I have a problem with everyone’s “perception” of the WWE Network. For starters, the damn thing isn’t even out yet.
You can trash-talk a brand new sports-car all you want and base it on a bunch of pre-conceived notions (i.e doors are slanted funny, no convertible top, lacks a built-in toaster oven) but until you invest in one and drive it, or at least test-drive someone else’s (because this is the era of mooching) all of those aforementioned pre-conceived notions mean precisely dick.
Like everything else in wrestling, would-be analysts and “fans” are rushing to wherever they see other “fans” like a bunch of Pygmy Sasquatches ready to follow the herd off a cliff.
This is one of the more serious problems with the internet-era of pro wrestling. Everyone thinks they’re an analyst. Considering that half the idiots I see trolling dirt sheet message boards can’t even spell the word “analyst”, I’ll explain.
an·a·lyst noun \ˈa-nə-ləst\
: a person who studies or analyzes something
See that up there? That’s the definition of analyst. In order to analyze it, you have to study it. In order to study it, you need to have access to it. In order to access it, it has to be made available to you.
Everyone who supports TNA took half a listen to a few sentences about TNA’s decision to cut back from 12 PPVs a year to 4 and called it revolutionary. That’s because the majority of pro-wrestling “analysts” are just jaded fans who will blindly accept anything given to them if it sounds like what they want.
We’ve had long discussions about the difference between giving fans what they want and giving them what they like. Thing is, how did that PPV thing turn out for TNA? Horribly.
We went from gawdawful storylines and really crappy booking decisions that went month to month to gawdawful storylines and really crappy booking decisions that had to be stretched over three month periods because suddenly, there were no events to make major story developments at.
Case in point, TNA “fans”, who are really just TN-Ablers, heard the words “PPV” and “format change” and immediately lauded it as the best thing in pro wrestling, something that would assuredly take TNA to the top where they’ve been denied their glory for so long.
Here’s where I hit you with some truth, and this is why folks don’t always like my writing; because I have this tendency to be right before the question is even asked.
The cream rises to the top.
Yeah, it’s a cliché but it’s the truth. If a promotion or wrestler is talented enough, works hard enough and gets the right break at the right time, they rise to the top. That’s why, in hindsight, everyone needs to chill the hell out about Daniel Bryan. WWE makes questionable decisions all the time.
Pro wrestling is about egos and those get in the way of plans all the time but the WWE is not stupid.
They were making plenty of bad booking decisions in 2004 but they were still smart enough to know solid gold when they saw it and in 2004, that was John Cena. In 2014, a decade later, that solid gold is Daniel Bryan.
Bryan will get where he needs to go. Whether it happens at this year’s WrestleMania is another story but we’ll burn that bridge when we get to it. I digress.
If TNA really wanted to be at the top, they’d be there. Or as close as they could reasonably get. Honestly, TNA could produce the best wrestling and stories in the world (and no, despite the good they achieved during their best years, it still wasn’t the best in the world) and they’d still lose to WWE. That’s just straight facts.
TNA doesn’t have the resources or the brand awareness or the business acumen to even shine WWE’s crappiest pair of worn out high school prom shoes. But in a perfect world, with a better TV deal, smarter folks at the helm and a helluva lot more resources, TNA would exist as a legit number two promotion.
If they wanted to.
The thing is, they seem to know that they won’t ever get near the number two spot. So they gradually stopped trying. Now, it’s just sad to watch them sputter along, wasting a perfectly good TV spot.
I say all this because my above analysis of TNA isn’t based on pre-conceived notions or jumping to early conclusions. It’s based on studying and watching this promotion and following their decisions over a span of years.
Don’t make the mistake of jumping all over the WWE for the Network and assuming they’ll start slacking on PPV quality because they have guaranteed subscribers watching (the most popular argument currently).
It may sound counter-intuitive but WWE actually has more pressure on them with guaranteed viewers than they did when they were earning PPV buys. The people who had the choice to buy the PPVs were going to buy them or not regardless. A lot of them would base their decisions on, you guessed it, pre-conceived notions.
Still, look at Netflix. They make questionable decisions all the time but when your customers are subscribers who are now actively paying a monthly fee for your stuff, you HAVE to deliver the goods. Netflix delivers the goods. Don’t believe me? Go ask the former CEO of Blockbuster why that chain no longer exists.
Now that WWE has guaranteed PPV viewers and content subscribers, the pressure is on more than ever before to pick up the steam and deliver top-notch programming. Because WWE Network can’t survive on just old school viewers who buy it to re-live the glory days.
WWE Network will be supported by people who want the best wrestling in the world.
This company will continue making questionable decisions but in order to keep subscribers and attract new ones, they’ll have to deliver. But if you don’t believe me, it’s no worry to me.
Just don’t base that opinion off of pre-conceived notions.
It is anybody’s guess as to what will happen next for WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton. Although he successfully survived the series of matches over the last three weeks imposed upon him by The Authority, the Apex Predator did not escape their machinations without succumbing in some way to the toll inflicted on his psyche by the gauntlet.
Orton only won one of the five matches in the gauntlet, which surely will fuel the ever growing sense of insecurity festering within him. This type of momentum or negative energy surging within Orton could be extremely bad for him as he prepares to defend his title during this Sunday’s Elimination Chamber pay per view. With it being difficult for Orton to gain even one victory in singles matches against his Elimination Chamber opponents, one can only imagine how much more difficult it will be for the champion to survive in a match pitting him against all five opponents at once.
The prospect of a far more dangerous and vicious Randy Orton makes us eagerly anticipate his actions during the bout; the odds are seemingly stacked against him, placing Orton with his back against the wall and desperate to hold on to the only thing bringing him significance and relevance in this age dominated by “Yes!” chants and speculation on Roman Reigns’ future in the company. A cornered Randy Orton could potentially unleash a violent and vicious skull-punting Randy Orton, one who’s fire and passion stand to cause havoc and chaos for the five men locked in the chamber structure with him.
Only time will tell whether or not this will be the Randy Orton we’ll see, as it would be slightly disappointing to see any other iteration of Randy Orton traverse the remaining peaks and valleys on the “Road to WrestleMania” assuminghe retains his title this Sunday.
The following synopses covers the final matches in Orton’s gauntlet:
Cesaro versus Randy Orton
February 14, 2014 | Smackdown| Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, CA
Result: Cesaro defeats Randy Orton via pinfall with the Neutralizer
*Note: Click HERE for video of the Russian Neck Drop, and HERE for the Gutwrench Suplex.
WWE Superstar Cesaro has done nothing but impress fans since his arrival in the promotion. Cesaro, who is also occasionally referred to as “The Swiss Superman,” has consistently wowed audiences with his incredible feats of strength and has introduced several different maneuvers from his arsenal throughout his brief tenure thus far in WWE. Cesaro took fans by surprise when he gained his coveted spot in the Elimination Chamber match, and although many consider him to be a dark horse in the match, he could very well be the biggest threat facing Randy Orton this Sunday. It’s very hard to make a solid argument against his bright future in the promotion, as his entry into the main event of the last pay per view prior to WrestleMania XXX has led to speculation that a face turn is in his near future. All speculation, however, should be taken with a grain of salt even though all signs point towards to the great possibility of a face turn for him:
Orton definitely approached the match with his two defeats firmly planted in the forefront of his mind; nevertheless, Orton did not seem phased or intimidated about facing Cesaro and assuredly underestimated his opponent before even stepping in the ring with him. This misguided perception of Cesaro would return to bite Orton on the backside by the end of their match.
The story of the bout was all about Cesaro’s sheer power and strength versus Orton’s underhanded and tactical prowess. Having underestimated his opponent early own, Orton was effectively blindsided by Cesaro’s offense and unique skill set. Cesaro’s offense was similar to that of John Cena, an arsenal consisting mostly of upper body blows and maneuvers that worked at Orton’s torso and his core. Unlike Cena’s offense, however, Cesaro’s body blows flow naturally from his technically charged and deliberate offense; Cena is more of a brawler while Cesaro wails on his opponent’s body with intention and not reckless abandon. It must also be mentioned that Cesaro’s offense was so effective that Orton looked visibly exhausted halfway through their match (major kudos to Orton if he was selling Cesaro’s offense and if he was truly tired halfway through and fought to finish the match).
In response to Cesaro’s attacks, Orton took his assault outside of the ring and used every tactic he could to wear down his opponent using everything he could outside of the ring without getting disqualified. To be honest, Orton’s offense looked a lot like something a fan would do in the “Defeat the Streak” story mode on WWE 2K14.
When Orton finally tossed Cesaro back into the ring, there was a bit of back and forth action before the two. One notable moment in the match was Cesaro’s reversal of the RKO into an European uppercut to the back of Orton’s head. The finish of the match came when Cesaro reversed an attempted superplex from Orton into a sunset flip powerbomb, followed up by a discus European uppercut. Without wasting a moment, Cesaro applied and executed the Neutralizer, giving him the pinfall victory over the WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
It would be in Orton’s best interest to avoid Cesaro altogether during the Elimination Chamber match if possible. Survival is a key factor in winning the match, and if Orton cannot be labeled or characterized by his stamina and resiliency, any interaction with Cesaro would essentially shorten the amount of time he would be able to avoid elimination at someone’s hands.
Orton’s best offense against Cesaro would be to not only let superstars like Sheamus and John Cena work him over, but to also utilize as much of the steel structure as he can to weaken Cesaro up for elimination by either of the two other aforementioned superstars.
Cesaro, on the other hand, will set out to prove Sunday that he can hang with the big dogs in the WWE’s main event scene. We shouldn’t expect Cesaro to win the match, but we can expect him to put on one hell of an impressive show as he literally stands toe to toe with four former WWE and World Heavyweight Champions and the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Cesaro typically has great matches in WWE, but we should especially look forward to him exchanging blows with Sheamus and Daniel Bryan.
Sheamus versus Randy Orton
February 17, 2014 | Monday Night RAW| Pepsi Center in Denver, CO
Result: Sheamus defeats Randy Orton via disqualification after The Shield attacked Sheamus
Facing quite the opponent in the final match of the gauntlet, Randy Orton seemed more focused to assert himself as the “Face of the WWE” heading into the Elimination Chamber pay per view. The WWE World Heavyweight Champion made it crystal clear that he relied on The Authority to continue supporting him despite his inability to dominate his opponents throughout the gauntlet. Sheamus, on the other hand, simply wanted to fight.
The match between Sheamus and Orton started off slowly as the champ slithered out of the ring a few times to get his bearings against another powerhouse of an opponent. The Celtic Warrior’s offense differs from that of Cesaro and John Cena in that it’s more of “beat you silly” approach than anything else. Sheamus is a powerhouse who simply fights, looking to score his victory by using a debilitating kick to his opponent’s head; he enjoys beating up his opponents as he honestly only needs to kick his opponent’s head off. Simply put, Sheamus is a sadist.
Orton seemingly learned his lesson from his defeat against Cesaro and once again took the fight to outside of the ring. The champ was most effective in stalling Sheamus’ momentum while confining his onslaught to the ringside area. Orton’s most devastating offensive maneuver was undoubtedly suplexing Sheamus through the announcer’s table:
Once the fighting returned to the ring, Orton failed to capitalize off of putting Sheamus through the announcer’s table, giving Sheamus the precious opportunity to get back into the match. The action went back and forth from that point as Orton attempted to counter Sheamus’ attempts to wail on him. Sheamus eventually gained the upper hand and after landing two Irish Curse backbreakers, the Celtic Warrior mustered up enough gumption to set Orton up for his Brogue Kick finishing maneuver. As Sheamus rallied the crowd behind him, the Shield stormed the ring and the match was immediately thrown out by the referee, giving Sheamus the win and Orton his final defeat in the gauntlet.
The prospect of winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship is important to Sheamus, but it cannot be ignored or denied that the Celtic Warrior would leave the chamber just as happy in defeat if he’s only able to unmercifully throttle an opponent into submission or defeat. This perhaps makes Sheamus the second dangerous man in the Chamber match next to Randy Orton; armed only with the desire to beat a man senseless, Sheamus will be relentless in his attacks against his opponents.
This pits three men seeking championship gold (Bryan, Christian and Cesaro), one man seeking to retain his position (Orton), and one man seeking to make a point to the rising class of WWE Superstars (Cena) against a man who just wants to kick people’s heads clean off of their shoulders.
All things considered, one could easily see that by the time he was ready to face Sheamus, Orton had all but completely dismissed his embarrassing performance throughout the gauntlet. By the time the main event rolled around on RAW, Orton cared very little about his wins and losses heading into the pay per view and relied more on the hope that The Authority would continue to protect him and his position within the promotion. Midway through the gauntlet series Orton switched tactics and his approach on his matches; he transformed from a whiny and insatiable brat into an overly appreciative brown nosing yes man, opting to weasel his way back into the good graces of The Authority instead of actually putting forth an effort to prove to his opponents that he’s not a champion to be reckoned with.
The subtle change in Orton’s demeanor leads me to believe that he will retain his title at Elimination Chamber. For the duration of the gauntlet fans have been led to believe that Orton doesn’t stand a chance at retaining his title. Even the way the gauntlet was constructed, including how Orton fared as far as wins and losses are concerned, suggests that Orton will have one difficult time retaining his title.
What we mustn’t forget is that the Elimination Chamber match operates much like the Royal Rumble, where superstars join the fracas at timed intervals until all the participants have entered the steel structure or have been eliminated from it. Because of his schmoozing and brown nosing, Orton may very well be the last participant to enter the match, which means that at least one of his opponents could very well be eliminated before he even steps into the ring.
The other concept to remember is that out of all the participants in the match, Orton has the most to lose and the luxury of having to offer the least amount of offense in the match. The Elimination Chamber match participants will claw tooth and nail at each other, and as long as Randy can survive until he is one of the final two participants in the match, the only offense he’ll need to offer will be to keep from being eliminated.
The gauntlet then becomes important because it tells this exact story; if Orton had trouble beating his opponents in singles matches, he also stands very little chance of defeating anyone of them at Elimination Chamber. However, if Orton’s opponents defeat each other, if he manages to get The Authority to make sure he’s the last man to enter the match (or conveniently place him in a Chamber pod that “malfunctions”), he will have the opportunity to plan his attack accordingly to pick off his opponents one-by-one after they’ve brutalized each other.
With his back against the wall and his conniving ways as a primary weapon, Orton looks to be in a prime position to maintain his spot in a main event (as opposed to “the” main event) at WrestleMania XXX. Orton survived the gauntlet, and the Viper will survive the Elimination Chamber match.
The only question left is what will happen to the champ during this week’s episode of Smackdown? We look forward to the show in eager anticipation, with just as much zeal and enthusiasm as we have for the Elimination Chamber pay per view this Sunday.
To read the first part of the Gauntlet of the Predator, click here!
During the opening segment of the February 3, 2014 edition of Monday Night RAW, Stephanie McMahon announced that WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton would face all five of his Elimination Chamber opponents in singles matches in the weeks leading up to the pay per view. So far Orton has scored one victory and two losses against three of those five opponents, and looks to face Antonio Cesaro this Friday on Smackdown.
Most may not realize that this particular gauntlet is a very important stop on the “Road to WrestleMania.” With the PG Era essentially neutering the fruition of Eric Bischoff’s sadistic desires, the actual Elimination Chamber match has effectively become just another prop in a glorified cage match. However, by placing Randy Orton in a series of singles matches against his EC opponents prior to the pay per view, the focus shifts a bit and places the focus of the match on the opponents rather than the structure itself. There is a huge paradigm change in how we view the match and its significance as the last main event of a pay per view before WrestleMania.
In effect, the wrestlers in the match become the subject of the match instead of accessories susceptible to the whims of an unrelenting and demonic enclosure. Instead of six wrestlers utilizing the structure to maim and brutalize one another, we’re now lead to witness six distinct wrestling styles clash with each other until there is only one man standing. With the men unable to escape the chamber, the strategy of each wrestler is essential to their survival and overall victory. The gauntlet, therefore, gives fans the opportunity to buy into each characters strengths and weaknesses heading into the pay per view, enabling us to see not only what the champion has to overcome, but what each superstar brings to the brouhaha.
We should consider each of Orton’s matches in context of the entire gauntlet in light of his title defense in a little under two weeks. The gauntlet has given all six men an opportunity to shine, to expose and express those qualities and characteristics that make them worthy of being top stars in WWE. It also gives us to see the true depth of the Randy Orton character, the way Orton adapts his style to each of his opponents and proves that he’s capable of being the World Heavyweight Champion through his domination over any competitor that dares face him in the ring.
The following synopses of Orton’s first three matches look to give more insight on the gauntlet’s importance as well as to hype the importance of the Elimination Chamber pay per view in two weeks.
Daniel Bryan versus Randy Orton
February 3, 2014 | Monday Night RAW| CenturyLink Center in Omaha, NE
Result: Daniel Bryan defeats Randy Orton via pinfall after the Running Knee finishing maneuver
The rivalry between Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan has quickly shaped up to be one of the most storied rivals in recent WWE history. The two have faced each other countless numbers of times since Orton cashed in his Money In the Bank briefcase on Bryan at last year’s SummerSlam pay per view, and every single one of their encounters have been incredibly enjoyable. Serving as the opening bout in Orton’s gauntlet, their match last week set an extremely high bar for the rest of the bouts in the series.
As the master technician in the match, Bryan began a relentless assault early on the WWE World Heavyweight Champion and spent an ample amount of time working over Orton’s left knee. Bryan’s attack was slow, focused and methodical, each maneuver literally whittling away at the sinews, ligaments and soft tissue in Orton’s knee. Such a devious and calculated attack was surely necessary to debilitate Orton as well as keep him from utilizing both of his signature finishing maneuvers. With one severely damaged leg, Orton would have found it somewhat difficult to leap for his RKO finisher as well as run for his patented Punt.
Once Orton gained an opening in the match, he began to work on Daniel Bryan’s right arm in the same way his left leg was worked over. With an injured arm this would obviously have made it hard for Bryan to apply the Yes Lock for an easy submission victory. Orton’s signature moves (drop kick, Garvin Stomp, DDT from the second rope) were also sprinkled liberally throughout the match, but very noticeable was Orton’s concentrated efforts on hurting and incapacitating Bryan. Orton spent very little time taunting Daniel Bryan although he did manage to sneak a few smirks and self-congratulatory arm raises into the match.
Both men seemed to seethe with hatred for one another, making all of their movements and maneuvers tug at the fans’ heart strings and emotions. You could feel the hatred they had for one another with each stomp, kick and punch; the atmosphere simply reeked of their intentions to hurt one another, giving fans the feeling that this fight had less to do with the title and more to do with proving a point: I want to destroy you.
An interruption from Kane, the Director of Operations (or, as I call him, the DOOP) slowed down Bryan’s momentum, but allowed him to capitalize off of a distracted Orton with his running knee finisher, something Orton didn’t count on while working over Bryan’s arm. Bryan scores a clean victory and receives a chokeslam from Kane as a parting gift while Orton stewed in his first loss of the gauntlet.
Daniel Bryan has been a thorn in Orton’s side ever since August 2013. With a rivalry and feud that has spanned almost six years, it has been one hell of a fight for Orton to prove his mettle against Bryan without some sort of outside help or interference. It would seem, in a lot of ways, that Orton physically can’t beat Daniel Bryan without someone giving him the edge. To make a long story short, Daniel Bryan will be the single biggest threat to Orton retaining his championship come the Elimination Chamber pay per view.
We cannot forget that there will be four other competitors in the ring; Orton stands a solid chance against Daniel Bryan if he or one of his fellow competitors can neutralize Bryan whenever he enters the match. With resiliency and stamina on his side, however, Bryan will be a formidable opponent to conquer and could easily eliminate his opponents with his ground submission game or a striking blow to the face with his running knee. It would be best for the champion to make sure Bryan is indisposed or eliminated quickly from the match.
Christian versus Randy Orton
February 7, 2014 | Smackdown| Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, IA
Result: Randy Orton defeats Christian via pinfall with the RKO
After suffering his loss to Daniel Bryan earlier in the week, Orton marched into Smackdown looking to validate his reign as WWE World Heavyweight Champion by making a statement with a decisive victory over Christian.
Their match paled in comparison to Orton’s match against Bryan, but told an interesting story nevertheless. Christian, a former 2-time World Heavyweight Champion, looks forward to Elimination Chamber to establish a credible, long-lasting legacy as a main event player in WWE. While he didn’t approach his match with Orton using a strategy in the same sense as Bryan, he simply wrestled Orton with the class of a cagey veteran. Christian opted to simply give Orton a taste of his nineteen years in the business, choosing to use his wits and wily maneuvers to wear away at Orton’s stamina and to discombobulate him in only the way a storied veteran could.
On the other hand Orton matched Christian’s veteran skills with his own signature wrestling style, also choosing to not overly complicate the match by focusing on a specific body part or area of the body. Unlike his previous battle with Daniel Bryan, Orton’s trademark cockiness and bravado made its way into the match as it was clearly evident Orton thought little of his opponent.
Orton headed into his match against Christian with more to lose than Christian had to gain, thus making him more of a threat than his opponent would’ve guessed or assumed. In what was a good and solid match, Orton capitalized off of a high-risk top rope maneuver landing an RKO on Christian in mid-air … ironically the same move that gave Orton the victory during Christian’s very first World Heavyweight Champion title defense. Smackdown goes off the air with Orton standing triumphantly over Christian after a well-fought and clean victory.
While Orton and Christian are no strangers to each other, it would seem that Orton’s rise to prominence and Christian’s inactivity due to injuries created a huge gap in between the way the stars related to one another and the WWE Universe. Christian remained humble and patient, waiting diligently for one more chance to become a major WWE champion, Orton’s ego grew exponentially as his career advanced like a bullet train. This confidence boost surely added to Orton’s lethality as a defending champion, which arguably made him hungrier to keep his title than Christian’s diffident desire to win another big one.
Unfortunately, Christian is placed in an unenviable position of proving his worth in the match. Orton has less to fear from Christian than he does any of his other competitors, and Christian has to dig extremely deep to unearth the grit to outlast four other devastating competitors just to get his hands on Orton. One can only guess that Christian also has to prove something to himself by defeating Orton specifically at the pay per view, but I doubt seriously that the former World Heavyweight Champ will have the opportunity to make it out of the blocks before that could even be a possibility.
John Cena versus Randy Orton
February 10, 2014 | Monday Night RAW| Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA
Result: John Cena defeats Randy Orton via pinfall with the Attitude Adjustment
The history of John Cena and Randy Orton’s rivalry has already reached mythic proportions. After last month’s Royal Rumble rematch between the two was universally panned by fans, a suspicion that the two would deliver their typical match crept into our collective consciousness. That suspicion was quickly allayed as both men delivered a high quality match that, despite its repetitiveness, supplied fans with fresh action and energy.
Heading into the match Orton desired to make amends with The Authority by once again proving his rightful place as the face of the company. By vowing to do so with a victory against John Cena, Orton looked to cement not only his place but also his legacy, as it has been said that one could not be “anything” unless they defeated John Cena.
Earlier in the day, John Cena tweeted the following:
During the Monday Night RAW broadcast, Cena cut a promo regarding his longstanding rivalry with Randy Orton and the new wave of stars rising within the ranks of WWE. He spoke of the promotion being in the midst of great change, commenting on how his match with Orton was a defining moment for the future of the company. Cena then promised to defeat Orton and end their storied feud and make the statement that any new star—be it the Wyatts, the Shield, Antonio Cesaro or Daniel Bryan (who, ironically enough has already defeated John Cena clean in the ring)—that desired to carry the company would have to “go through him first.”
Bravado and pride were most assuredly on the line as Cena looked to square off against Orton. As the match commenced Orton seemed to have applied all he’s learned from past matches in his assault on Cena. As the two jockeyed for position, Orton escaped from the ring a few times early to stall Cena’s momentum. Cena’s typical smash mouth, brawler offense is fueled off of momentum; very similar to the Juggernaut, Cena often waylays opponents with a series of body blows and maneuvers that strikes opponents like a wrecking ball. To counter this assault throughout the match, Orton ducked and dodged each of Cena’s big moments.
When Orton went on the offensive he tended to focus on Cena’s midsection, landing strikes and blows to weaken Cena’s ability to breathe while unleashing his big body busting arsenal. The caveat to Orton’s offense was, and has always been, Cena’s resiliency and will to never give up. Nevertheless Orton maintained his strategy and even countered every single thing thrown at him. Meanwhile the champ oozed confidence and taunted Cena and the live audience constantly.
In one especially poignant moment, Orton delivered a hangman rope DDT from the top turnbuckle, to which he quickly stood up and antagonized the crowd by yelling, and I quote,
“Same old what?! Same old … I’ve never done that before! So I’ve never done that! It’s not the same old sh…!” *evil smirk*
As Orton attempted to whittle away at Cena’s stamina, the former WWE Champ’s die hard will grew and grew, eventually giving Cena the momentum needed to begin a few sets of his Five Moves of Doom. Orton miraculously countered all of Cena’s offense until the closing moments of the match, where Cena delivered two Attitude Adjustments to gain the pinfall over the champion.
The past few years have seen John Cena take a slightly less important role than ever before. His involvement in the Elimination Chamber match is noteworthy in that one shouldn’t expect him to win the match and rush to WrestleMania as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. What should be of concern to his opponents, and Randy Orton in particular, is John Cena’s will to remain the bar for future superstars to climb, something that Cena (the character) feels will be much more potent if he also happens to be the WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
The hype that surrounds Cena is more intimidating than his actual presence in the match; his opponents are more likely to be thrown off by his resilience than they are his offense, which will make it extremely difficult for everyone else to actually out last him. This is and should rightfully so be a concern for Orton, but with heavy hitters such as Sheamus and Antonio Cesaro also present in the match, Cena will more than likely be distracted by an opponent looking to prove himself against “The Champ” first, and walking away as the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion second. While this does take attention away from Orton and the title, it also gives the champ an opportunity to sit back and watch as the lions fight over eliminating the alpha male from the pride.
With two more matches left in the gauntlet, we still have a couple of golden opportunities to get ready for the Elimination Chamber on the “Road to WrestleMania.” Randy Orton is slated to face Antonio Cesaro this Friday on Smackdown in what will surely be an excellent match. We look forward to covering the odds and ends of that match and Orton’s eventual match against Sheamus.
It’s Monday, February 18, 2013, and fans here in the United States are 24 hours removed from last night’s Elimination Chamber pay per view. While most analysts, pundits, naysayers and emotionally immature grumps have already trotted out their diatribes, raging against the WWE machine and swearing off supporting sports entertainment forever until RAW comes on in less than 2 hours, I decided to take the road less traveled in order to craft a more paced, temperate review of last night’s pay per view.
I typically judge pay per views using one simple question that encapsulates a wide range of criteria used by others when watching a pro wrestling pay per view: do I want to buy this on DVD?
That question, as simple as it may seem, takes a number of complex views and opinions and crams them all into one nifty little, digestible nugget that’s easy to understand and consume. Fans can bicker back and forth about the logic behind the booking, or how Wrestler A should’ve beat Superstar B and all that jazz, but the proof in the pudding lies within that one question: would you be willing to spend money to see this show again?
For the WWE’s 2013 iteration of Elimination Chamber, the answer for this analyst is a thoughtful, sincere and stoic no.
This isn’t saying that the show was bad, nor is it saying that the event was great and/or good. The pay per view last night was essentially a little more than an expensive RAW-like segue, a bridge designed specifically to get us from the 2013 Royal Rumble to WrestleMania 29. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that; we like bridges. They help us get across large bodies of water, or small streams. The covered ones in Madison County are to die for, or so I’m told.
The show also had entertaining moments and all of the wrestlers did awesome in their respective matches. However for this fan in particular there was only one match on the card that would move me to buy the DVD, and even then that one match wasn’t enough to move me that far; sorry, Best Buy.
In the end the show left fans wide open and ready for what could be a sensational build to the biggest pro wrestling pay per view of the year. Last night’s event was more about focusing our attention on the bumpy trail leading to New York/New Jersey than it was about the “evil, diabolical and unforgiving” play pen Elimination Chamber.
As such with all things in life, there are several lessons we can glean from having spent our precious time and moments alive watching what Vince McMahon had to offer us this month:
The Rock & John Cena = $$$; You Don’t.
There were a ton of fans that were “surprised” that The Rock defeated CM Punk last night to retain the WWE Championship, even though it was already a foregone conclusion that Rock was headed to fight Cena one more time when the latter won last month’s Royal Rumble.
There are a couple of things that should strike fans as being pertinent and important in any discussion involving the second “Once In A Lifetime” match between Cena and The Rock. For starters, the match makes money. The WWE has been catering to casual fans for some time now, and casual fans will pay money to see Rock and Cena square off again, this time for something more than that “I’m the better man than you” bravado that gets grown men killed in real life.
The difference between you (generally speaking, not YOU in specific…unless YOU are one of the fans complaining, too) and the casual fan is that the casual fan ordered and paid for the pay per view last night. YOU, on the other hand, watched it via illegal stream and complained the entire time. That’s like asking for a cup of water from McDonald’s and getting mad because they won’t give you the supersized gallon jug.
As frustrating as that may be the harsh reality is that people will pay for what they want. If the WWE’s fan base didn’t want to see The Rock and John Cena that badly, it would not happen; money speaks louder to WWE than internet rants and tirades. If you truly want to end this “travesty,” purchase as much stock in the company as you can and convince at least 1000 other people to buy front row tickets at each WWE show around the world so they can consistently show off their “We Hate Rocky!” signs to every camera in the building.
If you can’t do those things, save your breath and expert typing skills for a product that is more worth your time.
Another thing to pay attention to is the fact that we cannot pretend as if Rock and Cena have had the only repeat match after their first match was billed as a one-time only shot. Without naming names there’s at least one other wrestling duo that literally wrestle each other once a month, each time with the same “one last time” tagline limping meekly behind them.
No one blinks an eye at the fact that these two wrestlers have had as many televised matches as the UFC has had pay per views, but I guess that’s okay because they’re not John Cena and The Rock…; whatever. And surprise, they may have a match at an upcoming pay per view…
It’s no secret that Rock’s return to the WWE last year wasn’t celebrated or highly favored by a number of hardcore fans, and even then there weren’t that many thrilled by their outing at WrestleMania 28. April’s sports entertainment extravaganza will feature the same two wrestlers with way more at stake, and the crux of this match’s success will all depend on whether these to superstars (because that’s what they are) can tell a drastically different story outside the ring and in between the ropes leading up to their second match.
We can nitpick all we want, but let’s wait until they actually botch the whole deal before we bury it and piss on the grave.
The Rise of the Next Gen Superstars
A terrific piece was crafted by fellow analyst Ross Rutherford some time ago that analyzed, in part, the WWE’s inability (or defiance) to create new superstars. While last night was far from a showcase of new talent, it definitely gave several superstars to prove their mettle and worth to the Titan Tower suits and WWE fans.
From a wrestling perspective Antonio Cesaro thoroughly embarrassed The Miz last night, so much so that I actually felt bad for the man. There’s a saying in pro wrestling that a wrestler is only as good as his opponent makes him look; if this is the case for Cesaro, Miz deserves ALL the credit left in the United States for his work with the champ last night.
Some would argue that Cesaro should’ve gained a clean win against Miz last night, but in all honesty the finish was smooth, seamless, and protected both wrestlers to continue their rivalry. As a face Miz has most assuredly won over a number of fans, but his real life return to the WWE has left him floating in this sea of mediocrity. If the WWE can’t find anything “worthwhile” to do with him at the moment, why not utilize him to help build up Cesaro…you know, help create a new superstar?
It was a thing of beauty to watch Cesaro work Miz like a carny at a traveling circus. Most fans can easily agree that the current United States Champion has “WHC/WWE Champion” written all over him; let’s hope we’re right.
Big E Langston also got a chance last night to do and be more than just Dolph Ziggler’s big, Black friend. After Ziggler’s impromptu match and victory over Kofi “House Cat” Kingston, Langston used his 3 Moves of Doom to exact some true Afro-Caribbean street justice on the former Intercontinental Champion. In an eerily yet somewhat similar way as The Miz, Kingston was able to make Langston look more intense than he usually does; given Langston’s size, however, that’s not hard to do when the man’s handshake can burst your appendix.
I also feel badly for Kofi Kingston who, also like The Miz, is languishing in mediocrity for no apparent reason. The truly disappointing point of it all is that Kofi’s career has gone this kind of up-and-down rollercoaster ordeal before. At one point he was a possible contender for a major title, then he got bumped off; he had a red-hot feud with Randy Orton, then it got dumped in the Baltic Ocean. They gave him a catchy nickname and talked incessantly about his crazy and wild offense, and then they stopped giving a damn.
We should expect some sort of feud to erupt between Kingston and Langston, and it will be pretty interesting to see the mix of their styles. It will also be interesting to see Langston have a sanctioned match in the company, which is long overdue for the man at this point. As for Kingston, perhaps a rivalry with Langston will show someonethat the man can do more for the company if given the opportunity.
Last, but not least, The Shield triumphed against all odds and defeated Ryback last night at the pay per view.
I know what you’re thinking; I should’ve said that The Shield defeated Ryback, Sheamus, and John Cena last night at the pay per view. If I said that I’d be a liar.
Ryback ate the pinfall for the team after Sheamus was (once again) speared through the barricade and John Cena was busy pandering to the crowd with his Attitude Adjustment finishing maneuver. There was a lot going on in that finishing sequence, and the entire match, that we should recall and pay attention to:
Ryback, unlike Goldberg and John Cena, can be defeated by conventional methods. The man is not invincible; the man is not without a weakness. This separates him tremendously from Goldberg, which makes any similarities between the two superficial, at best.
The Shield worked like a well-oiled machine, and as my L.E.W.D. brother Mr. Lamb put it, the match ended up being a 3-on-1-on-1-on-1 match, as opposed to a six-man tag match. It’s quite possible that the story told here worked best for the pay per view and the group, whereas a War Games match would have definitely told a decidedly different and potentially harmful story for The Shield.
John Cena avoids being pinned and stays virtually immaculate for another day. In fact at this point he could not honestly care less about The Shield as his attention is now focused squarely on preparing to face the WWE Champion, The Rock, at WrestleMania 29.
The only thing Sheamus has left to do is face Wade Barrett for the Intercontinental Title, but Bo Dallas is already in that spot right now. Poor Sheamus…
All three members of The Shield—Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns—were absolute gold last night. I anticipate some sort of purpose rising to light for the group soon, but that may be more wishful thinking than anything else. Perhaps a Freebird like stab at the Tag Team Championships, as someone suggested on Twitter last night, could breathe some meaningful purpose into the group?
Right now is the perfect time for Langston, Ambrose, Rollins, Cesaro, Reigns, and even Ryback to rise up the ladder in the WWE. In order for them to truly be break out stars at this point, they’ve got to have the same intensity and drive as superstars had during the Attitude Era. They have got to be hungry for that main event status and they must be willing to fight for that top star status.
This isn’t suggesting that they backstab one another or intentionally discredit their fellow wrestlers; they must, however, do more than just play the roles or read the scripts given to them. They have got to be willing to go beyond what’s necessary in order for fans to really react to their presence and help catapult their game to the next level. And I, for one, am glad that these stars are on the cusp of that level of greatness in the WWE.
Do or Die: Jack Swagger, Alberto Del Rio, and Good Ol’ Fashioned Envelope Pushin’
There are scores of fans that have commented on the lack of a solid and consistent main even push for Jack Swagger. Be careful what you wish for…
My friend Ken Drabek commented that this may be Swagger’s last chance to have a significant presence as a top star in WWE. And what better way to so than with a gimmick that’s rife with political and social commentary that could easily cross the line between polite rhetoric and flat out bigotry?
Eric Bischoff wrote a book based on the idea that “controversy creates cash,” and that idea has been proven correct more often than not. The bigger picture is that these Jack Swagger and Alberto Del Rio, wrestlers, have to have a controversial gimmick stapled to them just to make us give a hoot about their upcoming title match; I’m surprised no one picked up on that sooner.
Alberto Del Rio’s face turn has also been hailed as a roaring success, but the jump from a snooty Mexican aristocrat to a fan favorite was…slightly inorganic. The best way, in somebody’s mind, to evoke more sympathy for him is to have an uber-American degrade his heritage and humanity; on the flip side, the best way to reintroduce Swagger to the fans is by having him saddled with a grizzled and disillusioned war veteran that can’t accept the fact that America in 2013 shouldn’t look like America in 1779. This, of course, isn’t even taking into consideration that the whole gimmick is blatantly ripped off from another pro wrestler. Yep…Swagger has a hell of a ride ahead of him.
So ends my thoughts on yesterday’s Elimination Chamber pay per view. What did YOU learn from the show?
Whoa…whoa… whoa…. it’s ok. Calm down. Take a deep breath.
…you with me?
It’s all…going to be…ALRIGHT.
It seems lately that this blog has turned into a condensed micro-chosm of everything we claim to dislike about the Internet Wrestling Community. We’re doing nothing but pointing out all the things we dislike, talking about why John Cena is the anti-christ, and general huff-puffery that, to be quite honest, is disheartening.
Come along with me, as I provide a change of pace.
It seems as though we as wrestling fans seem to have forgotten what storytelling really is. We seem to have gotten so caught up in what we wanted, expected or thought should happen, that we forget that there is more to the world of wrestling than one isolated PPV, or Monday Night Raw. Storytelling, especially in the modern era of WWE Creative (which has documented their acquisition of former soap-opera writers) sees stories being shaped and told in bigger, longer, more dramatic and over-arching fashion than we had become accustomed to in the previous 3 or 4 years (when we were also still complaining about everything). Think about it – I can’t honestly think of even any short stories I have ever read that are only one page long – hell, not even the old-school pop-up books were! So, why do we as wrestling fans get so bent out of shape with each passing moment in the wrestling story?
When reading a book, and you have a vision of what direction the story should go in, do you throw the book down because it hasn’t happened yet…or do you read on in the hopes that it will, in fact, happen? If it doesn’t, does that make it a bad book? I think not. If it does, we say, “what a great story!” Stories have pacing – beginning, middle, end. Yet we seem to want to cut every story so short and just start complaining about…it…..whatever it is we want to see (it seems to change every week), not happening.
So, now that I have ranted on that – let’s apply it to some recent events and see if I can’t challenge you to begin changing the way you perceive things.
#1 – John Cena vs. Kane (Ambulance Match Fallout)
All I have been hearing, over and over, is how horrible the “Ambulance Match” at this past weekend’s Elimination Chamber ppv was. Apparently Cena did nothing but prance around, no-sell, smile, and win…. I guess I watched a different pay-per-view. I’ll address some of the main concerns I have been hearing voiced:
Kane got“destroyed” Again, maybe I watched a different ppv, but I saw a very normally paced heel/super-face match. Kane got his normal work in, in addition two big spots in which he had Cena completely defenseless via smothering (at one point nearly winning the match), as well as putting Cena through the announcers table.
Cena didn’t “embrace the hate” and his heel turn wasn’t completed. Could there have been more weapons used in the match? I guess so… but that wasn’t really the purpose of the story. The purpose of the whole feud was to get Cena to start thinking alongside, acting with, giving in to – his dark side. The idea wasn’t to beat Kane in the same way that anyone else could – it was beat Kane by giving in to darker things. Cena was using the steel steps, being the aggressor, was initially planning to put Kane through the announcers table, and ultimately A.A.’d Kane OFF of the Ambulance – while mild to most, it’s pretty extreme for someone like John Cena. “So why didn’t Cena turn heel?! This match susckeddddd” Well, as I mentioned in a previous article, John Cena is all but guaranteed to be turning heel at WrestleMania XXVIII against The Rock (which we’ll get to later.) The Cena/Rock program has been building for one entire calendar year, but ultimately there is only so much TV time that you can fill with only one participant being there on a weekly basis, and no match until months in the future. Cena couldn’t take two months off of TV, while everyone else was in the midst of their feuds and he was a sitting duck waiting for The Rock at ‘Mania – so what do you do? You add to the long, dramatic, over-arching story that you’re building which will reach its climax at the resounding finale of the wrestling year – WrestleMania. You give Cena a reason to turn heel against The Rock.
The Rock vs. John Cena The other overwhelming point I have been hearing and reading is that Cena is becoming more and more bland, and no one seems to understand why he isn’t already a heel/why the program with Kane didn’t result in Cena turning heel. Again, take a step back, and think about the story.
If Cena were to become a full-fledged heel against Kane it would be completely, 100% uneffective and would absolutely ruin WrestleMania. As we have seen, Cena doing heel-ish things against a heel, does nothing but make Cena fans happy – their guy is being edgy and winning by “any means necessary”, “not giving up in the face of evil”. So, what happens is we Cena start doing some uncharacteristic things (“skank”, “friend-stealing”, “almost hitting the handicap guy”, “using weapons”) and if you remember, all Kane ever said was that Cena wouldn’t be able to defeat him until he had “embraced the hate”. Notice the subtlety? Me either. Cena finally started getting a little heel-swag, and whala…he defeats Kane, in what some would say was a dominant performance (I disagree, see above.)
Now, why didn’t Cena become a full-blown, trash being thrown in the ring, snarling, maniacal heel? Well, let’s see how that would pan out going into WrestleMania.
As it stands, John Cena vs. The Rock is one of the biggest matches in WrestleMania history. It’s the Hogan/Andre of our time. It’s the two biggest stars of the modern era, going against each other on the biggest stage of them all, in one of their hometowns – this match has money written all over it. I was worried that they wouldn’t be able to span an entire calendar year and keep everyone interested in the program, however, they’ve managed to do it. What’s really funny is that the story is playing out even when most people don’t see it happening.
Mr. Ashley Morris wrote an interesting, somewhat scathing piece about why he’s now on Team Bring It. That’s perfectly fine, and I can respect his opinion. He mentions how Cena has been complaining like a little girl about how Rock get’s all the attention and Cena busts his ass and gets nothing – sounds like motivation for a heel turn, to me, and the guy is pissing you off before he beats your Team Bring It captain…just imagine the heat when he cheats to win, at Mania.
Don’t get me wrong – I have bashed Cena myself, many times. The change for me came when Quinn Gammon challenged us to all focus in on only what we liked about the programming, as fans, that we were watching – I admittedly had a hard time doing such. I think it’s a good thing though. I feel like we started getting so caught up in the moment of watching as fans, that we forgot that we are smarter than the average fan we were trying mimic and travel back in time to be. I like wrestling for way different reasons now than I did when I was a kid, and it took that challenge for me to realize it. I feel fortunate that I have recently been able to step back from wrestling and look at the stories for how they are happening and coming together, and not for only what the moment is offering me.
ok… back to the match… Everyone is into this match. The kids and women love Cena; the guys, kids, and women of multiple generations love The Rock. Now, what are the chances of John Cena going INTO the match as a heel, The Rock overcoming him in one-off fashion (before leaving for a few months), and sending Cena into Superstars hell? If Cena loses his “fans” going into the match AND loses to The Rock, what’s left for him to do? Walk around and be a sad puppy wearing sweat bands?
So, how do you solve this conundrum? Well, you don’t have Cena go INTO WrestleMania as the obvious heel. What’s the result? Everyone tunes in for a huge match, and when the inevitable heel turn finally comes – millions of people are watching one of the biggest moments in wrestling, and the heat is astronomical. The “fans” are angry at Cena, the smart marks are excited again – and everyone tunes in to see what happens NEXT (see what I did there? Storytelling is great, huh?)
In conclusion: 4-minute matches on Raw aren’t often harolded as great works of professional wrestling as an artform. However, when we give CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler 27 minutes (which isn’t long in terms of major PPV main-event times) on a Monday night – they put on a hell of a show for us, didn’t they? That’s with Dolph Ziggler! He’s good, but he’s not on the level of a main-eventer, just yet. My point is – good things take time to develop. They need time to breathe, to have a life of their own.
I challenge each of you reading this piece to try to look past what’s happening in front of you, and see how it could be playing into the bigger picture. It’ll help develop your idea of good storytelling, make even mediocre segments seems more pertinent in the grand-scheme of things, and if nothing else – make everyone complain a lot less, and think a lot more!
Please read, comment, and rip this to shreds. It’s my thoughts, for what they are worth, and i’ve been up for about 19 hours…so… I apologize if some of this comes across as jumbled!