Five days of new WWE content. More independent shows than I can possibly make my way through in a week. It’s been a great few days for pro wrestling. With WWE leading the way for their calendar year beginning, we now find ourselves on the threshold of a whole new season for all their brands. With all the possibilities coming, is it any wonder I can’t sleep? In no particular order, allow me to delve into the main reasons why.
The Grand Daddy of Grand Daddy stages
I absolutely loved the Wrestlemania stage. I know a lot of people, including the talent themselves, remarked on it being exceptionally long and that not being ideal. But as a stage? It was amazing. The visual of everyone walking down, particularly during the night, looked amazing. Everyone was a Superstar, in a sea of people. Maybe the length of the ramp may have been underestimated but as a spectacle, it made it stand out from everything we have seen all year. In fact, most sets we have seen in a while.
Wrestlemania once again proved why WWE is the leader when it comes to pro wrestling. Not in-ring quality, that can be argued all day long. No-one can touch WWE when it comes to presentation for TV spectacles. Most are wrestling companies, WWE is a TV institution.
And whilst talking about their production values, a mighty hat’s off to the WWE production team. They rarely get enough credit. The video packages, the set, the entrances. All top notch. Yes, I saw the pictures of fans in attendance blinded by the light above the ring, but they were trying something. There may have been issues with lighting, a small fire, even the marathon the wrestlers had to take before getting in the ring. But as a TV spectacle, I’ve never wanted to be anywhere more.
The Transitional Era of Wyatt
I wanted a Wyatt title run for the last few years. Roughly from the moment I saw him beat Daniel Bryan at the Royal Rumble 2014. When it finally came, I felt it had been long overdue and celebrated wildly. I looked forward to all the possibilities that a Wyatt Champion could bring. We got absolutely none of them. Rather than a domineering, charismatic cult leader turning the world on its head then destroying it, we got hocus pocus, a focus on the ash of a dead woman, a what the fuck is a crusix, arson, a really weak reveal and to top it all off, a really poor match at Mania.
Not only was the match poor, but it featured an emphasis on projected disgusting images on the match. Kudos once again to the production crew, they nailed the projector, but why the fuck was that even part of a match at the biggest show of the year for the biggest prize on Smackdown? So boring match, creepy visuals, and a really flat finish with just the solitary RKO. That’s right, possibly the 3rd most popular indie move is the key to taking anyone out in WWE. It annoys me greatly, but I’ll admit to being unfair as I find Orton unbearable. But I wanted more than a transitional reign.
So we find ourselves on Smackdown, and as Orton monotones his way through an unexceptional promo Bray appears, and says he wants to fight. I nearly jump with excitement. But it’s revealed to be a House of Horrors match. Or whatever they’re planning. Then we get more Wyatt magic in the main event. Wyatt is at his best as a satanic salesman, devastating in the ring and unshakeable in his belief that he has the answers to the questions he’s already changed. The magic is not needed. Just let him be a badass. And maybe give a proper, nowhere near Orton title run one day.
Shake-up: Trade, draft or lottery?
I like the idea of the roster being shook up moving forward. I’m really looking forward to all the possibilities it can bring. Rumours are floating around with the big ones being New Day and AJ Styles being transferred. I don’t know if this will be a big trade show, or a draft like show, or even a lottery with no control for the Commissioners. What I do know is that I’d love for it to have a sports like feel.
Wrestlers looking to be traded, Angle and Bryan sat in front of screens trying to guard their best assets whilst looking to poach some new talent for their shows. Something similar to a mid-season trade. This could become something regular if it goes well and frankly I’m hoping it does.
What I don’t want is people being buried by a change. I can remember Eric Bischoff walking around saying Raw didn’t exist without Triple H. And then a trade of Triple H for the Dudley Boys and Booker T. No one came out of that deal looking good. We don’t need any of that.
This could be the perfect chance for development and opportunities for some wrestlers in dire need of a change of scenery (I’m talking about Sami Zayn, mostly) but could also be used to further develop or start stories. Bryan despises The Miz so trades him and Maryse for a tag team so he can give Uso’s and Alpha’s more of a challenge. Stephanie doesn’t like Zayn and can’t hide her disdains for The Boss, so trades them to stack the deck against Bayley and secure a more loyal competitor. Fantasy drafting is at an all-time high so I’ll control myself. Whatever it turns out to be, I hope it gives us two comparable and strong rosters that can carry us through the next few months in an exciting manner. Here’s hoping.
The Next Step for NXT
Once again, we find ourselves in the week of NXT being pilfered of its top talent. Shinsuke Nakamura, The Revival and Tye Dillinger joined the recently departed Samoa Joe in moving onto the big brands. Whilst this is the point of NXT, it must be disheartening to have to start again every year. Losing your most talented and popular stars may be problematic, but it opens up the door for stars to move up, to seize upon the chance they now have and better still, all new match-ups and feuds.
The exodus is not yet done. The Asuka division could lose its namesake. Someone else might do it for DIY. Elias Samson may drift onto one of the big two. (Although why I have no idea.) So who will fill the top spots. Who is going to step into the main event shoes and try to entertain us whilst facing the human version of paint drying, Bobby Roode. (I swear, Roode vs. Orton could be the most tedious match of all time. Or probably brilliant in a perfect storm of unusual probability. They’re boring, is what I’m saying.)
Straight off the bat, Kassius Ohno is going to be around a while. Surely Roderick Strong could use the vacuum to move himself higher up the pecking order?
The crowd like him and we could always use more backbreakers in the world. Hideo Itami must surely be looking to finally make a splash and Nikki Cross is firmly growing into my favourite psycho everytime I see her compete. Add into the mix the returning and much more accomplished Drew McIntyre and NXT might have lost some stars, but it is a mighty big sky down in Full Sail. It will be exciting to see who starts to shine brighter in the coming months.
Who holds the power in 205 Live?
I’m about to ask a question I never thought I’d ask; does 205 Live need a GM? I know it sounds ridiculous, and I’ve never been one for ore authority figures, but something about 205 Live bothers me. The lack of someone in charge plus it’s general placement, always makes me think that it’s presented slightly as the kids being left to play amongst themselves. While I still think the 205 live experiment needs a shot of serious star power and a deeper roster, for now I would take a sense of direction.
I’m not suggesting someone called McMahon, but someone with power just to make things happen. Whilst I like the idea of the champion having the power, and the title meaning more because of it, that’s not exactly how it’s presented. Neville has clout, but orders are still handed down. Since the roster is an affiliate of Raw, you would assume they operate under Angle. But I think there could be more story to tell if 205 had their own GM.
I’m thinking more along the lines of Regal rather than Stephanie. Doesn’t have to be on every show, but is there for the important things to give an air of authority and credibility. He’s also fair, which stops the show becoming all about the authority. My choice would be Summer Rae. Sounds strange I know, but she could handle the mic easily enough, and add some much needed female presence to the show. Right now, Alicia Fox is the only female on the show. I know the women’s revolution was meant to be an in-ring competitor movement but a show with only the solitary female character definitely needs to be addressed. This would be a step in the right direction for 205 as a show.
The Excitement (and a little dread) for a UK show
WWE announced on 205 Live that it plans for a weekly UK show. This, combined with the World of sport episodes soon to be filmed make this a great time to be a young talent on the UK scene looking to gain more exposure. It also worries me slightly. I’m from the UK, and whilst I soar with pride watching the likes of Neville, Scurll and the King that is William Regal, I cringe everytime I see Grado, or recall Hade Vansen.
British wrestling will either thrill or make you peek behind your fingers. It can amaze and embarrass in equal measure. Whilst this is true of most countries (I imagine) I notice it more here. But this is still a great opportunity. Which brings up the rumours that first existed many years ago during the first roster split. Rumours of plans for not just Raw and Smackdown, but for a Japanese/ Asian promotion as well as a UK based European one were quite frequently discussed. With the emergence of the Network, WWE has a lot of space to fill. Raw, Smackdown, NXT, and 205 Live can only fill so much space. The idea of a UK only show is thrilling and will hopefully be the best use and presentation of UK talent.
Based on the success of the UK tournament last year, it leads to a worrying concern. WWE recently announced that there would be a women’s tournament later this year. The CWC gave birth to 205 Live. The UK tournament is going to give us the UK show. I don’t want a women’s only show. The cruiserweights have their own show because there just isn’t enough space to make use of their talent on the main shows and they could be easily grouped together. The UK talent are based elsewhere. But women wrestlers, they can and always should be part of the main shows.
Maybe this is leading to what Raw should always be. The biggest profile for the best that the world of wrestling has to offer. Imagine it. 205 live for the cruiserweights. The UK show for the Europeans. Another to try and break into the stacked Japanese market, perhaps. Smackdown touring the Americas and plenty of trading and crossover shows for the fans to sink their teeth into. And then Raw. Showcasing every style, every size, every gender, being the go to place for everyone, and the showcase of everything good about pro wrestling. The marque and the place to be. It could be beautiful. The Network can be a great tool for helping WWE move into the future, but it should remain flexible on what that means for Raw, and be ready to get ahead of it. In the meantime, the UK show could be a brilliant addition to my regular wrestling schedule. We apologise for the accents, you get used to them.
The Double Edged Sword of Full Sail Love
Before Raw after mania this year, I watched last years. One thing stood out, Enzo and Big Cass’ debut. The crowd knew every word as they went through their Modern Aged Outlaws shtick. (Modern Aged Outlaws was the only way I could explain Enzo & Cass to my friend who no longer watches wrestling but was visiting.) This is surely the benefit of NXT. Ready made stars that the fans already have an opinion of. The hard work of getting over is done away from the big crowds and WWE can bring them in to a heroes ovation.
But not all is good about this. Consider Tye Dillinger’s brilliant debut. The crowd went wild, all chanting TEN with reckless abandon. I did too if I’m honest. But, for all the chanting, how many crowds going forward will happily join in the infectious chanting, but know the gimmick? The hard work is done, and people are over when they’re arriving, but because of that, there is a small disconnect as acts are either not explaining what they’re about or having to slow down to show it.
Again, none of this is the worst thing in the world. Goldust was on Ride Along a few weeks ago and was telling the story of the birth of the Goldust character. He said he spent 6 months in front of audiences and it stunk. Then one night he runs his hands down his opponent and from there it took off. This hard work is now done elsewhere, great. Rosters now get ready made stars, great. But how much does this affect their shelf life?
How long does any act have before it becomes stale? How long can they go on doing the same thing before the fans that went wild start to get bored and want to see something new? With WWE starting these acts away from the live crowds, it gives them time to fine tune and almost jump to the middle of the act’s life. But that could mean we get less time with it on the main rosters. Full Sail crowd has been one of my favourite things in recent WWE years. It passion for the acts has been uplifting in the occasionally cynical world of wrestling fandom. But because of them, an act is highlighted, pushed and turned into merchandise/ticket selling machines. All fine. But for every success, there is one that was just not ready. Everyone stopped Bo-lieving. Prince Pretty dressed as Nikki Bella for his most memorable main roster segment. The Ascension…..actually did anyone like them, anywhere? Full Sail is a great audience to learn in front of, to build a fan base, to work on the finer character points. But it’ll cost part of that characters shelf life. The double edged sword? You can only do it once it seems. Once you leave NXT, there’s no going back to start again. And you are left, in front of the big crowds, with an act the small venue loved but now no one cares and then it gets dropped and you get lost in the shuffle. Maybe a double edged sword is the wrong weapon. Maybe a Rocket launcher? The one from Worms? So easy to miss the mark.
Either way, don’t suppose it matters when you’re a god damn rockstar like Shinsuke Nakamura!
Feel the desire to argue, agree, condemn or converse, feel free to comment below or at [email protected] or @HeneghanCiaran.