A Special Rasslin’ Roundtable: Grading The The Road To SummerSlam


With SummerSlam, the first co-branded event since WrestleMania, on our doorstep, now seems as good a time as any to analyze where we’ve come since then. WrestleMania is often touted as the be all-end all of the wrestling year, the point where storylines come to an end, new faces begin their rise to superstardom or solidify their place among the immortals, and the course for the new “season” is charted. We here at IP have assembled to discuss this very thing, from a variety of angles; from personnel changes to pushes and de-pushes, the IP staff has come together to pick apart the steps and missteps the WWE has taken in the post-WrestleMania atmosphere, on the road to SummerSlam.

And your participants are …

Widro (Inside Pulse’s equivalent to Emperor Palpatine … but, alas, has nothing for me to pimp)
Matthew Micahel (Some guy)
David Brashear (Creator of Great-ing Gimmicks)
Bambi Weavil (Queen of IP Wrestling, creator of In Perspective)
Carlos Zarur (Sunday Night Heat recapper)
James Hatton (Forum moderator, creator of The Monday Night Rabble)
AFN Steve (Fan participant #1, one of the IP Forum’s most illustrious posters under the moniker A Faceless Name)
Tanya H. (Fan participant #2, friend of mine)
Myself (do I need to introduce myself? *sigh* Creator of Re-Writing The Book, Re-Viewing The Book, and any other column with “Re-” in the title)

How the WWE has built off WrestleMania 21?

Widro: I think WWE has done a great job of building off of WM21 on the whole. They have built each show around the new champion (Cena, Batista, although SD Batista hasn’t been done as well). They have kept the product feeling a sense of urgency throughout the spring and summer with Hogan, ECW, the draft, Matt Hardy and more.

Matthew Michael: Absolutely. It’s been a hot, hot summer and that’s RARE in the day and age with 12-14 PPVs a year.

David Brashear: You know, until I looked back at the card for Wrestlemania, I didn’t realize how little movement in angles there’s been. Eddie and Rey are still feuding. Edge won the Money in the Bank match, and has not used it. Undertaker and Orton are still feuding. The women’s title and Hassan are either gone or may as well be. Cena and Batista still have their titles. Benoit and Kane are either just there (for Benoit) or in a tired angle (Lita-Edge, for Kane). One plus I have seen is the advancement of the feud between Jericho and Cena, which I feel is an excellent choice. Cena’s still limited in the ring, but Jericho should be able to cover that – unlike JBL-Batista on Smackdown. Overall, there has been very little progress, either positive or negative. Most of the shows have been simply idling since Wrestlemania. Hopefully Summerslam will see some forward momentum starting.

Bambi Weavil: I don’t feel it’s been very successful because with the massive firings and draft lottery, both landscapes are different than they were at the end of Wrestlemania 21.

Carlos Zarur: So far so good… in my view anyway. I’m glad they haven’t hot shotten the two main titles off of Batista or Cena so quickly. At least they are giving them the time to grow into their own with fresh feuds. And I expect both of them to keep their titles after Summerslam.

James Hatton: I think the problem here is the question. The point of Wrestlemania isn’t really to build off of. I’ve always felt that Wrestlemania was a chapter ending. Wrestlemania was where people defeated their long build opponent with finality. This past year, we watched as after Batista beat Trips, he had to face him again at two consecutive PPVs. We also had Eddie versus Rey, which has been done to death now, with the “stakes” getting increasingly more silly. The rest of the matches (with the exception of Undertaker/Orton) have all shifted because of the draft lottery. Given how well that was pulled off this year, I can only assume that THAT is going to be the new measuring stick for the end of the “chapters”. The draft lottery changed everything, and gave us something to look forward to every week WITH surprises. If they can keep that pace up every couple of months, they will keep the fans in seats.

AFN Steve: Well, they switched both champions, keep one off TV almost entirely, the other one has become a shadow of what he was (and when your career is as young as his is, that is a great accomplishment). They trade a bunch of talent between shows, then push them out the door. They have actually given us some long term storylines, and proceeded to overexpose them because it doesn’t seem they know what else to do. They have given life and gimmicks to a few guys like Conway and Heidenreich, like them or not they have some semblance of direction, which seems to be rare right now. I wont even talk about Diva search part two. Yet after all this I still watch both shows every week, so it looks like they are doing something right.

Jed Shaffer: Batista feuded with Triple H over three PPVs. Eddie and Rey are still feuding. The Kane/Edge/Matt Hardy debacle continues with no end in sight (and Edge’s Money In The Bank shot has been reduced to an international object for Edge to use to win matches). WrestleMania did little sew things up or serve as a launching pad for the rest of the year … it’s just kind of there, like any old In Your House.

Comings & goings. (This is strictly about real hirings and firings, not on-screens movement, and whether the right decisions have been made.)

Widro: Except for Matt Hardy, which was really made better by the firing in the longrun, I have no problems with anything done by WWE in personel. They dumped about 20 of the talents that were stale and not over (no matter who was at fault for it), and have added tons of great new additions – Matt, Brock, Mexicools, MNM, and coming back Jamie Noble and Spanky.

Matthew Michael: They really dropped the ball with Charlie Haas and Jackie, in my opinion. Everyone that was released, there was a good argument for it (while I’m sure you could nitpick about Maven, Morgan, and others), but Haas had so much potential if traded to RAW to feud and/or team with Angle, Benjamin or Big Show (having been connected to all three in the past). His character jumped the shark during the stupid Dawn Marie/Jackie angle that had no payoff, so if he ends up coming BACK to WWE, I’ll say his release was a good move. But as of now, he could have been freshened up by a move to RAW, and it’s a shame he’s not around anymore.

David Brashear: We’ve seen a lot of bloodletting over the last few months, haven’t we? While I agree with the long-term results of the firings in April (Matt Hardy being brought back in an intriguing angle; and Rhyno had been so misused he was almost worthless), the last bunch really held some surprises. Luther Reigns was no big loss – his only role had been as Angle’s henchman. Lance Storm hurt because while his in-ring days may be over, he has invaluable technical knowledge that could have been passed along to trainees at OVW. Of the last big releases, I feel that several could come back to hurt the WWE. The Dudleys would fit in perfectly in TNA, and a Dudleys-AMW feud could be very interesting. With his skills, Charlie Haas would also fit in well and Akio would be a perfect fit to return to the X-Division. Who should be gone? Most of the talentless lumps we’ve gotten lately. Snitsky. Masters. Heidenreich. Tomko. To be honest, if Viscera hadn’t gotten his “love machine” angle over so huge, he would’ve been on the list as well.

Bambi Weavil: This does say non-kayfabe so I really don’t have much to say here except, Amy Weber should have stayed, she had potential more so than the other clueless divas trying to be a WWF Diva.

Carlos Zarur: A lot of dead weight was let go with all the recent cuts. Most of them weren’t even on TV to begin with, so the right decisions were made. And the ones that weren’t have been fixed, ala Matt Hardy.

James Hatton: The only people I am shocked that Vinnie fired was the cruiserweights only to exchange them with three new cruiserweights. It keeps characters and stories fresh, yes, but it makes a CW division hard to support. All the other stars, I’m sure are happy they are going to be looking at a nice up in the rankings at TNA. If they can showcase themselves there, I wouldn’t be shocked to see one or two reappear at Vinnie’s house. I still don’t know why he hired Hogan back, but if this is the real last time, then I don’t see the harm either. Sadly, I don’t support him hiring Brock back, but that’s me.

AFN Steve: While I would love to raise an ire about every released cruiserweight and technically sound wrestler that got the boot, I find it hard to. Sure they pushed some guys I really like out the door, guys I could easily find stories for. However if the “E” can’t do anything but leave them wallowing in the 8th circle of wrestling hell, well, you might as well let them go and make others suffer in their place. It is better for the folks they cut, and well, the company thinks it is best for them, because we need the next guy with Luger’s gimmick ASAP.

Tanya H: The people let go during the Great Purge were, for the most part, not being utilized in any significant way. Sure, the Dudley Boys were one of the most dominant tag teams in history but they had been off the scene for months when their option wasn’t picked up. Rhyno? While he states that he should have been fired, I find it amusing that breaking a vase will get you terminated but others have done far worse (hello Snuka) and stayed employed. As for Matt Hardy – if I had said post Mania that in a few months there would be “We Want Matt” chants and that a snippet of his music would cause a GIANT pop, people would have called me crazy.

Jed Shaffer: I’m very partial to Rhino, so I’ll be sore about that fore a long time. And having met and dined with Charlie Haas and Jackie Gayda, I’m personally pissed off at that one … plus, Charlie is quite the talent, and was a criminally overlooked midcarder. A lot of the others … well, really, if you’re not gonna do anything with someone, why pay them? The Dudleys (all three of them) were stale, Jindrak was useless, ditto Luther Reigns and most of everyone else they fired. But when they fire all these people, then bring in a bunch of talentless centerfolds-to-be like Maria and Michelle McCool and the like, and then hold ANOTHER Diva Search for more talentless tits … ugh. And don’t even get me started on the Matt Hardy thing … I’m having trouble not projectile-vomiting over what that situation has become. As for the potential returning of Lesnar, I am not thrilled … thought he was overrated to begin with, so another dose of the lunkhead does not thrill me.

The main-event scene on Raw and Smackdown. (Is one show or the other too crowded at the top? Too thin? Is it an open field, or dominated by one person?)

Widro: This has been a bit of a problem, because it seems like WWE is having trouble keeping some of the top guys hot when not involved in a top program. Kurt Angle, Christian, Edge, Booker T and others have been in upper mid card feuds but haven’t really been put over strong enough for a main event run lately. Jericho was in the same boat but has stepped up huge with the Cena stuff so far.

Matthew Michael: RAW is stacked for the move to USA, so hopefully that means some of the underutilized singles on SD will get a chance to move up and shine. But I say that, and realize that Doug Basham hasn’t been on SD since the draft (if he has, I’ve missed it), Regal has been relegated to Velocity main events, and Christian is jobbing to everyone he faces, and wonder if I’m fooling myself. SD, though, is one Brock Lesnar away from having a legit main event again.

David Brashear: This is where it gets tricky. The main event for both shows changed a great deal during the draft lottery. Smackdown lost a great deal of its main eventers to Raw (Cena, Angle, and Big Show – who’s been considered a main eventer in the past). The only proven main eventer that Raw sent to Smackdown as Batista, although it also appeared that this could be the opportunity that wrestlers such as Benoit and Christian could seize to work their way back up the ladder. Also, HHH’s absence from Raw is a good thing as it becomes less the HHH show, and offers more opportunities for guys such as Jericho and Edge to move up the ladder. With HHH gone, Raw’s main event scene has opened up. Unfortunately, it looks as if Smackdown belongs to Batista, JBL, and Undertaker.

Bambi Weavil: It depends who you view as Main Event. Cena and Jericho are evenly matched, and maybe at a better advance than most because Jericho could provide leadership in teaching Cena how to tell a good story in the ring with his years of experience. On Smackdown, it feels more even with Batista, JBL, Undertaker and perhaps Christian and Booker T.

Carlos Zarur: Raw; is probably in the better condition than Smackdown, just because they have more of a main event scene locked in with all the wrestlers they have. And not having HHH around right now is helping things for Y2J and company. Smackdown is a different story. They have a group that is just ready to contend, but just fail to push them like Eddie or even Christian. Other than that, all they have is Batista and ugh, JBL.

James Hatton: RAW: Cena is a weak champion. I like that we’re seeing Jericho back in the spotlight, and have hopes for him to win it, but don’t see it happening. With him on tour, he’s a bit of a risk for burnout. Edge is still available as a main event contender, and Matt Hardy’s newly found fandom isn’t far behind. The problem is the looming ‘H’ factor. When Trips returns, he will most definitely be taking the title back, probably from Cena, and Hunter has done more than an amazing job at making himself seem like the only thing that matters on Raw. Shelton Benjamin being the one possible exception to that. SMACKDOWN: Benoit, Undertaker, Christian, Batista, JBL. Those five names in any combination are worth a good main event feud. As long as they play their cards right and blow their load each and every month – then the main event scene on Smackdown might become the thing to watch.

AFN Steve: On the plus side it is as good as it can get with such a weak middle card for the big boys to pound on. Two face champs, who have some viable heels to work with. They have guys in Shelton and Christian who can step in when needed, so that helps. Without that middle card to make them look strong though, all you see is a main-eventer getting beat by another main-eventer, usually hurting one or both guys, because they don’t usually go over as strong to keep them established. Jericho being back in the main-event is welcomed. On Smackdown we have 3 guys who should be the main attraction, fighting over a secondary title that not even the title holder cares about.

Tanya H: I’ll take Raw here since I haven’t followed Smackdown closely for a while. In my opinion the scene is spread out fairly evenly now after the draft and Triple H’s hiatus from the show. Granted the announce team had its “where’s Poochie?” moments a few weeks after he went away but that seems to have faded for now, leading to his “surprise” appearance at SummerSlam helping DAVE beat JBL. So far we have Cena and Jericho going after the title with Benjamin and Carlito hot on their heels in the IC race AND once RVD comes back, he’ll be (hopefully) placed in the mix as well. Plus we also have Edge and Angle (who are both currently feuding with someone who is not ‘all there’) who can easily be considered for a main event feud. Right now, the Hogan/Michaels deal is eating up a slot and post SS, that should be freed up for other performers.

Jed Shaffer: I don’t see how Smackdown is depleted, or Raw looks better. I think both shows have been overstocked with main event-caliber talent. Raw has H’s, Cena, Big Show, Jericho, Angle, Shawn, Edge, Kane, and potentially Matt Hardy and RVD; any combination of these guys is a main event PPV match, and frankly, that’s too many big fish in a small pond. Ditto Smackdown: Batista, JBL, Undertaker, Orton, Eddie, Rey, Benoit, Christian and Booker T are all credible in the main event of any show. Either we need to see some retirements, or some more established people (Undertaker, H’s and Shawn for starters) to step aside and let the title picture have some new blood for longer then a few months.

The midcard on Raw and Smackdown. (Same question as above … Over-crowded, too thin or just right? Should one show focus on a secondary belt and one show a cruiserweight division?)

Widro: Raw has done a decent job with the IC belt where Smackdown has done a terrible job with its US Title. I think with WWE signing so many cruisers, we could see a serious run for Cruiserweight domination to nip TNA’s X division in the bud.

Matthew Michael: The Smackdown midcard is just right. Now let’s push some of those Cruiserweights, ok? As for RAW, it’s a bit crowded, yet for the life of me I can’t remember if anyone’s legitimately in line for an IC Title push.

David Brashear: The midcard for both shows is strong, with several guys (Jericho, Benoit, Christian, Edge, Carlito) just waiting for their chance to get the ball and run with it. Unfortunately, that also means that there are several guys who are just holding a spot on the roster. I feel that there is a lot of talent down here, but the current trend toward bringing up guys who look like a million bucks, but can’t talk or wrestle concerns me. One change I would have made would be to move the tag division to one show or the other. There just aren’t enough teams as it is.

Bambi Weavil: WWE is doing a poor job in general of creating divisions that have nothing to do with the main event. It’s clear when you have Shelton Benjamin and Carlito and Edge and Kane fighting each other for the third straight week on RAW. I would like to see it all strengthened because once upon a time those belts meant something to the overall product of the company.

Carlos Zarur: Again, I feel that this situation is the same as the main event scene. Raw just simply has more talent to get by and justify the IC title and go on with actual storylines. While Smackdown is plagued with no one else but Orlando to hold the U.S. It would be nice to see Smackdown but more emphasis on the cruiserweight division while Raw on the IC, but if creative just ‘tries’ a bit more, all should be fine.

James Hatton: I’ve felt for awhile that they both need a midcard belt, but only if they use it properly. It’s only been since Orton that the IC belt has meant much of anything – and the US Title has yet to feel ‘real’ to me. They sadly still don’t use either as the launching point for main event pushes that it used to be. There was a real sense of long term storytelling when Michaels and Hart fought for the IC belt, and a year or two later were fighting for the World Title. The same could be said of Rock and Austin or even Rick Rude and The Ultimate Warrior.

Tanya H: Heh. Didn’t I just mention Benjamin and Carlito? While I love the former when he’s not doing his best Jeff Hardy SpotBlower impression, he has limited mic skills – and the latter is fun to listen to but really needs to get away from the Dazzling Array of Chinlocks his matches can de-evolve to. While I wish that RVD would be slated for ME status upon his return, I’m fairly sure he’ll start off midcarding. As for the belt issue, too many belts are meaningless. With the additions of Juvy, Super Crazy and Psicosis, SD can focus on the cruiserweights and kill off the meaningless US title. Orlando Jordan holds it – enough said.

Jed Shaffer: And if the main event is crowded, we have the direct opposite for the midcard. Carlito has the IC Title and has defended it against Shelton Benjamin EVERY WEEK SINCE HE WON IT!!! Oh sure, you could toss Snitsky and Masters in the midcard, but still … one f*cking face on Raw in the midcard? One face who, might I add, is a big win or two away from being main event-level? And Smackdown is no better … we got Orlando Jordan lording over the US Title the same way Big Show did in 2003-2004 (i.e., not defending it ever), and he has … who does he have as a contender? The bWo? Paul London? Michael Cole? The guy in the third row with the nacho cheese stain on his shirt? I’d say William Regal, but he seems to have been forgotten (odd, too, since he has a book out that could be pimped with some more regular appearances).

Who should be getting a push/de-push? (This applies to all levels, not just a midcarder to the main event, or vice versa).

Widro: Well the obvious guy is Christian, who is being jobbed like Iron Mike Sharpe despite a burgeoning fanbase. Shelton can’t cut a good promo but is credible enough at this point for a huge push. I’m tired of Kane, I’m tired of Orlando Jordan.

Matthew Michael: Cruiserweights on SD. WWE really needs to understand that cruisers and tag teams, if booked right, can MAIN EVENT TV SHOWS. Why job Paul London to Nunzio on Saturday night rather than in a built-up program in the main event on a Thursday? Aside from the CWs, I wanna see what Doug Basham and Christian can do with a sustained push on SD … and Conway, Benjamin, Eugene and Lilian on RAW. Yes. We need more GARCIA.

David Brashear: Let’s see. I’ve already touched on this but: Push: Christian, Edge, Jericho, Benoit, Hardy, Carlito, RVD. Let’s face it, Vince. These guys should be carrying the company now, instead of laying it across the shoulders of one son-in-law. WCW’s main mistake was using the same guys in the main event year after year after year and you’re starting to head down the same path. The last really breakthrough guy (before Cena) was Kurt Angle, and he debuted five years ago. Not promising… De-Push: JBL. You gave him the title for almost a year and he accomplished nothing. End the experiment and make him disappear.

Bambi Weavil: Christian should be main event this year, when RVD returns to RAW actively, he should get a bigger push than he has had in his career. Chris Masters should be de-pushed because he’s completely overrated. Eddy Guerrero and Ray Mysterio, Jr. should continue getting pushed.

Carlos Zarur: As they HEAT re-capper here on the pulse, I can’t say that I see anybody deserving to get a push from down below up to Raw or Smackdown. But on the major shows, Shelton Benjamin is the one I feel should be getting a boost after Summerslam. While on Smackdown, the show can belong to Christian.

James Hatton: Well it ain’t Rob Conway, I can tell you that. Sadly, Eugene’s gimmick will keep him away from the top of the game even though he is a decent chain wrestler. I always thought Val Venis had it in him, but his time seems to have passed. So if someone has it in them, I haven’t caught on yet. I’ll just keep missing Repo-Man.

AFN Steve: Nunzio could use some love. He sells like no one’s business, and can work a style that could be effective against bigger guys. I also would like to see Stevie Richards move up, he has his faction, and the guy is one of the better actors in the business. When a guy can make Right to Censor work, he has possibilities. Hurricane Helms, the gimmick is old, yet with all the Super-hero movies it shouldn’t be. He is good in the ring and on the stick, fans still seem to care somewhat, which is amazing how his career has gone lately. He never got the arch nemesis he so desperately needed. Shannon More could have been his Captain Chaos! They could turn Rosie as well, have him use his S. H. I. T. knowledge for evil. Stop hiring Hollywood writers and hire comic book writers, that is closer to wrestling than movies.

Tanya H: Vince, Paul, Brian, Stephanie, Jebus, whoever is responsible for the Masterlock Challenge? For the love of all that’s holy, will you please end it NOW and punt that green schmuck back to OVW? While I know that the undefeated gimmick helped get Goldberg over way back when, that was way back when. Also, I have a hard time (damn me and my logic) of buying as inescapable a move my boyfriend’s little sister can escape from. And while you’re at it, keep the craft services people on Red Alert Cupcake Detail so I don’t have to see Big Show in the ring? Merci.

Jed Shaffer: Christian is so screamingly obvious, it’s almost painful to watch him not be pushed. And aside from the usual suspects of people who flirt with the main event but never get there, let me champion some unsung heroes … William Regal, who could be tearing it up with Benoit in high-profile matches if they’d let him … Val Venis, who has had the rug pulled out from underneath him so many times, and still works his ass off … Stevie Richards, who can draw heel heat like no other … and Tajiri, who should be tearing people’s heads off like he used to in ECW, a silent but deadly predator whose size hides a raging monster. And I wouldn’t mind to see Conway get some more time, and a repackaging for Nick Dinsmore, so we can see what he’s really made of (from what I hear, Benoit Version 2.0). As for who needs to be shunted to Velocity/Heat … the usual blockheads, no doubt (Snitsky, Heidenreich, Masters), but also Orlando Jordan and … prepare for a shock … Carlito. I don’t see anything worth while in him whatsoever. And Rene Dupree needs to be seeing more ceiling lights.

A full-time ECW revival? (Will it happen? Can it succeed? How should it be done?)

Widro: Won’t happen.

Matthew Michael: Won’t happen, perhaps maybe once a year. I’d rather see them let Paul E. continue to book TV for Ohio Valley Wrestling, and perhaps make those shows more accessible to the fans that don’t live in Kentucky (online, in the HEAT slot, etc.).

David Brashear: After the recent releases of several ECW names (like the Dudleys, Dawn Marie, and Spike), and the rumors that Heyman’s thinking about packing his bags when his contract ends, I think that any chance of an ECW revival is dead in the water. Actually, I don’t think it had a chance in the first place for one reason – Vince McMahon did not create it. And there is nothing out there on par with what Vince McMahon creates. If you don’t believe it, just ask him.

Bambi Weavil: With the massive firings, I think it will just happen once a year, if that. It would succeed if ECW was brought back full time but only if Heyman could control it in a way where it was a separate entity from WWE, but with WWE’s money.

Carlos Zarur: This one can be a 50/50 coin flip. WWE saw how much attention ECW can get and how much following they still have to make things interesting. If they do happen to pull the trigger on it, ECW can make it. But just like they did One Night Stand, that’s how they would have to run the show. Heyman in charged, the ECW cast in full swing, and everything all out nothing held back every time.

James Hatton: Given that ECW was something, pardon then term, but raw – it will never be able to survive under the eyes of the McMahons. Not to mention that the world is in this state of ultra-conservativism when it comes to what we see on television or hear on the radio. Anything that has FCC regulation attached to it is bound to be strung up by it’s coattails. If they do allow it, it will fail.

AFN Steve: I really don’t think it is needed now. All it would do is deplete the already thin rosters of Raw and Smackdown, because you know they wouldn’t hire new talent to take the places of the departed ECW talent. Besides, they just released enough people to start a new promotion with. Also it would require another TV deal, something the WWE seems to be having trouble with right now.

Tanya H: While I LOVED One Night Stand and marked to the point of causing my boyfriend’s temporary deafness, the magic would be diluted by a full revival. At first I was hoping for more shows (especially since the rumor mill had stated that the next one would be in my hometown) but it’s like a true Pink Floyd reunion – while one is really cool and getting a pleasant blast from the past is always awesome – you can’t keep reliving the past AND keep things interesting. Also, in my opinion a HUGE chunk of the allure of ECW was how non-mainstream/punk rock it was. No matter how hard they try, the WWE would end up somehow smoothing out the rough edges that made ECW what it was. Add to that the ages of the performers who people think of when you say ECW (Dreamer/Sandman/Foley/etc) and there’s no real way to truly revitalize the classic E-C-DUB. There could be an attempt to start it over but I don’t want that. Let me remember it the way it was.

Jed Shaffer: Part of me wants to think the releases might be a bit of a work … say, all these people are released, then Heyman “leaves” and “restarts” ECW when the WWE jumps back to USA (since they only got the Raw timeslot and one other in the deal) with all the “released” personnel. But that’s wishful thinking. ECW, no matter how much money it may draw from diehards, is dead, and Vince isn’t about to make money off something he didn’t make. But if what I just outlined does happen … I called it.

Did the Draft Lottery succeed? (Did the DL overload one show and deplete another? Are the shows now better balanced? Who should’ve been switched instead?)

Widro: I think both shows have benefited. I’m curious as to why the Internet just deems Smackdown the secondary show when they just got both Batista and Orton and will be getting Brock back shortly.

Matthew Michael: I loved the Draft Lottery for no other reason than it made wrestling in JUNE exciting for the first time in forever.

David Brashear: The Draft Lottery. This is a big one. Several mistakes were made. Let’s look at a couple of the major ones, shall we? 1) Christian should not have gone to Smackdown. For a month we’d had a good solid build to a feud between Christian and John Cena. Cena appears on Raw, and I cheered when Christian came out for the face-to-face confrontation. The WWE blows it off with one match, then moves Christian to Smackdown where he’s currently headlining Velocity. Good move. 2) The Bashams should not have been split up. They were one of the few legit teams the WWE has, and they get split, which only serves to push the tag division onto more life support. Of course, then Conway and Grenier were split, so there’s another team gone. The only positive from the Draft Lottery was the return of the bWo – with Smackdown being the perfect place for them. Now if the WWE would just let them win a match or two…

Bambi Weavil: I feel it’s helped refresh RAW entirely and I’m still mixed if keeping HHH on RAW was better than moving Batista to Smackdown. I feel it’s worked itself out now, now if only the writing would improve and we could get more actual wrestling on the shows.

Carlos Zarur: I have to say, the draft really shot down Smackdown. They way things were going, I thought they were gonna pack up Eddie, Taker, and JBL over to Raw too! Obviously, Raw got the better deal and loaded itself with the ‘bigger’ champion and brighter future talent. While Smackdown needs to lock down and get moving creative wise. Just like I said earlier, Smackdown has the talent, but needs to start building and pushing it NOW! Other than that, the draft was ok for me… other than the fact HHH still could have moved over.

James Hatton: As I mentioned earlier, the Draft Lottery was the best thing that has happened to Raw in a long time. It does seem, in the end, that Smackdown might have ended up with the better end of the stick though. Christian and Benoit specifically are showing that they can, in fact, rule the show. On the otherside, Cena has the mic skills, but lacks the wrestling – and Carlito has yet to amaze me.

AFN Steve: Considering they let go any of the people who traded shows (letting go one would be bad enough, but that many…tsk tsk) before they appeared on the shows they switched to, it mostly came off as a waste. On the plus side in the upper card it created some fresh feuds. Feuds for which for the most part seem to go unrealized. Big Show feuding with Snitsky and Masters? Why? What did I do to deserve this? However, getting Benoit and Booker T together is nice, I could handle a good respect feud. Once they get through the aftermath, I expect more of the fresh feuds to be realized, but by that time will another draft have happened screwing it all up again? Richards and Nova/Dean switching has great potential, if they actually pull the trigger with the BWO.

Jed Shaffer: I would still prefer to see the two shows have individual identities (one show be all sports entertainment, one be more straight wrestling), so in that respect, it was a failure. Plus, some of the trades were done, seemingly, to continue stuff that didn’t need to be continued, or to continue it on a new show (when Batista vs. Orton occurs, how is it different by doing it on Smackdown instead of Raw?). But despite the nitpickings, this year’s Lottery succeeded in big surprises and big moves, and both shows came out looking good. It’s probably the one thing the WWE has gotten right all year.

Have the WWE’s “next generation of superstars” (Batista, Orton, Cena) lived up to the hype? (Are these guys the torch-bearers for the next generation, or are they merely another group of “New Generation” filler until real stars come along?)

Widro: Cena is stepping up nicely and if he improves his in ring work with feuds with guys like Hunter or Angle, he will be a top draw. Batista is wilting in a sense, but he also hasn’t been given many opportunities and thus hasn’t falled on his face badly. His match with JBL was poor. Orton back as a heel is the way to go, as much as he didn’t get over as a face, he could never really have. He is a natural heel and I think the longterm guys will still be Orton and Cena.

Matthew Michael: Batista is like 40 years old, and the fans put him in that spot when Orton’s face push failed, so I’d have to say he’s succeeded. That being said it’s too early to tell about Orton and Cena, but they ARE the future … only question is will they be the next Rock and Austin or not.

David Brashear: Let’s take the big three one at a time. Batista – No. He’s gotten himself over as a monster face, then stunk up the ring at the Great American Bash. He needs to be paired with stronger wrestlers instead of the punch-punch-kick style of somebody like Bradshaw (who still needs some help being carried himself). Orton – No. To be fair, though, it’s not his fault. Orton was well on his way until HHH cut him off at the knees to get the belt back in time for Taboo Tuesday last year. He hasn’t been able to recover from that yet, although his feud with the Undertaker (and return to the cocky heel) are definitely steps in the right direction. Cena – Yes. Cena’s managed to work a Hulk Hogan-esque miracle. The crowd doesn’t care how much help he needs or how limited his moveset is. They love him regardless and have pushed him to the main event. A year ago I was in a conversation and predicted that Cena would be carrying the company. I was just wrong about the length of time – I’d thought it would take 2-3 years for him to reach this point. Now let’s look at pet projects. Snitsky – Why is he still here? Chris Masters – His first match he hurts Stevie Richards with a Polish Hammer and he talks like he has a mouthful of cotton. All the guy has going for him is his look. It’s really good that he’s so muscular. That way he won’t get hurt when he’s carrying his bags out of the company. Eugene – I can’t believe how well the crowd’s taken to Dinsmore. Good for him, and hopefully he can keep it up. Heidenreich – The guy can’t get over on his own unless he’s writing poems about farting, so they pair him with Animal, half of one of the greatest tag teams of all time. Brilliant.

Bambi Weavil: I think Cena has the promo ability to be the next Rock. Batista has that brute animal mixed in with Arn Anderson like coolness that works for him. Randy Orton I don’t think is at the level of superstardom he should be at. I felt he was following in the footsteps of Kurt Angle who is more of the real star than the above mentioned.

Carlos Zarur: This is a tough one to say. Simply for the fact that it’s only just been a few months after WM and Cena and Batista have only had one ‘real’ feud, with their second one still in process. I do think though that both champs are holding up their own so far and can still go a long way. Orton on the other hand… he was damaged by HHH and Raw, and this move to Smackdown should only help him. To me, he’s got the more long- term potential out of all three of them. It’s just a matter if WWE gets it right with him this time and keeps him that cocky heel he had played so well during his tenure with evolution. Time will tell… soon!

James Hatton: We’re in a rough stage for that question. I would have liked to believe that Edge, Christian, Jericho, Guerrero, Benoit, Stephen Regal, Rhyno, and Kane would have found themselves in the main event by now. Where yes, each one of them (with the exceptions of Rhyno and Regal) have tasted the spotlight, some more than others, none have been considered Hogan or Rock or Austin. Is it because they weren’t pushed correctly, or packaged right… I can’t really say, because I don’t know what it was that made those characters ideal for the time. Out of the ‘next generation’, Batista is still an untested champ, but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen. Orton has the most long running potential, given his look. Cena will fade to obscurity in a few years as a footnote. These three men specifically are fairly new (2 years) and have all tasted the main event, if not gold. Why do they get it over the wrestlers I mentioned before? I’ve never understood that.

AFN Steve: Not really, but I don’t think it is their fault. Demon Dave is Champ, but can’t even buy screen time, hopefully he is off TV so he can train some more, and add a few moves. While his move set is limited, at least they look like they would hurt legitimately. Cena is neutered, at times on the mic, he used to come across as pretty creative, then he got stuck in the gay and poop joke routine. Then he reached an all time low for any promo in total lameness when he called Jericho “Y2 Cheap.” When you utter something that bad you should forced to take a time out until you can come up with something resembling wit. Not to mention his limited offense, that all look like moves I could kick out of, and I get so winded making the bed I have to take a nap. He needs some impact moves, the F-U looks weaker than most cruiserweight’s body slams. Orton is probably the most rounded in talking and wrestling ability, for whatever reason he comes off as boring most of the time. I haven’t enjoyed anything he has done since the RNN updates. I can’t say much more since he has had time off to heal and hopefully improve where he is lacking. Carlito is cool Except they really need to work on the fact he is a chicken shit heel and actually get it across the fans. Ending every match with his feet on the ropes doesn’t cut it. he needs to go through the Ric Flair school of dirty tricks and groin shots. Shelton Benjamin has a great future ahead of himself, if he doesn’t trip over the top rope on the way up. He sure makes blown spots look good though. Hassan was wasted. he had a good thing going, good talking skills, and not so bad in the ring to make you want to watch Nathan Jones. So what happens? The most illogical character progression ever. Poor guy.

Tanya H: Right now, Cena is undoubtedly the most over of the ‘Next Generation’ but how much of that is due to the fact that he is being booked as Stone Cold John Cena – the one who rebels against authority. There goes the WWE, proving John Cougar Mellencamp wrong. What’s next Vince, are you going to tell us that there aren’t little pink houses for you and me? It’s the best way to book a brawler though and just like Austin, his mic skills carry him even further. Batista’s another brawler – nothing like a match of big guys doing the old punchy/shove-y/spinebuster/finisher to make a PPV. However, his mic skills and personality have grown immensely from the days when he was the Giant Flexing Inky Man from Evolution or the Lockbox holder for a struggling away from a tag team DeVon. One thing – no one, not Jeff Hardy, not Brock Lesnar and not you, Dave, ever looks good dancing during their intro – EVER. Victoria couldn’t even pull it off and she’s a lovely woman.

Jed Shaffer: Anyone who knows me, or has caught me mention it offhand, knows I just don’t see anything of value in Batista; he’s an overrated slug with minimal skills in both speaking and wrestling, and he isn’t improving (I submit for evidence the “I’m gonna kick the devil’s ass!” promo). A serious set of programs with technical wrestlers might help, but I wouldn’t stake the farm on it. Cena’s got the whole Rock-like charisma and crowd manipulation going … his ringwork leaves something to be desired, but I don’t recall Rocky getting compared to Flair or Steamboat either, and he’s beloved … usually, it was his opponents who helped him shine. As for Orton, he’s gotten a bum rap for things he hasn’t done (the abortive face turn, the short title reign, the concussion angle), but as long as he can put down Undertaker and move on, he should re-establish himself. As for the other pet projects … again, I say Dinsmore needs a new gimmick, cause Eugene ain’t gonna get him World Titles, or respect in the business. And anything anyone else had to say about Masters can be echoed here.

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