It has been said that a picture is worth one thousand words. Seeing as I really can’t wrap my thinking around my frustration with the heavyweight title scene in either TNA or WWE at this moment, I figured it’d be better to at least set the stage using pictures instead of words.
Shout out to Mr. Christopher Lamb for inspiring the follow simple, easy-to-understand graphics. Disclaimer: HOWEVER you feel about either wrestling promotion—good, bad, or indifferent—please do not enter into ANY conversation regarding their storylines regarding their own heavyweight championships without EXPLICITLY highlighting the following points:
As Cena was giving his “I’m back to active duty and flaunting my return” speech, I had a thought. It was literally the most vivid and entertaining wrestling thing I had mentally pictured since my mind wandered and I imagined me, Layla and Mickie James in a barn in the middle of July. Sweet, sweet memories. Anyway, the thought was Cena, in the middle of the ring, getting beat senseless by a man dressed in all black – all black shirt, all black pants, all black boots, all black gloves, all black mask, all black sunglasses – with an all black baseball bat. It was just glorious. Cena was smacked against the face and collapsed. After that he proceeded to beat Cena until the man’s arm was literally bent the wrong way. Cena writhed and convulsed on the mat but the assault didn’t cease: it kept going until Cena was breathing but otherwise unresponsive. The crowd went deathly silent, time seemed to stop, and as some kids finally began to cry and scream for Cena to get up, the man in all black reached into his pocket, tossed a small green crystal onto his prey, turned around and casually left. No explanation given. It was… it was just…
And after I shed some
manly tears of joy, here comes Damien Sandow. He was his usual “I’m better than you, and I know it” self and he came out to tease at cashing in the briefcase. No one in their right mind would believe that he would take on Cena in a fair one-on-one conflict, so when he looked like he was about to leave I said, “Expected.”
Then he beat Cena with that briefcase, a chair and those stairs. And my heart was glad. As sad as it is, few things bring me as much joy as seeing John Cena get demolished, and 30 seconds into Sandow’s violent attack I knew three things:
- Cena’s arm was going to be the focus of the coming match
- Sandow was going to cash in, and
- Sandow was NOT going to win
That unnerved me at first, I admit, but as the match officially began and went on we saw something: we saw one hell of a match. Not only was Sandow keeping up with Cena but he was fighting the man like a strategist, a Lex Luthor taking on Superman, if you will. Sure, Sandow lost, as was expected, but the back-and-forth was so compelling that even in his loss we were brought to doing something we had only done in a speculatory (<— not a real word) fashion in the past few months: actively talking about Damien Sandow.
People are going to say that he’s in midcard hell, and at some point I might have agreed with you, but that briefcase has been his floatation device. He was on a classic win-lose (or lose-lose-occasional win) streak over the past few, holding that hunk of chocolate like he had low blood sugar, and when he finally DID decide to cash-in it was where? The day after a PPV, as the first match, in a conflict that few of us honestly thought he was capable of.
Yes, Sandow lost. But he had a championship match with John Cena. Let’s look at a TRUE midcard hell inhabitant: Kofi Kingston. No, he still finds himself on TV and in the occasional storyline. Let’s look at a TRUER midcard hell inhabitant: Zack Ryder. He’s held a belt (after launching a campaign for a secondary title, for some reason for the other) but after losing it he descended into nothingness. Sure, he’s around. But who cares? Outside of Gamespot, that is. For some reason or the other. He’s more or less forgotten. Sandow is no longer in that kind of predicament.
So no, Sandow is NOT in the midcard hell, and it’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here. Hell in a Cell opened a few doors and gave us a few thrills, and I can’t wait to speak on a good few of them, ESPECIALLY the dynamic between Bryan and the administration. I know a lot of people are confused and I hope tonight’s RAW has answered a few questions; alleviated some concerns. If not, sorry.
But keep this in mind, WWE faithful: NONE of this would have been a factor if you didn’t go the obvious route…
*Disclaimer: all pictures used throughout are utilized for the purpose of criticism and entertainment*
How much truth can a man stand? That’s not a question I want you to really answer, it’s rhetorical in your case, reader. It’s also a lyric to a rather quirky song of the same name. I’ll answer, however, and say, “Er… somewhere in the vicinity of a little bit and too damn much”. See, I only acknowledge so many truths right now, in my 24 years and one month of life. One of these truths is that The Walking Dead really isn’t all that amazing a show. That’s not to say that it’s bad, but as whole, the episodes are usually C+ to B quality in my opinion. Another truth: the two best episodes of the show (season one, episode one; season three, episode twelve) owe virtually ALL that status as “best” to one man: Lennie James, who plays Morgan Jones. Another truth: these brilliant performances are likely why he’s starring in the new AMC show Low Winter Sun.
Yes, truths are fun. Here’s one that’s directly related to the WWE: this year’s Summerslam is shaping up to be Wrestlemania: Summer Edition. And that’s saying something. With the white hot intensity of the Bryan v. Cena feud and the reintroduction of fire in a match, I see few people even ABLE to complain about the card. But what’s in a card? What do you think will happen? Frankly I don’t care: here’s what I think will happen though, and if you agree, that’s cool. If you don’t, that’s cool too. I’ll just feel all types of special that you cared enough to read.
Pre-Show: Rob Van Dam vs. Dean Ambrose (c) for the United States Championship
Right off the back, a big match. For the casual fan, this is due to be a treat beyond treats. For the indie fan, this is a dream match. For people like us at L.E.W.D., this is two meals at the Varsity, a fresh roll of toilet paper and a second copy of Batman: Hush. Translation: epic.
It’s no secret that Swatkowski and Good are two tremendous talents, and the idea of them doing battle is terrific, so the question isn’t whether or not it’ll be a good (no pun intended) match, but rather why put such a match in the pre-show? Well, I wish I could tell you. So I will.
Fact is we have to remember one thing: RVD is a part-timer. That’s not to say that he shouldn’t hold a belt or have a feud, however. He’s a 42 year old man who is noticeably slower than he was in his ECW/WWE prime, or even in his tenure with TNA (earlier on), but he is more than capable of putting on a great match and putting over good talent. Dean Ambrose (Jon Moxley (Jonathan Good)) need something to maintain some relevance as the focus on the Shield has taken a backseat to the Wyatt Family, and a bout with RVD is just what he needs.
There’s something else that’s special about this match: the title that’s on the line. You can argue that the United States Championship is the spiritual successor of sorts to the ECW Championship, the belt that Rob Van Dam is almost notorious for. Should he win come Sunday, he’ll have come full circle, and the series he and Ambrose can put on could result in a strong push for the unofficial leader of the mercenary group.
As for predictions, I see RVD winning, but just barely. Frankly it doesn’t matter who wins: WE win because it’s sure to be a damn fine match.
Natalya (with the Funkadactyls) vs. Brie Bella (with Eva Marie and Nikki Bella)
Say what you will about Total Divas: the show is a hit. I like it. Maybe you do too. If anything I gained a new respect for most of the Divas, save for Natalya. I’ve always significantly respected Natalya. With the canon of the show, Natalya plays the role of the older sister who both does all she can to uplift her younger siblings and yet can’t get a break of her own to really shine. The way she is on the show, you can’t help but feel for her. Hell, even ?uestlove was feeling for her, and that man has better things to do than watch TV, like work on the new Roots album, or find a barber.
No hate, ?uest: I wanna fro like you when I grow up. Anywho, part of me is surprised that it’s Brie Bella vs. Natalya as opposed to Nikki. Nikki just comes across as more of a bitch, but what I anticipate is a fan favorite crowd response for Nattie as well as her carrying Brie through a lot of the match. The Bellas are a decent enough pair of wrestlers, I suppose, but Natalya is a Hart: she’s got it in her blood, and I think she’s finally getting that push into being a contender for the title. We can only hope. As much as I love seeing AJ
with those pigtails and short shorts, er, I mean with that belt, Natalya would bring some class to it, and straight laced prestige.
My prediction: Natalya wins via submission. Don’t ask why.
Also, this serves as an extension of the show. I find it harder and harder to say it breaks kayfabe, really. It’s just as scripted as RAW or SmackDown! as far as I can tell. That’s why the other four are there. On another note, I can’t stand Eva Marie. But I respect her. Because she called out Jerry Lawler for looking at her a certain way and smacked him. God bless you, unnatural red head. God bless you.
Dolph Ziggler and Kaitlyn vs. Big E Langston and AJ Lee
First and foremost, shout out to that guy on Smackdown a week ago who screamed “AMY SCHUMER!” when Dolph Ziggler mentioned ex-girlfriends. I haven’t laughed so hard at an ad-lib since someone tried to explain that Control was Big Sean’s song. HA! BWAHAHAHAHA! That liar…
What we have here is your standard mixed tag match, and all the parties involved have one thing in common: AJ Lee. Still. Hard to imagine but she’s been in the forefront of a major story one way or another for months, and I dare say her rise from nothing to something has been as dynamic as Daniel Bryan’s. Even now we have a sick kind of love (sic) angle shy of a Nujabes series. Dolph is an ex. Big E is a wild card. Kaitlyn is a lesbian in fan fiction. And AJ is just soaking up everything, playing the narcissistic woman with zero self-esteem, justifying her existence with that belt and the men she’s ran though (or should I say who’ve ran through HER? HIYO!).
But as a whole, I struggle to see the necessity of this match outside of putting together two feuds that could be split apart. We have AJ and Kaitlyn still, but that’s lost a lot of focus and relevance. Sure, it’s entertaining, but Kaitlyn is fighting for revenge and AJ is just fighting, playing the role of defense. With Dolph and Big E, it’s an odd kind of mentor vs. student thing, but Big E’s role as AJ’s friend/Ziggler’s heavy has never been expounded upon outside of a hatred for Ziggler and a “I love her, I love her not” thing with AJ. Sure, she’s cute, almost adorable, certainly desirable, but Big E himself still stands as little more than a big black guy with personality and a borderline painful-looking finisher.
I’m not even sure what CAN be resolved with this match outside of a decent showing. All four of them are impressive enough in the ring, so if nothing else it’ll be a solid exhibition, but as Bruce Lee said:
Kane vs. Bray Wyatt in a Ring of Fire match
Ooh baby, when’s the last time we have a match involving everyone’s favorite element fire?!
Let me wipe the drool from my mouth right quick. Yes, the Devil’s Favorite Demon is taking on the Devourer of Worlds in a Ring of Fire match. What does this mean? It means the ring will be surrounded by fire, and the two will do battle. As far as gimmicks go, this is the closest the WWE has gotten to blatant sacrilege in a while, and praise Jebus the Jew for that! We need blatant sacrilege every once in a while, keeps up on our toes, keeps us focused. The match itself is an extension of the still more or less undefined mugging that the Wyatts committed on Kane way back when, and this match likely serves as a way for Kane to lose his match, join the cult and give the Undertaker someone to challenge in due time, all the while reintroducing the dark, violent man that has been Kane on various occasions in the past.
But here’s the thing: this is a very “adult” storyline, if you can catch my meaning. Not for the violence or the imagery or anything but because of the symbolism. I compare it, ironically enough, to the song Hellfire from the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Disney version. As far as Disney songs go, it broke EVERY rule. The song featured a judge (judge for the Disney movie, archdeacon for the traditional tale) who was essentially singing about a gypsy girl he was in lust with. Lust in a Disney movie? Not blatantly! They usually do that in a subtle manner.
But lust, religious imagery, the mea culpa, fire, DEATH, the song covered it all. It wasn’t just about his lust, or how evil the woman MADE him as opposed to how evil he himself was, but how he was asking God to either make the woman (kid by our standards, but this was 1400s) his, or give her up to the flame (Hell), all while begging for mercy for himself AND her. It was deep, and frankly the sequence alone in the film was worth the price of admission. Don’t let your kids see it though: they WILL be scared and confused. But since I endorse scaring and confusing kids…
Sorry, I got a bit off topic. I just enjoy that sequence. As far as Kane and Bray go, it’ll be a welcome reintroduction to the man we once called Husky Harris, and I see him winning, thus dragging Kane into the Wyatt Family. And yes, I WILL be playing this awesome song if Wyatt embraces Kane as a new disciple.
Cody Rhodes vs. Damien Sandow
You can consider this a prequel for a World Heavyweight Championship match in a near future PPV. And you can also be mad at the WWE for not being wholly consistent with Cody’s character. At first he came across as a petty, whiny, sore loser who was wholly unjustified in how he was treating Sandow and his briefcase. After last week, he ADMITTED that he was a petty, whiny, sore loser who was wholly unjustified in how he was treating Sandow and his briefcase, and to add insult to that he admitted that he would have done the same thing to Sandow if he was in his position.
You may wonder why I have an issue with this. Simple: after admitting something like he did, his role in attacking Sandow becomes moot. The idea of Rhodes taking the briefcase is ridiculous, and the notion of Sandow fighting Rhodes first and THEN cashing in adds filler, not content, to Sandow’s first World Heavyweight Championship reign. Because he WILL win it. It’s written in the stars, or at the very least MY stars.
The saving grace is the match itself come Summerslam, which will be a good one, and will almost certainly result in a Rhodes win. Why? Just because. If Sandow wins, which I doubt, the ultimate outcome will remain the same, and I’ll get to it in a little while.
Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio (c) for the World Heavyweight Championship
Let’s address the elephant in the room right now: this match is irrelevant. Yes, irrelevant. Completely and utterly. Never mind my melancholy towards Del Rio or my disinterest with Christian: this match is little more than the equivalent of a place holder for the future title match between the above two. Now, from a pure wrestling standpoint, this will be a MONSTER. Seriously, it’ll be beautiful to watch. Christian and Del Rio are two of the most gifted wrestling talents in the WWE, but one is nearing the end of his career I think and the other is… Del Rio.
Nothing more to say about it. The belt? Who cares? It’s the World Heavyweight Championship: it hasn’t had meaning for a while, and it’ll stay that way even after Del Rio wins. Yes, I call Del Rio winning. But therein lies that “ultimate outcome” I mentioned in the Rhodes v. Sandow match. So long as Sandow can MOVE after that match, win or lose, and they do battle BEFORE Christian and Del Rio, I see him cashing in during the PPV. Sandow will be loved as a hated fellow, Rhodes will be looked at as the man to take the belt from him, and MAYBE Del Rio will be thrown into a storyline that’ll make him worth a damn.
We can only hope.
CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman (and likely Curtis Axel))
The Best vs. the Beast. How poetic. How appropriate. Or IS it? Perhaps another indie favorite is making a solid claim as being “the best”. But I digress. It doesn’t matter who is the best. Trying to determine who is stands as a fruitless test. A worrisome quest. In choosing one you neglect the rest.
I apologize: I was having fun at your “This guy is SO corny” expression’s expense. The story is simple here: CM Punk wants revenge on Heyman. Heyman chose Lesnar as his champion. Punk turned one-track minded and stayed focused on trying to hurt Heyman. Lesnar introduced Punk to a special variation of the F5 I refer to as the F.Y.L. F5, F.Y.L. standing for “f*** yo life”.
Honestly I think Lesnar really tries to hurt people in that ring. Good for our visceral nature but bad for business. In any case, this will probably be the second best match on the card, from both an in-ring perspective and a psychological perspective. Punk is fighting like a man possessed and Lesnar is in his zone, doing what he does best: hurting people. We like that. We like it when Lesnar hurts people. You hear that, WWE? Resign Shannon Moore!
So here’s the truth regarding me: as fun as this match will be – and it WILL be fun – my only question is “What now?”. I’m not sure who is set to win, but I’m leaning more towards Punk, because I don’t see HOW this story can progress from this point. Including Axel is odd, but he’s the third Heyman Guy, and he’ll likely have a role, but it doesn’t answer my only question.
I’m leaning toward Punk winning, beating Lesnar and Axel senseless, then turning his attention to Heyman, and afterwards getting back into the title hunt. As I was telling the Right Reverend Showtime the other day, I have a feeling the CM Punk who looked at the new WWE Championship belt and said, “I want THAT one” would be VERY welcome once this feud was over. And it could culminate in my dream main event for Wrestlemania XXX. Ah, dreaming…
Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena (c) for the WWE Championship (with Triple H as Guest Referee)
Here it is. The big one. The granddaddy of matches this Sunday. Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena. What can I say that hasn’t in some way already been said? It’s the wrestler’s wrestler vs. the sports entertainer’s superman. We’ve seen promo after promo, funny shirts, a few puns, even a brief appearance by Heel Cena (also known as Jerk Cena, also known as the Dick) and now we even have Triple H as the guest ref.
Why? Because. Because why? You’re asking too many questions. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t like him being a part of the match, but with McMahon being a part of the Bryan v. Barrett match on SmackDown! the ref position is “justified”. Like I’ve said, and will say in a piece that’ll probably be up just before the PPV starts, the McMahon power struggle is a grand storyline that’ll likely end with McMahon being ejected from being the primary figurehead seen on TV. Don’t ask me about it here, wait until the other piece comes up.
As for the match, it’s going to be interesting. Note: interesting. Good? Yes. Great? Likely. Epic? Perhaps. Five stars? Remains to be seen. At the end of the day we have a man who stands as today’s Hogan and a man who would shine the best against someone like Kurt Angle, or the man with no name himself, Chris Benoit. That triple threat match would have been incredible. But c’est la vie: it’s impossible now. Stupid Angle drinking and getting caught…
Now, let’s address some wild cards. First: Randy Orton. I don’t know WHY they’re making him out to be this boogeyman, but that’s all he is right now. He’s constantly reminding Bryan and Cena that he’s there, and in true buzzard fashion he WILL likely swoop in on the victor when they’re out, and… lose. Well no, that’s not quite right. I’ll get to that later.
Second: Wade Barrett. Remember the McMahon power struggle story and how Vince said he didn’t want Cena OR Bryan to hold the belt. His vision of a Superstar isn’t Orton either though: he’s too lean. But who stands as big, muscular, clean cut and constantly angry? Wade Barrett. Who MIGHT be finally getting his chance to shine. The hell with a title, I’m happy to just see him pursue it actively. As I’ve said: I think he’s the most deserving guy on the roster for a title opportunity/run.
Finally, who I see winning. This… is a hard one. There’s what I WANT to happen, what I THINK will happen and what I think is BEST. They aren’t all the same. What I THINK will happen is John Cena winning via help from McMahon, but it’s a ludicrous notion too. It would be further heel momentum for McMahon, confusion for Cena who wouldn’t accept anything like assistance (see: Money in the Bank 2011), and even MORE support for Bryan, who is already dazzling hot (you see what I did there?) as it is. But what I THINK will happen means little, because I don’t have much faith in that.
What I WANT to happen is even more ludicrous. I want Bryan to be the first one to make Cena tap. Only two people in the history of the WWE come to mind when it comes to never tapping out: Hogan and Cena, but there is a third. Cena would be embarrassed beyond belief, Bryan would be champ, Orton would attempt to cash in AND Bryan would make Orton the second person to cash in AND lose. That would make me happier than some quality alone time with Keira Knightley and Natalie Portman on a deserted island.
I take that back: that would NOT make me happier than some quality alone time with Keira Knightley and Natalie Portman on a deserted island, but it would come about as close as… forty miles. Nautical miles. On foot.
Then, there’s what I think would be BEST. And this is subjective, I have no problem saying it. Daniel would win, and he’d force Cena into a position that the third was in. Cena wouldn’t tap: he’d pass out. Cena would pull a Stone Cold Steve Austin. Daniel would get his props, Cena would maintain his respect, and Orton… would stay in the shadows. He’d strike later, on another day, at another PPV, and be a sneaky son of a bitch as a feud between Barrett and Bryan took the spotlight and Cena took some time off. That would be fun too.
Well, loyal random interwebz vagabond, those are my predictions and whatnot. Hope you enjoy the PPV as much as I think I’m going to. Sleep tight. Blee.
AKA: Why the Hell am I Still WRITING About This Guy?!
AKA: No Cappadonna
It all comes down to one more thing: Money in the Bank.
Money in the Bank, the PPV with a storied past. It serves as the brain child of the match that was once a highlight of the Wrestlemania event, the six-man match featuring ladders, high-flying action and Kofi Kingston, before he became the black Jeff Hardy. Sorry, that’s inappropriate: before he was thrown into the position of being the black Jeff Hardy. Swear to God, I don’t think he’s got the IDGAF attitude that Jeff “Pot Pancakes and Turkey Sausages” Hardy displays. And that’s saying something.
Over the years we have relied on Money in the Bank to be the proverbial king of the underground of sorts, the greatest of the WWE PPVs that isn’t one of the big four (though Extreme Rules makes a good case as well), and with it upon us this evening it’s only right that we delve into the biggest (championship wise) match of the evening and conclude the three part pseudo-retrospective that is examining Mark Jerrold Henry.
This is going to be another short one (maybe) so don’t get to yawning or groaning yet: I’m just throwing out a scenario here before I go back to The Old Republic, Skyrim and working on an entry or the like for gaming/mixology site The Drunken Moogle. I’m going to speak on that site soon, so keep your eyes peeled for the post that I bring it up in in detail. Anywho, back to the PPV. The WWE Championship match, between angry challenger Mark Henry and Boy Scout champion John Cena.
First I’ll say this: despite all my hang ups on Cena, I appreciate him, as a person and a character. He’s likely a very interesting and friendly person; he’s a man with a lot of cars (a la Leno), a penchant towards women of Mexican descent (a la me), and – PLEASE don’t stone me for this one – a decent rapper, when he wants to be. Thank God he doesn’t do it anymore (to the best of my knowledge) but he can spit when he really wants to.
Still here? Haven’t scoffed and stomped off? Good, because I have more to say. His character is interesting in how he’s both the most human and the most inhuman character the WWE has right now. He never gives up and he gets beat up; he never shows fear and he gets scared at some people; he declares that the championship is everything and he says its nothing more than leather and gold. He’s human in his contradictions and he’s inhuman in his objectiveness.
Last Monday he stood opposite Mark Henry and delivered a basic promo. It wasn’t special, it wasn’t incredible, it was just standard, as basic as anything he’s done. He said some things, big barked, mean mugged, and finally got into a little scrap with Henry. He was on the losing end of said scrap, which doesn’t surprise me, after trying to perform an AA on Henry and failing (can do it when prepared, can’t do it when it’s impromptu and lacks adrenaline: John Cena the king of dichotomy).
But honestly that’s not that stood out to me. Like I said, that was basic. And while Henry was a lot more entertaining and dropped more quotables than a Juvenile single his promo was almost equally basic, even if his basic is wholly entertaining. Any clash between two powerhouses strikes me as funny because you usually deal with two people who aren’t much in the ring from a technical standpoint but great when it comes to making people look like ragdolls. This is going to be a match along those lines, in a way, but I still haven’t said that stands out to me.
I won’t try to quote anything so I’ll summarize or paraphrase when I say that Henry’s focus is that title. He said he’d sell out his own mother, that he DID sell out his own family, all for the OPPORTUNITY to obtain the title, and that kind of desperation has become a pretty solid theme in the WWE right now (desperation to win the title: Mark Henry, Randy Orton, Cesaro, Swagger; desperation to prove one self: Daniel Bryan, Christian, CM Punk). Seeing as Cena has held the belt so often it’s hard to even imagine that he can APPRECIATE that kind of hunger, left alone talk down on it. His hunger is of want: Henry’s is of need.
Cena said that if Henry walked out of Money in the Bank with the title then he will have earned it. Keep that in mind: I’ll come back to it later in more detail. He referred to the belt as nothing more than leather and gold, and when he said that I began to think about every promo that Cena did leading up to the PPV following Henry’s false retirement speech.
He downplayed it. He downplayed the title. He downplayed the title, the championship, and to a lesser degree even himself. His confidence was shaken: he was openly saying that he may not retain the title. This is during times when we had vignettes of past WWE and World Heavyweight Championship holders, from the Buddy Rogers to the Stone Cold Steve Austins to the Stings. I’m sure someone here will have fun with Sting’s future, but it likely won’t be me. Emphasis on LIKELY.
So here we have the man who has held the WWE Championship more than anyone in the history of history, who has dethroned kings and gods alike, climbed the mountain, jumped to the base and ascended the summit time and time again. Why is he playing the role of the fearful monarch now? When he interrupted Henry on Monday and made a comment about a candy bar, it was a moment of desperation and fear, a way to break Henry’s concentration and make him appear a little less intimidating.
People, y’all know what fear does to people. It causes them to run away in some cases, but Cena doesn’t run. It causes them to try to appear bigger and stronger like when attacked by a bear or a mountain lion, and Cena did that. He dropped the mic, threw off his hat, ripped off his shirt and stood his ground. A lot of good it did though: he still got beat.
But this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this fear in Cena. Sure, he displays it before more PPVs and big matches, but this has been something noticeable for three years now, and it’s finally hit me: Cena just can’t catch a break at the Money in the Bank PPV.
Yes, I know it seems like I’m talking about Cena a lot for a Mark Henry Curious Case file, but stick with me. At the first Money in the Bank PPV he lost to Sheamus. At the second, in the most famous match in Money in the Bank history, he lost to CM Punk. Last year he won the briefcase, but he didn’t win his match. By and large this PPV is as much a reflection on his “worst” year as it is a funny reflection on Cena’s capacity to lose.
Now I’m not saying that he thinks “Oh no, it’s Money in the Bank! I’m going to regret it!” but it is interesting nonetheless that there has YET to be one Money in the Bank outcome that has truly worked out in his favor.
That being said, let’s focus intently on Mark Henry. The big guy. The land mass that inspires fear in men and likely unbridled lust in women (you know, like yours truly. Me. Da Infamous One.). I can’t help but go back to 2011’s Night of Champions, in the middle of September, where after 13 minutes of combat he defeated Randy Orton for the World Heavyweight Championship. I remember what I was thinking before the PPV even started: “Mark Henry isn’t going to win, why are they even teasing us?”
See, on that day, we KNEW Mark Henry wasn’t going to win. A month prior we KNEW Mark Henry wasn’t going to ever be in a main event picture. Years ago we KNEW Mark Henry was never going to be more than a mid-carder for his career. And we were thrown a MAJOR curveball that night when he not only obtained the title, but in the months that followed he would defend it and have a pretty damn exciting reign.
The appeals behind Henry’s title shot tonight are a)his longevity in the company (if nothing else you have to respect that) and b)this being the “only title he’s never held”. Aside from that being a TREMENDOUS lie… no, that’s just a tremendous lie. It’s the most important title in the company, no question, but Henry’s only held the European and World Heavyweight titles. In essence, he’s one of the only people who can still qualify to be a Grand Slam champion, and if he did that he’d be beyond a god amongst men: he’d be a god amongst gods. Or something alone those lines.
I say all this to say that we KNOW that Mark Henry isn’t going to win tonight. And what we’ve KNOWN has blown up in our faces from time to time. Don’t get it twisted: I’m not saying that anyone is going to win either way. Depending on where this match falls in the card it could be a Cena win, a Henry win, or a MitB winner win that follows either way. If Daniel Bryan wins like I want, it would be interesting to see how the remnant spawn of the Hardcore Championship is utilized yet again. And we’re not even going to BEGIN to care about the World Heavyweight Championship so much as the MitB match FOR it’s contract.
It’s funny because we’re dealing with two desperate men in a desperate match. One is desperate to win after years of being overlooked (that Night of Champions match against Orton was acclaimed for giving Henry a “long overdue title reign”) and the other is afraid. It shows in their interactions. Last Monday Cena tried to stand toe-to-toe and failed. Before he jumped at the threat of Mark Henry. Perhaps the best metaphor is from one of my favorite animes, Yu Yu Hakusho. The second saga focused on the grand scale martial arts Dark Tournament (Yoshihiro Togashi thinks up some amazing names, doesn’t he! (not that he has to, he’s married to Naoko Takeuchi, creator of Sailor Moon (could this story be ANY sweeter?))) and the conflict between Yusuke and the younger Toguro brother.
In this case, we actually DO have an underdog story, because Yusuke was chosen by Toguro to be the one to end him (as revealed later (oops, I mean *SPOILER ALERT*!)) and thus the one who had to step up after being scared pissless at the start of the saga. If that sounds convoluted then I apologize: it’s a long story and I don’t want to bore you too much. Just watch the show.
For this, it’s partially reversed. Cena is Yusuke only in how he’s the younger of the two combatants. And Henry is Toguro in the sense that he’s big, scary and follows a solid – if questionable – brand of morality. In true anime fashion the good guy (Yusuke) won the tournament, despite being hated throughout until Toguro started killing off the audience to fuel his own power. Like I said, I can’t get too into it because it was a long saga but much like the WWE (on occasion) and Dragonball Z (from jump), the show throws curveballs from time to time. Remember how confused you were when the main character of Dragonball Z died in the first few episodes? Yeah, Yusuke was trying to figure out how he died in the first SCENE of the show.
What am I saying? Unlike the masses, I think there’s a chance Henry could win. Not a great chance, but a chance, and it would be sweet to see it. It would be a terrific feather in the cap that is Mark Jerrold Henry’s triumphant career. A true triumph, you know, as if there was no Cappadonna involved. That reference is going to fly over a few heads.
And with that we close the book on the Curious Case files of Mark Jerrold Henry. His career is already set in stone. Now let’s see if it gets even better.
Oh, and for your viewing pleasure:
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:
If you have any thoughts, feel free to express them!
In less than eight hours World Wrestling Entertainment is poised to present the first ever Payback sports entertainment event LIVE on pay per view!
Tonight’s event, emanating from the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois, looks to give fans the signature action that only WWE can provide. How fans actually feel about that action is up for debate, but breathe easy and be confident that whatever happens tonight fans from all over will find a way to be entertained by the action in the ring or in the Twitterverse.
The card tonight is robust enough to hold our attention even though the name of the pay per view is less than thrilling or energetic. With the exception of two or three matches, everything scheduled for tonight meshes well with the “retribution” theme of the event.
A part of me feels that this “retribution” theme is a tad bit weak, but who nowadays sits at home and complains about the theme of a pay per view? I get the feeling that this event will simply serve as a capable and sturdy bridge to next month’s Money in the Bank pay per view, where the real excitement will energize us as we launch into the big summer angles headed towards Summerslam in August.
With all that being said, let’s launch into some predictions:
Business between these two superstars picked up when Sheamus volunteered to participate in Sandow’s intellectual challenges. Frustrated at his inability to solve the challenges, Sheamus did what any normal bully would do and physically attacked Sandow. Does anyone else out there notice that John Cena tends to do the exact same thing when he’s verbally bested by an opponent? I digress…
I suppose the intent here is for Sheamus to silence Sandow and his self-righteous pseudo-intellectual pretentiousness, the goal being to punish Sandow for assuming that everyone else is his intellectual subordinate. It is slightly concerning that the Sheamus character chooses to solve complex brain games by beating a man senseless; keep in mind that Sheamus is the face of this match. What the hell kind of message is that sending to the kids? Be a star, why don’t you?
I would be surprised if this pre-show match up was a precursor for a long rivalry between the two men. I can’t imagine a feud built on such a silly premise would turn into something serious between these particular competitors. This isn’t to say that it can’t happen, it’s just that the thought of it has yet to materialize in my head. I also don’t get the picture that fans yearn to see Sheamus fumble at solving a Rubic’s Cube or understanding the intricacies of the Devils Fork anytime soon.
What is more concerning is that Sheamus’ last few feuds have been superficial at most, which makes me believe that the investment moving forward is (or should be) in Sandow. The “Irish John Cena” has flip-flopped around the upper mid card for some time without solid direction and seems to work best when he’s just as much in danger of a massive beating as the person he’s facing. The only behemoth left for him to face is Big E Langston, which again would benefit his opponent more so than himself.
I expect Sheamus to win this feud and move on to something else while the company figures out what to do next with Damien Sandow.
Prediction: Sheamus wins
Look at the three men in the graphic above and answer two simple questions: do you really care who wins this match, and if that Photoshopped Intercontinental Championship wasn’t present in the picture, would you still care who wins the match?
I’m not saying this to poo-poo entirely on the match; my concern is that the importance of the title has been tossed so far over the horizon that it doesn’t bring a “big fight feel” to the match. Unfortunately the participants in this match don’t do much to make the title at least appear like it’s worthy of attention. What we have here is an unholy circle of mediocrity.
Curtis Axel, the “it factor” of this match, replaced the recently concussed superstar Fandango in this trio of turmoil. Even with the brilliance of Paul Heyman at his side the Axel character is technically still a newborn in the grand scheme of things, lacking the charisma and established persona that would add an element of electricity to the match in the same way that Fandango would have. That electricity is absolutely needed in a bout featuring two great athletes and The Miz.
Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett, in all due respect, has essentially carried the title around as an accessory. The title is Barrett’s large, white and garish purse which he never sits on the floor and keeps others from scrounging around in it without his permission. He gets pissed if it’s taken from him, but could just as easily opt to leave it at home and take a wallet instead if he wants to travel lightly. The Miz doesn’t deserve a paragraph of his own.
There’s just no reason to invest in this match at all. The bout is no where near being deficient in wrestling talent and ability, but as we’ve discussed several times on this site a WWE match is much more than just showcasing great wrestling; that’s what TNA is for. There’s nothing remotely distinguishable about these three men and the significance of the title was lost long before this match, making it unnecessary for anyone to emotionally invest in the action other than to see two of the three competitors wrestle well.
I’m giving the win to Curtis Axel, as a win here would only add to the roll he’s been on with his high-profile victories…although it would make sense for him to fail at winning the title seeing as those high-profile “victories” are questionable. Then again if the man can beat John Cena but fail at beating The Miz…
Prediction: Curtis Axel wins the Intercontinental Title
Tonight will be Dolph Ziggler’s return to pay per view action after being shelved from a concussion. Since stepping back into active competition, Ziggler has been used sparingly in matches as WWE is treading water lightly when it comes to concussed superstars. This is a good thing; it does have some effect on the match and the World Heavyweight Title, but when it concerns a wrestler’s mental health and stability we fans should be understanding enough to allow the company to utilize precautionary methods and booking to ensure the wrestler’s longevity in life and not just in the business.
Ziggler and Del Rio are both accomplished athletes and wrestlers, so the match should deliver for as long as Ziggler sees in-ring time. I sincerely doubt this match will go the distance even though Ziggler has been medically cleared to perform. The company thus far has erred on the side of safely with Ziggler. who’s first real championship reign (not counting his wet fart reign during his time as Vickie Guerrero’s cabana boy) hasn’t been all that spectacular or memorable.
The other side of the coin is that Del Rio as champion is far more lifeless than Ziggler’s reign. The main and major redeeming fact in placing the belt on Del Rio is that you can get longer and more intense matches from a healthy champion than you can the one you’re keeping safe.
Del Rio will win the title in a relatively short match while the company plays it safe with Ziggler.
Prediction: Alberto Del Rio wins the World Heavyweight Championship
To put it mildly, the match between Dean Ambrose and Kane will be great.
The Kane character has seen a revitalization similar to that of Dave Batista’s final run in the company. Ironically enough Kane is also building a WWE legacy that will be remembered as fondly as that of his “brother’s,” The Undertaker. The man behind the mask is a consummate professional and his love for what he does can be easily seen by fans every time he steps through the ropes.
That being said Ambrose is fortunate to share the squared circle with a star of Kane’s magnitude. Ambrose is definitely deserving, having been given this opportunity after surviving his stint in Florida Championship Wrestling and NXT. He easily stands out in The Shield primarily for his mic skills, while his wrestling style is the epitome of the “unorthodox” style that other wrestlers attempt to pass off as a controlled form of flailing all over the place.
The fight between Kane and Ambrose will be ugly in the sense that the passion both men exhibit will easily permeate through their actions. It won’t be hard for fans to become invested in the ebb and flow of the match, as Ambrose’s facial expressions and body language make it simple for fans to say “Damn, I bet that hurt!”
I see Ambrose retaining the title with a little help from his Shield brethren.
Prediction: Dean Ambrose retains
Seth Rollins and Daniel Bryan are the stars of this match, which leaves Randy Orton and Roman Reigns as finger cymbals in this symphony of kicks and bodyslams.
The team of Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan is just as volatile, if not more, than Team Hell No. Fans have been screaming for a more edgy Randy Orton, or at least an Orton character that isn’t floating around as aimlessly as Sheamus. I’ve read a lot of commentary that’s placed the blame on Orton for being what amounts to the green or red practice dummies in the Create-A-Move Set option on WWE video games. I myself don’t fault Orton, but creatively it is quite possible that the character has gone as far as it can as a face.
There’s also a concern among fans and pundits that the company won’t go the distance with Daniel Bryan. It’s no secret that WWE has a storied track record of neglecting superstars that are fantastically over with fans, particularly ones that aren’t huge and larger than life. I’m not clear on our expectations for the company regarding Daniel Bryan; do we want him to be handed the WWE Championship now or have him kick his way to the top of the roster within a month?
The perception is that the company won’t do right by the character, but if the character makes money I cannot see them doing anything wrong with it. I’d rather let the company show me they’re going to abuse the character and the wrestler rather than assume the worst from the jump. Keep in mind that many didn’t believe Bryan would make it this far in the company; our expectations can be just as restrictive and condemning as the reality they exist in.
With Jimmy and Jey Uso receiving a renewed push of sorts I expect The Shield will retain due to friction between Orton and Bryan. Reigns and Rollins will move on to defend their belts against established tag teams while Orton and Bryan duke it out in a rivalry concluding at the Money in the Bank pay per view a month away.
Prediction: Rollins and Reigns retain
Last Monday’s episode of RAW saw AJ Lee revealed as Kaitlyn’s secret admirer, which was the result of a cruel joke played on the Divas Champion by Dolph Ziggler’s questionably sane girlfriend. Enraged after being publicly humiliated by AJ Lee, Kaitlyn has gone on rage-filled rampage that Lee will have to contend with tonight if she hopes to win the Divas title.
Kaitlyn won’t be thinking clearly, however; a large part of Lee’s offense includes mind games, similar to that of Goldust during his first run in WWE. With Kaitlyn’s unfocused anger present, Lee with more than likely capitalize on mistakes Kaitlyn will make throughout the match.
What surprised most fans about this match up is the fact that WWE actually devoted energy into giving the Divas a specific storyline. Some fans even commented how AJ Lee’s “crazy chick” persona is a weak version of Mickie James’ initial WWE character. I think this opinion does a disservice to Lee, James and Kaitlyn, however. Mickie James’ character was crazy from an odd infatuation with Trish Stratus, while Lee’s character tends to be a calculated insane, crazy with a purpose and goal … and just plain nuts from the get go.
By comparing Lee to James fans are intentionally disabling themselves from investing in Lee’s character as Lee’s character. By conjuring up the Mickie James character of old, fans negate anything done by James after that and currently. Kaitlyn also suffers because fans will think of her in terms of Trish Stratus even there is no comparing the two whatsoever. The end result is back to square one, looking at the Divas division as something that it once was some 15 years ago; even then our understanding of that era is somewhat stained by inaccurate perceptions and bias.
AJ Lee will win the title, creating a rivalry and furthering the storyline between the two.
Prediction: AJ Lee wins the Divas Championship
CM Punk will hopefully make his triumphant WWE return tonight in Chicago as he looks forward to facing WWE veteran Chris Jericho.
Jericho and Punk have had excellent matches in the past and will not disappoint tonight. The match between them was booked due to Paul Heyman, which could be the foundation for an eventual split between the Straight Edge Superstar and the maniacal mastermind behind the original ECW.
Chicago will go bat sh*t crazy over Punk’s return, fueling rampant speculation around whether or not Punk will be a face or heel moving forward. Plans are always subject to change and I personally have no other reason to look to this match to indicative of where the Punk character is moving next. Instead fans should simply enjoy what will be a near five-star match between two top-tier competitors and allow the story to unfold before our eyes.
The only wildcard in this match is Punk’s status in the company. The superstar has talked very little about the match on the various social media outlets available and has only openly stated his enjoyment of life while not wrestling. There is a slight chance that Punk may not show up tonight, giving us a “surprise” match between Jericho and someone from the Heyman Family. The only other feasible option in the event of a Punk no show would be the debut of the Wyatt Family … but that’s not going to happen.
If Punk wrestles he won’t lose in his hometown and Jericho won’t fall into mediocrity by losing here.
Prediction: Punk wins
Last month’s Ambulance Match between John Cena and Ryback revealed a few things that most older fans either missed or cared very little about.
For one a John Cena WWE Champion has officially done as much as it can and will do creatively. Cena holding the title seems forced, uninspired, and plain flat. He’s rarely booed anymore because his detractors don’t even care enough to boo him. Every time Cena steps into the ring, armed with his killer work ethic and never-say-die attitude, the end result is the same wash-rinse-repeat cycle we’ve seen of him for what seems like centuries. He’s always presented as the underdog even while being the champion, and there’s nothing dynamic about the psychology of his matches or character. Franky he’s just there like a pair of shoes that you really should’ve gotten rid of months ago.
Secondly, Ryback was positioned to be the Doomsday to John Cena’s Superman. The fallout from their stalemate at Extreme Rules, however, has turned Ryback into a tool being used to make fans give a damn about Cena again. This isn’t very different from a number of feuds Cena has been involved in, but it is rather unfortunate that Ryback was forced to become a heel for no other reason than to get fans to organically support Cena as an underdog … even though he’s the champion.
Thirdly, the fact that a gimmick match was used in their first official singles match as well as their second foray against each other is concerning. I find it concerning because most gimmick matches are used when a fight escalates to certain levels and to mask certain deficiencies a wrestler or wrestlers may have. From that perspective what does it say when Cena and Ryback’s first match needed a stipulation?
John Cena will retain his title. There’s nothing else that can really be said or done about that. I expect Cena and Ryback to go at it at least one more time at Money in the Bank, maybe even with a final match in August at Summerslam. Other than that … whatever.
Prediction: John Cena retains
Payback looks good on paper but will only serve as a competent segue to the next pay per view and summer storylines pointing directly at Summerslam. The pay per view won’t be a total bust, but if you choose to spend today doing something else, the WWE Universe will continue to roll on without a hitch. For those of us actually watching the pay per view, here’s to hoping we’ll get some enjoyment out of the action!
There wasn’t much hullabaloo immediately made when TNA President Dixie Carter commented in an interview last month with Digital Spy about being “absolutely open” to doing a crossover event with Vince McMahon and his WWE machine.
Believe it or not I share this opinion with Carter much to the chagrin of a few of my L.E.W.D. brethren. With the business on the whole situated in a PG period of stagnancy, a crossover event between the two largest pro wrestling promotions in the United States would bring something new and different to an industry growing increasingly stale.
Americans living in the United States are taught early on that competition among businesses is excellent for growth, development, and success. Carter stated in the interview that although she believes this to be true of the pro wrestling industry, she has justifiable concern that her company’s competition feels differently. To be honest with TNA currently standing second to the WWE in many different ways, the latter company has yet to have any good reason to acknowledge TNA without pretense; there’s no reason the big dog in the yard has to give the pipsqueak pup a chance to compete with them on a level they’ve yet to earn on their own merit.
If the WWE has maintained a vice like grip on the industry for the last 11-12 years, why would they willingly give that position and power up just for another company (Carter also mentioned this same thing, in a way, during the interview)? That honestly is the main reason why a crossover event between the two companies would be out of the question today.
A recent post by blogger Tom G at Gerweck.net has me thinking differently about that seemingly unfathomable event; as numerous sites and blogs are now asking fans to build their dream event that would see TNA wrestlers go head-to-head with the WWE superstars, I can’t help but to wonder how things would work if the wrestling world was perfect and a TNA versus WWE event was scheduled.
Establish WHY the Event Should Take Place
To begin with both companies would have to negotiate the terms of the event and decide how they would and could benefit from working with one another instead of against each other.
The immediate and obvious beneficiary would be TNA, the smaller company that gets scores of publicity and revenue from being attached to the WWE and its global audience. Granted TNA has a large number of fans around the world, but consider the numerical difference between IMPACT Wrestling’s 1.2 million U.S. viewers weekly and RAW’s 3.5 million U.S. viewers before making a stink about semantics. I would consider this a short-term benefit for TNA, as any momentum gained from the event would have to be maintained and capitalized upon by TNA.
There would be no instant gratification for WWE unless there was a specific reason for working with their closest rival (we’ll talk about that in a second). However in the long run, the WWE creative team(s) and booking team(s) would be forced to reevaluate the way they present their product if TNA capitalizes off of the publicity and momentum.
The long term benefit would also be for the business as well, creating a hype and buzz that would bring some new excitement and create buzz for an industry lacking in mass appeal all around. Essentially both companies would be looking at communal and individual success, both companies gaining something far more important by sacrificing personal and hubristic glory or domination over the competition.
If those goals alone aren’t enough to entice McMahon (Carter would agree from the very beginning), perhaps another goal could be to provide funds and support for a relief effort or other charitable causes. A portion of the money raised from the event could be donated to the many non-profit organizations supported by either company. Or, as Tom G. mentioned, perhaps the money raised from the event could benefit victims of natural disasters (Hurricane Sandy or the Oklahoma tornados) or tragic violence (Sandy Hook or Boston Marathon families).
McMahon rarely turns down opportunities to offer financial support to numerous charitable organizations, and an event of such magnitude that brings together an even larger array of fans and media attention would certainly whet his appetite.
Establish Parameters for the Event: The Overarching Story and 5 Year Plan
After both companies come on board and agree to work with each other, negotiations would have to take place that discuss what the event should look like and how it should play out.
Tom G. noted that an independent booking committee would be necessary to hammer out the details of the event, but seeing as most of the writers and booking committee of TNA has already worked with WWE in some form or fashion, such a committee would me more of a desire than a need. A solid crew representing the interests of both companies, in my opinion, would suffice just as well.
Regardless of the participants of the event it’s more important to lay out a plan that highlights the strength and weaknesses of both companies. The resulting storyline would lead to a resolution that tacitly shows fans what makes each promotion worthy of attention and money while also not denying the weaknesses each company suffers from.
The only thing that would frustrate talks at this point is the desire for either company to “prove” that it’s “better” than the competition. That should be a point left for the fans to decide, the result of which would ideally create a new era of prime time wrestling wars.
My particular idea would involve the event spanning over five years, with one specific pay per view show per year. This event, which I have conveniently named Proving Ground, would pretty much be a bi-promotional Bragging Rights that would take place in December each year. Each company would build towards the pay per view in their own unique way, using the three months prior to turn the focus of their major storylines towards the pay per view.
Think of it like this: in the way that TNA builds for Bound for Glory though the BFG Series, or in the way that WWE begins the “Road to WrestleMania” with the Royal Rumble pay per view. Similar things could happen in each company, perhaps with WWE having a “series” of matches to determine Team WWE and TNA having a battle royal to begin the storyline journey leading to the Proving Ground pay per view.
Over the five year period of time each pay per view would be designed to send a specific message to the fans regarding each promotion. These messages would either speak to each company’s strengths or weaknesses in a way that is truthful but not offensive a company and its fans. I imagine that the final pay per view in Year Five would involve a high profile match that would be the ultimate pay off in the series, each company progressing after the event in their own manner.
Keeping in mind that how a wrestler wins a match is more important than winning the match itself, it would be absolutely necessary for TNA to lose the pay per view in Year One.
Now in its eleventh year of operation, TNA has managed to survive financial ruin, booking disasters, and harsh fan criticism with an unrivaled level of skill. The company and its president continuously fight against a heavy tide of criticism and disdain from most fans; they cater to a diehard and rabid fan base that will support and protect it against any and all dissenters, including against ex-employees of the company.
Despite their dogged persistence and spunky nature, TNA has yet to really go beyond a certain point in its eleven year history. It’s questionable whether or not they’re making a profit and their best efforts cannot seem to raise their viewership beyond another specific point. Having acknowledged this reality, how much sense would it make to have the company dominate and defeat the WWE conglomerate on the very first pay per view?
The point of Year One would be to establish TNA as a serious competitor to the WWE machine. It will be highlighted that TNA can beat WWE, not that they have beaten WWE. The point to drive home with each match—win or lose—is that TNA has the heart and persistence to bring WWE to its knees. That can be done even if TNA more matches on the card than the WWE, including the main event match.
Year One would also highlight the differences between the two companies, most notably the difference between “wrestlers” and “superstars,” “Knockouts” and “Divas.” TNA would show consistently that their roster is filled with athletes while the WWE’s roster is brimming with entertainers. I even picture someone from Team TNA commenting that the WWE superstars “talk too much” instead of wrestling.
On the other side of the coin, the WWE reveal their weakness of underestimating the TNA wrestlers while highlighting their prominent position of employing some of the world’s top athletes. Team TNA would assuredly give Team WWE some frustratingly stiff competition, but Team WWE would prove that they cannot be pigeonholed as having a roster filled with flashy fops and doo-lolly dandies.
The main event match would pit WWE Champion John Cena against TNA World Heavyweight Champion Bully Ray, assuming that by the end of the year both men would still be champion in their respective company. Cena would win the epic and brutal bout and bring home the first Proving Ground trophy for WWE.
Year Two: Our Time Is Now
Year Two would see TNA regroup and capitalize off of WWE’s indifference to TNA’s abilities. The idea would be that even after staving off a TNA victory, the company failed to learn from the experience and once again treated TNA as a minor hiccup in the grand scheme of things.
Year Two would decidedly be TNA’s year at Proving Ground, showcasing the company’s ability to grow from one level of operation to another in specific areas. Their weakness, which WWE would exploit throughout the pay per view, would be their tendency to make minor changes in areas of little import in the grand scheme of things.
For example: if a Year One match between Zack Ryder and Robbie E resulted in a loss for TNA, that same match in Year Two would give them a victory between the same two individuals. Perhaps Robbie T would win a match against Mason Ryan, Velvet Sky would be victorious over a Bella Twin or AJ Lee. In Year Two TNA would amass several victories while coming up short in a few of the high profile matches, matches that would “matter” the most throughout the pay per view.
The main event match would see TNA World Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles (necessary) defeat WWE World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler (interchangeable with Del Rio, Swagger, or another solid collegiate “wrestler”). The match would easily be a five-star MOTY candidate, with high drama and exhilarating near falls. Styles would win clean, without any interference or excuses, and bring the Year Two trophy home to TNA.
WWE would have an easy out, admitting to the defeat but consistently pointing out that the WWE Champion didn’t lose his match. This approach could potentially devalue the importance of the WHC, but no more than it has already been. Point being the WWE comes to terms with accepting their loss at the hands of the young company, but also maintaining its status at the top of the ladder.
The Year Two pay per view would also set the stages for the Year Five pay per view, providing the stage for the rubber pay per view between the two companies.
Year Three: Death by Honor
The build towards the third annual Proving Ground pay per view would include an invasion from ROH, the small third company ignored largely by WWE and TNA. This build would include honest grievances that can be seen between ROH and both companies.
Stars from ROH would argue that TNA’s most prominent stars made names in their company first, and that TNA greedily snatched up their stars as they became popular. It could be noted how TNA, in all of its pro-fan wrestling based ethics systematically barred wrestlers from competing in ROH, a tactic that makes them no different from the company they claim to be better than (WWE).
In WWE, ROH stars can claim that management sold their souls for money and notoriety as the WWE “paid them off” in order to buy contracts from their remaining top tier talent. They could state how WWE would be nowhere near as popular without ROH stars bringing ROH-like excitement to the company.
In the midst of such claims wrestlers from both TNA and WWE would begin to take sides, either defecting to ROH or staying with their respective company. ROH would over time prove to be a threat that neither WWE nor TNA considered or was prepared for; each company would then work to maintain their rosters as well as prepare for the Proving Ground pay per view. Eventually ROH would work their way into a spot on the pay per view card.
The Year Three pay per view would see WWE and TNA extremely preoccupied with obtaining a decisive victory over each other without truly considering the presence of ROH in the events. Each company would dismiss victories obtained by ROH while remaining focused on attempting to gain victories over each other.
Team ROH would run into trouble gaining victories over Team WWE outside of defectors, but would give Team TNA a heck of a fight similar to the way TNA did WWE at the Year One pay per view. The WWE would maintain a small lead in overall victories, with TNA and ROH battling over second place throughout the night.
The main event match would pit the world champions from TNA (Austin Aries, AJ Styles, Magnus) and ROH against each other and the WWE Champion (Daniel Bryan, CM Punk) in a triple threat match. The finish would come when the WWE Champion (a former ROH wrestler) to ROH allows the ROH champion to pin the TNA champion, the significance being that WWE still remains on top and remains on top as their champion was not pinned or made to submit during the match. The WWE will also point out that even without winning the Proving Ground trophy, they still won the most matches during the pay per view (by one match perhaps).
TNA becomes bitter after having been underestimated and disrespected by WWE a third year in a row. This anger and bitterness will fuel them throughout the year and prepare them for the fourth annual pay per view.
ROH celebrates with the Proving Ground trophy, having “hung in there” with the big dogs and proving that they too should be recognized and taken seriously in the pro wrestling business.
Year Four: United
The build to the Year Four pay per view would begin earlier than usual unbeknownst to the fans. Both TNA and WWE would aggressively train talent in their respective developmental systems. Both companies would also pay attention to high profile names from well-known international or independent organizations such as DragonGate USA, EVOLVE, SHIMMER, SHINE, Resistence Pro, AAA, CMLL, New Japan, etc. These stars, after having honestly been in each company’s developmental system for some time (courted or hired prior/during Year Two) would debut throughout the year in the months right before the actual build to the Proving Ground pay per view.
ROH would once again “invade” both companies, claiming that their victory at the previous pay per view humbled the organizations and weakened their domineering control over the fans. They rejoice at the fact they’ll once again be able to humble each company.
Both TNA and WWE would begin to reveal their teams for the pay per view, each consisting of stars from the independent and international organizations. The pay per view would then feature these stars, plus each company’s “regular” stars, waging war against ROH.
ROH would have trouble gaining victories over these independent stars wrestling, and would maintain a second place position behind TNA and WWE trading leads and vying for the top spot. Even with a common foe in ROH, WWE and TNA would still attempt to gain a lead on the other company. This vying would eventually lead to an ROH victory that squeaks them ahead of both companies by one match.
The main event match would pit a team (tag, 6-man, Vintage Survivor Series teams) against ROH in an elimination match. The wrestlers on Team WWE/TNA would prove to be incapable of working together, with losses coming as a result of the team’s instability. With only two wrestlers left, Team WWE/TNA mounts a comeback and gains the victory from the pay per view when a WWE star makes the last ROH wrestler submit while the TNA wrestler scores a pinfall (far-fetched, but there’s a method to the madness).
With ROH sufficiently dispatched for the moment a debate ensues over just exactly who scored the victory for their respective company. With confusion reigning supreme over the finish, it is eventually decided that both companies can claim rightful ownership of that year’s Proving Ground trophy or award. This dispute will be the foundation for the final Proving Ground pay per view.
Year Five: Winner Takes All
The hype around the Year Five pay per view would focus on the controversial finish to the Year Four pay per view. The stakes are high, and it is noted that technically speaking that TNA and WWE are tied with two victories apiece in the series. The best of the best in all three companies are recruited to represent their promotion at the pay per view, which the stars training and wrestling feverishly to be in the best shape they can be.
The pay per view occurs and ROH puts up one hell of a fight, ultimately falling short of gaining a lead in victories over either TNA or WWE. In the first of two main event matches, they score a well fought victory over either or both companies which cements the idea that they should be respected and taken more seriously among fans as a promotion even though they still have some ground to gain to be at the same level as TNA and WWE.
The second main event would pit The Undertaker against Sting, which would (and could) lead to a second match at the following WrestleMania.
The third main event and final match of the last Proving Ground pay per view would see the WWE Champion face the TNA World Heavyweight Champion to proclaim the winner of the Proving Ground series.
The tricky part about deciding a victor at this point is deciding who should walk away with the bragging rights. All things being equal it can be assumed that five years of crossover events has created a fervor among casual and hardcore wrestling fans that surpasses that of the Attitude Era. Hopefully the goal of the series has been achieved in that all parties involved have benefitted from increased attention and revenue. The writing is better in all three companies, the presentation of the product (especially in ROH’s case) is better, and the fans are excited and thrilled to spend their hard earned money on pro wrestling again.
Regardless of who’s winning the ratings war I would give the WWE a controversial victory that allows both companies to retreat from the series in ways that speak to the realities that exist in each promotion. The finish would be controversial, but not “dirty” or “dusty.”
Think of it in the same way as you would the finish to Triple H’s Extreme Rules 2013 match against Brock Lesnar; even though Brock Lesnar won the match, he limped away from it and disappeared from television. Although suffering from a beating, Triple H still managed to show up to work the next few episodes of RAW.
The win would maintain the WWE’s position as the top dog in the industry, something it had claim two ever since the beginning of the series. Although the finish to the match is controversial, the company limps away from the victory and continues on its way of conducting business as it sees fit.
TNA, on the other hand, suffering from a questionable loss, returns to its business and can rightfully claim that it took the mighty WWE to the limit and even had it on its knees. The point during the loss would be that a) TNA has finally proven to be worthy of consideration as a competitor to the WWE and that b) WWE is not invincible as many believe it to be.
Whatever the finish may be it would involve interference from Vince McMahon and Dixie Carter, perhaps even with Carter landing a shot on McMahon after his blatant attempt to disrupt the match. This would give TNA fans something to cherish as the impending WWE victory creeps up on everyone.
With all that said and done the only thing that’s left is to book the very first Proving Ground pay per view. Stay tuned…
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
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.
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.
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…
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.
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?
“I sell the things you need to be
I’m the smiling face on your TV
I’m the cult of personality
I exploit you, still you love me
I tell you one and one makes three
I’m the cult of personality…”
This review will not be the typical Mr. Morris review you may have grown accustomed to reading. For starters this piece is being crafted with a little under forty-five minutes left in the show. There also won’t be many pictures from the evening, as the WWE has more than likely not published them prior to the show actually ending.
Much like last week a lot of “significant” things have happened on tonight’s episode of RAW, but those things were largely overshadowed by the not-New-Jersey crowd in Greenville, South Carolina and the annual creative reset that happens after WrestleMania.
Before launching into those two spiels, it must be noted that most of the champions that wrestled tonight—with the exception of the Tag Team Champions Team Hell No—all lost their matches. While the Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett and World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler suffered non-title defeats to their opponents (R-Truth and Jack Swagger respectively), former United States Champion Antonio Cesaro fell victim to Kofi Kingston’s patented Trouble in Paradise finishing maneuver, giving the Ghanaian athlete the victory and the United States Championship.
As of this point right now (10:25 PM EST), John Cena has yet to appear in the ring with his WWE Title. He did make one appearance in a backstage segment with Matt Stryker, which received no reaction whatsoever from the audience in Greenville…interesting…
This brings us back to one of the aforementioned points; my fellow L.E.W.D. writer Mr. Lamb spoke at length about the necessity of filler. Apparently the same applies for the types of crowds a WWE show appears before. Tonight’s crowd in Greenville, compared to the red hot crowd at the post-WrestleMania RAW in New Jersey, is close to being the one friend who nods off before everyone else at a sleepover. I wonder how much more entertaining this show could be (and could have been) if the crowd tonight had not been the exact polar opposite of last week’s crowd.
The other concerning issue is that the product is in a rebuilding phase right now, setting up entirely new and different feuds than what we were presented with specifically for WrestleMania XXIX. It’s going to take time and some exceptionally great writing to get fans behind these new stories, but the action surrounding said stories feels dry, stale and uninspired. In the same spirit of Mr. Lamb’s piece, perhaps this “phase” is a filler phase for the product, a moment for us to catch our breath before things are kicked into high gear once again.
I wouldn’t go as far as to characterize this as a “bad” RAW, because there have been worse shows than this. However tonight’s episode, while good on in-ring work, was not one of those shows that would cause me to call one of the L.E.W.D. brothers or sisters and enthusiastically scream into my cell phone about the show.
The three major things that stuck out to me in the show (now with twenty minutes remaining):
- The Absurdity of Antonio Cesaro
- The Ryback Has Feelings Too
For those fans keeping count, not only has Antonio Cesaro lost his United States Championship, but he’s also been saddled with a yodeling gimmick. I’m sure someone somewhere in the company thought this would be hilarious and get Cesaro “more over” with the fans. I won’t point fingers or name names, but instead I’ll allow this video to reveal a possible suspect:
Let’s recap the storied history of Antonio Cesaro: here we have a new WWE superstar who was a former Rugby player in Europe, but was kicked out of the sport for being too rough. At some unspecified time in his life, this same former Rugby player also learned how to yodel during his time working on a Swiss farm training St. Bernards, all of which became world renowned rescue animals in their generation under his tutelage.
Update: Nikki/Brie Bella just defeated WWE Divas Champion Kaitlyn (10:49 PM EST)
Truthfully speaking a lot of important things happened on the show, but the live New Jersey crowd far surpassed all the in-ring action and story line development hands down. Random chants, enthusiasm, flat out being LOUD…New Jersey fans definitely had their post-WrestleMania game on point.
As exciting as the live crowd was it could also be said that their self-centered antics took away from the wrestlers plying their craft in the ring, as definitely was the case with Randy Orton’s match against Sheamus. When the fans made their first vocally obstreperous stand against WWE’s questionable booking, words “rude, obnoxious and disrespectful” were used to describe the crowd as well.
It’s no secret that wrestlers work their tails off in order to entertain the fans, but there a fine line between enjoying the show as a fan and sopping everything up like lobotomized sheep. Wrestlers including Shane Helms, Sugar Dunkerton, Matt Hardy, Gran Akuma and Lance Storm all chimed in their varying opinions on the crowd’s activity during the actual show; those opinions ranged from chastising the fans to praising the workers and scolding the promoters.
Despite how one may feel about the raucousness of the crowd last night it cannot be denied that the entire audience—the same audience that paid good money to see a post-WrestleMania episode of RAW live (a feeling the Rt. Rev. Showtime and I know very well)—was engaged in the show completely. The crowd was electric and were way more into the show for all three hours than the NY/NJ crowd at the MetLife Stadium twenty-four hours prior. You only get that type of crowd once in a blue moon and it really made the show.
What’s interesting to note is that the crowd didn’t become obnoxious until someone *cough cough* made the call to have Orton face Sheamus despite the overwhelming number of fans who voted via WWE Fan Active to see Orton square off against Big Show (Orton’s 77% to Sheamus’ 23%). What message does that type of booking give to the fans? How does that promote the “interactive” nature of the show and product if you’re willing to blatantly disregard what they fans said they wanted? What does that do to the performers in the ring who have to perform in front of a crowd that’s just been jilted?
Also consider the little traits that make a big difference between a “good” wrestler and a “great” wrestler. Orton and Sheamus barely acknowledged the crowd’s response outside of a few smirks and annoyed grimaces, but even a slight acknowledgement that either wrestler realized the bee ess of the match would’ve most assuredly gotten the crowd back in the palm of their hands. If you think that’s fluff, look at what Fandango’s acknowledgement of the crowd’s rowdiness did for him last night…
On the other hand, look what Sheamus’ post-RAW acknowledgement of the crowd did for him last night…
There are several ways to entertain a crowd; it’s understandable when a crowd gets out of control, but it’s something completely different for any promotion to flip fans off and expect them to be okay with it. In fact this is a major criticism against WWE while TNA is consistently praised for doing the exact opposite. Then again, there was the time when fans chose Desmond Wolfe as the next in line to receive a World Title shot and Sting was announced as the #1 Contender…
At least WWE acknowledged how into the program the fans were; in the end that’s what everyone wants, right? To leave the show entertained with the experience of witnessing the action of WWE live…
Alas, here’s what stood out to me about the show other than the red-hot crowd:
- Dolph Ziggler: Your NEW World Heavyweight Champion
- Tidbits: Fandango and Wade Barrett
- The Brothers of Destruction Reunite…YES! YES! YES!
- John Cena and the Heels of the 21st Century, ft. The Ryback as Your #1 Contender
With three months left until the expiration of his Money In the Bank contract, WWE superstar Dolph Ziggler cashed in his opportunity on RAW, defeating Alberto Del Rio to begin his second reign as WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Last night was a momentous occasion for Dolph, an occasion that prompted the several fans and wrestlers to send congratulations towards the new champ.
There were a few fans, however, that disapproved vehemently with the this recent turn of events:
Overly dramatic exclamations aside, Ziggler’s victory over Del Rio presents fans once again with the eternal struggle with understanding and compartmentalizing their expectations. For months accusations were launched at WWE for their perceived inability to create new stars or push certain stars deserving of a main event status. Dolph Ziggler was one of those stars who fans began to grow lukewarm about (including yours truly) because of his meandering around the mid-card.
All of a sudden Dolph cashes in his contract and believably defeats an injured Alberto Del Rio to become the new World Heavyweight Champion, and a solid number of fans seem largely underwhelmed by the thought of his second championship reign. It’s lose-lose situations like this that put promotions in weird situations; they’re damned if they do or don’t push a guy at a specific time.
Regardless of how one may feel about Ziggler’s victory, the more exciting part of his victory is the prospect of what lies ahead for him. With Big E Langston’s enforcer role still relatively undefined and AJ Lee’s quirky presence easily ignorable, Ziggler’s reign and role as World Heavyweight Champion still needs meaning a depth. Whether he’s a transitional champion or not, there’s got to be something interesting waiting for him in the next few weeks, if not months. Our best bet is to sit tight and at least give Ziggler a chance to prove us that his status as a main event star is or will be a complete bust.
What a difference a day makes…
Fandango went from being one of the most despised gimmicks to debut in the company in recent times to an instant classic overnight. The gimmick feels to be an awkward and unholy mixture between “The Model” Rick Martel and Simon Dean. Whatever the case may be the fans in the Izod Center in New Jersey effectively made Fandango a star. The overly garishness of the gimmick was one thing, but to see and hear 16,000+ fans solidly behind that ridiculousness is pure awesomeness.
Also last night in one of the many WrestleMania Rematch matches Wade Barrett defeated The Miz to regain the Intercontinental Title he lost the night before.
Very few fans can comprehend why the title was hotshot between these men, but there are two things to consider: this isn’t the first time this has happened before (Kane vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin in a First Blood Match at King of the Ring 1998), and now we’re actually paying attention to what happens with the Intercontinental Title.
This “rivalry” between The Miz and Wade Barrett still feels lifeless and inorganic. Some have argued that Barrett deserves to be in the main event picture, but it’s not quite understandable how one can arrive at that opinion given the character’s development since his return to WWE television.
The Intercontinental Championship, and to some extent the United States Championship, both feel like archaic relics that are kept around simply for the sake of novelty and tradition; fans at this point in the business are largely unaware and indifferent of what these titles represent today and represented in the past. While Barrett can bring some prominence to the championship, he can only do so with the help of a performer we actually give a damn about. Unfortunately The Miz is just not that opponent.
This would be one of those moments where WWE’s annual Spring Cleaning event would come in handy, opening the space for new faces and new rivalries. But outside of that, fans can only hope that some new life and meaning is injected into the Intercontinental Championship now that Barrett’s win has our attention.
At one point in time there was good reason to worry about the intended direction of The Shield. After Monday’s RAW, those worries have been sidelined at least for the near future.
The Undertaker was scheduled to make an appearance at RAW, which was an odd thing for Mark Calaway and The Undertaker to do in the last few years. As The Deadman opened his mouth to speak about his victory over CM Punk at WrestleMania, the now infamous entrance theme for The Shield interrupted him mid-sentence. The treacherous trio consisting of Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns made their way to the ring, surrounding The Undertaker for what was sure to be a sound thrashing.
As things began to look hairy for everyone’s favorite legendary wrestler, Kane’s pyro erupted and the superstar rushed to the ring with his tag team partner Daniel Bryan in tow. The Shield thought wisely about their course of action and actually retreated. In that one instant, fans were given what could be the most important feud for The Shield in their early WWE careers.
This tweet from a fan from Twitter pretty much explains it all:
The other thing worth noting is that The Shield’s prominence in the company as a trio has created some of the most interesting and dynamic alliances in the company. From Big Show/Sheamus/Randy Orton to John Cena/Sheamus/Ryback, the trio’s presence in the product has created some interestingly compelling stories. The announcers keep pushing the group’s effectiveness as a team, forcing their opponents to become strange bedfellows that have to work together just to hang with the young up-and-comers. Since most of their opponents have operated more fluently as individuals than they have as tag team members, things always fall apart and work out better for The Shield than anyone else.
Despite their rough beginnings, both tandems of Kane/Daniel Bryan and Kane/Undertaker have worked extremely well given time and the eventual maturation of the groups. Now The Shield has to face all three men at the same time…they are in for one hell of a battle.
To make matters more deliciously awesome you’ve got four hungry, young wrestlers in the ring with two extremely gifted athletes, wrestlers, and future Hall of Famers. What more could a fan ask for…well…may he truly rest in peace.
Fans should not make judgements yet on the outcome of the brewing feud between John Cena and the Ryback. We’ve seen Cena laid out before and he always manages to come out victorious; nothing too new or shocking about the image above.
However…something does seem a tad big fishy.
Dissecting the John Cena character has been one of the foundational tenets that keeps the L.E.W.D. site together (other than our questionable behavior towards Gary the Intern…but I swear he’s cool with everything…honest…). From the unfinished L.E.W.D. Booking 101 series to our WrestleMania XXVIII back-and-forth, Cena’s character still manages to squeak his way back into our pieces on a regular basis. As much as we say we dislike the character, we still talk about him more than anything else…unless we’re talking about TNA.
The odd thing about Cena’s character, the character that so many fans scream at to turn heel, is that he’s honestly displaying tons of heel traits as is. Cena’s not a heel in the sense that half of fans across the country boo him, but a heel in the sense that a good bunch of everything he does screams “heel tactic,” but doesn’t come across that way to most folks who aren’t used to it.
Think back to Vince Russo’s fascination with creating ambiguous characters that exhibit “good” traits and “bad” traits at the same time. For some fans, Cena’s presence is cheered and hailed; he’s got a million-dollar smile, his move set is predictable, and he does nice things for sick kids and has a really great work ethic. John Cena, in that line of thinking, is an All American American that everyone wants to be like when they grow up.
As has been said on this site many times before, the Cena character is that high school All-City Varsity Sports Team Captain that gets what he wants when he wants because he’s that damn good and he brings money and publicity to an otherwise lackluster institution. John Cena is the senior that has received a letter jacket in every single sport in the school, even the ones he had no business participating in.
The girls love him; the freshmen just want him to acknowledge that he exists. All the popular kids have been at his house and have had tons of fun at the killer parties thrown when his parents are vacationing in the Hamptons for three weeks.
The problem with that high school All-City Varsity Sports Team Captain is that in order to stay at the top, he has to stand on someone’s face (see what I did there?)…
John Cena entered the Izod Center last night to a roaring chorus of boos and simply smirked their remarks away. Cena’s speech spat in their faces; despite their dislike of him, he was still the champ and they had to deal with it. He traded in his trademark shirts for one crappy one that pointed to his new championship belt, and when he removed that belt there was another belt printed on the actual shirt. Cena reveled in the chorus of jeers and knew that the fans catcalls couldn’t phase him; all that mattered was that he finally beat The Rock and could move on with his life.
When Mark Henry approached Cena his smile turned into a look of concern, which then turned into snide comments and jokes at Henry’s expense. Cena then condescendingly introduced himself to Mark Henry as the WWE Champion, and a match for Henry’s opportunity as the number one contender for said title was made for later on in the show.
Cena’s look of concern was just for show; he’s already beaten Mark Henry before when the stakes were high. He wasn’t scared of Mark Henry at all…Cena’s tone suggested that Mark Henry should’ve been scared of the champ.
Cena then goes on to face Henry in the main event and wins the match by count-out, something highlyunusual for the man that can withstand leagues of abuse from all types of wrestlers. Once again Cena defied the odds and once again he’s shoved down our collective craw.
This has been the sum and substance of Cena’s character since fans began to vocally show their dislike of him. Yet he returns each night, unfazed by the shouts of his haters, to show off the fact that he knows he’s that damn good and there’s nothing that will change that. He even said it to The Rock prior to their match at WrestleMania XXVIII; it was along the lines of, “I know how this is going to go. You’ll talk smack, you’ll do this, I’ll beat you, and everything remains the same.”
Babyface characters don’t do that; good guys at least pretend that their opponents are threats. Cena can’t even feign intimidation because he can barely fathom that someone in the company actually has his number. Most heels are the same way, that despite their obvious weaknesses they still remain untouchable. More importantly they flaunt that Teflon don status all the time…
All of a sudden Ryback is inserted into the picture, a beast of an opponent that has obvious weaknesses but a beast that Cena has managed to avoid in the past year. Think back to the Triple Threat Match at Survivor Series and Cena’s elimination of Ryback at the Royal Rumble. The Champ honestly wants none of Ryback because out of all his high school conquests from freshman to sophomore year, he hasn’t had to face anyone that could beat him this silly since Bobby Lashley.
Cena’s already a heel, but a new type of heel that doesn’t resemble the Blackjack Mulligans or Bruiser Brodys we’re use to seeing. Ryback will be the face that we will pay good money to see defeat John Cena. Ryback is that force that keeps moving forward, chasing Cena even when The Champ thinks everything’s going to end once he gets a pinfall victory. That (hopefully) won’t be the case here, and we’re praying that the creative heads can keep the story compelling.
Just reflect on those thoughts for a moment, and while you do so check out this meme:
Those are just my thoughts on Monday night’s episode of RAW. What did y’all think of the show?
Anticipation is at a fevered pitch as fans are only a few days away from the biggest sports entertainment spectacle of the year! WrestleMania XXIX is practically here, and we’re all anxious to take part in the majesty of this weekend surrounding the “grandest stage of them all!”
The build for this year’s event has been characterized by some fans as “lacking,” not having that humph that makes the event worth spending so much money for. That is a fair and accurate criticism to make of the event, which questions the rationale for shelling out tons of money just to attend it live or ordering it on pay per view.
If you’ve followed the L.E.W.D. site from its very humble beginnings, you can easily recall that WrestleMania is the anniversary of our first official gathering; this weekend (if not the entire week) represents the first time many of us witnessed the event live and in person. Having paid the money, helped with organizing damn near 20 people from around the country, and visited the many different events surrounding WrestleMania, I can honestly say that the magic of the weekend lies not within the actual event, but just experiencing everything that comes with it.
This year’s WrestleMania, outside of anything WWE is promoting or pandering, appears to be the largest gathering of pro wrestling related events fans have ever seen. Wrestlecon is happening this weekend; our great friends at DragonGate USA/EVOLVE will be doing stuff, as well as Chikara, Shimmer and CZW. Hell, even TNA is cashing in on this opportunity and hosting an event in New York on April 5!
This all goes to say that there is no reason for any fan that prides himself/herself on being a pro wrestling/sports entertainment fan to intentionally pout in the corner because this WrestleMania has somehow failed to live up to the hype and grandeur of WrestleMania X7. There are so many different events going on and ways to see them that WWE’s premier pay per view will literally be the bookend to one hell of a weekend. In that regard, the show cannot fail to meet expectations if you limit your expectations to simply experiencing WrestleMania by itself.
Given the pomp and circumstance of the event it isn’t unreasonable to expect WWE and its superstars to deliver come Sunday. My point is that at this point in the game we have to begin to appreciate what the event symbolizes and not just the event itself. This particular WrestleMania may seem like trash to some, but having experienced WrestleMania XXVII live here in Atlanta…I’ll just say this one is a big step up from that in more ways than one.
I also realize in these economic times we’re all strapped for cash and our finances won’t allow us to indulge in everything offered by the weekend; but if I had a choice, I’d honestly encourage you to purchase one of the iPPVs and locate your nearest Hooters or Buffalo Wild Wings to catch WrestleMania. If push comes to shove, you could also consider rounding up your closest friends and chipping in to order the event together.
Having said that let’s look at the card as it stands now and attempt to make some good ol’ fashioned predictions:
For some time now The Miz has been involved in a series of matches battling against Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett. Ironically enough their placement on the WrestleMania card appears to be a metaphor for their current rivalry: easily forgettable.
I believe their rivalry began with a spat over who was the bigger movie star, with Miz and Barrett speaking highly of their films The Marine 3: Homefront and Dead Man Down, respectively. Once again in a strange twist of fate, I’m not in a particular rush to see either movie or their match.
This match feels as if the men were placed together because in the grand scheme of things both were aimlessly floating around with very little to do. I haven’t been all that thrilled about their matches, which isn’t a slight at either individual’s work rate or abilities. The bottom line for me is that the feud and rivalry is rather dull and the Intercontinental Championship feels like an unnecessary accessory altogether, not even speaking about Barrett’s ho-hum reign.
I expect Barrett to retain in what’s going to ultimately be an over exaggerated exhibition match.
Prediction: Wade Barrett retains.
Let’s face facts: the average wrestling fan believes this match is a waste of time and space on the jam packed WrestleMania card. The average fan would also believe that there are tons of wrestlers (Ted DiBiase and Kofi Kingston maybe…) who deserve this coveted spot more so than Fandango. Those opinions, while valid, also miss the mark when it comes to the whole of Jericho’s burgeoning feud with Fandango.
For starters, Fandango (formerly Johnny Curtis from the fourth season of NXT) is a “debuting” wrestler in the company. That word “debut” can be used loosely here, but he’s new talent relatively speaking. It’s hilarious to see some fans dump on new talent, only to turn around and complain when the company fails to make “new stars.”
Secondly, Fandango is making his “debut” at WrestleMania against Chris Jericho, a soon-to-be-legend that works extremely well with getting over…you guessed it…new talent. The man should be honored twice as much to have Jericho as his in-ring coach and to face him at the company’s biggest pay per view of the year.
This brings us to our third point: the higher ups in the company must think he’s worth his salt if they’ve chosen to (a) not release him, (b) have him wrestle against Chris Jericho at his (c) debut at WrestleMania. This isn’t taking into consideration the tons of money placed into his character with the garishly elaborate sets.
Fourthly despite whatever the fans may feel the need to chant, the man can actually wrestle; there is a HUGE difference between chanting “you can’t wrestle” and “you don’t wrestle.”
All things considered Fandango’s presence at WrestleMania is enough of a big deal for Curtis Jonathan Hussey. He doesn’t need a win here to legitimize himself, so expect Chris Jericho to humble the star Sunday night.
Prediction: Chris Jericho wins, feud with Fandango continues.
The feud between Del Rio and Swagger started off as a red hot rivalry rooted in the controversial subject of immigration. Since Swagger’s return to WWE he, along with his manager Zeb Coulter, have crusaded against the individuals they believe are causing America to decay in the sort of moral turpitude that only “immigrants” can apparently cause. Unfortunately that angle lasted about as long as a Hot Pocket in a college student’s refrigerator; as it stands now the main reason fans are invested in this match is because Jack Swagger beat up Ricardo Rodriguez.
Del Rio’s run as a face has been much better than the latter part of his run as a heel; the sad part of it all is that even with Rodriguez by his side, Del Rio consistently struggles to get the fans to rally behind him. This nagging reality haunts Del Rio to this day, and thus creates a situation similar to that of The Miz and Wade Barrett; yeah he’s going to wrestle Jack Swagger, yeah there’s a title on the line, but do you really care?
I’m hoping that the match will be a clinic between two exceptionally gifted wrestlers, but other than that it probably won’t be anything worth writing home about. Del Rio retains much to
Yosemite Sam’s Zeb Coulter’s chagrin, and Swagger survives only to spend another day frustrated with change.
Prediction: Del Rio retains
The bout between Ryback and Mark Henry is one of those fights that force you to ask yourself, “What took them so long?” Actually, wrestling logic dictates that these two will feud for another month or so, realize that they’re not so different after all, and unite in a formidable team that will rise up the ranks and win the WWE Tag Team Championships. Alas, they’ve already got a Black Guy/White Guy powerhouse team, so that dog won’t hunt anytime soon.
WrestleMania XXIX will also be a huge night for Ryback as well, serving as the star’s coming out party against another WWE legend in the making. Say what you will about Mark Henry, but it cannot be denied that he’s one of the most tenured WWE stars still wrestling today (he debuted in 1996, while Triple H debuted in WWE one year before him in 1995). Despite having gaps in his career due to injuries, Mark Henry has remained a fixture in the company and the man has to be worth something if they haven’t released him yet.
“Two bulls in a china shop” is the best way to describe this match; Ryback will walk away with the rub from Henry, which will bring him one step closer to his eventual run as a main event star in the company. If Ryback is able to lift Henry up for his patented Shell Shock finisher, then WrestleMania XXIX will officially be worth the $55 you’re planning on spending on it.
Prediction: Ryback with the pinfall victory.
It’s amazing how quickly the members of Dolph Ziggler’s stable have managed to fall from grace in such a short time. There was a point where the AJ Lee character was the focus of Monday Night RAW and involved heavily with multiple main event superstars at once. There was also a point where Lee’s heat was translating nicely over to Dolph Ziggler. Things really began to look awesome when the very large and intimidating Big E Langston joined the crew as the silent and brooding enforcer.
Then it all went to hell.
Ziggler is still in possession of his Money In the Bank championship contract and with three months left until its expiration we can only hope he cashes it before becoming the third person (after John Cena and Mr. Anderson) unable to successfully cash in their MITB contract. AJ Lee and Big E have no purpose or direction whatsoever right now because they’re too busy living in Ziggler’s shadow, which in and of itself is a shadow of the spectacle of WrestleMania.
Whatever the case may be these two men are being fed to the WWE Tag Team Champions as neither team really has much going for them at this exact moment. Team Hell No will retain and high-falootin’ hijinks will ensue.
Prediction: Team Hell No retains.
It truly is hard to believe that two years ago we had the extreme pleasure of watching Jon Moxley wrestle right before our eyes; we knew then that Moxley had a try-out match with WWE that weekend, but we never imagined that it’d be two short years later when we’d see him in a marquee WrestleMania match.
The same can be said for Tyler Black, who was scooped up from ROH by WWE seven months before Moxley. Most fans immediately assumed that Black would be “misused” by WWE…but three years later, he’s got a WrestleMania match.
Roman Reigns debuted in FCW Wrestling in September 2010, the same month and year as Tyler Black. As a member of the legendary Anoa’i, the superstar first known as Leakee had massive shoes and expectations to fill. Fast forward three years…well you get the picture.
Collectively speaking The Shield is beginning to show signs of monotony as their justice-leveling antics appear to lack substance and value. They’ve amassed two straight pay per view victories and have proven themselves to be formidable contenders against numerous superstars, including John Cena. At WrestleMania XXIX they face their biggest challenge to date against the team of Sheamus, Randy Orton and The Big Show, but their presence still lacks a solid direction that could make the difference between their match being good and great.
The consensus among some fans is that Orton will turn heel and align himself with The Shield; this would solve a few of the company’s problems: refreshing the Randy Orton character, breathing some new life into The Shield and adding some star-power to their mix. Think of this as WWE’s “Bully Ray-slash-Aces and 8s” swerve.
I have two problems with that rationale: there are already tons of heels in WWE at the moment and I also never saw the trail of breadcrumbs leading to such a drastic shift in Orton’s character. With or without a heel turn from a member of the opposite team, expect The Shield to pull off the victory against Team Non-Compatible.
Prediction: The Shield wins.
The WWE took advantage of Paul Bearer’s unexpected death to concoct a convenient storyline for Taker/Punk match at WrestleMania. Some fans have even gone as far as to question the build to the match prior to Bearer’s death; whatever the case may be, Punk has one hell of an opportunity to steal the show with the Deadman this Sunday.
Ever since Punk’s near mythic year long reign as WWE Champion, the Straight Edge Superstar has fought for the respect he feels he rightfully deserves. If you’ve followed Punk’s WWE career (or watched his 3-disc DVD set), you would realize that he fought tooth and nail just to stay in the company and has amassed quite a bit of stock by now. If Punk manages to give a good show with Taker, he would undoubtedly receive the credit he deserves just by hanging with him in the ring.
The build for this match leaves a lot to the imagination, but do you really care about the build more than you do the actual psychology and athleticism of the match? Here are solid facts: Taker can still go in the ring and Punk can get a five star match from anybody (remember the bout with John Cena from RAW?). Two exceptionally gifted wrestlers, athletes and entertainers going at it for at least twenty minutes…and some folks are stuck on the build for the match? Please.
The safe (and accurate) assumption is that Taker will go 21-0 by defeating Punk. I hope and pray in my heart of hearts that this is the case, but I’m not convinced the “build” was solid enough to give us reasonable doubt about Taker’s chances of losing this year. At the very least, however, I’ve got a feeling Punk will finally gain the “respect” he’s been searching for.
Prediction: The Undertaker defeats CM Punk
Prediction: Tons of Funk & The Funkadactyls
I’m hoping you didn’t drink the Kool-Aid and let the smooth taste fool you…
While a solid and consistent number of fans were up in arms about “Twice In a Lifetime,” I failed to see anyone question the necessity of yet another Triple H “Your Career Is Officially Over…Again…” match at WrestleMania. I swear the last time Trips showed his body at this pay per view the match was billed as the “End of an Era;” but I guess a new era can start when you cut your hair even though you still wear your leather jackets and enter the arena with a Motörhead song blaring through the sound system.
The most recognizable Attitude Era wrestlers that are still going at it are Triple H, The Undertaker, and Mark Henry. Oddly enough each of them have matches at WrestleMania, and even more sinister is the fact that only two of those individuals are in matches where they are in a position to put over other younger superstars. Guess which individual gets the spotlight all on his own…
It was once commented that Triple H has yet to have that “WrestleMania moment,” the one pivotal career-defining WrestleMania moment that serves as the magnum opus of his 18 year WWE career. I’m not so sure his match with Brock Lesnar will be it.
The last match between Lesnar and Triple H wasn’t as enthralling as Lesnar’s match with Cena, which makes getting excited about this one a very daunting task. I expect brutality and a certain level of “legit” from Lesnar (two times the average level of legit, in case you were wondering), and that’s enough to get fans interested in the match. Who wouldn’t want to see Brock Lesnar beat someone senseless?
But again, the focus is on Triple H…the focus is on Trips settling a score with Brock and showing the WWE Universe that The Game still has it. It’s also a way for Trips to try once again to get that WrestleMania moment he’s thirsting for. Even with the tantalizing possibility of Lesnar ripping off Trips’ arm and beating him with it, the reality of seeing Trips’ puppy dog face as he grieves another loss to Heyman’s boy is enough to cause fans to yawn themselves silly until the main main event.
To borrow a quote from our L.E.W.D. brother Corbin Macklin, “I sweafogawd if I see this man lose onemotime…”
I call Trips beating Lesnar, enabling him to keep his wrestling career and perhaps setting up a rubber match sometime in the future.
Prediction: Triple H defeats Brock Lesnar
What more can be said about WrestleMania XXIX’s main event that hasn’t already been said?
There are a ton of possibilities that could come from the finish of the match. At this moment I’m not sure of what future projects The Rock has lined up; I think he’s supposed to be Hercules or start filming the another movie with Vin Diesel and Paul Walker or whatever. All signs point to John Cena regaining the WWE Championship, placing a big thumbs up emblem on the sides where the Brahma Bull logos are at, and mediocrity on RAW ensues for another millennium.
I would actually enjoy seeing John Cena lose again to The Rock; it’s tragic to see any fan yearn to see a character’s downfall, but that’s what makes for compelling television. It’s sickening that John Cena can manage to escape clean losses time after time; everyone has a weakness and dammit someone’s got to know how to keep Cena on the sidelines. For me, seeing a different personality trait in Cena’s character would be gold. He doesn’t have to be a full blown heel, but just something different than the life coach we get each week right now.
The problem with changing something that isn’t broken is that it begins to wear thin on some, particularly those of us that wish for some type of depth to be shown in the character. Depth among shallow-end pool swimmers (i.e. kids and young women) isn’t something valued or sought after, and because of such we’re going to get another Cena WrestleMania victory and everyone for the most part goes home with a warm and fuzzy feeling inside of their stomachs. I’ve been told that ulcers and abdominal pains have that same effect…
There have been reports that seeds have been planted for a Ryback/Cena post-WrestleMania feud (remember the Triple Threat match for CM Punk’s WWE Title and Cena’s elimination of Ryback at the Royal Rumble pay per view?), and that’s something I even hinted at in a previous post. That type of feud will suffice, but it’s the same wash-rinse-repeat cycle Cena’s been placed in before. Hell, I’d like it if they brought back Alex Riley as some young, upstart collegiate so-and-so attempting to assume the throne when Cena’s Jersey City All Pro character get’s ready to “go off to college.” But alas, I’m on the internet writing for you and not the WWE for a reason…I guess.
Cena wins and we’ll get to pout about it in a post-WrestleMania blog post.
Prediction: John Cena redeems himself to himself and wins the WWE Championship for the 800th time
All things considered this action-packed WrestleMania will keep us enthralled all Sunday night. I hope you enjoyed reading the predictions, and stay posted to the L.E.W.D. site all weekend as we indulge in the cavalcade of pro wrestling going on as we speak!
The Holy Triduum – Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil/Sunday – always serves as a time of great reflection for me, and a large part of that stems from my love of looking at the water. I live right on the water; it’s Virginia, Hampton Roads, EVERYWHERE is right on the water. Five minutes away is the river that sits between Portsmouth and Norfolk, as well as the shipyard – the largest shipyard in the world. Sometimes I like to sit near the ferry and the pier and Waterside and just cool out, pondering on the greater mysteries of life or the why of my lack of motivation to actually work out consistently.
But back to the Holy Triduum. It serves as the ritual days symbolizing the Last Supper, death of and resurrection of Jesus. This means a lot of solemn behavior, peaceful contemplation and days in church where you wonder if your time might be better spent doing something else. For me, it means sitting back and thinking about the “why” of everything; not just Jesus or my faith or why freckled women are so appealing – and rare – in major films, but everything. For me, it’s a time where I look back on everything up to that point and grin. It’s a time where I sit in a pew (I hate pews; like cubicles they make me feel like a slave, just in a different context) and listen and ask myself if the sexy MILF is thinking about me when she kneels and –
NO! BAD DIZ! STOP THAT! What I mean to say is I continually remind myself that I’m a sinner and so long as she inhabits that church of mine (or rather I inhabit it as well) that I will remain a sinner. Because what is sin anyway? Some would say an offense to God. If so, I don’t think lust for a gorgeous woman who manages to maintain a flawless figure –
Before I have to beat some sense into myself, let me say that I said most of that because it revolves around my psychological state. I love religion and studying different faiths and practices so I’m into the whole of Holy Week (even if the past five years have burned the words “stressful as hell” into my mind as the description of it). I love the water and how it is a metaphor utilized in nearly every aspect of everything. I lov… lust… I am a sinner as well, but I stand by the notion that lusting after someone isn’t a…
Psychology! That’s what it’s all about. Without psychology an interaction between living entities loses validity. Seeing as this is a professional wrestling/sports entertainment blog, I think we can assume that this means I’m going to tie the psychology to pro wrestling, and you are right! Congrats, you get a gold star and my blessing to consider me, Da Infamous One, your hero. You should be honored. Introducing my new series: Ringside Psych!
With this new series, we dive, delve and dig into the psychology of a match, always a match, always a feud, always a conflict, usually with a focus on how everything plays out. In other words, it’s like what I usually do, but now it has a name, and a graphic picture I purposely kind of edited so as to not offend the childrens who might come around and look at Goldberg attempt to snap a bleeding man’s screaming head in two. I did a few of these pictures, I’ll likely post a different one every now and then.
As you can tell from the title, this one is about the main event for the upcoming Wrestlemania (I’m watching it on a big screen; are YOU?), featuring WWE Champion and A-list actor with B-list talent Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and former WWE Champion and spawn of Superman and Tebow-inspired Scout Master John Cena. And there’s no better way to start this off than by saying this: Wasn’t that match last Wrestlemania just great? I mean it, it was a good match, both of them did their thing, it was relatively slick, and 90% of us were actually surprised by the way it all ended. Very few of us expected Cena to lose (had to choose my words carefully there) but that’s what happened.
Cena lost. And we celebrated.
That’s to say a lot of us were very pleased that we were thrown for such a loop. The year and a day buildup was questionable at times, every now and then bordering on foolish, but the payoff was pretty good. The “historical” promos were lame, even if The Rock amused me by
further polluting Boston Harbor (damn Yankees and their stupid plan to oppose King George by throwing the tea into their OWN WATER). The random segments where there would be some degree of interaction were a mixed bag, but there was one that stood out to me, and it stood out to a few people because a lot of people said it never played out. It was a party (I forget the occasion, maybe Mark Henry added a new wing to the Hall of Pain or something) and Cena and Johnson were briefly discussing their upcoming Wrestlemania conflict and the only way it could be better: if the WWE Championship were on the line. It was assumed that the belt would don one of their waists before the grandest stage of them all became a reality, but to a few people’s surprise it never did. It was more of a footnote than anything else; if anything Cena crashed the party, that jerk. Now, the Wrestlemania after, it comes to fruition, crappy excuse for it and all. In a way, you can argue that everything has come full circle, or that long-form storytelling has become the new norm for the major stars of the company.
But let’s ignore the fact that this match was teased at long before “Once in a Lifetime” became a reality. Let’s ignore the fact that around 75% of us were surprised by The Rock’s victory at the last Wrestlemania. Let’s focus instead on the now, and the promo that took place on Monday, 3/25/2013, where Cena and The Rock stood at opposing podiums and answered questions from the all-star and vocally incomprehensible panel of the hardcore legend Mick Foley, the gay icon Dusty Rhodes, the testament to hard living Bret Hart, and of course G.I. Bro, with a host of Jerry Lawler, who gets no fancy name because he doesn’t need one, he IS a punch line!
I apologize to any offended by my assertion that Jerry Lawler is a punch line… from now on I’ll try and make sure that Victory Road stays as my go to punch line, seeing as it consistently pisses people off as a bad PPV. Oh TNA, you can never win, can you? Ha.
During this loose and – at first – boring debate, as we waited for Ol’ Dirty Bastard to return from the grave and interrupt the group with a stream-of-consciousness ramble and a suit “that costed him a lot of money”, we heard a single question from each person and weak answers from Cena, a contrast to the chiding answers from the Champion. The burning question was asked: why, Cena, do you want to win this upcoming matchup?
To be fair, I rubbed my chin at this: at first glance it seems obvious. Cena wants “redemption” for whatever that’s worth. He wants to win for the sake of winning, after losing before. But as he became more and more intense in his answering, he revealed more and more. “THE ROCK DIDN’T BEAT ME, I BEAT ME!” With these words we got got a bit of clarity – and exposition – regarding the character, the “why” if you will, of John Cena. Ever the Boy Scout, ever the all-American club sandwich, the reason it was impossible to take him seriously with a “redemption” persona was because he was at the top of the food chain and it took literally an army to strike him. Compare him to a massive company. Big, powerful and able to handle every single threat, insult and jeer thrown their way because nothing short of the collective assault of every detractor and a few dozen converts can do more than cause a little pinch of pain, if that.
Better example: Freiza. Remember Freiza? From Dragonball Z and an arc of episodes within its billion plus? The white and purple guy that sounded like a disease-ridden Amy Irving (sidenote: Amy Irving sounds SOOOOOO good… don’t worry, I’ll control my thirst)? Now go even further back and consider Goku’s father, the guy who gains some brand of clairvoyance and discovered what Freiza planned on doing (because he wasn’t a punk Saiyan like Broly). When Freiza discovered that Bardock was going to try and take
her him out, Freiza decided to make the first move. Bardock assembled literally EVERY Saiyan he could, millions, all ready to attack, and Freiza wiped them all out in one violent powerful middle-finger of an attack that MAYBE another five million Saiyans could have stood against. You get where I’m coming from? Freiza was too big to suffer attacks from those below her him, and Cena is the same way. Well, WAS the same way.
For all of Punk’s greatness, and… well, whoever else might say that they’re on Cena’s level, Cena was still at the top. He was the big shot. To paraphrase Eyedea (RIP), he’s the popular school kid, the always have been and always will be cool kid, the class president, valedictorian, A+, star quarterback, Cadillac convertible driver, signing cheerleaders autographs, letter on the jacket, medal around the neck, pin on his chest, and mind on his rep, who only dates models, drinks his Summit from the bottle, when he… well, I’m not going into the whole song, just follow the link here; it is worth nothing that one of the lines is “and he ain’t never lost a squabble!”. Cena is that guy, but then the original “that guy” comes back and Cena doesn’t just fail to measure up: he straight up gets BEAT up.
What does that do for the psyche? Well, it serves as a reality check for one. In fact, that’s precisely what it serves as, in every capacity, and it’s funny to see it. You can’t dismantle a massive beast from anywhere but within, so going back to Cena’s powerful line “THE ROCK DIDN’T BEAT ME, I BEAT ME!”, it’s the constant specter of “I lost? I don’t lose!” that replays in Cena’s mind, and plagues him. It’s not a “redemption” story; it’s a “back to normalcy” story, and it revolves around a great jock who meets the last great jock, the jock that set a standard in an era where great jocks were the norm, an era where great jocks were the norm and even THEN someone could shine and be seen as a GREATER jock. So while The Rock is basking in his legacy, knowing full well that it doesn’t matter if he wins OR loses because his status in the world is set in the most indestructible of stones, he’s merely looking at Cena with a “You whiny bastard!” type of look. Why? Because Cena has no legacy like that, and Cena knows it. What else did he mention in the promo? He mentioned the question of whether or not he’d be able to stand toe-to-toe with the greats of the Attitude era (pft, right, even Hogan shifted before he was fully embraced/hated in the era). While that is debatable, it comes down to Cena looking up to his big brother in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the blueprint to his current status and wants to be better. And he’s not. If anything, he’s looking at the greatness that The Rock is and realizes that his next plateau is mediocrity (I believe I said that before in some capacity).
Basically, when it comes to Cena/Rock II, it lacks any sort of logic to refer to it as a “redemption” story for Cena, even if his impressive display on Monday may make it feel a little more valid. No, the closest comparison I can come up with is an episode of Spongebob, that one where the old fry cook comes back to visit. Spongebob has been crafting Krabby Patties that most love, and some hate, to acclaim but here comes Jim, with his 1950s drive-in hat and his Nathan Drake stubble and he makes up a burger, for old times sake. Spongebob eats it and creams his pants, if sponges are capable of such an act. Now Spongebob, in all his naivety, is trying to be better because he figured that he himself was ALREADY the best, and despite all the training and all the roses he throws at the man’s feet, Jim is still just better. At the end of the day, when Squarepants is ready to leave the Krusty Krab Krew (yeah, I said it) Jim and Mr. Krabs talk him out of it, the former continuing to tell Spongebob how he’ll NEVER be on his level until he does something that could be seen as drastic by his standards, and Krabs reveals the truest reason for Spongebob’s continued employment: he’s cheap.
Wrap your mind around that: Krabs lost Jim because he wouldn’t give him a raise, and Spongebob is naive enough to accept nothing or even pay his own boss (under the sea my suspension of disbelief is rather coked up) and, more than anything, he’s cost-effective. Only difference between Spongebob and Cena, really, is the concept of understanding. Squarepants is just happy to be around, whereas Cena is completely conscious about where he is and what he thinks he has to do. Imagine him as that Boy Scout that he portrays, bright eyed, high in the clouds, virtually immune or untouched by the ills of the world. Then, all of a sudden, his happy, black-and-white, “I’m the Prince of Never Never Ever Ville!” perception is shattered by defeat, hard hitting insults and the slow notion that he’s not invincible but quite vulnerable, and those open blue skies he once knew have gotten blurry and its gotten hard to breathe. He hasn’t gone too high up or too close to the sun though: he’s crash landed into the water, just hasn’t sunken so far that the light is out of view.
So is that the case? Is Cena more cost-efficient than The Rock? Yeah, I think so, and how terrible does that have to feel? Cena, you are the top of the food chain and The Rock just waltzes in and steals that from you because he WAS the top of the food chain and came back to make sure that he was STILL the top of the food chain. Cena can’t deal with not being the best; that just doesn’t compute, and as Wrestlemania creeps up on us (again, I’m watching it on a big screen, ARE YOU!?!) the challenger’s mind is at “I have to win to be on top again! Yes, Tyra Banks, I wanna be on top!” whereas the champion is thinking “It’s better than the last G.I. Joe flick… but is that because of me, or Bruce Willis…?” Because The Rock literally has nothing to lose. He’s a four-time WWE Champion now, and his legacy, as said before, is set. In stone. Cena’s is too, but he’s too myopic in his thinking to acknowledge it. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the psychology of this match will play out. Will Cena resort to anything to win and end up on The Rock’s level? Will The Rock defeat Cena once again and put Cena in a new year of melancholy? Will the WWE finally induct FDR and MC Hammer into the Hall of Fame like they deserve?! All these questions – and less! – will be answered in another edition of Ringside Psych! Same Ringside location! Same Ringside… man, I can’t even type that without shaking my head in shame. Deuces.
It was only a matter of time before parallels were made between two of the industry’s most prominent and squeaky clean babyfaces.
It wouldn’t take much for any given fan—casual, hardcore, average or “extraordinary”—to recognize that both A.J. Styles and John Cena had terrible stints in their respective companies last year. While 2011-2012 saw the rise of unlikely champions in several pro wrestling promotions (CM Punk, Austin Aries, Johnny Gargano, Eddie Kingston, Kevin Steen, Colt Cabana and Adam Pearce), it also saw Cena and Styles play diminished roles in companies that had at several times in the past ten years relied heavily on their presence and activity.
For A.J. Styles, 2012 was a year that saw him as a suffering protagonist accused of engaging in adulterous and illicit activities with a pregnant “crackhead.” Once vindicated and redeemed, Styles then suffered a humiliating loss to his longtime on-screen friend-slash-rival, Christopher Daniels.
John Cena’s 2012 was mired by his bench-warming role in CM Punk’s historic yearlong WWE Championship reign. After suffering a devastating loss to The Rock at WrestleMania XXVIII and surviving a brutal thrashing from Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules 2012, Cena found a sliver of hope in winning the 2013 Royal Rumble, awarding him the chance to face his rival for the second time in a lifetime.
As different as both instances were from each other, the John Cena and A.J. Styles characters (as well as the individuals portraying them) are traveling on similar highways at this point in their professional wrestling careers. Both characters have arguably suffered from severe stagnancy, a type of static complacency that resonated with few and nauseated most. With Cena relegated to inconceivably winning unimportant matches and incessantly spewing promos like a southern Protestant preacher or pee-wee football coach, and Styles meandering around aimlessly in a god-forsaken storyline like Howdy Doody in a Martian whorehouse, each character was on the fast track to irrelevancy.
It would become necessary, at some point, for the creative writers in TNA and WWE to evolve the Cena and Styles characters beyond the straight-laced, doe-eyed do-gooders they’ve portrayed for most of their careers.
It is assumed that the natural evolution of a “good guy” character means that they should inevitably be turned heel, made into a callous and uncaring “bad guy” that is the exact anti-thesis of what they once stood for. That often abused notion of duality, however, is what keeps most wrestling fans in their arena seats and not the plush and cushy creative director office chairs in a promotion’s front office.
Infamous wrestling guru Vince Russo once noted that he believed wrestling characters should mirror the “characters” of everyday life, noting that in life there were no completely “good” or “bad” people. To Russo, all people were a mixture of both good and bad, and if wrestling characters were to remain relevant they would have to resonate in the hearts of consumers. In other words, fans would cheer or boo people they felt were more like them (i.e. Stone Cold Steve Austin).
While Russo’s perception had it’s strengths and weaknesses, it raised a point that has surfaced in the John Cena and A.J. Styles characters. For each character to remain relevant a slight adjustment was all that was needed to provide fans with fresh faces in the stale seas of mediocrity they navigated.
A.J. Styles’ character represents retaliation, a notion of justice that’s needed to right the wrongs inflicted upon an unsuspecting individual who had lived by a disciplined code of morals and ethics. Styles’ character can be easily associated with the “Crow Sting” character from WCW after Hulk Hogan’s heel turn (something I spoke of in this piece); he can also be associated with the biblical character Job, a righteous man that found himself caught in a bet of sorts between God and the Devil.
John Cena’s character represents redemption, a response to an injustice that has occurred at his own hands. Cena’s character can be associated with Michael Vick more so than Donavon McNabb, as Cena’s downfall—the year he spent languishing in nothing in particular—was due to his own irresponsible behavior.
That being said one important question arises from these occurrences: which character has experienced the more compelling shift in evolution and priorities?
John Cena’s segment with The Rock on the March 25, 2013 edition of RAW was brilliant for several reasons, one of which was the brief glimpses of an arrogant, heelish John Cena that we haven’t seen since the rarely mentioned “Ruthless Aggression” Era. Cena was contemptuous in his resolve, admitting that his loss to The Rock was due to one simple-minded act that left him on his back staring at the lights. Cena was vehement in making it known that he defeated himself, which reveals to us a character that truly believes in the hype that has surrounded and dominated his career.
In that sense, the John Cena character is reminiscent of the real life Bret Hart, a man that honestly believes he is the end all, be all when it comes to professional wrestling. The implication from the words that came from Cena’s own mouth is that The Rock never defeated him; John Cena defeated himself.
The only reason The Rock scored the pinfall was because John Cena slipped on the goal line, allowing Rock to take advantage of the fumble to score the game winning touchdown. From this Cena contends that The Rock was never strong, talented or determined enough to truly beat Cena, that The Rock was still a Hollywood sell-out that doesn’t deserve to be in a wrestling ring.
This type of Cena is very different from the Cena that has openly admitted to losing to stars like CM Punk, Sheamus, and countless others. This type of Cena is the All-Star Varsity Team Captain who goes unpunished for violating the privacy and personal space of a cheerleader, simply because “she was asking for it.” This is the Cena that fans despise, that fans yearn and thirst to smack when they see him in the streets.
This is also the type of Cena that could snap when he loses to The Rock again, the type of Cena that could “injure” The Rock during his post-match celebration at WrestleMania XXIX. The injury would sideline the WWE Champion and force the WWE Title to be vacated, thus allowing for a reinvigorated and more edgy John Cena to find his way back into the main event picture while embracing the jeers of the crowd.
A.J. Styles, on the other hand, returned to IMPACT Wrestling two weeks ago after a lengthy hiatus following his embarrassing loss to Christopher Daniels at Final Resolution 2012. In the final moments of the match, Daniels utilized Styles’ own finishing maneuver, The Styles Clash, to gain the pinfall.
Prior to this match, Styles was the unlucky recipient of a pinfall loss in a triple threat match at Turning Point 2012 to determine the number one contender for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. As a result, Styles was locked out of receiving a championship match until Bound for Glory 2013.
Dejected and absolutely humiliated by Daniels’ victory (ironically, a victory gained in the same manner that caused John Cena to lose his match to The Rock), Styles appeared on the December 13, 2012 episode of IMPACT Wrestling and gave a bitter soliloquy in the middle of the ring disguised as an address to the fans.
Styles’ words that day were surprising at most, but effective nevertheless in planting seeds for an A.J. Styles that fans had never seen before.
Styles’ inner thoughts and feelings were revealed for the entire wrestling audience to consider (and are loosely quoted as follows):
I don’t know where I’m is going or what the next step is. I’ve spent too much time being a corporate man and worrying about everyone else that I forgot about myself. (While taking off his Impact Wrestling shirt and hat) I’m tired of cleaning up TNA’s messes and doing the right thing. From now on, I’m going to be doing my own thing (Styles drops the microphone and leaves the ring).*
When the broken and disenfranchised wrestler returned to IMPACT Wrestling on the March 14 episode, he attacked the two men that were the source of his year long consternation (Daniels and Kazarian) and James Storm, the man that pinned him at Turning Point 2012. These actions make him a social outcast, an outsider that has every justifiable reason in the book to walk around with a huge chip on his shoulder.
This A.J. Styles is a shell of the Phenomenal One that captured the hearts of fans for his years of dedication to TNA; this A.J. Styles is only concerned about what’s good for A.J. Styles because it seems that no one else really cares. This A.J. Styles spits in the face of TNA’s beloved authority figures. This A.J. Styles will climb to the top of TNA’s ladder of success just to throw it back into the faces of all his naysayers.
Ironically enough, this A.J. Styles is also the savior TNA will need to rid the company of the Aces and 8′s infestation come Bound for Glory 2013; unfortunately for TNA, he’ll be doing it for himself and not for the company.
So the question remains…which character is more compelling? Which character would you be willing to pay money to see?
Hey everybody, I’m Chris, and happy day after St. Patty’s Day. I’m back out of character with another pseudo-serious piece and this one is for the children. Rather, it’s for the parents, or the people who care about the children. Question: why are powerful heels such a minority in the realm of the WWE?
For the ill-informed, a “heel” is a character that does villainous things and commits villainous acts as a means to achieve victory. They piss off the crowd, spawn the occasional angry fan who becomes a meme, and at the end of the day they’re just not good people. For long time wrestling fans, smarks, sports entertainment enthusiasts and over-opinionated know-it-alls, a “good” heel can make or break a program and can spawn heat that a feud, rivalry or even a company needs.
When a “good” heel emerges, especially amongst a myriad of baby faces and tweeners, one might rejoice, much like when Mark Henry began a violent streak of destruction, or Randy Orton made a habit out of hurting old people, or CM Punk descended into the messiah of his own twisted, if accurate, world. But when it comes to one of the heaviest audiences of the WWE, the children, the reaction might be little more than an unremarkable: “Meh.”
That’s not to say they “hate” the heel, but they aren’t amused. They don’t love or hate them, they just don’t exactly know what to think. Me personally, thinking back to when I began watching professional wrestling so many years ago, my concept of face and heel was undeveloped: I saw one guy beating up another guy and my youthful love for stylized combat left me feeling very neutral about most scenarios. Examining that now, I asked myself why, and it’s because I wasn’t paying attention to much more than the violence. Had I found myself actually comprehending the face and heel tactics, I would have begun understanding just how watching these characters can affect a developing child.
What do I mean by that pretentious statement? Well, let’s look at what professional wrestlers can represent to a child. Imagine a kid no older than seven or eight, standing at the barricade or sitting on his parent’s shoulders. Loud pyro hits, music begins blaring, the crowd starts to react with cheers and here comes Shawn Michaels. I’m using Shawn Michaels because he’s one of the most universally loved pro wrestlers I can think of. He comes out at the top of the ramp and does his bit, walks out to the ring acknowledging his fans and detractors alike and slides into the ring. To the kid, he’s twenty feet tall, and that’s just as literal as it is figurative. Shawn does his act some more and he stands like something of a god, a creature worthy of worship from a little boy looking for something to look up to.
That child leaves the live show copying the mannerisms and words of the Heartbreak Kid, wanting the pants he wore or the title belt he may have been holding, trying to execute Sweet Chin Music in the parking lot to the point where his parents are apologizing to the unfortunate little girl that “came out of nowhere” when he was trying to kick the air. Her response is executing the infamous DX “suck it” gesture because she understands and suddenly a friendship is formed.
And while that fictional scenario is just that – fictional – it features two very glaring realities: the reality of the kid who idolizes Shawn Michaels, and the reality of the parent who may or may not comprehend it. To the parent, a little boy in the parking lot wanting to be Shawn Michaels is cute, and arguably inspiring. The people that see him may laugh but it’s in appreciation versus chiding. When he hits the girl, it’s bad, but if she’s even half as enamored with the product as the little boy, the parents are going to be mad or regretful, but the kids are simply going to keep it moving because they’ve already found something to bond over. To some, that children’s reality may not make sense. But if you really think about a child, their reality doesn’t HAVE to make sense. Children are a specialized state of mind: the early years of a person’s life are development. Exposition, if you will. A six, seven, eight year old is still trying to figure out life, and it’s very common for them to delve into a world of missing logic and find a role model in a larger-than-life character, i.e. Shawn Michaels, or, in this generation, John Cena.
It’s a slippery slope: children are sponges. They take in everything and how it manifests or displays is anyone’s guess. I ask you: do you remember your first time watching professional wrestling? Your first kiss? Your first broken bone? First foray into film, or music, or something you find to be a great passion today? You may, you may not, but at the end of the day it had some kind of effect, putting a permanent mark on the tabula rasa that was, for lack of a better term, you.
Regarding the parking lot superkick, children don’t always think beyond “this moment”, and as a result they become a lot better at apologizing than asking for permission. One might say that they lack logic as a result, but delve into the mind of the child again: logic will always take a back seat to emotion. The allure of nailing someone with a superkick overshadows who might get hurt. Hitting a jumping Shelton Benjamin with the perfect Sweet Chin Music becomes a goal, a would-be unreachable summit that takes plenty of practice to achieve. So the parking lot foot action comes across as a weak kick to a little girl’s stomach, and instead of cheers and applause at getting his foot high enough to introduce toenails as an unlucky victim’s teeth, it becomes reprimanding of “What the hell is wrong with you?!” Again, very logical, and a child should be punished for kicking someone, intentionally or otherwise, but always take care to comprehend what went through the little boy’s mind: “I think I’m cute! I know I’m sexy! What does sexy mean…? Oh well!”
This is the world of a child, and being a sponge has just as many disadvantages in how it accepts virtually anything as it does advantages to accepting virtually anything. Plenty of people, children especially, take pro wrestling and sports entertainment, a bit too seriously, and that same kid who came out of the arena worshipping Michaels can just as likely come out fearfully acknowledging the bad guy.
It’s a similar concept with people who blame video games or violent media on a person’s behavior, but where it differs is with the intensity and impact of the product. No one with a single-digit age has any business playing a video game like Gears of War, I firmly believe this, but all media can affect a developing mind, for better or worse. That being said, a good outside influence saying “That isn’t good to do” or “Don’t do that, it’s wrong” is just as potent and preventative, but apply this to the powerful heel.
We’ll use Mark Henry, because he stands as my favorite heel right now. He’s big, scary, dark of skin and full of sin (as Uncle Ruckus might imply) and has a very simple ideology: enter, wreck, depart. He enters the ring with the intent of wrecking somebody and after he does he departs. Period. It stands as a terrific template for a good heel. In any case, he carries just as much weight as Shawn Michaels would, especially with the way he draws heat. Suddenly the parking lot scenario, while innocent enough in theory and lawsuit worthy enough in practice, becomes another matter. A failed kick is one thing; picking someone up, slamming them into pavement and screaming “THAT’S WHAT I DO!” becomes the basis for a restraining order.
The thing is, I don’t think there is really a lack of strong heels so much as a basic theme the company follows for the young fan base. As we get older we acknowledge and even take joy in the concept of a bad guy claiming the throne or winning the gold, but as children we’re taught that the good guy always wins, and that evil never triumphs. We’re taught with a degree of morals and ethics that, more than likely, encourage us to be charitable, pleasant and strong, while caring and friendly at the same time, five traits that a heel isn’t privy to actually maintaining. If we take Mark Henry again, he doesn’t display these, unless you twist the meanings around and take “charitable” and “friendly” to mean including people into the Hall of Pain without asking them first (see three-time entry Ryback).
And Mark Henry comes across as a powerful force; big, mean, nearly unstoppable. But therein lies the thing: nearly. As scary as Mark Henry is, he has never been shown to be unstoppable. As a bad guy, a heel, he’s been portrayed as having at least one chink in his armor, and that has often been exploited by the underdog of the week, or John Cena. Because John Cena is the hero that the kids can look up to. No matter the situation (being beaten bloody by an angry Brock Lesnar comes to mind) he overcomes and stands as the Superman the children can turn to for truth, justice and the American Way.
Superman has plenty of enemies, rivals and villains but we have to remember that there are only two things that really manage to harm him: kryptonite and Doomsday. The former is his weakness, as all people have, and the second… well, he’s, uh… just watch:
I offer this rebuttal to the claims of weak heels: I don’t think we have too many weak heels so much as overpowered faces. Because kids love faces. Period. If we get a Doomsday in the WWE, then maybe we can talk about the equal-powered heel, because we must remember: Doomsday DID kill Superman, but he got himself killed in the process. Cena’s Doomsday would be…
I don’t know, don’t even want to think about it. That’s my two cents on it though. You have a nice day after St. Patty’s Day. Hope you aren’t too hungover.
When I tell people I’m an old school guy, there’s a lot of layers going on in an otherwise simple looking sentence. In a broader sense, I admit that personality wise I’m simply from a long gone era (think way long gone…think your great-grandparents and probably earlier).
In a narrower sense—in this case, related to wrestling—it means I like the 70′s and live for tapes of the 80′s. There is a litany of reasons why this is, but it all adds up to this: I simply enjoy the product of the first mega-boom more than that of today, and certainly more than that of the “Attitude Era,” which I happen to have stunningly little love for in comparison to pretty much everyone reading this.
Perhaps nothing better exemplifies this than my hate/sort-of-ok-with relationship with the career of John Cena. For the past five years, I’ve been involved in some way with the business of Internet Wrestling Writing and Podcasting. In some instances, it’s merely been as a consultant, others as an editor, others as a writer, and on In the Room it’s in the capacity of a sports talk host…but for pro wrestling. However, no matter what the capacity it’s been in, my stance on Cena has pretty much never changed.
I like him…sort of. From the very first time I wrote about anything that involved him, I made it clear that I think he’s a serviceable talent who got pushed to the top more out of situational happenstance than any kind of marquee headlining talent. In a way, I’ve always sort of felt bad for his career because no matter how hard he works or how hard he tries, when it comes down to real ability measured against the rest of the wrestling world, he’s simply out of his league when it comes to being at the top of the wrestling world. Sure, those people have been around for as long as there’s been professional wrestling (Nick Bockwinkle anybody?), but in this age of the Internet that talent disparity just becomes that much more abundantly clear.
That leads us to this past Monday night, and the closing match on Raw.
With all due respect to Kevin Steen—and the next roughly nine months left on the calendar—John Cena teamed up with arch-nemesis CM Punk to put on the 2013 MOTY candidate from the United States. And while there’s a long way to go, it’s probably one of the two or three leading candidates for the overall MOTY, at the very least until Triplemania rolls around this summer. Even if you think I’m a bit over the moon here, you’ll be hard pressed to find anybody who was any bit down on the match itself. The reaction was almost overwhelmingly positive, and that sort of leads to the bigger question in its aftermath: what is this feud’s—and by some extension, Cena’s career’s—place in history?
After the match that night, more than one writer or podcaster made the comparison of Punk v. Cena to Steamboat v. Flair.
In some senses, that’s a reasonably apt comparison. Much like Steamboat and Flair, Punk and Cena work well together and are able to do a very good job complimenting the others’ strengths instead of accidentally highlighting the others’ weaknesses. Both sets of men now have developed years’ long feuds, and both in and out of storyline there’s a reasonably good comparison of Steamboat to Punk.
But, there are just as many reasons why it’s a bad comparison. For one, which man is the Ric Flair? It certainly isn’t John Cena, who can’t even get his hometown to do what he needs it to when he’s in the ring (that would be cheer…). Punk and Cena aren’t competing against promotions with the same or better talent depth, and neither man has to compete with the same kind of marquee level feuds within their same promotion.
The biggest difference, however, is in the percieved (and mostly real) talent drop off for Cena. Flair and Steamboat may have had a series of classic matches at or near the zenith of the wrestling world, but neither man is ever going to be talked about in the same disparaging way Cena so often is.
For me, Monday night showed that Cena vs. Punk is a hybrid of two feuds from wrestling’s greatest era…
It’s part Hogan vs. Savage, and part Hogan vs. Warrior.
This past week on ITR, Brady Hicks planted the idea that it was—at least in part—Hogan vs. Savage, with Cena being Hogan and Punk being Savage. I suppose in the overall scheme of things, that’s got some validity, especially because both men compare well to their historical counterparts in a side-by-side. Punk is absolutely Savage, the inarguable more talented individual whom should probably be on top of the roster in comparison to what else is there—especially over Cena. Cena, meanwhile, is absolutely the Hulk Hogan of the feud. He’s the man on top, the man who can draw passion from fans into any feud regardless, and could make money if he were to fight Eugene while also being the man whose talent isn’t bad but, is at best, serviceable.
Meanwhile, Monday night’s match was much more like Hogan vs. Warrior. Nobody could have expected a match of that quality would come forth that night, and it wasn’t just because it was happening on Raw.
When I say John Cena is serviceable but not bad, I’m not necessarily saying he’s much good either. He’s okay enough that good workers can get good matches out of him, but he’s never going to make a classic on his own because he simply has too many deficiencies.
His moveset and style in the ring are clunky limited. Part of it is probably his talent ceiling, but part of it is that he’s simply just not an athletic man…at least not by the standards of top wrestling talents. While he certainly looks the part, there is a difference between having a lot of muscle and being an athletic guy. Cena isn’t by any means unwatchable, but if watching Bryan Danielson is the exercise of watching poetry in motion, watching Cena is more the exercise of watching Celebrity Deathmatch reruns.
His promo ability is narrow and not likely to grow. He’s not necessarily good at making others look good. The beat goes on.
The point here? Punk and Cena’s match on Raw had no business being as good as it was because a man of Cena’s talent level has no business being in a five star kind of match. By and large, that statement has remained pretty true throughout Cena’s career. He’s had some good matches, but not great ones. He’s had some okay feuds, but he’s had nothing of great note, which brings me to the Hogan vs. Warrior analogy.
Hogan vs. Warrior at WrestleMania VI had no business being as good as it was; the reality is that Hogan got a far better match out of Warrior than pretty much everyone else ever did or would (with the exception of Savage one year later). Punk and Cena’s feud—much like that match—is defined by overcoming expectations as much as anything else.
In the world of professional wrestling, Punk’s resumè was already world class before he set foot in WWE. Cena’s was not, and much like Chis Jericho’s feud with the Legends at WrestleMania XXV won’t define his career, The Rock won’t define Cena’s. In fact before this feud with Punk, Cena’s career looked pretty bland.
The Orton feud didn’t really go anywhere; a feud with Batista never developed. Jericho wasn’t around too long, Edge wasn’t always there, Miz fell flat and Big Show was underwhelming as an opponent.
CM Punk, and this now ongoing and established feud with Cena, will ultimately be the defining one of Cena’s career, but maybe not of Punk’s.
And so we reach the final question: what is the place of this feud—and Cena’s career—in the history of professional wrestling? At this point, I think the answer is that it’s safe to say its place is “What could have been?”
We’re not going to get this kind of match at WrestleMania, and there have been long term booking decisions which have made the feud start and stop, stalling just when things could get hottest. When Cena faces The Rock, his arch-nemesis and most iconic opponent will be doing something else, or lost in a three-way never meant for him.
And we’ll wonder, “what might have been?”
Ray Bogusz is the co-host of the In The Room Show and a syndicated wrestling columnist. You can reach him via his Twitter @RayITR. To get his column on your website, email email@example.com.
Most fans won’t readily acknowledge that RAW’s ratings, as of late, have hovered around the 3.1 area. While this means absolutely nothing to the average fan, it means a lot to analysts and pundits such as us.
It doesn’t mean or suggest that the quality of the product is getting better; what it does suggest is that fans are finding more reasons to tune into the show each Monday night. The “Road to WrestleMania” is typically filled with more than enough elements to energize fans and entice them to purchase the WWE’s annual mega-sports entertainment event, but last night’s show offered more than what most probably expected or anticipated. To say that last night’s RAW was knocked out of the park would be a huge understatement. While I would hesitate to say the show was “perfect,” I will say that it was great all around and well above average.
Three things made the show awesome: the hot Dallas, Texas crowd, the opening brawl between Brock Lesnar and Triple H, and the MOTY candidate bout between CM Punk and John Cena. Everything in between seemed to add some depth and volume to the undercard for WrestleMania XXIX. It will be interesting to see how the company can keep up this momentum between now and April.
Here’s the most noteworthy stuff:
- WWE Vengeance: Lesnar vs. Triple H II
- WWE Insurrextion: Sheamus vs. Wade Barrett
- WWE Judgement Day: The Shield vs. Randy Orton
- WWE December to Dismember: Featuring AJ Lee, Dolph Ziggler, and Ryblack
- WWE Bragging Rights: CM Punk vs. John Cena
The evening started out with last week’s proposed fight between Mr. McMahon and Paul Heyman. While it was safe to assume that very few people (right-minded folks, mind you) expected a true fight to take place between the million-dollar geriatric and South Philly’s favorite son, even fewer could have accurately predicted the magnitude of the brawl that followed their slap fight.
Two really cool things happened during the exchange between Heyman and Mr. McMahon; for starters, Scott Stanford sent a tweet question whether Heyman had been robbing homes in Dallas prior to appearing on the show. Secondly, Heyman gave Mr. McMahon “The Pounce,” and no one seemed moved by his perfectly executed, skillful and dangerous maneuver.
Nevertheless the whole spectacle was cut short by the unmistakable sound of Brock Lesnar’s music. The beast of a man approached the ring and prepared to sink his teeth into Vince McMahon’s old and surprisingly muscular carcass. Before Lesnar could get another taste of McMahon’s blood, Triple H’s music blared through the arena and we all knew that a rematch between the two would take place at April’s blockbuster pay per view. The standard brawl took place between the two after McMahon hightailed it out of harms way, and everything that happened afterwards was unintentionally magnificent.
The brawl between Lesnar and Triple H seemed real; it felt real even though it looked phony at times. You could easily tell that Lesnar was using his MMA training against Triple H, who’s experience in body building didn’t seem to help his situation at all. I even wondered if there would be a point in the fight where Trips had to whisper to Brock, “Hey! It’s not real fighting, bro!” Not too soon after I had that thought, Lesnar eased up a bit on the realism and switched back into scripted entertainment mode.
The money moment of the fracas was when Trips sent Brock’s skull sailing into the ring post, busting him open the hard way. Half of Lesnar’s head was soaked in blood as the cameras attempted to avoid showing it on live television. Despite their best efforts the effect of this was necessary to make this rematch between the men mean something. I would venture to say that it was Lesnar’s blood that sold a good number of people on this pay per view alone; the awkward part of it all is that this was only the beginning of the show…
It’s anyone’s guess as to how epic their match will be at WrestleMania, but if their brawl last night was any indication we can expect this grudge match to be more passionate and grueling than their first encounter.
Another thing that stood out was a segment in which Sheamus made fun of Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett and his work as an extra in the upcoming movie Dead Man Down, starring Ireland’s second favorite dandy, Colin “Remember Me?” Farrell. A few fans in my Twitter feed commented on how absurd it was for a face (Sheamus) to continue to be a face while making fun of (bullying) someone for their small part in a movie. I started to respond to a few of these comments but stopped when I thought about the lack of angst against John Cena and his many heel-like tactics over the past few years; be a star, everyone.
The eventual exchange between the two was far from being bad, and it actually provided a few chuckle-worthy spots (I particularly LOL’d when Barrett referred to the fans as “idiots;” it was the accent and the air of arrogant confidence that did it). I also site this as being worth mentioning because of a previous post where I stated that the only program decent for Sheamus at this point is a feud with Barrett for the Intercontinental Title. I also stated that spot belonged to Bo Dallas, a spot he was politely pulled out of because of WrestleMania season.
Another thing to consider is the recent “international flair” the title has acquired with its most recent champions. The title has suffered from a lack of importance, prestige, and significance as of late. Having non-American champions gives some sort of meaning to the title even if that meaning is still not all that defined. Another match between Sheamus the feisty fighting Irishman squaring off against Barrett the brutish bare-knuckle Brit is something good for both men and for the title.
Sheamus would make another appearance that night during an in-ring segment involving The Shield. The three members of the so-called “arm of justice” in WWE were busy spouting their manifesto to the audience when they issued a warning to the hapless superstars in the back. Sheamus strolled out in his wrestling gear and responded to their warning, only to serve as a decoy for a sneak attack at the hands of Randy Orton. With Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns advancing on Sheamus, Orton slithered into the ring and leveled Seth Rollins with a surprisingly devastating RKO.
A number of fans have commented that Orton seems to be floating aimlessly at this point in his career. I wouldn’t say a feud with The Shield would invigorate Orton’s character, but it would give the rub to the group of young lions. What’s more interesting about this story is the story of how all three of these young WWE superstars made it to their first WrestleMania. Speaking particularly about Dean Ambrose’s rise to glory, it was only at WrestleMania XXVII two years ago in Atlanta (where we first saw him in person) that he received a try out match with WWE, a match that got him this far in the company. It’s an impressive story, and to share that story with two equally talented young superstars in a match with Randy Orton is pretty big. It will be a thing of beauty to see what comes from this.
Speaking of things of beauty, AJ Lee’s fall from grace has been less majestic than anyone could have ever imagined. When you consider the amount of time and energy that was put into AJ’s character during the latter part of 2012, it’s amazing how dimly her once radiant aura shines now. Ever since being partnered with Dolph Ziggler, AJ has seriously fallen off the radar of relevance; problem is, there’s is no justifiable or logical reason for such a tremendous dip in attention given to her character.
The same thing could be argued for Dolph Ziggler, the current Mr. Money In the Bank contract recipient. Dolph has literally seen several stop and go storylines and at one point looked to be headed towards the main event scene like a bat out of hell. Things looked even better for the bleach blonde superstar when he was essentially given his own little stable to work with. It just seems like after awhile the writers gave up on him and have reduced him to wrestling matches for the sake of simply keeping him on fans’ minds and in our collective consciousness.
All of this could be for a good reason, however; Ziggler has until July to cash in his contract for a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship, and a lot can take place in the five months between now and the July 14 Money In the Bank pay per view. The more cynical fans tend to write off wrestlers or storylines that don’t receive immediate attention or payoffs. It remains to be said that patience is a virtue, and Ziggler may be in the midst of being primed to have a major role in the company moving forward.
The question is where does AJ Lee fit in the middle of all of this? At this point in the game she’s barely a skid mark in the frilly unmentionables of the Divas Division, and the creative writers have all but abandoned the idea of making her a credible valet for Mr. Ziggler. The good news for AJ is that she’s an actual wrestler, and given our affinity with Trish Stratus and Lita it would not surprise me at all that AJ’s “sunny days” are ahead of her.
As for Big E Langston, the massive and mysteriously silent monster is playing his role to the tee. Langston is standing in the footsteps of such legendary bodyguards as Diesel, Dave Batista, and Ezekiel Jackson just to name a few. Perhaps Big E will one day serve as the potential grouse in John Cena’s pheasant hunt. But then again, a man can dream can’t he…
Speaking of John Cena, just how exhilarating was his match against CM Punk on Monday night?!?!
Many fans and pundits have said this before already, but Cena seems to be the type of wrestler/superstar that is very capable of having an excellent match if he’s pushed to the limit by his opponent. It’s anybody’s guess as to the pep talk given to either Punk or Cena prior to the match, but whatever was said or done it gave both men the passion and desire necessary to deliver one hell of a battle.
We often condemn the WWE for not having matches like this on the regular, but the truth of it all is that these rare gems should be rare gems, because if matches like this happened all the time what exactly would a rare gem be?
The other thing to pay attention to is CM Punk’s ability to bring the best out of Cena. It’s often said (and ignored largely by fans) that a wrestler is only as great as his opponent makes him look. While the myth of John Cena’s stature tends to overshadow all around him, Punk truly stood out as a performer by showing off his ability to take Cena beyond complacency and mediocrity in the ring. This is why Punk’s legendary 21st Century WWE Title reign is lost among fans today; we miss the significance of all he brings to the product because we’re too busy focusing on the obvious flaws of the company to appreciate the crown jewels in their possession.
I did get truly pissed me off during the match as Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler casually ignored the fact that Punk spent a majority of the match working on Cena’s neck and head. It’s one thing to constantly state that Punk was “trying to wear Cena down,” but he could’ve easily done that by working on Cena’s mid-section, making it harder for him to breath the longer the match progressed. Instead Punk worked over a previously injured area of Cena’s body, making him super vulnerable for a knee to the face or the dreaded Anaconda Vice submission hold. I know understand why people say RAW’s commentary team has gotten awful. The little things always make a difference, and I wish the commentators could’ve at least acknowledged that in their incessant banter.
So what’s the end game for both men? Of course we get another “Once In a Lifetime” match between The Rock and John Cena, but more importantly CM Punk is available for what could be the biggest match of his WWE career against The Undertaker at WrestleMania. We assume Taker will win the match, but what would it say about how the company feels about Punk if he becomes the first and only wrestler to defeat “The Dead Man” at the pay per view? Once again…a man can dream, can’t he?
That all I felt about the show last night. What do YOU think about it?
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 someone that 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?
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:
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
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 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.
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.
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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
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!
Place in your predictions as to who you think will will these matches. If you have a certain scenario to go with your decision, then put it in a comment for this article.
DISCLAIMER: This is simply food for thought. I want to make L.E.W.D. put some more wrinkles back on the brain because I’m sure it’s about as smooth as a baby’s backside after the Friday Farces.
On April 4, 2011 (the night after WrestleMania XXVII), many Professional Wrestling fans, I included, witnessed a verbal contract agreement between John Cena and The Rock for a match at WrestleMania XXVIII in Miami, Florida. At some point, I vaguely remember Cena seeking to raise the stakes by carrying the WWE Title to that match…
On May 1, 2011 (Extreme Rules), Cena won the WWE Championship from The Miz in a Triple-Threat Match involving John Morrison. Many fans (I included) were a little peeved about this outcome simply because we had a sinking feeling that Cena was going to be champion from May 1, 2011 to April 1, 2012 and defend his belt against The Rock at WrestleMania. These fans (I included) were DEAD WRONG!!!
On July 17, 2011, just 77 days after winning the belt for the 8th time, John Cena would lose the belt to CM Punk would claim his first WWE Championship and flee the company (Arrival Point).
During Punk’s time away, Rey Mysterio and John Cena would lay claim to the New (Interim) WWE Championship. Upon Cena winning, CM Punk returned to make the statement that HE was the WWE Champion, and Cena was just keeping the seat warm, and on August 14, 2011, CM Punk defeated John Cena to be the undisputed WWE Champion (Arrival Point). Then Alberto Del Rio would cash in his “Money In The Bank” and win the WWE Championship from CM Punk.
Del Rio would hold the belt for 35 days and lose it to John Cena for what seemed like the title reign that would lead to WrestleMania XXVIII…But it wasn’t.
Only 2 weeks later at Hell in a Cell on October 2, 2011, John Cena was both literally and metaphorically locked out of the WWE Championship scene. Alberto Del Rio would regain the WWE Championship. (Arrival Point)
The one question that seemed to stick out from many fans, “Did the WWE really give the belt to Cena just to give him his 10th Title reign?” Maybe the better question was, “Did the WWE change their plans for something and/or someone bigger?”
Del Rio’s reign would last 49 days before he would lose it to CM Punk at Survivor Series on November 20, 2011. (Arrival Point)
This Survivor Series featured a returning Rock teaming with Cena in the “Never Before, Never Again” Tag-Match… Given that Survivor Series is one of the WWE’s Classic 4 PPVs, the WWE Championship can’t just be involved in a Tag Match and not defend it unless the WWE revisits the Shawn Michaels/Diesel vs. Owen Hart/Yokozuna Championship Match (4 Men, 3 Titles, 2 Teams, 1 Match) scenario.
It seemingly felt like we had the answer to our aforementioned question. Cena can’t be champion if he teams with The Rock in this match for one of the WWE’s Classic 4 PPVs, so the WWE hit the reset button and put the belt back on Del Rio.
Now remember that The Rock promised that he was never leaving again…We all (including Cena and I) knew that he would be gone to do more movies, so basically that statement was a lie…or maybe we were taking him to literally… maybe he was saying that he would be in and out, but was going to be involved for a long period of time…maybe the plans were drawn out farther than just WrestleMania XXVIII…
On November 20, 2011, CM Punk would start a WWE Championship reign that would last 434 days. CM Punk was raising the standard of the WWE Title. He was making the belt a Hot Item, and made it more important to hold, even after the fans turned on him when he became obsessed with receiving the proper respect.
Punk was not being respected as the Best In The World even when holding the Title that represented that stature. John Cena and The Rock upstaged him on the first night of him being champion in this historic reign. 434 days later, John Cena wins the Royal Rumble, and The Rock wins the WWE Championship on January 27, 2011. (Arrival Point)
Who was the transitional champion in all of this?
A transitional champion (as defined by Wikipedia.org) is defined as a short-reigning champion who serves to move the title indirectly from one wrestler to a third. They are usually used when the title is to be moved between two faces, to avoid requiring them to wrestle each other.
Based on this definition, one could argue that Alberto Del Rio was a transitional champion; but was he?
I challenge one to think a little more about this situation. Does the arrival point have to be a person or a situation?
What is the big picture?
As mentioned before, The Rock vs. Cena was the main attraction/advertisement for WrestleMania XXVIII. It was billed as “Once in a Lifetime”, but given the recent events, one could believe it may become “Twice in a Couple of Years.”
Given that The Rock promised to be here for a long time, could one also believe that plans were being made and stories were being written for time periods that would span over the course of years. This was seemingly already going on with some storylines. For example, Triple H and The Undertaker and their two matches at WrestleMania’s XXVII and XXVIII. The ending of the first match just short of obviously led to the rematch a year later. Could it be possible that the situation with John Cena and The Rock was written 2 years out, and could that plan have been put in place on October 2, 2011 (Hell in a Cell)?
I remember being on the phone with Mr. Ashley Morris and Mr. Quinn Gammon during that PPV, and when Cena was locked out, we all agreed that the symbolism of that turn of events was too strong to ignore.
Did Del Rio hold the belt to keep Cena from fighting Punk?… Well seeing that Punk was involved in the match that Cena lost the belt, I doubt it.
The last time the belt was in the hands of Cena was September 8, 2011, and The Rock won it on January 27, 2013. There were 507 days between, and CM Punk was Champion for 434 (86%) of them, and if the story was written out to be that John Cena (Royal Rumble Winner) will face The Rock for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania XXIX, could it be said that CM Punk was given the belt to raise the value, make it a Hot Item, and make it stand for the Best in the World to give it back to The Rock and John Cena’s WrestleMania stint, and would that mean that CM Punk was the man to hold the belt to keep it out of the hands of John Cena?
This is a business right? CM Punk did benefit a lot out of the 434 day reign, but no one is bigger than the business, and if the business is going year to year, then everything in between is just a group of arrival points leading to a big payoff at each year’s end.
Now I am very aware that this argument is only valid if a few things are true: My theory that the WWE is writing in a long-term and full-circle format. and if CM Punk is out of the Title picture by the time WrestleMania XXIX occurs.
Was CM Punk’s reign a transition to raise the value of the belt and to keep it in a high profile?
Tell me what you think.
My memories of the infamous Attitude era of the WWE (then WWF) are lacking. I can remember the bigger things: I remember Brian Pillman (RIP), the sexual overtones, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels’ major feud, ‘Taker and Michaels’ equally significant feud, Tyson, and of course the face of the era himself: Stone Cold Steve Austin.
I suppose you can group the era into seven major factors (hyperbole, but for the sake of this piece we’ll use seven): the rises of Stone Cold and The Rock, the Ministry of Darkness, the Brothers of Destruction, Degeneration-X, the rise of the many faces of Foley and the long-standing war between Austin and McMahon. Up until recently I was looking for a missing link between what I was attempting to write a little while back and what I’ve been trying to scribe here for what seems like several weeks. That link comes from the Attitude era. It comes from the feud between Vince McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Looking at the return of The Rock, I can’t help but immediately return to the why of his return in the first place. His irregular forays into professional wrestling/sports entertainment have been to put someone over on the entertainment side and to bring in reasonable financial gain on the business side. At this point it’s fair to say that he’s more a Hollywood mainstay (which is pushing it a little in my tastes) than a special guest Superstar. Skipping ahead a bit it functions as the reason I’m not for him winning the WWE Championship at the Rumble; he’d fall under the same category of people that Punk criticized recently, i.e. Bob Backlund. Kayfabe, to be sure, but I find it to be an interesting deal. In any case, Dwayne Johnson’s latest foray back revolves around his gripes with the bastard son of Kamino engineering and Kal-El himself, John Cena.
Some might say that that isn’t true. It is. And you may not realize it, but you’re
likely wrong if you disagree. I’m talking to YOU, Adrian. Everything about The Rock’s latest romp has, in some capacity, revolved around John Cena, whether shameless talking about how much he doesn’t like him, to misinterpreting colonial American history and polluting sources of water AGAIN by throwing in Cena merchandise, to mysteriously shutting up after his Wrestlemania victory. Remember, he was relatively quiet after that until CM Punk began to run his mouth more and more heel-ishly. The announcement was made that he would have a WWE Championship match at the Rumble and I don’t think I can invoke my reaction any better than this here. Mostly because it made no sense. Secondly because it was an almost perfect set-up for Once in a Lifetime… Again. Which cheapens a good match from a good PPV. That’s the exposition; now let’s get into the sexy elaboration.
With Royal Rumble, Elimination Chamber, Wrestlemania, Extreme Rules, Over the Limit, No Way Out, there was a theme. Each match featured a significant match with Cena and someone trying to
murder defeat him. This does not differ from most of his matches in concept, but we were dealing with Kane’s attempt to drag him into darkness, the Big Show living up to his “new” contract with the “fat” bonus and, of course, Brock Lesnar’s violent, and highly appreciated, decimation of Doomsday before being overcome by his equally broken opponent. Again, nothing special about that, except for one thing: John Laurinaitis.
Outside of failed Odd Future philosopher Scorpio “Harold” Sky and the unknown soldier known only as Dr. Shelby (no one can verify that his name is Sam Huntington), there are few out-of-ring talents I immediately appreciated. The chain-smoker voice, the petrified wood chin, the history as a skateboarder, the past with a porn star, the still head-scratchingly confusing WXO promo, he was a godsend. He was great. He had a problem with Cena, just like he did with Punk (foreshadowing) and it showed as Cena became more and more of a nuisance to the executive vice president of talent relations and the general manager of both RAW and SmackDown! Mr. Excitement, as I’m sure Seka called him during their relationship, had a mission: kill Superman. And with this Lex Luthor state of mind, Johnny Ace (as I’m not so sure Seka called him during their relationship) sent out enforcer after enforcer to put him out of his misery. To varying results. All of them failures, save for Over the Limit, which DID feature a John Laurinaitis victory. Not that it put much of a dent in Cena’s momentum.
Big Johnny (as I’m sure Seka never called him during their relationship) waged his campaign silently. Cena was the unstoppable juggernaut and he was throwing everything he could at him, even hairy non-Japanese people. One of my more unfounded, but wholly comprehensible, conspiracies is that Mr. Skillful and Dangerous (as I’m sure NO ONE has ever called him in any situation) attempted to utilize Eve to a succubus effect on Cena and his plucky cohort Jason Todd. I mean Zack Ryder. Both of them died miserably, what’s the difference?
Hmm? Oh, Ryder is still alive? You say you knew that? I didn’t. He’s irrelevant.
With Laurinaitis’ departure there was a void left in the “Let’s Kill Cena!” leadership, but the movement never faded away; it kind of stayed around like an unpaid bill. Cena’s ambition towards the WWE Championship, as well as his failed love life with various women of Hispanic descent (and levels of mental stability), crowded his mind state and at the end of the day the Royal Rumble became his goal. All signs even point to him winning, which is a very reliable indicator as there is only one sign courtesy of unnecessary commentary by pro wrestling/sports entertainment commentators such as ourselves. We all “knew” Cena was going to win at Wrestlemania as well. We (most of us) were happily surprised at how wrong we were too.
People are clamoring for Rock and Cena Part 2 now, and the loudest person calling for this match, even without calling for it at all, is Cena. Yes, Cena. In an interesting inverse to Punk (more foreshadowing) Cena is still attempting to acquire a level of respect and prestige that he doesn’t feel he has. Personally I think it just comes across as greed at this point. Even the best of intentions can be disastrous, if the person doesn’t appreciate what they already have. The character of Felix Anthony is one of accepted opulence: the children love him and he keeps striving for an achievement he can’t possibly reach because it would be backtracking.
For better or worse, the Prototype is at a level of prestige even he can’t acknowledge. He’s a multiple time world champion, a Make-A-Wish maven, a money making jam boy, a platinum selling recording artist, a workaholic, loved my millions, the man responsible for more little boys considering homosexuality than any other man in the United States (citation needed), and at that point there is only one thing a person wants: more.
The hunger for more is a very real thing, and it’s not a fleeting disease like with that somewhat lyrical hip hop guy from New York who ran with half a dollar hanging out of his ass. John Cena can only aspire for more now as he’s at the peak of Mount Everest. He COULD go the Kurt Angle route, which was lazy at best, and say he’s going to the bottom of the mountain so he can rise to the summit again, but why? What does that prove? All it means is that Cena did the same thing twice. And at this point, he’s done is three times. Notice how a hat trick is considered the ultimate in a hockey or futbol game.
And what does Cena really want? “More” is a basic term. He wants more prestige. He wants more gold than a party hosted by Mr. T. and Trinidad James. He wants women (and I bet I had my hand around a Bella before he did). He wants the big screen and Hollywood lights. He’s a horrible hybrid of the two biggest stars of sports entertainment, Hulk Hogan and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and so long as they have a place in the mainstream Cena will want more. Again, he’s already at the tip of Everest, but like a European stuntman he seeks greater heights, like perhaps a moving platform that lets him free-fall from the atmosphere to the ground.
Long and short: John Cena wants to be the immortal face of sports entertainment and professional wrestling, and much like Ric Flair says you have the beat the man to be the man he knows he has to beats his only competition, or himself. And I don’t know, I just don’t get the notion that Cena is the kind of guy capable of beating himself. Too infused with steroids, you know? Very uncomfortable I hear. Anyway, like I said, his only “competition” is Dwayne Johnson (who lives the life of Cena’s aspirations) and Hulk Hogan (who lives the life of Cena’s worst nightmares). He doesn’t want to be the king of the mountain; he wants to sour above it.
And that ambition is greedy. Everybody wants to rule the world (says Tears for Fears) but humility is sacrificed every bit of the way, and the ideals of “hustling” for it fall by the wayside and get warped into greed. Greed. Greed.
That’s the word. When it comes to the Rock, you can argue that he sees in John Cena the same thing he sees in his past self, and the Rock, as a result, has two options: let that continue, or put the upstart down before he gets too uppity, or goes from a Red Sock to a Yankee as CM Punk said once before (I haven’t forgotten about Punk yet, don’t worry). Think of it like the plight of lions. See, when a mommy lioness and a daddy lion decide to get together and have little Simbas, Nalas are safe. Females are safe. But males are in trouble. The daddy lion may, in an effort to maintain power, kill and, in some cases, eat the male cub. Isn’t that special? The Rock is the latest enforcer in the quest to dethrone John Cena, by the establishment. However, The Rock has nothing to prove; he’s done his time, paid his dues and kicked plenty of ass along the way. He had his own Wrestlemania moment doing battle with the face of sports entertainment himself Hulk Hogan. He’s the one souring. That’s why he gets the pop he does at this point.
But Cena is hungry. He’s hungry with no right to be. In many ways he’s already surpassed the object of his greedy delusions. And it’s not hard to imagine how clouded your vision gets when your ambitions outweigh your common sense. Some of us call it writing about professional wrestling or sports entertainment. I’m enough of an ass to say a lot of you (i.e. – Smith, Smith, ADRIAN, Scooby-Doo) need to calm down, step back and realize that you’re not that great at what you do. I’m cocky and back it up with humor, wit, shameless attempts at flirting with beautiful celebrities and a keen appreciation for Joseph Ducreux. After all, I am DA Infamous DiZ, not just Infamous DiZ. So to all y’all trying to put your shit out:
So Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has the right to say: “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Cena IS that higher rock, but he’s too blind to see. Blinded by the light, as it were. And personally I have a BIG problem with anyone who directly or indirectly insults the good name of Manfred Mann.
But that takes us to the other end of the scale. The Rock versus CM Punk. The man who is breaking in to fight the champion versus the champion who maintains the epic greatness of the late, great Rodney Dangerfield. That’s not even a full sentence and it spells out the perfection of their conflict.
Hmm, that’s not quite right. There is no perfection with this match or the concept, but there is validity and comprehension. CM Punk has come across as a savior of sorts, a messiah figure, who doesn’t seem to give the slightest damn about the people he’s leading to a promised land. I like to compare him to Moses as portrayed by Seth Macfarlane’s Family Guy. You know: apprehensive to lead his people to freedom, constantly complaining, likely the father of a number of illegitimate children with red-headed rock stars (we’re not finna talk about what I want to do to Christie Hemme (I apologize to Christie Hemme)), etc.
Punk plays the anti-hero, not the good guy or the bad guy, but the protagonist to an age old story, transcending history, and the world. A tale of soul and sword, eternally retold. He’s the greatest of all time, by many standards and according to a number of critics, but he still plays second fiddle to the likes of John Cena, Dwayne Johnson, and of course John Felix Anthony Cena.
Let me ask you, “you” being the reader: have you ever been better than someone, and KNOW that you’re better than them, but they achieve what you put your heart and soul into as opposed to you? The answer is “Yes” because all of us have gone through that. Some people feel it when they deal with work-related things. Some with relationships or the lack thereof. Some do it on forums or following articles or the like; commenters, they’re sometimes called. Granted, nine times out of ten a commenter doesn’t know shit.
I don’t know: it irks me from time to time. What does a number of comments mean when the piece or topic isn’t worth a damn to begin with? I don’t know; frankly I don’t want to know; it’s an answer I can do without. So please, miss me with the notion that a lot of comments means something. Granted, a comment might mean something if it, in and of itself, carries more weight than the piece it is a comment for. That’s logic talking.
See what I just did there? I spoke truth. Truth is what CM Punk is known for. He has two things going for him when he gets on the mic now: truth and opinions damn near impossible to argue with. That’s his appeal. He backs it up with tremendous in-ring performances and the occasional bit at the commentary table. I found it to be very nice that he was disappointed whenever the table was destroyed; he questioned whether or not he was at the Spanish announce table. He also joked (?) about not wearing pants during the third season of NXT, also known as the Divas edition. You and me both, Punk, you and me both.
By all (citation needed) accounts, CM Punk’s only logical competition as the best all-around character in the WWE is Daniel Bryan, and with that in mind you have to ask the question: WHY doesn’t he get the respect he deserves?
Well it depends. In terms of kayfabe: because it’s fuel. In terms of business: I don’t know. He won’t sell as much as Superman; Superman will always sell more than John Constantine does, but people can relate to a John Constantine more as they advance as opposed to an alien who, really, isn’t all that remarkable. Seriously, think about it. What makes Superman so special? He’s not on his home planet, that’s all. Otherwise he’d be another denizen of a destroyed planet, as opposed to the only one left, that they know of.
But that’s CM Punk’s character: striving for respect where he shouldn’t have to. Seeking to grab a gold ring he should already have a dozen times over. Where does the Rock come in to this equation? Simple: he’s another roadblock, another Cena. Punk has had to overcome opponent after opponent, match after match, clean or dirty, and at the end of the day, he gets nothing but hate. No respect. Dwayne Johnson comes back after doing movies only to, and to borrow a word from L.E.W.D. brother Corbin Macklin, abscond back to doing movies after doing a sequence in the WWE. And he already has a title shot. More than that, he has a title shot, period. I have to say: that’s that shit I don’t like.
What does the Rock mean for CM Punk? He means CM Punk has either:
- A title to lose to set up Once in a Lifetime, Part 2, or…
- A milestone to cross that Cena could not.
It seems like a simple fork in the road, but the possibilities are great, what with the Shield, Ryback, Brock Lesnar, Cody Rhodes and his debonair mustache, Damien Sandow and his intellectual greatness, a host of others and of course AJ “I make men cry when I wear actual pants” Lee. Did I mention Ziggler? No, I suppose I forgot. I’ll remember for the future.
At the end of the day, the Rock represents expectation. Anticipation. The standard. The Rock represents today what Hulk Hogan did during his run that culminated with a match with, not surprisingly, The Rock. It’s not really all that complicated, but it is interesting that the mental aspects of Punk and Cena have been playing out for as long as they have. The triangle between Punk, Cena and Dwayne Johnson MAY culminate in a triple threat match at Wrestlemania, but as I stated earlier – or should have if I didn’t – it wouldn’t mean much. Maintaining a feud for a year is hard work, and the feud between Rock and Cena had plenty of low points during the year it took to manifest the actual match, like further polluting New England’s nasty ass waters.
But what do I know? I just talk about stuff. What do YOU think? And by “What do YOU think?”, I mean what do you want to add to the conversation?
I have a problem with wrestling fans.
Man, do I have a problem with some wrestling fans.
Following my usual routine of following the action on Twitter while simultaneously following the action on Monday Night Raw (‘cause I’m just good like that), I couldn’t help but notice the overwhelming abundance of “smart marks” dumping their collective poop chutes all over the product, per usual.
Not that #Raw20 last night was extraordinary. On the whole, the 20 year anniversary of Monday Night Raw was fairly average. There were some good wrestling matches, some silly booking fails and the show did its job of building towards the Royal Rumble.
The part that gets me is that everyone was complaining about the fact that the show wasn’t loaded with Attitude Era stars.
Let me get something straight, people: You same pious flapjacks whine and gripe incessantly about how WWE needs to not load their show with older part time stars because it “takes time away from the younger talents who need it.” Then, when WWE has something lined up like an anniversary show/reunion/celebration event, everyone simultaneously cries foul that those same older part time stars that YOU DIDN’T WANT TO SEE aren’t there to fill time on the show.
I actually saw people on Facebook blaming the PG era for this.
Let’s call a spade a spade people (and get to enjoying that phrase, we’re gonna revisit it frequently in this piece) and just admit that:
A. Most of the people reading this (Not all but a fair few) have no concept of what the PG Era actually is and it has become a scapegoat for your dissatisfaction with the product. The PG Era is responsible for wrestling’s decline about as much as the Happy Meals you buy your son three times a day are responsible for him being the size of a dump truck.
B. On ANY OTHER NIGHT, if these guys were making cameo appearances, most people would be on Twitter or Facebook or whatever social media outlet they feel would make them look the most important and they’d be screaming from the rooftops about how WWE doesn’t need to be giving the spotlight to older stars.
I find this funny for a variety of reasons.
One reason the IWC will never be taken seriously by most professional wrestling companies is because the vast majority of them behave foolishly, doing things like whining on Twitter about how bad the show was because THEY could have booked it better. Much like our aforementioned obesity analogy, personal responsibility needs to be taken into account.
Don’t sit on your hands like a bunch of idiots and blame the WWE for things they have no control over. Do some research. ‘Taker didn’t show up because he’s likely to make an unannounced return at the Royal Rumble (Be real people: When does ‘Taker just show up on a show anymore? It’s too early for him to pick a ‘Mania opponent so the Rumble is the logical place to be.)
Austin and Shawn Michaels had prior booking engagements at the SHOT (Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade) Show in Las Vegas last night. Did we expect Triple H to just randomly show up on Raw?
Someone said on Facebook that he should have reformed Evolution to fight the Shield. Honestly, does anyone think before they speak?
Batista is gone. Orton is already fighting the Shield. Flair isn’t about to put on the panties for another match. Use some common sense folks.
Did anyone stop and think that maybe the reason that WWE didn’t advertise the hell out of this show was because they weren’t planning on doing anything extraordinary with it? If none of those special appearances were able to happen then of course they’re not going to promise a huge show. THEY DIDN’T. Everyone who watched with their expectations on Mars expecting Randy Savage (God rest his soul) to come back to life to re-enact his IC Title match with Steamboat was just delusional.
The show was average and did what it needed to do: It built towards Royal Rumble.
Let’s call a spade a spade people. Everyone throwing up memes about how horrible it was, comparing it to WCW’s dying days, get over yourselves. You’re not funny, you’re not witty, you’re not clever and you’re not right.
Once again, blame the WWE for things they have control over. Blame them for stupid booking moves like jobbing Ziggler to Cena for the 3rd straight time, since he clearly needs about 15 wins to make up for one loss.
Blame them for things like that. Things they control. Don’t blame them for global warming, the violence in the Middle East, smart cars and the extinction of Twinkies. Have some self respect for goodness sakes.
While we’re on the subject of calling a spade a spade, let’s talk about TNA for a moment. If you’re a butthurt TNA fan then don’t even bother reading this because I’m going to offer critique and you will not like it because you don’t like anything that doesn’t involve worshipping this company.
The following is straight from one of the many wrestling dirtsheet sites, who copy/pasted it directly from PWInsider.com.
“According to PWInsider.com, backstage morale at TNA Genesis last night was said to be high. Overall, everybody felt the show was solid from top to bottom, with a great main event. Most of the roster feels the company is moving in the right direction at this point.”
Let’s call a spade a spade (Told ya we would revisit this phrase) and dissect this logically.
OH NO, HE’S USING LOGIC! LOCK UP THE WIFE AND KIDS, EARL! I FEAR A TWISTER IS HEADIN‘ FOR KANSAS!
For starters, whoever decided to start using the word “solid” to describe wrestling shows should be drug out back and shot in the trachea. That is the SINGLE most overused word in the world of wrestling analysis. The only word that even comes close is “buried” but we’re not going to use that word here.
For this analysis, we’re going to do something different. I’m going to school some TNA fans on how to build a logical argument. I am going to do something TNA fans can’t do and I’m going to critique this product without mentioning any other company. That IS possible, you know.
Because much like with those weirdos in Connecticut, personal responsibility is our lesson here. Personal responsibility and perspective. We’re not going to blame TNA for things they can’t control. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of their woes stem from things they CAN control.
Back to our point.
Screw the word “solid.” That’s a lazy way of saying that the show didn’t fall to pieces. If you build a car that’s extraordinary, you can imagine it’d go fast, be durable, hold up well in an accident, get good gas milage, come with restraints and mouth gags for kids on road trips (Totally kidding about that last one.)
If you build a car that’s solid, all one can expect from it is: “It goes. Vrrooooom.”
Now that we’ve pointed out the sin of using the word “solid”, let’s delve deeper into this, shall we?
Reading this very vague report, we can sum up that according to “the roster backstage at Genesis”, talents are feeling good about the direction of the product/progress of the company.
Calling a spade a spade again (you will never want to play cards again after reading this), the questions need to be asked.
Just who in the heck was polled?
I could say something along the lines of:
“According to PWInsider.com, backstage morale at JCW was high. Overall, everyone felt the show was solid from top to bottom with a good main event. The roster feels the show is moving in the right direction and hope to transfer to a large front yard with a few more successful shows.”
And that’s just what I came up with off the top of my head.
If morale is really that high, cite examples. Who did you poll? And here’s the interesting part that no one is going to notice because apparently, I’m the only one who dives this deep into this crap.
Are we to assume that you only polled the guys backstage at Genesis? Because that’s a fairly skewed opinion. Of course they’re gonna be happy about the direction of the show. THEY’RE ON THE SHOW!
Did anyone go down to OVW, where talents have been collecting dust like cars in a garage for years and ask them how they feel about the direction of the company? Did anyone ask them how they feel about TNA bringing in random outsiders for Gut Check instead of using their own flipping developmental territory?
Did anyone outside of the usual 17 stars on TV each week get to speak? How about anyone who didn’t get a spot on the show because TNA is bringing in guys for one-off returns and no contracts?
Did anyone ask Bully Ray if he thinks this absurd angle is a good move for the company? We’ll never know because our grandiose report just says “The roster,” and/or “everyone backstage.”
If I went and I polled Jeff Hardy, Austin Aries, Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff and Bobby Roode about TNA, then obviously they’re going to say they’re happy with the direction. They’re getting what they want from it.
TNA doesn’t get off scot-free for being TNA. They make some of the most idiotic decisions I have ever seen but they’re the only ones who get praised for it week in and week out.
Take this PPV change for example. Everyone is jumping TNA’s bones ready to start sucking. Well, maybe not everyone. But it seems like most people just read the headline “TNA to make MAJOR changes to PPV schedule in 2013” and immediately assumed it was good. Does anyone read anymore?
A good example was given on Twitter not that long ago.
After pointing out the fallacy of their tweet, they quickly amended it by reminding everyone that the six sided ring was coming back for ONE NIGHT ONLY.
But no one clicked on the link. People were responding to the headline itself, praising the company for bringing back the beloved six-sided ring.
Fans do the same with the PPV lineup. It’s already going to be talked about on the podcast so I’m not going to go completely off on it here. But facts are fact.
Fact: TNA is only dropping from 12 PPVs a year to 11.
Fact: TNA is only moving seven of these events to Friday night as opposed to Sunday night.
Fact: TNA isn’t really saving any money here. They’re just spending less.
Wake up folks. Stop putting pool floaties on TNA and telling them it’s okay to never learn how to swim. Stop wiping their tears away and telling them that there are no winners and losers. That’s half the problem with society nowadays. Stop babying them.
Throw ‘em in the pool and let them swim you knuckle headed fruit booties.
And remember: Let’s call a spade a spade. (Insert Aces & Eights joke here.)
~Mr. Quinn Gammon