Tuesday Morning Backlash: Cena Bad for WWE, Undertaker, Daniel Bryan has It

Are you ready? No, it’s not Triple H’s old theme music, it’s the best wrestling analysis on the ‘net. Another stacked column this week with a lot of pretty controversial comments. Feel free to comment, address what you’re commenting, and do bookmark to read in more than one sitting. That’s it, get to the good stuff-

1) WWE Raw Thoughts: Why John Cena is Bad for the WWE
2) WWE Smackdown Thoughts: On Undertaker’s return
3) TNA Impact Thoughts: Ken Anderson doesn’t work as Randy Orton-lite
4) WWE NXT/Superstars/Misc: Daniel Bryan has “it”
5) ROH Thoughts: Roderick Strong as a heel
6) Guest Spot: Kirschner on BJ Penn and Low Ki
7) A Modest Response: On TCWNN #27: A Vintage Heel by Chris Morgado
8) History Time: Ted Dibiase and Jim Duggan
9) Match Review: Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero, Steel Cage Match, Smackdown, 6/9/2005
10) Personal Life/Blog/whatever: The 4 Gs

1) WWE Raw Thoughts: Why John Cena is Bad for the WWE

Conventional wisdom has it that John Cena is the biggest draw in wrestling right now and is great for the WWE as their champion. Conventional wisdom is, as so often the case, bollocks. Let’s examine why.

One of the main points people use to defend Cena is his drawing power. When he’s off television ratings go through a small decline and he sells a ton of merchandise. This ignores the wider trend. The longer John Cena is on top as champion, the lower ratings have gotten. This trend has been ongoing for years and WWE is finally in danger of falling into the 2s for ratings because of it.

This is not necessarily because of people tuning out because of Cena, but more because since the WWE has him as a cash cow, they have no reason to take risks. Everything Cena does is entirely predictable. His feuds, promos and matches all have a formula that’s repeated ad nauseum (not his fault, for the record). With him on top, there is rarely a reason for anyone over 12 to tune in, since they know exactly what will happen and who will be on top. With that so obvious, unless you love Cena, there is little reason to get emotionally invested in the product when he’s presented as the only major star. Hopefully, that’s changing with Randy Orton, but time will tell.

With their perceived cash cow continually “making money” there is no reason to try anything new, experiment, or entertain fans in a different way. With Cena on top, there is no search for the next big thing, no opportunity to become the next big thing…Cena is the big thing and, due to his age and work ethic, the WWE doesn’t seem to be looking for more. Even when young wrestlers get the belt, they are treated as a step below. Not just wrestlers suffer through- the storylines and feuds around the card are weaker. The assumption is that people tune in to see Cena, so every bit of creative energy is there focused. That leaves the rest of the card barren of characters and angles to care about. Without these, even for the biggest Cena fan, why not flip around to other channels when anything not involving Cena is occurring?

Beyond the issue of staleness, even if Cena had something interesting to do, ratings would be down with Cena as champion. If wrestling history has shown anything, it’s that the longer a face champion has the belt, the more ratings slowly decline. This phenomenon even affected Hulk Hogan, who is notable mostly due to his ability to keep the decline slow, then utterly re-brand himself. John Cena the conquering champion is simply not compelling. John Cena the wronged man, chasing the belt (or, better, a feud for another reason) is interesting and, even as viewers know Cena will triumph, the underdog story gives the fan something to be invested in.

John Cena is a talented wrestler who works hard and makes a great number of fans care. He is also stopping the WWE from progressing due to the perception of him as a “draw.” This perception costs the WWE viewers and money. John Cena should not be at the top of the card, and he should not be WWE Champion.

2) Smackdown Thoughts: The Return of the Deadman

I hate how the WWE brings the Undertaker back. Whenever they aren’t willing to give a new guy a chance on Smackdown, they bring back the Undertaker. He’s forever being pushed to the moon and getting title shots and he hasn’t made a new guy since Brock Lesnar and all he does is either feud with top guys (Edge, Batista) interminably, or crush new guys (CM Punk). This doesn’t bode well for Jack Swagger.

Swagger has a bit of Lesnar in him, but has been booked far more like Punk. Taker shouldn’t just destroy him. Jack Swagger is on the cusp of stardom. He should be treated carefully; he has just the right mix of JBL and Kurt Angle. He’s over and getting heat for how he’s retaining his title. That won’t work if he’s just crushed. And Taker crushes new guys. And WWE needs new stars.

Of course, if Taker didn’t return, someone else could have gotten that spot to become a star by feuding for the title. Last year, Jeff Hardy made CM Punk a star and instead of in turn using Punk to make John Morrison or another fresh face, Undertaker came in and destroyed him. Now, Big Show could make Swagger a star. In his return, Undertaker cannot derail that. He’s already taking away the potential for Kofi Kingston to get that top spot. The WWE can’t afford for him to derail Swagger, too.

3) TNA Impact Thoughts: Ken Anderson doesn’t work as Randy Orton-lite

Ken Anderson and his “assholes” are current being pushed as the anti-hero of the TNA wrestling world. This push mirrors that of Randy Orton’s in WWE, as both are great talkers and deliberate in ring storytellers, but, like so many other times in TNA, the bookers have entirely missed the point.

Randy Orton was an incredibly effective heel. He dominated the WWE Title for a time, beat top guys, drew real heat with his henchmen, and hurt guys the fans care about. Ken Anderson, the heel, has done none of those. He talked a lot of trash, but ultimately ended up beat nearly to death an embarrassed by Kurt Angle, then moved on to an injury interrupted feud with “The Pope,” only to end up losing some more to Jeff Hardy. This is the great badass? The guy who can’t beat anyone?

Next, Orton turned face when his minions decided they were better off without him. This changed his character not one iota. He was still the same psycho, just suddenly his enemies were on the other side of the fence and he became a face by default. He still didn’t give a crap about the fans or anyone else. Ken Anderson, on the other hand, became a face first by getting a catchphrase and engaging the fans. That is not a remotely heelish action, but merely pandering. Next, after a mediocre match, apparently Jeff Hardy had somehow earned his respect and he tried to shake his hand. Wha? This is an asshole how exactly?

After the turn, Orton is presented as dangerous and truly has been, still attacking Guest Hosts and attempted to RKO John Cena. The announcers present Ken Anderson as an unpredictable wild-card, but so far, all he’s done is help Jeff Hardy out lose another match, now to AJ Styles. Seems like he isn’t dangerous or an anti-hero at all. His actions don’t match his words and that’s why Ken Anderson doesn’t work even as Randy Orton-lite.

4) WWE NXT Thoughts: Daniel Bryan Danielson has “it”

Here’s this week’s angle:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCByjANl75k

It is certainly ironic that Michael Cole’s main complaint of Danielson is that he doesn’t have “it” like David Otunga. Danielson has, on NXT so far, showed he is the complete package as a wrestler. “It” in wrestling is usually defined as the ability to make people care and pay attention to you. That’s exactly what Bryan has done on NXT so far.

At first, Danielson was a charming, endearing face on NXT. He didn’t seem like a star, but that’s not all “it” entails. It’s an ability to be likable, to make people care about you. Danielson, even when losing, showed that ability. He made even casual fans care and was easy to root for. That was great booking, having Danielson lose to build sympathy, but if Danielson was not so likable, he would have just come off as a loser.

Of course, from here we get the utterly brilliant Michael Cole feud. This is where Danielson proves himself to be a star in the making. He doesn’t immediately switch from being a calm, cool, collected individual to a ranting lunatic- he simply gets pushed over the edge. The weasel-like Cole and Real World created Miz are the perfect foils to push a man over the edge, and Danielson goes over the edge- not like a conquering hero, but like a man who’s fighting for his livelihood and dream against those who can unfairly punish him. There’s a desperation there that takes real talent.

Make no mistake, Bryan Danielson is not the next Chris Benoit in WWE; he has the potential to do so much more. Benoit could never handle the subtlety of this role, nor could Malenko, Mysterio or numerous other standouts with amazing in-ring ability. Even Jericho, at that point in his career, for all his talent, wasn’t ready for something like this. Only Eddie Guerrero would be talented enough as a young wrestler to handle this angle, make it get over, and make it feel important. Why mention this class specifically? First, they’re the ones with the path to stardom that most closely mirrors that of Danielson, but second, and this is being overlooked, he’s a worker of that caliber. That means the man with amazing sympathy, who can be a badass and a good guy at the same time, who’s already over, will back it up with amazing in-ring performances. If you think he’s over now, if you think he makes people care now… just wait. Danielson has “it” and can do it all.

5. ROH Thoughts: Roderick Strong as a Heel

Roderick Strong finally turned heel again in ROH recently and I’m of two minds about it. Roderick had basically gone as far as he could as a face. He’s such a bad interview they couldn’t put their World Title on him over Tyler Black and being a heel solves that, but he’s also an absolutely weak heel.

Strong, as a heel, has never worked particularly well. When he was first in ROH as a member of Generation Next, when they were heel, he was mostly just the guy who did backbreakers. That was fine for a very young wrestler, but he did nothing particularly heelish but participate in a few beat downs. In ring, he wrestled a neutral style, with he and Jack often seeming like faces because of their moves.

Eventually, after Generation Next went face and disbanded, Roderick Strong turned heel again, forming the NRC with Davey Richards and Rocky Romero. Roderick, at this point, had many of the worst matches of his career. He had an inability to work against the crowd, and his best stuff was when he threw out the face-heel dynamic and just wrestled. That won’t work in the new Jim Cornette-inspired ROH, so we have a problem. The top heel can’t work heel.

The top heel cannot, however, cut a promo either. This is the main benefit of the heel turn. Truth Martini being Strong’s manager means he can and should no longer cut promos. Truth doing all the promo works immediately makes strong a more valuable talent. If his matches can be up to what they were, Strong could become a star.

The question is why take that chance. It’s often forgotten nowadays, but faces can have managers as a mouthpiece also. Roderick is the top face worker in the company and one of the better face workers in the world. Messing with that with a heel-turn just to get a manager doesn’t make sense. A face manager would have made Roderuck a legitimate top guy and potential big draw. It’s a shame that ROH took the riskier root, since the reward, a new star, would be the same either way.

6. Guest Spot: Jon Kirschner on Low Ki and BJ Penn

Even though most are quick to dismiss the similarities between the “fake” sport of professional wrestling and the “extreme” sport of mixed martial arts, you can’t help but to find many similarities between the two sports. It’s tough to look past the business aspect where it’s one company monopolizing the whole playing field (UFC/WWE), but there are striking resmblences, not only in the build of the athletes, but the stories behind them as well.

After Zuffa purchased the UFC, their horizons broadened and it seemed like a whole new promotion. One of Zuffa and Dana White’s main goals was to showcase the lightweight division and prove that they can put on just as, if not moreso, entertaining fights than the heavier fighters. One of the premier warriors in the division was “The Prodigy” BJ Penn, a master of brazillian jiu jitsu and an elusive striker. It wasn’t long before Penn made his way to the top of the division, holding the title longer than anybody in the promotion’s history.

Much like Dana White showcased the lightweight division by bringing in the BJ Penn, Gabe Sapolsky started Ring of Honor and brought in the best wrestlers in America and proved that you didn’t need to be a giant to have a good wrestling match. The promotion’s first champion was Low-Ki and despite the fact that he was shorter and lighter than most wrestlers, he did more than make up for it with his realistic style of wrestling. Low-Ki and BJ Penn were the faces of their organizations and were changing the way fans thought a typical fighter or a wrestler should look like.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gIJ1VKGg5s8

7. A Modest Response: On TCWNN #27: A Vintage Heel by Chris Morgado

Here’s what Chris Morgado had to say:

“Dave Batista SHOULD be upset that duct tape and vehicular homicide resulted in two World championship losses. CM Punk is RIGHT when he says that using drugs and drinking too much is bad for you; he goes over the top with it but at the base of his argument is a kernel of truth. And Michael Cole is CORRECT when he slams Daniel Bryan for not being able to take criticism. He’s CORRECT when he says he shouldn’t be attacked at the announce table for voicing his opinion. He’s RIGHT to demand an apology. He was even justified in bashing Bryan while commentating, because Bryan never backed his hype up in the ring. Michael Cole is actually right about everything.”

Now, I understand the point here, but the idea isn’t that these men are right. None of them are “right” but all have valid perspectives. It isn’t a question of them being right, but about them being self-righteous and, usually, hypocritical.

Dave Batista is upset about duct tape and vehicular homicide for no good reasons. Both are fully valid within the match and make perfect sense. More, Batista is a man who expects everything to be handed to him and done on his rules. He’s a heel because he tried to kill Rey Mysterio due to Rey not just handing him the belt, but also competing himself. He only got the title from Cena originally for doing the boss favors. Hell, he constantly beats on people before and after matches to gain an advantage. Yet this is the self-righteous prick complaining about things being unfair? Every break he got was unfair and him wanting things handed to him. He deserved what he got. Note how John Cena has fought back from “vehicular homicide” multiple times and had to earn his shot. That’s why Batista is a heel- because he can’t do that.

CM Punk isn’t a heel because he doesn’t drink or smoke or do drugs. He isn’t even a heel because he doesn’t think others should drink or smoke or do drugs. He’s a heel because he condescends people who don’t believe as he does. He’s a heel because he tries to force and brainwash people into doing what he wants. And he’s wrong. People should do whatever the hell they want without hurting any others- their life, their choices. Punk’s refusal to accept that people have the right to make, or not make, the same choices he does is what makes him a heel.

Michael Cole is the guy who the WWE handpicked and forced down fans throat until he became their lead announcer. He is an annoying tool who doesn’t have it. Moreover, it’s his job to be unbiased, or get the product over. With Daniel Bryan, he’s putting his own agenda over the action or the company. Does he mock when Primo or Evan Bourne lose all the time? No, he puts over the action and the wrestlers. With Daniel Bryan, he is being a hypocrite. He says Bryan was unprofessional for attacking him, which he was, but it was Cole’s unprofessionally and bias that caused it.

8. History Time: Ted Dibiase and Jim Duggan

To understand the greatness of this feud and this match, one must understand the long, intricate back story. After all, it’s not every day in wrestling a stipulation match works perfectly, and piling more than one on top of the other is usually a recipe for disaster. This being true, when examining why Ted Dibiase vs. Jim Duggan in a Cage, Tuxedo, No DQ, Coal Miner’s Glove on a Pole, Loser Leaves Town match is anything more than Vince Russo’s wet dream is important in figuring out how it managed to become one of the greatest angles and matches in wrestling history.

Ted Dibiase began in Mid-South as a clean cut babyface, but turned heel when he realized he was unable to become the number one man in the company, due to the dominance of Junkyard Dog. As a heel, he did overcome the Junkyard Dog, but only through nefarious means, using the deadly coal miner’s glove made famous by his late father, he drew the ire of fans. From there, ge formed the Rat Pack, with Jim Duggan and Matt Bourne as his partners and Dibiase as King Rat. Eventually, Duggan tired of Dibiase’s treachery (due to Dibiase allying with the evil Skandor Akbar) and left the Rat Pack to team with forgotten great Mr. Olympia and dethrone his former Rat Pack stable-mates of their tag team gold.

From there, Dibiase would enter heated battle after heated battle with Jim Duggan, constantly using trickery and interference to stay ahead. Of course, this was only the first chapter of a noted rivalry what would last years.

Almost two years later, Jim Duggan would receive the award for Mid-South’s top wrestler of 1984. For this, he was presented a pair of cufflinks from Mid-South owner Bill Watts as a show of appreciation. Duggan was showing these off in the ring while wearing his tuxedo with Watts when Ted Dibiase took exception to Duggan being called the best of the previous year leading to a rekindling of their always smoldering rivalry. Ted Dibiase, as any good heel would, went to attack Duggan to get his revenge for anyone daring to think Duggan was better than Ted, but Duggan, having worked with Dibiase prior and not being an idiot was ready. The arm of his tuxedo concealed a two-by-four and he was able to fight off his attacker.
Next, these two men would have a best dressed contest, with each in their best tuxedo and the fans as the judge. Naturally, the fans voted for the face Duggan over the heel Dibiase, but this time, Ted was ready for Duggan’s two-by-four and had a bat. It made no difference, and Dibiase was fought off again.

Ted Dibiase decided to go lodge a formal complaint with Joel Watts, the “Vice-president of Mid-South” and its technical guru, who would be found in the production truck. From there, Dibiase used the previously ineffective baseball bat to destroy Duggan’s car, the first time in wrestling history that occurred.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrgNWKkaEiM

The next week, a parking lot jumping with a blackjack left Duggan desperate for revenge… and he would have it in a big no disqualification brawl.

That brawl turned out to be one that would encapsulate everything that Dibiase stood for in Mid-South and Duggan couldn’t overcome. Dibiase opened the 3/8/85 checking with the referee that everything was indeed legal and, once confirmed, attacked with medical powder to Duggan’s eyes. When Jim fought back even though partially blinded, Dibiase utilized his manager, the aforementioned Skandor Akbar who caused Duggan to leave Dibiase in the first place, and his partner, “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, a man very much in the Duggan mold at that point in his career, to each interfere. Jim Duggan still valiantly battled on, but Dibiase had one last trick left, the trick he used to defeat Junkyard Dog and one that had helped him defeat nearly every face on the roster: Ted Dibiase had the Coal Miner’s Glove. With that he was finally able to put away Jim Duggan, who by now had enough and knew he would sooner die than let Dibiase get away with that.

And so we have our match, years in the preparation, but just reaching a climax. Why all the stipulations? The cage is to counter all of Dibiase’s constant interference from both partner and manager. The no disqualification was termed “parking lot rules” because of their parking lot brawl. The Tuxedo Match portion was due to their troubles over the “Wrestler of the Year” and “Best Dressed” controversies. The penultimate stipulation, the Coal Miner’s Glove on a Pole was due to Dibiase using that weapon unfairly so often that now both would have a shot at it. Finally, it was loser leaves town so that regardless of who won or lost, this was it and neither man would be around to try and kill the other.

So that’s the set up for the most complicated and best-booked stipulation match in history. The match was only 11-minutes, certainly the best short match and, in my opinion, one of the five best American matches in wrestling history. Next week, a review of the match. Here’s Jim Ross with a video summary:

9. Match Review: Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero, Steel Cage Match, Smackdown, 6/9/2005

This is when Eddie turned heel, claiming he was the father of Rey Mysterio’s child. He has great heat here, heading into this cage match. Rey has already won custody of his son and has beaten Eddie seven times, so this is a very disturbed, upset Guerrero coming after Rey.

They slug it out to start, but Eddie immediately sends Rey into the cage numerous times, getting over that he wants to hurt Rey. Rey uses his speed to battle back, trying to go for the 619 before realizing the cage was in his way. That cheers Eddie right up.

Rey tries to escape, but is quickly caught. He’s still too quick though, and nails a sunset flip powerbomb. Rey tries to escape again, but this time Eddie stops him by pulling him off and hurting his knee on the top rope. After this, Eddie uses power moves to wear down Rey, wanting to hurt his former friend. Eddie tries to escape, but Rey still catches him, so Guerrero hits a side Russian legsweep off the top rope.

Next, we have a battle atop the cage, as both men brawl and nearly fall to victory at the risk of their own safety. Both men fall in and we have a downed 10-count. They brawl their way up, but Eddie hits a big DDT. Eddie tries to get out through the door, but Rey gets his ankle and drags him back in. Rey nails a big bulldog and both men are down again.

Rey climbs the cage, and then Eddie stops him on the top rope, then attempts a powerbomb. In a call back to their Halloween Havoc classic, Rey reverses that to a top rope hurricanrana!

Mysterio tries to escape, but after all Eddie’s done, he decides he wants revenge. He goes to the top and tries for a cross body, but Eddie ducks! Eddie walks out the door, but in the height of hubris, stops before he gets his big win, goes back into the cage and hits a frog splash for the pinfall victory.

Eddie Guerrero defeats Rey Mysterio (Pin, Frog Splash, ****)
This was excellent. The role reversal from the start to finish is what carries it. Eddie is, at first, obsessed with hurting Rey, while Rey, who already has his son, just wants to escape. Rey is clearly superior here and should have won, but he has a moment where he’s overcome by the anger of what Eddie inflicted on him and goes for the top rope cross bady. When that misses, he has descended to Eddie’s level and Guerrero is able to capitalize without his own hubris getting in the way. Not quite as good as their 6/23/05 or Halloween Havoc classics, this is still an incredible piece of wrestling storytelling from two guys with near unparalleled chemistry.

10. Personal Life/Blog/Whatever: The 4 G’s

For some reason, I know a lot of people. I’m not sure how that happened, but I’ve got quite the colorful menagerie of friends. Sadly, most of them don’t care for pseudo-sports that I probably should have outgrown long ago. If you’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, that’s kinda what this section is. It’s basically going to be a blog where I talk about whatever. I’m going to rant about some personal observations about shit that isn’t half-naked men pretending to hurt one another for largely unspecified reasons. Every other week will be stories and observations about my life specifically, while the alternating weeks will feature discussion of anything I find interesting at the moment.

As you read this, I’ll be on day 6 of a nine night bender. Because I like naming and looking for symbolic meaning in shit I do, particularly in drinking, so I’ll be writing about that when I’m done. But not today. Today, I’m going to the closing of the Four G’s.

The 4 G’s is my first bar and it’s had a bigger effect on my life than almost any single person. It’s where I firs got drunk at 14, while the Butthole Surfer’s “Pepper” played on the old jukebox. It’s where I learned about life, and how I became the guy everyone came to for answers, listening to the drunken tales of the clientele, ex-cons and cops all. Since then, the patrons have softened- now we have drug dealers and businessmen- and there’s no difference between the two.

At the 4 G’s I’ve celebrated at least five birthdays, brought all three loves of my life, hooked up with random friends, a place I watched illegal wrestling PPVs for years and, even where I watched Owen Hart fall to his death. It was all these things and more, but mostly it was a place I bonded and spent time with my father. And for that, and for every other amazing memory, I’ll miss you 4 Gs. Goodbye.

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