Penny Candy; Examining the State of Modern Wrestling

First off, apologies for the delay again for Penny Candy this week. I’ve been fighting a tummy flu, plus sorting out what I’ll be doing over on IP’s Comic Nexus. Also apologies for no Allergic To Alcohol TNA Recap yesterday, but Primewire, at last check, STILL doesn’t have any links for Friday’s episode, so I have nothing to recap.

Another reason I’ve delayed on Penny Candy this week is because, again, I’ve been struggling to think of anything original to say about current WWE Booking that hasn’t already been said a dozen times already in other columns. Raw was ridiculously weak this past Monday, to the point I repeatedly fell asleep and missed chunks of it. Smackdown was better but Smackdown usually is. NXT put on another stellar special event/Quasi-PPV show, though not QUITE as good as R-Evolution, but that’s like chastising a chocolate bar for not being fresh a mere hour after you opened the wrapper. It’s still nummy nummy chocolate. Overall the farm league is still drastically outperforming the main roster shows.

Outside WWE, unless they did something to seriously blow their momentum Friday, TNA has been steadily and noticably improving since it’s move to Destination America. I can’t find any info on who is actually booking the shows now, but I’m tentatively willing to say TNA is finally bouncing back. They still have problems of course, but the problems versus the payoffs are reversing scale from the abysmal programming we’ve suffered through from TNA over the past 6 years. They’re slowly phasing out the bad angles the fans don’t like, devoting more time to what works, and experimenting with creating their own unique footprint again.

Then we have Lucha Underground, which I’m still having trouble getting into. The in-ring action is generally pretty damned good, with only a few mistakes showing through on tv, but the Spanish Soap Opera style they use for storyline progression and character development just kinda completely kills my ability to suspend my disbelief. The difference in mood, feel and tone between the fast-paced in-ring action and the slow overdramatic backstage segments make me feel like I’m switching between a wrestling show and Telemundo, and it’s jarring. BUT, they have lured in a lot of new fan interest by signing recently crowned AAA champion and Future Endeavoured former WWE star Alberto Del Rio El Patron, who I must admit gave a carefully worded (to avoid lawsuits obviously) yet still blistering promo about the racist politics that held him down and drove him to quit WWE.

That just leaves all the Indy feds without TV deals. Unless Ring of Honor has one. If they do it doesn’t extend to Canada nor does it show up on Primewire for me to watch online. But the Indies do seem to be puttering along well as far as I know. And the recent events on NXT between Kevin Owens (formerly Steen), and Sami Zayn, (formerly our beloved El Generico), are proving that WWE needs indie wrestlers. And Baron Corben is already getting stale and old and is showing that WWE’s plan to start phasing out Indy hires and focus on cultivating truly homegrown talent is premature.

This is after all, the Internet Age, and the tiny subculture of tape-trading hardcore fans has boomed to a serious chunk of the target audience. Part of WWE’s problem is that Vince has always had issues with overcoming his own ego and letting anyone he didn’t build from the ground up succeed, with very rare exceptions like Steve Austin and Mick Foley. He has generally always preferred to build, if not from scratch talent like John Cena and the Rock, who have NEVER worked the Indies, starting their careers in various WWE Farm promotions that existed before NXT became their de facto breeding ground, then at least guys who mght have been well known but never really got super huge over or had great successes elsewhere, like Shawn Micheals or the Undertaker or Triple H.

It is very very rare that Vince allows anyone who was actually a bona-fide popular successful star outside of WWE get to the top of the mountain, unless, like CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, they force his hand by making the audience utterly demand them. If the rumours I’ve heard about TNA Grown stars being on a “No Hire Ever” list are true, that would be why. Even at TNA’s worst, fans still tuned in to see AJ Styles and Samoa Joe. We as fans know both of those men still have enough years left in them to have a successful WWE run, and they have an established fanbase that would definitely follow them to the product. In a logical business mind, that’s a no-brainer. Next time their contracts are up, pursue them vigorously, get them in WWE.

But we all know Vince has never run wrestling like a smart businessman. He runs it based on his own whims and ego.

And that’s kind of the crux of what we have now, in the Roman Reigns/Daniel Bryan situation. A pre-established Indy star with a huge following VS a homegrown pet project Vince wants to cultivate and push and wants us to like. And once again Vince’s ego ended up at odds with his audience and, just like last year, he was forced to call an audible. We have one guy who kicked and clawed his way to the top of the card against all odds who represents everything Vince has traditionally looked down upon, being paired with a guy coasting to the top because he has no Indy Baggage and fits Vince’s usual preferred criteria for a true superstar.

And that’s why we’re likely going to have a repeat of last year.

Vince simply couldn’t bring himself to take one of his homegrown guys out of last year’s Mania Main Event, so it became a Triple Threat despite his usual preference that Mania mains be 1 on 1 matches. That’s why the odds are good that shenanigans will go down at Fastlane leading to another Triple Threat between Reigns, Lesnar and Bryan. The audience made it clear they wanted Bryan, but Vince can’t accept they DON’T want Reigns in that spot. So he’ll book Fastlane to allow a Triple and keep Reigns in the match. He’ll be JUST smart enough to let Bryan win at Mania so as to not ruin the event, but his ego will show it’s face on Raw when Bryan will lose the belt somehow, likely to a Rollins Cash-in.

Because Vince just doesn’t like to be wrong.

We now return you to accidentally picturing your parents naked because your mom said “birthday suit” and spending the rest of the night crying into some ice cream.

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