Inside Pulse 12

My Pinterest Is Piledrivers: Don’t Look Back In Strangle 2015 (WWE, NXT, New Day, Kevin Owens)

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Hello and welcome to My Pinterest Is Piledrivers.  In case you missed my previous article from two weeks ago regarding the current state of the… sigh… Diva’s Revolution, check it out here.  I took a weeklong break figuring not too many people will read something on Christmas, as well as the timing working out perfectly for a look back at 2015 on the first day of the new year.

I hope people get my title being an Oasis reference.

Working out the good and the bad of wrestling is always more difficult than one would think, simply because it’s so tempting to focus on the bad.  But I’m genuinely going to try to be fair and open-minded, because it’s not like everything is horrible.  So that said-

The Good

New Day Rocks

Kofi Kingston had long been a favorite around here, and many was the time that BD and I would talk about how the dude really did deserve better than he regularly got.

…I could watch Kofi legdrop Sheamus through a table every single day.  I might make that a 2016 resolution, in fact.

But he could just not break through that ceiling.

I’ve been a longtime booster of Big E (here’s an article from 2013 for proof, although I really need to go back and fix those dead links).  The guy is crazy strong with a unique look, and more than that he’s crazy entertaining and charismatic.

They put those two with Xavier Woods, who up until The New Day began I had absolutely no idea of any potential, and now that he gets regular airtime I see there was tons of it, and they came together to make the best squad since The Shield.  The New Day are the most relevant and hip thing the WWE has going.  They understand youth culture and the internet.  They’re designed for gifs and Vines.  At three hours a show, I put the Skip button on the remote to work every RAW, but you damn well know when I see those guys come out, I stop and watch every single thing they do.

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John Cena & his open challenge adventures

Man, who could’ve predicted in 2014 that John freakin’ Cena would be one of the best parts of Monday Night Raw, a smark favorite and actually missed when he took time off?

He did what he said he’d do, and made the US championship important.  And every Monday Night Raw, whether he was facing a debuting Sami Zayn, a Neville who looked incredibly strong, a Zack Ryder in front of his hometown, this was often the highlight of the night.  It’s only a shame that the Daniel Bryan injury took out the tentative plan to have competing IC open challenges on Smackdown culminating in a rematch between the two at Summerslam.

NXT

I don’t think NXT has had a bad Takeover special yet.  Their indie and foreign signings like Zayn, Owens, Balor, Joe, Itami and Asuka are across the board amazing, and their ability to take “homegrown” talent and teach them to improve and shine, like Enzo & Cass, Dana Brooke and even Baron Corbin is promising as well.

This section of the company just gets it.  Triple H has said that NXT and WWE are fundamentally different, with fundamentally different audiences, so I’ve given up hope of a larger-scale “takeover” when Vince eventually passes the torch passes on, so now I’m hoping of NXT just making enough money on its own to become it’s own separate touring brand entirely with the freedom and economic incentive to hold onto guys like Bo Dallas, Neville, Adam Rose, The Vaudevillains among others.

Asuka

 

Asuka won’t take any of your shit, Cameron.

Asuka gets in for this gif alone.

But yes, she’s amazing and she needs to be on the main roster feuding with Becky Lynch and Sasha in 2016.

Sasha, Charlotte & Becky

They’re here on the main roster.  Not being used 100%, but they’re here.  In 2016, they can work on utilizing full potential.

Summer Rae

I mentioned a couple of months ago that I thought Summer Rae was under-Rae-ted (geddit?) and got some confused comments.  Summer is incredibly entertaining, and in sports entertainment, that’s a very valuable skill.

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Summerslam

This got mixed reviews, but you know what?

It had an actually relevant celebrity host in Jon Stewart.

Stewart in fact helped Rollins retain and go over Cena.

Owens and Cesaro had a nice long-ish match.

The New Day were in a Fatal 4-Way with two good teams and also Los Matadores were there.

Becky Lynch won a match?  Becky Lynch won an important match??  Becky Lynch won an important match on a PPV???

And fuck it, I liked the ending to Taker-Lesnar.  Taker had to win or else there’d be no drama for the blow-off.  But he couldn’t win in a definitive fashion, because it wouldn’t make sense for a 50-year-old man to beat a guy that looks like he could cook and eat The Mountain from Game of Thrones.  So Taker went with a heel technique, hit the low blow, and Lesnar passed out while giving Undertaker the finger.  Lesnar officially lost the match, but won the moral victory.

Seth Rollins

I remember when the then-Tyler Black was signed, and there was a writer or columnist who was worried because he wasn’t really known for talking or personality, both of which are very much needed to make it in the WWE.

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Yeah, he’s nailing it.

Props to Seth for getting over with being booked as a cowardly champion who loses a lot.  He did good interacting with Jon Stewart even before Summerslam, and he’ll come back and the pop will be huge.

 

The Cesaro Section

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Long an IWC favorite, this year was the first that even the casuals seemed to really get into appreciating the Swiss Superman.  And why not?  Dude looks like an even more jacked Jason Statham, he’s suave as a motherfucker

Antonio Cesaro / Claudio Castagnoli, WWE US Champion photographed in Phoenix, Arizona January 27th, 2013

Antonio Cesaro / Claudio Castagnoli, WWE US Champion
photographed in Phoenix, Arizona
January 27th, 2013

and he regularly puts on the best matches on the card no matter who his opponent is.  And check out this goofy-ass video he did!

The Network

This is still a helluva deal.  Worth it alone for NXT and the Takeover specials.  But you get a vast library of historical PPVs as well.  Plus there’s some actually interesting original programming now, like Renee Young’s Unfiltered

And Table For 3.  I swear, it’s worth getting just to watch Daniel be a dick to Ryback.

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This is just a fun show.  I became more invested in the Madden tournament than I did in the Rusev-Ziggler story.  On a simple, basic level, it’s just neat to see everyone out of character and hanging out.  Look in the background of the above video to see Neville, Braun Stroman, Bray Wyatt among others watching.

It’s also where I learned that guys like Kalisto, Heath Slater and Jimmy Uso all actually had personalities and were able to do solid work quipping naturally.

The NXT callups

How awesome was Kevin Owens this year?  Beats John Cena clean at his first match?  Goes on to feud with him, then is victorious in feuds with Cesaro and Ryback, winning the Intercontinental championship?  There’s a lot to complain about, but how they’ve been handling Kevin isn’t one of them.  Plus, he always has really good backstage interviews.

Charlotte is the current, sigh… Diva’s champion, and Sasha is undefeated, so there’s actually been some amount of success with this year’s NXT callups.

The Bad

The other NXT callups

For every Kevin Owens and Sasha Banks, there’s a Bo Dallas and an Adam Rose, or for this year, a Neville and Becky Lynch.

Neville actually won the Breakout of the Year Slammy, so maybe backstage he’ll get more stuff to do than “show up, be inhumanly athletic, lose match.”

Becky seems like she’s being positioned as the sole face of the, sigh… Diva’s division, but I’ll believe it when I see it.  For now, she’s been Charlotte’s goofy sidekick with the neon hair when she’s capable of so much more.

Injuries

Currently out with injuries severe enough to make them miss shows or refrain from wrestling are:

-Seth Rollins, injured while WWE champion

-Daniel Bryan, injured while Intercontinental champion

-Cesaro

-King Barrett

-Nikki

-Tyson Kidd, possibly never to wrestle again

-Randy Orton

-Sting

-Sin Cara

and from NXT

-Sami Zayn, just recently returned and

-Hideo Itami

Erick Rowan and Rusev also both had injuries this year.  That is an assload of injuries.  Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a time when that many wrestlers were all out at the same time.  Someone suggested that new methods of intense training might be exacerbating things, others might suggest to at least cycle through certain wrestlers if you’re not going to do an off-season (hint: they never will) but clearly WWE might want to try something.  Furthermore, they might want to look at building up a stronger middle and even upper card, so when things like this happen there’s not as much of an obvious vacuum.

The Authority

The Authority’s been around since 2013.  That’s two years and a half years since they formed in August of that year.  By comparison, The Corporation lasted less than year, and that’s including The Corporate Ministry.

I know that Vince as the evil boss was a successful storyline, and everyone likes to imagine getting to put one over on their work superiors, but this has dragged on a bit too long.  Add to that that Triple H seems to be rarely humiliated when compared to the frequent Wile E. Coyote backfires of Vince, and Steph is basically never shown up.  Hell, she split up the Bellas, challenged Brie to a match, won the feud then… ratings are higher than ever?  (They’re not.)

I think Lance Storm has a point, which he made on a Jim Cornette podcast, about how the blend of fiction and reality in WWE is making the fans reject not the faux-chosen ones, but the ones they really know are the favorites in the back, like Roman Reigns.

But maybe even more than that… it’s just tired now.  Nothing wrong with a nice, neutral Authority figure who comes out only when needed.

Survivor Series

The Brothers of Destruction lost to the Wyatts?  Not like the Wyatts could’ve used a victory or anything.

Last year, Dolph was the sole survivor of his team, outlasting even Cena, and being responsible for ending the Authority (for the week they were gone).  This year, he loses to Tyler Breeze in six minutes.  Nothing wrong with putting over the new guy, but the new guy’s pretty much stuck to jobbing already and again, he lost in six minutes.

Goldust returns, and you put that on the pre-show?!

You form a four-man faction with the League of Nations… after Survivor Series?  Which only had the one traditional match on the actual PPV?

Finally, you really get a chance to take the floundering face of Roman and do something that, while perhaps cliche, might also be seen as a classic reference to the 1998 Survivor Series, and have him join the Authority, turn heel, betray Dean making him the top babyface, setting up an awesome Royal Rumble victory and an awesome Wrestlemania main event… but eh.  I’m sure those two PPVs were turn out just fine.

Royal Rumble

“Okay Vince, we kinda screwed the pooch back in 2014, so this year we really need to-”

Cut to January 25th.

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“…oh.”

The passing of Rowdy & The American Dream

These were nobody’s fault but God and the Grim Reaper, but it still doesn’t mean it didn’t suck.  “Rowdy” Roddy Piper was a legend in this business, and also one of the few to breakthrough to the mainstream in movies like They Live, shows like It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia and living on through the nickname of “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey.

“The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes was widely regarded as the heart of NXT, who taught Sasha to bring out her inner queen and taught Finn Balor and Hideo Itami to drive.  When people not normally known for their mic skills suddenly developed them, you could thank Dusty.

Mizdow

…The Miz won this feud after a seemingly throwaway match on a random RAW, why?  So Miz could take off and do nothing for weeks at a time and Sandow to have all the momentum and heat cool off?  Because that makes money somehow?  Ugh.

Hulk Hogan

Like, I think we all knew by now the dude wasn’t a saint, what with his sex tape with his former best friend’s wife, and dating girls that look just like his daughter, but those things could almost be considered standard creepy grandpa behavior.  Then he went on a tirade that would make David Duke blush and became racist grandpa, and nobody likes racist, creepy grandpa.

WWE actually made a smart move by immediately distancing themselves from him.  Furthermore, there’s really not much more value to squeeze out of the guy anyway.  Yeah, he was a big deal in the mid 1980s, but he can’t do anything other than misremember the name of the arena he’s in and cup his hand to his ear.  Guys like Austin and The Rock are more relevant nostalgia acts and still young enough to pop out a Stunner or Rock Bottom now and then.

Monday Night Raw

You know when the executive vice-president of talent, live events and creative mentions how it’s hard to stay engaged and focused for three hours, there’s a problem.

Three hours is way too long for a weekly wrestling show.

Somehow the most interesting and outside-the-box interviews and segments are on YouTube and not on the actual show people should be encouraged to watch live.

Endless recaps of things that happened on the very same show.

Opening too many shows with too long promos by too many of the same people.

Rare is the occasion for a surprise or title change.  Yes, Roman won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship on December 14, but what are some of the other title changes and moments from this year?  I’ll wait.

The women are more often than not still only getting five-minute matches.

Weirdly-timed and frequent commercial breaks.

Flat-out bad booking.

Ratings are sinking for a reason.  Pull it together, WWE.

So how will 2015 be looked at?  It still seems a little close to say, but we did get two brand-new WWE championship reigns from Roman and Seth, and one brand-new, sigh… Diva’s reign with Charlotte.  John Cena is focused on the midcard belts and we’ve had several NXT callups rise to more prominent roles.  Not perfect, but maybe a promising beginning to a slow changing of the guard.  If we can replace some of those writers, then we’d really be cooking with fire.

Follow me on twitter @todaysjimsawyer.

 

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