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MR. TITO STRIKES BACK - WWE RAW Review and TNA/SpikeTV Thoughts
By Mr. Tito
Jul 28, 2014 - 11:38:20 PM
Welcome back to the EXCELLENCE IN COLUMN WRITING from yours truly, Mr. Tito. My favorite times of the year for pro wrestling are (a) Royal Rumble to Wrestlemania and (b) build up towards SummerSlam. Now, during much of the 2000's, the WWE began to take SummerSlam for granted, but for the past few years, the build up has been nice as has been the SummerSlam event. Seems that the WWE has finally declared SummerSlam to be "Wrestlemania Jr." again and I'm fine with that.
Before we get into Monday Night RAW tonight, I have a few things on my mind...
I feel really bad for all of the wrestlers of TNA Wrestling, should the rumors of SpikeTV deciding to walk away from the television deal are true. TNA Wrestling is another case where the management above are completely incompetent and all of the worker bees get to suffer because of it. The Panda Energy folks and Dixie Carter thought that just having a wrestling company would cause overwhelming success. No, it takes more than that and it also takes letting the wrestlers be the center focus of the company, not the clueless Dixie Carter attempting to replicate Stephanie McMahon on camera.
Watching TNA possibly crumble should remind WWE fans that the WWE isn't as bad as you think...
WWE's main issue is booking and choice of talent. That's it... Otherwise, the WWE is a juggernaut who consistently draws 4,000,000 households to watch RAW and 10,000+ to attend televised events, and I'm only including United States numbers. WWE has television deals throughout the world that pay quite well. Despite the WWE's high costs of WWE Network starting up eating its profit margin alive, the WWE still churned $125 million in revenues in the 1st Quarter 2014. Sure, the WWE Network needs 1,000,000 subscribers to "break even", but at least the WWE has the NBC/Universal deal to fall back on (still good) and if necessary, they could return to Pay Per View. What else does DirecTV and Dish have to air on Sunday nights?
As much as we hammer the key players of the WWE such as Vince McMahon, Kevin Dunn, Triple H, and Stephanie McMahon, they are still running a successful wrestling company. Sure, it's not the "Attitude Era", but what is? Guys like Steve Austin and the Rock are once-in-a-lifetime talents and the only other time when WWE had someone like that was during the 1980's with Hulk Hogan. But the Attitude Era had BOTH Rock and Austin as rivals during 1997-2001 and they headlined two HUGE Wrestlemanias together and the WWE bench during that period of time was nice too. In addition to Rock/Austin, you had Undertaker, Mick Foley, and Triple H while the likes of Kurt Angle and Chris Jericho would join the fold during late 1999. Oh, and tag team greatness with Dudleys, Edge/Christian, and Hardys all coming together at once.
Sure, it's not the "Attitude Era", but again, what is?
WWE's issue is the evaluation of talent... While they have a few wrestlers who are getting naturally over with the fans, the likes of Vince McMahon and Triple H are sticking with the old business model of looks and size. Case in point Roman Reigns... He looks like a million bucks and looks legitimately tough. However, his in-ring ability is NOT there yet, as shown from some singles match struggles, and the charisma and mic skills to complete a wrestler's personality are not there. He's lacking the intangibles that get most main eventers over... Yet, the WWE will probably try to give him the WWE Title and see if the belt gets him over. Yeah, like that worked for Jack Swagger, the Miz, Sheamus, Dolph Ziggler, and even other wrestlers who were not ready yet for the title, like CM Punk during 2008-2009 or Daniel Bryan during 2011-2012. Yeah, I said it... Not ready then, but obviously read later on...
Right under the WWE's nose, a few wrestlers have been getting naturally over. In other words, without much WWE booking dependence, fan cheers are getting louder and louder for a select group of wrestlers. There are 2 that I can see, with 2 more that fans eventually grew on. In my opinion, the 2 wrestlers who have been getting naturally over during 2014, BESIDES Daniel Bryan, have been Cesaro and Dean Ambrose. Cesaro has been putting on great match after great match, but then he does the Giant Swing and it connects the diehard in-ring fans with the casual fans who like a little flash and personality in wrestlers. Cesaro wins the Andre "the Giant" Memorial Battle Royal and you'd think that a strong upper midcard babyface push is on, right? WRONG. He was given Paul Heyman and the WWE Creative Team had Heyman constantly brag about Brock Lesnar defeating the Undertaker at Wrestlemania 30 instead of putting over Cesaro. Ridiculous...
Dean Ambrose has been an unexpected surprise as a babyface. Most expected Ambrose to succeed as a heel, which he appeared to work well in the past. However, when the Shield turned babyface, Ambrose was able to grow as a personality. Suddenly, he could convert that craziness towards heels that fans disliked. He was great in the Evolution battles and now he's excellent in his persuit of revenge against Seth Rollins. Ambrose is getting a fraction of the favorable booking and spotlight of Roman Reigns yet fans are naturally chanting Ambrose's name. In addition to getting naturally over, cutting great promos, Dean Ambrose can actually perform well in the ring. He's got a badass personality that can bring it in the ring... Reminds me a lot of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
Two wrestlers that the WWE has worked on for a while with booking has been Wade Barrett and Bray Wyatt. Barrett keeps getting bit with the injury bug, but the "Bad News" gimmick was getting over. WWE tried and tried many gimmicks with the guy and even went over the top with the rising podium for the initial "Bad News" stages... But once Wade believed in the gimmick and incorporated it in his wrestling promos, he got over naturally... Then, there's Bray Wyatt... WWE forced him HARD on us since his debut after Wrestlemania 29 and even sacrificed Daniel Bryan at Royal Rumble 2014 to get Wyatt over. Lucky for Wyatt, the overbooking was eventually forgiven because of Wyatt's strong in-ring ability. With time, fans were accepting of his gimmick and have grown to really enjoy the character.
But the WWE "powers that be" will probably try to push Roman Reigns HARD instead...
If that's the worst of WWE's problems, alrighty then... If Reigns fails to join the Cena/Orton main event scene, the WWE can just go to their bench with Ambrose, Cesaro, Wyatt, and Barrett... Guys like Seth Rollins, Sheamus, Dolph Ziggler, Chris Jericho, Alberto Del Rio, and even Kane aren't bad options on the bench either. Oh, and the WWE could just pay Brock Lesnar for more dates. Plus, Triple H could wrestle at any time. Many wrestlers in NXT to call up, I'm hearing too... WWE has a DEEP bench.
The issue, and it has been since Steve Austin/Rock left the promotion, is to find the next big star. WWE thinks that it's Roman Reigns while many fans disagree and like others. Reigns is free of that "Ring of Honor stench" which plagues many other former EVP of Developmental John Laurinaitis signings. WWE likes to be the teacher of wrestling at a high level and hates to have to undo what was learned at another promotion. Reigns has relations with the Rock, which is another advantage should the WWE want to remain friendly with the Great One.
If fans don't like the Roman Reigns push, which I believe makes him WWE Champion by Wrestlemania 31, then mobilize like you did for Daniel Bryan during 2013. Plans were to have Batista to win the WWE Title against Randy Orton at Wrestlemania 31 and then carry the WWE Title with him for the Guardians of the Galaxy promotion. However, fans overwhelmingly objected to the "down your throat" push of Batista and his painted on jeans and forced the WWE's hand to make Daniel Bryan win the WWE Title at Wrestlemania 30. Seriously, WWE had to make up a bullshit way to get Bryan into the WWE Title match despite Bryan not even being in the Royal Rumble match to earn a shot.
But at least the WWE listened to you, the fans... Problem with TNA is that they never listened to their fans and kept pushing the wrong wrestlers and had horrible storylines. Dixie Carter became full of herself and refused to change her product. Furthermore, she legitimately thought that Vince Russo was a genius. As consistent history now shows outside of the WWE teet, Vince Russo is not the booking genius he portrays himself to be. As seen by storylines that helped kill World Championship Wrestling during 1999-2000 and quite possibly TNA wrestling, he's not the one 100% responsible for the "Attitude Era" discussed earlier in this column. He was 1 voice among many (Vince McMahon, Jim Cornette, Bruce Pritchard, Pat Patterson, Jim Ross, etc.) and he stole many of his adult themed ideas directly Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW). Plus, it's easy to look great when working with incredible on-screen talents like Vince McMahon, Steve Austin, the Rock, Mick Foley, and the Undertaker. The midcard under Russo in the WWE was a pile of crap. Go count the many, many Intercontinental Title switches under Russo during 1999.
As bad as you might think WWE is with 3 hour RAWs and may underwhelming WWE Network numbers... It could be worse... They could have TNA's problems.
Many think that I just "complain too much" about the WWE. Nah... My issue is that I've seen pro wrestling in its peak years, the late 1980's with Hulkamania and the late 1990's with the Monday Night Wars/Attitude Era. I've had the best prime rib and now my expectations are to always have that prime rib. However, without another Rock or Austin and without competition to fuel quality, I'm just going to have to settle for hamburger. If I want to remain a wrestling fan, I'll have to eat that with a smile... But every once in a while, hamburger is great such as getting to see Paul Heyman/Brock Lesnar setting their sights on destroying John Cena. I'm seriously pumped to see that at SummerSlam 2014. I had that "prime rib" match up at Extreme Rules 2012 and I want additional helpings. More Paul Heyman tearing down John Cena, please!
Onto my RAW thoughts...............
RAW is TITO
If the WWE can give me at least 35 straight minutes of quality as it did from the John Cena/Paul Heyman promo segment to the John Cena vs. Cesaro match, I won't complain about 3 hours of Monday Night RAW. I'll endure 3 hours of bad booking, like Fandango or Divas matches, just to get quality like that. I LOVE seeing John Cena in serious mode and not in a joking manner. Weird allusion to ECW and passion, though, but I guess I get why he went there with Paul. Heyman's rant on how Lesnar was going to "victimize" Cena was amazing... And get this... John Cena briefly mentioned how he beat Brock Lesnar during "2012", referring to their Extreme Rules 2012 match-up. With the WWE Network now in place, the WWE has to refer to that history as an easy build up for this event. What else would drive Lesnar to want to KILL John Cena?
I enjoyed the match between John Cena vs. Cesaro. The two have great chemistry together. Some of the marks on the message boards dared to say that "Cesaro carried Cena". Please... Cesaro is a very physical wrestler who requires his opponent to adequately take punishment and assist on any lifting moves. Cena seems to get Cesaro and trusts him with his offense. Great match, although their previous RAW encounter a while ago (early 2014, maybe late 2013?) was much better. Either way, I want more please!
I don't mind the "CM PUNK" chants for AJ Lee. Truth hurts... She's married to a wrestler who QUIT the WWE. WWE could easily eliminate those chants by embracing them and reacting strongly against them. It's heat in some form and the WWE should figure out how to capitalize on it.
I loved the Chris Jericho segment with Stephanie/Triple H. He tore her up! Being honest here and my love of the "Attitude Era" is probably showing... But I'd rather see Chris Jericho vs. Triple H than Jericho/Wyatt. I know, I know... Wyatt could use the big win at SummerSlam, but Jericho as the put over guy is sooooo 2013.
Decent 6 man match with Usos/Dolph Ziggler vs. Miz/Ryback/Curtis Axel... I just don't know about Miz as Intercontinental Champion, though... He has some negative heat going for him now, like "change the channel" heat.
Not sure what the purpose of R-Truth has been for the past few years, but now he's someone for Bo Dallas to beat. So many wasted talents on the WWE roster...
I don't know why, but I'm loving this midcard feud between Jack Swagger and Rusev. Furthermore, I'm GLAD that the WWE is doubling down on the Russia stuff with Lana and Rusev. This is much different than the Hassan stuff with the piano wire and ski masks. Rusev and Lana's characters are from Russia, thus, how can you change where they're from? I'm LOVING Zeb Colter's mic work for this feud, too. High quality midcard entertainment. Keep this feud going for months and I'm good. Nothing wrong with a goofy midcard feud.
What a waste with Damien Sandow lately. Stupid gimmicks each week, jobbing quickly. This guy won the Money in the Bank last year, right? Worse yet, he loses to a skinny and not serious wrestler named Adam Rose. I liked his party gimmick at first, but it has since worn on me. Just tag him up with Fandango already.
Speaking of Fandango, I don't get the current storyline of his former ladies assisting other wrestlers to beat him. Just show filler...
Good heat segment with Kane/Randy Orton vs. Roman Reigns. Some nice comebacks for Reigns in spots against those two and he seemed to better connect with fans this week... And then Randy Orton destroyed him. I wonder if the first RKO was meant to go through the table or if in the immortal words of Rick Rude in ECW, "that was a solid oak table!". Either way, Orton was able to probably get more heat on his Reigns feud by destroying him with another RKO that went through the table. Nice segment to fuel their feud.
Ladies tag match with Natalya/Naomi vs. Cameron/Alicia Fox wasn't bad... It was a ready-made match for WWE Total Divas, so thus it's a brief time out to take a piss or to check out Twitch to see who's streaming a video game speedrun tonight. Honestly, folks... At my age, if something shitty arrives on WWE television, I can easily zone it out with many electronic distractions. Life is good in 2014.
As expected, Chris Jericho vs. Seth Rollins was great... But as expected again, the Wyatts interrupted the match to beat down Chris Jericho. No complaints, as it's your typical Pay Per View hype. Hopefully for SummerSlam, Bray Wyatt convincingly beats Chris Jericho 100% clean. If Fandango can beat Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania 29, how can Bray Wyatt lose to Jericho at Battleground? Someone was smoking crack that day in the Creative Team meeting...
It's about damn time that the WWE fully realized its TRUE drawing potential of Stephanie McMahon. What do I mean? Did you hear that "THIS IS AWESOME" chant erupt to end that segment with Brie Bella? You never saw that for the many many times that Stephanie McMahon talked down to a male wrestler. She could bury Daniel Bryan with all of the "B+ Player" comments but Bryan was hopeless to respond. It's one thing for Bryan to challenge Triple H to a match, but he's unable to retaliate against Stephanie McMahon. However, another female can...
I've said it for a LONG time now and I said this in several columns about AJ Lee in which I recommended that AJ become a face and go up against a HEEL Stephanie McMahon. The WWE has real value in portraying Stephanie McMahon as a female version of her dad, Vince McMahon. Stephanie is a great heel character yet she's been way to aggressive with the male wrestlers she's verbally thrashed, mostly Daniel Bryan. In the end, it hurt those wrestlers and not helped. But for the simple fact that a female wrestler can retaliate against Stephanie, much like Steve Austin did with an **** Vince McMahon heel boss, the WWE finally figured out how to use Stephanie. And damn it, the Divas Division could use her to stir up some heat.
There has NEVER been a pop for the Divas Division as there was tonight with Stephanie and Brie Bella's segment to end RAW. That's right... This was the MAIN EVENT segment that could have bombed hard. But it didn't... In fact, I'm willing to bet that the Quarter Hour and overrun are "off the charts" for Stephanie and Brie's segment and their SummerSlam match will be a major success. That segment had major heat and that says a lot because Brie Bella has struggled as a babyface Diva. Why did the segment work? It was all Stephanie... She showed weakness, she cried, and she begged like a true heel. In pro wrestling, heels aren't supposed to go over and look strong the entire time. Their obsession is lying, cheating, and stealing and thus it takes their focus on being strong and dominant. That's where Stephanie/HHH keep getting it wrong about their characters. Heels have to show fear when confronted by a babyface. Too often, Stephanie/HHH talk down and tear down babyface wrestlers (except John Cena).
Stephanie has the skill set to be a great heel and if she could unleash herself on the Divas Divison, she'll not only get that entire division over, but she'll give the WWE a much needed midcard act. And say what you will, but Stephanie McMahon can go... Just watch her match against Trish Stratus as she helped carry a still-green Trish to a pretty decent match on Pay Per View. I'm willing to bet that she'll surprise many at SummerSlam as she did against Trish Stratus years ago. I'm sure that it would impress enough that it could begin plans of an AJ Lee vs. Stephanie McMahon match, maybe at Wrestlemania 31, which I believe is where the true money is at. AJ Lee could carry on the "CM Punk" torch against the Authority by feuding with Stephanie.
It's so simple... As usual, I make the recommendations and it's up to the WWE to take the money off the table.
I'll go A+ for this week's RAW. Good to great matches and excellent segments. GIVE ME SUMMERSLAM NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Projected SummerSlam 2014 Match-Ups
Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose
Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt
Rusev vs. Jack Swagger
Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton
Stephanie McMahon vs. Brie Bella
John Cena (c) vs. Brock Lesnar
^^ Wow, that's a GREAT card!
SO JUST CHILL... 'TIL THE NEXT EPISODE!
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