Working the Loop (04/12/2019)

Hey there wrestling fans! Hasn’t it been wild since Sunday? Even with a pretty lackluster Raw and Smackdown Live after Wrestlemania, we still have a lot to talk about before the weekend hits. Big things are happening in the WWE, the independent scene, and overseas. Let’s dive right in, shall we?
SASHA BANKS THREATED TO QUIT

 

Well this one was definitely a big news item since it broke midweek, but to me, it isn’t surprising at all. Sasha was apparently upset about having to drop the Women’s Tag Titles as easily as they did on Sunday, and she been under the impression that she and Bailey would have a more impactful run. Also, there is some chatter about having heat with Alexa Bliss and not wanting to do a segment on Raw that would involve the three of them.

I think AEW opening up with as big of a splash as it has will only increase the cases of people wanting to break away from WWE if they don’t get what they need creatively. The Khans have deep pockets, and they also have a pretty good understanding of keeping their athletes happy. When you look at the circumstances surrounding other wrestler’s contracts that are under the AEW banner, it’s clear that they want a good balance between wants and needs, and that should keep workers happy. This is something that took place back during the Monday Night Wars, and you really can’t blame the wrestlers from taking advantage of the changing landscape.

This is a troubling trend coming from the E, though. Consider how many wrestlers have left the WWE over the past couple of years. Austin Aries, Pac, reportedly Dean Ambrose, Cody Rhodes, and Jack Swagger have all decided that the grass is greener elsewhere. This is also coupled with rumors that The Revival were once on their way out, this may becoming a trend within the WWE locker room.

Should this be a concern? I think so. With the profits that Vince and Co. expect with the new FOX broadcasting deals with the Saudi Arabia, I think they figure that they will be able to sign anybody as long as they can throw money at them. The issue that I see is that they don’t seem to account for the creative freedom that the rigid WWE system doesn’t seem to provide. I am not knocking the system, as I am aware it is put in place for the company to maximize profits, but maybe not everyone is fit for that kind of work?

It will be interesting to see how everyone is going to adapt to this new landscape, and if the workers are going to make a habit of threatening to quit if things don’t go swimmingly.
RING OF HONOR

 

Okay, so I try to stay pretty positive when watching wrestling, as I hate to dwell too much on negative feedback, but I really hate the decision to bring in Enzo and Cass. It isn’t that I am against people getting second chances, I just don’t think they blend into the product at all. ROH has always been a place that focuses on work rate in the ring, and Cass and Enzo don’t really fit that bill at all.

I think the biggest reasoning behind the relationship is that they need to fill that vacuum that was left on the main event level when the AEW guys left. I know that this will create a pretty decent buzz, and I know that some new eyeballs will definitely tune in to see it, but I still don’t think it is going to work out that great. I would hope that the egos on those two have died down a bit, but I guess that remains to be seen. Either way, I do wish them luck in their new home.
AEW

 

The rumor going around right now is that Turner is in talks with the Khans and the rest of AEW management about putting on a weekly show possibly on TNT. This is a really huge piece of news. Not only does the NBA and MLB do gangbusters on the channel, but they also were in talks with WWE and the UFC before they came to agreements with their respected network deals. It looks like they are trying to bolster their network with more live sports, which are still DVR proof in the land of cord cutters, and I think AEW makes a good fit. For one, it harkens back to when WCW was running weekly on Turner Broadcasting back in the 80s and 90s.

Double or Nothing is closer than you think. With only a couple more weeks before the next show, it will be interesting to see what new developments come along before that date. Will there be a new television announcement? Will there be new wrestlers coming along? We can only wait and see.

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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.

Working the Loop (09/20/2018)

NJPW

 

Rumor has it that there is a new Los Ingobernables de Japon member incoming shortly, and it looks like it was insisted upon by the injured Hiromu Takahashi. The last we saw was him was his amazing match back in June against Dragon Lee where he was the unfortunate recipient of a botched Phoenix plex that broke his neck, putting him on the sideline for at least a year. People have been speculating a lot on Reddit and Twitter, most pointing that they believe it will be PAC, formerly knows as Neville in WWE, but I myself can not figure out who they would put in that position. Would it be a free agent, someone from Mexico, or someone else already on the New Japan roster? The LIJ group is pretty close knit, so it is interesting to see how this will play out with a new member. There are still a couple more shows left on this current tour, not to mention the US show just around the corner, so hopefully we will see some developments shortly.

I find the latest developments between Kenny Omega and Hiroshi Tanahashi to be really exciting, and I hope that it gets some decent heat in Japan come January. Not that you need much to get this match hot. The crowd exploding for Tanahashi winning the G-1 back in August was enough to convince me that having the old vet get one more tournament win was the right call. I am interested to see what a Tanahashi and Omega match would look like.

The way they are going promoting the match so far is to implement shoot interview aspects in it, where Tanahshi is burying the way that Kenny wrestles, saying he only makes the last five minutes exciting, and Omega attacking Tanahashi’s age. I think there are a lot of new NJPW fans out there, because people seemed surprised by this, but Hiroshi does this quite often. He did the same thing with Katsuyori Shibata, commenting on his heart in regards to pro wrestling, as well as Kazuchika Okada’s body, saying he looked out of shape. The reasoning behind this is to make the match seem more real, and more like a shoot. The work/shoot is a strange staple in Japanese wrestling culture, and I plan on having a write up one some events from the past in the near future.

One thing I feel that this points to is that this we are going to see Omega vs. Tanahashi in the Tokyo Dome come January. New Japan rarely doesn’t deliver on matches that are promoted like this, and even though this match is already a big deal in Japan, I think they are trying their best to drum up international attention. I also think they are seeing the results from booking month to month and not being able to get as much American attention as they did last year. Even their next Long Beach show isn’t close to being sold out, and I think that is making them rethink a couple of booking techniques that they have been using of late.

 

WWE

 

By the recent rumors being circulated, it looks as if Shawn Michaels will in fact be returning to wrestling for this November’s Saudi Arabia show, Crown Jewel. From reports that I have read, it is looking like it will be Triple H and Shawn Michaels facing Kane and The Undertaker. I am not really surprised. I would love to see Michaels face off against someone on the roster who is a regular competitor, but this is probably the best we are going to get at this point and time. Who knows? HBK could feel different about performing regularly after this match, but I somehow doubt it. I think a lot of reasoning behind this event would be the fat payday that everybody seems to be making off of these Saudi shows.

Speaking of comebacks, one of my favorite wrestlers of all time, Rey Mysterio Jr., will be returning here very shortly. Not much has been said about where on the main roster he will end up. While I do want to see him square off against guys like Samoa Joe, Daniel Bryan, and AJ Styles, I think the first thing you do with Rey at this point is throw him on Raw and 205 Live. 205 Live is a really good show, but there are very few reasons to really care about it. A huge star like Mysterio appearing each week would give it a shot in the arm, not to mention that nostalgia factor of having one of the guys who popularized “cruiserweight” wrestling here in the states. Give him a year there, and then throw him on Smackdown.

Alexa Bliss is experiencing numbness in her arm, leading her to take some time off to try and heal. This is some really sad news to hear, and I personally hope it isn’t anything too serious, but numbness can be either a bad stinger, all the way up to nerve damage. Unfortunately, professional wrestling, especially by modern standards, was not invented with the human neck in mind. You don’t have to look far to find examples of dangerous situations with wrestlers and having nerve issues. Arn Anderson, “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, and as recently as Daniel Bryan and Paige have shown that neck/nerve issues are nothing to sneeze at. Here’s hoping she has a speedy recovery, and does what is best for her own interests.

 

MMA

 

I know a lot of you are seeing an MMA topic on here and wondering why, but I have always believed that pro wrestling and Mixed Marital Arts, even though there is a clear difference, are intertwined, This stems mostly from catch wrestling as well as the roots of MMA as a sport springing partly from Japanese pro wrestling, so I tend to lump them all in the same ballpark at times. But, I really want to touch on the Brock Lesnar rumor that has been circulating since yesterday when Jon “Bones” Jones was reinstated by the UFC and USADA for a failed doping test done before his last fight against Daniel Cormier.

As most of you know, Brock has been promoted to face Daniel “DC” Cormier sometime in early 2019 for the UFC heavyweight title. This is happening even though Brock hasn’t won a fight since 2010 (he won his last fight against Mark Hunt, but it was ruled a No Contest after Brock failed his drug test before the fight) and hasn’t competed regularly since 2011, but it’s Brock, and people throw money at him for just walking down the street. Not to say that Brock doesn’t deserve the money. He is clearly a draw, and one of the few fighters in the world who can pull in 1 million PPV buys, but the problem I have with it is that the UFC has claimed for years that they are a “sport”, and I have never seen the Super Bowl competitor decided by who brings in the highest Sunday Night Football rating.

With all this in mind, yesterday we heard of the reinstatement of Jon Jones, who had been suspended for his own failed drug test (one of many) before his last fight. When USADA gave him the okay to fight after an October deadline, the internet immediately started speculating on a Brock vs. Jones fight rather than the Cormier one. I take offense to this rumor, and here is why.

For one, there is no legitimate reason why Brock should be fighting for a title right now. The biggest reason you can look at why this is happening is due to the amount of debt that WME-IMG took in order to purchase the UFC from Zuffa in 2016. Back then, the promotion had Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey, and a slew of fresh matchups that made it looked like a huge cash cow. Since that purchase, Ronda has left for greener pastures in wrestling, Conor has only fought a couple of times, and they are finding a harder and harder time to bring fresh fights that crowds want to see and pay money for. Now they find themselves with a predicament of having a huge amount of interest they need to pay and not having enough of a cash flow right now to beat it.

So of course they go to their usual habits of asking Brock to bail them out so they can cash off his name value. The same thing can be said for Jon Jones. Sure, Jones is a top 3 fighter of all time, but in my eyes, a lot of that is tainted due to the multiple failed drug tests. The last thing I want to see as a fan of the “sport” of MMA is two cheaters, one who should have been suspended a lot longer than what he got and the other who hasn’t had a meaningful win in almost a decade, fight each other. I’d rather see DC get the payday he deserves when he schools Brock on the ground. Cheating shouldn’t be rewarded, I don’t care how big of a name someone is.

 

For your viewing pleasure!

 

 

Riki Choshu vs. Terry Funk 10/21/1086