The Reality of Wrestling: Jericho Back To Raw or Booker to TNA?

The Reality of Wrestling: Jericho Back To Raw or Booker to TNA?
By Phil Clark

NOTE: This article was supposed to go out last week, but due to server problems, you’re getting it now

The two major moves/acquisitions of the past month have been Chris Jericho’s return to The E and Booker T’s move to TNA. Both men had their reasons for resurfacing where they did—Jericho: it was all a matter of when, Booker: a lighter schedule—and fans are hoping that both men will make an impact. With Jericho, The E was clever with the whole “Save Us” angle that could’ve made Jericho’s return more special than it actually was, but a leak to the Internet killed that; still, it’s great to see him back. In Booker’s case, everyone knew he was going to end up in TNA: he’s an E reject who’s past 35, what more do you need? However, with the likelihood that this will be both men’s last big runs, I’m hoping that both companies at least try to get their money’s worth out of them.

P.C. Says: Neither move is going to make people want to watch either product more

The problem with these returns/moves is that they didn’t do anything for either company’s product as a whole. People knew when and at what time Jericho was coming back, so they could pop it on, watch him, and then tune right back out. Booker came in as a not-so-mystery partner for Sting at TNA’s last PPV, Genesis, and will make his iMPACT! debut this week. It might be able to push TNA to a 1.2 rating, but I’m willing to bet that things will stay as they are.

Wrestling fans—myself included—in recent years have become jaded towards the big two in the U.S. because we expect them to fail. Why else is the good stuff so loved and so shocking to us? Fans have grown to expect failure from these two companies for two completely different reasons: The E doesn’t care if their product is good anymore and haven’t since they won The War, and TNA doesn’t know what they’re doing as of now. People are likely not going to invest their time and attention to these two moves at first because the general thought process is “well it’s awesome that Jericho/Booker is back, but they’ll fuck it up so who cares?” Cynical maybe, but it’s true.

With Booker, TNA has to rectify the mistakes that they’ve made with other E rejects or old relics they’ve picked up over the last couple of years, in other words, he has to job. Scott Steiner, Sting, Kurt Angle, if you add up the number of meaningful jobs these three have done in the few years they’ve been with TNA, you could count them on one hand. And I’m sure people are thinking, “if these guys job left and right it won’t mean nothing, or you’ll lose their legend value.” No and no. Legend indicates (as I’ve mentioned before) a level of appreciation and status amongst fans that they aren’t going to care if you lose, on the flip side they will care and when and whom you job to. When Sting first came in back in ’06 I read an interview with him where he was adamant about putting over younger talent citing Abyss and Styles as guys he’d love to have matches with. Well he did want to put over Abyss clean I’ll give him that, but what about Styles, what about Joe? Those are dream matches that we still haven’t seen, but have been teased for a while. And just because Steiner did the right thing with Joe last summer doesn’t mean he’s off the hook. There have been other opportunities where he could’ve elevated someone and if nothing else he should know that he could be in that position and for the good of the business try to help make new stars; people may bash ECW as a whole, but Heyman was right in crediting Terry Funk for making ECW what it was with almost FIVE YEARS of wrestling and jobbing frequently enough to the younger talent. And Angle, don’t even get me started. Kurt Angle may be TNA’s best example of having something literally handed to you and fucking it up. I’ve already said my piece on that and one look through the Angle/Joe tale will tell you how Kurt Angle’s TNA tenure is already signed and sealed as a missed opportunity. TNA, take a lesson from this, you have a chance with Booker to do something good with a castoff from another promotion. He doesn’t have to job all the time, and shouldn’t at first, but if you put him in an opportunity to make a difference (big singles match against Styles, or Kaz, or Joe), than he has to do the right thing.

In Jericho’s case, a feud with Orton is not only the smart way to go, but the only way to go. If you look at RAW, what else is Jericho going to do that’s meaningful? Cena’s out ‘till past Mania, Orton/Michaels just wrapped up, and HHH is too busy trying to make Jeff Hardy umpteenth push the one that makes it. Not only that, but Orton would benefit extremely from a methodical feud with the Ayatollah of Rock and Rollah because, like Michaels and Foley, it offers Orton the chance to get the rub from an established star and prove his worth by outshining them. That’s what made Randy Orton noticeable in the beginning was the Foley Feud. The Michaels feud this year was probably The E’s best of the year if you look at it from start to finish, and as a desperation move, The E I must say did come through with something nice. With Jericho, it’s a second go at the legend/young star feud, but unlike the Michaels feud, this one has Wrestlemania as a possible finale.

Jericho/Orton for the belt should be one of the world title matches at Wrestlemania XXIV, there I said it. I’m sure many people will agree me on this and I thank you, but for those who don’t I’m going to break it down for you. First, HHH/Orton was done to death in 2004-05 and most people are comfy with “The Game” in his current mid-card role. Second, before Jericho left he practically forced John Cena to the best match of his career at that point that didn’t involve Kurt Angle or The Undertaker. Third, Orton can pull out a big performance in the big-match setting; against Benoit at Summerslam ’04, against Taker at WM 21, against Foley in the hardcore match in ’04, against Cena at this year’s Summerslam, at the ’04 Royal Rumble, Randy Orton can make it happen when it counts. Plus, he’s in there with Jericho. Even with two years of ring rust, I’d still take Jericho over the majority of The E’s locker room (or TNA’s for that matter).

The Reality is…these two moves are part of the meal, they aren’t the main course. Neither move has been earth shattering and likely won’t make the biggest impacts on either promotion. The reason for this is something that I’m actually glad for: both promotions are trying to push “new” talent. The reason I used quotations is that The E still pushes old men, but they are also trying second, third, and fourth times with guys that still technically can be defined as “young” in the wrestling business. If Kaz and the Motor City Machine Guns’ pushes are for real, than bravo TNA! It’s about time that homegrown talent gets a break. I’m not going to go into party mode because it’s only been a month. For all we know all three could be jobbers again by the end of this month. I’m hoping though that this trend of pushing new people sticks because it does work, you just have to give it time. Look at New Japan, the best example of a big promotion pushing new talent and doing good because of it. Sure, it took them a downward slide of a few years, but they’ve had their best year in a long time, their product seems fresh and cool compared to other Japanese feds, their young talent has now fully accepted the role (as oppose to being forced into it) and are making the best of it. Take a lesson: pushing young talent is a necessity if a promotion is going to endure. It may take a while, but things will get good again.

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