Welcome to Week 35.
I have been spotty at best these past few weeks and I would first like to apologize for all of the unscheduled interruptions. Without delving too deep into my â€œpersonalâ€ life, let me just say that the combined work/school/life schedule is really catching up to me. On the plus side, school is over in a few weeks so that I can enjoy a much-needed winter break. On the negative side, that means exams are quickly approaching like a tornado in Kansas.
Iâ€™m writing this column from the beautiful Gate B4 in LaGuardia Airport in New York, capping off yet another â€œeventfulâ€ Thanksgiving. I suppose now is just as good a time as any to wish all of you a happy Thanksgiving, though now that itâ€™s long passed, itâ€™s safe to assume that if youâ€™re reading this now that you at least survived gorging yourself with food. I, thankfully, did.
There is no greater place to spend the holidays than in Manhattan. With all due respect to some writers here from Chicago, New York City is the center of the universe. I got here on Wednesday and was able to take in the sights and sounds of my former hometown. By that, I mean I drank myself from SoHo to midtown and somehow made it back to my hotel. The bars in New York are a little different than the dives in Florida; namely thereâ€™s a more â€œupscaleâ€ (read: old) crowd up north and because of that they can charge triple what booze costs anywhere else on the planet. Did I care? Sureâ€¦at first. By the fourth bar I was just shouting â€œPut it on my tabâ€ like it was my mantra. Itâ€™s all fun and games until you check your receipt. The night abruptly ended at 2:45 when my buddy got into a brawl with a bouncer. Thankfully, my lawyerly instincts kicked in, and rather than continue the fight with the mook, I did was a respectable man would do and threaten legal action against everyone in sight.
Thursday morning I pretended I was a tourist from Oklahoma and wandered out to the Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade in Times Square. So, about 2.5 million of my closest friends and I stood shoulder-to-shoulder as giant balloons whizzed by as mediocre celebrities waved half-heartedly to the sounds of high school marching bands. Maybe Iâ€™m ignorant, but I thought that Macys used to pull major celebs. Who did we get? Some kids called the Jonas Brothers who have the #5 album in the country, the black frizzy headed kid from â€˜High School Musicalâ€™, Wynona Judd and Jordan Sparks (a.k.a. the big black chick that won American Idol â€“ who coincidentally was on the Pillsbury Doughboy Float). I will say that if youâ€™ve never seen it live that the parade is pretty decent, but Iâ€™ve â€œbeen there and done thatâ€, so it was like living through a repeat. Speaking of repeatsâ€¦
The writerâ€™s strike is still churning along, though thereâ€™s hope for some talks to start up next week. While I am fully supporting my fellow WGA members, I am quickly coming to the realization that this thing needs to end soon. First, let me make it clear that Iâ€™m not advocating this ceasefire to side with management. I think that the current plan by studios to (insert four-letter word that I have been told I can no longer use by this siteâ€™s management so for the sake of continuity let me use the word â€œgrapeâ€) grape the writers out of their hard-earned money is graping ridiculous. The studios have the balls to claim that they still donâ€™t know if the Internet is going to be profitable? Raise your hand if you have an iPod. Raise your hand if you have ever downloaded a show. Raise your hand if youâ€™ve ever watches streaming media or gone to YouTube. I rest my case.
See, I am advocating the end to this strike because it is clear who is going to benefit the most from this strike. Itâ€™s not the studios, who are losing millions of dollars a day as more and more shows and movies shut down. Itâ€™s not the networks who are losing droves of viewers every minute as Americans quickly remember that there is life outside of television. Itâ€™s certainly not the poor writers who are not all the millionaires the studios want us to believe. Nope, the winners here are the members of the deepest, darkest, most evil collection of soulless monsters known to mankindâ€¦Republicans.
Yep, the big winners here are the old, fat white guys riding on top of their high horseâ€¦erâ€¦elephant. How so? Well, admittedly this is a bit of an ancillary victory for them and one that requires a little bit of practical application, so stick with me now. The majority of the disenfranchised youth of Gen-X and this newfangled Millennium Generation are not exactly ear-to-the-ground political junkies. I happen to be and a lot of my friends are, but by the time you reach law school you assume that youâ€™re surrounded by people â€œin the knowâ€ (on a side note, how many graping air quotes am I throwing around today?). So excluding that small group, the majority of people between the ages of 17 and 30 donâ€™t exactly follow politics the way they do fantasy football and celebrity gossip. There is, however, one exception.
People from my generation are hooked to political satire. I canâ€™t quite figure out how friends of mine that never watch CNN or read the Times are addicted to these shows, but weâ€™ll take as many as we can get. â€œThe Daily Showâ€, â€œColbert Reportâ€, â€œReal Time with Bill Maherâ€ and even â€œSNLâ€ are filled with sharp jabs at the best of the worst of Washington and as studies conducted from everyone from USA Today to Nielson have shown, our generation gets more news from these shows than from anywhere else. Itâ€™s how Ron Paul got his stranglehold on the easy-to-mislead hippie vote and how even the most tuned out high school senior heard about Larry Craigâ€™s bathroom mishap.
The Republican Party likes the disinterested youth. We tend to vote Democratic, and when prodded enough, will even show up to do so. The youth vote is one of the strangest categories of voters because we actually vote for the group that favors our interests. Poor farmers in Kansas vote Republican despite the fact that Republicans have promoted commercial farming that killed their economy and then promotes a financial strategy that keeps them poor and immigrants from Cuba vote Republican despite the fact that Republicans are leading the charge to send their relatives back home. On the flip side, there are still liberal yuppies who vote Democratic at the expense of beneficial tax hikes. Youth voters, on the other hand, almost always vote Democratic because we see the Republicans as the party in favor of destroying our environment and selling out our future. The only problem is that we donâ€™t tend to take that step necessary to get us off of our lazy asses, pull us from our Playstations and Wiis and force us to pull a lever or push a button. Jon Stewart got us to do that, and with him going dark, most people our age have no idea whatâ€™s going on in politics.
The longer the strike goes, the longer weâ€™ll remain the dark. The Republicans can do whatever they please without any checks and balances in place. The Youth who populate the blogosphere have nowhere to turn to steal their outrage from, so for all they know George Bush just passed an act making it legal to kill people with slight limps.
Am I taking this a little far? Sure. But itâ€™s that kind of whack-job thinking that got these people elected in the first place.
Speaking of asinine ideas and bad decisions, I attended Survivor Series last Sunday at the American Airlines Arena. Initially I was planning on blowing off the weak card and just catching the show later online, but a well-timed IM from my buddy led to me schlepping down to Miami for the â€œbig showâ€. I havenâ€™t attended a WWE PPV live and in person since Armageddon 2002, so it felt a little odd being back among the unwashed masses of pro wrestling fans.
First off, the line to get in was a sight to see. The doors opened at around 7:15 and I rolled up about 15 minutes prior, only to be greeted by a sea of fans as far as the eye could see. The smartest thing that the WWE did was to put up a giant inflatable screen that played WWE 24/7 clips. We were treated to some Ernie Ladd matches at first, then a promo for Seasons Beatings and ultimately the Rock/Austin classic from Wrestlemania 17. As I watched Stone Cold reign down chair shots onto the Rock, I realized that I had just paid money to see a show live that will not even come close the greatness that was that PPV. Already starting on a down note, I struggled through the crowd to my seats.
The show started with a non-televised intro by the three general managers. Vikki Guerrero came out first to a nice Eddie chant and mumbled through some nonsense about the Taker/Batista Hell in a Cell match. Then Armando came out to remind us that he was still in fact the GM of ECW. I was shocked as hell that the Miami fans didnâ€™t cheer his Cuban shtick. He promoted the ECW â€œmain eventâ€ of Punk/Morrison/Miz. Finally, the Coach came out to hype Orton/Michaels, which far and away got the biggest pre-show pop.
The WWE needs to realize that when you do a show in Miami, you are not going to get people into the building on time. This is a very relaxed town when it comes to punctuality and I bet Kevin Dunn was sweating the fact that the bulk of the seats on camera werenâ€™t full at 7:55.
Watching the video packages in an arena is a pretty trippy experience because the fans in the arena still pop for the superstars even though theyâ€™re only on screen. I wonder if they do that when they watch at home. So we had the pyro and ballyhoo open and I immediately saw the first ref in the ring was wearing a black shirt and happened to be an Armstrong. I couldnâ€™t believe the opening match was the ECW title.
Punk came out first and didnâ€™t exactly get the rousing ovation I had hoped for. It was somewhat loud, but nowhere near the level it should have been at. It amazed me that a year ago this guy was the most over man in a tag match with the Hardys and DX, yet now heâ€™s curtain-jerking and getting the reaction that should only be reserved for Hardcore Holly. Miz got some decent boos mixed in with the occasional pocked of cheers, and Morrison showed that his ridiculous entrance is still successful at drawing heat. The match itself was pretty quick and didnâ€™t look overly sloppy, though they did rely too much on the â€œone guyâ€™s incapacitatedâ€ nonsense that plagues most triple threats. Looking back, the only spot that leaps out at me is the amazing sequence ending in a powerbomb. Eh, at least Punk won clean and the fans finally woke up and cheered.
The diva match was next, and it was amazing how many of the girls look alike from a distance. The match itself was sloppy and forgettable, with two notable exceptions. First, Melina botching her entrance was hilarious because (and I donâ€™t think this made it on camera) Victoria nearly died from laughing. Second, Mickie brining back the lesbian kiss to her arsenal was a welcome return. Other then that, it was what it was.
Cade & Murdoch versus Holly and Rhodes served its purpose well. C&M needed another solid tag win before the eventual split and Holly and Rhodes needed another chapter in their ongoing Redneck Star Wars storyline, with Bob serving as the most roided up Obi-Won ever. The match itself was pretty dull and the crowd wasnâ€™t into it at all.
HHH/Hardy/Rey/Kane versus Viscera/Umaga/Finlay/Kennedy/MVP was a surprising yet logical choice this early in the show. Each guy got their own entrance, which ate up a lot of time, but the fans would have been pissed otherwise. I was annoyed that MVP didnâ€™t come out with his full inflatable entrance. The least they could have done would be to give it to his hometown fans! Before the match, Hunter and his team did a cute bit where each guy brought up times in the past where HHH screwed them over, which was an odd yet welcome bit of continuity. Hunter was the only guy on his team without pyro yet he got the biggest pop by far. I was kinda surprised how not over Rey was in Miami. The match itself was a little long and despite having so many guys in the ring it still felt familiar and listless. The biggest surprise was Big Daddy V getting pinned because I was sure he was going to be taken out by DQ. I know Survivor Series shouldnâ€™t count, but he had never been pinned in his new character. Now, weeks later, we can see why Triple H and Jeff Hardy were the lone survivors, but at the time the fans were sure it would be 5 on Hunter and he would have taken out everyone single-handedly.
Khali versus Hornswoggle was the predictable disaster. Shaneâ€™s appearance was a nice surprise, but that was about it for the pleasant surprise department. The crowd killed the match early by chanting, â€œWe want Shaq!â€, which meant anything that happened in the ring was going to be a letdown compared to Miamiâ€™s insane fantasy booking. Vince threw out a nice adlib to shut everyone up, but unfortunately they wasted all their energy on the chant and then just let this match die. Finlayâ€™s run-in was confusing to the people in attendance and was greeted with confused silence. Vince, itâ€™s hard for the fans to realize Finlayâ€™s doing a face run-in one match after he was a heel.
Orton and Michaels was, in my opinion, a foregone conclusion. It was fine for what it was wrestling wise, but it certainly didnâ€™t set my world on fire or anything. There was the slightly compelling side story about Shawn not being able to use his kick, but that opened the door for sloppy submission hold after sloppy submission hold. The finish was a nice bit of psychology, but it stunned the hell out of the crowd to the point that Shawnâ€™s post-match beatdown wasnâ€™t enough to wake them up. My biggest disappointment was the fact that I was so sure that this would main event and lead to a screwjob. It was what made the most sense. Let there be some shenanigans where Vince runs in and Shawn goes to kick him but he kicks Randy instead. On the other hand, Iâ€™m pretty happy Randy got to pin someone clean in the middle of the ring to legitimize this ridiculous title run.
The main event Hell in a Cell match was underwhelming at best. No big spot, no big bump, nothing. Everyone expected Edge to make an appearance considering his face was on the posters and they were selling his merchandise at the stands. Taker and Batista did an admirable job, but it wasnâ€™t anything memorable. Edgeâ€™s run-in left the fans confused and agitated that they didnâ€™t get an explanation. Plus, itâ€™s always risky sending the fans home looking at a heel standing victorious (figuratively).
Overall it was an in-the-middle show because while the matches didnâ€™t exactly leap out at the fans, the guys in the ring busted their ass to make the best of the situation they were handed.
The interesting thing that caught me after leaving the show was that it looked like the WWE was finally going to do a slow burn with some storylines. Where would Orton go next? Why was Edge attacking Undertaker? What the grape was Finlay doing attacking Khali? Then, we got our last week of programming, which brings me to todayâ€™s topic:
For Your Considerationâ€¦Whatâ€™s the Rush?
The WWE is notorious for rushing through storylines at a rapid pace. â€œWhy do something in eight weeks when we can do it in four?â€ seems to be the mantra of Creative. Why exactly is that? How are they rushing these stories? How can they do it better? Most importantly, what happens when the do wait?
First, letâ€™s look at the Chris Jericho situation. The WWE showed tremendous restraint with the return of Jericho, dragging it out for months with mysterious teasers filled with random Matrix-esque graphics. Upon freeze-framing it, you could see what looked like a launch code. Thankfully, a buddy of mine who works for the company told me that it was in fact the command sequence for Jerichoâ€™s pyro.
The WWE let the internet buzz for months about what it meant and when Jericho would return, even going so far as to have Chris appear at book signings in the cities where they were taping their shows. But no Chris! Was this a sign that the WWE had a long-term plan to keep us waiting?
In a word, no.
It turns out the Jericho was unhappy with the ideas he was given by the WWE, so he continued to sit and wait until something coherent was scribbled for him. While this happened, the WWE was nice enough to continue to run the adds, making them more and more obvious until finally the night arrived for the return of Y2J.
As soon as RAW opened and we saw the Olympic Torch runner, we knew that this was the segment where Jericho would come back. Would it match his debut with the Rock? Could it? Jerichoâ€™s first WWE appearance was one of the greatest moments of the Attitude Era and one of those landmark â€œwhere were you whenâ€ moments.
Unfortunately, his return for the second coming was less than spectacular. The WWE should never have brought him back in a backstage shot of him clotheslining the runner. Lame I say! Lame! It took away that moment that we all waited for of seeing him on the stage for the first time. When he did come out, it was anticlimactic.
The Jericho promo itself wasnâ€™t too bad. He was a bit rusty and a bit caught up in the moment, but he still fit in all of his classic catchphrases and random insults (take that, SuperCuts!). Now, heâ€™s knee-deep in a feud with Randy Orton. One that can only end in disaster.
The Jericho return couldnâ€™t have come at a worse time. The night before we were treated to the return of a Canadian smartass with blonde hair in the form of Edge, so not only was Jericho not the only returning superstar that week, he wasnâ€™t the only returning Canadian smartass blonde haired superstar returning that week! Second, heâ€™s back on RAW where heâ€™s instantly behind Triple H and Shawn Michaels. Yeah, Shawnâ€™s just had his moment in the sun and Hunter has been oddly in the background, but at any moment one of those guys could wake up and want the belt and then BAM itâ€™s theirs. Third, last night saw the return of Ric Flair. Thatâ€™s right, ANOTHER return. And look at the buildup for Flairâ€™s return. Everyone in that building believed that Flair could have one more title run in him, which means that Jericho is now taking a backseat to Ric! Lastly, and most importantly, next month sees the return of Bobby Lashley, who was poised before his injury for a nice, long stay in the main event. Now Chris Jericho is behind Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair and Bobby Lashley.
Jerichoâ€™s feud with Orton is nothing more than a placeholder. How could this all go down? Well, Chris could be the one to â€œsave usâ€ from Randy and get his title back. The problem is that theyâ€™ve already built his return around beating Orton and taking the belt. If he accomplishes that then what else is there for him to do? Well lets look at the major players between now and Mania.
Say Jericho does in fact unseat Orton for the title at Armageddon. That means heâ€™d have his rematch at New Years Revolution where he would either drop it back to Randy or to someone else. But who else? I smell an Elimination Chamber. Jericho/Lashley/Orton/Michaels/Kennedy/Hunter is a pretty â€œbig nameâ€ kind of match. Either that or say they throw Flair in there and HE is the new champion. Sticking with Jericho as champ, weâ€™ve got Rumble to think about. Sounds like the perfect time for a Triple H heel turn. Hunter wins the belt at the Rumble and sets up Hunter/Michaels to headline Wrestlemania (something theyâ€™ve never done). Where does that leave everyone else for Mania? Pair Lashley with Orton as the â€œfuturesâ€ match and let Jericho and Kennedy trade promos. Boom, Jerichoâ€™s already down the ladder but at least he â€œgot his title matchâ€.
Poor Chris. Poor, poor Chris.
On Smackdown last week the WWE burned through a good month of storylines in one graping night! We had the intrigue of why Edge did what he did and how this was going to impact the title picture, a storyline that could have (and should have) been built for weeks.
They start the show with Vikki revealing her relationship with Edge?! Right off the bat? No big reveal? No tease? Nothing? Jesus, why would they do that? Why not drag it out a little?
When the WWE hyped a â€œCutting Edgeâ€ segment, I assumed that the seeds would be planted, not shoved into the ground, coated with fertilizer and then torched like Reformation South slash & burn actions. Itâ€™s WWE via William Tecumseh Sherman. I thought there were several ways this could have gone. First, I thought that Edge, being the â€œmaster manipulatorâ€, would have tried to say that Batista put him up to it. Short of that, I would have seen him goading Batista to the point where Dave just gave him the title match and Vikki would reluctantly agree. What do they do? The whore that is the WWE gives it all up on one night.
And they donâ€™t even stop there! We get an Undertaker appearance. Not only does he pop up, but he actually gets his hands on Guerrero and tombstones her! This could have been done so much slower, people. We could have had week 1 be the Cutting Edge where Edge accuses Batista of being the one behind the attack. It would have been something along the lines of, â€œWhy would I do it otherwise?â€ or â€œHow would I get access to the arena?â€. Week 2 would be Batista accepting the challenge. Week 3 would be the appearance by the Undertaker. Then at Armageddon we get some sort of screwjob and the week after we reveal Vikki and Edge together and then weâ€™ve got a Rumble main event. Now? Weâ€™ll get a new champ as soon as this Friday instead of a decent storyline.
The best storyline of the year for my money has been the Matt Hardy/MVP stuff. What started out as a middling feud between a stalled midcarder and a rising heel turned into a compelling and layered fight that established both guys as major players on Smackdown. Why did it happen? Was it because the powers that be had come up with a brilliant storyline to run through months of shows?
Again, in a word, no.
The WWE couldnâ€™t rush the Hardy/MVP storyline because both guys kept sustaining injuries. Hardyâ€™s face and knee and Porterâ€™s heart condition forced Creative to think on their toes, and as such gave us a compelling story about two guys constantly trying to one-up each other and then forming an unlikely and surprisingly successful tag team. Once there was the inevitable re-heel turn by MVP, we were ready for what would be a rather epic encounter. Instead, Hardy suffered a serious internal injury and will be gone for 3 months. Enter Rey Mysterio for what should be a decent (if rushed) mini-feud that will hopefully cement MVPâ€™s status as the next major player.
The WWE is always so rushed with storylines and then complains that they have nothing to do, which is the most counterintuitive logic Iâ€™ve ever seen. Maybe if they took more time letting these things flesh out, they wouldnâ€™t need new challengers every damn month. By stepping off of the gas for just a little the WWE wouldnâ€™t run the risk of burning out their stories and would actually allow the fans to latch onto a particular feud. Unfortunately, the only feud they seem intent to continue is Triple H/Umaga, which is about as one-sided a feud this side of Hulk Hogan.
This has been for your consideration.