Monday Morning Backlash: Glazer vs. InsidePulse Writers 2 (WWE Wrestlemania 27, The Rock vs. John Cena, Stone Cold, IWC’s Relevance)

Another Monday, another time to look back at the week that was in InsidePulse Wrestling columns.

We’ll begin with Joey Fiorello’s Ten Thoughts on WWE and jump straight to the biggest topic on the internet:

“There was some good and some bad on Raw. The good, The Rock and John Cena are finally going to have a match. The bad, it’s not until WrestleMania 28. Now it’s not a completely bad thing. This will be a huge WrestleMania match, but for it to be announced the day after this year’s WrestleMania, is a bit disappointing. WWE fans that have been waiting for this match now have to wait one more year for it to happen. Will this feud go on for a full year or is The Rock going to disappear until the WrestleMania hype begins? We shall see as time goes on.”

The Rock is going to basically disappear until the Wrestlemania hype cycle begins. What this does, though, is put the focus on whether it will be a title match or not. Will they give Cena the belt going into that huge match? It can, and likely will, be a year-long chase for Cena, giving the show focus. The Rock’s involvement in WrestleMania will be looked back upon as a financial success, but artistic failure. His presence almost overshadowed the show and now, at least, we know why. Much like WrestleMania 4 and 5 are historically linked, so too will be 27 and 28. For now, it made a great build this year an anti-climax, but in hindsight, might not be so much of an issue.

Brian McLoone, a new gentleman writing Wrestling Stew had the following to say on one of Wrestlemania’s biggest matches:

“HHH vs. The Undertaker, WrestleMania 27: Many people seem to be split down the middle on this match, either you loved it or hated it. While I didn’t hate it like many seem to I far from loved it. It had some cool spots in it and I appreciate what they did early in the match. It just seemed all this match had were big moves and nothing to string them together. I feel that big moves need to be spread in between transition and set up moves. Build toward the pedigrees and tombstone piledrivers with moves that hurt those same parts of the body. This match felt like a Michael Bay movie, big explosions and little else.”

You cannot, or at least should not, separate a match from its backstory and expect it to just work. They set this up as an epic battle of the icons and that’s what it delivered. All the huge moves, the going for the finish constantly were intended to show that these guys were willing to kill themselves going all out for the win. This is also meant to contrast to the HBK matches which featured more of that slow build, as, remember, in storyline terms, Shawn wants to entertain and Hunter wants to win. Add in H’s use of the Tombstone and wrestling Taker’s style match and you can really see a story take shape, as H supposedly patterned his career after the Deadman. In isolation, this is exactly what you say. You need the backstory for depth. I’ve written elsewhere that a match should be able to stand both ways (as part of a larger story and as just a match) to be truly epic, so this falls a notch from HBK-Taker, but is still, objectively, great.

Mike Gojira’s Stomping Groundswitches gears to talk about the relevance of the IWC:

“The majority of my fellow writers believe this year’s Wrestlemania to be either an outright failure or just a simple misstep on the road to bigger and better things. What it all comes down to is this: the WWE made a shitload of money, Atlanta made a shitload of money, and old school fans who just wanted to see old school names like The Rock walked away satisfied.
I often find myself wondering if writing about this business is worth it.
Then I look back at all the fond memories I have of wrestling, I smile, and I say to myself, ‘It’s most definitely worth it.’”

For a group of folks so obsessed with the business, the IWC has very little idea that it is a business. Who goes over matters not a whit compared to how it’s marketed. Who gets a big pop couldn’t matter less if the fans aren’t buying their merchandise. Hell, politics, long pooh-poohed as nonsense jerks use to get ahead, is a legitimate skill that must be considered when one thinks of how good a wrestler someone is. Paul London was a fantastic worker and a personal favorite, but he was apparently politically obtuse, while Benoit, another fantastic worker, went and found a group of friends with whom to gain clout and got to main event WrestleMania. The problem isn’t the relevance of the IWC, rather the relevance of the discussion it’s members are having.

Now, we go back to Triple H vs. Undertaker with Penny Sautreau-Fife for some Penny Candy:

“Taker damn near killed himself Sunday. Fran and I were legitimate frightened for his health. It is very much NOT in character for the almighty Undertaker to be incapable of walking to the back under his own power. In 30 years of watching wrestling and over 20 of the Undertaker’s WWE tenure, I don’t EVER remember seeing him like that. As a current concussion sufferer I’d bet good money he has AT LEAST what I have, a serious concussion. I’d be willing to throw a little spinal trauma in there too right now.
But that’s speculation. All ANYONE has is speculation. Because no one is actually REPORTING anything.
Normally when a wrestler has a legit injury these days, we hear about it. We get news. WWE.com has actually been pretty good about being forthcoming about their talent’s injury status. But because the Undertaker is still heavily kayfabed, we’re getting nothing. And that worries the fuck out of me.”

This is important. I know it’s cool to be all cynical on the internet and not give a crap, but there was clearly something wrong after that match. It was likely either a concussion or a stinger and either one is serious enough to warrant reporting. Simply ignoring these or brushing them off as “nothing really wrong” should no longer be an option. Wrestling reporting is in a woeful state. All we get are rumors and gossip with which to run. It’s left over from the carny days. Injuries, real injuries, were, however, something we were making headway with towards treating with the respect deserved. I get that Undertaker is a carny throwback and that, as such, he probably didn’t want his injuries leaked, but these are public performers in whom we are supposed to be emotionally invested. They succeeded in creating an emotional investment in not only Undertaker as a character, but Mark Calloway as a locker-room leader and stand-up guy. We care and, even if we didn’t, his condition after a performance is the very definition of news. If WWE want to be taken seriously as grown up entertainment, this is the kind of faux pas they cannot afford.

James Alsop also has a new column here, Keynotes and Keyholds and he goes back to the Invasion for his first column. I’d rather focus, however, on why he’s talking about WWE and TNA in his columns:

“The reason for my narrow focus is thus very simple: analyses of WWE and TNA tells us a great deal about professional wrestling in general. WWE has for the last decade been, is currently, and will for the foreseeable future be the face of professional wrestling in the Western world, no matter how hard it attempts to distance itself from that label, and no matter how hard we attempt to distance ourselves from Mabel. When people think “professional wrestling”, they think WWE. TNA, on the other hand, is the plucky underdog, and for all of Hulk Hogan’s waffle, Dixie Carter’s poor employment decisions and Eric Bischoff’s insufferable presence, TNA is still the closest thing to an accessible alternative to WWE that exists today. Furthermore, TNA would very much like to take the reins from Vince McMahon and become the number one wrestling company in the world. The exposure that both of these companies receive globally exceeds that of any other. For better or worse, then, WWE and TNA represent to the rest of the world the business that we love. To anyone with any investment in the wrestling business, emotional or financial, these two companies are currently the be-all and end-all. Everybody is entitled to their opinion, of course. I recognise the need of some more outspoken members of the IWC to voice their frustration with certain decisions made by these two companies. I myself am frequently guilty of such unhelpful outbursts, and accept that it is alarmingly easy to revel in the perverse joy of condemning Russo, Hogan, Hunter, and other popular targets. If one considers oneself a fan of professional wrestling as a whole, however, and is at all interested in its growth as an industry and greater acceptance for what it is (rather than for what it often pretends to be), then it is worth remembering that the successes of WWE and TNA are our successes; their failures are ultimately our loss.”

The outlook discussed herein makes Pulse Glazer, editor, very happy. The focus on popular wrestling and, more, the events of popular wrestling’s growth is, essentially, guaranteed hits, especially when put together at this level of quality. The column is well-written and a good reminder that not only can wrestling fans be educated, but wrestling can be looked at from numerous perspectives. That latter point, however, makes this a bit disappointing to Pulse Glazer, reader. Wrestling as compared to other wrestling from a perspective of growth likely means that, well, this will be well-written, but reasonably similar to current content with some great ideas sprinkled in. Upon seeing the focus on (ahem)zombies in Shakespeare, I was curious if James would take a look at wrestling as compared to other forms of entertainment, utilizing imperfect comparisons to emphasize points. Rob Svarkla and Kyle Sawyer Paul, both former writers here, did that. While those don’t do as many hits, they are still two of my favorites ever and, since the potential is clearly there, I hope that James adds columns of the more esoteric sort to his usual fare.

Joey Leonard gives us No Chance to forget about Wrestlemania:

“After having correctly predicted every single match for the past two PPV, my perfect year came to a crashing halt right at the start of WrestleMania, with this match. Even so, I’m not terribly saddened by this win as I think Edge can still get some use out of being champion. As long as both wrestlers decide to move on to new rivalries at this point, then no great loss has happened. The Match itself was solid, though I wish the support teams (Christian and Brodus) hadn’t come out. At least at WrestleMania, I want to see a mach where I don’t have to keep one eye on those standing ringside.”

I don’t see what Edge can get out of being champion. If a point like this is brought up, I’d really like to see it explicated. Edge has been champion more than anyone on the roster save, perhaps, Triple H. Sure, this is his first face run, but he couldn’t be more established as a top guy. The belt, meanwhile, could have propelled Del Rio. Remember, the belt only does three things (though it can do more than one at a time): it can serve as a signifier of who the top guy is, it can be a way to help make someone a top guy, and it can be used as a prop in a feud. The IWC clearly prefers the second, but that isn’t all there is for a title, so while I would have liked more explanation, I can see Edge using the title for a bit longer to ensure he’s still perceived as Smackdown’s top guy. The entourages were guaranteed to be there, by the way, so long as no show was made of them being banned. The idea was that Del Rio was winning thanks to his entourage, but that wouldn’t work against Edge since he’s got his own back-up and is so heelish.

Rhett Davis has the O’Really Report on how he wanted Wrestlemania to go, having this to say about the show’s second match:

“Match #1: Cody Rhodes vs Rey Mysterios
The only match on the card that I believed was done right all the way around. I can’t really picture how this match could have been done any better. Maybe a few more high risk moves, but hey it made Cody look phenomenal so it did its job.”

This match and comment deserve special focus. Sure, I thought WrestleMania did a bit more right than Rhett, but his assessment here is perfect. The lack of high risk moves and focus on story, I thought, was a plus, as was Cody’s win and how it made him look. The one problem with the match was card placement. This shouldn’t have gone on after the World Title match, not because it wasn’t as important, but because they were similarly structured and that one had the high risk moves and shenanigans to overshadow this one a touch.

In hindsight, however, Cody and Rey had the superior match. They kept it simple, got the crowd involved, told a great story, and had the right guy go over. A shout-out also needs to go to whoever came up with Cody’s new Titantron video. The “grotesque” newspaper clippings and Sith hood really add a new dimension to his character. The pretty boy was effective, but a role that’s been done to death. Cody can now become a strange cross between Rick Rude and Mick Foley. Consider me intrigued.

Time to go to Jonah Kue’s Korner, as he takes a look at the future after Wrestlemania 27:

“But in the heart of it all, ‘Mania succeeded in pushing forward with this transitional phase. With the great Orton/Punk match and feud, they’ve established the torch carriers through this phase. Call these guys the placeholder top face and heel until the transition has finally ended and we fully enter the new era we’re headed towards. I know many are a bit upset at the results of the World Heavyweight Championship match, but with the Edge/Del Rio feud bound to continue, they can really push Del Rio’s win to mean something. Giving a heel who’s basically had an unstoppable run while he’s been in the company the title is rather anticlimactic, no matter how good the match is. With Del Rio losing this match, he’d be a more legitimate new school leader of Smackdown when he eventually wins the title. Cody Rhodes’ accomplishment and future implications are obvious, and he’ll come into his own as leader of the midcard very soon, if he’s not there already.”

WWE is clearly in a transitional phase, but transitional to what is the question. The company could go all out and push new stars, change its identity and grow… but did Wrestlemania 27 really make it seem like that was the course? Because while new stars didn’t necessarily flop on the show, the focus sure seemed to me to not be on new or even current stars, but of the stars of yesterday. Triple H and Undertaker went second from top, the two last semi-active top guys of attitude. Stone Cold got a huge spot, and the Rock was all over the show. WWE could have a huge push coming for new talent, or they could have, as in the past, gotten cold feet. At this point, there is simply no way to tell and, sadly, track record is not in WWE’s favor.

Chris Sanders’ The Rager highlights a pissed-off young man:

“Maybe I’m over analyzing but from my point of view, it felt like The Rock and WEE (I’m assuming they want to be called World Entertainment Entertainment, right? anyone?) were making him bigger than their current roster, bigger than the WEE Championship, bigger than Wrestlemania and bigger than the company for that matter. Again I’m being a grumpy old man, but for a guy to leave the company and do his absolute best to separate himself from the company and The Rock character for the past seven years, only to have that company cater to his every need is ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing him in action just as much as anybody but just something didn’t seem right about it.”

Generally, I’d agree about this, but our WrestleMania party had 23 people. And of those people, most came for the Rock (and the food, but whatever). They all had stories about how friends and co-workers who stopped watching wrestling had heard the Rock was back and they were going to get WrestleMania. The same stories poured in from around the internet. While “people Glazer knows” isn’t a huge sample size, you can add in the ratings bump from a regular 3.1 to a regular 3.8 when Rock showed up. That’s a huge amount of revenue this guy generates. Is he bigger than WWE? No, he needs somewhere to return to in order to have an affect, but his affect is worth the trouble and far greater than anyone else in the business since he first left.

Chris Biscuiti has us visit CB’s World as he finishes our WrestleMania talk, if not the column:

“That’s right, we got more in-ring time from Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler then we did from Alberto Del Rio and Edge, which just proves my point that actual wrestling took a backseat to the “sports entertainment” elements of the show. For once, couldn’t we have had an even split?”

Well, so? Wrestling hasn’t ever been an athletic competition. JYD main-evented in Mid-South for the title in 10-minute matches after a ton of longer wrestling matches elsewhere on the card. Hell, this isn’t even unique to Wrestlemania. Flair and Savage for the title went on before Hogan and Sid. Big Show and Floyd Mayweather had one of the longest matches at their WrestleMania. And, by the way, Sports Entertainment is a re-naming of wrestling. They are the exact same thing. “Pure Wrestling” companies like ROH didn’t exist in the territory era. Everything had overbooked, comedic elements and didn’t always take the competition as seriously as we’d have liked. Cole can’t wrestle. Of course this was overbooked, but with the massive build, I could equally say, “of course it got that much time.”

We’re finally on to Andy Wheeler who has Raw For Your Consideration:

“Steve Austin STARTS by saying “Hell yeah”, which pretty much shows that he’s just going through the motions. The Tough Enough stars come out and while some have charisma, some are just vacuums that suck out the personality.”

This is an important point. Austin has been, on Raw, going through the motions. His character has become more cliché and cookie cutter than John Cena’s was at its worst. It didn’t used to be this way. Austin was a tough guy who had go to lines, but he also had motivation and, well, depth. Since he returned to being a face after the Invasion, he has lost that depth. Perhaps that’s why the Rock is welcomed back so warmly, while Stone Cold is a nostalgia act. It really does not have to be this way. Austin was superb on Tough Enough and if he brings any of that characterization back onto Raw he could once again matter to more than the nostalgic and the slack-jawed yokels.

Finally, Mark Allen is leaving us at InsidePulse Wrestling. Check out his last This Week in ‘E and continue to follow my good friend at The Examiner.

I don’t want to quote him here, merely send off a good writer and better friend. That’s it for today. See you after WWE Monday Night Raw for the Raw Review.