The long-awaited return is here and it won’t disappoint. What follows is 10-articles in one. In this beast of an article, you are likely best off reading in more than one sitting, utilizing ctrl F to find the section you want, and even bookmarking as necessary. Please comment below on whatever you feel the need to, using a the chapter number to identify which section you’re discussing. Welcome to the return of the best wrestling analysis on the ‘net.
1) WWE Raw Thoughts – On Batista Leaving WWE
2) WWE Smackdown Thoughts – The Rise of the Mid-Card: Why Drew McIntyre and CM Punk are Everything thatâ€™s Right about Wrestling
3) TNA Thoughts â€“ TNA is Openly Racist
4) WWE NXT/Superstars/Misc. WWE â€“ The Daniel Bryan Danielson Question
5) ROH/Independent Thoughts – Ring of Honorâ€™s Poor Title Decisions Cost the Company
6) Guest Spot â€“ TNA = Old Bored Order by Shane Harnden
7) A Modest Response â€“ To Will Pruett on The Peopleâ€™s Column: Why Randy Orton Didnâ€™t Turn by Will Pruett
8) History Time â€“ Talent Borrows, WWE Steals
9) Match Review â€“ Jake â€œthe Snakeâ€ Roberts vs. Ricky â€œthe Dragonâ€ Steamboat from 1986
10) Personal Life/Blog/whatever
1) WWE Raw Thoughts â€“ On Batista Leaving WWE
The WWE is making a huge mistake with the final Batista feud. This is a major star leaving and heâ€™s going to leave a huge void atop the Raw card. Hell, forgetting Raw, the Smackdown main event is just a huge void, so how does the WWE have one of their biggest stars of the past decade go out? By putting over John Cena.
How exactly does that work? Itâ€™s a match weâ€™ve already seen twice and neither time has it exactly set ratings or buy-rate records, so why do it again? Cena surely isnâ€™t getting a rub for beating a man heâ€™s already defeated numerous times. Batista doesnâ€™t need to work with Cena; he has no leverage at this point and basically must work with who they put him with. This just doesnâ€™t make sense.
The list of guys who would look great by beating Batista and forcing him out isnâ€™t a short one. There are literally three faces in the entire company who wouldnâ€™t benefit from taking out â€œThe Animal.â€ These are Cena, Triple H, and Undertaker. Everyone else would be helped. Sure, the WWE doesnâ€™t want to put over a young guy like John Morrison or R-Truth or Kofi Kingston to that extent; thatâ€™s fine. But what about Randy Orton? How about The Big Show? Both men recently turned face and could use an edge. Beating and, for Orton anyway, injuring Batista to where he has to step away would make them serious badasses the audiences would love.
But no. We get Batista vs. Cena again and going forward rehashes of major angles over and over again since we refuse to make new stars, even when the old ones leave (of course the caveat is if you work out with Triple H, but that goes without saying).
2) WWE Smackdown Thoughts â€“ The Rise of the Mid-Card: Why Drew McIntyre and CM Punk are Everything thatâ€™s Right about Wrestling
The WWE has finally decided, at least on Smackdown, to give us storylines to make us care about the mid-card. There was a time when many of the best feuds were in the undercard, built around the Intercontinental Title. Without even looking deeply, we have Jake Roberts vs. Rick Rude, Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat, Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper, Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon, Tito Santana vs. Rick Martel, and on and on. Many of these guys became main eventers, but just as many never had a run on top, and all of them were over. An over undercard means that if Iâ€™m sick of John Cena, I can still tune in to see whatâ€™s going on with other wrestlers who are involved in engaging storylines. More, it means that Iâ€™m less likely to change the channel in the middle of the show since Iâ€™ll be invested in the undercard. Raw, dominated by big acts, it seems will never get this. Smackdown, however, has.
Drew McIntyreâ€™s vicious assault on Matt Hardy did what all the wins and promos in the world couldnâ€™t â€“ give fans a reason to care. Anyone can win in 8-minute matches or cut promos scripted for them, but actively going out and doing something to a face, particularly one fans care about like Matt Hardy matters. The reaction to that assault matters. Teddy Long stripping him of the title and firing him is a different angle that makes it immediately memorable. Drew, in one night, went from the guy being pushed down fanâ€™s throats to a vicious heel with an angle that lends itself to new feuds (first with whoever next gets the Intercontinental Title, then with Matt Hardy who can return for revenge). Now, unlike before, his match quality and wins matter. Thereâ€™s a story to be involved in, so everything is better.
This is, of course, the lesson of CM Punk. Punk got over with a run on top, but since, until this feud, he remained over by sheer force of personality. With Smackdown clear of major heels, heâ€™ll likely end up the new Edge, but since Summerslam, heâ€™s far more often been the heel that carries the undercard. R-Truth was a one note catchphrase, but a feud with Punk seems to have infused him with personality heâ€™s never shown before- personality heâ€™s carried to Raw where he looks to be actually successful. Punk, you see, has a well-defined character. That itâ€™s a heat magnet helps, but itâ€™s how committed he is to his act, how it comes through in everything he does in or around the ring that defines him. His feud with Rey Mysterio continues to prove what the Jericho feud already affirmed- the belt isnâ€™t needed to have the top feud on the brand, even if itâ€™s placed in the mid-card. Big Show and Jack Swagger might end the show, but fans care about CM Punk and Rey Mysterio more. That emotional investment is what wrestling is all about. The WWE really must remember that it doesnâ€™t have to be John Cena or Randy Orton that causes said investment â€“ itâ€™s just as effective from the mid-card.
3) TNA Thoughts â€“ TNA is Openly Racist
So, TNA is racist. I know wrestling has a long and racist history and WWE does racist things all the timeâ€¦ but that doesnâ€™t make it any better. TNA is racist and it has just become increasingly clear.
Rather than go through everything racist theyâ€™ve done, and Raesha Saeed and Daivari were both pretty racist ideas among others, letâ€™s just focus on one unfortunate stereotype and one blatant act of racism. First and foremost, it annoys me to literally no end that â€œThe Popeâ€ is an absolute caricature. Heâ€™s got potential, but instead of any actual depth, he plays a collection of playa stereotypes. At least heâ€™s a hero and played off as positive, but it does, honestly, actively annoy me that heâ€™s announced as from Harlem. Harlem is, for starters, not its own city, so it doesnâ€™t make sense. Worse, it adds nothing to the character. Being from Harlem doesnâ€™t make him more relatable as a preacher, but less. Any thought beyond â€œheâ€™s black so we announce him from Harlemâ€ would have made TNA creative realize this. Harlem simply isnâ€™t very religious. The Pope is actually from Jacksonville, Florida, which is, you know, the South! Which would make sense to bill him from. Hell, if they wanted somewhere bigger, Atlanta is right there and far more relevant to most of their audience. Of course, heâ€™s black, so he must be from Harlem.
Meanwhile TNA are debuting Los Ben Dejos. They are, for all intents and purposes, Mexican Cryme Tyme, which is blatantly, openly racist. Here, see for yourselves:
Now, beyond the fact that this is disgustingly backwards, itâ€™s also an absolutely terrible idea. WWE can get away with this crap because they have history and the size to withstand backlash. TNA is a small company who are still branding an image with their consumers. Now, I know people donâ€™t think much of wrestling fans, but anyone with any intelligence isnâ€™t going to want to support a company doing this, especially at a time in this country where this is particularly sensitive due to the absolutely insane law in Arizona (not up for debate- the law is blatantly unconstitutional). Now, TNA is currently bleeding viewers due to Raw. Instead of being better, something the talking heads of the world like Phil Mushnik can hold up and say â€œit doesnâ€™t have to be this way!â€ they are falling into the exact same tropes that the WWE does as the lowest of the lowbrow. When viewers tune out from TNA or refuse to tune in to begin with, remember, itâ€™s these insulting decisions (honestly, it couldnâ€™t be less a surprise that people that think Los Ben Dejos is a good idea book this poorly) like these that cause it.
4) WWE NXT/Superstars/Misc. â€“ The Daniel Bryan Danielson Question
Iâ€™ve gotten more e-mail asking me to comment about Daniel Bryan on NXT than just about anything else since I started writing, so, since this is the inaugural column, letâ€™s address it: The WWE is damn smart when they want to be.
Earlier, in the Smackdown section, I discussed how important it was to give wrestlers a storyline to make fans care. Independent fans already care. Deeply. If nothing else, Desmond Wolfeâ€™s incredible vote turnout on TNA for the Title Shot showed that. And thatâ€™s just for Nigel. We donâ€™t love anyone like we do Danielson. Like Matt Hardy, this is a guy with a devoted fanbase that absolutely will support him no matter what. This storyline is designed to get other fans to care. Indy fans and internet fans are too busy complaining to notice, but as he gets close to a win, the mark crowds are erupting. This is partially at excitement on seeing what the hype is about and partially about the success of the way the storyline is executed. Sure heâ€™s losing, but every week heâ€™s had a different good reason to do so. Whether it was a nasty spill, an unexpected match, or Batista going to extra effort to destroy him, the fans are given a reason to know it isnâ€™t his fault, and slowly turning the skeptic (who fans hate) Michael Cole around has to be earning a grudging respect.
Even better, Danielson, known for the quality of his longer efforts, has suddenly become the master of the five minute match. Heâ€™s been carrying NXT rookies when given any time, notably Michael Tarver last week and had quite a good match with Batista. He wrestles an utterly distinct style and, somewhat surprisingly, actually is allowed to keep that in tact in the WWE. Sure heâ€™s small, but he actually looks quite a bit like the pictures of the very young Shawn Michaels, has several politicians on his side and, if he beats Miz, should, at worst, end up in a prominent Smackdown mid-card spot. Now, with all that going for him, imagine the pop when he wins NXT, dethrones the arrogant Miz who held him back and shutting up Michael Cole in one fell swoop.
Or the WWE could just be messing with us and squash him here, then leave him barely on television outside of squashes until his contract ends up. One or the other.
5. ROH/Independent Thoughts â€“ Ring of Honorâ€™s Poor Title Decisions Cost the Company
Ring of Honor is suffering a malaise of their own making. Since about 2005, Bryan Danielson, Nigel McGuinness, Homicide, Austin Aries and very few others have dominated the title and top of the card. Each man held the title and ended up losing it. Each time the title was lost, I called for it to go to a new star. Going all the way back to CM Punkâ€™s title reign in 2005, the title was never once used to make a new star until Tyler Black final won it in 2010.
CM Punk, already a star and headed to WWE, took the belt from Austin Aries, who was absolutely made by that first run. Punk lost to James Gibson, a thank you for a guy headed to WWE. Instead of Gibson a young guy, at the time Jay Lethal or Roderick Strong would have made most sense, could have won the title and become a new star, but, instead, Gibson got the belt. Next was Bryan Danielson, now the WWEâ€™s Daniel Bryan. His title run was incredible and made sense. He kept the belt for over a year and lost it to Homicideâ€¦ again, making no new star in the process as Homicide main evented throughout 2004. Danielson could have lost to Roderick Strong, as well, or put Chris Hero, Claudio Castagnoli or a number of others into a main event spot permanently. Homicide quickly lost the title to Takeshi Morishima, an outsider who proved a good draw, but kept the title for a long time and, again, instead of losing to someone new- Roderick Strong is perennially over enough, Erik Stevens was hot at the time, as were Claudio Castagnoli and Brent Albright, he lost to McGuinness. McGuinnness, already a main event guy, needed the title win to cement that, but he got nothing extra from anti-climactically beating Morishima, then proceeded to keep the title for well over a year again. Of course, Nigel then keeps the belt for ages, losing not to the totally ready and hot Tyler Black or the super over Jimmy Jacobs, but the over the hill former WWE wrestler Jerry Lynn. By this point Nigel and Danielson were ready to leave and a new star was badly needed, but Lynn kept the title for a few months and dropped it, again, not to Kevin Steen, El Generico, Chris Hero, Castgnoli, Strong or Black, but to Austin Aries, already a star, who proceeded to do nothing with the belt before finally, five years after Aries himself was made a star by the belt, Tyler Black got it, after he had lost momentum.
Now ROH faces a period with no real stars but Aries and Black. Black needs the belt for awhile to remain a star and not seem like a fluke. No one else has been elevated for years, so thereâ€™s hardly any draws in the company. The mid-card is as strong as itâ€™s been in years, but without the headliners, will it matter? ROH is in a tough spot- one of their own making.
6) Guest Spot: TNA = Old Bored Order by Shane Harnden
In what would have been a great experiment years ago, has turned into a fine display of why animals get shot and put out of their misery after a certain age. With aged wrestlers matching with aged ideas you have a product that is well, decomposing before our eyes.
Hogan, Flair and the rest of the geriatric generation need to leave the world of wrestling mainstream. Moving back to Thursday shows that the system has failed everyone, and the fans do not care about what they saw, ideas and wrestlers they seen when they were growing up. These guys are FAR from the heroes of old.
Instead of mimicking WCW of the final days, TNA needs to be more like the days when WCW was hurting the WWE ratings. Start raiding the other areas, grow the workers from the ground up. Change the lead writing, and direction. Become young and become the leaders in the future.
Because if they stay with the dinosaurs of wrestling, TnA will soon to die out.
7) A Modest Response â€“ The Peopleâ€™s Column: Why Randy Orton Didnâ€™t Turn by Will Pruett
Hereâ€™s what Will had to say:
â€œOver that last month we have seen something reminiscent of the beginning of the phenomenal run of â€œStone Coldâ€ Steve Austin. There has been a certain backlash against these character developments from many members of the Internet wrestling community. They have said that Orton was never really turned face and that WWE is just expecting people to cheer for him. That is simply not true. Randy Ortonâ€™s character does not need to change.
Perhaps the announcers are being kinder to him now, but this behavior started long before they were kind. At the Royal Rumble there was an odd heel versus heel match between Orton and Sheamus. Of course this was used to extend Sheamusâ€™ championship run and to begin the breakup of Legacy. The fans were expected to be silent during this match, but everyone watching at home was stunned when Orton was cheered unanimously.
This may not seem so odd in itself, but this is the first time in a very long time that the fans have had the opportunity to dictate a character turn themselves. It was the fans who decided that Orton would be â€œtheir guy.â€ This was truly apparent in the Legacy breakup storyline. It was rumored for months that Ted Dibiase would be receiving a strong turn into a main event level face at the conclusion of Legacyâ€™s run. Fans were ready for it in October, but it seemed that they just had to wait too long. They made a decision to back Orton and story lines were rewritten accordingly.
The thing I love about the Orton turn is that he is still â€œThe Viper.â€ He is not sucking up to the fans or other â€œgood guyâ€ wrestlers. He is a character that fans know is capable of doing anything at anytime. Mondayâ€™s Raw was a great example of this. The RKO to Wayne Brady was a huge shock to the fans in attendance and at home. Orton is still unpredictable and surprising.â€ – Will Pruett
This would be awesome were it in any way true. This move has been calmly calculated by the WWE for over a year. They have their manufactured Hulk Hogan old-style babyface already. John Cena has been that for them for years. They needed the cool anti-hero to keep that demographic. Long ago, probably when he didnâ€™t work out as a good babyface, the WWE decided that their cool heel should be Randy Orton. Being the only cool heel in the company, it was always a matter of time before he became the cool, anti-authority face. Seriously, donâ€™t just take my word for it (take my word for it), I wrote this exact thing in late 2008:
â€œPeople react to that kind of character. Heâ€™ll be booed at first, but itâ€™ll be because fans know thatâ€™s how theyâ€™re supposed to react. When presented with two heels, Orton will continually be the one thatâ€™s cheered by the fans. At any opportunity, like last week on Raw where he punted Dibiase, when he hits a heel, the crowd will attempt to turn him face. Over time, should the character be unaltered, these face reactions will come against other major faces until they are too much to ignore and a star is born.
Supporting this sudden change is Ortonâ€™s in ring demeanor. He has previously been almost exclusively a cocky, yet cowardly heel. Currently, thatâ€™s changed to a more Triple H style. Always a slow worker, Orton, however seems to be learning that by speeding things up, a la Triple H in 2000 and building everything around cool moves, he can keep the crowd far more alive for his matches. Since, due to his persona, the crowd wants to be more active only helps support this. The RKO, an â€œout of nowhereâ€ move is very effective for the character Orton has become, in and out of the ring. We already know the Diamond Cutter can get an inferior worker over when properly pushed. Added to that is the killer punt that injures people. That a simple kick so devastates these athletes and gives Randy a kill finish truly puts him over the top of the current crop.â€
So, like I said, perfectly set up. In order to test this, WWE put Orton against Sheamus. Sheamus was being pushed above his head and fans were resentful. Orton, meanwhile, was carefully set up. The match was not an overt turn. It was simply the WWE seeing how fans would take to the anti-hero Orton. Would they support him or would his horrible acts leave them ambivalent? If they supported him, Legacy was turning heel on him post-match as a unit. If they didnâ€™t then only Cody was damaged, while Ted could still break off face. Well, the careful set up worked. Orton was beloved pretty much immediately, as expected. Heâ€™s getting the biggest pops on the show, and now, with the draft done, he gets to face the most hated heel on the roster, Edge, to cement himself. The next big thing has arrived.
8. History Time: Talent Borrows, WWE Steals
The WWWF is not the be all and end all of pro-wrestling, I promise. In fact, the WWE, quite honestly, has done little but steal the best ideas of wrestling history. In the days of the NWA, WWWF decided that they could and would, with Buddy Rogers, create their own world title. Of course, they werenâ€™t actually the first outside group to have this ideaâ€¦ the AWA was. So, the WWWF saw a good idea, stole it, and became their own company. Luckily, Bruno Sammartino was a genius, able to have different matches in the same places as a draw for years, and then, years later stumbling onto the most charismatic big man wrestling has ever seen, Andre the Giant, and becoming his home promotion. But with Jesse Ventura and Superstar Billy Graham, the WWWF were pioneers in the flamboyant style, right? Thatâ€™d work except Gorgeous George pioneered that in the 50s and the San Francisco territory with Freddie Blassie from the 60s on had plenty of it, as it was a huge success. Was WWE the first big manâ€™s territory? Nope, thatâ€™s Oklahoma (Watts, Ernie Ladd) and AWA (Dick the Bruiser, the Crusher). Well, that was all Vince Sr. Surely Vince Jr. had some original ideas.
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9) Match Review: Ricky Steamboat vs. Jake Roberts 8/9/86 from Boston, MA
This is a feud started from Saturday Nightâ€™s Main Event. This is early in Jakeâ€™s run as heâ€™s an awesome heel with amazing psychology. He has, at this point, dared to DDT Steamboat, a super face, one of the best at getting sympathy ever, on the floor at the said SNME. Thatâ€™s enough heat to be getting on with and this match, which Iâ€™ve never before seen has two favorites in their best possible role to face one another with good heat behind the encounter. Gorilla Monsoon (excellent) and Lord Alfred Hayes (atrocious) are on Commentary. The snake, Damien, is in Jakeâ€™s corner.
Early on, Ricky Steamboat tries to unleash his martial arts fury, only to be blocked by Roberts, who brags to the crowd about how much smarter he is than Steamboat. The next tie up, Jake goes low and brawls away, but Steamboat fires back. He gets a few chops in, but Jake again blocks most. The game of human chess is on.
Jake traps Steamboat, then decides to try and waken the chops by going after the arm. Steamboat escapes, but foolishly thinks Jake will have honor in a test of strength, so takes a shot to the breadbasket. Steamboat is pissed and fires off another chopped, another blocked chop and we get more arm work. This is so intelligently set up!
Steamboat, still a superior technician, escapes this one and begins to try and speed the match up, using the ropes. This leads to the trademark big chop, but Jake grabs the ropes and escapes, pissing off the crowd and going Memphis stall to get even more heat.
Back in, the stall has backfired as Steamboat now had time to plan. Jake tries to take him down, but Steamboat is just too fast. He counterwrestles and finally lands the chops as the crowd explodes. The Snake is having none of this and just runs away. Canâ€™t get the crowd too hyped this early by letting Steamboat have momentum.
Back in, Steamboat unloads and when Jake runs again, Steamboat follows, delivering a beating on the floor and not allowing Jake a moment to breathe. On the apron, Steamboat presses his advantage with a chop, but Jake ducks and Steamboat chops the post, badly hurting his arm. Jake smells blood and attacks the arm on the floor, heelishly using the barricade and ring post to deliver punishment. The armwork from earlier is now given even more context, and Jake is now turning these simple moves into heat drawing holds.
Dragon continually tries to fight back, but with such a big weakness, his fire isnâ€™t resulting in a come back. Jake tries to use his wrist tape for extra advantage, but the ref catches him and Jakeâ€™s own hubris is his downfall, as that allows Steamboat to sustain offense, as he delivers a beating one handed. Steamboat nails a top rope chop, but Jake sends Steamboat into the ref and we have a ref bump.
Both men are down as the crowd gets nervous. Jake gets up and nails a short arm clothesline, but the ref is still down. A gutbuster follows, and with no referee, Jake gets more and more frustrated as we see that cheaters never prosper.
Jake finally wakes the ref, but that allows Steamboat up and he nails a roll up from behind as the crowd goes wild and the ref counts three! Jake presses the attack post match to keep the feud going with the DDT. Jake takes out Damien but the undercard faces run out to chase him off.
Ricky Steamboat defeats Jake Roberts with a roll up (*** Â½)
This was an incredibly smart match with several stories. Jake had a great gameplan, with the chops blocked and the arm work stopping Steamboatâ€™s preferred offense. Of course, with the advantage, he couldnâ€™t resist but to be an evil prick. Steamboat first gets the advantage when Jake takes too long on the floor. Steamer next gets the advantage when Jake tries to use his wrist tape and finally finishes the match with a win when Jakeâ€™s attack of the referee backfires. Meanwhile some great, if slow, selling makes sure the crowd understands and sympathizes with Steamboat, as Jake plays a cocky prick no one wants to enjoy. Great stuff here.
10) Quick Bloggin on Whatever
I know a lot of people. Iâ€™m not sure how that happened, but Iâ€™ve got quite the colorful menagerie of friends. Sadly, most of them donâ€™t care for pseudo-sports that I probably should have outgrown long ago. If youâ€™ve noticed anything though, it might be that I have something of an ego. I still want these people to read me, click my shit, give me some damn tender love and attention. So, thatâ€™s kinda what this section is. Itâ€™s basically going to be a blog where I talk about whatever. Iâ€™m going to rant about some personal observations on dating in your late 20s next week, but now, to give you regular readers some idea about how I think about stuff that isnâ€™t half naked men pretending to hate each other for largely unspecified reasons.
Now, 10 Songs I Love for Strange Reasons. Letâ€™s use the alphabet here so as to not confuse the ctrl-f crowd trying to get through this unwieldy beast of an article.
Eddie Vedder has spent most of the past decade trying to be the new Bob Dylan. I think with this song he finally has his â€œTangled up in Blueâ€ â€“ a song impossible to write without the proper experience, one that Dylan claims it took 3 failed marriages to put together.
Okay, besides one of the coolest names for a song ever, the central conceit here of talking shit to an ex, then constantly breaking, fully conscious of the fact that itâ€™s a song, to address the audience that listens to P@tD. Plus, itâ€™s really great shit talking.
As mentioned above, I have a lot of friends who think of wrestling as this embarrassing little pastimeâ€¦ and then Iâ€™d drag them to ROH shows, because I convince people to do shit they really donâ€™t want to all the time. Let me just say that absolutely everyone, no matter how embarrassing they found wrestling, ended up getting into the show, and everyone, bar none, did the sing along to Final Countdown.
The Clash had two types of songs. The first with the angry Eff You authority songs we all associate with punk. The rest, however, are my favorite. Those songâ€™s all have an anti-establishment meaning, but itâ€™s done with a smirk, like they know theyâ€™re involved by selling records and theyâ€™d actually kinda be okay with it if only the world would just play fair with them. Commercialism isnâ€™t necessarily so bad, itâ€™s just that you donâ€™t buy a product, you sell yourselves out.