The Burnside of the O’Really Report – Randy Savage, Kharma, Next In Line?, An Impactful Direction?

Welcome to your Weekly Wednesday Wrestling Stop, The O’Really Report.  I am your host, Rhett Davis and this week I am joined by none other than the Iconic Iain Burnside!

I’ve been told to insert my own witty Hi/Hello here.  Thanks to the power of jet lag, I’m not sure that I’m capable of anything more witty than staring blankly into the distance like a zombie.  Still, greetings.

Our first topic of discussion this week is the biggest news of the month and possibly the whole year… the death of The Macho Man/King Randy Savage.  Thoughts Iain?

As I’m sure many other ‘80s kids can claim, it was Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat who got me hooked on this whole crazy wrestling thing in the first place.  The very first show I ever watched was WrestleMania 3.  Their exemplary Intercontinental Title match on that card created an addiction and, in many ways, I’ve spent my whole time as a wrestling fan trying to match the highs of that first hit.  Afterwards, it was the extravagant Macho Man who held my attention, quickly became one of my favourites and led to an exciting childhood of Anti-Hulkamania (WrestleMania 5 still breaks my heart).  Savage typified the period.  His mannerisms, outfits, interviews and style were all truly distinctive.  He could connect with the crowd as a despicable villain or as a sympathetic hero.  At least up until heading to WCW, he understood that wrestling was meant to be *fun* and conveyed this through every off-the-wall action he undertook.  We will never see his likes again, that is for sure.

Randy Savage is indeed one of the greatest of all time and the match from WrestleMania 3 is even a favorite of mine despite not being a fan of the sport at the time.  Looking back at the earlier WrestleManias, Savage easily had the best ratio of good (memorable) to bad (forgettable) matches in the cards he was on.  He brought the best out of Hulk, Steamboat, Warrior, and almost everyone else he got into the ring with.  I know that they were trying to put over Hulk as the top guy at the time, but really they should’ve had him put over the Macho Man at 5 instead of Warrior at Mania 6, in retrospect.  And as for promos, the guy had a unique intensity that would capture anyone who looked at the show.  Hulk probably could out-speak Savage, but he hasn’t even close to being the total package as Savage was.

The next topic is another big story… the rumored pregnancy of Kharma.  What does it mean for the Divas’ Division Iain?

It is disappointing, if only because Kharma getting pregnant at this time means Crazy Kurt Angle likely isn’t the father.  Bestial sex, baby.  Bestial sex.  Ahem.  Anyway, this means the Divas’ Division simply carries on in the same direction as it has been for the past several years.  There will be many identical, exchangeable, bland, all-too-thin models having short, pointless, incompetent matches.  They will have no interesting personalities or funny comedic material to work with.  (At least, not on-screen, I have no clue how witty any of them may be in real life.)  They will alternate between Feud A: I Want The Title/You Can’t Have The Title and Feud B: I Want Your Man/You Can’t Have My Man.  I am not altogether certain what value any of this brings to the product, to be honest.  Is there some sort of study out there that shows what matches lead to the most merchandise sales at live events?  And would these comments make Melina cry?

Wait Divas have merchandise???  I certainly don’t remember seeing any last time I went to a show.  Hmm… The Divas Division looked prominent with the future being invested with Awesome Kharma, but now that she is out for at least 9 months… it’s going to be tough getting my interest back into the division.  Maybe we can finally see the Beth Phoenix/Gail Kim push we have been requesting.  Maybe we can finally see someone other than The Bella Twins with the gold.  Most likely, nothing will change except Kharma will miss her window as many others do when they leave with injury, or in this case pregnancy.  I will agree with you about the Diva’s having no personality.  Seriously what is different between Eve and Kelly Kelly?  What is different between Melina and Alicia Fox?  Sure Kelly Kelly was listed in Maxim 100, but the faces of the Diva’s Division are so bland and normal that you could subtract one and insert another and the feud wouldn’t change very much other than who you were looking at.  Someone needs to be in charge of the division and be in charge of giving them… PERSONAS.  Lita had a persona as a high risk-high reward extremist; Trish had a persona of being the poster girl that everyone hated (ala Cena); Victoria had a persona of being psychotic.  Hell even Mae Young has a persona as an old lady who really likes some younger men and that’s more persona than any diva in the division today.

Well, I meant that the Divas matches tend to offer a prime opportunity for folks in attendance to go buy merchandise in general without missing anything important on the show.  Also, who exactly has been requesting a Beth Phoenix or Gail Kim push?  The ‘Glamazon’ character has run its course and Kim seems to have built an undeserved reputation based on the carefully-constructed matches Scott D’Amore put together for her in TNA.  Anyway, now I’m just having flashbacks to school days of discussing the FHM 100… there is a strange attention to detail paid to such things when attending an all-boy high school…

Moving right along, our next topic is who should be the next 1st time WWE Champion?  John Morrison, R-Truth, Wade Barrett, Ezekiel Jackson, Cody Rhodes, or Alberto Del Rio?  This is of course excluding the ECW ‘Heavyweight’ Championship.

The one and only correct answer to your next question is Alberto Del Rio.  The man was allegedly scheduled to win the World Heavyweight Title at this year’s Royal Rumble, only for the title change to be pushed back until WrestleMania in order to make it mean more.  Then, of course, plans were changed again due to an unexpected change of circumstances with Edge.  Now there are supposedly plans for a big SummerSlam feud between Del Rio and John Cena, which one would think would indicate a WWE Championship triumph for Del Rio at long last.  It seems ridiculous to think of him winning the world title ‘at long last’ when he only debuted on WWE TV last August.  When things are so stale in the main event scene, however, there is a strong sense of urgency about anything that seems fresh.  It has been almost ten years since John Cena and Randy Orton made their debuts, for crying out loud.  That is longer than Hulkamania lasted in the WWF.  That is even worse considering their incessant presence on an increased volume of weekly programming during their runs.  Take a look back over the previous few years and see how WWE has fared when it comes to getting fresh faces over on top of the card… Jeff Hardy managed it by sheer force of will from his fans, not any sustained effort from management… C.M. Punk has been treated as a persistent after-thought… Sheamus, Jack Swagger and Wade Barrett all had glimmers of hope that were extinguished rather too soon… You really have to go back to Edge’s breakthrough run in 2006 for the last sustained addition to the main event scene.

Del Rio has the look, the charisma, the promo skills and the ring presence of a champion.  He can work the fabled ‘WWE style’, appeals to the vital Hispanic market, was born into a wrestling family and works a safe enough style to be around for many years to come.  He deserves a title reign.  In this day and age, there is no reason why he should not get one.

As for the other names on your short-list:

John Morrison is not going to get any higher up the card than he is right now.  He has a good look and great athletic skills but is lacking in charisma.  His character is terrific as a cocky, celebrity-obsessed heel, yet is pretty vacant as a babyface.  He is a white bread Shelton Benjamin, nothing less, nothing more.

R-Truth… well, who the hell knows?!  Up until about a month ago there would have been no way anybody would even have considered him for such a list.  The memories of Pretty Ricky may have diminished but he still had no credibility as a genuine contender.  Now he has stumbled upon a compelling character and is being allowed to show some personality beyond the catchphrases of old.  Actually, it was just one catchphrase really, wasn’t it?  Right now there is still no good reason to have him vault over Del Rio, Punk and Miz as the top heels on Raw.  If Truth can keep this up, however, or get switched to Smackdown, then things could get even more interesting for him in the future.

Wade Barrett and Ezekiel Jackson are locked into an interminable feud at present.  I have no idea why anybody is supposed to give a shit about Jackson right now.  Turning babyface as a result of all your heel mates beating you up does nothing to endear a supposed hero to the audience; it just makes them look foolish.  Barrett badly needs to get away from any and all stables.  The Corre has been one big, misspelled, irrelevant step backwards for all involved.  Barrett showed enough personality last year to be able to hold his own in verbal battles with guys like Cena, Chris Jericho and even Roddy Piper.  This year he offers nothing more than fast-forward filler material.  I don’t know if WWE are doing that peculiar thing where they build a guy up but then knock him down in order to gauge his reaction, yet something has gone very wrong with the Barrett push of late.  Fingers crossed he has some more interesting material to work with in the near future.

Cody Rhodes has indeed been the surprising success story of 2011 so far.  Those acting classes have proven quite useful for the formerly bland kneepad-hater.  The Dashing gimmick was a step in the right direction but this recent ‘Devious’ direction has made him one of the most interesting elements of present-day WWE.  Rhodes is apparently a big comic book fan, so he likely has an understanding of how to portray quasi-justified villainy in a straightforward manner – vital for strong wrestling heels.  His current gimmick is a distinct blend of Doctor Doom and The Joker and it has finally allowed him to stand apart from the spectre of his father, his brother and his former Legacy mentor.  A future world title reign would be entirely unexpected.  To be honest, I would welcome a feud between Rhodes and Orton in order to contrast it to their past encounters.  It would, however, be more effective if Rhodes is able to get in another couple of strong upper mid-card feuds before stepping up to the main event scene.

I agree that Alberto Del Rio should indeed be the next first time WWE Champion.  As you said, he is the complete package.  He can cut some terrific promos, his wrestling is better than a lot of the others in this grouping, and his ring psychology is phenomenal.  He knows when to hit the right move and it keeps the audience indulged in the contest.  An example would be the enzuigiri he does whenever his opponent ascends the top rope.  He hits it with such great timing that the only person I can think of who may perhaps do it better is Kurt Angle when he plays possum and then belly-to-belly suplexes his opponent off the top rope.  The funny thing about Alberto is that he seems to be doing better than some of those who have won the big one.  Take a look at Swagger and Ziggler.  Swagger has nosedived into the mid-cards forever (where he should have stayed looking at his title reign) and Ziggler had an identity crisis and dyed his hair brown as well as chopped it off.  Del Rio is well above both of these guys and he hasn’t even won the big one yet.

The sad part about John Morrison is that he is one of the top faces on Raw, but he is terrible at it.  Every time JoMo cuts a promo he either sounds like a heel or sounds like he doesn’t know what to say.  Phenomenal in the ring competitor, but, as this business proves, that just isn’t enough to cut it.  A white bread Shelton Benjamin indeed.

I hated R-Truth, I mean I wanted to fast-forward through ever scene/match he was involved in.  Then he goes heel and turns out to be great at it.  He is a fantastic raving, paranoid, schizophrenic heel, and his latest feud with JoMo and Cena have been gold.  Right now I can’t wait for R-Truth to ‘get got’ by the returning John Morrison.  It’s crazy how well he is as a heel and how terrible he was a face.  Could I see a possible title run in the future?  If he stays in this crazy lunatic character, then we very well could.  Truth is the most compelling heel on the show currently and that’s hard to do when that show consists of Del Rio, Miz, and CM Punk.

I was a huge Wade Barrett fan when he ran Nexus, but once he was traded to SmackDown… just nothing.  He went from battling John Cena for the WWE Championship to just… getting his backside handed to him by the likes of The Big Show.  It made sense to move him to SmackDown, but he should’ve gone straight for the gold (heavyweight not Intercontinental).  He lost all momentum by scooting from Cena to Show to Kofi and now to Zeke.  You see how that line just deteriorates?  Big Ezekiel Jackson seems to be getting yet another push, but Ahmad Jackson just doesn’t impress me.  Sure he can body slam The Big Show, and knock him down with a clothesline, but I don’t know.  He is stiff as hell and looked dangerous in the ring, but it looks like he just wants to beat his opponent until they can’t move no more.  That’s a plus, his intensity.  So I guess I’m torn on Zeke.  But The Corre needs to split up, Wade move into the heavyweight scene after losing the belt to Ezekiel, and Slabriel into the tag team scene again.

As for Cody, I think a few more feuds with stars like Sin Cara and Daniel Bryan could be all Cody needs to be prepared for his eventual feud with Randy Orton.  He transformed in the past year and now he seems much closer to a superstar than he did as just boring Cody Rhodes who was a member of Legacy.  And what’s the deal with Ted DiBiase coming out with him now?  He doesn’t even need back-up, and who could trust him that well after this psychopathic transformation?

Wait, WWE has a guy named Ted Dibiase on their roster?  Really?  Wow, I had almost forgotten.  Those rumours about him being groomed for a WrestleMania match against The Undertaker seem so absurd in retrospect.  Oh well, Teddy, at least we’ll always have The Marine 2.  Come to think of it, WWE could make a pretty decent movie based on the Cody Rhodes character.  Not as awesome as a movie in which Randy Orton just walks very slowly down the street, pausing only for the occasional drag on his cigarette, to punt a few three-legged cats and crippled children, and to make women orgasm without touching or looking at them, but still.

And for our last topic, what do you think needs to be done in order to remove TNA… erm… Impact Wrestling from their trap that they have ensnared themselves in?  What do they need to do to move forward with their product?

Here’s the oft-overlooked truth about TNA, or Impact Wrestling, or Hogan Knows Worst, or As The Jarrett Turns, or whatever the hell they decide to call themselves…

They cannot do any better than this.

This is it.

1.2 TV ratings, PPV buyrates in the 8-12,000 range, minimalist house show attendance and a non-existent merchandise range.

That is it.

They had the chance to do ‘proper’ three-hour monthly PPVs.  They had the chance to get on a cable TV network.  They had the chance to expand the length of their show.  They had the chance to sign a slew of big names with tremendous marketing potential, including Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Jeff Hardy, Mick Foley, Rob Van Dam, Kurt Angle and more.  They had the chance to utilise some great talent that had not yet been exposed to the WWE audience, such as A.J. Styles, Samoa Joe, Abyss, Beer Money and the Motor City Machine Guns.  They had the chance to revamp guys that had been discarded or misused in WWE, like Da Pope, Mr Kennedy, Bobby Lashley, Matt Hardy and Brian Kendrick.  They had the chance to go head-to-head with Raw and try to at least increase awareness of their product.

(Note that I actually completely forgot about Sting when writing the above lists; yes, their aged world champion is now that irrelevant.)

They had all of these chances, all of these proverbial carrots on a stick in front of them, all of that opportunity and what did they get to show for it?

A TV audience that is in the exact same range as it has been for several years.  PPV buyrates that are lower now than they were before they spent massive amounts of money signing the above talent.  Live event attendance figures that have dwindled into insignificance.  Not only that but the house shows represent an entirely different product from Impact, since they are put together by a different creative team that focuses on quality matches rather than crazy angles.  How can they convince people to come and see one product when an altogether different one is being used to promote it?  Plus they screwed up the one thing that had increased live event attendance in recent years when they turned Jeff Hardy heel, which indeed led to no increase in business anywhere else in the company.

All of that and they have done… nothing.  So what other carrots could they possibly put onto their stick to drive them forward now?  Taping TV and PPV on the road rather than the Impact Zone is but a marginal aesthetic change, as is re-branding themselves on advertising posters.  The fact is that those who are not already watching TNA simply have no interest in doing so.  They are not going to change their minds anytime soon because they are either unaware of the product or have been put off by the relentless and deserved criticism of it in recent years.  Those who are watching it must be the most loyal people on the face of the planet to put up with it, so they are unlikely to stop anytime soon no matter how stupid the writing gets.

All of which leads me to the one opportunity that they do still have, which could potentially help the promotion grow.  No, it does not involve signing Batista or Chris Jericho or Goldberg or any other name that they would waste within one month.  Any turnaround in fortune requires a more fundamental change than yet another acquisition.  The fact is that the biggest carrot they have right now is the opportunity to fire Vince Russo.  Get rid of him, get rid of Hogan, get rid of Eric Bischoff, get rid of all of them, get an experienced wrestling promoter from outside the current regime to take charge of the booking and go from there.  That is the only way they could possibly make any lasting change to things at this point.

It will not happen, of course.  Russo, Dixie Carter and the rest are all far too comfortable in the current set-up.  Fair play to them.  At the end of the day, TNA is not really a wrestling promotion.  It is a TV show.  Impact is relatively cheap original programming for Spike TV, it runs throughout the entire year and it draws an acceptable rating for the network.  So long as that is the case then there is no incentive to change anything about the production team behind the program.  It is a shame that this leads to programming on a par with WCW in its dying days but there is nothing else that can be done about it by this point.

I’m not sure that there is absolutely nothing they could do, but filming their shows WEEKS in advance is ridiculous.  It’s hard to watch a show and already know how it is going to work out.  That’s why I hate reading spoilers, but whenever it’s a news story like Chyna coming back, in two weeks time I’m going to hear about it one way or another.  Why do you think Raw does better numbers than SmackDown?  Sure Raw has been around longer and is on a better night, but it’s also because it is live.  SmackDown is taped on Tuesdays so it’s easy to get online on Wednesday and find the spoilers and not even have to worry about watching the show.  Of course…. SmackDown does better numbers than Impact and it is on a weekend night.  But firing Russo, Eric, Hulk, and crew would probably be the best maneuver that TNA has to turn their luck around.  Hell give a young guy the push by saying he took them out.  And by push I don’t mean the Crimson guy… I mean AJ or Roode or some other younger star that isn’t Crimson.  Did you know that Crimson is expected to be the next Bill Goldberg?

If I may offer up a retort to your comments about spoilers…

Basically, I don’t buy it.  There have been taped episodes of Raw, live episodes of Smackdown and live episodes of Impact in the past, yet none of them have strayed far from the regular ratings range.  Furthermore, it can actually be beneficial to have news reports about the shows out there in advance of the broadcast.  I remember deciding to skip Raw last year because I felt there was probably not going to be anything of interest happening on the show.  Then it turned out that I had missed the debut of the Nexus and their epic destruction of John Cena and the Raw set.  Some of the highest-rated episodes of Smackdown have been ones in which WWE.com has deliberately spoiled the world title changing hands or being vacated.  People will watch if they know there is something worth watching.  The highest-rated shows here in the UK are a couple of long-running soap operas, which are taped several months ahead and have their major plot points spoiled in numerous tabloid newspapers and gossip magazines.  The spoilers don’t put off their fans, they simply create anticipation for viewing the show they are already invested in.  TNA could easily create buzz around a bunch of awesome matches between their best workers taking place at the Impact tapings, yet this never seems to even cross their minds anymore.  The only buzz they seem to rely upon anymore is the periodic blast of morbid curiosity, such as the aforementioned debut of Chyna.  The fact that this approach leads to nothing more than an occasional, marginal, one-week ratings bump appears to be lost to those in charge.  Any attempts at growth have to be seen as long-term, ongoing efforts, including, as we have said, an overhaul of the management and creative process.

Ah, well, at least we’ll always have TNA in 2005 on Youtube.  Keep the memories alive, Joe.

Well it looks like that will conclude things for The O’Really Report this week.  Anything you would like to say in finish Mr. Burnside?

I just want to say thanks to Rhett for inviting me to participate in the O’Really Report this week.  It has been far too long since I have been able to contribute to Pulse Wrestling and I appreciate the opportunity.  Perhaps one of these days I’ll find some more hours in the day and be able to come back full-time, who knows?  Never mind, it is good to know there are guys like Rhett out there making it work.  Until next time, if you do decide to watch any British programming, please be sure to ignore the soap operas and head straight to Doctor Who instead.  Cheers!

Hey Dr. Who is an awesome show but anyways.

Cheap Plugs!

In the opening bout, Joel ‘The Juggernaut’ Leonard fought hard with his views on Over the Limit, but he had No Chance of stopping Matt ‘The Heart-Attack’ Harrack’s Creatively Endeavored offense.

The next match on the card featured Mike ‘The Goldfish’ Gojira and Blair ‘The Blazing’ Douglass as they dueled to disqualification as the referee saw the blatant use of derogatory syntax on the official.  With That Being Said, the match occured in Mike Gojira’s own neck of the woods or his old Stomping Ground.

Following up that dreadful finish was the 5 star match between Steven ‘The Grappler’ Gepp and Andrew ‘The Anarchist’ Wheeler.  For Your Consideration, Gepp pinned Wheeler leaving nothing for him to see but lights and the roof, his View from Down Here.

The Feature attraction of the night came in the form of a steel cage match between Chris ‘The Colossal Rager‘ Sanders and Chris ‘The Braddah’ Biscuiti.  Sanders just barely slid by with his sneaky climb over the edge escaping as CB put it… his World.

Thanks for reading and feel free to leave comments/suggestions/insults/ideas/discussions/remarks in the comment section below…

And quite frankly my dear… that’s a wrap!

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