- After last night’s WWE RAW went off the air in Washington, DC, The Authority stood tall after destroying Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose until Dolph Ziggler, R-Truth and Ryback ran out for the save.
The babyfaces brawled with The Authority and hit their finishers to send them running. Ryback gave high-fives to all the kids at ringside to end the show.
The Undertaker – WrestleMania Backstage News, Major Heat on Kevin Owens?, Reigns vs. Wyatt Rumor, HHH Working on Big Divas Plans, Interesting Storyline for Sheamus, Vince and HHH Plans for Kevin Owens, Vince Stops Big Turn, Randy Orton Spoiler, Must See New Lana and AJ Lee and Paige, Lots of New GIFs & Galleries, More
Welcome back to the Excellence in Column Writing as the man, Mr. Tito, is back in town… Or at least back with another delightful column here at LordsofPain.net / WrestlingHeadlines.com. Took a little break to recharge the batteries, but I deserve it. Since mid 2012, I’ve produced at least 1 column per week and that’s impressive considering I’m the old man around here heading into my 17th year as Mr. Tito. Plus, if you don’t like Old Man Tito’s columns, I give you something weekly to complain about in the Comments section. How about them apples?
And give me credit… I now have the WWE Network and I think I’ll keep it beyond my FREE month of June. I’m a sucker for documentaries and WWE Network is full of them whether they are original content or something from a DVD/Blu-Ray that I didn’t purchase. Honestly, I have barely watched any actual wrestling events from the past. As I advised as a reason for not purchasing WWE Network, watching older events does little for me. I either enjoyed them live or have seem them multiple times through other means. For example, I had the RAW box set that was in VHS form of the first 15 Wrestlemanias. For a period of about 7 years, I actually watched that entire thing once a year to get ready for Wrestlemania. I did a lot of tape trading and once owned many events on official release…
But I love documentaries. I really like the Rivalries shows and I especially enjoyed the Dusty/Flair and Piper/Hogan shows. But I have also been watching the Monday Night Wars specials. In all honesty, those shows have been hit or miss for me. Lots of recycling going on with those shows that has already been covered on other DVD/Blu-Ray programs. Plus, the actual Monday Night Wars shows themselves borrowed from each other. Throughout the documentaries, the shows try to pinpoint why World Championship Wrestling (WCW) failed and lost the Monday Night War with WWE. Lots of WCW bashing in terms of their talent, booking, and just how amazing the WWE became during 1998-2000. Nothing new to add to the conversation, same old WWE propaganda.
Simultaneously, I’m reading through the Death of WCW book by Bryan Alvarez and RD Reynolds. Overall, that’s a good read especially the 2014 re-release. That book gets more in-depth with the booking and overall decision making by WCW officials.
Between WWE Network and that book, I believe that both missed out on the true reason why not only WCW failed, but why the United States pro wrestling market has seen some shrinkage since WCW closed its doors during March 2001.
That reason? CASUAL FANS.
Let me give you a great analogy, especially in non-traditional sports towns. When a professional sports team goes deep into the playoffs or wins championships, the fanbase seems to grow exponentially. Not just within the town or state of the pro sports team, but nationally as well. Take the Chicago Bulls of the 1990′s. They won 6 championships and had possibly the greatest pro basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan. Bulls and Air Jordans were not just selling well in Chicago or Illinois, but nationwide. Everybody became a Chicago Bulls fan. Locally here in Ohio, there are actually more Steelers fans than Browns/Bengals fans, particularly in the Baby Boomer generation (born between 1945-1965). Why? Because the Pittsburgh Steelers won 4 Superbowls during the 1970′s. Better yet for the Steelers, they kept winning during the 1990′s and have kept winning since the 2000′s.
“Everybody Loves a Winner”
Then, of course, when the teams start losing, fans quickly disappear. Particularly in warmer weather cities where there are more things to do, there exists many fairweather fans who care when the team wins and not so much thereafter.
Many call them BANDWAGON fans.
See where I’m going?
Let me post the following chart. Below is a chart of the combined ratings between WWE RAW and WCW Nitro. Please observe the combined ratings during 1996 through early 2000. THICK in wrestling viewership with the Monday Night Wars at their peak.
Obviously, more competition and more choices will create more viewership. But in my opinion, it goes deeper. I believe that the Monday Night Wars were thick in casual fans who were caught up in the wave of the New World Order (NWO), Degeneration X, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, the Rock, and briefly, Bill Goldberg.
- During 1996-1998, you had the New World Order. WCW grabbed 2 top WWE superstars in Kevin Nash and Scott Hall and shocked the world by turning Hulk Hogan heel. They were injected into a lame WCW product that had an identity crisis between being a Southern promotion and trying to recreate Hulkamania. Fans actually believed Hall and Nash were invading and the showcasing of many older WWE veterans brought older fans back to pro wrestling. Many fans who loved the WWE during the late 1980′s opted to return to the product and proudly sport the NWO t-shirt. Then, WCW raided ECW and International markets of its best talent and caught outside attention with amazing Cruiserweight action.
- During 1998, Bill Goldberg arrived and helped WCW limp along following how bad Starrcade 1997 actually was. While most argue that WCW was failing during 1998, their ratings held steady between 4.0 to 5.0. WWE was just out-growing WCW during 1998. By year-end, Bill Goldberg lost his edge and his popularity. In my opinion, Bill Goldberg peaked during his Georgia Dome championship winning match against Hulk Hogan during the Summer of 1998. After that, the NWO faded and Goldberg struggled on his own. But for a moment, casual fans enjoyed seeing the ex-football player dominate in pro wrestling.
- “Stone Cold” Steve Austin delivered his famous “Austin 3:16 says I just whooped your ass” speech following King of the Ring 1996. All of a sudden, WWE fans were holding up Austin 3:16 signs and then the t-shirts sold extremely well. On top of that, Austin was a great wrestler… As WWE kept pushing and pushing Steve Austin, the WWE product became stronger and stronger. But what brought additional fans to the table was the Vince vs. Austin feud. Viewers could live vicariously through Steve Austin as he challenged his actual boss, Vince McMahon. Fans ate it up and in all honestly, because of Austin’s neck injury, he did more talking segments than wrestling on RAW. Casual fans tuned in to the soap opera of Austin fighting the Corporation and Vince.
- The Rock is a movie star today… Since his 1997 heel turn, the Rock developed into a mega superstar who can draw box office numbers. As the Rock improved on the mic and as a wrestler, WWE only became stronger. Rocky transcended the WWE and could walk away and remain popular outside of the WWE by 2004.
- Degeneration X was WWE’s merchandise answer to the NWO but unlike the NWO, Degeneration X was wildly popular with teenage fans. I was a Senior in high school back then and everybody was doing the crotch chop and saying “suck it”.
By 2000, each entity peaked or were gone…
See that downhill slide that started during early 2000? WCW was quickly eroding during 1999 and quickly shot under 3.0 in the ratings throughout 2000. NWO and Goldberg were long gone and WCW had nothing to replace both. In other words, WCW failed to captivate casual fans after NWO/Goldberg. In fact, as the Monday Night Wars documentaries report, there was a 500,000 fan shift between Nitro to RAW when Tony Shiavone announced the spoiler that Mick Foley would win the WWE Title on the first RAW in 1999. Casual fans were tired of the New World Order gimmick and seeing Hulk Hogan as WCW Champion. Which is better to watch? NWO rehash or battles between Rock against Mick Foley/Steve Austin all in their primes?
As seen by the ratings from early 2000 and beyond, the WWE peaked… Many casual fans loved Stone Cold Steve Austin and without him, WWE was at risk to lose fans. But I believe with time during 2000, fans wore thin on the Rock‘s repetitive babyface act and weren’t all impressed with how dominant Triple H/Stephanie McMahon were becoming on screen. Since 2001, the WWE drained from 5.0 ratings to barely hanging onto 3.0 ratings through today. WWE did not have anything to follow-up Austin 3:16, the Rock, and Degeneration X. I believe that WWE angered many casual and loyal fans by the botched WCW/ECW Invasion of 2001. The 2002 NWO return in the WWE was short-lived and the Hulk Hogan nostalgia quickly wore thin…
I very much believe that the 2000 move to TNN – The National Network (later to become Spike TV) was incredibly damaging to RAW’s ratings. To the casual fans, they knew WWE wrestling to be on USA Networks. WWE was only able to advertise the TNN move within 1 week of the move. Maybe, just maybe, the WWE lost many casual fans to this TNN switch. With a regressing product without Austin in his prime, many casual fans might have moved on when they couldn’t find RAW on USA Networks any longer. Sure, they could look for it, but the TNN switch could have opened the door to some legitimate fan erosion.
Since 2001, while WWE was able to create new stars like Randy Orton, Batista, John Cena, and Brock Lesnar (yes, the “Class of 2002″), none of them were captivating like Steve Austin, the Rock, or the NWO. Brock Lesnar is probably the closest MEGA DRAW that we’ll ever see as proven by his spikes in Pay Per View buyrates and RAW ratings (pushed RAW to 5 million viewers after Wrestlemania 31), but he’s a part-time wrestler. John Cena, on the other hand, seems to draw well with younger fans but isn’t exactly compelling older fans to stick around. Worse yet, his appeal outside of the WWE is a lot thinner than Austin or the Rock. The “buck stops here” with John Cena and viewership/buyrates declined with Cena (and Orton) on top. Numbers speak for themselves.
WCW died because they had no follow-up acts to the New World Order and Bill Goldberg, both possibly peaking on the same night when Goldberg beat Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Title during Summer 1998. WCW tried to foolishly rehash the NWO not once (early 1999) but twice (late 1999). WCW foolishly assumed that purchasing more former WWE veterans would recreate what happened in 1996. The NWO became boring to casual wrestling fans at the same time that Austin/Rock were so appealing. WCW made things worse by bringing in a burned out Vince Russo who couldn’t recreate his WWE success with a much thinner and older WCW roster. Russo’s Crash TV storylines did worse damage as his booking actually alienated many loyal Southern WCW fans. When AOL merged with Time Warner, the newly formed AOL/Time Warner corporation wasn’t impressed by the salaries of WCW superstars that caused WCW to lose $65 million during 2000.
By 2000, many casual fans were getting off the WWE/WCW bandwagon. It was no longer “cool” to act like a wrestling fan.
Since early 2000, the WWE has failed to create a long-term storyline that captivates an audience beyond their loyal fanbase. They’ve tried a few things like the Nexus invasion, the Authority, Degeneration X’s return, and turning guys like Randy Orton repeatedly heel/face. I maintain that the best storyline opportunity could have been CM Punk winning the WWE Title at Money in the Bank 2011 and then defending the title at random Indy promotions to create a “sense of urgency” that WWE had lost its champion. Instead, the WWE held a goofy tournament to crown a new WWE Champion and then had Title vs. Title at SummerSlam 2011. That match, John Cena vs. CM Punk, ended so poorly with Kevin Nash randomly attacking CM Punk (still awaiting that explanation) and Alberto Del Rio cashing in Money in the Bank. Based on the way ratings and the MITB 2011 PPV buyrate popped, that was the WWE’s opportunity to create something unique to grow the business. They failed.
For now, you have to hope that Brock Lesnar can continue to shake things up… But getting beat up by the LAME Authority feels tired already. What happened to that momentum of Lesnar going INSANE after Wrestlemania 31 when he attacked the announcing crew and trashed anything in sight? Opportunity already squandered…
If the WWE wants to grow beyond its 3.0 rating territory and even its 1,000,000 WWE Network subscribers, they have to appear to fans beyond their loyal fanbase. It’s like Comcast and their Xfinity Cable/Phone/Internet Products. Loyal, long-time consumers have to beg for special deals. However, if you’re a brand new customer, there are plenty of amazing deals to obtain for signing up. The deals are there to entice individuals who might not be interested in obtaining Cable to actually sign up. Comcast knows what a pain it is to switch television, phone, and internet utilities so thus they take their loyal customers for granted. Why? Because they already have their money and will keep receiving it.
WWE needs to do something out-of-the box and different with their top stars… Notice how wrestling fans have changed their opinion lately on John Cena since he’s been allowed to actually wrestle? Throw better in-ring opponents at him and suddenly, he looks different? Funny how that works… I’m sure the drumbeats of “turn Cena heel” will come out, but this United States Title “open challenge” gimmick is working quite well. You know what’s NOT working out well? The Authority, which without Triple H/Stephanie, struggles when it’s the Kane & Seth Rollins show. RAW has been consistently under 4 million viewers since the RAW after Wrestlemania 31. WWE also needs to find a breakout star from its developmental system. Maybe it’s Kevin Owens? Maybe one of the former Shield members? But so far, nobody is even close to being a draw like John Cena let alone like Austin/Rock. With the way WWE has booked Bray Wyatt, Wade Barrett, Dean Ambrose, Rusev, and others to lose crucial matches or lose repeatedly… I worry greatly about the WWE’s future. If WWE wants to grow, they need casual fans… Sometimes they can get them back for Wrestlemania or with Rock/Brock Lesnar, but as seen by the rest of the year without those, numbers are flat or are declining. I guarantee that WWE will attempt to lure in as many casual fans as possible into AT&T Stadium in Dallas for Wrestlemania 32. I’m sure we’ll see Brock, Rock, and Steve Austin on that show in some wrestling capacity… Sure, that will draw in business for 1 shining day, but what do you do on the day after?
Question #1: Why does the WWE use the term “sports entertainment” so much?
If you watch the Monday Night Wars documentaries on the WWE Network, you could get seriously thrashed in a drinking game for everytime “sports entertainment” is mentioned. Seriously.
“Sports Entertainment” was coined by the WWE and Vince McMahon during the 1980′s as the WWE became more of a national company. Instead of touring just in the Northeast, the WWE wanted to move into other territories for houseshows, television tapings, and eventually, Pay Per Views. However, you need to consider how professional wrestling was perceived through the early 1980′s… While many suspected that pro wrestling had staged outcomes, it wasn’t officially well known as it is now. Thus, pro wrestling companies were actually subject to regulations by State Athletic Commissions if they were a legitimate sport.
What Vince quickly figured out was that he could avoid any regulations or scrutiny from State Athletic Commissions if he openly admitted that the WWE was NOT a sport but a form of entertainment. If you look at how boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA) are still heavily scrutinized and in fact they avoid certain states because of too much regulation, they have a certain amount of hassle in putting on shows. With a few exceptions, the WWE can tour virtually anywhere in the United States and not have states drug test performers, scrutinize the live and Pay Per View gate numbers, and review the winning purses for wrestlers. Better yet, by calling themselves “entertainment”, they can avoid any issues with gambling by regulators.
WWE probably saves millions per year by considering themselves a form of “entertainment” instead of a “sport”. WWE probably saves additional millions by having wrestlers act as independent contractors, but that’s a different story. Goes to show you what an intelligent businessman that Vince McMahon truly is. Sure, he sort of exposed his WWE business, but by the late 1980′s when wrestling was heavily televised on Cable, most people figured out that pro wrestling was staged. Thus, it became a non-issue to “expose” the business. In my opinion, it worked out for the better because promoters had to work harder to get fans to “suspend disbelief” and/or wrestling fans were actually willing to play along knowing that it’s staged.
Question #2: Which tag team is the most successful of all time?
As much as I’d argue that the Dudleys are the best in-ring performers, you have to give it to Hawk & Animal, the “Road Warriors” or “Legion of Doom”. No other tag team legitimately walked into the American Wrestling Association (AWA), National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) or World Championship Wrestling (WCW), and World Wrestling Federation (WWF or WWE now) and not just made an impact, but were legitimate draws. Can’t forget Japan as well. They heavily influenced the badass tag team for a few generations.
Question #3: What do all of the recent talent moves mean for TNA wrestling?
First and foremost, TNA wrestling taped over a full month’s worth of shows. I won’t present spoilers, but anytime you do that, you’re going to extremes to save costs. Secondly, TNA is seeing rapid departures of their talent. If you have read the spoilers, you’ll know that something from the past has returned to help in some fashion.
In my opinion, these are moves of desperation. I believe that the Destination America cancellation of TNA programming following year 1 will occur. Rumors were swirling that Destination America was going to opt out of their television deal with TNA after just 1 year. That news was met with heavy opposition by TNA and all Destination America has done is just bring along another wrestling promotion to the channel. Something is going down and I believe television cancellation is happening. Why else would so much of their top talent bolt the promotion?
It will be a sad day because with the Panda Energy resources and the Spike TV deal, TNA Wrestling was the closest promotion that we’ll ever see get close to competing with the WWE. If only TNA wrestling could have been better at developing unique talent, they could have really challenged the WWE. Sure, WWE is a publicly traded corporation, but their viewership on USA Networks has declined and before the WWE Network, Pay Per View buyrates were slipping. TNA just couldn’t sway wrestling fans to tune in and they lacked any unique superstars to draw fans. Worse yet, they actually had several top minds contributing such as Dutch Mantell, Dusty Rhodes, Vince Russo, and Eric Bischoff and none of them could recreate their past booking successes to make TNA grow.
SO JUST CHILL… ‘TIL THE NEXT EPISODE!
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© Mr. Tito and LordsofPain.net/WrestlingHeadlines.com – 1998-2015
Original article –
The babyfaces brawled with The Authority and hit their finishers to send them running. Ryback gave high-fives to all the kids at ringside to end the show.
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Does Mick Foley Fear Kevin Owens?, The Miz Talks Ryback And Big Show, The Prime Time Players
Daniel Bryan’s Favorite WWE Network Moments, Ryback’s Big Lunch, WWE Swerved, Sgt. Slaughter
Big Show On His WWE Retirement, Ryback, The Miz Not Deserving A Title Shot At Battleground, More
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Wrestling is fake! pic.twitter.com/TLz3I2tJSM
— Eric Young (@TheEricYoung) June 29, 2015
That match was for talent, crew, production, everybody who ever tuned in, bought a ticket, ppv or piece of merch. TY https://t.co/nftA1nyV8i
— Nick Aldis (@MagnusOfficial) June 29, 2015
As of tomorrow, I’m a free agent. Forever grateful for the income & learning opportunity from TNA. Updates soon. Bookings [email
- UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo made headlines last week when he injured his ribs. Despite the injury, Aldo has remained adamant that he plans on fighting. According to training partner Jonas Bilharinho, he’ll train Tuesday and decide if he can fight.
“I think he will probably fight. And I hope so,” Bilharinho told Ariel Helwani on the MMA Hour. “I will be with him on Tuesday to see what he’s capable of doing during training or not, but my opinion right now is that he’s going to fight. I’m going to be optimistic about it because Aldo wants this fight so bad.”
- UFC Fight Night 70 caused a bit of a shakeup in the official UFC Rankings. Hacran Dias moved two spots up to #12 in the Featherweight rankings after his win, as Yoel Romero jumped three spots up to #3 after his win. Lyoto Machida fell one spot to #5.
- The UFC Fight Night 70 payrolls have been released. You can see them below, but they do not represent all of a fighter’s earnings, as several bonuses are included.
Yoel Romero ($33,000 + $33,000 = $66,000) def. Lyoto Machida ($200,000)
Lorenz Larkin ($33,000 + $33,000 = $66,000) def. Santiago Ponzinibbio ($10,000)
Antonio Carlos Junior ($17,000 + $17,000 = $34,000) def. Eddie Gordon ($15,000)
Thiago Santos ($16,000 + $16,000 = $32,000) def. Steve Bosse ($10,000)
Hacran Dias ($13,000 + $13,000 = $26,000) def. Levan Makashvill ($12,000)
Alex Oliveira ($12,000 + $12,000 = $24,000) def. Joe Merritt ($10,000)
Leandro Silva ($13,000 + $13,000 + $2,000* = $28,000) def. Lewis Gonzalez ($8,000*)
Tony Sims ($10,000 + $10,000 = $20,000) def. Steve Montgomery ($10,000)
Sirwan Kakai ($10,000 + $10,000 = $20,000) def. Danny Martinez ($10,000)
Gonzalez foreited 20-percent of his purse to Silva after missing weight
Doctor's Orders: Is Cena vs. Owens WWE's Best Rivalry in Years? (Plus June Match and Wrestler of the Month)
”The Doc” Chad Matthews has been a featured writer for LOP since 2004. Initially offering detailed recaps and reviews for WWE’s top programs, he transitioned to writing columns in 2010. In addition to his discussion-provoking current event pieces, he has written many acclaimed series about WrestleMania, as well as a popular short story chronicle. The Doc has also penned a book, The WrestleMania Era: The Book of Sports Entertainment, published in 2013. It has been called “the best wrestling book I have ever read” and holds a 5-star rating on Amazon, where it peaked at #3 on the wrestling charts.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: Do you think Cena vs. Owens is the best WWE rivalry in years? If not, what do you think is the best WWE rivalry in years?
The following is a case study of WWE’s product for the month of June 2015.
Is John Cena vs. Kevin Owens WWE’s Best Rivalry In Years?
At various points throughout WWE history, we have witnessed similar occurrences. One wrestler engages another and, just like that, magic is in the air. With later in-ring altercations as gripping as their talking segments, a rivalry is born that strikes an emotional chord within the fanbase. The ensuing reverberation captures our imaginations and becomes the subject of our fan forum water cooler talk for years to come. The night that Kevin Owens sauntered out to the ring unexpectedly, something clicked between him and the subject of his verbal barrage, John Cena. It’s been a thrilling six weeks since.
In this day and age of instant gratification, something that used to take several months to accomplish can be achieved in a matter of weeks. Thus, it occasionally needs reminding that Cena vs. Owens has only been going in since the middle of last month. It has been so awesome, though, that it has taken on a strange phenomenon that I can best relate to a personal matter. My wife and I recently celebrated our wedding anniversary. We discussed over dinner how our relationship, on the one hand, seems like it has been going for many more than its current number of years but, on the other hand, it seems like it was just yesterday that we met. The Owens-Cena rivalry seems that way, too, doesn’t it? With a rivalry such as theirs, time passes and stands still all at once.
It has been a while since I’ve seen the level of organic chemistry we’re seeing from Cena and Owens. Christian and Randy Orton in 2011 is the last time I recall such a pleasant, mid-year, surprising mix of that special something in a series of matches which we just don’t see all that often. I remember The Rock once saying about a different subject that “it has that x-factor; that intangible; you just can’t describe it.” That’s how I feel about Cena vs. Owens (and Orton vs. Christian or Mysterio vs. Jericho ’09). Maybe the best way to describe it is that when those two guys are interacting, the rest of the world stops. I tend to currently gravitate toward more epic tales (like Ambrose-Rollins this month), but having been such a fan of the Smackdown Six Era, I still love a barrage of athletic assault like Cena vs. Owens.
From an in-ring performance standpoint, it reminds me of Edge vs. Kurt Angle in 2002. Overall, though, the presentation feels more authentic. Cena has always been at his best when interacting with men who are perceived as underdogs. Whenever he has tried on that hat, himself, it hasn’t felt natural. No one in their right mind can ever question how hard he worked to earn his spot, but even when he was scratching and clawing his way to the top, he still looked the part of his OVW moniker: The Prototype. In modern wrestling lore, it has been proven that people either flock to the superhero or the everyman; and Cena was destined to play the superhero from day one. Any storyline that attempts to make him relatable is foundationally flawed. You can make an everyman look like a superhero, but you can’t make the superhero look like an everyman.
Owens has followed in the footsteps of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan as a wrestler from the indies that embodies a simple ideal: that the best wrestlers in the world should get a chance to prove their worth on the biggest stage no matter what they look like. Since Cena, whether he likes it or not, does look like the classic WWE Superstar and – since he made it – does get the opportunities afforded to the archetypal WWE top guy, anyone he is pitted against who fits the everyman mold and has considerable confidence and talent is embraced by those that gravitate toward the everyman. Most fans beyond childhood can easily relate to Owens even if they prefer superhero tales just because he’s not larger than life. “He’s one of us,” notes Grantland’s David “The Masked Man” Shoemaker. “And in pro wrestling, being one with the crowd is the most important thing.” Owens, as much as Punk, Bryan, or anyone else in WWE lore, just looks like a normal guy who won a contest to appear on Raw. Yet, he has taken Cena to his limits at every turn. He is an elite talker and an outstanding wrestler. Like the best of Cena’s rivals, Owens has pushed the Golden Boy to – as odd is it may seem – try to further prove himself.
As big a proponent as I am of “it’s all about the follow-up” and taking the complete picture into account when attempting to historically rank in pro wrestling, I am well aware that the following is an audacious claim. Nevertheless, if the Owens vs. Cena rivalry manages to meet a satisfying and logical conclusion, then – to answer my own question – I’m going to argue that, yes, Cena vs. Owens is the best WWE rivalry in quite some time.
Match of the Month: John Cena vs. Kevin Owens at Money in the Bank
My feelings about this month’s competition were made clear in the Money in the Bank Review below; I thought it was quite the two horse race. Samuel Plan wrote a detailed description of what made the Ambrose-Rollins match a classic and I agree with his assessment despite most of the fanbase finding that the Ladder match paled in comparison to Owens vs. Cena II. I, personally, deem that to be a completely understandable viewpoint for the basic reason that Cena vs. Owens better fit what the modern wrestling enthusiast wants, but just because Imitation Game wasn’t as popular as Dawn of the Planet of the Apes doesn’t mean Apes is necessarily better – just that it appeals to more people. When matches struggle to separate from the pack upon multiple viewings, I break out my trusty formula. You take the basic elements (selling, psychology, and execution) and which match had the superior climax and add in depth of the story, the quality of the near falls, the investment of the crowd, and the strength of the feud leading in.
For the June 2015 bubble, I’d take Owens vs. Cena as the superior storyline, but overall it’s a wash until further notice because Ambrose-Rollins has been producing great TV and PPV for a year. If anything, Ambrose-Rollins gets the nod for longevity and consistency. Owens vs. Cena had more compelling false finishes, while Ambrose-Rollins was a far more meaty story in 35-minutes of action. Still equals. I enjoyed both match endings, so the tie continues. The basic elements would seem, on the surface, to favor Rollins vs. Ambrose, but Cena’s dynamic personality in the match with Owens drew the bouts even yet again. So, it all boiled down to the crowd’s enthusiasm; and it was quite clear which match the live crowd favored – it’s Owens vs. Cena by a Hunter Hearst Helmsley nose.
Previous MOTM winners: Seth Rollins vs. Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena at Royal Rumble (Jan), Daniel Bryan vs. Roman Reigns at Fast Lane (Feb), Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar (vs. Seth Rollins) at WrestleMania (Mar), Big Show vs. Roman Reigns at Extreme Rules (Apr), and John Cena vs. Kevin Owens at Elimination Chamber (May)
Wrestler of the Month: Kevin Owens
It seems odd to me that, a few months ago, I wrote in the March Review that Rollins would likely win a plethora of these WOTM awards. Here we are three months later and I’ve given it to six different wrestlers in the first six months of the year. Owens earned it in June, continuing the momentum he began in the second half of May and barely edging his dance partner, Cena. The Golden Boy has narrowly missed out twice now, but even more so for this month for all the reasons described in the “Rivalry” portion above. What it boiled down to was not that Owens outperformed Cena; rather, Owens added a moment to his short career resume that Cena could not match over the last 30 days: laying a beat down on Machine Gun Kelly. With top notch character work and a second consecutive Match of the Month to boot, it was really a no-brainer.
Previous WOTM winners: Brock Lesnar (Jan), Daniel Bryan (Feb), Seth Rollins (Mar), Sheamus (Apr), and Dean Ambrose (May)
Money in the Bank Review
I’ve had a unique viewing pattern for these last two PPVs, watching them sporadically throughout the night and day that follow them. Some commented on my lack of review of the undercard from Elimination Chamber and forgive me if I don’t spend much time on it for MITB either, but I’ve had to be picky with what I watched given a infant-centered schedule and I thought MITB was clearly a 3 match event anyway. Here’s a couple of quick hitting mid-card thoughts:
-Ryback-Show was OK. If Ryback Shellshocks Show in the payoff, then it’s a career highlight to be replayed for the rest of his life.
-I was shocked at the Tag Team Championship change. Why take the straps off the hottest act in the division? I’ll be curious to see what’s next.
-Nikki Bella and Paige have the best chemistry of any current main roster Diva combo. I liked the booking of the finish, though I can see why many wouldn’t. It, much like the main-event at EC last month, builds depth to their storyline.
The Money in the Bank Ladder match was standard fare. Last year’s version had the meat and potatoes necessary to create a new blueprint for the gimmick and this year’s just didn’t have much to offer beyond takes on the spots we’ve seen ad nauseum via the modern plethora of Ladder matches. The exception to the last part of that statement was Bray Wyatt’s appearance, leading to the overwhelming favorite to win the briefcase, Roman Reigns, walking away empty handed. I’m ready and raring for that feud and have been for several months, feeling as though they could potentially each be elevated by it in a Trips-Rock circa 1998 sort of way.
Sheamus winning is intriguing. I’ve been a Sheamus supporter since the beginning. He has what it takes to excel as a top heel. That said, I’m surprised that he won. I had the MITB briefcase pegged as a method used to get us the Shield triple threat for WM. I’d be curious to know, if you want to see that, how you’d propose that we get there now that MITB is off the table. Sheamus has some interesting options for cash-ins. I’ve wanted to see Brock vs. Sheamus since Lesnar returned. I’d also be all for Reigns vs. Sheamus; I think they’d work really well together.
All in all, the MITB Ladder match was exactly what I expected it to be for 20-minutes and surprising for the final 50 seconds due to the unexpected winner. (*** 1/2)
John Cena vs. Kevin Owens II was fantastic and another strong candidate for Match of the Year. Put those pair of matches together and you’ve got as enjoyable an hour to spend watching wrestling as you’ll ever see. Some things were better and others worse than the original, but I’d call them equal overall. John Cena was excellent at showing emotion when questioning the referee on several of those two counts. It’s not been often that someone has been presented as his equal in the ring. Some have been presented as physically superior (i.e. Brock), but when push comes to shove during a back and forth match, Cena usually gets the better of his opponent in the end and looks reasonably comfortable adorning his figurative Superman cape. With so few exceptions who have legitimately cracked his hardened exterior (Punk, Bryan, Rock), it really does matter when another person adds his name to the list. Owens has done that, but for perhaps more than any other rival sans for Rock, Cena sold it so very well; he made it clear that beating Owens meant something to him on a different level than 95% of the rest of his opposition throughout his career. Both men delivered, but Cena made that match for me with his character work. (**** 1/2)
Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins may very well become the Bret Hart-Owen Hart (at Summerslam) of Ladder matches, in that people in some quarters are calling it one of the all-time greatest matches and others are scratching their heads wondering why anyone would heap that caliber of praise on it. I thought it was a phenomenal match, personally. About 10-minutes in, ironically after the part that the detractors called “boring” or “slow” yet I found to be a nice start to a 35-minute match, I found myself wondering aloud if I was witnessing the early moments of something truly special. It’s the longest Ladder match of all-time, so that’s going to hurt it in some circles. Could the length and, hence, the more deliberately paced parts, end up making HHH vs. HBK Hell in a Cell (in 2004) a better historical comparison, I wonder? I once described that match as one that “I never wanted to end.” I have a hard time sitting through it today; it drew similarly mixed opinions a decade ago. I need to re-watch Ambrose vs. Rollins a couple of times before I outright proclaim it as an all-time classic that can stand time’s test, but I did think it was a tremendous story told.
They seem to enjoy going against the grain of a gimmick’s basic blueprint. Last year, in addition to the aforementioned redefinition of the Money in the Bank Ladder match, they redefined what we could expect from a Lumberjack match, which fundamentally should be a somewhat tedious affair with a lot of non-important players interfering with the chemistry of the line-up. They turned that stipulation on its head, frankly, and a great match ensued to which all future Lumberjack matches will be compared. A few months afterward, they climbed to the top of Hell in a Cell and crashed off its side through a pair of announce tables, reconditioning a fanbase that had come to assume “nothing overly innovative is going to happen in the Cell’s confines” and had people proclaiming another gimmick match had a new, modern blueprint. Why should it have surprised us that they didn’t do what’s come to be so common in Ladder matches – endless stunts with limited storytelling? Using the HBK-Razor, Rock-HHH, HBK-Y2J formula, Rollins and Ambrose had a match that just so happened to involve ladders. Ambrose was presented as relentless; Rollins as resourceful and cunning. Both came away stronger than they entered, with the door left open for future rematches by a finish that offered no definitive victor (I really liked the ending, for the record). (**** 1/2)
I’m going ahead with this section now because we already know the two big matches to be featured at the July PPV: Rollins vs. Lesnar and Wyatt vs. Reigns. I have a hard time not seeing both of these bouts being rematched at Summerslam. Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins minus the Authority’s help ought to make for an interesting month, but I expect that whatever happens at Battleground will get the Authority back to supporting the Architect. It makes little sense to muddy the waters with Brock/Heyman and Trips/Steph. There’s business to be attended to, but they shouldn’t be buddy-buddy at all. I think a dynamic will emerge that will help Rollins escape next month, but that same dynamic will simply act as more for Brock The Conqueror to overcome in August. Wyatt will end up defeating Reigns at Battleground by some sort of psychological twist (I loved that they had Wyatt use Roman’s family photo in his promo to kickstart the verbal details of that feud). Reigns will have to work hard to overcome this challenge, I hope.
- In this RAW Fallout video from tonight’s show, The Miz talks to Eden and says he has figured out the weaknesses of Big Show and WWE Intercontinental Champion Ryback, and will exploit those weaknesses at Battleground.
- Below is backstage RAW video of WWE Tag Team Champions The Prime Time Players with WNBA stars Ivory Latta & Stefanie Dolson:
“No matter where I was during the course of my career, I always felt comfortable in knowing that my character was unique and that my matches were going to be different than anyone else’s on the card. I really think that if Kevin Owens had been around while I was in my peak that he would have forced me to become a better wrestler – to increase my limited offensive arsenal, and to step up the cardio to keep up with his faster pace. I appreciate that so many people miss me on their TV sets each week, but I’m not really gone. Kevin Owens is a faster, stronger, more aggressive version of me who you can see each week on WWE Raw and WWE SmackDown.
So does Foley fear Owens? In a way. I’m afraid that when wrestling’s history book is written and the topic of top wrestlers with unorthodox body types is discussed, that my name will no longer be first on the list!”
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Kidd posted this graphic photo of his neck today:
— TJ Wilson (@KiddWWE) June 30, 2015
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