Undoubtedly like many of you, I watched the latest WWE pay-per-view offering ‘Battleground’, and have to say that in terms of output, it was one of the least essential shows the company has put out in 2013. Sure, the effort the competitors put into their craft was, as always, of a satisfactory standard, but what use is that when poor booking and non-existent storylines conspire to derail things? OK, perhaps I’m being a little harsh. WWE are currently without a number of top stars – love them or loathe them, the likes of Cena, Sheamus, Mysterio, Undertaker and Lesnar are big names to be missing from the pay-per-view schedule. Of course, injury can strike at any time (as the cautionary ‘Don’t try this’ messages constantly tell us) and we’ve come to expect certain self-imposed exiles from the company (Jericho, Undertaker etc) and in a way, WWE has to ‘make do and mend’ with those available on the roster.
That doesn’t explain a number of things that irked me about the ‘Battleground’ event, however. Despite the rather flimsy ‘battle of the Mr. Money In The Banks’ angle for Dolph Ziggler vs. Damien Sandow, there was really no reason for their contest kicking things off on the pre-show. Added to this is the fact that the competitors in this match were a former main eventer and the World Heavyweight Champion-elect. The match certainly deserved a higher billing than the pointless Cesaro/Swagger vs. Marella/Khali bout that took up five or so minutes later in the schedule. I realise there’s pacing issues where you need to bring a crowd down from off the boil before the main event, but on a show where the audience was rather flat the whole time, adding a match that would have introduced a little spice to proceedings may have been a better move.
While the Rhodes/Goldust vs. The Shield was a highlight (if predictable, seeing as Cody’s back from his recent honeymoon and therefore ready to resume wrestling duties) and told a proper story full of great emotion and storytelling (backs-against-the-wall Rhodes family have to pull out all the stops in their last chance for career salvation), it was a rare spark on an event full of misfires.
In another triumph for sensibility, it was good to see Bray Wyatt continue his unbeaten pay-per-view streak against Kofi Kingston. The Wyatt’s have such a great gimmick, I think the fans have run with it, despite them being a heel team. The line is very much blurred with them, much like with The Shield – they remain riotously popular for a team who essentially bully other competitors and are at present, no better than being Triple H’s personal security. Wyatt’s creepy ‘spider walk’ across the ring and typically cryptic speech after dispatching Kingston was yet another reason to like these curious backwoods cultists.
The CM Punk vs. Ryback semi-main event was a rather drawn out affair, with little real build up (the only motivation for Punk facing Ryback was the fact he is Heyman’s latest acquistion, and therefore one more barrier standing in the way of Punk getting some revenge against his former friend and manager). It seems at the moment that Punk will be thrown into a match against anyone who interferes in his matches, which just feels lazy. Having watched this pay-per-view, I can’t help feeling everything has been building up to having Heyman find himself locked inside Hell in a Cell with Punk…and therefore getting the beating he’s been kind of avoiding, since, you know, forever.
In a sad turn of events recently, the World Heavyweight Championship still seems to be held with some contempt within the company – the title just doesn’t seem to mean anything any more, and the fact Alberto Del Rio has clung onto the belt without any really serious contenders to the title gives an air of them not really knowing who they want as champion, so Del Rio might as well keep it. I always thought that putting a World Heavyweight Championship bout first on a card, whether it be Wrestlemania or a filler event like ‘Battleground’ is a bit of a bad show. Now that Rob Van Dam has had a couple of bites of the title match cherry and not taken the gold, we’re left with the situation where there’s no clear #1 contender – it doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.
I heard that there was a distinctly bad feeling as people left the arena after ‘Battleground’ – perhaps more to do with yet another screwy finish to the WWE Championship match which saw Big Show generally go bonkers and take out two referees, Daniel Bryan AND Randy Orton. After the travesty of Daniel Bryan winning the title, only to see Orton take the belt thanks to Triple H’s dubious officiating, then to win the belt AGAIN and being stripped of it thanks to a fast count, the fans were certainly anticipating seeing a clean finish to this contest. Unfortunately, in a move that is starting to defy all sorts of logic, the match was deemed a no contest after the giant’s intervention. Where the storyline will take the vacated WWE title is anyone’s guess, but one thing is for certain: people are going to lose patience if we’re in store for yet another twist at Hell In A Cell.
So, after all these gripes, where can WWE go in terms of an overall direction now we’re in the very thick of the Vince McMahon/Triple H & Stephanie handover period? I’ve summarised some points below, which I accept won’t be everyone’s cup of tea – and feel free to shoot me down in flames over these, guys – but I think would give the promotion a decent shot in the arm:
Unfortunately, while the WWE has a lot of talented guys, and let’s face it – like them or not they’re pro wrestlers at the end of the day, and that takes some degree of hard work. However, there are some folk on the WWE roster you look at and just think ‘what the hell are they doing with them?’. Here then are my suggestions for the chaps who really should think about moving on.
After an initial push when he murdered jobbers in the space of two minutes, Brodus soon went off the boil. Despite being flanked by Naomi and Cameron, the ‘Funkadactyls’, nobody really gave a shit about poor Brodus and he was stuffed into an awkward tag-team with the equally off-the-pace Tensai. Seriously Vince, we’ve had fat guys dancing before – remember the travesty that was Rikishi in Too Cool? Exactly. Nobody wants – or needs – that in their lives again.
Back in the day, Edge and Christian were a tag-team tour de force. Major rivals to The Hardy Boys and The Dudley Boys. Skip forward a few years, and Christian was going all ‘anti-American’ on us and clogging up the card as a mid-level entertainer. Inexplicably, Christian was shoved into the World Heavyweight Championship picture after his friend Edge had to retire. Despite some OK matches with Randy Orton, I really think Christian has had his moment in the spotlight, and putting a major belt on him now would be a waste of other talent who have come through since Christian’s career peak. I just don’t see him as a worthwhile contender to anything where he could add value.
A simple one, this. When you have to rely on a gimmick involving you being a lawyer, its time to quit wrestling. Irwin R Schyster forged nearly an entire career out of a similar character – the evil tax man who informed everyone they were a tax cheat. Literally every promo he did was along those lines. Another alumni of The Nexus who has fallen on hard times, simply because as a group, Nexus seemed unstoppable. Broken down as individuals, the only Nexus members to come out of that experience well were Wade Barrett and Daniel Bryan.
Is this guy even still on the books? I’ve not read that he’s moved or quit or died or anything, so I guess he must be. If he’s anywhere, he must be on Saturday Morning Slam or NXT, or another programme of WWE’s that I don’t watch, because I can’t even remember the last time I saw the chap. He was moderately successful as I remember, in the same way that muscular guys like Ahmed Johnson and Mason Ryan were, but ultimately never really got over with the crowd and soon faded away.
The Not So Great Khali
It’s sad to see Khali lumbering about the place, trying to walk normally and using his three moves that he can do partly-well to his advantage (a slap to the chest, a chop to the head and that move where he tries to squeeze people’s heads like a melon). It was like seeing Andre the Giant in his later days when he couldn’t move well anymore. The difference here being that Andre had a grand reputation in the business and could at least trade off his name towards the end of his career. The most Khali could trade off towards the end of his career is possibly getting some pantomime gigs. I was aghast when I saw Khali come into WWE and boss The Undertaker about – man, ‘Taker must have been majorly pissed off having to job out to such an ineffectual wrestler – and was even more aghast when he got his own match type introduced in WWE: The Punjabi Prison. Yeah, it was so memorable they used it about twice. And he wasn’t even in one of them. The fact he was WWE
Champion summed up what can sometimes be wrong about modern day professional wrestling, when someone so ill-suited to the industry is brought in and pushed right to the top. Compare that day, when he first won the title belt, to his last pay-per-view appearance: being swung about the ring by Antonio Cesaro before getting pinned. What the devil??? Enough of his bullshy, show the man the door (just get him to duck on his way out).
Jinder Mahal/Heath Slater/DreW McIntyre
I’ve lumped these three in together because they form my all-time most hated faction in pro-wrestling, 3MB. Words utterly fail me as to how shit these three are. Their look, their wrestling style, their promos, their entrance music…everything serves to piss me off. Remember when McIntyre was (drumroll) ‘The Chosen One’? That seems light years ago now. Fuck knows how he managed to get hold of the Intercontinental Championship. It seems Mahal and Slater were tossed into the mix when it became apparent nobody had any idea what to do with them, Mahal coming off the back off a career-stalling association with The Not So Great Khali, and Slater had proved he just doesn’t operate as part of a faction after adding absolutely sod-all to both The Nexus and The Corre). 3MB is perhaps as bad a team as The Bushwhackers were, and if they’ve any sense, they’ll realise that being put in such a turgid group is basically the same as being told ‘nope, sorry guys, we got
nothing for you to do.’
We’ve been without Mysterio’s high-flying, ‘ultimate underdog’ act for quite some time now, and let’s be honest. Have you really missed him? Have you found yourself sat there watching Raw and Smackdown, weeping into a disintegrating Kleenex because Rey wasn’t there to land a 619 on someone, or entertain you by dressing in some topical ring attire (like Captain America, The Joker and God knows what else…he’ll probably come to the ring next as a Teletubby or something). Let’s keep it that way and let Rey quietly retire with some dignity at least, and not because his knee has fallen apart again.
God save us. I realise the need for a bit of light relief in the world of wrestling, which you need. You can’t be 110% serious all the time. I also realise Marella fills this gap, what with his entirely unlikely image, the fact I can’t work out if the high-camp thing he does is an act or not, and that BLOODY COBRA. Never since Hogan’s leg-drop has there been a shittier finishing move in the world of pro-wrestling; it’s little more than poking someone in the neck. His act has worn dreadfully thin since he emerged in the promotion, and it seems he hasn’t learned the lesson from other ‘comedy wrestlers’ like Eugene, who frankly deserved everything he got. In the immortal words of Andy from ‘Little Britain’: I want him to go.
A man who has had more comebacks than Lazarus, Tensai (formerly Albert, Prince Albert and A-Train, and that’s not counting his time away from the promotion) arrived back in WWE with a flourish, a manager (Sakamoto, who soon disappeared due to being less useful than a paraffin heater in the middle of the Sahara) and a really ill-advised Japanese gimmick. REALLY? I know some wrestlers are repackaged and renamed in the vain hope we won’t remember their former incarnation (some done better than others – nobody was really fooled when Michael McGillicutty re-emerged as Curtis Axel, whereas nobody really minded when Husky Harris reappeared as Bray Wyatt…strange) but Albert has quite a unique look. He’s not hard to miss. Sticking a load of Japanese writing over his bonce won’t change that. Fail.
Talking of Japanese gimmicks, here’s a real life Japanese man…who has done absolutely nothing of note whatsoever in his whole WWE career. Well, that’s if you don’t count winning a dark match battle royal at Wrestlemania – I guess you have to reward someone who has been with your company since 2007 – and stealing Ted DiBiase Jr’s girlfriend, albeit briefly. He’s not been seen in the ring for about three months, so maybe he’s left of his own accord and become a paper-boy or something.
THE PAY PER VIEW MODEL
As of 2013, here is the current WWE pay-per-view set up:
JAN – ROYAL RUMBLE
FEB – ELIMINATION CHAMBER
MAR/APR – WRESTLEMANIA
MAY – EXTREME RULES
JUN – PAYBACK
JUL – MONEY IN THE BANK
AUG – SUMMERSLAM
SEPT – NIGHT OF CHAMPIONS
OCT – BATTLEGROUND
OCT – HELL IN A CELL
NOV – SURVIVOR SERIES
DEC – TABLES, LADDERS & CHAIRS
We’ve had the familiar run of one PPV per month (sometimes more) for a number of years now, but in my humble opinion this is just too many. As a result, there’s no real time to build a storyline, generate heat on the heels and give the faces time to get across a meaningful, illustrated struggle against evil that pays off at the culmination of a feud at the pay-per-view. Here’s my revised pay-per-view list, with some (hopefully) informative explanations as to why it’s a little more sparse than the one above.
JAN – ROYAL RUMBLE
MAR/APR – WRESTLEMANIA
MAY – EXTREME RULES
AUG – SUMMERSLAM
NOV – SURVIVOR SERIES
Yup, just five PPVs throughout the year. I’ve kept to the traditional ‘big four’ of Rumble, ‘Mania, Summerslam and Survivor Series as these have been regarded as the go-to events in WWE history. I’ve kept Extreme Rules in the May, post-Mania slot as I believe this gives a chance to explore any feuds that couldn’t be resolved at the grandest show of the year, or those that erupt as a result of the next evening’s antics on Raw. The ‘gimmick’ matches on display could therefore be used more thoughtfully in contesting any rematches that might be required.
OK, my reasons now for removing half the PPVs from the schedules…
Firstly, I’ve mainly done away with the events that are based around one type of match. This mainly comes from my horror at finding out when the first annual Hell In A Cell event took place in 2009 that not all of the matches would be contested within the cell. I thought that was the whole point of the event, not to just have two Championship matches inside it; it felt like a bit of a waste of the construction crew’s time, to be honest. Also, in the ‘good old days’, things like the Hell In A Cell match were used as the last resort, a way to ensure, to use a phrase from the film ‘Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome’ – two men enter, one man leaves. Ensuring there will definitely be two HIAC matches per year cheapens the impact, whereas it would be better utilised much more sparingly, such as during Triple H and The Undertaker’s epic encounter at Wrestlemania where it was billed as ‘The End of An Era’ (and the Cell even had it’s own ‘entrance’ music in the form of
Elimination Chamber also gets the push, as again, I always felt it was a structure that should only rear it’s head occasionally, rather than just acting as an obstacle that anyone with a realistic (or not, in the case of The Great Khali) title shot should have to endure each year.
Money In The Bank, while a great concept in using ladders, should be moved back to it’s spot at Wrestlemania. I know I’m not alone in saying the MITB match was a highlight at Wrestlemania, and making an entire PPV centred around it, and having two contract briefcases floating about, again dilutes what the WWE is trying to achieve. I won’t deny that having two guys on the roster as potential champions, and not knowing when they will cash in is exciting, but that opportunity should exist for one guy and one guy only.
You could argue that Survivor Series is a PPV based on the elimination tag-team match, but opportunity does exist for a lot of feuds to be sparked/resolved in one place, plus the event is such a long-standing tradition that I don’t think fans would forgive WWE if it banished the PPV forever. Saying that, we do need more of the four-on-four and five-on-five matches we used to see in the olden days, and not just ones cobbled together on the evening of the show; by having less pay-per-views on the calender, this would bump up interest levels in seeing what happens at the big ‘blow-off’ match at the PPV itself.
As much as I like TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs as an event, and love those particular matches, we’re in the same realm as the Hell In A Cell and Money In The Bank pay-per-views; part of the joy was not knowing if WWE would sanction a TLC match and being excited about it when they did. Now we know that come December we’re going to get one regardless, and because of that, the anticipation is dampened. Despite my love of them, I’d prefer them to be used in a meaningful way that ties in with the storyline, not just because it’s nearly Christmas and WWE feel they should stick one in the schedule to get us to tune in (and pay hard cash for it). The notion of cost reminded me of something else about lowering the number of pay-per-views on show; I sometimes think paying £14.95 for a WWE show can be a lot, especially if I don’t think the matches are particularly involving. If we were guaranteed there would only be five/six PPVs a year, I think I’d be more
willing to buy more of them if I knew they were going to be of a higher quality.
MONDAY NIGHT RAW/SMACKDOWN
OK, this point comes from a number of people I have spoken to recently. It might seem harsh, but follows the ‘less is more’ approach this article has outlined above. Number 1: Ditch Smackdown. Seriously. Take it off the air. It’s been going since 1999, and used to be fairly decent, but what does it really have going for it now? All the main storyline matters appear to be either started or finished on Raw, seeing as that’s obviously the main show, and is on the night after a PPV airs, so is the logical place to feature any backlash from whatever PPV has just been on. Smackdown now seems to exist for the sheer hell of it, like WWE are scared to take it off because it’s seen as some sort of wrestling institution. It’s not – it’s a show that bloats the amount of WWE television output and doesn’t really progress things at all.
Number 2: Shorten Raw. We don’t need 3hrs of it EVERY WEEK. That’s the show length including all the advertisements of course, the ratio of which have gone up drastically since the show became 3hrs anyway. It’s galling when you watch entire segments of Raw and there’s no wrestling whatsoever featured between ad breaks. People have made murmurings about reverting back to the squash matches of old, showcasing big-league talent against an army of enhancement guys. I think this approach would have its merits, as one of the arguments is by having big name, PPV-quality matches on Raw every week weakens the PPVs that WWE put out; we’ve already seen the big faces and heels compete against each other, leaving there little direction to go in for ‘never before seen matches’, which would intice a PPV-buying audience in. OK, still have a main event or two, so the stories and plots can be progressed, but I think teasing at matches rather than just featuring them on
Raw because there’s 3hrs to fill would be a better way forward.
THE HARDCORE CHAMPIONSHIP
I know there’s a furore over the whole ‘PG-13’ aspect WWE has to fulfill at the moment, but shows like Raw and a number of PPVs recently haven’t been afraid to use no disqualification or no holds barred stipulations, and there has also been blood shown on televised programming, which I thought they’d done away with. Some of the instances have been unintentional, and I realise there’s not a lot you can do about that, but surely if you’re going to have a hardcore rules match, like the Rob Van Dam vs. Del Rio World Heavyweight Championship bout at Battleground, then the logical progression is to bring back the Hardcore Championship itself? There’s a number of guys I’d like to see go after that, I think with the roster WWE has at the moment it’d be a good title to reintroduce.
JOHN CENA – HEEL?
I realise this will NEVER happen, and it’s been an argument bandied around since the dawn of time (or at least since Cena’s irritating super-face persona became too much for a lot of people), but I really think turning Cena heel when he returns would be a great way of freshening up the character. It’s the perfect time to do it too; returning from injury, Cena has had a lot of time to think about what he wants, getting back into the title picture and staying there, facing up to his haters and figuring ‘sod it, I want the belt back and I’ll do whatever I need to do to get it’. A similar storyling to Randy Orton’s could work, where he shows a much more vicious and uncompromising side, or alternatively the company could go the whole hog and do the Hogan-style ‘twist’ and have him turn on a fellow face (a la Batista when he went mental on Rey Mysterio and treated him like a rag doll). It’s all down to Cena’s pulling power that this won’t go ahead, with the
company not willing to risk arguably their biggest asset (although Daniel Bryan has covered a lot of ground as a fan favourite since Cena took a break) and running the problem that his career will flop. I think it’s a very interesting time with Bryan looking like he could realistically become the next ‘Cena’.
So, a lot to think about there. I hope it’s raised a few valid points, and feel free to agree or disagree as you see fit. Despite the negative issues raised here, I’m enthused at the run up to Hell In A Cell, and seeing if Shawn Michaels’ special referee loyalties will remain split between his friend Triple H and Bryan, the man he helped train. If nothing else, that match looks like it should be a doozy. See you soon!