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Posted in: The PEN15 Mightier
The PEN15 Mightier (July 2-5) Blog: Tag Division [plus Dolph Ziggler + Wade Barrett]
By PEN15
Jul 5, 2013 - 12:04:18 PM


Yes, a return to the shorter blog format. I think it’ll help me post more often and more in tune with the current happenings. We’ll see how it goes.

July 5th - Tag Division Comparisons/Restructuring

July 3rd - Dolph Ziggler Face Turn

July 2nd - Wade Barrett

Working the Tag Division

Due to my OCD like compulsive nature to watch wrestling in chronological order, I’m currently watching PPV events from what I consider WWF’s worst in ring era: 2000. This isn’t an Attitude Era bash blog though. I want to point out something that was done right in that time that WWE and TNA are almost always on the verge of recreating, but never seem to nail it.

When people fondly remember the tag division from between 2000-2002, 3 teams are oft-mentioned: Hardy Boys, Dudley Boys, and Edge + Christian. They might have been the stars, but you can’t forget the other teams that helped.

I know I’m repeating myself, but I am always waiting for WWE to give us another team like Demolition or Road Warrior. It has nothing to do with face paint, but merely the size and strength factor. Tag wrestling has seemingly always excelled when there is a fast paced team on at least one side of the ring. Take the Midnight Express vs Rock N Roll Express stuff from the 80s, the Rockers and New Age Outlaws in the 90s, Brian Kendrick and Paul London and the Guerreros in the 2000s, there’s always a place in the tag division for 2 guys to team together that don’t have the size to make it in singles. But a great dynamic is when a team like the Killer Bees ran into a brick wall tandem like Demolition.

One of the major starting points for all 3 of the “star teams” of WWF’s Attitude Era tag division was against the Acolytes. Faarooq and Bradshaw are amazing performers for various reasons, but their tag team is extremely under-appreciated and underrated. The Dudleys were already a big team, but there was a stronger sense of danger once we saw they could handle the future APA in a match or brutality. The Hardys got their first break with a shocking upset over the Acolytes for the tag titles. Edge and Christian got over their amazing heel work by antagonizing Farrooq and Bradshaw, and then playing the chicken shit heels afraid of their comeuppance.

Did the Acolytes have amazing matches? No.
Were they known for their promos (yet)? No.

But they were just as essential to the tag division as those who created the TLC match. So it will always baffle me that WWE cannot put together any 2 big men on the roster without current direction, and push them as a new Twin Towers. Ceasro and Swagger could go that route, but with both men’s single careers being defined by their in ring talent, it’s unlikely their size will be a part of their tag domination. The Wyatt Family might go in that direction eventually, but for now Rowan and Harper will be gimmick driven and secondary to Bray Wyatt. Tons of Funk after a heel turn.

Mason Ryan. Big E. Langston. Big Show. Ezekial Jackson. Ryback. Soon enough Kane. All of these guys are not doing much in terms of storylines, or could use a new direction in general. Any combination of these brutes would be effective.

The other thing to remember is how easy it would be to push them. No need for lots of segments showing how these guys decided to join forces. Ryback walking backstage, runs into Langston. No words, just postering and snorting. Then they nod, walk out together, and bring destruction to whoever is in the ring at the time.

Boom, new tag threats.

Sometimes, it is just that easy.

Dolph Ziggler’s Face Turn

It was certainly strange to see Dolph Ziggler taking on Jinder Mahal on Raw on Monday. Here’s a guy who was headlining the TLC PPV with a win over John Cena, now taking on 3MB’s lowest lackey. I am not confused as to why - I’m just pointing out how odd it was.

It makes sense. Ziggler has been portrayed as such a heel over the extent of his career, there’s a boatload of fans who need to be carried into cheering for the guy. Start with his Twitter handle of @HEELZiggler. While not too many fans know the term “heel” or care much about it, I’m sure someone in WWE is already working on his new handle. There’s no way he’ll be @FACEZiggler.

That Dolph match was not well received by the fans in attendance, and it’s understandable. Again, Jinder Mahal isn’t the type of heel to get a large reaction of boos. Dolph Ziggler is JUST starting as a face, so won’t have enough support to get people behind him. To add to that, he now has to wrestle a different style in the ring. It won’t be drastically different, but he will have to figure how to time some spots that get the crowd’s attention. Take a look at Daniel Bryan: he times his kicks to the downed opponent on his knees to get everyone chanting “YES” with him. He has also worked in his suicide dive, dropkick in the corner, and diving headbutt (and others, but these are what I can remember from the desk at work). D-Bry also has a finisher that is over and credible.

Dolph has none of these in-ring tools. I’m sure he’ll develop them, but he needs time to get them in place. Starting with the Zig-Zag. In my opinion, he should drop the move altogether. I know there’s a risk of HBK comparisons, but no one is in a perfect position to take over the Super Kick than Ziggler.

That also brings up the rumored idea from last fall where Ric Flair was supposedly brought in to mentor a newly turned face. It ended up being The Miz who now uses the Figure-4 Leg Lock, but we all heard it was supposed to be Dolph Ziggler. I would have loved the Flair mentorship angle, but I don’t know if Dolph should have adopted the same finisher. He doesn’t come off as a guy who should have a submission finisher. Maybe have it in his arsenal, much like Undertaker has Hell’s Gate, or closer to the rare times Sheamus wins with the (Texas) Cloverleaf. But Ziggler using an impact finish like Sweet Chin Music just seems right.

It’s almost a shame that he turned face, because a super kick would have been so easy to get over as a heel. Reason: @HEELZiggler. He wouldn’t need to use the same name as Shawn, or even super kick, but a variation of using Heel in the name of the move. Depending on how serious WWE is on pushing social media, called it the At Heel Kick (@HeelKick). I’m not suggesting that name, but it’s something you KNOW WWE would get behind. And it wouldn’t have been a terrible name, just sort of lame in the attempt to be a social media trend. Maybe he can still work that into the face character as a way to keep the current Twitter handle. But I doubt that will happen.

WWE and Dolph have some work ahead of them. The end of the match with Jinder was not without awkwardness. The Zig Zag finish is still needing to be chiseled into the minds of fans so they know “Oh Shit, it’s over!” The odd attack from the rest of the stable was also inept. Ziggler is trying to get over as someone to cheer by running away from cheap heels? I understand that the intent was to show how athletic and quick he was, but that wasn’t how it came off. He’s not the type of guy who can just “Stunner” all 3 of them and flip them off, but that worked so well with Steve Austin for a reason. Had Ziggler a better finisher, that segment would have worked a lot smoother. Again, with a kick to the face, we could have had him end the match with Mahal with the finish, escape Slater by jumping over the stairs, and nail MacIntyre immediately with another kik. Then, turning around to face Slater 1-on-1 primed to deliver another, Heath could have backed off knowing he was outmatched. THAT would have been a solid end to the Dolph Ziggler segment, and definitely would have caused a good reaction of cheers.

Most importantly, Dolph needs to be given time to talk. He has the charisma, and is quick on the mic. Start with a promo on Superstars or Main Event in a match against Heath or Drew, and pump up the live audience BEFORE the match starts. That way, the chants will be for Ziggler, not Jerry and JBL.

All that being said, with as much work as we need to see to make sure Dolph excels in his new position, I don’t expect him to win the World Heavyweight Championship just yet. It’s a risk, as it means more time with ADR as champion, but an angle where Dolph has to claw to get a rematch with Del Rio after a couple of months would do him wonders.

Either way, I’m excited to have a new face to cheer for. Let’s Go Ziggler.

Wade Barrett

I don’t know where WWE is going with the NXT Season 1 winner, but there’s no one on the roster that has had their ball dropped more than Wade. It’s so strange to see how he was treated as Intercontinental Champion since his return. A giant return with vignettes, and a new finishing move that can be used against all opponents of any shape and size was somehow not enough to keep him on the fast track after winning a rather well rebuilt midcard title.

When Antonio Cesaro fails to get over, it’s easy to see that he lacks that connection with the audience. All booking aside, you knew that at the core of everything, his charisma or acting ability was holding him back. That is not the case with Wade Barrett. Wade is very comfortable talking, and is certainly charismatic. Yet, he’s still not making the impact everyone has expected him to make.

Does the blame lie squarely in the laps of WWE creative? Not all of it, but a large part does. They built up Wade to be a big shot for his return, but what has he done since? Lose. I don’t remember a single victory of his other than when he won the Intercontinental Title the last 2 times against Kofi and The Miz.

So, where does he go from here, now that he’s lost the IC belt again, and with just as much fanfare as when he won it? I think he wins a new title, and not the US Championship, but the World Title via Money in the Bank briefcase.

The participants for the Smackdown World Title ladder match are more consistent of midcard title contendership. Ambrose, Rhodes, Sandow, Cesaro, and Fandango are all in no position to move to a World Title shot. Ambrose will be soon, but as the current US Champion, it’s unncessary. Cody is in a similar boat as Barrett in needing to be rebuilt since losing the white strap, but he’s been needing the rebuilding process for a much longer period of time now. Sandow is on a roll, but having never held any gold, he’ll most likely be best suited to take a midcard title before moving into the MITB/World title scene. The US title is in a decent spot now since Ambrose is holding it, as is the Intercontinental Championship with the recent push for Curtis Axel. Both are heels with lots of upside, but we all know WWE’s lack of patience. They’ll eventually want to move someone into the midcard position, and I expect Sandow to get that vote of confidence. I’m not saying it’s too early for him to hold the briefcase, because in all honesty, he’s pretty much there. The problem is that he has a lot left he can do in the midcard, and WWE should use that time to build him up more. Cesaro is on the verge of a new push with a new manager by his side, and may likely turn into a tag team with Jack Swagger. Swagger is no threat to take the briefcase with his recent failure to capture the title and court time. Fandango is in no way ready to win the briefcase, especially after just returning from injury by this point.

That leaves Barrett to win the Money in the Bank contract. It wouldn’t be the smartest decision, but it’s the most likely. A smarter move would be to let Sandow run with it, and I wouldn’t complain if that’s what happens. But WWE definitely knows there’s something untapped with Barrett, and they won’t give up yet. There’s nothing wrong with that, because I doubt anyone can argue that they just haven’t found the right outlet for Wade. I don’t know of anyone who thinks he’s a complete bum. Some find him bland, but realize it’s more about what he’s been given to work with.

WWE will treat the briefcase as a way to force themselves into pushing him decently. It’s weird how they think sometimes, but you all know it’s true. It’s not that Wade has or hasn’t earned a chance to break out, but more that WWE knows he has to, and haven’t been able to find a way to do it. There’s only so many heels that can be dominant, so he was never fully capitalized in that fashion. They ****ed up from the beginning of his return.

A gimmick of a street brawler only really works if he’s knocking people out, or is a vicious brute. I’m suggesting less talk (even though we know he’s good at it) and more direct violence. During the barely developed feud against The Miz, he should have been laying out his rival with the Souvenir Elbow/Bull Hammer in attacks and backstage segments. Knocking out jobbers on Smackdown isn’t a bad way to go. Hell, it worked to get people behind Ryback. But Ryback at the time was a face, and Wade is a heel. This is a major difference, because faces win clean more often, so there’s even more of a chance for the finisher to be implanted in the minds of the audience. Add the gimmick of him lifting 2 guys at a time, and you debuted a new star with a unique finisher that connected almost immediately. Barrett was never afforded that luxury, and to this day his finisher has never been a hit.

So, the time is now (not John Cena’s time) for Barrett to make the splash everyone has been expecting since the first NXT ended. Wade is going to be Mr. Money in the Bank for a few months to make himself relevant again.

The question I have to ask is if he’ll be the newest heel to turn face? In a 7 man ladder match of only heels, I have no doubt the winner will get quite a pop. Is this how WWE will move forward with Barrett, as a young lion to cheer on his way up? Or will they keep him heel knowing the decent potential for Dolph Ziggler to be the perfect new face on the block to be cheered into super stardom? I don’t have a prediction, because both are possible, and good ideas. WWE is low on face stars, and I think many of the existing ones could be turning for the worst (Orton, Kane or Bryan, Kofi Kingston...etc).

Wade Barrett’s future is seemingly as wide open as it is doomed. He’s got a lot of options, but you wonder how many WWE will be willing to give him after the failures over the last 3 years. I can’t find a reason to blame the performer as much as the company, but when it’s the company who makes that decision, nobody is safe.

And on that note, Peace out

Feel free to email me a comment (Email PEN15). One of the best parts of writing is the discussions that come out of it. My hope is that your response could be used in a column to publicly discuss your comments.
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