Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Game Over?

This week Hunter Hearst Helmsley shed a tear, and walked away from the WWE ring. He gave a speech about not wanting to be the guy that stayed past his expiration date. He did it because at Summer Slam, when the fans were supposed to say goodbye to the Game, the crowd chanted “You Tapped Out”. He couldn’t let the faux retirement of HHH go unnoticed and mocked.
The worst kept secret in the WWE is that by WrestleMania Triple H will return to claim his pound of flesh from Brock Lesnar. Hunter, and the WWE creative, needed the fans to know that Brock uncrowned the King of Kings, so that in a few months they’ll care when he comes back to get his crown. Now for the next few months the WWE has a giant hole where their Summer Slam main event used to be as the talents involved are nowhere to be seen.
It would seem that with limited dates in Brock Lesnar’s contract that the WWE is doing their best to stockpile appearances of Lesnar to put together a solid program leading up to the biggest show of the year. It had been talked about that the rematch would happen at Survivor Series but, for the same reason HHH needed to waste 20 minutes of our time this Monday, his ego can’t let him be overshadowed. Just as he needs to go out swinging, he needs to be a part of WrestleMania 29. He needs to be on the same card as The Rock, Undertaker, CM Punk, and John Cena. He can’t sit in the back wearing a suit as others soak up his lime light. Not on Hunter’s watch.
He headlined Summer Slam, and damn it he’ll headline WrestleMania too!
No person truly believes HHH is done. The WWE will continue to sell it. He’ll stay off TV because who cares about the rest of 2012. Yet when the time comes to collect bigger pay checks, the talent showing up every week will be pushed aside for Hunter and his man crush on Brock Lesnar. It simply can’t end the way it did. It can’t end with the fans chanting “You Tapped Out”. It can’t end with the Game walking out, tears streaming from his face. It has to end in the ring at WrestleMania. It’s the only option for a man with a bigger ego than his nose.
Now we will sit and wait. We’ll watch as the WWE prepares for The Rock. We’ll see the twists and turns of CM Punk as he toes the line between good and evil. We’ll hope that the two are on a collision course at the Royal Rumble. Then when we’ve almost forgot about HHH, he’ll come back. He’ll probably even get inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Then he’ll do what he does best, and eclipse all the months of work by those keeping the WWE afloat as he picks and chooses his spots.
It is what he has done for the past year. When CM Punk was red hot, who stepped up to face him? Triple H. When the Undertaker needed an opponent to go 20-0, who was there to meet him at WrestleMania? Triple H. When Brock Lesnar threatened the WWE, who stood in his way? Triple H. Now when WrestleMania rolls around who will be there to steal the spot light from the rest of the roster? Triple H!
As the Who song says, “New boss same as the old boss”. Yet unlike the title of the song, the WWE fans will be fooled again. They’ll continue to believe HHH is the top of the heap because he won’t let anyone else climb that high. Which is the same reason the WWE ratings and fan following hasn’t climbed any higher under his watch. Until HHH actually walks away and realizes he has already stayed past his expiration date, the WWE will continue to fall victim to their own hubris. It’s time that Hunter realizes that in 2013 this isn’t a storyline anymore, but a reality. One that is telling him it’s Game Over, and not Over in the way he thinks it means.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Monday Night RAW: When 3 Hours Becomes 1

I didn’t get to watch RAW live last night, but before going to bed I decided to DVR through the 3 hours. It’s sad when I can get through the whole episode in an hour, and know I never missed a thing. The fact is that World Wrestling Entertainment is getting ready for an international tour, and next Monday is a holiday show, so the WWE is in a holding pattern until September 10th. The matches this week were nothing bigger than anything I would see on WWE Superstars. Even John Cena vs. The Miz, a former WrestleMania main event, didn’t have a big match feel.
I for one am a big fan of the mini-feud between CM Punk and Jerry Lawler. Last night it was fumbled a little bit. Why won’t Jerry Lawler man up right away and why does he need an hour to think about it? I was all for the CM Punk “apology” and how he ran down Lawler. When Punk walked away I expected Lawler to lay out the champ with a cheap shot.
In fact it would have been better than waiting on Lawler to make a decision. They just have Punk do his fake apology and turn his back on Lawler. Then Jerry smacks Punk in the back of the head and tosses him from the ring. Punk storms off and in a backstage interview he challenges Lawler for later. Finally Lawler answers his challenge with a “Hell Yes” instead of the whimper he gave last night.
There were a lot of “eh” matches. Ryback, Layla, Truth, Santino, and Clay were all angle matches. None of these matches moved the needle. Ryback has a sloppy match with Swagger, who should be begging for his release. Layla got a win where the focus was on Vickie on the outside. Santino and his cobra have hormones for a chick with a hand. Clay teams with Sin Cara to get some rub by beating Rhodes & protecting Sandow. Finally Truth gets a win because the WWE wants to further the Bryan anger management angle. That’s like 90 minutes of stuff in a paragraph. See how fast you can DVR through three hours.
I did enjoy the Bryan anger management segments. They are campy and cheesy. I laughed at the Kane part because his character is that quirky. A tip of the cap to his morbid past, and Pete Rose was a big pop. I am interested to see where all this goes down the line. I wonder if it will be a bonding moment for Bryan and Kane? Maybe a future tag team?
Cena and Miz was good. These two have good chemistry. It was simply a match to keep Cena top of mind. The IC Champ is now just a glorified enhancement talent. The WWE just had to remind us that Cena is still around and he is gunning for Punk. Don’t everyone cheer at once.
The HHH segments were good at selling the end of his career. I enjoy the walk down memory lane. He is one of the best in ring performers in the history of the business, and to steal a sports term, a sure fire first ballot hall of famer. His speech was long, but if it is supposed to be his last one, then it should be that long.
Now I don’t for one second believe that he is totally done. As I said yesterday, HHH won’t go out crying. He’ll go out being carried from the ring. He is King Arthur in his mind, and Arthur doesn’t die on his knees, but carried out on his shield. I think they’ll save the dates in the Brock contract, and maybe use HBK to lure HHH out of retirement. How about HBK vs. Brock at Survivor Series or the Royal Rumble, which leads to Brock vs. HHH in a blow off match at WrestleMania? It would be a nice addition to a card that looks to have Rock vs. Cena, and possibly Punk vs. Taker.  That is three big matches to sell your 8PM, 9PM, and 10PM hours on the biggest show of the year.
Again Ziggler gets his teeth kicked in, and guess what Randy Orton stands tall. Yes it was Sheamus kicking in his teeth, but of the four men in that tag match, it is Orton who should be looking at the lights. Del Rio is your current #1 contender. Sheamus is your World champion. Ziggler is your money in the bank holder. Orton is fresh off suspension for his second drug violation and about to leave again to film a movie. Which one do you think should be losing? Yeah not Ziggler. Crowd liked it, but Milwaukee isn’t known for their intelligence.
The crowd showed their lack of care during the main event. Jerry Lawler and Punk are facing each other in a cage match, and you could hear a pin drop in that building. Maybe the crowd was tired from three hours of subpar wrestling. The match was limited because Punk at any time could destroy Lawler. He played the cocky heel, including the free shot to begin.
I liked how the match played out because there was a story involved in there. Now most people in the crowd and watching at home don’t really understand how big a deal Jerry Lawler was. They know the puppy loving immature commentator and not the king of Memphis wrestling. It showed last night.
The end was the best part with Punk dismantling Lawler as he demanded respect. He really took a turn towards the dark side. Cena comes out and forgets he can climb a cage, so Lawler takes a few more minutes of a beating. The cage gets raised and Punk walks off with an evil grin on his face. Purpose served even if the crowd didn’t care for the first 90% of it.
Should be interesting to see how next week is handled in Chicago. Punk will be a conquering hero in his hometown. I would assume they will play up the hometown angle for Night of Champions. I’ll put my money on a six man tag next week. It’s the crutch match for WWE creative when they don’t want to really advance a storyline. I don’t think Lawler gets involved because they might sell him being injured after the attack. Then again having him be part of team Cena in a six man would make sense.
Finally, I would think a stipulation is going to be added to the match between Cena and Punk at the PPV. I still say a handshake or respect match but with the loser calling the winner, “The Best in The World” after the match. In Boston that would be some serious heel heat if Cena had to say it to Punk.
It was a quick week this week. I expect the same next week. That means the September 10th show has to be a HUGE event to help cover the coasting the WWE is doing. If not then I might coast past buying Night of Champions.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Quick Hits

Long long weekend as I was in Georgia to start on Friday and ended it yesterday in Maryland. That's close to 1500 miles in three days. Life of a road comic, or a pro wrestler. I am excited to take a nap this afternoon. Then when I wake up it is time for Monday Night RAW!

Here is what to look forward to tonight:
  1. Triple H is going to talk about his future. Many people are playing it off that the Game is going to hang up the boots. I wouldn't be surprised if that happens tonight, but long term I wouldn't bet on it. The rumblings from the WWE rumor mill is that HHH and Brock will lock horns once more at the October "Hell in the Cell" pay per view. I expect him to talk about healing and then taking Brock out. HHH will never be the kind of guy to just say goodbye and walk off into the sunset. I think in a few years his last match will involve being stretchered out of the building. He thinks he is a middle ages knight that wants to be carried out on his shield.
  2. CM Punk and John Cena will continue their dance. Jerry Lawler will be involved. It looks like Lawler and Punk will hook up in the ring either tonight or next week. That should be good stuff. I have a feeling Cena and Punk is leading up to a respect match. I think once they are done dancing it ends with the loser having to tell the winner that he is "the best in the world" at the Night of Champions pay per view. I just wonder if that happens before Punk cripples Jerry Lawler.
  3. Daneil Bryan is going to anger management. The WWE keeps teasing that Charlie Sheen will be involved. These should be some entertaining segments for the next few weeks. Kane is going crazy too, but AJ is more focused on Bryan. Some how the Big Red Machine will be involved in this. That's good for Kane because Bryan makes him look better in the ring. This continues to make AJ look more like a face GM doing heel moves. Anybody calls her crazy and they get put in a squash match. If you're her ex, who tried to marry her, then you get anger management. It is a bizzare world we live in.
That's the three big points going into tonight. I also expect that Clay and Sandow to continue their thing. I have been a fan of the program and hope it keeps building with Sandow getting the upperhand on Clay, and thus making people crave to see him get his teeth kicked in.

Now I'm off to bed. Enjoy the show tonight and I'll review it tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

As The Punk Turns

I was listening to the A1 Wrestling podcast, which I recommend to any fan out there. There are some technical glitches, but it is two hours of some good wrasslin' talk. During the podcast the roundtable talks about the on going heel turn of the WWE champion CM Punk as he battles for respect against John Cena and the WWE. It was pointed out that this turn has been handled with a very methodical pace. It hasn't been rushed as Punk has been toeing the line after laying the smackdown on the Rock at RAW 1000. There might even be such an in-depth plan by creative for this turn that the champ hasn't main evented a WWE pay per view in recent memory, something that has given strength to Punk's claims of disrespect. That kind of planning by creative can, and will, be debated.

Since Punk stood over The Rock weeks ago it has been a treat to watch him dance around the direction of his character. For one he has a true reason to feel disrespected. He is one of the longest reigning champions in the history of the WWE. During that time he has had to give up the WrestleMania main event to Cena vs. Rock. To follow up he gave up main events for Brock vs. Cena, Cena vs. Johnny Ace, and most recently to Brock vs. HHH; two men not on the active roster after Monday night. The only thing more insulting would be going on before Michael Cole vs. David Otunga. I mean the WWE's October PPV main event! (Just kidding, I hope)

CM Punk has carried this company through the transfer of day to day power from Vince McMahon to Paul Levesque. The WWE is restructuring itself. They are replacing high ranking officials in the company too. Linda McMahon is taking her second shot at becoming a member of Congress. Also there is a rebuilding of the developmental system. All this happens as CM Punk keeps the company afloat by delivering a solid performance, along with a handful of other talents, be it at a house show or a top tier pay per view.

Now the time has come to begin moving forward. Summer Slam is behind us, and the build to WrestleMania has begun. That means the time for CM Punk to go to the dark side has begun. It's a tricky situation because the champ has a legion of loyal supporters, as seen on Monday night when the crowd continued to chant his name. That is why the slow burn on his current heel turn is essential.

With a few weeks until the Night of Champions PPV, it is time to pull the trigger. That is why Jerry Lawler is involved in the current storyline. For one, Punk is a huge fan of wrestling history and that includes the role Lawler played before his time as the dirty old man on Monday Night Raw. Punk remembers when the world watched as Lawler defended Memphis against Andy Kaufman, including the famous smack heard round the world on late night television. Punk knows if anyone can make him look like the devil incarnate it is the King of Memphis wrasslin.

Jerry Lawler will always be a fan favorite. He can't wrestle like he used to, but he can still tell a story. Short of kicking small babies, there is nothing Jerry can't do that the fans won't be behind. The dismantling of such a character is what is needed to cement CM Punk's heel turn. John Cena is almost as hated as he is loved. Beating on him may make you a villian in a middle school, but it makes you a hero in the frat house. Kicking in the King's teeth makes you dastardly in every corner of the WWE Universe, something needed to silence the chants of "CM Punk".

When it officially happens, and CM Punk crosses the line that can't be uncrossed, it will mean something. It is how pro wrestling used to be. Heel turns took a while to simmer so that when it happened the fans felt an emotional attachment to the action. This current turn of Punk has that kind of simmer. After weeks it has begun to heat up. At, or before, Night of Champions it will boil over. I for one hope it includes beating John Cena.

I've said it for weeks, but beating Cena in his hometown could be the kind of event that visually presents Punk as the personification of evil. Cena doesn't need the title to get over. No fan is going with or against him because he is champ. On the other hand, people will pay to see CM Punk get his. They'll pay all the way up to Royal Rumble when the Rock comes to save the WWE, and get his retribution from RAW 1000.

One thing John Cena has never done is the "over the hill" storyline. No one has ever questioned that his career is on the decline. A loss to CM Punk in Boston ignites that conversation. It is something that leads to Cena rebuilding himself and eventually winning the Royal Rumble to get his shot at redemption, and the WWE title, from The Rock. All of this is only possible with a true heel turn by CM Punk.

With this heel turn the WWE profits twice because Punk vs. Rock is a draw at the Rumble, and the redemption of John Cena leading into WM29 can be bigger than Rock vs. Cena from a year ago. Yet it all stems from where the WWE goes at this pay per view.

One thing is for sure, CM Punk is turning heel. Something the WWE has handled perfectly. Yet will they fumble the long term plans by trying to cash in on Cena vs. Rock II early? This whole scenario makes Night of Champions maybe one of the most important pay per views in recent WWE history because it could be the point we all look back on as a true defining point in the new WWE era. Then again it could also be the point where everything just stays the same, and another year passes where fans hopes are dashed by the WWE's greed and lack of vision.

No matter what, it all depends on CM Punk, which gives me more hope than I've had as a fan in a long long time.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Monday Night RAW: Respect This!

Does the WWE creative team go out drinking after a good PPV and then wake up forgetting they have to write a 3 hour RAW? It seems that way with all the mish mash crap tossed against the wall. They came off a strong showing at Summer Slam and then on Monday night delivered the best episode of Sunday Night HEAT they could come up with. It would seem that after getting people hooked with a good PPV, you would want to follow that up with a blockbuster RAW. If you’re going to take a week off then maybe choosing any night but the next night would be a good idea.
Brock and Paul come out to close the book on their time here in the WWE. Heyman again does a great job on the mic. He made HHH seem like a big deal and that made Brock manhandling him look like an even bigger victory. If you’re learning how to cut promos then Paul Heyman’s promos from this whole run in the WWE are a must watch. He shows how it is done. Only thing that sucks is that now he and Brock are done until Survivor Series or maybe even the Royal Rumble. It is hard to build on a guy with that much of gap between appearances. I mean no person in your main event from Summer Slam is on your current active roster.
The six man is back! You know creative is punting the ball when they pull out the six man tag to do a storyline crossover. The Prime Time Players looked good but they lost on the PPV, and now they lost on RAW. How are they supposed to be a threat to the champs when they are losing more than winning? You can do this with established tag teams, but not one that is still fresh in the minds of the audience. It’s booking 101. I know Rhodes took the pin, but the team lost, and that counts for something.
David Otunga is back and guess what he’s gonna get squashed. Did somebody write that on the napkin at Denny’s after the post Summer Slam bender? Two segments down in one retreaded storyline. Oh and they are really pushing AJ Lee tonight. I guess they are trying to see the burn rate on her character. That’s crazy!
Let’s just put all the squash matches into one paragraph. Ryback kills another jobber tag team, but now Jinder Mahal is getting involved. The whole first hour was an old episode of Velocity. Where’s Funaki? Then later on Otunga gets mauled by Big Show. They used this to build Show’s heat back up after the loss. Wonder where he goes now that Punk and Cena are dancing by themselves? And finally the Divas battle royal, what that wasn’t a squash match? I’m pretty sure that match squashed the ratings. Nothing good can be said about it.
Albert Del Rio is the #1 heel on Smackdown. He is challenging for the World title. He is easily a top tier star. He also joins the list of top guys who job out to Randy “Puff Puff Pass” Orton. I get that Sheamus distracted Del Rio and that led to an RKO, but after getting screwed last night, this just makes his character look weak. This was the first “main event” of the show, and yet it elevates the wrong guy. Sheamus is the heel … oh no he’s just the cheating good guy!
Orton is coming off a suspension, and about to leave to film a movie, maybe the WWE could prove a point and use him to build a few heels. A win over him by ADR, Daniel Bryan, or Ziggler could really catapult those men in the eyes of the audience. Plus it proves a point to the locker room that if you fail your second drug test that you will have to prove your worth when you come back from a sixty day suspension. Again I will state Orton should blaze a fat Cheech & Chong blunt on the way to the ring because he is untouchable in this company.
A bright spot is the Sandow and Brodus Clay feud. It has been handled really well. Sandow is great at getting under the fan’s skin. He takes a good beating from Clay, but he steals a win. When Brodus finally beats Sandow it will pop the crowd. People will pay money to watch Damien Sandow get his teeth kicked in. I look forward to seeing if they let this continue to build up or if they blow it by giving Clay a pin in a tag match. He shouldn’t beat Sandow in any match until after the next PPV. Clay should get close, but always come up short due to some heinous cheating by Sandow. I also popped for the fist full of tights. Old school is cool.
The Shawn Michaels promo was really good. It was just too low on energy. He is trying to sell this “End of HHH” story and the energy on the show was so low already that this almost stopped the show. I personally would have saved this until after Ziggler vs. Jericho so that the audience was pumped up from a good match. It could have had a bigger impact. Still it was a great promo, but again it was wasting time on guys who won’t be in the WWE picture until November at the earliest.
The tag match between the former enemies turned partners was ok. I don’t like the no finish. Ryder could have lost the match for his team and then Kane could have abused him. It would have achieved the same goal, and it would have given Kane a better reason than a slap in the face for losing his mind. Maybe have Bryan beat Ryder then slap Kane. Again same result but it gives a cleaner finish. It’s the little things.
I loved the Ziggler vs. Jericho match. It was sloppy in a few areas, and I am glad Y2J is ok after the botched Frankensteiner spot. These two have a really good chemistry in the ring. Also watching them is like watching a man wrestle a younger version of himself. It’s too bad Jericho has to go tour with Fozzy because this could have been a really good feud over the next few months. The end helped elevate Ziggler, and Y2J’s attack left the door open for a rubber match down the road. WrestleMania? I hope so!
I was hoping CM Punk would name Jerry Lawler as the #1 contender for the WWE title. I’m an old school Andy Kaufman/ Jerry Lawler fan. While the match wouldn’t have been a classic due to Lawler’s age, I believe the two of them could put something special on. It would be funny that back then Kaufman was the guy limited in the ring and Lawler carried him, but now it would be Lawler who is limited and Punk who carries him. In wrestling everything comes full circle.
Cena cut one hell of promo. Normally I would take issue with a guy passing up a title shot, but this plays into the Cena character. He values his integrity more than a title. He preaches to his fans to believe in themselves and he can’t do that if he sells out for a title shot. I really hope this leads to a “respect” match at night of champions where the loser has to shake the winner’s hand, or in this case say that other man is “the best in the world”. If Punk beats Cena in his hometown that could be a great scene with a hyped up crowd. Especially if Punk cheats to win.
The afterwards where Punk pivots back to Lawler was nicely done because he doesn’t waste time on Cena. He wants his respect. Cena won’t give it to him, so Lawler must. This looks to be setting up a match between Lawler and Punk on RAW. I like that a lot. The kick and stare was a good way to end RAW. Would have liked to see AJ come out to address Punk, but I guess she forgot she was GM.
This three hours of RAW dragged a lot. Maybe it was because six hours of wrestling in a 27 hour period is too much. I don’t think that is true if there is good wrestling. I just think when you have a strong show like Summer Slam and then follow it up with a subpar RAW that the weakness becomes more glaring with such a close comparison. Summer Slam was fresh in people’s minds and that meant RAW had to live up to that standard, which it didn’t.
I’m looking forward to next week. There is a lot of talent that has been moved off the WWE roster. Brock, Heyman, HHH, HBK, and Y2J are all gone. Ziggler looks to be moving back to Smackdown as he still is their MITB holder. If he stays on RAW I would hope they use RKO to get him over with the fans. Wade Barrett should fill some of the void, but who does he feud with? Miz?
Here’s to hoping some new talent gets called up as Night of Champions is in a few weeks. We need better tag teams. We need a true challenger for both the IC and US titles. Plus Punk is mini-feuding with Lawler as Cena waits in the wings meaning that match could be a last second announcement. That’s a lot of holes to fill in three weeks. Wasting a week like last night doesn’t do much to help creative fill those holes, it just creates more.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer Slam: Breaking New Ground

Summer Slam turned 25 last night with a solid showing by the WWE roster. Every year I look forward to this pay per view as it officially kicks off the WWE “season”. If you look at the WWE like a sport then the time between Summer Slam and WrestleMania is the official season of pro wrestling. I would say from now to Survivor Series is the first half, the second half ending at Royal Rumble, and finally after that until WrestleMania is the playoffs. It’s wrestling season once again.
I was a big fan of what happened last night at Summer Slam. There are some internet writers who bashed the show because they never had high hopes for it in the first place. I found it a very entertaining watch from beginning to end. It might not have had the big shocker moment or a true swerve of the audience, but the wrestling was top notch & the finishes played into a grander plan for the future of the company.
The future for Antonio Cesaro is bright. The former Ring of Honor stand out has been laying low on Smackdown. Last night he jumped into the fray when he captured the United States championship from Santino. This is a good thing for all involved.
Cesaro is a gifted wrestler with size and speed, who can do more in the ring than be just a one trick pony like Santino. Not to mention he loves Starbucks coffee and is very European. Santino is very good at comedy and he has a knack for getting over with the WWE audience. He doesn’t need the title to help him, and there isn’t much he could do to help the title. Getting it off his waist and onto Cesaro makes sense to help expand the roster as Santino can do his shtick and Cesaro can begin rebuilding the US title as a legit championship. Also the rumor that he will turn the title into the European title is great. It should garner lots of heat when he bashes the US championship. Also Aksana isn’t a bad thing to have on TV either.
Ziggler and Jericho did an amazing job kicking off the PPV. They are both gifted wrestlers. Their back and forth through the match had the ending in doubt the whole time. Vickie gets great reactions from the crowd, but I think she is being wasted with Ziggler. He, unlike Brock Lesnar, can do all his talking and all his walking without a mouth piece.
If this was Jericho’s last match of the year, as he goes on tour with Fozzy, then he went out on a high note. As Kofi Kingston said on Twitter, these two tore the house down. I don’t know if I agree with Jericho winning as Ziggler could do more with the win, but maybe this means a rematch. In that case, we’re all winners.
No better person to follow that match than Daniel Bryan. He took the energy of the crowd and kicked it into high gear. With just one word he gets the whole place whipped up into a frenzy. He again made Kane look better than he is. Something I could probably write for every Bryan match. His win came out of nowhere as I, like many, thought he would continue to get buried. Giving him the win does a lot for his character and I expect him to start moving up the card building new baby faces to feed to CM Punk. I just don’t know who those people could or will be.
The aftermath with Kane was good to build a bridge to RAW. Kane continues to be in a revolving cycle with his character as this angry monster that shows signs of good, only to become angry again. Will he begin to feud with AJ? Will he and Bryan end up teaming together against her? Will Kane learn Zen? (Ok maybe that’s a stretch). These are good questions to have unanswered because they create interest in a character that hasn’t been fresh for almost a decade. Thumbs up to Kane for this aftermath, and for tossing Josh Mathews like a rag doll.
Miz and Mysterio had a good back and forth match. It was mostly to get the easy pop of Mysterio in LA and to get Miz some credit as he builds his IC title run. They told a nice story with a couple of good new moves from Miz. Mysterio is still good in all his classic spots. They both worked a good match and it did all it was supposed to do. Nothing special, but nothing idiotic, which is all you can ask from a middle card match. It just kept the flow of the show on a good roll.
Sheamus and Albert Del Rio was fun until the finish. I am a big fan of Del Rio’s ring work and character. He comes off as a big timer. Sheamus is good as the bruiser. I still am not sold on him being a big time talent as I see him as more of a talent who is reliant on his opponent to have a good match like a John Cena. I wouldn’t call his World title run memorable.
The end with the shoe and the foot on the rope where Sheamus does the heel move while ADR complains that he got legit screwed doesn’t sit well with me. Del Rio is the new ultra heel, yet he is the one coming off as the man getting screwed. Sheamus is the good guy who cheats and steals to get over. It worked for Eddie Guerrero, but not for King Kong Ginger. I really hope that was a hiccup in his character and not something the creative team relies on in the future.
The tag title match was ok. Neither team has done much to stand out. The Prime Time Players don’t deserve to be champions with their recent record against other teams. Kofi and Truth are a nice tag team that can help keep the division afloat while other teams become established. All four men played their roles well, but the lack of pop from the crowd during the hot tag to Truth tells you all you need to know about how far this division has fallen. This was the bathroom break, grab a new beer, and get seconds on pizza match.
I loved the CM Punk, John Cena, and Big Show match. Unless you’re blind, this whole angle has been about Cena and Punk. Yet it was Big Show who really got the rub in this match, as he should since he took a tap out and a pin cover. The early parts with Show just mauling both men made the audience know why he was in this match. He’s the biggest bad ass on the roster. Also the tip of the cap by CM Punk to Bret Hart was nice.
All the early Big Show mauling set up the middle of the match where Punk and Cena trade moves to try and take down the big man. The double suplex by Show is always a cool spot. I also enjoyed the multiple knees by Punk then the failed Bulldog into the big flying leg drop by Cena. Even the end sat well with me because it really played into the story that Punk and Cena have been telling for the past few weeks.
When both Punk and Cena slapped on submission holds on the Big Show at the same time it was a great way to change things up a bit. AJ was going to get involved in this match, and this gave the WWE the chance without having to stretch for it. Now some will argue it should have been just Punk and Cena, but AJ is a new GM, the easiest thing to do is restart the match, and it takes less explaining to the audience because all you need to say is “restart the match”.
Then as Punk tosses Cena out of the ring as John laid out Show with his finisher, it all came together in a great way to have Punk keep the title. Also Cena keeps his momentum from not truly losing. Finally it had the two keep their heat between them because one out did the other. Cena calls Punk lucky, and Punk can talk about Cena needing to respect him. Now they will move on to Boston and the next PPV, where even money says Cena walks out champ in his home town. Let’s hope that isn’t the future.
If Cena got beat by Punk in his hometown, it could do a lot for both of their characters. Punk would be made an instant heel by the crowd for downing their hometown kid. Cena would have hit rock bottom, thus starting the build to winning the Royal Rumble and regaining his honor at WrestleMania. Also Punk is the cover boy for WWE ’13 and has a big DVD coming out in October. Him being champ helps push both of those. That and Punk vs. Rock at Royal Rumble can do a lot to help get Rock over and save Cena/Rock 2 for WrestleMania as the cap off to Cena’s return to glory storyline. None of that can happen if Cena is champ before Mania.
The main event was what I thought it would be. They played it up to be more of a fight than a wrestling match. It was brutal and methodical. Brock Lesnar is just a massive human being and moves like Rey Mysterio. He beat the living crap out of HHH. I really enjoyed the flipping the announce table and using it to jump off spot. Also using Brock’s known gut injury issues was a good touch to bring the beast down.
The start was a little slow but it almost had to be after following the WWE title match. When Lesnar got “injured” things began to pick up. Near the end I thought Lesnar was going to do his second straight job. Having him pop up after taking that second Pedigree and slap on the Kimura made him look really strong. Nobody kicks out of the Pedigree, yet Lesnar takes two and still can snap HHH’s arm.
I think the end had to be done the way it was. HHH had to have his arm broke, and Lesnar needed to reestablish his mean streak. I just wonder where he goes from here after beating HHH. Is a match with HBK in the future? Is HHH coming back in a few months for revenge? Is Brock coming after Punk to face Rock at Rumble? Again these are all unanswered questions that have me tuning into RAW to find out.
When Summer Slam was over I felt that I got a very enjoyable show. It didn’t drag on and there wasn’t a truly bad match on the card. The two main events delivered. Sure I could have bitched about the movie preview and the music performance, but that’s what comes with “entertainment” instead of “wrestling”. In the end the WWE set the table for the rest of the pro wrestling season and new ground has been broken that plants the seeds going into the Rumble and WrestleMania, which is the trademark of a good Summer Slam.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Bitch or Succeed, You Can't Do Both!

I'm a big comic book fan. Thursday I picked up a copy of the much debated "Ghost Variant" for The Walking Dead 101. The uproar is that this cover was not put together by the comic company, but a group called "Ghost Variants". They commissioned an artist to do the cover, and paid for their own run of books with their cover. Now owners who didn't get into the pool are upset that their stores can't get the book. They claim they got screwed by these other owners.

This reminds me a lot of pro wrestling. All these different promoters sniping at each other because somebody feels they got left out in the rain. They would rather bitch about not being included than realizing the amazing window this opens.

The Walking Dead is probably one of the most recognizable titles in comics today. They allowed for this to happen because they know this can be a very profitable business for the comic industry. Now owners of shops can pool their resources and get exlusive covers for a wide range of comics. Will we ever see an X-men "ghost variant"? Probably not, but we will also probably never see John Cena wrestle for Chikara. What we can see is different artists and stores teaming up for great new items that draw in customers. That is always a good thing.

Pro wrestling promoters can do the same thing. If a promoter wants to bitch about what other promoters are doing then they can waste their time. Or they can take what those promoters are doing and build on it. Fix the mistakes if you will. What I mean is, don't bash a promoter's show but look at it as a whole, see the shortcomings/successes, and apply it to your own product. It will make the industry as a whole better. That is always a good thing.

Now for all those who enjoy comics then check out this great fan flick featuing Thomas Jane from the Punisher movie. He takes up the mantle of The Punisher (even if they can't officially say it). Plus my main man Ron Pearlman shows up. Hellboy for the win. This is a graphic short film so don't show it to the kids under 17. It is a very Mature Adult type film because of violence. Enjoy!

Friday, August 17, 2012

String Pullers: The Evolution of the Creative Process in Professional Wrestling (Part 3)

Here is the final part of my Senior Thesis. It takes a look at the future of professional wrestling. This includes my theory on what will make a successful booker/writer in the current wrestling environment. Enjoy!

The Main Event: The Future of the Creative Process

            As professional wrestling continues on with this constant evolution, the rift created in professional wrestling will widen, or begin to verge into a new era of the creative process in professional wrestling. I believe that the next stage of evolution that will solve the rift in professional wrestling is a hybrid of the traditional skills of a wrestling booker to weave the history of the sport inside the limitations of the genre fused with the trained skills and natural talents of a college educated English major with a background in various creative mediums. In seeing the growth of professional wrestling as an evolution then the same traits of the theory of evolution apply to the creative process. The theory of evolution is based on the strongest attributes “accumulating and the result is an entirely different organism” ( This belief in the theory of evolution would lead to the eventual hybrid of traditional booker and creative writer.

            The creative process hybrid that would come from this next stage of evolution would possess the trained skills of a professional writer to develop in depth story lines enhanced with the writer's natural talents in the creative realm. These natural talents in creativity are no different than the athletic skills of a sports figure. As in sports all athletes must respect and understand the limitations of their sport to fully achieve success, something understood and practiced by bookers.

            In the game of basketball the ability to jump is necessary, just as the ability to create a basic story line is necessary to the creative process in wrestling. If a person could jump twenty feet that person would be seen in the same light as some of the professional writers who possess similar amazing abilities when it comes to creative writing. The limitations of basketball would dictate the restrictions of this ability as the basketball hoop, which represents the purpose of the sport, is only ten feet high. If a player has tremendous skills, such as jumping twenty feet, but is constantly violating the limitations of the sport by jumping beyond the basketball hoop then that player is letting that tremendous ability prevent success instead of achieve it.

            This same respect for the limitations of the creative process in professional wrestling is found in the history of professional wrestling. This ability to know and excel under these limitations is what the professional booker in wrestling brings to the new hybrid in the evolution of the creative process. As professional wrestling moves beyond the niche audience that has made up wrestling's fan base, and expands to a global audience, the need for bookers to develop trained skills in creative writing, and to possess a natural ability to understand how to thrive in the new global digital age, becomes a requirement for survival.

            As professional wrestling evolved the need for these skills became a kin to that of predator, who excelled in a small habitat, needing to gain a stronger and faster approach when that habitat became expansive. No longer can the usual skills that helped on such a small scale be of the same effect on a larger scale. This is the purpose of evolution, not only just in wrestling, but in life. Now that the habitat for professional wrestling has changed; the people behind the scenes need to change with it, or become extinct.

The Post-Show Reviews: Criticisms and Conclusions

            As with all things that involve change there can be skeptics toward the evolution of professional wrestling’s creative process. Gabe Sapolsky, when asked about this theory of the next phase in professional wrestling, had his doubts when he said, “This would seem like it would be the best of both world's on paper, in reality I'm not sure if it would work because the two viewpoints might not be able to co-exist” (Sapolsky). I agree that the two viewpoints wouldn't exist because the role of evolution would weave these viewpoints into one viewpoint creating this new creative process in wrestling. In doing this both viewpoints become a thing of the past as the evolution in the creative process replaces them with one viewpoint built on the strengths of both viewpoints while weeding out the flaws.

            While those in professional wrestling can be skeptical towards change; there is consensus that wrestling in some way will always be changing. There is an agreement that for better, or for worse, professional wrestling is in a constant state of change with new ideas and characters to continue the path of wrestling's history that extends centuries before today's current state of wrestling. This new evolution of professional wrestling writing is seen by Jimmy Jacobs when he says,

“There are old traditional wrestling bookers who book good enough television aimed to traditionally get fans emotionally invested with traditional heel and baby face roles; this can work to an extent but can often be unspectacular. There are also many wrestling television writers that, while perhaps entertaining, can fail to emotionally captivate fans and can come off as over the top or cheesy. The foundation of traditional professional wrestling concepts set in new creative ways will, in my opinion, always make for good television“ (Jacobs)

This recognition of the need for a hybrid of the strengths of both traditional booker and professional writer is the beginning of the evolution of professional wrestling's creative process in the decades to come.

            As this evolution continues through professional wrestling, one aspect will never change as pointed out by Roland Barthes. This aspect is that “wrestlers remain gods because they are, for a few moments, the key which opens Nature, the pure gesture which separates Good from Evil, and unveils the form of Justice, which is at last intelligible” (Barthes 25). This basic moral situation is the heart of professional wrestling, and will remain a constant during the evolution of professional wrestling. As the hybrid form of the creative process begins to take shape this role of professional wrestling in society will keep wrestling anchored to its purpose. The evolution of the creative process in professional wrestling, fusing the strengths of both booker and writer, will bring a new way to extend the purpose of professional wrestling to a wider audience in the new digital age for the near future and beyond. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

String Pullers: The Evolution of the Creative Process in Professional Wrestling (Part 2)

This is the second part of my Senior thesis. This part covers a deeper look in the change of kayfabe in the creative process that allows for fans to peak behind the curtain and know the ins/outs of professional wrestling.

The Curtain Jerker: Removing the Veil

            Jimmy Jacobs says, “When I started in nineteen ninety nine, wrestling was in a huge boom. It was wildly popular. Fast forward eleven years later, pro wrestling is the black sheep of the entertainment business” (Jacobs). Jacobs had started his career during the creation of the rift in professional wrestling. He had seen the curtain pulled away as not only a fan, but also a budding wrestler. This boom in popularity in professional wrestling created a need for a new kind of writer, as professional wrestling had moved its focus from the tens of thousands of fans in local arenas towards the hundreds of millions of fans around the world viewing professional wrestling on various mediums during the dawning of the digital age.

            With this shift in professional wrestling writing the view of wrestling also shifted, as stated by Jacobs, that no longer was wrestling its own sports genre, but soon wrestling became known, and judged, as entertainment. This began in “2001 when World Wrestling Entertainment began putting ads in the trade magazines for television writers” (Oliver). This was unheard of to publicly admit that professional wrestling was theater. The largest professional wrestling company in the history of the business had placed a classified ad for the biggest secret in professional wrestling. At this moment the traditional role of professional wrestling booker had changed and been replaced by the more modern, television friendly, creative writer.

            Professional wrestling had evolved into a new age and the creative process needed to evolve with it. For the first time the audience was in on the story lines of wrestling, and the writers needed to create the sense of reality without an illusion of legitimate sport. While this sounds impossible, Roland Barthes believes this task was not because he sees that the belief in the reality of the story isn't what is truly important to the creative process in professional wrestling. Barthes believes that in professional wrestling “there is no more a problem of truth than in the theatre. In both, what is expected is the intelligible representation of moral situations which are usually private” (Barthes 18). This belief in the purpose of professional wrestling is a strength for the modern creative process as the currently sought after colleges educated English majors with backgrounds in creative writing, and television, possess the exceptional ability and trained skill to create these moral situations for the modern wrestling fan.

            The advantage of hiring professional writers with degrees in creative writing is the talents and developed skills they possess over a traditional booker. Due to professional wrestling protecting the secret of the creative process the position of booker was usually held by former wrestlers or performers. In being a former, or even current, performer gave a booker the knowledge of how to manipulate a crowd to believe what they were seeing was real. Bookers didn't write story lines like a television script with written interviews and detailed segment break downs. It would not be farfetched to have the whole show for an evening written out on the napkin of the restaurant the booker had eaten dinner at.

            When wrestling became entertainment the ability to acquire highly skilled writing talent also became available. No longer did companies have to search amongst the secret circle of wrestling to find the creative minds behind the stories and characters. World Wrestling Entertainment could find the greatest writing minds of the twenty first century. With all this great ability and skill professional writers had a very prominent weakness when compared to a traditional booker; they had a disconnection with the essence of professional wrestling.

The Mid Card: The Booker vs. The Writer

            The issue with the creative process of professional wrestling moving into this new need for professional writers, instead of traditional bookers, becomes the loss of the connection to professional wrestling's history. While most of the professional writers will have their own personal histories with professional wrestling, the exposure can't compare to the pedigree instilled in a traditional wrestling booker. This knowledge of wrestling's history also becomes an important part of knowing the limits of the creative process in professional wrestling.

            Due to professional wrestling's authentic connection to reality as a fun house mirror that reflects reality back onto reality; there are certain limitations of reality that have to be respected in writing a wrestling story line. These types of limitations on creativity don't apply for other mediums that professional writers work in. When asked about these limitations, Jimmy Jacobs says,

“There's nothing really like wrestling. The range for the suspension of disbelief from the audience is very small. What I mean by this is that in any given TV show there can be terrorists, rape, flashbacks, and a number of other scenarios and tools the writers can use. In wrestling all of that is very limited. So often creative writers in wrestling come up with an idea that may work on a different stage, but for pro wrestling, it's either offensive or cheesy” (Jacobs)

In presenting such a wrestling product that relies on a genuine connection with its audience, this violation of the limitations creates the rift that is present in the current state of professional wrestling. This limited window for creativity gives wrestling a sense of reality that can be used in developing the characters that will be the roles of the wrestlers.

            The role of the wrestler is crucial to the creative process in wrestling. Barthes says that, “wrestling is an immediate pantomime, infinitely more efficient that the dramatic pantomime, for the wrestler's gesture needs no anecdote, no d├ęcor, in short no transference in order to appear true” (Barthes 18). Barthes is stating that for the genuine connection of wrestling to happen between the wrestling match and the audience, the role of the wrestler must come from the wrestler. This is something that, as a former performer, a traditional booker has a better grasp on than a professional writer, who find actors to take on characters. The characters that wrestlers take on are like the sport of professional wrestling, exaggerated realities.

            Gabe Sapolsky approaches his creative process the same way when it comes to developing characters for his writing. Sapolsky believes “in developing a character out of a person's real life personality. I think if you develop a character and then force someone to play it you won't quite fit” (Sapolsky). This has become the pitfall with the current process of professional writers who have been trained to create characters and find actors after creation to fill the roles. The roles become hollow and without the spark of reality to create a connection with the audience. In looking at wrestlers as having the same skill set as professional actors, creative writers produce roles that don't transfer the ideas from the story lines to the audience with the same effect as when those characters are forged from the personalities of the men and women who will assume those roles. The opposing roles of booker and writer create a paradox where one side’s weakness is the other side’s strength resulting in a perpetual struggle between the two styles. The solution to this struggle is the eventual evolution of the role into a hybrid resembling a yin yang of writer and booker.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

String Pullers: The Evolution of the Creative Process in Professional Wrestling (Part 1)

This is the first of three parts for my Senior Thesis on the creative process in professional wrestling that I wrote a year ago before I graduated from the University of Saint Francis. It takes a look at the changing environment in pro wrestling over the last few decades. I have provided my work cited page in an earlier post. Enjoy!

String Pullers:
The Evolution of the Creative Process in Professional Wrestling

            The landscape of professional wrestling is constantly changing. Each year professional wrestling continues to evolve with the story lines, and characters, that make up wrestling's expansive history. This history of wrestling has become connected to human history, as until only a few years ago professional wrestling existed under the veil of legitimate sport. While the wrestlers are world class athletes; the knowledge by an audience, kept completely in the dark, about predetermined out comes would have changed the original belief about wrestling as a legitimate sporting contest.  Professional wrestler Jimmy Jacobs sees the genuine connection between reality and wrestling because “professional wrestling has always been a fun house mirror of sorts to the world and culture” (Jacobs). This ability of wrestling to take an exaggerated look at reality has always been protected by the veil around professional wrestling, that in some way wrestling was reality, because it was seen as a legitimate sporting contest. When this veil that protected wrestling's reality was removed it created a new wrinkle in the evolution of professional wrestling as the role of creative writer became an option not just for those in the protected circles of professional wrestling, but for professional writers from other mediums such as television, theater, and cinema.

            The removal of the professional wrestling veil created a rift between the traditional style of a pro wrestling match maker, also known as a “booker” (Oliver), and the modernized creative skill found in a college educated English major. This rift can be seen today in the ratings of World Wrestling Entertainment's flag ship show Raw is War, that has seen television ratings cut in half since the boom period at the turn of the century when the veil of professional wrestling was being removed (Wrestling Information Archives). With this rift I believe that professional wrestling is preparing for the next evolution in the creative process as the future role of a writer will become a hybrid of a traditional wrestling booker's knowledge of the sport and history fused with a college educated creative writer's trained skill and natural ability to produce highly developed ideas in story lines for various creative mediums.

The Pre-Show: A History of Wrestling's Creative Process

            Only a few decades ago the veil of professional wrestling was firmly intact as fans gathered from far and wide to cheer their heroes, and jeer their villains. Roland Barthe's essay on professional wrestling, entitled The World of Wrestling, says that this connection between the crowds and the wrestlers is because “wrestling partakes of the nature of the great solar spectacles, Greek drama and bullfights: in both, a light without shadow generates an emotion without reserve” (Barthes 15). This ability to generate an emotion without reserve is the foundation for the creative process in professional wrestling. Since the day the first bell rang, until the somber day when the last bell sounds, this ideal will be the heart of the creative process in professional wrestling. This ability originally gained its strength in the veil of professional wrestling as the secrets of how the magic was made were kept on a very strict need to know basis. Legendary professional wrestling manager, and seasoned booker, Jim Cornette remembers that when he began in the wrestling business that he “didn't know there was a booker until a week before he went on television” (Oliver). Since the knowledge of wrestling being a full contact theatrical performance was so tightly guarded the history of the sport became a tool that bookers used.

            The role of history in professional wrestling came from wrestling's general public belief that professional wrestling was a legitimate sporting contest. Since the nature of the business was protected the matches, and actions of the wrestlers, became recorded by fans and the media much in the same way professional sports like football or baseball are kept. Bookers could build feuds on history between wrestlers, or even their families from generations ago, because in the eyes of the fans professional wrestling had a legitimate sports history. This type of emotion is comparable to the connection a rivalry has in sports. When a professional wrestling booker used history to generate emotions from fans it was no different than when teams like the New York Yankees got their fan base riled up by showing negative Boston Red Sox highlights from decades ago. While none of the players on either team are the same, the history of the teams creates the energy used to fuel the hatred one team has for the other, as the only constant is the jersey that the players wear.

            Gabe Sapolsky, a booker during the current rift in the creative process, says, “I feel it can only hurt to not have a basic understanding of what works in wrestling. You still need to have the fundamentals of storytelling in wrestling” (Sapolsky). The most basic of fundamentals that all creative writers in professional wrestling have is wrestling's storied history. Sapolsky broke into the wrestling industry with one of the wrestling promotions that helped remove the veil from professional wrestling: Extreme Championship Wrestling.

            When it comes to professional wrestling history the letters E-C-W carry a lot of weight as a wrestling promotion that had left a mark on the wrestling time line. A decade after the demise of ECW fans still chant the name of the promotion, and others like World Wrestling Entertainment have tried to restart the promotion because of these loyal fans (The Rise and Fall of ECW). These actions by fans and wrestling promoters are a testament to the strength of the role history plays in the creative process in professional wrestling, as a defunct promotion can carry a fresh connection with a business and an audience over a decade later. This role in professional wrestling history also played a role in the current state of creative in wrestling as ECW literally removed the curtain that separated the fans and the wrestlers.

            During a segment featuring two wrestlers, Tommy Dreamer and The Sandman, one wrestler injures the other wrestler with a lit cigarette and strikes him in the eye with a cane. This incident led to the cameras for ECW going backstage to see both good guy and bad guy wrestlers co-mingling as Tommy Dreamer pleaded his case that he didn't mean to hurt The Sandman (Rise and Fall). This segment was part of ECW's counter culture cutting edge style. There was no true motive in taking away wrestling's greatest tool. The rumors and theories behind removing the veil of professional wrestling are plentiful. ECW, and other companies, were trying to deliver new and fresh ideas to an audience of fans that, mostly thanks to the internet, had started to get wise to the reality of the business. The breaking of the greatest taboo in professional wrestling became the only way to stay ahead of the fans, if only for a short time.

            This was just one example of how the veil of professional wrestling was torn off from the nineties into the turn of the century. At this moment fans were being allowed to see that the men, who in the ring hated each other enough to make them bleed, were friends behind the scenes. Actions like this had destroyed the illusion that professional wrestling was still a legitimate sporting contest. As seen in the ratings for WWE's Raw is War during the time period, this move to reveal the secrets behind professional wrestling generated instant attention as professional wrestler Jimmy Jacobs saw during the time.

Pro Wrestling Senior Thesis

When I graduated from the University of Saint Francis with a BA in English: Creative Writing, I wrote my senior thesis on the creative process in professional wrestling. I decided that people may enjoy reading this researched piece with interviews from Gabe Sapolsky and Jimmy Jacobs, plus other sources such as the widely popular "Guest Booker" series. Before I begin I wanted to share my work cited page that can be used when I cite my quotes in the next three posts (today, Thursday, and Friday).

Work Cited “Darwin's Theory of Evolution”. 2002. 20 Nov. 2010 <>

Barthes, Roland. “The World of Wrestling” Mythologies. Translated by Annette Lavers, London: Paladin, 1972. 15-25

Jacobs, Jimmy. Personal interview. 8 Nov. 2010.

Oliver, Sean. “Guest Booker with Jim Cornette”. Interview. Jim Cornette. DVD. 7 Nov. 2010.

Sapolsky, Gabe. Personal interview. 16 Nov. 2010.

The Rise and Fall of ECW. Dir. Kevin Dunn. Perf. Paul Heyman, Eric Bischoff, Vince McMahon, and Tommy Dreamer. 2004. DVD. World Wrestling Entertainment, 6 Nov. 2010.

Wrestling Information Archives. “Raw is War Ratings History”. 9 June 2008. 20 Nov. 2010. <>

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Monday Night RAW: Broken Finish

(courtesy of

Last night was the most enjoyable of the new three hour format. It might be because I am getting used to it being three hours. It could also be that they had more wrestling on the show. Then the end of the show happened, and it came off as a teen drama like Dawson’s Creek or One Tree Hill. Maybe that is because AJ Lee skipping to the ring looks more like a cast member for Pretty Little Liars than the GM of a WWE brand.
I’m a fan of mixing things up. They usually start with a twenty minute promo, but instead they have Show vs. Punk. This was a good match to showcase how much of a threat that Big Show is. He manhandled the WWE champion. Since this was all an angle with Daniel Bryan coming to get involved to set up the tag match later, it was a good use of talent. Show got jobbed out by RKO last week, so Punk does him a favor by taking a whipping this week.
When AJ skipped to the ring among the four was the first time I really noticed how out of place she looks. She doesn’t act serious and comes off like an airhead. As pointed out by Shane Helms on his twitter, it is the reason she wasn’t at the contract signing later in the show, because her action/look sticks out like a sore thumb among the brutes. Turning her into a GM instead of a Vickie Guerrero or Eve, who fit the role better, might have a negative impact on her run in the WWE.
JTG talked trash on twitter. The WWE creative team either told him to do it to get over on the dirt sheets, or they are using it afterwards to deal with the collateral damage. Either way JTG gets to taste the stiffness that is Ryback. His new entrance music is horrible. I hate “Feed Me More”. What a dumb catch phrase. Now we get to wait until somebody answers “Feed Me More” with a knuckle sandwich. Get it. He squashes JTG and people now know to watch their ass on twitter as Cole has a social media orgasm.
The Prime Time Players are already better without AW. It sucks he is out of a job, but even a pro stand up like Daniel Tosh will tell you that rape jokes are tough to pull off. Now AW is going to be a stand up. Can’t wait for that. It’s been my career for five years now. Should be fun to see him realize you can’t just ramble on stage.
Just attacking R-Truth, and doing their best Billy and Chuck impersonation after, did more for the Prime time Players than months of AW talking during their matches. I look forward to seeing where they go from here. The R-Truth match was just to set this up, so Slater is not even an enhancement talent now, he’s a placeholder talent.
Tensai vs. Sin Cara & the Divas match weren’t anything special. I checked on the NFL preseason game during these. Tensai needs to break from his worshipper and get with Vickie Guerrero. In fact having him, the Prime Time Players, and one more talent would be a nice stable for Vickie. Plus then Ziggler could break free for a solo run, or he could be the one and let those guys be his muscle/stooges.
Rowdy Roddy Piper is hit or miss, never in between. Unfortunately last night was a miss. He was trying to get Jericho over with the crowd as a good guy. He ranted about stuff while also trying to get over his Mickey Rourke match from years back. Also his homophobic pink shirt comment didn’t do much as now everybody wears Pink shirts. Just as Pauly D or Robbie E. This segment was a train wreck that went too long, but did lead into a great match.
Ziggler vs. Jericho vs. Miz was an entertaining three way dance. They all worked their butts off and I liked that Ziggler was kept out of most of the match. They told a good story with Jericho trying to show he can win the big one. Miz can really sell. In the end having Ziggler steal the win from Jericho as Vickie distracted the ref was simply amazing stuff. Jericho took out Miz with the walls. Then Ziggler hits his finisher on Y2J. It puts both young guys over, and plays up the “Jericho can’t cut the mustard” storyline. Good stuff, and their match at Summer Slam should be a classic. Especially with it being Jericho’s last match of 2012.
Another great storyline match was the tag between Punk/Cena & Bryan/Show. They really put over the tension between Cena and Punk. They also showed how over Bryan is with his “No” gimmick. That crowd was losing their minds taunting him. I am sure Daniel Bryan goes to the bathroom and shits gold. He protects Show by taking the beating, and the Summer Slam match for the WWE title is set. I hope Bryan beats Kane as he is the glue holding this company together this summer.
Another great moment is the build of Damien Sandow. Christian is now relegated to the cheered face that always gets beat. The announcers talk about his title runs only to prove how good the guy he loses to is. Again I state, was being TNA champion that bad? Funky Brodus comes to the ring and everybody thinks Sandow is going to lose, but swerve is on us. He picks up the duke and for a third straight week rubs it in Clay’s face. Their match at Summer Slam should be good, and Sandow is becoming a money drawing heel because people will pay to watch him get beat up.
I didn’t touch the whole HBK, Lesnar, and HHH angle yet because it was broken. Parts of it I liked, Parts of it I didn’t, and Parts of it were straight from the CW. HBK is scared of Lesnar. His facials are great. He is really helping sell that this man is a monster. This I liked.
HHH isn’t there because he flew commercial. The big wig of a billion dollar company that owns jets with their logo on it didn’t fly on one? Come on man. Why not just say he is stuck in traffic? Why not have him show up only to be called away on business? Anything but a commercial flight is late. This isn’t JTG on the phone, it’s HHH. This I didn’t like.
Paul Heyman was a salesman. He made sure people knew this was going to be brutal. The crowd wasn’t into it because they were in hour 3. So he tosses in a Texans being cowards line and gets them riled up. He is an old pro at this. It brings out HBK and the two together have done more to sell this match than anything Brock & HHH have done together. I really liked this.
Then after it all ended HHH came down to save his little buddy. That’s right the hall of famer, showstopper, and man who took on Taker in a Hell in a Cell, needed HHH to come down to watch his back. One Lesnar = One DX. It makes HBK look weak like he can’t fight his own fights. I get he is retired, but is anyone coming down to stand up for Mick Foley, Stone Cold, or the Rock if they are in a ring with one man? Probably not. This I didn’t like.
Here is where the teen drama kicks in. Heyman sets up HBK by blocking his car with his car. Lesnar comes and drags HBK out of his car. The cameraman gets knocked down and we lose visual but not audio. They have a nasty sound brawl. Then commercial.
We come back from commercial and nobody knows where Lesnar or HBK is. You mean everyone missed a nearly 300 pound man carrying a broken down 240 pound man to the ring with a fat manager yelling behind him? Then HBK gets roughed up by Brock as HHH comes to the ring. Heyman tries to control his man, but oops, he breaks HBKs arm. Then HHH does the stupidest thing yet and challenges Brock to fight him in a ring where his buddy is being attended to by EMTs for a broken arm. Are you gonna fight on top of him? Genius!
It was overbooked drama that made the show feel like it was clunky at the end. The end should have been the contract signing, but we waited around, and everyone knew it was so HBK could get brutalized. Maybe do the contract signing at 10PM, then do the WWE title tag match, and end the show with Lesnar beating the crap out of HBK in the back. Hell, even have him break HBKs arm in the back and then jump in a car driven by Heyman as HHH chases after on foot. It would have flowed together, and it wouldn’t have insulted the WWE title picture by having them go on mid-show.
This show was good. Some of it made me want to see Summer Slam. Jericho vs. Ziggler will be good. I’m even looking forward to the tag match and the Clay/Sandow match. Bryan looks to be hitting a great stride. The WWE title match is intriguing because I really don’t know who is walking out champ between Cena and Punk. It should be Punk, but it seems that his character might be headed towards dropping the title and going full blown dark side.
The Summer Slam main event between HHH and Brock has lost some steam. It will probably be entertaining, but in the end it still hasn’t connected with me. This is more of a match built on name value than storyline value.
When it’s all said and done Summer Slam will fall on how well these two tell a story in the ring, which will rely on Heyman & HBK playing heavy roles.  I’m still betting on a Stephanie smack to Heyman & that HBK will do the whole struggling with tossing in the towel angle much like Rocky did in Rocky 4 when Drago was murdering Apollo. If it goes like that then does that mean HBK vs. Brock at Survivor Series to avenge his friend and get back his reputation after Lesnar made him piss himself on RAW? I leave you with that to think about.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Internet Is Not Enough

I’ve always been a big Steve Corino fan. He doesn’t seem to take himself too serious. He was one of the most entertaining ECW champions during the time I was a diehard ECW fan. Corino is the modern age Terry Funk, in that he understands the best way to ensure a cushier future for him is to prepare the next generation of wrestlers. That might stem from his son being a budding grappler. He also has a great blog and twitter feed.
When I was working with Eddie Farhat Jr. I tried to get Corino booked for a couple of shows, but never could convince Eddie to bring him in. I traded emails with Steve, but I couldn’t get Eddie to agree to his price, which wasn’t out of bounds for a recent ECW champion. Later on I found out it was because Farhat wasn’t willing to pay anyone their market value and used his cousin/father’s name to bargain shop talent. It was one of the reasons I left to go book for the MMWA in Northern Michigan. I would have loved to bring Corino in there, but I learned that ship was already oars underwater when I took over.
When I read Corino’s latest blog he covers a lot, but in one section he talks about the role of promoters when it comes to promoting their shows. The King of Old School talks about a common occurrence in indie wrestling where a wrestler shows up to a town, goes to the gas station down the block from the venue, and the people working there don’t even know wrestling is going on that night a football field away from their job. Basically a promoter failed at promoting. It’s like a father who isn’t a good father. They’re a deadbeat promoter.
Just like kids with a deadbeat dad, it is the wrestlers that suffer because then the promoter does the dance of, “The house was light, so that means your pay envelope is light too”. The wrestlers showed up, they put on a match, and yet they have to get stiffed. All because a promoter couldn’t even do the one thing they’re supposed to do: Promote. It happens because people think if you set up a ring it will be like field of dreams, and fans will just come. As if pro wrestling fans have a spider sense for boiled hot dogs, gold bond powder, and men in tights.
A lot of promoters I have met spend more time booking and re-booking a show, than getting the word out about the show. They think a facebook post, a twitter update, a website with a message board for ten fans to trade insults on, and flyers at the local comic shop is all that is needed to draw. The only thing is that the internet is not enough.
The people following you on twitter and facebook already know about your show. The same goes for your message board. If you’re actually doing flyers then you need to put it where people who don’t normally go to wrestling will see them.
So many times I have seen flyers up in a comic shop or a tattoo parlor, where the customers already have pretty low dispensable incomes. Yet the local grocery store, gas stations, and hardware store don’t have a single mention. It takes ten seconds to ask the manager if you can put one up, and the customers coming through there usually have deeper pocket books. Plus they are new customers, which is essential for any business to grow.
Out of every 10 new people who check out a business for the first time, only 1-2 will be repeat customers. That is basic business economics. The ratio might be worse for pro wrestling because it is such a niche market. So you need to keep bringing in new blood like a dialysis machine for Keith Richards. Every show your audience should be at least 80% new faces.
The one thing every promoter seems to miss the boat on is Press Releases. I don’t know why because they are really easy to do. They take very little time to do, and you can send them to every media outlet in the area. There are a lot of small town papers, radio stations, and even television stations that are looking for local flavor to fill time. I know, I used to do morning radio for a decade. It might not be at 7AM drive time, but even a 6:10 AM talk break because of a press release is better than nothing.
A great example is when I took over for the MMWA. Going into my first booked show with the promotion the ticket sales just weren’t good enough. It was going to be another bad showing. I then found out nothing had been done to reach out to the media. With the help of my friend Jim Hall, we put together a press release talking about Rick Steiner coming to Northern Michigan, and guess what the local paper wanted an interview.
Rick was great about doing it, and we hooked the reporter up with Steiner for a short interview. He wrote an article in the Sunday edition the week before the show that took up half the front page because this little town usually had nothing more than quilt shows and fishing competitions to talk about. Low and behold the house went from 20 tickets sold to nearly 150 tickets sold leading up to the event. It was because we took an hour to make a press release. I think it cost us like 2 dollars in copies to send out. If I remember the walk up ended being good for that show too.
If promoting wrestling was easy then everybody would do it. I would quit my job and do it. The thing is pro wrestling will always be a labor of love. You’ll probably lose money at it. Some don’t have the discipline to run a tight show with a budget. Others can’t figure out how to get the word out. Most won’t survive the year or more it takes to establish a fan base that allows you to just break even.
Indie wrestling in most cases will be as profitable as playing poker with your buddies on the weekend. You might make a dime or two every once and awhile, but you’re not walking out on your job to go chase the dream. You’ll have fun with your friends, new and old. You’ll get a couple of stories. Finally, you’ll look forward to the next month, which helps get you through your 9 to 5. That’s the real life of an indie promoter.
Not to say there aren’t promotions making it. There sure as hell is. Just like there are a few weekend card players who make a splash at the World Series of Poker. The thing is those promotions are working their tails off to put as many butts in the seats. They have the flyers up at the laundry mat four towns over. They have phone calls into the local media for interview requests and ticket giveaways. They are doing everything besides relying on the internet. These promoters know the internet is really just the place to keep the fans hooked once you’ve caught them. Nobody accidently Googles your indie wrestling promotion.
If you’re willing to put in this work then you’ll see results. As the crowds grow then so will the quality of the shows, because wrestlers do better when there are less empty chairs. The better shows will keep bringing people back because quality is the best way to retain customers. This is the cycle of life in pro wrestling and in business as a whole.
Yet, like Newton said, “An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.” The promoter has to be that outside force that gets the crowds in motion, the crowds will get the wrestlers in motion, and then houses will grow, which is a motion. It all begins with the promoter.
There is a lot more that goes into indie wrestling promoting than what I talked about here. This is one aspect of hundreds that go into running shows. Yet it seems to be such an important one that gets overlooked.
As the title says, the internet just isn’t enough. It’s great for interaction, but does little to put asses in the seats. Hard work, commitment, and patience will always be what determines if a show is going to be 20 butts every 18 inches or 200. It’s old school promoting, and sometimes what’s old school is right.