Tuesday Morning Backlash: WWE Title with Randy Orton, Sheamus and Miz; Jack Swagger not Kurt Angle, TNA’s Improvements

Bah, it’s late, I’m tired. Fill in your own blanks about bookmarking, commenting and me being the best. Read on… I’m going to bed!

1) WWE Raw Thoughts – The WWE Title Picture with Sheamus, Miz and Randy Orton
2) WWE Smackdown Thoughts – Jack Swagger shouldn’t be Kurt Angle
3) TNA Impact Thoughts – TNA Gets it Together
4) WWE Superstars Thoughts – Pros and Cons to Watching Superstars by Tim Evans
5) ROH Thoughts: Kyle Sparks on ROH’s Stars and Future
6) Guest Spot: The Most Improved Wrestler of the Decade by Okori Wadsworth
7) A Modest Response to Andy Wheeler on Husky Harris
8) History Time: More of the best Promos Ever
9) Match Review – The Mega Powers vs. the Mega Bucks
10) Personal Life/Blog/whatever – To return next week.

1) WWE Raw Thoughts on the WWE Title Picture with Sheamus, Miz and Randy Orton

The WWE title is being contested by three acts in relatively new positions. I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at all three and how they are being utlizied.

Sheamus is, for the first time in his career, the major champion and a clear main event wrestler. He’s being positioned as above Miz and established as a top guy who beat John Cena and injured Triple H. During his first title run, he was dangerous, but clearly kept a step below guys like Cena and Randy Orton. Now, he is being shown as exactly on par, even having kicked out of the Attitude Adjustment. As a heel, he is pretty over, if not abundantly so. He’s obnoxious and despicable, but he’s also tough enough that the fans don’t utterly despise him depending who he faces. He’s seeming more like a guy who works with top guys than a top guy himself, at least so far. Not helping matters is that he’s in an awkward position for a heel champion, fighting against the odds with both Randy Orton and the Miz hunting his title, the latter through unfair, if not outright nefarious means.

This is helped by Randy Orton being the face that’s chasing Sheamus. Orton is not very face-like and was recently enough a truly despicable heel that fans can buy him just wanting the title, means be damned. Moreover, that certainly appeals to a segment of the audience who want to get what they want and aren’t particularly worried about how- you know the type, the “it’s only cheating if you get caught” or “bending the rules isn’t the same as breaking them” crowd. Orton has also managed to, while having mostly rather bland matches, get the crowd entirely behind him based on his mannerisms and manner of motion. It’s slow and deliberate to be sure, but it looks cool and is smooth enough that fans can see where it’s going and know exactly when and how to respond. That’s Orton’s great success right now- the fans know how and when to react to him how he wants thanks to his mastery of the little things. He’ll likely never need to be the wrestler that a Steve Austin, or even the Rock was, since when you get those reactions, it tends to be enough. His title hunt, his first as this type of face, is drawing exactly the right type of attention.

And to mix things up we have the Miz. The Miz won Money in the Bank and has been slowly moving up the card for years, adding both character depth and in ring skill. These two traits when combined give him the potential to one day end up all around better than either of his two current opponents, both of whom are higher up the card than he is currently, and the latter of which I currently consider the best in the world. Will he reach his potential? Probably not, but time will tell. I full expect him to lose Money in the Bank, very likely to Randy Orton who can look like a monster/killer-face by dethroning the dominant Sheamus and becoming the first man to turn back a Money in the Bank winner. Three-way matches could easily inset Miz into the title picture even after a loss, while putting a face-champion against the odds, but not overtly so. That seems the best way to turn this situation into a long-term positive for everyone involved and keep making compelling television.

2. WWE Smackdown Thoughts: Why Jack Swagger Should find his Own Identity

Jack Swagger has currently begun openly aping the moves, style and mannerisms of Kurt Angle. This is, very simply, an unflattering mistake for Swagger. From the ankle lock and pop up belly-to-belly to the interview style to the cockiness and mannerisms, Swagger needs to find his own identity and not just ape that of the Olympic gold medalist.

Jack Swagger is, quite simply, nowhere near as good at being Kurt Angle as Angle himself is. With the agents hiding his weaknesses, he’s making a good go of it, but the matches aren’t nearly as good as Kurt’s when he was at the top of the card, the interviews getting nowhere near the reaction, and the moves are just drawing attention to those two facts. With that the case, Swagger comes off merely as a second rate Angle.

The problem with being a second rate Angle is that the second rate versions of a character never really achieve the same success as the originals. Kane, the most successful rip off, was never able to come close to the Undertaker’s quality and wasn’t nearly as over. The Berserker was a joke while Bruiser Brody was frightening. The derivative must be a derivative, not just a copy to succeed. The Rockers worked a very different style than the Rock n’ Roll Express, as did Demolition when compared to the Road Warriors (interestingly, the Rockers were closer to the warriors in ring and Demo to RnR in that the former teams were less involved with tag formula and bigger on babyface shine, while the latter two were strictly tag formula). There has to be a seriously noticeable difference and with Swagger there is not.

Fans knowing this is Swagger’s problem. The sheer transparency will likely prevent him from being fully accepted as a top guy. Can he succeed to an extent this way? Surely, but on Smackdown there is an opportunity for much more- an opportunity that cannot be realized as a poor man’s Angle.

3. TNA Thoughts – TNA Gets it Together Again

TNA is finally improving again and, while there have been numerous false starts before, that is always a reason for optimism. TNA has perhaps the best roster and talent possible with a distinct ability to be a serious #2 if they take the long view and build as an alternative to the WWE, assuming they haven’t done too much damage to their fanbase with their years of ridiculous booking and absurd name. So, let’s take a look at what TNA is doing right.

TNA has several WWE talents near the top of the card, but currently, it’s the right talents. Rob Van Dam and Jeff Hardy were serious draws and neither is entirely past his prime. Hardy is clearly potentially far better for the company, but his drug charges make keeping him underneath a good idea. Rob Van Dam, meanwhile, has a weird charisma and developed character that makes fans buy into and want to support him. Both are fine being pushed. Kurt Angle has been in TNA so long that he just feels like one of their guys.

A quick aside on Jeff- he had a 10-minute draw with Samoa Joe two weeks back that was utterly dropped. If TNA wants good press, and they seemingly do, Joe coming back to do a twenty minute, half-hour and eventual hour draw with Jeff before winning in the conclusion would build interest and make Joe a superstar. It being so completely ignored is why I, as always, find it safe to assume TNA has no real plan.

The other three WWE talents really pushed are guys the WWE never utilized. Despite my dislike of Ken Anderson, the fans are behind him and he has found a distinct character to be pushed in the upper-midcard. The Pope has potential for more than that, but is still learning in the ring. As he grows in the ring, his character continues to shine and make him seem viable. Matt Morgan, despite the internet hate, is quite over with the fans, seems impressive, and due to his short tenure there, doesn’t feel like a WWE guy. Having a huge, capable athlete like that just makes TNA seem legitimate.

The old guys are often complained about, but Hogan, Bischoff and that crew’s involvement has been largely scaled back. They’re rarely on television and more rarely are they the focus. Ric Flair gets far more television time, but he’s using it to make new stars as best he can with his new Fortune stable based off the Horsemen and putting over Jay Lethal as much as possible. TNA being TNA, Fortune need to job less and look more dangerous to really be effective, but it’s still the right idea. Lethal, meanwhile, I’m on record as seeing as a big potential star and Flair makes him seem like a big deal.

Finally, we have the complaints of the ECW PPV. I dislike the exhuming of the corpse of ECW, and I am the target audience having been a big fan of the original. Still, TNA seems to think ECW was all about the extreme when it was, in fact, a variety show with segments of the roster each focused on heavily different roles whether it be the daredevil stunts of Sabu, the soap opera of Raven, the tag formula of the Dudleyz or Eliminators, the wrestling of Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit (later RVD and Jerry Lynn), the garbage brawls of New Jack, the lucha of Rey Mysterio and Psychosis and so on and so forth. TNA is instead going to give us, seemingly, a show of mostly garbage brawls and stunts. That’s annoying, but, hey, it’s one month and it comes with a hidden benefit.

Pay Per View, if reported numbers are correct, is a huge money loser for TNA. By scrapping, or at least limiting, those and doing what TNA is doing this month, doing a PPV quality television show once a month, fans will get to see storylines pay off and the very best wrestling of TNA. That could grow an audience… if TNA finally gets it together.

4) WWE Superstars Thoughts – Pros and Cons to Watching Superstars by Tim Evans

Pros: Good long matches featuring guys you will rarely see on Raw and Smackdown. A good recap show if you didn’t see Raw and NXT. It gives some of the divas and lesser known superstars a chance to work feuds like Jillian/Bellas and the Primo/Ryder vs Goldust/Yoshi feud

Cons: The show doesn’t really have star power or really means anything in the long run. You’ll see some of the same matches run week after week like Primo/Yoshi or Bellas/Jillian. And it’s real hard to review the show without it looking like play by play.

5) ROH Thoughts: Kyle Sparks on ROH’s Stars and Future

So everyone’s favorite not-quite independent, not-quite big time promotion, Ring of Honor is in the period in between their two big mid-year shows. Death Before Dishonor VIII is past. Glory By Honor IX is on the horizon.

Death Before Dishonor was rightly hailed as one of the best shows in ROH history, and rightfully so. From top to bottom, the show was absolutely fabulous, and was exemplary of everything that ROH fans love about the company. That said, the first match (announced via video package after the end of ROH on HDNet tonight) for Glory By Honor IX looks tremendous as well. The match will feature current ROH World Tag Team Champions the Kings of Wrestling in non-title action against none other than Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas, the World’s Greatest Tag Team. Likely, the WGTT is there as a one-shot, and the Kings will go over, but as usual with these types of ROH events, getting there is all the fun. It’s definitely a great first shot for ROH, who will be going up against (albeit earlier in the day) Bryan Danielson against Munenori Sawa for EVOLVE, and will need to put together every ounce of great show it can to compete.

That said, the purpose of this little snippet for Aaron’s column is to give an overview of the company. I’ve already touched on the Tag scene, which a video package after tonight’s show promoted as the home of the best tag team wrestling in the world. With teams like the Briscoes, the American Wolves, the Kings of Wrestling, and budding teams like the All-Night Express, Up In Smoke, the House of Truth and perpetual tough guys the Dark City Fight Club, alongside whatever twosome The Embassy chooses to throw together, it’s hard to argue. TNA’s tag scene is a trainwreck outside of Beer Money and the Motor City Machine Guns, and we all know WWE’s woes with the division.

Of course, any discussion of the singles stars in ROH has to begin with their champions. ROH World Champion Tyler Black has proven to be a great pure babyface champion, and one that the ROH crowd hasn’t really turned on just yet. In that sense, I’m a little surprised and impressed. Babyface ROH World Champions don’t generally tend to stay babyface long, in part due to the reactionary nature of the fanbase. That said, Tyler has proven exceptionally adept at the underdog babyface role, even as Champion, with tremendous World Title matches fighting from behind against Chris Hero, Kevin Steen, and even to some extent, Davey Richards–three guys I’ll address later.

The ROH World TV Champion, Eddie Edwards is making a name for himself as a passable mic worker and a good mid-card hand in his role, and the introduction of the Ten Minute Hunt is a great way to do that. The match with Tyler Black coming up in late August will be a great test for him to see just where he stands in the pecking order, and it’s one I’d make an effort to go see if I was anywhere near the area. Right now there’s no real clear TV Title contender on the horizon and that hurts the division a little bit, honestly. In that sense I’m disappointed with how things have gone down with the whole thing, but once they wrap up this Ten Minute Hunt concept and move on, I’m sure that will rectify itself.

As far as potential challengers for Tyler Black, two names consistently come to mind as guys that would be viable next World Champions. Davey Richards and Kevin Steen. If I didn’t know better, I’d say they appear to be building to Tyler vs. Davey at Final Battle 2010, what with Davey getting a non-title match in late August to likely build back towards contention, and his alleged pledge to quit the business at the end of this year. Davey is a phenomenal worker who brings a fantastic skill set to the table. If he truly wants to leave the business, as many have said before me, more power to him, he’ll be missed and we as fans wish him luck. But the name that I’ve been all over of late, and the name that I would love to see unseat Black is none other than Kevin Steen. Kevin Steen is a name that hasn’t had an exorbitant amount of title shots, is on the hot streak of a lifetime with his union with Steve Corino has been brilliantly creepy on the mic and is bringing the goods in the ring, be it in brawls, tag matches or straight wrestling matches. Roderick Strong is a name that’s way up there and has been bandied about recently, but if I were in charge, I would be EXTREMELY leery of giving Strong another title shot unless I fully intended to put him over. He’s literally had over a dozen shots in his time in the company. If he doesn’t already have the Lex Luger tag, he’ll definitely get it after the year he’s had in 2010. That said, his work with Truth Martini could be the thing that pushes him over the top, as he’s always been an iffy interview, but I guess it remains to be seen.

Another potential wild-card in the whole equation is Chris Hero. While the Kings of Wrestling are doing great work with the Tag Titles and still have a potential money feud with the American Wolves in them, both Hero or Claudio could–in a pinch–be built in fairly short order to be very legitimate main event level guys and (Hero especially) very believable ROH World Champions. The obvious question is who do the Kings drop the titles to? The Briscoes are obviously the default choice if you want to mix things up and/or give the Kings an amicable split. The Briscoes will always be over in ROH, they put on solid matches and they’re a proven draw at the top. The Dark City Fight Club are seeing growing support as faces, and if the American Wolves are turning face, they’re a viable candidate too. This point is especially so if my earlier assumption re: Black vs. Richards at Final Battle 2010 is incorrect.

At the end of the day, Ring of Honor is still somewhat a company in transition. No one would argue that, having suffered the loss of Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuinness in short order, easily two of their biggest main event level talents in company history. While some people may disagree with the booking direction or other aspects of the operation of the company, to say that any problems they may or may not have are due to a dearth of talent is simply wrong. There’s a variety of guys that would be very viable options for every belt in the company with minimal build, they’ve got a great blend of traditionally long-term ROH talent (Aries, Cabana, Delirious, the Briscoes, Hero & Claudio, Steen, Generico) with new up-and-coming stars and despite the Chicken Little “Sky is Falling” cries one sometimes hears from the alleged ROH faithful, the company will soldier on much as it has been these last 8.5 years, and most all of us will do what we can to see it at every available opportunity. At least I will.

6) Guest Spot: The Most Improved Wrestler of the Decade by Okori Wadsworth

Has there been a wrestler over the past decade who has improved himself more than Chris Hero? No I mean really think about it.

At his first breakout….. he was chubby, wore indytastic wrestling gear, and did half-speed Johnny Saint stuff mixed with American Strong Style. Then you sort of forgot about him for a while. Before you knew it… he was back. This time as a cocky heel with a penchant for mind games and much more of a strike-based offense. But then….. he disappeared again, at least to the point where he was a huge deal.

And now look at him. He’s become a tremendous deal. He’s in great shape. wears real gear now, not the long cargo pants. And has been in the ring with elite guys and not embarrassed himself. c

Just think about it. If I had told you that 2003 Chris Hero would be in the ring with KENTA you would have thought I was drunk. Clearly insane at a bare minimum. But he was, and it was damned good.

Chris Hero: The TMW Pick for Most Improved Wrestler of the Decade.

7) A Modest Response to Andy Wheeler on Husky Harris

Here’s what Wheeler had to say:

“Someone give Husky Harris a break already. I’m all for using the poll to create storylines, but having him next to last after he’s been booked to be that dominant is so beyond any measure of logic that I’m beginning to think the entire ranking system is done by Vince Russo.”

Here’s my reply: told you so. The kid is a capable hand, probably technically top 3-4 of this group at least, but he doesn’t do the little things to make the crowd care and so they don’t. His goofy ass facials make everything he says seem silly and everything seem fake and contrived. If you kill the suspension of disbelief, even subconsciously, for the audience, they will turn on you. Husky Harris needs to be a bodyguard for Cody for a bit, work on his facial expressions, and then get back into the ring after establishing he’s more than a big goof who’s bad at acting.

8) History Time: Some more of the best Promos Ever

1. CM Punk

2. Kurt Angle

3. Hulk Hogan

4. Eddie Gilbert

5. Iron Sheik and Freddie Blassie

6. Gary Hart and Jimmy Valiant

7. Jimmy Hart and Greg Valentine

8. Sgt. Slaughter

9. Kevin Sullivan

10. Ultimate Warrior

9) Match Review: The Mega Powers vs. the Mega Bucks from Summerslam 1988 by Jake Ziegler

MATCH #10: The Mega Bucks: “Million Dollar” Man Ted DiBiase & Andre the Giant vs. The Mega Powers: Hulk Hogan & “Macho Man” Randy Savage

Hogan lets the Champ Savage start with Andre the Giant. That lasts about 10 seconds before DiBiase tags in. DiBiase says he wants Hogan. Savage obliges, and the Mega-Powers ping-pong DiBiase, despite Ventura’s protests. Hogan hits a clothesline and then makes the tag to Savage. The Powers are making quick tags and wearing DiBiase down. Hogan drops three elbows on DiBiase and then tries to take a cheap shot at Giant, but that backfires as Giant catches him and delivers a headbutt. What a great spot, someone needs to steal that. Giant and Savage both enter the ring illegally, and in the chaos the Bucks take over.

Ventura mostly stays out of Giant’s way as he works on Hogan, taking him down a nerve hold. Of course Giant uses his singlet strap to choke Hogan. Hogan is being isolated in the Bucks’ half of the ring. DiBiase wears Hogan down with a reverse chinlock. Hogan escapes the hold and both men clothesline each other.

They get back to their feet and Hogan makes the tag. Savage is a house afire, sending DiBiase into the lights with a back body drop. He clotheslines DiBiase’s neck off the top rope, and then hits the double axe handle. He charges at DiBiase in the corner but the Million Dollar Man moves. Savage stays in control hitting a high cross body for two. DiBiase comes back with a hard clothesline and then tags the big man. Giant takes Savage down in the corner and squashes him.

DiBiase is back in and he hits a vertical suplex for two. He goes for the falling elbow off the second rope but Savage moves. The Champ makes the hot tag to Hogan, and he’s all fired up. Hogan suplexes DiBiase. Giant comes in illegally and gets met with a hard clothesline. Savage goes to the top rope presumably for the elbow, but Giant gets a boot in his face. Meanwhile Hogan has DiBiase in the sleeper. Giant breaks that hold with the patented headbutts, and then he throws Hogan to the floor. Both Powers are on the floor and Ms. Elizabeth gets on the ring apron. Ventura tries to get her off the apron, but she won’t go. Heenan and Virgil get on the apron as well.

Then, in one of the greatest moments in SummerSlam history, Elizabeth takes off the bottom of her dress to scandalously show off her legs. All the men in the ring are distracted by the sights, allowing Hogan and Savage to get back in the ring and dump Giant to the floor. Hogan bodyslams DiBiase and then Savage hits the big elbow. Then Hogan puts the finishing touch on with a Legdrop for the pin at 14:49.

That was very reminiscent of the main event of the first WrestleMania, but better. Solid structure, great heat, and an awesome finish make this the perfect main event for the first SummerSlam.

Rating: ***¼

Done for the week, see you next. Oh and Shaman, those lists are coming, hopefully next week. The research is being done.

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