Fact or Fiction (featuring Rob Simmons, The Doc, Mr. Tito, Leaf, Maverick, Oliver, and Super Chrisss): The “All-Star” Edition (Part 1)
By Rob Simmons
Jul 28, 2014 - 12:41:36 PM
Oh you didn’t know? You better call somebody!!! Yes, it is true; Fact or Fiction has returned to the LoP Main Page. It’s been far too long, last year’s SummerSlam to be precise, but we got a group on board, featuring a host of Main Page writers, to debate some of the hot button topics on each of their minds. I’m your host, the elder statesman of the Main Page, Rob Simmons, and I’ll be bringing you six of the best writers at Lords of Pain. Let’s get with the introductions.
The newest member of the Lords of Pain Main Page; the man with a foliage fascination- Leaf
The man who spent all days making signs for his Monday Night Raw show only to have them taken away-Super Chrisss
The other new guy to the Main Page, with a slight Tom Cruise fixation- Maverick
Our very own best-selling author of “The Wrestlemania Era”- The Doc
Lords of Pain’s resident NXT reviewer and Little Mix fan- Oliver
And finally, the Man, The Myth, The Legend-Tito
Here’s how this thing works. Each of our guests has put forth a statement that our panel has to argue as Fact or Fiction depending on their stance. It’s quite simple really. However, we’ve got such a star-studded panel, and such great opinions, we’re splitting this up in two parts. So let’s get this party started with a question from The Doc
”WWE did the right thing at the right time in breaking up The Shield.”
Leaf- This is close but I'm going to have to go with FICTION. Whilst the WWE has done well to keep all three members of the Shield relevant by having Reigns hover around the top of the card, making Rollins the new MITB holder and by finding a way to give Ambrose a direct tie-in to Rollins' achievement due to his cash-in stoppage threats, there is a noticeable problem here.
When Daniel Bryan was unable to defend the gold at Payback, The Shield and Evolution stepped up to ensure this hole wasn't too noticeable. Hell, they did the same thing all the way back at TLC 2012 due to Punk's injury. The Shield had something magical about them in the sense that they could stop the fans complaining about the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. They were the gold standard (Sorry Shelton). Ever since Cena won the belt, there has been the same old growing negativity regarding his run at the top. When The Shield were the main event, there was never a problem. All three men have done well but it isn't the right thing for the company.
Super Chrisss- The night after Payback, I couldn't have disagreed more with that statement. The Shield - still fairly new as babyfaces - were mega-over, and WWE could have run with them as a main-event stable until at least mid-summer. But it soon became obvious WWE had almost no choice but to split up the group when they did. For starters, they had just owned Evolution in back-to-back Pay-Per-Views. They had already feuded with The Wyatt Family. After nearly two years of dominating the main roster, there was simply no one left for The Hounds of Justice to seek retribution after. As the old saying goes, "it's better to go out on top".
Do I agree with the way WWE has handled the aftermath of The Shield's break-up? Not entirely. That being said, it's a FACT that WWE chose the right place to split them up, at possibly the best time.
Maverick-I have to agree with Doc on this one and say FACT. After comprehensively defeating the Authority team of Kane and The New Age Outlaws in a squash at Wrestlemania, finally gaining revenge on the Wyatt Family on Main Event a few days later and going on to defeat Evolution 2-0 at Extreme Rules and Payback, what else was there for them to achieve as a group? We all knew it had to end sooner or later, as magnificent as their eighteen month run as a stable was, and by breaking them up when they did, WWE avoided the syndrome that so often affects stables where they go on well past their sell by dates until everything you once loved about them is gone. In their time on the main roster, the trio defeated a who's who of future hall of famers: Kane, Daniel Bryan, John Cena, Sheamus, Chris Jericho, Randy Orton, The Big Show, Christian, The Undertaker, Goldust, CM Punk, Triple H, The New Age Outlaws and Batista, not to mention potential major players like Cody Rhodes, The Usos and Ryback. They worked as babyfaces and as heels, and I'd defy anyone to fantasy book a way for The Shield to stay together after their victory at Payback.
Now, I understand that the real reason why many think WWE did the wrong thing is in the way they booked the break up rather than the break up per se. I have read a lot of angst surrounding the way Reigns does not seem concerned about Rollins' betrayal and the way Ambrose and Reigns have barely associated with each other since the "chair shot heard around the world". Personally, this hasn't bothered me whatsoever as the feud between Rollins and Ambrose has massive heat right now and is the best thing on TV, while in contrast, the triple threat everyone thought would happen at 'Mania only had one realistic outcome, which was Reigns spearing somebody and winning in predictable fashion. The way they actually booked it, Roman gets his push and chance to hone his game taking on the veterans, while the more seasoned Rollins and Ambrose get themselves over the old fashioned way in a hot blood feud. There's no doubt that there was some awkwardness about the way Reigns has had to compete in multi-man cluster****s with minimal character development allowed him, but that should change now he's on a collision course with The Viper. This one was very easy for me, it is a FACT that WWE did the right thing in breaking up The Shield when they did, and the how was just fine with me too.
The Doc- True. It was actually the right time to break them up earlier in the year. They had a great story going and the people seemed ready to get behind all three as they transitioned to their individual careers. WWE pumped the breaks and we got the very successful face run from The Shield, which served to elevate each man's profile. After defeating Evolution twice, though, what more was there to do? It was all downhill from there. Evolution was the most dominant faction of this century. To beat them clean on two different occasions was the most significant achievement that babyface Shield could accomplish. The manner in which they split the faction was the only way to do it and it be surprising, plus it put Seth Rollins in a position immediately that many questioned if he'd ever reach. He's Mr. Money in the Bank. Dean Ambrose, as a result of the Rollins turn, embarked on what is turning out to be a surprising run as a protagonist. Roman Reigns has begun the ascent to top guy status that we all assumed that he would. Even if they all end up flopping, the time was right to let them sink or swim in the deep end of WWE's main-event pool.
Oliver- FACT – no doubt about it in my mind, the time was ripe for the split to happen. Or, at least, the actual timeframe was, as having ruled WWE for 20 months or so they split just at the moment in time when they could have started to slip. Whether the circumstances were right or not is another discussion, but I think I’d likely come to the same answer – the split, via Rollins’ turn, was certainly impactful as a result of the show of unity from the night before. There likely is an argument that splitting with almost no foreshadowing means that WWE could have built to it better, but in terms of generating heat for Rollins pulling it out of thin air was a far better route to go down, in my opinion. So yes, The Shield almost certainly ended at the right time in my book.
Tito- With the way that the WWE is serious about pushing Seth Rollins, how they are dead serious about pushing Roman Reigns strong, and how the WWE is letting Dean Ambrose flourish as a babyface, I'll put on my flip-flops and admit FACT here. The real unexpected wildcard was how good Dean Ambrose is as a babyface wrestler. I figured he would be best served as a heel but the fans are digging the edge that his character brings. Wouldn't surprise me that Ambrose is the next breakout star to carry the WWE into the next 10 years. In hindsight as well, the heel turn for Seth Rollins has given his career great purpose. Many, including me, thought he was the weakest link of the Shield because he was good with spots but maybe weaker with personality and look. Dead wrong on that... Just after Wrestlemania 30, I thought WWE needed faces and hence I was against the Shield break-up. Instead, we got 2 faces from the Shield and an enhanced Seth Rollins. I was wrong.
Well, we have a clean sweep on Topic 1. Let’s see what people have to say about the one put forth by Maverick.
"WWE is finally writing consistent, well built midcard storylines again."
Super Chrisss-I never thought I'd be able to say this, but yes, this is indeed a FACT. Take the post-Battleground edition of Raw for example. EVERY SINGLE MATCH had a story behind it. No one would have given a damn about a 4-on-1 Divas Handicap match - especially with the likes of Cameron and Eva Marie involved - but it played perfectly into the Brie/Nikki/Stephanie angle. Bo Dallas and Damien Sandow may not be feuding, but at least they both have gimmicks. Miz vs. Ziggler shouldn't have happened so soon, but it made sense because Ziggler wanted retribution for being screwed out of the Battle Royal 24 hours earlier. We FINALLY got to see Paige turn heel and be the badass she was back in NXT. Even Zack Ryder vs. Fandango was used to keep the dancing love triangle going (unfortunately). And, of course, RybAxel vs. Big Kof-E allowed Xavier Woods to show up and plant the seeds for N.O.D. v 2.0.
The point is, none of these midcard angles existed months ago, when the show was focused around three-four angles at most, while the rest of Raw/SmackDown were just meaningless, throwaway matches. It's about damn time creative woke up and started focusing on the rest of the roster, not just the same ten guys.
Maverick-The reason why I asked this question is because it's something I have noticed as a FACT for the past few months. The unification of the WWE Title and World Heavyweight Title has done absolute wonders for the midcard. Let's look at Battleground for an example: Rusev and Swagger worked an old school 1980s USA vs. Russia storyline, aided by their respective mouthpieces, Lana and Zeb. Week by week, the duelling promos, debates and run-ins built heat until the match itself, which was enhanced greatly by the reasons why it was being fought. It's so simple that I don't really understand why it took WWE so long to realise how this wrestling writing thing is done again. Meanwhile, as I alluded to earlier, Ambrose and Rollins are engaged in an absolute war coming off that most straightforward of cassus belli: the stable break up due to a horrific betrayal. And lo and behold, it was given further direction by Seth winning the Money in the Bank briefcase due to "Uncle Kane" assistance, causing The Lunatic Fringe to decide to prevent his erstwhile colleague from cashing in his contract, leading to a match that never happened because of Ambrose refusing to wait for an actual match before getting his hands on slimy Seth. Look at the divas: Cameron and Naomi break up due to jealousy issues, while AJ Lee and Paige are riffing on Randy Orton vs. Christian from 2011. Look at the tag scene: long standing feud between The Usos and The Wyatt Family that spun off from the Bray vs. Cena programme. Even the battle royal has created a seeming Bo/Miz alliance, a Miz/Ziggler IC Title feud and a reboot of the Nation. Everywhere you look there are stories where before there were random PPV matches announced on the fricking night. That's why it's a FACT that WWE have rediscovered the art of midcard storytelling.
The Doc-Fiction. The key word there is consistent. WWE still seems to wax and wane with their desire to put forth creative effort for their mid-card. Cesaro is the latest example of a highly talented wrestler that they, just a few months ago, seemed intent on pushing, but then randomly had him lose every week and drop his highly acclaimed manager along the way. Storylines would be another key word in the prompt. Often, WWE appears to stumble upon storylines in the mid-card rather than the purposefully create arcs for them. Take Rusev vs. Swagger, for example. The Real Americans were doing nothing and going nowhere, but they were pro-American. Then, here comes this anti-USA gimmick in need of something to spice it up. It never came across as if WWE had a plan ahead of time for the current direction for Rusev and Lana. You could argue that everything is wrestling is a "right place, right time" phenomenon, but the main-event seems to regularly avoid the sheer random aura that surrounds the mid-card. So, no, I don't think that there's enough reason to nod in the affirmative that WWE is writing consistent mid-card stories.
Oliver- This is a curious one, because I think right now it’s true, but it’s not really come from anywhere in my opinion – it seems like the build to Battleground was the first that really showed a shift, but whether it stays or not is a completely different matter. Money in the Bank certainly had its moments, but generally the card was built through the same old routine of handing non-title losses down to the champions only for them to then triumph with the belt on the line. Battleground, however, had a card that ran deep, with the only the continuing Usos/Wyatts saga lacking some kind of back story outside of competitive wins and losses. So, I think, at the moment I have to say FACT but I fear it could all slip off the rails as soon as SummerSlam is done.
Tito- This is FICTION. I would caution people believing that current storylines are a mark of consistency when it's really just Triple H having excessive involvement with his character. "The Authority" is everywhere throughout RAW and the Pay Per Views. At the very least, it has given the WWE a constant... But if you look at the rest of the WWE storylines, they are a mess. Bray Wyatt is pushed hard through Royal Rumble to beat Daniel Bryan and then loses repeatedly at Pay Per Views thereafter. The entire Daniel Bryan push... Random title swaps, like both AJ/Paige title changes. Money in the Bank was goofy again with the secondary wrestler MITB match determining the moving #1 contender briefcase. Still an unsatisfied Vince McMahon overseeing the uncreative Triple H/Stephanie overseeing the unqualified writing staff of creative.
Leaf-FACT. Let's see... The upper midcard contains the feud of the year right now as Ambrose and Rollins are providing a new kind of excitement regarding a briefcase cash-in. The WWE have finally relaunched a new Nation of Domination with the likes of Woods, Kingston and Big E. Bo Dallas and Rusev both have winning streaks. The storyline there revolves around who will defeat them. Rusev's foreign heel shtick provided Swagger with a hot face turn and a tailor made feud. If that's not all, I truly believe that we will see a Miz-Batista movie-star vs. movie-star feud when he returns as well.
People were still looking forward to Battleground despite the Main Event and Rollins vs. Ambrose, the Intercontinental Championship Battle Royal and Swagger-Rusev were all testament to that.
So we finally have some disagreement amongst the panel as Doc and Tito argued Fiction on that topic. Now things are starting to get fun. Let’s move onto topic #3, put forth by Oliver
”WWE will have to have Raw and Smackdown exclusive to the Network to attract the numbers it needs for financial stability.”
Maverick-I am by no means an expert on anything financial, so please don't consider me any kind of authority here, but from what I understand about Vince's business, this is FICTION. Raw and Smackdown are sold to cable TV stations in the States and around the world for a lucrative price, and also gain WWE a share of the advertising money these prime time shows attract. That's why these shows are not WWE Network are exclusive. If the company thought it could make up for the advertising money in attracting unique subscribers through making Raw and Smackdown available only to their Network customers, they would have done so by now. The thing is, how can you attract new subscribers without the Raw and Smackdown platforms to actually plug the thing? When Michael Cole tells you each week how to subscribe and how much it costs, you might find it annoying, but that's the only way. If WWE didn't have a presence on national and international television, they would have no effective way of promoting their online viewing platform.
Now, I understand that investors were apparently disappointed with the renegotiated USA Network deal earlier this year and that Vince was censured for overestimating its size, but even so, it must still be worth his while to maintain that relationship.As far as I can see, the way WWE attracts the numbers to make the WWE Network an unqualified financial success is to roll it out to Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe, South Africa and Australia as soon as they possibly can. I know that us Brits would absolutely snap their hands off, particularly as a change in DVD distributor has made old PPV events very hard to get a hold of. As soon as Canada and the UK in particular are offered the chance, I am sure the numbers will soar and profitability assured.
The Doc-True, eventually. Maybe. I find it very difficult to intelligently make assumptions about WWE Network right now because we have such a limited sample size and because there is nothing else like it. I have no doubt that they'll reach their target goal of 2 million subscribers, but what will all of this look like a few years down the road if the Network still exists? I can conceivably envision a scenario in which the WWE goes all-in on being a standalone entity and attempts to pioneer the end of watching sport/entertainment on TV as we've known it. I really don't know. My main reason for saying "true" was that I figure WWE will eventually play the Raw/Smackdown card to make a huge splash with potential subscribers.
Oliver- I’ve long thought that the Network needs, at the very least, a lot more new programming than is currently available, especially ahead of an International launch. Showing replays of old Raws and the like overnight in the US might well work just fine, but if you’re starting to branch out they’ll need to fill at least 12 hours of content in order to satisfy the live audience in all the countries across the globe. I mean, you can’t load the US evening with all the new programming and then expect someone on a 12 hour delay in…where’s got a 12 hour delay on the US? India maybe? Let’s say India. You can’t expect an Indian to be satisfied if when they boot up the Network all they see is a Raw from 1993 every single day. That’s really what the archive should be for, not the livestream. Raw and Smackdown would be the most obvious programs to shift onto the Network in order to gain both buyers (surely it’s cheaper than a cable subscription? It’s certainly cheaper than, say, a Sky Sports package, assuming you only use that for wrestling) and interest – people would then have to have it in order to see the flagship television shows. But I’d think WWE could attract the numbers that are quoted in news reports with a few more original programs that were unique and had wrestling content. I’m not meaning Legends House or Total Divas – I’m thinking throw some extra wrestling shows together. Heck, they’ve got the performance centre and Full Sail, which I’m sure they could sell out if they alternated NXT with another hour long weekly program, and that would then attract subscribers, especially if the events on that show tied into pay per views or at least the weekly shows. So I’m going to say FICTION – I think WWE could meet their target number of subscribers without Raw and Smackdown but they do need to change the way they use the Network in order to pull in the customers.
Tito- I say FICTION only because the WWE should keep RAW/Smackdown on NBC/Universal Networks in order to keep marketing itself to about 100 million Cable/Satellite households in the United States. In my opinion, though, the RAW/Smackdown replays should be made available to watch as replays on WWE Network instead of Hulu. Hulu numbers are not impressing early on and the WWE should move on from that medium. Specifically for Monday Night Football time, if I could use WWE Network to replace my DVR, I could save money with my Cable company thanks to the RAW replay being on WWE Network. WWE needs bigtime Cable/Satellite money until that medium proves itself to die. Where else will WWE obtain over $150 million per year to live content? Not internet streaming for the moment...
Leaf-We are the nation! By that, I mean we have ourselves a FACTION. Moving RAW would only make things worse for the WWE. Yes, the network would receive more subscribers but would it be enough to counteract the loss of the casual fan? Whilst big events such as Wrestlemania normally draw in the casual market, there's an argument that RAW does too. Just look at the guest stars. Who was the Flo Rida performance for? It certainly wasn't for us smarks. By moving RAW to a subscription-based wrestling service, I can't even imagine the damage that would cause.
Smackdown is a different story. By cutting the unnecessary Main Event and by making Smackdown a network-exclusive wrestling show, the WWE would be able to further establish two very different styles of shows. RAW can be about the occasional showbiz buzz and most importantly, the storylines. Smackdown has long since been all about the wrestling so moving it to a service that is all about that factor, certainly wouldn't hurt things too much. I think keeping RAW on television but moving Smackdown may just be the way forward.
Super Chrisss-This is a bit of a tricky question, since I'm not very well-informed about finance and business numbers (that's Tito's specialty), but I'm going to say FICTIONfor this one simply because it sounds like too much of a gamble for WWE to take. Again, I'm no financial expert, but I know the USA Network pays WWE a good amount of money in order to show Raw every Monday. One of the reasons Raw expanded to three-hours two summers ago was due to consistent requests from USA officials. While one could argue that the quality of the show has taken a hit since the additional hour became a permanent thing, WWE has also been making a lot more profit thanks to the extra hour of programming. I don't see Vince willing to throw away God-only-knows how much money by limiting both Raw and SmackDown to the Network. Sure, the amount of Network subscribers would increase without question, but to the point where they could stand to make a profit from losing their national - and international - TV deals? Not a chance.
Our panel is pretty split on this one, and I knew it was only a matter of time before somebody played the “Faction” card. Good job skirting around that one Leaf. Anyway, that does it for Part One of this edition of Fact or Fiction. Be sure to join us tomorrow as we bring you three more questions and the opinions of our panel.