Welcome to VS. This is going to be a regular feature in Pulse Wrestling. You might have seen this in other sections of the site, but it started here in wrestling and we’re bringing it back. I’d like to thank Pulse Glazer for helping us bring this back to wrestling and arrange the contestants. The questions were put together by Aaron and me and the judging will be done by me.
This week we’re pitting Eric Szulczewski against Big Andy Mac.
Big Andy Mac covers Ring of Honor and writes the column “Moments Ago.” Eric Szulczewski writes “The Short Form” and “Wrestling News, Opinions, Etc.” Rob Blatt writes “BLATT vs. ECW,” has an ECW podcast “Kendo Sticks and Microphones” and occasionally posts “The News Dribble.” Let’s get started.
1. Colt Cabana: OVW bound? Will they change his style? His gimmick? Which brand will he wind up on? Should they have signed him at all? What is his overall value to the company?
Big Andy Mac: Colt Cabana is for certain bound for OVW, it is rare and to the best of my knowledge unprecedented in recent years for a wrestler to be brought directly from the indies to the big time. As big a fan of Colt Cabana as I am, he is no different. “Will they change his style?” is a difficult question. Do they need to, not really, Colt may need to alter some things to performing to a much larger crowd than he is used to. Beyond that, he could probably make the main roster in fairly quick fashion. I would love to see Colt Cabana stay Colt Cabana, I would even be fine if he came in as Matt Classic. The fun loving guy who uses his comedic stylings to get into the head and under the skin of his opponents. It would be something new and fresh.
As far as the brand he should wind up on, I will leave it at this. He should be on whatever brand CM Punk is a part of. If ECW is still around then Colt could be a nice fit. Their straight man/foil routine that they carried through the indies for several years was absolute gold. If they could capture any of that lightning in the big leagues it would be great television. If Colt goes out on his own he could feud with guys like Finlay who have a reputation as being uber serious.
Cabana has the size that WWE covets and more importantly he has something that few of their recent roster additions have: charisma. Colt can talk and draw people into his matches, that is something sorely lacking in a lot of people in wrestling period these days. His value to the WWE is really up to him to decide. Will he set the world on fire right away? Probably not, but he could end up being part of a new generation of stars and that is really where his value lies as an investment in the future of the WWE.
Eric Szulczewski: Where he’s bound is determined by what they’re going to do with the gimmick. If they stick with the comedy stuff, he’ll land up in Deep South, because Cornette and Heyman created a culture of Serious Wrestling in OVW that survives even after their departures. The OVW audience won’t tolerate the comedy stuff. Notice the refocus on the serious aspects of Paul Burchill’s character right now in OVW. I say they will change his gimmick, but he’ll land up in Deep South anyway, at least at first, with probable promotion in about four months. It’ll probably go with a name change. His style really doesn’t need changing, because he’s already mastered the crap wrestling that’s an excuse for what WWE provides us three times a week. They shouldn’t have signed him at all given WWE’s history with mangling guys from ROH. Punk is the only real success story among the bunch, and that’s not saying much. His overall value to WWE is, if anything, less than nothing, because once deprived of his gimmick, he has no real way to connect to an audience. The goofball bullshit was his way of compensating for the fact that, as an in-ring performer, he has no personality or talent whatsoever.
I truly loathe Cabana and want to see him fail miserably, then tuck his tail between his legs and return to ROH, thinking that he can revive his gimmick, then failing there because the audience will see him as tainted goods (something Claudio avoided by bailing immediately). Maybe then the audience can see through the facade and realize what an inferior wrestler he actually is. At that point, TNA will hire him.
Blatt: Alright. We’ve got two guys who are on the opposite side of the fence about Colt. I don’t think that they could have disagreed more. I’m going to award the point for this one to Andy for simply answering more of the questions asked. Eric has a good general observation about ROHbots wearing ROH colored glasses and while the jury is still out about Colt in the WWE, he’s got a point about the history the WWE has with ROH talent. While he wasn’t signed, I don’t know if everyone remembers Chris Masters’ first TV opponent. Then ROH Pure Champion John Walters. Even still, point awarded to Big Big Andy Mac. Big Big Andy Mac has one big point.
2. How involved should the McMahons be onscreen in WWE programming? Wrestlemania time is one thing, but should they continue to use them going forward? Should they be fighting? How should they be used?
Big Andy Mac: There are two sides to this coin. While many members of the loose coalition known as the IWC are sick and tired of the McMahon family saga playing out on our TV screens, the other side is that McMahons equal ratings, and by that logic should appear on television because they get viewers to the show. I would like to see less McMahon involvement in ring to be sure. I don’t want to see any McMahon, even Shane with his crazy bumps, wrestling on TV. Vince’s involvement in angles like the “Battle of the Billionaires” is perfectly fine as it takes steps to legitimize other wrestlers. McMahon is one of the most capable performers on the roster in terms of giving rub to others. So if Vince, Shane, Stephanie, or Linda stay out of the ring unless it is to cut a promo it is ok. I will add a caveat to that saying that they should not be in main event storylines either. Second from the top is fine, but the main angles should be involving wrestlers and not McMahons.
Eric Szulczewski: Hate to tell you this, people, but, well, the McMahons own the majority of stock in the company. They can do what they damn well please so long as it doesn’t end up in court as a fiduciary breach suit, and the majority of stockholders outside the McMahon family have no knowledge of wrestling or sports entertainment, so unless there’s an egregious impact on the balance sheet, they’re not going to care. Vince knows that he has a loyal core audience for Raw that bottoms out at a 3.0 rating. It’s never going lower than that as long as Raw is on Monday nights between 9 and 11 PM ET. He can therefore do financial projections on that basis, and keep his shareholders happy. Therefore, no revolt, no suit, no anything. That frees him up to do whatever he wants on the show in regard to himself and his family, especially since the ownership thing has long been out of kayfabe.
As for how involved they should be, they should operate by the rules that they make every other performer follow: if “creative” has something for them, let them be on the show, and since Steph is Vice-President of Creative, there will undoubtedly always be something for them. Right now, Vince has a reason to be on the shows because his conflict with Lashley has to be resolved. If Shane wants to get involved, more power to him; he seems to have better instincts on what makes for good sports entertainment than his father and sister. They can fight, as long as the storyline that creates the fight makes sense and has some sort of resolution; I don’t think we want to see Vince in a set of rolling feuds again, dominating the show as he has in the past. I never, ever want to see anything like those Sopranos parody bus signs that were plastered all over the CTA in 2002.
How should they be used? As enhancement talent to get performers over. Their problem lies in the choice of who they want to get over. Cena’s already been the subject of multiple audience revolts (and another one will be coming soon; they do tend to work in cycles). Lashley is so utterly white-bread that it’s going to be nearly impossible to get him over at Main Event Level like they want; he’ll be Upper-Mid-Card For Life like, say, Benoit. They want to recreate Austin/McMahon so badly it hurts. The problem is finding the right person on the other side of that feud. They don’t have that person right now.
Blatt: Both make good points and ultimately want the same thing, but go about it different ways. The better argument is made by Sir Eric, and the point will be awarded to him. Specifically for use of the vocabulary term “enhancement talent.” That’ll get ten points on the wrestling vocab test, but only one point here. The score is tied at one a piece.
3. With so much attention being paid to CM Punk on ECW, is it possible that he’s getting out of the doghouse? Is it a good idea to start with? Where does he go from here? How does the heel turn work? Should the trigger have been pulled with it or should they have waited?
Big Andy Mac: CM Punk must be getting out of the doghouse. He was one of the stars of the Money in the Bank match and has been prominently featured in the post-Wrestlemania ECW shows. Much like Colt Cabana, CM Punk has charisma, and WWE is severely lacking new stars that can talk and more importantly sell T-shirts. CM Punk does both. He is not in danger of violating the wellness policy and is one of the only bright spots on the mostly failing ECW experiment. CM Punk has the chance to be a generation-defining star. His ego may be his worst enemy if any of the reports of his “doghouse” status are true.
I have not yet committed to his heel turn. He shook hands with the New Breed but has not actively battled the Originals. Until he has matches with RVD, Sandman, Sabu, or Tommy Dreamer he can’t be counted as a member of the New Breed. In a world of wishful thinking I would like to see Colt Cabana and Ace Steel join up with him to form a WWE version of the Second City Saints. That would only happen in a RoHbot’s cream dream however. I think they could have built the two sides romancing CM Punk a little more, but this angle is far from over. The jury is still out and so is my verdict.
Eric Szulczewski: Punk’s problems were mainly with Dave Finlay and Arn Anderson. In the recent reconfiguration of the creative staff, Arn lost his power play to Michael Hayes. That corresponding loss of influence means a lessening of the pressure on Punk. So, yeah, he’s getting out of the doghouse in a way. Lagana still has to be careful about how Punk is booked, though. He’s firmly in the “elevate him, but not too fast” lane right now.
Where he goes from here all depends on what Lagana is allowed to do with him. He still has to clear everything past Steph, and no one knows from moment to moment who has her ear. Trip still likes him, which will be to his benefit. You should see a steady but slow rise on the card for him, perhaps culminating in an ECW title win at December To Dismember (depending on how he’s booked at Survivor Series and whether he can repeat last year’s pops).
I still think the heel turn is a swerve, and it’ll be revealed soon enough, perhaps as soon as Backlash (I’m betting on Judgment Day for that). Punk as a face is not even remotely played out. He’s too popular to be regarded by the audience as a true heel (and if they really are serious about this, they’ll discover soon enough that the audience won’t give him heel heat). Lagana is probably salivating to do a Punk/Burke feud, which will bring positive attention to the brand. A swerve is the perfect way to set that up. This was the right time to do it, however. There’s still attention and heat on the New Breed, especially after the ECW Rules match a couple of weeks ago. It’ll help elevate Punk just enough to keep everyone quiet backstage.
Blatt: So no believes that Punk’s heel tun is gonna be something that sticks? Come on guys! This is the WWE. They don’t swerve the fans. At any rate, Eric makes the stronger argument for what’s going on right now with Punk, but he also forgets that it is I who has Steph’s ear. Or I used to anyway back in 04/05. Point awarded to Eric, although everyone who doesn’t think that Colt is worthless wants to see a Second City Saints reunion with Punk, Cabana and fake Donald Trump. Eric is winning 2-1.
4. What is the best gimmick of all time?
Big Andy Mac: There is no debate in my mind that the best gimmick of all time is the Undertaker. On paper the gimmick was absolutely absurd. A giant Frankenstein’s monster-esque character who shows no pain and draws his power from an urn with mysterious contents. This gimmick has Wrestle-crap written all over it. Luckily, it was assigned to Mark Callaway whose 100% commitment to it has made the Undertaker one of the most significant figures in the last 15 years. Of all the absurd gimmicks that wrestling promoters have thrown at the wall over the years from the Doink the Clowns, Lazertrons, and Repo Men none have stuck like Undertaker.
Eric Szulczewski: Gimmick in what sense? As in a gimmick for a wrestler, a match gimmick, what? Help me with this one, Blatt.
If you mean “best gimmick of all time for a wrestler”, that’s undoubtedly the Undertaker. It is a pure gimmick in the sense that the character is completely fictional and not a caricature of a person like Hogan. It’s survived now for sixteen and a half years and has never suffered a decrease in popularity, despite some very dubious booking at times (like the BikerTaker days). When the “BONG” hits, the audience still goes nuts. People buy him as World Champion right now. People cared about the Wrestlemania streak this year (as in previous years). It still works. It’s a testament to the creativity of Pat Patterson in creating the gimmick in the first place and Mark Callaway for playing it to the hilt. It’s a serendipitous act of genius on everyone’s part.
Blatt: You know, I’m kinda tired of both of these guys being on the same page. The name of this is VERSUS for a reason. Both men go with the Undertaker for the best gimmick of all time. As for Eric’s question, these open ended questions are open ended so you can take them in whatever direction that you care to take them. Point awarded to Big Andy Mac for the mention of Lazertron and the Repo Man. Other acceptable answers for best gimmick of all time would be “Kennel in a Cell,” “Who bettah than Kanyon?” and Stevie Richards cross dressing to help Victoria.
Leave it to Eric to include the phrase “bong hits” this week. Point awarded to Andy for not asking any qustions. The score is tied 2-2.
5. How should we cover ROH in the future? Due to its size does it deserve more coverage since we can make a difference or less because less people have heard about it and care?
Big Andy Mac: The Zone is called Pulse WRESTLING not Pulse Sports Entertainment. For that reason alone it should focus on all aspects of the world of professional wrestling. Ring of Honor is the cutting edge of the industry in America today. Also it is growing in popularity and the top notch coverage we have already provided can’t be hurting that. Other zones on the website do not focus only on the most main stream aspects of their little niche in the pop culture universe. Broken Dial, Machine Gun Funk, and Beyond the Threshold do not focus on the music played on Top Forty Radio. They attempt to expose their readers to new genres and artists that make music that will seldom see the light of day otherwise. Popcorn Junkies and the DVD Lounge do not just focus on the biggest movies they also draw attention to forgotten classics and straight to DVD releases that most of us would ignore. WWE has the lion’s share of the market, and thus should get the most coverage. Ring of Honor, while small, is still important and can give many wrestling fans disillusioned with the mainstream product something to remind them that they can still enjoy wrestling.
Eric Szulczewski: We should cover ROH with the same respect and level that we cover puro and lucha, only slightly more enhanced because it’s more accessible to us. It’s the third-largest promotion in the US. There’s a definite level of separation between them and the regional feds. They draw a steady, loyal, growing audience. If they get TV coverage, they should get the same amount of coverage here as TNA does.
“Making a difference” really doesn’t enter into it except to elevate our own egos. Gabe and Cary still have final say on this, and the influence we have on them can’t really be quantified. Obviously, they book toward the popularity of their performers, and we as audience members can make a difference in that regard. ROH audiences are smart. They tend not to buy into obvious pandering by either the performers or the bookers (with the exception of Cabana, a situation that makes me close my eyes and emit low moans). So, there’s always something to be said there. The DVD sales don’t really help in regard to influence, since there’s no good indicator of what we’re buying the DVD for. With a cast as steady as theirs, there’s no way for them to point to a sales chart and say, “Well, X sold very well but Y didn’t. We’ve got a Danielson/McGuinness match on X, while they’re facing lesser wrestlers on Y, so that’s a selling point.” I don’t see anyone out there saying, “I’m buying Mayhem In The Meadowlands or whatever because of that Jimmy Jacobs match.” In a sense, all of our coverage and recommendations for purchase are sown on fallow ground. They tend to migrate to our sense of satisfaction rather than our audience’s.
Part of our duty is to get the word out there. That’s an obligation the fledgling IWC had toward ECW twelve years ago. But the IWC has to recognize that the conditions that prevailed back then don’t exist today. Tape trading is almost dead. Downloading has such a negative stigma attached to it that not too many ROH DVDs are up at various wrestling torrent sites. Besides, there’s a chronological disconnect to deal with. By the time we get ROH DVDs, we’re months behind on the angles that our “live” coverage is telling us about. Part of the fun of wrestling is in following the angles. That’s something that ROH really hasn’t addressed.
There’s no way we can do blanket coverage of ROH, especially with them heading to foreign lands later this year. But there’s no reason to do the level of coverage that we are without going all the way to blanket coverage. ROH isn’t that deserving of it because it’s too difficult for the casual fan, the ones we want to get on their side, to follow, especially on a real-time basis. It’s a specialty coverage, like our lucha and puro stuff is. The major shows, sure, let’s try to cover them. But let’s not go overboard until ROH has a distribution that can address the fact that a large majority of our audience can’t follow them except through our columns. We watch wrestling. We don’t read wrestling.
Blatt: Eric really hits the strongest point in his argument. The chronological disconnect to someone who only casually follows ROH and goes to buy a DVD is startling to the fringe fan. The distribution is poor at best and it’s difficult to find the latest full show release. The website doesn’t allow for online PPV, which another poor choice on ROH’s part.
Both guys agree again, which makes a decision a tough choice here. I don’t think that Andy would agree with all of Eric’s statements, but they make similar points.
Point to Eric for the win over Andy at 3-2.
Thanks for reading. Disagree with either of our two columnists or the judge? Weigh in in the forums for this topic.
Tags: ROH, WWE