REQUESTING FLYBY: The IWC Negativity Surrounding WWE This Week Is Grossly Unfair
Aug 31, 2014 - 3:27:19 PM
The IWC Negativity Surrounding WWE This Week Is Grossly Unfair
Let me state this absolutely- I do not understand the degree of negativity towards the current WWE product expressed by the IWC in the last week.
From what I can understand from all of the things I have been reading, the ill will towards WWE can be boiled down into six main gripes.
1) A lucklustre episode of Monday Night Raw.
2) A belief that the Lesnar vs. Cena situation has been poorly handled.
3) Dean Ambrose’s temporary absence while filming a movie for WWE Studios.
4) The ongoing “super push” of Roman Reigns.
5) A lack of direction in the midcard and dissatisfaction about repetitive match ups.
6) The Bellas.
Now, each of these arguments has a degree of merit, but goodness gracious me, you would think that The Great Khali just beat the entire male roster in a gauntlet match to embark upon a Sammartino bothering title run from the angst shown by certain sections of the audience. I have watched WWE for a long time (since 1990) and I dare say that most of you reading this have watched WWE for a long time also, so surely you have the perspective to understand that things are nowhere near as bad as you’d think given the level of ranting and raving I’ve been seeing? If we rewind one year, Curtis Axel was pulling double duty on pay-per-view, Bray Wyatt was wrestling irrelevant midcarders and AJ Lee was stuck with the task of making jabroni divas look credible against her. So that was hardly perfect. Rewind a year before that? CM Punk was ripping off Randy Orton’s old legend killer gimmick, Alberto Del Rio was employing David Otunga to get the Brogue Kick banned and the original Sin Cara was still a thing. There are ALWAYS negatives in the product if you are feeling inclined enough to look for them or are in the mood to be bothered by them. As most of you will know, I am currently engaged in a 52 week retrospective of the Attitude Era with Mazza. So far I have re-watched two and a half years worth of Monday Night Raw from March ‘97 to November ‘99, plus a good 36 or so pay-per-views, and as well as all of the amazing stuff you all remember, there is some horrible stuff too. Al Snow taking on Big Bossman for the cooked remains of his pet dog anybody? Six changes of number one contender to the WWF title in the space of a fortnight anyone? Perspective is everything. If you’re looking for them, of course there will be negatives. It doesn’t mean that the world is ending.
The 08/25 episode of the flagship show was an episode of Raw, nothing more, nothing less. Was it a brilliant three hours? No, of course not. Was it as teeth grindingly awful as everybody made out? No way. In my weekly review, RAW-QUESTING FLYBY I took the following positives from the show:
1) The opening panel was a nice nod to “real life” sports where former players almost always perform the role of studio analysts and anchors.
2) John Cena delivered a strong promo referencing coming to in the trainer’s room and finding the intestinal fortitude to come back, not just to fight Brock Lesnar but to BEAT HIS ASS.
3) Jack Swagger and Rusev put on yet another strong, heated, hard hitting match which then fed into a new, and to my eyes at least, intriguing feud between Swags and Bo Dallas.
4) AJ and Paige continue to knock it out of the park as regards their brand of psychological warfare.
5) Seth Rollins did some magnificent heel work in the eulogy for Dean Ambrose.
6) Roman Reigns delivered a strong performance for the first time in some weeks.
So think about it again: was it really the worst Raw you’ve seen? Because if I watch a show with six positive things to take away from it, I definitely don’t think to myself, like a parody of The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy “Worst. Raw. Ever.” It seems to me that many disliked the panel, which is fair enough, your taste is your taste, but it served its purpose, which was to show that even Cena’s spiritual forebears did not believe he could overcome the odds. The man himself then came out to express the fact that he not only can, but will. In many ways, Cena at this point is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. If he had come out and acted all broken, everybody would have thrown up their hands and said that it was ridiculous that the man who had built his career on “Never Give Up” had given up, particularly as there is no way John Boy would have maintained that persona much past the third week of the build anyway. I would agree that Swagger and Rusev have maybe had too many matches at this point, but there was a clear purpose to this one which was to set up Bo Dallas as the annoying little creep of a heel that’s buzzing away in the All American American’s ear in his darkest hour. To be fair, I haven’t seen any criticism of AJ and Paige or of Seth, so skipping on to the contentious subject of Roman Reigns, WWE did dial back a bit on him this week. They timed his interruption of the eulogy to perfection, didn’t have him promo, and had him come out the better of the situation with Rollins and Kane without looking indestructible.
Moving on, the whirlwind of dissatisfaction over the WWE World Heavyweight Title’s booking is something I’m finding it tough to wrap my head around. People complained that Cena won at Money In The Bank and was stale. They complained that Lesnar was part time and it would have an adverse effect on the product. They complained for ten years that Cena looked too strong, and complained when he looked too weak. They complained that Lesnar didn’t have an aura, and now complain because he does. People complained when the top title wasn’t booked as credible, but equally complain now that someone terrifyingly legit has won it. They complain that Cena is a phoney for his constant disputations of loyalty, but equally complain that Brock is a mercenary with no love for the business. Make your minds up haters. Instead of just seeing how the Beast Incarnate as champ situation plays out, everyone is obsessed with the end game. It’s the equivalent of turning to the last page of a novel before you’ve read the rest. Just see how it develops week to week. That is what professional wrestling is all about, the anticipation. Personally, I am fascinated to see what they do with Brock Lesnar as champion and find Cena a much more sympathetic protagonist when he’s opposite a kayfabe bully of the Beast’s calibre. Night of Champions is surely a must see pay-per-view simply to see how the rematch is booked. That alone justifies what they did at Summerslam, as does the enormous amount of mainstream interest generated by the title change and the manner of the title change.
Now, as for Dean Ambrose’s absence, this is the very best thing both for him and for the blood feud between he and Rollins. WWE have booked the entire thing MASTERFULLY, from the moment the chair shot echoed around the arena at the post-Payback Raw. Not having the scheduled match at Battleground and replacing it with an arena wide brawl reminiscent of the Attitude Era, booking the stipulation choice shenanigans for Summerslam, having two ultra talented workers redefine the much maligned lumberjack match before tearing the house down in a falls count anywhere the night after...every step has been brilliant. The writing, the booking, the promos, the wrestling. Everything. I can remember very few injury angles executed as well as that; the gimmicked cinder block curb stomp looked utterly brutal and it plays wonderfully into Ambrose’s character to have him AWOL for a few weeks. I very much hope he stays AWOL until just before Survivor Series at the earliest. The breathing space allows the feud to marinate in a way that it otherwise wouldn’t be able to. The IWC complain that WWE over expose things? Well, they’ve done the opposite with Dean and Seth. Give them credit for it. What’s more, it now allows Roman Reigns to come into The Shield break up picture, and if he does end up working a short programme with The Architect, I have a feeling it will do his in-ring development far more favours than working with Orton, who didn’t seem to understand his brief at Summerslam.
Speaking of Reigns, I am the first to admit that I have found his booking distasteful since Battleground. The Orton feud was a giant botch in my view, but here’s the thing; I’ve always believed that WWE could turn that situation around. Roman is still learning and has raw talent and charisma to burn. The way he was used on Raw on Monday shows that WWE are learning to use him in a more flattering, less obvious way and I’m optimistic that they can continue to find their range with him. As with the title picture, everyone is so obsessed with the end game for Reigns that they can’t see the wood for the trees. This is a guy who everyone wanted to see pushed; well, here it is. We can either accept the fact that any push, particularly an assumed long term one, is likely to have glitches, or we can play the stereotype of an IWC member and throw our hands up in disgust. Let’s have some patience and deal with the situation with some moderation, shall we?
In addition, I’ve seen some nonsense written about Reigns being privileged over Ambrose and Rollins and a lot of accompanying complaints that Trips or Vince or whoever doesn’t understand who is suited for that main event career. Look, I’ve said this from day one of The Shield in November 2012; all three of those guys are destined to be main eventers for years and years to come. They are each being pushed, but you see, that verb “push” has more than one variety. It is not a homogenous concept. Not every single push will look the same. The Lunatic Fringe is currently in the midst of what we might term an “Austin Push”. He is getting over by appearing, raising hell, leaving and cutting riotous promos. Now, it may be that his first title win is some time away, just as it was for Stone Cold himself. It is a fact often forgotten that the Rattlesnake came to prominence in June 1996 but didn’t win the big one until March 1998. So, please remember, not carrying the title does not mean that a guy is not being pushed. The Architect is experiencing what we might term a “Triple H Push” or perhaps an “Edge Push”. He is a clever, cerebral, vicious, calculating heel with ties to authority, which he is using to his advantage. He may win the title earlier than Ambrose, though the pushes are equal with each other. Finally, Reigns is getting a traditional babyface treatment, what we might term a “Batista Push”, breaking out of a stable where he was once the dynamic big man to become a main event fixture. Three different men, three different types of push, but the same result. Have no fear there. WWE know what they have on their hands with Rollins and Ambrose just as they do with Reigns, and the storylines support that; the two “workers” at each others’ throats while the “power” takes on an established headliner in a practice run before dropping into either a tag match or a singles match against his former stablemate.
The amount of fun generated by Rollins and Ambrose is the main defence against the lazily constructed argument that WWE cannot book the midcard properly but there are others too. STORIES ARE BACK IN THE MIDCARD! Really! Open your eyes, please. Jack Swagger has been defending America against Rusev. I think we can agree that this is a midcard story, yes? Bo Dallas is now hazing Swags over his inability to get the job done, which I think we can agree is story progression? How about AJ and Paige’s aforementioned mind games and battle to prove that they are the alpha diva of the division? It’s been running since the night after ‘Mania and unlike so many previous Divas Title feuds, it really means something. What about Dolph Ziggler and The Miz, with their one-upmanship, boasting and desire to make the Intercontinental Title mean something? Goldust and Cody Rhodes were on a losing streak, which Cody blamed himself for. In a case of ENOUGH IS ENOUGH AND IT’S TIME FOR A CHANGE, the younger brother re-appeared as Stardust, matching his sibling for weirdness. After searching for a “Cosmic Key” the two have now turned heel in pursuit of The Usos and their tag straps. Again, it’s long term plotting. Now, I’m not claiming that every single midcarder is engaged in a storyline, and I will freely admit that the likes of Sheamus, Rob Van Dam and Cesaro are not being used well in the least, and I can’t say I’m so much of a fan of yet another thrown together tag team of singles guys with nothing to do in Henry and Show, either, but on the whole, there is much more character and plot development than there has been for a while.
Are there too many repetitive match ups? Probably, yes. Do WWE have too many superfluous wrestling shows outside of their top two? Absolutely. Do you have to watch all of them? As my friend Dean Ambrose would say, “NOPE.” I watch Raw, and pay-per-views, and if Smackdown or Main Event look interesting on any given occasion, I’ll give them a look. I certainly wouldn’t slavishly sit down and watch all of them just for the sake of it. It might well be annoying that Rybaxel vs. The Dusts took place for the 93rd time this calendar year, but there’s no need to watch it if you don’t want to. This isn’t a new thing by any means; did you all use to watch Velocity every week, for example? I doubt it. It might be there, doesn’t mean you have to put yourself through it. If you find yourself feeling cynical or burned out, why not do what my fellow main page columnist The Doc is doing and just take a break from the product for a bit? I hated the whole of 2006, but just like Doc at this very moment in time, I didn’t waste my time moaning, I just dipped out until I sensed I could get back onboard again.
On the final widely held gripe, that time is being wasted on The Bella Twins, I will just say this: it isn’t half as bad as is being made out. Once again, I must reiterate that it is a story within the divas division, something once as rare as rooster’s eggs, but as we speak there are two properly conceived divas stories at the same time. Brie Bella was fairly terrible on Monday night, this I must admit, but equally, she held her end up admirably during the Steph programme, which was also- wait for it- a story. Meanwhile, Nikki Bella actually cut a competent heel promo on Raw, and I am more than prepared to see what she does with the turn. It’s not my favourite thing on the show by any means, but I don’t hate it either. Sometimes I think that wrestling fans are so pre-programmed to knee jerk these days that nothing is allowed to just develop anymore. We’ve lost our innocence so much that we have no patience with anything. A segment happens, we piss all over it, and that’s it, our minds are made up. As I said earlier, there was plenty of crap in the Attitude Era, the difference was that the crowds and the fans at home embraced all of it. They gave everything a chance. It’s our inherent cynicism that spoils angles as much as them being “bad” in the first place, besides which, if you have considered a certain feud or match up and decided it’s not for you, I dare say you know where the skip button is.
This is where being a UK fan gives me a bit more perspective. I might not be able to watch live, but in many ways, this turns out to be an advantage. Watching the next day, I can skip the replays, the plugs, plus anything that I’m not feeling about the current angles. The time I spend watching Raw regularly dips below the two hour mark for me, and so I suppose that most episodes feel decent at worst and excellent at best, to me. So if you are an American reader, why not give that approach a try? It might surprise you how easy Raw is to watch that way. Now, I know that in an ideal world, the three hours would be used better and the replays, plugs, etc. would go away, but we need to remember that the ADHD nature of modern audiences means that top of the hour replays are needed for some viewers and that WWE is a business and so needs to plug its Network and App. Besides, I’m sure older readers will remember when WWF endless plugged its 1-800 information line back in the 90s? Honestly, a grinning Michael Cole telling you to get the Network is really no worse than a smug Mean Gene asking you to ring up a payline and find out what Bret Hart had for dinner. Watching back all the old episodes of Raw for ATTITUDE, I find DX shilling Supersoakers, Sunny modelling Steve Austin merchandise on a makeshift catwalk and all manner of other commercialised skits. Vince McMahon is a great big Capitalist, I dare say that this isn’t the first time anyone’s noticed that.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and if you truly believe that the product WWE are currently putting out is rotten, then fair enough. All I ask is that you look at the evidence more closely before reaching for the keyboard and engaging moan mode. What I see is a company that pushed Daniel Bryan to the WWE World Heavyweight Title, booked a brilliant face run for The Shield before breaking them to spectacular effect, used Lesnar in short impactful bursts, set up pairings of wrestlers who could tear the house down in the midcard and put on several acclaimed supercards from a lauded developmental system. I can’t say that everything WWE have done in the last year is perfect, and it is my job as a wrestling columnist to point out where they get it wrong, but equally, I feel that it is important to say that they get it right more often than not. It is my nature as a fan to look on the bright side because let’s face it, the product is more enjoyable that way. So rather than throw the TV out the window the next time you dislike an episode of Raw, why not put things in perspective a bit more?
This is Maverick, requesting flyby.
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