Sep 14 - The Benefits of 3 Hour Raws
Sep 10 - Overrated
Sep 10 - Post Raw and Pre Night of Champion thoughts
3 Hour Raw Benefits
I have been highly critical of the WWE programming since changing the format of their Monday night staple from 2 hours to 3. In fact, there are very few people who have commented on the bright side of getting the extra hour of content on wrestling’s biggest program. Overrated
It’s a shame because there’s a shitload of awesome reasons to enjoy the 3 hours of Raw. The major one that I think every one has noticed but hasn’t really put 2-and-2 together on is the actual wrestling. On a weekly basis we are given at least one awesome free wrestling match on TV.
September 9th - Goldust vs Randy Orton
September 2nd - Cody Rhodes vs Orton
August 26th - Seth Rollins vs Daniel Bryan (Shield gauntlet)
August 19th - rare exception without one (post PPV Raw was more Entertainment oriented than sports)
August 12th - US Title #1 Contender Battle Royal, Sandow vs Orton
August 5th - CM Punk vs Curtis Axel, Bryan/Cena/Orton vs The Shield
July 29th - Christian vs Del Rio, Ryback vs Cena (tables match)
July 22nd - Sheamus vs Del Rio, Daniel Bryan vs Antonio Cesaro (gauntlet match)
July 15th - Del Rio vs Ziggler, Van Dam vs Jericho
July 8th - Daniel Bryan vs Sheamus, Jericho vs Curtis Axel, CM Punk vs Randy Orton
July 1st - The Shield vs Christian/Usos, Cena vs Del Rio
June 24th - Jericho vs Del Rio, Daniel Bryan vs Randy Orton (street fight)
These were all very solid matches, especially for TV. I would even go as far as say most of them were Pay Per View quality, while not deserving to be on PPV. For example, Cena vs Ryback in the Tables Match on July 29th would not sell very well after the terrible Ryback run following WrestleMania, though it would fit in nicely as a PPV non-headliner, and therefore a pretty damn good TV main event quality match.
On their own, these types of matches aren’t exactly the type that will make you shell out $50 for a PPV. But, you put Cena vs Ryback in a grudge Tables Match, Curtis Axel vs CM Punk with Paul Heyman involvement/implications, The Shield vs Christian/Usos, Jericho vs Del Rio, and headlined by Orton vs Daniel Bryan for the WWE Title in a Street fight… that’s a pretty damn good card! And we got all these matches on TV for free.
And these bouts are given time. I read lots of complaints about commercial breaks interfering mid-match, but it’s a necessary evil. And the matches given enough time to be split up by a commercial break tend to be solid enough to want you coming back to see the conclusion. You’re not seeing too many Titus O’Neil vs Heath Slater matches going 10-15 minutes. So I have no beef with the commercial breaks, because 99% of the time it means I’m watching a great match on free TV.
Outside of these main event quality matches, WWE is also using the free time to develop the midcard and tag team division. Now, don’t get me wrong, they aren’t doing an amazing job in these departments, but there’s definite improvement. Let’s again review the Raw tag team related matches recently.
September 9th - none (damn, why does the most recent Raw have to be a bad example for my argument!? - Actually I wouldn’t be surprised if Jack Swagger’s recent pot arrest caused him to be refused into Canada and may have been why Antonio was alone)
September 2nd - 3MB vs PTP
August 26th - Titus O’Neil vs Jack Swagger
August 19th - Real Americans vs PTP, Usos vs 3MB
August 12th - Real Americans vs Usos
August 5th - Wyatt Family vs Tonnes of Funk, Real Americans vs Usos
July 29th - The Shield vs Usos/Christian
July 22nd - None (Though both members of each PTP and Real Americans competed)
July 15th - Real Americans vs Usos
July 8th - The Shield vs Tonnes of Funk
July 1st - The Shield vs Christian/Usos, CM Punk/Curtis Axel vs PTP
June 24th - Tonnes of Funk vs Usos vs 3MB
That’s pretty damn impressive in terms of exposure for a division that pretty much has floundered over the last decade, besides times when dominated by super-teams like Edge/Jericho and DX. This again isn’t to say more can’t be done, but it’s not like the 5 teams competing on Sunday’s pre-show have been MIA for months.
The midcard won’t need recapping, because honestly Raw has always had a fair share of midcard matches. In fact, for most of the existence of Raw, it was dominated by midcard matches that were easily and quickly forgettable. Look at the tag matches and tell many of them you remembered before I listed them for you? I’m willing to bet even with this list ahead of you, you don’t remember handful of them. “Did Real Americans take on the Usos twice in the span of a month? Did they even wrestle once?”
Don’t feel bad if you’ve forgotten, that’s most likely part of the plan. This Sunday, WWE does not want us remembering the win/loss record for each team nearly as much as you and I will. They want it to be up in the air, which is tremendous in theory. I want Tonnes of Funk to be a major threat to the tag titles just as much as I want The Shield to be solid champions. Midcard and tag divisions work best with many names in the mix simultaneously. While I’m no fan of the wrestling trend of WWE feuds being contested 2-3 PPVs straight with the same matches, it’s mostly relegated to the main event picture. There’s little need for the Shield to take on the Usos for 3 events straight. Usos got a very impressive rub with their elevation to #1 contenders for Money in the Bank. Even in the loss, they are higher up the theoretical totem pole than 6 months ago. If on Sunday we see the Usos go down to the 3MB to a true tag maneuver, the 3 Man Band is suddenly worth taking seriously.
This can be key if the decision comes for the Prime Time Players to walk out of Night of Champions with the copper titles. If PTP wins (that’s a BIG if) the Turmoil and then the title match, it’ll be because Rollins and Reigns will be onto something else. While the tag division is in a nice position, the current champions are the focal point with or without their straps. PTP defeating The Shield would be huge, along with the obvious rematch we’d see on TV later on this week going in the favor of the new champions. If that were to happen, Young and O’Neil would need new teams to work with. The obvious tandem is the only one not in this 5 way match in Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. PTP would most likely be put in a transitional championship reign for the Wyatt’s to take over, but it wouldn’t be an immediate swap. The Players will need a couple of wins, and the memory of Jinder Mahal pinning Jey Uso with some sort of memorable offensive maneuver will assist in giving 3MB credibility as challengers to the titles. Remember, at SummerSlam 92 when LOD and Money Inc were available and on the card, the tag titles were defended against the Beverly Brothers. Seriously. In today’s era, 3MB can be taken seriously with such small booking trickery.
And this all comes back to Raw. The tag teams are slowly getting more and more important to the program. I’m sure WWE would be comfortable returning to the era of tag matches carrying the live events as discussed in retrospect of the 80s and 90s. I’m not saying the Universe wants to see Brodus/Tensai vs Mahal/Slater in a 20 minute TV match right now, but with continued work, they could. Take a look at this:
Saturday Night's Main Event V
March 1, 1986 (taped February 15, 1986) - Phoenix, Arizona - Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Mr. T defeated "Cowboy" Bob Orton (with Roddy Piper)
01:00, 2nd round
King Kong Bundy (with Bobby Heenan) defeated Steve Gatorwolf
Hulk Hogan defeated The Magnificent Muraco (with Bobby Heenan) by disqualification
Singles match for the WWF Championship
The Dream Team (Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine) (with Johnny Valiant) defeated The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith and The Dynamite Kid) (with Captain Lou Albano)
Tag team match for the WWF Tag Team Championship
The Junkyard Dog defeated Adrian Adonis (w/Jimmy Hart)
Saturday Night's Main Event VI
May 3, 1986 (taped May 1, 1986) - Providence, Rhode Island - Providence Civic Center
Hulk Hogan and The Junkyard Dog (with The Haiti Kid) defeated Terry Funk and Hoss Funk (with Jimmy Hart and Jimmy Jack Funk)
Tag team match
King Kong Bundy defeated Uncle Elmer
Adrian Adonis (with Jimmy Hart) defeated Paul Orndorff by disqualification
Jake Roberts wrestled Ricky Steamboat to a no-contest
The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith and The Dynamite Kid) (with Captain Lou Albano) defeated Nikolai Volkoff and The Iron Sheik (with Classy Freddie Blassie)
Two out of three falls match for the WWF Tag Team Championship
Saturday Night's Main Event VII
October 4, 1986 (taped September 13, 1986) - Richfield, Ohio - Coliseum at Richfield
Hulk Hogan defeated Paul Orndorff (with Bobby Heenan) by disqualification -
Singles match for the WWF Championship
Ricky Steamboat defeated Jake Roberts
Roddy Piper defeated The Iron Sheik (with Slick)
The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith and The Dynamite Kid) (with Captain Lou Albano) defeated The Dream Team (Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine) (with Johnny Valiant)
Two out of three falls match for the WWF Tag Team Championship
Kamala (with The Wizard and Kim Chee) defeated Lanny Poffo
What were the longest matches on these cards? Tag Matches. I’m a huge advocate of tag wrestling, so I’m clearly biased and with an agenda. But tag wrestling, even between 2 “jobber” teams like 3MB and Tonnes of Funk, can sustain your attention for longer than a singles matches between a member of each of these teams. The drama of “hot tags,” referee distractions, keeping your opponent in your corner, quick tags…etc. These are all very basic and standard tools of the trade in tag wrestling. Using the current Raw TV Time to establish these teams more and more in a slow manner will allow the tag matches to carry through commercial breaks more often.
But, even if none of this fantasy programming takes place, we still have a tag division wrestling on TV 90% of the time, with the tag titles around the waists of the most credible and established actual tag team champions (not thrown together single stars) since at least the era of MNM. It’s no joke. And I strongly believe that 3 hour Raws are a major tool in how this has taken place.
When the 3rd hour was added to Monday nights, there were obvious growing pains. You weren’t alone in groaning at the terrible “comedy” segments presented to us involving future Leprechaun star Hornswaggle or The Great Khali. But these segments are long gone. Every segment on Monday is with a purpose of some kind, even those involving the Bellas, JoJo and Eva Marie. I’m not tuning into Total Divas, but credit is due to how the reality show has helped assemble the hottest Divas match in a long long while.
There’s still lots of room for improvement, but compared to what we witnessed last year around this time in the infancy of the 3 hour Raw, we should all be smiling. I know I am.
While writing my work on how I feel John Cena is the best in-ring wrestler WWE has on their roster today, I concentrated on his versatility of working with a wide variety of types of opponents and delivering a Match of the Year candidate. The big reason I still hold Daniel Bryan and CM Punk from reaching that spot is their up-to-now inability to execute a match of the year contender while working with the more physically limited talents on the WWE roster. In this regard I do find them a tad overrated. Now, before you do backflips shooting Contra type firepower at me for that comment, let me remind you that I still prefer watching these 2 men wrestle over Cena, and think it won’t be long until they takeover the #1 wrestler in the WWE spot. Punk showed he has expanded his ability to work with larger beasts in his matches against Undertaker and Brock Lesnar this year, while I have no doubt that Daniel Bryan’s solid, if not awesome, matches against Ryback and Sheamus are a strong indicator that he too can hold his own in the land of the giants and deliver Slammy award winning bouts. But, neither have yet to prove themselves to pull off solid wrestling against the Batistas and Big Shows of the WWE. This isn’t to say they can’t, because I firmly believe they can if they were given storylines and booking similar to how Cena was offered over the years. Until they get that opportunity however, my vote goes to Cena.Raw Thoughts
All that being said, it made me look back at how easy it is for average wrestlers to look much better than they actually are when working with an elite talent. It’s been said that Ric Flair can wrestle a broom to a great match. Along with Ric Flair, you can add Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, CM Punk, John Cena, Daniel Bryan and a couple of others into that category of workers who would have a near-impossible time of having a bad match. It would be very easy to look like an impressive worker when across the ring of any of these men. And I think that has happened more than a few times in the history of our favorite sport, where a talent is labeled as Hall of Fame worthy as an in-ring performer due to looking good in matches against the elite, but somehow never making a dent with someone outside of that list of names.
It is with this introduction that I present to you my argument of someone who was good, but not great. That is, unless he was working with Bret Hart or Shawn Michaels during his singles run between 1991 until his death in 2002. It is with a controversial tone that I must state that in my opinion:
The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith
is insanely overrated.
I know there are a lot of Brits on this site who praise the talents of Davey Boy as perhaps the best British wrestler of all time. I would normally laugh at this, but I think it has more to do with WWE presentation than ignorance of the Brits. As a Canadian, the debate for our best wrestler isn’t nearly as arguable because there isn’t a lot of competition for Bret Hart. I could understand Owen being voted over him, or Christian in a way, and perhaps Jericho, but all in all Bret deserves that spot without much fuss. And it isn’t because he was so superior to the others, because much like Punk/Bryan needing the same opportunities Cena has had to prove their #1 spot worth, the other Canadians were never treated the same way as the Hitman as the #1 guy. Had Christian been 20 years older and debuted in 1985 in a tag team, things might be quite different.
In Britian though, the story is entirely the opposite. Canada has a rather decent history of top talent from the bottom of the cards to the top. Maybe it is due to the easy access to the US and nowhere near as significant of an access, but WWE has shown Canadian wrestlers in a much stronger spotlight than any Brit. As of yet, no British born wrestler has ever held a WWE or WCW World Title. On top of this, but the ratio of Canadian to British wrestlers to be on the roster at any given time is guesstimated at 4:1. I am not claiming this is right, just stating what is.
So for the Bulldog to stand out, you’d think it would be easier with a shorter name of talent to have crossed over to North America than Canada moving south. The problem is that most of the British wrestlers made a name for themselves due to their extreme talent. A wrestler with the skills of R-Truth would never find a home in WWE if he were British in today’s wrestling world. Why import an average wrestler when you can develop your own through the NXT system?
So the list of British wrestlers who were successful in WWE may be short, but they are almost all tremendous workers. William Regal and Dynamite Kid are the other names that are in the history books as tremendous British WWE talent. I believe that one day Wade Barrett’s name will also be on that list, as long as WWE doesn’t squander his talents much like Dynamite and Regal’s have been (though both Regal and Billington squandered their own talent). Regal, Barrett and Dynamite were all tremendous workers in some fashion. but where never given the opportunities to main event that Davey Boy was. But, in my opinion, all 3 are better wrestlers than the final British Bulldog.
I want to refresh my Punk/Cena/Bryan thoughts here, because I know someone is going to have a comment on how I’m unfair. Punk and Bryan have not been given the same main event options that Cena has been given, so they aren’t #1 just yet. So how can I say Davey Boy, who was given main event options, is not better than Regal, Barrett or Dynamite who were never afford those opportunities? Seems contradictory, doesn’t it? The difference is that Cena delivered whenever called upon, and Davey Boy did not.
Smith worked classic matches against the Hitman is 92 and 95, and had some top quality matches (but not exactly classic) against the Heartbreak Kid in 1996 and 97. Let’s also include the match for the European Title that he had against Owen in 97. Now, what else has he done? This isn’t a case of what has he done lately, but what has he done at all? Was he a successful European Champion? Or Intercontinental Champion? I think it’s a very easy statement to make when I say Regal’s reigns with either of those titles were much better than Davey Boy’s.
Now, again, this isn’t a knock on Davey Boy. I’m not writing this for shock value. I just think it’s essential to point out that it seems he’s judged on only his high points, and those were few and far between.
By the way, Davey Boy failed just as many piss tests as Regal, but his body was impressive enough to keep him around with less mic skills. Think about it, you know it’s true.
Davey Boy Smith was a talented performer who was much more agile than the look of his body gave him any right to be. He was also able to keep up with the quickness of smaller men as opponents and tag partners. He took part in arguably the best SummerSlam match of all time, with a forgotten classic rematch 3 years later. He was a great export from England to the World of Wrestling.
But he was and is still entirely overrated.
As I called for last week, Raw delivered that moment where Daniel Bryan gave the audience and himself hope in winning the title this Sunday. It looked like another beatdown would end the show, but thankfully they gave the story the extra twist at the last minute. I knew I’d be proven right, and once again, I am.
The amazing Toronto crowd helped give us one of the best Raws of the year. The hometown reaction for the return of Santino was impressive, and the match with Cesaro stole the show.
Major kudos is due to whoever decided how to dedicate the TV time to Goldust to hype up the Orton match. Adam the Video Guy helped obviously, but it took a true genius to come up with the idea of putting it all together, showcasing the history of Goldust in a few segments, and then using a promo segment before the match to cap it all off. He was made a bigger deal last night than at any other part of his career (well, maybe barring 1996 when he was doing WWF title matches on the house show circuit and feuding with the Undertaker). There should be a placed for Pay Per Appearance negotiations with former stars. I don’t think a full term contract for Goldust is necessary (within 2 months, he’d be back to putting over Heath Slater on Superstars), but I also don’t think he should just disappear. This would be a great way to start negotiations with someone like an M.V.P. or John Morrison, to test the waters for a bigger plan after a couple of shows. I wouldn’t want to clog the roster too much - guys like Barrett are having a hard enough time getting on TV. But if used to help elevate Wade and his kind, it wouldn’t hurt.
I was excited to hear of the Tag Team Turmoil match for the Night of Champions Pre-Show. It’s another solid and subtle message to the audience that these 5 teams are all viable contenders to the Tag Team Championships. Sure, Tons of Funk have not been used to their full advantage, but a win here would fix that. I’m not making the prediction that Tensai and Clay win, just pointing out what could be and how these matches can work on the consciousness of the fans. Expect the Prime Time Players to take this one.
I must say I’m confused by the recent booking of Curtis Axel. I can understand how it’s way too early in his career and push to have him beating CM Punk, but is there any need to have Paul Heyman doubting his potential? Why would Paul keep him as one of his “guys” if he doesn’t have faith in him? Losing to Punk is one thing, but losing to Kofi Kingston, and then showing Paul distraught at his client’s failure is a confusing scenario. I know Punk will most likely not get his hands on Heyman on Sunday, but it seems backwards to show the young stud as completely mismatched in the build up. Can you imagine WWE booking Randy Orton like this in 2003? I’m starting to doubt WWE sees much in Axel.
I hope this HHH heel group finds a name soon, if only to help us writers discuss the topic. The “Fact-gime”? Corporation v2.0? I want something to stick.
All-in-all, I’m excited for Sunday, though it seems like a rather predictable show. I’m interested to find out what the buyrates will be for a non-Cena show with Daniel Bryan and CM Punk as the top names on the card. We won’t find out for a couple of months, but I think that will still be the biggest news to come out of this show.
And on that note, Peace out
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