Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Fantasy Booker: Edge's First World Championship

On January 8 2006 Edge defeated John Cena to win his first WWE championship. On January 29 2006, just three weeks later, he lost the title back to Cena. Sandwiched between these two matches with Cena was a TLC match opposite Ric Flair which was rather good despite being a crazy booking decision.

This three week reign with only one successful title defence was the culmination of a story that had started in the autumn of 2004. Edge had become increasingly bitter about his status within the company and his lack of world championship opportunities at the expense of the "old guard" lads like Triple H and Shawn Michaels. Despite these perfectly legitimate complaints (he really had been marginalised both in storyline and in reality) fans turned on him.

That an eighteen month build ended with a three week title reign that did nothing to elevate Edge was frustrating. It was made more frustrating by the fact that the RAW after Edge's title victory got the show's highest ratings in years. People were interested in Edge as champion. WWE did nothing to encourage people to stick with the product, a disservice to themselves and their newly crowned champion.

'The Rated R Champion'. Boom!
Things should have been different. Edge had been a presence on WWE television since 1998. For all of that time he had been presented as a future main event star. His first world title victory and reign should have been presented as a far bigger deal. WWE got it right with the booking of Edge's win over Cena and with his "live sex celebration" with Lita the next night on RAW (they rolled around in a bed set up in the ring) but faltered by continuing his uninspiring feud with Ric Flair and giving him only three weeks as champion.

So I thought it would be nice to kick back in the ol' armchair for a brief spot of fantasy booking. Here's what I'd have done...

The January 9 edition of RAW would have featured the "sex celebration" as was, because it was amusing, got over Edge's scumbag character perfectly, and helped to attract a strong rating. Usually I don't keep things that actually happened when I'm writing these fantasy booking things but let's just assume that whoever suggested it would still have suggested it, eh?

Although I've criticised the decision to continue Edge's feud with 'The Nature Boy' I'd do the exact same thing. The difference is that I wouldn't be planning to take the belt off of Edge so quickly, meaning that his bout with Flair wouldn't be the only successful defence he'd make. I'd have Flair, as he did in reality, knock Edge for conduct unbecoming of a champion1 and set up a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match for the following week's RAW. Naturally that would be won by Edge.

The pre-Rumble RAW would be all about hyping up the Edge-Cena rematch and the Rumble itself would be where I'd finally diverge from reality. Edge would successfully defend the gold against 'The Franchise', but he'd do it via some shady, heelish tactics. I would want to build Edge up as a crafty, cowardly heel who'd win at any cost, a man desperate to keep the world championship he's worked so hard and waited so long for. Because, well, that would have actually made sense considering the story arc he'd been on for the preceding eighteen months.

Let's say Edge would have won with a belt shot to the head of Cena while Lita distracted the referee. That would get over Edge's character, make use of Lita, protect Cena (still a fairly legitimate concern at this point as he'd only been granted his top guy push in the spring of 2005), and create reason for a rematch. Elsewhere on the show Rey Mysterio would still win the Rumble only he'd do so by last eliminating Shawn Michaels (instead of real life finalist Triple H), with HBK overcoming Vince McMahon flavoured interference throughout the match2. Mysterio would go on to challenge for SmackDown's World Heavyweight championship at 'Mania.

The third Edge-Cena match of the series would take place on an episode of RAW between the Rumble and WrestleMania 22, because at this point WWE was doing the branded pay-per-views ting and February's No Way Out was a SmackDown show. In the lead up to this the Cena and Edge programme would begin to crossover with the Shawn Michaels and Vince McMahon programme. Michaels would confront Edge about not having proven himself capable of beating Cena fairly. Cena, the valiant babyface, would thank Michaels but tell him he can speak for himself (tension!). McMahon would interject to endorse Edge as company figurehead and champion and make some claim along the lines of "Edge is ten times the champion Shawn Michaels ever was." The idea would be to keep each feud a separate entity but begin teasing the possibility of Michaels v Cena and Michaels v Edge.

Being the blow off to the rivalry, and coming after two regular rules matches between the two, the hyped-up-RAW match would need to have a stipulation. Last Man Standing would work. Cena's good in those. A cage would work too. Let's say it would have been a cage match (I can't bring myself to break Cena's LSM streak, even in a fantasy booking scenario set a decade in the past). Cena and Edge could probably do something good in a cage, and they'd have Lita at ringside to throw a chair or two in if needed.

Edge wins lol.
More importantly they'd have Lita to pull a chain and padlock form under the ring and lock the door shut as Cena tries to escape. With Cena arguing with the referee about getting the door opened, possibly even going so far as to try and wrench the door off its hinges (because Super Cena™), the champ would try sneaking over the top of the cage. Cena would spot him, grab him, and pull him back into the ring for an AA. During this sequence Lita would unlock the padlock and scrabble into the ring to grab Cena by the leg as he tried to climb out (with the commentators making it clear Cena still thought the door was locked). Edge would then crawl through the open doorway and slump down to the mats to win.

A cheap, convoluted finish. Using a woman, no less! Outrageous! Exactly the sort of thing a cowardly champion would dream up.

Also on this specially hyped episode of RAW would be Shawn Michaels versus Vince McMahon in a street fight, with the stipulation that Michaels would get a WWE title match at WrestleMania if he won and renounce God if he lost (which isn't my idea of a great stipulation but would fit nicely with the existing themes attached to their feud). Naturally Michaels would win, setting up 'The Rated R Superstar' versus 'The Heartbreak Kid' for WrestleMania.

Edge would successfully retain in this match too, though Lita's influence would be less pronounced. She'd interfere throughout the first half of the match and get wiped out by a Sweet Chin Music aimed at Edge (who'd move, obvs). Just to be clear, I'm not a big fan of man-on-woman violence in wrestling (or out of it for that matter) but used sparingly it can be impactful. WrestleMania is exactly the sort of show that can benefit from a rare spot and Lita is the sort of woman who should be involved in this sort of thing: she had massive heat at this point, making the spot count for more.

After Lita's elimination Edge would kick out of a Sweet Chin Music. Michaels would kick out of a spear and the lifting DDT Edge had used earlier in his career and ascribed about four different names too. Edge would avoid another SCM (assuming he'd have taken one before Lita went backstage, meaning he'd taken two in total) and hit Michaels with a spear for the win. This would hopefully carry enough credibility for a WWE championship match on 'The Showcase of the Immortals' but keep Edge's cowardly streak alive by again featuring heavy interference from Lita.

Backlash would be the traditional WrestleMania rematch, giving us another Michaels v Edge exchange. This would be a Last Man Standing match with more interference and shenanigans than the WrestleMania match. The finish would see Lita distract Michaels, allowing Edge to sneak in with a spear and half a dozen chair shots to the back. He'd then finish the challenger off with a Conchairto.

Only Cena could do this justice.
All of which brings me to the problem of fantasy booking something like this: at some point you have to acknowledge One Night Stand. WWE's second ECW reunion show was used as launching pad for the ill-fated ECW "brand" and was built around Rob Van Dam cashing in his Money in the Bank title shot against John Cena. Having the title on Edge for that show would produce a better quality match but that misses much of the point of the exercise. One Night Stand needed the spectacle of John Cena, the most WWE guy on the roster, facing the personification of ECW, Rob Van Dam. Only Cena and RVD could produce that main event atmosphere that was needed.

Cena would need to win the title back from Edge so that feud would be reignited. But, because it would have only been wrapped up a couple of months earlier, it would need to happen in a spur-of-the-moment kind of way, setting up and having the match in one night. So Cena would interrupt a show-opening promo from Edge, remind him that he never beat him in a fair one-on-one match, and goad him into a title match in the main event.

Edge would drop the belt to Cena. Cena, the newly crowned two-time champ, would then be confronted by Rob Van Dam. We'd get the RVD v Cena at One Night Stand match and Van Dam would leave as champion. Edge would have had the inaugural world title reign he deserved (or at least something closer to it than he got in reality). And when Van Dam failed the drugs test we'd be in a great position to keep people guessing as to who'd replace him as champion: Edge or Cena.

There we go. Better than reality.


1 Yes, Ric Flair, the limosine-riding, jet-flying, kiss-stealing, wheeling-dealing sonnovagun, actually accused Edge of not behaving like a true world champion because he was celebrating his world title win by rolling around in bed with a hot woman. The hypocrisy of this is baffling: it's hard to imagine a segment more geared towards 'Naitch' in his prime than Edge's "live sex celebration."

2 Michaels and Vince had been feuding since December 2005 after Vince had taken it upon himself to mock Michaels Christian beliefs. In reality Michaels defeated Vince in a no holds barred match at 'Mania 22. Vince would team with his son Shane to face Michaels and God3 at Backlash. Vince and Shane won that one4.

3 Yes, really.

4 If it surprises you that Vince McMahon, the owner of the company, would book himself to not only face but defeat God in a wrestling match then you're clearly not very familiar with him. "Eccentric" does not do him justice.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

WWE Beast in the East review

Beast in the East is the first WWE show in sixteen-and-a-half years to be named after a specific performer. The last one was 1998's Rock themed Rock Bottom, a tag-heavy  show tied into Rock's then-recent swerve heel turn and alignment with Vince McMahon's Corporation. Beast in the East was named, obviously, after 'The Beast Incarnate' Brock Lesnar. It's also a mild alteration to Bam Bam Bigelow's 'Beast from the East' moniker (although the East there referred to the US east coast as opposed to Japan), something which WWE owns the rights to after their purchase of WCW and ECW trademarks and tape libraries well over a decade ago.

There we are. A paragraph of trivia to start! 

Despite being the only performer featured on the poster and giving the event its name Brock Lesnar didn't actually have a high profile match on this card. He wrestled slap bang in the middle of the card and his opponent was Kofi Kingston. While Kofi's a reliable hand he's not the sort of name we've become accustomed to seeing Lesnar face and the match served mostly to highlight that the card was the oddity we'd all been expecting. Basically it made clear that it was more a broadcast house show as opposed to something legitimately special.

Although the show was named after Lesnar it was made clear by the show-opening hype video that the night's real top match was Finn Bálor challenging Kevin Owens for the NXT championship. It was featured far more heavily. The identity of Lesnar's opponent wasn't even mentioned.

The opener was Chris Jericho versus Adrian Neville. It was interesting (to me at least) that Michael Cole talked about Jericho's time in FMW during the 90's but took a while to mention Neville's years in Dragon Gate. Perhaps it's because Dragon Gate's a current promotion and WWE doesn't generally do well acknowledging those. Still, at least they bothered.

The match was nothing special. Neville was left to take the majority of the big bumps and do the running about. Jericho concentrated more on pandering to the fans, running though his key spots, and teasing that he'd dive out of the ring. For a guy who wants to position himself as one of the greatest workers ever his efforts here were poor. They sped things up in the last few minutes but we got a disappointing result: 'Y2J' put his knees up as Neville hit him with the Red Arrow and immediately applied the Walls of Jericho for the tap out victory.

A ten second shot of Brock Lesnar walking into the building followed that (flouting the Company Dress Code by wearing jeans and a non-merch T-shirt). It was more enjoyable that Jericho's ego-fuelled shenanigans.

Match two saw Nikki Bella defend the Divas championship against Paige and Tamina. It should be noted that Tamina enters to some borderline racist jungle drums music. Nikki and Paige have worked against one another more than enough over the last six months to have a pretty good baseline for their matches at this point. Tamina managed to avoid dragging things down and we got a fun three-way. Nikki retained with a forearm to Tamina after a failed Superfly Splash (Paige was outside the ring after taking a super kick from Tamina as she had Nikki locked in the PTO). Yes, Nikki retained with a forearm. Because apparently main roster women's matches don't warrant proper finishes.

After a  video in which Lesnar told us he respects no one and likes hurting people Kofi Kingston clapped his way down to the ring. Like a lamb to the slaughter. What followed was an enjoyable one-sided trouncing. Kofi got some offence in but Lesnar no-sold all of it before grabbing hold of the New Day member, giving him some suplexes, and finishing him off with an F5.

After the match Lesnar gave Kofi a German suplex and another F5. Just because. Big E and Xavier Woods ran out to make the save, which naturally didn't end well for them. They each took an F5. The audience seemed particularly impressed with 'The Pain' hoisting up Big E.

In a peculiar move the NXT championship match followed that. When Lesnar v Kingston went on third I'd assumed Bálor v Owens had been granted the main event slot. Which would have made a great deal of sense considering the popularity of the NXT brand and Bálor's history in Japan. The match had a big fight feel to it and WWE tried to ramp it up by having flowers presented to the competitors. Bálor took his with good grace while Owens hilariously threw his into the crowd and shouted about hating the country. The fans did a better job of making things seem important by festooning the pair in streamers.

As the pair got things off to a wild start with an immediate shotgun drop kick and cross body to the outside from Bálor, Michael Cole did a rare bit of good work as he explained that Bálor had worked his first New Japan show at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan arena (where this show was being held) and referenced a tweet in which he'd mentioned "the return of a Prince." I continued to be astonished at his good work when he referenced Bálor's many accolades, as Prince Devitt, in New Japan.

Meanwhile Bálor and Owens had a spirited exchange in and out of the ring, Bálor controlling the pace until Owens slapped on a headlock. Bálor battled out but it was Owens who was in control after that. He threw Bálor into ring steps outside the ring and landed on him with a senton when he rolled back into the ring at the nine count. The challenger was worn down with another trip out of the ring and then trapped in another headlock.

Bálor battled out and regained momentum with a drop kick to Owens' face and a forearm from the second rope. 'Mr Wresting' fired off some punches and then ran through the set up to Cena's Five Knuckle Shuffle, and the move itself. An AA attempt failed when Bálor slipped off Owens shoulder, knocked him to the mat and double stomped him. Owens tried the AA again. Bálor escaped again and walloped the champ with a Pele kick.

Owens rolled out of the ring to try and regain his composure but was met with a tope then thrown back into the ring to take an inverted Bloody Sunday. Bálor went for the top rope double stomp again but Owens moved and through him into a corner for a cannonball. A package bomb earned the champion a two count and a "This is awesome!" chant. That prompted Owens to tell the crowd to shut up, a nice character moment in the midst of a great match.

Bálor pulled himself back to his feet and dropped KO with a slingblade. The challenger immediately dashed to the top rope but Owens recovered and grabbed his feet. Owens forced Bálor down onto the ring apron but got staggered with a Pele kick. Bálor went for the double stomp again. This time he hit it. But Owens kicked out.

The pair made their way to the top turnbuckle again, Bálor attempting a superplex on the champ. Owens fought him off and tried for his fisherman buster but Bálor escaped. When he returned to the corner he was scooped up for a more devastating move: an AA from the top rope. That was followed with an Owens Swanton bomb. Bálor got his knees up and gave Owens Bloody Sunday. Owens kicked out. Bálor rushed him. Owens dropped him with a super kick.

The two again their way back to their feet. Owens screamed at Bálor that he couldn't win. Bálor fired up, blasting the champion with a lariat before shotgun drop kicking him into a corner. That left Owens prone, finally, for the Coup de Grace, which Bálor hit to finally win himself the NXT championship. They easily took match of the night honours with a spirited, even performance that started strong and built to a great crescendo.

After the match Hidoe Itami was shown looking a bit moody at ringside. It's not impossible this was foreshadowing for a heel turn spurred by Bálor "stealing" his moment. Tatsumi Fujinami came out to raise the new champions hand, something which really highlighted that this was a glorified house show. Owens then refused a handshake from the man the beat him. Which is exactly what you'd expect from Owens' character.

The main event couldn't match the heady heights of the NXT championship match, not least because it featured Kane and John Cena. Bad News King Wade Barrett I and Dolph Ziggler, their respective partners, are good but they weren't enough to help outshine Bálor and Owens. They worked a basic tag main event, the sort you'll be familiar with if you've ever been to a WWE house show or watched an episode of SmackDown. It was awkward in places and had a painfully obvious outcome: Ziggler, having been isolated for around ten minutes, made a tag to Cena, who wandered in, AAed Barrett, and pinned him. As climaxes go it was poor and summed up the match as a whole.

Beast in the East was an oddity of a show. It was clearly not intended to be as big a deal as Elimination Chamber, the last Network exclusive offering, had been. While it was nice to see Lesnar squash someone it wasn't exactly a must-see match. The only thing of substance on the show was Bálor versus Owens, and that wasn't enough to make the show as a whole worthwhile. If WWE wants to use these specials as a way to attract and keep subscribers they'll need to do better than this.


Results summary:
Chris Jericho defeated Adrian Neville
Nikki Bella defeated Paige and Tamina to retain the Divas championship
Brock Lesnar defeated Kofi Kingston
Finn Bálor defeated Kevin Owens to win the NXT championship
John Cena and Dolph Ziggler defeated Kane and Bad News Barrett

Friday, 3 July 2015

NXTweet 01.07.15

One of the most packed NXT episodes I can remember. Guys at the Bull Dempsey and Jason Jordan end of the scale get time. Baron Corbin continues getting slowly built up into something (though we're yet to find out exactly what). And the main event features Finn Bálor, Samoa Joe and Kevin Owens. This is, as has been said before, how do you a one hour wrestling show.


Tweet 1: I am watching NXT.
Tweet 2: Samoa Joe and Finn Bálor v Rhyno and Kevin Owens is epic apparently. Hard to argue that, to be fair.

The Vaudevillains v Maybe-Not-The-Mechanics-Anymore

Tweet 3: #Vaudevillainspop
Tweet 4: Have they got new music AGAIN?
Tweet 5: They have. Why can't they just have their original music? You know, the good music!
Tweet 6: Have Dash and Dawson dropped their sur- and first names respectively? If so, why? Vince whim?
Tweet 7: They seem to have dropped the Mechanics names too. Damn shame.

I'll miss the Mechanics name. It was lol.

Tweet 8: The commentators are chatting about Dawson looking like a young Arn Anderson. Rubbish. 'Double A' was never young.
Tweet 9: Remember when Aiden English was a massive heel because he dared to share his singing voice with the world?
Tweet 10: That was a nothing match. Nice to see The Vaudevillains though.

Devin Taylor talks to Becky Lynch

Tweet 11: Becky Lynch broke her hip. Tried to no-sell it but she couldn't pull it off.
Tweet 12: Ric Flair no-sold a plane crash. #justsaying
Tweet 13: Becky's motivated by this injury. Reckons she'll beat Sasha for the belt. I shall remain unconvinced for now.

Tucker Knight v Baron Corbin

Tweet 14: 'Wolf Shaman' Barry Corbin coming out wearing a vest with ALL HAIL written on it. No sign of his usual wolf motif. Maybe he retired it.

Even without his wolf powers Corbin pulled out a win.

Tweet 15: Fans chant "Corbin sucks!" Corbin wins. Fans clap politely.
Tweet 16: I liked the big lad physique on Tucker Knight.

William Regal announces a number one contenders tag match

Tweet 17: #Regalpop
Tweet 18: Gotch is chatting all over this show. Remember when he was a mute strongman?

Finn Bálor video

Tweet 19: This is Finn Bálor: Part the Third.
Tweet 20: Shot of Mojo Rawley sprawled on a couch looking decidedly unhyped there.
Tweet 21: Mojo again, this time in the ring. Lad's all over this doc.
Tweet 22: Triple H saying every entrance is a movie. I bet he believes that too. Ponce.
Tweet 23: I'm still expecting this to end with Owens smashing up one of Bálor's Lego creations.
Tweet 24: Imagine if Anderson and Fale ran in on Bálor v Owens and helped Bálor win.
Tweet 25: Really strong documentary that. Hope it goes up on the Network as a standalone thing at some point, if it hasn't already.
Tweet 26: Cut to an add conforming it's on the Network tonight, natch.

Eva Marie does a practice wrestle

Tweet 27: Earlier today... Eva Marie did some basic ring work and William Regal watched. This deserves air time.
Tweet 28: I reckon Eva Marie's going to blow everyone away when she's back. Not like that...

Emma v Carmella

Tweet 29: Love that heel theme for Emma.
Tweet 30: If they really want to get Dana Brooke over they'll have her gorilla press Big Cass during this match.
Tweet 31: Corey Graves needs to start referencing the pay window.

"Bah gawd, lookit that torque!"

Tweet 32: Enzo and Cass dashed out of Regal's office earlier because they said Carmella had a match. So where are they?
Tweet 33: Reverse X Factor. Absolutely devastating. But it wasn't enough. Poor Carmella.

Bull Dempsey slobs about backstage

Tweet 34: Bull Dempsey is being booked to cut promos on snack machines. They're sending you a message, Bull mate.
Tweet 35: If this were the 90s we'd be getting a newsagent or something for Bull to feud with.

Devin Taylor speaks to Jason Jordan

Tweet 36: Hey, remember last week when Jason Jordan lost?
Tweet 37: "I know you're not a loser!" - Chad Gable to Jason Jordan, who'd just lost a match

Tyler Breeze v Tye Dillinger

Tweet 38: #Breezeswoon
Tweet 39: The audience are into this perfect 10 thing of Dillinger's. Pretty good as it's not really been on TV.

Tyler Breeze doing a spot of facesitting there.

Tweet 40: Not the greatest gimmick though tbh. Didn't help him win, did it?
Tweet 41: The crowd are into it but the perfect 10 stuff won't be enough to net Tye a push.

Emma, Dana Brooke and Sasha Banks agree to a tag match

Tweet 42: Oh noes!! Emma and Dana want Sasha's title!!
Tweet 43: Throwaway skit to set up a tag match but everyone there was bringing their A game.

Samoa Joe and Finn Bálor v Rhyno and Kevin Owens

Tweet 44: The crowd would lose their minds if Cyrus came out with Rhyno. #justsaying
Tweet 45: I want Joe to change his name to So Cal Joe and adopt the look and mannerisms of So Cal Val.
Tweet 46: I'm assuming this is from the end of the tapings because this crowd has died.
Tweet 47: Not even Rhyno doing squats mid-suplex got a reaction. Sickening lack of interest.


Tweet 48: I'm hoping that was some kind of reference to Bálor's squat-heavy dojo background.
Tweet 49: Rhyno looks like a man who loves his squats. #demlegs
Tweet 50: "Whadda senton!" - Rich Brennan on a perfectly average senton
Tweet 51: Busting out the finishers always gets a crowd going.
Tweet 52: Rhyno missed the Gore on Bálor and hit his own partner. Such a WWE spot. Love it here though.
Tweet 53: Nice replay of the bungled roll around before the pin. Stay classy, editing guys.
Tweet 54: Good show everyone. Good hustle.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Right to Praise

Apropos of nothing I want to talk about how great Right to Censor were.

Back in mid-2000 the WWF (now WWE) was getting hammered by the media for its continued pushing of the good taste envelope. They'd also attracted the ire of the Parents Television Council, a group which aspired to be to late-90s and early-00s America what Mary Whitehouse was to 70s Britain. This group had raised such a stink about the level of sexual and violent content in WWF programming that the promotion was in danger of losing sponsors. The WWF had also been steadily pushing further and further against their boundaries for several years at this point and, realising they couldn't realistically push any further, they did the smart thing and decided to make some changes.

These changes could have been made without fuss or attention being drawn. It would have been simple enough to phase out the undesirable characters and storylines with a minimum of effort. But someone in the Fed thought of a better approach. Instead of quietly phasing characters out and dropping certain types of storyline the decision was made to attribute the changes to an on-screen presence, a group parodying the thorn in the side that was the PTC.

On the June 26 2000 episode of Monday Night RAW Stevie Richards appeared at the end of a segment in which Terri Runnels was to strip naked and covered her with a placard which read "CENSORED". This being the Attitude Era the act got him nuclear heat with the audience. He would go on to reveal that he was heading up a new faction called Right to Censor (a name chosen to hammer home the PTC parody) with his stated goal being to return morals to the WWF.

Great pomposity on Steven Richards there.
Richards would go on to recruit Bull Buchanan, The Godfather, Val Venis, and Ivory. On the surface this doesn't seem like an inspiring line-up. But when you look at the individuals involved it was. Bull Buchanan had bounced around as a mid-card heel, starting out as Big Bossman's apprentice before becoming a generic thug who wore a generic black vest and cut generic bad guy promos. He was never going to amount to anything alone but excelled as Richards' initial heavy.

Venis and the Godfather were great additions for a different reason. As a porn star and a pimp respectively they were amongst the top targets for the PTC. Their gimmicks had to be given the boot in the name of good taste and preserving sponsors. Instead of watering down their characters or writing them off TV to be reintroduced six months later under new gimmicks the pair were made members of RTC, renouncing their former debauchery after being shown the light by Steven Richards. Amusingly, this prompted The Godfather to become The Goodfather, the sort of on-the-nose name that wrestling can do so well.

I suspect Ivory was tossed into the group so that it wasn't just four lads crusading against the loose morals of women (which RTC did a lot of by the nature of their gimmick) because, really, that was the last thing the WWF needed in mid-2000. She ended up being a perfect fit. She was able to play on the real life indignance she felt at the rise of female personalities with no wrestling experience at the expense of those who'd trained to learn how to wrestle and wrestle well. Behind Richards she was the most capable promo and charismatic speaker in the group and was perfect, as was Richards, as a self-righteous blowhard big into hypocrisy and double standards.

RTC didn't have any classic matches during their eleven month existence but they had some memorable feuds opposite everyone from the Dudley Boys to Chyna and Eddie Guerrero to The Undertaker. It was a group designed for a specific task and it performed it perfectly. It's saddening that the group, particularly Richards and Ivory who both did some of the best work of their careers, doesn't get praised that often. Because it deserves to be. It was a perfectly example of how to use limited performers and make the best of unwanted restrictions.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Believe the Hype

So. The Hype Bros. Although they're clearly bit part players in the grand scheme of NXT I think this is an inspired pairing. Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley. A reality show-modelled "broski" and a guy who bangs on about hype. That feels right. That works.

It's nice on several levels. We're seeing 'Long Island Iced Z' finally getting something to do, years after he managed to get himself over and WWE frittered his popularity away to enhance Kane for a feud with Cena (got to keep Kane strong!). Technically, yes, it's a demotion but it's not like Ryder was doing anything on the main roster. It's years since he was involved in any form of noteworthy storyline and months since he lost to Cena in the US open challenge, his last meaningful match.

Dick to the mouth finish there. Strong.
It's nice for Mojo. Because he may actually get over this way. His kids' TV-like ever-hyped demeanour grated on the Full Sail fairly early into his initial singles run last year. Pairing him with the genuinely popular (and relatively likeable) Ryder, smartly positioning him as a guy Ryder's chosen to take under his wing, gets Mojo screen time but keeps him in a role where his hyperactivity can be a strength: Ryder can get worked over and Mojo can rally the crowd.

That they've been made a tag team is good for the doubles scene as a whole. For a while there there were only two teams in NXT: Enzo Amore and Big Cass's New Age Tribute Act and Blake and Murphy's Dubstep Cowboys. The Vaudevillains were excused were excused from TV duties for an extended period and every other team either got main rostered or were split. The Hype Bros give NXT a much needed fresh duo.

The obvious thing to expect is a heel turn from Mojo. I don't think that will be the initial plan though. King of NXT Triple H seems to want Mojo to work out as a face, hence why he was pulled once he started getting booed and has been retooled for his redebut. I suspect a heel turn on Ryder may be a backup plan but we won't see it unless the Hype Bros fail to work out. Which I don't think they will. NXT is the WWE show where they know how to present stories and characters for a modern audience. If they really want Mojo cheered they're going to find out how to make it happen.