WrestleMania Thoughts

Well, that was interesting.

I can’t say that I hated WrestleMania, although that is what I was expecting from the build since January because nothing really caught my interest. Sure, there were wrestlers who I wanted to see perform, but as far as the stories were concerned, I felt they were lackluster, to say the least. But, even with all the shortcomings regarding the booking leading up to last night, I felt that the majority of the card delivered.

It was by no means a perfect WrestleMania. Some things went well, while other things were sort of just there. While I prefer to have most things wrapped up in a bow after an event like WrestleMania, I can understand leaving some things open. This is a new era for WWE, especially with the night after WrestleMania being so huge, and that isn’t mentioning keeping the ball rolling with the WWE Network and it’s subscriber base. I just felt like there were too many questions on what was going to happen going forward.

I think the majority of these issues of feeling unresolved can stem from how the card was set up. For one, management seemed to not have a set plan going into the new year like they did for previous Manias, aside from maybe the Women’s Championship match, and it let this feeling of backwards logic take over the product for the past three months or so. You can’t really blame them for going with their gut in some instances. The Kofi Kingston storyline was really amazing. But for the Kofi storyline, you also have the Hug and Boss Connection winning a new title only to have it lost in a multi-team match that didn’t really tell a bigger story. I know every story isn’t going to hit the same nerves as others, but this is WrestleMania, and it should be an attempt to deliver on all metrics, not just the top of the card.

I think that is the main issue; we no longer are conditioned to care about anything under the top stars. That leaves limited upward mobility for the mid-card to opening wrestlers. This is pretty troubling heading into the fall, when the new television season will force WWE to start making their product appealing to a wider, and more mainstream audience. If they want to deliver on those ratings that FOX is counting on them for, they will have to give people either: A) wrestlers that come across like Superstars on television, or B) stories that captivate their audience enough to get them to stay tuned in and also bring in other viewers. Only time will tell how this will be handled.

But for the most part, I felt pretty positive as the show went off the air. I feel like there is a lot of promise on the horizon, especially with the championship scene getting a bit of a shuffling. Let’s break down my pros and cons, and then we can look towards the future and see what is in store for us as the summer approaches.

PROS:
JOHN CENA RETURNS TO HIS ROOTS

 

This was pretty exciting for me, even if it was only a small part of the show. Cena has had the same gimmick for so long that any sort of change would be welcomed by me right now, but for him to go back to his old “rapper” character, even if it is just for a one off, was really entertaining. I had thought that the entire thing was a fun break from the really long card. With Cena not being around as much, I think that it allows leeway like this for when he does make appearances. When he was the regular top guy John Cena had to make sure to keep those house show and merch numbers up. Now I feel he can add more to the product by doing more fun one offs like this.
SETH ROLLINS, KOFI KINGSTON, AND BECKY LYNCH ALL WIN
I saw so much speculation on the internet on how the company could not have all three win on the same night due to not wanting to seem predictable. I can understand, especially after seeing what happened with Roman Reigns over the past few years when it came to winning the Universal Title. Luckily, this year we weren’t hampered with dumb booking decisions just to swerve the fan base.

Pro Wrestling is a lot about the payoffs, and if you don’t deliver on them during WrestleMania, when do you give the fans what they want? It just leaves the opening still there, and when you do finally pull the trigger, who knows if it will have the same outcome?

This is the part where I do have to be a bit honest though. I wasn’t really all that impressed with the Seth Rollins build, or the Becky Lynch one, for that matter. I know, Becky is definitely the hottest commodity to come out of this entire ordeal with Ronda and the Woman’s Championship (both brands), but I just didn’t like how Becky was beat down through almost the entire build. Sure, she had a couple of house of fire moments, but for her to be the new Steve Austin while also getting beat down week after week is disappointing.

The Kofi Kingston story had some of the same problems. The one thing that set this apart from the other title chasing stories was how good Daniel Bryan has become as a heel, and how it so closely reflected his own hijacking of the WWE Championship match years ago. That came across like deep story telling, rather than just ham fisting an opponent in due to crowd reaction, which is kind of what we got. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the ending, and seeing the scene with Kofi finally holding up the championship that has alluded him his entire career was really awesome, but the reasoning behind it causes me to pause. We shall see if this will be a career changing development, or a one off story.

 

IN RING QUALITY

 

I know a lot of traditional WWE fans like to harp on the independent scene and how in ring work doesn’t really matter compared to star power and story telling, but I also think that we should recognize how good WWE is bell to bell right now. It also seems to be getting better and better as the years go on and they continue to sign free agents like Ricochet and Walter. I have always liked companies that have different flavors for all kinds of fans, whether it be through in ring work or promos, and right now feels like a very strong mix of the two.
CONS:
WAY TOO LONG

I don’t have to elaborate on this point, do I? Starting to watch a show around 2 PM my time, and not turning off the television until around 10 PM is not an ideal night of wrestling for me. I can only imagine how it would be leaving MetLife Stadium after the show wrapped up, and that would be on top of watching countless hours of wrestling the week prior, through the weekend, and again tonight for RAW. WTF!?

I know that we need to have a bunch of matches and a bunch of workers so that everyone can get that fat WrestleMania check. but still, these shows are WAY TOO LONG! Quality over quantity works even, in professional wrestling.

 

KURT ANGLE

 

What was that? Really? I think back on retirement matches in the past, like Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels, along with Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker, and I wonder where we went wrong here. Was Kurt really that beat up that he couldn’t pull off one of those classics. Is Corbin really going to benefit that much from this win? I really feel like this match should have been against Styles or Joe, the two opponents that Angle faced this week on television. Hell, it could have even been a three way between the trio. I understand that there is no “WWE” history behind them having that match on Mania, but it would have been better than this. Hell, even Thuganomics Cena vs Angle would have been cool to see. Instead, we got this… Complete dud in my opinion.
MULTI-MAN MATCHES AND BATTLE ROYALS

 

I don’t think many younger fans really see the appeal of a battle royal now a days, and I really don’t blame them. The original intent of the match was to see a bunch of guys in the ring beating the shit out of one another, all while being thrown out of the ring, This was back when boxing and pro wrestling were sort of still intertwined, and the idea of a fighter falling out of the ring seemed very dangerous. That thinking doesn’t really work in wrestling anymore, especially when you consider how much diving and planchas are included in most wrestling shows. Because of that, the idea of a battle royal has become fairly antiquated.

This is exactly what has happened with these battle royals that happen during WrestleMania. I kind of wish that Money in the Bank wasn’t an annual Pay Per View anymore, and that we had a woman’s and men’s match on here instead like we used to in the past. I understand the logic behind having it on it’s own show, but I just am really over battle royals as a whole and I don’t see the point in either of these. I’m hoping they both get scrapped over the years to come, but I doubt that will happen.

 

 

All in all, WrestleMania wasn’t bad. It was fun, it was entertaining at times, and it felt like a fresh air after it was all done. I just hope that the story telling going forward is engaging enough for us to sit back and enjoy, rather than having to force the company to do what the fans really want. Time will only tell if this will happen, though.

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The Nostalgia Trap

WWE is a very mixed bag right now. If you want to see some of the best wrestling in the world, you can turn on any given wrestling show produced by them and see at least one really entertaining match. That couldn’t always be said about their product, but with guys like Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, and Kevin Owens doing amazing things each time they are given the chance. But at the same time, you have a program at the top of the card being taken by older, slower, but far more popular stars for a tag match about eight years past it’s shelf life.

Look, I don’t try to knock older wrestlers. But at the same time, I think that there is a point where guys shouldn’t be at the top of the card, regardless of how big of a draw they still are. I know that this is a business, and with any business you have to look at profits and what makes you the most money, but you also have to have forward thinking, and that is something that seems to be lacking in a lot of wrestling right now.

Minoru Suzuki recently had an interview in Japan where he talked about what was missing from NJPW right now, and his answer was pretty telling, in that he stated there isn’t a star in their 20s right now. He pointed out that when Kazuchika Okada first won the IWGP Heavyweight Title, he was only 24. When I think back fifteen years ago, and I think of guys like John Cena, Randy Orton, and Dave Bautista, the landscape looked like there was so much on the horizon, and right now, I don’t feel that is the case at all.

Look at all the guys who should be future players and money makers for the WWE and NJPW. Most, if not all, are currently in their 30s, already in the stage of their career where they should be making the most money of their career. The problem is that unless you want some carousel of revolving champions that dilute the main event scene in the process, most of these guys will never reach the top. There are only so many spots available, and again, we have to see who has the most potential with earning money in those spots.

The biggest problem right now is with the mid-card. No one is ever built up to be a legitimate threat to anything in the long run. Even a guy like Braun Strowman, who was the most over person on the roster for much of the past year, was shown to be expendable. Since his heel turn after SummerSlam he has been booked vastly different. So we have all of that build up and having him crush everyone in his path save for Brock Lesnar, we are now seeing him act like a coward when it comes to facing off against Roman Reigns.

These companies aren’t doing much to make us believe that someone can rise through the ranks and become a true star. We have been conditioned to believe that there are only a select few that can make a true impact on the main event scene. Sure, there are exceptions like AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura, but those guys were huge stars outside of WWE, and neither of them are young.

One could argue that there are wrestlers that are in the pipeline. NXT is as stacked as ever right now, and the match ups that you will see when they start to get called up is exciting, but looking at others who have prospered in NXT and then get called up to the main roster (Bobby Rude comes to mind), it doesn’t leave a lot of confidence that stars are on their way. I think a lot of times the writing team gets excited about having a new wrestler to incorporate into their story lines, but after a bit, the shine seems to fade and Vince gets convinced that the person doesn’t have the right “it” factor.

That is the big difference with WWE and the world outside of WWE. Vince wants to convince people that he knows what a star looks like. And he does. Lord knows that he has made this amount of money in wrestling because he knows his product and he knows his audience. But the problem is that is doesn’t leave much for organic growth. When we as fans see someone who we perceive as stars on TV, and then they get jobbed out continually once the honeymoon is over, it frustrates us. It feels like an insult of our intelligence,

One thing that WWE and NJPW have to consider is that there is so much on the horizon that is going to be crucial to growth of their product and profits going forward. WWE is going to be on network television, and they need big TV stars, not just “wrestling” stars, in order to keep the ratings consistent. Also, with New Japan Pro Wrestling trying to expand globally, they need to establish that they are a big deal outside of Japan, and the way they do that is to present stars that audiences want to see.

Nostalgia is a big part of professional wrestling. I remember being a kid and being excited to see Roddy Piper and Terry Funk wrestle, even though they were well past their primes. But, it is not a viable way to continue making money. One only has to look back to the end of WCW, and while many mistakes were made then, I think the most glaring one was that they never established young talent that would eventually replace guys like Hogan and Flair at the top. Let’s hope that the top companies now-a-days don’t make the same mistake.

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.