QUESTION OF THE DAY: Do you care about Big Show vs. John Cena? Why or why not?
Doctor's Orders: The Over the Limit Report (Preview, Review, and Aftermath)
By The Doc
May 26, 2012 - 11:10:57 AM
Preview I cannot believe I paid to see this
Review The Over the Limit Report
Aftermath Well, It’s the Big Show…
(Doc's note - This is a groggy-eyed, sitting a hospital waiting room chair column. My dad had major surgery. This isn't proofread)
There are scenarios in life that you can see coming a mile away once they’ve been hinted at, yet you still find yourself somewhat surprised when they actually happen. For instance, the Miami Heat lost Chris Bosh in the first game of their series against the Indiana Pacers. You knew that they would struggle. Bosh is underrated in importance to what the Heat like to do, offensively. Low and behold, I was still surprised at how poorly the Heat played in game 2 and 3 without him and, so to, seemed the rest of the sporting world. Another example could be seen when Tiger Woods was hung in sports media effigy a few years back. You knew right away that the sport of golf would suffer. Without Tiger there to drive ratings, the PGA was going to take a step back. Media members still seemed surprised when it happened; PGA officials thought golf could take the hit.
Two weeks ago, when Big Show got down on his knees and unceremoniously begged and cried for the sake of his on-air job, everyone knew that he was going to interfere in the John Cena vs. Johnny Ace match at Over the Limit. It was more or less a foregone conclusion that he would proceed to feud with John Cena, as that would be the logical step following costing the Golden Boy his match. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened, but damned if everyone (myself included) doesn’t seem just a little bit surprised by it. We were even given a chance to prepare for it, but the apathy has still set in.
I can think of about 800 possible directions that I’d find more intriguing than Cena vs. Big Show. That’s the bottom line, but while also not being a knock on either guy. I have been a huge fan of what Show has accomplished in the last eight months since his return from injury. He had one of the most underrated feuds of 2011 with Mark Henry, he went a long way toward getting over everyone’s favorite “YES!” man, and he showed two weeks ago in crying/begging that he has more range as a character than just about any other performer on the roster. John Cena, meanwhile, is having a career couple of months. The feud and subsequent match with The Rock were, in my opinion, excellent and will one day be fondly remembered by most fans once the penchant for being negative wears off. I have not been shy about my praise for his work in the Brock storyline, either, and the subsequent match at Extreme Rules was one of the most compelling matches that I’ve seen in 25 years as a fan. So, no, it’s not about the guys involved.
If I’ve learned anything from studying the WWE closely in the last ten years, it’s that they make decisions based on what’s best for business (or, at least, they certainly have that goal in mind). I do not think that Show vs. Cena, creatively, will be anything but entertaining – as it was last Monday. The problem is that I, like many others, will struggle to get invested in it. It’s not as if Show vs. Cena is a classic rivalry that has produced great matches off and on for the last 8.5 years. This is a rehash of something we saw three years ago that was “OK.” It did not do good business then and I fail to see how, three years later, it will produce different financial results. So, not even from the WWE’s perspective can I truly understand the motivation in turning Show again and putting him in this position when its creatively jading and fiscally inconsequential.
Think of how much benefit a young heel like Dolph Ziggler or Cody Rhodes could’ve gained from, say, “being fired” Saturday night and, thus, not being technically employed and, thus, subject to the “termination” stipulation should a current employee of WWE get involved in the Ace-Cena match. Dean Ambrose sounds like he had the chops to pull off being the “hired” gun. What if they’d simply held off on A-Train’s re-debut? New, creative direction drives entertainment products. That’s the type of gamble that doesn’t draw the initial reaction from people that Show did, but only because fans are more invested in Show because of years of his being a major character. A new heel being given that chance, though, opens a door for them to become characters in which fans have a vested interest. I want to see the WWE take more chances.
Again, from a quality standpoint, I’m actually thinking that Cena and Show might put on the best match that they’ve ever performed together at No Way Out, given how well each has done in the last several months. Show has proven in the last several years that he’ll make the most of opportunities to be featured at the top of the card. However, I’m unsure anyone will care enough to check it out. No Way Out will likely be sold to buyers on the merit of matches other than that one and I write that not with typical internet attitude but with factual buyrate data that has shown in the last few years to be stagnant when the WWE rehashes old, played out rivalries.
As I see Kane getting back into the main-event picture, as well, I’m also feeling strongly that the WWE needs to get a handle on guys overstaying their welcome. Both Kane and Show are to the point in their careers where we’ve seen them do so much that, even when they surprise us like Show did two weeks ago with his groveling, I personally have a hard time caring. It’s the way I’d feel about Triple H and Taker if they were still on TV 52 weeks a year, but Show and Kane are – just being honest – not on that level in terms of people paying to see what they do in the ring. I don’t know about merchandise and things of that nature, but I look at the numbers that are available to me and I do not see Kane or Show having much economic impact on the product right now. I’m happy to see them putting over young guys and getting the occasional step up to the top, but to consistently see either one of them in that spot makes me think that the WWE is missing out on a chance to see what a new guy never having been afforded the opportunity to prove that he can draw money could do if given the same amount of TV time.
Would it behoove the WWE to get a jump on what the NFL is being criticized for and start figuring out better retirement planning for their superstars? Perhaps a Legends contract to follow “X” amount of years of service or something of that sort? I would imagine that, while certainly Show and Kane and guys like them simply love the business and don’t want to stop doing what they love doing, part of the reason that they stick around is because they want to keep making good money. If there was an easier transition out of the wrestling ring to the next phase, would that entice the 40+ year olds who have been on TV for the better part of 10-15 years to step aside? The WWE, unfortunately, is starting to see that having no competition means that the same guys can be around for a really, really long time. Considering it’s a business predicated on staying fresh, having guys stick around for a really, really long time AND still get pushed to the top of the card ahead of guys who would be fresh is a really, really questionable business decision.
My wife and I watch “Grey’s Anatomy.” Last week, they wrote out two major characters. It couldn’t have been an easy decision to make, but it was necessary (in the long run) to ensure the show continues to be a ratings juggernaut. Shonda Rhimes (the writer) follows a simple formula – do the same thing over and over again with fresh faces and tweak it, here and there. That show has been on the air for almost ten years, but it’s never been more interesting. It simply incorporates medical drama with real life scenarios on repeat, but does so with new characters every so often. Sports follow the same formula, replacing medical drama with the competition and “real life” scenarios with rivalric subplots.
Big Show’s latest giant push, in summation, in not a bad thing. He’s doing really good work and this story with Cena will continue that trend. At the same time, though, it highlights several things that are flawed with the WWE’s current creative model. The WWE likes to give itself an “out” by saying that they’ve got 52 weeks of television to fill every year as an excuse for being repetitive and boring, but both the sports and the entertainment genres that they try to be follow formulas that work quite well. Fresh faces is the key to both drawing people in, keeping them hooked, and then drawing new people in and keeping them hooked. Big Show’s push is about as ratings grabbing as a Lakers vs. Toronto Raptors game in January. It’s as played out as the 155th consecutive day of playing Street Fighter at your friend’s house in third grade. It’s as creatively stimulating as being given a toothpick and a nightlight and being asked to create art. It’s just MEH. Who cares?
The WWE should never try to cater its product to me…or most of you. We’re clearly hooked. They need us, sure, but we’re the San Antonio market that watches Spurs games; the WWE is going to cater to New York, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Los Angeles, and other big markets with more people. I look at a decision like “Show turns heel,” though, and I wonder “Who does this cater to? How will this stimulate new business? How is this a good response to declining ratings? How does this capitalize on unique viewers from the 1.3 million Mania buy group or the 30,000 extra viewers from Extreme Rules?” I don’t really care, but I wish the WWE seemed like they did…
Well, it was a wild weekend. I had a Bachelor party to attend in Charleston, SC on Friday and Saturday, woke up early yesterday to make it back home for an hour before turning around and hopping back in the car to get to Raleigh for Over the Limit. The entire top section of the arena was draped off for those of you that care about such things. One other quick observation before the review – Raleigh is not a smark city, but there was a good mix out there last night. Punk vs. Bryan put some butts in those seats. I’d have hated to see what it would’ve looked like in the RBC (PNC) without that match.
Match 1: Christian returns to win the Battle Royal in 13-minutes (***) (I mentioned in a Tweet last week that Smackdown had become like watching minor league baseball with all the new, undeveloped characters. I meant that indifferently, but come to find out that, by doing so, a lot of the random nobodies typically seen in a Battle Royal of this variety actually had been on TV a bit more lately due to Smackdown’s efforts. Young and O’Neil, for instance, stood out, whereas three weeks ago no one would’ve cared. Christian’s return made me immediately think he would win and the drama building up to his victory was nicely done. I went to OTL with a friend that hadn’t been to a live event since 1997’s Halloween Havoc. He thought Christian was the star of the night. I wouldn’t go that far, but they made his return seem like a big deal)
Match 2: Trufi defeated Back to the Ziggler in 12-minutes (**3/4) (This was the first time that I’d seen Kofi wrestle at length since a house show in 2010. He got a really nice reaction from our crowd. If he gets that kind of reaction everywhere, then it should no longer matter that he cannot cut an interesting promo – he should be given a shot higher up the card in an RVD-type role. They need to challenge him to see what he can produce toward the top. Anyhow, this was a solid tag team match. Ziggler shined with his selling and Kofi shined with his aerial assaults. The finish was high quality, but the rest of the bout was fairly formulaic. Kofi is the master of the 2.5-3 star, 10-12 minute tag team match. I feel like I’ve seen this same match five times on PPV in the last 8 months)
Match 3: Layla defeated Beth Phoenix in 7-minutes (*3/4) (I applaud the effort from the ladies. I thought it was a little sloppy at times, but it might’ve looked better on TV than it did live. Layla has clearly been working hard and reminds me of Candice Michelle in how she seems to have developed a passion for the in-ring performance and wants to take the next step up as more than just a randomly gorgeous woman in WWE. Hopefully her knee injury wasn’t a sign of the consistent injury bug. She’s got a lot of potential. Phoenix continues to be the Diva’s divisions great constant)
Match 4: Sheamus retained the World title against Jericho, Orton, and Del Rio in 16-minutes (***1/2) (Fatal Fourways will always struggle to be as great as their one-on-one counterparts just because the story told between two men is much more engaging than one told by four. That’s not to say that 4-ways cannot be great, but they’re at a fundamental disadvantage. Last night’s 4-way made its case for match of the night, as I predicted it might. All four of them were hungry to steal the show and add the much-needed second strong match to compliment the other title match, ensuring that the fans that care about workrate got what they paid for. There was legitimate drama during the several sequences of near falls to close this match. I’ll be curious to see where they take it from here. Orton vs. Sheamus seems to be on the horizon. I wonder what will happen with this Sheamus push as World Champ. He’s not getting the kind of reaction you’d expect of a World Champ. The most over guy in this match by far was Randy Orton. He ranked only behind Punk and Cena in the face reaction he received. Sheamus got a somewhat mixed reaction. I want to see the Celtic Warrior succeed, but they need to put him in a situation that will allow him to blossom as a babyface character. We know he can get it done in the ring, as proven in the past and in the last two PPVs. Something is missing, though, and they ought to really try to find it. I think the key is to put him against a truly dislikeable heel)
Match 5: Brodus Clay defeated Miz in 4-minutes (*) (Everyone needs to cool their jets about Miz and his lack of momentum right now. I heard that last night and I read it every day on the net. Miz will be fine. He continues to get that live mic; that’s a good thing. Don’t get concerned until they take that away from him. At this point, he’s following a Chris Jericho main-event path in that he was given the world, did pretty well with it but didn’t set it on fire, and then drifted backward. He’s very talented, though, and they’ve invested a lot in him – he’ll be back. Brodus is an amusing live act)
Match 6: Christian defeated Cody Rhodes to win the IC title (**) (I hope this is a sign that they’re going to push Cody to the next level or, at least, begin putting him in position for the opportunity. However, last night was not about Cody; it was about Christian. I can think of one or two ways that might’ve worked as well at getting Christian back into the fold and turning him face in one fell swoop, but I cannot claim to have a better idea. That whole thing worked for me. The crowd won’t take long to get behind Christian again. I hope we get a feature length match on SD or PPV between these two, though. I think it would do Rhodes a lot of good to work with someone of Christian’s caliber. It would be a different type of feud for Rhodes to put him opposite a guy who can back it up in the ring, but who brings a wittier, more sarcastic type verbal communicator to the table)
Match 7: CM Punk retained the WWE title against Daniel Bryan in 24-minutes (****1/4) (You won’t see many WWE matches like this. I feel privileged to have seen this live. It definitely made the trip worth it. The match itself was excellent and unique. Much like Cena vs. Lesnar gave us something we don’t ever seen in the WWE a few weeks ago, Bryan and Punk gave us a wrestling match that was a nice blend of old school and new school, executed so smoothly that it made you ponder the potential for the more story-driven rematches. What I found to be most entertaining, though, was the crowd’s reaction. I hope it came off on TV as good as it did live. This was the most engaging match of the night, with 30% cheering for Bryan and the other 70% rooting for Punk when the people were dueling. When not trading strikes or holds, the crowd seemed to thoroughly enjoy both guys. Bryan got a lot of sustained babyface pops; nothing on the level of Punk’s, but still impressive given the heelish nature of his character. I hope someone in the back was paying attention to that crowd. They treated it like a huge deal even if the WWE decided not to – in the build-up, anyway. Punk has a rare streak of 4-star level matches going since December’s TLC. I suspect that, with the finish we saw, the trend will continue – with Bryan, again – on an upcoming PPV. This was not MOTY level, but it may wind up being just as memorable to those that got to see it live. Both of them proved their worth last night)
Match 8: Ryback squash (1/2 *) (I have no problem with Ryback squashing someone on PPV. I just hope it’s going somewhere down the line and that all these squashes were for nothing)
Match 9: Johnny Ace defeated John Cena in 17-minutes (**) (This is a difficult match to rate because it’s not about competition or titles. The hook for this was to see Cena whoop Ace’s rear-end all over the PNC. We got to see that. Cena did a nice job of stretching this out to keep it entertaining. I, for one, managed to enjoy what Cena produced. The ending was as predictable as any turn in recent memory, but it worked fine given the circumstances. People that wanted to see Ace get dominated certainly got what they paid for. Show’s explanation of his actions will be the key. We’ve seen him turned so often over the years that he’s like the step up from Kane. We’ve also seen him feud with Cena numerous times. I really don’t care about this storyline, to be honest. Last night was fun for what it was, but nothing I’m itching to see Monday Night Raw for)
All in all, I had a good time. I was in a very relaxed frame of mind and I just soaked in the live crowd reactions. There were two very good or better matches and some other solid work throughout the night, so it was worth checking out
In case you haven’t been paying attention, the WWE really doesn’t care about their product in the month of May. Judgment Day and Over the Limit – even In Your House before them - have been some of the WWE’s most pathetic excuses for “super” cards in the last baker’s dozen years. I know this first hand, having been to three of them live, as of Sunday when I attend the PPV in Raleigh. I’ve often said about Judgment Days 2003 and 2007, respectively, that I “found a way to have a good time.” Nobody should say that about an event they spent money to see in person, but that has been and will be the case this Sunday. Johnny Ace vs. John Cena brings back my memories of Great Khali and Big Daddy Washed Up (Kevin Nash) in main-events at my last two May PPV experiences.
Feelings of the WWE following me around the country putting their worst foot forward aside, the WWE will be having a show that they want you to pay for this Sunday, so let’s take a look at it. Through this column, I shall try to get you hyped like I normally would, but I’m going to be more selfish in also trying to get myself hyped. Be prepared for a mixed bag of emotions, folks…
I’m guessing many of you won’t bother ordering and, apparently, the WWE doesn’t care. If May has taught us anything about the WWE, it’s that they mentally check out for the month of May in what I’m guessing is their way of taking a vacation and reaping the benefits of the Wrestlemania nest egg created a month prior. Hey, I get that. I’m a business owner. We all need our breaks. Every sport or entertainment company with a really long season to fill has times like these. We’re catching up on Smallville at my house right now and there are random episodes where nothing gets furthered. I’m watching basketball at a lot these days and virtually the entire NBA regular season lacks any truly compelling stories to follow. Don’t get me started on the 160403434 game Major League Baseball season…
So, the WWE really is no different than anybody else. Unfortunately, the WWE’s worst period of the year, historically, follows their best period of the year. Back in ’03, they had Goldberg come back in April, so we got excited to see him in May. Nope. Wasn’t even there. This year, Brock Lesnar came back in April, so we got excited to see him at Over the Limit. Nope. Not in a match. Following Wrestlemania season rematches plus whatever post-Mania hook the WWE creates to try to get the unique viewers to stick around a bit longer, dropping down in quality so drastically is tough to stomach.
The moment Johnny Ace vs. John Cena was announced, I wanted to sell my tickets. You just cannot go from Brock vs. Cena to Ace vs. Cena and be excited about it. At least, I can’t. There’s nothing about Cena vs. Ace that makes me happy that I’m paying for and traveling to see it. I tried to sell my tickets for the last three weeks and it’s only because I’ve not been able to that I will be attending. I’m just not a fan of PPV matches between authority figures (non-wrestlers) and wrestlers. I never enjoyed seeing Vince or Bischoff or any other such CEO or GM get in the ring. The fact that Ace doesn’t do much for me is, thus, only half the problem.
Now, if I were the type capable of getting interest in the Ace character and his match with Cena, then what happened on Raw might very well have hooked me. Using the Big Show’s range of emotions during the firing segment was smart. Show did a great job of making what was happening seem legit. I know it won’t resonate with everybody, but it will hit with a good number of people. Proof of that was seen later in the night when Cena had his confrontation with Ace. By that point and as a direct result of Show’s efforts, the crowd was ready to tear Ace’s head off and jump on the Cena bandwagon. It was a golden piece of wrestle crap, but it worked.
To the WWE’s credit – and to Ace’s, as well – they (and he) have done a good job of making people hate the current GM of both shows. He’s a douche, plain and simple. The guy has few redeeming qualities. He’s neither interesting nor entertaining and has limited charisma, but he can cut an adequate heel promo in an annoying way that makes you not quite want to change the channel so you can see someone like CM Punk or Cena own him. What makes his character work is might be that the guys antagonizing him really don’t care for the real life Johnny Ace. All of the work done in the last several months of him being featured prominently on TV has come to a head in the last few weeks and culminated with what happened to Show.
If Ace emasculating Show didn’t make you want to see Cena beat the crap out of him, especially now that it could be the night that his character gets fired, then I’m not sure what will. Of course, this is the logical set up for a swerve. Someone is going to debut or come back or interfere or something is going to happen to prevent Ace from losing. At least, that’s what I think will happen. If Cena does win and Ace gets axed, then I’m fine with that. Lots of folks don’t like Triple H taking up air time, but I’ve got no beef with the Game. I’ve wanted to see Lesnar vs. Trips for a decade and I may finally get it. Put Trips back into the GM/authority role and let’s get Lesnar back in the mix ASAP.
Obviously, the WWE doesn’t think it needs to hype the WWE Championship match between Punk and Daniel Bryan. You know what? I don’t guess that they need to. I’ve chatted with some of the most cynical fans on the net in the last few days and they’re ordering despite the complete lack of hype for the match. They just want to see a WWE main-event featuring the IWC heroes. In another part of my wrestling fandom, I might’ve been in that boat. I expect, though, the WWE to give me a reason to watch what they put on PPV and just saying, “Hey, it’s Punk vs. Bryan” isn’t enough for me. Well, it wouldn’t be enough for me had I not already decided to go since it’s in Raleigh…
I cannot deny my interest in Bryan vs. Punk. It’s certainly destined to be an excellent match IF IT GETS THE TIME IT NEEDS. One would assume that they will get plenty of time considering how they got a ton of time for their matches last month at Extreme Rules on the same card as a Lesnar-Cena match. Surely, it will be match of the year material if all goes well. I just question the crowd for it. North Carolina is not a smarky state. We’ve got a lot of young fans. I went to a house show two years ago and did a “WOOO”…nobody responded; not one person! Without a legit reason to get hyped based on what they saw on TV, I question the crowd reaction to Punk vs. Bryan. That’s just nitpicking because I’m in such a foul mood over getting Ace vs. Cena when Chi-town got Lesnar-Cena.
Honestly, the silver lining for this PPV might end up being the Fatal Fourway. I think that, out of all the matches, the World Heavyweight title match has the most interesting and engaging build-up. That’s the kind of story that I enjoy. Personal conflict that is simple and to the point. Sheamus is the champ and he got hit with an RKO. Orton wants the title and he got whacked with a Brogue Kick. Jericho is an ass and he wants whatever he can get. Del Rio feels it’s his destiny to be the champion. The tag matches and scenarios that followed have all been well handled. Plus, I’m a mark for Fatal Fourway. I think it is a gimmick that hasn’t been overblown in the main-event like the triple threat, so it still carries with it a certain amount of novelty. I think that this match has the chance to be MOTN if Punk-Bryan fails to get the time to be special. The thing about Bryan-Punk is that I won’t be satisfied with them getting the 17-minutes that Orton-Christian got last year with a weaker card in play. If that’s all they get, that’ll leave the door open for the Fourway to slide in and steal the show for me.
I’m hoping this will be the catalyst for a Jericho-Orton and Del Rio-Sheamus singles split. I think Sheamus retains the title by pinning Jericho after Orton hits the RKO. Del Rio stays out of the decision, Orton gets a reason to chase the title, and the Jericho has a reason to want to destroy Orton (as if he didn’t have one already from 2010).
Over the Limit shouldn’t be a bad show. There’s some quality stuff on this card. The 4-way, the WWE title match, and the tag title match should be more than sufficient to carry the in-ring load and we can only hope that the Ace-Cena match can find a way to deliver. Ace was never a bad wrestler, but he looks stiff in everything he does, so I have my doubts as to whether there’s any gas left in that tank. I suspect the show will open with the tag belts and we’ll get a match on-par but slightly worse than the Vengeance tag match from October ’11 that I thought was the best tag match of last year. I think we’ll get some random matches like we did at Extreme Rules and the Rumble. Brodus might show up and maybe Ryback, too. I’m going to do that man a favor and start a “RY-BACK” chant that might actually help him. I don’t see why fans have to chant “Goldberg” at him in a condescending way that makes it seem like it’s a bad thing that he’s getting pushed the way that he is.
Layla vs. Beth should be a solid women’s match before the Fatal Fourway gets the nod for the first of the 3 main-events. I figure Punk-Bryan goes on second to last and we end up with Cena-Ace in the last spot. I’m quietly hoping Punk-Bryan gets the main-event, but there’s been no booking to suggest that Cena will get bumped from closing the show.
To discuss OTL in the meantime, hit me up on Twitter (@TheDocLOP) or Facebook (TheDocLOP) or email me