Creative Control: Future Endeavors (WWE Network, Ryback, Curtis Axel, Zack Ryder, Evan Bourne, R-Truth, The Miz)

Columns, Top Story

I love how life interferes with the plans of women and wombats.  Anyways, I missed my column two weeks ago due to the random onset of hip pain that made focus extremely difficult.  And I do mean random.  I had worked out in the morning and was fine.  My spouse and I even walked a couple of miles in the middle of the day and there were no issues.  However, while I spent the afternoon sitting on the couch watching football, the pain came on with a vengeance.  My excuse for missing the deadline last week is that my computer decided to up and die Thursday night and the repair shop did not give the terminal diagnosis until Saturday.  This week’s column was composed over the past week during my lunch breaks. 

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As a note: This article was submitted on Friday afternoon to make sure it was available for Monday morning.  Therefore, I am writing blind as to what occurred at the Royal Rumble.

Second Thoughts:

When last I spoke, I had laid out two potential routes to run with Daniel Bryan’s recent (at the time) alignment with the Wyatt Family.  One path was a short-term deception by Bryan, with the other being a longer, genuine alliance.  Both storylines were well received, with a slight preference for the genuine alliance that culminated with Bryan facing the Undertaker at Wrestlemania.  We have seen how it has played out.  My deception storyline actually waited until the Royal Rumble for Bryan to turn on the Wyatts.  In the plan, Bryan wins the Rumble and has a quality feud and match with Wyatt at Elimination Chamber before moving on to his Wrestlemania program.  I feel as the WWE actually let the story play out, it was too rushed.  Bryan was part of the Wyatt Family for all of 2 weeks.  I think the drama of him turning on Wyatt in the Rumble match itself would have created just as big a reaction as the one they got following the cage match.  It would have led to an equally big reaction at the end of the show with Bryan’s victory.

Someone suggested that in the long-term storyline that another actual Wyatt member could be added (I had gone with an army of bemasked, nameless members to avoid an NWO oversaturation).  The commenter suggested the female make-up artist who attacks a Diva be an NXT call-up to be give the Wyatt’s a presence in the women’s division.  I like this idea as it opens up a nice storyline for Brie Bella having a feud with the Family in an effort to regain her lost fiancé.  If I had to pick one of the NXT women, I would go with Bayley.  Her superfan gimmick could be corrupted into an easily swayed follower.

We Wish You The Best…

The week that my last column was posted saw the announcement of the WWE Network.  The promise of the new all-streaming network has set the wrestling community a buzz.  A $120 subscription guaranteeing a year’s worth of pay-per-views is a great value.  This is on top of the vast catalogue of vintage/classic wrestling spanning the past forty years or so.  Want to relive the “Rock and Wrestling” days of your Saturday morning childhood? You got it.  Getting together with your college buddies for a reunion?  Why not stick on an Attitude Era set of shows.  ECW, WCW, NWA, Deep South; there is literally something for every type and generation of wrestling fan.  A person could spend their entire viewing time watching the WWE Network and never be at a loss for something new and different.

 The channel is also promising a string of original programs.  The ones with the most notoriety are NXT and the long awaited “Legends House” where the WWE takes former stars and puts them in a Real World/Surreal Life format. 

 It was contemplating ideas for other original programs that this week’s column took root.  My first idea was something I called “Pitch or Toss.”  It was basically a WWE version of “Shark Tank” where each week, the WWE invites 3-4 internet columnists to stand before Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, Triple H, and a current writer or road agent to sell them on a potential feud or storyline.  The contestants must endure a stream of questions and critiques from the panel and justify their position as entertaining, viable, and productive to the business.  Each episode results in one of the “pitchers” selected to advance to a future show to compete against other individual winners while the others are “tossed.”  The ultimate prize is a “contract” as a writer for the company (subject to as many restrictions as any Tough Enough winner).  The idea of watching the likes Scott Keith, Swayze, or Blair Douglas unleashing their thoughts and opinions within 10 feet of McMahon and Levesque and seeing who snaps first and goes for aggravated assault entertains me.

While “Pitch and Toss” has a limited novel appeal, I wanted to come up with something that featured actual wrestlers.  I wanted something that highlighted talent and gave people a chance to shine.  At the same time, I also felt there needed to be some way that underachievers paid a price.  Then, while reading Grantland’s Reality Television Fantasy League column, it came to me: “Future Endeavors.”

One part “Tough Enough” combined with one part MTV’s “The Challenge,” and a dash of classic “Survivor,” “Future Endeavors” is a reality competition show that takes a collection of about 14 of the WWE’s mid card, low card, and glorified jobbers and puts them against one another.  The prize, a guaranteed push and elevated position on the roster.  As for the losers, a guaranteed pink slip and a wish of the best of luck on their future endeavors. 

The first episode would involve each competitor ordered to the training facility in Florida.  No one knows the exact reason for the call, but figure it must be to either do an episode of NXT or teach at the center.  They are simply told the cameras following them appearing at the facility is to shoot footage for a new documentary/program.  The competitors are put together and the host of the show, along with Triple H and/or Vince McMahon explains the real reason they are there.

The competitors are placed into teams and introduced to their accommodations at the training facility.  They are still expected to be on the road and will be forced to travel and room together for the duration of the show.  Each week of competition starts at a taping of Smackdown, followed by the house shows on the schedule for that week.  When not on the road, they are at the training facility, practicing ring work and promos.  The teams compete against each other in challenges with the typical immunity up for grabs.  Each Sunday, there is a vote (immunity winners excluded).  The top two vote getters then are placed in an elimination challenge.  Each competitor receives a partner and a match for Raw.  The competitors are responsible for laying out and directing the match.  They will each also have a brief promo spot before the match.  After Raw, the competitors face the elimination panel, which will consist of McMahon, Triple H, another WWE executive, and a road agent.   They will critique the matches, the promos, and review a random sample of fans interviewed on hidden camera about their thoughts on the matches and wrestlers.  The winner stays in the competition; the loser packs his bags and is future endeavored. 

I know there are parallels to TNA’s Gut Check segment in this, but where that one blurred the lines of kayfabe versus industry, this is a flat out pulling back the curtain.  In addition, there is the added reality television drama of playing off existing relationships within the company and having the 24/7 cameras rolling watching the wrestlers interacting off duty as well as in competition.  There is the tension of other reality competitions by having the voting aspect as they play off one another.  Plus, this has some of the highest stakes out there for any such show (a person’s job).  I also tried to incorporate a variety of factors to consider in judgment; promo work, in-ring ability, and entertainment value to the audience.  Imagine while the competitor is standing before the judgment panel watches several fans admit that during the match they went off to use the bathroom or the food stand because they had no interest.  That would surely work against them.

Now the question comes, who would be the first cast of Future Endeavors?  Here is my initial line-up.

Evan Bourne:  I do not think he has been on television in over a year.  They still list him on their roster page on the web site.  Time for him to step up or be sent packing.

Ezekiel Jackson: In the same boat as Bourne in that he has not been on television in an age, but is still receiving a paycheck.  This show allows the competitors to have some exposure and offer ideas to creative on how to use them.

Alex Riley: He premiered on NXT in 2010/2011.  He has been a fixture on the current NXT since it premiered.  If he has not shown any improvement, it is time for them to cut ties with him.

Curt Hawkins: Another guy who has just been sitting around the NXT roster doing nothing for an ice age.  Ever since they split up the Edgeheads, Hawkins has played Marty Jannety to Zack Ryder’s Sean Michaels.  Which when you think about how well that’s gone for Ryder, that’s just bad.

Zack Ryder: It is last chance time for Long Island Iced Z.  Time to see if his self-promotion can be sustained with support of the WWE, or if he was just an internet meme that is expired. 

The Miz: Yes, he is a former WWE Champion.  And yes he was made fourth wheel during the Rock/Cena feud in 2012.  However, it was clear the Miz struggled to handle the main event spotlight and pressure and now is just floundering back between undefined heel and face, with nothing sticking.  He thrived in the environment of reality television once, maybe this could be what he needs to improve as a performer.

Ryback: The man almost injured CM Punk during their 2013 feud.  He gave Dolph Ziggler his second concussion in nine months.  There was once or twice he looked like he injured the jobbers they gave him for his initial push.  Outside of a condescending Goldberg chant, he inspires nothing from a crowd.  If he cannot learn to be safe in the ring and find a second dimension to his character, it is time for him to find another line of work.

Curtis Axel: He failed as Michael McGillcutty, trying to be his own man.  He has floundered when trying to ride the legacy of his father and grandfather.  Not even Paul Heyman or an Intercontinental Title run could get people to care about him.  He’s on his third strike for opportunities.

The Great Khali: There needs to be an obvious first week elimination.  My wife always like to say that her 4’10 self could beat Khali in under a minute.  Step 1: dropkick to his eggshell knees.  Step 2: cover for pin. 

Justin Gabriel: First season of NXT and like most of them, has gone nowhere.  He had a couple of stutter-step, half-assed, mid card pushes, but nothing has come of it.  Is he just used on the international circuit?  Time to see if he can prove himself if given an opportunity.

JTG: Having taken away the incredibly racist gimmick of Cryme Tyme, I have no recollection of anything he has done.  I was surprised to see him listed still on the roster when I did my first column. 

R-Truth: Another guy who was given a minor push once, but has floundered back and forth between heel and face with no clear delineation.  He is a veteran and this is his last shot to come up with something to show his experience is worth keeping him around. 

Tensai:  He was promoted heavily as this unstoppable beast who broke all kinds of boundaries in Japanese wrestling.  Problem was that everyone remembered him as Albert.  His alliance with Brodus Clay has dissolved leaving him as just another generic big man given that Xavier Wood has run off with the Funkadactyls.  He has been doing commentary over at NXT for the last few weeks, but I have not heard any rave reviews about his skills. 

Yoshi Tatsu: Another one I am surprised is still on the roster and has not been seen outside of NXT in some time. 

There it is ladies and gentlemen, my pitch for “Future Endeavors.”  I am curious to see names people would pitch as possible candidates for the show.  I am sure more than one person feels John Cena or Randy Orton should be on this list.

One last thing before I go; this pitch is mostly tongue-in-cheek and “for entertainment purposes only.”  As I made clear in my first column, I think the wrestling industry needs to make some changes and place more emphasis on treating the performers as real people.  The idea of an actual show where wrestlers are legitimately competing for their job goes against that.  From a standpoint of “good television” though, it does have some appeal.


Until next time, I relinquish creative control.