Guys and Divas #9: Full Disclosure (Daniel Bryan, Total Divas, Survivor Series, John Cena)

Good day, all!

Welcome to the ninth installment of “Guys and Divas”; the only column on Inside Pulse Wrestling that was once called “the crispy noodle in the vegetarian salad of life”. (True story.)

This week, I take a look at the highs and lows of our surprise double-dose of Divas Survivor Series matches in–naturally–the “Divas” segment; and in the “Bonus Ball”, I give thanks. (What does that entail?–Read on and find out.)

…BUT FIRST(!), after a weak Survivor Series and a marginally better Raw, the stars of our show have all seemingly taken their places for the proverbial Road to the Road to Wrestlemania. Let’s see where they all landed in this week’s…

GUYS

(NOTE: The following contains SPOILERS for the second and third seasons of the TV series “Alias”. If you want to skip it, feel free. If you don’t but find the sheer length of what follows to be bothersome, let me preemptively assure you: I’M GOING SOMEWHERE WITH THIS.)

I’ve been revisiting “Alias” with my best friend recently. It’s one of my favorite series ever and has held up to countless viewings since it ended its run in 2006.

Unfortunately, this also means making it through the show’s polarizing third season.

At the risk of going too off-topic, the show’s second season concludes with our heroine Agent Sydney Bristow (the adorable Jennifer Garner) awaking in an alley in Hong Kong; seemingly moments after defeating an assassin/genetic double of her best friend in a knock down, drag out fight to the death. After contacting HQ, her former CIA handler/ongoing love interest Agent Michael Vaughn arrives to inform her that she’s been missing for over two years. (Say WHAT?!)

Cut to Season 3, which finds Sydney attempting to piece together what happened in her forgotten two years; all while combating the forces of an evil organization called The Covenant who presumably have something to do with her disappearance.

Needless to say, things didn’t go well. The ratings slipped, the fans were vocally dissatisfied with certain developments that had occurred as a result of the plot twist, and honestly it just didn’t feel like the same show.

After a customary winter break, “Alias” returned in January with an episode called “Full Disclosure”. In it, FBI Assistant Director Kendall (played by John Locke himself, Terry O’Quinn) reveals that he knows everything about Sydney’s disappearance because the two had worked together during her missing two years AND that he’d been party to the neurological procedure Sydney voluntarily underwent to forget some of the more violent and questionable acts that she’d committed.

In that 44 minutes, show creator J.J. Abrams ostensibly apologized for recent creative missteps and reset the show to something resembling the “Alias” its fans adored in its first two seasons.

“But Jeff, why did you just tell us all this on your professional wrestling column?”

Because, dear reader, I believe we’re in the midst of WWE’s 2013 equivalent of “Full Disclosure”.

(NOTE: Those who skipped all of that can rejoin the segment now. Thank you for your patience.)

By the end of this past Monday’s Raw, we were all left with a good idea of where all of the questionable events we, the viewers have had to endure these past few weeks have been heading.

  • John Cena and Randy Orton will clash at TLC in the titular Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match with BOTH the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships hanging in the balance.
  • The Shield clearly has its sights set on CM Punk.
  • Daniel Bryan is the latest abductee of the Wyatt Family.

WWE’s bizarre reluctance to call the Cena/Orton Match what it is (a title unification) aside, we now know that they finally recognize the redundancy of two world championships in a post-brand extension universe. This also helps flush out anymore bland championship main events like the pair that headlined this past Sunday’s “fall classic”. (That being said, Cena/Del Rio was far better than it had any right to be.) Now, not only will the presumable Unified WWE Championship truly represent the best the company has to offer (in theory; it’s obviously not either of these two competitors), it’ll make it that much bigger when…

…well, let me take you on a journey.

Let’s assume that the CM Punk/Shield and Daniel Bryan/Wyatts situations are leading to some sort of four-on-four battle of strange bedfellows at TLC. With a possible Daniel heel turn (presumably via some Wyatt brainwashing/presumably temporary), that’ll satisfy our thirst to see the two trios and the two Ring of Honor legends clash in one fantastic explosion of awesomeness.

Meanwhile, (I’m going to be bold and say) Randy Orton wins the two belts at TLC. He cements his status as the (bastardized) “face” of the company and confirms such in his inevitable rematch with Cena at the Royal Rumble.

Daniel Bryan wins the Royal Rumble Match and challenges Randy for the belt(s) at Wrestlemania XXX. (Hopefully by then, they’ll have just retired the WHC belt.) At long last, Daniel wins the WWE Championship on the biggest show of the year, cementing his status not just as the current face of the company but as THE GUY; the person that casual and/or non-wrestling fans think of when they hear the letters WWE.

Now, if this all comes to pass…make no mistake: I don’t think this was always the creative team’s plan. I’ve watched this show long enough to know that the best moments are often products of pure happenstance, but my point is thus.┬áIt’s almost December. When’s the last time a year-end storyline really knocked your socks off or had any strong bearing on what was to come?

We’re all grousing right now about crappy theme shows (guilty; and there are still a few more to come, if I’m not mistaken), the side projects of WWE superstars (“Christmas Bounty” is airing as I write this. My TV is off.) and our general disappointments with the 2013 that was…but it’s all about to change.

RESET. (Somebody get J.J. on the horn.)

As always, I remind my readers that the night is darkest before the dawn…and 2014 is going to be a beautiful day.

Speaking of beautiful, the lovely and (for the most part) talented ladies of WWE have had a very busy week so far. Let’s see what they’ve been up to in…

DIVAS

Our own CB knows me well.

I was VERY excited about this past Sunday’s 14-Diva Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match; a match which thankfully didn’t disappoint. Sure, some of the pins happened way too quickly, but I think we can all give it credit for a lot of good, well-paced sequences showcasing (for the most part) the best of the division today.

The following night’s rematch?–Not so much. I’ll admit it’s a bit frustrating that the superior of the two clashes happened on pay-per-view, leaving the awkward encore for the larger audience to digest and take as a (misrepresentative) indication of what the women of WWE have to offer of late.

Regardless, I believe this calls for the second of this week’s bullet-pointed lists(!); an analysis of the participants, Diva-by-Diva:

  • TEAM NON-TOTAL DIVAS
    • SUMMER RAE – As ever, a delight; but it bothers me that they opted to go with a comedy spot of airheaded dancer antics (even worse when used as the finale of Monday’s rematch) instead of showing off the in-ring chops we’re well-aware she possesses.
    • AKSANA – Quickly eliminated in both matches. I think she has the potential to be something really entertaining, but perhaps a brief stay in NXT would do her some good. She’s been languishing since the saxophone-riddled days of seducing Teddy Long have come and gone.
    • ROSA MENDES – Another quick elimination. I often lament how casually her big-time debut as the Mickie James to Beth Phoenix’s Trish Stratus was cast aside back in 2008. It may have been derivative of a previous (albeit, amazing) storyline, but I think she would have flourished. (I fondly recall referring to her as “Psycho-Roucka” before she was given her stage name.) I commend WWE for supporting her during her recent issues, but a one-night stint as Miz’s anti-Summer and these two appearances aren’t cutting it.
    • ALICIA FOX – Maybe the most underrated Diva on the roster today. We can (rightly) snark about the creative team’s inability to decide if she’s a face or a heel all day, but there’s no snarking about the girl’s skills. She can go, as they say (which made her elimination on Monday all the more infuriating). She still needs a touch of mic work, because the word “undefined” still makes many of us cringe to this day; but other than that, she shouldn’t be discounted.
    • KAITLYN – If someone can give me a good (READ: not smart-mouthed) reason she’s been back-pedaled so much since her feud with AJ this past summer, I’d love to hear it. Obviously she can’t feud with her former on-screen bestie forever, but there’s no disputing that she’s one of the most magnetic faces–not just in this division–but the company as a whole. Watching her play victim to one of Sunday’s many rapid-fire pin sequences was heartbreaking.
    • TAMINA SNUKA – Creative needs to turn her on AJ and put her in a Divas Championship feud ASAP, and subsequently take my money. The lady is a powerhouse. Her time spent in the ring both nights was undoubtedly the highlight. I’ll finally concede that she may need to cool it on the Superfly Splash (or simply work on the landing), but otherwise she’s a tremendous monster Diva in the tradition of Victoria and Beth Phoenix. (My girlfriend refers to her as “[her] queen”. All hail!)
    • AJ LEE – [sigh] My spirit animal. She’s the face of the division for a reason, and that probably won’t change anytime soon. Her pre-match “pep talk” to her teammates on Sunday was another masterful performance. One only wishes she had some stronger retorts from her co-stars. As for her in-ring work: stellar. She’s beyond analysis at this point. She is the template, and as ever, I adore her.
  • TEAM TOTAL DIVAS
    • JOJO – The youngest and most inexperienced Diva. It warmed my heart to hear the Boston crowd chanting “We Want JoJo!”; and I’m happy to report that when they got their wish, the newest newbie didn’t disappoint. She may not have made a lot of offense, but through her sheer size and (let’s be honest) superhuman adorableness, she played the face in peril better than some veteran Superstars and was arguably the emotional core of both matches. Clearly the fans have already taken a shine to the 19-year-old with the frizzy hair, so I look forward to seeing what happens when she graduates from NXT.
    • EVA MARIE – …It pains me to say this…but she may have some value to this division; not for in-ring ability, to be sure…but my God, the heel heat she drew. I don’t know if the fans are simply as disgusted as I am with her conniving backstage ways, the way her confidence is wildly disproportionate to her abilities or if (and I know this isn’t the case) people are really still holding a grudge for having slapped Jerry Lawler on her Raw debut, but the bottom line is she makes the crowd react. In a division that is plagued with disinterest, this could have incalculable benefits. …I still don’t like her, though; on or off-screen.
    • CAMERON – Obviously being partnered with the superior Naomi has been beneficial for the wackier Funkadactyl, but I always find myself fearing for the safety of her opponents. Thankfully, she was kept to cooperative sequences with her partner during both matches; but there is potential there. I certainly won’t deny it.
    • NAOMI – Cameron’s (much) better half is shaping up to be one of the division’s best strikers. I’d love to see her break loose from the Funkadactyls and be the tough scrapper she’s clearly meant to be; like a modern-day Jacqueline. I hope she loses the booty bump, though. While she’s quite impressively endowed in the region, I’ll never believe it’s enough to get a pin.
    • NIKKI BELLA – Nikki’s been impressing left and right since returning from her injury. Her maneuvers are far more measured and adopting the Torture Rack as a signature move is a stroke of genius. Perhaps her fella’s commitment to the business is rubbing off.
    • BRIE BELLA – More and more, I find it fitting that she’s the lady in Daniel Bryan’s life; because her attitude since returning to the WWE is very reminiscent of The Beard. Yes, this is an entertainment production, but I like the look of athletic determination (if you will) that she’s projecting. When Brie’s in the ring, I truly believe she’s out to win and not just filling her weekly quota of bumps; a stark contrast to the Brie (and Nikki, for that matter) of years past. If there’s a superlative for Most Improved Diva, the future Mrs. Danielson is it.
    • NATALYA – What can I say?–She’s the glue that holds the division together, and I’m very excited that she’s being pushed as the next in line to challenge AJ. With luck, we’ll get some great bouts between the two; because putting the spotlight on the most technically proficient Diva (Nattie) and the most charismatic Diva (AJ) would raise the whole division to another level.

In general, I’m wildly optimistic about what 2014 will hold for my favorite female protagonists and I hope the higher points of these two matches got you all feeling that way too.

…and now that I’ve hopefully got you feeling pleasant, let’s journey over to this week’s special holiday edition of…

THE BONUS BALL

Following my trip down memory lane for last week’s “Wayback Championship Wrestling Federation Entertainment” edition of “The Bonus Ball”, I decided to continue my retrospective of the Survivor Series events that have taken place during my tenure as a wrestling fan.

2001’s edition was a throwback to one of my favorite periods in WWE history (the “invasion” of WCW and ECW) with some great matches, delightful memories and a particularly exquisite performance by Stephanie McMahon at the height of her “Billion Dollar Princess” persona. (Seriously, seek out the backstage segment which found Steph screeching in terror to Kurt Angle about the possibility of having to become a “regular person” should the WCW/ECW Alliance fold. Pure gold.)

I had a bit of trouble finding access to the 2002 edition which memorably featured the first Elimination Chamber match, so I moved on to 2003…and within minutes, I was lost.

2003 was probably my weakest year as a wrestling fan. Exorbitant amounts of homework and the recent drama of my first high school relationship had given me quite the case of insomnia, and as such I found myself taking long naps in the early evenings. Unfortunately, this often meant missing episodes of Smackdown on Thursday nights.

This was never clearer than when watching the Smackdown brand bouts of Survivor Series 2003, particularly the show’s opener: a Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match between Team Brock Lesnar (Brock, Big Show, Matt Morgan, Nathan Jones and A-Train) and Team Kurt Angle (Kurt, Chris Benoit, Hardcore Holly, Bradshaw and John Cena) and a WWE Tag Team Championship match between challengers Los Guerreros (Chavo and Eddie) and the Basham Brothers (with Shaniqua).

I found myself awash in names and gimmicks I didn’t remember, particularly the Bashams’ valet Shaniqua who I didn’t even know was a person who existed; nor did I know that JBL’s future security staff originated as an S&M-themed duo. Meanwhile, I’ve heard the name Nathan Jones bandied about over the years, but if you put him in a line-up, I’d never recognize the guy. Matt Morgan I know mostly from my brief attempt at watching Impact Wrestling last year (and his Direct Insurance ads).

However, the most startling thing was realizing that I may have completely missed the nascent days of John Cena’s Marky Mark-esque “Doctor of Thuganomics” persona. Sure, by the time my memory gets a bit clearer (around the spring of 2005), he was still rapping a promo here and there and his to-date only album had recently been released and (confession) would go on to be one of my post-graduation purchases that summer…but otherwise, this period in the career of WWE’s biggest star of today is a pretty solid blank to me.

“Again, Jeff…why did you tell us all of this?”

Well, dear reader, in preparation for this week’s special edition of “The Bonus Ball”, I decided I’d like to celebrate Thanksgiving with a look back at a classic moment from WWE’s storied relationship with the holiday.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find the hilarious Rock promo in which he grilled Michael Cole about his level of experience with “poontang pie”…but in its stead, I found something…else.

I must reiterate, I don’t remember this happening. In many ways, it’s probably for the best…but in the spirit of the season, I present you with this.

You’re welcome and/or I’m terribly sorry. Take your pick.

…and with that nontraditional take on “The Bonus Ball”, I call this week’s “Guys and Divas” to a close.

While you let this article and your various Thanksgiving dishes digest, a few homework assignments on which to nibble:

  • All the pieces seem to be in place for the year-closing TLC pay-per-view. Where do you think WWE’s top players (Cena, Orton, The Authority, Bryan, Punk, The Wyatts, The Shield) will stand when the year comes to a close? Where will they all merge onto the Road to Wrestlemania?–Posit your theories on 2013’s proverbial season-ender.
  • The Divas (save for a conspicuously absent Layla) took center stage two nights this week. Who impressed you? Who let you down (and try to be constructive)? Where do you see things heading for the women of WWE in 2014?–Gush, mourn and theorize away, friends!
  • WWE has been known for its share of memorable Thanksgiving moments. I harkened back to one of my favorites and presented you with a forgotten prayer from the future Mr. Nikki Bella. What are some of your favorite Turkey Day-themed shenanigans from Raws and Smackdowns past?–Gobble and gab about your favorite memories of how sports entertainment gave thanks.

As always, don’t miss my weekly Monday Night Raw live-tweet (@biscuitman18; #GuysAndDivas) and–in lieu of another self-promotional blurb–have a safe and healthy holiday, dear reader.

Until next week, I’m Jeff Heatherly saying “YOU RUINED THANKSGIVING!“. Later, all!

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