Welcome to week 14. Hope everyone had a nice Father’s Day weekend and survived Monday (no exploding limos I hope). I spent the majority of the weekend visiting my buddy Matt who’s going to be shipping out to Iraq in a few months, and I want to take a moment to send my best wishes and prayers to him one more time.
The rest of the weekend was uneventful. Thanks to the magic of Blockbuster Online, I got a chance to catch up on some flicks that slipped by me in theaters (since there was no chance I was going to pay money to see Fantastic Four 2: Raping My Childhood for Profit) as well as finally get to watch “An Evening with Kevin Smith 2: Evening HarderÃ¢â‚¬Â. Readers of this column know that I-like most self-respecting individuals-am a huge Kevin Smith fan, and a 4-hour disc of him talking about Ben Affleck’s acting skills and the joys of Jesus teaming up with ninjas is not a bad way to spend an afternoon. I also caught the US Open and while the ending was a bit anticlimactic, I thought there was nothing cooler then seeing Cabrera lighting up while he walked to 17. All I could think about was “Thank You for SmokingÃ¢â‚¬Â and that there was no better ad for cigarettes then a guy who was about to beat Tiger Woods puffing on a smoke. Cynicism rules.
Lastly, before I get into this week’s column, I wanted to take a look at the oh so exciting
Ah, here’s the REAL draft in my opinion. This is a chance for the WWE to restructure its roster in a more meaningful way, establishing the supporting characters who will bolster the top stars.
1) Kendrick & London to RAW
It’s Paul London and Brian Kendrick live on the flagship program (not WCW Saturday Night). This shows the fans that Vince and Co. have tremendous faith in these two, which hopefully will translate into success and tag gold in the coming weeks.
This is also a great move for Cade and Murdoch as they will have a new team to work with. C&M couldn’t face Haas and Benjamin due to the WWE’s fear of giving us heel versus heel and the crowd dying. C&M couldn’t face the Highlanders because after they got crushed by Umaga, it’s hard to take them seriously (assuming we ever did). C&M couldn’t take on Cryme Time because good, bad or indifferent, they are still in the doghouse and rushing a team to gold does nobody any good.
Yes, Kendrick and London are now on Monday nights and have a chance to be in the ring with former trainer Shawn Michaels, which could produce some pretty cool moments.
It’s Paul London and Brian Kendrick away from the comfort of Smackdown. Smackdown was a great fit for these two, and moving them to RAW is a gamble.
First, having London and Kendrick on Fridays meant that at any time they could slip into the Cruiserweight title picture. Now, without these two, the crop of CW hopefuls shrinks dramatically.
Second unlike on Smackdown where they were able to hold the titles for close to a year and establish themselves as a legitimate team, it will be highly unlikely they will get an extended run on RAW. Why? The WWE has a tendency to always fall back on “wacky tag teams that don’t get alongÃ¢â‚¬Â Ã‚Â© Scott Keith, and establishing a strong tag team on RAW isn’t high on Vince’s list.
Third, the lack of JBL. John Bradshaw Layfield went out of his way every week to make these two seem legit. He compared them to a myriad of teams from the Rock & Roll Express to the Rockers to the APA. He constantly reminded fans that they were seeing an entertaining team of high-flyers and that despite their size, they are a force to be reckoned with. On RAW, JR and the King will be less likely to sing their praises, instead tossing them pleasantries in between plugs for PPVs.
Fourth, they are going to become Heat fodder. With the absence of Velocity, Creative was forced to put the tag champs on regular television to justify the cost of the division. Now, with RAW always being packed with nonsensical recaps of exploding automobiles and the tendency to cram the show with “humorÃ¢â‚¬Â, there will be less room for Kendrick and London to shine. Hell, how many times have the Highlanders fought Haas and Benjamin on Heat? Like 60 times?
Lastly, they are going to get squashed. On Smackdown, Michael Hayes kept these guys out of the line of fire for the most part. Despite having Mark Henry on the roster, Hayes fought the temptation to let him just flatten these two and instead decided to let them have a chance to shine in their matches. On RAW, they will be fed to Umaga because they are small and he is big. Smackdown is a great place to hide talent because Vince clearly views it as the B show. RAW is directly in his radar, and when he’s staring at the roster looking for someone to sacrifice, the first names on his list will probably be Kendrick and London. Don’t believe me? Ask Jeff Hardy.
2) Kenny Dykstra to Smackdown
He’s away from the nuclear heat of Johnny Nitro. When Creative slapped a fox around his neck and gave him Nitro as a partner, it was about as close to the kiss of death as one can get and that’s saying something when talking about a guy that was a cheerleader. I like Kenny, not as much as Eric S. of course, but then again who could?
On Smackdown, Kenny has a chance to start off fresh. He’s in the hands of the Kingmaker Michael Hayes. Hayes has been able to make guys seem big time with minimal effort. Look at the aforementioned Kendrick and London. He took two guys that were Velocity fodder and made them one of the longest reigning tag teams in WWE history. He made Mr. Kennedy an even bigger name then he was before under the Lagana era, so big in fact that RAW had to steal him. Hayes built up MVP to be a legitimate main eventer and a solid number 2 or 3 heel behind Edge and maybe Mark Henry. If Hayes could do that with those guys, imagine what he can do with a prodigy like Dykstra.
Since there is no Heat, Kenny’s going to get screen time. He’s been so far under the radar on RAW that most people just assumed that he was shipped back to OVW with the rest of the Spirit Squad.
With Ric Flair, Dave Taylor and Finlay on the roster, Dykstra will receive the benefit of being around three veterans who want nothing more then to impart their wisdom onto the next generation.
I liked Kenny’s arrogant, cocky heel persona the first time when it was called MVP. Yeah, Porter is nowhere near the first person to use that gimmick, but the problem here is that he is already filling the niche that Dykstra would occupy. This was Kenny’s problem on RAW; he was doing the cocky heel shtick at the same time as Johnny Nitro and Carlito, and now with Nitro off RAW and Carlito moving into the realm of the psychotic, Kenny’s niche finally opened on Monday nights so they move him to Smackdown?
There aren’t too many people for Kenny to work with, unless Dykstra is doomed to fill the slot of enhancement talent. When you look at the now staggeringly pathetic face roster on Smackdown, the firs thing that jumps out at you is the lack of guys that can go in the ring. Yeah, you do have the potential for a Matt Hardy/Kenny Dykstra feud, but once that’s over and done with, where is there to go? Kenny getting his ass kicked by Kane? Kenny getting destroyed by Batista? Kenny getting humiliated by Rey? Going into another go-nowhere feud with Ric Flair? Maybe his move to Friday nights was more of a demotion then a chance for him to shine.
Outside the box thought: Maybe, just maybe, there is something bigger in the works. Here’s a bit of fantasy booking (which I try to stay away from unless its an obvious move): Edge/Batista at Vengeance might be the catalyst for a stalled angle on RAW. Creative began something interesting, with Kenny lobbying for a slot in Rated RKO. Maybe they can fire this back up, but with an added element. At Vengeance, have Flair turn on Dave and join up with Edge. With Flair and Edge together as a pseudo-Evolution, you need some young talent. Enter Kenny Dykstra. He can take the beatings that Flair and Edge can’t afford to take, all the while getting the main event rub. Could it happen? Sure. Will it happen? Probably not. This concludes outside of the box thinking.
3) Viscera to ECW
I swear there might be a pro hidden somewhere in this move. First, old school ECW fans know that there was always a big and/or fat guy in ECW. There was 911, who was pretty useful when you needed an out to a segment (how do we end a match between the Broad Street Bully and Hack Meyers? 911 chokeslams all around). There was Big Sal E. Graziano of the FBI. His role? You f*ck with Guido, you deal with Sal. Da Baldies had Vic Grimes, who is known now pretty much only for that sick dive he took. ECW has always had a shitty big man that can’t wrestle, and Viscera is keeping up the tradition.
Viscera was responsible for ECW to get national exposure. How? Why at the King of the Ring in Philly. As Vince tried to trick the nation into buying into King Mabel and as his wardrobe department scoured the globe for more purple fabric, the disillusioned masses in the arena began to chant for ECW. Legend has it, it was this chant that first showed Vince that there was potential in Extreme Championship Wrestling. In hindsight, the fans should have kept their f*cking mouths shut.
ECW is now the home of Viscera and the Boogeyman, which means we will get one hell of an Ironman match. Viscera is another heel on a heavy heel show (no pun intended), and outside of the cool visual of Tommy Dreamer DDTing him onto a stop sign, I don’t see Vis having much to do.
4) Sandman to RAW
Uh huh? Sandman on RAW? I can’t really wrap my head around this one. I guess we could get a Regal/Sandman feud out of this one, what with Sandman being all beer-swilling and cane swinging and Regal being all tea-swilling and refined. No clue.
Sandman is still a name and makes a hell of an enhancement talent.
It takes Sandman off of ECW. As an Original, he was at least part of the gang. Here, he’s another face in the crowd.
He’ll be jobbed out of existence. While he is a great enhancement talent, from his perspective, this means a lot more Heat matches and a chance to tag with Jim Duggan. Yay?
5) Bob Holly to Smackdown
Well, this corrects the mistake of moving Holly to ECW. Vince tried yet again to make Holly a main event threat and again he failed, so it’s time to ship him back to Smackdown. I guess if they want they could throw Bob back in the lacking face category, giving us a chance to see Holly/Finlay in what would be the stiffest match in recorded history. This could also be fun because Chris Masters always seems to f*ck up, and when you f*ck up, it’s time to go at it with Holly and learn the magic of potatoes.
Holly’s another vet that can help the younger crop of guys improve. Throw MVP in there with Holly and it’s another round of cocky punk kid versus respect-craving veteran.
It’s been done. Holly’s time on Smackdown was memorable due to his feud with Brock Lesnar, but once that ended he became the main eventer of Velocity week-in and week-out. On ECW, the roster is so thin that he actually had a chance of being the main eventer Vince always wanted.
6) The Miz to ECW
As a punk-ass little bitch, he can continue to do the “scared guy in a hardcore match that people like to see get beat upÃ¢â‚¬Â. Unfortunately, that’s already Matt Striker.
The Miz will get a shot at showing fans that he belongs on the main roster by going in there with Benoit and CM Punk.
The Miz was actually carving out a little spot for himself on Smackdown by dropping the goofiness and showing a little bit of a vicious streak.
Again, the lack of JBL commentary will hurt this guy. Bradshaw knew what he was doing with the Miz because he called a spade a spade by pointing out how much this guy sucks for so long that when he finally started to sing his praises there was a chance of the Miz getting a little credibility.
7) Daivari to RAW
He’s on RAW.
He’s away from Khali again. Having him on the same show as the Great Khali would have only hurt Daiviari, since the WWE wants to distance the characters.
There’s no cruiserweight division for him to work in. He’s going to be cannon fodder on RAW, if not Heat.
8) Majors Brothers to Smackdown
They are instantly the #1 contenders for the tag titles. Smackdown didn’t have a face tag team with the absence of Kendrick and London, and these two fit the bill. They will instantly be thrown into a feud with Deuce and Domino as opposed to just sort of being there on ECW. Without tag belts, keeping them on ECW would be useless.
Again, Michael Hayes is a kingmaker. He has the chance to take these 21st century Techno Tag Team 2000 and make them a legitimate team in the eyes of the fans.
They were developing a nice little feud with Striker and the New Breed and I guess we’ll just play a game of now you see it, now you don’t.
They were bland already before having to go in there against guys that are not established veterans to feud for the tag titles too quickly. It’s sort of the anti-Cryme Time.
9) William Regal to RAW
Everyone likes Regal. He can wrestle better then 90% of the roster, he’s got a great character and he can fill any role. He can be a legitimate threat to a guy like Santino Marella or he could be a comic foil for the Sandman. Combine that with the rumored push that Hunter wants to give him and you’ve got a lucky Englishman.
He’s away from Dave Taylor. With the Majors on Smackdown, the Blue Bloods would have had a fresh crop of greenhorns to whoop on. Now, Taylor’s left to cast in the wind on Friday nights while Regal has to go it alone on RAW.
10) Victoria to Smackdown
She’s got fresh opponents in Michelle McCool and Ashley.
She could find a place as a crazed manager like she was with Stevie Richards. It was that role that let her shine in the first place and with no title to contend for, she’s basically enhancement talent.
She has to face Ashley in a wrestling match. Ashley’s not the biggest disaster in WWE history, but no one thinks that she’s the next Trish Stratus.
There’s no title for her to contend for. I understood moving Torrie to Smackdown so that there are some more Divas on Friday nights, but Victoria can actually wrestle! Why strip an already weak division of a key player?
11) Jillian Hall to RAW:
She can compete for the title now. After suffering with a mole on her face for what felt like an eternity, Hall can now mix it up with Mickie James and feud for the woman’s title.
She doesn’t have to feud with Ashley.
Melina is the top dog on RAW, and until Melina loses the belt, Jillian will be stuck as the tag partner and the also-ran.
She’s not that pretty. This isn’t a knock on her as I doubt anyone would kick her out of the bed for eating cookies, but the fact of the matter is that she is “uniqueÃ¢â‚¬Â looking, and unique doesn’t guarantee a job. Ask Ariel.
12) Eugene to Smackdown:
He’s family entertainment and Smackdown always handled the bulk of family entertainment.
He’s great enhancement talent that can be used to put over a heel-heavy roster.
With no Heat, there’s less chance of Eugene making it onto television.
Not even Michael Hayes could pull off the miracle needed to get this guy over again.
13) Johnny Nitro to ECW:
He’s away from Melina, which hopefully will translate into less heat on his shoulders.
He can have fresh match-ups with Benoit and Punk, not to mention a chance to become a member of the “prestigiousÃ¢â‚¬Â New Breed.
Burke’s the arrogant heel on the show, not Nitro.
Boogeyman needs someone to feud with.
Whew. That is a lot of people to move around and hopefully it will help give these shows the fresh feeling they’ve been craving. Speaking of drastic movements, I want to take a fresh look at something that has pretty much been dissected from all angles, the exploding car of doom. And while it has been looked at in a number of different ways, I don’t think anyone has looked at it from my perspective
For Your Consideration Why an Exploding Limo was What We Asked For
That’s right, wrestling fan, you are the one that blew up Vince’s limo! You’re also the true higher power.
You see, wrestling fans have been craving a long-term story arc. At least that’s what people are telling Vince. Pro wrestling is not episodic television the way “LostÃ¢â‚¬Â is or even the way “The OfficeÃ¢â‚¬Â is. There are no season premiers or season finales in wrestling. Sure, you could argue that Wrestlemania is a season finale, but that would make the following night’s RAW the season premire. Here in lies the problem for Vince, wrestling has no real hook. Casual viewers can skip a few weeks of programming, tune back in, and everything is pretty much the same. Sure, Edge is now on Smackdown and there was a draft, but so what? Cena’s still the champion, Carlito still has an apple and Mr. Kennedy still says his name twice.
The ratings in 2007 are not the ratings we saw in 1996 or 1997 or even 2000. The numbers that RAW does are still pretty large and pretty impressive, but when push comes to shove, they are not the same as they were during the last major renaissance. Why is that? Arguably, you get better wrestling now then you did in 1996 or 1997. Don’t believe me? Order 24/7 and see for yourself on the Monday Night Wars. RAW was populated by bland midcarders masquerading as main eventers either years from their prime (Steve Austin) or years past their prime (Jake Roberts). Nitro was about 62 matches in a two hour show and never once did they deliver on their intended main event.
Wrestling fans a decade ago were easier to placate. After all, we’d suffered through the dregs of the creation of RAW, forced to consume Superstars episodes featuring nobodies versus jobbers and Power Hours featuring even more unknown nobodies versus even weaker jobbers. We were easy to entertain. The nWo seemed fresh and new. Austin versus McMahon was a novel concept. Now? The nWo would have been mocked and crucified within a month of its creation and the Austin/McMahon storyline would have been written off as hackey and lame.
How can the WWE hook the viewer? Long-term storylines. If we could fool them once, we could fool them again! The complaints that the WWE created from its fans were that the storylines didn’t have any major impact. We want the higher power! We want the InVasion! I guess if you say it enough times, it has to come true.
The Vince McMahon storyline was actually one of the most brilliantly constructed story lines in years. I know, that sounds pretty damn blasphemous, but hear me out. Remember, this column is not always about pandering to popular opinion, but rather presenting another side to the argument, even if I don’t fully buy into it myself. I’m looking at this from the viewpoint of Creative.
The stage for the Vince McMahon story to end all stories was actually set last year, as John Cena started to feud with Kevin Federline. Yes, K-Fed is to blame for the exploding limo! The John Cena/Kevin Federline feud seemed to end at the triple threat match at Cyber Sunday when Cena was unable to overcome Booker T and the Big Show. K-Fed eventually challenged Cena to a match, but the match wouldn’t happen until months later. The match would happen on the first RAW of the new year, live from Miami Florida.
People were questioning why Vince McMahon was bothering with this K-Fed match. I mean, it seemed pretty stupid. Here was the WWE champion tying up with a celebrity’s ex-husband on the first show of the new year, and all fans were left to think was, “Why the hell is this happening?Ã¢â‚¬Â The answer actually lies within that episode. The K-Fed/Cena thing was a guaranteed blip on the pop culture map which guaranteed the WWE some mainstream ink. It also guaranteed eyeballs. Eyeballs are very important to Vince. You and I, the actual wrestling fan, do not matter to Vince McMahon in the long run. We’ve sat through Katie Vick, we’ve sat through the InVasion and we’ve sat through Zach Gowen, so it’s a safe bet we’ll sit through anything. Vince wants fresh viewers. He wants people who hear a buzz and want to tune in just to see what’s going on. That’s why people came to the WWE at the turn of the century. They heard the buzz about The Rock and they wanted in.
Now, with K-Fed, there was a buzz. K-Fed, however, was not the actual milestone moment of the program. No, the milestone actually lies with Rob Conway. Before what seemed like an innocuous match between Rob Conway and Jeff Hardy, Conway promised that if he lost this match that he would quit. Sure enough, Rob lost, and in record time. Faced with the fact that he now has to quit, Rob began to feel desperate. Finally, the familiar chords of “No ChanceÃ¢â‚¬Â played over the arena speakers, and out came a freshly rested Vince McMahon. He was done with DX and in a sharp looking Hawaiian shirt, because there are only 2 guys that wear Hawaiian shirts, gay guys and big fat party animals, and Vince ain’t no fairy. Vince grabbed the microphone and began his usual long-winded speech about who knows what, and he threw in a forgettable little riff on Donald Trump stealing his catchphrase. He then proceeded to fire Conway, which was the first time in a while that an on-air firing stuck.
Over the next few weeks, Vince began to drop Donald’s name in odd places. Why was he doing this? Was it because he wanted to steal some spotlight from the Donald/Rosie feud? Was it because he and Donald are buddies in real life and he wanted to take some good-humored pot-shots? No, it was actually because he had set into motion one of the most intricate long-term storylines of the past ten years.
Nobody knew that when they watched fake Trump fight fake Rosie with a real Fudgy the Whale that it was actually part of a grand mosaic. We all just thought we were watching another lame skit. When we saw Trump drop money from the sky and tell the fans that Vince didn’t know how to make them happy, we just thought that we were witnessing a ratings ploy.
The Vince McMahon storyline served many purposes. First, it gave Wrestlemania a boost of star power. Donald Trump is still a name in Hollywood, and his involvement in Ã¢â‚¬ËœMania could only boost the show. Second, it allowed Umaga to bounce back from his losses to Cena and allow the fans to remember that he was a monster heel. Third, it allowed Bobby Lashley a chance to capitalize on his ridiculous push to the moon.
Vince brought back all the heavy hitters for this storyline. We had the first appearance in years from The Rock. We had Steve Austin as a special referee. We had celebrities and movie stars talking about a hair-versus-hair match. Suddenly, Wrestlemania had an EVENT as part of its show. Remember, us wrestling fans are not the target, it’s the untapped masses that are the potential customers. Since Trump and Vince couldn’t fight, their proxies were going to go at it, knowing full well that Lashley and Umaga were bound to touch the spotlight that this match was going to draw.
The match at Wrestlemania, while despised by true wrestling fans, was a rousing success. The buyrate for the PPV was massive. The press coverage was unreal. Vince’s bald head was on the cover page of aol.com, it was in the New York Post and on Entertainment Tonight and TMZ. Suddenly, Wrestling was getting mainstream ink again. Not only that, but Bobby Lashley was finally getting over with marks. The angle was a success. Case closed.
Not exactly. Vince getting shaved led to Vince winning the ECW title (a way to rejuvenate his manliness that he lost while sobbing as he was sheared like a sheep) and this led to Vince becoming a black guy. Yep, the Connecticut billionaire was now street. He was tough. He was hardcore. Vince as ECW champ continued to help Bobby Lashley get over with the masses, as they begged and pleaded to see McMahon drop the title. Then, at One Night Stand, in a match that Shane suggested, Vince lost the title in a street fight. Finally, the McMahon saga was over.
Yeah, right. Enter the next phase, crazy Vince. Crazy Uncle Vinny now talked with a southern accent, sat in rocking chairs and acted like a person who had just watched a marathon of “According to JimÃ¢â‚¬Â. He was hilarious and creepy all at the same time, and fans were intrigued. Ultimately, this led to Vince getting into his limo and, through hellfire and brimstone, was roasted, toasted and burnt to a crisp.
Now, we have a hell of a storyline that can be traced back to last fall. We have a storyline that helped get Umaga and Lashley over. We have a storyline that brought in ratings and mainstream coverage. Most importantly, we have a story that can sustain for the rest of the summer. Is Vince dead? Who blew up the car? Who’s running the company? We can have another fun power struggle atop the McMahon empire, a chance for Shane and Stephanie to go to war. We can have another investigation into who set the bomb up, with multiple suspects. Was it Lashley, with his military skills and inability to wear pants? Was it Foley, who now has a convenient concussion? Was it Shane, who forced his dad into the match that drove him crazy? And most importantly, is Vince dead? Will we get Vince sightings? Will Leslie Nielson be called in to solve the case?
Tune in next week, same McTime, same McChannel. You know you’re going to anyway.
This has been for your consideration.
Tags: ECW, Raw, Smackdown