Pay-Per-View.  As we regale one another with fond memories of the event, one of the best WWE produced events so far this year, we should take some time to discuss one match that has been grossly overlooked by at least ninety percent of the company’s supporters and detractors.

That match is the Divas Championship match between Nikki/Brie Bella and the returning Layla.

Brie and Nikki Bella trash talking their yet to be named opponent at Extreme Rules 2012. Photo: WWE.com © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved

For years the WWE has seemingly ignored the obstreperous clamoring of certain fans that have taken the company to task for defaming the legacy of women’s wrestling in sports entertainment.  The message board diatribes and blog worthy musings of such analysts have indeed become legendary in their own right, often resulting in numerous fans tacitly agreeing that Vince McMahon could care less about allowing women to shine just as much (if not brighter) than their male counterparts.

Unfortunately such logic, as observant and subjective as it may be, is not entirely true.  The reception of Layla’s return last night and her subsequent win over Nikki/Brie Bella, if anything, have proven that those fans who point accusatory fingers at the WWE in regards to women’s wrestling are aiming three equally venomous and loathsome digits back at themselves.

While last night’s Divas match was far from a classic, five-star encounter between Ric Flair and Antonio Inoki, it was far from the fluff that the WWE typically offers fans on Monday and Friday nights.  Four things made Layla’s match against the Bellas better than what we’ve been offered thus far:

  • It lasted longer than sixty seconds or less…
  • It did not end with a roll-up…
  • There was a decisive pin-fall victory after the successful execution of a finishing maneuver
  • It didn’t involve Kelly Kelly.

Despite popular belief, the WWE landscape (and the pro wrestling landscape in general for that matter) is indeed changing, and the fresh winds of those changes are sweeping ever so softly through the company like a gentle summer breeze.

Human beings, however, like to complain.  While some would say that humans like to complain for the sake of complaining, it could be argued that human beings simply prefer to be proven right.  As such, complaining is a way of seeking approval, acceptance and validation from one’s peers or social group.

Therefore if one dislikes something, one will turn to their social group via social media and air his/her grievances in hopes that at least one other person feels the same way.  Once a group has gathered to support a particular grievance, the “complaining” will continue because it is a method of feeling accepted for the person who started the whole thing in the first place.

Fans who have become disenfranchised by the WWE’s obvious disregard for women’s wrestling rally together to complain and piss on everything the company does related to women’s wrestling.  The negative effect of this process is that these fans become too jaded after a certain point to either acknowledge or appreciate good women’s wrestling when they witness it.

When it comes to Divas matches, these same fans will pick and pull at anything they can in order to continue to wallow in the cesspool of their misappropriated hatred of the WWE’s treatment of women’s wrestling.  Again, even if the WWE does something right by these women, someone somewhere will grab the slightest bit of nothing and politely poop over the entire athletic affair.

Back to last night’s match…

Layla eats a dropkick to the knee from Nikki Bella at Extreme Rules 2012. Photo: WWE.com © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved

The first level of disappointment came for fans when Head Administrator (pun intended?) Eve Torres made it known that Beth Phoenix was not medically cleared to wrestle (something that our very own Mr. Quinn Gammon knew via text message from the WWE forty minutes prior to that actual conversation taking place).

When the Bellas foolishly reveled in a brief moment of relief, they also remembered that Kharma was a) at least physically able to return to the ring, and b) hungry for their blood.  Poor way of foreshadowing her eventual return (which may happen tonight…fingers crossed…)…

Head Administrator Eve reassured the Bellas that Kharma would not be Nikki’s opponent, leaving us in the air as to who that opponent would actually be.  Immediately fans buried the match before it even had a chance to take place.

Imagine this scenario if you will: you’ve paid Brock Lesnar $5 million (or more) to appear for a certain number of dates for the WWE for 1 year.  You build a strong story line for him and John Cena, the company’s top star.

You have an excellent Pay-Per-View with excellent matches so far on the card, with one more before your main event.  Your crowd is emotionally spent yet hot for the final match, and you must calm them down before giving them the last match of an awesome night.

Would you, the plucky, intelligent, and “smart” fan that actually cares about women’s wrestling, debut a Diva you plan on pushing to the moon right before an epic battle between Brock Lesnar and John Cena given the circumstances of the Pay-Per-View?

God help us all if you said yes.  Moving right along…

The second level of disappointment came when Nikki and Brie entered the ring and grabbed the mic; most fans tuned out or took a bathroom break at that moment alone.

The third level of disappointment arrived when Michelle McCool’s music blast throughout the area.  Fans were instantly surprised at the sound of her music and were potentially delighted to witness the return of The Undertaker’s wife…who, to my knowledge, has made no uncertain remarks about a return to pro wrestling.

This is considered a level of disappointment because these fans that were “happy” at the potential of McCool’s return were also the same fans who politely shat on McCool and her abilities prior to her departure from the WWE.

The fourth level of disappointment, the most disconcerting level at that, was Layla’s return.

Despite having her knee worked over in the match, Layla managed to use "twin magic" against the Bellas to capture her first Divas championship last night at Extreme Rules. Photo: WWE.com © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved

WWE Diva Layla El, who suffered a knee injury one year ago at the May 1, 2011 Extreme Rules Pay-Per-View, returned last night to a largely lukewarm response from fans who were expecting Kharma and Michelle McCool in that order.  To call it a letdown for those fans would be a huge understatement.

The fans that found themselves whelm-deficient by her return are also the same fans who criticize the WWE for being too predictable.  Once again we’re subject to the hypocritical and moody musings of those who want to be “right” more than they want to be “entertained.”  It’s unfathomable how one can logically rant about a company being predictable and then gets mad when something they didn’t or couldn’t have predicted happens.

The fifth level of disappointment happened during and throughout the entire match; we’ll come back to this level in one moment.

The sixth level of disappointment happened when Layla defeated Brie Bella to become the new Divas Champion, which automatically sets up a rematch tonight on RAW for the title.  This can be considered a level of disappointment because all of the fans who were put off by the previous five levels now have one last cache of ammunition to fuel their vapid discourses.

Any fan that may have been slightly irked by any of the aforementioned levels of disappointment truly missed out on something special last night…

1. Nikki Bella wrestled her third straight match.

Nikki’s initial title victory over then-champion Beth Phoenix last week on RAW was an actual wrestling match, one where Beth was defeated with the dreaded roll-up but still managed to carry Nikki through a decent match that ended…wait for it…logically.

Nikki took advantage of a weakened champion whose abilities were compromised by an accidental injury.  Her victory didn’t come after a botched move or after thirty-five seconds of flailing around the ring.  In fact she did something that WWE superstar Edge would’ve done: she took advantage of an opportunity.

That match was followed up by non-title match against Alicia Fox on the April 27 episode of Smackdown.  Definitely far from a barnburner, the affair was still a credible showing given the assumed wrestling acumen of both Divas.  With a little twin magic, Brie Bella retained the title for her sister by utilizing a finishing maneuver, and not the dreaded roll-up.

These matches were capped off with a third actual wrestling match from Nikki Bella last night at Extreme Rules.  Three straight wrestling matches from the Divas and fans are still unsatisfied?  Inconceivable!

2. Layla returns and showed almost no sign of ring rust and virtually NOTHING of her former character traits.

Anyone who remembers Layla prior to her injury will recall that she played second fiddle to Michelle McCool.  She was McCool’s yes-woman, a tool the former Divas champion used in her quest to belittle Mickie James and Kelly Kelly.

Layla, as McCool’s yes-woman, also spent a good amount of time selling the offense of her opponents while McCool would sporadically wrestle decent matches.

I’m positive no one remembered that last night as she moved exceptionally well in the ring, particularly after coming off of a yearlong absence due to a knee injury.

Doesn’t seem like a big deal?  Take former WWE Diva Candace Michelle for example, the former Go Daddy dot com model-turned-wrestler who suffered a clavicle injury after a bad spill in the ring from the top rope.

Michelle returned to the WWE looking like a soccer mom, and her skills inside the ring were noticeably worse than before she left…which wasn’t anything to write home about in the first place.

Or take Kelly Kelly for example, who after wrestling in the WWE for going on six years now (starting from her ECW stint in Extreme Exposé) still can tell the difference between a wristlock and a shoelace.

So Layla returns after a major injury, works like thunder and lightning in a good match, and fans are still unsatisfied? Inconceivable!

3. The Bella Twins are leaving; Enter Kharma to escort them from the building.

Speculation has it that the Bellas’ WWE contract expires at the end of the month, which is ironically today.

Please recall that Kharma, who left the WWE after the May 30, 2011 episode of RAW, vowed to destroy the Bellas upon her return if they were still with the company…

…2+2=4…

What this means for Layla has yet to be determined, but the reality is that this appears to be a slow build to the growth and development of the division that we’ve all clamored for in one way or another.

Kharma gets a solid return to the company without overshadowing or being overshadowed by the big dogs (Cena and Lesnar).  The Bellas get to leave the company by putting over a rising star.  Layla gets an imminent threat to her championship; this is the stuff we’ve dreamed of and yearned for!

And fans are still unsatisfied? In-effin’-con-ceivable!

Bottom line is this, folks: last night’s Divas match between Nikki Bella and Layla was well done and executed by all parties involved, particularly the women who gave a good show in the ring.

With Kharma peeking over the horizon, AJ being deviously featured on Smackdown in the middle of the main event feud between Sheamus and Daniel Bryan, and at least a slew of Divas biting at the chomp to hit the main roster hard (Kaitlyn, Maxine, and FCW Diva Raquel Diaz), it is simply ridiculous for any fan to sit anyone and complain incessantly about the state of women’s wrestling in the WWE.

Constantly comparing the current crop of Divas to Trish Stratus and Lita will cause one’s heart to harden to the efforts put forth by the Divas today.  None of them are anywhere near performing as these two women have, but they are all far from being useless in the ring.

With all that being said, the least we can do is stand and welcome Layla back to the WWE as we congratulate her on her championship win last night, and thank the Bellas for their work in the WWE and for looking so amazing for so many years.

Anything else than that simply proves that we don’t want women’s wrestling as bad as we think we do.


Arm Chair Quarterbacks – The Reality of Women’s Wrestling, Pt. 1

Women’s wrestling is probably one of the most fiercely debated topics among pro wrestling fans today.  In a hilarious twist of irony, it’s also one of the least respected “divisions” among pro wrestling fans today.

That observation was made with all sincerity and a healthy serving of truth.  The reality is that while fans defend women’s wrestling with an unrivaled passion, they also tend to speak of it as if the WWE and TNA are the only notable expressions of this sub-genre in sports entertainment.

TNA’s Knockouts division is routinely regarded as having the “best women’s division in pro wrestling,” while the WWE is roasted regularly for its farcical Divas division.  Rarely will one hear about SHIMMER, Women Superstars Uncensored (WSU), or even Wrestlicious for that matter.

There within lies the problem of discussion women’s wrestling; our viewpoints are corrupted by our own ignorance of the subject matter.  Since we only view women’s wrestling as told by two American wrestling companies, our expectations and desires are slightly biased and very much uninformed.

Believe it or not, that myopic view is stretched even thinner by our unrealistic expectations of the product.

It's hilarious to me that most fans remember ONLY this when it comes to the WWE and its Divas. Rarely will people even mention the Trish/Mickie James feud and WM match...

Fans often compare the WWE’s current batch of Divas to Trish Stratus and Lita, two former WWE Divas that literally revolutionized women’s wrestling during their time under Vince McMahon (in the case of Trish’ on-screen character, pun intended).

Very few fans acknowledge or even realize that both Trish and Lita were living, breathing, human perfect storms.  What they provided for the WWE and for us fans was one of those “once in a lifetime” things we hear about every now and then.

Even more distressing is that the sheer magnitude of what both women represented in the annals of women’s wrestling completely overshadowed the pure talent and skill of the other women wrestlers that assisted in the cementing of their legacies.

Trish and Lita were good, but no one will fondly recall anything Debra Miceli (Madusa), Lisa Moretti (Ivory), Nora Greenwald (Molly Holly/Mighty Molly), Tammy Lynn Sytch (Sunny), Jacqueline Moore, Lisa Marie Varon (Victoria/Tara), and even Mickie James added to the WWE women’s division.

Just when you think the perception couldn’t get any worse, it takes a sharp turn towards the seventh circle of Hell.

Any business that does not meet the needs of the people they serve will suffer from decline.  In light of our discussion about women’s wrestling, companies are only providing fans with what they’re asking for or expecting by and large.  To be frank about it, we get what we ask for.

Organizations such as SHIMMER and WSU provide exceptional matches with outstanding female athletes, yet they have no major television deal for various reasons.  Visit Twitter sometime today; how many people in your timeline are talking about these organizations at length?

Shane Howard (shameless plug) was the only person in my timeline that would ever mention either of these organizations or the wrestlers in them.  He had quite the exciting “friendship” with wrestler Marti Belle, but I digress.

Is anyone in your timeline ranting incessantly about the awesomeness of Marti Belle, Mia Yim, or Mercedes Martinez?  What’s Sara Del Rey’s main focus in 2012?  Why didn’t TNA keep Christina Von Eerie on their payroll?  Do you even know who the f**k half of these people are???

Top women's wrestlers Mercedes Martinez (left) and Cheerleader Melissa (TNA's Raisha Saeed/Alissa Flash); I bet you don't even know who they are.

I’m sure you don’t, and that’s because most Bleacher Report articles or timeline rants are focused on…you guessed it…the terribleness of the Divas division and the greatness of the Knockouts division.  I’m also guessing that a bunch of us don’t even visit Diva-Dirt.com regularly…

However there is an obvious reason why there is a Divas division in the WWE and why the Women’s Championship was retired.  The company has given us models-turned-wrestlers because of their need to infiltrate the entertainment industry.

Thin, statuesque, strikingly beautiful and model-esque women look great on the red carpet; burly shouldered athletic women look good on the cover of Muscle and Fitness.  WWE “Divas” have to be able to do both despite our insisting that they pigeonhole themselves into being “wrestlers” and “wrestlers” only.

Why are we just now acting surprised?  The WWE has always done this; Rena “Sable” Mero, Tammy Lynn “Sunny” Sytch, Stacy Keibler (George Clooney’s girlfriend) and Torrie Wilson (Alex Rodriguez’s girlfriend) were all given major roles in the women’s division while being pimped all around Hollywood and New York City.

What about TNA?  They have sexy women wrestlers who aren’t models and still manage to get magazine covers and TV show spots.  If they’re able to do it, why can’t the WWE?

I’ll allow Mr. Quinn Gammon to speak more on the intricacies of the Knockouts division, but here’s a point to think about: the Knockouts division – which consistently receives high segment ratings and lengthy TV time – still plays second banana to everything else on the show.

What is being said when the highest rated division still receives less time, focus, and attention (*ahem* KO’s tag titles and division) than everything else?

And while the Knockouts have graced the cover of several Mexican and Canadian magazines, where else have you really seen them outside of pro wrestling circles?  Mickie James’ first album and it’s single, “Hardcore Country” brought TNA tons of attention; but they REALLY went out of the way to promote James Storms’ “Longnecks and Rednecks” theme song.

Storm got a music video, a chance to hit the red carpet with Jeff Hardy at the American Country Music Awards, and a plug from Cowboy Troy and some other country music big wig.

James Storm, Dixie Carter, Cowboy Troy and two other guys. Not pictured: Mickie James, Hardcore Country, or the damn anyone gives about them both.

In all fairness they gave James the opportunity to perform her hit single on an episode of Impact Wrestling.  That same lip-synced segment also saw a chaps-wearing Eric Young dance on stage and Tara interrupting the segment by attacking James.

Remember: TNA is the company that appreciates women’s wrestling, which would explain why the segment served to further James’ feud with Tara while her commercial success outside of wrestling was as important as keeping Jesse Neal on the payroll.

But Storm’s theme song on the other hand…THAT’S the next “U Can’t See Me!”

Here’s the brass tax: women’s wrestling suffers because it only appeals to a small demographic just as wrestling does in our society on the whole.  Only a minority of fans is truly upset or appreciative of women’s wrestling, and that’s painfully obvious after reading everything I’ve written here.

Daniel Bryan got a petition when he was “fired” from the WWE; Beth Phoenix’s pin fall loss to Maria Menounos gets a bunch of angry articles (and scores of media attention…which most fans refuse to acknowledge for some odd reason).

TNA’s Knockouts get tons of in-ring time and main event spots, but suffers from a lack of talent and still remains slightly more important than the X-Division at this point.

My suggestion is that if women’s wrestling is important to us, we need to make it known much better than we’re doing now.

In the WWE, we should rally behind Beth Phoenix, Natalya, Tamina Snuka, Kaitlyn, Maxine, AJ and Eve, and even the Divas in FCW.  We should sign petitions to get Sara Del Rey a WWE contract.  We should send them our blog posts and articles about the necessity to bring back valets and female managers if they are insistent on having models trounce around the company.

We can’t sit on our hands or take pee breaks during live shows when the women perform for longer than 38 seconds or win with something other than a roll-up.  We can’t feign interest when Divas like Phoenix and Tamina put on a GREAT match during a pay per view.

We have to educate ourselves about women wrestlers, stay up to date on news about organizations focused on providing us with action showcasing the best women wrestlers today.  We should support their shows, order their DVDs, share them with our friends and make their work a part of our regular conversation.

We should follow women wrestlers and stay up-to-date on their bookings and their championship matches.

As for TNA, we should not only continue to support their women’s division but should also urge them to do more instead of offering the bare minimum.  Their roster should be large enough to sustain a tag title without having a man hold one of the titles for the sake of entertainment because it’s worthless.

Their roster should be deeper than Gail Kim, Madison Rayne, and Velvet Sky, the three women who seem to be the flavor of the last few months.  We should bug them to re-hire Scott D’Amore or hire David “Fit” Finlay, two men who have both done exceptionally well working with the development and showcasing of women’s divisions.

The reality of it is that it’s not the WWE’s fault the Divas division is God awful or that TNA’s Knockouts division is spectacular.  It’s us, the fans, who make those divisions as good or bad as they’re presented.

But the more we sit and “wait” for a given company to do this and that for us, and our response is as lackluster and whiny as it has been for the past few years, then things will continue to happen as they are now.

Take a cue from the highly praised Attitude Era from the WWE, the time period in which Trish and Lita thrived.  Think of all the actual women wrestlers that surrounded them and that I named earlier.  Think about what people were paying for as far as pro wrestling is concerned.

Now compare those two women to today’s female stars and the era that they’re working in.  Think about the female stars that surround them and what we’re paying for now.

I guess we really don’t want women’s wrestling today as bad as we think we do.


Rumblin’ RAW Review: 1-30-12 a.k.a. “BAH GAWD!!!”

Wow…

Seriously…wow…

I’m not sure how YOU felt about Sunday night’s Royal Rumble, but I knew well in advance that something was up when I became more interested in seeing the post-Rumble RAW than I was in watching the Silver Anniversary pay per view spectacle that featured the classic 30 man over-the-top-rope brawl.

And boy was I on the money…

Believe it or not, those thoughts made me more on the money than I usually am (for those of you that know my most notorious pseudonym, the pun was intended).

For example: my good friend DJ Rallo asked me to participate in a roundtable discussion prior to the Rumble for his site, The Sharp Shooter Press (shameless plug).  The very first question asked who we felt was the most likely person to win the Rumble.  Here, in brief, was my response…

The Royal Rumble is such a HUGE match that I typically never take guesses at who’s the odds on favorite to win, especially seeing as there’s a 1 out of 30 chance that I’ll be “right” and rarely do people ever like to be “wrong.”  However in this instance (seeing I was asked), I’ll say that I feel Sheamus has a good chance of being this year’s winner.

But of course that is vastly different from what I said about a week ago in my Talking Points piece about the importance of the Rumble:

Not only that, but this year’s rumble is taking place in Randy Orton’s hometown of St. Louis, MI.  Add to that the fact that he’s been out with an “injury,” and all signs seemingly point to [Orton] sliding in later in the match and pulling it off.

For the record, I called the Sheamus thing long ago and that makes me a winner.  Wanna fight about it?

All that speculative talk aside, Sheamus is indeed the 2012 Royal Rumble winner and will move forward to face the champion of his choosing at WrestleMania 28 in Miami, Florida.  More important is the fact that the Rumble is the beginning of the “Road to WrestleMania,”  and while the actual pay per view was mediocre or miss depending on who you’re talking to, last night’s RAW provided the surge of energy needed to make this annual road trip seem like a big effing deal.

Not only did last night’s RAW feature good in-ring wrestling, but also gave fans several reasons to hope and believe that this year’s “Grandaddy of them all” will be far better than that thing they did a year ago in Atlanta…

So as usual, here are the few points that I picked up on and felt were the most important things during the show:

  1. CM Punk + Daniel Bryan + Chris Jericho = Change of Shorts
  2. I CALLED THE UNDERTAKER THING…after I realized what was happening
  3. Triple H is the new…Hulk…Hogan…? ::confused face::
  4. Dear Kharma: Please Save Us. XOXO, Ash (smiley face)
  5. Did ANYONE see Epico get eliminated from the Rumble???

When it was announced at the top of the show that CM Punk would be facing Daniel Bryan in a Champion vs. Champion match, my Twitter time line exploded with fans having markgasms about the match; I’m not ashamed to admit I was in that group as well.

Most were worried that the match wouldn’t be given an adequate amount of time, and surprisingly enough it was.  Most complained that the match wasn’t the main event, but as indy wrestler Joey Image pointed out, the ever so important second hour of the show (which is just as important as the overrun, but more on that later) featured these two wrestlers going at it.

After that, the only thing some fans had to complain about was the fact that no one referenced the Code of Honor handshake before the match began; William H. Macy, can you guys puhleeeze grow up?

In any case, the bout when well over the average five to seven minute mark, but the ending is what really sold the story line.  Daniel Bryan gains the victory via DQ when Chris Jericho runs out, tosses him into the fan barricade, then proceeds to deliver the Codebreaker to CM Punk.  Methinks Mr. Quinn Gammon was right.

And we should’ve known this was coming from the start of the episode.  CM Punk literally said “Best In the World” at least one time every time he was in whispering distance of a microphone.  It’s so beautiful how all of this is starting to come together;  think about it:

  • CM Punk is the “Best In the World”;
  • The “It Begins” viral videos promised us that the “world” as we knew it was coming to an end.
  • Chris Jericho returns, will make sure as the “world” that CM Punk is the “best in” will come to an end…
  • 2 + 2 = 4

"Smells like Teen Spirit."

Keep in mind that Laurinaitis’ job is still on the fence, and we may see a new GM come into play sometime soon seeing as Triple H is attempting to not allow his personal business to interfere with his work.  Is it possible that the infamous “she” could be a returning Stephanie McMahon Helmsley?

Speaking of Triple H, his epic silent stare down with The Undertaker once again left us salivating at our television screens.  I wasn’t thrilled about the third installment of Trips and Taker, nor was I pleased with the thought of the possibility of Trips defeating Taker this year.

What made my night was the conversation I had with DiZ before Trips walked up the ramp, paused, and disappeared behind the curtain.  For the first time I can remember, The Undertaker was the aggressor in his usual WrestleMania match.

What I’m saying is that usually the WWE superstars come gunning after Taker in order to end the famous streak.  Last night, however, Taker entered the ring and issued the challenge to Triple H with his signature throat slash.  I’m very positive it has happened before, but can you remember the last time Taker challenged someone for WrestleMania?

From that perspective it was easy to see that Trips wasn’t going to accept Taker’s challenge.  The man just spent ten minutes explaining to Johnny Ace how the GM position corrupts good people because they allow personal vendettas to cloud their decision making abilities.  Why on earth would this new, reformed Triple H accept any kind of challenge given to him by Taker or any other wrestler in the company?

"I want YOU, Rocky Balboa!!!"

This puts a different spin on Taker’s classic match at WrestleMania.  As I put it to DiZ last night, it’s one thing to kick over an anthill and leave yourself vulnerable to ant bites; it’s a completely different thing to open kitchen cabinet to find ants swarming around an open box of Oreo cookies.

The Undertaker has spent most of the streak defending it, but for him to bring the streak to the table himself gives his opponent an advantage that superstars prior never had.  Trips took Taker to the limit last year, leaving the Deadman to be carried out by refs and medical assistants.  Taker this year has something to prove, the desire to show that he’s stronger than ever and that he’s willing to put the streak on the line to boot.

But pride always comes before the fall, and if Taker attacks Trips with that same fury and wrath, he could easily make one mistake in the heat of the moment, allowing Trips to capitalize and be the first (and perhaps ONLY) superstar to defeat The Undertaker at WrestleMania.

Interestingly enough, the last time we saw Triple H was at December’s TLC pay per view.  You remember his match, the slow motion one against Kevin Nash?  I just found it interesting that after disappearing for a month he shows back up to one of the better show’s RAW has had in 2012 and 2011.  Even the promos for the show were slightly built around his return to RAW.

Seemed a bit Hogan-like to me, brother.  But again, maybe I’m analyzing it a little too deeply.  It is a little suspect, though; if Trips accepts the challenge, he’ll be the first man in history to face The Undertaker 3 times at WrestleMania, and he just may be the first and only man to beat him.  Hulk Hogan was/is notorious for pulling similar stunts for his own benefit, and Trips is one of the better backstage politicians in sports entertainment today.

I’m just saying…if it happens, you heard it here first from Mr. Ashley Morris.

The ten second Diva match between Beth Phoenix and Eve for the Divas Championship was atrocious even by Divas match standards.  Many of the folks in my Twitter time line expected Kharma to return to TV and tan Phoenix’s fanny.  Alas that didn’t happen and we were subject to another week of foolishness.

Call me a Diva Division Apologist, but I get why the WWE chooses to parade models around the ring instead of actual women wrestlers.  I get it, I understand it, and really don’t agree with it.  The thing that irks me is that these women can be used to do what they’re doing now in ways that aren’t as disrespectful as what we’re witnessing now.

My question is this: who in sweet cream on an ice cream sandwich is responsible for the Divas’ training and booking?  When Fit Finlay was doing it, this type of s**t wouldn’t go down; too bad they fired Finlay.

I read somewhere in passing (no link provided) that Kharma gave birth to her baby on December 31.  If this is true, congratulations to her and her growing family!  If she decides to return to pro wrestling, particularly to the WWE, I pray to the wrestling gods (JBL and Ric Flair) that they look favorably upon us and allow her to beat the holy heck back into this dying division.  For the love of Verne Gagne, Nick Bockwinkel, and all 17 iterations of the Four Horsemen, PLEAAAASSSEEEE stop the madness with the Divas!

Just in case JBL and Flair are busy at the moment, I would also like to propose this: if ANYBODY from the WWE is reading this post, how about you take the next picture and flash it on the wall whenever you’re booking a show and think about throwing some Divas action in there…

Self Explanatory

And finally, there were three of us (myself, Diz, and Pastah Showtime) that never saw Epico get eliminated from the Rumble.  1) How embarrassing is that for Epico, and 2) are we the only ones that didn’t see him get eliminated?

All in all, last night’s episode of RAW was well done and exciting from top to bottom.  Great way to start the Road to WrestleMania.

That’s it for me; what did YOU think of the show?


WWE NXT Review – 1.4.12, a.k.a. “It’s Not As Bad As You Think It Is…”

The show that most fans forgot existed...

I’m always amazed at the levels and depths of hypocrisy we humans can amass in such a short time.  In particular I love how we tend to clamor for change, going to extreme lengths at time to alter our current situations, yet fiercely defend all that we hold true to our hearts because at best we’re all creatures of habit.

Pro wrestling falls into this category more so than anything else I can think of at the moment.  Fans across the board want more from an organization’s product, but actually do very little to expose themselves to anything outside of the product they’re complaining about.

This is to say that some who complain about the staleness of RAW or the atrociousness that is Smackdown on SyFy probably don’t watch anything the WWE offers outside of those two shows.  That in and of itself is a damn shame seeing as the WWE offers tons of programming outside those two flagship and groundbreaking shows.

Hence this nifty review of the January 4th episode of WWE NXT Redemption, something that I haven’t seen done often on Hit the Ropes Radio (shameless plug), the wrestling section of Bleacher Report (shameless plug), The Enigmatic Generation of Wrestling (shameless plug), the RiZE Revolution (shameless plug) and perhaps even the NXT page of WWE.com (…the site sells itself).

For starters, the show isn’t as terrible as some make it out to be if you accept it for what it is in its current state.  What started out as a glorified Tough Enough has transformed into a neatly packaged, one hour mini-drama that appears to be the incubation chamber for future WWE Superstars.

Strip away the redemption points, throw out the stupid and asinine “challenges” (which they did long ago, thankfully), and what you have left is about 45 minutes of serviceable wrestling and well-crafted, simple story lines.  Think of NXT as the agent that cleanses your palate between the foolishness that may/may not take place on Monday and Friday nights.

Sticking closely to this notion gives the show a unique flavor and the ability to develop a small crop of stars that (hopefully) will become champions and larger-than-life WWE Superstars in the near future.

The following graphic shows the superstars on NXT that are featured prominently on the brand.  The stars listed in red are currently involved in major story lines featured on the January 4 show:

I could have easily put pictures of these folks or named them, but where's the fun and complication in that?

Notice how out of the 16 stars I mentioned, only 6 of them are currently involved in major story lines.  To further shock you senseless, there are only 2 major story lines on the show to begin with, and those story lines intertwine each other at points effortlessly.

Think of RAW and Smackdown with the various convoluted dramas that involve a select few members of a 50+ person roster…please stop once your head starts hurting.

Yesterday’s show furthered drama between Derrick Bateman and Maxine, two creepy lovers that were engaged to be married.  Enter Johnny Curtis, who apparently went out on one date with Maxine prior to the “Bate-a-Max” (get it?) union, and all of a sudden the even creepier third wheel is constantly hitting on/making out with Bateman’s woman.  Maxine called the engagement off two week’s ago after she witnessed Bateman hit on her mom…

Work with me, it’s actually a decent story…

Believe it or not, Curtis is actually pretty funny with his mannerisms and facial expressions...WAY more scintillating than Johnny Ace and Cena Sr.'s Boy

Last week’s show saw Maxine officially align herself with Johnny “Mr. Steal Yo’ Girl” Curtis, and this week she viciously crushed Bateman’s heart by announcing to him during his main event match that she was engaged to Curtis and would wed him in two weeks.

Bateman lost in the main event to Darren “No Days Off” Young, who is involved in making Titus O’Neil’s life a living hell.  Young believes he’s the true alpha male on NXT, and Titus O’Neil is the popular baby face thorn in his side.  Percy Watson is just along for the ride, kinda like how Zack Ryder is John Cena’s plucky young sidekick.

By understanding all of this, we can look at NXT from a different perspective to reveal the golden nuggets we’ve been lusting after for so long.  Four matches took place on the show yesterday:

  • Alex Riley defeated Michael McGillicutty via pinfall with the TKO (Fireman’s Carry into 3/4 Turn Neckbreaker)
  • Maxine defeated Kaitlyn in 1:53 (important to know) via submission with a Standing Dragon Sleeper w/ Leg Scissors
  • Trent Baretta w/ Yoshi Tatsu defeated Curt Hawkins w/ Tyler Reks via pinfall with a Tornado DDT
  • Darren Young defeated Derrick Batemen via pinfall with the Fireman’s Carry Double Knee Gutbuster

Here’s what the show produced overall:

Darren Young didn't make it on the WWE '12 video game even though most of his Nexus stable mates did. That's probably because he's really the Black John Cena, and there's only ONE Cena per game...

  • Darren Young asserts himself as the top heel of the show, with Johnny Curtis trailing close behind him.
  • Young’s “No Days Off” persona comes off as a brutal and intense fighter that wrestles with fire and passion.  Curtis’ smarmy and slimy character excels on the mic, but still wrestles like the green or red practice grapplers on the Smackdown vs. RAW games.
  • Maxine has the mic skills, looks, and wrestling acumen to potentially be a top heel manager/valet that could one day be a Diva champion to be reckoned with.  She could climb the ladder in the same way as Trish Stratus, but probably won’t be the face of the company because she’s not blond.
  • Albeit short, the 1:53 Divas Match between Maxine and Kaitlyn told an excellent story.  Kaitlyn, a female body builder, wrestles with power moves and intensity.  Maxine, who was essentially tossed around for most of the match, managed to pull out a victory by forcing Kaitlyn to tap out to a submission that has caused her trouble before. Notice it wasn’t a 47 second match that ended with a roll-up…
  • Trent Baretta, Yoshi Tatsu, and Curt Hawkins prove that there are plenty of exciting stars available to boost the incredibly lackluster Tag Team and Mid-Card Divisions.  Tyler Reks just doesn’t do it for me; I find it hard to believe someone’s viciousness when they sound like Drew Carey.
  • With a little more mic time,Alex Riley will be ready to be primed as a future WWE Champion.  Mike McGillicutty has that same swagger, but honestly needs a gimmick that allows him to stand out from the likes of Ted DiBiase or anyone else who wears a banana hammock, knee pads, wrist tape, and black boots.
  • Speaking of which, McGillicutty was introduced as “The Natural” Michael McGillicutty.  With Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig as his father, Larry “The Axe” Hennig as his grandfather, and that cool ass throwback nickname, the creative team can’t do ANYTHING with this man?

Other important notes from the show:

  • The 100th episode of NXT is coming up in two weeks…even though I like the show, I’m not sure if I should be excited for this or not…
  • To celebrate 100 episodes of NXT, former contestants have been invited to return to the show to give their thoughts.  Justin Gabriel dropped in last week, and Michael McGillicutty and Alex Riley surprised us this week.  If we’re blessed and highly favored by the wrestling gods, Brodus Clay will show up next week and take out the entire NXT roster.

In all, I would have to say that the January 4 episode of NXT Redemption was good, perhaps even better than RAW from a creative direction perspective (the NXT crowds are typically dead because…as stated at the beginning…most fans don’t watch the show enough to know who the hell they’re looking at). Granted the show isn’t as polished, refined, or well-received as RAW or Smackdown, but it’s not supposed to be and your expectations shouldn’t be that bourgeoisie.

I suggest you give it a try, and to make sure you don’t have any excuses for not watching it, here it is in its entirety:


Talking Points – Are “Barbie Dolls” Killing the WWE’s Divas Division?

It was only a matter of time before the Divas became the topic of discussion here in L.E.W.D. Central.

Last night’s Divas bout between Alicia Fox and Beth Phoenix lasted all of 47 seconds from bell to bell by my count.  No surprise there, as short Divas matches in the WWE are about as common as a collar-and-elbow tie up and a side headlock.

Two things happened during that match that will have a profound effect on the way fans  view the division for at least the next month:

  • 1. Alicia Fox was thrust into the spotlight as the favorite to become the new contender for the WWE Divas Championship
  • 2. Beth Phoenix was injured by Alicia Fox’s finishing maneuver (photo below):

To quote Moe the Bartender from the Simpsons, "She ain't pretty no more..."

I found this information after perusing one of my favorite wrestling news sites, Gerweck.net.  The story isn’t want inspired me to create this particular Talking Points post, but rather the comments that followed the report.

Commenter RJ Ace had the following to say about the Divas match and Beth’s injury (comments were taken as is, directly from the Gerweck site):

“Alicia Fox had to do what, 3 moves? And she couldn’t even pull it off without injuring her opponent. This shows exactly why WWE shouldn’t have barbie dolls trying to wrestle. They are liable to hurt somebody badly and it’s a slap in the face to women who can actually wrestle like Beth to ask them to try to and carry a match. Alicia Fox is years away from being able to wrestle properly and WWE is hving her go over the chamion.”

Cas, another commenter, had this to say in reply to Ace’s comments:

“its wrestling, i don’t care how good competitors are. you are gonna get bumps and bruises. fox will be a good bridge between beth and Nat with a title run”

Ace replied directly to Cas by saying the following:

“@Cas- I know people are going to get hurt. Accidents happen. The fact though that Alicia Fox couldn’t get through a 45 second match without botching 2 moves shows she just isn’t ready for the big time. It’s not her fault, it’s WWE’s for putting her out there years before she should be.”

Several things before I get to the Talking Point question for the day…

Many fans are not keen on the current product offered by the WWE’s Divas division, and Ace’s frustration with Alicia Fox’s botched moves are evidence of that subjective opinion.  In fact, a growing number of fans justifiably feel that women’s wrestling should contain actual women wrestlers, and that’s not asking for too much.

But Ace’s analysis of the product is also common among pundits who fail to view the product as fans, criticizing it for any little miscue or “botch” instead of looking at it for its overall entertainment value and purpose in the grand scheme of the show.

Cas brought up the point excellently (which Ace politely breezed through as if it was nothing): in professional wrestling, people will get injured.  They even tell you that at the beginning of EVERY single WWE DVD they make.  Injuries are just one of the many hazards that come along with being a professional wrestler.

And even though Alicia Fox only pulled off a scant handful of offensive maneuvers during this match (one of which was breaking up a standing armbar attempt by kicking out of it), how many times has she injured opponents in other matches?

Not to mention that Fox, the “barbie doll” Ace referred to, is a trained professional wrestler; we can only assume that Ace has the fortitude to do everything Fox and Phoenix did in that ring with razor sharp precision for 47 seconds without any formal pro wrestling training, experience, know-how or guidance.

The match should not have been a fifty minute affair; it was filler that was meant to further Alicia Fox’s character as a new contender for Phoenix’s Divas Championship.  While we all can admit that the division is a far cry from where it use to be and the other women’s wrestling divisions out there (WSU, SHIMMER, and TNA’s Knockouts just to name a few), we also have to remember that these women are thrust into the spotlight in the WWE for more than just their wrestling abilities.

Joanie “Chyna” Laurer was one of the baddest women “wrestlers” in the WWE, but didn’t receive prominence in the company until she got a boob job and her manlike jawbone chiseled down in order to make her look more like a “lady.”

My theory is they had to make her look more like Sable and less like John Cena.

Now the WWE could easily find very attractive women wrestlers who can go in the ring and be “pin-up strong” at the same time, but given our American tastes of skinny, blond, big-boobed models being on the cover of anything and everything put in front of us, how long would it be before sponsors pulled their money out of everything WWE related because their women only appealed to the small segment of viewers that actually like women’s wrestling?

So here’s the Talking Point question for today: are the “barbie dolls” actually that bad for the WWE’s product, or are fans becoming too overly critical of the direction of the product?

And before you answer that question, here are two videos that show the huge difference between what women’s wrestling was, and what we expect it to be.  I’d like for you to ESPECIALLY pay attention to how the women in both videos are dressed and the particular maneuvers they pull off:

Credits: http://www.Gerweck.net


Talking Points – Is the WWE More Controlling than Any Other Corporation?

Damn you Vince for not pushing this kid to the top!!!

I was perusing the net today while working when I ran across something that talked briefly about interview with former WWE Diva Maria Kanellis.

You remember Maria, don’t you? Well if you don’t, here’s the most un-risqué picture I could find of her on a work computer:

She looks familiar...

The interview was with James Guttman from ClubWWI fame, and the piece contains snippets from said interview.  Click the hyperlink to read them if you like, but I really want to talk about ONE thing that stood out to me in those snippets.

Maria is asked about her stint in the WWE, and goes on to talk about the good and the bad when it came to working for the company.  Mr. Guttman points out that Maria was released from the WWE just as her stint on Celebrity Apprentice began, to which she responds with the following:

“It’s funny. It happened with me. It happened with Ashley. It happened with Stacy. Jericho has left again. It’s just one of those weird things that happened. I think that it’s because WWE thinks that we get a big head about it. It’s not necessarily that we get a big head about it, it’s just we start to learn. We start to learn what’s out there. OK. This or that is going on. I want to fix it. I want to put it in my contract. I want to be able to talk about it. As soon as you start doing that, it was like you lose all leverage.”

Prior to that snippet, Mr. Guttman inquires about her transitioning from a WWE fan to a WWE performer, to which she apparently doesn’t really answer the question but provides some valuable talking points:

“I was surprised by how unhappy people were. It’s the greatest company in the world, but there are so many people within that company that still struggle with their creative abilities not being used. I think you see that in so many people that come out of it. They have motorcycle shops or they have tattoo parlors or they are designers and want to do fashion. Maryse just came out and said she wants to do fashion. Torrie wants to do fashion. Trish has her own yoga studio and her own yoga line. So many of us just feel creatively stifled.

Thank you, Maria.

What struck me as intriguing about the bits of the interview I caught here was the notion that the WWE was “creatively stifling” for the obviously talented hordes of individuals that are fortunate enough to ink a deal with the company.  I’m not surprised by this, because usually people who are released from their contracts — whether by force or intention — often cite the WWE’s vice-like stranglehold on their lives.

The most recent notable case of this involves former WWE Diva Gail Kim, who asked for her release because she felt disrespected by the WWE.  As you remember, Kim notified WWE officials of her departure from the company ten minutes before the airing of a live episode of RAW…after which she promptly eliminated herself from a Divas Battle Royal.

In the interview listed above, Kim also sited that she was frustrated with the direction of the product, probably more so with the direction of the Divas division itself.

All things considered, the WWE is typically depicted by disgruntled employees as a dictatorship that steals souls and consumes fresh baby meat by the truckload on an hourly basis.  The way it seems, Hitler would’ve been jealous of the power Vince McMahon exerts over his defenseless independent contractors.

My question is: what large U.S. for profit corporation doesn’t do that?

Politics exist everywhere and are not unique to the WWE.  No matter what field we choose to make our livelihood in, there’s a fine and fancy dance we must all learn in order to advance in the ways we’d like to advance.  Some people choose to tip-toe around the matter, while others wear the soles of their shoes ragged as they tap dance to the tune played by their bosses.

What sticks in my craw is when individuals pretend as if this isn’t the norm and act as if that entire system is not engrained in our North American system of values and work ethic.

Large corporations don’t give a hoot whether or not you’re creative if they’re not paying you to be creative in the first place.  The way it works now, we’re all cogs in an intricate system and must function as such until we’re a) worn out beyond functional use or b) finely tuned to the point we can be relocated and operate elsewhere in a more productive fashion.

In the case of the WWE, wrestlers are hired to fulfill a particular role; if the WWE doesn’t provide that opportunity for you, then yes you will be creatively stifled.  That, my friends, is the beauty of the world wide internet and water cooler gossip among coworkers: if you KNOW the WWE won’t let you do side projects without their approval, and you desire to do side projects…DON’T WORK FOR THE WWE.

Don’t get me wrong; you could be one of the plucky individuals that rages against the machine and affects some sort of change…but I guarantee you that won’t happen unless you get enough people to follow your lead.  Seeing as everyone chooses to sell their souls to a given company (in this instance, the WWE), it’s obvious that it’d be extremely difficult to be “creatively free” in the WWE.

But again, that’s not just in the WWE; I would assume that’s in most major corporations in this company.  You think my boss would let me go cut a rap album in two months when I’m supposed to be behind my desk proofreading documents and typing up these memos?  Forget-about-it!

So here’s my question to you, lucky reader: do you think Maria’s comments, as poignant as they are, are warranted?  Or do you think that there’s a slight chance that a good number of people are simply whining about something that the rest of the country deals with on a regular basis?  Should the WWE receive so much flack for something most of us would lay down for in our own jobs?

Comment away below…and spread the word to others!


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