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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: February 28-March 2, 2017 - Two Annoying Things In Wrestling, Randy Orton's Wonderfully Weird Turn, & The Importance Of The HHH Match For Seth Rollins
By The Doc
Mar 2, 2017 - 6:09:12 PM

”The Doc” Chad Matthews has been a featured writer for LOP since 2004. Initially offering detailed recaps and reviews for WWE's top programs, he transitioned to writing columns in 2010. In addition to his discussion-provoking current event pieces, he has written many acclaimed series about WrestleMania, as well as a popular short story chronicle. The Doc has also penned a book, The WrestleMania Era: The Book of Sports Entertainment, published in 2013. It has been called “the best wrestling book I have ever read” and holds a 5-star rating on Amazon, where it peaked at #3 on the wrestling charts.

”The Doc” Chad Matthews has been a featured writer for LOP since 2004. Initially offering detailed recaps and reviews for WWE's top programs, he transitioned to writing columns in 2010. In addition to his discussion-provoking current event pieces, he has written many acclaimed series about WrestleMania, as well as a popular short story chronicle. The Doc has also penned a book, The WrestleMania Era: The Book of Sports Entertainment, published in 2013. It has been called “the best wrestling book I have ever read” and holds a 5-star rating on Amazon, where it peaked at #3 on the wrestling charts.

Annoying Things In Wrestling

Key Developments For Orton-Wyatt, Shane-AJ, and Cena/Nikki-Miz/Maryse

Can The HHH Match Get Rollins Over?

"Hey, Booger Eaters, Stop Chanting For CM Punk!"

QUESTION OF THE DAY: What is the one thing in wrestling that annoys you more than any other?

Last week on LOP Radio’s longest running podcast, The Right Side of the Pond, the gentlemen from the UK aired some of their grievances about wrestling and have inspired me to do the same today in column form. Please accept what you are about to read in the tone with which it was written: stern but jovial. So, in the words of the great Peter Griffin, “You know what really grinds my gears?”

”CM Punk” And Other Stupid Crowd Chants

This goes out to all the booger eaters who give diehard wrestling fans a bad name by chanting dim-witted stuff irrelevant to the product at hand while hiding behind the guise of having paid their money and therefore being able to say or do whatever they please. That follows the same logic that Tony Schiavone used at Summerslam ’89 when he tried to defend the use of a steel chair by saying it was OK to use it beyond the confines of the squared circle. To quote Jesse Ventura’s retort, “What are you gonna tell me, Schiavone, you can shoot somebody outside the ring?” You paid your money. So what? As did the rest of the people in attendance who are actually there to see the WWE product. Have some common courtesy for not just your fellow wrestling fans, but for the wrestlers themselves that you spent your money to see.

Chanting “CM Punk” has earned its healthy dose of jeers from other attendees and it should be made legal to kick anyone who does so in the mid-section roughly six inches below the navel. It’s appropriate to say that I want to see such morons emasculated, chopped down off their high horse. The arrogance of the mindset that you can just say whatever you want, as if decency and respect are superseded by freedom of speech and dollars spent. It’s like going to a basketball game between Carolina and Duke and chanting for Wake Forest…just, why? You think it’s clever? There’s nothing remotely clever about it. Punk has been gone from WWE for three friekin’ years. You think it makes a statement? Nice statement, Jack, you spent a bunch of money to be a distraction, the equivalent of the jerk who won’t stop incessantly whistling or holding his sign up so that the people behind him can’t see; you deserve the dunce cap.

Last year at Summerslam, new levels of derp were reached when very vocal chants about the Universal Title design, such as “That belt sucks,” rang out for nearly half the run-time of an otherwise very good match between Finn Balor and Seth Rollins. Those same people, and their supporters, then launched into tirades that would have made my four year old daughter proud when Rollins and others called them out for being wastes of space (my words, not theirs).

At the 2013 Hall of Fame ceremony, a couple of d-bags behind me were chanting “We Want Puppies” at Trish Stratus during her very well done speech; they snickered the entire time, like stoned high school kids watching South Park, and generally ruined it for those of us nearby who were there to celebrate history. The same guys sat near us the following night at WrestleMania and tried to start chants for “Tyler Black and Jon Moxley” (Rollins and Dean Ambrose on the indies). Dur hur, Beavis and Butthead, how freakin’ cute; predictably, those chants didn’t go beyond the two of them. Fans like that are partially to blame for most of the world believing that wrestling fans are, generally speaking, total idiots.

If Goldberg Wins The Title, I Swear….

Nobody likes to see a dead horse beaten, but I want to take this one last opportunity before Fast Lane to state how ridiculous it will be for Bill Goldberg, a 50 year old who fell down kicking someone in the stomach, to become the Universal Champion this Sunday at the expense of Kevin Owens. “But Doc, the ratings…” You mean the ones that could go up by a full Nielsen point and not earn WWE an extra dime because they’re locked into a TV contract? The ones that have already gone down now that the nostalgia has worn off and that prove Goldberg to be wrestling’s latest example of the Law of Depreciating Returns? Those ratings?

“But Doc, the Network subscriptions…” You mean the ones that went down during Goldberg’s return period? WWE Network lost roughly the same number of subscriptions from the third to fourth quarter in 2016 as they did from the third to the fourth quarter in 2015 too.

“Attendance for Survivor Series?” Sorry, try again. The venue was sold out already by the time his match with Brock Lesnar was set.

There is no significant, tangible evidence that Goldberg has done anything for WWE business since returning beyond the natural media reaction to his destroying Lesnar in 86 seconds, 90% or more of which likely would have come no matter who was booked to do that to Brock. So, while Goldberg vs. Lesnar makes perfect sense as an attraction match to service past viewers of the casual persuasion, what in the world would compel WWE to make that the match for the Raw Championship? That it gets a reaction? Owens and Chris Jericho, especially now that Goldberg has been around eight times so that the wow factor of seeing him back has worn off, will get a comparable reaction. Also, let us not forget that Jericho vs. Owens for title would not be a rematch of one of the worst WrestleMania matches of all-time.

Putting the title on Goldberg is a short-sighted move catered to a small part – yes, a small part – of the Network subscribers, most of whom would tune-in to see that match for free (that strategy earned WWE a net loss in the second quarter last year – a net loss during the Mania quarter! C’mon!). Legends matches are an important part of the Mania formula, but the product needs to move forward to succeed all year and long-term. Here’s hoping Vince McMahon wakes up Sunday, changes his mind, brushes his teeth, changes his mind, eats an omelet, changes his mind, gets to the venue, changes his mind, has a cup of tea, changes his mind, has a production meeting, changes his mind, sneezes, changes his mind, watches “Glorious” on YouTube, changes his mind, stares at his reflection in the mirror, changes his mind, eats a sandwich, changes his mind, talks to Hulk Hogan, changes his mind, drops off the kids, changes his mind, writes a memo, changes his mind, enjoys a steak dinner, changes his mind, and then right before they go on the air, changes his mind one final time to Goldberg’s old behind wrestling Lesnar at Mania in a non-title match.

Randy Orton's Wonderfully Weird Turn On Bray Wyatt And Other Smackdown Thoughts

As one tries to wrap his/her around the closing segment of Smackdown Live, one certainly cannot deny the blue brand's positive habit of avoiding linear, safe, predictable storytelling. We have grown accustomed to WWE TV in recent years going right when going right was expected, meandering its way through the week-to-week grind. While pay-per-view hit a consistent quality it had not reached in years, Raw and Smackdown were tepid, a borderline chore to sit through that some even claimed was no longer necessary to watch; that, contrary to the way things worked in the pre-Network era, fans could actually become “PPV only,” watching the pre-match hype videos on Sunday events to better tell them the reasons to care in four-minutes than WWE TV could generally tell you in four weeks.

Smackdown Live has changed that and, whether you feel that WWE's last comparably strong and consistent run of TV shows was 18 months or 18 years ago, you will struggle to deny the blue brand the credit it is due. It is not hyperbole. So much as one can objectify pro wrestling, Smackdown is a very well-run program, consistently allowing its roster the opportunity to talk in an organic fashion and wrestle in high profile situations. It is a show that harkens back to when WWE booked its product as a game of chess instead of like a game of checkers, strategic in its execution, but also willing to take risks.

It was a risk, one might say, to allow the women's division to carry such a large chunk of the show last week, both with spotlight matches and featured segments. This week, one might say it was a risk to make it appear as though AJ Styles will be in the WWE Championship match at WrestleMania and later to have Randy Orton turn on Bray Wyatt in a most unusual way. Typical WWE would have seen Orton repeat the same thing that he did to Seth Rollins two years ago and that Daniel Bryan did to Wyatt three years ago. Orton's cold, calculated words were a throwback to a part of modern wrestling lore perhaps most closely associated with Kane's character in the late '90s and 2000s, chilling in a certain way and almost a little too cheesy all the same, like Paul Bearer's dialogues about Kane and Undertaker. The act of arson to Sister Abigail's final resting place was a cross between RKO's own house being broken into years ago by Triple H and The Final Deletion, as incredibly awesome as it was terribly weird and seemingly out of context with the last several weeks worth of storyline developments. It was equal parts fantastically different and sort of goofy, but it was the kind of atypical segment that will draw opinions and spark controversy; it is destined to be a polarizing key element on the Road to WrestleMania surely.

Typical WWE would have also skipped this whole business of finding a new #1 contender over the past two weeks, coasting through them instead until Raw was done with its brand-exclusive PPV this weekend and getting into Mania mode afterward. Styles would not have come out of the show poised for a triple threat match because there never would have been a Battle Royal or match with Luke Harper in the first place. It appears possible that they did what they did to put The Phenomenal One in a position where he has something valuable seemingly in his possession, just so that when Shane McMahon potentially takes it away from him, there becomes a passionate reason for Styles to want to destroy Smackdown's Commissioner. All of a sudden, a match that it seemed very few wanted to see has a foundation for something rather intriguing for WrestleMania that is far more likely to lead to the kind of vaunted match that Shane had with Kurt Angle in 2001 – an occurrence that even the biggest conceptual detractors of a Styles-Shane match would admit could be great for AJ's career and legacy. Such could not have been achieved through linear, typical WWE booking.

Many benefits may come from Smackdown's booking choices these past two weeks, not the least of which may be the opportunity to make Luke Harper a bigger star moving forward. If there has been one particular by-product that most fans should be happy about from the creative roller-coaster that appears to be leading us into previously rumored territory, it would have to be Harper's ascent. Even if this proves to have been merely a test for him that might set him up for something more consistent and more substantial down the road, did he not pass said test with flying colors? Between the interactions with Orton and Wyatt leading up to and in the Royal Rumble Match, the singles bout on PPV with Orton at Elimination Chamber, or his two latest performances this week and last, one would imagine that Harper made a lot of higher-ups take notice; and the commentary, this week especially, made it obvious that several higher-ups have taken notice already. He is the latest example of how adept Smackdown is at building fresh talents and rehabbing careers.

Speaking of rehabilitation, seven months ago, The Miz was a mid-carder through and through and not in the kindest sense of the phrase, the kind of wrestler who always found a place on the card and usually had a solid outing, but who never much mattered to the economic success of or fan enthusiasm toward the event. Then Talking Smack happened and Miz is now on the brink of once again stepping into the ring at WrestleMania with John Cena. Yours truly was there live in Atlanta in 2011 for the first time; Miz has traveled quite the journey since the “Hate Me Now” video and, anyone who has talked down of the idea of the rumored mixed tag team match that seems all but confirmed may have forgotten how redeeming it must feel for Miz to be back in a featured match with Cena after so many years of being a grandest stage afterthought...and that Cena and Miz can both promo their rear-ends off. Whew. Call it “more of the same” if you wish, but I for one rarely find that type of verbiage to be anything other than highly engaging. Last week, I implored us all to let Smackdown see if they can make Nikki and John vs. Maryse and Miz work; through the first talking segment of the set-up, I think they are well on their way to proving the doubters wrong.

As for the rest of the show on Tuesday night, The Lone Wolf's segment with The Lunatic Fringe, who was marvelously, um, Lunatic Fringey (Dean Ambrose fluctuates between comedic and intense better than anyone in the game right now), was another quality piece of TV building toward a match that feels important. Two months ago, Baron Corbin was in the spot that Harper is in now, getting a chance to step up to the plate and ultimately proving himself capable of adding much more to the show; I'm really hoping Corbin vs. Ambrose for the Intercontinental Championship makes the main Mania 33 card. The women's division stayed in the spotlight too, with Mickie James and Becky Lynch having a solid 2/3 Falls Match and the cast of Women's Champion Alexa Bliss, Nattie, Maryse, and Nikki Bella all getting their fair share of shine too.

Overall, Smackdown Live offered another eventful, psychologically-stimulating episode and is proving through a variety of ways that its part of the WrestleMania card is going to be well-hyped.

Seth Rollins Is Not Over; Can A Match With Triple H Help Him Get Over?

Wrestling, as in life, is not black and white. The segment on last night’s Monday Night Raw featuring Seth Rollins being interviewed by Corey Graves, Triple H’s latest scathing promo on his former protégé, and The Architect promising to be at WrestleMania no matter what the doctors say was a microcosm of that fact.

In terms of the intensity and tone of the dialogue between Rollins and Triple H, the segment was a success. The injury to his knee has generally made Rollins more relatable as a protagonistic character going through the struggle to achieve his dream of being on the WrestleMania marquee in one of the top 3 matches while, simultaneously, the cause of the injury being a Game-directed assault by Samoa Joe clearly has put Rollins in the empathetic position of the wronged. The voracity with which Hunter has verbally dressed Rollins down has served to build a much stronger foundation for their conflict than the original “badder guy turns on bad guy” narrative crafted back in August 2016. Rollins executed his interview responses poignantly and sympathetically, then responded to Triple H with exactly the type of anger and passion that the occasion called for.

However, if we measure success by a different metric than storytelling, then the Triple H-Seth Rollins segment was a failure. The crowd absolutely did not care. A few weeks ago, I argued that Rollins getting reinjured might give WWE a do-over of his comeback from last year, when many believed the best course of action would have been to allow him to embrace a fanbase that was ready to cheer him; I suggested that the pop for The Architect’s return before Mania 33 would be huge. Well, if the WWE faithful in Green Bay, Wisconsin were any indication, the people are no more ready to latch onto a heroic version of Rollins today than they have been since he abruptly and quite unnaturally turned to the lighter side of the Force last autumn. It might be hyperbole to say that you could have heard a pin drop when Seth’s music hit on Monday, but it was not much better than that; there certainly and disappointingly was not a huge reaction. At one point, the booger eaters chanting for “CM Punk” were audible; at another, there was a faint “boring” chant. The sad reality for someone as talented as Rollins is that he just is not over.

WWE has a tendency to live in the moment, week-to-week jumping all over the place with its creative details, among which continuity is a resultant weakness of their process. Continuity is very important to high quality long-term storytelling. In their individual moments, the segments at Takeover: San Antonio, the Raw after the Royal Rumble, and last night’s flagship episode were great examples of strong storytelling, but a lack of continuity for the Rollins character in particular has put the feud between Hunter and Seth in a tough spot; they have to be so good in the short-term, between now and the pay-off, in order to off-set the inconsistencies that have harmed the long-term arc. They have to get the audience to re-invest after five months of Rollins devolving from the top star in the game in 2014 and 2015 into an inorganic, largely unrelatable doofus babyface.

The evolution of pro wrestling is fascinating and one of the biggest issues confronting the modern WWE product is how it plans to so heavily script the show to fit what it thinks is the right direction to take and still produce the kind of organically popular heroes that it has historically based itself around. The most over hero on the Raw program is Bill Goldberg, an old man who has returned for a three-off after a 13-year absence. Save your all-or-nothing arguments as to why that is the case for a different discussion because that one is not by any a stretch of the word a simple matter, but the fact remains that a legend who had not been wrestling-relevant since 2004 walked in off the street and was immediately twice as a over as the so-called top babyfaces on Raw: Rollins and his former running-mate, Roman Reigns. I posit that the red brand currently plays home to the least over set of top babyface regular roster members in WWE history and The Architect is partially a by-product of the problem that has created that situation.

Seth Rollins does have a chance to turn things around, though. I have been apt to point out the obvious parallels between his situation with Triple H and Randy Orton’s over a decade prior which required RKO to as abruptly return to the dark side as he had abruptly seen the light, but Rollins is more charismatic than Orton and I believe he does have the innate heroic qualities necessary to right the ship through this on-going saga with The Cerebral Assassin and earn the kinds of reactions that a top babyface should get. The look on his face and in his eyes when he told Hunter that if going to Mania was the last thing he ever did, then it would also be the last thing Triple H ever did was evidence of a man capable of great things as a protagonist. Such is what makes this WrestleMania storyline and fight with Trips so substantial to his career; if he cannot get over in this feud with Hunter, then he likely will not get over as a babyface and will have to revert back in the near future to his heelish ways in what would then go down, as Orton’s failed turn did in 2004/2005, as a categorical creative letdown.

It is time for WWE to tap further into the Seth-Hunter relationship. A reminder that Hunter could not beat Seth (and The Shield) and that he had to coerce him into joining The Authority to retain the upper-hand would be welcome, even if it were to come from the mouth of the hated Big Dog. Accentuating how hard Rollins is working to get healthy before Mania would be helpful too, as would even the slightest hint of more direct remorse for staying the course with his heel character when he came back to “Redesign, Rebuild, Reclaim” instead of shifting his character dynamic then. No one thing can eliminate several months of lousy booking, but the combination of several smaller things could help turn the tide in Seth’s favor.

Wrestling, as in life, is an ocean’s worth of gray shades. Seth Rollins to this point, as exhibited by last night's paltry crowd response, has not been a successful heroic persona; however, The Architect, as also exhibited last night, has the storytelling ability to become a successful heroic persona. In all likelihood, WWE’s best chance to facilitate Seth’s success as a protagonist will come between now and WrestleMania weekend, so let's hope for his sake that they can figure it out.

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