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.
Total Divas is quite the reality show dud, despite my original high expectations. The show follows the lives of WWE’s women as they travel across the country with the WWE. This turns out to be a typical reality show following menial daily routines of some pretty catty, dense females, leaving the Divas of the WWE to look like a joke; no wonder they hardly get any air time.
When I first saw the advertisements for Total Divas, I thought that it was going to be a really redeeming show for the women of the WWE, especially since they don’t get that much air time on RAW/Smackdown or really PPV. While I understand the WWE is mostly a men’s company, I thought that WWE would create the Divas show to be more about their wrestling, athletic skill, and training.
Total Divas follows the lives of a bunch of drama queens who happen to date WWE wrestlers. John Cena is finally able to regain his reputation on the women’s show as he lavishly gives his Bella Twin SUV s . Total Divas follows the women through their hair and make-up, to their food consumption, and for maybe 10 minutes of all the episodes combined, viewers see the Divas actually wrestling.
What I like:
Despite the typical reality show lure, that I do not enjoy, Total Divas allows for Divas who are not on the main card to become better known. The Funkadactyles play a pretty big part on Total Divas, but most of the show is dominated by The Bella Twins. This is pretty sad, because the only reason the Bella Twins are stars is because of their WWE boyfriends: Cena and Bryan. Realistically, average reality show/potentially sports entertainment fans care less about the Bella Twins’ talent on the WWE, and more about the fact their hunky men get a lot of air time.
What I’d Like to See:
I’d like to see more women’s wrestling on Total Divas. On the show, they often complain about the fact they aren’t getting much time on RAW/Smackdown. From the footage we see on Total Divas, women’s wrestling is struggling. Right now, I’d argue that AJ Lee, Natalya, and Kaitlin are the best athletes/ most entertaining during matches. I’d like to see them. It’s also funny that only Natalya is regularly featured in the show from this list.
*Disclaimer: all pictures used throughout are utilized for the purpose of criticism and entertainment*
How much truth can a man stand? That’s not a question I want you to really answer, it’s rhetorical in your case, reader. It’s also a lyric to a rather quirky song of the same name. I’ll answer, however, and say, “Er… somewhere in the vicinity of a little bit and too damn much”. See, I only acknowledge so many truths right now, in my 24 years and one month of life. One of these truths is that The Walking Dead really isn’t all that amazing a show. That’s not to say that it’s bad, but as whole, the episodes are usually C+ to B quality in my opinion. Another truth: the two best episodes of the show (season one, episode one; season three, episode twelve) owe virtually ALL that status as “best” to one man: Lennie James, who plays Morgan Jones. Another truth: these brilliant performances are likely why he’s starring in the new AMC show Low Winter Sun.
Yes, truths are fun. Here’s one that’s directly related to the WWE: this year’s Summerslam is shaping up to be Wrestlemania: Summer Edition. And that’s saying something. With the white hot intensity of the Bryan v. Cena feud and the reintroduction of fire in a match, I see few people even ABLE to complain about the card. But what’s in a card? What do you think will happen? Frankly I don’t care: here’s what I think will happen though, and if you agree, that’s cool. If you don’t, that’s cool too. I’ll just feel all types of special that you cared enough to read.
Pre-Show: Rob Van Dam vs. Dean Ambrose (c) for the United States Championship
Right off the back, a big match. For the casual fan, this is due to be a treat beyond treats. For the indie fan, this is a dream match. For people like us at L.E.W.D., this is two meals at the Varsity, a fresh roll of toilet paper and a second copy of Batman: Hush. Translation: epic.
It’s no secret that Swatkowski and Good are two tremendous talents, and the idea of them doing battle is terrific, so the question isn’t whether or not it’ll be a good (no pun intended) match, but rather why put such a match in the pre-show? Well, I wish I could tell you. So I will.
Fact is we have to remember one thing: RVD is a part-timer. That’s not to say that he shouldn’t hold a belt or have a feud, however. He’s a 42 year old man who is noticeably slower than he was in his ECW/WWE prime, or even in his tenure with TNA (earlier on), but he is more than capable of putting on a great match and putting over good talent. Dean Ambrose (Jon Moxley (Jonathan Good)) need something to maintain some relevance as the focus on the Shield has taken a backseat to the Wyatt Family, and a bout with RVD is just what he needs.
There’s something else that’s special about this match: the title that’s on the line. You can argue that the United States Championship is the spiritual successor of sorts to the ECW Championship, the belt that Rob Van Dam is almost notorious for. Should he win come Sunday, he’ll have come full circle, and the series he and Ambrose can put on could result in a strong push for the unofficial leader of the mercenary group.
As for predictions, I see RVD winning, but just barely. Frankly it doesn’t matter who wins: WE win because it’s sure to be a damn fine match.
Natalya (with the Funkadactyls) vs. Brie Bella (with Eva Marie and Nikki Bella)
Say what you will about Total Divas: the show is a hit. I like it. Maybe you do too. If anything I gained a new respect for most of the Divas, save for Natalya. I’ve always significantly respected Natalya. With the canon of the show, Natalya plays the role of the older sister who both does all she can to uplift her younger siblings and yet can’t get a break of her own to really shine. The way she is on the show, you can’t help but feel for her. Hell, even ?uestlove was feeling for her, and that man has better things to do than watch TV, like work on the new Roots album, or find a barber.
No hate, ?uest: I wanna fro like you when I grow up. Anywho, part of me is surprised that it’s Brie Bella vs. Natalya as opposed to Nikki. Nikki just comes across as more of a bitch, but what I anticipate is a fan favorite crowd response for Nattie as well as her carrying Brie through a lot of the match. The Bellas are a decent enough pair of wrestlers, I suppose, but Natalya is a Hart: she’s got it in her blood, and I think she’s finally getting that push into being a contender for the title. We can only hope. As much as I love seeing AJ
with those pigtails and short shorts, er, I mean with that belt, Natalya would bring some class to it, and straight laced prestige.
My prediction: Natalya wins via submission. Don’t ask why.
Also, this serves as an extension of the show. I find it harder and harder to say it breaks kayfabe, really. It’s just as scripted as RAW or SmackDown! as far as I can tell. That’s why the other four are there. On another note, I can’t stand Eva Marie. But I respect her. Because she called out Jerry Lawler for looking at her a certain way and smacked him. God bless you, unnatural red head. God bless you.
Dolph Ziggler and Kaitlyn vs. Big E Langston and AJ Lee
First and foremost, shout out to that guy on Smackdown a week ago who screamed “AMY SCHUMER!” when Dolph Ziggler mentioned ex-girlfriends. I haven’t laughed so hard at an ad-lib since someone tried to explain that Control was Big Sean’s song. HA! BWAHAHAHAHA! That liar…
What we have here is your standard mixed tag match, and all the parties involved have one thing in common: AJ Lee. Still. Hard to imagine but she’s been in the forefront of a major story one way or another for months, and I dare say her rise from nothing to something has been as dynamic as Daniel Bryan’s. Even now we have a sick kind of love (sic) angle shy of a Nujabes series. Dolph is an ex. Big E is a wild card. Kaitlyn is a lesbian in fan fiction. And AJ is just soaking up everything, playing the narcissistic woman with zero self-esteem, justifying her existence with that belt and the men she’s ran though (or should I say who’ve ran through HER? HIYO!).
But as a whole, I struggle to see the necessity of this match outside of putting together two feuds that could be split apart. We have AJ and Kaitlyn still, but that’s lost a lot of focus and relevance. Sure, it’s entertaining, but Kaitlyn is fighting for revenge and AJ is just fighting, playing the role of defense. With Dolph and Big E, it’s an odd kind of mentor vs. student thing, but Big E’s role as AJ’s friend/Ziggler’s heavy has never been expounded upon outside of a hatred for Ziggler and a “I love her, I love her not” thing with AJ. Sure, she’s cute, almost adorable, certainly desirable, but Big E himself still stands as little more than a big black guy with personality and a borderline painful-looking finisher.
I’m not even sure what CAN be resolved with this match outside of a decent showing. All four of them are impressive enough in the ring, so if nothing else it’ll be a solid exhibition, but as Bruce Lee said:
Kane vs. Bray Wyatt in a Ring of Fire match
Ooh baby, when’s the last time we have a match involving everyone’s favorite element fire?!
Let me wipe the drool from my mouth right quick. Yes, the Devil’s Favorite Demon is taking on the Devourer of Worlds in a Ring of Fire match. What does this mean? It means the ring will be surrounded by fire, and the two will do battle. As far as gimmicks go, this is the closest the WWE has gotten to blatant sacrilege in a while, and praise Jebus the Jew for that! We need blatant sacrilege every once in a while, keeps up on our toes, keeps us focused. The match itself is an extension of the still more or less undefined mugging that the Wyatts committed on Kane way back when, and this match likely serves as a way for Kane to lose his match, join the cult and give the Undertaker someone to challenge in due time, all the while reintroducing the dark, violent man that has been Kane on various occasions in the past.
But here’s the thing: this is a very “adult” storyline, if you can catch my meaning. Not for the violence or the imagery or anything but because of the symbolism. I compare it, ironically enough, to the song Hellfire from the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Disney version. As far as Disney songs go, it broke EVERY rule. The song featured a judge (judge for the Disney movie, archdeacon for the traditional tale) who was essentially singing about a gypsy girl he was in lust with. Lust in a Disney movie? Not blatantly! They usually do that in a subtle manner.
But lust, religious imagery, the mea culpa, fire, DEATH, the song covered it all. It wasn’t just about his lust, or how evil the woman MADE him as opposed to how evil he himself was, but how he was asking God to either make the woman (kid by our standards, but this was 1400s) his, or give her up to the flame (Hell), all while begging for mercy for himself AND her. It was deep, and frankly the sequence alone in the film was worth the price of admission. Don’t let your kids see it though: they WILL be scared and confused. But since I endorse scaring and confusing kids…
Sorry, I got a bit off topic. I just enjoy that sequence. As far as Kane and Bray go, it’ll be a welcome reintroduction to the man we once called Husky Harris, and I see him winning, thus dragging Kane into the Wyatt Family. And yes, I WILL be playing this awesome song if Wyatt embraces Kane as a new disciple.
Cody Rhodes vs. Damien Sandow
You can consider this a prequel for a World Heavyweight Championship match in a near future PPV. And you can also be mad at the WWE for not being wholly consistent with Cody’s character. At first he came across as a petty, whiny, sore loser who was wholly unjustified in how he was treating Sandow and his briefcase. After last week, he ADMITTED that he was a petty, whiny, sore loser who was wholly unjustified in how he was treating Sandow and his briefcase, and to add insult to that he admitted that he would have done the same thing to Sandow if he was in his position.
You may wonder why I have an issue with this. Simple: after admitting something like he did, his role in attacking Sandow becomes moot. The idea of Rhodes taking the briefcase is ridiculous, and the notion of Sandow fighting Rhodes first and THEN cashing in adds filler, not content, to Sandow’s first World Heavyweight Championship reign. Because he WILL win it. It’s written in the stars, or at the very least MY stars.
The saving grace is the match itself come Summerslam, which will be a good one, and will almost certainly result in a Rhodes win. Why? Just because. If Sandow wins, which I doubt, the ultimate outcome will remain the same, and I’ll get to it in a little while.
Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio (c) for the World Heavyweight Championship
Let’s address the elephant in the room right now: this match is irrelevant. Yes, irrelevant. Completely and utterly. Never mind my melancholy towards Del Rio or my disinterest with Christian: this match is little more than the equivalent of a place holder for the future title match between the above two. Now, from a pure wrestling standpoint, this will be a MONSTER. Seriously, it’ll be beautiful to watch. Christian and Del Rio are two of the most gifted wrestling talents in the WWE, but one is nearing the end of his career I think and the other is… Del Rio.
Nothing more to say about it. The belt? Who cares? It’s the World Heavyweight Championship: it hasn’t had meaning for a while, and it’ll stay that way even after Del Rio wins. Yes, I call Del Rio winning. But therein lies that “ultimate outcome” I mentioned in the Rhodes v. Sandow match. So long as Sandow can MOVE after that match, win or lose, and they do battle BEFORE Christian and Del Rio, I see him cashing in during the PPV. Sandow will be loved as a hated fellow, Rhodes will be looked at as the man to take the belt from him, and MAYBE Del Rio will be thrown into a storyline that’ll make him worth a damn.
We can only hope.
CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman (and likely Curtis Axel))
The Best vs. the Beast. How poetic. How appropriate. Or IS it? Perhaps another indie favorite is making a solid claim as being “the best”. But I digress. It doesn’t matter who is the best. Trying to determine who is stands as a fruitless test. A worrisome quest. In choosing one you neglect the rest.
I apologize: I was having fun at your “This guy is SO corny” expression’s expense. The story is simple here: CM Punk wants revenge on Heyman. Heyman chose Lesnar as his champion. Punk turned one-track minded and stayed focused on trying to hurt Heyman. Lesnar introduced Punk to a special variation of the F5 I refer to as the F.Y.L. F5, F.Y.L. standing for “f*** yo life”.
Honestly I think Lesnar really tries to hurt people in that ring. Good for our visceral nature but bad for business. In any case, this will probably be the second best match on the card, from both an in-ring perspective and a psychological perspective. Punk is fighting like a man possessed and Lesnar is in his zone, doing what he does best: hurting people. We like that. We like it when Lesnar hurts people. You hear that, WWE? Resign Shannon Moore!
So here’s the truth regarding me: as fun as this match will be – and it WILL be fun – my only question is “What now?”. I’m not sure who is set to win, but I’m leaning more towards Punk, because I don’t see HOW this story can progress from this point. Including Axel is odd, but he’s the third Heyman Guy, and he’ll likely have a role, but it doesn’t answer my only question.
I’m leaning toward Punk winning, beating Lesnar and Axel senseless, then turning his attention to Heyman, and afterwards getting back into the title hunt. As I was telling the Right Reverend Showtime the other day, I have a feeling the CM Punk who looked at the new WWE Championship belt and said, “I want THAT one” would be VERY welcome once this feud was over. And it could culminate in my dream main event for Wrestlemania XXX. Ah, dreaming…
Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena (c) for the WWE Championship (with Triple H as Guest Referee)
Here it is. The big one. The granddaddy of matches this Sunday. Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena. What can I say that hasn’t in some way already been said? It’s the wrestler’s wrestler vs. the sports entertainer’s superman. We’ve seen promo after promo, funny shirts, a few puns, even a brief appearance by Heel Cena (also known as Jerk Cena, also known as the Dick) and now we even have Triple H as the guest ref.
Why? Because. Because why? You’re asking too many questions. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t like him being a part of the match, but with McMahon being a part of the Bryan v. Barrett match on SmackDown! the ref position is “justified”. Like I’ve said, and will say in a piece that’ll probably be up just before the PPV starts, the McMahon power struggle is a grand storyline that’ll likely end with McMahon being ejected from being the primary figurehead seen on TV. Don’t ask me about it here, wait until the other piece comes up.
As for the match, it’s going to be interesting. Note: interesting. Good? Yes. Great? Likely. Epic? Perhaps. Five stars? Remains to be seen. At the end of the day we have a man who stands as today’s Hogan and a man who would shine the best against someone like Kurt Angle, or the man with no name himself, Chris Benoit. That triple threat match would have been incredible. But c’est la vie: it’s impossible now. Stupid Angle drinking and getting caught…
Now, let’s address some wild cards. First: Randy Orton. I don’t know WHY they’re making him out to be this boogeyman, but that’s all he is right now. He’s constantly reminding Bryan and Cena that he’s there, and in true buzzard fashion he WILL likely swoop in on the victor when they’re out, and… lose. Well no, that’s not quite right. I’ll get to that later.
Second: Wade Barrett. Remember the McMahon power struggle story and how Vince said he didn’t want Cena OR Bryan to hold the belt. His vision of a Superstar isn’t Orton either though: he’s too lean. But who stands as big, muscular, clean cut and constantly angry? Wade Barrett. Who MIGHT be finally getting his chance to shine. The hell with a title, I’m happy to just see him pursue it actively. As I’ve said: I think he’s the most deserving guy on the roster for a title opportunity/run.
Finally, who I see winning. This… is a hard one. There’s what I WANT to happen, what I THINK will happen and what I think is BEST. They aren’t all the same. What I THINK will happen is John Cena winning via help from McMahon, but it’s a ludicrous notion too. It would be further heel momentum for McMahon, confusion for Cena who wouldn’t accept anything like assistance (see: Money in the Bank 2011), and even MORE support for Bryan, who is already dazzling hot (you see what I did there?) as it is. But what I THINK will happen means little, because I don’t have much faith in that.
What I WANT to happen is even more ludicrous. I want Bryan to be the first one to make Cena tap. Only two people in the history of the WWE come to mind when it comes to never tapping out: Hogan and Cena, but there is a third. Cena would be embarrassed beyond belief, Bryan would be champ, Orton would attempt to cash in AND Bryan would make Orton the second person to cash in AND lose. That would make me happier than some quality alone time with Keira Knightley and Natalie Portman on a deserted island.
I take that back: that would NOT make me happier than some quality alone time with Keira Knightley and Natalie Portman on a deserted island, but it would come about as close as… forty miles. Nautical miles. On foot.
Then, there’s what I think would be BEST. And this is subjective, I have no problem saying it. Daniel would win, and he’d force Cena into a position that the third was in. Cena wouldn’t tap: he’d pass out. Cena would pull a Stone Cold Steve Austin. Daniel would get his props, Cena would maintain his respect, and Orton… would stay in the shadows. He’d strike later, on another day, at another PPV, and be a sneaky son of a bitch as a feud between Barrett and Bryan took the spotlight and Cena took some time off. That would be fun too.
Well, loyal random interwebz vagabond, those are my predictions and whatnot. Hope you enjoy the PPV as much as I think I’m going to. Sleep tight. Blee.
As reported on Bleacher Report, Sheamus suffered a shoulder injury recently and is going to be out some time…
Well, we here at L.E.W.D. don’t often dig into the news/dirtsheet business, but I have conformation from HIS MOUTH that he will be out for at least 4 months. A (strategically placed) friend of mine was in Birmingham today and it just so happened to be the day of his surgery!
My friend spotted him at a restaurant and briefly asked him about his shoulder in which she informed him that the surgury was successful and that he would be out for 4 months rehabbing the injury which would set him to return around Royal Rumble time.
He doesn’t know if there will be any repackaging (as many of the IWC blindly beg for), but there will be a new fire lit for him to have success in the future.
Speaking of the IWC…
Let me set this straight….Fierceness and Heat does not a heel make. People get very caught up with the idea that everyone that is talented needs to be a heel…NO! NO! NO! (Like what I did there?)
“Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect” are also strong characteristics of both Gangbangers and Mobsters. It’s a motto that many of them live by.
My point: Much like Vince McMahon has said in the past, “Fans know what they like, but don’t know what they want, and it’s my job to show them!”
Do you really want Sheamus to be a heel, or do you just want him to be more entertaining in a way that satisfies your tastes?
Let me say it plainly: I REALLY think Kofi Kingston has been given the Marcellus Wallace treatment and there’s no Vaseline in sight. Do I think he’s the best man on the roster? Not by a long shot. He’s athletic (a solid 9) but I think he could improve as an actual wrestler/in-ring performer (a solid 7). He flies high but at the end of the day that flying high can look to be nothing more than stylish falling in the same light as Buzz Lightyear. His mic work is okay, nothing too fancy, but it’s passable. Outside of one feud with Randy Orton that mysteriously stalled in the middle of nowhere, I’ve never seen him in any non-friendly role, and to be honest, as much as I like “F***-Yo-Car-And-Your-Subordinates” Kofi, he seems to be well at home as a smiling African.
Some might call it a burial, and I can’t argue. Don’t get me wrong: I disagree, but I see it more so as if they’ve found a niche for Kingston. He’s in the mid card and gets the Intercontinental/United States/Tag belt every nine months or so. He holds it for a while, looks like he’s accomplished something, and then loses it as someone uses his reign as a stepping stool for their ascension, if they’re meant to ascend beyond the mid card.
I would love to see Kingston as a world champion, even a transitional champion, just once, but at this point, or with his current character – whose gimmick is the delightfully basic “I’m back from an injury and fighting a dancer” – it wouldn’t even be worth watching. Long and short, as he is right now, I find Kingston boring, for the same reason I find someone like Cena or Orton boring: stale personas. I’d love to see angry,
pro-black, A.F.R.O., “You have until the count of ten to get out of my face and I’m starting with nine” Kofi but everything takes buildup, and I’m not one to presume anything. I’m speaking on the here and now.
But that’s how we all are. When it comes to the Superstars/Divas/Knockouts/Wrestlers/Sports Entertainers that we like, we defend them. We say they deserve a better spot or a brighter star than someone we don’t think is so worthy. Call it human nature. I promise you that everyone who writes for this site, through all our strengths, weaknesses and idiosyncrasies, has no less than nine wrestlers they think should be in the limelight because the notion is “He deserves it!” when in fact the back of our mind is really saying, “I like this guy!”
For me, it’s not even Kofi Kingston, if you can believe it. He’s a good guy, sure, but if there’s anyone I think should be on top right now it’s Wade Barrett. He’s paid his dues, puts on quality performances, speaks with a British accent and exudes a little thing called charisma. So yes, I like him. And I think a world title would look good on him. But here’s the million dollar (eh, I’ll level with you: $65,246.17) question: would it work?
I stand by two notions, and they conflict drastically. The first is this: if you build them up right, the machine will run nicely on its own. Outside of Gail Kim, I can’t think of any Superstar/Diva who came into the company and won the title right out of the gate. Subsequently, Gail Kim revs my engine. There’s buildup, heat, conflict, fan reaction, the whole nine yards. They parade the belt around with the champion swagger and “Brush you teeth and eat you vitamins!” PSAs if they’re faces, or brag about their own greatness and pledge to keep their belt from all people who challenge them if they’re heels. That’s the way it goes.
This is partly why Randy Orton is a nine-time world champion. He came up from obscurity, through stables and feuds, and he became someone the people gravitated towards to, for better or for worse. They felt his pain when Evolution betrayed him, and they hated him something fierce when he murdered the McMahon family. Either way, the words of the seldom-quoted Kanye West song Bring Me Down ring true:
“Everybody feel a way about K but at least y’all feel somethin’”
True enough. Even now I feel a certain way about Orton as a whole (spoiler: it’s NOT too flattering) but anytime a world title is on him I’m sure to care, even if it’s not too much. But he was built up right, and he’s a virtual mainstay in the WWE. I could see him jumping ship in a heartbeat if the money was right though, but if they were talking nine figures I don’t even think he’d entertain the notion. Orton had and has all the tools of the Superstar archetype (something I’m working on in another piece) and he was built up as such. Which leads us right into the second notion: doesn’t matter how much you build someone up if the people just don’t like them.
It would be so easy for me to pick on a lot of Superstars with this piece, but let’s go the road (slightly) less traveled and pick on Zack Ryder. He has all the appeal and style of a solid upper mid card competitor (see: Kofi Kingston) but at the end of the day he is and will likely remain a hometown hero who can’t catch a break. Whenever the WWE is in New York, “Let’s Go Ryder, WOO WOO WOO!” chants will erupt, and maybe the people will even be given a match with Ryder. Famously, during a match featuring the Miz and his partner versus some three man team that we can’t remember, when he said he had a guest partner the chants were for Ryder, and we were given the Brooklyn Brawler. Personally I laughed, but the crowd wasn’t so enthused.
But outside of New York, you can’t get Ryder even remotely that kind of heat. He’s a hometown hero, a big fish who was in a little pond and went into the big pond to realize he was around gargantuan fish. Were it not for king koi John Cena he would have been eaten by now (but not by Eve! ZING!).
Compound that with this: who cares? He’s Zack Ryder. There was a guy on The Price is Right once who wore a Zack Ryder shirt and I swear to almighty God that he was, and is, more over than Ryder is now. He won about nine grand if I remember correctly too. There is a loyal group of fans who love Zack and want him to be the next big thing, but one loyal group of fans in such a small number does NOT a champion make. And it leads to the hardest lesson of all.
You can’t always get what you want. I can say that twice more but it won’t sink in because we’re conditioned to love who we love, but let me add this: sometimes you’ll find what you need.
There are few things funnier to me than when Zack Ryder was emotionally broken by Eve, firmly betrayed by Cena and physically abused by Kane. It was the unholiest trinity since Hanson and I salivate at the humor of it. One day I went so far as to find the Youtube footage, download it, edit it together and watch it for nine minutes straight. Called it “The Passion of the Ryder”. That’s not important though. I laughed because my sadism was pleased. For a person who doesn’t like Ryder, that kind of thing is gold. 24 carat gold. James Bond villainy gold.
And say what you will: it was what we needed. Why? Because it gave Eve a purpose, it put Kane in a decent feud and it did the impossible with Cena and made him a definable character for all of… what? Nine weeks? That’s a lifetime in Cena Lustra.
I’ll take it back to Kingston and Orton. Kingston destroyed Randy’s car, amidst applause and cheers, and after a feud that could have propelled him to the spotlight was cut short, he’s just kind of around because… well, I refer you back to the picture up top. Just imagine the controversy the company would have if an angry African character came into play. African, not African-American. Spooky.
And you know why that feud, in all likelihood, could have succeeded? Because people like Kofi. Maybe it’s the stereotype of the picture above (it works on so many levels) or that he’s actually a rather likeable guy, but if people like you, through face or heel times, you’ll go far. When Mark Henry did his fake retirement speech, despite the boos he had gotten at his last match, he got nothing but cheers. Why? Respect. And people like Henry. Like they like the Big Show – and yes, you likely do too and don’t you deny it. When he grins you grin too because you’re reminded of Santa Claus.
And all the same, just because someone likes someone themselves, it can’t be taken as an invitation for that wrestler to be at the top of the game. Right now, I don’t see how Barrett could be at the top of the game and be valid. I still think he deserves to be there though. I can’t stand Sheamus and hope he takes a long and rightly well deserved vacation. Let him take nine months, it’ll be worth it. I like Rob Van Dam, but with all these people saying he should be fighting for the World Heavyweight Championship, I stand more or less alone as I guy who would love to
smoke an ounce with him speak to him about the greater mysteries of life but wouldn’t be able to see even the SLIGHTEST logic in even putting him in the title hunt. It would be entertaining, but short form pleasures and long term pleasures are two entirely different pleasures.
We’re not always going to get what we want, and more importantly we can’t stand by this notion that anyone can be a big star. They can’t. Period. If they could, Brodus Clay would be a singles star by now, and you know I’m right. All the talent in the world can’t match up with people actually feeling something about the person, and cats like Ryder have non-fans who primarily feel apathy or sympathy, but not passion. As one of those non-fans, apathy is more than I feel for him. I can say the same for a lot of people who get consistent TV time too.
That’s just something that was on my mind as of late. Figured I’d share it with you, loyal reader. Sorry for being gone for so long. Won’t happen
again for a while. Take care.
It is prediction time for this year’s installment of the WWE’s Money In The Bank. This time, I am not only asking you who do you think will win, but who do you want to win as well. This way, we can see how predictable things may be, but is predictability actually what people want… With that said, let’s get to the card:
If you have any thoughts, feel free to express them!
Several former WWE superstars have taken to the airwaves to voice their ill-timed negative opinions of certain aspects of the company. One consistent opinion among several superstars revolves around WWE Developmental trainer Bill DeMott, better known as former WCW wrestler Hugh Morrus.
These ex-WWE superstars, ranging from Derek Foore to Ryan Nemeth (NXT’s Briley Pierce and WWE Superstar Dolph Ziggler’s real life younger brother), have all alleged that DeMott’s training methods are unnecessarily brutal, dehumanizing, humiliating, and perhaps even illegal. Among those things it has also been alleged that the system, as it is set up now, is rife with sexual harassment … particularly coming from any general direction Bill DeMott is heading in or coming from.
If there is any truth in these claims from former WWE employees regarding DeMott’s practices, then it is far past the point where the WWE should have investigated the claims and at least publicly placed DeMott on suspension until things were sorted out. The real problem here, unfortunately, is more difficult to understand than we think.
We’ve arrived at a point in the history of the world that we imagine ourselves as humans to have “evolved” to a certain god-like level of understanding the universe that surrounds us. As Americans living in the United States, we take this understanding to an extreme and applaud ourselves in self-congratulatory pats on the back (a la Barry Horowitz) for being far more intelligent, wise, and skillful than our able bodied ancestors who survived all types of unimaginable hell years ago just so we wouldn’t have to today.
This hubris we embrace comes with a side effect; because we get so full of ourselves at times, we can look past certain pervasive problems that could easily be solved if we were not already convinced (or led to believe) that such problems no longer exist because “times have changed.”
What does it say about our achievements when a multi-billion dollar company like the WWE fails to publicly respond to claims of abuse and sexual harassment in their developmental system, especially when most of the claims are directed at one specific individual? While are they immune to public scrutiny when other, much larger institutions have felt the stinging wrath of society after being outed for hiding sexual harassment and abuse charges and perpetrators?
Again if there is any truth to the claims, then WWE has a duty—especially in this enlightened and transparent age we live in—to make it known to their corporate sponsors, stockholders, and consumers that they have zero tolerance for such things and that until a thorough investigation has yielded specific results, the accused (in this case DeMott) will be suspended until further notice and barred from participating in anything related to the company.
It doesn’t stop there, however; if there have been countless individuals who’ve come forth with these claims after being released from the company, why haven’t they filed formal charges against Bill DeMott and WWE?
As fans of pro wrestling we should be livid that this type of finger wagging and subtle jabbing is taking place on social media, far from the courtrooms and trials that would bring true justice to any individual in the company abusing the talent. This gossip cannon fodder trivializes any and all of the real life demoralizing practices that could be taking place. Why not file formal charges? Why not contact a lawyer? Why not launch a civil suit against the company? The real proof in the pudding lies in a wrestler’s resolve to end the alleged practices of Bill DeMott, not the witty, suggestive, or bitter comments made during an interview or over social media.
Perhaps it’s a situation where individuals inside and outside of the company are afraid to challenge the system, scared they’ll ruin their once in a lifetime chance to become a huge WWE superstar. If this is the reality these wrestlers live in, then these issues with DeMott will never be resolved; the issue won’t be addressed and corrected until an extremely huge and unavoidable scandal happens and forces the company to back peddle in order to survive a public relations holocaust.
The question is: why, in such an “enlightened” time in human history, do we have to wait for such a catastrophe in order to resolve the problem? Eddie Guerrero’s death caused a more well-defined Wellness Policy to be developed; Chris Benoit’s actions caused them to pay more attention to steroid abuse and eventually the lingering effects of concussions. Do we seriously need another life altering event as such just for the company to be transparent about their policy on sexual harassment and abuse? Maybe so; why should the company take these claims seriously when the method in which its being reported (via Twitter or through interviews) or suppressed (allegedly so) makes it seem so … humdrum?
On the other hand it is quite possible that the company has done an internal investigation that has revealed nothing of substance regarding the allegations against DeMott. If that is the case, all the snide and tongue-in-cheek comments from the ex-employees are nothing more than the bitter ramblings of disgruntled individuals, people who want to exact some sort of revenge from the company after they were released. Why not cause a stir before being released? Why not raise allegations before leaving the company? Why not talk to a lawyer before talking to people on Twitter or at an internet radio station?
If these accusers were also afraid of jeopardizing their spot while working with the company, that makes them equally culpable for the same lack of resolve to end the problem as the top brass in the company. If they were afraid of becoming martyrs for standing up to an abusive trainer or system, wouldn’t that martyrdom be worth it just to stop the terrible practices and end the cover-up of said practices?
Bottom line is this: if you know for a fact someone in WWE Developmental is getting away with abusing and sexually harassing wrestlers, stay off of the social media outlets, hire a lawyer, and file formal charges. Bring the practices to the light of day where scrutiny is unavoidable and quit hiding behind slightly ambiguous statements made in 140 characters or less. Real justice lies in the company acknowledging its fault in casually disregarding the allegations and making sure the perpetrator(s) of such actions make restitution for the wrong they’ve done.
Anything other than real progress and change happening on the business side of it all only serves to undermine the problem, enabling us to again turn a blind eye to societal problems as we celebrate the mediocrity of our own intelligence. If you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem.
I personally have no idea whether or not Bill DeMott is guilty of doing what several ex-superstars claim he has done. I do know that if every other institution and/or business in the United States and the world has to be transparent in outing sexual predators and bringing them to justice, WWE is no different. If one isn’t helping bring real awareness and change to the problem, then one isn’t helping at all, are they?
To be honest, the first sequel Curious Case file was going to be about Bryan Danielson, known in the WWE as Daniel Bryan. To be even more honest, I’ve started on it already and it’s just collecting dust until I can think about how to continue it. To be entirely candid, the idea to release that sequel first WOULD have been the goal IF, and only IF, Mark Henry didn’t provide an Academy Award worthy performance on the June 17th, 2013 Raw and have every one of us fooled and, after that, enthralled.
I’m using that word more all of a sudden. Enthralled. Past tense of enthrall. Definition: capture the fascinated attention of. Cryptic messages via Twitter alluded to retirement, and the quick shot with the Primetime Players and Tamina, featuring a teary eyed black Cena and a salmon jacket that still has me joking harder than Muscle Man at a family gathering. Cena came out (I didn’t know why in the least) and said something or the other (who cares?) and then the music hit. Mark Henry, in his salmon jacket, holding his boots, came out, smiling, and immediately Cena prepared for a fight. Henry came out slowly, still smiling, taking time to wipe his feet before getting into the ring, and his first words to Cena were about dropping his guard – because it wouldn’t be needed.
Henry said some nice things about Cena, to a lot of boos and cheers, and gave a tear-jerking “retirement” speech (to be fair, he specifically said “retiring from the ACTIVE roster”) laced with adlibs and responses to the crowd, maybe most notably “I’m not Mae Young… dummy”. He spoke on his only regret: not having the WWE Championship, and Cena put it in his hands. I stand by what I said: there was nothing more right than seeing that man with that title.
He finished his impassioned speech with the almost cliché “Daddy’s coming home!” amidst a wave of applause! Cena joined Henry and rose the “leaving” Superstar’s hand in a triumph so triumphant you’d think there was no Cappadonna affiliated with it. There wasn’t such a collective showing of tears since watching Up in theaters (I shed man tears during that movie and I am NOT ashamed!).
Then he slammed Cena.
And all of our faith in humanity was restored in a single bound. The champion was laid out. The new challenger made it very clear that there was still “a lot left in the tank”. He rolled out of the ring, grabbed his salmon jacket from the floor, dusted it off, threw it over his shoulder and walked – like a boss – back up the ramp. He grabbed his boots and disappeared to the wonderful, and oddly appropriate crowd chant of “You still got it!”.
Then we went to break. When we came back, Henry was walking backstage towards who knows where. An interviewer not named Josh Mathews approached him and the look he had might as well had screamed, “Shut the hell up and pay attention, random white woman!” because I recall seeing her cower (and maybe her eye twitch). He called us all puppets (I BELIEVED you, Henry… *sniff*), announced his intent to challenge for the WWE Championship. Finally he explained the significance of carrying his boots: because he was going to bury one up John Cena’s ass.
In less than eight hours World Wrestling Entertainment is poised to present the first ever Payback sports entertainment event LIVE on pay per view!
Tonight’s event, emanating from the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois, looks to give fans the signature action that only WWE can provide. How fans actually feel about that action is up for debate, but breathe easy and be confident that whatever happens tonight fans from all over will find a way to be entertained by the action in the ring or in the Twitterverse.
The card tonight is robust enough to hold our attention even though the name of the pay per view is less than thrilling or energetic. With the exception of two or three matches, everything scheduled for tonight meshes well with the “retribution” theme of the event.
A part of me feels that this “retribution” theme is a tad bit weak, but who nowadays sits at home and complains about the theme of a pay per view? I get the feeling that this event will simply serve as a capable and sturdy bridge to next month’s Money in the Bank pay per view, where the real excitement will energize us as we launch into the big summer angles headed towards Summerslam in August.
With all that being said, let’s launch into some predictions:
Business between these two superstars picked up when Sheamus volunteered to participate in Sandow’s intellectual challenges. Frustrated at his inability to solve the challenges, Sheamus did what any normal bully would do and physically attacked Sandow. Does anyone else out there notice that John Cena tends to do the exact same thing when he’s verbally bested by an opponent? I digress…
I suppose the intent here is for Sheamus to silence Sandow and his self-righteous pseudo-intellectual pretentiousness, the goal being to punish Sandow for assuming that everyone else is his intellectual subordinate. It is slightly concerning that the Sheamus character chooses to solve complex brain games by beating a man senseless; keep in mind that Sheamus is the face of this match. What the hell kind of message is that sending to the kids? Be a star, why don’t you?
I would be surprised if this pre-show match up was a precursor for a long rivalry between the two men. I can’t imagine a feud built on such a silly premise would turn into something serious between these particular competitors. This isn’t to say that it can’t happen, it’s just that the thought of it has yet to materialize in my head. I also don’t get the picture that fans yearn to see Sheamus fumble at solving a Rubic’s Cube or understanding the intricacies of the Devils Fork anytime soon.
What is more concerning is that Sheamus’ last few feuds have been superficial at most, which makes me believe that the investment moving forward is (or should be) in Sandow. The “Irish John Cena” has flip-flopped around the upper mid card for some time without solid direction and seems to work best when he’s just as much in danger of a massive beating as the person he’s facing. The only behemoth left for him to face is Big E Langston, which again would benefit his opponent more so than himself.
I expect Sheamus to win this feud and move on to something else while the company figures out what to do next with Damien Sandow.
Prediction: Sheamus wins
Look at the three men in the graphic above and answer two simple questions: do you really care who wins this match, and if that Photoshopped Intercontinental Championship wasn’t present in the picture, would you still care who wins the match?
I’m not saying this to poo-poo entirely on the match; my concern is that the importance of the title has been tossed so far over the horizon that it doesn’t bring a “big fight feel” to the match. Unfortunately the participants in this match don’t do much to make the title at least appear like it’s worthy of attention. What we have here is an unholy circle of mediocrity.
Curtis Axel, the “it factor” of this match, replaced the recently concussed superstar Fandango in this trio of turmoil. Even with the brilliance of Paul Heyman at his side the Axel character is technically still a newborn in the grand scheme of things, lacking the charisma and established persona that would add an element of electricity to the match in the same way that Fandango would have. That electricity is absolutely needed in a bout featuring two great athletes and The Miz.
Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett, in all due respect, has essentially carried the title around as an accessory. The title is Barrett’s large, white and garish purse which he never sits on the floor and keeps others from scrounging around in it without his permission. He gets pissed if it’s taken from him, but could just as easily opt to leave it at home and take a wallet instead if he wants to travel lightly. The Miz doesn’t deserve a paragraph of his own.
There’s just no reason to invest in this match at all. The bout is no where near being deficient in wrestling talent and ability, but as we’ve discussed several times on this site a WWE match is much more than just showcasing great wrestling; that’s what TNA is for. There’s nothing remotely distinguishable about these three men and the significance of the title was lost long before this match, making it unnecessary for anyone to emotionally invest in the action other than to see two of the three competitors wrestle well.
I’m giving the win to Curtis Axel, as a win here would only add to the roll he’s been on with his high-profile victories…although it would make sense for him to fail at winning the title seeing as those high-profile “victories” are questionable. Then again if the man can beat John Cena but fail at beating The Miz…
Prediction: Curtis Axel wins the Intercontinental Title
Tonight will be Dolph Ziggler’s return to pay per view action after being shelved from a concussion. Since stepping back into active competition, Ziggler has been used sparingly in matches as WWE is treading water lightly when it comes to concussed superstars. This is a good thing; it does have some effect on the match and the World Heavyweight Title, but when it concerns a wrestler’s mental health and stability we fans should be understanding enough to allow the company to utilize precautionary methods and booking to ensure the wrestler’s longevity in life and not just in the business.
Ziggler and Del Rio are both accomplished athletes and wrestlers, so the match should deliver for as long as Ziggler sees in-ring time. I sincerely doubt this match will go the distance even though Ziggler has been medically cleared to perform. The company thus far has erred on the side of safely with Ziggler. who’s first real championship reign (not counting his wet fart reign during his time as Vickie Guerrero’s cabana boy) hasn’t been all that spectacular or memorable.
The other side of the coin is that Del Rio as champion is far more lifeless than Ziggler’s reign. The main and major redeeming fact in placing the belt on Del Rio is that you can get longer and more intense matches from a healthy champion than you can the one you’re keeping safe.
Del Rio will win the title in a relatively short match while the company plays it safe with Ziggler.
Prediction: Alberto Del Rio wins the World Heavyweight Championship
To put it mildly, the match between Dean Ambrose and Kane will be great.
The Kane character has seen a revitalization similar to that of Dave Batista’s final run in the company. Ironically enough Kane is also building a WWE legacy that will be remembered as fondly as that of his “brother’s,” The Undertaker. The man behind the mask is a consummate professional and his love for what he does can be easily seen by fans every time he steps through the ropes.
That being said Ambrose is fortunate to share the squared circle with a star of Kane’s magnitude. Ambrose is definitely deserving, having been given this opportunity after surviving his stint in Florida Championship Wrestling and NXT. He easily stands out in The Shield primarily for his mic skills, while his wrestling style is the epitome of the “unorthodox” style that other wrestlers attempt to pass off as a controlled form of flailing all over the place.
The fight between Kane and Ambrose will be ugly in the sense that the passion both men exhibit will easily permeate through their actions. It won’t be hard for fans to become invested in the ebb and flow of the match, as Ambrose’s facial expressions and body language make it simple for fans to say “Damn, I bet that hurt!”
I see Ambrose retaining the title with a little help from his Shield brethren.
Prediction: Dean Ambrose retains
Seth Rollins and Daniel Bryan are the stars of this match, which leaves Randy Orton and Roman Reigns as finger cymbals in this symphony of kicks and bodyslams.
The team of Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan is just as volatile, if not more, than Team Hell No. Fans have been screaming for a more edgy Randy Orton, or at least an Orton character that isn’t floating around as aimlessly as Sheamus. I’ve read a lot of commentary that’s placed the blame on Orton for being what amounts to the green or red practice dummies in the Create-A-Move Set option on WWE video games. I myself don’t fault Orton, but creatively it is quite possible that the character has gone as far as it can as a face.
There’s also a concern among fans and pundits that the company won’t go the distance with Daniel Bryan. It’s no secret that WWE has a storied track record of neglecting superstars that are fantastically over with fans, particularly ones that aren’t huge and larger than life. I’m not clear on our expectations for the company regarding Daniel Bryan; do we want him to be handed the WWE Championship now or have him kick his way to the top of the roster within a month?
The perception is that the company won’t do right by the character, but if the character makes money I cannot see them doing anything wrong with it. I’d rather let the company show me they’re going to abuse the character and the wrestler rather than assume the worst from the jump. Keep in mind that many didn’t believe Bryan would make it this far in the company; our expectations can be just as restrictive and condemning as the reality they exist in.
With Jimmy and Jey Uso receiving a renewed push of sorts I expect The Shield will retain due to friction between Orton and Bryan. Reigns and Rollins will move on to defend their belts against established tag teams while Orton and Bryan duke it out in a rivalry concluding at the Money in the Bank pay per view a month away.
Prediction: Rollins and Reigns retain
Last Monday’s episode of RAW saw AJ Lee revealed as Kaitlyn’s secret admirer, which was the result of a cruel joke played on the Divas Champion by Dolph Ziggler’s questionably sane girlfriend. Enraged after being publicly humiliated by AJ Lee, Kaitlyn has gone on rage-filled rampage that Lee will have to contend with tonight if she hopes to win the Divas title.
Kaitlyn won’t be thinking clearly, however; a large part of Lee’s offense includes mind games, similar to that of Goldust during his first run in WWE. With Kaitlyn’s unfocused anger present, Lee with more than likely capitalize on mistakes Kaitlyn will make throughout the match.
What surprised most fans about this match up is the fact that WWE actually devoted energy into giving the Divas a specific storyline. Some fans even commented how AJ Lee’s “crazy chick” persona is a weak version of Mickie James’ initial WWE character. I think this opinion does a disservice to Lee, James and Kaitlyn, however. Mickie James’ character was crazy from an odd infatuation with Trish Stratus, while Lee’s character tends to be a calculated insane, crazy with a purpose and goal … and just plain nuts from the get go.
By comparing Lee to James fans are intentionally disabling themselves from investing in Lee’s character as Lee’s character. By conjuring up the Mickie James character of old, fans negate anything done by James after that and currently. Kaitlyn also suffers because fans will think of her in terms of Trish Stratus even there is no comparing the two whatsoever. The end result is back to square one, looking at the Divas division as something that it once was some 15 years ago; even then our understanding of that era is somewhat stained by inaccurate perceptions and bias.
AJ Lee will win the title, creating a rivalry and furthering the storyline between the two.
Prediction: AJ Lee wins the Divas Championship
CM Punk will hopefully make his triumphant WWE return tonight in Chicago as he looks forward to facing WWE veteran Chris Jericho.
Jericho and Punk have had excellent matches in the past and will not disappoint tonight. The match between them was booked due to Paul Heyman, which could be the foundation for an eventual split between the Straight Edge Superstar and the maniacal mastermind behind the original ECW.
Chicago will go bat sh*t crazy over Punk’s return, fueling rampant speculation around whether or not Punk will be a face or heel moving forward. Plans are always subject to change and I personally have no other reason to look to this match to indicative of where the Punk character is moving next. Instead fans should simply enjoy what will be a near five-star match between two top-tier competitors and allow the story to unfold before our eyes.
The only wildcard in this match is Punk’s status in the company. The superstar has talked very little about the match on the various social media outlets available and has only openly stated his enjoyment of life while not wrestling. There is a slight chance that Punk may not show up tonight, giving us a “surprise” match between Jericho and someone from the Heyman Family. The only other feasible option in the event of a Punk no show would be the debut of the Wyatt Family … but that’s not going to happen.
If Punk wrestles he won’t lose in his hometown and Jericho won’t fall into mediocrity by losing here.
Prediction: Punk wins
Last month’s Ambulance Match between John Cena and Ryback revealed a few things that most older fans either missed or cared very little about.
For one a John Cena WWE Champion has officially done as much as it can and will do creatively. Cena holding the title seems forced, uninspired, and plain flat. He’s rarely booed anymore because his detractors don’t even care enough to boo him. Every time Cena steps into the ring, armed with his killer work ethic and never-say-die attitude, the end result is the same wash-rinse-repeat cycle we’ve seen of him for what seems like centuries. He’s always presented as the underdog even while being the champion, and there’s nothing dynamic about the psychology of his matches or character. Franky he’s just there like a pair of shoes that you really should’ve gotten rid of months ago.
Secondly, Ryback was positioned to be the Doomsday to John Cena’s Superman. The fallout from their stalemate at Extreme Rules, however, has turned Ryback into a tool being used to make fans give a damn about Cena again. This isn’t very different from a number of feuds Cena has been involved in, but it is rather unfortunate that Ryback was forced to become a heel for no other reason than to get fans to organically support Cena as an underdog … even though he’s the champion.
Thirdly, the fact that a gimmick match was used in their first official singles match as well as their second foray against each other is concerning. I find it concerning because most gimmick matches are used when a fight escalates to certain levels and to mask certain deficiencies a wrestler or wrestlers may have. From that perspective what does it say when Cena and Ryback’s first match needed a stipulation?
John Cena will retain his title. There’s nothing else that can really be said or done about that. I expect Cena and Ryback to go at it at least one more time at Money in the Bank, maybe even with a final match in August at Summerslam. Other than that … whatever.
Prediction: John Cena retains
Payback looks good on paper but will only serve as a competent segue to the next pay per view and summer storylines pointing directly at Summerslam. The pay per view won’t be a total bust, but if you choose to spend today doing something else, the WWE Universe will continue to roll on without a hitch. For those of us actually watching the pay per view, here’s to hoping we’ll get some enjoyment out of the action!
That was the exact word I used when I first laid eyes on Sin Cara. It was Monday night, April 4, 2011 when I was seated next to the Rt. Rev. Showtime in Phillips Arena here in Atlanta, Georgia. The Rt. Rev. purchased tickets for us to see the post-WrestleMania XVII episode of Monday Night RAW live. That night the crowd was pumped from the previous night’s wrestling spectacle and extravaganza held in the Georgia Dome.
During the show that night, then United States Champion Sheamus scored a victory over Daniel Bryan and proceeded to pummel him further after the conclusion of the match. With only his music as an introduction, Sin Cara appeared on the stage and sprinted down the ramp to confront the champion.
Sin Cara scored a few moves and managed to knock Sheamus to the apron and off of it. The star then mounted a turnbuckle and soared through the air with a diving crossbody, landing on Sheamus and making an immediate impact on his debut:
I remember sitting there, mouth agape and thinking, “Wow!” I was truly rendered speechless; time literally seemed to slow down as Sin Cara gracefully flew through the air with the greatest of ease. I knew for a fact that he would electrify the fans for years to come, eventually receiving the torch from beloved Mexican WWE Superstar Rey Mysterio to serve as the company’s future crossover Lucha Libre sensation.
Up until that point the company spent tons of money and television spots advertising the debut of a new, masked Mexican superstar. This wrestler, renowned around the world and revered in his home country, was set to bring his unique talents and skills to WWE. The promos and video packages were exceptional, and I for one was excited to see this new wrestler debut with the promotion.
Unbeknownst to me and others at the time, however, the advertising and hype would eventually prove itself worthy of serving as a clever facade capable of hiding the true Sin Cara character, a mask that worked as well as the stylized one concealing his true identity.
Sin Cara arrived in WWE as one of the first talents signed under Paul Levesque’s watch as Vice President of Talent Relations. He initially appeared to represent a drastic change in the way WWE evaluated and hired wrestlers to groom as future superstars. The fact that the company hired a luchador amid the large hulking and semi-immobile behemoths WWE is known for courting suggested a much needed infusion of new blood in the company’s uninspired roster.
Already having some acclaim in Mexico, Japan and China as Mistico, there was hope that this unique character would excite the company’s global audience and appeal to their Latino demographic in the same way as Rey Mysterio. It was very obvious that the company was positioning him to be the new Rey Mysterio as the former WCW star slowly entered the twilight of his career after suffering numerous injuries and personal setbacks.
With an extremely large amount of potential energy surging behind him, Sin Cara exploded onto the scene immediately with the daunting task of “getting over” as quickly as he could. Ironically enough a botched entrance on that fateful April night in 2011 would be an omen of sorts that would describe his entire WWE career to date.
The Lucha Libre style of pro wrestling developed in Spanish speaking countries and embodies a culture of its own that is too storied and detailed to describe in this piece. The hallmark and most identifying feature of this style are the high-flying, high-risk aerial maneuvers performed by the wrestlers. The ring psychology of this style rests in lightning fast strikes and dizzying maneuvers that confuse, frustrate and leave opponents disoriented.
Instead of relying on power and strength, most Lucha stars use their agility and speed to land stunning blows to their opponent’s head and legs. Attacks to the body are minimal, leaving luchadors to work at softening their opponents with rapid blows to specific areas (the head, thighs or knees). A luchador’s finish typically involves a devastating blow to the head or aerial maneuver that serves as the exclamation point to an incredibly action-packed, fast paced match.
Sin Cara brought this same style with him to WWE but was brought up to the main roster without making the necessary standard two year stay in Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW). Without that stay Sin Cara didn’t have the opportunity to learn the “WWE style” or adapt elements of his Lucha style to that style, causing a disconnect between the Sin Cara character and the American fans in the United States, the company’s primary demographic in its “global audience.”
The company recognized this shortcoming early and perhaps even prepared for it upon his arrival. Special lighting was used during all his matches (and is still used today) and he was paired with opponents familiar with the Lucha style. A few of his first matches and feuds involved Chavo Guerrero and Primo and Epico Colón. Interweaved in between were high-profile matches and partnerships that involved John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Jack Swagger, Cody Rhodes, The Miz and Ted DiBiase.
Sin Cara also gained a spot in the 2011 Money in the Bank Ladder match, but was unsuccessful in his attempt to receive a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship. In that same match Sin Cara was “injured,” as a quiet way of being removed from television for his first violation of the company’s Wellness Policy.
When he returned a feud was ready for him with imposter Sin Cara Negro (portrayed by fellow Lucha wrestler Hunico). This feud was short-lived as the real Sin Cara suffered a legitimate injury in November 2011 that sidelined him for six months.
He returned in May 2012 and began teaming with Rey Mysterio in a series of matches, most of which were designed to reinvigorate the tag team division. Mysterio would serve as the storyline and real life mentor of Sin Cara, but the two would fall short of their tag team championship goals. Once again Sin Cara suffered an injury that would place him on the shelf in December 2012 for one month.
He returned in January 2013 at the Royal Rumble pay per view and was used sparingly for two months. More injuries kept him out of action until May 2013, where he returned to a nice and comfortable spot in the undercard and remains there at the time of this writing.
To that extent, Sin Cara is officially a lame duck in the WWE hierarchy of superstars.
With only two years in WWE under his mask, Sin Cara appears to be one of the fruits that have fallen far from the WWE Tree of Destiny. He’s more known and celebrated for botching moves/matches than he is for breathtaking moments and jaw-dropping athleticism. No one questions why he does the job for matches when he should be planted firmly in the upper mid-card. No one missed Sin Cara when he was off of television; his returns receive no fanfare and the commentators seem unenthusiastic about his abilities and presence.
In a match against Damien Sandow on Wednesday’s episode of Main Event, even Sin Cara’s body language seemed to be that of a man defeated, a depressed and sterile shell of what once housed limitless potential. Sin Cara no longer embodies the hope of a superstar destined to take our breath away; he’s become the laughing stock of smart fans and an afterthought to a generation that’s content with the same old predictable product.
Contrary to popular thought, Sin Cara is more of a victim in this series of unfortunate events than he is the deserving subject of ridicule and apathy. Sin Cara was set up to fail from the very beginning.
WWE’s developmental territory and “system” at this point in time is a necessary evil. The entire process of hiring a potential superstar is designed in a frustratingly precise way to achieve an insanely specific result. The very style the wrestlers learn is specific to WWE, and even if a wrestler brings a distinct style to the table it is altered to suit WWE audiences.
By allowing (or forcing) Sin Cara to bypass this crucial step in his WWE career, the company inevitably forced him to work a style familiar to him for an audience largely ignorant of anything outside of WWE. At the time Sin Cara was also limited in the opponents he could work with that meshed favorably with his style. This would account for his frequent “botching,” messing up moves with opponents because either his or his opponent’s timing in the ring was off. There was also speculation that Sin Cara spoke very little English upon his arrival in the company, which would naturally lead to miscommunication with opponents in the ring.
His first Wellness Policy violation, as well as a string of injuries, also hindered his growth in the ring. The stop-and-go pace of his journey caused continuous gaps in his rise to the top, which was only confounded by the back-to-back occurrence of these events. A substantial program between Sin Cara and a credible opponent could not be established because of his time off; he also avoided being placed in serious title contentions for the same reason.
Sin Cara was also not allowed time to speak, forcing him to convey emotion through his body language. Further pressure was placed on his body language due to his face being completely hidden by his mask. While this is not a bad thing for promotions that make wrestling a priority (such as in Mexico or Japan), it becomes a MASSIVE albatross around his neck within a promotion that emphasizes microphone skills and charisma. Even with an impressive array of moves and maneuvers, he lacked the knowledge to piece those moves and maneuvers together in a way that invites WWE fans to invest in the character.
The final product in most instances was a dull, lifeless character that moved from one spot to the next with no story told in between spots.
Sin Cara was rarely, if at all, allowed promo time, and the number of hype videos and vignettes featuring him declined over time. His best pairing over time was with Rey Mysterio, a union that showed some progress for his character but was snuffed almost in the blink of an eye.
Because of these things the fans never really got behind him and he slowly turned into one big punch line in a never ending joke. He became ridiculed for his mistakes more than he was appreciated for his work. When his work improved fans were silent about his progress and stayed mired in the filth of reminding others of their own personal ill-informed opinion of him.
To make matters worse the smart fans began to blame him for being the “colossal failure” many believed him to be. Without fan support or reaction from the American crowds, Sin Cara was placed on the back burner as attention was given to more rousing and exciting characters. From this perspective there should be no wonder as to why he wrestles with no purpose or reason for being in WWE; he is currently the only superstar most fans have no issue with watching lose a match consistently.
This is quite possibly the worst form of Hell a wrestler can exist in: being relegated to working in a less than desirable position while being intentionally kept in your company to serve a purpose other than the one you were originally hired for.
There is an often used phrase about abandoning hope at a certain point of no return; it’s safe to say that if this is where Sin Cara currently resides, he would be extremely lucky to have a penny with a hole in it … (see what I did there?)
Sunny days could be in store for Sin Cara, however; depending on how you look at those bright skies could mean the difference between seeing a renewed Mexican luchador or a man liberated from the oppressive gray skies of WWE.
Perhaps there’s truth to the signing of luchadors Amazing Red and Samuray Del Sol; WWE Superstar Hunico, who is an amazing talent and highly prized by WWE, has recently returned to the company after an injury. Rey Mysterio will eventually begin his last run in the company, and must pass his torch to another Latin American performer. Alberto Del Rio has already alluded to retiring in a few years and Ricardo Rodriguez is positioned to be a perennial manager of lackey.
Point being the door is wide open for Sin Cara to make a statement if he earnestly wants to do so. What that statement will be, however, remains to be seen and heard; whatever he decides to do will determine the fate of his WWE legacy, either launching his name high into the upper echelon of amazingly gifted stars to perform for the WWE, or send him spiraling into an abyss of damnation and irrelevance with the likes of Braden Walker, Hade Vansen, Colin Delaney and Arthur Rosenberg.
All is not completely lost for Sin Cara. The faceless luchador from Mexico can prove his worth, but he has to be the one to take the first step towards redeeming his name. For Sin Cara the conversation isn’t about hope; it’s about determination and pride. In some way, even while bearing the load of a mountain of losses, habitual mistakes and repeated injuries on his back, Sin Cara could rise from his trials and tribulations as a standout star in a WWE Sea filled with forgettable countenances.
The moment that happens, you can be guaranteed that one way or another we’ll all be left stunned in our seats gasping for air.
This whole situation with Derek Foore selling copies of his WWE developmental contract unnerves me to no end.
The former developmental star, a standout collegiate wrestler from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, was released from the company in November 2012 after signing with them in 2011. Now only a mere and convenient seven months later, Foore has mustered enough courage to become the burly and athletically gifted Edward Snowden to WWE’s NSA.
Forgive me for being cynical but I just cannot buy into these mythic exploits of St. Chad Baxter of NXT.
Foore has stated that the purpose of his efforts is to expose how WWE exploits its wrestlers, which a first glance frankly doesn’t seem that much different from the way most American companies exploit their workers. We can only guess by Foore’s actions that the extent to which the company exploits the wrestlers (or independent contractors) is extreme enough to warrant a disgruntled ex-employee the wrestler to “take a stand against tyranny and injustice.”
More telling is a comment from one of Foore’s fellow former WWE developmental talents, Dustin Starr. In a response to the news of Foore selling copies of his contract, Starr had the following to say:
I will say this – having signed a WWE contract myself, I read every single page before putting my signature on down. Once I read thru every page, I actually had second thoughts on even signing it because of how much control they have over the talent.
We could spend all year scrutinizing Starr’s comments and dragging Foore’s name through the mud, but the bottom line is that one cannot complain about a particular injustice if one willingly participates in the injustice to begin with.
If Foore, like Dustin Starr, had honestly and earnestly read through his entire developmental contract prior to signing it, why did he not rally against the exploitive practices of the company after turning down the offer? Foore’s attempt at publicly humiliating the company now comes off as the actions of a bitter and cantankerous ex-employee attempting to cash in one final time on a company that at least invested in him as soon as he enthusiastically signed his image and likeness over to them.
That doesn’t make Foore a saint; if anything it makes him just as blatantly opportunistic as the machine he’s raging against. Once Foore begins to sell copies of his contract, he’ll be guaranteed fifteen more minutes of fame before he’s blacklisted by WWE and forced to compete overseas … something he’s apparently already considering, ironically enough.
What do fans stand to gain from this? Another bit of juicy gossip that reveals the truth behind WWE in particular and the pro wrestling industry in general? Will casual fans be inspired to pour through their own work contracts and quit their jobs just to reveal how “terrible” the company they worked for truly is? Will hardcore fans even give this a second thought and pass it off as just another pissed off employee with a hatchet to bury?
What does Derek Foore stand to gain from this? He’s thrust into the spotlight as a wrestling whistleblower, he becomes a topic of conversation among those within the industry; he makes a bit of money from selling the copies, and he has a ready-made persona when he works for promotions that would have, under any other circumstance, dismissed him as just another wrestler.
Foore stands to gain much more than the fans; ultimately in his attempt to show the world how WWE exploits its workers, Derek Foore in turn exploits the fans.
Does Foore have a right to air his grievances against WWE for his release? Yes, he does. Does he have a right to expose the company’s unscrupulous tactics? Yes, he does.
Does he have a right to copy his developmental contract and sell it to fans? Is he legally allowed to publically disclose information in his contract with the public? Is he justified in condemning the exploitive ways of WWE when he himself is pandering their dirty secrets to fans … for a price?
More importantly, can one really side with Foore in good conscious when he agreed to allow himself to be exploited by signing his name on the contract to begin with?
One can only be exploited if one allows himself or herself to be exploited. A different game plan would have been to rally superstars behind the scenes to force a conversation about their rights as employees. A different game plan would be to write or publish a book or article about how wrestlers can protect themselves when faced with a company that aims to control much of your character and your life.
A radical and perhaps more effective game plan would have been to not sign the contract in the first place and then explain why one didn’t.
But alas, all we fans are left with is more speculative dirt sheet cannon fodder that takes away tremendously from the art of wrestling and gives the IWC more to complain about in the never ending WWE versus TNA debate.
Let’s face facts: very few companies in the United States, let alone on the planet, operate with the workers in mind first and the revenue (capital) second. Companies driven by profits will do whatever it takes to cut corners so that they bring in more money than they spend. If a company that specializes in showcasing the talents and skills of independent contractors (i.e. “wrestlers”) wants to see that profit, they’ll more than likely restrict those contractors to a stringent set of rules and rights in order to maintain a particular image and to reduce the amount of money they’ll have to pay to the hundreds of workers that own all the rights to their characters’ likenesses.
Here’s the fun part so please pay close attention … if a particular independent contractor isn’t comfortable with the terms of the contract presented to him or her, that independent contractor can do one of two things: ask to renegotiate the terms of that contract or opt to not sign the contract and find work elsewhere with terms more suitable to their liking.
When it’s all said and done, this isn’t a case of someone unearthing the iniquitous procedures of World Wrestling Entertainment. At its core, this is a case of a decorated collegiate athlete seeking to embarrass a former employer as retribution for terminating his contract without giving a reason. Tweeting about selling copies of it and selling the copies only makes Foore look petty, immature, and vindictive. It’s funny how fans can be conditioned to hate Vince McMahon for those traits, but celebrate others for exhibiting the same thing.
Foore’s better than that; and if he isn’t, then at the least he can aspire to be better than sinking to such a level. With so many real and unreal villains in the world of professional wrestling, we honestly don’t need yet another one added to the list, especially another one that’s pretending to be a hero.
Fellow wrestling enthusiast and occasional L.E.W.D. contributor Ray Bogusz prefers good “pro wrestling” to “sports entertainment.”
In an article penned for The Color Commentator some time ago Ray admonished fans for their slavish devotion to sports entertainment, the very same form of entertainment those same fans will critique and criticize regularly. Ray’s point, in so many words, is that the penultimate expression of pro wrestling cannot be found solely in the world’s two largest promotions (WWE and TNA).
If one truly wants to indulge and consume pro wrestling, one would do best by expanding their knowledge of the sport to promotions outside of the United States. These promotions, each with their own unique spin on the pro wrestling industry, arguably present a product more focused on the art of wrestling rather than the showmanship of a carnival sideshow.
The beauty of Ray’s comments rests in his earnest attempt of encouraging fans to deepen their knowledge, appreciation and experience of wrestling. As vast as the WWE Universe and TNA Galaxy may appear to be, the wide world of professional wrestling is far larger and more important than the limited scope of sports entertainment.
Although it can be quite the daunting task to wean one’s self from the glitz and glamour offered by WWE and TNA, the reward of such efforts are far more pleasing and exciting than a lot of the mainstream mediocrity spoon fed to fans by the U.S.’s two major wrestling promotions. For starters, such a task can enable us to see that the American style of wrestling has specific nuances that, while entertaining, also limit wrestlers as far as building a well-rounded polarizing character or entertaining match.
In the United States there it is extremely necessary for a wrestler to be able to talk, to work a microphone and pull fans into their character primarily through their words. Athleticism and abilities come as a secondary necessary skill, but often take a back seat to the wrestler’s ability to get an audience to respond to what they say.
This facet of a well-rounded wrestler is not necessarily prized as highly in other countries as it is in the United States. As such it’s interesting (or at least it is to me) to watch wrestlers or promotions outside of the United States that place slightly more importance on the abilities of a wrestler than they do the wrestler’s public speaking prowess.
There are several promotions outside (and even a few within) the United States that hold that perspective as the foundation of their product. I am personally fond of British wrestlers and British professional wrestling, particularly the Catch Wrestling style often exhibited by wrestlers from Western Europe and popularly referred to as “Catch-As-Catch-Can” style.
The Catch Wrestling style captured my imagination for a few reasons. Outside of it being drastically different from the pro wrestling I’ve grown accustomed to watching (including how a match occurs in the “One-fall-ten-minute-time-limit” stipulations we hear often), I was drawn to the way wrestlers manipulated their opponent’s joints with maneuvers and holds. A Catch wrestler didn’t necessarily have to be the biggest player in the room, but rather had to have extensive knowledge of the human body (or knowledge of kinesiology) and how to manipulate it into positions that would force an opponent to submit or succumb to an inescapable pinning condition.
By virtue of its nature, the Catch style is more methodical and paced than the style we see most American wrestlers adopt and execute in a match; it should be no surprise that most fans don’t speak highly or often of Catch wrestlers, as the psychology of the match promotes the notion that these highly trained grapplers have to be worn down over a period of time.
Another thing that makes the Catch style intriguing is the brutal striking attacks administered by the wrestlers. Numerous hard hitting strikes executed with the forearms, elbows and knees are used to bludgeon an opponent, making this “ground and pound” offense a way to slowly and painfully whittle away at an opponent’s stamina and resiliency. There’s also the frequent and malicious use of slams and suplexes that also serve to clobber an opponent silly.
With such a dangerous arsenal there is no shortage of well-known wrestlers than have successfully made aspects of the Catch style easily consumable by American audiences.
Former TNA wrestler Doug Williams brought some prominent attention to the style during his run as X-Division champion in January 2010. Prior to this, his first run as X-Division Champion, Williams utilized the style without significance or fanfare in the grand scheme of the intended direction of TNA’s product.
It was with Williams’ run as X-Division champion that he and the company intentionally promoted the style, displaying a character that despised the high-flying, acrobatic antics of wrestlers in the division and commenting that they weren’t “pure” wrestlers.
Initially I believed this stark contrast between styles seemed foolish and boring, thinking that Williams grounding of the high-flying, high octane X-Division action would spell the demise of what made the division popular in the first place. I was proven wrong, however, as Williams’ ability to frustrate the one dimensional athletes with his holds and submissions gave me a reason to care even more about the division than ever before. It became entertaining to watch Williams flip and stretch his opponents, exciting to see his opponents scramble frantically to evade his vice-like clutches.It wasn’t long before I not only looked forward to the day a wrestler managed to survive and win a match against Williams, but also the epic ways Williams managed to pummel and contort the individuals that dared to challenge him for the X-Division title. This character development and X-Division storyline arc was abandoned after Williams was stripped of the title due to his inability to defend it in April 2010.
From that point on the Williams character became more of a brawler than a technical tactician. This isn’t to say it veered completely away from his Catch roots, but rather they were no longer as prominent as they were during his time as champion. As TNA began to quietly transition to a more sports entertainment friendly product, Williams also slowly moved away from being a featured X-Division talent and closer toward a valued enhancement veteran. With so many other technically gifted athletes rampaging through the company, Williams and his style no longer stood out as much as it did when he wrestled exclusively against smaller, high-flying wrestlers of the X-Division.
In October 2009 Desmond Wolfe, also known as Nigel McGuinness, made his debut in TNA by introducing himself to Kurt Angle and attacking him following a brief exchange. Wolfe would go on to bring his especially vicious Catch style to TNA against the amazingly technical prowess of Kurt Angle. Although Wolfe’s career in TNA was short and somewhat uneventful after his feud with Angle, the mean streak that surged through the Nigel McGuinness/Desmond Wolfe characters is unforgettable.
Wolfe’s Catch style was uniquely devious for a relentless assault directed at the head, neck and arms of his opponents. The most dangerous move in Wolfe’s cache had to be his lariat, which always look sickeningly effective in leveling any opponent caught on the business end of the maneuver. In similar fashion to Douglas Williams, Wolfe employed gratuitous use of the head butt and European uppercut when attacking opponents as well.
Wolfe was often paired in TNA with equally savvy technical wrestlers and managed to stand out with a keen focus on specific body parts, something most of his contemporaries did not work into their personas or match psychology. Wolfe’s role and presence in TNA declined over time, with the wrestler eventually retiring from active competition and returning to ROH Wrestling as an on-screen personality.
Click here to see a great match between Wolfe (as Nigel McGuinness) and Doug Williams from a ROH show in the United Kingdom.
Hands down my favorite British Catch wrestler is William Regal. Having wrestled since he was fifteen years old, Regal was established in wrestling well before going to the WWE in 1998. Performing as Steven Regal in WCW, the character excelled as a villain with a developed and pronounced mean streak. The Regal character would often utilize “dirty” tactics, such as eye rakes and biting, to add insult to injury while applying brutal holds to his opponents.
Every single move executed by Regal (Steven or William) was designed to intentionally hurt, cripple or maim his opponent in some of the most excruciating ways imaginable. His character was made all the more sinister with the complex nature of his move set.
For example, if Regal applied a hold to an opponent’s arm he could meticulously grind his knee into a shoulder, hyperextend an elbow, aggravate the wrist and dislocate several fingers all in one maneuver. Regal could also draw the referee’s attention to a particular move while further degrading his opponent with another move (waiting for the five count to break a hold while kicking an opponent in the face). Regal was also never afraid to use knees and kicks to strike devastating blows to his opponent’s torso or head.
Today Regal serves as an ambassador of sorts for the WWE, but also juggles announcing duties with the occasional match on WWE’s NXT program. Regal is at his best when training future superstars in front of the camera and behind the scenes as well.
Click here to see a YouTube video of an 18 year old “Roy” Regal face Catch Wrestling legend Marty Jones. Pay close attention to some of Marty’s maneuvers, as you can easily see where Regal learned some of his very own tricks (Jones actually trained Regal!).
A true conversation about Catch wrestling cannot be had without mentioning Jim Breaks among others. I don’t know too much about the life and times of Jim Breaks, but watching one of matches is akin to watching a world renowned sculptor craft a masterpiece right before your eyes.
Breaks’ selling point, apparently, was the infamous temper tantrums he threw when encountering the referee’s wrath (for his unscrupulous tactics) or suffering a loss in a multi-fall match. This made Jim Breaks a notable character in that his abilities were intricately connected to his persona, making showmanship an important part of his legacy and also earned him the nickname “Cry Baby.”
As one of the preeminent names in Catch Wrestling history, Jim Breaks was also a villain that sold maneuvers and holds applied to him in a manner that helped put over his opponents tremendously. As fans grew to despise the weasel-like “Cry Baby” character, they cheered voraciously when he received his comeuppance from his opponents. Jim Breaks had a legendary career and was an accomplished and highly decorated amateur and pro wrestler.
Click here to see a video of a great Jim Breaks match. Notice how the flow of the match allows you to pay more attention to the actual wrestling that’s taking place within the ring, and give some notice to how “real” the match looks and feels.
The names and characters mentioned here do not make up the sum of Catch wrestling, as there are hundreds of other European wrestlers who work the style and have contributed greatly to the business. There’s Johnny Saint, Marty Jones, Shirley “Big Daddy” Crabtree, The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith, David “Fit” Finlay and Dave Taylor. Stars like Antonio Cesaro, Martin Stone (a.k.a. NXT’s Danny Burch) and even fan favorite Colt Cabana wrestle today and keep the Catch style as a part of their repertoire.
Do yourself a favor and check out more of the Catch Wrestling style, and I promise you won’t be disappointed. And speaking of Colt Cabana’s Catch Wrestling, please enjoy the following this epic exhibition of Catch Wrestling.
There wasn’t much hullabaloo immediately made when TNA President Dixie Carter commented in an interview last month with Digital Spy about being “absolutely open” to doing a crossover event with Vince McMahon and his WWE machine.
Believe it or not I share this opinion with Carter much to the chagrin of a few of my L.E.W.D. brethren. With the business on the whole situated in a PG period of stagnancy, a crossover event between the two largest pro wrestling promotions in the United States would bring something new and different to an industry growing increasingly stale.
Americans living in the United States are taught early on that competition among businesses is excellent for growth, development, and success. Carter stated in the interview that although she believes this to be true of the pro wrestling industry, she has justifiable concern that her company’s competition feels differently. To be honest with TNA currently standing second to the WWE in many different ways, the latter company has yet to have any good reason to acknowledge TNA without pretense; there’s no reason the big dog in the yard has to give the pipsqueak pup a chance to compete with them on a level they’ve yet to earn on their own merit.
If the WWE has maintained a vice like grip on the industry for the last 11-12 years, why would they willingly give that position and power up just for another company (Carter also mentioned this same thing, in a way, during the interview)? That honestly is the main reason why a crossover event between the two companies would be out of the question today.
A recent post by blogger Tom G at Gerweck.net has me thinking differently about that seemingly unfathomable event; as numerous sites and blogs are now asking fans to build their dream event that would see TNA wrestlers go head-to-head with the WWE superstars, I can’t help but to wonder how things would work if the wrestling world was perfect and a TNA versus WWE event was scheduled.
Establish WHY the Event Should Take Place
To begin with both companies would have to negotiate the terms of the event and decide how they would and could benefit from working with one another instead of against each other.
The immediate and obvious beneficiary would be TNA, the smaller company that gets scores of publicity and revenue from being attached to the WWE and its global audience. Granted TNA has a large number of fans around the world, but consider the numerical difference between IMPACT Wrestling’s 1.2 million U.S. viewers weekly and RAW’s 3.5 million U.S. viewers before making a stink about semantics. I would consider this a short-term benefit for TNA, as any momentum gained from the event would have to be maintained and capitalized upon by TNA.
There would be no instant gratification for WWE unless there was a specific reason for working with their closest rival (we’ll talk about that in a second). However in the long run, the WWE creative team(s) and booking team(s) would be forced to reevaluate the way they present their product if TNA capitalizes off of the publicity and momentum.
The long term benefit would also be for the business as well, creating a hype and buzz that would bring some new excitement and create buzz for an industry lacking in mass appeal all around. Essentially both companies would be looking at communal and individual success, both companies gaining something far more important by sacrificing personal and hubristic glory or domination over the competition.
If those goals alone aren’t enough to entice McMahon (Carter would agree from the very beginning), perhaps another goal could be to provide funds and support for a relief effort or other charitable causes. A portion of the money raised from the event could be donated to the many non-profit organizations supported by either company. Or, as Tom G. mentioned, perhaps the money raised from the event could benefit victims of natural disasters (Hurricane Sandy or the Oklahoma tornados) or tragic violence (Sandy Hook or Boston Marathon families).
McMahon rarely turns down opportunities to offer financial support to numerous charitable organizations, and an event of such magnitude that brings together an even larger array of fans and media attention would certainly whet his appetite.
Establish Parameters for the Event: The Overarching Story and 5 Year Plan
After both companies come on board and agree to work with each other, negotiations would have to take place that discuss what the event should look like and how it should play out.
Tom G. noted that an independent booking committee would be necessary to hammer out the details of the event, but seeing as most of the writers and booking committee of TNA has already worked with WWE in some form or fashion, such a committee would me more of a desire than a need. A solid crew representing the interests of both companies, in my opinion, would suffice just as well.
Regardless of the participants of the event it’s more important to lay out a plan that highlights the strength and weaknesses of both companies. The resulting storyline would lead to a resolution that tacitly shows fans what makes each promotion worthy of attention and money while also not denying the weaknesses each company suffers from.
The only thing that would frustrate talks at this point is the desire for either company to “prove” that it’s “better” than the competition. That should be a point left for the fans to decide, the result of which would ideally create a new era of prime time wrestling wars.
My particular idea would involve the event spanning over five years, with one specific pay per view show per year. This event, which I have conveniently named Proving Ground, would pretty much be a bi-promotional Bragging Rights that would take place in December each year. Each company would build towards the pay per view in their own unique way, using the three months prior to turn the focus of their major storylines towards the pay per view.
Think of it like this: in the way that TNA builds for Bound for Glory though the BFG Series, or in the way that WWE begins the “Road to WrestleMania” with the Royal Rumble pay per view. Similar things could happen in each company, perhaps with WWE having a “series” of matches to determine Team WWE and TNA having a battle royal to begin the storyline journey leading to the Proving Ground pay per view.
Over the five year period of time each pay per view would be designed to send a specific message to the fans regarding each promotion. These messages would either speak to each company’s strengths or weaknesses in a way that is truthful but not offensive a company and its fans. I imagine that the final pay per view in Year Five would involve a high profile match that would be the ultimate pay off in the series, each company progressing after the event in their own manner.
Keeping in mind that how a wrestler wins a match is more important than winning the match itself, it would be absolutely necessary for TNA to lose the pay per view in Year One.
Now in its eleventh year of operation, TNA has managed to survive financial ruin, booking disasters, and harsh fan criticism with an unrivaled level of skill. The company and its president continuously fight against a heavy tide of criticism and disdain from most fans; they cater to a diehard and rabid fan base that will support and protect it against any and all dissenters, including against ex-employees of the company.
Despite their dogged persistence and spunky nature, TNA has yet to really go beyond a certain point in its eleven year history. It’s questionable whether or not they’re making a profit and their best efforts cannot seem to raise their viewership beyond another specific point. Having acknowledged this reality, how much sense would it make to have the company dominate and defeat the WWE conglomerate on the very first pay per view?
The point of Year One would be to establish TNA as a serious competitor to the WWE machine. It will be highlighted that TNA can beat WWE, not that they have beaten WWE. The point to drive home with each match—win or lose—is that TNA has the heart and persistence to bring WWE to its knees. That can be done even if TNA more matches on the card than the WWE, including the main event match.
Year One would also highlight the differences between the two companies, most notably the difference between “wrestlers” and “superstars,” “Knockouts” and “Divas.” TNA would show consistently that their roster is filled with athletes while the WWE’s roster is brimming with entertainers. I even picture someone from Team TNA commenting that the WWE superstars “talk too much” instead of wrestling.
On the other side of the coin, the WWE reveal their weakness of underestimating the TNA wrestlers while highlighting their prominent position of employing some of the world’s top athletes. Team TNA would assuredly give Team WWE some frustratingly stiff competition, but Team WWE would prove that they cannot be pigeonholed as having a roster filled with flashy fops and doo-lolly dandies.
The main event match would pit WWE Champion John Cena against TNA World Heavyweight Champion Bully Ray, assuming that by the end of the year both men would still be champion in their respective company. Cena would win the epic and brutal bout and bring home the first Proving Ground trophy for WWE.
Year Two: Our Time Is Now
Year Two would see TNA regroup and capitalize off of WWE’s indifference to TNA’s abilities. The idea would be that even after staving off a TNA victory, the company failed to learn from the experience and once again treated TNA as a minor hiccup in the grand scheme of things.
Year Two would decidedly be TNA’s year at Proving Ground, showcasing the company’s ability to grow from one level of operation to another in specific areas. Their weakness, which WWE would exploit throughout the pay per view, would be their tendency to make minor changes in areas of little import in the grand scheme of things.
For example: if a Year One match between Zack Ryder and Robbie E resulted in a loss for TNA, that same match in Year Two would give them a victory between the same two individuals. Perhaps Robbie T would win a match against Mason Ryan, Velvet Sky would be victorious over a Bella Twin or AJ Lee. In Year Two TNA would amass several victories while coming up short in a few of the high profile matches, matches that would “matter” the most throughout the pay per view.
The main event match would see TNA World Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles (necessary) defeat WWE World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler (interchangeable with Del Rio, Swagger, or another solid collegiate “wrestler”). The match would easily be a five-star MOTY candidate, with high drama and exhilarating near falls. Styles would win clean, without any interference or excuses, and bring the Year Two trophy home to TNA.
WWE would have an easy out, admitting to the defeat but consistently pointing out that the WWE Champion didn’t lose his match. This approach could potentially devalue the importance of the WHC, but no more than it has already been. Point being the WWE comes to terms with accepting their loss at the hands of the young company, but also maintaining its status at the top of the ladder.
The Year Two pay per view would also set the stages for the Year Five pay per view, providing the stage for the rubber pay per view between the two companies.
Year Three: Death by Honor
The build towards the third annual Proving Ground pay per view would include an invasion from ROH, the small third company ignored largely by WWE and TNA. This build would include honest grievances that can be seen between ROH and both companies.
Stars from ROH would argue that TNA’s most prominent stars made names in their company first, and that TNA greedily snatched up their stars as they became popular. It could be noted how TNA, in all of its pro-fan wrestling based ethics systematically barred wrestlers from competing in ROH, a tactic that makes them no different from the company they claim to be better than (WWE).
In WWE, ROH stars can claim that management sold their souls for money and notoriety as the WWE “paid them off” in order to buy contracts from their remaining top tier talent. They could state how WWE would be nowhere near as popular without ROH stars bringing ROH-like excitement to the company.
In the midst of such claims wrestlers from both TNA and WWE would begin to take sides, either defecting to ROH or staying with their respective company. ROH would over time prove to be a threat that neither WWE nor TNA considered or was prepared for; each company would then work to maintain their rosters as well as prepare for the Proving Ground pay per view. Eventually ROH would work their way into a spot on the pay per view card.
The Year Three pay per view would see WWE and TNA extremely preoccupied with obtaining a decisive victory over each other without truly considering the presence of ROH in the events. Each company would dismiss victories obtained by ROH while remaining focused on attempting to gain victories over each other.
Team ROH would run into trouble gaining victories over Team WWE outside of defectors, but would give Team TNA a heck of a fight similar to the way TNA did WWE at the Year One pay per view. The WWE would maintain a small lead in overall victories, with TNA and ROH battling over second place throughout the night.
The main event match would pit the world champions from TNA (Austin Aries, AJ Styles, Magnus) and ROH against each other and the WWE Champion (Daniel Bryan, CM Punk) in a triple threat match. The finish would come when the WWE Champion (a former ROH wrestler) to ROH allows the ROH champion to pin the TNA champion, the significance being that WWE still remains on top and remains on top as their champion was not pinned or made to submit during the match. The WWE will also point out that even without winning the Proving Ground trophy, they still won the most matches during the pay per view (by one match perhaps).
TNA becomes bitter after having been underestimated and disrespected by WWE a third year in a row. This anger and bitterness will fuel them throughout the year and prepare them for the fourth annual pay per view.
ROH celebrates with the Proving Ground trophy, having “hung in there” with the big dogs and proving that they too should be recognized and taken seriously in the pro wrestling business.
Year Four: United
The build to the Year Four pay per view would begin earlier than usual unbeknownst to the fans. Both TNA and WWE would aggressively train talent in their respective developmental systems. Both companies would also pay attention to high profile names from well-known international or independent organizations such as DragonGate USA, EVOLVE, SHIMMER, SHINE, Resistence Pro, AAA, CMLL, New Japan, etc. These stars, after having honestly been in each company’s developmental system for some time (courted or hired prior/during Year Two) would debut throughout the year in the months right before the actual build to the Proving Ground pay per view.
ROH would once again “invade” both companies, claiming that their victory at the previous pay per view humbled the organizations and weakened their domineering control over the fans. They rejoice at the fact they’ll once again be able to humble each company.
Both TNA and WWE would begin to reveal their teams for the pay per view, each consisting of stars from the independent and international organizations. The pay per view would then feature these stars, plus each company’s “regular” stars, waging war against ROH.
ROH would have trouble gaining victories over these independent stars wrestling, and would maintain a second place position behind TNA and WWE trading leads and vying for the top spot. Even with a common foe in ROH, WWE and TNA would still attempt to gain a lead on the other company. This vying would eventually lead to an ROH victory that squeaks them ahead of both companies by one match.
The main event match would pit a team (tag, 6-man, Vintage Survivor Series teams) against ROH in an elimination match. The wrestlers on Team WWE/TNA would prove to be incapable of working together, with losses coming as a result of the team’s instability. With only two wrestlers left, Team WWE/TNA mounts a comeback and gains the victory from the pay per view when a WWE star makes the last ROH wrestler submit while the TNA wrestler scores a pinfall (far-fetched, but there’s a method to the madness).
With ROH sufficiently dispatched for the moment a debate ensues over just exactly who scored the victory for their respective company. With confusion reigning supreme over the finish, it is eventually decided that both companies can claim rightful ownership of that year’s Proving Ground trophy or award. This dispute will be the foundation for the final Proving Ground pay per view.
Year Five: Winner Takes All
The hype around the Year Five pay per view would focus on the controversial finish to the Year Four pay per view. The stakes are high, and it is noted that technically speaking that TNA and WWE are tied with two victories apiece in the series. The best of the best in all three companies are recruited to represent their promotion at the pay per view, which the stars training and wrestling feverishly to be in the best shape they can be.
The pay per view occurs and ROH puts up one hell of a fight, ultimately falling short of gaining a lead in victories over either TNA or WWE. In the first of two main event matches, they score a well fought victory over either or both companies which cements the idea that they should be respected and taken more seriously among fans as a promotion even though they still have some ground to gain to be at the same level as TNA and WWE.
The second main event would pit The Undertaker against Sting, which would (and could) lead to a second match at the following WrestleMania.
The third main event and final match of the last Proving Ground pay per view would see the WWE Champion face the TNA World Heavyweight Champion to proclaim the winner of the Proving Ground series.
The tricky part about deciding a victor at this point is deciding who should walk away with the bragging rights. All things being equal it can be assumed that five years of crossover events has created a fervor among casual and hardcore wrestling fans that surpasses that of the Attitude Era. Hopefully the goal of the series has been achieved in that all parties involved have benefitted from increased attention and revenue. The writing is better in all three companies, the presentation of the product (especially in ROH’s case) is better, and the fans are excited and thrilled to spend their hard earned money on pro wrestling again.
Regardless of who’s winning the ratings war I would give the WWE a controversial victory that allows both companies to retreat from the series in ways that speak to the realities that exist in each promotion. The finish would be controversial, but not “dirty” or “dusty.”
Think of it in the same way as you would the finish to Triple H’s Extreme Rules 2013 match against Brock Lesnar; even though Brock Lesnar won the match, he limped away from it and disappeared from television. Although suffering from a beating, Triple H still managed to show up to work the next few episodes of RAW.
The win would maintain the WWE’s position as the top dog in the industry, something it had claim two ever since the beginning of the series. Although the finish to the match is controversial, the company limps away from the victory and continues on its way of conducting business as it sees fit.
TNA, on the other hand, suffering from a questionable loss, returns to its business and can rightfully claim that it took the mighty WWE to the limit and even had it on its knees. The point during the loss would be that a) TNA has finally proven to be worthy of consideration as a competitor to the WWE and that b) WWE is not invincible as many believe it to be.
Whatever the finish may be it would involve interference from Vince McMahon and Dixie Carter, perhaps even with Carter landing a shot on McMahon after his blatant attempt to disrupt the match. This would give TNA fans something to cherish as the impending WWE victory creeps up on everyone.
With all that said and done the only thing that’s left is to book the very first Proving Ground pay per view. Stay tuned…
Speculation regarding WWE Superstar Antonio Cesaro’s status in the company runs rampant these days as internet pundits site his “boringness” as a major factor in his lack of a decent push from WWE writers and officials. These same pundits also claim that while Cesaro’s skills are undeniably hailed and respected by many individuals in the company, his ability to be entertaining is the main cause for his current Zack Ryder-like status on televised events.
One cannot deny the mind-baffling reality of Antonio Cesaro’s losing streak. Towards the end of his 239 day reign as United States Champion (a reign second to that of Shelton Benjamin’s 240 day run in 2008-09), Cesaro gained a string of inexplicable losses that culminated with an unceremonious loss to Kofi Kingston on the April 15episode of RAW. It has been one month since that fateful day and Cesaro has only gained one televised victory (to my knowledge), a win he gained on the May 6 episode of RAW.
It was on that same episode that Cesaro cut a post-match promo and emphatically voiced his opinion on his superior abilities compared to mediocre skills of other superstars in WWE. Simply put Cesaro vowed to dismantle superstars left and right because there were very few wrestlers on the active roster (including stars in NXT) that could hold a candle to him; what makes things funny is that any fan in their right mind had to believe there was more truth in Cesaro’s statements than some would’ve preferred. Unfortunately the efficacy of Cesaro’s “shoot” was immediately nullified with his loss to Randy Orton on the May 13 episode of RAW.
Most adult wrestling fans understand and accept the fact that pro wrestling is staged with wins and losses ultimately having very little to do with competing for a title or rank within the company. To these same fans, wins and losses more so represent a superstar’s status in the company and, to some extent, how officials feel about a particular star.
The thought process sounds something like this: the more “wins” you have, the more you’re well liked in the company; the more “losses” you have, the more disliked you are. Once it has been established that a given superstar is “disliked” in the company, speculation swirls around why that superstar is disliked. In Cesaro’s case, reasoning has ranged from him being boring to Vince McMahon personally hating him.
The problem with this line of thinking is the assumption that rampant losses are inherently bad, that jobbing is a form of punishment for some crime committed against the company or the superstar not living up to a set of unspoken and increasingly random standards.
On the contrary the fact that Cesaro is still on television regularly despite losing frequently suggests that his skills and talents are recognized; perhaps the creative forces behind his character have no idea what to do with him.
American wrestling fans have been trained to believe that “winning” is the main point when it comes to the heavily choreographed pro wrestling matches. Blinded by such an opinion we can at times miss the art of a wrestling match, the psychology and in-ring work that go into making an above average bout. This isn’t to say that “winning” a match isn’t important; rather our understanding of how a superstar wins a match should take precedent over simply winning the match.
In order for one superstar to win a match another superstar has to lose it as well. From that perspective we can infer that the loser of the match has a very important task: feverishly competing to make the winner look convincing in victory. In an era of pro wrestling severely lacking repeat jobbers (Brooklyn Brawler, Barry Horowitz and Chavo Guerrero, Jr.), high profile superstars such as Cesaro (or Zack Ryder) are often tasked with making their opponents look spectacular in victory.
To be placed in such a position, while not necessarily the best or most sought out position, is still a huge compliment and nod to a wrestler’s skills and abilities. Often times the wrestlers that “job” the most are actually the most athletically gifted wrestlers in a given locker room, which is certainly the case with Cesaro.
His high profile losses as of late have been to Randy Orton and Kofi Kingston, both of whom participated in important matches for the May 19 Extreme Rules pay per view. Their victories over a superstar of Cesaro’s caliber are thus made noteworthy particularly to the credibility and momentum they gained by facing him prior to the pay per view.
While there have been instances where superstars were booked to lose as a form of punishment (the most notable being the stage in Triple H’s career immediately following the infamous Madison Square Garden incident), this does not seem to be the case for Antonio Cesaro. After just recently being named the WWE’s Swiss Ambassador for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, what is it that Cesaro could’ve done to warrant a jobber’s punishment?
Out of all the reports that have surfaced to explain Cesaro’s string of losses, there have been no explanations as to why he would be punished by WWE officials. It also seems improbable (and not impossible) that Vince McMahon would outright hate Cesaro without reason.
If Cesaro were truly a bane to the WWE Universe, it would make more sense for McMahon to buy out his contract or pay him to sit at home indefinitely. Neither has been the case.
Perhaps Cesaro isn’t liked due to an inability to get over with fans, lending a slight level of credence to the speculation that many believe he’s simply boring to watch. Cesaro’s main selling point is his athleticism, strength and wrestling style, which combined give a nod to an old school type of grappling rarely seen in WWE today or appreciated by the company’s current fan base.
That could explain the difficulty of getting the Cesaro character over with fans. WWE’s so-called global audience can’t take to a character with a gimmick centered on the man’s proficient wrestling abilities. Ever mindful that the WWE produces content for a global audience instead of pro wrestling programming, how likely is it that gimmick was destined to succeed from the beginning?
The easy out would be to put the onus back on Cesaro for not doing enough to get the character over. A character’s success is not only intricately tied to the particular person portraying the character, but also the role that person has to play. In that sense a pro wrestler is an athlete and an actor, combining a specific set of skills to portray a role given to them by someone else.
The Antonio Cesaro character is portrayed by Claudio Castagnoli. In the Cesaro role, Castagnoli plays an ex-Swiss militia member and rugby star that was kicked out of the league for “excessive roughness.” Also at some point in his past, Cesaro learned how to yodel proficiently.
At the beginning of his tenure in WWE, Cesaro was paired with a fellow European named Aksana (portrayed by Živilė Raudonienė). Aksana, who once made waves as arm candy for former Smackdown General Manager Assistant Theodore Long (portrayed by Theodore Long), aligned herself with Cesaro once she became beguiled with his looks and abilities. Cesaro then dumped Aksana after she cost him a match against the Italian Santino Marella (portrayed by Anthony Carelli), which all coincided with the beginning of his reign as United States Champion.
Cesaro’s reign would include several exceptional matches, but it was his feats of strength that seemed to impress fans the most. In two separate and remarkable instances Cesaro was able to lift “The Funkasaurus” Brodus Clay (George Murdoch) and The Great Khali (Dalip Singh Rana) for his finishing maneuver the Neutralizer. Another epic display of Cesaro’s power was shown during his brief feud with The Miz (Mike Mizanin), where he repeatedly swung his opponent by the legs into the ringside barricade:
Impressive maneuvers aside, Castagnoli had (and has) no problem evoking a response from the crowd while performing as the excessively rough Antonio Cesaro. Unfortunately the material Castagnoli was given to work with as Cesaro was questionably … weak.
The excessively rough Swiss wrestler in Cesaro was paired with a sexy Lithuanian gold digger first as a mute boy toy, almost vaguely reminiscent of a 2013 European version of Shawn Michaels and Sensational Sherri. From there Cesaro became pompous, saying one word in five different languages every week that described himself and his abilities.
After Cesaro became pompous and dropped Aksana he began his United States Championship reign by comparing himself to lazy Americans, citing how fortunate fans were to have a stalwart European such as himself representing the United States of America. It many ways it was at this point where the proverbial ball was snatched out of Cesaro’s court and given to someone else.
Recall that when it comes to a wrestling match the winner is only as important in victory as the loser makes him appear. That same courtesy can be extended to feuds and rivalries outside of the actual matches. With the Miz and R-Truth (Ron Killings) being the most notable “high profile” rivalries for Cesaro—both men being more “entertainers” than “wrestlers” at that point in their careers—a series with returning superstar Jack Swagger (portrayed by Jake Hagar) would have done wonders for the Cesaro character. The major problem with that feud is that Swagger would have been forced to return as a face, placing him back in the lukewarm All American role character that went nowhere prior to his departure and return.
Without a high profile, high caliber opponent to bring relevance to the United States title and the Cesaro character, a decision was made to add yodeling to Cesaro’s repertoire. Fans could only assume that such a decision was made because “silly” equates to “entertaining,” and that tiny character nuance would bring attention to Cesaro … if he were able to make the yodeling “work.”
It’s more of an exception to the rule than the rule itself for a wrestler to take a bland character and turn it into gold. More importantly it takes time for a wrestler to establish a character as something more than just a passing fancy.
We live in an era where wrestlers are pigeonholed (or typecast) into debuting one character and portraying that character until the end of their career. Believe it or not the Cesaro character is only one year old (having debuted on Smackdown in April 2012), and already we’ve tacitly accepted the idea that he’s the reason the character hasn’t done well with audiences.
What significant has Cesaro done? What milestones has he reached and surpassed? What notable main event stars or high profile champions has he defeated clean?
Has he even had a rivalry that has come at a career defining moment for him?
No; the Antonio Cesaro character has only spent one year wading through several different personality traits that have all yet to really strike a chord with the global audience. The only thing that has triggered any type of response from some fans (the pro wrestling loving fans) and those in the business is Cesaro’s brutality and prowess in the ring. Although that alone doesn’t make the character resonate in the hearts of the global audience, it does give reason to keep him on the roster for the sake of making other stars look good as well.
All those things considered there hasn’t even been a discussion on what he brings to the company outside of the ring. Claudio Castagnoli speaks several different languages, is well-liked among the other wrestlers (or so we’re told), and is perhaps well-known in his home country as well as other European countries. The man is a commodity and it simply doesn’t make sense for there to be this extreme amount of hatred for him only one year into his WWE tenure.
When it’s all said and done perhaps it’s the fans and the creative team that have truly let the Antonio Cesaro character fall into mind-card purgatory.
What sort of bias exists with us when we can start a brief dance craze for a wrestler because of his theme music, or get a wrestler a small push because of his YouTube show, but can’t get more recognition for a wrestler who actually wrestles in a way we want and expect him to wrestle?
What sense does it make to skyrocket a wrestler to the top so soon into his run in the company (especially when it worked wonders for Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio)?
How just is it to place the blame squarely on Castagnoli for being unable to get the Cesaro character over when he’s only been around for one year and he has yet to have a feud of substance with an opponent of substance?
Barring injuries, an ill-timed joke, three Wellness Policy violations or a DUI arrest, Claudio Castagnoli has a bright future ahead of him in WWE. Fans shouldn’t be too concerned that his current losing streak is something more than a lack of direction from a creative point of view. Unless an official report from the company that says otherwise, it’s better for us to believe that Cesaro is on a slow path to WWE greatness than it is to think that he’s at the top of the future endeavored list.
Let it never be said or assumed that WWE hasn’t earned its fair share of salient criticism over the years. In fact the company’s long and storied history would not be long and storied if not for the trail of broken dreams and disillusioned fans left in the wake of its gargantuan waves of success.
Such is the nature of the business, let alone the nature of a business operating in these United States of America; if one wants to succeed then someone or something will have to suffer for the sake of that success. An omelet cannot be made without cracking an egg or at least opening a carton, and an egg cannot be gathered unless some unfortunate chicken is forced to sacrifice her unborn children…
Regardless of that tried and true fact of life, the sharks have been circling around the latest news out of Stamford regarding Connecticut’s favorite son Vince McMahon and his World Wrestling Entertainment conglomerate. A recent round of talent cuts combined with speculation of even more cuts to come have caused some fans to once again voice their concerns about the way WWE conducts business.
Speculation has it that independent fed wrestlers Sami Callihan, Shaun Ricker and Samuray Del Sol have signed developmental contracts with the company; there is also speculation that ROH wrestlers Mike Bennett and Adam Cole have either come to an agreement with WWE or have had interest shown in them by the company. While it remains to be seen whether there is truth to the speculation about Cole and Bennett, camps for Callihan and Del Sol have already acknowledged their departure from their respective companies (the latter having been “refuted” by EVOLVE Wrestling … sort of kind of).
On the other hand the WWE’s recent focus on the newly christened “Paul Heyman Guy” Curtis Axel combined with The Shield’s control of one-third of the titles in the company, The Ryback’s auspicious rise to prominence and the forthcoming debut of the Wyatt Family suggests that someone in the company is attempting to create tomorrow’s WWE main event stars.
Even still there are tons of individuals within the company that are all agog with the impending opening of the new state-of-the-art training facility in Orlando, Florida in July. WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross has been one of the more prominent cheerleaders of the facility, as well as having recently served as the company’s go-to-guy for talks with the National Football League’s Players Association regarding a working relationship for the recruitment of potential wrestling superstars.
Notwithstanding such advancements there still exists the general feeling and idea that this “fresh coat of paint” is not enough to fix the problems with the product. All things considered, one very important question remains and often seemingly eludes the grasp of those within the business…
As fans what do we “expect” WWE to deliver? The answer to that question has far too many possible answers than can be discussed here in one sitting.
While WWE still remains as the big dog in the yard and the “revolutionary force in sports entertainment,” such self-congratulatory comments must be considered in light of the state of pro wrestling in the United States in general. Simply put pro wrestling no longer caters to the same type of rabid fan base that consumed the product business years ago. Today’s fan is far more casual, passive and fair-weather; and although there is a solid group of hardcore fans they spend far less money on the product and are more often than not in the vocal minority rather than the complacent majority.
It’s this same vocal minority that considers any semblance of progress made by WWE superficial, something that will temporarily placate the always irascible contingent of detractors. The effect of such actions is a steady stream of negativity that will turn any and every conversation into a “They’ll Eff It Up” love fest.
To give this thought some perspective, it’s pretty much the same thing L.E.W.D. members do when discussing anything related to TNA’s success; no matter what the company does, we’ll be the first ones to comment on how ridiculous their efforts are in the grand scheme of things. WWE suffers from the same stigma, albeit more pronounced and oozing venomous barbs than anything hurled at other companies; again, such is the nature of the business for the big dog in the yard.
The interesting aspect of it all is that despite the harsh and justifiable criticisms against the company, it remains successful in the truest sense of the word. If WWE’s purpose is to make a profit from providing a certain type of entertainment to fans, then they do that several ways from Sunday even if a given pay per view or rating isn’t where it was last year or sixteen years ago. They still make that profit regardless of how many blog posts or message board rants we unleash.
That just happens to be the point that sticks in the collective craw of the vocal minority, that regardless of what we do or say the WWE locomotive will continue to chug along its merry little way.
Consider this tidbit from the company’s corporate website:
WWE is a publicly traded media organization and recognized leader in global entertainment. The company consists of a portfolio of businesses that create and deliver original content 52 weeks a year to a global audience. Our platforms include television programming, pay-per-view, digital media, magazines and films. WWE is headquartered in Stamford, Conn., with offices in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, London, Mumbai, Shanghai, Singapore, Istanbul and Tokyo.
In the spirit of fairness, this is from TNA’s IMPACT Wrestling website:
TNA Entertainment, LLC, headquartered in Nashville, TN, is a privately held management and production company that specializes in professional wrestling events, merchandise, apparel, television properties and music. Founded in 2002, TNA primarily develops and promotes original professional wrestling programming for cable, Pay-Per-View specials and live events. TNA is capable of overseeing multiple live or taped productions from creative conception to finished product.
Notice the obvious differences between the two “mission statements” above, differences that are very apparent when you watch anything produced by either company. In WWE’s case the mission statement does not say or even imply that they specialize in professional wrestling events. What they do specialize in is consistently delivering and creating original content from their portfolio of businesses 52 weeks a year for a global audience. If their original content doesn’t speak to their global audience, then that content will be changed to do so. When it all trickles down to the sports entertainment they produce, that content also has to speak to that same global audience; if it doesn’t, then it’s going to be tailored and altered in a way where it does speak to that global audience.
A large part of this dance, this game between the WWE Corporation and its audience is all about perspective. Each side maintains a vice-like grip on their own perspective, unwilling to budge from their respective perches to consider a much more inclusive panoramic view of the business. WWE provides a product for a global audience to consume; the global audience consumes the product because they long to be entertained. As long as the global audience consumes the product, WWE will continue to produce it. The moment the global audience becomes restless, WWE alters the product they produce to satiate the global audience.
What does all of this mean and imply? The global audience does not primarily consist of static, one-dimensional consumers who are diehard pro wrestling fans. Therefore WWE does not produce content solely for static, one-dimensional consumers who are diehard pro wrestling fans.
When static, one-dimensional consumers who are diehard pro wrestling fans (i.e. you and I) approach the product we get pissed off and criticize the product without really understanding why we’re criticizing it.
The criticism is birthed when we can’t understand why we indulge in a product not fundamentally designed for our particular standards, likes and individual tastes. The criticism is birthed when we find ourselves bored with a form of entertainment that once delighted us to no end. Our eyes roll and our palms embrace our faces when a company won’t do what it isn’t, by virtue of its own mission statement, charged to do.
This is why rumors of recent indy signees, a fancy new developmental facility and system, and whatever else fails to mean very little to some fans; the WWE locomotive will chug right along doing the same thing because frankly…it sells. It may be boring to some, it may be groan inducing to most, but the bottom line is that the global audience purchases it by the boatload so there’s no impetus to do anything differently until the money stops flowing.
Everyone knows how terrible fast food is for one’s health, but yet and still people still indulge in it regularly. Such is the same with the WWE and other “pro wrestling” companies in the states.
The ultimate question is this: are there any redeeming qualities in the recent events that have occurred in WWE? The answer could be an unequivocal “yes,” but one has to have a certain level of hope that is grounded in reality and not fantasy.
A new batch of stars opens the possibility for old stories to be told differently or even unfamiliar stories to be reintroduced to the audience. As much as things stay the same, time also forces change to occur and at some point the current regime will either slowly fade away or die out, making way for new blood that could alter the product dramatically from what it currently is.
The business must change in order to stay relevant, speaking to the greatest common factor that will keep the global audience consuming the product. The Golden Era made way for the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Era, which made way for the Attitude Era and was followed by the Ruthless Aggression Era, and finally capped off by the PG Era. Given the types of wrestlers being groomed by the company, who’s to say the next phase won’t be the “Art of Wrestling” Era, where beauty of what happens in between the ropes is highlighted and importance is placed on how a wrestler wins a match and not just who wins the match for whatever reason?
Similar can be said about those released from the company, which gives these men and women ample time to continue to hone their craft in venues outside of the United States and allows them the opportunity to grow as a wrestler, performer and entertainer. Who’s to say that a star released today or tomorrow won’t return in 2-3 years with a bevy of five star matches from Japan, Mexico, Germany or elsewhere under their belt?
Finally, how will this affect us as fans? If we’ve all grown so disillusioned with the way one company operates, will we be willing to invest our money into other companies or promotions that provide us with what we’re looking for? If other companies and promotions can grow from our consumption of their product, will there arrive an era where a major company like WWE is forced to think differently about the product they produce in order to continue to turn a profit?
It’s all about perspective and expectations; if our perspective is so narrow that it limits our expectations of a particular company, then why the entire hubbub? If we expand our horizons just a tad, we can view the larger picture and provide more well-informed commentary on the state of a particular company and its product. Or, God forbid, we open our minds to explore other promotions and find pro wrestling entertainment outside of the established status quo in the business.
Let’s use the perennial L.E.W.D. whipping boy, TNA, as an example; we’ve admittedly spent hours upon hours of time laying into the inconsistencies of the company and its product, but that barrage has died down as of late for several reasons. Anything from yours truly has been altered slightly because the gripe is more so with how fans understand the company’s product as opposed to the product itself.
For TNA the reality is that as long as the pro wrestling is great, everything else is moot. Admittedly TNA produces excellent pro wrestling, because again by virtue of their mission statement, that’s what they do.
The problem comes when they began to squeak into “sports entertainment,” and fans who openly express their hatred for sports entertainment (i.e. WWE) celebrate the company’s seamless and necessary transition. The problem comes when fans can’t recognize that the battle for pro wrestling recognition involves Doug Herzog and Kevin Kay (President of Viacom Entertainment Group and Spike TV respectively) and Bonnie Hammer (Chairman of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group).
However if you like or love pro wrestling, then TNA is the place for you; they supply good pro wrestling, and pro wrestling fans consume it. It’s a similar dance and game with partners who refuse to think outside of their own perspectives.
Such is the nature of the beast.
What else is there to be said? Will this extremely long diatribe make a difference in the grand scheme of things? Tomorrow another piece will be posted on this site and others espousing the good, the bad and the terrible of pro wrestling and/or sports entertainment here or there. Fans and friends will argue with one another about why Samuray Del Sol’s arrival to the facility in Orlando in July means absolutely little, or why this storyline sucks and why this superstar is getting buried. The dance will continue, the money will still be made, and we’ll all go on our own little way.
The only thing we fans really have to look forward to is the promise of a better show the next go around. Whether you prefer John Cena or Bully Ray, you’ll probably be satisfied and dissatisfied one way or another. But in order to maintain a certain level of sanity we must remember that there’s so much more to the picture than who wins what matches for however long they can.
This whole business is about entertaining consumers, and one way or another we’ll all find a way to be entertained; just never lose the sight of the bigger picture that always looms ahead, and never forget that ultimately if it doesn’t make dollars, then it just doesn’t make sense.
He’s big, he’s black, he likely runs through trees and eats tables. He drags 20 ton trucks several feet, two at a time. He maintains a fictional location where he fictionally enshrines the people he beats up. He’s the one of the only people active or inactive in the WWE who can still become a true Grand Slam champion. He can make the claim towards being the world’s strongest man and maintains, at this moment, the title as “The Second Strongest Man That Ever Lived”. He’s one of the inductees to the International Sports Hall of Fame, Class of 2012, also known as the FIRST class of the International Sports Hall of Fame, and he’s the only professional wrestler amongst his classmates. His theme music is courtesy of Academy Award winning artists. He “romanced” the likes of Chyna and Mae Young and is the father of a now full grown hand. He joined up with a coalition of black people as a means to take less guff from “the man”. He battled the Undertaker at Wrestlemania 22. He was a pallbearer at Michael Clarke Duncan’s funeral. His catchphrase is “That’s what I do!”.
Frankly I could continue, but it would play out like a massive drawing of the people who have an opinion on James Howlett. Mark Jerrold Henry is simply “that dude”. Everyone knows someone who they would define as “that dude”. He’s the big shot. It could be argued that he is to professional wrestling/sports entertainment what James Howlett is. His catchphase could just as easily be “I’m the best there is at what I do, but what I do best isn’t very nice.”
No shit. In the ring he throws you, slams you and causes massive damage. Backstage he bum rushes you, leaves you mangled and walks away after proclaiming “THAT’S WHAT I DO!” In the parking lot he drags eighteen wheelers for the hell of it. In the WWE, he is tasked with entertaining the people, and through senseless violence and being the threatening black guy (because the other black guys are non-threatening, what with their lack of facial hair (Kingston is African so technically we don’t count him as a “threatening black guy”)) he succeeds!
But what will ultimately make this a relatively short post isn’t his accomplishments, but what he represents. Mark Henry has been part of the WWE for eighteen years as of March 11th. Eighteen years. Non-stop. No other company. Just the WWE. And through thick and thin, good and bad, controversial angle after controversial angle after humiliating angle, he’s been a part of the WWE. Through multiple injuries, he’s been a part of the WWE. If nothing else, you can gain a terrific lesson in perseverance and company loyalty from Mark Henry. It was one thing for him to get the European Championship at a time when being a part of a Nation of Islam-type of group was big. But on September 18, 2011, we all knew that Randy Orton was going to beat Mark Henry to defend the World Heavyweight Championship.
We all knew.
And we were all so wrong.
Mark Henry isn’t an in-ring technician like a lot of his smaller peers. He’s amazing when he has a microphone in his hand or a headset on his ears. He isn’t a fighter so much as a massive brawler. He inspires fear when he opens his mouth and I’m completely convinced that he’s the nicest guy you could possibly know outside of the realm of his in-ring character. Perhaps most importantly, he stands as the only high-profile person on the WWE roster that the Shield hasn’t messed with, and I don’t know why but I think that’s significant. Much like a woman scorned or Wu Tang: a terrifying black man with a lot of facial hair “ain’t nuttin’ ta f*** wit”.
So in bringing this completely praiseworthy piece to a close, I say thank you, Mark Jerrold Henry, for being entertaining and vicious in a way only bears and Mr. Rogers have ever had the capacity to be. Thank you for the years of joy and the Hall of Pain. Thanks for the memories, and here’s to many more.
On Thursday, April 18, 2013 a press conference was held in Orlando, Florida by World Wrestling Entertainment.
It was at this press conference that WWE Executive Vice President of Talent and Live Events Paul “Triple H” Levesque, along with Florida Governor Rick Scott, Full Sail University President Garry Jones, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Orange County Commissioner Peter Clarke, announced the opening of the WWE’s state-of-the-art Performance Center. The Performance Center will serve as the home to WWE’s talent developmental system and will also create at least 100 new jobs in Orlando.
The following is taken from the press release about the facility:
“With 26,000 square-feet, seven training rings, a world-class strength and conditioning program and cutting-edge edit and production facilities, the new Performance Center will give WWE the ability to train more potential performers than ever before through a comprehensive program including in-ring training, physical preparedness and character development.
The new center will be the training ground for talent that includes former professional and collegiate athletes, Olympians and entertainers, and will offer a best-in-class sports medicine program creating a central location for all WWE talent to receive the best care both in and out of the ring.”
Among other things this announcement also furthers WWE’s relationship with Full Sail University, which serves as the current home for the WWE NXT taping series and also allows students (such as our very own THE Nic Johnson) of the university to gain “real-world experience” alongside WWE production team members.
The creation and announcement of WWE’s Performance Center is rife with irony, the incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result.
The irony of the whole Performance Center project is that most people expect the facility to produce top-notch WWE Superstars when the actual result will more than likely resemble the same crop of superstars already present in the company. Effectively it appears that WWE has partnered with several entities in Orlando to create more modern and efficient methods of producing crap.
That assessment of the situation is a tad bit unfair, particularly seeing as the fruits of the Performance Center won’t be truly seen for at least another year or two from today. As nifty as the bells and whistles sound, however, all the wrestling rings and hi-tech equipment in the world cannot and will not replace some of the most fundamental and rudimentary realities that are necessary for the development of a “true” wrestling superstar.
The phrase “Performance Center” is oddly reminiscent of the same cold and mechanical training regimen used by Ivan Drago in the blockbuster film Rocky IV. Despite the flashing lights, the new age equipment, the meter readings and steroid vitamin enhancement injections, there was no machine or drug vitamin in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics that could develop the one muscle Drago needed to defeat Rocky Balboa…heart.
WWE’s hi-tech Performance Center will undoubtedly provide wrestling hopefuls the tools and opportunities necessary to become a WWE superstar, but it will most assuredly lack the proverbial heart needed for athletes to excel as wrestlers with the total package. The skills and tools needed to have the total package cannot be found or taught in a fancy facility in one of the country’s most well-known hot spots for tourists and alcoholic college students.
This facility will not “train” men and women wrestlers to become WWE Superstars; it will eventually breed WWE Superstars flat out, and a WWE Superstar is something very different than a wrestler looking to become a WWE Superstar.
On April 5, a pre-WrestleManiaXXIX interview with WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan was featured in The Washington Post. In the interview, journalist David Malitz had the following to say about Bryan’s journey thus far in his career:
“Bryan’s path to WWE was built on giving his best showing night after night on stages microscopic compared to the scale of that on which he’ll perform Sunday. Over a decade, he has worked for dozens of companies on the sprawling independent wrestling circuit, from Pennsylvania to Japan, and earned a reputation as one of the best technical wrestlers in the world. This means he is someone who can make any move in the ring look devastating, graceful and believable, whether he is on the giving or receiving end — an essential skill for a wrestler.”
According to Malitz’s piece, Bryan—formerly known to wrestling fans by his real name Bryan Danielson—honed his craft for ten years prior to arriving in WWE. In those ten years Bryan traveled extensively all over the United States and even wrestled in Japan on numerous occasions; Malitz implies that it was during this time and not upon his arrival in WWE that Bryan gained a reputation for being one of “the best technical wrestlers in the world.”
What’s missing from the Performance Center is a focus on talent developing their skills as wrestlers before landing a developmental contract with WWE. More telling is the idea, the notion that these men and women (or professional/collegiate athletes, Olympians and entertainers) would have gained this experience on their own which would ultimately lead WWE to giving them a developmental contract. That idea is not necessarily a given, as has been made painfully obvious with certain Superstars and Divas in the past (Kelly Kelly for example).
Fans paying attention to this are witnessing a distinct difference in the execution of a developmental territory as opposed to a developmental system. Wrestlers today looking to make it big in the WWE enter into its developmental territory and spend 2-4 years translating their craft into an easy-to-swallow WWE-esque style, not necessarily gaining any experience from working around the world by being a part of a network of territories in a full-fledged developmental system.
But in those 2-4 years these men and women are picking up the habits, traits and skills that will define their careers in terms specific WWE. These wrestlers will learn one particular style that is honestly suitable for that specific company and its specific audience. As a result the wrestler will only have limited resources to pull from when it comes to putting together a match that energizes and entertains fans.
In the WWE’s case, that is a simplistic style that tends to look and operate like the pro wrestling equivalent to a color-by-the-numbers activity book. This, of course, does not sit well with older fans or those fans that prefer “wrestling” over “sports entertainment.” In the same breath it positions the company to consistently churn out more and more individuals will simply provide the WWE with the same results they’ve been garnering for the past 10-11 years.
Consider Bryan’s words towards the end of the Washington Post interview:
“I don’t consider it wrestling…I’ve done wrestling. Everywhere. And just by being a good wrestler you can become popular. But not here. It’s more important to be entertaining than it is to be a great wrestler. It’s fascinating to me…”
The new WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida is perhaps best equipped to produce entertainers. The problem is that wrestlers can be very entertaining if they’re given the opportunity to add new dimensions and layers to their already vast repertoire (i.e. Bryan Danielson).
On the other hand it is not set in stone that an entertainer will be able to be a convincing wrestler, “someone who can make any move in the ring look devastating, graceful and believable, whether he is on the giving or receiving end — an essential skill for a wrestler.” That’s not something than can be trained or gained in 2-4 years in a stint in a facility in Orlando.
Chris Jericho’s amazing story as a professional wrestler serves as a perfect example of this point. Although Jericho’s journey has been extensively covered in his books A Lion’s Tale: Around the World in Spandex and Undisputed: How to Become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps, his path in wrestling was most succinctly described in his DVD “Breaking the Code: Behind the Walls of Chris Jericho.”
Jericho began his trek with two goals: to become a rock star and a wrestler. This started with Jericho getting a degree in communications at 19, wrestling at the Hart Brothers School of Wrestling in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1989. In 1992 he traveled and wrestled in Mexico City until 1994, where he learned how to “work a crowd.” It was in Mexico where he also learned and adopted elements of the Lucha Libre style.
For six weeks after his stint in Mexico City he worked in Hamburg, Germany where he learned how perform mentally a different match every night (as he performed in front of the same crowd every night for six weeks straight). From that point Jericho found himself in Japan, where he learned how to become a technically gifted wrestler and gained the respect of several key figures and wrestlers in the industry. Jericho also learned the Strong style and adopted that to his repertoire.
Also in 1994 Jericho worked for Smoky Mountain Wrestling in Tennessee, where he learned the Southern style of cutting great promos. In 1996 Jericho was able to land a job with Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), where he wrestled in front of the country’s most rabid and diehard wrestling fans. From 1996-1999 Jericho worked for Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Finally in August of 1999, Chris Jericho debuted in the WWF, bringing altogether 10 years of experience from organizations spread across five different countries in Asia, North America and Europe. To this day Chris Jericho is one of the most well respected wrestlers and veterans still able to entertain fans as a wrestler…and a rock star.
Is it feasible or possible for those same skills to be taught to a young wrestler coming into the Performance Center for a 2-4 year stint before being brought up to the main roster? Even with the guidance and tutelage of veterans in the business, nothing can replace the real life experience of having to perform for different crowds around the world or even the country.
That being said, the WWE’s state-of-the-art facility can only exist to help future superstars add one more element to their skill sets as wrestlers. The real issue, an issue WWE will have to respond to eventually, is whether or not they’re open to hiring wrestlers that have honed their skills over a solid period of time in promotions outside of the United States. Better still, will WWE have the gumption to send all of its developmental stars around the world (or even the country) to adequately hone their skills and talents?
It’s exciting to have a facility in Orlando with seven rings and a team of nutritionists, but all the fancy pants flash in the world can’t make up for a wrestler’s experience in putting on an entertaining and captivating story.
Straight from the “Who Gives a Damn” files of pro wrestling comes a cute story about Ring of Honor Wrestling…
Every Tuesday ROH Wrestling sends out an email to fans called the “Tuesday Rollout,” which is essentially just a weekly note about ROH events and merchandise. What’s impressive about this weekly email is the rate at which the company is able to pump out new DVD releases. Then again when you have eleven years of footage at your disposal, it’s not really a bad thing to put out more than just a PPV on DVD…*ahem*
Tuesday’s ROH Rollout featured a DVD entitled “Colt Cabana: Chicago’s Favorite Son.”
This DVD is a 16-match compilation of some of Colt’s most memorable matches in ROH. Here’s a blurb about the 2-disc set:
The funny man, the man who has given us so many Good Times and Great Memories, he is Colt Cabana and this is a chronicle of his journey in Ring of Honor. Whether it be standing alongside CM Punk & Ace Steel as a Second City Saint, or running solo in pursuit of championship success, Cabana has proven himself a master of the art of pro wrestling.
He can brawl, he can grapple, he can go hold-for-hold with Nigel McGuinness or punch-for-punch with Homicide, Cabana has prided himself on adapting to his opponents and this 2-Disc DVD set is a showcase of his ability. Through 16 complete matches, not to mention several “Good Times, Great Memories” segments, this collection features Colt facing the likes of Samoa Joe, Low Ki, Austin Aries, and more as he shows just why he is Chicago’s Favorite Son!
Sounds like a good deal, right?
On that very same day, Cabana put out this interestingly telling message via the Twittahverse:
While it’s safe to assume that only the plucky and easily agitated members of the IWC were irate at such an occurrence, this whole situation is enough to make even the most apathetic of casual wrestling fans shake their head in disbelief.
We here at L.E.W.D. are not above shameless plugs and promotions (please visit The Color Commentator and The Brady Hicks for more pro wrasslin’ greatness), but it truly is an odd day for pro wrestling fans when a company has to blatantly resort to coasting off of the success of former stars in order to stay relevant; please take that tongue-in-cheek comment in any way you see fit or deem appropriate.
On the other hand this is not a practice that has occurred and is occurring only in Ring of Honor. TNA fans (and some of the wrestlers) have recently accused WWE of copying storylines (AJ Styles/Dixie Carter/Clair Lynch vs. John Cena/AJ Lee), stealing production practices (the “Last week on IMPACT Wrestling” opening videos), and even adding current members of the IMPACT Wrestling roster to their Alumni Page.
In comparison half of TNA’s roster gained notoriety in other promotions and a good chunk of their major storylines have either happened in the Attitude Era and the Monday Night Wars, or tend to be rehashes of the same hostile takeover programs that have occurred in the company since…well…forever.
What makes Ring of Honor’s situation depressingly sad is that up until Colt Cabana’s tweet (and arguably afterward), very few people noticed or even cared enough to speak about the company’s uncanny ability to release a “new” DVD for a former ROH star conveniently after said star started becoming more of a household name.
This practice honestly came to my attention after CM Punk’s groundbreaking and refreshing Pipe Bomb promo on the June 27, 2011 episode Monday Night RAW. What followed was one exhilarating roller coaster ride that saw Punk win the WWE Championship from John Cena and “leave” the WWE with the title. Soon after that commentators made comparisons between Punk’s actions in WWE and his actions in ROH prior to his departure from the company in 2005.
In February of 2012 ROH released the Summer of Punk DVD…because…well…to show fans how awesome a company ROH was and where CM Punk’s initial disregard for oppressive institutions developed.
From that point on Ring of Honor gained a surge of momentum when it came to churning out footage of former stars, primarily the stars that were making big strides in WWE and TNA.
When Claudio Castagnoli transitioned into Antonio Cesaro and captured the WWE United States Championship, ROH released this DVD:
When Nigel McGuinness trotted out his tear-jerking documentary, ROH managed to pull this chestnut out of the pantry:
When the creative team found something meaningful for Samoa Joe to do:
When El Generico landed a WWE developmental contract:
When Adam Cole got a WWE tryout match:
Although WWE has been criticized heavily and rather harshly for its refusal to create or build new superstars, and in less harsh language, TNA has also suffered somewhat for their inability to deliver fresh matches and rivalries with new talent, Colt Cabana’s tweet ultimately shows that this problem is not unique to one promotion.
It would seem all around that a part of today’s pro wrestling landscape has been shaped by an overall shift in what makes the business profitable. In the process of relying on big ticket names to push or sell the product, the three major companies have all neglected to groom the next generation of main event superstars in their own unique ways.
The WWE uses John Cena, The Rock, Triple H, The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar to get butts into seats; TNA uses Hulk Hogan, Sting, and Jeff Hardy to do the same. ROH apparently resorts to repackaging archived footage to get our attention and our dollars, which is particularly important for a company whose iPPVs last about as long as a case of PBR at Steve Austin’s house.
Everything ultimately falls back on us, the fans; what are we willing to support and pay for? What are we willing to watch on television and on pay per view (despite what some may say, ratings do in fact equal dollars for promotions)? It all ends up being about perspective…
If you truly enjoy and respect Colt Cabana’s work as a person, wrestler, athlete and performer, you’ll purchase merchandise from his site and from places he’s given his stamp of approval on.
If you enjoy pro wrestling and happen to be unfamiliar the stuff Cabana did in ROH (perhaps the work he’s most well-known for), then you’ll purchase the DVD from Ring of Honor without question or regret.
If you’re tired of seeming the same old faces doing the same old things from the same big three companies in the United States, perhaps you’ll invest in Lucha Libre or Puroresu (shout out to Ray Bogusz).
Regardless of how you view the situation, these companies will continue to do these types of things if we, the consumers, are complacent about these things. We can moan and complain all we want via the internet, but to really make a difference we have to start speaking with our wallets and not just with 140 characters or less. It’s not a bad thing if you pick up ROH’s 2-disc set on Colt Cabana, but it certainly won’t help Cabana if more people support the company that deemed him unmarketable rather than supporting the supposedly unmarketable man himself.
The choice is yours.
“I sell the things you need to be
I’m the smiling face on your TV
I’m the cult of personality
I exploit you, still you love me
I tell you one and one makes three
I’m the cult of personality…”
It was only a matter of time before parallels were made between two of the industry’s most prominent and squeaky clean babyfaces.
It wouldn’t take much for any given fan—casual, hardcore, average or “extraordinary”—to recognize that both A.J. Styles and John Cena had terrible stints in their respective companies last year. While 2011-2012 saw the rise of unlikely champions in several pro wrestling promotions (CM Punk, Austin Aries, Johnny Gargano, Eddie Kingston, Kevin Steen, Colt Cabana and Adam Pearce), it also saw Cena and Styles play diminished roles in companies that had at several times in the past ten years relied heavily on their presence and activity.
For A.J. Styles, 2012 was a year that saw him as a suffering protagonist accused of engaging in adulterous and illicit activities with a pregnant “crackhead.” Once vindicated and redeemed, Styles then suffered a humiliating loss to his longtime on-screen friend-slash-rival, Christopher Daniels.
John Cena’s 2012 was mired by his bench-warming role in CM Punk’s historic yearlong WWE Championship reign. After suffering a devastating loss to The Rock at WrestleMania XXVIII and surviving a brutal thrashing from Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules 2012, Cena found a sliver of hope in winning the 2013 Royal Rumble, awarding him the chance to face his rival for the second time in a lifetime.
As different as both instances were from each other, the John Cena and A.J. Styles characters (as well as the individuals portraying them) are traveling on similar highways at this point in their professional wrestling careers. Both characters have arguably suffered from severe stagnancy, a type of static complacency that resonated with few and nauseated most. With Cena relegated to inconceivably winning unimportant matches and incessantly spewing promos like a southern Protestant preacher or pee-wee football coach, and Styles meandering around aimlessly in a god-forsaken storyline like Howdy Doody in a Martian whorehouse, each character was on the fast track to irrelevancy.
It would become necessary, at some point, for the creative writers in TNA and WWE to evolve the Cena and Styles characters beyond the straight-laced, doe-eyed do-gooders they’ve portrayed for most of their careers.
It is assumed that the natural evolution of a “good guy” character means that they should inevitably be turned heel, made into a callous and uncaring “bad guy” that is the exact anti-thesis of what they once stood for. That often abused notion of duality, however, is what keeps most wrestling fans in their arena seats and not the plush and cushy creative director office chairs in a promotion’s front office.
Infamous wrestling guru Vince Russo once noted that he believed wrestling characters should mirror the “characters” of everyday life, noting that in life there were no completely “good” or “bad” people. To Russo, all people were a mixture of both good and bad, and if wrestling characters were to remain relevant they would have to resonate in the hearts of consumers. In other words, fans would cheer or boo people they felt were more like them (i.e. Stone Cold Steve Austin).
While Russo’s perception had it’s strengths and weaknesses, it raised a point that has surfaced in the John Cena and A.J. Styles characters. For each character to remain relevant a slight adjustment was all that was needed to provide fans with fresh faces in the stale seas of mediocrity they navigated.
A.J. Styles’ character represents retaliation, a notion of justice that’s needed to right the wrongs inflicted upon an unsuspecting individual who had lived by a disciplined code of morals and ethics. Styles’ character can be easily associated with the “Crow Sting” character from WCW after Hulk Hogan’s heel turn (something I spoke of in this piece); he can also be associated with the biblical character Job, a righteous man that found himself caught in a bet of sorts between God and the Devil.
John Cena’s character represents redemption, a response to an injustice that has occurred at his own hands. Cena’s character can be associated with Michael Vick more so than Donavon McNabb, as Cena’s downfall—the year he spent languishing in nothing in particular—was due to his own irresponsible behavior.
That being said one important question arises from these occurrences: which character has experienced the more compelling shift in evolution and priorities?
John Cena’s segment with The Rock on the March 25, 2013 edition of RAW was brilliant for several reasons, one of which was the brief glimpses of an arrogant, heelish John Cena that we haven’t seen since the rarely mentioned “Ruthless Aggression” Era. Cena was contemptuous in his resolve, admitting that his loss to The Rock was due to one simple-minded act that left him on his back staring at the lights. Cena was vehement in making it known that he defeated himself, which reveals to us a character that truly believes in the hype that has surrounded and dominated his career.
In that sense, the John Cena character is reminiscent of the real life Bret Hart, a man that honestly believes he is the end all, be all when it comes to professional wrestling. The implication from the words that came from Cena’s own mouth is that The Rock never defeated him; John Cena defeated himself.
The only reason The Rock scored the pinfall was because John Cena slipped on the goal line, allowing Rock to take advantage of the fumble to score the game winning touchdown. From this Cena contends that The Rock was never strong, talented or determined enough to truly beat Cena, that The Rock was still a Hollywood sell-out that doesn’t deserve to be in a wrestling ring.
This type of Cena is very different from the Cena that has openly admitted to losing to stars like CM Punk, Sheamus, and countless others. This type of Cena is the All-Star Varsity Team Captain who goes unpunished for violating the privacy and personal space of a cheerleader, simply because “she was asking for it.” This is the Cena that fans despise, that fans yearn and thirst to smack when they see him in the streets.
This is also the type of Cena that could snap when he loses to The Rock again, the type of Cena that could “injure” The Rock during his post-match celebration at WrestleMania XXIX. The injury would sideline the WWE Champion and force the WWE Title to be vacated, thus allowing for a reinvigorated and more edgy John Cena to find his way back into the main event picture while embracing the jeers of the crowd.
A.J. Styles, on the other hand, returned to IMPACT Wrestling two weeks ago after a lengthy hiatus following his embarrassing loss to Christopher Daniels at Final Resolution 2012. In the final moments of the match, Daniels utilized Styles’ own finishing maneuver, The Styles Clash, to gain the pinfall.
Prior to this match, Styles was the unlucky recipient of a pinfall loss in a triple threat match at Turning Point 2012 to determine the number one contender for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. As a result, Styles was locked out of receiving a championship match until Bound for Glory 2013.
Dejected and absolutely humiliated by Daniels’ victory (ironically, a victory gained in the same manner that caused John Cena to lose his match to The Rock), Styles appeared on the December 13, 2012 episode of IMPACT Wrestling and gave a bitter soliloquy in the middle of the ring disguised as an address to the fans.
Styles’ words that day were surprising at most, but effective nevertheless in planting seeds for an A.J. Styles that fans had never seen before.
Styles’ inner thoughts and feelings were revealed for the entire wrestling audience to consider (and are loosely quoted as follows):
I don’t know where I’m is going or what the next step is. I’ve spent too much time being a corporate man and worrying about everyone else that I forgot about myself. (While taking off his Impact Wrestling shirt and hat) I’m tired of cleaning up TNA’s messes and doing the right thing. From now on, I’m going to be doing my own thing (Styles drops the microphone and leaves the ring).*
When the broken and disenfranchised wrestler returned to IMPACT Wrestling on the March 14 episode, he attacked the two men that were the source of his year long consternation (Daniels and Kazarian) and James Storm, the man that pinned him at Turning Point 2012. These actions make him a social outcast, an outsider that has every justifiable reason in the book to walk around with a huge chip on his shoulder.
This A.J. Styles is a shell of the Phenomenal One that captured the hearts of fans for his years of dedication to TNA; this A.J. Styles is only concerned about what’s good for A.J. Styles because it seems that no one else really cares. This A.J. Styles spits in the face of TNA’s beloved authority figures. This A.J. Styles will climb to the top of TNA’s ladder of success just to throw it back into the faces of all his naysayers.
Ironically enough, this A.J. Styles is also the savior TNA will need to rid the company of the Aces and 8′s infestation come Bound for Glory 2013; unfortunately for TNA, he’ll be doing it for himself and not for the company.
So the question remains…which character is more compelling? Which character would you be willing to pay money to see?