Just Listen and Learn.
It is anybody’s guess as to what will happen next for WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton. Although he successfully survived the series of matches over the last three weeks imposed upon him by The Authority, the Apex Predator did not escape their machinations without succumbing in some way to the toll inflicted on his psyche by the gauntlet.
Orton only won one of the five matches in the gauntlet, which surely will fuel the ever growing sense of insecurity festering within him. This type of momentum or negative energy surging within Orton could be extremely bad for him as he prepares to defend his title during this Sunday’s Elimination Chamber pay per view. With it being difficult for Orton to gain even one victory in singles matches against his Elimination Chamber opponents, one can only imagine how much more difficult it will be for the champion to survive in a match pitting him against all five opponents at once.
The prospect of a far more dangerous and vicious Randy Orton makes us eagerly anticipate his actions during the bout; the odds are seemingly stacked against him, placing Orton with his back against the wall and desperate to hold on to the only thing bringing him significance and relevance in this age dominated by “Yes!” chants and speculation on Roman Reigns’ future in the company. A cornered Randy Orton could potentially unleash a violent and vicious skull-punting Randy Orton, one who’s fire and passion stand to cause havoc and chaos for the five men locked in the chamber structure with him.
Only time will tell whether or not this will be the Randy Orton we’ll see, as it would be slightly disappointing to see any other iteration of Randy Orton traverse the remaining peaks and valleys on the “Road to WrestleMania” assuming he retains his title this Sunday.
The following synopses covers the final matches in Orton’s gauntlet:
Cesaro versus Randy Orton
February 14, 2014 | Smackdown | Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, CA
Result: Cesaro defeats Randy Orton via pinfall with the Neutralizer
WWE Superstar Cesaro has done nothing but impress fans since his arrival in the promotion. Cesaro, who is also occasionally referred to as “The Swiss Superman,” has consistently wowed audiences with his incredible feats of strength and has introduced several different maneuvers from his arsenal throughout his brief tenure thus far in WWE. Cesaro took fans by surprise when he gained his coveted spot in the Elimination Chamber match, and although many consider him to be a dark horse in the match, he could very well be the biggest threat facing Randy Orton this Sunday. It’s very hard to make a solid argument against his bright future in the promotion, as his entry into the main event of the last pay per view prior to WrestleMania XXX has led to speculation that a face turn is in his near future. All speculation, however, should be taken with a grain of salt even though all signs point towards to the great possibility of a face turn for him:
Orton definitely approached the match with his two defeats firmly planted in the forefront of his mind; nevertheless, Orton did not seem phased or intimidated about facing Cesaro and assuredly underestimated his opponent before even stepping in the ring with him. This misguided perception of Cesaro would return to bite Orton on the backside by the end of their match.
The story of the bout was all about Cesaro’s sheer power and strength versus Orton’s underhanded and tactical prowess. Having underestimated his opponent early own, Orton was effectively blindsided by Cesaro’s offense and unique skill set. Cesaro’s offense was similar to that of John Cena, an arsenal consisting mostly of upper body blows and maneuvers that worked at Orton’s torso and his core. Unlike Cena’s offense, however, Cesaro’s body blows flow naturally from his technically charged and deliberate offense; Cena is more of a brawler while Cesaro wails on his opponent’s body with intention and not reckless abandon. It must also be mentioned that Cesaro’s offense was so effective that Orton looked visibly exhausted halfway through their match (major kudos to Orton if he was selling Cesaro’s offense and if he was truly tired halfway through and fought to finish the match).
In response to Cesaro’s attacks, Orton took his assault outside of the ring and used every tactic he could to wear down his opponent using everything he could outside of the ring without getting disqualified. To be honest, Orton’s offense looked a lot like something a fan would do in the “Defeat the Streak” story mode on WWE 2K14.
When Orton finally tossed Cesaro back into the ring, there was a bit of back and forth action before the two. One notable moment in the match was Cesaro’s reversal of the RKO into an European uppercut to the back of Orton’s head. The finish of the match came when Cesaro reversed an attempted superplex from Orton into a sunset flip powerbomb, followed up by a discus European uppercut. Without wasting a moment, Cesaro applied and executed the Neutralizer, giving him the pinfall victory over the WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
It would be in Orton’s best interest to avoid Cesaro altogether during the Elimination Chamber match if possible. Survival is a key factor in winning the match, and if Orton cannot be labeled or characterized by his stamina and resiliency, any interaction with Cesaro would essentially shorten the amount of time he would be able to avoid elimination at someone’s hands.
Orton’s best offense against Cesaro would be to not only let superstars like Sheamus and John Cena work him over, but to also utilize as much of the steel structure as he can to weaken Cesaro up for elimination by either of the two other aforementioned superstars.
Cesaro, on the other hand, will set out to prove Sunday that he can hang with the big dogs in the WWE’s main event scene. We shouldn’t expect Cesaro to win the match, but we can expect him to put on one hell of an impressive show as he literally stands toe to toe with four former WWE and World Heavyweight Champions and the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Cesaro typically has great matches in WWE, but we should especially look forward to him exchanging blows with Sheamus and Daniel Bryan.
Sheamus versus Randy Orton
February 17, 2014 | Monday Night RAW | Pepsi Center in Denver, CO
Result: Sheamus defeats Randy Orton via disqualification after The Shield attacked Sheamus
Facing quite the opponent in the final match of the gauntlet, Randy Orton seemed more focused to assert himself as the “Face of the WWE” heading into the Elimination Chamber pay per view. The WWE World Heavyweight Champion made it crystal clear that he relied on The Authority to continue supporting him despite his inability to dominate his opponents throughout the gauntlet. Sheamus, on the other hand, simply wanted to fight.
The match between Sheamus and Orton started off slowly as the champ slithered out of the ring a few times to get his bearings against another powerhouse of an opponent. The Celtic Warrior’s offense differs from that of Cesaro and John Cena in that it’s more of “beat you silly” approach than anything else. Sheamus is a powerhouse who simply fights, looking to score his victory by using a debilitating kick to his opponent’s head; he enjoys beating up his opponents as he honestly only needs to kick his opponent’s head off. Simply put, Sheamus is a sadist.
Orton seemingly learned his lesson from his defeat against Cesaro and once again took the fight to outside of the ring. The champ was most effective in stalling Sheamus’ momentum while confining his onslaught to the ringside area. Orton’s most devastating offensive maneuver was undoubtedly suplexing Sheamus through the announcer’s table:
Once the fighting returned to the ring, Orton failed to capitalize off of putting Sheamus through the announcer’s table, giving Sheamus the precious opportunity to get back into the match. The action went back and forth from that point as Orton attempted to counter Sheamus’ attempts to wail on him. Sheamus eventually gained the upper hand and after landing two Irish Curse backbreakers, the Celtic Warrior mustered up enough gumption to set Orton up for his Brogue Kick finishing maneuver. As Sheamus rallied the crowd behind him, the Shield stormed the ring and the match was immediately thrown out by the referee, giving Sheamus the win and Orton his final defeat in the gauntlet.
The prospect of winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship is important to Sheamus, but it cannot be ignored or denied that the Celtic Warrior would leave the chamber just as happy in defeat if he’s only able to unmercifully throttle an opponent into submission or defeat. This perhaps makes Sheamus the second dangerous man in the Chamber match next to Randy Orton; armed only with the desire to beat a man senseless, Sheamus will be relentless in his attacks against his opponents.
This pits three men seeking championship gold (Bryan, Christian and Cesaro), one man seeking to retain his position (Orton), and one man seeking to make a point to the rising class of WWE Superstars (Cena) against a man who just wants to kick people’s heads clean off of their shoulders.
All things considered, one could easily see that by the time he was ready to face Sheamus, Orton had all but completely dismissed his embarrassing performance throughout the gauntlet. By the time the main event rolled around on RAW, Orton cared very little about his wins and losses heading into the pay per view and relied more on the hope that The Authority would continue to protect him and his position within the promotion. Midway through the gauntlet series Orton switched tactics and his approach on his matches; he transformed from a whiny and insatiable brat into an overly appreciative brown nosing yes man, opting to weasel his way back into the good graces of The Authority instead of actually putting forth an effort to prove to his opponents that he’s not a champion to be reckoned with.
The subtle change in Orton’s demeanor leads me to believe that he will retain his title at Elimination Chamber. For the duration of the gauntlet fans have been led to believe that Orton doesn’t stand a chance at retaining his title. Even the way the gauntlet was constructed, including how Orton fared as far as wins and losses are concerned, suggests that Orton will have one difficult time retaining his title.
What we mustn’t forget is that the Elimination Chamber match operates much like the Royal Rumble, where superstars join the fracas at timed intervals until all the participants have entered the steel structure or have been eliminated from it. Because of his schmoozing and brown nosing, Orton may very well be the last participant to enter the match, which means that at least one of his opponents could very well be eliminated before he even steps into the ring.
The other concept to remember is that out of all the participants in the match, Orton has the most to lose and the luxury of having to offer the least amount of offense in the match. The Elimination Chamber match participants will claw tooth and nail at each other, and as long as Randy can survive until he is one of the final two participants in the match, the only offense he’ll need to offer will be to keep from being eliminated.
The gauntlet then becomes important because it tells this exact story; if Orton had trouble beating his opponents in singles matches, he also stands very little chance of defeating anyone of them at Elimination Chamber. However, if Orton’s opponents defeat each other, if he manages to get The Authority to make sure he’s the last man to enter the match (or conveniently place him in a Chamber pod that “malfunctions”), he will have the opportunity to plan his attack accordingly to pick off his opponents one-by-one after they’ve brutalized each other.
With his back against the wall and his conniving ways as a primary weapon, Orton looks to be in a prime position to maintain his spot in a main event (as opposed to “the” main event) at WrestleMania XXX. Orton survived the gauntlet, and the Viper will survive the Elimination Chamber match.
The only question left is what will happen to the champ during this week’s episode of Smackdown? We look forward to the show in eager anticipation, with just as much zeal and enthusiasm as we have for the Elimination Chamber pay per view this Sunday.
To read the first part of the Gauntlet of the Predator, click here!
During the opening segment of the February 3, 2014 edition of Monday Night RAW, Stephanie McMahon announced that WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton would face all five of his Elimination Chamber opponents in singles matches in the weeks leading up to the pay per view. So far Orton has scored one victory and two losses against three of those five opponents, and looks to face Antonio Cesaro this Friday on Smackdown.
Most may not realize that this particular gauntlet is a very important stop on the “Road to WrestleMania.” With the PG Era essentially neutering the fruition of Eric Bischoff’s sadistic desires, the actual Elimination Chamber match has effectively become just another prop in a glorified cage match. However, by placing Randy Orton in a series of singles matches against his EC opponents prior to the pay per view, the focus shifts a bit and places the focus of the match on the opponents rather than the structure itself. There is a huge paradigm change in how we view the match and its significance as the last main event of a pay per view before WrestleMania.
In effect, the wrestlers in the match become the subject of the match instead of accessories susceptible to the whims of an unrelenting and demonic enclosure. Instead of six wrestlers utilizing the structure to maim and brutalize one another, we’re now lead to witness six distinct wrestling styles clash with each other until there is only one man standing. With the men unable to escape the chamber, the strategy of each wrestler is essential to their survival and overall victory. The gauntlet, therefore, gives fans the opportunity to buy into each characters strengths and weaknesses heading into the pay per view, enabling us to see not only what the champion has to overcome, but what each superstar brings to the brouhaha.
We should consider each of Orton’s matches in context of the entire gauntlet in light of his title defense in a little under two weeks. The gauntlet has given all six men an opportunity to shine, to expose and express those qualities and characteristics that make them worthy of being top stars in WWE. It also gives us to see the true depth of the Randy Orton character, the way Orton adapts his style to each of his opponents and proves that he’s capable of being the World Heavyweight Champion through his domination over any competitor that dares face him in the ring.
The following synopses of Orton’s first three matches look to give more insight on the gauntlet’s importance as well as to hype the importance of the Elimination Chamber pay per view in two weeks.
Daniel Bryan versus Randy Orton
February 3, 2014 | Monday Night RAW | CenturyLink Center in Omaha, NE
Result: Daniel Bryan defeats Randy Orton via pinfall after the Running Knee finishing maneuver
The rivalry between Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan has quickly shaped up to be one of the most storied rivals in recent WWE history. The two have faced each other countless numbers of times since Orton cashed in his Money In the Bank briefcase on Bryan at last year’s SummerSlam pay per view, and every single one of their encounters have been incredibly enjoyable. Serving as the opening bout in Orton’s gauntlet, their match last week set an extremely high bar for the rest of the bouts in the series.
As the master technician in the match, Bryan began a relentless assault early on the WWE World Heavyweight Champion and spent an ample amount of time working over Orton’s left knee. Bryan’s attack was slow, focused and methodical, each maneuver literally whittling away at the sinews, ligaments and soft tissue in Orton’s knee. Such a devious and calculated attack was surely necessary to debilitate Orton as well as keep him from utilizing both of his signature finishing maneuvers. With one severely damaged leg, Orton would have found it somewhat difficult to leap for his RKO finisher as well as run for his patented Punt.
Once Orton gained an opening in the match, he began to work on Daniel Bryan’s right arm in the same way his left leg was worked over. With an injured arm this would obviously have made it hard for Bryan to apply the Yes Lock for an easy submission victory. Orton’s signature moves (drop kick, Garvin Stomp, DDT from the second rope) were also sprinkled liberally throughout the match, but very noticeable was Orton’s concentrated efforts on hurting and incapacitating Bryan. Orton spent very little time taunting Daniel Bryan although he did manage to sneak a few smirks and self-congratulatory arm raises into the match.
Both men seemed to seethe with hatred for one another, making all of their movements and maneuvers tug at the fans’ heart strings and emotions. You could feel the hatred they had for one another with each stomp, kick and punch; the atmosphere simply reeked of their intentions to hurt one another, giving fans the feeling that this fight had less to do with the title and more to do with proving a point: I want to destroy you.
An interruption from Kane, the Director of Operations (or, as I call him, the DOOP) slowed down Bryan’s momentum, but allowed him to capitalize off of a distracted Orton with his running knee finisher, something Orton didn’t count on while working over Bryan’s arm. Bryan scores a clean victory and receives a chokeslam from Kane as a parting gift while Orton stewed in his first loss of the gauntlet.
Daniel Bryan has been a thorn in Orton’s side ever since August 2013. With a rivalry and feud that has spanned almost six years, it has been one hell of a fight for Orton to prove his mettle against Bryan without some sort of outside help or interference. It would seem, in a lot of ways, that Orton physically can’t beat Daniel Bryan without someone giving him the edge. To make a long story short, Daniel Bryan will be the single biggest threat to Orton retaining his championship come the Elimination Chamber pay per view.
We cannot forget that there will be four other competitors in the ring; Orton stands a solid chance against Daniel Bryan if he or one of his fellow competitors can neutralize Bryan whenever he enters the match. With resiliency and stamina on his side, however, Bryan will be a formidable opponent to conquer and could easily eliminate his opponents with his ground submission game or a striking blow to the face with his running knee. It would be best for the champion to make sure Bryan is indisposed or eliminated quickly from the match.
Christian versus Randy Orton
February 7, 2014 | Smackdown | Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, IA
Result: Randy Orton defeats Christian via pinfall with the RKO
After suffering his loss to Daniel Bryan earlier in the week, Orton marched into Smackdown looking to validate his reign as WWE World Heavyweight Champion by making a statement with a decisive victory over Christian.
Their match paled in comparison to Orton’s match against Bryan, but told an interesting story nevertheless. Christian, a former 2-time World Heavyweight Champion, looks forward to Elimination Chamber to establish a credible, long-lasting legacy as a main event player in WWE. While he didn’t approach his match with Orton using a strategy in the same sense as Bryan, he simply wrestled Orton with the class of a cagey veteran. Christian opted to simply give Orton a taste of his nineteen years in the business, choosing to use his wits and wily maneuvers to wear away at Orton’s stamina and to discombobulate him in only the way a storied veteran could.
On the other hand Orton matched Christian’s veteran skills with his own signature wrestling style, also choosing to not overly complicate the match by focusing on a specific body part or area of the body. Unlike his previous battle with Daniel Bryan, Orton’s trademark cockiness and bravado made its way into the match as it was clearly evident Orton thought little of his opponent.
Orton headed into his match against Christian with more to lose than Christian had to gain, thus making him more of a threat than his opponent would’ve guessed or assumed. In what was a good and solid match, Orton capitalized off of a high-risk top rope maneuver landing an RKO on Christian in mid-air … ironically the same move that gave Orton the victory during Christian’s very first World Heavyweight Champion title defense. Smackdown goes off the air with Orton standing triumphantly over Christian after a well-fought and clean victory.
While Orton and Christian are no strangers to each other, it would seem that Orton’s rise to prominence and Christian’s inactivity due to injuries created a huge gap in between the way the stars related to one another and the WWE Universe. Christian remained humble and patient, waiting diligently for one more chance to become a major WWE champion, Orton’s ego grew exponentially as his career advanced like a bullet train. This confidence boost surely added to Orton’s lethality as a defending champion, which arguably made him hungrier to keep his title than Christian’s diffident desire to win another big one.
Unfortunately, Christian is placed in an unenviable position of proving his worth in the match. Orton has less to fear from Christian than he does any of his other competitors, and Christian has to dig extremely deep to unearth the grit to outlast four other devastating competitors just to get his hands on Orton. One can only guess that Christian also has to prove something to himself by defeating Orton specifically at the pay per view, but I doubt seriously that the former World Heavyweight Champ will have the opportunity to make it out of the blocks before that could even be a possibility.
John Cena versus Randy Orton
February 10, 2014 | Monday Night RAW | Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA
Result: John Cena defeats Randy Orton via pinfall with the Attitude Adjustment
The history of John Cena and Randy Orton’s rivalry has already reached mythic proportions. After last month’s Royal Rumble rematch between the two was universally panned by fans, a suspicion that the two would deliver their typical match crept into our collective consciousness. That suspicion was quickly allayed as both men delivered a high quality match that, despite its repetitiveness, supplied fans with fresh action and energy.
Heading into the match Orton desired to make amends with The Authority by once again proving his rightful place as the face of the company. By vowing to do so with a victory against John Cena, Orton looked to cement not only his place but also his legacy, as it has been said that one could not be “anything” unless they defeated John Cena.
Earlier in the day, John Cena tweeted the following:
During the Monday Night RAW broadcast, Cena cut a promo regarding his longstanding rivalry with Randy Orton and the new wave of stars rising within the ranks of WWE. He spoke of the promotion being in the midst of great change, commenting on how his match with Orton was a defining moment for the future of the company. Cena then promised to defeat Orton and end their storied feud and make the statement that any new star—be it the Wyatts, the Shield, Antonio Cesaro or Daniel Bryan (who, ironically enough has already defeated John Cena clean in the ring)—that desired to carry the company would have to “go through him first.”
Bravado and pride were most assuredly on the line as Cena looked to square off against Orton. As the match commenced Orton seemed to have applied all he’s learned from past matches in his assault on Cena. As the two jockeyed for position, Orton escaped from the ring a few times early to stall Cena’s momentum. Cena’s typical smash mouth, brawler offense is fueled off of momentum; very similar to the Juggernaut, Cena often waylays opponents with a series of body blows and maneuvers that strikes opponents like a wrecking ball. To counter this assault throughout the match, Orton ducked and dodged each of Cena’s big moments.
When Orton went on the offensive he tended to focus on Cena’s midsection, landing strikes and blows to weaken Cena’s ability to breathe while unleashing his big body busting arsenal. The caveat to Orton’s offense was, and has always been, Cena’s resiliency and will to never give up. Nevertheless Orton maintained his strategy and even countered every single thing thrown at him. Meanwhile the champ oozed confidence and taunted Cena and the live audience constantly.
In one especially poignant moment, Orton delivered a hangman rope DDT from the top turnbuckle, to which he quickly stood up and antagonized the crowd by yelling, and I quote,
“Same old what?! Same old … I’ve never done that before! So I’ve never done that! It’s not the same old sh…!” *evil smirk*
As Orton attempted to whittle away at Cena’s stamina, the former WWE Champ’s die hard will grew and grew, eventually giving Cena the momentum needed to begin a few sets of his Five Moves of Doom. Orton miraculously countered all of Cena’s offense until the closing moments of the match, where Cena delivered two Attitude Adjustments to gain the pinfall over the champion.
The past few years have seen John Cena take a slightly less important role than ever before. His involvement in the Elimination Chamber match is noteworthy in that one shouldn’t expect him to win the match and rush to WrestleMania as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. What should be of concern to his opponents, and Randy Orton in particular, is John Cena’s will to remain the bar for future superstars to climb, something that Cena (the character) feels will be much more potent if he also happens to be the WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
The hype that surrounds Cena is more intimidating than his actual presence in the match; his opponents are more likely to be thrown off by his resilience than they are his offense, which will make it extremely difficult for everyone else to actually out last him. This is and should rightfully so be a concern for Orton, but with heavy hitters such as Sheamus and Antonio Cesaro also present in the match, Cena will more than likely be distracted by an opponent looking to prove himself against “The Champ” first, and walking away as the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion second. While this does take attention away from Orton and the title, it also gives the champ an opportunity to sit back and watch as the lions fight over eliminating the alpha male from the pride.
With two more matches left in the gauntlet, we still have a couple of golden opportunities to get ready for the Elimination Chamber on the “Road to WrestleMania.” Randy Orton is slated to face Antonio Cesaro this Friday on Smackdown in what will surely be an excellent match. We look forward to covering the odds and ends of that match and Orton’s eventual match against Sheamus.
Before I fill this post with reasons and excuses, I invite you to listen to my thoughts on the 2014 edition of the Royal Rumble as well as the prospect of the upcoming WrestleMania XXX.
Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions in the comment section below.
WWE.com published an article yesterday that focused on a debate between the website’s editors on the promotion’s next break out star currently wrestling in the NXT Developmental System. Several notable stars are highlighted, all of whom will eventually make a huge splash in the promotion once they debut on the main roster. From one fan’s perspective, there is no reason to doubt that each of the wrestlers listed in the debate will make it to the main roster sometime this year.
Future WWE Superstars like Paige, Sami Zayn, Emma, Aiden English, and Alexander Rusev—just to name a few—are spoken of in glowing terms in what will ultimately serve as their initial introduction to the WWE Universe that pays close attention to happenings on WWE.com, RAW, and Smackdown. Truth be told this list is no where near as comprehensive as it could be, and there are several other NXT stars that deserve mention as fans look forward to the next generation of pro wrestling giants.
The following list, originally compiled on December 29, 2013, is a list of NXT wrestlers that will provide fans with entertaining and exciting action if and when they’re called up to the main roster. These following stars may or may not be making huge waves in NXT at the moment, but they are worthy of being recognized as the slow and subtle winds of change necessary to keep the WWE relevant and fresh.
The criteria for making this list was extremely simple; the rubric is based on the notion that a given wrestling promotion will hire a wrestler based on necessity or potential.
The notion of necessity is the belief that, in this case, the WWE will sign a wrestler to a developmental contract or bring them up to the main roster because that particular wrestler possesses a quality or talent the promotion “needs” at a given moment. Such would be the case for NXT’s Enzo Amore, who could easily fill Santino Marella’s spot as a comic relief babyface if the Milan Miracle retired or was forced out of action indefinitely. This doesn’t take anything away from Amore’s wrestling skills, but his stint so far in NXT has been marked by his quick wit, incredible microphone skills and charisma.
The notion of potential is the belief that the WWE will sign a star or bring them up to the main roster because that wrestler possesses the traits or characteristics to be a future money making cash cow for the company. NXT wrestler Alexander Rusev fits very well in this category, who at 6 feet and 300 pounds can very quickly become the monster heel that dominates the heavyweight division until a “savior” comes along and defeats him for the promotion’s top prize (see: Mojo Rawley).
Before delving into this list, we also must keep in mind that the weekly NXT show is a must watch for any self-respecting fan living in the WWE Universe. The promotion’s next top stars are all cutting their teeth and honing their craft within the black-and-yellow NXT arena at Full Sail University, and while the show is very entertaining (sometimes much more than RAW and Smackdown), it also gives fans something to look forward to as far as the future of the company is concerned. The show is available every Thursday on HuluPlus.com, and you may be able to watch it on Hulu.com without a subscription.
Without further adieu, here’s your L.E.W.D. NXT Scouting Report:
It’s no secret that someone here at L.E.W.D. has a fond liking of this particular future superstar. At 6’0, 210 pounds, this brawler from the United Kingdom would remind fans of Fit Finlay with his hard-hitting and relentless arsenal. The former star, known as Martin Stone across the pond, could be the superstar the WWE needs to build up other wrestlers on the road to WWE fame and fortune. While Burch has no obvious flaws that would keep him off the main roster, he could suffer from the same fate that plagues most wrestlers released from their developmental contracts: Burch’s talent would be swallowed up by the “system” that dominates the WWE’s product, a “system” that pushes and promotes looks over talent more often than not.
WWE is in dire need of stars that can help build up the John Cena/Hulk Hogan-like stars that have become synonymous with sports entertainment and pro wrestling, but the promotion rarely keeps more than a handful of these stars around as on-screen talent. Burch could make a future star look like a million bucks in the same way Shawn Michaels has always brought the best out of John Cena. At this point, however, Burch hasn’t been given the time to develop a character outside of the dependable work horse that he is (see: Chavo Guerrero).
The other down side to a Burch main-show appearance is that the WWE product isn’t currently in “need” of a work horse with Burch’s style and looks. This isn’t to say that Burch couldn’t be an addition to the main roster, but rather that his ruffian, hooligan look wouldn’t work well with the streamlined, three-piece suit, Hollywood good-looks feel of the current WWE roster. The Wyatt Family and Daniel Bryan currently hold the distinction of being the promotion’s “rough-around-the-edges” characters, which would leave Burch directionless and jobber material equivalent to TNA’s Fernum and Barnes. The same logic applies to the WWE’s decision to pass on ROH’s Briscoe Brothers; while incredibly gifted and talented, the team reeks of a swagger that the promotion more than likely doesn’t want at this exact moment.
You can check out one of Danny Burch’s matches here, a match in which he’s in charge of putting over the much ballyhooed Mojo Rawley.
Leo Kruger was a WWE developmental wrestler that suffered from a terribly average look and gimmick while in the promotion’s FCW developmental system. After arriving in the newly designed NXT developmental system, this South African grappler benefited greatly from a persona change and some character development in the same way Damien Sandow did prior to being called up to the main roster. Kruger has the potential of being a big player on the main roster, but his current character may not be as “charismatic” as some may want it to be for prime time television.
Prior to receiving a gimmick as “Adam Rose,” Kruger was billed as a big game hunter from South Africa (i.e. a poacher). His wrestling style was hallmarked by ruthless aggression, a brutal onslaught designed to maliciously hurt and debilitate his opponents. The thing that arguably drew fans into his gimmick—besides his mannerisms, maneuvers, and “woots” while approaching the ring—was his theme music which really makes one feel as if this wrestler was a sinister and devious force to be reckoned with. The thumping bass line and guitar riffs readily let fans know that Kruger is on the hunt for big game:
The awesome thing about Leo Kruger and the Kruger character is being able to marvel at how a wrestler and the promotion can work hand-in-hand when developing a persona that resonates with fans easily, organically and quickly. The whole idea of creating a superstar is not simple and it’s far more involved than letting a wrestler figure out how to get over a character on his/her own. Fans in the WWE Universe can and should applaud stars like Kruger for being able to take a character and make it their own, creating someone that appears to be far more than what most people are and can be in real life. Great wrestlers get our accolades and respect, but superstars get that plus our money and undivided attention. Leo Kruger can do both with great ease.
Click here to see a Leo Kruger promo and try your best not to get too creeped out.
WWE needs a talent like Sylvester Lefort on their main roster.
Primarily utilized as a flashy, money-hungry manager in NXT, the Frenchman known as Sylvester Lefort has a presence that is sure to make you pay attention to whatever happens around him. Lefort has the charisma and delivery that makes you instantly want to despise anyone and anything he represents. He also has a fashion sense that will force you to chuckle and give him five minutes of your time easily.
Lefort, also known as Tom La Ruffa, is a graduate of Lance Storm’s Storm Wrestling Academy, which gives him instant credibility when it comes to his in-ring skills and abilities. While it still remains to be seen whether La Ruffa can give a five-star match, he’s certainly capable of excelling at setting the bar for WWE managers in an era where tons of superstars float aimlessly around the mid-card due to an inability to strike a chord with fans. Think of him as being somewhere in between Zeb Coulter and Vickie Guerrero.
It may also make you feel giddy inside to think of Lefort as a horribly tanned French Macho Man.
WWE.com editor Kara Medalis gave a great synopsis of the promotion’s next breakout Diva, so there’s no need to speak anymore about how her potential is needed in WWE. At the fresh young age of 21, the Norwich, England-born wrestler has honed her craft since her early teenage years. She’s the first and only NXT Women’s Champion (compared to the three NXT Champions as of June 2012), and it’s safe to say that whatever is currently keeping her from being called up to the main roster is a load of crap.
Paige is one of the few WWE wrestlers that should be allowed to keep their developmental gimmick when called up to one of the main shows. The “raven haired anti-Diva,” as she’s often called, could very well usher in an era of women’s wrestling that can successfully showcase all those things that Divas are “supposed to” exhibit each time they step in between the ropes or out on the red carpet. Paige is, first and foremost, a professional wrestler; she also has a unique look and appeal that does not take away from the WWE’s desire for their Divas to look like models while maintaining their athletic edge.
A solid, simple and well-structured (and pushed) feud between Paige and AJ Lee could very well be the second coming of a Trish Stratus/Lita or Trish Stratus/Mickie James feud with waaaay more wrestling athleticism. In fact, a Paige and AJ Lee feud could be the very feud that could make the seemingly impossible possible …
Click here to check out this NXT match between Paige and Natalya for the NXT Women’s Championship.
Bayley is another WWE Diva hopeful that the company needs to bring some athleticism and pure wrestling skills to the beleaguered and model-esque heavy women’s division. While Bayley doesn’t ooze the sex appeal that most WWE Divas are molded to give off, she does have a “girl next door” vibe that would make her an ideal candidate to do media rounds for the promotion involving kids. This California born wrestler would do exceptionally well with encouraging kids—particularly young girls—to read, end bullying, and strive to reach for their dreams and never stop working hard until they reach their goals in life.
Bayley’s current character is reminiscent of a childlike, naive “student of the game” caught in the bright lights of living her dream of being a WWE Superstar and Diva. While the character is very limiting, it doesn’t keep her from executing some smooth and unique maneuvers in the ring. Bayley’s greatest asset, however, is her passion and desire to be the best women’s wrestler in the promotion and to inspire other young girls who want to do the same to continue to strive to live their dreams. Other women athletes within the promotion and NXT may feel the same, but Bayley is able to wear that passion on her sleeve and utilize it each and every time she performs for fans.
Another graduate from Lance Storm’s Storm Wrestling Academy, the former FCW World Heavyweight Champion known as Mike Dalton has also benefited greatly from a character shift.
In the same way Leo Kruger was once a boring, static character, Mike Dalton wrestled as a gifted work horse athlete who gave his all in matches while having his clock cleaned occasionally from other wrestlers who are now on the main roster. When the shift to NXT at Full Sail occurred, Dalton was eventually transformed into a fashion conscious, selfie obsessed jet setting model who has an unhealthy OCD with being hit in the face. The beauty of the Tyler Breeze gimmick is that it feels very organic; Mattias Clement, the 25 year old Canadian playing the Tyler Breeze character, has taken the gimmick and made it his own. A fan could easily get the impression that Clement and Breeze are indeed one person, making it hard to separate the real life Clement from his Breeze character in the same way it’s impossible to separate the John Cena character from the real life John Felix Anthony Cena. That alone gives Breeze huge potential to be a big deal on the main roster.
Once again, there’s a brilliance to making a WWE Superstar and much credit goes to Tyler Breeze for making the most out of what could easily be a stale gimmick. Not only does the character feel “real,” but his moves in the ring also match the gimmick, making Breeze a complete package that’s really only in need of the perfect antagonist. The best way to speak of the Breeze character and Mattias Clement is to compare him to the “Moonchild” CJ Parker character, which honestly feels like a wrestler attempting to portray a hippie wrestler.
Click here to check out Matt Clement’s NXT debut as Tyler Breeze.
Sasha Banks is another California born Diva that possesses the potential to be an excellent addition to the WWE’s Divas division. The Sasha Banks character is currently involved in a NXT storyline with WWE Diva Summer Rae and fellow NXT Diva Charlotte (Ric Flair’s daughter, Ashley) that is pretty much a carbon copy of TNA’s “The Beautiful People” with Angelina Love and Velvet Sky, and WWE’s “Lay-Cool” with Layla and Michelle McCool. With Banks, however, there is an excellent mix of beauty, athleticism, and spitefulness that creates a character fans would long to see get put in her place.
What’s noteworthy about Banks, as well as Bayley and Paige, is that she’s one of several female professional wrestlers currently signed to a WWE developmental contract. Banks and most of her fellow NXT Divas break the notion that the promotion is only concerned with hiring models and training them to be wrestlers.
While one would be stupid not to acknowledge Banks’ looks, a conversation about her cannot be had without discussing her in-ring abilities and the way she can make other Divas look like gold in the ring. To only be 21 years old and have the wherewithal to help create Superstars in the same way as a Danny Burch is an incredible talent to have and to perfect as she gets older. That’s something that shouldn’t be taken lightly or for granted as we wait to see whether or not she’s called up to the main roster.
Check out this match between Sasha Banks (pre-heel turn) and the extremely athletic Charlotte during the latter’s debut in NXT. Make sure to pay close attention how Banks works with the very green Charlotte throughout the match to create pure magic for the fans with the Nature Boy’s daughter:
That’s it for this particular NXT Scouting Report. There are tons of other very talented wrestlers that didn’t make this list, which in no way implies that they too aren’t worthy of accolades and attention. But it’s up to us to take note of the up-and-comers within any given promotion; make sure to visit the NXT website often and to check out their show each week on Hulu so you can pick and choose your favorite future WWE Superstar and Diva!
As most fans great the New Year with talk about Daniel Bryan’s heel turn and AJ Styles’ “final” match in TNA, leave it to your disgruntled neighborhood analyst to find something to be pissed off about. Surprise surprise, it’s not all related to happenings in Dixieland!
Say Goodbye to the Bad Guy(s) … and the Good Guy(s)?!?
Vince McMahon made IWC headlines recently by commenting that there were no longer good guys (“babyfaces”) or bad guys (“heels”) in pro wrestling (“sports entertainment”). Upon hearing this news I immediately thought of Vince Russo’s booking method which, while similar in design, did absolute wonders for the fine people down in Orlando, Florida. See: sarcasm.
Most folks that have worked with Vince McMahon, whether they love him or hate him, will readily admit that the man is a machine when it comes to putting in work for the wrestling (“sports entertainment”) industry. The word “genius” has also been used to describe him, and one would be hard pressed to deny the fact that he’s definitely changed the industry into something Frank Gotch would more than likely turn his nose up at. As much as we may despise evil villains, that still does not take away from the fact they’re way smarter than the average bear.
To hear Mr. McMahon make such an absurd statement, in my mind, is to also attest to his brilliance. There is one basic premise in any story, be it told within the confines of a wrestling ring, the pages of a book, or plastered on movie screens across the world: someone is attempting to accomplish something, and someone (or something) is trying to stop them.
Because we humans are simple (at best), this basic story element is portrayed in terms of “good” and “bad.” The “good” guy or gal is trying to get from point A to point B, and the “bad” guy or gal attempts to stop them; period. We all watch in eager anticipation to see whether or not the “good” guy or gal will succeed. We cheer them on and we boo the guy or gal attempting to stop them. For Vince McMahon to deny that such an element is no longer present in pro wrestling storytelling is so insane that it’s absolutely brilliant.
I have a unique theory as to why McMahon’s statement attests to his brilliance: the statement is a cleverly devised ruse that will enable him and his World Wrestling Entertainment machine to squeeze as much juice out of one major cash cow (i.e. John Cena) until the old gray mare ain’t what it used to be.
Look at it like this: if you can convince legions of prepubescent fans and single women that all of the characters in WWE are these weird shades of gray, then there’s no need to hide the fact that the face of your promotion (the John Cena character) is actually a douche.
Cena’s character has done some incredibly heel-ish things for the past few years, and fans still buy his merchandise and cheer him in every grand spectacle of mediocrity he’s featured in. Male fans over the age of fourteen still long for his heel turn, but dammit he’s honestly already a heel! To say it in terms that I’ve used constantly over and over again, the John Cena character is that all-star high school athlete that can get away with everything because everyone knows he’s going to take the school all the way to the state championships. The John Cena character can punt a baby dolphin into a lake of fire and we’ll cheer him like never before.
John Cena stole Zack Ryder’s girlfriend (Eve…remember that storyline?) and then made Ryder apologize. John Cena lost clean to Randy Orton, belittled him for winning, served up Daniel Bryan just because, and then attacked Randy Orton after the match for no real reason other than Orton intentionally getting himself disqualified. Hell, John Cena challenged Randy Orton for the unification match for no real reason either. How long have there been two distinct major champions and he’s just now lobbying to unify the titles?
To be honest this isn’t limited to John Cena. Daniel Bryan’s recent jaunt to the dark side via the Wyatt Family has fans far and wide considering harakiri as an alternative to watching their beloved bearded savior exchange grooming techniques with the WWE’s version of Duck Dynasty.
The reality of the situation is that the only reason the Wyatt Family was considered to be “heels” was because they worked adversely against the “good” guy, Daniel Bryan. What happens now that Bryan, a beloved star, joins the fold and the group actively rallies against the machine represented by The Authority? They instantly become “faces,” even though we’ve all accepted the notion that the faction, as a whole, is inherently evil?
Which leads me to this closing point: as much as McMahon wants us to drink the Kool-Aid and accept the idea that all wrestlers are convenient little shades of ambiguity, the fans will ultimately dictate who the “good” guy is and who the “bad” guy is … even if the promotion wants us to think differently about the situation. In that sense there will always be faces and heels in pro wrestling, and if anyone thinks otherwise then there are two words for them …
The Further Degradation of the Divas Division
As a human being I felt disrespected by the lack of respect shown to the Divas on the December 30 episode of RAW. Once again fans were treated to another ninety-Diva tag match that’s necessary only for the purpose of obtaining B-Roll for Total Divas. It’s ironic when you think about it; they need to show the Total Divas wrestling, so they’re put in arbitrary matches that really don’t showcase their unique talents, skills sets, or personalities.
What bothers me is the perception fans are slowly being conditioned to accept: the only Divas worth mentioning are the Total Divas. The Bella Twins, the Funkadactyls and Eva Marie were all called by name, while their opponents were simply referenced as “The Not Total Divas.”
The ebb and flow of WWE’s treatment of the Divas division is mind boggling to say the least. Yes, the Total Divas show has introduced a whole new demographic to the WWE’s product. Yes, several of the Divas are getting air time they would’ve otherwise not received at all. But at this expense, being relegated to pointless matches that don’t have a purpose on the main shows or on Total Divas?
Real talk: if you want to see the Divas really wrestle, you must watch the secondary and tertiary shows; I’m talking NXT, Main Event, Superstars … other than that, you’ll only get to see the Not Total Divas bop around on RAW and Smackdown.
I’m convinced the powers that be don’t take women’s wrestling seriously because fans don’t take it that seriously either. Both the major U.S. wrestling promotions are failing terribly when it comes to offering something substantial with their women wrestlers, but then again, exactly how many people are chomping at the bit to watch a WNBA playoff game?
Aksana, Alicia Fox, Rosa Mendes, Summer Rae, and Kaitlyn all have something special to offer the fans besides being ambassadors and practice Divas for Nikki, Brie, Naomi, Cameron, and Eva Marie. All the Divas train feverishly hard and work their damnedest to get more than just a few minutes to stand on the ring apron or stare up at the ceiling lights.
One would hope and think that a Stephanie McMahon led product would change the game a bit, but I guess the WWE’s limited scope regarding the Divas is nothing out of the ordinary. It’s just depressing to know that the last Diva allowed to really to bring something to the product was Mickie James. Well … at least there’s solace in knowing that Paige will debut on the main roster … someday …
Seriously, check out this video about Rosa Mendes’ workout routine that was publicized a bit during last year’s WrestleMania. I’m not advocating for a workout gimmick for Rosa, but I’ll be damned the woman has a personality somewhere that’s worthy of being expressed in a much more fulfilling way than being confused with Fandango’s dance partner.
Mojo Rawley: Your NEXT Larger Than Life WWE Superstar
Here’s an excerpt from a conversation I had with L.E.W.D. Researcher Asherology 101 that took place on January 2:
Mr. Morris: So, my feeling is tht the only reason McMahon said that [the whole “no face/heel” thing] is to squeeze as many more miles out of Cena as he can until they can get Mojo Rawley on the main roster.
Yesterday, on January 3, Chris Cash posted this on Wrestlezone.com; I’m not saying I’m prescient, I’m just sayin’ …
To be honest I don’t care much for what I’ve seen of the Mojo Rawley character. Granted I’ve only seen one Mojo match and he’s obviously still new in his WWE tenure (his first match took place in October 2013), so he’s got plenty of room to grow as a wrestler and entertainer. In that sense it’s a great thing that we can’t always judge a book by its cover (remember Dolph Ziggler’s debut?), but I’m also not silly enough to hold my breath while eagerly anticipating the Rawley character to showcase his five moves of doom and a t-shirt worthy catch phrase.
What do I know? Judge for yourself by watching the video of his debut; and for the record it is noteworthy that his opponent is Danny Burch, someone I REALLY hope makes it to the main roster and can work a great match like a boss.
Lies, Lies, and Probably Some Half-Truths
Speculation has it that Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards won’t be receiving a developmental deal from Triple H due to several incredibly unbelievable reasons. The first rumor was that Triple H wasn’t too keen on hiring more “smaller wrestlers,” as he feels that there are enough hobbits warbling around the Performance Center as is. There was also speculation that Triple H felt there were already enough established tag teams in the WWE.
Another rumor revolved around a blown spot during a match with NXT Tag Team Champions, The Ascension; it seemed as if the misstep was bad enough for Trips to call an audible for the match to end … and apparently the match didn’t end fast enough for the King of Kings. Guess who has to shoulder the blame for that one?
There’s also this rumor that TNA was very interested in signing Richards and Edwards, a rumor that goes all the way back to the summer of 2013 and gained even more steam with a cryptic message last month at a Pro Wrestling Guerilla show regarding a one-way trip to Orlando.
I find it hard to believe any of these speculated rumors, particularly after the mess with TNA being partially up for grabs.
The internet is a safe haven for all sorts of opinions and unsubstantiated information on anything under the sun and the pro wrestling industry is by no means safe and secure from being inundated with inaccurate information. Neither Triple H nor Dixie Carter have made concrete statements about Richards and Edwards, so anything regarding their status should be taken with a grain of salt.
If TNA was really after Richards and Edwards as some claim, they would’ve already been signed to the company. Yes, contract negotiations take time and certain obligations must be met before one can simply hope on the Dixietrain and take a ride down south. But if Mason Andrews can appear during a taped segment on RAW one week and later on in that same week appear on a live episode of IMPACT Wrestling, it goes to show that anything is possible in this industry if people want it to happen.
As far as the bee ess reasons behind why Richards and Edwards haven’t formally received a developmental contract from WWE, there’s no telling what’s going on that could give our impatient nature some satisfaction. If we can immediately call shenanigans on the speculation of a TNA sale, then we can surely call shenanigans on a Triple H hissy fit keeping the American Pitbulls from receiving contracts.
Well that’s all I have for the moment; expect more ranting this week. In the meantime, leave your thoughts or at least tell a friend to visit us and tell me I’m off my ass.
The current pro wrestling tension between TNA and WWE fans revolves around an ill-conceived concept of “originality.” For whatever reason it has become very important for fans to claim ownership of a concept, storyline, character or idea on behalf of their favorite company. Fans calculate these “original” ideas, creating a laundry list with hopes of triumphantly stating that one company is more “original” than the other.
The whole process of doing this is cumbersome and overrated. There is very little “originality” coming from the three U.S. promotions that have television deals and to argue about it is to engage in a fool’s errand. Truthfully speaking it’s just like arguing over the pros and cons of hanging toilet paper from the over or under position.
People by and large are resistant to change, and the more time goes on the more people desire for things to stay in one static state of dependability where they can remain comfortable as absurdly possible. Pro wrestling and her fans are not excused from this plight, and in fact may be more susceptible to acquiescing to familiarity more often than not.
But in order for this capitalist consumer based society to continue trudging along the way, we the people have to “believe” that change is happening all around us. We’re fed fairy tales about how things are getting better when, in reality, it’s pretty much the same mess with a fresh coat of paint. The very same is true of pro wrestling; a company appears to be on the verge of making a cutting-edge change, but in reality fans are seeing the product moonwalk itself into stagnancy and mediocrity. Things are only made worse by the fact that we’re all essentially arguing over which promotion is more mediocre than the other.
Real change, serious dynamic moves towards a better and brighter future, is one gigantic pain in the ass. To enact change is to embark upon a journey that speaks against our desire to be comfortable, a long and tedious expedition that requires the discipline and intent to continue along the path until it ends and the desired results are attained. That’s what true success is all about, creating a goal and working to bring that goal to fruition. It the desired results from an intended goal are not realized, then an effort was not successful; end of story.
For any promotion to produce “original” content, their goals from the very beginning must contain an element of change that will not sit well with fans. Change will alienate people; change will make diehard fans question the product or even turn away from it. However, if the desired results are necessary, then—be it subtle or overt—change must happen and fans must be conditioned to accept the journey that comes along with adapting to that change.
Real change, however, decreases revenue and profit in the short term. Real change, however, forces fans to think differently about the way they view the product and choose to support it. Real change effects everyone, from the top down and bottom up. Real change hurts, and with fans being as penny pinching as Ebenezer Scrooge, very few people have the testicular or ovarian fortitude to test the waters for fear of failure and alienating consumers who pad their pockets with cold hard cash.
As fans who invest in the product one way or another, let’s be real with each other and discuss what real change means for our favorite companies and how it affects us. We have to be honest with ourselves: we don’t want real change. If we did, we would’ve given up on both TNA and WWE years ago in favor of much more fulfilling and authentic pro wrestling. But alas, our insatiable hunger for sports entertainment is as vicious as our desire for a fast food; we like crap, and we’re content with having more streamlined crap than anything of substance. And that’s absolutely fine, but we’ve got to admit that’s where we are and that the real debate is on whether we prefer TNA’s crap over WWE’s crap.
To be fair TNA’s crap seems less refined than the mess peddled by WWE only because of the relative infancy in the business. By comparison, TNA appears to produce a more “original” product than WWE because WWE has produced “original” content for fifty plus years. That “original” programming has grown stale and is (truthfully speaking) held to a different standard than TNA because of its seniority. To speak of TNA’s lovable “growing pains” is the nice way of speaking about the WWE’s lackluster and uninspired product. Dress those comments as we may, it’s all still one big steaming pile of crap.
If both companies are producing crap and we’re content with arguing over who’s crap is more “original” than the other, how can either company truly be different? How can either company justify bringing real change to the product if we’re too busy discussing or nuancing the ways they can refine their crap? Simply put, it won’t happen because we’ve been conditioned to accept mediocrity as a norm. To really push the boundaries of our imaginations, to really invest in a logical and consistent storyline that creates long term fidelity instead of short term satisfaction, is to say something profound to each promotion in a way that will justify changing the product for the betterment of the business overall.
Here’s a thought I’ve promoted over various social media outlets many times before, and I’m thoroughly convinced neither TNA nor WWE have the balls (or ovaries) to be different in this regard: why not create a major storyline with female wrestlers as the leads and showcase them in a main event spot during a pay per view?
Don’t let the hype and speculation fool you; as much as the SI.com article about TNA and Dixie Carter would have you believe that she’s entering a world dominated by men (which she is), Dixie Carter is also among female contemporaries with just as much power and swag (if not more) as she has. Dixie Carter is in competition with Stephanie McMahon-Levesque and Bonnie Hammer (president of USA Networks). With McMahon-Levesque being made the “face” of her father’s promotion and touting that forty percent of the WWE’s audience is compromised of women, with Bonnie Hammer continuing to dominate cable network television, and with Dixie Carter stepping out into the fracas, now would be an optimal time for either organization to prove their mettle using such a storyline.
And it’s honestly not that hard a thing to do or accomplish. Today’s society sees a movement to establish both equality and equity between genders; if the writers can craft a simple and compelling storyline, it shouldn’t matter who plays the part. The only thing that will inevitably change is the way the protagonist in the story responds to the changing elements around them. Replace AJ Styles and Magnus with Gail Kim and Brooke Tessmacher respectively; replace Randy Orton and John Cena with AJ Lee and Natalya. Can we honestly say with a straight face that the storylines involving these women would diminish in quality because of their presence?
Of course there are several reasons as to why such a move would fail horribly; women’s wrestling is a niche market, a large swath of fans really don’t want to see a main event women’s angle, blah blah blah. But with so many fans complaining of the industry’s lack of originality, wouldn’t it make more sense to push the envelope in this way? Aren’t fans always complaining about the piss poor way women’s wrestling is treated here? Wouldn’t you, loyal and true pro wrestling fan, want to have the opportunity to brag about how your favorite wrestling promotion was the first to pioneer the industry with a successful major storyline involving women?
Nah … we want the same old crap. We’d rather celebrate the insipid trailblazing of a women’s division that lacks direction and … well … women. We’d rather sit idly by as the Total Divas are paraded incessantly before our eyes in an endless series of nonsensical matches and segments that are barely related to anything. We’d rather be the first to complain and whine about how bad one promotion treats its female athletes, ignore how badly the other promotion is treating their women’s division, and utilize any time in between to take pee breaks. Then we’ll simply turn around and blame the promotions for not doing things the way we’d like to see them, even though we already know deep within our hearts that we honestly don’t want to see either promotion veer too far away from what we know and love about them already.
This is why I say very few people have the balls (or ovaries) to do something different or to be different in pro wrestling. We’re all slaves to familiarity, and a promotion won’t risk alienating investors and advertisers to placate our selfishness. We’ll pay very good money to John Cena’s name in a main event marquee, but we won’t drop as nearly as much coin when Daniel Bryan is placed in the same situation. Argue against that if you choose to, but it is a stone cold fact; he who sells the most merchandise will be justifiably placed in the forefront, and the needle won’t move for anyone else until we create the demand for such a star. “They” don’t have the balls (or ovaries) to mess with that formula because we don’t have the balls (or ovaries) to be more than barking seals for what’s familiar and comfortable.
Yes it’s a ballsy move to create a network to showcase your vast library of pro wrestling history or continue to funnel money into a film studio that produces a steady stream of B-movies much to the delight of no one. Yes it’s a ballsy move to go head-to-head with a promotion that has a stranglehold on the business and to continue to buck a system that grows more stifling and hostile with each passing year. Creating the same type of product, mimicking the product of your competition, and refusing to put serious coin and consideration behind anti-typical wrestling superstar isn’t ballsy; it’s safe, it guarantees profit (be it large or small), and it conditions us all to go along with flow, believing we’re ultimately powerless to truly dictate what it is we like and want.
At the end of the day, the three major promotions aren’t all that different from one another when it comes to being “original.” There are very few individuals at this point in the game who have the unmitigated gall to push boundaries or at least try to be different and original in presenting their pro wrestling product (thank God for CHIKARA, Japanese wrestling, DragonGateUSA, EVOLVE, SHIMMER, Shine and WSU). But until we, the fans who pay money to see the action and drama displayed in between the ropes, expand our horizons and ask for something truly and deeply different instead of something superficially aesthetic, then all we’re going to get is what we’ve been getting … the same old mess. If we get the same old mess, all we’re going to have is the same old pointless complaints and hollow accolades.
So the real question is, how many of us have the balls (or ovaries) to be different?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.