Roman Reigns

I can’t put into words the sadness that I feel for Leati Joseph Anoa’i, aka WWE Superstar Roman Reigns, and the situation that he finds himself in today. After being selected to be “the guy” who would replace John Cena as the face of the company, much to the chagrin of the fan base, he has been informed that the leukemia that had been in remission for the last eleven years has returned. Due to this new situation, Reigns has decided to relinquish his championship and return to treatment to fight the disease.

It is hard for wrestling fans to step back and look at things rationally, but I think the entire wrestling community has looked at this moment and has had it open their eyes. For the past few years, we have really done nothing but scrutinize and dissect everything this young man has done, trying to decided if it was right or cool enough for us to accept. I understand that is the nature of the wrestling business, and I hate knocking fans for having an opinion one way or the other, but I also think that we should reevaluate how we react to certain situations that we see on television. Seeing Roman on Monday giving a speech that was probably the hardest thing in his life to do, all while doing it in front of people who would have probably booed him out of the building under any other circumstance was a bit surreal to watch. But it also put a lot of things in perspective.

We often get upset at the performers, but really, they are being told what to do and how to do it. Promoters have always held the power in wrestling. Sure, there are exceptions to the rule, but those are also becoming a lot more rare as time goes on and the WWE gets bigger. I don’t expect someone like Roman Reigns or John Cena to turn down a top spot, especially when they are going to be making really good money for it. I wouldn’t expect anybody to. The fact that we as wrestling fans get so upset at them for taking an opportunity is really strange. It’s asinine to think that they would really say something like. “Well the fans hate me, so maybe we should give this to Seth?” Nobody thinks like that. Especially people with the drive to make it to the top of the heap of a business as cutthroat as professional wrestling.

Roman Reigns, at the end of the day, is just some guy doing his job. He does it well, and that is why he is in the position that he is in. As much as fans complain about him, he draws in good house show and merchandise money. He’s well spoken and he is able to connect with young fans easily. He grew up in the business, and he helps run the locker room like a top guy should. He has a better “work rate” than John Cena did at the same point in his run. But ultimately, at the end of the day, this is a guy who is doing this because he loves it and it puts food on his table for his children. What’s not to love about that? The fact that it was a leukemia diagnosis to make the majority of us see that is sad, and I think that is something that we all should look at ourselves.

I suppose those questions are best left at a later date. At this time, we should all just appreciate what Roman Reigns did, in and out of the ring, and also realize that these performers that go out every single night are people, just like you and me. They have issues at home, they forget to do chores, and they get bad news from doctors. It takes a lot of sacrifice to go out and put yourself on the line in front of people night after night. It took a lot of guts for Roman Reigns to perform every time he stepped through those ropes knowing that he was going to be crapped on, but he did it anyway. Sure, he does get paid a lot of money to do it, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult. Regardless of wrestling, I hope that Roman does get healthy soon and we do see him perform again. It takes a lot of guts to fight back, and I know that he has enough of that to take on any challenge.

God speed, and good health, sir.

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The Brie Bella Situation

I didn’t plan on writing about Raw this week. In fact, before last night, I had been working on a piece covering wrestling fandom that will have to be pushed back a bit to later on this week so that I can tackle something that has been a huge topic inside pro wrestling circles, and that is the incident that happened last Monday during the women’s six man tag team match.

The only thing that really needs to be pointed out is one spot that has been dissected and analyzed over and over again for the past forty-eight hours or so. Brie Bella of the Bella Twins was doing her spot that was made famous by her husband, Daniel Bryan, the Yes Kicks, where her opponent would kneel in front of her while taking the kicks across her chest. At one point, Brie switched up her speed of the kicks, and during that, her opponent, Liv Morgan, took a boot square on the jaw, knocking her out on her knees. When this happened, Brie had not noticed, and continued with her kicks, again kicking Morgan in the face. What really surprised me is that the match wasn’t stopped immediately, in fact, Liv actually got up and still performed the rest of her spots, even after being out cold.

Since this happened, the entire internet wrestling community seems to be split on the issue. Many people are placing all the blame on Brie, which is silly to me. Sure, Brie Bella is certainly not blameless, and I definitely find myself questioning her new assortment of moves, but for people to be calling for the stake right now is just overacting.

Let’s break this down as much as we can. For one, professional wrestling is a dangerous sport. People have argued with me when I say that wrestling is even less safe than say MMA or pro boxing. Reason being is that you are working on a harder schedule, you are taking a lot more punishment, and you also have the benefit of a ref or a corner stopping a fight that may be getting out of hand. Meanwhile, wrestling has always had an old school approach of the show must go on. Back before the WWE had a Wellness Policy and concussion protocols, you would hear countless stories of the boys getting knocked silly or out cold, and then having to complete the match they are in. Most retell the tales with a sort of reverence for the occasion, even though it possibly meant injuring themselves even further. The fact is that even though it is a work, people get injured constantly, and it doesn’t always boil down to someone being unsafe.

Accidents happen constantly in pro wrestling. They happen during the most mundane spots in a match sometimes. Did you know that King Mabel broke The Undertaker’s orbital bone back in 1995 doing a clothesline? That’s right, a simple clothesline being botched was enough to put someone out of action for a month and require facial surgery. What about Seth Rollins and his buckle bomb? He did that to Finn Balor on a guardrail, and put him out of action just when he got his Universal Title run. Then, Rollins injured Sting with the same move, and that time it was inside the ring on a padded turnbuckle. I didn’t see the same reaction then, and if I did, I would think it would be silly too.

One big complaint I keep seeing is that Brie should not be doing that kicking spot in the first place. I tend to agree, but I also see what they are trying to do with the older “Diva” performers in the current landscape. People want fast paced action, and they want to see a match and have it tell a story. The women that came around before the “women’s revolution” are trying to make sure they won’t be forgotten in this new landscape of talented female workers. Can you really blame them for trying new or different things to stay relevant? I don’t want Brie using Bryan’s moves because I think it is unoriginal. That is a spot that is used maybe on big Pay Per Views to get a crowd super hot. But I disagree with Brie not using it for hope that it will make her matches safer. People should be challenging themselves out there. The Bellas should be allowed to grow and mature and get better, no matter how old they are or how long they have been around. I say that because Trish Stratus was first known as some hot model who couldn’t wrestle, and after her regular career had ended, she was remembered as one of the greatest female wrestlers to ever come to the WWE.

At the same time, Brie should take some fault in this. Again, this is a spot that she really doesn’t need to do anymore. At first it was a tribute to her husband, who was retired due to injuries. Now it just seems like a cheap pop. Number two, Brie Bella doesn’t have to wrestle like these other girls to get over. This faster and more technical style is great, and I love the way women’s wrestling is finally being portrayed, but at the same time, these women can work a slower and more showman style, especially someone like Brie Bella. Also, she should have told the ref what was wrong right away rather than try to continue the match. That was my biggest pet peeve of the entire ordeal. Doctors should have been called in right away and Liv should have been taken out, then call the match a no contest or a forfeit.

Brie shouldn’t be made a villain from this. She was simply doing a move, not recklessly or with no abandon. This wasn’t New Jack throwing Vic Grimes off a scaffold, nor was it Akira Maeda’s shoot kick. It was simply a badly timed spot performed by a sloppy worker and someone got hurt. This happens all the time in wrestling. Mitsuhara Misawa died from a back suplex. Darren Drozdov got dumped on his head by D-Lo Brown by a move D-Lo had done hundreds of times before. Things get messed up in wrestling. It’s wrong to think we should shame someone out of the business or their spot when it is an accident without malicious intent.

Raw Thoughts (09/10/2018)

Although I can’t promise being able to do these every week, I thought a weekly Raw segment would be a nice touch to the blog. Now this won’t go in full depth of the show, as there are many fine blog that already do a good job of reviewing Raw as a whole, but I do want to dive into some topics or spend a little extra time on other important ones. This week’s Raw (09/10/2018) had quite a bit packed into it to set up this week’s PPV, so let’s go ahead and dive in.

The Shield being back has been pretty lackluster to me so far. Maybe it’s because Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, and Braun Strowman are so different together and it comes off as unique compared to the Shield, but also I think it is partly the booking since they made their return. Rather than let them get over in matches like they did during their inception and initial long run on the main roster, they have them doing these weird angles with police vans and axe handles. I think the main problem is they are booking backwards, and trying to get the crowd into hating Braun enough to boo him come Sunday has made them pull out a couple of tricks out of the hat.

This week’s angle with the heel army being demolished seamlessly just reminded me of old WCW television where I would see Kevin Nash plowing through an entire roster with a baseball bat. But they want to make Strowman and his new group seem cowardly, and they want to make sure to accelerate it as much as possible. The go home segment wasn’t bad though. I sort of find it weird when they do these big gimmicks on a go home show. I always liked the approach where the two guys don’t touch each other. But this worked, I didn’t hate it, and it seemed to really get over.

Ronda Rousey needs new gear. There is just no cutting it. All these other women have phenomenal gear, with cool patterns and personality, and Ronda is here with shorts that ride up constantly and she looks like she is going to hop on a treadmill. Some new threads which accentuate her MMA background while also making it a bit more comfortable to work in would be ideal. Aside from that, Ronda and Alexa Bliss is a really nice program with an old school build. I know people on the internet knock on Bliss for her work rate or whatever, but she plays the role of heel very well and gets better each time she is out there. The rib injury angle worked spectacularly, and it makes the match on Sunday a bit more believable with Alexa being able to get some more offense in this time. The only problem I see with this is that as a person who watches MMA, I know that fighters compete injured all the time, but I don’t think most pro wrestling fans are going to consider that. I also find it cool that we are getting quite a bit of free matches from Rousey on a regular basis, and it shows that she is going to be more than just a special attraction.

Mick Foley promos are always great, and Mick has gotten to the point where he can do them in his sleep. He is going to be the guest referee in the Universal Title match. I’m not sure that this match needs anymore thrown at it, especially because this is a newly established feud, but part of me is interested to see where it goes from here. I like stipulations thrown onto matches later on down the road, and this one seems like they are trying to heat it up too quick.

I see a lot of vitriol coming around due to the Bellas being back on the main roster, and while I can understand some of it, most of it has me shaking my head. A roster isn’t always going to be packed with workhorses that can steal the show. Sometimes it needs a bit more of a mainstream appeal, and even with the talent out of the women’s division, the Bellas do have an audience that they can cater to. Not only that, but Nikki has really tried to broaden her moveset and diversify her offense. Even if she isn’t as crisp as other females on the roster, she is still out there working hard. I could compare her to the Miz in a sense that she goes out, does her best in the ring, even though it doesn’t look great, and gets over. Although, I will admit that Miz is far stronger on the mic, but there aren’t many women on the roster that are crazy strong on the mic either.

Besides, Ronda is going to need people to face going forward. Introducing the Bellas so that Nikki can eventually turn and face off against her could be really good. I had my doubts about Alexa Bliss at first too, but this program is shaping out to be a pretty entertaining one. I say give them a shot, and let’s see if things will really be that bad going forward.

 

I thought it was a decent Raw. Nothing too crazy to get me ready for Sunday, but better than some go home shows I have seen in the past. WWE seems to be trying to have longer storylines to keep fan interest up through the entire show, and it seems to be working for the most part. While this is the lull before the Survivor Series in November, we have the Evolution and Melbourne specials to build towards in October, and that has sort of rejuvenated the weekly shows right now. It’s interesting to see how this will shake out as the fall goes on.