This is VS, the Inside Pulse feature where we take two writers and pit them against each other to answer five questions. I’ll judge the answers and we’re keeping score. Last week, we saw Eric S. defeat Andy Mac by a score of 3-2. This week we’re playing with Iain “Don’t call me Ian” Burnside and Jacob “Don’t call me Glenn Jacobs” York.
Iain Burnside is a writer for multiple sections of Inside Pulse. Burnside at Comics Nexus, Burnside at Inside Fights and Burnside at Pulse Wrestling. What’s Shipping, Pulse Wrestling Answers, and some UFC coverage for good measure.
You can find Jacob York at Not A True Ending. He’s the guy behind the VS column there. Read Jacob York’s work here.
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. Has Backlash ruined the Wrestlemania afterglow? Can we still expect the Monday after Wrestlemania to be monumental when most years Backlash features Wrestlemania rematches?
Jacob York: I don’t know if it particularly ruins the Wreslemania afterglow this year, as I was supremely disinterested in Mania this year. Further than that, though, Wrestlemania will always be Wrestlemania. Wrestlers will always go the extra mile simply for the fact that it’s the biggest show of the year. But it’s more than that. It’s a chance to reset. A chance to look at how the angles and wrestlers have matured over the last year and adjust accordingly. Backlash should be the time when WWE positions their wrestlers for the coming year, not rehashing the remainders of the last year. Backlash could be a useful tool in WWE’s arsenal, in that it should be the beginning of everything new. The buy rates are already low, so why not give some up-and-comers shots or try combinations that haven’t been tried before?
But, reality doesn’t quite work out that way. We can expect the Monday after Wrestlemania to be monumental. It generally lives up to the hype. However, things quickly disintegrate, with few booking plans other than the remnants of whatever might still be around after WM. Does it ruin the afterglow? Yes. Yes, it do.
Iain Burnside: As much a fanboy fallacy as the ‘season premiere’ editions of Raw are a corporate concoction. They plainly mean very little in the grand scheme of things because of the overarching homogeneity of most WWE shows nowadays. Leaving aside the question of whether or not the shows are actually any good, there is very little to differentiate between them – and it’s a bigger problem for PPV than TV or house shows.
Look at the post-Mania PPVs. The last three have all been headlined by either straightforward or slightly tweaked rematches. This year’s has to account for three brands instead of just one, with the level of repetition rising accordingly. How is this meant to convince more people to buy the show? How is Judgement Day going to cope now that Undertaker/Batista II has been brought forward to yet another undercard spot? More importantly, how are all these PPVs made distinguishable? Only the Royal Rumble, WrestleMania and, lord help us, Cyber Sunday seem to have any real identity. That’s 3 out of 16. SummerSlam was starting to use the brand extension as a means for a meaty line-up but it will no longer have that going for it. Survivor Series uses the elimination tag matches at random and for no particular purpose. One Night Stand has been withdrawn from the Hammerstein. It’s all terribly blah. Save the Elimination Chamber for New Year’s Revolution, keep Hell in the Cell for Armageddon, host the King of the Ring finals at Judgement Day, bring back Wargames for the Bash, hold TLC at Unforgiven – just do something to make all this less tedious!
However, in spite of the above, I don’t think this has ruined any WrestleMania ‘afterglow’. What the majority expect from modern WrestleManias is a spectacle, one or two good matches to look back on and a couple of fond memories to remember. I suppose that 2007’s would be the sight of some 70,000+ in a well-staged stadium, the two main title matches and Money in the Bank, and the ‘Mania moments’ of Taker getting winning one last title, Cena getting crapped on by the crowd again, Kennedy holding a briefcase, Vince getting his head shaved and Trump taking a Stunner. Backlash weakens none of those, even if it does nothing to build upon them.
Judge Blatt’s Ruling: Burnside thinks that Backlash hasn’t ruined the afterglow and York thinks that it does. The holes is York‘s argument is pretty large. The Backlash buyrates were low and the Wrestlemania rematches were a ratings grab by the WWE that worked in comparison to the previous years’ buyrates. Now they’re in a position that if they stop with the rematches, they might see a dramatic decrease in ratings. Seriously dramatic. Burnside says that the day after Wrestlemania is made up hype as the beginning of something new, but they’ve historically announced big things the day after Wrestlemania (the draft, new lineup of DX, Goldberg’s debut, etc.) so there’s some truth in the big announcement or angle post Wrestlemania. On the other hand, Burnside‘s got some good suggestions for making the PPVs something special. I don’t know if I’d do a TLC match annually, but I suppose it’s something.
While Burnside‘s got the longer answer and makes some good points, I still think that York better answers the question. 1-0 York.
2. What do you think of the Austin Aries suspension? Will it effect his role in ROH? What do you think his value to the company was? Should a wrestler’s attitude backstage really warrant a 90 day suspension? And… do you believe that it was attitude related?
Jacob York: Who is this Austin Aries character? I can only remember Austin Starr!
First off, I do think it was attitude related. Why wouldn’t it be? What would they suspend him for? He’s a popular part of their show, not to mention talented. You can toss him into a matchup with anyone in the X Division and have a good match. There’s no reason why it wouldn’t be attitude related.
I’m sad about it, I suppose, because I’m a big Aries fan, myself. He’s supremely talented and can work a crowd with his intense style. I don’t feel it will effect his role in ROH. ROH will be glad to have him for extra dates, but I doubt Gabe’s booking plans are predicated upon what TNA is doing this week.
Finally, should an attitude warrant a 90 day suspension? There are so many talented wrestlers in the world that aren’t getting the chance they deserve simply because there aren’t a lot of slots. Sometimes a message has to be sent that certain conduct won’t be suffered. Do I think it will hurt Aries? Not particularly. Financially, maybe, but he can pick up other dates, but not heat-wise. Will it hurt TNA? Not in the least. Maybe they’ll get to use some of the lesser used people. I’m a big Jerelle Clark fan…
I think it’s an effective message…hopefully one that Aries heeds.
Iain Burnside: TNA. The business was built around dishonesty, for better or for worse, so reports of him being ‘brutally honest’ show that, frankly, he needs to grow up. He failed to show enough commitment to TNA last year and was suspended. He stuck with the promotion after Roderick Storm bailed, got a new look and name, saw his push stalled under the Nash Division, was moved into a go-nowhere feud with Backlund, fell further down the card and then openly bitched about it all on an ROH card. It remains to be seen if TNA management will let Samoa Joe away with similarly snarky ROH comments, so how the hell did Aries expect to? It’s similar to Carlito and Nitro’s current status in WWE and equally baffling. Perhaps in an ideal world there would be a Pleasing Disgruntled Wrestlers Wrestling Federation, where everybody would have a title and be pushed and headline a show and dance with magical pixies in a land brimming over with boobies and beers. In the real world, success goes to those that earn it, not to those who feel they deserve it. Hell, has 21st century wrestling taught them nothing about the benefits of playing the game?
Still, this is just yet another misjudged decision by TNA management. They seem rather determined to aggravate the likes of ROH or AAA rather than maintaining mutually respectful and beneficial working relations with them. Such a lengthy suspension for a talent like Aries, for rather arbitrary reasons, will only irritate the smart fans that account for their fanbase. Sympathies inevitably go to the underdogs, namely Aries and ROH in this case. People are already questioning TNA’s judgement after recent developments with Sting, Angle, the X Division and Russo. This will do nothing to improve matters, nor will it lend itself well to a happy locker room environment, since the message is effectively ‘shut up and fall in line, or else’. It also completely fails to address the point of why Aries was complaining, why Joe was complaining, why Strong didn’t stay, why ratings have stagnated, why buyrates have fallen, why ‘Fire Russo’ has become not just a chant but a MySpace page, why their storylines are so hollow, why they’re failing to attract new fans or any of the other numerous criticisms that are mounting up and moving resolutions further away. So, sure, start suspending those who disagree. Enforce unity in the locker room at all costs. Put the Kool-Aid in the water supply. It still won’t benefit TNA until management starts moving in the right direction, at which point the locker room complaints shall mysteriously hush-up anyway…
Also, Aries’ value to TNA was minimal to say the least. Kurt Angle’s value is only marginal, so 90% of the roster doesn’t really mean a damn in the greater scheme of things. His ROH role will be determined by nobody other than himself. If he reacts badly to the suspension then he will ultimately wind up getting fired, which would have been the sensible thing to do in the first place, and return to the loving and sweaty bosom of the ROHbot fans. If he takes it as a cue to buckle down and persevere in TNA as best he can then the only sensible thing to do is sever all ROH ties for the immediate future. Since nobody on the TNA writing team even cares about the X Division anymore, his decision may be easier to make than it should be.
Judge Blatt’s Ruling: Point to Burnside. He highlights one of the biggest things wrong in TNA and perhaps in wrestling today. Honest is met with a suspension or a move towards curtain jerking. But maybe there’s another side to it. Where do these younger wrestlers get off thinking that they deserve a high spot on the roster? Guys like Starr, Carlito and Nitro haven’t been around all that long and maybe don’t need to b e the top guys in the company provided they have some kind of longevity to their careers. Their expectations might be a by-product of what they were promised or what precedents have been set by the promotions. Or they’re just getting ahead of themselves. The score is tied at 1-1.
3. Who will beat the Undertaker? Will it be a drawn out feud or will someone “shock the world” and beat the deadman out of nowhere? Why does the Undertaker have the title in the first place?
Jacob York: Let us look at this logically. Granted, it’s been a while since I’ve watched Smackdown, so maybe I don’t know who is deserving of a push and who is not. But who, on Smackdown, is really at “main event level”? UT, Benoit, Booker, Kane, Batista and, it is debatable, Kennedy and Regal. Most of those guys will stay popular no matter what and don’t necessarily need to be in the title hunt. For instance, Regal, Benoit and Finlay can keep working with the new guys to up their skill level (I smell a Blue Bloods/Deuce and Domino feud!). Kennedy doesn’t need the belt just yet…I prefer they save money in the bank until later in the year. Personally, I think it would mean so much more for there to be a mix of both, with some midlevel guy getting bumped up through getting the belt off of UT. Only problem is, there isn’t really anyone like that on Smackdown. ECW has a glut of them and, personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing Punk grab it. But that’s just silly fantasy booking.
Chances are UT will hang onto it for a while, I’m saying four months. After that, Kane beats him for it. Two months after that, Batista beats Kane and the equilibrium is reestablished for a Batista/Kennedy feud.
Here’s hoping the reason he has the belt is for a last run with it before retiring. Lord knows, UT has been a main eventer for his entire career, so one more run isn’t a terrible idea, as far as I’m concerned. Especially when you look at the talent roster. UT is a placeholder until the next champion that means something gets here. And, who knows? If he can stay motivated, maybe he’ll be able to pull of some solid matches.
Iain Burnside: Working with the company since 1990, being as hugely popular with the fans today as he ever reached in the past, being a stabilising locker room leader, showing tremendous dedication in working through a dangerous hip injury, still having the ability to put on a good match when the occasion calls for it, being a genuine icon in the industry, being a counter for the stagnant and rather egotistical reign of Batista, having a legendary WrestleMania winning streak to protect, being a proven draw… Just some of the go-without-saying answers to the question of why The Undertaker holds the title. Oh, and the small matter of Vince McMahon *wanting* him not just to hold it but to have a decent lengthy reign for a change. I’m not entirely certain what constitutes a ‘lengthy’ reign nowadays but I’d be surprised if he dropped it at or before SummerSlam. Injuries might do him in first, of course… Especially with Mark Henry on the way back… But let’s not to dwell on that…
So, who will beat him? The obvious answer is Ken Kennedy (KENNEDY! LOL!). He has a history with Taker, holds the MITB clause, is an untried young guy with plenty of potential who could gain great momentum from beating Taker for a title, and now has the added bonus of not needing to actually headline any PPVs as World Heavyweight Champion. It could mark the beginning of the title becoming nothing more than what the Intercontinental Title was in the ’80s but he is still the only obvious choice. The tricky part is exactly how they do it, given WWE’s extreme reluctance to ever have Taker be beaten cleanly. The MITB stipulation affords them an easy out if Kennedy cashes it in Edge-style. That will lead to one or two rematches in which Kennedy barely scrapes by with the title before heading onto a new challenger. That is in fact what is most likely to happen.
What of the brand extension? Undertaker doesn’t necessarily have to drop it to anybody who is ostensibly a ‘Smackdown guy’, not nowadays. This opens it up to the likes of Umaga, Orton, Edge and the like – not to mention Lashley, particularly if ECW is scrapped by Sci Fi or other means.
But… Nah, Kennedy. Lol.
Judge Blatt’s Ruling: the point goes to Burnside. York did not answer the question! While a list of potential main eventers on smackdown was provided, the answer was not given. Personally, I think that Vince is going to switch his show to Smackdown and challenge for the title. After all, he’s had an extensive feud on RAW, now on ECW. It only makes sense unless he plans on stopping by TNA and winning their title too.
4. What was the most meaningless push given to a wrestler since 2000?
Jacob York: Gold-berg…Gold-berg… I’m specifically talking about the year he spent in the WWE. Bill has just got to be one of my most hated wrestlers. Yeah, he’s got intensity. No question about that, but is it really worth it? You know a few things about Goldberg. He will injure people because he isn’t careful. He takes himself far too seriously. He will talk shit about your company after he leaves. He isn’t willing to give anyone an inch. At the end of the day, he doesn’t care about wrestling. He’s gone on record about that before. Yet, in spite of that, companies keep trying to get him back. All of that is recognizable in his last jaunt in the WWE, culminating with the classic Lesnar/Goldberg match that was boo’ed out of the arena. If the wrestlers deserve your accolades, they’ll get it. But that night, everyone saw through Lesnar and Bill. The fans gave them both a fitting tribute that night. Bill didn’t do much of anything that year but demand that the booking be planned around him.
The only way I want Bill in WWE/TNA is if Regal/Joe can shoot on him. If that’s the case, go for it.
Iain Burnside: So, so many contenders… There are the meaningless ones who were temporarily pushed above their level due to a random bout of popularity (Rikishi), those who were lumbered with utterly inane characters (Eugene), those who were never going to get anywhere but got a lot of attention nonetheless (Nathan Jones), those who could have done more but ultimately never got the chance (Sean O’Haire)… and then there was Mr Brock Lesnar. They put him over The Rock, Hogan, Angle, Undertaker, Big Show and countless others. They chose to protect his interests rather than placate Austin when he left in 2002. They built Smackdown around him. They had Paul Heyman do one of his patented verbal sales pitches on his behalf, made him King of the Ring and a persistent fixture of the WWE Championship, beat everybody over the head with their ‘Next Big Thing’ schtick until the weak-minded had no choice but to start accepting it, and then… he left. All that time and energy ultimately led to nothing but a lawsuit and an opportunity for WWE to revise history again and pretend that much of 2002-4 never happened. It doesn’t get more meaningless than that, not even Road Warrior Heidenreich.
Judge Blatt’s Ruling: Wow. Lesnar or Goldberg. I’m going to say that Goldberg’s push was less meaningful in the long run because of his mercenary attitude. Lesner just kinda went off the deep end, but we heard this crap from Goldberg time in and time out about what he thinks of the wrestling business and they still hired him and pushed him to the moon. We never got to see Goldberg vs. austin shich to me, was the only reason to bring Goldberg in. The score is tied at 2-2. Point for York.
5. What comic or video game character would best serve as the basis for a wrestling gimmick? What current wrestler would you give that
Jacob York: Well, I’d go with Wolf Hawkfield and I’d give the gimmick to Jim Steele.
My inclination is to give it to Haggar from Final Fight, but let’s go ahead and give it to El Blaze and put Seth Skyfire behind the mask. A primarily English speaking luchador can work, Rey has proven that much. Plus, Seth is a fantastic wrestler that the primary audience hasn’t heard of.
Or, of course, there’s always Arachnaman…Brad Armstron’s still around, right?
Iain Burnside: Clearly you’d need to make Raw into Marvel and Smackdown into DC. I know Raw, like DC, has been around longer but Marvel is the one a few inches closer to the zeitgeist right now. That would leave ECW as Image, only inverted. Instead of modern-day Image (Invincible, Walking Dead, Godland) it would be the Image of the 1990s (Spawn, Youngblood, Cyberforce). Meanwhile, ROH could be the critically-acclaimed Dark Horse and TNA could either be the knock-off specialists IDW or those colouring sheets sometimes found on the trays in fast food joints.
Captain America – jingoism is such a tradition in wrestling that I’m surprised they haven’t licensed the character from Marvel already. Real American, American Made, Mister America, Made-in-the-USA Lex Luger, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, The Patriot all cheap heat, all at least somewhat successful and always with the potential for more. The neat thing with this is that if they don’t just lump some muscle-bound blonde into the costume but also play on his fondness for doing everything old-school and being distrustful of the modern way of doing things, then they could turn him into a great, three-dimensional character but they wouldn’t, would they?
The Punisher – those T-shirts sell like pot to RVD. The character has no super-powers. He’s just been pushed over the edge by everything in his life turning to shit and so decides to kill bad guys. Remove the ‘killing’ part, substitute the term ‘punishing’ and they’d be onto a winner. It’d be like a less-emo version of Sting ’97. Actually, given his capacity for hardcore and his street-militant wardrobe, I’d nominate Edge for such a role.
Deadpool – crazy ninja guy talks all the bloody time, cracks wise about funny words like chimichanga, has an unhealthy obsession with Bea Arthur, has a cool mask that they can sell to Teh Kidz, and has a big ol’ sword too. The fans would lap it up, especially if they had one guy doing the fancy flippy moves (Teddy Hart?) and another guy dubbing crazy wise-cracking monologues over the commentators during his matches (Chris Jericho?). How post-modern
Conan – Just so Triple H can finally get it out of his system. You know those furry boots are itchin’ for a walkin’
Molly Hayes – she’s a 12 year-old girl from the hugely entertaining Runaways comic; a mutant with super-strength and a fondness for Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs. WWE needs a sarky, pre-pubescent girl with a shitload of attitude and cute animal hats. You can’t go wrong with lines like “Leave me alone, Wolverine! I don’t like you anymore! You smell like barfed-up hair!”, “I want to hit a giraffe man”, “Dumb old Wolverine hasn’t gotten his stupid hair fixed yet”. So, put her under Benoit’s protection, have ’em feud with Finlay and Hornswaggle, and watch the larks pile up. But then she’d probably get hooked on smack or something, so maybe not.
Jubilee – I just want there to be a live-action Jubilee so she can start twinkling pretty little lights and then get eaten by Umaga or someone for being so incredibly lame. Fucking Jubilee
John Constantine – It’d be like getting a younger, cooler, thinner, blonder, chain-smoking, bisexual, humanistic adrenaline-addicted version of Paul Bearer. Or – Keanu Reeves. Hmm.
The Joker & Harley Quinn – as has been said many times, turning Doink from Pennywise to a birthday party entertainer with a midget sidekick was one of the most wasted opportunities in WWE history. So, now we’ve safely passed through the New Generation, let’s go 180 degrees in the opposite direction and get a violent sociopath with a fiendish sense of humour and warped intelligence. And a hot woman sidekick. Like Kevin and Ariel! Better than Mordecai
Shaolin Cowboy – Jimmy Wang Yang, but <a
V – another one that was kinda-sorta ripped off by WCW Emo Sting. The big difference would be that Agent Smith provides the voice, any old jobber can wear the costume, the entire audience can be given V masks prior to the show, war can be declared on the totalitarian regime of the McMahons and it can end up with Ric Flair unveiling himself to fight himself as the Black Scorpion. High concept! Swerve-a-liciousity!
But, in the end, there is of course only one possible option
As portrayed by Vincent Kennedy McMahon.
Although the video game option does raise the interesting idea of getting Donkey Kong in the rafters to throw barrels at the wrestlers. First to spank the monkey wins. Russo, please don’t read this.
Judge Blatt’s Ruling: It appears as if someone has thought about this already. Point to Burnside for mentioning wanting to see Jubilee get eaten and for giving the Joker gimmick to Kevin Thorn. Very nice.
Burnside for the win. 3-2.