So this week we are pitting Jake Mulligan up against Big Andy Mac. Jake’s speciality, as his archive will show you, is Japan and Andy’s is Ring of Honor. My specialty is ECW, so we have a pretty varied crowd with us today. Our questions are about Wrestlemania, the X Division, Puro Stars, MCM in ROH and who will be the next major star to come from the indies or ROH.
Question One: If WWE gives a surprise push at WrestleMania who should it be? How and why?
Mulligan: A “suprise push” to me, wouldn’t go to anyone in a world title match, or whose an established main guy already, like Jeff Hardy, or Chris Jericho. To me, the suprise push of the night should go to Umaga, whose facing Batista. Batista is clearly on his way down, and can handle the loss. Umaga, however, is a perfect opponent for two main guys on Raw, John Cena, who he brawls with, and Jeff Hardy, who plays the perfect underdog to Umaga’s man-monster character. I expect both Cena and Hardy to get runs with the WWE Championship this year, and Umaga could main event PPVs with both of them (Umaga vs. Hardy WOULD work on top of a small PPV if the undercard was nice and stacked, perhaps with Cena vs. HHH #1 Contender). Thus, it is very important to keep him strong, and that’s why I would give Umaga a “suprise” push and put him over Batista clean.
Big Andy Mac: I don’t think there will be any surprise pushes at Wrestlemania. It is the one time of year that WWE does not take chances, but since that is not the question I think that the “surprise push” should go to someone like CM Punk. The Punker is already prominently featured on the C show, eCw, with occasional forays onto Smackdown, but he is far from a major player. He should win a qualifying match against someone who would likely be in that match anyway, say someone along the lines of MVP thus keeping him out and allowing him to blow off his feud with Matt Hardy outside of Money in the Bank. He would also win his umpteenth eCw number one contendership and pull double duty at ‘Mania. He loses to Chavo after some skullduggery, chicanery, and tomfoolery and is beaten down by people like Big Daddy V and Mark Henry for his efforts creating the sympathy heat from the fans. He goes into Money in the Bank and wins upsetting the likely winner Jeff Hardy. He in turn uses his title shot at whichever heel makes the most sense and turns it into a near miss for the title but proof that he can hang. He is then quietly returned to the midcard and everybody on the internet dies a little inside.
Blatt’s Ruling: Interesting choices here, though I disagree with both. In terms of Mulligan’s pick, Umaga can be pulled into the top tier any time the WWE wants, and they pull him in quite often. He’s replaced Kane as the go to guy to kill time between feuds. As far as Andy Mac goes, CM Punk doesn’t need to be featured in the Money in the Bank match to shine at Mania. He just needs the WWE to treat an ECW title shot like an actual title shot. historically, they treated the Million Dollar Belt better than they are currently treating the ECW championship. As we’ve seen, Punk has been keeping ECW afloat for a while, and I don’t think that they’re going to give it up. This is their opportunity to showcase ECW as a show, not any particular wrestler. No points awarded, but each guy can have a pick from one of my old WCW figures. Their choices are Scott Steiner who is missing an arm or Kevin Nash who is missing a leg.
Question Two: How do you rebuild TNA’s X-Division? Who do you use and in what way?
Big Andy Mac: TNA’s X-division doesn’t need rebuilding so much as refocusing. The top two X-division guys are currently either Curry Man or Angle’s lackey. You can have an X division without Styles and Daniels by adding to the division with a few signees. Right now they are in a bad way because the other two top X stars are in a jobbed tag team. The first person I would add to the division is not even someone I am a fan of, but the British high flying phenom Pac. He is far from a good wrestler, but perfect for the X division. He could win the title in some sort of non-sensical multi-man match that TNA seems to love so much. Pac would then have a short month to two month reign flip flop and flying all over the six sided ring turning away challenges from Johnny Devine, Jay Lethal, and maybe even a returning Amazing Red if he manages to stay held together by chewing gum and duct tape. The man to dethrone Pac and redefine the X division, though, will be Jimmy Rave. Rave would prove to be a complete opposite of what most see in Pac’s X division. He would focus his attack on mat work submissions and being a dick. Lance Hoyt can go get violated right beneath his tattoo, he sucks or he can be bodyguard for Rave. Rave would be a new type of heel champion and he could transition that into a feud with Homicide, because what the hell else is he doing? A Rave/Homicide feud if they were allowed to go all out could totally revitalize the division and make two new stars.
Mulligan: I don’t watch TNA, but looking at the roster, it’s clear to me that the division is, frankly, fucked. Here’s the lineup it seems to have, as of now: Black Machismo, comedy character/champion. Shelley and Sabin, beloved workhorse tag team. Johnny Devine, lackey to the Dudleys. Curry Man, The Guru Sonjay Dutt, and Shark Boy, comedy characters. Elix Skipper, jobber. Not exactly the perfect division, with the only guys who are really working are a tag team and incapable of going after the belts. So, since I’m being asked to “rebuild”, please indulge my fantasy booking for a bit.
I’d build a big title program around Machismo vs. Shelley vs. Sabin. Have the match on PPV, and let it go long, establish Shelley/Sabin as teaming, but they do fight each other. The match ends in some kind of double pin, and the title is held up. The Commissioner comes out on the next iMPACT, and states that the X-Division was always about innovating, but now, it’s time to innovate the division itself. The X-Division title is retired, and in it’s place…the X-Division Tag Team Championship.Say that the X-Title has become diluted, and these will be belts that will be coveted world over. Hold a tournament over the next month, with the last two rounds on PPV. You have Shelley/Sabin. Have Curry Man unmask, saying he needs to get serious because he WANTS these belts, and team the new, bloodthirsty Daniels with Skipper. Show Hernandez hit a dive or two, and use Cide/Hernandez. Fill out the tournament with Shark Boy/Guru, and say…Devine/Rave. For the last three spots, to get over how coveted they are, use an indy team (TNA/ROH should have some kind of working relationship for this, and I’d have ROH “loan” them Strong/Evans. Put them over as an indy team, but don’t put over ROH themselves). Then, use two teams from Japan utilizing the NJPW talent exchange, Minoru/Milano Collection and Taguchi/Tiger Mask (I believe TNA is high on him). At the PPV, run Shelley/Sabin vs. Minoru/Milano with the MCMG going over, and Strong/Evans vs. Daniels/Skipper with Strong and Evans going over. Shelley and Sabin defeat Strong and Evans in the MAIN EVENT of the PPV, and go from there. Keep the belts gimmick free, seperating it from the gimmick saturated TNA, and let the MCMG have classic matches. Use TNA’s connections to get great teams from around the world to challenge and lose, teams from NJPW, ROH, whatever.
Now, you may be saying, “The X-Division won’t draw, and putting this much focus on it is dumb”. But, your wrong. Look at 2005 TNA. All they had was internet TV, and great matches. And those great matches sold PPVs. 2005 PPVs with guarenteed great AJ vs. Joe matches and such, sold as much as PPV’s do now with Angle, Sting, etc and weekly TV. So, after a month or two, when fans realize they’re gonna get innovative, awesome matches on PPV with NO BULLSHIT, they will buy, and combined with the hype TNA can now give with TV, they can spread it all around, and prove themselves the true alternative. Draw em in for the stars, but keep them with the great matches, THIS should be TNA’s ideaology.
Blatt’s Ruling: Personally, I think they way to rebuild the X division is to treat it with some damn respect, but that’s not going to happen and everyone knows it. TNA squandered the one part about their backwards company that set them apart from the big E, and their show has been WWE light for longer than I care to remember. I’ll award a point to Mulligan for this comment: “So, after a month or two, when fans realize they’re gonna get innovative, awesome matches on PPV with NO BULLSHIT, they will buy, and combined with the hype TNA can now give with TV, they can spread it all around, and prove themselves the true alternative. Draw em in for the stars, but keep them with the great matches, THIS should be TNA’s ideaology.”. Forget focusing on a person or a feud. This whole division need to have a different mentality than the rest of the roster.
Question Three: In 2008 what puro star will become a break out star in the United States?
Mulligan: No brainer here, Go Shiozaki. No one else new from NOAH is coming over, and it’s the Dragon Gate style, not the wrestlers, that seems to draw fans to shows where they are featured. Go brings the stiffness live crowds love, brings the workrate and great matches that will sell DVDs, and basically every match is fresh for him in ROH. It seems he is the only person being given the oppurtunity to break out in the US this year, seeing as TNA is working guys like Nakamura on shows no one can see, and isn’t really bringing guys over that much anyway. Plus, Russo is famously “racist” in his booking, so they’ll never get a chance to hit it big. Go all the way.
Big Andy Mac: This is not the best question that I have ever seen. If by breakout you mean make a splash on the American Indies, then the obvious answer is Go Shiozaki. He is making a commitment to live in the states, work, and split time between WLW (Harley Race’s fed) and RoH. Go even if he has an amazing year in RoH, which he is already starting to do, will still only be known as a great Japanese guy in an indy with a small niche audience. That is hardly breaking out. WWE will not take a chance on Puro guys. The godly Kenta Kobashi would be saddled with a bigoted evil foreigner or stupid samurai gimmick and not be able to show what he is truly capable of if he were to go to WWE. TNA takes a shot occasionally, but still they don’t have the type of reach or the regular appearance of foreign stars for someone to truly break out.
Blatt’s Ruling: Since I have no knowledge of puro, and both guys selected the same wrestler, I have no choice but render this one a tie. No points awarded.
Question Four: Ring of Honor is getting the Motor City Machineguns back for one night. How can they maximize their use? Who else should they get back if they can, besides Samoa Joe?
Big Andy Mac: The best way to maximize the use of MCMG is to give them a rematch with the Briscoes first and foremost. Their first encounter appeared at or near the top of most match of the year lists last year, and to bring them in and not return to that well is a bad idea. That being said, if they are only in for the double shot, then I would do the Briscoe match the first night and put a tag team title shot against whoever the eventual champions are. In a perfect world that will be Kevin Steen and El Generico, and with the way the tag belts are switching in RoH that is not to unlikely of a scenario. So you get MCMG/Briscoes 2, hell even title the show they are on that especially if the match lives up to the hype. The second night you close the show with the real best team in RoH and have Steenerico defend the belts against Shelley and Sabin. Watching Steen and Shelley try to out-dick each other while Sabin and Generico do what they do best would be a thing of beauty. In a perfect world, Shelley and Sabin would be here to stay and RoH could have amazing matches with MCMG and the Age of the Fall Vulture Squad and others.
Mulligan: To “maximize” the MCMG’s use is simple. They can’t really be in an angle, cause, as you said, it’s one night. So, quite frankly, ROH basically has one option, let them have an awesome, DVD-selling, “OMGMOTYCBUYTHISWHENITSOUT” match. Briscoes are probably the best option due to the hype last year got. Let it go 30 minutes, have Gabe on the board hyping the everloving shit out of it, and watch the DVDs fly. I’d say that;s just about maximum use for a night of work.
As far as who they can get back, that’s a simple one to me: AJ Styles. Cide is played out and was never THAT much of a draw, people don’t really like Daniels that much, Rave is Rave, it’s gotta be AJ. He’s shown he’s head and shoulders above the TNA roster in terms of work (his clean, awesome match with Tanahashi in Japan, last years horrendous Lockdown and KOTM matches where he bumped his ass off and was the only good part of both), he’s a big enough name that he would draw TNA fans to ROH shows they wouldn’t go to otherwise, and he has a ton of fresh matches, against Marufuji, Morishima, Dragon again would sell, vs. Nigel would be interesting, vs. Aries has only gone down once, even against Go would work. Styles is the man to get, outside Joe, for ROH.
Blatt’s Ruling: Andy Mac shoots himself in the foot by not answering both questions. Mulligan suggests AJ and that’s a pretty safe bet.
Question Five: Who is the next guy to become a mainstream star from ROH or the independents?
Big Andy Mac: The next guy to become a mainstream star from the independents is Larry Sweeney. Sweeney has the type of charisma that cannot be held down. He is pretty easily the best mic worker on the indies right now, and is a halfway decent wrestler to boot. He is the guy that could either revitalize male managers in the tradition of Bobby Heenan and Jim Cornette or could just present a complete character who could put catch phrases on T-shirts the way no one since the Rock or Steve Austin has been able to. Sweeney has size working against him, but he is about the same height as a guy like Chris Jericho so I don’t see it as too much of a setback. A WWE developmental contract, a few months in Florida and a debut on RAW would set the ball rolling for him. Hell even have him serve as the weaselly mouthpiece in a tag team with one of their talentless goliaths and let him work his magic. Other guys are great sure, Claudio, Chris Hero, Nigel McGuinness, Erick Stevens. But I think it is Larry Sweeney who is offering something at the moment that fans could really grab onto.
Mulligan: First, I don’t see WWE grabbing anyone up with intentions of making them a star (let’s be honest, the one indy name they’ve made is CM Punk, and that’s because he completely changed his style and happened to get hella over, not because they were trying really hard), so I’m thinking TNA here. This is a tough one. For guys with size, Nigel’s strange hybrid style would hold him back, Steen doesn’t have the look, Claudio can’t talk, and Stevens is still green. For the classicly great work, Dragon doesn’t work “spot heavy” enough to get over in TNA-land, Strong is bland as all fuck, and Aries has burned his bridge. For great characters, Delirious has proven to get old fast. which leaves me with two guys I could see getting hella over in TNA’s X-Division: Jack Evans and El Generico. If I had to pick one, I’d say Jack. His gimmick is an obvious one, but hasn’t really been tried on a large scale in TNA. He’s wicked charismatic and displays that IN-RING, so he wouldn’t really need the promo time. Plus, his flippy-do’s haven’t really been seen in the mainstream yet, so people would be absolutely wowed, and I’d push the hell out of his highlights. So if I had to pick one man I felt was likely to get over if picked up by a company, it would be the Prince of Parkland, Jack Evans from the Heavens. And you know this……..maaaaaaaaaaaan.
Blatt’s Ruling: No one gets a point here and I’ll explain why. While I agree Larry Sweeney is a good talker, I don’t think that he has a chance in the WWE and it’s because the WWE doesn’t make talkers stars anymore. The only figureheads that they have produced on their own was William regal in his current role Tazz the announcer and Armando Estrada. Regal was well established as a wrestler before coming into that role, Tazz is Tazz and is a product of Paul Heyman and Estrada is relegated to appearing at most twice a month on the WWE’s C show. The WWE doesn’t make stars out of charismatic talkers anymore, not one’s that can’t also be heavyweight champions. On the other side of things, TNA can’t make stars, so anyone (namely Mulligan) who mentions TNA making somsone a star gets laughed at and no points. TNA can’t make stars. They are a retirement option for older wrestlers and that’s about where it ends.
So Mulligan wins this one 2-0. You could argue that there needs to be five points awarded, but I’m the judge, not you.
Tags: Alex Shelley, chris sabin, Go Shiozaki, Kenta Kobashi, motor city machine guns, pro wrestling, puro, Ring of Honor, wrestlemania