5 things Clash of Champions showed us about #TeamRed

This being the month of branded pay per views has given us a glimpse into the direction of each show.  The inappropriately abbreviated CoC being Raw’s attempt to beat a very good Smackdown event.

5. Raw has great wrestling with no heat

412986052fe1c07874defc53d7c19207_crop_north

One of the biggest complaints with Smackdown’s roster was that Raw got all the workrate guys and Team Blue was left with the scraps. While that is kind of true, Smackdown showed that coherent writing could make the crowd invested in even a Heath Slater/Rhyno vs. Usos match.  Raw on the other hand had 4 great matches and the rest (other than Nia… more later) were decent at worst.  The issue is, we’ve been so trained to think that the finishes don’t matter that the matches have no heat behind them and the crowd is apathetic unless someone almost kills themself.

4. Fuck finishes get no one over

7af17ff72ee39ef683697d6ecccc4c0a_crop_north

The Best of 7 series between Sheamus and Cesaro is the biggest waste of time “we have no idea what to do with these guys” booking I’ve ever seen in my life but has resulted in some great matches.  Today was no difference in the rubber match where both (yes even Sheamus) guys worked super hard and put on a fantastic match.  It was to the point where I was thinknig, “even if Sheamus loses, he’ll still get over based on his work” which was better than what he’s done the past year.  But no, instead of giving us a coherent finish of the good guy triumphing over evil, we get a fuck finish double stoppage where now both guys are just floundering. And it’s all just to extend this feud to Hell in a Cell where we get yet another rematch…  We really don’t need MORE REMATCHES on an already boring show.  And don’t get me started on New Day vs. The Club which… are they really trying to break Demolition’s record?  It’s just asinine at this point.  The Club really should have won at Summer Slam and then maybe they’d be over, but instead we get a screwy finish which just diminishes everyone involved.

3. The Reigns Train is still going…

ctpzmgzxeaayjwc-1474858041-800

In yet another of instance of “we need to get Roman over because Vince says so,” Reigns beats Rusev for the U.S. title. Instead of launching into another profanity ridden tiradelike I do every Monday on F4W’s BOARD~!, I’ll just say that it seems that his new gimmick is that of a smark heel.  When he won, he seemed to almost be taunting the crowd and that is something slightly more interesting than his current “1 vs. All Diet-Cena” gimmick.  That being said, he’s still boring as hell and his match against Rusev clearly showed that in ll his great matches, he was carried.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since the ability to be carried and take direction is a skill in itself, but not for a guy who is supposed to be the #1 babyface.

2. This main event feud is going no where and no one cares

kevin-owens-crowned-new-wwe-universal-champion-triple-h-returns-on-raw

Revolving the Owens/Rollins feud around Stephanie and Triple H is doing no one any favors.  In fact, it’s really just promoting the fact that Triple H is really the top guy on Raw.  Everyone know he’s not really retired and this all feels like just filler until he comes back and fights… someone.  The visual pin that Rollins had on Owens just diminishes Owens even more and the fact that the crowd counted to ten shows that they’re aware of it.  Raw literally has no hook and the most compelling thing is seeing the to what lengths they go to trying to get Reigns over.

1. Jericho is the last true heel

chrisjericho

Other than Triple H (and arguably Bayley, but I’d argue against that her reputation is over, not her), Owens is the last truly legitimate threat.  It’s why I wasn’t mad that he went over Zayn tonight.  Jericho is still one of the best promos on either brand, he rarely has a bad match and knows how to get legitimate heel heat.  I’m not a proponent of another title run for Jericho, but he’s really one of the few guys who still fells like a “top guy.”  And while it’s a testament to him as a worker, it’s also a bad sign on the side of creative.  They literally pumped so much energy and resources into Reigns that they neglected to creat anyone else.  The fucked up Rollins by not having him turn face on his return in front of a crowd that desperately wanted to cheer him, they fucked up everyone in the League of Nations (all of which could’ve been top guys), fucked up Sheamus’ title run by having him as the set up guy for Reigns, and Owens is heavily embroiled in the above mentioned feud where he’s not even a main player.

And where is Lesnar? What’s the point? He just shows up and then leaves and they never mention him again.  It’s like they want the fans to forget he exists.  Just bizarre booking.

Clash was a show that had great wrestling, but at best bizarre booking and at worst, sabotaging finishes.  It’s another example of creative trying to extend feuds due to pillaged rosters and the thought that 50/50 booking keeps everyone strong when in reality, it prevents anyone from going over.

Advertisements

5 Things Backlash Showed About #TeamBlue

I know… lists are such click bait… but Backlash has shown us evidence of some very interesting things:

5. The writers think Vince McMahon is still watching, which means Vince isn’t controlling SD creative

ryan20ward

One of the most glaring things about Backlash was the unusually bad Slater/Rhyno segment. This storyline has been great and engaging from their first promo, so it was strange to see them script Slater and Rhyno to do toilet humor that seemed very reminiscent of every fucking RAW promo that Vince writes ever.  However, that being said, I didn’t find it as egregious as normal. IT was a quick joke and I thought the “swerved” line was a creative way of deflecting it.  Also interesting was the fact that it was really early in the show and that was it. Less than five minutes devoted to it.  My conclusion is that it was a quick pander to Vince to satisfy him early in the show.  This also leads me to believe that Vince McMahon is not really keeping tabs on our beloved Ryan Ward…

4. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

becky-champion

Specifically, the women’s match.  The match was really good. But look at the participants. Carmella is bad. Naomi is not good. Alexa is better than bad. Nikki is fine. Nattie is good but band. Becky is good but buried.  And yet, after all that, they put on a really good match.  It’s not going to win any awards, but it was a fun opener that had the crowd invested.  Definitely a well thought out and well put together match that shows WWE can still make something out of nothing if they really want to.

3. Less is more

aj-world-champion-199373

The show clocked in at just under 2 hours and 40 minutes, 20 minutes less than the assigned 3 hour slot they were given.  Ending the show early was a great choice. Nothing felt drawn out (maybe Ziggler/Miz a little) and at the end, I didn’t feel like I needed to take the next day off of work due to exhaustion like I do whenever I watch SummerSlam or RAW.  I tuned in for wrestling, I got two and a half hours for a pay per view and then I went on with the rest of my night.  Thumbs up for not doing useless filler.  In fact, I had hoped the AJ celebration would last a bit longer.

2. The roster is really thin

kane

My previous post discussed how feud burnout is a very real issue and tonight’s show reinforced my argument.  There is literally no one on this roster. They threw everyone in the tag team division, but Orton is out and Cena is coming back (as per Meltzer on WOR) but he’s in and out as it is. There is no midcard (Corbin and Crewes?) and AJ looks like he has only two real feuds coming up.  Ambrose in a rematch and then Cena in a rematch.  Rematches galore.  They need to seriously bring some NXT guys up to Smackdown. Tye Dillinger in particular would be great as a gate keeper in the upper midcard.  Also, with like 8 cruiserweights being signed to RAW, it may be time to give SD some guys like Cesaro and Darren Young who I think would be better suited on Team Blue.

Why Darren Young? You need guys to lose.

1. Coherent stories with happy endings get over

rhyno-heath-slater-are-in-shock-following-smackdown-tag-team-title-victory-backlash-2016

There is a time and place for the heels to mess around and use fuck finishes to end matches. To advance stories.  When it’s all said and done, people want to see their heroes get over on the heels.  Backlash showed that the crowd is happy and invested when they think hey are getting a good payoff.  I have no doubt that if Russo booked this, we’d have had Nikki win the women’s belt with a roll up, the Usos winning with shenanigans, and Dean winning by count out or a screwy double submission. The only tainted win was Miz and it made sense with his current story where he is trying to convince everyone that he’s a legit wrestler and Maryse is protecting his ego by helping him win.  This might be stretching it, but it’d be even better if Miz doesn’t realize that Maryse is helping him and really believes that he’s a really good wrestler.

Overall Backlash was really good and a lot of fun.  I had no problem with any finish and my only concern is moving forward and he thin state of the midcard.  As long as they can navigate the next few months and get some stories going into Survivor Series, the future looks bright for #TeamBlue.

Feud burnout is the biggest threat to the brand split

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, we had two really good days of wrestling in a row. Battleground was shockingly good and this “new era” of Raw really looks new and fresh. That’s not good for me because now I don’t really have anything easy to complain about. I did write a Nia Jax article, but I didn’t want two in a row, opting instead to see how they book her first actual feud before evicerating her.

We do have one issue that needs to be addressed; the influx of pay per view events. 

If there’s one thing that is immediately obvious, it’s the fact that both rosters are relatively thin on talent. This was especially clear at Battleground when backstage shots were shown of the respective locker rooms. Smackdown in particular has about 14 singles stars which means 6 contenders for each title and four tag teams. Not to mention the fact that they have an extremely tiny women’s division. 

Back in the days of the old brand split, each show had a pay per view every other month, not including the “big 4.” It allowed most shows to have an average of a 6-8 week build and in the end, resulted in most shows having at a minimum, decently built matches. 

Now, each brand has an event each month plus the big cross brand events (add the fact that MITB should be considered an A-level event) which means more feuds are going to be forced each month with minimum build purely out of necessity. 

What does this mean? Unless there is a massive influx of talent from the Indys for both shows, it means a lot of these B-level shows are going to involve rematches which was already a massive annoyance with the combined roster. The worry is that lazy booking and a reliance on these rematches will dominate these smaller shows. How many feuds will they burn through in a year with 6 wrestlers in contention for each belt? Not to mention the tag team divisions. Let’s say that New Day beat The Club. Who next? Shining Stars? Golden Truth? Then Enzo and Cass, who in the meantime will have been feuding with those lower teams. When Enzo and Cass win, what next?

This shows a bigger issue and one of the things I agreed about with CM Punk. WWE rarely seems to ask “what next?” The brand split actually looks fairly good now as a way to let lesser talent have the opportunity to potentially shine, but what about in October when we’re at Hell in a Cell or whatever event they’ll call it? What about in May at Extreme Rules where no one cares because we’ve seen all these match ups?

I hope I’m wrong, but I can see WWE torching through feuds in a panic to try and reclaim ground in the ratings and in one year it being disasterous. 

I hope I’m wrong, and Road Block showed that I could be wrong. Road Block was a fine show that was special enough that it was cool to watch even though it was far from ground breaking. Hopefully they emulate that formula. Compelling TV doesn’t need blow off matches every week or month. You didn’t watch Breaking Bad to watch Walt kill someone every episode. You watched to see the characters grow. I want the roster grow, struggle and then ultimately succeed or fail.  

If Vince Russo taught us one thing it’s that hot shot booking doesn’t work. 

Am I a misogynist for not liking Nia Jax?

Nia Jax, the former college basketball player from some bumfuck school no one cares about has once again proven that I fucked up in life by not being born into the Rock’s extended family. 

Nia Jax is a former college basketball player where she won Athlete of the Week once and for all intents and purposes was an average player. 

Further, after her athletic career, she became a “plus sized model” (a term I despise but yet, here we are) and she modeled in what I presume was a grand total of 3 pictures because that’s all I was able to find and I’m at work right now and a certain state government doesn’t need to know that I’m searching for modeling photos of a plus sized female wrestler instead of the 3 elements of agency. 

Then she signed to NXT because when you’re out of work and Samoan, I guess that’s what you do. And if you’re related to the Rock, you wrestle for WWE. 

Nia Jax is an interesting case. As her theme so eloquently puts it, “she’s not like most girls.” She weighs in at over 200 lbs (heavier than yours truly) and looks like she can toss around girls like Eva Marie and Alexa Bliss. At first glance, the fantasy booker in everyone immediately draws a comparison to intimidating head case Awesome Kong, a monster heel can contrast perfectly with the beautiful roster of conventional women. Unfortunately, there are two issues. 

First, Nia Jax looks flabby. Awesome Kong was fat, but she looked solid. She literally looked like a boulder that was ready to wipe out Gail Kim from existence. Maybe it’s a wardrobe issue, but Nia looks like me when I think I can wear tight fitting under armour when I’m at 15% body fat. Like buttercream in a ziplock bag. There’s nothing intimidating about someone wearing a leather outfit that’s too small for them. Unfortunately that’s what Nia looks like. I’m not saying that she doesn’t work out, but she looks like she doesn’t work out. Which to me, begs the question, what does she do with her free 2 hours a day? Other than eat. 

And I know that she got into a car accident in 2014 where she was hospitalized, but immobility doesn’t mean you can’t control your diet, especially since wrestling does have an image component to it, regardless of what you want to believe. Emma just had spinal surgery and she still looks fantastic. It’s an excuse and I hate excuses. It’s why I place the blame on myself not having abs purely on my love affair with Skippys Peanut Butter. No excuses. 

The second issue is, Nia’s face is too pretty. There are some gimmicks (see Undertaker) where being ugly is a massive positive; the monster heel female is one of them. The point of the gimmick is to contrast sharply with the other “pretty” women and the uglier and bigger you are, the more effective that contrast is. With Nia, she’s honestly too pretty to be a monster heel. She always looks like she’s on the verge of tears and she’s always made up like she’s trying to show she’s as pretty as the other girls. The problem is, this does not make an effective monster heel, and when you’re not skilled at all in the ring, you absolutely need an effective gimmick to get over. 

For Nia, she needs to do one of two things to be a better heel. Either lose some weight or stop trying to show that she’s pretty and embrace being the ugly monster. 

Does this make me a mysoginistic pig? I don’t think so. Female monster heels are super effective in part because they’re so rare. Name three. Awesome Kong, Chyna… And that other woman who was going to replace Chyna. Nia needs to embrace the monster part of the gimmick and go on a massive heel run before she’s taken down by a plucky underdog. But, knowing WWE, they’re going to do a tasteful photos hoot with her and push her as a face… And Sasha’s mystery tag team partner…

God damn it. 

The NXT 6

There are going to be 6 picks to be drafted to the main rosters come tonight from Raw. Although there seems to be some confusion on whether or not teams count as 1 pick or 2, fortunately for all of us, Lance Storm is yelling at everyone and implying the populace’s illiteracy that they don’t understand that 6 picks does not denote 6 people. That being said, lets take a look at who I think the 6 picks should be, bearing in mind realism and not just “Nakamura #1!!!!” fantasy booking. 

6. Nia Jax 

Nia’s gimmick has 2 parts. First, she’s the Rock’s cousin, and second, she looks like a female Rikishi. I guess that’s good enough for a call up after putting together absolutely horrible performances in NXT and barely being carried to a decent match by perhaps the greatest female on the entire roster, but the rumor is that WWE has her slated for the main roster. The idea here is obviously an Awesome Kong / Kharma type monster push without all the mental instability. Not the pick I would make, but I guess Regal didn’t hide her well enough and Vince caught wind that one of the Rock’s cousins was in the area. I personally would call up Alexa Bliss but that’s just me. The other issue is that the women’s roster in WWE looks heel heavy, but if Sasha Banks wins at SummerSlam, I guess it could be all right. 

5. Cien 

This one is more out of necessity than anything else. The former La Sombra is floundering in terms of crowd reactions in front of hardcore fans. This isn’t helped by the fact that he dresses like a giant douche and looks like he needs to get punched in the goddamn face. Cien was one of the bigger signings that hardcore fans were excited about, but his debut on NXT has been less than stellar. Although I think it’s smart to keep him away from a mask (even though I personally think tales of his attractiveness are significantly overrated) they need to abandon ship and call him up. The thing about Cien is that he fits the mold perfectly of what WWE wants in a Latino superstar. He’s allegedly good looking, works great and carries himself like a star. As long as they avoid a Del Rio style disaster, he can be a major player and at minimum a great IC title holder and headline Latin market shows. 

4. American Alpha

These guys are proof that what got over in the 80’s will still get over now. 2 white meat baby faces, semi-patriotic, athletic all Americans. The crowd responds and as long as their in ring is taken seriously, they can afford to be goofy in promos and angles which isos because Vince makes everyone goofy at a certain point and the key to success is to be able to survive while maintaining your overseas. These guys can do it and will be multi-time tag champs for the next 5 years. 

3. Tye Dillinger

The long time NXT / developmental is getting me got the age where it’s now or never and NXT crowd reaction is indicating that it’s time to pull the trigger. Tye will never be a world champion and he’s adequate at best in the ring but his “perfect 10” gimmick is easy to get behind and he can feature heavily in angles without appearing out of his element. He would be great as a mid cars gatekeeper, the guy young talent have to beat to get a shot at the U.S. title. 
2. The Revival

These two are another example of a good, old school gimmick that still works in the modern era. Souther brawlers who get heat in classic ways and with a classic move set. With the brand split, new “unit teams” are a premium commodity and like Alpha, they should never be split. Dash and Dawson would be great as multi-time transitional champions, the guys who cheat the faces out of their belts so that another hot face team can win them later. These guys could possibly be a non-hardcore version of the heel Dudleys. 

1. Finn Balor

I am a firm believer that Balor should have been called up months ago. I think staying in NXT is a clear example of booking mismanagement and it’s obvious that waiting for “the perfect time” is going to bite WWE in the ass. At this point, Balor will be fighting an uphill battle on the main show, even more so if he gets drafted to RAW where he will no doubt just flounder in the Cruiserweight division (which deserves its own fucking post). The crowd really wanted to see him hook up with the Club, but at this point, it may be wiser to keep them apart, but I’d be lying if I said that a Balor/Styles match wasn’t a potential dream match for many. Draft Balor to smackdown, and let him debut with his paint at SummerSlam. 

Mick Foley as GM is just another symptom

 

Wrestling is all about manipulation. A good promoter is one who can book a show to illicit a desired reaction form the crowd. Whether it be to get a dastardly heel over and get the entire building booing him or to show the growth of a beloved babyface and to have the arena unleash their emotion when he finally wins, there is always an end goal in mind.

That being said, the difference to great booking and poor booking is subtly. The crowd knows that the point of a show is to manipulate them, but they don’t want to feel like they’re being taken advantage of. It’s like going to see a magician. You know that what you’re seeing is an illusion, but a good magician is able to draw you in to the point where you willingly suspend your disbelief and for even a split second consider that magic may be real. Same with wrestling. You know that what you’re seeing is worked, but good booking can draw you in to the point that you swear what you’re seeing is a shoot.

The same goes with TV shows. How many times during Breaking Bad did you consciously realize you were watching as show with actors playing roles and reading lines that other people wrote for them? Not that many because the show did a great job of drawing you in.

20160718214637Herein lies the issue with Mick Foley. Mick is a total nostalgia act, relying on old fans of the attitude era and kids whose parents showed him falling off the Cell multiple times on YouTube. While there’s nothing wrong with nostalgia booking – Ghostbusters is basically banking on it to carry their current movie – the issue is that the installation of Mick Foley has a very obvious end goal that has nothing to do with the current product: Holy Foley.

The only reason that Mick Foley is GM of RAW is to promote his upcoming reality show, “Holy Foley” starring him, his idiotic but hot as hell daughter Noelle and her cognitively impaired, tool boyfriend who I hope dies in a fire, Frank. That’s it. And if you think RAW isn’t going to turn into a massive advertising push for Holy Foley, you are naive. I’ll even go further with my hot take and say that this whole thing is going to result in Noelle debuting at RAW some point in the future.

For the three people reading who disagree, remember earlier this year when Mick went on a massive twitter rant about how the writing was horrible and a week later his son, Dewey, was hired to the writing team? Coincidence? You don’t have to listen to After Dark Radio to know that it wasn’t.

Mick is a father who is looking out for his kids well-being like any good father would. I can respect that. My issue is that it’s happening in such an obvious way that they’re not even trying to hide it anymore. And this isn’t just about Mick. Mick Foley is just another example in a long line of WWE unsubtley ramming shit down the fan’s throats and then wondering why it didn’t get over; Tough Enough, Dana Brooke, Roman Reigns, The Divas Revolution; and that’s just from the last year!

We want to be manipulated. We’re wrestling fans after all! But WWE has recently been showing us, time after time that they are incapable of doing it without coming off as needy and desperate.