Thursday 28 November 2013

That Wrestling Podcast Episode 22

I’ll start with an apology. Due to circumstances beyond our control there’s some pretty irritating background noise on this episode (more so than usual). The conversation can still be heard, it just requires attention.

The topic? It’s another Mount Rushmore discussion. Last time we discussed a hypothetical Rushmore for World Championship Wrestling, which was fairly straightforward because there aren’t a huge number of names that can realistically be suggested. This time we tackle Ring of Honor. It’s harder because ROH has had a larger number of names pass through that can be strongly associated with them.

This leads us on to a tangent about Jimmy Rave and Prince Nana. I reminisce about the period of time when they were the promotion’s top heel act. ROH has arguably never had a more effective bad guy than ‘The Crown Jewel’.

Also featured is a chat about how wrestlers carry championship belts. It’s niche but we manage to get some damn fine chat out of it. And yes, that was supposed to sound Alan Partridge.

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Survivor Series 2013 review

With Survivor Series out of the way for another year WWE are free to begin making plans for TLC, a show they've used as an experiment ground in the last few years, and the number two show of their annual pay-per-view lineup, Royal Rumble. It was clear from the announced card that Survivors is no longer of particular importance. There were good matches on offer but nothing that changed my feeling on the event’s standing in WWE’s eyes.

The evening kicked off with a pre-show battle between Kofi Kingston and The Miz. The "big" news was that 'The Awesome One' had supposedly gone heel the previous Monday on RAW. Despite this developmental he didn't act overtly heelish and won clean. There was a surprise after the match: Kofi gave Miz an unprovoked slap. Whether this indicated a Kofi heel turn was left ambiguous. The following evening's RAW didn't help to clarify things.

The show proper got underway with a Triple H promo. Presumably just to be contrary 'The Game' decided to play the good guy, even though he's the company's number one heel. He even revived his (tired) "Are you ready?" shtick. For the record, Boston, Massachusetts was.

Match one was the traditional ten man elimination tag bout. It was an incredible piece of work. Building logically over its generous runtime it delivered surprises and flurries of excitement, as such it elevated everyone who was involved. Even the Usos looked like they were on the rise coming out of this one (not that the aura lasted).

The first man out was Dean Ambrose, which was a surprise given his standing. But then it's his standing that ensured the surprise had sufficient impact. He was joined in the locker room a few minutes later by Jack Swagger. Gradually the Usos, Cesaro, and Rhodes were whittled away, evening things up with Goldust and Mysterio facing Rollins and Reigns. Contradicting the first law of wrestling logic, that the heel should always be at an advantage, Rollins was the next man out. Which left Reigns in a two-on-one situation against the veterans.
'The Bizarre One' managed to control Reigns for a bit before being blasted and pinned with a spear. Mysterio nipped in and set Reigns up for the 619 but also ended up eating spear, leaving 'The Hound of Justice' as the sole survivor for his team. It was a nice way of getting Reigns’ durability and power over. An early Career Highlight™ for him.

Backstage we saw trouble brewing in The Authority. Which is nothing new, really. They've got to be the most dysfunctional, unsupportive lead heel faction there's ever been. Tripper and Steph told WWE champion Randy Orton that he had to prove he was worthy of being the face of the company. Naturally the champ did not take the news well.

Match two was nothing special. Big E Langston defended his Intercontinental title against former champ Curtis Axel. It mostly struck me as an excuse to get Langston onto the show so fans are more accepting of him when that big push of his rolls around next year. The best part of the segment was a post-match interview in which Langston name dropped Boston two or three times. Obvious cheap pops need to be his new gimmick.

The Divas match was next and was better than I'd expected. But then I hadn't expected much. Natalya and Nikki won it for the Total Team, last eliminating Divas champion AJ Lee when she submitted to the Sharpshooter.

The match will almost certainly be remembered only for the announcers and Lilian Garcia acting as though the girl from Calgary were the sole survivor. Nikki, you see, was busy selling outside the ring and so got overlooked. Michael Cole would correct himself and his colleagues later in the broadcast. That's what you have to do when you get something wrong regarding the girlfriend of the face of the company.

That was followed by more of the comedic shenanigans of Randy Orton (a WWE sitcom webshow waiting to happen). He tried to get Charles Robinson, the referee for his match, to agree to, nudge nudge wink wink, call the match “right down the middle”. Robinson said he'd do what The Authority told him to then flounced off. The foremost thing on my mind as this was going on was the period of time when WCW was pushing Robinson as a top heel act.

A check-in with the show's expert panel, this month comprising Bret Hart, Mick Foley and a snappily dressed Booker T, barely got off the ground before Ryback's music played. This was not a technical glitch, 'The Big Guy' had decided that this was the optimum time for him to storm to the ring and issue an open challenge.

The challenge was accepted by the "returning" Mark Henry. Does an absence of less than two months qualify as a major return? It certainly does in WWE.

For the second time this year 'The World's Strongest Man' flattened (not literally) Ryback on pay-per-view. For a big man match it was good, and I'm not generally a fan of big man versus big man matches. Henners got the popular win with the World's Strongest Slam. WWE should line something interesting up for him for TLC: he got one of the best reactions on the show.

Back up in the skybox the expert panel put over Henry's win as something incredible. Presumably none of them tuned in to WrestleMania. They switched things up and talked about the clash between World champion John Cena and number one contender Alberto Del Rio. They put over ADR's cross armbreaker and discussed, at not inconsiderable length, Cena being in his hometown.

The World Heavyweight championship was on the line next. Del Rio got booed, but not as much as he could have been. The crowd just didn't seem massively into him as a threat to the championship. Which is entirely understandable: he'd lost to Cena, cleanly, a month before. The chances of him regaining the belt here were incredibly slim. Cena got the typically thunderous mixed reaction. This no longer comes as a surprise, even in his hometown.

The match didn't reach the heights of the previous clash at Hell in a Cell. But that had been a particularly good encounter with a less certain outcome. What they gave us here was enjoyable, and benefited from a lively crowd. That, more than anything else, is what Cena brings to his matches.

The finish saw both men attempting to apply their signature holds, with varying degrees of success. Eventually Cena (smoothly by his standards) slipped through a cross armbreaker attempt and slapped on the STF in the middle of the ring. 'The Essence of Excellence' took a rare tap out loss. Such is the power of Cena's loosely applied STF.

A comedy segment in the back, notable only for the return of John Laurinaitis, was followed by the Wyatt Family taking on CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. Bray Wyatt started things off with a short promo before he led his men to the ring. He'd seen in his dreams that the former WWE champions were tough but he still felt they should run. That was the gist.

The match was laid out to present Rowan and Harper as the more experienced team. Punk and Bryan weren't made to look like rookies, more guys unfamiliar with teaming who were drawing more on their work and success as singles wrestlers. It's how situations like these (two big singles stars facing guys lower down the pecking order who team regularly) should be booked. All the moves you'd expect got used, including Luke Harper's wonderful Gator Roll. That wasn't enough to get him and his partner a win though: Rowan was eliminated from proceedings with Bryan's running knee as Punk ducked a clothesline and scooped up Harper for the match-winning GTS.

After a tense stand-off the Wyatt boys retreated, leaving Punk and Bryan to celebrate their victory in the ring. Naturally the crowd were into that.

The final backstage segment of the night once again featured ‘The Apex Predator’. He walked into The Authority’s office to find them watching Cena getting his arm iced. The WHC assured the bosses he’d be fine for RAW and then left. Feeling jealous (because that’s what heels do) Orty asked what Cena had been doing with The Authority. Nobody answered so he stormed out of the room.

A video package recapped Big Show’s treatment at the hands of The Authority over the last few months. His firing, “multi-million dollar” lawsuit, and rehiring were all covered. The video did a particularly good job of covering why Big Show versus Randy Orton was actually happening, something I imagine a few people needed reminding of because it’s so uninspiring. It ended with the shot of Show slamming Orton through a table and Triple H saying that his treatment of the roster was all about, all together now, what was best for business.

As they had for much of the night, the crowd sang along with Big Show’s entrance music as he wandered to the ring. That’s something I desperately want to catch on with relation to Show, his music’s well suited to it. Orton’s entrance was less welcome: he was initially booed but the crowd had simmered down even by the time he’d reached the top of the ramp.

The two could not hope to better the evening’s previous action. The other world title match, the opener, and the Punk and Bryan tag match were all superior. By WWE PPV main event standards they didn’t get much time, and they spent a minute or so of it on Orton stalling at ringside at the start. When he entered the ring Orty got bounced around by his gargantuan challenger until he took control with, of all things, a drop kick. Moments later members of the audience broke into chants of “Randy’s dreadful!” and “Boring!”

Back on offence ‘The Giant’ smashed Orton into steels stairs and barriers at ringside, then went to climb to the top rope. As Show never does that it was clear from the start that it was a setup for Orton’s Draping DDT… which they botched when Orton pulled Show too far out of the corner and the big man was unable to support his own weight, resulting in him slumping down onto his feet to take a completely normal DDT.

The crowd reacted to a choke slam, but didn’t care about the subsequent cover. They knew Orton was going to kick out. Charles Robinson took a bump seconds after that, allowing Orton and Show to brawl at ringside well after the ten count. That excursion ended with a KO punch. The assumption over at the commentary desk was that this had won the match for Big Show. We’ll never know though, because he got distracted by Triple H’s music.

‘The Cerebral Assassin’ and Stephanie, with Kane looming behind them, stood in the aisle as Show shook his fist at them like a character in a seventies sitcom before turning round into an RKO. That was followed by ‘The Viper’s’ rarely seen punt kick, which give him the victory at just over the eleven minute mark.

Orton clutched his championship belt to him as The Authority sauntered to the ring clapping his efforts. Then, randomly, John Cena’s music hit and he walked down to the ring. He stopped to pose in between the McMahons, then slipped into the ring and pointed at his own shirt (which read “Even Stronger”) before posing some more. Orton seethed. Then they took it in turns to hold their titles up until the show went off the air.

If you’ve seen RAW you’ll know that this was done to set up a championship versus championship match between Orton and Cena at TLC. I’ll be posting thought on that separately (it’s a pretty big topic, after all) but my initial feeling is that this could be the start of a long term plan to turn Cena heel. It’s not likely but his interactions with The Authority gel nicely with the idea.

Survivor Series was not, on the whole, a bad show. The main event was a letdown but it was always going to be, and WWE at least had the sense and good grace to keep it short and fill it with brawling and other shortcuts. Outside of that everything else was either inoffensive or somewhere on the goodness scale. When it comes to WWE pay-per-views not named Royal Rumble, Money in the Bank or WrestleMania that’s about the best you can realistically hope for.

The American Pitbulls

The saga of Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards continues!

Until recently the last major piece of news regarding the move of the American Wolves from ring of Honor to WWE was that they’d attended a tryout weekend at the Florida training facility in September. They’d returned to ROH after that. There was talk of them being offered developmental contracts but they kept being announced for shows with ROH. There was nothing solid to support an argument for or against them joining WWE.

This was until last Thursday. On that day WWE held an NXT taping in their regular haunt of Full Sail University and Richards and Edwards appeared as a tag team. Billed as the American Pitbulls they wrestled NXT tag team champion The Ascension in a non-title match.

The American Pitbulls
Unsurprisingly Richards and Edwards lost the match. Equally unsurprisingly they were given new individual names to go with the collective one. Richards was introduced as John Cahill while Edwards has become Eric Philbin. There’s nothing about either name that screams “larger than life wrestling personality!” but at least the team name has remained solid.

Despite this surprising development the two are still confirmed for Ring of Honor’s Final Battle show on December 14th. Unlikely source Rob Feinstein has stated that this is because they’re being given an extended tryout with WWE. According to him Richards and Edwards (or, if you prefer, Cahill and Philbin) will wrestle at the next several NXT tapings before getting a run on SmackDown. If they can forge a connection with WWE fans during this time then, and only then, will they be offered contracts.

If true it’s an interesting approach from WWE. It’s also one I approve of. Giving wrestlers a chance to prove that they can fit into the WWE system is a better approach than just having them strut their stuff in front of company personnel. Getting over takes time. Working on NXT and SmackDown gives these guys, and any who follow them, the chance to create a following and an argument for being signed by WWE. It lets them prove they know how to do more than just have an exciting match.

Can Richards and Edwards get over, that’s the question. They managed to make it to the top of ROH together, but that’s a very different company to WWE. Fans of ROH appreciate lengthy, hard-hitting matches above anything else. They like a wrestler to have some charisma to them, but it’s not a prerequisite for success.

WWE fans, at least those who aren’t actively seeking out other forms of wrestling, are most concerned with characters. If a guy can wrestle well that’s great, but ultimately all someone needs is the conditioning to work a long match when required and a number of signature and finishing moves to slot into their matches.

So the question of success in WWE for the Wolves (or the Pitbulls) is less about their talent and more about whether they understand the key differences between the company they’ll be trying out for and the one for which they’ve spent the majority of the careers working. Both have been in wrestling long enough to know this sort of thing, and even if they had somehow convinced themselves they needed to concentrate on work rate they have friends in WWE (both road agents and members of the active roster) who would advise them otherwise.

Neither is known for their personality but I think they have enough in them to make an impression if they’re given the chance. They’re both worthy of WWE contracts and keeping them together as a unit would be the best (for business) move. I’m interested to see how they looked when facing O’Brian and Victor. And I’ll be looking forward to their matches against the likes of Wyatt Family and the Prime Time Players on SmackDown. If they have good matches against these sorts of guys they’ll deserve contracts.

Monday 25 November 2013

Wrestling's Most Contentious Phrase

Best in the world. That utterly subjective term was once a boast favoured by Ring of Honor competitors, a trend started by Bryan Danielson. In 2011 it was claimed by CM Punk, during his famed worked shoot promo on June 27th 2011, and has been repeated so often that some now genuinely believe it to be true without analysing Punk's work. Others treat it as a hollow moniker. It's even reached the point that the term has been pilfered by Paul Heyman for reasons comedic and heat-garnering.

This man is not the best in the world
I've written before that I don't believe Punk is the best in WWE, let alone the world. My opinion has not changed. Punk is a talented wrestler and gifted promo man, no doubt, but better than everyone else involved in the wrestling business he is not.

In order to be the best he needs to be without peer. That's not the case. Within WWE he is outclassed as a technical wrestler by Daniel Bryan. In theory that shouldn't be too much of a problem because the company's house style of main event is brawling based.

Unfortunately the boast is shown to be even more of a lie there. When it comes to WWE's style of brawling Punk is bettered by Cena and Orton, and arguably others like Sheamus and Big Show. And that's me (generously, I feel) omitting part-timers Triple H, Undertaker and Rock. All of these men construct better matches working that style and, more importantly, get better reactions from the crowd doing it.

On the microphone Punk fairs better. He comfortably outclasses practically everyone else in the company. The only men regularly appearing on WWE television that are comparable to Punk with a mic in hand are John Cena and Paul Heyman. ‘The Second City Saint’ can even, just about, outdo master orator Triple H.

Verbal prowess is his top strength but the fact that he isn’t decisively better than Cena and Heyman means he cannot claim to be the best in this regard. The best would clearly be the number one guy at everything related to being an active wrestler, including delivering promos.

Can a man outclassed or equalled in every aspect of his profession stake a legitimate claim to being the best? Not to my mind. Within WWE there are arguments for Bryan, Cena and Heyman being better in some areas than Punk. Even as an all-round talent it could be said Cena and Bryan are better. Some, though not me, would even likely throw Orton’s name in there.

Nor is this man
Cena is underrated as from an in-ring standpoint because he so frequently overlooks basics. This is not to say that he cannot produce an excellent match when the need arises. Equally Bryan is a better promo man than he’s given credit for. Just because he’s fallen into the shadow of a one word rally doesn’t mean he’s incapable of giving a reasoned, compelling verbal performance. He is and has been for a while now.

On a global scale many routinely state that Hiroshi Tanahashi is the best wrestler in the world. Naturally I can’t judge his promos but as far as match quality is concerned I’d say he’s better than Punk. Kazuchika Okada is another man who receives similar praise, again understandably. Meanwhile the champ without a promotion AJ Styles has a loyal following that say he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. Promos certainly aren’t his strong point, but he has managed to produce passable ones in the past, when he’s got something meaningful to say and he’s been prepped on how to say it. He wouldn’t be in my list of all-rounders but the fact that so many others would disagree means he would crop up in a legitimate discussion of who the best in the world actually is.

Which brings me back to my earlier point: it’s a subjective term. CM Punk has no more claim to the moniker than anyone else I’ve mentioned here. Wrestling is an art form and as such greatness is in the eye of the beholder. One man’s greatest is another man’s worst. Punk is one of the best in the world but the best? No. Bear this in mind next time you go to refer to him as such.

Sunday 24 November 2013

Fantasy Booker: John Cena v Alberto Del Rio

Hell in a Cell saw John Cena come back months earlier than originally expected from an elbow injury. On the show he faced World Heavyweight champion and proud Mexican Alberto Del Rio, and beat him. Cena became the World champ essentially out of nowhere.

I predicted ADR would leave with the title. With hindsight this was obviously never going to happen, although in my defence I noted that ‘The Essence of Excellence’ would win via cheating or on some daft technicality. I was being optimistic. I do that sometimes.

Like I say, a win for Cena was obvious. This is the man who, since 2005, has consistently been booked as a winner, someone fans can rely on to pull out the win when the chips are down. It’s okay for him to lose to the likes of The Rock in these “guaranteed victory” situations, but guys on ADR’s level are not privy to winning matches against the megastar.

Just out of shot is a really funny sign
It’s this reliability that has kept Cena on top for so long. A portion of the audience continues to support him because he has proven he won’t let them down. A guy in Cena’s position can only lose so many times before they lose their shine and start to look like everyone else.

Had things happened differently WWE could have created some compelling television.

Imagine if Cena had come back to face Del Rio, with the match receiving the same video package and build-up, along with the same promos and initial reaction from the champion, and had lost. Other than Del Rio going down to a single AA the match was fine as it was. They could have done exactly the same stuff but tweaked to have Cena selling his injured arm far more. An altered finishing sequence of Del Rio applying the cross armbreaker again and again, with Cena continually escaping but becoming increasingly fatigued before finally having nothing left and the referee stopping the match, could have been very effective.

This would have put over Del Rio’s finisher as one of the most fearsome WWE has ever known and allowed him to brag on the following evening’s RAW. It would have been a great source of material for the arrogant ADR.

Meanwhile Cena would have been granted another few weeks off to heal and created interest in a rematch with Del Rio. Plus, as an added bonus, Cena’s detractors would have seen him putting someone over cleanly. He could have returned after a couple of weeks off selling the injury to admit that Del Rio to set up a rematch. The attacks and verbal showdowns we’ve seen would have had far more impact to them had Del Rio still been carrying the gold and had a recent victory over ‘The CeNation Leader’ to boast of.

The Survivor Series rematch would be getting looked at differently if the above had happened. I’m sure Cena would still be the heavy favourite but the outcome wouldn’t seem quite so clear. They’d be able to tell an interesting story about Cena desperately trying to protect his still tender arm and avoiding the cross armbreaker at all costs with Del Rio determined to go two in a row over the company’s top star. In this situation the first successful application of the armbreaker would get a huge reaction.

Another positive approach to taking this approach would have been making Survivor Series feel like a bigger deal. Any time a WWE pay-per-view, particularly one traditionally viewed as a big deal, can be given such a boost it should be.

This was obviously never going to happen, of course. Cena is simply not booked to make stars and Del Rio is not someone company bosses consider in need of an increased push. That this fairly simplistic set of circumstances seem so incongruent with the current WWE approach is a large part of the reason why the promotion’s in the shape it’s in.

That Wrestling Podcast Episode 21

Putting things up that are a little out of date is nothing new for this podcast. But it’s never been this bad. In the first several minutes you’ll hear us discussing Dixie Carter’s “recent” heel turn and how we think it’s going to go. I could have tried editing this out but, well, I’m lazy and I think it’s interesting enough (in so far as anything on this podcast is interesting) to stay in. It provides an insight into what Michael and I expected from TNA a month or to ago and where they’ve gone in that time.

Oh, and we also talk about Rey Mysterio’s potential comeback! I wonder how that will turn out…

The reason this happened is that this is a Breaking Out episode. Breaking Out? Yes, that’s the name we selected for those episodes where we discuss how far wrestlers can rise up their respective roster’s totem of standing1. The company in question in today’s episode is WWE. The wrestlers we discuss are Sin Cara, Wade Barrett, and Christian.

Plus, there’s a substantial tangents about the popularity of William Regal’s popularity in Britain and how WWE could (dare I say should?) go about creating their next masked character. These tangents are arguably more interesting than the episode’s main focus, so I’d recommend listening out for them.


1 The phrase “totem of standing” is included for no other reason than that I like it. It doesn’t sit right, I know that. I also don’t care.

Saturday 23 November 2013

A Year of Belief

This weekend's Survivor Series marks one year of The Shield. Well, sort of. The trio debuted at the 2012 edition of the event and the anniversary for that was actually on Monday. The Survivor Series event feels like the more natural time to mention their first year on the roster though, even if it's not entirely accurate.

Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose had a remarkable first few months on the roster. They started off strong by sharing screen time with John Cena, CM Punk and Ryback. The first two were the company's biggest names and at that point 'The Big Guy' looked like he was going to amount to something.

Their in-ring debut match came at the TLC pay-per-view in a winning effort against Team Hell No and Rybers, which was big for several reasons. Not only were the trio winning their first match but it was happening on pay-per-view against the de facto number two face and the tag team champions, who were one of the most popular acts in the company. It was a big vote of confidence from WWE and set them up as a dominant force. It gave the three men the chance to win fans over and that’s exactly what they did.

Outside of the kayfabe world of wins and losses The Shield were helped in other ways. JBL came up with the evocative 'Hounds of Justice' moniker, which has stuck and been embraced by fans and the group themselves. They were given the enigmatic crowd entrance routine, which had lain dormant long enough to feel fresh and special. And they got ring gear which helped them stand out. The protective vests and army boots combo has given The Shield an identity and contributed to them creating a connection with fans.

As 2013 began they involved themselves with The Rock at Royal Rumble (never a bad way to get guys over) and won six man tag matches, one of which saw them opposite the ring from megastar John Cena, at Elimination Chamber and WrestleMania XXIX. The April 22nd RAW saw them defeat The Undertaker, Kane, and Daniel Bryan and the following week they dropped Team Hell No and Cena. They would remain undefeated in six man outings until May 13th, when they lost by DQ to Cena and Team Hell No.

These three would tear it up in the King of Trios
The important thing to take away from these various six man tag mentions is that there were no bad performances amongst them. The Shield established themselves as guys who could face any three guys on the roster and have a great match. Their winning helped but it was the high quality that caused fans to take them seriously and therefore view them as stars.

The spring and summer saw the trio succeeding in areas other than multi-man bouts. Ambrose had a very enjoyable singles debut on the April 26th SmackDown in which he lost to The Undertaker by disqualification. At Extreme Rules he dethroned US champion Kofi Kingston (and still holds the championship now). And when Money in the Bank rolled around in July it was Ambrose who represented his gang in the battle for the blue briefcase.

With treatment like this it's no wonder Ambrose was and is viewed as the group's leader (although to the best of my knowledge this has never been stated as the case by The Shield themselves). WWE have indirectly acknowledged he's the best of the bunch by making him the member who most frequently wrestles solo. His status as the group's main promo man has furthered the image.

This is not to say that Rollins and Reigns have been left in Ambrose's shadow. The pair unseated Team Hell No in an exciting tussle at Payback and won a sort-of-rematch with Bryan and Randy Orton at Payback. While they were relegated to the pre-show to tangle with the Uso brothers at Money in the Bank they did sneak in a run-in on the main stage. And the battle they had with Jimmy and Jey was enjoyable.

The autumn months saw them do some of their finest work as far as making the tag team titles mean something is concerned. At Night of Champions they downed the popular Prime Time Players in what was probably the finest match of the latters’ collective career. Battleground saw them lose a non-title bout, a pre-cursor to their championship-losing effort a week later on Monday Night RAW. They’d carried the belts with pride and given us such worthwhile matches that the belts changing hands meant something.

On top of all of this the three were routinely drafted in to tangle with various popular faces, most often Daniel Bryan, throughout the year. This role has become particularly prevalent since they were promoted on-screen security for the McMahons. Matches such as Ambrose v Daniel Bryan from the September 9th RAW, Reigns v Bryan on September 16th, Rollins v Goldust on the October 23rd Main Event are all particularly enjoyable, and the three had a cracking showing in a gauntlet match against Bryan on August 26th. The trio have done excellent work establishing themselves as exciting wrestlers with bright futures who produce great work no matter who they're facing.

The popular question seems to be what's in the future of Rollins, Ambrose and Reigns. I can imagine all three will crack the main event at some point because they're all talented enough. Reigns, though currently fine as a heel, seems like a natural WWE babyface. He's good looking and has a large physique. That's what the promotion looks for. I can imagine him working well as a good guy.

Ambrose is one of the most natural heels WWE has. His sneering face and jerky, eccentric body language are made for the role. What really cements it is his promos. Ambrose is one of the most effective bad guys on the roster when equipped with a microphone. He'll be invaluable when it comes to furthering stories and encouraging people to rally behind good guys as a solo bad boy.

Of the three Rollins has the most work to do. A year ago he was clearly better in the ring than the hesitant Reigns, but they've become equals across the course of 2013. Not having the kind of look WWE equates it main event status means Rollins will have to rely on wrestling's famed intangible qualities and promos to progress. The latter has never been his strength but he could get better, and I think he's got enough "it factor" to succeed. I just don't think his rise will be as quick as those of his pals but I do think he’ll get to the top.

The success of The Shield in their debut year shows how well audiences can take to newcomers when they're presented correctly. I hope WWE knows and understands what they've achieved and replicates the approach in the future.

Thursday 21 November 2013

That Wrestling Podcast Episode 20

How big a deal was Hiroyoshi Tenzan at his peak?
I’ve already posted a full Survivor Series preview (available here) but I thought it would be a nice topic to discuss on a podcast episode. Want to know who Michael thinks is going to leave Survivor Series as WWE champion? What we think will be the best match? You can find out here, but if these are things that have been keeping you up at night you probably need to get out more.

Also discussed are the Twitter activities of Hiroshi Tanahashi and SHINGO, Hiroyoshi Tenzan’s popularity, and Ryback versus Big Show. There are, as always, various other tangents to discover, but I’ll leave those to be discovered.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Survivor Series 2013 preview

Survivor Series used to be considered one of WWE’s Big Four shows. It’s difficult to say when it lost the spot. It could have been when the In Your House project began in 1995. It might have been at the 1998 edition when the elimination tag matches, the show’s original “USP”, were replaced by an unwieldy tournament to crown a new WWF champion. It may even have been as early as 1993 when King of the Ring was upgraded to pay-per-view status. Or perhaps the event’s image simply never recovered from the events of the 1997 edition.

Ultimately it doesn’t really matter. Survivor Series is an event passed its best, with a format that most are either not interested in or actively dislike.

I think there’s potential left in the ten (or eight, “tradition” varies) man elimination tag matches .It would take very little effort from WWE to create feuds amongst its mid-carders, making a reason to book one of the multi-man matches. It’s not the most wonderful format in the world but it could be used to create some interesting scenarios, much as the Royal Rumble still can.

This year’s event is not likely to be the one that sees the beginning of a new trend in this area. There are two traditional Survivors matches. The first is a stacked affair pitting Kaitlyn, Alicia Fox, Rosa Mendes, Aksana, Summer Rae, Tamina and Divas champion AJ Lee against The Funkadactyls, The Bella Twins (get on board the Bella Babyface Express), Eva Marie, JoJo and Natalya. The second will see The Shield and The Real Americans take on The Usos, Cody Rhodes, Goldust and Rey Mysterio.

Let’s deal with the Divas first. Eagle-eyed readers will have spotted that the match will see besties-turned-rivals Kaitlyn and AJ Lee on the same team. This could have meant something if WWE had put some effort in. In fact it’s exactly the sort of thing I was talking about above. That this match is simply a case of cramming every woman on the roster into a match and splitting them into Total Divas stars and non-Total Divas stars shows just how little effort WWE puts into the middle of the card. This attitude is nothing new, but it’s still depressing.

The ladies have so many people in their match that’s it’s unlikely anyone will get to have a standout performance. The best booking idea would be to have Tamina dominate everyone on the Total Divas team without needing to tag out. That would keep the running time of the match low (and you know that’s going to be an issue with this match) and make Ms Snuka look fearsome. I can’t see it happening though. We’ll get a more traditional approach.

The other traditional match could be considered promising thanks to the involvement of a variety of hot acts. Cody Rhodes and Goldust are, as has been noted on this blog before, a massively popular team. I wouldn’t be surprised to see either or both of them get a lengthy showing and possibly even survive until the end. Swagger is the weak link on his team but in truth he’s not that bad. He’s simply overshadowed by everyone around him (and I’m including Zeb Colter in that).

The Usos are, unfortunately, non-entities. They get decent reactions when they enter but audiences seem to switch off during their matches. They’re not bad or boring but they are bland. Perhaps they’ll enjoy a boost in popularity thanks to the affiliations they’ll enjoy in this match. Don’t get your hopes up though: these affiliations have been going on surreptitiously for a while now and they’ve had no effect yet.

Then there’s Rey Mysterio. This is the man who’s missed huge chunks of the last two and a half years to various nagging injuries and phantom personal probs. ‘Mr 619’ stated before this most recent comeback that he wanted to prove he was better than he’s ever been and have the greatest run of his career. Rey is not only banged up after two decades of wrestling but he’s accomplished an awful lot previously. I can’t see him equalling the in-ring height of his WCW cruiserweight division heyday, recapturing imaginations as he did when he made his WWE debut, or scaling the card to become a regular in the main event picture again (he’s become too unreliable for that). I can’t see this becoming the defining run of his career.

The men’s match has several people that could stand out. I’ve already mentioned Cody and Goldy getting the star-making treatment. I could also see Rey being given time to enter a gutsy performance against long odds as a way of ham-fistedly reminding everyone that he’s an underdog that gets the job done. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Roman Reigns given the one against many shtick either: it would give him a Career Moment™ and test him out in a role where he’s not obviously a monstrous, roaring heel. I could also see it being given to Cesaro: a dominant showing here could be used to set him up as an opponent for John Cena at TLC. At the very least I can see a sequence where he performs the Big Swing on several guys in a row, or perhaps on two men at the same time.

Predicting winners for these sorts of matches is tricky because there are so many things that can happen. As far as winning teams go I’ll select the Total Divas in the ladies’ match, with Nikki, Brie, or both being among the survivors, and the heels in the guys’ match. The women’s match is inconsequential so it doesn’t really matter who wins and I think we’ll see Colter and co win their match because it allows for challengers to be set up for the tag team championship, along with possibly prepping ‘The Swiss Superman’ for something.

Meanwhile, in the main event, eight time WWE champion Randal Keith Orton will defend against former two time champion Big Show. The match itself is not that peculiar. Show and Orton have both been on the roster for a long time and have wrestled each other many times before. Their exchanges have never been spectacular or noteworthy, they’re just the sort of thing that crop up in a company like WWE from time to time.

What is peculiar is how the match came about. Big Show was drafted into the feud between The Authority (not the Warren Ellis-created supergroup, the McMahon family heel stable, obvs) as a bit part player, playing a reluctant enforcer and being humiliated by Stephanie. His role grew in prominence, seemingly by happy accident, thanks to the positive reaction of crowds around the US.

The cynic in me feels that he may have been given every chance to succeed. Having him make the save for Daniel Bryan and being presented as an incredibly sympathetic figure week after week gave him every chance to overshadow the man fans really wanted to see in main events. I got the feeling that the writing crew weren’t fully committed to Bryan, but ultimately I think that’s unfair: Bryan headlined four straight shows, won the WWE championship twice, was presented as the biggest star in the company, and has been moved into a prominent role with a hot act during WWE’s quiet months. He had his time on top and is being given a well-timed cooling off period to prevent audiences becoming bored of him.

Big Show v ‘The Viper’ is unlikely to be the best match on the card but I don’t think it’s going to be bad. Usually I’d be remarking that Show is the man likely to hold a match down but here I don’t think that’s the case: he’s been very reliable throughout the year (and for much of last year too). It’s ‘The Apex Predator’s’ involvement that concerns me. The guy’s practically a charisma vacuum. He has little real heat and hasn’t put on a truly excellent match with someone of lesser ability than him (which Show, technically, is) for a long time.

I’ll be surprised if ‘The Giant’ wins the championship. Popular as he is I don’t think WWE are interested in taking the championship off of Orton. Now that he’s finished with Bryan I think he’s going to be champion until Royal Rumble at the earliest.

The John Cena v Alberto Del Rio World Heavyweight championship rematch is viewed by most as predictable. I find it hard to disagree. Cena losing the title back to Del Rio after only four weeks just doesn’t seem like something that will happen. Beyond keeping the feud alive it would serve no purpose, and the feud can be kept alive without it.

It’s tough to know what’s coming up for both men after SS. Their feud could continue until TLC although that’s unlikely. Cena won the first match of the programme clean and so Del Rio would need to in the second, either clean or by disqualification, to set up a third. That doesn’t seem likely. The rivalry could continue with Damien Sandow added to proceedings, but he’s done nothing of note since the week he unsuccessfully cashed in. That failure could have been used as the beginning of a push but the chance has already gone.

The final idea is one I’ve already touched on. That’s to move Cena into a feud with Antonio Cesaro. That would continue the trend of TLC being a show where WWE experiment with new guys in headline spots and would give us something interesting to watch for the next month. It would keep Cena busy into the New Year (because the payoff would probably come in early January) and would give Cesaro a chance to prove his worth. The only bad point is that it would leave ADR without anything obvious to do. Perhaps that’s a price that WWE are willing to pay.

Cena and Del Rio will undoubtedly base the match around Cena’s injured elbow again. That worked well last time and if they can come up with a fresh spin to accompany their proven success story I think they could be one of the highlights of the show. Cena to retain.

The final announced match is CM Punk and Daniel Bryan taking on Erick Rowan and Luke Harper of the Wyatt Family. If there’s one match likelier than the rest to steal the show this is it. Bryan’s popularity may have diminished ever so slightly over the last few months but he remains immensely over. As does Punk, despite a string of below average pay-per-view outings during his much ballyhooed breakup with Paul Heyman.

Erick Rowan is still a bit of an unknown quantity. He’s wrestled few televised singles matches and I’m not at all familiar with the work he apparently did in Japan before heading to NXT. Luke Harper, on the other hand, I think is great. He throws a mean clothesline and has nailed the WWE requirement of selecting an interesting move, the alligator roll, as a match signature.

I think this match will be fun. I’d love to say that Bray’s boys will go over but I don’t expect it to happen. I think they’ll get some close calls but it will ultimately go to the two former WWE champions. I get the feeling that their pairing could be a long term thing or the start of a lengthy storyline so giving them a loss on their first pay-per-view  together would be peculiar.

All this and there are still plenty of names left without announced matches. Dolph Ziggler and Damien Sandow are the obvious names to mention because they have, at one time or another, been on the cusp of big things this year. Their standings have taken a tumble but with space left on the card they’re both still prime candidates to make “unscheduled” appearances.

While they’re not quite on the same level as ‘The Show Off’ and ‘The Duke of Decency’ 3MB have consistently grabbed screen time over the last couple of months. Their recent gimmick of changing their ring attire and altering their name (The Union Jacks and The Rhinestone Cowboys) has been amusing and they seem like ideal candidates for a filler Survival match. As do Los Matadores. R-Truth and his newly introduced partner Xavier Woods, Ryback, Curtis Axel and new Intercontinental champion Big E Langston. Some or all could be chucked into a ten man tag match or they could be spread out across a few singles matches. I’m convinced we’ll see some of these guys wrestling.

Survivor Series does not look like the most appealing WWE pay-per-view of the year. But it does have some pretty stiff competition in that area, and nothing about it makes me think it will be dreadful. If the show is used as a means of making guys like Rhodes, Harper, Reigns, Cesaro and Big E look like stars I think it’ll be on the right track.

Predictions summar:
Randy Orton to defeat Big Show
John Cena to defeat Alberto Del Rio
CM Punk and Daniel Bryan to defeat The Wyatt Family
The Real Americans and The Shield to outlast Cody Rhodes, Goldust, The Usos, and Rey Mysterio
Team Bella to outlast Team AJ Lee
The Miz to defeat Kofi Kingston

Monday 18 November 2013

Corporate Kane

The Kane character is not unfamiliar with reinvention. Over the years he’s been many things. He’s been a mute without a childhood, a magical pyromancer, a sympathetic klutz who accidentally murdered someone on his way to a high school prom, and a self-deprecating comedy performer unafraid of breaking the fourth wall to summarise but a few. ‘The Big Red Machine’ is perhaps the most flexible character the company has ever had.

That opening paragraph should tell you what the focus here is. Corporate Kane. The latest reinvention of the character. I’m a fan of it.

A big reason I like it is that we’re not seeing Glenn Jacobs in a corporate setting, it’s still very much Kane. Jacobs still carries himself like he’s dressed in the black and red singlet, still possesses, exploits even, the intimidating demeanour, and still uses the Kane character’s inflections when he speaks. Plus he’s still being billed as Kane, an incredibly gimmicky name for a completely ungimmicky-looking individual (although see below for more on the look).

What’s so fun about this is that Kane has for years been presented as a psychotic monster. What we’re seeing is a mentally unstable character put into a suit and functioning perfectly normally. It’s good because it shouldn’t work and because it says interesting things about Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, Brad Maddox and every other on-screen suit-wearing regular: Kane seems just as well-adjusted as them.

Another reason it works is that Glenn Jacobs has a wonderfully expressive face. He can, as I’ve already mentioned, intimidate, but he’s equally skilled at playing the straight man to a guy like Maddox. There’s something a little Ron Perlman or Ed O’Neill to the performance.

How can you NOT love this?
Losing his trademark red and black singlet could easily have ruined Kane. In WWE a suit is about as generic as it gets (unless you’re the sartorially elegant Vince McMahon or Mark ‘Salmon Pink Jacket’ Henry). Jacobs, and presumably the WWE wardrobe team, have made lovely little touches that play into the Kane character and stop him becoming “just a guy in a suit”. Look no further than the black and red colour coding and the delightful flame-shaped pocket square.

I’m hoping that we eventually see Kane wrestle in these suits. It would show a disregard for convention that has been one of the character’s trademarks and create some interesting and memorable visuals. If any WWE character, past or present, could make wrestling in a suit work, it’s Kane.

This is another triumphant reinvention for a character that was originally thought to have a lifespan of only around six months. Glenn Jacobs continues to make WWE an interesting place. Good on ‘im.

Sunday 17 November 2013

That Wrestling Podcast Episode 19

There's so much magic in this picture
We all know what Mount Rushmore is. We’ve all heard reference, at various points and from various sources, to a hypothetical wrestling Mount Rushmore. That’s not the topic of today’s episode. Instead we go a little more specific and talk about our hypothetical WCW Mount Rushmore. Talk of WCW naturally brings up the nWo, an entity that arguably has a more celebrated legacy than the promotion that spawned it, and we discuss a New World Order Rushmore too.

Along the way there’s a strong focus on Scott Steiner. Because, really, does anyone ever really need much of an excuse to discuss ‘The Big Bad Booty Daddy’? I’d strongly that no, they don’t.

Saturday 16 November 2013

Mexico's Greatest Export

I’ve not always been the biggest fan of Alberto Del Rio but I’ve really enjoyed his work this year. When he turned babyface at the end of 2012 I wasn’t convinced that it would work, mainly because his character didn’t seem capable of being altered to receive cheers. I was wrong. ADR did manage to garner cheers and made numerous changes to his promo and wrestling style to reflect his new role. Ricardo Rodriguez being such a sympathetic individual helped matters but Del Rio did his share of the work too.

The first half of the year saw ‘The Essence of Excellence’ facing off against Big Show, Jack Swagger, and Dolph Ziggler on pay-per-view. None of those matches were bad. In fact the Big Show matches were, in hindsight, a small triumph considering ‘The Giant’s’ limited mobility and Del Rio’s new and therefore shaky status as a good guy.

The real highlights among those feuds were the exchanges with Ziggler. The two had one of the greatest sub five minute matches ever shown on RAW (and that’s a show that knows it’s way around a five minute match) and two excellent pay-per-view matches at Payback and Money in the Bank. The latter was marred by interference from AJ Lee but the Payback bout, in which they executed a silky smooth double turn, was one of the best WWE efforts of the year. The feud ended far too soon.

Since his recasting as a bad guy Del Rio has continued to do well. His SummerSlam match with Christian was fair but instantly forgettable, although even at the time it was clear that that was just something to keep Del Rio busy before he was split from his personal ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez.

Del Rio versus Rodriguez seemed like the programme that would see both men through to the end of the year. It was easy to imagine Ricardo hooking up with a string of babyfaces and standing in their corner as they opposed the devilish Mexican aristocrat. We saw him get together with Rob Van Dam but that was it. Both Ricardo and ‘Mr Monday Night’ disappeared from television at the same time. Which actually worked out well for Del Rio as it freed him up for a prominent run opposite megastar John Cena.

ADR has been allowed to look surprisingly competitive with Cena. He has been presented as a man without fear of Cena’s imposing status, someone who won’t shrink from facing him and who can present him with a challenge (at least until that AA is busted out). On the November 15th SmackDown he was even got to outsmart and overpower Cena before putting him through a table. This is not a first, but it’s also not treatment just anybody gets. It’s indicative of Del Rio’s high standing on the roster.

This guy's from Mexico...
2013 has seen ADR show that he can work at the top level as either a hero or a villain. He’s produced good or great matches on every pay-per-view of the year and proven to be one of WWE’s most consistent and reliable performers, both in and out of the ring. His promos get to the point and get him genuine boos (that’s worryingly rare in modern WWE), his selling is believable, and his offence, particularly his kicks, is crisply delivered.

His facial expressions, which have always been marvellous, have reached new heights and little touches to his “proud Mexcian hero” gimmick have been added. The little flags that adorn the ring posts during his matches have been one of the neatest additions to a WWE performers act in a long time.

Alberto Del Rio is someone WWE, and its fans, should be very appreciative of. There are few better than him right now.

Friday 15 November 2013

Ryback Rules

WWE have really missed out by not pushing Ryback. This time last year he was the company's hottest star, a status he'd achieved thanks to the rarely seen (probably contributing to its effectiveness) simmering push he'd received. Ryback was popular with fans and seemed like he could become the next major star. But somehow, somewhere, it all went wrong.

I suspect part of the problem could be the head writer changes WWE has experienced this year. Two new guys came and went in quick succession, which it would be fair to assume created instability. In such circumstances the writing team would have relied on the established likes of CM Punk and John Cena for the weekly TV shows. A newcomer like Ryback, not having an established enough character and perhaps being viewed as a pet project of the previous administration, would have been one of the first guys to find themselves shoved casually to one side. The famed McMahon mercuriality wouldn’t have helped his cause either.

Even if this instability is imagined it's certainly true Ryback has been handled incredibly poorly on television. Since WrestleMania he's been senselessly turned heel, gone on a ridiculous pay-per-view losing streak, been booked to play a bully and a coward, and been shunted from one forgettable programme to another with seemingly no long term goals and plans.

The 'Mania turn was the worst offence. It was done to provide WWE champion John Cena with someone to face after Rock's sudden exit from the league. It provided a great moment on the April 8th RAW and 'Big Hungry' was utilised well enough during the feud but once it was over it became clear that WWE didn't know what to do with a heel 'back without being able to put him against Cena.

His feud with Chris Jericho should've seen Ryback built up as an unstoppable killer. The difference in size between the two and 'Y2J's' ability to sell a beating (which isn't extraordinary but is better than most) would have made that approach completely natural. Had Ryback blitzed through 'The Highlight of the Night' at Money in the Bank in a five minute match, countering Jericho's trademark manoeuvres with power moves and feats of strength, he'd have looked like the most dominant heel in the company.

'The Big Guy' could have been big business
At a time when WWE didn't have a clearly defined lead bad guy that would have been the best approach possible. If he had to be bad, and it had been decreed that he did, then the company should've been prepping Ryback for that spot. Obviously the plan at that point was to have Randy Orton turn and become the central villain (on the active roster at any rate, Heyman and Triple H consistently draw greater heat than him) but it wouldn't have hurt to strengthen Ryback before that point. It would have made him more valuable in his role and may even have fooled people into thinking that a heel Ryback versus babyface Daniel Bryan series was being built to. Going to town on a Ryback push over the summer could’ve fooled people into overlooking Orton (which isn’t exactly difficult to begin with).

With the benefit of having watched the bullying character for a few months it seems like a desperate attempt to give Rybers something to do that would keep him on the roster but required little attention or effort beyond a broad characterisation. In under a year he went from being potentially the next big headliner to abusing indy guys inexplicably dressed as catering staff.

It's almost as though WWE deliberately sabotaged the success of Ryback. That's a conspiracy theory that gets bandied about a lot regarding various wrestling stars and it's not one I usually give any credit. Here though it seems like a genuine possibility. It's hard to think of an alternative that explains why someone who was so popular has been bounced around with so little care and thought this year.

You need only look back at his outings at Hell in a Cell and Survivor Series last year for proof that Ryback was hot. The crowd were into him and wanted to see him win. He represented an alternative to Cena and the stagnant main event in general while still being very much a traditional WWE headliner. Had WWE stayed behind him, been more choosey about whom he faced and kept going with the policy of only having him lose due to shenanigans I think he could've been leading man material around now.

We'll never know though. The treatment he's had this year has ruined him. The treatment he’s received can’t be undone. It would be nigh on impossible for even the might of the WWE machine to return Ryback to his former state of popularity at this point. The best we can say about the situation is that it might serve as a lesson to those in charge in how not to handle a popular star in the future.

Thursday 14 November 2013

That Wrestling Podcast Episode 18

Yesterday I posted an article about the release of Kassius Ohno from WWE. As it’s pretty significant news it got discussed during the latest That Wrestling Podcast recording session too. This was recorded on Sunday, so don’t expect any mention of his upcoming matches for CZW, Dragon Gate USA or anywhere else.

How far could Manik (or indeed TJ Perkins) go in WWE?

Also in this episode is the debut of a new recurring segment: Breaking In. It’s similar to the episodes in which we discuss how far current WWE Superstars™ can go in the company but looking at people who work elsewhere and discussing their chances of making it through the WWE system. The debut episode looks at three TNA performers.

Plus some thoughts on general wrestling goings-on, natch.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

The KO Blow

On 9th November (a Saturday for those keeping score) it was announced that Kassius Ohno, real name Chris Spradlin, had been released from his WWE developmental contract. For anyone who’d been following his WWE career it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. There had been rumours going around since the summer that key members of the WWE management team were not happy with his appearance and attitude towards hitting the gym.

Whether these rumours were true or not is impossible to say. What can be stated as cold, hard fact is that Ohno was absent from NXT TV tapings for a couple of months and when he returned the weight he’d lost was noticeable. A case could certainly be made for him being taken off of television until he’d got into better shape.

NXT will suffer without this guy
Ohno’s short term future is already shaping up nicely. He’s already been confirmed for a CZW iPPV and, a little more interestingly, a Dragon Gate USA show. The latter will see him wrestle Open the Freedom Gate champion Johnny Gargano. Assuming his WWE contract is the same as everyone else’s he’ll be precluded from appearing on another wrestling company’s television show for three months. That means appearances in TNA or Ring of Honor are unlikely until around next February and he’ll be appearing for indy companies for the time being.

The Kassius Ohno name is, of course, trademarked (or copyrighted, or whatever) by WWE. So he won’t be using that again. Which is fine. The name Chris Hero holds more cache with wrestling fans anyway. Plus it sounds better.

In the long term I expect we’ll see Spradlin head to either ROH or TNA. The choice he makes will be interesting.

In ROH Hero would be a known quantity who could instantly slot into the top of the card and work against established names, either as a fan fave or as a villain. Fans would be delighted to see him back, he’d be more familiar with the locker room, style, and political situation, and he’d have goals to accomplish despite having worked for the league, on-and-off, from 2005 to 2011. Chris Hero targeting the ROH world championship would be something I’d personally love to see in 2014.

In TNA he’d possibly be able to make more money, although tours of Japan would be hard to work out and those would supplement his income nicely in ROH. It’s possible, thanks to his status as a former WWE guy and indy standout, he’d get a strong push as soon as he debuted. Even if he didn’t he could earn himself one with hard work. He’d have far more goals in TNA than he would in ROH and more fresh opponents to wrestle.

If I had to guess I’d say we’ll see Chris Hero in TNA next year. The company is heading back to Orlando for their TV tapings and Hero’s already based in the area from his stint in NXT. The better money and easier travel would probably appeal, as would the fresh set of goals and roster and the potential to earn decent money. The lack of NOAH tours may be balanced by Wrestle-1 tours, thanks to TNA’s supposed working relationship with that league.

Personally I think a move to TNA would be a disappointment. TNA have shown throughout 2013 that they haven’t got any fresh ideas and Hero would almost certainly drift down the card. TNA tend to be pretty good at initial debuts, they just can’t follow up on them. But perhaps things are going to turn around. Perhaps Hero (under whatever new name he’d go with in TNA) would be a part of helping them turn things around. One thing that’s practically certain is that he’d have to come up with a new ring name: as with every other aspect of their business they ape WWE in wanting ownership of ring names. That the best Spradlin could muster for his WWE run was Kassius Ohno (I liked it but it wasn’t the greatest wrestler name ever) doesn’t bode well.

I think WWE made a mistake releasing Spradlin. It’s true he wasn’t the best conditioned guy on the roster but he was never going to be. He doesn’t have the frame for it and throughout his career he’s been a guy that doesn’t have the greatest build. His strength has always been his promos and wrestling ability, with his character, well thought out and consistent to begin with, having become a highlight in 2010.

Basically he’s been good at everything except having the perfect physique. And not everyone on the roster needs to look great. Spradlin had significantly improved his physique throughout the year and is now easily in the best condition of his career. That he’s not built like Antonio Cesaro, David Otunga or Titus O’Neil and didn’t appear dedicated to becoming so could have been overlooked in favour of the multitude of other strengths he has. WWE’s loss is definitely every wrestling fan’s gain.