Monday 31 October 2011

The Muppet Show

When WWE says The Rock will answer John Cena's partnership request tonight on RAW what they mean is he'll appear on the Titantron, likely in a pre-taped video. There's a fairly good chance the announce team will be instructed to claim Rock's appearing "live via satellite". It will definitely feature some anti-Cena sentiments and put downs that fall flat, mainly because Rock is at his best when playing off a live audience. Miz and R-Truth will probably be ripped by 'The Great One' too.
Will Rock agree to team with Cena to face The Awesome Truth at Survivor Series? Of course he will. Not only has it already been announced by WWE but it's a great opportunity to escalate their feud by having one man blast the other with their finishing move. With WrestleMania season just a couple of months away WWE will want to start working seriously on the show's lead feud.
Let's not forget it would be massively anti-climactic for WWE to suggest the pairing only to state one week later that it won't happen.
If 'The Most Electrifying Man in All of Entertainment' were appearing on RAW it would have been announced and hyped heavily in advance. At a time when ratings are slipping and RAW is going up against the NFL every week WWE can't afford not to capitalise on an appearance by The Rock.
But RAW tonight doesn't need 'The Brahma Bull'. It has Jim Henson's muppets and the theme of Halloween to play with! What these two things will combine to create is anyone's guess. Presumably Gonzo and co. will appear behind a specially constructed wall on the entrance stage to crack gags at the expense of heels and make a few matches. A gag about Kermit not being as green as Mason Ryan would be nice but probably isn't going to happen.
With WWE's current approach to booking the way it is predicting matches for RAW has become practically impossible. By modern standards tonight's show should be a good one: guest hosts that will provoke a warm (and genuine) response and what should be the establishment proper of the Rock v Cena feud.

John Cena finally learns how to sell

As long as Oscar the Grouch appears I'll be happy.

Saturday 29 October 2011

The Wrestling Channel

As you’ll likely have gathered from Michael Cole’s obnoxious bleating during the last few weeks of RAW and SmackDown there are plans for WWE to launch its own television channel. It will likely be called The WWE Network. This is far from a good investment for the company.

Setting up and running a television station costs far more than WWE can realistically afford. Worryingly Vince McMahon has stated he feels comfortable taking out loans using WWE as collateral in order to fund the scheme. That means if the channel fails Vince could lose control of the promotion he made famous. Whatever your thoughts are on the current sports entertainment product that would be a very bad thing: Vince is still very much the driving force behind the company. There is nobody yet ready to take on all of his many duties.

Instead of taking out a loan WWE should try to purchase an existing channel and rebrand it. They have reportedly looked into this and been unable to strike a satisfactory deal. The best course of action would be to wait, but instead the decision has been made to spend vast sums of money creating a channel from scratch.

Even overlooking the cost of the project it’s a bad idea. WWE intends to fill the broadcasting hours with a mixture of its current television shows (RAW, SmackDown, Superstars, etc.), the extensive wrestling backlist that’s been acquired over the years (WCW, ECW, the AWA, etc.), and new “non-wrestling wrestling-themed” programming. The backlist availability may sound appealing but how likely do you think it is WWE will actually utilise it properly? It’s had the rights to ECW and WCW footage for over ten years now and has only released a handful of DVDs. That’s not the action of a company keen to make use of its video tape library.

RAW and SmackDown being aired on the channel isn’t a bad idea either, but as both shows are available on other US channels it’s not a particularly great one either. There are plans to offer select pay-per-views too. Originally the plan was that subscribers would get to watch The Big Four shows free on the WWE Network, but this plan quickly changed when WWE realised giving away the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania for free would be a catastrophic hit on their profits.

The plan as it currently stands is that subscribers will get all or some of the promotion’s B-level pay-per-views (such as Extreme Rules and Vengeance) as part of the package. If WWE runs the same number of pay-per-views next year as this year that will be nine free supershows for subscribers. Buy rates for these shows are low as it is, giving them away free to anyone who has WWE’s own channel will only cause them to shrink further. That will have a knock-on detrimental effect with the pay-per-view providers WWE relies on for its more successful pay-per-view events.

Easily the least appealing thing about the channel is the new “non-wrestling wrestling-themed programming”. Already announced are two reality shows, one following WWE’s Divas as they tour around the current in a bus and the other focusing on “WWE Legends” living in a Big Brother style house. Watching Sergeant Slaughter make a cup of tea while Hillbilly Jim does the hovering may have a novelty appeal at first but it won’t last long.

The channel is going to appeal almost exclusively to diehard fans. That’s not a negative, but it means WWE are going to need to be prepared to offer a lot of wrestling, something they’ve tried to disassociate themselves form in recent years. The most hardcore of fans will happily watch a Santino Marella sitcom (believe me, that will happen if the channel comes to fruition – they’ll have dozens of hours to fill a week), but only if there’s some wrestling on offer as well.

Vince has tried several times to prove he can succeed away from wrestling. He can’t. The World Bodybuilding Federation proved that in the early 90s. The XFL proved it again a decade later. More recently the lamentable offerings from WWE Studios (which Vince hopes will prove his wrestler employees can act as well as sports entertain) have shown that Vince is best suited to the role of wrestling promoter.

Let's just hope they avoid dipping into the XFL and WBF video libraries...

The WWE Network, being heavily linked to wrestling, has a better chance of succeeding than any of Vince’s previous projects: he knows wrestling and how to succeed promoting it while he was essentially just a fan with a lot of money when it came to the WBF and XFL. It’s still a poor idea though. WWE risking going into severe debt just so it can air shows about Divas riding around in a bus and some old AWA matches that could just as easily be released on DVD is not the direction the company should be heading in. They should be putting their money back into their one successful product instead.

Friday 28 October 2011

The Invisible Man

Think back to the SmackDown ladder match at Money in the Bank. There were several men fans felt were potential winners: Wade Barrett, Sheamus, Cody Rhodes, and even Sin Cara. But none of them left victorious. That honour instead went to Bryan ‘Daniel Bryan’ Danielson.
It was a move that surprised everyone, mainly because WWE had done nothing with the former ‘American Dragon’ for months. His last appearance on a WWE pay-per-view had been a disappointingly brief showing in the Royal Rumble six months earlier. Since then he’d been limited to TV appearances and pay-per-view dark matches against the likes of Drew McIntyre and Ted DiBiase. There was also the infamous decision to bump his US title match with Sheamus from WrestleMania and turn it into a pre-show battle royal.
Many assumed, perfectly reasonably, that Bryan winning Money in the Bank would be the start of a renewed push. That wasn't the case. Bryan cut a promo on the July 22nd SmackDown in which he announced his intention to cash-in his shiny blue briefcase at WrestleMania XXVIII in Miami. Following that he... well, he didn't do much frankly.
Bryan's sole pay-per-view appearance since becoming 'Mr Money in the Bank' was at SummerSlam, where he lost a very enjoyable bout to Wade Barrett. Losing to Barrett, a man who has been pushed consistently as a future world champion and is an established upper mid-carder in WWE, didn’t hurt Bryan at all. But it also did nothing to establish him as someone who would be wrestling for a world championship any time soon. At SummerSlam it was Barrett who left looking like the bigger star with the brighter future, and as it is Bryan who is currently ‘Mr Money in the Bank’ that should not have been the case.
WWE should have changed its attitude towards the former ROH champion when it booked him to win the blue brand’s ladder stunt-fest. If Bryan is to be accepted as a serious contender to a world championship (and that is what WWE wants otherwise they wouldn’t have booked him to win) then the weekly burials by ‘The Voice of WWE’ Michael Cole and the nonsensical losses to men that should be beneath him have to end.

Whether WWE intends for him to win his cash-in match or not it would be better for business if Bryan is perceived as a genuine threat to the champion, whoever it is, when he challenges for the gold. If he’s built up with convincing wins and is treated like a star on the rise by the commentary team (the guys who are paid to put the talent over, remember) then Bryan could become a star even if he loses to the world champion.

Perhaps WWE don’t want him to succeed. It’s no secret that Vince McMahon is not a fan of any wrestler who has been embraced by “the internet wrestling community.” The nastiness that Cole directs at Bryan each week is fed to him by none other than Vince himself. In Vince’s world (which, sadly, WWE is) Bryan becoming the first man to unsuccessfully cash-in a Money in the Bank briefcase will “prove” that he doesn’t have what it takes to be a WWE Superstar™.

Hopefully that’s not the case. Hopefully there’s a long term plan in place that necessitates Bryan being lumbered with the dreaded losing streak gimmick recently. Perhaps he will cash-in on an unsuspecting champion early in 2012, win the title and then brag about how he fooled everyone into thinking he’d wait until WrestleMania. A heel Daniel Bryan would be a tremendous addition to the current WWE product and would make a great opponent for a babyface CM Punk.

Or perhaps WWE really will manage to hold off and save Bryan’s championship match for WrestleMania. It’s pretty much guaranteed Bryan would have a great match with whoever the champion is (and I’m including Mark Henry in that statement!). The best choices for his opponent at ‘Mania would be Randy Orton or Christian: both are accepted by fans and would wrestle a great bout with the challenger.

The happy-go-lucky smiley babyface we get right now isn't doing Bryan Danielson, the fans or WWE justice. Neither is the claim that he "won't shave his beard" until WrestleMania. WWE should be doing everything it can to get the guy ready for a top spot. The fact that “internet fans” like him is irrelevant and should be forgotten: simply put, Daniel Bryan at the top in WWE would be good for business.

Sooner or later WWE are going to have to promote 'The American Dragon'. He’s too talented for them to overlook for much longer.

Thursday 27 October 2011

Roode Awakening

TNA rushed it again at their latest TV tapings. Let’s backtrack a bit before we get to that...

The company spent a considerable amount of time preparing Bobby Roode for his title match with Kurt Angle at Bound For Glory. He had been pushed so strongly as the promotion’s next breakout star slash saviour that most fans felt it was a certainty that he would defeat Angle for the championship. Anyone who saw the match will know that didn’t happen.

I wrote two blogs on Roode’s main event chances and the decision to have Angle retain shortly before and after the pay-per-view. They’re available here and here. In short I thought Roode had the potential to make a difference to TNA’s stale main event scene and that the decision to have him lose made him look weak, as well as making the time and effort that had gone into his push ultimately pointless.

Since Bound For Glory TNA has continued the baffling booking with regards to their world championship. At the October 18th IMPACT taping James Storm defeated Kurt Angle in a nippy little match to become the new TNA world champ. The result and the match itself had come out of nowhere: there was no build-up for ‘The Cowboy’s’ title victory. Shocking the audience is all well and good but in this instance it had come at the expense of another potential main eventer who should have been protected (Roode).

At last night’s IMPACT taping (which will air on November 3rd in the United States) Storm lost the TNA world championship to Bobby Roode. That match should have been built to gradually over a course of months and been put on pay-per-view. Instead it was rushed through in three weeks of television.

James Storm would have made a fine TNA world champion had he been given the chance to establish himself in the role. As it is he only held the championship for six days and clearly only received it in the first place to facilitate a heel turn by his Beer Money tag team partner. A three or four month title reign for ‘The Cowboy’ would have allowed him to get over as a true main event star and restored some much needed credibility to the currently fairly worthless TNA strap.

Had Bobby Roode turned heel gradually by exhibiting signs of resentment and jealousy at his friend’s success the eventual heel turn would have been more impactful. A longer approach would have given fans the chance to anticipate the betrayal and resulting feud. The approach TNA has gone with feels like something that’s been thrown together in a very short period of time with no thought being given to the future.

Following Roode’s title victory it was announced that he would defend the gold against AJ Styles at Turning Point. AJ could have played a key role in the slower approach and it would have been nice to see him face Roode in a singles match on pay-per-view in which Roode used heelish tactics to gain a tainted victory, foreshadowing his heel turn. The match we’ll see in a few weeks should be fine but it won’t have as much meaning as it could have done.

The decision to put the title on either man is fine: both have qualities that will help them establish themselves as main event performers if they are given the company’s support. The decision to split them as a team is also a good one as the two men have achieved everything they can as Beer Money Inc. Fans like both men and can believe in them as world title competitors. The problem is simply that TNA did not devote anywhere near enough time to what should have been, from beginning to end, six months of programming. The writing team has made its job much harder by doing things this quickly.

The feud should be good. But it could have been so much better.

Monday 24 October 2011


It's been a while since we had a pay-per-view as jumbled as Vengeance. The best matches went on first, the matches with the most hype and the biggest names filled out the middle, and the disappointments went out last. Perhaps WWE was trialling a new approach to wrestling booking, starting with a bang and building up to a whimper.
The WWE tag team championship opener was an exhilarating back and forth affair that saw Air Boom retain the gold against challengers Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler. Kofi and Evan work well as an opening match act, providing lively, fast-paced bouts that pump the crowd up and get them in the mood for the rest of the show.
Following his unsuccessful tag match Ziggler had to immediately defend his United States title in contest number two. His opponent was 'The Woo Woo Woo Kid' Zack Ryder.
I was expecting this match to be good and it didn't disappoint. In fact it surprised me by being the match of the night. Ziggler looked suitably fatigued and pensive as Ryder made his entrance which really helped to get the challenger over as a genuine threat to the gold. It was exactly how a heel champion should look in that situation.
Sadly it wasn't 'Long Island Iced Z's' night. 'The Heel' retained the belt after a beautifully executed finishing sequence: 'Long Island Iced Z' blocked a Zig Zag before booting an interfering Swagger in the face, only to turn around into a surprise superkick from a recovering Ziggler.
While it felt like this would be Ryder's night the fact that Ziggler needed help to keep hold of his belt could indicate we'll see a rematch at Survivor Series. That's not a bad thing if Ryder wins the belt there: it allows him to be booked as the hungry underdog chasing the champion for the next month and gives Ryder his first singles strap at one of the Big Four pay-per-views.
WWE Divas' champion Beth Phoenix defended her title against Eve Torres (who debuted some fairly dodgy new entrance music) in match number three. By the standards of the challenger and WWE women's bouts in general it was a good contest. 'The Glamazon' surprised no one by retaining via the Glam Slam.
The heel turn by one of the faces that I've been expecting for months failed to materialise. I'll mention it again in my Survivor Series blog.
Sheamus v Christian was an entertaining encounter that, as expected, featured a lot of the Irishman's Clubbing Blows™. A highlight of the match was Booker T claiming he called the punches Irish hand grenades. It trended on Twitter moments later. Booker's ability to create a meme is alive and well.
While the match was good the wrong man won. 'Great White' had pinned Christian at Hell in a Cell which meant Vengeance should have been 'Captain Charisma's' turn to go over, evening the feud up and keeping it alive for another month. This didn't feel like a feud ending bout, but with Christian having lost two straight supercard clashes and multiple TV encounters why should anyone care if the two meet again? Sheamus has proven the Canadian is no match for him.
I expect these two will have one more match (pun very much intended) between now and Survivor Series before aligning with the respective face and heel teams for the ten man tag team main event. Should that happen expect 'Captain Charisma' to be the first man eliminated.
The match that should have gone on last got shoved down to the middle of the card due to a spot in the World Heavyweight title match that would have made a non-gimmick bout impossible. Awesome Truth made the best entrance of the night with their "You Suck" routine and proceeded to have a perfectly competent match with CM Punk and Triple H (who appears to be on the Stan Hansen diet right now). Had these guys gone on last (with a functional ring) I think they would have gone longer and included more memorable spots. As it was this match did everything required of it without doing anything fancy.
A run-in was inevitable and was provided by 'Big Sexy' Kevin Nash. Sporting a svelte physique and lashings of Just For Men Nash appeared out of nowhere as 'The Game' brawled with R-Truth at ringside, blasting his former best mate with a punch before taking him into the ring for a Jackknife powerbomb behind the referee's back.
Just because outside interference was predictable doesn't mean it was a bad booking decision. It kept the Laurinaitis/conspiracy storyline ticking over and helped to set up the Survivor Series main event. This match needed interference to achieve all its goals.
Orton versus Rhodes was predictably enjoyable. Both men got good crowd reactions and entered crisp performances. Cody was particularly impressive, busting out two moonsaults, amusing facial expressions and finally encouraging his bag men to get involved in the bout, something that an underhanded heel should've been doing for months now.
As good as this match was it didn't quite equal the US title match in my eyes. I'm sure most people will disagree with that but the title match featured fewer regular (perhaps even overused) spots and a man who is nowhere near as overexposed as 'The Viper' and Rhodes are and so it felt fresher as a result.
I predicted Mark Henry versus Big Show was going to be a train wreck. While it was better than I expected it still wasn't an enjoyable affair. I suppose if big man matches are your thing you may well have a different view.
The finish borrowed from a Big Show v Brock Lesnar match in 2003 in which a superplex caused the ring to collapse. The spot provoked just as loud a response as it did eight years ago, and both Henry and Show deserve credit for agreeing to take such a risky bump (at their size it could have killed them had something gone wrong). Both men sold the collapse for several minutes and the match just halted in a disappointing no contest. I expect we'll see a gimmick rematch of some description between the two on November 20th in New York City.
Teddy Long and John Laurinaitis came out to oversee the medical staff tending to the two mounds of blubber. After several minutes of concerned facial expressions it was Laurinaitis (the heel) who was chosen to make the announcement that the show would continue as planned while Long (the face) ambled off to the back. If WWE want to get Laurinaitis over as a heel they cannot give fans any reason to cheer him, which is precisely what they did with this announcement. While there's no chance of him turning accidental babyface giving fans reason to cheer during his promos is only going to confuse matters. Limit him to contemptuous smirks and pro-heel decisions and let Teddy take care of babyface announcements from now on.
With the worst match on the card out of the way we were treated to the second worst in the main event position. Although Alberto Del Rio is one of WWE's best all-rounders and Cena does his best work in gimmick situations the two still haven't clicked and found their chemistry yet. As such this WWE championship match was decent but nothing more.
Cena, who entered wearing a new T-shirt far less garish than his old red one, made a large number of ridiculous comebacks, usually climbing briskly to his feet at around the count of seven. That undermined his opponent and made it difficult for viewers to suspend their disbelief and buy into the near falls. But that's nothing new: Super Cena pulls stunts like this on a weekly basis. It's part of the reason WWE is finding it hard to create new main event stars.
After what must have been around twenty minutes Truth and Miz returned to the ring to beat down the challenger. Despite being left laying from a vicious beating from two of the promotion's top heels Cena clambered back to his feet before the ten count looking only mildly phased. He was immediately put back down, for good this time, by ADR, who had spent over a minute selling an AA through a table. The chasm between how the two men were booked was never more glaring.
'The Essence of Excellence' posed with his WWE championship belt as Vengeance went off the air, with Cena pouting and doing his puppy dog expression in the ring. I expect these two will meet in the Survivor Series main event next month before moving on to new feuds in December. I hope that happens anyway, because I'm not interested in seeing another pay-per-view singles contest between these two.
Vengeance was far from disappointing. There were several matches and storyline developments worth tuning in for. It's just that the running order seemed a little questionable. That's a problem unlikely to affect WWE's next PPV extravaganza. Survivor Series has clearly been planned months in advance with the aim of blowing off multiple feuds and storylines while kickstarting new ones to begin the build up for the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania XXVIII. Vengeance played it's part in setting the stage for the show and as such can be considered a succe
ss for WWE.

Saturday 22 October 2011

Vengeance preview

Mark Henry versus Big Show. John Cena versus Alberto Del Rio. These are matches the average wrestling fan will be physically incapable of getting excited about. They are also two of the bouts headlining WWE's Vengeance pay-per-view on Sunday. But wait, it's not as bad as it seems...
Big Show v Mark Henry isn't going to be the best match on the show. We all know that. In fact it will probably be the worst. What it has in its favour is freshness. After months of Christian v Orton and then two straight Orton v Henry confrontations on consecutive pay-pay-views it's nice to be offered something different, no matter how bad it may be. It's not a match I want to see again and again but as a one off Show works as a challenger. If WWE were tried harder to have a different challenger for every show, giving champions more varied title reigns, I’d be all for it. I think that approach would benefit Henry and the World Heavyweight championship greatly.
I’m picking Henry to retain. With the push he received over the summer I think it’s unlikely he’ll lose the title so soon.
Of course the other thing this match has going for it is this video:

You're not getting that anywhere else in wrestling.
Alberto Del Rio and John Cena will face one another for the third pay-per-view in a row. Their match at Night of Champions was forgettable but their Hell in a Cell battle a month later was an improvement (though some of the credit for that has to go to the third man in the match, CM Punk) and I'm expecting another decent entry in their feud at Vengeance. Why? Because ADR is one of WWE’s best wrestlers and Cena tends to perform better when he has shortcuts at his disposal. A Last Man Standing match will allow to use all the shortcuts he likes.
The gimmick match rules also allow WWE to have Cena lose to ADR without being pinned. It may seem counterproductive to avoid having your lead star put over an up and comer but that's WWE all over: Cena must be protected at all costs.
It's not impossible that the inevitable whacky finish to this match will involve interim RAW General Manager and Executive Vice President of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis. As you’ll read below I think WWE are setting up a clash between top babyfaces and heels for Survivor Series, with Triple H wrestling for the faces and Laurinaitis organising and or managing the heels.

Christian and Sheamus will continue what’s been a fairly underwhelming feud so far. Their matches are enjoyable thanks to the charisma of both men and the reactions they get from crowds, but they tend to consist of little more than ‘Great White’ pounding Christian on the back over and over again. Since Sheamus won at Hell in a Cell three weeks ago I’m expecting ‘Captain Charisma’ to pick up the win this time around.

Beth Phoenix will finally have a pay-per-view match against someone that isn’t Kelly Kelly. Yes, we’re finally getting Beth Phoenix v Eve Torres on pay-per-view! Natalya and Kelly Kelly are likely to be at ringside and I’m still half expecting one of the faces to turn heel on the other. Until a week or two ago I was expecting Eve to go to the dark side but Double K looked perturbed after Eve’s loss to Natalya on RAW so it’s not impossible she’ll do the turn. Would a Kelly Kelly heel turn work? It could. It would certainly be different and would provide a fresh dynamic for a number of matchups in WWE’s women’s division.

The heel turn could happen no matter who wins. Should Eve win the title Kelly could attack her in a jealous rage whereas if Beth retains Kelly could attack her pal for letting the side down. I can’t see the title being switched from ‘The Glamazon’ so quickly, I’m expecting her to retain.

One of the matches I’m most looking forward to is Randy Orton v Cody Rhodes. WWE has been trying hard to elevate Cody throughout the year while ‘The Viper’ has had one of the best years of his career in the ring. Capitalising on the errant blow Orton gave Rhodes a few weeks ago SmackDown by giving the two a full blown feud is a smart move by WWE: the two will have solid matches and Rhodes will rise up the card by rubbing shoulders with a star of ‘The Apex Predator’s’ standing.

As this is the first pay-per-view match of what I assume will be a long feud I’m expecting Orton to get the win and Cody to attack him after the match to keep the rivalry alive. Rhodes scoring the upset would be nice to see but I don’t think it will happen. They’ll save that for the higher profile Survivor Series.

On the subject of upsets: expect a big pop after Zack Ryder beats Dolph Ziggler for the United States championship. I’m assuming ‘The Heel’ will team with his tag team partner Jack Swagger to challenge Air Boom for the duos gold and lose before tangling with ‘Long Island Ice Z’. If the tag bout happens first Ryder can be booked as taking advantage of a fatigued Ziggler.

Both matches should be good. It’s a shame I have to predict two losses for Ziggler but I can’t see a way around it: being booked in two matches almost guarantees he’ll lose one and makes losing both fairly likely. Ryder deserves a chance to show what he can do though, and Ziggler will definitely put him over the right way.
The match I expect to headline the show is the tag team contest pitting Triple H and CM Punk against The Miz and R-Truth. This one is bound to give us a ton of storyline advancements, which I don’t think is a huge problem, and I think the action will be good. I like Miz and Truth as a team and I’m more interested in Triple H than I have been for about eight years thanks to his recent COO elevation (though that’s not necessarily a good thing: WWE should be building new stars rather than re-establishing old ones).

In fact the guy I’m least interested in is CM Punk, because the push that started in June and had so much potential has been massively fumbled. He’s still a good wrestler and an entertaining character but he’s not on the level he could have been by now, and I find that frustrating.

As far as winners goes I think this match could go either way. Because I’m expecting some John Laurinatis-related ringside shenanigans (probably from Kevin Nash but David Otunga isn’t that unlikely a possibility) I’m going to predict a heel win. Having Laurinaitis and his cronies involved in Triple H’s match sets up a Survivor Series clash between the companies top faces (Triple H, CM Punk, and Cena, alongside The Rock) and the GM’s inner circle (Miz, Truth, ‘Big Sexy’, and Alberto Del Rio). Should WWE want to try elevating some younger guys (which isn’t guaranteed, sadly) the Survivors bout could go from an eight to a ten man match and each team could get a mid-card wrestler added to the team.

Vengeance looks far superior to Hell in a Cell on paper and is clearly being used as a setup show for Survivor Series. If it’s entertaining and leaves us with a clear picture of what’s in store at Survivor Series then Vengeance will have done what it’s supposed to.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Monster Push

WWE has spent six months preparing Mark Henry for a run at the top of the card. He was credited with seriously injuring Kane and Big Show, he pummelled Sheamus at SummerSlam, and he pinned Randy Orton clean to win the WWE World Heavyweight championship. That’s an impressive run by anyone’s standards.

At 40-years-old and with fifteen years of experience Henry was finally given the chance to show he could wrestle at a main event level. He can’t. His various pushes over the years, and there have been many, have made that very clear. He is a slow, uncoordinated, injury-prone lump. I’ll admit that he’s more over now than at any other point in his wrestling career, but that’s not saying a great deal.

Even if everything worked out perfectly and Henry was embraced overnight as an acceptable addition to the main event crew the fact still remains that he’s closer to the end of his career than the beginning. Mark Henry has weighed in excess of 400 pounds for around two decades. That will have resulted in incredible stress being places on his knees and back.

Even Henry’s current low standards will decrease within a few years as his joints fall apart. Essentially WWE have promoted a man with a fairly short shelf life who the majority of fans find boring to watch and can’t relate to. It’s not the best call ever made is it?

A better candidate for Henry’s recent push would have been Brodus Clay.

Look back at any episode of NXT season four and you’ll see a man with a clearly defined character who possesses verbal skills superior to the majority of the current WWE roster, a unique look and an understanding of how to carry himself as a monster heel. Brodus Clay did everything he could during that series to set himself apart from his peers and managed to do so so successfully that he took the runner up spot. That show left a lot of people, myself included, wanting to see more of Snoop Dogg’s former bodyguard.

The one thing ‘The World’s Strongest Man’ has brought to his recent push is an air of believability: you can accept he really is that aggressive and dangerous a man. Clay would have been just as convincing and would have provided superior verbal skills and a feeling of freshness to the role. Henry has faced pretty much everyone on the roster during his fifteen years with the promotion would have provided entirely fresh matches. 

It’s too late for anything to be done about the situation now. Henry is entrenched at the top of the card and is unlikely to leave for some time to come. WWE should consider giving Brodus something more meaningful to do than beating jobbers every week on Superstars. He deserves television exposure because he is one of the most promising wrestlers to have appeared for the company in several years. At the very least he could be paired with another young talent to bulk out the promotion’s tag ranks.

At 31-years-old there’s not a rush to elevate Brodus. WWE can afford to take its time. But he needs to be put on TV now so that fans can watch him develop and cultivate a bond with him. He has far more long term potential than Mark Henry. Personally I can see him being a surprise hit as a babyface if he’s allowed to establish himself as a heel first.

Sooner or later Mark Henry will be gone and WWE will once again begin the search for a new monster heel. Brodus Clay will be waiting.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Fave Five

ROH needs to work on expanding its roster. Since debuting on the Sinclair stations TJ Perkins, Caprice Coleman and Cedric Alexander have been signed to contracts by the promotion, but things are still light at the top of the card. There are currently only a handful of men who could be seen as legitimate threats to Davey Richards’ ROH world championship, and all of them are former champions.

The quality of match between Perkins and Richards would be perfectly fine, but nobody would believe for a moment that TJP could topple ‘The American Wolf’. If ROH is to grow and continue to be seen as a company which promotes competitive action more people need to be signed from the early days of ROH or who have existing star power from previous employment (i.e. WWE).

This isn’t a popular view with many Ring of Honor fans, but to think the company can prosper without an immediate injection of star power is naive. Main event talent in ROH is thin on the ground and Richards needs a healthy number of challengers to plough through before his inevitable program with Kevin Steen begins sometime next year.  

The success of Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas demonstrates how well former WWE stars can do in the promotion if they’re capable of working the style and are used correctly.

I’ve come up with a list of five men currently under contract to WWE that I feel would improve the Ring of Honor product by providing new characters and feuds for fans and wrestlers alike. I’ve avoided picking guys like CM Punk, Seth Rollins and Bryan Danielson because listing former ROH wrestlers would make the exercise a little pointless: they’re already a proven success in the organisation. It’s not intended as a list of guys could sign now, more as ideas for how former WWE stars could slot into the company and improve things in both the short and long term.

So, without further ado...

Windham Rotunda – Husky Harris

Rotunda looks like a Ring of Honor champion to me. He has a physique not unlike Takeshi Morishima and Samoa Joe that would allow him to convincingly take a beating from kick specialists such as Davey Richards, and he’s big enough to be credible as a powerhouse in ROH. His status as a third generation star would help to set him apart in a company that has never been heavy on such competitors.

Give the guy a lariat or superkick as a signature move, an impressive power move as his finisher and book him consistently and I think he could get over pretty quickly. I think he would work very well in a powerful babyface role and could have very enjoyable matches against smaller men such as Andy Ridge, Kyle O’Reilly, Grizzly Redwood and, of course, Davey Richards.

Naofumi Yamamoto – Yoshi Tatsu

A mid-card division is clearly something ROH is trying to build to stand alongside its main event and tag divisions and I think Yoshi Tatsu would be a great addition. He would bring an international flavour to the company (which it has been keen on in the past) and could produce some exciting matches against stars on the rise Adam Cole, TJ Perkins and Andy Ridge as well as TV champion Jay Lethal.

Even little things such as the design of his tights indicate that Tatsu would fit in well in Ring of Honor. The federation needs all the naturally charismatic babyfaces it can get so if this guy ever gets released (not an impossibility) they should seriously consider bringing him in. He’s wasted on Superstars (but then isn’t everyone?).

Kofi Sarkodie Mensah – Kofi Kingston

I think it’s safe to say we’re wandering into fantasy booking territory with this suggestion. Kofi Kingston is a current WWE tag champion (alongside former ROH tag champion Matt Sydal/Evan Bourne funnily enough), a key part of WWE’s mid-card scene (such as it is), and one of the few genuine babyfaces the company has, Kofi would have to do something very silly to wind up in a position where ROH could hire him.

That said he’d make a strong addition to the Ring of Honor roster. He wrestles a quick style that would serve him well against the faster guys on the roster and would work perfectly in an underdog babyface role against larger guys such as Rhino, Michael Elgin and Tommaso Ciampa. I’d personally love to see him face Roderick Strong and Eddie Edwards too: those are two matches that I think could be highly enjoyable.

Nic Nemeth – Dolph Ziggler

As with Yoshi Tatsu this is firmly fantasy booking territory because Ziggler has a very safe spot on the WWE roster. His matches against Bryan Danielson and Low Ki (as Daniel Bryan and Kaval respectively) late last year show that he can work enjoyable matches against Ring of Honor guys, but it would be his charisma and verbal skills that would be of most benefit to ROH.

Ziggler has improved drastically over the last few years when it comes to promos, to the point where he would likely be considered the number one talker if he were to join ROH tomorrow (his only real competition would be Corino). While it’s a company that’s never placed microphone skills over in-ring ability it’s undeniable that the ability to cut a passionate, logical promo is an advantage to any modern wrestler. Ziggler would be capable of carrying a feud with anyone in the promotion as far as non-wrestling segments are concerned, and is talented enough to produce great matches with ROH’s existing main event crew. He also knows how to carry himself as a top talent and would be able to elevate guys lower down the card.

Also he’d have to drop the Dolph Ziggler name and could use his superior real life name of Nic Nemeth. That’s a plus point in anyone’s book!

John Hennigan – John Morrison

Fantasy booking or searing insight? We’ll see in a few months when it’s revealed whether or not Morrison is re-signing with WWE.

‘The Monday Night Delight’ has something in common with Shelton Benjamin: both are ultra-athletic workers who have failed to rise above the mid-card scene in WWE due to the feeling that WWE champions should work a more ground-based, punch-kick style. Shawn Michaels, Rey Mysterio and Jeff Hardy may have made it to the top with styles comparable to Morrison’s but they made it based on their charisma as much as their wrestling skills.

In Ring of Honor Morrison would be not be hindered by his lack of verbal skills and would be permitted to get on with what he’s good at: working exciting matches with men of all experience levels. If he reverted to being a narcissistic heel, complete with elaborate robes and sparkly tights, he would have a gimmick different to anyone else on the roster and be effective as a top heel. JoMo would be more than capable of carrying his weight in top line feuds against the Strongs, Edwards and Richards of the company, aand perhaps the world would finally get the Shelton Benjamin v John Morrison match that does both men justice.

Is it likely we’ll see these five men in Ring of Honor in the near future? No. Even seeing one of them there would seem unlikely at this point. But it’s not impossible to imagine we’ll see Tatsu and Rotunda there at some point in the future. It’s even possible Morrison will elect to leave WWE when his contract expires and turn down the inevitable TNA offer.

Whether it’s one of these men or someone else, Ring of Honor should give a little thought to bringing in one or two former WWE guys to see if they can get a ratings boost and entice more people to buy their next internet-pay-per-view. Signing someone to a six month contract as an experiment seems like a good idea to me.

Monday 17 October 2011

Leg Drops and Ankle Locks

Bound For Glory was yet another wasted opportunity. Bobby Roode should have dethroned Kurt Angle for the TNA world heavyweight championship. Instead TNA booked a screwy finish in which Roode broke the count by grabbing the ropes without the referee seeing. Meanwhile the semi-main event saw Hulk Hogan job to Sting and then save him from a post-match beat down from his Immortal teammates. ‘The Hulkster’ cemented his face turn by lamping Eric Bischoff.

Hogan making the save was an absolute waste of time. Not only did it render the months-long feud between the two veterans/dinosaurs pointless, it also deprived a young babyface the chance of rising up the ranks.

It would have been easy to book Hogan to try and save ‘The Insane Icon’ only to be bettered by Immortal’s superior numbers before a young babyface came out to even the odds and send the heels packing. But that would have deprived Hogan of the opportunity to get himself over, so it didn’t happen. Had someone other than Hogan and Sting been elevated there would have been some sort of reason for the match happening.

Presumably Hogan will now join forces with Sting to feud with Immortal. Great. Two fifty-somethings battling washed-up WWE stars and tattooed jobbers. What a lead feud that’s going to be!

While you could be forgiven for thinking that TNA’s lead heel is Eric Bischoff (he was treated as such in that post-match angle after all) that spot is actually inhabited by world champion and Immortal member Kurt Angle. With the Olympian having retained the gold against Roode and Hogan looking like he’s headed into a feud with the faction what are the odds that we see Hogan v Angle for the TNA world championship in the near future?

As much as I’d like to see a scenario in which Hogan and Sting endorse a group of young babyfaces (Fourtune would be the best candidates) Hogan’s recent comments regarding Roode make that look unlikely. Instead we’re likely going to get Sting and then Hogan facing Angle on TNA pay-per-views. With Angle still determined to compete at next year’s Olympic Games it’s possible he’ll need to drop the title in the next couple of months. That means there’s a very real chance we could see Hogan as TNA world champion before the year is out.

Should you be interested in a Hogan v Angle match I suggest you check out their clash at WWE King of the Ring 2002. Coming from a time before Angle’s body had fallen to pieces and Hogan had had his hip replaced it’s far superior to anything they’re likely to churn out these days.

That’s not going to stop TNA from booking it though.

Sunday 16 October 2011

Does He Really Know Best?

Could today be the day Bobby Roode wins his first TNA World heavyweight championship and becomes ‘The Man’ in TNA? Many fans hope so. With a match against Kurt Angle, who is still the promotion’s top worker despite his age and shoddy health, in the main event of TNA’s top annual pay-per-view it certainly seems like the perfect time to elevate a new star. Roode has the look, the verbal skills and the in-ring ability to become the top guy.

One man disagrees with that view: Hulk Hogan. In a radio interview given on Thursday (for Sirius Radio) Hogan buried Roode with the following statement:

“Nah, he’s not ready. He’s not the next guy. You know, they might think he is. Dixie Carter might think he is. The whole world might think he is. He’s not the next guy.”

Yep, Hogan indirectly acknowledged there is overwhelming support for Bobby Roode yet dismissed him as being unready. Why? Because, according to Hogan:

“This is much more than being a wrestler, this is crossing barriers, medias, you know media barriers, and entertainment barriers of all kinds. Getting your character down verbally has ninety per cent to do with getting over.”

Crossing media barriers is something a legitimate leading man needs to do for a wrestling promotion these days. It’s what Cena, Austin, Rock and Hogan himself have all done for WWE at one time or another. But the wrestler doesn’t just magically do it: it’s up to the wrestling company in question to help them get that chance in the first place. TNA needs to concentrate on becoming enough of a success that the US media approaches them and asks to feature their stars in papers on radio shows on on TV. For Hogan to insinuate that Roode isn’t capable of making enough of an impact in these areas isn’t just insulting and incorrect, it’s unrealistic too. Right now no star that isn’t already established as a name performer is going to get the chance to create a media career for themselves because nobody in the media cares about Total Nonstop Action Wrestling.

Ironically this is the one area in which ‘The Hulkster’ is still capable of helping. He’s been one of the biggest names in wrestling since the early 80s and as such he can still drum up media coverage whenever he desires. Instead of using that platform to bury anyone who is not a proven draw he should be building up the younger talent such as Bobby Roode, because TNA desperately needs to establish such men as main event talents in order to survive and keep paying Hogan his exorbitant salary.

Hogan himself will clash with Sting at Bound For Glory. Yes, two men with a combined age of 110 will be in the semi main event spot on the show. If their age wasn’t bad enough Hogan has a plastic hip and has stated he won’t take any bumps (he said “won’t” not “can’t”, which you could read something into). That would make booking him to provide simple interference a foolish decision, so naturally TNA has gone one better and booked him in a full match.

When asked about his bout with Sting Hogan confirmed that he won’t plan much out in advance. That’s worrying. Sting is known for needing several spots planned out meticulously in advance and freely admits he usually requires his opponents to carry him. Couple these drawbacks with Hogan’s mobility issues and this match looks set to be one of the most unpleasant debacles of the year. But then unpleasant debacles are a TNA speciality.

There will need to be a lot of stalling, run-ins and other distractions if Hogan v Sting is to be anything approaching bearable. Even then you have to wonder why the match is happening at all. Over a year has been spent hinting at this match. That two part timers  whose prime is decades in the past have warranted such hype for what is almost guaranteed to be an awful match is a colossal slap in the face to everyone else on TNA’s roster. TNA should have focused that time and attention on building up two prospective main event wrestlers (such as Bobby Roode) for a big collision and promoted the match as the clash between two young guys wanting to carry TNA into the future. Two new stars would have been created and Bound For Glory would have had a worthwhile main event.

Sting and Hogan could still have been involved by each championing one of the younger stars. Passing the torch? Putting people over? Giving the rub? All of that stuff that ‘The Hulkster’ and ‘The Stinger’ love to talk about.

The lack of opportunities for younger talent doesn’t just apply to the Hogan v Sting main event. The undercard features Rob Van Dam v Jerry Lynn (two men who’s most famous match against one another occurred in March 1999), AJ Styles v Christopher Daniels (a match that has been done to death by TNA over the last decade), and a bout between Bully Ray (a former WWE wrestler approaching 40) and Mr Anderson (another former WWE guy whom is not over as he was a few months ago). That there are so many older wrestlers and former WWE employees on the card is massively frustrating for viewers and, I imagine, for the wrestlers who aren’t booked on the show.

On a final note, Hogan was asked who he would pick as the next breakout star for TNA, the man the company should be getting behind and centring all its hottest angles on. Want to know what his reply was?

“If I had to bet money on anybody, and really be serious about betting money on anybody, I’d say Jeff Hardy’s the next guy if he keeps his act together. Well, I think he’s got a lot of shine to him. I mean he just doesn’t have five star matches, he shines outside the ring. He walks through the mall and people know who he is. He’s got a look, he’s got an air about him. He’s got the It Factor. That’s what you gotta have, man.”

Jeff Hardy, who has held both WWE’s world titles as well as TNA’s, is Hogan’s pick for the next breakout star. That Hogan still considers Jeff Hardy as someone who’s capable of breaking out of the pack rather than the bona fide main event talent he’s been for several years (when he can be bothered) says a lot about his view on the process of elevating talent. If someone like Jeff Hardy is still being thought of as a young prospect the true undercard talent in TNA stand no chance of progressing.

If I were Bobby Roode I’d be on the phone to Johnny Ace trying to negotiate a deal for Beer Money Inc. to move to FCW.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

That RAW Recap 10.10.11

October 10th was the one year anniversary of the culmination of TNA’s awful They storyline. It will also go down in wrestling history as the night John ‘Johnny Ace’ Laurinaitis was finally given the on-screen promotion he’s clearly been scheming for for the last several months. It may have been an incredibly enjoyable development but it was also one that made sense and was executed well. Sometimes you don’t need surprises in wrestling, you just need things to make sense. Arguably one of the times when things need to make sense the most is in storylines focusing on fictional political wrangling concerning who’s in charge.

After twenty minutes of promos from Triple H, Sheamus, John Cena and CM Punk (during which we were told the rest of the contracted WWE employees were in the car park (but weren’t told who was working the camera and cueing up entrance music)) the first match of the show started between Sheamus and John Cena, with Punk on commentary and timekeeper duty and ‘The Game’ functioning as ref.

Viewers got to see about two minutes of this match before Vince McMahon made a surprise appearance to cut another lengthy promo, in which he stated that the Board of Directors couldn’t keep Triple H in the role of COO if it meant wrestlers walking out and that they’d decided to replace him with an “interim General Manager”. That IGM was Johnny Ace.

Why the Board had opted to replace the COO with a General Manager of RAW and the identity of the anonymous RAW GM who hasn’t been heard from in months (and whom Laurinaitis has now presumably replaced) were questions that weren’t answered. It was also unfortunate that there was nobody at commentary to explain how Vince McMahon was still able to stroll out onto RAW despite having been removed from TV a few months ago. It would have been useful had JR been there to state that Vince was just removed as the head of day-to-day operations for WWE and that he was still the Chairman of the Board of Directors. If WWE want to do these power grab storylines they need to make them understandable for people who don’t watch every single week.

Throughout the evening Laurinaitis displayed his trademark lack of charisma in a backstage segment in which he was alleged to be on the phone to his wife, welcomed wrestlers back into the building following their protest, and was threatened by Triple H. He also demonstrated a wonderful misunderstanding of how to successfully deploy the dramatic pause. Promos never were his strong point. But then they didn’t need to be when he was throwing out Ace Crushers and lariats in Japan.

The main event was briefly CM Punk v Alberto Del Rio but was changed to a tag team match when the interim GM became bored and or drunk on his own power. The opponents? The newly re-signed Awesome Truth.

This was a nice development as it furthers the conspiracy storyline that’s been bubbling under for a while now by clearly showing that Laurinaitis, Miz and Truth were in cahoots. Why else would the fired wrestlers have been in Oklahoma City with their wrestling gear? Why else would Laurinaitis have been so quick to re-sign them to contracts? I think it was a nice twist and allowed RAW to end on a much more dramatic note than if we’d just had Punk v ADR.

Del Rio ended up walking out on Punk, allowing The Awesome Truth to brutalise ‘The Voice of the Voiceless’, resulting in them getting disqualified. That didn’t seem to bother them as they continued beating him down until Triple H made the save. As the faces made a comeback and cleaned house a random shot of Laurinaitis and David Otunga (of all people!) was shown in which the new RAW head honcho made CM Punk and Triple H v The Awesome Truth for Vengeance.

It was also announced that John Cena will face Alberto Del Rio again at Vengeance (“remember what I’ve been saying about elevating new stars?” he asked rhetorically). Hopefully this will be the last singles match between those two for a while because their feud has been far less successful than most people thought it would be. I wouldn’t be surprised if Del Rio is one of the opponents for the Rock and Cena team and Survivor Series. The two should no longer be facing each other after that event.

Elsewhere on the show...

Randy Orton faced off with Mark Henry and looked as though he was finally going to get that (recently) elusive win over him until Intercontinental champion Cody Rhodes interfered. This is good news as it indicates WWE are moving towards an Orton v Rhodes feud which should provide ‘The Viper’ with an opponent who can give him good matches while elevating Rhodes up the card.

Laurinaitis fired Jim Ross for being “a hayseed, redneck, Oklahoman ingrate”. He felt this way because JR walked out on Triple H last week. No reason was given as to why Laurinaitis didn’t feel exactly the same way about everyone else who walked out. I don’t expect one will ever be given. JR will be back on TV sooner or later.

Christian won a brief but enjoyable match against John Morrison, which both wrestled in their street clothes as they’d “only just returned from the strike”. After the match Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger, and Cody Rhodes (he was on double run-in duty) came in and hit their finishers on ‘The Monday Night Delight’. Hopefully this will set up a rematch between Morrison and ‘Captain Charisma’ at Vengeance. I think they could put on a good match if given the time.

Eve and Kelly Kelly beat Rosa and Tamina in a match that meant less than nothing. Beth Phoenix and Natalya were shown watching on a monitor after the match. Looks like Kelly Kelly and Beth Phoenix will scrap again at Vengeance. It’s a shame WWE hasn’t done more to hold on to talented female workers this year, then Beth would have brighter prospects for her future title defences.

David Otunga teamed with Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger (as I’ve said before this team should be known as Zig Swag) in a losing effort to Mason Ryan and Air Boom. This will likely lead to another tag title match at Vengeance. Better that than a singles match between Otunga and Ryan...

In the ring RAW wasn’t a bad show but it was clearly more about advancing the promotion’s lead storylines and feuds before Vengeance. With WWE television coming from Mexico next week it made sense to set up Vengeance earlier than would have been usual because a show heavy on English promos would create a restless crowd south of the border. That said I do think a Del Rio and Punk v Awesome Truth match would have been much better received in Mexico than in Oklahoma. Hopefully WWE have devised another way of making ADR look like a babyface next week, because he’s clearly going to be very popular. Everyone will have to work hard to better this week’s show though. It was a good effort from all involved.

Sunday 9 October 2011

Ki to Success

Homicide returned to Ring of Honor during the closing moments of last year’s Glory By Honor IX. ‘The Notorious 187’ had a staredown with then-world champion Roderick Strong, setting up what looked as though it could be an intense, long-running rivalry.

Sadly that long-running rivalry didn’t materialise. Homicide was kept waiting for a world title shot until February’s 9th Anniversary Show where he lost a forgettable match to Strong.

Since then Homicide has been involved in an uninspiring program with the Embassy. Six months in and it’s still not entirely clear what the dispute is about. It seems to hinge on Prince Nana thinking of Homicide as a commoner. There’s been no indication that there’s more to the feud than that. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: plenty of good Embassy feuds have been based around that simple premise over the years. But with Homicide, a former ROH world champion, involved it does feel a little underwhelming.

 It doesn’t look as if the feud is going to be settled anytime soon so ROH need to find a way to spice things up a bit. The simplest way of doing that would be rehiring Jimmy Rave and Low Ki.

Rave was always a very effective heel for ROH and was at the peak of his career when paired with Prince Nana as ‘The Crown Jewel of the Embassy’. Bringing him back to the promotion would give the faction a figurehead and some legitimate star power. Tommaso Ciampa is good but he’s not ready to play the centrepiece of a heel group, while Rhino is best in his current role of enforcer.

I’m surprised Low Ki hasn’t returned to ROH already. He’s a talented in-ring performer with decent verbal skills who has always been popular with the Ring of Honor fans. He could have exciting matches with existing Embassy members Rhino and Ciampa as well as fellow proposed returnee Rave and is a logical choice for someone to support ‘The Notorious 187’.

The return of these two men would immediately create several new singles matches to keep the Embassy v Homicide feud running, as well as various tag team combinations for TV and house shows.

Not only would bringing these men back help elevate a current mid-card feud into something more meaningful it would help the promotion’s long-term prospects too. The ROH world title scene currently involves only champion Davey Richards and former champions Eddie Edwards and Roderick Strong. Once the Embassy v Rottweilers feud was concluded Homicide, Low Ki and Rave would be a welcome addition to the list of contenders.

The tag ranks would also benefit from these comebacks. Rhino and Ciampa could be placed together as a regular combo and Low Ki and Homicide could reunite as the Rottweilers to go after the tag team championships (before, after or during their individual challenges for the singles gold). Either of those teams would be interesting opponents for Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team and could likely produce something interesting with the Briscoes and Future Shock too.

I’d like the return of these two men to begin with Nana announcing that he has a new star who will debut at the next TV tapings to defeat Homicide. At the tapings the Embassy would come out to cut a promo against Homicide before hyping up the new man. Parade of Charioteers would play and Rave would make his way to the ring, hopefully to his customary intense heat and chants of “die, Jimmy, die.”

Rave would win the match with interference from other Embassy members, prompting Homicide to demand a tag match at Final Battle with Rave and any member of the Embassy he chooses facing Homicide and “a mystery partner.” The feud could continue on videowire updates, at house shows and in TV segments until the December pay-per-view, where Homicide’s mystery partner would naturally be revealed as Low Ki and they would exact revenge with a win over the heels (preferably Rave and Rhino to keep Ciampa’s winning streak intact).

Whether this method for the returns is used or another is devised doesn’t matter, ROH needs to bring these guys back in. It would spice up a fairly tedious feud and give the company some much needed star power while it grooms other acts for top spots. Rave and Low Ki are too good not to use.

Saturday 8 October 2011

Honorary Mentions 01.10.11

The second episode of the new ROH TV show was always going to struggle to better the first. The debut episode had featured the Kings of Wrestling versus Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team (one of the company’s hottest matchups) and the ever impressive Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly beating the underrated Bravado Brothers. No matter how good episode was it was always going to be tough to top the first.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The first episode of the new ROH TV show needed to provide a strong introduction to the ROH product. Those two tag matches were all about action and showed people what they could expect from Ring of Honor.

The October 1st entry would not have been anywhere near as effective as a debut show. The first match pitted Mike Bennett against Jimmy Jacobs, who was accompanied by Steve Corino. It was the standard Bennett affair: a match that featured about three minutes of action but ran for around ten. ‘The Prodigy’ has an impressive look and can talk well (especially by the standards of his ROH contemporaries) but wrestles a very slow sports entertainment style of match. Had this contest been the introductory match for SBG viewers ROH would have made a very bad first impression.

On the plus side there was a nice video package introducing viewers to Mike Bennett and his manager ‘Brutal’ Bob. The gimmick, which was established when Bennett debuted earlier this year, is that Bob put Bennett through a very tough training regime and subjected him to incredibly painful submission holds. The character puts me in mind of Stu Hart with less of a moral conscience.

Bennett’s Hollywood aspirations were also mentioned. This is clearly a gimmick patterned on the career paths of several wrestlers (most notably The Rock) who have left the business to become film stars. We’re supposed to hate Bennett because he’s openly planning to use ROH as a stepping stone to what he considers bigger and better things. The trouble is that his style and character fit ROH so poorly that most fans wouldn’t care if he left to make movies. The heel film star schtick only works if the wrestler in question has had genuine success outside of wrestling and was at one point a popular babyface. Right now Bennett has achieved neither of those things and so the gimmick means little.

There was also an in-ring interview conducted by Jim Cornette with ROH World tag team champions Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin. It was announced that the Briscoes have refused to agree to wrestle the champions again unless the belts are on the line. Haas and Benjamin said they were happy to defend the gold against ‘Dem Boys’ but Cornette said ROH wouldn’t make the match because of Mark and Jay’s heelish antics.

Segments like this are fairly counterproductive. The fans want the match, the champions want the match and the Briscoes want the match, but Cornette won’t make the match. I understand it’s being done to build anticipation for the inevitable championship encounter between the twosomes but it makes Cornette look like an idiot who doesn’t know what he’s doing.

El Generico’s main event TV championship defence against Jay Lethal was predictably great, the only negative aspect being that the title change outcome has been common knowledge for several weeks. The bout was excellent and the crowd were into the action. They became even louder during the final moments of overtime the match was allocated which translated well to the TV audience and made enhanced the match greatly.

Frankly the overtime is something I could have done without. Extra time had also been granted to Eddie Edwards and Roderick Strong in their Death Before Dishonor IX match two weeks before. Two matches getting overtime allocated to them in as many weeks encourages the belief that non-decisions and restarts happen all the time, which they don’t. ROH may think it’s dramatic and shows that they’ll always strive to have a clear winner in their matches (and they’re right, it does), but it kills the drama when done so frequently. Less is more, yes?

The show wasn’t without its faults but overall it was a good show. There were no swerve turns, no run-ins and no lengthy promos about who has booking power, a refreshing change from a US wrestling show. Bring on week three.