It is a WrestleMania tradition around these parts for us keyboard warriors to engage in an occasional battle of wits and writing when it comes to the year’s biggest show in professional wrestling. Two years ago we sparred on varying opinions concerning John Cena and The Rock; the following year, we had mild discussions about the true relevancy of the “Once In A Lifetime” sequel. This year it seems we’re having a friendly disagreement on the outcome of what will more than likely be the main event: a Triple Threat Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship between Randy Orton, Batista, and Daniel Bryan.
The battle lines have been squarely drawn, the “marks” on one side loudly proclaiming the signature rallying cry of the #YesMovement with fervor and excitement. On the other side stands the “less markier,” triumphantly waving the banner of all that is right, probable and predictable given the WWE’s track record. I’ll be the first (and probably only) one to admit that I’m on the “mark” side, and as I respect all of my L.E.W.D. brethren I’ll restrain myself from outing the “less markier” of our group here; hashtag: Be A Star.
Since we’re all friends here we can be honest with one another; our less markier chums are absolutely right when it comes to the type of WWE independent contractor that gets the rub. Wrestling abilities often come as something tertiary to a person’s ability to be marketable to advertisers and the media and their propensity to entertain a wide variety of individuals at any given time. That special person also has to be “larger than life” physically and as far as their personality is concerned. There are varying opinions concerning exactly how a wrestler gets to that “larger than life” point, but the main thing that will get you over with the promotion’s top brass more than anything else is the fact that you’re physically intimidating. Where I’m from, we’d refer to that as being “big as f**k.”
Any fan with an elbow and an a**hole knows that WWE excels in keeping around and pushing these “big as f**k*” wrestlers, these “larger than life” superstars that can be pandered about to motion picture companies, morning talk shows, drive time radio programs and Make-A-Wish organizations in the hopes of making wrestling appear to be more than just a weekend fancy for toothless hillbillies or overweight millennials that love Cool Ranch Doritos and yelling at their moms from their basement man caves. This is a given, almost as much as it’s a given that the number three follows the number two and precedes the number four; it’s as obvious as the word obvious. D’uh, gahdammit.
In 2014, however, we’re all very aware that pro wrestling is a legit form of sports entertainment where the outcomes are predetermined. Unlike the fans of the highly lauded MMA or the much beloved NFL, there are very few folks over the age of ten (10) that watch wrestling because they’re looking to see a winner in a “real” wrestling match. Pro wrestling as entertainment is an art form where the winner of the match comes secondary to how the winner obtains his/her victory. The magic of pro wrestling happens in between the bells; the story told from the opening bell to the closing bell is what captures our imagination and energizes us to rally for or against a given superstar.
So for us “marks,” the story of Daniel Bryan’s ascent to the upper echelon of WWE is entertaining enough to give us good reason to believe he has the ability to break through the glass ceiling despite not being obnoxiously large and not found lacking the wrestling skills of Antonio Inoki or Jim Breaks. In many ways Bryan has already broken the glass ceiling much like his fellow wrestler CM Punk, difference being that as far as we know at this moment in time, people actually want Bryan in the company. I digress.
Then again there is pink elephant sitting comfortably in our easy chairs, the fat stinking reality that Dave Batista returned to the promotion to provide a significant financial boost to a WrestleMania XXX card that looks about as exciting as the WrestleMania XVII card that initially brought the L.E.W.D. Crew together three years ago. Hint: it wasn’t all that exciting.
Make no bones about it, we can all rest well knowing that the WWE Powers-That-Be expected Batista’s return to be the biggest and best thing for business at the moment. His return had everything to do with boosting revenue for the promotion’s marquee pay per view for the year and very little else. His win at the 2014 Royal Rumble only set in stone what we already knew …
Side Note: Returning superstars, whether it be from an injury or extended absence, ALWAYS get preferential treatment and main event matches. Sheamus, Edge, and John Cena all returned from “injuries” to win a Royal Rumble match; Brock Lesnar and The Rock returned to the company to face John Cena, the real “face” of the company. Christian returned from an injury to walk right into a championship feud. So this Batista 2014 Royal Rumble thing shouldn’t seem odd to anyone.
Unfortunately for the suits the fans buried Batista’s Royal Rumble win and turned on him with a ferociousness not seen since Vickie Guerrero started screaming “Excuse me!” To make matters slightly worse for the promotion, the primary reason fans turned on him—and continue to boo him at this current moment—is because he’s simply not Daniel Bryan. The “marks” don’t hate him because he walked into a main event pay per view spot; the marks dislike him because he’s not somebody else. Not being completely daft, the big wigs adjusted their creative direction and politely inserted Daniel Bryan into the WrestleMania XXX main event picture in order to keep things from being completely chaotic, because common sense only knows that the people paying to see the product can only take so much stuff before they start to tune completely out…and the WWE Network is too expensive for a decision like that to be casually dismissed by the Powers-That-Be.
Our “less markier” friend(s) contend that the promotion’s main idea still remains: Batista will win the WWE World Heavyweight Title and become the Face of the Company, while Daniel Bryan continues to chip away at that same glass ceiling we believed him to have broken through by virtue of being where he is now. Simply put, Batista will be the Man and Daniel Bryan will be Daniel Bryan.
Think about it: at forty-five (45) years old, Dave Batista is “everything WWE markets as a top superstar.” I’ll leave you that to think about for a few moments.
How anyone could say that with a self-respecting smile on their face is about as understandable to me as choosing Ben Affleck to portray Batman. Nevertheless it is a grim reality that we all have to acknowledge and respect; regardless of how fans reacted to his Royal Rumble win, Batista did not return to WWE to lose at a marquee pay per view; Batista did not return to WWE to be a bit player or second banana to anybody other than John Cena. Most importantly, WWE did not unload beaucoup bucks into Batista’s bank account to have him breathe new life into the mid-card division. Can we at least agree that by carting Batista’s forty-five (45) year old frame into the forefront of the promotion that there is something incredibly wrong with the archaic mentality permeating throughout all things produced by WWE? Or is it simply that we expect the promotion to fall back to the tried and true method of pushing guys that “look like wrestlers” more so than guys we respect as “wrestlers?”
Think back to a thought that I mentioned earlier: the magic of pro wrestling happens in between the bells; the story told from the opening bell to the closing bell is what captures our imagination and energizes us to rally for or against a given superstar. Whatever happens, be it Batista’s entire a** becoming the WWE Network’s official mascot or him holding the WWE World Heavyweight Title for an unprecedented 800 years, is it so wrong for a “mark” to at least hope that the exact opposite happens and can happen, especially after it has already happened?
Yes, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels received championship runs and were both considered to be the “Man” while holding the promotion’s top prize. Keeping in mind that the larger than life stars (Hogan, Hall and Nash) didn’t start kicking WWE’s fanny until 1997, and that Hart’s first title run was in 1992 and Michaels in 1995, and that Stone Cold Steve Austin (also a non-typical larger than life star with actual wrestling talent and ability that, while not on par with The Great Muta, was well advanced beyond the solid five maneuvers of Hogan, Andre the Giant and Big John Studd) was also deemed the “Man,” why are we coerced to accept the grimness of a Batista-led WWE?
What about the future? If we are supposed to believe in the harsh reality that guys like Batista are the only type of stars to be pushed by this promotion, then we cannot ignore the obvious reality that stars like Sheamus (really?), Cesaro (whom it took years for WWE to pick up in the first place and, despite being the typical superstar, has yet to be pushed to the moon like Sheamus because he has discernible wrestling talent), Big E (short and Black, given we haven’t had a “Black” WWE Champion since…never…and The Rock isn’t included because he rarely acknowledges his “Blackness” in public, opting to speak more of his Samoan heritage than anything else), Bray Wyatt (another non-typical WWE wrestler, sent back to developmental after being unable to capitalize off of a lackluster gimmick), and Roman Reigns (bright future but ain’t no way he’s getting a fast track to the “Man” status after similar jaunts failed miserably for Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio) are at least a calendar year away from being catapulted into the main event stratosphere. Real talk.
What’s left to do? We can begrudgingly accept Batista as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion and as the larger than life superstar the promotion loves to flaunt to the public, but that reality is accompanied with the reality that his transitional reign will ultimately be a stepping stone for Daniel Bryan. When Batista disappears to promote Guardians of the Galaxy, Daniel Bryan will still be there. When Alexander Rusev continues to come out, stand on a pedestal, and talk about bread pudding in Russian, Daniel Bryan will still be there. When Mojo Rawley debuts and bores the crowd to literal tears, Daniel Bryan will still be there.
In that sense Daniel Bryan is already the “Man” in that someone his size shouldn’t have made it as far as he has in the promotion, a path that was ultimately paved by CM Punk who really just followed in the footsteps of the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mankind, and Macho Man Randy Savage. And those aren’t simply moral victories; they are actual triumphs in an industry that has thrived and failed with the big as f**k stars at the helm (Diesel? Diesel?).
That’s the end of that tale. The bus-i-ness may never evolve to a point where one’s work rate is perceived to be a more valuable commodity than one’s size and look, but to accept on it’s own merit is to also imply that the fans are just as incapable of evolving as the bus-i-ness is itself. After all, if a given promotion continues to push guys that “look” like wrestlers (and the ‘E isn’t the only one doing it) instead of guys that “are” wrestlers, and we continue to invest our time and money into them and write scathing blogs about it all…*ahem ahem*…what makes us more pure than the promotions we accuse of being evil?
Speaking of evolution, have we looked at the NXT roster lately? I do believe Mason Ryan to be one of a handful of stars on the roster that resembles The Ultimate Warrior…and this is the “future” of the company.
Just Listen and Learn.
I have a problem with everyone’s “perception” of the WWE Network. For starters, the damn thing isn’t even out yet.
You can trash-talk a brand new sports-car all you want and base it on a bunch of pre-conceived notions (i.e doors are slanted funny, no convertible top, lacks a built-in toaster oven) but until you invest in one and drive it, or at least test-drive someone else’s (because this is the era of mooching) all of those aforementioned pre-conceived notions mean precisely dick.
Like everything else in wrestling, would-be analysts and “fans” are rushing to wherever they see other “fans” like a bunch of Pygmy Sasquatches ready to follow the herd off a cliff.
This is one of the more serious problems with the internet-era of pro wrestling. Everyone thinks they’re an analyst. Considering that half the idiots I see trolling dirt sheet message boards can’t even spell the word “analyst”, I’ll explain.
an·a·lyst noun \ˈa-nə-ləst\
: a person who studies or analyzes something
See that up there? That’s the definition of analyst. In order to analyze it, you have to study it. In order to study it, you need to have access to it. In order to access it, it has to be made available to you.
Everyone who supports TNA took half a listen to a few sentences about TNA’s decision to cut back from 12 PPVs a year to 4 and called it revolutionary. That’s because the majority of pro-wrestling “analysts” are just jaded fans who will blindly accept anything given to them if it sounds like what they want.
We’ve had long discussions about the difference between giving fans what they want and giving them what they like. Thing is, how did that PPV thing turn out for TNA? Horribly.
We went from gawdawful storylines and really crappy booking decisions that went month to month to gawdawful storylines and really crappy booking decisions that had to be stretched over three month periods because suddenly, there were no events to make major story developments at.
Case in point, TNA “fans”, who are really just TN-Ablers, heard the words “PPV” and “format change” and immediately lauded it as the best thing in pro wrestling, something that would assuredly take TNA to the top where they’ve been denied their glory for so long.
Here’s where I hit you with some truth, and this is why folks don’t always like my writing; because I have this tendency to be right before the question is even asked.
The cream rises to the top.
Yeah, it’s a cliché but it’s the truth. If a promotion or wrestler is talented enough, works hard enough and gets the right break at the right time, they rise to the top. That’s why, in hindsight, everyone needs to chill the hell out about Daniel Bryan. WWE makes questionable decisions all the time.
Pro wrestling is about egos and those get in the way of plans all the time but the WWE is not stupid.
They were making plenty of bad booking decisions in 2004 but they were still smart enough to know solid gold when they saw it and in 2004, that was John Cena. In 2014, a decade later, that solid gold is Daniel Bryan.
Bryan will get where he needs to go. Whether it happens at this year’s WrestleMania is another story but we’ll burn that bridge when we get to it. I digress.
If TNA really wanted to be at the top, they’d be there. Or as close as they could reasonably get. Honestly, TNA could produce the best wrestling and stories in the world (and no, despite the good they achieved during their best years, it still wasn’t the best in the world) and they’d still lose to WWE. That’s just straight facts.
TNA doesn’t have the resources or the brand awareness or the business acumen to even shine WWE’s crappiest pair of worn out high school prom shoes. But in a perfect world, with a better TV deal, smarter folks at the helm and a helluva lot more resources, TNA would exist as a legit number two promotion.
If they wanted to.
The thing is, they seem to know that they won’t ever get near the number two spot. So they gradually stopped trying. Now, it’s just sad to watch them sputter along, wasting a perfectly good TV spot.
I say all this because my above analysis of TNA isn’t based on pre-conceived notions or jumping to early conclusions. It’s based on studying and watching this promotion and following their decisions over a span of years.
Don’t make the mistake of jumping all over the WWE for the Network and assuming they’ll start slacking on PPV quality because they have guaranteed subscribers watching (the most popular argument currently).
It may sound counter-intuitive but WWE actually has more pressure on them with guaranteed viewers than they did when they were earning PPV buys. The people who had the choice to buy the PPVs were going to buy them or not regardless. A lot of them would base their decisions on, you guessed it, pre-conceived notions.
Still, look at Netflix. They make questionable decisions all the time but when your customers are subscribers who are now actively paying a monthly fee for your stuff, you HAVE to deliver the goods. Netflix delivers the goods. Don’t believe me? Go ask the former CEO of Blockbuster why that chain no longer exists.
Now that WWE has guaranteed PPV viewers and content subscribers, the pressure is on more than ever before to pick up the steam and deliver top-notch programming. Because WWE Network can’t survive on just old school viewers who buy it to re-live the glory days.
WWE Network will be supported by people who want the best wrestling in the world.
This company will continue making questionable decisions but in order to keep subscribers and attract new ones, they’ll have to deliver. But if you don’t believe me, it’s no worry to me.
Just don’t base that opinion off of pre-conceived notions.
If you don’t like it, then don’t watch it.
If promotions gained one nickel for every time this phrase was uttered by a disgruntled pro wrestling fan, the industry could survive for years without seeing any increase in viewership, buyrates, advertising revenue or merchandise/ticket sales.
The more you think about that phrase and reflect on it, the more it sounds like a banal ultimatum dished out from the frustration that comes with relentlessly defending a given promotion’s product. Depending on how it’s said, it can even come off as a threat … if you don’t like it, then don’t watch it … OR ELSE …
One of the cool things about being a pro wrestling fan is that our little community is far more diverse and divided than any other group of individuals supporting a sport or form of entertainment. Our diversity is what makes our conversations, debates, video blogs and scathing editorials so fun; we can agree to disagree on a lot of things, but very few can deny our (misguided?) passion and love of this form of sports entertainment.
This being said, it is improbable that the breadth and width of sports entertainment fandom will ever be uniform in its thoughts or expressions of such. However, because we’re conditioned from birth to believe one particular way is THE “right” way, here we are faced with a baseless and futile warning disguised as a declaration of intense and passionate conviction.
The “either-or” debate amongst wrestling fans is old, tired and quite frankly very pointless in this twenty-first century. It’s foundation is comprised of antiquated notions that assume “hatred” or “dislike” of a product is synonymous with constructive or unfavorable criticism. The deliciously ironic point of it all is that the more sophisticated a fan we imagine ourselves to be, the more we rely on schoolyard tactics and prepubescent defense mechanisms to support our diverse and subjective opinions. It’s almost as if we’re constantly teetering over the precipice of ending our diatribes with “Nanny nanny boo boo.”
We Americans living in the United States tend to take our constitutional right of free speech very seriously, so much so that we spend an ample amount of time
forcing coercing folks to keep their opinions to themselves and adopt the status quo’s perception of life and all things around it. When it comes to pro wrestling and/or sports entertainment, we’d rather surround ourselves with like minded individuals and, when in times of assault from non-like minded individuals, we circle the wagons and shoo the naysayers away instead of inviting them in for tea, biscuits, and a rousing discussion on our likes and dislikes.
Then again, who has time nowadays to engage anyone in lighthearted palavering to discover the root of our consternation? I’m right, you’re wrong, now go away!
We all would love for the world to be more simple than it is, but the reality is that the complexities that dominate life require more than 140 characters or the length of a sitcom to fix. It’s easy to dismiss someone’s ramblings as “hate,” because one won’t have to confront the truth embedded deep within someone’s criticism of the product or even acknowledge that the “other” has a valid point buried underneath a sea of harsh words and unflattering commentary. The only logical next step is to dismiss the “hater” by telling them to take their opinions elsewhere, leaving everyone else resting comfortably in the tranquil seas of their own encouraging thoughts.
Here’s the deal: who’s to say one “hates” a product when they speak unfavorably about it (unless they say for themselves that they “hate” it; that’s a different story altogether), and who are we to dictate what they
should can or cannot watch? And get this: the same people we encourage to stop watching a given promotion’s product are also the same people we also claim aren’t watching the product to begin with! Such is the hypocrisy of being a pro wrestling fan, and the situation is far more intricate than our feeble attempts to nudge a few naysayers out of the building.
Contrary to popular belief, television ratings matter a big deal to wrestling promotions and it all goes back to something I’ve talked about incessantly on this website. Wrestling promotions are BUSINESSES, and businesses in these capitalist consumer driven United States are in business to make MONEY. A given promotion convinces a major network or one of its affiliates to give them money to air their product, and in return the network can charge other companies to air commercials for products during the time slots in which these wrestling promotions air their product.
The ratings are a way that networks can gauge how many people are watching a given show at a given time; the networks use those ratings to base how much they charge advertisers off of the type and number of people watching a show at a given time. The more and more the audience for a particular show grows, the more networks can charge advertisers to air their commercials. In turn, the wrestling promotions charge the networks more money to air their particular show on that particular network.
All this is to say that it seems ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS TO ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO STOP WATCHING A GIVEN PROMOTION’S PRODUCT FOR ANY REASON UNDER THE SUN. If anything, and I mean anything, we’d want MORE PEOPLE TO WATCH A GIVEN SHOW seeing as so many entities (including the promotion) place goo-gobs of money on the number of people watching the show. I like the way MVP put it recently:
Then there’s this notion of how we understand the phrase “don’t like.” What does it exactly mean when someone “doesn’t like” something? How do we quantify our “dislike” for a given product, especially when a presumed offender never comments on whether or not they actually “dislike” the product in discussion?
If a fan truly hates or dislikes a particular product, that fan won’t need to be told to “not watch it” because they’re not watching it to begin with. Clearly the phrase “if you don’t like it, then don’t watch it” can’t be directed at that particular demographic.
What about the fans who watch the product just to criticize, the fans MVP mentioned in his tweets? Despite the criticism a naysayer must like the product enough to be bothered to watch it, even if it is just to complain. If a naysayer’s criticism about the product is without merit (and ONLY if it’s without merit), then what constructive use of time is it to complain or go in on unfounded remarks or unnecessarily skewed opinions? I just feel like yelling at mice would yield a more fruitful return than huffing and puffing about someone who doesn’t like a show simply because it exists.
Here’s a suggestion, and it’s only one suggestion: let fans watch what they want to watch and let fans criticize what they want to criticize. As long as the sun shines, people will always have something to say about something and people are going to do whatever the hell they want to do. But, as intelligent pro wrestling fans, let’s save ourselves some trouble by focusing our time on getting to the substance of criticism instead of dismissing it altogether in order to keep ourselves coddled in the warmth of an idealized storybook version of pro wrestling fandom.
Instead of encouraging naysayers to disappear, why not encourage them to actually tune in to the product and view it from a different perspective than once before? If a particular fan finds a given product atrocious and refuses to watch it, why not have a productive discussion about why they hate the product and choose not to watch it? These things, to me, seem to be a lot more beneficial to our conversations and debates than pouting, frowning, and resorting to the lowest common denominator of being cocooned in our fluffy plush happy feelings.
Then again, what the hell do I know? I’m just a pro wrestling/sports entertainment fan who’s at least willing to invest in a product enough to speak highly for it or against it; that’s really what it’s all about, right?
When I was 14-years-old, I felt like no one understood me. I went to an inner-city middle school where I, hot pink hair and all, stood out like sore thumb. I wore Doc Martens, a necklace of soda can tabs, and carried a backpack riddled with music quotes written in White-Out. My teachers all thought I was smart but an underachiever, and could not fathom what kind of parents let their child walk around with crazy hair and a bad attitude.
My home life had been a tad chaotic as of late and my mom had just moved to help my sister with her growing family. My dad knew as much about raising a teenage girl as I did about growing a mustache and his idea of handling my budding hormones and dealing with emotional outbursts was a pat on the head (literally, we are not a hugging bunch) and a bag of Hot Cheetos.
I ended up living with my best friend’s family before starting my freshman year of high school. In times of change or turmoil, watching wrestling with my dad remained my constant. As a kid, I had high dreams and aspirations of becoming a wrestler someday but, much like how I stood out at school, I did not look like any of the women wrestlers I watched on television. I didn’t want to wear a dress and escort people to the ring and be eye candy; I wanted to wrestle.
That all changed the night I saw Amy Dumas, AKA Lita, nail a male wrestler with a moonsault. I was mesmerized and I just kind of sat there with my mouth hanging open. Not only did this woman not look like the other women wrestlers, she was bad ass.
It’s an almost indescribable feeling when something finally clicks within yourself and you can feel an old passion being reignited. As a young girl, I never resonated with the female wrestlers I saw on television because they did not wrestle. I imitated Shawn Michael’s moves, The Undertaker’s moves, etc. The wrestlers I wanted to be like were all male because that is all there was to look up to wrestling wise.
Lita was like a breath of fresh air in a stale period for women’s wrestling. Her passion and fearlessness inspired me and I finally felt like there was a strong female wrestler who was easy on the eyes, but came out with a purpose and looked like she could actually fight and might just be crazy enough to do so. She was believable.
To me, Lita will always be the best Women’s Champion, followed by Trish as a close second and honestly, both those women really did something special. They fed off of each other and they both just went for it. To this day I have never seen/heard a crowd so into a Diva’s match since they headlined Monday Night Raw on December 6, 2004. When is the last time a crowd, positively, chanted a Diva’s name as loudly and excitedly as they would John Cena or CM Punk?
I instantly became a fan of hers and have remained one to this day. It was announced last night on Monday Night Raw that she will be inducted into the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame and it’s about damn time. I felt like her exit with the WWE was handled poorly (they did her dirty) and I feel like this was a step in the right direction towards making things right. As a fan, I was disgusted with how they let her go out, and to be honest that whole “Diva’s Division” has not been right since.
So congratulations Amy Dumas, and congratulations to WWE for finally getting something right as it pertains to women’s wrestling.
I almost cried the day Kassius Ohno was released from his WWE developmental contract in November of last year.
My frustration and disappointment at Ohno’s release wasn’t due to my feeling that he “deserved” to be on the main roster, and it wasn’t due to despising the promotion for “holding down” another talented wrestler in order to push someone they deemed more marketable and “controllable,” if you will.
My frustration and disappointment was a result of my feeling that I’d never get to see Chris Spradlin, also more popularly known as Chris Hero, showcase his skills and talents under the bright lights on the WWE’s main roster; and despite his highly positive attitude regarding his release and his optimism towards returning to the company in the future, I could not shake the sneaking suspicion that I’d never ever see him in a WWE ring again.
I relayed these feelings in brief to members of our L.E.W.D. Crew during one of our regular daily conversations. In so many words Mr. Gammon was the first to offer some profound advice that, although intended to paint the picture in a more positive light, enabled me to explain in more definitive terms the very feelings I expressed about my frustration and disappointment a few moments ago.
To paraphrase Mr. Gammon’s comments, he stated what should have been the obvious … “Life will go on; it isn’t the end of the world or WWE.”
As much as tore at my insides to admit it, Mr. Gammon was right. The entertainment business is known for cute, pithy statements such as, “The show must go on,” and “One monkey don’t stop no show.” These phrases tell those in the entertainment business that no matter what happens—when lights cut off, when fans start to boo, and in some cases when the actors and actresses are injured—the production must continue at all costs. It takes millions of dollars to produce a show and a flub, no matter how large or how small, cannot stop a multimillion dollar project from concluding. Chris Spradlin’s release from the WWE was a road bump that could not stop or hinder the massive and monstrous sports entertainment machine from barreling down the highway of financial success and popular prominence.
It was astute observation within Spradlin’s comments that gave me comfort and solace as I mourned his release. Spradlin stated the following, “When things happen that we don’t like, it’s our instinct look for answers. We get sad. We get mad. In this situation, there’s nothing to be sad about! And rather than being angry about what has happened, I want you all to be happy about what’s going to happen! I’ll be back with a vengeance, I assure you. The best way to support me is with positive energy.” To this very day I still feel especially moved and inspired by Spradlin’s words; in the midst of feeling down and out regarding the situation, here he was—released from his opportunity to wow the world as a WWE Superstar—giving me hope that his best was still yet to come. I respected Spradlin as a performer and a person before he arrived in the WWE, and had even more respect for him after reading those words.
Spradlin’s words helped me realize that his wrestling career couldn’t be solely defined by a stint in World Wrestling Entertainment, Incorporated. Just because Spradlin walked away from the ‘E, be it by his own choice or the decision of someone else above his pay grade, didn’t necessarily mean that he wouldn’t be able to entertain wrestling fans all around the globe. He wouldn’t have the WWE’s marketing machine or stamp of authenticity on his career, but Spradlin chose to face the opportunity with dignity and poise, opting to remain positive about his situation and pushing forward with his career rather than languishing in the hatred and bile that often follows disgruntled ex-employees and pissed off fans.
Much like WWE, Chris Spradlin was determined to let his fans and all of us know that a kink in the plans wouldn’t stop him from being the awesome wrestler and entertainer that he is and will be. If he remained positive about his situation, who was I to throw pity parties for him when even he desired in some way for me to look on the bright side of it all?
It goes without saying that we fans have a profound respect for the men and women who bust their asses performing for us non-stop almost every day of the calendar year. We treasure them, look up to them as role models, and aspire to have the same discipline, drive and focus that they exhibit when making their media rounds or even working out at gyms across the country and the world. Because we hold them in such high regard, it becomes easy for us to feel for them one way or another when something good or bad happens to them in their careers. We feel connected to them so much that their triumphs and setbacks belong just as much to us as they do to them. They are our heroes and heroines, and we live vicariously through all they accomplish and all they experience.
It’s a very curious thing; we feel nothing for the single parent that needs government assistance to raise a child or the restaurant workers who make less than minimum wage and get fired because we complained about the temperature of our mashed potatoes. When our favorite wrestler(s) get released, however, it’s a completely different story …
This is the very phenomenon that is occurring with CM Punk as we speak. With rampant speculation regarding his departure from WWE spreading like wildfires in the west, fans have taken to the internet to voice their opinions on the state of affairs within the promotion more so than anything Phil Brooks has had to say about the release himself. To say it plainly, it appears Phil Brooks’ departure from the promotion is largely due to him being unsatisfied with the company he works for. Our very own Corbin Macklin (also a native of Chicago, by the way) did an excellent job of showing us why Brooks’ may have been completely and utterly frustrated with working for WWE.
As bystanders on the outside looking in, we can understand why Brooks threw up his hands and walked away from the promotion. Phil Brooks didn’t need the WWE paycheck as he reportedly saved his money wisely. Phil Brooks doesn’t really need the WWE machine to push or promote him at this point if he desires to continue wrestling. Phil Brooks, like several wrestlers before him, had accrued enough sway and respect during his time in the promotion to afford him the extremely rare option to simply walk away when he had become bored with the way his CM Punk character was being utilized; that is a privilege and gift that is not afforded to all superstars or divas.
At the heart of it all, Phil Brooks’ chose to do what was good for Phil Brooks, because “one monkey don’t stop no show.” It was Brooks’ opinion that the dog-and-pony escapades of WWE were too much for him to tow any longer, so instead of wasting the promotion’s time and money he opted to step away while he still had the opportunity to do so. While it is questionable whether or not his actions were professional or appropriate, we fans cannot forget that Brooks’ sanity and physical well-being are the most important factors to consider. Brooks also mentioned that he was suffering from a yet to be diagnosed illness that has plagued him for some time, noting that the hectic WWE schedule did not allow time for him or doctors to even figure out what he’s afflicted with.
All of these important factors are at play, but as impassioned fans living in the 21st Century we find comfort in imposing our experiences on others or situations outside of our own reality. We see the world in a particular way and expect everyone else to see it as we do. Very few will express their own thoughts as such, and will acquiesce to popular notions that have validity but are strewn about without context or constructive criticism. So while Phil Brooks talks about his health, about how he’s good friends with Dave Batista, about how Daniel Bryan is a top talent and how he’s faring financially, the only thing we fans have focused on is CM Punk’s opinion of the direction of the company. It’s CM Punk’s opinion that validates our opinions about the company, justifies our hatred for the company, and feeds into our insatiable need and desire to rage against the WWE machine.
People in general have always had a problem with being told or directed to do something, feel something, or be something they don’t desire to do or be of their own will. It’s almost as if humans are rebellious by nature; even speaking in biblical terms, the first humans created disobeyed one simple instruction for seemingly no other reason than the notion that they were convinced they knew better than the omnipotent being that created them.
Teenagers disobey their parents, employees disobey their employers, and consumers disregard the piracy warnings issued by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). This reality of life is seen more clearly in our relationship today with the federal government of the United States, particularly the President Obama Administration. People truly feel as if the government under the current administration is creeping more and more into the private lives of citizens and civilians, even though this process in numerous ways started well before the current presidential administration (*cough couch PATRIOT ACT*).
It is often said that art imitates life; if this is true, and entertainment is a form of art, the there’s no wonder why the current storyline of choice for the top two wrestling promotions in the country deals heavily with corrupt authority figures and the “victims” of such cruel regimes fighting against the grain that is attempting to hold them down and force them to do things they don’t want to do. In an extreme case of blurring the lines between the real and scripted, Phil Brooks’ sudden departure from the company, along with the current Authority storyline and the exclusion of Daniel Bryan from the actual Royal Rumble match, feeds into our already deeply rooted suspicions that the company is simply out to control its workers and hold back (or down) certain workers that “deserve” better than what they’re currently receiving. Brooks’ departure gives us one more reason to despise the machine, to protest violently with ultimatums and coarse language we believe will force the machine to change its ways.
Even Brooks’ admitted in his “Pipe Bomb” promo three years ago that the machine would continue its forward locomotion without him, one spoke on one wheel of a massive contraption equipped with many spare wheels and spokes. With this one spoke currently gone from the WWE, not much will change especially since it seems as if the fans (and perhaps Vince McMahon) were the only ones who recognized just how important that spoke was in the grand scheme of things.
What we can appreciate about Brooks’ departure is the fact that it calls us fans to task for contributing to the machine, which places us in the all too familiar spot of hypocrisy that wrestling fans vacation in as much as newlyweds visit the Bahamas on their honeymoons. We hate the machine for what it did to CM Punk and justify the ludicrously high advertising rates paid to the promotion by watching their shows almost every day of the week. We despise the machine for not catering to our passing fancies and squeal with girlish glee as we wait for the launch of the WWE Network. We messed ourselves silly when we found out Dave Batista was returning to the company and messed ourselves angrily when he won the Royal Rumble. We wrestling fans, collectively speaking, are just big ass buckets of contradictions.
By choosing to walk out of the WWE, Phil Brooks sent a sobering message straight to the hearts of WWE fans worldwide that should be more important than any shoot promo he delivered during a televised WWE broadcast. The business is not immune from the same politics and bulls**t that we encounter on a regular basis, even to the extent where we know that real change may be impossible to achieve due to the massive nature of the institutions we operate in. But the thing that defines who we are and where we stand is our activity or inactivity when facing opposition.
If we don’t like being told to cheer for Batista’s main event match at WrestleMania 30, then all of us should make sure that the promotion’s biggest and most important pay per view of the year gets the lowest buyrate and turnout in the history of WWE. If we don’t like the fact that wrestlers like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler are being “underutilized or buried,” then we should all head over to Shop.WWE.com and purchase as much of their apparel as we possibly can. If we don’t like the fact that the muscle-bound Greek god-like wrestlers are pushed and promoted more so than the true workers, we should invest more of our time in watching shows like NXT to see how the next crop of wrestlers are actually very far from being the larger-than-life stars that dominated the promotion’s product in the past.
If we truly want to support bonafide wrestlers and superstars like Phil Brooks and Chris Spradlin, we’ll follow their careers outside of the WWE with the same fervor and passion we did when they while they showcased their finely honed skills within the confines of Vince McMahon’s squared circle.
It’s perfectly fine for us to be frustrated and pissed off about the current direction of the product and the release of our favorite superstars. The bottom line is that if we stay too focused and mired in the mess of what has happened, we are not empowered and inspired to do what we can as fans to look toward the future of the business and the WWE’s product.
Take the following closing thought as you go about your day: while most fans were extremely upset about Daniel Bryan’s exclusion from the Royal Rumble match, they completely ignored the fact that both Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns had very impressive showings during the pay per view. The departure of CM Punk from the company leaves one hell of a spot open for either Reigns or Wyatt to assume and make the most of …
… but we’d never know, because we’re too busy being pissed off that the machine keeps holding people down … even if the show must truly roll on …
I was out on a morning troll when I came across some fantasy booking on a pro wrestling fan site. A commenter creates a unique storyline for a real-life development occurring in a promotion, and before completing his/her opening statement drops the following jewel in the middle of it all:
… push the guys the fans want to see …
Needless to say this comment and the thought process intrigued me enough to bring it to our lovely L.E.W.D. shores for an insightful and invigorating conversation.
With no offense or ill will intended for the commenter or the site they drafted their opinion on, it’s quite fascinating how people tend to operate more often than not off of their feelings without giving consideration to the context of their feelings or the experiences of those around them. All that is to say that this notion of “pushing the guys the fans want to see” tends to come off extremely shortsighted because there several underlying assumptions that are never addressed or considered when speaking about pushing the guys the “fans want” to see.
And there it is; the two most important words in that statement are “fans want.” Whether one stands to admit it or not, our hopes and expectations about a given pro wrestling product are intricately bound by the idea that corporations give consumers what consumers want. To an extent that is true, but it can be quite misleading for the fan that has quietly assimilated into the Generation ME lifestyle.
Corporations don’t give consumers what consumers want; corporations sell consumers what consumers are willing to pay for. When this process happens long enough, we become “convinced” that the corporation is “giving” us what we “want.” No matter how many miles one walks and how many pounds one wants to shed, McDonald’s will still continue to sell Big Macs because people are still willing to buy Big Macs.
As we’ve said many times on this site before, it’s all about money. These United States of America are ruled by the color green; we are all capitalists and there are more companies (and individuals) than not who give more of a damn about profit margins than they do about what you and I want. Companies provide a particular product or service for a price, and the ebb and flow of their business models shift and surge depending solely on what they can get consumers to buy. The more money a product or service can bring in, the more it’ll be shoved into our faces accompanied with advertising and marketing intentionally designed to convince us “this is what we want, this is what we need” in order to do x-y-z in life.
The same rule of thumb applies to a given wrestling promotion; a promotion will offer fans someone they’ll pay to see, which sometimes can be the person that fans “want” to see. When that doesn’t happen, however, a lot of hurt feelings and raw emotions are expressed via the interweb. The reality of it all is that just because fans want to see a particular star doesn’t necessarily mean those same fans (or other fans) are willing to pay to see that star in a prominent position.
The tragic part of it all is that consumers often “want” something more deeper and intricate than what they’re given or what they’re told they want.
Let’s take everyone’s favorite broski Zack Ryder as an example. Three years ago Ryder successfully utilized social media to gain a very vocal cult following. Fans rallied behind Ryder enough to the point where he was given a safe and solid push from the powers that be. At the time there was no doubt that Zack Ryder was someone that a lot of fans “wanted to see,” and that was never really in question.
The question was whether or not we would pay to see Zack Ryder in a more prominent role higher than the mid-card. As exceptional a talent as Zack Ryder is, it became obvious that the same legion of fans who rallied for his push were also the same ones who wouldn’t put enough green down for him to have more than a cup of coffee in the upper mid-card. Our response to such instances is to blame the promotion, but a promotion can’t financially survive off of feeding into the fans’ fleeting emotions.
The other perspective to consider as fans is whether or not we understand completely the vast spectrum of fandom that exists inside of pro wrestling. Not all fans are alike and not all fans “like” or “want” the same thing. We often speak of ourselves in blanket terms without even thinking of the differences of opinion that are present among us. Every time a fan chants “Let’s go Cena,” they’re greeted by a resounding chorus of “Cena Sucks!” responses. As cute and enchanting as the dueling chants can be, it also shows us in very simple terms that wrestling fans don’t always think alike. We’re a dynamic group of individuals who can collectively enjoy and critique the product while also having uniquely different ideas that explain why we like or dislike the product.
To blithely say or assume that a promotion should push guys “fans want to see” is to also assume, without saying, that all fans want to see one particular wrestler and that all fans will pay to see that same wrestler. No matter how we look at “the business,” it’s a form of entertainment that moves along with what consumers are willing to pay to see. With fans having varying tastes that can literally change overnight without notice, the guys fans want to “see” could switch at any given time plus the fact that there may be six to seven different guys that different fans want to “see” pushed.
On July 12, 2012, Austin Aries defeated Bobby Roode to become the new TNA World Heavyweight Champion at the Destination X pay per view. Aries’ reign came after he received a strong push upon his return to TNA which also led to a reinvigorated X-Division. Aries’ reign, however, lasted all of three months by the time he was defeated by Jeff Hardy at Bound for Glory that same year.
Over one year later in July 2013, well-known X-Division star Chris Sabin defeated Bully Ray to win his very first TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Sabin’s reign came after his return to TNA in May 2014 after recuperating from his second ACL injury. Sabin’s reign lasted less than a month as he lost the title to the former champion.
Both Aries and Sabin were fan favorites that fans wanted to “see” receive a push. With so much fervor behind them, why is it that their combined reigns lasted less than half a year? Even more sobering is the fact that the combined five reigns of Jeff Hardy and Bully Ray lasted for over a year and two months.
We can assume that Jeff Hardy and Bully Ray had more drawing power as champs, or we could blame the powers that be for not putting their all behind pushing the guys “fans wanted to see.” Whichever direction we decide to drift towards we cannot deny or ignore that the preeminent names in TNA between 2011 and 2012 were Hardy and Bully Ray; it wasn’t so much that the machine invested in them heavily (which is a part of the situation), but it also had to do with the fact that both men were individuals people paid good money to see and less to do with whether fans by and large “wanted” to see them per se.
To wrap things up, we cannot forget that “the business” is out to make money and cannot realistically operate by floating precariously on the whims of a fickle fan base. At the end of the day, we are paying (in most cases) these promotions to entertain us, and as a large and varied group of consumers these promotions must put players in place that will generate revenue to keep their businesses barreling towards the black and not moon walking towards the red. Because our likes are varied and because our likes change as often as folks change their drawes [sic], it’d be completely asinine for any promotion with the good sense given to them at birth to operate solely and completely off of what fans “say” they want at a given minute, especially if that particular fan base is miniscule and fair weather in nature … case in point …
We fans have a right to like what we like; we fans also have a right to expect a promotion to entertain us when we’re paying them to do so. But we must be realistic when viewing the product, understanding that guys the fans want to see pushed also have to be the guys fans will pay to see pushed. All the chants and petitions and crowd signs in the world won’t move a promotion’s top brass as much as revenue will. Period.
Before I fill this post with reasons and excuses, I invite you to listen to my thoughts on the 2014 edition of the Royal Rumble as well as the prospect of the upcoming WrestleMania XXX.
Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions in the comment section below.
WWE.com published an article yesterday that focused on a debate between the website’s editors on the promotion’s next break out star currently wrestling in the NXT Developmental System. Several notable stars are highlighted, all of whom will eventually make a huge splash in the promotion once they debut on the main roster. From one fan’s perspective, there is no reason to doubt that each of the wrestlers listed in the debate will make it to the main roster sometime this year.
Future WWE Superstars like Paige, Sami Zayn, Emma, Aiden English, and Alexander Rusev—just to name a few—are spoken of in glowing terms in what will ultimately serve as their initial introduction to the WWE Universe that pays close attention to happenings on WWE.com, RAW, and Smackdown. Truth be told this list is no where near as comprehensive as it could be, and there are several other NXT stars that deserve mention as fans look forward to the next generation of pro wrestling giants.
The following list, originally compiled on December 29, 2013, is a list of NXT wrestlers that will provide fans with entertaining and exciting action if and when they’re called up to the main roster. These following stars may or may not be making huge waves in NXT at the moment, but they are worthy of being recognized as the slow and subtle winds of change necessary to keep the WWE relevant and fresh.
The criteria for making this list was extremely simple; the rubric is based on the notion that a given wrestling promotion will hire a wrestler based on necessity or potential.
The notion of necessity is the belief that, in this case, the WWE will sign a wrestler to a developmental contract or bring them up to the main roster because that particular wrestler possesses a quality or talent the promotion “needs” at a given moment. Such would be the case for NXT’s Enzo Amore, who could easily fill Santino Marella’s spot as a comic relief babyface if the Milan Miracle retired or was forced out of action indefinitely. This doesn’t take anything away from Amore’s wrestling skills, but his stint so far in NXT has been marked by his quick wit, incredible microphone skills and charisma.
The notion of potential is the belief that the WWE will sign a star or bring them up to the main roster because that wrestler possesses the traits or characteristics to be a future money making cash cow for the company. NXT wrestler Alexander Rusev fits very well in this category, who at 6 feet and 300 pounds can very quickly become the monster heel that dominates the heavyweight division until a “savior” comes along and defeats him for the promotion’s top prize (see: Mojo Rawley).
Before delving into this list, we also must keep in mind that the weekly NXT show is a must watch for any self-respecting fan living in the WWE Universe. The promotion’s next top stars are all cutting their teeth and honing their craft within the black-and-yellow NXT arena at Full Sail University, and while the show is very entertaining (sometimes much more than RAW and Smackdown), it also gives fans something to look forward to as far as the future of the company is concerned. The show is available every Thursday on HuluPlus.com, and you may be able to watch it on Hulu.com without a subscription.
Without further adieu, here’s your L.E.W.D. NXT Scouting Report:
It’s no secret that someone here at L.E.W.D. has a fond liking of this particular future superstar. At 6’0, 210 pounds, this brawler from the United Kingdom would remind fans of Fit Finlay with his hard-hitting and relentless arsenal. The former star, known as Martin Stone across the pond, could be the superstar the WWE needs to build up other wrestlers on the road to WWE fame and fortune. While Burch has no obvious flaws that would keep him off the main roster, he could suffer from the same fate that plagues most wrestlers released from their developmental contracts: Burch’s talent would be swallowed up by the “system” that dominates the WWE’s product, a “system” that pushes and promotes looks over talent more often than not.
WWE is in dire need of stars that can help build up the John Cena/Hulk Hogan-like stars that have become synonymous with sports entertainment and pro wrestling, but the promotion rarely keeps more than a handful of these stars around as on-screen talent. Burch could make a future star look like a million bucks in the same way Shawn Michaels has always brought the best out of John Cena. At this point, however, Burch hasn’t been given the time to develop a character outside of the dependable work horse that he is (see: Chavo Guerrero).
The other down side to a Burch main-show appearance is that the WWE product isn’t currently in “need” of a work horse with Burch’s style and looks. This isn’t to say that Burch couldn’t be an addition to the main roster, but rather that his ruffian, hooligan look wouldn’t work well with the streamlined, three-piece suit, Hollywood good-looks feel of the current WWE roster. The Wyatt Family and Daniel Bryan currently hold the distinction of being the promotion’s “rough-around-the-edges” characters, which would leave Burch directionless and jobber material equivalent to TNA’s Fernum and Barnes. The same logic applies to the WWE’s decision to pass on ROH’s Briscoe Brothers; while incredibly gifted and talented, the team reeks of a swagger that the promotion more than likely doesn’t want at this exact moment.
You can check out one of Danny Burch’s matches here, a match in which he’s in charge of putting over the much ballyhooed Mojo Rawley.
Leo Kruger was a WWE developmental wrestler that suffered from a terribly average look and gimmick while in the promotion’s FCW developmental system. After arriving in the newly designed NXT developmental system, this South African grappler benefited greatly from a persona change and some character development in the same way Damien Sandow did prior to being called up to the main roster. Kruger has the potential of being a big player on the main roster, but his current character may not be as “charismatic” as some may want it to be for prime time television.
Prior to receiving a gimmick as “Adam Rose,” Kruger was billed as a big game hunter from South Africa (i.e. a poacher). His wrestling style was hallmarked by ruthless aggression, a brutal onslaught designed to maliciously hurt and debilitate his opponents. The thing that arguably drew fans into his gimmick—besides his mannerisms, maneuvers, and “woots” while approaching the ring—was his theme music which really makes one feel as if this wrestler was a sinister and devious force to be reckoned with. The thumping bass line and guitar riffs readily let fans know that Kruger is on the hunt for big game:
The awesome thing about Leo Kruger and the Kruger character is being able to marvel at how a wrestler and the promotion can work hand-in-hand when developing a persona that resonates with fans easily, organically and quickly. The whole idea of creating a superstar is not simple and it’s far more involved than letting a wrestler figure out how to get over a character on his/her own. Fans in the WWE Universe can and should applaud stars like Kruger for being able to take a character and make it their own, creating someone that appears to be far more than what most people are and can be in real life. Great wrestlers get our accolades and respect, but superstars get that plus our money and undivided attention. Leo Kruger can do both with great ease.
Click here to see a Leo Kruger promo and try your best not to get too creeped out.
WWE needs a talent like Sylvester Lefort on their main roster.
Primarily utilized as a flashy, money-hungry manager in NXT, the Frenchman known as Sylvester Lefort has a presence that is sure to make you pay attention to whatever happens around him. Lefort has the charisma and delivery that makes you instantly want to despise anyone and anything he represents. He also has a fashion sense that will force you to chuckle and give him five minutes of your time easily.
Lefort, also known as Tom La Ruffa, is a graduate of Lance Storm’s Storm Wrestling Academy, which gives him instant credibility when it comes to his in-ring skills and abilities. While it still remains to be seen whether La Ruffa can give a five-star match, he’s certainly capable of excelling at setting the bar for WWE managers in an era where tons of superstars float aimlessly around the mid-card due to an inability to strike a chord with fans. Think of him as being somewhere in between Zeb Coulter and Vickie Guerrero.
It may also make you feel giddy inside to think of Lefort as a horribly tanned French Macho Man.
WWE.com editor Kara Medalis gave a great synopsis of the promotion’s next breakout Diva, so there’s no need to speak anymore about how her potential is needed in WWE. At the fresh young age of 21, the Norwich, England-born wrestler has honed her craft since her early teenage years. She’s the first and only NXT Women’s Champion (compared to the three NXT Champions as of June 2012), and it’s safe to say that whatever is currently keeping her from being called up to the main roster is a load of crap.
Paige is one of the few WWE wrestlers that should be allowed to keep their developmental gimmick when called up to one of the main shows. The “raven haired anti-Diva,” as she’s often called, could very well usher in an era of women’s wrestling that can successfully showcase all those things that Divas are “supposed to” exhibit each time they step in between the ropes or out on the red carpet. Paige is, first and foremost, a professional wrestler; she also has a unique look and appeal that does not take away from the WWE’s desire for their Divas to look like models while maintaining their athletic edge.
A solid, simple and well-structured (and pushed) feud between Paige and AJ Lee could very well be the second coming of a Trish Stratus/Lita or Trish Stratus/Mickie James feud with waaaay more wrestling athleticism. In fact, a Paige and AJ Lee feud could be the very feud that could make the seemingly impossible possible …
Click here to check out this NXT match between Paige and Natalya for the NXT Women’s Championship.
Bayley is another WWE Diva hopeful that the company needs to bring some athleticism and pure wrestling skills to the beleaguered and model-esque heavy women’s division. While Bayley doesn’t ooze the sex appeal that most WWE Divas are molded to give off, she does have a “girl next door” vibe that would make her an ideal candidate to do media rounds for the promotion involving kids. This California born wrestler would do exceptionally well with encouraging kids—particularly young girls—to read, end bullying, and strive to reach for their dreams and never stop working hard until they reach their goals in life.
Bayley’s current character is reminiscent of a childlike, naive “student of the game” caught in the bright lights of living her dream of being a WWE Superstar and Diva. While the character is very limiting, it doesn’t keep her from executing some smooth and unique maneuvers in the ring. Bayley’s greatest asset, however, is her passion and desire to be the best women’s wrestler in the promotion and to inspire other young girls who want to do the same to continue to strive to live their dreams. Other women athletes within the promotion and NXT may feel the same, but Bayley is able to wear that passion on her sleeve and utilize it each and every time she performs for fans.
Another graduate from Lance Storm’s Storm Wrestling Academy, the former FCW World Heavyweight Champion known as Mike Dalton has also benefited greatly from a character shift.
In the same way Leo Kruger was once a boring, static character, Mike Dalton wrestled as a gifted work horse athlete who gave his all in matches while having his clock cleaned occasionally from other wrestlers who are now on the main roster. When the shift to NXT at Full Sail occurred, Dalton was eventually transformed into a fashion conscious, selfie obsessed jet setting model who has an unhealthy OCD with being hit in the face. The beauty of the Tyler Breeze gimmick is that it feels very organic; Mattias Clement, the 25 year old Canadian playing the Tyler Breeze character, has taken the gimmick and made it his own. A fan could easily get the impression that Clement and Breeze are indeed one person, making it hard to separate the real life Clement from his Breeze character in the same way it’s impossible to separate the John Cena character from the real life John Felix Anthony Cena. That alone gives Breeze huge potential to be a big deal on the main roster.
Once again, there’s a brilliance to making a WWE Superstar and much credit goes to Tyler Breeze for making the most out of what could easily be a stale gimmick. Not only does the character feel “real,” but his moves in the ring also match the gimmick, making Breeze a complete package that’s really only in need of the perfect antagonist. The best way to speak of the Breeze character and Mattias Clement is to compare him to the “Moonchild” CJ Parker character, which honestly feels like a wrestler attempting to portray a hippie wrestler.
Click here to check out Matt Clement’s NXT debut as Tyler Breeze.
Sasha Banks is another California born Diva that possesses the potential to be an excellent addition to the WWE’s Divas division. The Sasha Banks character is currently involved in a NXT storyline with WWE Diva Summer Rae and fellow NXT Diva Charlotte (Ric Flair’s daughter, Ashley) that is pretty much a carbon copy of TNA’s “The Beautiful People” with Angelina Love and Velvet Sky, and WWE’s “Lay-Cool” with Layla and Michelle McCool. With Banks, however, there is an excellent mix of beauty, athleticism, and spitefulness that creates a character fans would long to see get put in her place.
What’s noteworthy about Banks, as well as Bayley and Paige, is that she’s one of several female professional wrestlers currently signed to a WWE developmental contract. Banks and most of her fellow NXT Divas break the notion that the promotion is only concerned with hiring models and training them to be wrestlers.
While one would be stupid not to acknowledge Banks’ looks, a conversation about her cannot be had without discussing her in-ring abilities and the way she can make other Divas look like gold in the ring. To only be 21 years old and have the wherewithal to help create Superstars in the same way as a Danny Burch is an incredible talent to have and to perfect as she gets older. That’s something that shouldn’t be taken lightly or for granted as we wait to see whether or not she’s called up to the main roster.
Check out this match between Sasha Banks (pre-heel turn) and the extremely athletic Charlotte during the latter’s debut in NXT. Make sure to pay close attention how Banks works with the very green Charlotte throughout the match to create pure magic for the fans with the Nature Boy’s daughter:
That’s it for this particular NXT Scouting Report. There are tons of other very talented wrestlers that didn’t make this list, which in no way implies that they too aren’t worthy of accolades and attention. But it’s up to us to take note of the up-and-comers within any given promotion; make sure to visit the NXT website often and to check out their show each week on Hulu so you can pick and choose your favorite future WWE Superstar and Diva!
As most fans great the New Year with talk about Daniel Bryan’s heel turn and AJ Styles’ “final” match in TNA, leave it to your disgruntled neighborhood analyst to find something to be pissed off about. Surprise surprise, it’s not all related to happenings in Dixieland!
Say Goodbye to the Bad Guy(s) … and the Good Guy(s)?!?
Vince McMahon made IWC headlines recently by commenting that there were no longer good guys (“babyfaces”) or bad guys (“heels”) in pro wrestling (“sports entertainment”). Upon hearing this news I immediately thought of Vince Russo’s booking method which, while similar in design, did absolute wonders for the fine people down in Orlando, Florida. See: sarcasm.
Most folks that have worked with Vince McMahon, whether they love him or hate him, will readily admit that the man is a machine when it comes to putting in work for the wrestling (“sports entertainment”) industry. The word “genius” has also been used to describe him, and one would be hard pressed to deny the fact that he’s definitely changed the industry into something Frank Gotch would more than likely turn his nose up at. As much as we may despise evil villains, that still does not take away from the fact they’re way smarter than the average bear.
To hear Mr. McMahon make such an absurd statement, in my mind, is to also attest to his brilliance. There is one basic premise in any story, be it told within the confines of a wrestling ring, the pages of a book, or plastered on movie screens across the world: someone is attempting to accomplish something, and someone (or something) is trying to stop them.
Because we humans are simple (at best), this basic story element is portrayed in terms of “good” and “bad.” The “good” guy or gal is trying to get from point A to point B, and the “bad” guy or gal attempts to stop them; period. We all watch in eager anticipation to see whether or not the “good” guy or gal will succeed. We cheer them on and we boo the guy or gal attempting to stop them. For Vince McMahon to deny that such an element is no longer present in pro wrestling storytelling is so insane that it’s absolutely brilliant.
I have a unique theory as to why McMahon’s statement attests to his brilliance: the statement is a cleverly devised ruse that will enable him and his World Wrestling Entertainment machine to squeeze as much juice out of one major cash cow (i.e. John Cena) until the old gray mare ain’t what it used to be.
Look at it like this: if you can convince legions of prepubescent fans and single women that all of the characters in WWE are these weird shades of gray, then there’s no need to hide the fact that the face of your promotion (the John Cena character) is actually a douche.
Cena’s character has done some incredibly heel-ish things for the past few years, and fans still buy his merchandise and cheer him in every grand spectacle of mediocrity he’s featured in. Male fans over the age of fourteen still long for his heel turn, but dammit he’s honestly already a heel! To say it in terms that I’ve used constantly over and over again, the John Cena character is that all-star high school athlete that can get away with everything because everyone knows he’s going to take the school all the way to the state championships. The John Cena character can punt a baby dolphin into a lake of fire and we’ll cheer him like never before.
John Cena stole Zack Ryder’s girlfriend (Eve…remember that storyline?) and then made Ryder apologize. John Cena lost clean to Randy Orton, belittled him for winning, served up Daniel Bryan just because, and then attacked Randy Orton after the match for no real reason other than Orton intentionally getting himself disqualified. Hell, John Cena challenged Randy Orton for the unification match for no real reason either. How long have there been two distinct major champions and he’s just now lobbying to unify the titles?
To be honest this isn’t limited to John Cena. Daniel Bryan’s recent jaunt to the dark side via the Wyatt Family has fans far and wide considering harakiri as an alternative to watching their beloved bearded savior exchange grooming techniques with the WWE’s version of Duck Dynasty.
The reality of the situation is that the only reason the Wyatt Family was considered to be “heels” was because they worked adversely against the “good” guy, Daniel Bryan. What happens now that Bryan, a beloved star, joins the fold and the group actively rallies against the machine represented by The Authority? They instantly become “faces,” even though we’ve all accepted the notion that the faction, as a whole, is inherently evil?
Which leads me to this closing point: as much as McMahon wants us to drink the Kool-Aid and accept the idea that all wrestlers are convenient little shades of ambiguity, the fans will ultimately dictate who the “good” guy is and who the “bad” guy is … even if the promotion wants us to think differently about the situation. In that sense there will always be faces and heels in pro wrestling, and if anyone thinks otherwise then there are two words for them …
The Further Degradation of the Divas Division
As a human being I felt disrespected by the lack of respect shown to the Divas on the December 30 episode of RAW. Once again fans were treated to another ninety-Diva tag match that’s necessary only for the purpose of obtaining B-Roll for Total Divas. It’s ironic when you think about it; they need to show the Total Divas wrestling, so they’re put in arbitrary matches that really don’t showcase their unique talents, skills sets, or personalities.
What bothers me is the perception fans are slowly being conditioned to accept: the only Divas worth mentioning are the Total Divas. The Bella Twins, the Funkadactyls and Eva Marie were all called by name, while their opponents were simply referenced as “The Not Total Divas.”
The ebb and flow of WWE’s treatment of the Divas division is mind boggling to say the least. Yes, the Total Divas show has introduced a whole new demographic to the WWE’s product. Yes, several of the Divas are getting air time they would’ve otherwise not received at all. But at this expense, being relegated to pointless matches that don’t have a purpose on the main shows or on Total Divas?
Real talk: if you want to see the Divas really wrestle, you must watch the secondary and tertiary shows; I’m talking NXT, Main Event, Superstars … other than that, you’ll only get to see the Not Total Divas bop around on RAW and Smackdown.
I’m convinced the powers that be don’t take women’s wrestling seriously because fans don’t take it that seriously either. Both the major U.S. wrestling promotions are failing terribly when it comes to offering something substantial with their women wrestlers, but then again, exactly how many people are chomping at the bit to watch a WNBA playoff game?
Aksana, Alicia Fox, Rosa Mendes, Summer Rae, and Kaitlyn all have something special to offer the fans besides being ambassadors and practice Divas for Nikki, Brie, Naomi, Cameron, and Eva Marie. All the Divas train feverishly hard and work their damnedest to get more than just a few minutes to stand on the ring apron or stare up at the ceiling lights.
One would hope and think that a Stephanie McMahon led product would change the game a bit, but I guess the WWE’s limited scope regarding the Divas is nothing out of the ordinary. It’s just depressing to know that the last Diva allowed to really to bring something to the product was Mickie James. Well … at least there’s solace in knowing that Paige will debut on the main roster … someday …
Seriously, check out this video about Rosa Mendes’ workout routine that was publicized a bit during last year’s WrestleMania. I’m not advocating for a workout gimmick for Rosa, but I’ll be damned the woman has a personality somewhere that’s worthy of being expressed in a much more fulfilling way than being confused with Fandango’s dance partner.
Mojo Rawley: Your NEXT Larger Than Life WWE Superstar
Here’s an excerpt from a conversation I had with L.E.W.D. Researcher Asherology 101 that took place on January 2:
Mr. Morris: So, my feeling is tht the only reason McMahon said that [the whole “no face/heel” thing] is to squeeze as many more miles out of Cena as he can until they can get Mojo Rawley on the main roster.
Yesterday, on January 3, Chris Cash posted this on Wrestlezone.com; I’m not saying I’m prescient, I’m just sayin’ …
To be honest I don’t care much for what I’ve seen of the Mojo Rawley character. Granted I’ve only seen one Mojo match and he’s obviously still new in his WWE tenure (his first match took place in October 2013), so he’s got plenty of room to grow as a wrestler and entertainer. In that sense it’s a great thing that we can’t always judge a book by its cover (remember Dolph Ziggler’s debut?), but I’m also not silly enough to hold my breath while eagerly anticipating the Rawley character to showcase his five moves of doom and a t-shirt worthy catch phrase.
What do I know? Judge for yourself by watching the video of his debut; and for the record it is noteworthy that his opponent is Danny Burch, someone I REALLY hope makes it to the main roster and can work a great match like a boss.
Lies, Lies, and Probably Some Half-Truths
Speculation has it that Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards won’t be receiving a developmental deal from Triple H due to several incredibly unbelievable reasons. The first rumor was that Triple H wasn’t too keen on hiring more “smaller wrestlers,” as he feels that there are enough hobbits warbling around the Performance Center as is. There was also speculation that Triple H felt there were already enough established tag teams in the WWE.
Another rumor revolved around a blown spot during a match with NXT Tag Team Champions, The Ascension; it seemed as if the misstep was bad enough for Trips to call an audible for the match to end … and apparently the match didn’t end fast enough for the King of Kings. Guess who has to shoulder the blame for that one?
There’s also this rumor that TNA was very interested in signing Richards and Edwards, a rumor that goes all the way back to the summer of 2013 and gained even more steam with a cryptic message last month at a Pro Wrestling Guerilla show regarding a one-way trip to Orlando.
I find it hard to believe any of these speculated rumors, particularly after the mess with TNA being partially up for grabs.
The internet is a safe haven for all sorts of opinions and unsubstantiated information on anything under the sun and the pro wrestling industry is by no means safe and secure from being inundated with inaccurate information. Neither Triple H nor Dixie Carter have made concrete statements about Richards and Edwards, so anything regarding their status should be taken with a grain of salt.
If TNA was really after Richards and Edwards as some claim, they would’ve already been signed to the company. Yes, contract negotiations take time and certain obligations must be met before one can simply hope on the Dixietrain and take a ride down south. But if Mason Andrews can appear during a taped segment on RAW one week and later on in that same week appear on a live episode of IMPACT Wrestling, it goes to show that anything is possible in this industry if people want it to happen.
As far as the bee ess reasons behind why Richards and Edwards haven’t formally received a developmental contract from WWE, there’s no telling what’s going on that could give our impatient nature some satisfaction. If we can immediately call shenanigans on the speculation of a TNA sale, then we can surely call shenanigans on a Triple H hissy fit keeping the American Pitbulls from receiving contracts.
Well that’s all I have for the moment; expect more ranting this week. In the meantime, leave your thoughts or at least tell a friend to visit us and tell me I’m off my ass.
The current pro wrestling tension between TNA and WWE fans revolves around an ill-conceived concept of “originality.” For whatever reason it has become very important for fans to claim ownership of a concept, storyline, character or idea on behalf of their favorite company. Fans calculate these “original” ideas, creating a laundry list with hopes of triumphantly stating that one company is more “original” than the other.
The whole process of doing this is cumbersome and overrated. There is very little “originality” coming from the three U.S. promotions that have television deals and to argue about it is to engage in a fool’s errand. Truthfully speaking it’s just like arguing over the pros and cons of hanging toilet paper from the over or under position.
People by and large are resistant to change, and the more time goes on the more people desire for things to stay in one static state of dependability where they can remain comfortable as absurdly possible. Pro wrestling and her fans are not excused from this plight, and in fact may be more susceptible to acquiescing to familiarity more often than not.
But in order for this capitalist consumer based society to continue trudging along the way, we the people have to “believe” that change is happening all around us. We’re fed fairy tales about how things are getting better when, in reality, it’s pretty much the same mess with a fresh coat of paint. The very same is true of pro wrestling; a company appears to be on the verge of making a cutting-edge change, but in reality fans are seeing the product moonwalk itself into stagnancy and mediocrity. Things are only made worse by the fact that we’re all essentially arguing over which promotion is more mediocre than the other.
Real change, serious dynamic moves towards a better and brighter future, is one gigantic pain in the ass. To enact change is to embark upon a journey that speaks against our desire to be comfortable, a long and tedious expedition that requires the discipline and intent to continue along the path until it ends and the desired results are attained. That’s what true success is all about, creating a goal and working to bring that goal to fruition. It the desired results from an intended goal are not realized, then an effort was not successful; end of story.
For any promotion to produce “original” content, their goals from the very beginning must contain an element of change that will not sit well with fans. Change will alienate people; change will make diehard fans question the product or even turn away from it. However, if the desired results are necessary, then—be it subtle or overt—change must happen and fans must be conditioned to accept the journey that comes along with adapting to that change.
Real change, however, decreases revenue and profit in the short term. Real change, however, forces fans to think differently about the way they view the product and choose to support it. Real change effects everyone, from the top down and bottom up. Real change hurts, and with fans being as penny pinching as Ebenezer Scrooge, very few people have the testicular or ovarian fortitude to test the waters for fear of failure and alienating consumers who pad their pockets with cold hard cash.
As fans who invest in the product one way or another, let’s be real with each other and discuss what real change means for our favorite companies and how it affects us. We have to be honest with ourselves: we don’t want real change. If we did, we would’ve given up on both TNA and WWE years ago in favor of much more fulfilling and authentic pro wrestling. But alas, our insatiable hunger for sports entertainment is as vicious as our desire for a fast food; we like crap, and we’re content with having more streamlined crap than anything of substance. And that’s absolutely fine, but we’ve got to admit that’s where we are and that the real debate is on whether we prefer TNA’s crap over WWE’s crap.
To be fair TNA’s crap seems less refined than the mess peddled by WWE only because of the relative infancy in the business. By comparison, TNA appears to produce a more “original” product than WWE because WWE has produced “original” content for fifty plus years. That “original” programming has grown stale and is (truthfully speaking) held to a different standard than TNA because of its seniority. To speak of TNA’s lovable “growing pains” is the nice way of speaking about the WWE’s lackluster and uninspired product. Dress those comments as we may, it’s all still one big steaming pile of crap.
If both companies are producing crap and we’re content with arguing over who’s crap is more “original” than the other, how can either company truly be different? How can either company justify bringing real change to the product if we’re too busy discussing or nuancing the ways they can refine their crap? Simply put, it won’t happen because we’ve been conditioned to accept mediocrity as a norm. To really push the boundaries of our imaginations, to really invest in a logical and consistent storyline that creates long term fidelity instead of short term satisfaction, is to say something profound to each promotion in a way that will justify changing the product for the betterment of the business overall.
Here’s a thought I’ve promoted over various social media outlets many times before, and I’m thoroughly convinced neither TNA nor WWE have the balls (or ovaries) to be different in this regard: why not create a major storyline with female wrestlers as the leads and showcase them in a main event spot during a pay per view?
Don’t let the hype and speculation fool you; as much as the SI.com article about TNA and Dixie Carter would have you believe that she’s entering a world dominated by men (which she is), Dixie Carter is also among female contemporaries with just as much power and swag (if not more) as she has. Dixie Carter is in competition with Stephanie McMahon-Levesque and Bonnie Hammer (president of USA Networks). With McMahon-Levesque being made the “face” of her father’s promotion and touting that forty percent of the WWE’s audience is compromised of women, with Bonnie Hammer continuing to dominate cable network television, and with Dixie Carter stepping out into the fracas, now would be an optimal time for either organization to prove their mettle using such a storyline.
And it’s honestly not that hard a thing to do or accomplish. Today’s society sees a movement to establish both equality and equity between genders; if the writers can craft a simple and compelling storyline, it shouldn’t matter who plays the part. The only thing that will inevitably change is the way the protagonist in the story responds to the changing elements around them. Replace AJ Styles and Magnus with Gail Kim and Brooke Tessmacher respectively; replace Randy Orton and John Cena with AJ Lee and Natalya. Can we honestly say with a straight face that the storylines involving these women would diminish in quality because of their presence?
Of course there are several reasons as to why such a move would fail horribly; women’s wrestling is a niche market, a large swath of fans really don’t want to see a main event women’s angle, blah blah blah. But with so many fans complaining of the industry’s lack of originality, wouldn’t it make more sense to push the envelope in this way? Aren’t fans always complaining about the piss poor way women’s wrestling is treated here? Wouldn’t you, loyal and true pro wrestling fan, want to have the opportunity to brag about how your favorite wrestling promotion was the first to pioneer the industry with a successful major storyline involving women?
Nah … we want the same old crap. We’d rather celebrate the insipid trailblazing of a women’s division that lacks direction and … well … women. We’d rather sit idly by as the Total Divas are paraded incessantly before our eyes in an endless series of nonsensical matches and segments that are barely related to anything. We’d rather be the first to complain and whine about how bad one promotion treats its female athletes, ignore how badly the other promotion is treating their women’s division, and utilize any time in between to take pee breaks. Then we’ll simply turn around and blame the promotions for not doing things the way we’d like to see them, even though we already know deep within our hearts that we honestly don’t want to see either promotion veer too far away from what we know and love about them already.
This is why I say very few people have the balls (or ovaries) to do something different or to be different in pro wrestling. We’re all slaves to familiarity, and a promotion won’t risk alienating investors and advertisers to placate our selfishness. We’ll pay very good money to John Cena’s name in a main event marquee, but we won’t drop as nearly as much coin when Daniel Bryan is placed in the same situation. Argue against that if you choose to, but it is a stone cold fact; he who sells the most merchandise will be justifiably placed in the forefront, and the needle won’t move for anyone else until we create the demand for such a star. “They” don’t have the balls (or ovaries) to mess with that formula because we don’t have the balls (or ovaries) to be more than barking seals for what’s familiar and comfortable.
Yes it’s a ballsy move to create a network to showcase your vast library of pro wrestling history or continue to funnel money into a film studio that produces a steady stream of B-movies much to the delight of no one. Yes it’s a ballsy move to go head-to-head with a promotion that has a stranglehold on the business and to continue to buck a system that grows more stifling and hostile with each passing year. Creating the same type of product, mimicking the product of your competition, and refusing to put serious coin and consideration behind anti-typical wrestling superstar isn’t ballsy; it’s safe, it guarantees profit (be it large or small), and it conditions us all to go along with flow, believing we’re ultimately powerless to truly dictate what it is we like and want.
At the end of the day, the three major promotions aren’t all that different from one another when it comes to being “original.” There are very few individuals at this point in the game who have the unmitigated gall to push boundaries or at least try to be different and original in presenting their pro wrestling product (thank God for CHIKARA, Japanese wrestling, DragonGateUSA, EVOLVE, SHIMMER, Shine and WSU). But until we, the fans who pay money to see the action and drama displayed in between the ropes, expand our horizons and ask for something truly and deeply different instead of something superficially aesthetic, then all we’re going to get is what we’ve been getting … the same old mess. If we get the same old mess, all we’re going to have is the same old pointless complaints and hollow accolades.
So the real question is, how many of us have the balls (or ovaries) to be different?
It has been said that a picture is worth one thousand words. Seeing as I really can’t wrap my thinking around my frustration with the heavyweight title scene in either TNA or WWE at this moment, I figured it’d be better to at least set the stage using pictures instead of words.
Shout out to Mr. Christopher Lamb for inspiring the follow simple, easy-to-understand graphics. Disclaimer: HOWEVER you feel about either wrestling promotion—good, bad, or indifferent—please do not enter into ANY conversation regarding their storylines regarding their own heavyweight championships without EXPLICITLY highlighting the following points:
Chestnuts. Bowel movement.
Breakout Star of the Year: Presented by John Laurinaitis
Other nominees: Fandango; Big E. Langston
As much as I praise the Shield, I can’t help but think that the Wyatt Family has done just a good a job in their take over of this company as the Shield, metaphorically speaking. My arguments have been made in the “Tag Team” and “Faction” categories, and you could argue that “Breakout Star” could be divided into individual and group categories (though I’d likely say Reigns standalone is the real breakout star) but in terms of impact, from the sheer reaction both groups get to the way they play their parts so well, it’s hard to determine between the two. The number of belts can’t be a determining factor either because this is about who’s made the greatest impact since they started versus how successful they’ve been thus far in the ring.
Yeah, I know how that looks and sounds but it makes something akin to sense. What really interests me is that Big Johnny is gonna be in the spotlight again! I like John Laurinaitis, and not just because I do a mean Johnny Ace impression. If he references “People Power” and points his finger and maintains that wooden smile that would make even the Enzyte guy take on a pensive look of confusion, it won’t MATTER who wins because WE win.
“THIS IS AWESOME!” Moment: Presented by Christian
DiZ pick: Bryan wins the WWE Championship @ SummerSlam (write-in)
Nominees: Bryan wins the WWE Championship @ Night of Champions; Ziggler cashes in his Money in the Bank contract; Big Show knocks Triple H out; Kofi Kingston hops on a chair @ Royal Rumble
Two things. One: I told you that there would be a few write-ins. Two: when someone says “THIS IS AWESOME!” there’s a good chance the first name to come to mind isn’t “Christian”. No disrespect or anything, but really? Christian? Couldn’t of… couldn’t of brought Edge back for a night to present with him?
I’m just nitpicking. When the crowd chants “THIS IS AWESOME!” (clap, clap, clap clap clap) they usually talk about something so great or a match so spectacular that they’re moved to do something… out of the ordinary! Like stand up! Or cheer! Or pay a bit more attention to what’s going on!
Still nitpicking! Saying something is awesome has always been something “niche-y” for me, likely because I have such high standards. I don’t dislike Summer Rae: I just REALLY liked Andrea Lynn. I don’t hate Kofi Kingston: I just REALLY think he’s happy being mediocre. I don’t want Jerry Lawler off Raw: I just… well, actually, maybe I do… the point is it takes something TRULY incredible to make me do the “THIS IS AWESOME!” (clap, clap, clap clap clap) thing, and of the four things they gave me I can’t say any of them really made me jump up and say it.
Kofi Kingston always does something at the Royal Rumble to stay in longer, but like when I spoke of Heyman and his insane volcano rant, it’s expected. It’s hardly anything special too. Doing a handstand to walk around and get back in the ring? Meh, it was nice, sure. Riding a chair to do it? Meh, it was nice, sure. As gimmicky as the Royal Rumble is you might be surprised to find that the one thing I don’t care for so much in that gimmicky match is – wait for it… – GIMMICKS! We all KNOW the smiling African is athletic, but oh my God: who, the hell, cares?!
The Big Show knocked Triple H out.
And? That doesn’t even get a funny video to go with it: it’s just standard! This is professional wrestling/sports entertainment: I EXPECT random acts of violence! How is a very expected act of violence awesome?!
Everyone was ready to see Dolph Ziggler cash in his contract for the longest, and when he did the roof exploded. We were happy, yay, but at the end of the day it wasn’t “awesome” so much as “due”. The same can be said of Daniel Bryan during Night of Champions, so I’m a bit confused as to why his win at SummerSlam wasn’t even up for grabs. Much like anything special, nothing quite beats the first time, and the first time Daniel Bryan won the coveted WWE Championship, with a crowd firmly and utterly on his side, with the crowd chanting and him in the corner gearing up to shove his knee into Cena’s face, THAT was an awesome moment, THE awesome moment in an awesome match. That’s my vote.
Mark Henry jumping is a close second too. Seriously: the man jumped. No running start, just a stationary jump. With that Mark Henry became the most terrifying character to ever exist in the world of professional wrestling and sports entertainment.
Beard of the Year: Presented by Santino Marella
DiZ pick: wait, THIS is getting a presenter but tag team doesn’t…? Wow… anyway, the Wyatt Family (crowned winner)
Other nominees: Daniel Bryan (uncrowned winner JUST because of that picture), Damien Sandow, Zeb Colter
In a last minute decision, I gave this to the Wyatt Family as opposed to Daniel Bryan. I may be old fashioned, but to me the ultimate sign of manliness, next to indulging in a language that doesn’t carry a phrase even remotely similar to “thank you”, is the facial hair. All great men have facial hair, and some of those great men shave the facial hair, knowing full well that they would be even more awesome if they kept the facial hair. But they also know how much of an aphrodisiac a man with good facial hair can be though (i.e. – me) so in order to give the ladies a well deserved break they chill.
Yes, whether it’s a magnificent mustache, or a bountiful beard or some succulent sideburns, facial hair is without a doubt a wonderful thing, so this category is missing a few people: Big Show, Brodus Clay, CM Punk, etc. This award is dedicated to the men who wear their facial hair with pride, and dignity, and stand like Captain Morgan in the malls, bars and concert halls because they know that their facial hair is code for, “I am sexy, and you will acknowledge me!”
That being said, this particular award is for beards, and that eliminates Colter because his defining feature is his magnificent mustache. Bryan and Sandow are two sides of a very interesting coin, because Bryan is unkempt and impulsive whereas Sandow is cleaned up and tactical, another nod to that Spartan/Athenian thing I mentioned yesterday.
Those Wyatt boys though: we’re talking three big guys with big, frighteningly amazing beards that reach their neck and stick out to kingdom come, and to top it off there are THREE of them. Three big beards on three big people, and one of them is even red. They win by default.
Trending Now (#Hashtag of the Year): Presented by Cody Rhodes and Goldust
DiZ pick: no seriously, Faction of the Year gets no presenter but this does…? Can’t pick a winner.
Nominees: #FollowTheBuzzards; #BelieveInTheShield; #BestForBusiness; #WeThePeople
This is one of those things you can track through quantity if you’re savvy enough. I actually like all four hashtags, even #BestForBusiness, but what about some of the lesser known ones? Like #MillionsOfDollars, or #ItsClobberinTime, or… or that awful #ChingleChingle? Can’t pick a winner in this one because frankly it’s pointless. It’s not even like the award belongs to anyone but the internet people who MADE it popular. Remember Angry Miz Girl? SHE deserved that award. She GOT that award.
Fan Participation of the Year: Presented by the Primetime Players
DiZ pick: “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
Other nominees: Fandango-ing; “Let’s go Cena!/Cena sucks!”; “What’s Up?”
Remember when everyone made a big deal of Jason Collins when he came out as gay, effectively making him the first gay athlete to actively play in a major professional American sport? Yeah, me neither. Told y’all that would pass by quick. Do you even know who he plays for at this point? Me neither, but I don’t follow the NBA or basketball in general all that much so it may just be my lack of interest. I bring this up to say the same about Darren Young. Everyone made a big deal out of him being gay, and then we just stopped caring. If anything it’s a nice nod to how far we’ve come in accepting people’s differences. The greatest sign of acceptance is total apathy and universal treatment.
Fan Participation of the Year is yet another category that stands as something the fans should have versus a particular Superstar or Diva. But unlike the previous one, how the crowd responds corresponds with the success of it. Take “What’s Up?” for example. “What’s Up?” is singular: it’s is only utilized in the times when R-Truth is out and serves as a call-and-response with the audience. At the same time, it shows the ignorance of the people in attendance. When a man asks “What’s up?”, he expects an answer, not the say question thrown back in his face, that’s not nice, it’s just not nice. Next time R-Truth screams “What’s up?”, tell him about your day. He asks “What’s up?”, talk about work a little bit, Mr. Killings is a terrific listener. He raps. Kind of. Kind of rappers are great at listening.
The same can be said of “Let’s go Cena!/Cena sucks!”. For one, it’s divisive, the new standard for the fans and detractors of John Cena alike. But the chant is restricted to John Cena and John Cena alone. That doesn’t SOUND like a problem, and in the grand scheme it isn’t, but in terms of fan participation it serves as a very isolated occasion. It’s a LOUD isolated occasion, but unless Super-Soldier (an amalgam of Superman and Captain America; he’s a real comic creation too) is out and about, it’s not done.
Now, that leaves Fandango-ing and Bryan’s ode to the affirmative. Fandango-ing would be a sure fire winner IF it was a reaction by the crowd FOR Fandango. What do I mean? Fandango-ing became a “thing” in that now infamous Raw following Wrestlemania. The crowd was hyped. They started humming and hokey-pokey-ing and singing ChaCha LaLa why? Because they were bored! Because they were so uninterested in what was going on in the ring that along with doing arena wide waves and impromptu chants! Make no mistake: that amazing crowd was amazing in spite of the show going on that evening. If anything, they serve as a cold reminder that if the product isn’t entertaining then they’ll find a way to MAKE it entertaining. It wouldn’t hurt to go back and watch that episode of Raw to see if it was even that good to begin with. Fandango acknowledged the craze but didn’t actually embrace it; nor did Andrea Lynn, but she’s in my book of “women who can do no wrong”. Frankly I never understood WHY people started doing the John Witherspoon when the song came up.
Or the Ronald Isley, whichever you wanna call it.
But the Yes! chant is interesting. What you rarely hear is people chant FOR Cena to come out at any juncture. You don’t often hear that; you don’t hear them insert his name into things that he has no business in, like say a match between Tons of Funk and whoever. But the Yes! chant can permeate so many things, literally. In times where Daniel Bryan isn’t even a factor, the Yes! chant will erupt because people want to see Daniel Bryan. You could say that in this respect Daniel Bryan has surpassed Cena, because there isn’t a divisive element about him. People more or less universally love the goat. They root for him because he has shown himself to be the underdog, much like Chris Benoit did, and he had his Wrestlemania moment with Eddie Guerrero.
Yes! has prevailed because people WANT to see Daniel Bryan. The associate the word with Daniel Bryan, and in the span of a few years Daniel Bryan has become THE guy in the WWE. Sorry, casual viewers, but just because he doesn’t have an immediate rise it doesn’t mean they’ve just forgotten about him.
Extreme Moment of the Year: Presented by Mick Foley
DiZ pick: Mark Henry jumps (write-in)
Nominees: Shield triple powerbombs the Undertaker; Ryback spears Cena through the LED light board; CM Punk gets revenge on Heyman; The Wyatt Family crushes Kane
Look, I’m just gonna make it plain one more time. Just skip to 6:16. Hashtag: done.
“LOL!” Moment of the Year: Presented by the New Age Outlaws
DiZ pick: Zeb Colter “twerks” (write-in)
Nominees: doesn’t even matter.
Insult of the Year: Presented by The Miz
DiZ pick: AJ Lee versus the Total Divas (aka “AJ asserts herself as the HBIC in the WWE)
Other nominees: Stephanie McMahon degrades the Big Show; Paul Heyman disowns CM Punk; Zeb Colter offends the Universe
This was a no brainer. And you’ll have to excuse me because as I write this that gif of Colter “twerking” is showing and making me laugh. It’s not just the twerking, but the way Swagger’s eyes seem to follow Zeb as he goes up and down. Freaky. Anyway, AJ Lee’s promo damn near mirrors, albeit in a lighter fashion, CM Punk’s pipe bomb that set off so many alarms way back when. One of the earliest, and I’d argue valid (and play devil’s advocate too), arguments about the show Total Divas is that it does nothing but paint the Divas in the same light as some reality show nonsense akin to the Karadashians or something. Well there’s truth in that: the show really isn’t all that great. As far as scripted programs go, this one is quite “meh” at times, but there is a certain appeal to it. That being said, it WAS odd to me early on that the show focused on a handful of Divas leaving the others out in the cold (and at this point they’re leaving one of the Total Divas out in the cold too).
AJ Lee has been champion for a while now and it’s safe to say that she brings a breath of fresh air to a division overloaded with women who, if given the leeway, could probably pull off something all their own too. But part of that breath is that she doesn’t seem like the other Divas. She’s not a model in the traditional sense but she’s quite attractive; she’s no powerhouse; she doesn’t do traditional wrestling attire. She’s a character all her own who, for some reason, adopted a big Samoan bodyguard for… some reason. She goes in the ring, skips, plays mind games and wrestles. She wrestles. She’s not a doll; she’s an action figure.
The insult would have been better if the WWE seemed to follow up on it: that’s to say if they continued on with an actual war between the Total Divas and those who must not be total. I don’t mean seven-on-seven elimination tag matches but legitimate conflicts, or the Total Divas getting the Divas championship whereas those who aren’t… total (?) bring back the women’s championship. That’s conflict, and AJ sparked something great with her insult. The lack of decent follow-through is all that has left her all but wonderful pipe bomb as little more than a pleasant afterthought.
Match of the Year: Presented by Bret Hart
DiZ pick: Undertaker vs. Punk (Wrestlemania 29)
Other nominees: The Rock vs. John Cena (WM 29); Cody Rhodes and Goldust vs. Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns (Battleground); Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar (Extreme Rules)
I’d call shenanigans, but I will contain myself. I still say that the matches of the year belong to Daniel Bryan and Seth Rollins, but they can’t be part of this list because they weren’t PPV matches, I guess. Besides, the Undertaker/CM Punk match stands beside them as tremendous. For one, I don’t think it’s a match either one of them wanted. This is just my personal speculation talking, but I think I recall Punk saying he never wanted to have this match, and I don’t know about the Undertaker but I’m always weary about who he wants to face.
All the same, regardless of the feelings that might have been in that ring, it was a classic, 5-star match, and that’s saying something. That’s why I can’t speak on this match so much as just show it. Enjoy, viewer.
Double-Cross of the Year
DiZ pick: Mark Henry’s “retirement speech”
Other nominees: Triple H costs Daniel Bryan the WWE Championship; Shawn Michaels superkicks Daniel Bryan; Paul Heyman costs CM Punk a chance that the Money in the Bank contract
We were all fooled. We were all duped and we KNOW we were all duped. That man came out in his salmon-colored suit that I’m sure cost a good chunk of money and told the world that he was leaving the active roster of the WWE. He welled up, acknowledged the crowd, played along with them, he had me, in all my facial haired masculinity, dropping two tears in a bucket. He held that WWE Championship and looked so right. I was ready to say, “Damn you, WWE creative, DAMN YOU for not letting that man have ONE WWE title run!” And he dropped the mic. Cena came back into the ring to hug the man and hold his hand up in triumph. Mark Henry. What a guy! He’s a man! Such a man. He’s a real man’s man. And a classy man. A good man. That hug with Cena, that was worth it, it was good, it was a sign of respec… why is Henry lifting him up? WHY IS HE SLAMMING HIM?!
“YOU THINK IT’S THAT EASY?! I STILL GOT A LOT LEFT IN THE TANK!”
It was epic. I can use words all I want, but everything is summed up in this gif I made of Mark Henry picking up his jacket, dusting it off and throwing it over his shoulder. Like a boss. No other double-cross even comes close to this Grammy winning performance.
That’s right: that was such a compelling performance he deserves a MUSIC award for it!
Diva of the Year: Presented by Eve
DiZ pick: AJ Lee
Other nominees: The Bella Twins; The Funkadactyls; Natalya; Kaitlyn; Eva Marie
First of all: I LOVE Eve. Gonna be glad to see her again. Second, this was actually the hardest category for me to determine. Some people joke about the women’s division in the WWE but me, looking at who was up for these awkward looking awards, I had to really think about it.
I could eliminate Eva Marie right off the back because, and pardon my French, she’s a bitch. And I don’t mean the good kind, I mean she’s just awful. I liked her when she smacked Jerry Lawler, but after that I stopped liking her. So that left AJ, the Bellas, the Funkadactyls, Natalya and Kaitlyn. Kaitlyn kind of fell off, but she was always something of a powerhouse, and I’ve always liked Kaitlyn. Natalya is another powerhouse and she can actually move in that ring. The Funkadactyls are… well, I love and respect one and the other is pretty meh to me. And the Bellas are cool enough, but much like the Funkadactyls I only really appreciate one of them. Then there’s AJ. She’s cool.
So it really read more like: AJ, Brie Bella, Naomi, Natalya and Kaitlyn to me, and if I was going off of pure in-ring ability or athleticism, I’d cross of Kaitlyn for relative absence. Brie had to show up more with Nikki gone, and to her credit she stepped up. Naomi is athletic but her abilities are growing too.
I’m not being funny right now. That’s good. I like funny. So let’s skip the logistics. If I was going to choose the woman I enjoyed watching the most, it would be a toss up between Kaitlyn and Naomi, the former because of a Janet Jackson moment and the later because Mystikal is great. If was going off of success, then AJ Lee, for maintaining her title and being smart enough to hire a Samoan to watch her back.
I’ll be frank: it’s hard to be humorous with this because I’m taken back to that fatal four way match between AJ, Natalya, Naomi and Brie Bella at Night of Champions, which I have to admit wasn’t just a good match but one of the better matches on the card. That’s saying something: it was a LAME PPV. All four of them, by that regard, with that showing alone, a worthy of Diva of the Year, but my vote goes to the champion because she IS the champion. Granted, a championship does NOT mean you deserve a year-end award. Speaking of which…
Superstar of the Year: Presented by Shawn Michaels
DiZ pick: HAMMER! He’s too legit to quit!
Oh, okay, I’ll be serious. Shoot…
DiZ pick: Daniel Bryan
Other nominees: John Cena, Randy Orton, CM Punk, Brock Lesnar
Is an explanation even needed? Two-time WWE Champion Daniel Bryan is, without a shadow of a doubt, THE Superstar. The WWE didn’t strike gold with Bryan Danielson: Bryan Danielson came in, found the gold mine and plowed through it on the way to the blood diamond mines a thousand miles away. Calling him good is an understatement: his only real wrestling competition in the company comes from those who came up in the indies like him. He’s just as entertaining whether being a cowardly heel, or a corny face or a determine rebel with a cause. He’s bested all challengers, broken through any barriers that the lures of sports entertainment might have ever even tried to throw in his face and he does it all without introducing a comb to his face.
Cena and Orton are champions. Who cares? Punk is every bit Bryan’s equal. I say yes, but all the same, who cares? Lesnar can eat a table. I don’t give a f***! Daniel Bryan, through face and heel, good and bad, beard and shaved, has been the face of this company to the audience that cares about the company. I said it before and I’ll say it again: when you think of the Rock, you think of the WWE. When you think of Hogan, you think of professional wrestling. When you think of Cena, you think of pop culture. Will Bryan EVER be that big? Probably not, but the WWE SHOULD be concerned that someone in Tibet, weaving a basket out of wheat and cricket feces, knows the name Cena but don’t know what the hell he does.
No, Daniel Bryan is the finest example of a man paying his dues and making it big, from nothingness to greatness, and he took every step so he would be sure to cover the entire path. The man is living the life: he’s famous, he’s a multiple time champion, he’s engaged to the nice Bella, he doesn’t have to worry about a barber, and he not only has a clean victory over the human embodiment of pop culture at the second biggest PPV on the WWE’s calendar but he has a chant that follows him. A chant all his own. Yes. Yes. Yes.
Yes. Yes! Yes! Yes!
YES! YES! YES!
And that concludes the DiZ expositions on the Slammys for tonight. What are YOUR thoughts regarding the awards?
Apparently so, according to popular belief after fans worldwide witnessed the opening moments and match of Monday night’s episode of RAW. When returning superstar John Cena entered the area as the newly crowned World Heavyweight Champion, fans became ecstatic when Damien Sandow verbally and physically attacked him, using the opportunity to cash in his Money in the Bank contract. In an excellent match it wasn’t very long before the Champ rallied back with the momentum of Juggernaut and claimed victory over Sandow and his failed attempt to cash in his championship match contract.
Some would even venture to say that Sandow’s loss against Cena made him dead on arrival to the main event scene.
To no one’s surprise the word “burial” arose like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes of Damien Sandow’s defeat. The creature is currently enjoying a leisurely flight around the IWC, releasing its magical yet harmful droppings on the faces of fans gazing skyward, imploring the wrestling gawds for an answer that will appease and satiate their blank, slack-jawed gazes of consternation and dismay.
There exists a school of thought among these fans that believes Sandow’s MITB opportunity, and the MITB concept itself, was killed off with his high profile loss to a 14-time Heavyweight Champion. This perspective, although a legitimate reaction to Sandow’s loss, seems a bit misguided and just as convoluted as the idea of the MITB contract opportunity.
The Money in the Bank contract is, at its core, a once-a-year opportunity that guarantees its holder one shot at the WWE or World Heavyweight Championship. Several contestants are randomly chosen to (based on certain criteria depending on the time of year the event or match takes place) to participate in a match where the winner must climb a ladder and remove a briefcase from a hook dangling from the rafters.
The praxis of the contest is more involved than it seems, but the basis of the match—the very foundation it rests on—still remains the same; outsmart five to seven other wrestlers and grab a briefcase hanging from the ceiling. One doesn’t have to be championship material or have been a major title holder to win the match; all one has to do is be resilient, ingenious, crafty as hell and lucky.
Upon winning the MITB contract, Damien Sandow joined the pantheon of stars who have all in some way managed to exemplify the aforementioned traits that ultimately led them to snagging their golden ticket to a number one contender’s spot. From that point on, Sandow’s in-ring career reached lows not seen in WWE since The Brooklyn Brawler or Colin Delaney.
Sandow embarked upon an intricately prolonged losing streak and a feud that revealed the simplistic absurdity of the MITB concept. After having his briefcase stolen and tossed into the Gulf of Mexico by Cody Rhodes, the self-proclaimed “Intellectual Savior of the Masses” complained and wept incessantly about his “briefcase.” It became quite ridiculous (and entertaining) to see Sandow resort to unnecessary lengths to protect his briefcase and reclaim the integrity of the MITB briefcase that was sullied by his former best friend.
Realistically speaking, the MITB briefcase was never important; it was what was in the briefcase that was significant. The MITB briefcase simply housed the contract that guaranteed its winner a major title championship match.
Without the briefcase, Sandow was still guaranteed that match by virtue of his capture of the briefcase and the contract. Regardless of whether he was in possession of the case or not, he had a binding claim to the championship match guaranteed by the contract within said briefcase. The only way that binding agreement could have been nullified would have been if Sandow placed the contract on the line during a match; other than that, the briefcase is only a symbol that serves as the outward acknowledgement of a man who could call out a main event champion at any time.
What has happened, however, that is within its eight year history the MITB briefcase became more important than the contract within it. The symbol became more important than the object it stood for. Having the damn briefcase became more of a top priority than having (or seeing) the actual contract.
In that same sense the MITB briefcase, in the eyes of the fans, has become more important than winning the championship itself.
Instead of symbolizing a quick and easy way to a championship match, the briefcase has become something that designates a particular wrestler’s ascent to the main event scene. Due to the fact that a majority of the MITB winners have successfully cashed in their contracts, the briefcase has become a “dead giveaway” of the next WWE or World Heavyweight Champion. WWE has effectively conditioned fans to do three things: anticipate the MITB matches/pay-per-view, revel in the high-risk antics of the matches, and immediately create an imaginary scenario where the winners become main event stars.
Lost in translation amid those three conditions is the story that drives the reality of the contract, the importance of this one-shot-only championship opportunity, and the clout of whoever holds the WWE or World Heavyweight Championship at the time. In effect, most fans believed Damien Sandow should have won the World Heavyweight Championship regardless of who held it, simply because he held the MITB briefcase.
That same logic dictates that the Royal Rumble winner should become a heavyweight champion by virtue of his ability to defeat twenty-nine to thirty-nine other men … not because he can defeat the one person holding the title come WrestleMania.
Damien Sandow’s inability to capture the title, then, looks poorly upon the booking team and all other executive level parties instead of screaming volumes about the Damien Sandow character. The prestige of the title and the holder of that title become less important than the challenger with a lucky break. The fact that Sandow had less than a handful of victories after gaining the contract is moot … him simply owning the briefcase is proof enough to solidify his rightful status as a main event star of championship caliber.
The story surrounding the MITB contract holder is vital to the success of the character and the future of the concept. While it is true that majority of the MITB winners subsequently won their championship matches, very few fans will delve into the intricacies of how they won those matches. Most winners capitalized off of a compromised champion following a grueling championship defense.
In the case of WWE Superstar Edge, also known as “The Ultimate Opportunist,” his second MITB contract came when he defeated Mr. Kennedy for the briefcase. He didn’t even win the MITB match to gain the MITB contract! How does that speak highly of a concept fans believe highlights the credibility of an up-and-coming main event champion? More importantly what does that say about Ken Anderson, good or bad?
Despite our insistence that the MITB briefcase is more than what it actually is the contract is for one championship match. If Hornswoggle captures the briefcase and gains the contract, he gains an opportunity to face a major main event champion.
Ownership of the briefcase does not turn him into a force to be reckoned with a la Batman or Aquaman; rather the contract gives him a chance to face and defeat a heavyweight champion. How Hornswoggle goes about that process will determine the strength and direction of his character, in victory or defeat.
For Damien Sandow, how he attacked John Cena and how he held his own in the match says far more about the character and its direction than a leather bound or metallic briefcase ever could. Sandow was vicious, calculated, determined and forceful in his match; how that translates into a burial of Sandow and the character is beyond comprehension.
If we truly believe that the briefcase made Sandow a threat to the championship, that the prop in his story is the end all, be all to his slow, steady and obviously working rise to main event status, then we’ve totally missed the point of enjoying sports entertainment specifically and pro wrestling in general.
The loss to Cena during the solid and strong opening to RAW isn’t the end for Damien Sandow and his career; it’s actually only the beginning.
And all of this is coming from the L.E.W.D. writer who hates Damien “Effing” Sandow.
As Cena was giving his “I’m back to active duty and flaunting my return” speech, I had a thought. It was literally the most vivid and entertaining wrestling thing I had mentally pictured since my mind wandered and I imagined me, Layla and Mickie James in a barn in the middle of July. Sweet, sweet memories. Anyway, the thought was Cena, in the middle of the ring, getting beat senseless by a man dressed in all black – all black shirt, all black pants, all black boots, all black gloves, all black mask, all black sunglasses – with an all black baseball bat. It was just glorious. Cena was smacked against the face and collapsed. After that he proceeded to beat Cena until the man’s arm was literally bent the wrong way. Cena writhed and convulsed on the mat but the assault didn’t cease: it kept going until Cena was breathing but otherwise unresponsive. The crowd went deathly silent, time seemed to stop, and as some kids finally began to cry and scream for Cena to get up, the man in all black reached into his pocket, tossed a small green crystal onto his prey, turned around and casually left. No explanation given. It was… it was just…
And after I shed some
manly tears of joy, here comes Damien Sandow. He was his usual “I’m better than you, and I know it” self and he came out to tease at cashing in the briefcase. No one in their right mind would believe that he would take on Cena in a fair one-on-one conflict, so when he looked like he was about to leave I said, “Expected.”
Then he beat Cena with that briefcase, a chair and those stairs. And my heart was glad. As sad as it is, few things bring me as much joy as seeing John Cena get demolished, and 30 seconds into Sandow’s violent attack I knew three things:
- Cena’s arm was going to be the focus of the coming match
- Sandow was going to cash in, and
- Sandow was NOT going to win
That unnerved me at first, I admit, but as the match officially began and went on we saw something: we saw one hell of a match. Not only was Sandow keeping up with Cena but he was fighting the man like a strategist, a Lex Luthor taking on Superman, if you will. Sure, Sandow lost, as was expected, but the back-and-forth was so compelling that even in his loss we were brought to doing something we had only done in a speculatory (<— not a real word) fashion in the past few months: actively talking about Damien Sandow.
People are going to say that he’s in midcard hell, and at some point I might have agreed with you, but that briefcase has been his floatation device. He was on a classic win-lose (or lose-lose-occasional win) streak over the past few, holding that hunk of chocolate like he had low blood sugar, and when he finally DID decide to cash-in it was where? The day after a PPV, as the first match, in a conflict that few of us honestly thought he was capable of.
Yes, Sandow lost. But he had a championship match with John Cena. Let’s look at a TRUE midcard hell inhabitant: Kofi Kingston. No, he still finds himself on TV and in the occasional storyline. Let’s look at a TRUER midcard hell inhabitant: Zack Ryder. He’s held a belt (after launching a campaign for a secondary title, for some reason for the other) but after losing it he descended into nothingness. Sure, he’s around. But who cares? Outside of Gamespot, that is. For some reason or the other. He’s more or less forgotten. Sandow is no longer in that kind of predicament.
So no, Sandow is NOT in the midcard hell, and it’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here. Hell in a Cell opened a few doors and gave us a few thrills, and I can’t wait to speak on a good few of them, ESPECIALLY the dynamic between Bryan and the administration. I know a lot of people are confused and I hope tonight’s RAW has answered a few questions; alleviated some concerns. If not, sorry.
But keep this in mind, WWE faithful: NONE of this would have been a factor if you didn’t go the obvious route…
It’s Monday night, and I’m watching Monday night RAW. And by watching, I mean, it’s playing in the background and I’m occasionally listening/glancing up at it while doing a million other things.
I’m still a WWE wrestling fan, don’t get me wrong. I’m using the term “wrestling fan” loosely. I’m really a sports entertainment fan. In September, Pastah Showtime took me to Huntsville to see the Smackdown Superstars show. I finally got to see my WWE Superstar Alberto Del Rio (and be one of the only people in the Vonn Braun Center cheering for him. A couple weeks ago, I watched whichever pay-per-view that was on, and I have kept up with Raw. The thing is that I’m not interested in a lot of the story lines that are going on right now.
Anything that once had potential to keep my interest is lost by the end of the show. With Raw being three hours long, a lot of the story lines can be developed in a single episode. There is a story line that continues through every show, and it’s not very good at keeping my interest because it there is very little at stake in the plot concerning HHH and his hand in who is the WWE champion. Basically, a plot should look like the following diagram:
From Image Grammar: Using Grammatical Structures to Teach Writing by Harry R. Noden
Monday Night raw is following a diagram that is not nearly as steep, concerning the setting, set up, and most definitely any rising action before getting to a climax. Has anyone noticed that they do not even do the regular Raw opening anymore? Raw has turned into a lot of replaying scenes from matches and incessantly advertising the WWE app, which nobody really needs because they show everything they put on the app on television.
There are no good set ups for any rivalry. As a sports entertainment fan, I have no reason to care about why Character A is fighting/requesting a match with Character B. So far, the only decent set up involved the WWE championship between Randy Orton and Goatface, but quite honestly, I’m tired of that and HHH’s power trip of interference. I see the potential for this story to make me interested, but it hasn’t happened, yet. Rising action, so far, this is where the WWE is succeeding, there are a lot of promos, back stage interaction, and interactions from the app that give some of the matches potential for being interesting, but as that rising action develops, it flattens out, rather than peaking for an interesting climax.
Once we reach any type of climax on Monday Night Raw, we do not continue that interest to the next show, because like I said earlier, they have three whole hours to work out whatever conflict they have created. There is a loss of connectivity that makes me say as a sports entertainment fan, “ I want to see what happens next week.”
A Disappointed Sports Entertainment Fan.
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.