For Your Consideration… Heel Commentators (and I don’t mean Mike Adamle)

Welcome to week 65.

Oh, and what a week. To the shock of many, CM Punk is STILL the World Heavyweight Champion and the world has not spun off its axis. Unfortunately, to the shock of no one, Mark Henry is also still a world champion (albeit in ECW). But on the plus side, Henry’s now getting the rub from Tony Atlas. Man, you know things aren’t going well when your only upside is the addition of a past-his-prime midcard “Hall of Famer”.

RAW this past Monday really seemed light on its feet, though nothing overly memorable came out of the night. You know, assuming you don’t count Kane’s Psychotic Breakdown Version 5.0. Raw opened well enough with the whole Vicki promo that led into the Punk promo that led into the fatal fourway build. Combining that insanity with the production “mistakes” and I think we see where this is going. To you gullible ingénues out there, no, the light being dropped during the Punk promo was not real. Combining the Stephanie McMahon message with the chaotic main event scene, the Kane meltdown and the destruction of JBL’s limo and the picture comes into focus. “Well, if you guys can’t get along like I asked, I guess we need to bring someone in to fix the situation.” But who? Who could carry such a daunting task? Who hasn’t been on TV for, oh…60 days?

The McMahon “accident” has opened the door for the WWE to distract the fans from the fact that there was no General Manager during the Draft. With the absence of a GM, RAW is pretty rudderless. I almost liked the idea of Bradshaw declaring marshal law and taking over the show, but the downside to that would be more Bradshaw on television. So, rather than establish a new figurehead or even worse install another McMahon, the WWE can simply wait out Regal’s suspension and let the man take back his slot as the “King” of Monday Nights.

What else is going on? Well, I touched on the Kane freakout, so why not delve a little more. Kane tends to fall into two patterns; forgotten upper midcard face who can be jobbed out weekly and still keep his heat thanks to his pyro and insane upper midcard heel who can main event against a vanilla face and then ultimately be turned face again and resume jobbing. Personally, I like face Kane because they tend to tone down the supernatural hocus pocus when he’s a fan favorite and I loathe supernatural hocus pocus on wrestling (though the WWE has shown incredible restraint in going a whole decade without trying to embalm anyone). On the other hand, Creative realizes that RAW currently has a whopping two (TWO) heels in main event capacity, and despite their better judgment, they are going to keep Batista face. Batista/Punk main eventing the Bash (well…third from the top main eventing behind Hunter/Edge and probably Michaels/Jericho) could be fine when left to their own devices, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the WWE will not be able to resist turning this into a triple threat match. Psycho Heel Kane allows the fans to have someone to root against as well as provide a cushion in Vince’s mind to soften the fact that Punk is competing as a World Champion. Look for more shenanigans from Heel Kane over the coming two weeks to solidify his slot in the main event match, because nothing says “no faith in your champion” quite like a triple threat.

Well, one other thing says “no faith in your champion”, and that’s having him wrestle a midcard jobber early in the night. Look, I said it last week and (thanks to A Modest Response) will say it again, I am 100% committed to Punk being world champion. I’ve been a longtime fan of the guy ever since seeing him on MLW and even wrote my first column here at Pulse Wrestling about him. With that said, I refuse to get too invested in the Punk title reign because I’m seeing all the telltale signs that he’s destined to be shuttled back down the card sooner than later. Vince needed to let Punk win the belt because he’s determined to keep the allure of the Money in the Bank suitcase. However, knowing that certain members of Creative aren’t huge Punk fans, they don’t want him to be “the” guy. Well, you can’t keep jobbing out the kid carrying the briefcase, can you? What was the simple solution? Why, have him win the gold, be the savior of the Draft and then job it quietly and go back to his role as upper midcard guy! Now, since Punk is holding the gold and RAW is still a pretty big deal, if the ratings spike or the fans get behind him, the WWE can keep the belt around his waist and look like a visionary (kinda like Tom the Visionary…if ANYONE gets that reference I will be stupefied). However, if there’s even the slightest inclination that he’s going to falter, they can take the belt away from him and continue to “season” him until he’s “earned his keep.” And what was the telltale sign on RAW this past week? Why fighting Snitsky, of course. I can’t overly fault the WWE for this because they were in fact building up the HBK/Jericho confrontation for their ten o’clock main event and the true main event was a blockbuster four-way, but to stick Punk in the 9:30 dead zone didn’t make him feel much like a world champion. In fact, putting him in there with a stiff like Snitsky when the company is trying to rally support isn’t a great way to get the folks excited about CM. Now that Punk has his first challenger (possibly two considering the Kane turn), he can work his first legitimate main event feud with a guy who, though hot and cold, has shown that he can string together a few halfway decent weeks of television. Oh, and if I turn out being one of those “told you so” guys, I’m going to be really upset, because I really hope I’m wrong.

So the Bash will be Hunter/Edge, Punk/Batista(/Kane?), HBK/Jericho and Cena/JBL so far. It’s not a terrible line-up for a notoriously dead pay-per-view, and it’ll only get enhanced once the WWE adds in Mysterio, MVP, the Hardys and Miz/Morrison. With the noticeable exception of the Undertaker, the WWE roster is damn near 100% active, which is a rare feat for the company. Not only that, but this sudden youth push has made them almost relevant again, especially considering the infusion of new talent to ECW. Speaking of which, with the exception of Bourne, the “new” ECW talent has been beyond lackluster. Atlas Ortiz (or whatever the hell his name is now) was beyond embarrassing in the ring against Estrada last week. I don’t care what anyone says, when half your match is in a rest hold, you should at least deliver when you’re vertical. Screw deliver, you should at least be able to run the ropes. And Braden Walker? Apparently Chris Harris’s training at FCW involved hitting up Sonic for triple-thick milkshakes. He looked abysmal in the ring, which is bad because this was a guy who was working near main event matches since the dawn of TNA. He looked like a bland jobber, he worked like Mike Sharpe on a bad day and his top rope cross body not only missed the mark but also almost broke Estrada’s head. If they keep this up, I’m going to begin the movement to turn Finlay heel and just let him stiff the hell out of these guys week-in-week-out until they either learn how to work or get wished the best of luck in their future endeavors.

Linked for her pleasure:

A Modest Response – Here’s Pulse Glazer’s Punk-centered column. While I noticed he took exception to a few of my points from last week’s “For Your Consideration…”, he argued his points in such a logical way that I can’t really fault him too much. The one thing I will say is that I’m just as supportive of a Punk title run as anyone else, maybe more so.

A New Dawn/ – Missed major news stories? Wanna hear more Punk-opinions? Really like when people write in italics?

Draft Roundtable – The Roundtable Draft discussion that will “hopefully” put an end to the constant debate over which brand got screwed over, when we all know it was OVW. Oh, and am I bitter that I wasn’t able to be part of the Roundtable discussion because it was only open to “official” show recappers? No way! Especially when you consider I get the honor of writing entries for the TNA PPV Roundtable…huzzah. So check back this Sunday to see who I have winning the TNA Title, either Perry Saturn or Lodi.

See, I promise links for weeks now and I finally learned how. It’s a big day, folks; a big day. Actually not that big, but it’s a slow week. On the plus side, we’re almost done with draft talk discussion once and for all. But (there’s always a but), since I’m still in the statute of limitations on draft discussion talk, I’m going to address something I touched on in my actual “draft” column a few weeks ago, and will somehow connect it to an overriding problem in the WWE and wrestling in general (how’s that for over-selling?)…

    For Your Consideration…Heel Commentators (and I don’t mean Mike Adamle)

When the WWE braintrust that is Creative moved Matt Striker, a lot of people assumed one of two things; 1) Striker was going to be used as yet another small, capable wrestler who can serve as enhancement talent or 2) Striker was going to be used as a mouthpiece for some monosyllabic goliath. Either way, Striker would be assuming a comfortable role in the company that he’s occupied before and would ensure himself many years of gainful employment.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for Matt Striker to be shuttled up the card to main event. Perish the thought (though the idea of him working a match against CM Punk would be fairly entertaining).

If RAW uses Striker as a guy to take pinfalls from the likes of Kofi Kingston or even Paul London then they’re using a small, talented hand properly. Striker’s that rare breed (like Jamie Noble or Val Venis) who are just happy to be a part of the company and dig in his heels for a long, long career. Striker is beyond selfless in the ring, as evidenced by his willingness to make Bourne look like a superstar and even sell for the Boogeyman. Putting Striker on RAW as a capable jobber to the stars is a logical move.

If RAW uses Striker as a manager for talent with less-than-stellar microphone skills then the WWE would be making yet another wise choice. Striker’s small stature, verbose vocabulary and arrogant swagger makes him the perfect manager to talk the fans into the building so that they can be bored to tears by whoever he’s managing. Hell, Striker helped get Big Daddy V over (well, somewhat over), so imagine what the WWE could do with him managing Snitsky or Palumbo. One thing that strikes me as I look at the RAW roster is that there really aren’t a hell of a lot of other guys that could really benefit from Striker’s gift of gab. Team Priceless isn’t too bad on the stick. Bradshaw can talk a hell of a lot better than he can wrestle (which doesn’t say too much). Jericho’s gold right now and is even using his Midas Touch to get Lance Cade over. With the exception of the aforementioned big clods, there isn’t anyone in need of the Striker rub. What does that leave?

I am advocating (again) for Matt Striker to become the newest member of the RAW commentary team. Hear me out on this one, I promise it’ll make sense.

First off, Matt Striker knows professional wrestling. Unlike Mike Adamle or even Michael Cole, Striker comes from a wrestling background. Unlike Tazz or Jerry Lawler, Striker doesn’t speak with an accent or some verbal tick. Unlike Mick Foley, Striker doesn’t have to overcome his larger-than-life persona. And unlike Jim Ross, Matt Striker is young. All of the knocks on the commentators are sort of wiped clean when you look at Striker, especially considering the fact that in addition to being a superstar, he’s a mark. He’s one of us. He watched the product, studied it, and was willing to sacrifice his career to live out his dream. A solid foundation of pro wrestling means that no longer will a dropkick be called a legkick, the word “the” will not be added in front of every superstar’s name (sorry, The Kane) and the words “have mercy” will never be uttered…unless he’s looking to make an ironic “Full House” reference.

Second, Matt Striker can balance out the awkward post-Draft RAW announce table. Vince McMahon always seemed to want to do a three-man booth. He tried it from the start of RAW and has attempted to bring it back ever since. Sure, starting out with the Macho Man wasn’t the best idea ever, but not every decision can be a gem. The JR/Vince/King dynamic wasn’t too bad, and probably would have continued but for Vince’s heel turn. Having Michael Cole work with Jerry Lawler doesn’t really work on its own. Cole is not the most exciting guy calling a match, something that gelled well with Smackdown’s relaxed programming. Cole and Tazz were golden because Tazz was quick on his feet. Jerry Lawler’s barely lucid most of the time. Knowing “the King” isn’t always on the ball made Jim Ross have to work twice as hard, and their rapport was at such a comfortable level that people tend to forget just how hard JR works to make the things Lawler says cohesive. Cole worked well with JBL because Bradshaw is a commanding presence. You’ve now got a bland play-by-play guy with a genial but confused color commentator. Adding Striker to the mix means that both guys have someone to play off of. Lawler and Striker bickering about the merits of puppies versus athleticism in a Divas match alone is worth the price of admission, not to mention the opportunity for Striker to undercut every word out of Cole’s mouth.

Lastly, and most importantly, the WWE needs a heel commentator. A true heel commentator. The WWE hasn’t has a strong, true heel commentator in a very long time. The last one was Tazz, and that lasted for about a week or two. John Bradshaw Layfield doesn’t really count because he was still calling things more down the middle than necessary. JBL towed the line between semi-heel and legit color man, something that worked well for him but not for the purpose of a good heel commentator.

Having a skilled heel calling matches is a license to print money. Heel commentators help MAKE strong babyface wrestlers. Bobby Heenan and Jesse Ventura did more to solidify Hulk Hogan as the top babyface than all of the King Kong Bundy’s and Earthquake’s in the world put together. Why? Because during every match, these cowardly weasels (pun absolutely intended) would rail against the Hulkster for being a liar and a cheat. They would chide his every good deed and revel in his every misfortune. Heenan didn’t give Hulk an inch, and it was that kind of unwavering hatred that helped convince kids that Hulk needed their support. Putting Striker on commentary and placing him as the full-on heel would do wonders for guys like CM Punk, Kofi Kingston and, of course, John Cena. Right now, there is no one in the WWE who really rips these guys. There’s no one there to compliment Jericho for exposing Shawn Michaels as a sneak or to cry foul over the destruction of Bradshaw’s car. Jerry Lawler’s been floating in this weird territory where he’s an over babyface forced to occasionally shill the heel. That just doesn’t work, folks. You need a charismatic sneak who can call for Cena and Cryme Time to be arrested for their vandalism or for CM Punk to relinquish his title due to the fact that his actions have split Edge and Vicki.

Heel commentary is an art form. Bobby “the Brain” Heenan was the master of heel commentary and he managed to get the crowd to support anyone from Randy Savage to Tito Santana. Same goes for The Body. Jesse’s loathing of Hogan made even the most boring Hulk match tolerable. Don’t believe me? Go find a card from any house show on WWE 24/7 where he’s commentary and tell me that doesn’t save a dreadful show. Michael Cole ain’t Gorilla Monsoon and Jerry Lawler isn’t going to return to form as the cowardly King, so Matt Striker might be our last shot at something entertaining in the booth. I implore the WWE to realize the egregious error they are making by not using Matt Striker to the fullest.

The WWE needs a good heel commentator, and Mike Adamle’s X-Pac heat just doesn’t cut it.

This has been for your consideration.

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