UPDATE: 6:45 PM Central Standard Time
Apparently your voices were heard; mere moments after typing this, it was announced via WWE.com that Emma has been reinstated in the promotion.
For the sake of humoring us here at L.E.W.D., read the following because it’s still all relevant somewhere.
Just in case you haven’t heard the word, we have it on good authority (pun intended) that the WWE has come to terms with the release of notable Diva Emma. Also known by her government approved name Tenille Dashwood, Emma was also recently arrested for allegedly stealing an iPod case from a Walmart in Connecticut.
Many wrestling fans have taken to the internet to voice their displeasure with the promotion’s decision to dismiss Emma over something that they (the fans) believe to have been an accident or a simple mistake on Emma’s part. After all if one is working as an independent contractor for the world’s most prominent sports entertainment promotion, there would be no need to steal anything from anywhere when you could easily purchase it yourself or have the promotion purchase it for you. This also falls square in line with the notion that all individuals placed under arrest are innocent until proven guilty, and clearly Emma can’t be guilty of stealing something worth $21.14.
Reports have it that Emma was sentenced to some community service and upon completion of said service, all charges against her would be dropped. This form of “punishment,” apparently, isn’t enough for the WWE.
Immediately fans cite the blatant hypocrisy of the WWE’s policy towards the professionalism of its employees outside of the company by mentioning the repeated DUI arrests and Wellness Policy violations of several other superstars (Randy Orton, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Jack Swagger, Jimmy Uso). There was even a comment that brought up superstars with legal issues prior to their joining the WWE family (Booker T), which was intended to make the point that the ‘E keeps superstars who committed far worse crimes on the roster than this, deeming their decision to release Emma over allegedly stealing an iPod case completely asinine and ridiculous.
Emma’s release also comes at a time when fans have been convinced that the multitude of recent releases within the company have everything to do with the perceived financial crisis the promotion is currently facing. This leads fans to believe that Emma’s release was simply a cost-cutting measure and that her arrest was an excuse used to poorly justify her termination.
To say it plainly, fans are justifiably saddened at Emma’s release … even though five days ago they were complaining that she and her gimmick were failing to get over with fans … such is the befuddling and ever flexible opinion of pro wrestling fans. Hakuna matata.
The constant “thing” with each of the theories surrounding the logic behind Emma’s release is dualistic in that it is composed of an emotional response and a stone cold reality. Deep down we fans actually like Emma the character and Tenille, the woman who portrays the character, and we all honestly have no idea why WWE released her.
We fans can speculate all day and night, but as spectators hovering around the the situation with our faces firmly pressed against the glass separating us from the odds-and-ends of the business, we can only comment on what we think we know to the extent in which we understand it. It makes more sense for us to blame the ‘E for responding to Emma’s arrest in the manner they did, and it makes little sense to us to try to understand why they responded they way they did. We’ve reacted to our superficial knowledge of the situation at hand … nothing more, nothing less.
Very few people have mentioned that this situation may affect the visa that allows her, as an Australian citizen, to work here in the United States. What would happen if she were still under contract with the ‘E and forced to return home for an indefinite amount of time? But of course this isn’t sensational enough to consider or speculate on.
Even with discussing the financial issues plaguing the promotion at the time, very few people have talked about the budget cuts from the perspective rooted in the beginning of a new fiscal year (July 1st), where most businesses look to shave expenses from their budget lines. Instead of looking at the situation as if the ‘E were trying to save money after losing so much, one could view it as if the ‘E were trying to save money by not spending as much as they did the last fiscal year. There were reports that the WWE cut travel expenses for their superstars (paying for their tour buses), and if you’ve paid attention even the PPV sets aren’t as elaborate as they once were; these cost-cutting measures keep the promotion from spending more money and being as free with their revenue as they were before the massive loss of profits. Unfortunately the money spent on employee contracts isn’t immune from these types of cost cutting measures.
From that perspective the promotion then becomes a place where superstars have no room or margin for error, especially superstars on the low end of the ladder in WWE. Whatever Emma did or didn’t do, no matter how small an infraction we believe it to be, was a simple “f**k up” that might have cost her her WWE contract. Then again, this isn’t sensational enough to consider or speculate on either.
Then there is our comparison of the punishment for Emma’s infraction compared to that of other superstars. While fans have piled on the bandwagon advocating for Emma by citing the punishments received by other superstars for committing crimes deemed more “harsh” or “serious,” there haven’t been many fans that have spoken at length on the implied misogyny present within the company. No one has noted how current TNA Knockout Taryn Terrell was released immediately from her contract after being arrested for an altercation with her then husband and former WWE superstar Drew McIntyre, while male superstars arrested for suspected domestic abuse (“Stone Cold” Steve Austin) were allowed to go about their business within the promotion after repaying their debt to society. Perhaps the issue of discrimination against women would be more important to discuss whether or not a suspected thief should be given the same leniency as someone driving under the influence (which could be anybody over whatever the legal limit is in the state they’re driving in; one doesn’t necessarily have to be “drunk” and driving to be arrested for driving under the influence…).
Whatever the case may be and whatever we choose to believe, it truly stinks that Emma had only scratched the surface of her potential on the main roster before her release. Only she, her attorney and the prosecutor, and the WWE truly know what happened; as much as we desire to crucify the ‘E for choosing to release her from the promotion, we’re doing so as an immediate, ill-informed response and reaction to the news. We shouldn’t expect that Emma won’t ever work for the company again, nor should we expect that we won’t see her wrestle again in some form or capacity. At this point, all we can do as fans is make a loud enough noise supporting her if her arrest was the result of a careless action she unintentionally made when checking out at Walmart. Until all the facts come out, if they ever come out, we’ll have to find some way to grapple with not seeing her meander through a gimmick that we said wasn’t working for us.
I was going to do a review of the PPV last night, but I think I’ll hold off on it. Short form: I enjoyed it. I thought the Wyatt Family would win the tag titles, but I was also of the mindset that if they won then Bray would win later as well, and I knew Bray wasn’t going to reign victorious. It was a terrific match all the same: the Usos and the Wyatt Family have some good chemistry.
The briefcase ladder match was excellent, arguably the highlight of the evening, and it did the impossible in letting us think for ONE moment that Kofi Kingston was actually going to succeed, and the crowd was behind him too, which was even more incredible. Did I get mad at the interference by Kane to help Seth Rollins win? No. Because “Plan B” is a terrific scapegoat, and while I didn’t care who won this match I was big on how it all played out.
Big E took on Rusev, and lost. Again. Proving that America is weak compared to the almighty force that is a Bulgarian with an American manager praising Russia (Reverend Father Pastor Uncle Sam Big E Langston the Third must not be preaching right). I anticipate he’ll want a rematch soon. And he’ll lose again. Because… he does that.
Layla fought Summer Rae. Layla beat Summer Rae. But the focus wasn’t on those two but Fandango, who is likely grinning like Ludacris in a Ciara video anytime someone brings up this storyline. Even so, he did deliver the line of the night when he said, “Fandango loves triangles.” Me too, Dango. Me too. A lot of us do.
The brothers Rhodes took on Ryback and Axel, and for the life of me I wonder if Dusty was around them when they were children. The gimmick is one thing. The way Goldust was feeling up his brother upon their victory made me raise an eyebrow. I mean, I can only look at Dusty here: the two are half-brothers, SOMETHING has to be in Dusty’s genes.
And of course, our main event pitted eight superstars against each other for the coveted dual belts of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship title, and while it wasn’t as exciting as the briefcase battle, it was more intense. We were dealing with more grounded superstars, not flyers who leap from ladders and to ropes and then to the floor (another highlight, and a rather impressive one due to its flow). Cena won, and that was no surprise. Like I said, he and Orton were the safe choices, and perhaps that exactly what we need right now. I assumed Orton would win, but I just wanted the tension that would come from Orton and Rollins being potential enemies so suddenly after they came together. That can fester for a bit though. More interesting to have a potential little feud between Rollins and Cena, but since it’s going to be Cena vs. the Authority… at least until they bring Lesnar back to the fray. It’s all a web, but it’s easy to navigate.
Oh, and Adam Rose fought Damian “Paul Revere” Sandow. Sandow is forever underrated and this match proved it yet again. Here’s hoping they do him right in the future.
I think that’s it. Uh… oh, wait, I forgot one match. It was the second one, and it was for the Divas Championship. Paige, the champ, took on Naomi, and it was the best match on the card. Now what does that mean? It means that as far as a wrestling match goes, no gimmicks, no fanfare, no bullshit, it was far and away the finest match in Boston that evening.
Imagine that? In fact, it was a good night for Divas wrestling both qualitatively and quantitatively. From the perspective of quantity, there were two. One focused on Fandango’s love for triangles (it still cracks me up) and thus NOT the actual Divas, and the other focused on two athletes who can actually wrestle. Quality wise, both matches were pretty good.
Well, the title match was terrific, the other was okay. Layla kicking Summer Rae will always be worth watching. In any case, the awesome match put on by Paige and Naomi was met by the crowd with a lack of enthusiasm. Shameful. I can assume that this is partially because it was a Divas match, and that doesn’t sit right with me. At what point do we turn our nose up at something the second we hear what it is? Who does that? Maybe it’s just me, but we should never judge a book by its cover (the cover this time is a Divas match). To know a book’s worth, you have to read it through and through, page by page, resisting the urge to add an “I” to those words when they come up.
But let’s talk about the match and some of the build up. It started with Paige fighting other Divas, because that’s what you do in the WWE: you fight people. Eventually it came to Naomi, because Alicia Fox isn’t so much a thing anymore. While the athletics of Naomi and Paige were never in question, it did come down to the possible feud. The showings between the two have always seemed tense, even a bit aggressive, but respectful. Enter Cameron, who is there because… I don’t know: let’s say because she’s light-skinned. She comes through as “My time is now!” and whatnot, and even when Naomi was taking on Fox the other day, the focus of the commentary was on Paige and Cameron, who were arguing over something or the other, it doesn’t matter.
This is a glaring issue with this is how it seems like the Divas aren’t a priority in the company, and this dialogue and commentary doesn’t help. I spent a minute tweeting about the match and the nonsense surrounding it, nearly exacerbated because I was actually pretty excited to see Paige vs. Naomi. Sadly, as I’ve been saying:
Paige has been misused so far, and I don’t often say that anything has been misused. Dolph Ziggler? Possibly. Zack Ryder? Most definitely. Kofi Kingston? Perhaps. And I’m sure they all have a story to tell, but Paige herself was doomed from the start by the virtue of her being brought in as a replacement for AJ. You can try and convince me otherwise all you want, but from how she just won the title off of her to how at one point they had her dressing like her, Paige was brought in not because she’s arguably the best female wrestler alive (citation needed) but because AJ was going on sabbatical. And it shows. And it fucks with me because she deserves much better.
More than that: they just aren’t developing her character. Like I fear Prince Devitt and KENTA might be in their WWE matriculations, she might be best served as a trainer or one who puts others over. We know all three of the aforementioned can wrestle: KENTA could come into the company as a mid-card powerhouse with the sole intent to get revenge on the Second City Saint and the American Dragon for stealing his maneuvers (GTS and Busaiku Knee Kick respectively), but he could also be in the training facilities acclimatizing indie cats to the WWE style, or playing with the WWE style of wrestling himself.
But when it comes to developing character, especially with the Divas Champion, we’ve gotten little to nothing. We know she was the NXT Women’s Champion, the FIRST NXT Women’s Champion, and we know that she’s one of the youngest champions in the WWE’s history. We know she won it off of AJ in an impromptu match, but that’s all we’ve gotten from the whole of character arc. Otherwise she’s your stereotypical babyface: she goes in, gets beat up, hulks up, straps on an impressive submission and wins. That’s all fine and good, but it’s not great, and we know Paige is great.
Say what you will about Alicia Fox and the mess she was doing (might still be doing): they gave her character. They let her develop that character. I remember Space Jam and how much I never really liked Lola Bunny. She was okay I suppose, but she wasn’t a character so much as a caricature, a female counterpart to Bugs with breasts. Fast forward a few years and you get The Loony Tunes Show. Lola is in this too, but she’s a ditzy, well-meaning bunny obsessed with Bugs and from a rich family. You know what that is? Character. And over the seasons, that character actually developed. It’s the same with Alicia Fox. At one point the only thing that defined her was how she kind of looked like Rihanna when she dyed her hair (and before that an “affair” with Edge (yeah, that’s right, I remember that!)). Now she’s a spoiled brat who throws a tantrum anytime she wins OR loses. She steals hats and paraphernalia, and yells at the crowd. It’s not a perfect character but it is character.
When she and Paige were going to blows, it was one of my greatest complaints: she had character and Paige was merely the champion. And after the little feud faded, Paige is still merely champion and Fox is somewhere or the other. People were booing Fox and cheering Paige, somewhat, but I’m pretty sure they were booing Fox because she had personality, and kind of cheering Paige because she wasn’t Fox. Personality and character go a long way: it’s hard to root for a character when you don’t know why you should cheer for them.
I sit back and ponder on how big Paige could be if she wasn’t there to make the other Divas look better. Corbin once alluded to how Paige might be greater than AJ because she can bring championship level material out of her opponents, and sure enough that’s a prerequisite for being a great worker in the business, but what else? AJ had character, arcs, storylines and something (don’t ask me what that something is, it’s just a something) that other Divas, hell, other superstars period didn’t have, and she used it. It was one thing that she could beat you in the ring: it was another that she could navigate between insanity and calm collectedness, face tactic and heel tactic; it was almost as if she was absorbing the mic work of Punk and improved ring work of Bryan (or maybe all Punk, I don’t know). But she was given time and arcs to deal with, from jilted girlfriend, to abusive relationship girlfriend, to GM, to Best Diva in the World. And Paige, so far, has none of that. Just tremendous talent and hopefully time.
I hate to beat a dead horse, but AJ’s absence is Paige’s open door, and she hasn’t been given much to work with. Maybe she can do something more with it, maybe she’s literally working with everything she has, it’s hard to say, but until they actually invest something in her more than just slapping the belt on her, she’s not going to be the breath of fresh air the Divas division needs. It says something when the fans are more into (for better or worse) the grudge match between two women who want a guy who can’t say triangles without making someone laugh. Much like the game Catherine or anything involving a twisted romantic triangle, it’s one of those scenarios that could have easily be solved had Fandango just stopped one of them and said, “I have a girlfriend”. But that’s not compelling TV, is it? Neither is Summer Rae implying she’s a natural blonde (oh my god, who the hell cares?!), and Layla pointing out her wonderful chest is something of an acquired taste. One I acquired a long time ago but that’s neither here nor there; I just keep abreast of those kinds of things. I mean, I’ve noticed them, I always have, I’d have to be knockers to not! I mean bonkers. It’s bust who I am. Just.
It comes down to how unfortunate it is that someone who is blatantly talented can’t so much as get a response when she and another great talent put on the best match of a terrific evening of wrestling. It’s terrible that the match two women have over a man who doesn’t care about either one of them garners more of a reaction than the quality that came on an hour before, even if the funbags were in full gear in the Layla/Rae match. As I always say, praise and hatred are good: that shows that people are responding, even if they don’t appreciate you. But apathy is death. Apathy is worse. Praise will bring someone to your funeral to mourn you. Hatred will bring someone to your funeral to make sure you’re dead. Apathy will keep someone at home watching Scooby-Doo and eating stale Pop Tarts, because somehow they let Pop Tarts get stale.
Now, everything above this paragraph was written before RAW, and now watching it we have the return of AJ. She came back and promptly won the Divas Championship from Paige. On one hand, it just goes on to confirm what I’ve been saying, and that’s disgusting. On the other, it opens up the possibility that AJ and Paige can go on to feud and make even last night’s exquisite match seem tame in comparison. Only time will tell, but for the love of God: can we PLEASE not just toss Paige aside? She’s an awesome talent: she does not need to just fall to the wayside and simply be another page in the history of the Divas. She can take the place that AJ occupied/occupies.
If that’s a tale they think deserves to be written.
Our lord and savior JTG earned himself a tribute video all his own. Uh, Baal? You can reserve that seventh circle of Hell for me now, thanks.
They never should’ve given me computing equipment smh…
“Tom Hagen: You know how they’re gonna come at you?
Michael Corleone: They’re arranging a meeting in Brooklyn. Tessio’s ground. Where I’ll be safe.
Tom: I always thought it would have been Clemenza, not Tessio.
Michael: It’s the smart move. Tessio was always smarter.”
– Tom Hagen and Michael Corleone, discussing Tessio’s assassination plot; The Godfather (1972)
Above virtually all American movies, I hold the first Godfather film as the pinnacle. It stands as a masterpiece in cinema, a near flawless accomplishment in nearly every facet, and there are more quotable moments within it than a Will Ferrell movie. I’m talking about classic lines and monologs, picture perfect deliveries and dialogue, from the first spoken sentence (“I believe in America.”) to the final line where Michael is confirmed as the most evil human being you had ever seen in a movie (until that point).
But that opening sequence I quoted always stuck out to me, partly because I made it a habit to know about The Godfather lore. Vito, Peter and Salvatore were friends coming up, but it was Corleone who held the reins and became the leader amongst leaders. Tessio (because I guess 20th century Italian-Americans spoke to each other using last names) was smarter, and Clemenza was more loyal, as well as the more hot-headed of the two. But as the years went by and Michael Corleone took over the business that Vito once held, Tessio grew suspicious. At no point did he ever really trust the future Don (somewhat reasonable, considering how his two best friendships were built over decades) and he was doubly weary of the young man due to Corleone’s insistence that there be no vengeance about Barzini for his mess. All the same, that was still MORE trust and respect for Michael than Clemenza himself had for Michael, or even Tom Hagen for that matter.
Loyalty is an interesting concept because it has a nasty habit of playing with another significant “L” word: logic. The two don’t always go hand in hand, and sometimes the extremes can appear to be dangerously outlandish. For example, a logical friend will bail you out of holding after a night of drinking. A loyal friend is likely sitting next to you in jail because he couldn’t bare to see you drink alone. A logical person saves his money and buys a car for his child when it is wholly affordable. A loyal person might purchase the car the second the child turns 16, even if the cost is unnecessary.
What was it about Tessio that had him so loyal to Michael Corleone, second only to Vito Corleone himself? That’s irrelevant, honestly, but likely his relationship with Vito. The real question: what led to Tessio arraigning Michael Corleone’s assassination? Loyalty will have you step back and heed the advice of your friend, especially if he tells you to heed the advice of his son. But logic will make you remove your emotions from the equation entirely. It would be very easy for me to turn this into a mild dissertation on The Godfather versus a piece about how logical it was for Seth Rollins (Tyler Black (Colby Lopez)) to turn on the Shield, because the film – hell, the FRANCHISE – toys with that age old debate like an actress in San Fernando Valley, and while Tessio always liked Michael as a person, he was logically concerned with Michael the organized crime leader. And that’s when loyalty took a back seat to doing what was logical.
You still with me? Good. It was long since time for me to throw my hat into the fray with this whole Seth Rollins business, and after the shock value of it wore off (estimate time: forty seconds) I could step back and appreciate it for what it was. Let’s throw a third “L” word into it: legacy. The conflict between the Shield and Evolution has been a little foray into the grand existential romp that is building a legacy. The Shield has been compared to, and in some cases hailed as the new standard for, the professional wrestling stable. With this mercenary group we have a trio of young men who meld well together, fight well together and sway a crowd like few groups can, or have. You have the cerebral loose cannon in Dean Ambrose (Jon Moxley (Jonathan Good)), a man who invokes the spirit and agility of Brian Pillman. You have the tactical, logical architect in Seth Rollins (Tyler Black (Colby Lopez)), a high-flier who, by all standards, could be the most talented man on the roster. And you have Roman Reigns (Leati Joseph Anoa’i), an agile powerhouse who is probably going to take the crown Cena wears in a few years.
Never mind the fact that all three of these guys can work a ring: instead focus on how much you love the Shield. They’re a great faction. And now they aren’t. Because Seth Rollins betrayed them and sided with Triple H and Randy Orton. You know what Evolution represented as they stood over the fallen members of the Shield on Monday? The essence of legacy. Not the other stable Orton was in (though keep that in mind; it might come up later) but the overarching idea of having something that exists in the hearts and minds of people long after it has gone away. Evolution’s return was probably requested by a whopping two and a half people, but the Shield needed a logical opponent to match them three on three; for all the conflicts they had with the Wyatt Family there was rarely any reason for it outside of “They got three guys, we got three guys, let’s have six guys beat each other, I don’t know, shit”. And with the cerebral-tactical-powerhouse combination being in full effect on both squads, it was truly like watching something akin to a changing of the guard.
And that’s what most issues and feuds of any significance come down to within the confines of professional wrestling and sports entertainment. No wrestler goes into any company with the intent of simply going in and doing a job. Everyone is concerned with the type of legacy, what kind of everlasting impact they leave. Those like John Cena can say they’ve left a lasting legacy in the ring and beyond. Those like Hulk Hogan can say they left an imprint on the world as a whole. Even after all the crap I give TNA, someone like AJ Styles can be mentioned to most wrestling fans and be adored, thus solidifying a legacy. Storylines are built around such a construct.
Which takes us right back around to Seth Rollins. What would compel a man to turn on his team and join with the people he and his now former team have defeated in two PPVs now? The only thing I can think of right now, having not seen SmackDown yet, is because it was the smart move. And Seth Rollins has always shown himself to be smarter.
Much like with Cesaro and Heyman, logic wins over loyalty in the pursuit of legacy. Everyone knows Heyman is a heel manager, and Cesaro, prior to joining him, was a face, so why did he side with our favorite walrus? Because Heyman guys go to the top, and outside of perhaps Jack Swagger you can say with confidence that you remember most world champions. Cesaro isn’t concerned with fan approval or whether people like him: he wants to be at the top of the pyramid, and Paul Heyman takes people there, period.
Seth Rollins jumped ship to the side of Triple H, standing triumphant with him and Randy Orton, looking over his fallen ex-compatriots. That was interesting to me for another reason but I’ll get into that in another piece. When it comes to creating something that people never forget, who better to side with than Triple H? Who better to ally yourself with than the man who came into the company and can now boast that he damn near runs it? It isn’t often that we debate the genius behind Paul Levesque, but suffice to say that he’s where he is for a good reason, and not just for the sake of storyline. Frankly, he reminds me a bit of Little Finger from Game of Thrones. Just a little bit.
But back to Rollins. It was the smart move. Of the members of the Shield he hasn’t just shown himself to be the smartest but also the most logical; no, the ONLY logical one. He is portrayed as the architect, the glue that held them together (in retrospect the summit he held way back when could be seen as a foreshadowing), the man with the brains who constantly defies death. You know: Jeff Hardy if Jeff Hardy gave a damn. His movements and actions always walked the line of logic. How to best defeat and opponent, how to best take apart a challenger, etc. Contrast that with the insanity-laced Dean Ambrose and the loyalty-based Roman Reigns. The former is too much of a wildcat to truly maintain ANY allegiance, so I hesitate to think he could truly “defect” so much as find a new shiny bauble to entertain him. If Rollins and Reigns weren’t wearing military fatigues I don’t even think he’d know he was supposed to be with them. The latter is all about loyalty, so it doesn’t matter what happens: it’s about the team. He stands with the team above all things, and this was best evidenced with the earliest appearances of the Hounds of Justice, where he was the silent powerhouse that went along with what the mouthpiece Ambrose said. That’s not to say anything bad about him, not in the slightest, but he has grown from the muscular follower to the possible leader when it was a role that seemed to be poised for Ambrose and Ambrose alone to hold.
Some might say that jealousy is the rationale. I say, “Nah.” If this were, again, the early goings of the group then yeah, I would see that as a viable option, but at this point all three of the Shield’s members have a lot of momentum and respect. Rollins is arguably the most exciting to watch of the three, and that’s saying something. It’s more than just how he jumps around and off of high objects: he’s just masterful in the ring. Part of my saying that is bias: I’ve been a fan of Tyler Black since his days in the indies, and I know what kind of greatness he’s capable of pulling off, especially with capable opponents. The only thing he has to be jealous about, if jealousy is a factor (which I don’t think it is) is how Roman Reigns is on the rise. If that is true, I’m reminded of the Nation of Domination and how the Rock just took over after a while. Not ironic at all, nope.
At the end of the day, more people seem mad about the break up of the Shield than anything, but as the old saying goes: “End it on a high note”. Much like D-X or, now Evolution, I can see the Shield as something that comes together after so many years in reunion form. They are literally at their peak right now, so yeah: break it down on a high note. Let the legacy last. This opens up some spectacular singles runs for all three of them.
I contend that Seth Rollins was poised to be a star from the beginning. Championship wise, at least. Like Big E and Bo Dallas, he came to the main roster following his run at NXT Champion, so I think there has been some star potential seen in him from an early time, but the question was how. Why not like this? He becomes a heel because of betrayal, ascends because of affiliations, and even with Reigns on track to being the company’s top star, how great would it be if his long standing opponent was Seth Rollins? Who under the faux-tutelage of the Game hasn’t gone on to superstardom? World championship runs? Let it be known that I’m not saying that this is going to lead to Rollins being world champ anytime soon, but it will lead to an emotional storyline that might put him into the main event fold. Let’s not forget: Money in the Bank is just around the corner and Daniel Bryan may or may not be cleared in time.
But that’s just my two cents on it. Legacy. Seth Rollins has all the tools to be a successful single star, and this betrayal is a great way to start it, as is affiliating one’s self with Triple H. Where will it lead though? Who knows? With Cesaro and Heyman I think a moment of clarity is on the horizon for the former. With Rollins, a lot of people think his turn is going to lead to a double cross in the same vein as Daniel Bryan did with the Wyatt Family. To that, I say, “Possibly, but I hope not”. It’s been done, and it would do little more than appease a few butthurt people who can’t deal with change. Not just that, but it would be twice as confusing as any storyline in recent memory. Bryan was getting beat up by the Wyatts like his name was Rey Mysterio and the Wyatts were the demon spawn of Mike Knox (it does explain the beards). He joined because he felt like he didn’t have a choice, and the double cross was taking them out from the inside. Rollins and the Shield proved dominance over their opponents, emphatically. What purpose would Rollins have to jump ship unless it was a selfish move, and frankly that’s all you need. Selfishness is a classic motive.
But so is logic. Because logic is smart. And appealing to your legacy is a smart move.
And Seth Rollins has always been smarter.
P.S.: speaking of smarter, this old picture of Colby Lopez with his girlfriend… she kind of resembles Sasha Grey. There’s absolutely, positively NOTHING wrong with that.
If you had the opportunity to write the perfect storyline for two wrestlers in a pro wrestling promotion, what would that story be? That is a real question, and I’d like some honest answers from you … our faithful L.E.W.D. readership.
We’ve all filled our fair share of message boards with fantasy storylines, and even here in the L.E.W.D.iverse we’ll engage is some knee slappin’ fantasy booking just to pass the time. What’s interesting, however, is that no matter who you place into a situation the storytelling is what grabs someone’s attention and keeps them invested in your booking. As much as we complain all the time about how a star is booked or how awful a storyline is, very few individuals can come up with an authentic and gripping story that captures the imagination of a vast swath of people.
I suppose that’s what makes creative writing for pro wrestling so difficult; it’s easy to pop a copy of WWE 2K14 into an XBox 360 or PS3, lock ourselves in a room for six hours, and come up with something that makes us laugh and is eventually downloaded by a few hundred people here or there when we upload it to the WWE Creative Communities. But imagine having to that on a nightly basis with a team of people, scratching your heads and planning out dialogue and actions for several stars at once, all of whom are important and must appear to the audience a certain number of times to guarantee a particular demographic’s response and financial investment. Imagine having to rewrite a script at the last minute when a wrestler is injured or has been arrested; imagine having to figure out how to get a Lucha Libre star over with American fans, or having to come up with something to justify a new Diva’s presence in the promotion. Imagine writing something that works among a small number of fans in one part of the country, but “fails” in front of thousands of fans everywhere else.
We can’t imagine that, because we get to sit in the comfort of our own homes and craft quaint little storylines that make sense to us and only us, and parade them around to our like-minded friends who’ll eagerly tell us, “You should write for [insert promotion here]!” A few thousand downloads or several hundred “likes” and positive comments, and all of a sudden we’re next in line to get a sitcom picked up by FOX.
That’s all well and good, but our tastes are not necessarily on the pulse of society as much as we’d like them to be. What looks great to us on paper may come off as absolute trash when executed, and I say that knowing good and well the reason why my WWE 2K14 story editors never make it past my L.E.W.D. brethren and a few obsessively compulsive driven MS Word documents. To say it as I was told the great Vince McMahon said it, we fans “know what we like, but don’t know what we want,” and Baal save our poor souls, we actually think the two are synonymous. Good storylines … scratch that; good storytelling isn’t a matter of crafting a questionably epic piece of prose that contains everything we like with everybody we’d like to see doing everything we’d like do if we were in a particular situation. On the contrary, good storytelling is being able to create characters that resonate with groups of people and individuals in some way, and watching them react to circumstances beyond their immediate control. Good storytelling, and a good story, is not a matter of whether we like it or not; a good story and good storytelling is good because it simply is, and how it’s executed is what really seals the deal on our investment in it.
We want good storytelling because good storytelling and good stories keep us entertained and invested in the product. Being entertained and invested is all about the execution of a story: the way it’s told and how it unfolds. We don’t have to “like” that story for it to be good. What we “like” isn’t always equivalent to what’s “good” or “entertaining,” and there aren’t enough adjectives of angry tweets in the world that can justify the perception that we have to “like” something for it to be good.
The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy was a piece of assigned reading I was expected to tackle heading into my sophomore year in high school. I don’t think I made it past the second chapter before tossing this piece of literary genius to the wayside and opting instead to immerse myself completely in the gripping and utterly fascinating world of doing jack s**t.
For the longest I held quite the grudge against this story and Thomas Hardy, who conveniently succumbed to the unrelenting demands of death some 11 years after my maternal grandfather was born thus avoiding a stern talking to and severe finger-wagging thrashing at the hands of one extremely disgruntled fourteen year old student from the one of the states that almost ceded from the Union. Needless to say, but important to mention, is the fact that I haaaated this book; in particular the language was difficult for me to read or understand at the time, due to me being largely uncultured and far too impatient to read that book.
So instead of simply trying harder to understand the language, taking a little more time to read and process what I read, I did what every0ne else in my particular section of English that year did … labeled the book as “stupid” and “bad,” and begged the teacher not to test us on it once school began.
It wasn’t until some time later, and I mean much later, that I picked up the book and tried reading it again. To its credit, the magnificence that is Wikipedia had a lot to do with me picking the book back up again; the brilliant web editors that succinctly described the story in terms that I could actually understand caused my interest in the story to pique. It also helped that I was slightly more patient in my adult years than I was when I was fourteen, which enabled me to really process what the hell was going on in the story. With this new perspective on The Mayor of Casterbridge, I was able to see that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the story or the book; it was all in me, I wasn’t entertained or invested in the story because I didn’t take the time to be entertained or invested in it. In hindsight, the story was a damn good one regardless of how “bad” we all said it was. After all, if it were that terrible it (a) wouldn’t have been on our reading list and (b) wouldn’t have the word “classic” on the front cover.
Then there’s the sad story of the Tyler Perry supported film Peeples. I had the extreme fortune of sitting through this entire film as an adult, an adult with an incredibly low amount of tolerance for anything with Tyler Perry’s name attached to it after Diary of a Mad Black Woman. I won’t go through the synopsis of Peeples here; the point is that the story of Peeples, a story that was done by Ashton Kutcher in 2005 and Ben Stiller in 2004, was executed in a way that didn’t entertain me completely. That doesn’t make the movie or the story told within it bad, but it did make it uninteresting to me for tons of reasons.
And guess what … that’s okay. I’m sure plenty of people experienced great joy and comfort in the heartwarming moments and zany situations the lead character Wade Walker found himself navigating throughout the course of the film. But I didn’t, and if there’s a Peeples 2 in the works, you can rest assured and bet your bottom dollar that at least ONE man in the continental United States will revisit the days of his youth doing jack s**t well before he even thinks about giving THAT film one single solitary chance.
This is all to say that when it comes to pro wrestling, we armchair quarterbacks love to stand on our soap boxes and proclaim loudly and proudly that this story is bad or that story is great, knowing good and well those perceptions are our subjective expressions of how the execution of the stories entertained us. Lost in translation is that oh so important fact of whether or not we were entertained by the story and if it was entertaining enough to keep us invested. The gauge of whether a story is good or bad has to do with how its executed and not with the story itself. Presentation is everything, and if we find ourselves frustrated over stories within a specific promotion, we’re honestly confused and pissed off at how the story is presented, point blank. A story isn’t really good or bad, but rather, it’s presented well or poorly. That’s what has us ticked off, and that’s what we really should be discussing here.
Come on, everybody; let’s use our words here: why is the show boring? Why is a pay per view “terrible” after only one match? Why is “logical” (as opposed to “understandable”) a prerequisite for “good” storytelling? WHY don’t we find any of this entertaining???
Case in point: a little person in a bull costume fighting another little person in an imaginary rock band is highly illogical. But the story surrounding their feud is a classic tale (no pun intended) of one character being wronged by another and seeking to correct the injustice done to him. That story continues to be played out because kids, believe or not, find it entertaining and are invested in it one way or another. That story continues to be played out because not ever segment in a wrestling show can be (or should be, for that matter) as serious as a blood feud between Lance Storm and Dean Malenko. The story of a character seeking revenge for an injustice done at the hands of another character is a good story; it’s logical, it’s understandable, and it’s actually good. It just so happens that this iteration of the story, complete with wacky hijinks and slapstick shenanigans, isn’t that entertaining to people who would actually pay hard earned cash to see Lance Storm and Dean Malenko wrestle each other for a year. The story itself is fine; the execution of it is highly questionable.
On the other hand, a few misfits from a traveling carnival “wrestling” to raise money to save their beloved family owned roadside attraction is not only illogical but also highly absurd, even by carny and pro wrestling standards (and oddly enough, pro wrestling got its start as a carnival side show attraction). The story of a man facing financial hardships and opting to enlist the help of his friends to wrestle his way back into the game, however, is a good story that can entertain fans of all walks of life. When you throw men walking on stilts, endless carny music, a bipolar clown with balloons and a bike horn, and a sultry vixen who has trouble doing splits on the ring ropes (as anyone would) … all of a sudden we’re back in that highly questionable execution zone.
What does all of this mean to you, dear reader? We stay invested in pro wrestling because it entertains us, and each promotion under the sun works to entertain more than just one type of person or one demographic of people. All of the stories crafted for our entertainment may not strike us the same way, and I do think we’re allowed to have and share our opinions no matter how we feel. But for the love of JBL and Bray Wyatt, we should try our best to avoid using superficial words or superfluous exclamations to express our truly profound feelings for the product. The writers, producers and wrestlers go through a lot to entertain us, but there is a difference between saying a story or storyline is “bad” and that it’s execution was “bad.” The moment we can express our dislike for the execution of a story is the moment we can begin to look at pro wrestling again as an established form of entertainment for folks all around the world.
After all, the whole world contains stories waiting to be told … including yours. How would it make YOU feel if somebody else told you the story of your life was “awful?”
Yep … that’s what I thought.
Pro wrestling in the 21st Century most assuredly falls under the “entertainment” genre, and while this particular categorization of “the business” by no means negates or diminishes the athleticism, sacrifices, and dedication of the wrestlers, it does create a certain atmosphere that determines by and large how the business functions.
Despite our insistence that pro wrestling is solely about athleticism and abilities, the business as a form of entertainment is also about presentation. The way in which the product is presented in this day in age can make or break a promotion rather easily and quickly.
If the way the product is presented has an important and specific effect on the business, then the actual product being presented has to look and feel a certain way as well. Imagine a roster filled with Bastion Boogers or Rosie Lottaloves invading your airwaves five nights a week …
The entertainment business, therefore, is dominated by image; how someone or something looks is important, and consumers are conditioned to buy into those things they find visually and aesthetically pleasing. In many ways consumers can’t help being vain or superficial, as most things that dominate our lives appeal to our sight first and everything else afterwards. Pro wrestling is a form of entertainment, and its fans are consumers; even though we consistently pay a promotion to entertain us in many different ways we also subconsciously pay them to see a product that features talent that looks and performs in a way that is visually pleasing to us on the whole, and fans (consumers) on the whole want to see wrestlers that look good while exhibiting their in-ring talents and skills.
This is the reason why WWE continues to hire males that “look” like wrestlers (because there is a specific image that comes to mind when one thinks of a pro wrestler) and women that are/were models or have model-esque looks as a professional athlete. This is the reason why some TNA fans make casual references to how “hot” a Knockout looks while detailing their pro wrestling curriculum vitae. This is the reason why some fans can’t be bothered to discuss Jeff Jarrett’s GFW promotion until they first see the promotion in action. The harsh reality of life in these United States, and perhaps in other parts of the world as well, is that we are completely obsessed with looks.
The problem with being so obsessed with looks, particularly in the pro wrestling industry, is that it limits the possibilities of having greatness displayed on a much larger level. There are endless stories of great wrestlers—women and men—who have had their abilities and potential dismissed because they didn’t have a certain “look.” Fans will often rally behind the women and men, making video blogs and creating message board discussions about a promotion’s misguided direction for not hiring or pushing a wrestler because they don’t have that “look.” Within that fervor, however, there still exists some subjectivity as fans will throw their support behind some of these neglected and denied stars and not others.
Hence building a case for Jay and Mark Briscoe, two twenty-something brothers currently wrestling as a tag team in Ring of Honor Wrestling. The Briscoes are exceptional athletes and wrestlers, gaining kudos for their work in ROH from several pundits and analysts including Jim Ross. Why is it, then, that the Briscoes have yet to be picked up by WWE or TNA?
There could be all sorts of reasons as to why neither promotion has bothered to extend a contract to the Briscoe brothers, but a YouTube video posted in 2011 on the Ring of Honor Wrestling YouTube account shows the Briscoes recalling a story from 2009 of their experience with a WWE tryout. Long story short, the Briscoes were not offered a developmental contract with the promotion because they were not “cosmetically pleasing to suit the WWE’s programming.” One can only imagine how disrespected and insulted the brothers must have felt to be essentially told that they weren’t “cosmetically pleasing” for WWE’s fans.
As much as such an occurrence serves as fodder for those who despise all things WWE, it remains to be seen why TNA—the unofficial “alternative” to WWE programming—has yet to offer a contract to the brothers or why TNA fans have decided against rallying for the signing of this team to help boost the promotions lackluster tag team division. Could it be possible that even TNA and its fans find a team such as The Wolves more “cosmetically pleasing” than the Briscoes while some of the best tag team matches in ROH took place between the American Wolves and the Briscoe Brothers? It’s very possible that the Briscoes were offered a TNA contract and turned it down (and they had at least one match in TNA’s early days), but news of such an occurrence is scarce on the internet and (to my recollection) received no where near the same amount of press as the reports of tryouts and (re-)signings of other stars.
The Briscoes obviously don’t fit the stereotypical mold of what we envision of pro wrestlers; they do, however, have a unique and intentionally different persona that, coupled with their abilities, would make them immediately stand out in the tag division of any promotion they work for. With tons of model-esque and “polished” wrestlers dominating the industry at this point, it would be more refreshing to see an upstart tag team rampaging through the system as something very different from the norm. In this sense, hiring the Briscoes would mean much more than meets the eye (pun intended).
It is quite possible that the top two promotions are intimidated by what the Briscoes represent: an obvious and deliberate departure from the established standard in the entertainment business and pro wrestling industry. This established standard, a crippling adherence to looks and style over substance, makes the industry slaves to a consumerist’s illogical perception of beauty and looks. The business as a form of entertainment, ruled by finances and revenue, will only present those things consumers are willing to pay to see. Fans will not pay to see anything that isn’t “cosmetically pleasing,” and the desire to deviate from that standard is about as enthralling as a prostate exam from an agitated Wolverine …
In the end (pun intended), the Briscoes and us fans lose out on so much simply because major promotions aren’t ballsy enough to buck the system, a system that depends our our dollars; unfortunately, when it comes to the entertainment industry, we will notpay for anything we don’t like … and people in this country do not likethings that aren’t deemed pretty.
There is nothing “pretty” about what the Briscoes do in the squared circle.
These two blue-collar brothers hail from Laurel, Delaware and are billed as being from Sandy Fork, both of which are located in Sussex County. According to the Sussex County website, Western Sussex County (in which Laurel is located) is notable for being “the backbone of Delaware’s agriculture industry with more acres of arable land under cultivation than anywhere else in the state.” Both Jay and Mark make no bones about growing up and living on a farm (a chicken farm at that, of which Sussex County is also known for being “the birthplace of the broiler chicken industry”), and the promos from these two tattooed, Confederate flag waving rebels are often laced with profanity and the type of drawl you’d expect from two country boys that grew up in the pre-integrated South:
What’s most refreshing about the Briscoes is that they are authentically being themselves; the “characters” they portray as wrestlers are not drastically different from who they are in real life … which could potentially be a PR nightmare for any promotion dealing with family-friendly investors. While their rough-around-the-edges persona could be “difficult” for business, their work ethic and in-ring abilities speak for themselves and the possibilities for fresh match-ups against other teams in TNA and WWE warrant some consideration of investment from both promotions. Their no-frills, get-er-done mentality, coupled with their surprisingly finessed and incredibly crisp ring work, could easily remind fans of the Dudley Boyz from ECW, two also not-ready-for-prime-time wrestlers who prior to their time in the WWE were also far from being “cosmetically pleasing.” It also doesn’t hurt that both of the brothers are only peeking at 30 years old.
The issue is whether or not there’s anyone in either promotion that is willing to invest on a long shot in the way they did with other stars (CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Orlando Jordan … ). A bigger issue is whether or not we fans can collectively stand behind and support the signing of two wrestlers who’ve earned the opportunity to showcase their skills on a bigger stage. Fans proudly fancy themselves as being decidedly against the superficial politics of pro wrestling (such as in the case of WWE’s alleged issue with Mickie James’ “weight gain” five years ago); we must be aware that we feed into that same superficiality when our support for wrestlers is unequally yoked from our own superficial subjectivity.
The entertainment business and much of our U.S. society focuses too much on looking good, often times at the expense of substance and quality. Our spending power and dollars feed the machines that promote the importance of how something looks over how it functions. If we ever desire for real change to occur in pro wrestling, we have got to have change our priorities which will significantly change how and where we spend our money. The moment that change occurs, the promotions will see and acknowledge that the quality of the product and the athletes who sacrifice their lives to entertain us are far more important than whether or not they are “cosmetically pleasing.” That change, however, has to happen inside of us fans … and unfortunately it’s a change that will take some time to happen, unless the promotions themselves choose to buck the system and truly be different in what they do and offer us for entertainment. Hiring the Briscoes, be it in WWE or TNA, would be one huge step in that direction.
To quote Jay and Mark Briscoe, perhaps is far past time for these major promotions and us fans to “Man Up” and truly clamor for something different than the cookie cutter standard that’s loosing viewers and revenue as we speak.
It is a WrestleMania tradition around these parts for us keyboard warriors to engage in an occasional battle of wits and writing when it comes to the year’s biggest show in professional wrestling. Two years ago we sparred on varying opinions concerning John Cena and The Rock; the following year, we had mild discussions about the true relevancy of the “Once In A Lifetime” sequel. This year it seems we’re having a friendly disagreement on the outcome of what will more than likely be the main event: a Triple Threat Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship between Randy Orton, Batista, and Daniel Bryan.
The battle lines have been squarely drawn, the “marks” on one side loudly proclaiming the signature rallying cry of the #YesMovement with fervor and excitement. On the other side stands the “less markier,” triumphantly waving the banner of all that is right, probable and predictable given the WWE’s track record. I’ll be the first (and probably only) one to admit that I’m on the “mark” side, and as I respect all of my L.E.W.D. brethren I’ll restrain myself from outing the “less markier” of our group here; hashtag: Be A Star.
Since we’re all friends here we can be honest with one another; our less markier chums are absolutely right when it comes to the type of WWE independent contractor that gets the rub. Wrestling abilities often come as something tertiary to a person’s ability to be marketable to advertisers and the media and their propensity to entertain a wide variety of individuals at any given time. That special person also has to be “larger than life” physically and as far as their personality is concerned. There are varying opinions concerning exactly how a wrestler gets to that “larger than life” point, but the main thing that will get you over with the promotion’s top brass more than anything else is the fact that you’re physically intimidating. Where I’m from, we’d refer to that as being “big as f**k.”
Any fan with an elbow and an a**hole knows that WWE excels in keeping around and pushing these “big as f**k*” wrestlers, these “larger than life” superstars that can be pandered about to motion picture companies, morning talk shows, drive time radio programs and Make-A-Wish organizations in the hopes of making wrestling appear to be more than just a weekend fancy for toothless hillbillies or overweight millennials that love Cool Ranch Doritos and yelling at their moms from their basement man caves. This is a given, almost as much as it’s a given that the number three follows the number two and precedes the number four; it’s as obvious as the word obvious. D’uh, gahdammit.
In 2014, however, we’re all very aware that pro wrestling is a legit form of sports entertainment where the outcomes are predetermined. Unlike the fans of the highly lauded MMA or the much beloved NFL, there are very few folks over the age of ten (10) that watch wrestling because they’re looking to see a winner in a “real” wrestling match. Pro wrestling as entertainment is an art form where the winner of the match comes secondary to how the winner obtains his/her victory. The magic of pro wrestling happens in between the bells; the story told from the opening bell to the closing bell is what captures our imagination and energizes us to rally for or against a given superstar.
So for us “marks,” the story of Daniel Bryan’s ascent to the upper echelon of WWE is entertaining enough to give us good reason to believe he has the ability to break through the glass ceiling despite not being obnoxiously large and not found lacking the wrestling skills of Antonio Inoki or Jim Breaks. In many ways Bryan has already broken the glass ceiling much like his fellow wrestler CM Punk, difference being that as far as we know at this moment in time, people actually want Bryan in the company. I digress.
Then again there is pink elephant sitting comfortably in our easy chairs, the fat stinking reality that Dave Batista returned to the promotion to provide a significant financial boost to a WrestleMania XXX card that looks about as exciting as the WrestleMania XVII card that initially brought the L.E.W.D. Crew together three years ago. Hint: it wasn’t all that exciting.
Make no bones about it, we can all rest well knowing that the WWE Powers-That-Be expected Batista’s return to be the biggest and best thing for business at the moment. His return had everything to do with boosting revenue for the promotion’s marquee pay per view for the year and very little else. His win at the 2014 Royal Rumble only set in stone what we already knew …
Side Note: Returning superstars, whether it be from an injury or extended absence, ALWAYS get preferential treatment and main event matches. Sheamus, Edge, and John Cena all returned from “injuries” to win a Royal Rumble match; Brock Lesnar and The Rock returned to the company to face John Cena, the real “face” of the company. Christian returned from an injury to walk right into a championship feud. So this Batista 2014 Royal Rumble thing shouldn’t seem odd to anyone.
Unfortunately for the suits the fans buried Batista’s Royal Rumble win and turned on him with a ferociousness not seen since Vickie Guerrero started screaming “Excuse me!” To make matters slightly worse for the promotion, the primary reason fans turned on him—and continue to boo him at this current moment—is because he’s simply not Daniel Bryan. The “marks” don’t hate him because he walked into a main event pay per view spot; the marks dislike him because he’s not somebody else. Not being completely daft, the big wigs adjusted their creative direction and politely inserted Daniel Bryan into the WrestleMania XXX main event picture in order to keep things from being completely chaotic, because common sense only knows that the people paying to see the product can only take so much stuff before they start to tune completely out…and the WWE Network is too expensive for a decision like that to be casually dismissed by the Powers-That-Be.
Our “less markier” friend(s) contend that the promotion’s main idea still remains: Batista will win the WWE World Heavyweight Title and become the Face of the Company, while Daniel Bryan continues to chip away at that same glass ceiling we believed him to have broken through by virtue of being where he is now. Simply put, Batista will be the Man and Daniel Bryan will be Daniel Bryan.
Think about it: at forty-five (45) years old, Dave Batista is “everything WWE markets as a top superstar.” I’ll leave you that to think about for a few moments.
How anyone could say that with a self-respecting smile on their face is about as understandable to me as choosing Ben Affleck to portray Batman. Nevertheless it is a grim reality that we all have to acknowledge and respect; regardless of how fans reacted to his Royal Rumble win, Batista did not return to WWE to lose at a marquee pay per view; Batista did not return to WWE to be a bit player or second banana to anybody other than John Cena. Most importantly, WWE did not unload beaucoup bucks into Batista’s bank account to have him breathe new life into the mid-card division. Can we at least agree that by carting Batista’s forty-five (45) year old frame into the forefront of the promotion that there is something incredibly wrong with the archaic mentality permeating throughout all things produced by WWE? Or is it simply that we expect the promotion to fall back to the tried and true method of pushing guys that “look like wrestlers” more so than guys we respect as “wrestlers?”
Think back to a thought that I mentioned earlier: the magic of pro wrestling happens in between the bells; the story told from the opening bell to the closing bell is what captures our imagination and energizes us to rally for or against a given superstar. Whatever happens, be it Batista’s entire a** becoming the WWE Network’s official mascot or him holding the WWE World Heavyweight Title for an unprecedented 800 years, is it so wrong for a “mark” to at least hope that the exact opposite happens and can happen, especially after it has already happened?
Yes, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels received championship runs and were both considered to be the “Man” while holding the promotion’s top prize. Keeping in mind that the larger than life stars (Hogan, Hall and Nash) didn’t start kicking WWE’s fanny until 1997, and that Hart’s first title run was in 1992 and Michaels in 1995, and that Stone Cold Steve Austin (also a non-typical larger than life star with actual wrestling talent and ability that, while not on par with The Great Muta, was well advanced beyond the solid five maneuvers of Hogan, Andre the Giant and Big John Studd) was also deemed the “Man,” why are we coerced to accept the grimness of a Batista-led WWE?
What about the future? If we are supposed to believe in the harsh reality that guys like Batista are the only type of stars to be pushed by this promotion, then we cannot ignore the obvious reality that stars like Sheamus (really?), Cesaro (whom it took years for WWE to pick up in the first place and, despite being the typical superstar, has yet to be pushed to the moon like Sheamus because he has discernible wrestling talent), Big E (short and Black, given we haven’t had a “Black” WWE Champion since…never…and The Rock isn’t included because he rarely acknowledges his “Blackness” in public, opting to speak more of his Samoan heritage than anything else), Bray Wyatt (another non-typical WWE wrestler, sent back to developmental after being unable to capitalize off of a lackluster gimmick), and Roman Reigns (bright future but ain’t no way he’s getting a fast track to the “Man” status after similar jaunts failed miserably for Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio) are at least a calendar year away from being catapulted into the main event stratosphere. Real talk.
What’s left to do? We can begrudgingly accept Batista as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion and as the larger than life superstar the promotion loves to flaunt to the public, but that reality is accompanied with the reality that his transitional reign will ultimately be a stepping stone for Daniel Bryan. When Batista disappears to promote Guardians of the Galaxy, Daniel Bryan will still be there. When Alexander Rusev continues to come out, stand on a pedestal, and talk about bread pudding in Russian, Daniel Bryan will still be there. When Mojo Rawley debuts and bores the crowd to literal tears, Daniel Bryan will still be there.
In that sense Daniel Bryan is already the “Man” in that someone his size shouldn’t have made it as far as he has in the promotion, a path that was ultimately paved by CM Punk who really just followed in the footsteps of the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mankind, and Macho Man Randy Savage. And those aren’t simply moral victories; they are actual triumphs in an industry that has thrived and failed with the big as f**k stars at the helm (Diesel? Diesel?).
That’s the end of that tale. The bus-i-ness may never evolve to a point where one’s work rate is perceived to be a more valuable commodity than one’s size and look, but to accept on it’s own merit is to also imply that the fans are just as incapable of evolving as the bus-i-ness is itself. After all, if a given promotion continues to push guys that “look” like wrestlers (and the ‘E isn’t the only one doing it) instead of guys that “are” wrestlers, and we continue to invest our time and money into them and write scathing blogs about it all…*ahem ahem*…what makes us more pure than the promotions we accuse of being evil?
Speaking of evolution, have we looked at the NXT roster lately? I do believe Mason Ryan to be one of a handful of stars on the roster that resembles The Ultimate Warrior…and this is the “future” of the company.
Just Listen and Learn.
I have a problem with everyone’s “perception” of the WWE Network. For starters, the damn thing isn’t even out yet.
You can trash-talk a brand new sports-car all you want and base it on a bunch of pre-conceived notions (i.e doors are slanted funny, no convertible top, lacks a built-in toaster oven) but until you invest in one and drive it, or at least test-drive someone else’s (because this is the era of mooching) all of those aforementioned pre-conceived notions mean precisely dick.
Like everything else in wrestling, would-be analysts and “fans” are rushing to wherever they see other “fans” like a bunch of Pygmy Sasquatches ready to follow the herd off a cliff.
This is one of the more serious problems with the internet-era of pro wrestling. Everyone thinks they’re an analyst. Considering that half the idiots I see trolling dirt sheet message boards can’t even spell the word “analyst”, I’ll explain.
an·a·lyst noun \ˈa-nə-ləst\
: a person who studies or analyzes something
See that up there? That’s the definition of analyst. In order to analyze it, you have to study it. In order to study it, you need to have access to it. In order to access it, it has to be made available to you.
Everyone who supports TNA took half a listen to a few sentences about TNA’s decision to cut back from 12 PPVs a year to 4 and called it revolutionary. That’s because the majority of pro-wrestling “analysts” are just jaded fans who will blindly accept anything given to them if it sounds like what they want.
We’ve had long discussions about the difference between giving fans what they want and giving them what they like. Thing is, how did that PPV thing turn out for TNA? Horribly.
We went from gawdawful storylines and really crappy booking decisions that went month to month to gawdawful storylines and really crappy booking decisions that had to be stretched over three month periods because suddenly, there were no events to make major story developments at.
Case in point, TNA “fans”, who are really just TN-Ablers, heard the words “PPV” and “format change” and immediately lauded it as the best thing in pro wrestling, something that would assuredly take TNA to the top where they’ve been denied their glory for so long.
Here’s where I hit you with some truth, and this is why folks don’t always like my writing; because I have this tendency to be right before the question is even asked.
The cream rises to the top.
Yeah, it’s a cliché but it’s the truth. If a promotion or wrestler is talented enough, works hard enough and gets the right break at the right time, they rise to the top. That’s why, in hindsight, everyone needs to chill the hell out about Daniel Bryan. WWE makes questionable decisions all the time.
Pro wrestling is about egos and those get in the way of plans all the time but the WWE is not stupid.
They were making plenty of bad booking decisions in 2004 but they were still smart enough to know solid gold when they saw it and in 2004, that was John Cena. In 2014, a decade later, that solid gold is Daniel Bryan.
Bryan will get where he needs to go. Whether it happens at this year’s WrestleMania is another story but we’ll burn that bridge when we get to it. I digress.
If TNA really wanted to be at the top, they’d be there. Or as close as they could reasonably get. Honestly, TNA could produce the best wrestling and stories in the world (and no, despite the good they achieved during their best years, it still wasn’t the best in the world) and they’d still lose to WWE. That’s just straight facts.
TNA doesn’t have the resources or the brand awareness or the business acumen to even shine WWE’s crappiest pair of worn out high school prom shoes. But in a perfect world, with a better TV deal, smarter folks at the helm and a helluva lot more resources, TNA would exist as a legit number two promotion.
If they wanted to.
The thing is, they seem to know that they won’t ever get near the number two spot. So they gradually stopped trying. Now, it’s just sad to watch them sputter along, wasting a perfectly good TV spot.
I say all this because my above analysis of TNA isn’t based on pre-conceived notions or jumping to early conclusions. It’s based on studying and watching this promotion and following their decisions over a span of years.
Don’t make the mistake of jumping all over the WWE for the Network and assuming they’ll start slacking on PPV quality because they have guaranteed subscribers watching (the most popular argument currently).
It may sound counter-intuitive but WWE actually has more pressure on them with guaranteed viewers than they did when they were earning PPV buys. The people who had the choice to buy the PPVs were going to buy them or not regardless. A lot of them would base their decisions on, you guessed it, pre-conceived notions.
Still, look at Netflix. They make questionable decisions all the time but when your customers are subscribers who are now actively paying a monthly fee for your stuff, you HAVE to deliver the goods. Netflix delivers the goods. Don’t believe me? Go ask the former CEO of Blockbuster why that chain no longer exists.
Now that WWE has guaranteed PPV viewers and content subscribers, the pressure is on more than ever before to pick up the steam and deliver top-notch programming. Because WWE Network can’t survive on just old school viewers who buy it to re-live the glory days.
WWE Network will be supported by people who want the best wrestling in the world.
This company will continue making questionable decisions but in order to keep subscribers and attract new ones, they’ll have to deliver. But if you don’t believe me, it’s no worry to me.
Just don’t base that opinion off of pre-conceived notions.
If you don’t like it, then don’t watch it.
If promotions gained one nickel for every time this phrase was uttered by a disgruntled pro wrestling fan, the industry could survive for years without seeing any increase in viewership, buyrates, advertising revenue or merchandise/ticket sales.
The more you think about that phrase and reflect on it, the more it sounds like a banal ultimatum dished out from the frustration that comes with relentlessly defending a given promotion’s product. Depending on how it’s said, it can even come off as a threat … if you don’t like it, then don’t watch it … OR ELSE …
One of the cool things about being a pro wrestling fan is that our little community is far more diverse and divided than any other group of individuals supporting a sport or form of entertainment. Our diversity is what makes our conversations, debates, video blogs and scathing editorials so fun; we can agree to disagree on a lot of things, but very few can deny our (misguided?) passion and love of this form of sports entertainment.
This being said, it is improbable that the breadth and width of sports entertainment fandom will ever be uniform in its thoughts or expressions of such. However, because we’re conditioned from birth to believe one particular way is THE “right” way, here we are faced with a baseless and futile warning disguised as a declaration of intense and passionate conviction.
The “either-or” debate amongst wrestling fans is old, tired and quite frankly very pointless in this twenty-first century. It’s foundation is comprised of antiquated notions that assume “hatred” or “dislike” of a product is synonymous with constructive or unfavorable criticism. The deliciously ironic point of it all is that the more sophisticated a fan we imagine ourselves to be, the more we rely on schoolyard tactics and prepubescent defense mechanisms to support our diverse and subjective opinions. It’s almost as if we’re constantly teetering over the precipice of ending our diatribes with “Nanny nanny boo boo.”
We Americans living in the United States tend to take our constitutional right of free speech very seriously, so much so that we spend an ample amount of time
forcing coercing folks to keep their opinions to themselves and adopt the status quo’s perception of life and all things around it. When it comes to pro wrestling and/or sports entertainment, we’d rather surround ourselves with like minded individuals and, when in times of assault from non-like minded individuals, we circle the wagons and shoo the naysayers away instead of inviting them in for tea, biscuits, and a rousing discussion on our likes and dislikes.
Then again, who has time nowadays to engage anyone in lighthearted palavering to discover the root of our consternation? I’m right, you’re wrong, now go away!
We all would love for the world to be more simple than it is, but the reality is that the complexities that dominate life require more than 140 characters or the length of a sitcom to fix. It’s easy to dismiss someone’s ramblings as “hate,” because one won’t have to confront the truth embedded deep within someone’s criticism of the product or even acknowledge that the “other” has a valid point buried underneath a sea of harsh words and unflattering commentary. The only logical next step is to dismiss the “hater” by telling them to take their opinions elsewhere, leaving everyone else resting comfortably in the tranquil seas of their own encouraging thoughts.
Here’s the deal: who’s to say one “hates” a product when they speak unfavorably about it (unless they say for themselves that they “hate” it; that’s a different story altogether), and who are we to dictate what they
should can or cannot watch? And get this: the same people we encourage to stop watching a given promotion’s product are also the same people we also claim aren’t watching the product to begin with! Such is the hypocrisy of being a pro wrestling fan, and the situation is far more intricate than our feeble attempts to nudge a few naysayers out of the building.
Contrary to popular belief, television ratings matter a big deal to wrestling promotions and it all goes back to something I’ve talked about incessantly on this website. Wrestling promotions are BUSINESSES, and businesses in these capitalist consumer driven United States are in business to make MONEY. A given promotion convinces a major network or one of its affiliates to give them money to air their product, and in return the network can charge other companies to air commercials for products during the time slots in which these wrestling promotions air their product.
The ratings are a way that networks can gauge how many people are watching a given show at a given time; the networks use those ratings to base how much they charge advertisers off of the type and number of people watching a show at a given time. The more and more the audience for a particular show grows, the more networks can charge advertisers to air their commercials. In turn, the wrestling promotions charge the networks more money to air their particular show on that particular network.
All this is to say that it seems ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS TO ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO STOP WATCHING A GIVEN PROMOTION’S PRODUCT FOR ANY REASON UNDER THE SUN. If anything, and I mean anything, we’d want MORE PEOPLE TO WATCH A GIVEN SHOW seeing as so many entities (including the promotion) place goo-gobs of money on the number of people watching the show. I like the way MVP put it recently:
Then there’s this notion of how we understand the phrase “don’t like.” What does it exactly mean when someone “doesn’t like” something? How do we quantify our “dislike” for a given product, especially when a presumed offender never comments on whether or not they actually “dislike” the product in discussion?
If a fan truly hates or dislikes a particular product, that fan won’t need to be told to “not watch it” because they’re not watching it to begin with. Clearly the phrase “if you don’t like it, then don’t watch it” can’t be directed at that particular demographic.
What about the fans who watch the product just to criticize, the fans MVP mentioned in his tweets? Despite the criticism a naysayer must like the product enough to be bothered to watch it, even if it is just to complain. If a naysayer’s criticism about the product is without merit (and ONLY if it’s without merit), then what constructive use of time is it to complain or go in on unfounded remarks or unnecessarily skewed opinions? I just feel like yelling at mice would yield a more fruitful return than huffing and puffing about someone who doesn’t like a show simply because it exists.
Here’s a suggestion, and it’s only one suggestion: let fans watch what they want to watch and let fans criticize what they want to criticize. As long as the sun shines, people will always have something to say about something and people are going to do whatever the hell they want to do. But, as intelligent pro wrestling fans, let’s save ourselves some trouble by focusing our time on getting to the substance of criticism instead of dismissing it altogether in order to keep ourselves coddled in the warmth of an idealized storybook version of pro wrestling fandom.
Instead of encouraging naysayers to disappear, why not encourage them to actually tune in to the product and view it from a different perspective than once before? If a particular fan finds a given product atrocious and refuses to watch it, why not have a productive discussion about why they hate the product and choose not to watch it? These things, to me, seem to be a lot more beneficial to our conversations and debates than pouting, frowning, and resorting to the lowest common denominator of being cocooned in our fluffy plush happy feelings.
Then again, what the hell do I know? I’m just a pro wrestling/sports entertainment fan who’s at least willing to invest in a product enough to speak highly for it or against it; that’s really what it’s all about, right?
When I was 14-years-old, I felt like no one understood me. I went to an inner-city middle school where I, hot pink hair and all, stood out like sore thumb. I wore Doc Martens, a necklace of soda can tabs, and carried a backpack riddled with music quotes written in White-Out. My teachers all thought I was smart but an underachiever, and could not fathom what kind of parents let their child walk around with crazy hair and a bad attitude.
My home life had been a tad chaotic as of late and my mom had just moved to help my sister with her growing family. My dad knew as much about raising a teenage girl as I did about growing a mustache and his idea of handling my budding hormones and dealing with emotional outbursts was a pat on the head (literally, we are not a hugging bunch) and a bag of Hot Cheetos.
I ended up living with my best friend’s family before starting my freshman year of high school. In times of change or turmoil, watching wrestling with my dad remained my constant. As a kid, I had high dreams and aspirations of becoming a wrestler someday but, much like how I stood out at school, I did not look like any of the women wrestlers I watched on television. I didn’t want to wear a dress and escort people to the ring and be eye candy; I wanted to wrestle.
That all changed the night I saw Amy Dumas, AKA Lita, nail a male wrestler with a moonsault. I was mesmerized and I just kind of sat there with my mouth hanging open. Not only did this woman not look like the other women wrestlers, she was bad ass.
It’s an almost indescribable feeling when something finally clicks within yourself and you can feel an old passion being reignited. As a young girl, I never resonated with the female wrestlers I saw on television because they did not wrestle. I imitated Shawn Michael’s moves, The Undertaker’s moves, etc. The wrestlers I wanted to be like were all male because that is all there was to look up to wrestling wise.
Lita was like a breath of fresh air in a stale period for women’s wrestling. Her passion and fearlessness inspired me and I finally felt like there was a strong female wrestler who was easy on the eyes, but came out with a purpose and looked like she could actually fight and might just be crazy enough to do so. She was believable.
To me, Lita will always be the best Women’s Champion, followed by Trish as a close second and honestly, both those women really did something special. They fed off of each other and they both just went for it. To this day I have never seen/heard a crowd so into a Diva’s match since they headlined Monday Night Raw on December 6, 2004. When is the last time a crowd, positively, chanted a Diva’s name as loudly and excitedly as they would John Cena or CM Punk?
I instantly became a fan of hers and have remained one to this day. It was announced last night on Monday Night Raw that she will be inducted into the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame and it’s about damn time. I felt like her exit with the WWE was handled poorly (they did her dirty) and I feel like this was a step in the right direction towards making things right. As a fan, I was disgusted with how they let her go out, and to be honest that whole “Diva’s Division” has not been right since.
So congratulations Amy Dumas, and congratulations to WWE for finally getting something right as it pertains to women’s wrestling.
I almost cried the day Kassius Ohno was released from his WWE developmental contract in November of last year.
My frustration and disappointment at Ohno’s release wasn’t due to my feeling that he “deserved” to be on the main roster, and it wasn’t due to despising the promotion for “holding down” another talented wrestler in order to push someone they deemed more marketable and “controllable,” if you will.
My frustration and disappointment was a result of my feeling that I’d never get to see Chris Spradlin, also more popularly known as Chris Hero, showcase his skills and talents under the bright lights on the WWE’s main roster; and despite his highly positive attitude regarding his release and his optimism towards returning to the company in the future, I could not shake the sneaking suspicion that I’d never ever see him in a WWE ring again.
I relayed these feelings in brief to members of our L.E.W.D. Crew during one of our regular daily conversations. In so many words Mr. Gammon was the first to offer some profound advice that, although intended to paint the picture in a more positive light, enabled me to explain in more definitive terms the very feelings I expressed about my frustration and disappointment a few moments ago.
To paraphrase Mr. Gammon’s comments, he stated what should have been the obvious … “Life will go on; it isn’t the end of the world or WWE.”
As much as tore at my insides to admit it, Mr. Gammon was right. The entertainment business is known for cute, pithy statements such as, “The show must go on,” and “One monkey don’t stop no show.” These phrases tell those in the entertainment business that no matter what happens—when lights cut off, when fans start to boo, and in some cases when the actors and actresses are injured—the production must continue at all costs. It takes millions of dollars to produce a show and a flub, no matter how large or how small, cannot stop a multimillion dollar project from concluding. Chris Spradlin’s release from the WWE was a road bump that could not stop or hinder the massive and monstrous sports entertainment machine from barreling down the highway of financial success and popular prominence.
It was astute observation within Spradlin’s comments that gave me comfort and solace as I mourned his release. Spradlin stated the following, “When things happen that we don’t like, it’s our instinct look for answers. We get sad. We get mad. In this situation, there’s nothing to be sad about! And rather than being angry about what has happened, I want you all to be happy about what’s going to happen! I’ll be back with a vengeance, I assure you. The best way to support me is with positive energy.” To this very day I still feel especially moved and inspired by Spradlin’s words; in the midst of feeling down and out regarding the situation, here he was—released from his opportunity to wow the world as a WWE Superstar—giving me hope that his best was still yet to come. I respected Spradlin as a performer and a person before he arrived in the WWE, and had even more respect for him after reading those words.
Spradlin’s words helped me realize that his wrestling career couldn’t be solely defined by a stint in World Wrestling Entertainment, Incorporated. Just because Spradlin walked away from the ‘E, be it by his own choice or the decision of someone else above his pay grade, didn’t necessarily mean that he wouldn’t be able to entertain wrestling fans all around the globe. He wouldn’t have the WWE’s marketing machine or stamp of authenticity on his career, but Spradlin chose to face the opportunity with dignity and poise, opting to remain positive about his situation and pushing forward with his career rather than languishing in the hatred and bile that often follows disgruntled ex-employees and pissed off fans.
Much like WWE, Chris Spradlin was determined to let his fans and all of us know that a kink in the plans wouldn’t stop him from being the awesome wrestler and entertainer that he is and will be. If he remained positive about his situation, who was I to throw pity parties for him when even he desired in some way for me to look on the bright side of it all?
It goes without saying that we fans have a profound respect for the men and women who bust their asses performing for us non-stop almost every day of the calendar year. We treasure them, look up to them as role models, and aspire to have the same discipline, drive and focus that they exhibit when making their media rounds or even working out at gyms across the country and the world. Because we hold them in such high regard, it becomes easy for us to feel for them one way or another when something good or bad happens to them in their careers. We feel connected to them so much that their triumphs and setbacks belong just as much to us as they do to them. They are our heroes and heroines, and we live vicariously through all they accomplish and all they experience.
It’s a very curious thing; we feel nothing for the single parent that needs government assistance to raise a child or the restaurant workers who make less than minimum wage and get fired because we complained about the temperature of our mashed potatoes. When our favorite wrestler(s) get released, however, it’s a completely different story …
This is the very phenomenon that is occurring with CM Punk as we speak. With rampant speculation regarding his departure from WWE spreading like wildfires in the west, fans have taken to the internet to voice their opinions on the state of affairs within the promotion more so than anything Phil Brooks has had to say about the release himself. To say it plainly, it appears Phil Brooks’ departure from the promotion is largely due to him being unsatisfied with the company he works for. Our very own Corbin Macklin (also a native of Chicago, by the way) did an excellent job of showing us why Brooks’ may have been completely and utterly frustrated with working for WWE.
As bystanders on the outside looking in, we can understand why Brooks threw up his hands and walked away from the promotion. Phil Brooks didn’t need the WWE paycheck as he reportedly saved his money wisely. Phil Brooks doesn’t really need the WWE machine to push or promote him at this point if he desires to continue wrestling. Phil Brooks, like several wrestlers before him, had accrued enough sway and respect during his time in the promotion to afford him the extremely rare option to simply walk away when he had become bored with the way his CM Punk character was being utilized; that is a privilege and gift that is not afforded to all superstars or divas.
At the heart of it all, Phil Brooks’ chose to do what was good for Phil Brooks, because “one monkey don’t stop no show.” It was Brooks’ opinion that the dog-and-pony escapades of WWE were too much for him to tow any longer, so instead of wasting the promotion’s time and money he opted to step away while he still had the opportunity to do so. While it is questionable whether or not his actions were professional or appropriate, we fans cannot forget that Brooks’ sanity and physical well-being are the most important factors to consider. Brooks also mentioned that he was suffering from a yet to be diagnosed illness that has plagued him for some time, noting that the hectic WWE schedule did not allow time for him or doctors to even figure out what he’s afflicted with.
All of these important factors are at play, but as impassioned fans living in the 21st Century we find comfort in imposing our experiences on others or situations outside of our own reality. We see the world in a particular way and expect everyone else to see it as we do. Very few will express their own thoughts as such, and will acquiesce to popular notions that have validity but are strewn about without context or constructive criticism. So while Phil Brooks talks about his health, about how he’s good friends with Dave Batista, about how Daniel Bryan is a top talent and how he’s faring financially, the only thing we fans have focused on is CM Punk’s opinion of the direction of the company. It’s CM Punk’s opinion that validates our opinions about the company, justifies our hatred for the company, and feeds into our insatiable need and desire to rage against the WWE machine.
People in general have always had a problem with being told or directed to do something, feel something, or be something they don’t desire to do or be of their own will. It’s almost as if humans are rebellious by nature; even speaking in biblical terms, the first humans created disobeyed one simple instruction for seemingly no other reason than the notion that they were convinced they knew better than the omnipotent being that created them.
Teenagers disobey their parents, employees disobey their employers, and consumers disregard the piracy warnings issued by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). This reality of life is seen more clearly in our relationship today with the federal government of the United States, particularly the President Obama Administration. People truly feel as if the government under the current administration is creeping more and more into the private lives of citizens and civilians, even though this process in numerous ways started well before the current presidential administration (*cough couch PATRIOT ACT*).
It is often said that art imitates life; if this is true, and entertainment is a form of art, the there’s no wonder why the current storyline of choice for the top two wrestling promotions in the country deals heavily with corrupt authority figures and the “victims” of such cruel regimes fighting against the grain that is attempting to hold them down and force them to do things they don’t want to do. In an extreme case of blurring the lines between the real and scripted, Phil Brooks’ sudden departure from the company, along with the current Authority storyline and the exclusion of Daniel Bryan from the actual Royal Rumble match, feeds into our already deeply rooted suspicions that the company is simply out to control its workers and hold back (or down) certain workers that “deserve” better than what they’re currently receiving. Brooks’ departure gives us one more reason to despise the machine, to protest violently with ultimatums and coarse language we believe will force the machine to change its ways.
Even Brooks’ admitted in his “Pipe Bomb” promo three years ago that the machine would continue its forward locomotion without him, one spoke on one wheel of a massive contraption equipped with many spare wheels and spokes. With this one spoke currently gone from the WWE, not much will change especially since it seems as if the fans (and perhaps Vince McMahon) were the only ones who recognized just how important that spoke was in the grand scheme of things.
What we can appreciate about Brooks’ departure is the fact that it calls us fans to task for contributing to the machine, which places us in the all too familiar spot of hypocrisy that wrestling fans vacation in as much as newlyweds visit the Bahamas on their honeymoons. We hate the machine for what it did to CM Punk and justify the ludicrously high advertising rates paid to the promotion by watching their shows almost every day of the week. We despise the machine for not catering to our passing fancies and squeal with girlish glee as we wait for the launch of the WWE Network. We messed ourselves silly when we found out Dave Batista was returning to the company and messed ourselves angrily when he won the Royal Rumble. We wrestling fans, collectively speaking, are just big ass buckets of contradictions.
By choosing to walk out of the WWE, Phil Brooks sent a sobering message straight to the hearts of WWE fans worldwide that should be more important than any shoot promo he delivered during a televised WWE broadcast. The business is not immune from the same politics and bulls**t that we encounter on a regular basis, even to the extent where we know that real change may be impossible to achieve due to the massive nature of the institutions we operate in. But the thing that defines who we are and where we stand is our activity or inactivity when facing opposition.
If we don’t like being told to cheer for Batista’s main event match at WrestleMania 30, then all of us should make sure that the promotion’s biggest and most important pay per view of the year gets the lowest buyrate and turnout in the history of WWE. If we don’t like the fact that wrestlers like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler are being “underutilized or buried,” then we should all head over to Shop.WWE.com and purchase as much of their apparel as we possibly can. If we don’t like the fact that the muscle-bound Greek god-like wrestlers are pushed and promoted more so than the true workers, we should invest more of our time in watching shows like NXT to see how the next crop of wrestlers are actually very far from being the larger-than-life stars that dominated the promotion’s product in the past.
If we truly want to support bonafide wrestlers and superstars like Phil Brooks and Chris Spradlin, we’ll follow their careers outside of the WWE with the same fervor and passion we did when they while they showcased their finely honed skills within the confines of Vince McMahon’s squared circle.
It’s perfectly fine for us to be frustrated and pissed off about the current direction of the product and the release of our favorite superstars. The bottom line is that if we stay too focused and mired in the mess of what has happened, we are not empowered and inspired to do what we can as fans to look toward the future of the business and the WWE’s product.
Take the following closing thought as you go about your day: while most fans were extremely upset about Daniel Bryan’s exclusion from the Royal Rumble match, they completely ignored the fact that both Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns had very impressive showings during the pay per view. The departure of CM Punk from the company leaves one hell of a spot open for either Reigns or Wyatt to assume and make the most of …
… but we’d never know, because we’re too busy being pissed off that the machine keeps holding people down … even if the show must truly roll on …
I was out on a morning troll when I came across some fantasy booking on a pro wrestling fan site. A commenter creates a unique storyline for a real-life development occurring in a promotion, and before completing his/her opening statement drops the following jewel in the middle of it all:
… push the guys the fans want to see …
Needless to say this comment and the thought process intrigued me enough to bring it to our lovely L.E.W.D. shores for an insightful and invigorating conversation.
With no offense or ill will intended for the commenter or the site they drafted their opinion on, it’s quite fascinating how people tend to operate more often than not off of their feelings without giving consideration to the context of their feelings or the experiences of those around them. All that is to say that this notion of “pushing the guys the fans want to see” tends to come off extremely shortsighted because there several underlying assumptions that are never addressed or considered when speaking about pushing the guys the “fans want” to see.
And there it is; the two most important words in that statement are “fans want.” Whether one stands to admit it or not, our hopes and expectations about a given pro wrestling product are intricately bound by the idea that corporations give consumers what consumers want. To an extent that is true, but it can be quite misleading for the fan that has quietly assimilated into the Generation ME lifestyle.
Corporations don’t give consumers what consumers want; corporations sell consumers what consumers are willing to pay for. When this process happens long enough, we become “convinced” that the corporation is “giving” us what we “want.” No matter how many miles one walks and how many pounds one wants to shed, McDonald’s will still continue to sell Big Macs because people are still willing to buy Big Macs.
As we’ve said many times on this site before, it’s all about money. These United States of America are ruled by the color green; we are all capitalists and there are more companies (and individuals) than not who give more of a damn about profit margins than they do about what you and I want. Companies provide a particular product or service for a price, and the ebb and flow of their business models shift and surge depending solely on what they can get consumers to buy. The more money a product or service can bring in, the more it’ll be shoved into our faces accompanied with advertising and marketing intentionally designed to convince us “this is what we want, this is what we need” in order to do x-y-z in life.
The same rule of thumb applies to a given wrestling promotion; a promotion will offer fans someone they’ll pay to see, which sometimes can be the person that fans “want” to see. When that doesn’t happen, however, a lot of hurt feelings and raw emotions are expressed via the interweb. The reality of it all is that just because fans want to see a particular star doesn’t necessarily mean those same fans (or other fans) are willing to pay to see that star in a prominent position.
The tragic part of it all is that consumers often “want” something more deeper and intricate than what they’re given or what they’re told they want.
Let’s take everyone’s favorite broski Zack Ryder as an example. Three years ago Ryder successfully utilized social media to gain a very vocal cult following. Fans rallied behind Ryder enough to the point where he was given a safe and solid push from the powers that be. At the time there was no doubt that Zack Ryder was someone that a lot of fans “wanted to see,” and that was never really in question.
The question was whether or not we would pay to see Zack Ryder in a more prominent role higher than the mid-card. As exceptional a talent as Zack Ryder is, it became obvious that the same legion of fans who rallied for his push were also the same ones who wouldn’t put enough green down for him to have more than a cup of coffee in the upper mid-card. Our response to such instances is to blame the promotion, but a promotion can’t financially survive off of feeding into the fans’ fleeting emotions.
The other perspective to consider as fans is whether or not we understand completely the vast spectrum of fandom that exists inside of pro wrestling. Not all fans are alike and not all fans “like” or “want” the same thing. We often speak of ourselves in blanket terms without even thinking of the differences of opinion that are present among us. Every time a fan chants “Let’s go Cena,” they’re greeted by a resounding chorus of “Cena Sucks!” responses. As cute and enchanting as the dueling chants can be, it also shows us in very simple terms that wrestling fans don’t always think alike. We’re a dynamic group of individuals who can collectively enjoy and critique the product while also having uniquely different ideas that explain why we like or dislike the product.
To blithely say or assume that a promotion should push guys “fans want to see” is to also assume, without saying, that all fans want to see one particular wrestler and that all fans will pay to see that same wrestler. No matter how we look at “the business,” it’s a form of entertainment that moves along with what consumers are willing to pay to see. With fans having varying tastes that can literally change overnight without notice, the guys fans want to “see” could switch at any given time plus the fact that there may be six to seven different guys that different fans want to “see” pushed.
On July 12, 2012, Austin Aries defeated Bobby Roode to become the new TNA World Heavyweight Champion at the Destination X pay per view. Aries’ reign came after he received a strong push upon his return to TNA which also led to a reinvigorated X-Division. Aries’ reign, however, lasted all of three months by the time he was defeated by Jeff Hardy at Bound for Glory that same year.
Over one year later in July 2013, well-known X-Division star Chris Sabin defeated Bully Ray to win his very first TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Sabin’s reign came after his return to TNA in May 2014 after recuperating from his second ACL injury. Sabin’s reign lasted less than a month as he lost the title to the former champion.
Both Aries and Sabin were fan favorites that fans wanted to “see” receive a push. With so much fervor behind them, why is it that their combined reigns lasted less than half a year? Even more sobering is the fact that the combined five reigns of Jeff Hardy and Bully Ray lasted for over a year and two months.
We can assume that Jeff Hardy and Bully Ray had more drawing power as champs, or we could blame the powers that be for not putting their all behind pushing the guys “fans wanted to see.” Whichever direction we decide to drift towards we cannot deny or ignore that the preeminent names in TNA between 2011 and 2012 were Hardy and Bully Ray; it wasn’t so much that the machine invested in them heavily (which is a part of the situation), but it also had to do with the fact that both men were individuals people paid good money to see and less to do with whether fans by and large “wanted” to see them per se.
To wrap things up, we cannot forget that “the business” is out to make money and cannot realistically operate by floating precariously on the whims of a fickle fan base. At the end of the day, we are paying (in most cases) these promotions to entertain us, and as a large and varied group of consumers these promotions must put players in place that will generate revenue to keep their businesses barreling towards the black and not moon walking towards the red. Because our likes are varied and because our likes change as often as folks change their drawes [sic], it’d be completely asinine for any promotion with the good sense given to them at birth to operate solely and completely off of what fans “say” they want at a given minute, especially if that particular fan base is miniscule and fair weather in nature … case in point …
We fans have a right to like what we like; we fans also have a right to expect a promotion to entertain us when we’re paying them to do so. But we must be realistic when viewing the product, understanding that guys the fans want to see pushed also have to be the guys fans will pay to see pushed. All the chants and petitions and crowd signs in the world won’t move a promotion’s top brass as much as revenue will. Period.
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:
Chestnuts. Bowel movement.
Breakout Star of the Year: Presented by John Laurinaitis
Other nominees: Fandango; Big E. Langston
As much as I praise the Shield, I can’t help but think that the Wyatt Family has done just a good a job in their take over of this company as the Shield, metaphorically speaking. My arguments have been made in the “Tag Team” and “Faction” categories, and you could argue that “Breakout Star” could be divided into individual and group categories (though I’d likely say Reigns standalone is the real breakout star) but in terms of impact, from the sheer reaction both groups get to the way they play their parts so well, it’s hard to determine between the two. The number of belts can’t be a determining factor either because this is about who’s made the greatest impact since they started versus how successful they’ve been thus far in the ring.
Yeah, I know how that looks and sounds but it makes something akin to sense. What really interests me is that Big Johnny is gonna be in the spotlight again! I like John Laurinaitis, and not just because I do a mean Johnny Ace impression. If he references “People Power” and points his finger and maintains that wooden smile that would make even the Enzyte guy take on a pensive look of confusion, it won’t MATTER who wins because WE win.
“THIS IS AWESOME!” Moment: Presented by Christian
DiZ pick: Bryan wins the WWE Championship @ SummerSlam (write-in)
Nominees: Bryan wins the WWE Championship @ Night of Champions; Ziggler cashes in his Money in the Bank contract; Big Show knocks Triple H out; Kofi Kingston hops on a chair @ Royal Rumble
Two things. One: I told you that there would be a few write-ins. Two: when someone says “THIS IS AWESOME!” there’s a good chance the first name to come to mind isn’t “Christian”. No disrespect or anything, but really? Christian? Couldn’t of… couldn’t of brought Edge back for a night to present with him?
I’m just nitpicking. When the crowd chants “THIS IS AWESOME!” (clap, clap, clap clap clap) they usually talk about something so great or a match so spectacular that they’re moved to do something… out of the ordinary! Like stand up! Or cheer! Or pay a bit more attention to what’s going on!
Still nitpicking! Saying something is awesome has always been something “niche-y” for me, likely because I have such high standards. I don’t dislike Summer Rae: I just REALLY liked Andrea Lynn. I don’t hate Kofi Kingston: I just REALLY think he’s happy being mediocre. I don’t want Jerry Lawler off Raw: I just… well, actually, maybe I do… the point is it takes something TRULY incredible to make me do the “THIS IS AWESOME!” (clap, clap, clap clap clap) thing, and of the four things they gave me I can’t say any of them really made me jump up and say it.
Kofi Kingston always does something at the Royal Rumble to stay in longer, but like when I spoke of Heyman and his insane volcano rant, it’s expected. It’s hardly anything special too. Doing a handstand to walk around and get back in the ring? Meh, it was nice, sure. Riding a chair to do it? Meh, it was nice, sure. As gimmicky as the Royal Rumble is you might be surprised to find that the one thing I don’t care for so much in that gimmicky match is – wait for it… – GIMMICKS! We all KNOW the smiling African is athletic, but oh my God: who, the hell, cares?!
The Big Show knocked Triple H out.
And? That doesn’t even get a funny video to go with it: it’s just standard! This is professional wrestling/sports entertainment: I EXPECT random acts of violence! How is a very expected act of violence awesome?!
Everyone was ready to see Dolph Ziggler cash in his contract for the longest, and when he did the roof exploded. We were happy, yay, but at the end of the day it wasn’t “awesome” so much as “due”. The same can be said of Daniel Bryan during Night of Champions, so I’m a bit confused as to why his win at SummerSlam wasn’t even up for grabs. Much like anything special, nothing quite beats the first time, and the first time Daniel Bryan won the coveted WWE Championship, with a crowd firmly and utterly on his side, with the crowd chanting and him in the corner gearing up to shove his knee into Cena’s face, THAT was an awesome moment, THE awesome moment in an awesome match. That’s my vote.
Mark Henry jumping is a close second too. Seriously: the man jumped. No running start, just a stationary jump. With that Mark Henry became the most terrifying character to ever exist in the world of professional wrestling and sports entertainment.
Beard of the Year: Presented by Santino Marella
DiZ pick: wait, THIS is getting a presenter but tag team doesn’t…? Wow… anyway, the Wyatt Family (crowned winner)
Other nominees: Daniel Bryan (uncrowned winner JUST because of that picture), Damien Sandow, Zeb Colter
In a last minute decision, I gave this to the Wyatt Family as opposed to Daniel Bryan. I may be old fashioned, but to me the ultimate sign of manliness, next to indulging in a language that doesn’t carry a phrase even remotely similar to “thank you”, is the facial hair. All great men have facial hair, and some of those great men shave the facial hair, knowing full well that they would be even more awesome if they kept the facial hair. But they also know how much of an aphrodisiac a man with good facial hair can be though (i.e. – me) so in order to give the ladies a well deserved break they chill.
Yes, whether it’s a magnificent mustache, or a bountiful beard or some succulent sideburns, facial hair is without a doubt a wonderful thing, so this category is missing a few people: Big Show, Brodus Clay, CM Punk, etc. This award is dedicated to the men who wear their facial hair with pride, and dignity, and stand like Captain Morgan in the malls, bars and concert halls because they know that their facial hair is code for, “I am sexy, and you will acknowledge me!”
That being said, this particular award is for beards, and that eliminates Colter because his defining feature is his magnificent mustache. Bryan and Sandow are two sides of a very interesting coin, because Bryan is unkempt and impulsive whereas Sandow is cleaned up and tactical, another nod to that Spartan/Athenian thing I mentioned yesterday.
Those Wyatt boys though: we’re talking three big guys with big, frighteningly amazing beards that reach their neck and stick out to kingdom come, and to top it off there are THREE of them. Three big beards on three big people, and one of them is even red. They win by default.
Trending Now (#Hashtag of the Year): Presented by Cody Rhodes and Goldust
DiZ pick: no seriously, Faction of the Year gets no presenter but this does…? Can’t pick a winner.
Nominees: #FollowTheBuzzards; #BelieveInTheShield; #BestForBusiness; #WeThePeople
This is one of those things you can track through quantity if you’re savvy enough. I actually like all four hashtags, even #BestForBusiness, but what about some of the lesser known ones? Like #MillionsOfDollars, or #ItsClobberinTime, or… or that awful #ChingleChingle? Can’t pick a winner in this one because frankly it’s pointless. It’s not even like the award belongs to anyone but the internet people who MADE it popular. Remember Angry Miz Girl? SHE deserved that award. She GOT that award.
Fan Participation of the Year: Presented by the Primetime Players
DiZ pick: “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
Other nominees: Fandango-ing; “Let’s go Cena!/Cena sucks!”; “What’s Up?”
Remember when everyone made a big deal of Jason Collins when he came out as gay, effectively making him the first gay athlete to actively play in a major professional American sport? Yeah, me neither. Told y’all that would pass by quick. Do you even know who he plays for at this point? Me neither, but I don’t follow the NBA or basketball in general all that much so it may just be my lack of interest. I bring this up to say the same about Darren Young. Everyone made a big deal out of him being gay, and then we just stopped caring. If anything it’s a nice nod to how far we’ve come in accepting people’s differences. The greatest sign of acceptance is total apathy and universal treatment.
Fan Participation of the Year is yet another category that stands as something the fans should have versus a particular Superstar or Diva. But unlike the previous one, how the crowd responds corresponds with the success of it. Take “What’s Up?” for example. “What’s Up?” is singular: it’s is only utilized in the times when R-Truth is out and serves as a call-and-response with the audience. At the same time, it shows the ignorance of the people in attendance. When a man asks “What’s up?”, he expects an answer, not the say question thrown back in his face, that’s not nice, it’s just not nice. Next time R-Truth screams “What’s up?”, tell him about your day. He asks “What’s up?”, talk about work a little bit, Mr. Killings is a terrific listener. He raps. Kind of. Kind of rappers are great at listening.
The same can be said of “Let’s go Cena!/Cena sucks!”. For one, it’s divisive, the new standard for the fans and detractors of John Cena alike. But the chant is restricted to John Cena and John Cena alone. That doesn’t SOUND like a problem, and in the grand scheme it isn’t, but in terms of fan participation it serves as a very isolated occasion. It’s a LOUD isolated occasion, but unless Super-Soldier (an amalgam of Superman and Captain America; he’s a real comic creation too) is out and about, it’s not done.
Now, that leaves Fandango-ing and Bryan’s ode to the affirmative. Fandango-ing would be a sure fire winner IF it was a reaction by the crowd FOR Fandango. What do I mean? Fandango-ing became a “thing” in that now infamous Raw following Wrestlemania. The crowd was hyped. They started humming and hokey-pokey-ing and singing ChaCha LaLa why? Because they were bored! Because they were so uninterested in what was going on in the ring that along with doing arena wide waves and impromptu chants! Make no mistake: that amazing crowd was amazing in spite of the show going on that evening. If anything, they serve as a cold reminder that if the product isn’t entertaining then they’ll find a way to MAKE it entertaining. It wouldn’t hurt to go back and watch that episode of Raw to see if it was even that good to begin with. Fandango acknowledged the craze but didn’t actually embrace it; nor did Andrea Lynn, but she’s in my book of “women who can do no wrong”. Frankly I never understood WHY people started doing the John Witherspoon when the song came up.
Or the Ronald Isley, whichever you wanna call it.
But the Yes! chant is interesting. What you rarely hear is people chant FOR Cena to come out at any juncture. You don’t often hear that; you don’t hear them insert his name into things that he has no business in, like say a match between Tons of Funk and whoever. But the Yes! chant can permeate so many things, literally. In times where Daniel Bryan isn’t even a factor, the Yes! chant will erupt because people want to see Daniel Bryan. You could say that in this respect Daniel Bryan has surpassed Cena, because there isn’t a divisive element about him. People more or less universally love the goat. They root for him because he has shown himself to be the underdog, much like Chris Benoit did, and he had his Wrestlemania moment with Eddie Guerrero.
Yes! has prevailed because people WANT to see Daniel Bryan. The associate the word with Daniel Bryan, and in the span of a few years Daniel Bryan has become THE guy in the WWE. Sorry, casual viewers, but just because he doesn’t have an immediate rise it doesn’t mean they’ve just forgotten about him.
Extreme Moment of the Year: Presented by Mick Foley
DiZ pick: Mark Henry jumps (write-in)
Nominees: Shield triple powerbombs the Undertaker; Ryback spears Cena through the LED light board; CM Punk gets revenge on Heyman; The Wyatt Family crushes Kane
Look, I’m just gonna make it plain one more time. Just skip to 6:16. Hashtag: done.
“LOL!” Moment of the Year: Presented by the New Age Outlaws
DiZ pick: Zeb Colter “twerks” (write-in)
Nominees: doesn’t even matter.
Insult of the Year: Presented by The Miz
DiZ pick: AJ Lee versus the Total Divas (aka “AJ asserts herself as the HBIC in the WWE)
Other nominees: Stephanie McMahon degrades the Big Show; Paul Heyman disowns CM Punk; Zeb Colter offends the Universe
This was a no brainer. And you’ll have to excuse me because as I write this that gif of Colter “twerking” is showing and making me laugh. It’s not just the twerking, but the way Swagger’s eyes seem to follow Zeb as he goes up and down. Freaky. Anyway, AJ Lee’s promo damn near mirrors, albeit in a lighter fashion, CM Punk’s pipe bomb that set off so many alarms way back when. One of the earliest, and I’d argue valid (and play devil’s advocate too), arguments about the show Total Divas is that it does nothing but paint the Divas in the same light as some reality show nonsense akin to the Karadashians or something. Well there’s truth in that: the show really isn’t all that great. As far as scripted programs go, this one is quite “meh” at times, but there is a certain appeal to it. That being said, it WAS odd to me early on that the show focused on a handful of Divas leaving the others out in the cold (and at this point they’re leaving one of the Total Divas out in the cold too).
AJ Lee has been champion for a while now and it’s safe to say that she brings a breath of fresh air to a division overloaded with women who, if given the leeway, could probably pull off something all their own too. But part of that breath is that she doesn’t seem like the other Divas. She’s not a model in the traditional sense but she’s quite attractive; she’s no powerhouse; she doesn’t do traditional wrestling attire. She’s a character all her own who, for some reason, adopted a big Samoan bodyguard for… some reason. She goes in the ring, skips, plays mind games and wrestles. She wrestles. She’s not a doll; she’s an action figure.
The insult would have been better if the WWE seemed to follow up on it: that’s to say if they continued on with an actual war between the Total Divas and those who must not be total. I don’t mean seven-on-seven elimination tag matches but legitimate conflicts, or the Total Divas getting the Divas championship whereas those who aren’t… total (?) bring back the women’s championship. That’s conflict, and AJ sparked something great with her insult. The lack of decent follow-through is all that has left her all but wonderful pipe bomb as little more than a pleasant afterthought.
Match of the Year: Presented by Bret Hart
DiZ pick: Undertaker vs. Punk (Wrestlemania 29)
Other nominees: The Rock vs. John Cena (WM 29); Cody Rhodes and Goldust vs. Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns (Battleground); Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar (Extreme Rules)
I’d call shenanigans, but I will contain myself. I still say that the matches of the year belong to Daniel Bryan and Seth Rollins, but they can’t be part of this list because they weren’t PPV matches, I guess. Besides, the Undertaker/CM Punk match stands beside them as tremendous. For one, I don’t think it’s a match either one of them wanted. This is just my personal speculation talking, but I think I recall Punk saying he never wanted to have this match, and I don’t know about the Undertaker but I’m always weary about who he wants to face.
All the same, regardless of the feelings that might have been in that ring, it was a classic, 5-star match, and that’s saying something. That’s why I can’t speak on this match so much as just show it. Enjoy, viewer.
Double-Cross of the Year
DiZ pick: Mark Henry’s “retirement speech”
Other nominees: Triple H costs Daniel Bryan the WWE Championship; Shawn Michaels superkicks Daniel Bryan; Paul Heyman costs CM Punk a chance that the Money in the Bank contract
We were all fooled. We were all duped and we KNOW we were all duped. That man came out in his salmon-colored suit that I’m sure cost a good chunk of money and told the world that he was leaving the active roster of the WWE. He welled up, acknowledged the crowd, played along with them, he had me, in all my facial haired masculinity, dropping two tears in a bucket. He held that WWE Championship and looked so right. I was ready to say, “Damn you, WWE creative, DAMN YOU for not letting that man have ONE WWE title run!” And he dropped the mic. Cena came back into the ring to hug the man and hold his hand up in triumph. Mark Henry. What a guy! He’s a man! Such a man. He’s a real man’s man. And a classy man. A good man. That hug with Cena, that was worth it, it was good, it was a sign of respec… why is Henry lifting him up? WHY IS HE SLAMMING HIM?!
“YOU THINK IT’S THAT EASY?! I STILL GOT A LOT LEFT IN THE TANK!”
It was epic. I can use words all I want, but everything is summed up in this gif I made of Mark Henry picking up his jacket, dusting it off and throwing it over his shoulder. Like a boss. No other double-cross even comes close to this Grammy winning performance.
That’s right: that was such a compelling performance he deserves a MUSIC award for it!
Diva of the Year: Presented by Eve
DiZ pick: AJ Lee
Other nominees: The Bella Twins; The Funkadactyls; Natalya; Kaitlyn; Eva Marie
First of all: I LOVE Eve. Gonna be glad to see her again. Second, this was actually the hardest category for me to determine. Some people joke about the women’s division in the WWE but me, looking at who was up for these awkward looking awards, I had to really think about it.
I could eliminate Eva Marie right off the back because, and pardon my French, she’s a bitch. And I don’t mean the good kind, I mean she’s just awful. I liked her when she smacked Jerry Lawler, but after that I stopped liking her. So that left AJ, the Bellas, the Funkadactyls, Natalya and Kaitlyn. Kaitlyn kind of fell off, but she was always something of a powerhouse, and I’ve always liked Kaitlyn. Natalya is another powerhouse and she can actually move in that ring. The Funkadactyls are… well, I love and respect one and the other is pretty meh to me. And the Bellas are cool enough, but much like the Funkadactyls I only really appreciate one of them. Then there’s AJ. She’s cool.
So it really read more like: AJ, Brie Bella, Naomi, Natalya and Kaitlyn to me, and if I was going off of pure in-ring ability or athleticism, I’d cross of Kaitlyn for relative absence. Brie had to show up more with Nikki gone, and to her credit she stepped up. Naomi is athletic but her abilities are growing too.
I’m not being funny right now. That’s good. I like funny. So let’s skip the logistics. If I was going to choose the woman I enjoyed watching the most, it would be a toss up between Kaitlyn and Naomi, the former because of a Janet Jackson moment and the later because Mystikal is great. If was going off of success, then AJ Lee, for maintaining her title and being smart enough to hire a Samoan to watch her back.
I’ll be frank: it’s hard to be humorous with this because I’m taken back to that fatal four way match between AJ, Natalya, Naomi and Brie Bella at Night of Champions, which I have to admit wasn’t just a good match but one of the better matches on the card. That’s saying something: it was a LAME PPV. All four of them, by that regard, with that showing alone, a worthy of Diva of the Year, but my vote goes to the champion because she IS the champion. Granted, a championship does NOT mean you deserve a year-end award. Speaking of which…
Superstar of the Year: Presented by Shawn Michaels
DiZ pick: HAMMER! He’s too legit to quit!
Oh, okay, I’ll be serious. Shoot…
DiZ pick: Daniel Bryan
Other nominees: John Cena, Randy Orton, CM Punk, Brock Lesnar
Is an explanation even needed? Two-time WWE Champion Daniel Bryan is, without a shadow of a doubt, THE Superstar. The WWE didn’t strike gold with Bryan Danielson: Bryan Danielson came in, found the gold mine and plowed through it on the way to the blood diamond mines a thousand miles away. Calling him good is an understatement: his only real wrestling competition in the company comes from those who came up in the indies like him. He’s just as entertaining whether being a cowardly heel, or a corny face or a determine rebel with a cause. He’s bested all challengers, broken through any barriers that the lures of sports entertainment might have ever even tried to throw in his face and he does it all without introducing a comb to his face.
Cena and Orton are champions. Who cares? Punk is every bit Bryan’s equal. I say yes, but all the same, who cares? Lesnar can eat a table. I don’t give a f***! Daniel Bryan, through face and heel, good and bad, beard and shaved, has been the face of this company to the audience that cares about the company. I said it before and I’ll say it again: when you think of the Rock, you think of the WWE. When you think of Hogan, you think of professional wrestling. When you think of Cena, you think of pop culture. Will Bryan EVER be that big? Probably not, but the WWE SHOULD be concerned that someone in Tibet, weaving a basket out of wheat and cricket feces, knows the name Cena but don’t know what the hell he does.
No, Daniel Bryan is the finest example of a man paying his dues and making it big, from nothingness to greatness, and he took every step so he would be sure to cover the entire path. The man is living the life: he’s famous, he’s a multiple time champion, he’s engaged to the nice Bella, he doesn’t have to worry about a barber, and he not only has a clean victory over the human embodiment of pop culture at the second biggest PPV on the WWE’s calendar but he has a chant that follows him. A chant all his own. Yes. Yes. Yes.
Yes. Yes! Yes! Yes!
YES! YES! YES!
And that concludes the DiZ expositions on the Slammys for tonight. What are YOUR thoughts regarding the awards?
Apparently so, according to popular belief after fans worldwide witnessed the opening moments and match of Monday night’s episode of RAW. When returning superstar John Cena entered the area as the newly crowned World Heavyweight Champion, fans became ecstatic when Damien Sandow verbally and physically attacked him, using the opportunity to cash in his Money in the Bank contract. In an excellent match it wasn’t very long before the Champ rallied back with the momentum of Juggernaut and claimed victory over Sandow and his failed attempt to cash in his championship match contract.
Some would even venture to say that Sandow’s loss against Cena made him dead on arrival to the main event scene.
To no one’s surprise the word “burial” arose like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes of Damien Sandow’s defeat. The creature is currently enjoying a leisurely flight around the IWC, releasing its magical yet harmful droppings on the faces of fans gazing skyward, imploring the wrestling gawds for an answer that will appease and satiate their blank, slack-jawed gazes of consternation and dismay.
There exists a school of thought among these fans that believes Sandow’s MITB opportunity, and the MITB concept itself, was killed off with his high profile loss to a 14-time Heavyweight Champion. This perspective, although a legitimate reaction to Sandow’s loss, seems a bit misguided and just as convoluted as the idea of the MITB contract opportunity.
The Money in the Bank contract is, at its core, a once-a-year opportunity that guarantees its holder one shot at the WWE or World Heavyweight Championship. Several contestants are randomly chosen to (based on certain criteria depending on the time of year the event or match takes place) to participate in a match where the winner must climb a ladder and remove a briefcase from a hook dangling from the rafters.
The praxis of the contest is more involved than it seems, but the basis of the match—the very foundation it rests on—still remains the same; outsmart five to seven other wrestlers and grab a briefcase hanging from the ceiling. One doesn’t have to be championship material or have been a major title holder to win the match; all one has to do is be resilient, ingenious, crafty as hell and lucky.
Upon winning the MITB contract, Damien Sandow joined the pantheon of stars who have all in some way managed to exemplify the aforementioned traits that ultimately led them to snagging their golden ticket to a number one contender’s spot. From that point on, Sandow’s in-ring career reached lows not seen in WWE since The Brooklyn Brawler or Colin Delaney.
Sandow embarked upon an intricately prolonged losing streak and a feud that revealed the simplistic absurdity of the MITB concept. After having his briefcase stolen and tossed into the Gulf of Mexico by Cody Rhodes, the self-proclaimed “Intellectual Savior of the Masses” complained and wept incessantly about his “briefcase.” It became quite ridiculous (and entertaining) to see Sandow resort to unnecessary lengths to protect his briefcase and reclaim the integrity of the MITB briefcase that was sullied by his former best friend.
Realistically speaking, the MITB briefcase was never important; it was what was in the briefcase that was significant. The MITB briefcase simply housed the contract that guaranteed its winner a major title championship match.
Without the briefcase, Sandow was still guaranteed that match by virtue of his capture of the briefcase and the contract. Regardless of whether he was in possession of the case or not, he had a binding claim to the championship match guaranteed by the contract within said briefcase. The only way that binding agreement could have been nullified would have been if Sandow placed the contract on the line during a match; other than that, the briefcase is only a symbol that serves as the outward acknowledgement of a man who could call out a main event champion at any time.
What has happened, however, that is within its eight year history the MITB briefcase became more important than the contract within it. The symbol became more important than the object it stood for. Having the damn briefcase became more of a top priority than having (or seeing) the actual contract.
In that same sense the MITB briefcase, in the eyes of the fans, has become more important than winning the championship itself.
Instead of symbolizing a quick and easy way to a championship match, the briefcase has become something that designates a particular wrestler’s ascent to the main event scene. Due to the fact that a majority of the MITB winners have successfully cashed in their contracts, the briefcase has become a “dead giveaway” of the next WWE or World Heavyweight Champion. WWE has effectively conditioned fans to do three things: anticipate the MITB matches/pay-per-view, revel in the high-risk antics of the matches, and immediately create an imaginary scenario where the winners become main event stars.
Lost in translation amid those three conditions is the story that drives the reality of the contract, the importance of this one-shot-only championship opportunity, and the clout of whoever holds the WWE or World Heavyweight Championship at the time. In effect, most fans believed Damien Sandow should have won the World Heavyweight Championship regardless of who held it, simply because he held the MITB briefcase.
That same logic dictates that the Royal Rumble winner should become a heavyweight champion by virtue of his ability to defeat twenty-nine to thirty-nine other men … not because he can defeat the one person holding the title come WrestleMania.
Damien Sandow’s inability to capture the title, then, looks poorly upon the booking team and all other executive level parties instead of screaming volumes about the Damien Sandow character. The prestige of the title and the holder of that title become less important than the challenger with a lucky break. The fact that Sandow had less than a handful of victories after gaining the contract is moot … him simply owning the briefcase is proof enough to solidify his rightful status as a main event star of championship caliber.
The story surrounding the MITB contract holder is vital to the success of the character and the future of the concept. While it is true that majority of the MITB winners subsequently won their championship matches, very few fans will delve into the intricacies of how they won those matches. Most winners capitalized off of a compromised champion following a grueling championship defense.
In the case of WWE Superstar Edge, also known as “The Ultimate Opportunist,” his second MITB contract came when he defeated Mr. Kennedy for the briefcase. He didn’t even win the MITB match to gain the MITB contract! How does that speak highly of a concept fans believe highlights the credibility of an up-and-coming main event champion? More importantly what does that say about Ken Anderson, good or bad?
Despite our insistence that the MITB briefcase is more than what it actually is the contract is for one championship match. If Hornswoggle captures the briefcase and gains the contract, he gains an opportunity to face a major main event champion.
Ownership of the briefcase does not turn him into a force to be reckoned with a la Batman or Aquaman; rather the contract gives him a chance to face and defeat a heavyweight champion. How Hornswoggle goes about that process will determine the strength and direction of his character, in victory or defeat.
For Damien Sandow, how he attacked John Cena and how he held his own in the match says far more about the character and its direction than a leather bound or metallic briefcase ever could. Sandow was vicious, calculated, determined and forceful in his match; how that translates into a burial of Sandow and the character is beyond comprehension.
If we truly believe that the briefcase made Sandow a threat to the championship, that the prop in his story is the end all, be all to his slow, steady and obviously working rise to main event status, then we’ve totally missed the point of enjoying sports entertainment specifically and pro wrestling in general.
The loss to Cena during the solid and strong opening to RAW isn’t the end for Damien Sandow and his career; it’s actually only the beginning.
And all of this is coming from the L.E.W.D. writer who hates Damien “Effing” Sandow.
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…
It’s Monday night, and I’m watching Monday night RAW. And by watching, I mean, it’s playing in the background and I’m occasionally listening/glancing up at it while doing a million other things.
I’m still a WWE wrestling fan, don’t get me wrong. I’m using the term “wrestling fan” loosely. I’m really a sports entertainment fan. In September, Pastah Showtime took me to Huntsville to see the Smackdown Superstars show. I finally got to see my WWE Superstar Alberto Del Rio (and be one of the only people in the Vonn Braun Center cheering for him. A couple weeks ago, I watched whichever pay-per-view that was on, and I have kept up with Raw. The thing is that I’m not interested in a lot of the story lines that are going on right now.
Anything that once had potential to keep my interest is lost by the end of the show. With Raw being three hours long, a lot of the story lines can be developed in a single episode. There is a story line that continues through every show, and it’s not very good at keeping my interest because it there is very little at stake in the plot concerning HHH and his hand in who is the WWE champion. Basically, a plot should look like the following diagram:
From Image Grammar: Using Grammatical Structures to Teach Writing by Harry R. Noden
Monday Night raw is following a diagram that is not nearly as steep, concerning the setting, set up, and most definitely any rising action before getting to a climax. Has anyone noticed that they do not even do the regular Raw opening anymore? Raw has turned into a lot of replaying scenes from matches and incessantly advertising the WWE app, which nobody really needs because they show everything they put on the app on television.
There are no good set ups for any rivalry. As a sports entertainment fan, I have no reason to care about why Character A is fighting/requesting a match with Character B. So far, the only decent set up involved the WWE championship between Randy Orton and Goatface, but quite honestly, I’m tired of that and HHH’s power trip of interference. I see the potential for this story to make me interested, but it hasn’t happened, yet. Rising action, so far, this is where the WWE is succeeding, there are a lot of promos, back stage interaction, and interactions from the app that give some of the matches potential for being interesting, but as that rising action develops, it flattens out, rather than peaking for an interesting climax.
Once we reach any type of climax on Monday Night Raw, we do not continue that interest to the next show, because like I said earlier, they have three whole hours to work out whatever conflict they have created. There is a loss of connectivity that makes me say as a sports entertainment fan, “ I want to see what happens next week.”
A Disappointed Sports Entertainment Fan.