Disclaimer: I was in a bad mood when I wrote this so reader discretion advised. Read at your own risk.
Our constant readers may have noticed that the F2H family failed to post their usual live review articles about Smackdown Live’s No Mercy and last night’s Monday Night Raw. Have we lost faith in Vince McMahon’s promotion? Are we bored with the product? I’ll answer your question with a question: does a bear shit in the woods? In this instance, the bear is Sean Waltman and the woods is Rena Lesnar’s luggage; and the answer is an emphatic yes.
While on the surface the No Mercy pay-per-view seemed like a solid venture, when you scrutinize it even a little bit, the entire show folds like a wet house of cards. Here is a short list of some of the more cringe-worthy moments of the show. The pre-show featured Jerry Lawler awkwardly flirting and eye-fucking Nikki Bella, a 4-team tag match (overkill in any scenario) that included The Acesnsion, and Curt Hawkins big debut that was only a declaration by him that he would have a match on Tuesday.
Prior to the show, WWE announced the “main event” triple-threat would go on first to start the show, essentially confirming WWE’s lack of confidence in their own product, being fearful that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would pull viewers and bomb their PPV. Although the triple-threat was a decent match, it still featured yet another John Cena title attempt, grasping for the coveted Ric Flair record; and Dean Ambrose in the main event picture, a man with no charism, character evolution, or ability to carry a promotion as either a heel or babyface. And while AJ Styles put on a great outing, I am still watching him on NJPW every week on AXS-TV and his crimped style with WWE is nowhere near his best work in a ring.
No Mercy also featured Nikki Bella utilizing the antiquated 50/50 booking style of WWE in order to beat Carmella. Speaking of the women, Becky Lynch was suddenly injured and not competing. So we saw Naomi not only wrestle but defeat Alexa Bliss. Both finishes were weak and did nothing at all for the losers while barely giving a boost to the winners. The third women’s match of the night was between Jack Swagger and Baron Corbin. Yeah, I said it. Why is this on a pay-per-view? Nobody cares!
The highlight of the night was Dolph Ziggler and The Miz. This was an excellent match and the best on the entire card. Nothing to complain about here. The main event was Randy Orton taking on Bray Wyatt. Oh great, two of the weakest in-between heel/face chimeras in the entire company. Wyatt has strewn together infinitely more losses than wins. And Orton has been a watered down version of himself ever since returning from injury. The build to this match was terribly dis-interesting. And the big “twist” finish was a Luke Harper run in. This ended a pay-per-view in 2016.
Skip ahead to Monday Night Raw and now we’re really swimming out to the deep end with no life preservers. We’re talking about a show that surprisingly opened with Sasha Banks and Charlotte declaring they were having a rematch INSIDE Hell in a Cell. This was a groundbreaking moment…that was immediately cut short by Rusev interrupting. He insults both of them, along with all women’s wrestling (as does Lana) and hijacks what should have been an epic segment. Then Roman Reigns comes out and further buries the angle. Then, in all of Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley’s jaded wisdom, they put Charlotte on a team with Rusev against the team of Banks and Reigns. Despite Rusev belittling Charlotte, she now gets the “honor” of being his tag team partner.
Do you know why this segment happened? Because Kevin Dunn (a guy that probably has twenty Donald Trump signs in his yard) objectifies women and probably doesn’t think they can carry a moment on their own. They needed big, strong men to come out and bolster their credibility. “Nobody is going to buy women in the Cell! We need men to put it over!” Nevermind the fact that when you have a match with Roman Reigns, Rusev, Charlotte, Lana, and Sasha Banks, the only goddamn babyface in the entire thing is Banks. Reigns is not a face! But WWE continues to try and pair him with any one in order to try and persuade the crowd to oh and ah over him.
Then we have a match between Kofi Kingston and Cesaro. The big angle here is Sheamus sits ringside and tweets during the match. Oh, just brilliant fucking television. Really helps sell Cesaro and Sheamus as a team and absolutely helps make New Day look strong. *vomits in mouth, down onto Ultimate Warrior t-shirt*
Bayley comes out and wrestles Cami Fields. Who? Exactly. She beats a jobber and then gets attacked from behind by Dana Brooke (wearing a way-too-tight outfit) and then Brooke just stands there awkwardly like Will Ferrell in Talladega Nights when he doesn’t know what to do with his hands. Brilliant. There were four horsewomen in NXT. Becky has the Smackdown Women’s Title. Sasha and Charlotte are breaking new ground fighting for the Raw Women’s Title. Meanwhile, Bayley is given about two minutes against someone named Cami Fields. Just a real career booster for her. Good job, Vince!
The newly formed Cruiserweight Division continues to get its legs cut out from underneath it as WWE, despite having three hours of television, just keeps hitting us with Cruiserweight tag-team matches. We get Tony Nese and Drew Gulak against Sin Cara and Lince Dorado. Without fanfare, Sin Cara is now suddenly in the division. Dorado spends the whole match carrying Sin Cara before picking up the win. According to Kevin Dunn and Vince McMahon, there are only two Cruiserweights named T.J. Perkins and Brian Kendrick. Anybody who isn’t them will just be the bathroom break match on Raw.
Then we come back from commercial to find Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas in the ring. Oh boy! That’ll really boost the ratings! Luckily we are saved by Enzo Amore and Big Cass. But before we can even see them wrestle, they are attacked by The Club. So let me get this straight. Cesaro and Sheamus, a team thrown together two weeks ago get to face New Day, but two of the top three tag teams on Raw have a segment with Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel? Then WWE hits us with a bullshit 4-team tag at a PPV the night before? Why not save the multi-team matches for actual talent? I’d definitely watch New Day vs Enzo and Cass vs The Club any day.
Oh, but that segment isn’t even over. After The Club and Enzo and Cass leave, Axel and Dallas are still competing! They demand a team! So we have to suffer through not only them in a match, but a hastily thrown together Sami Zayn and Neville tag-team. Is Teddy Long running creative all of a sudden? We’ve had five matches so far and four of them have featured tag teams! Brilliant! I’m just as baffled as Vince as to why the ratings continue to tank. Fuck you, McMahon.
As if things couldn’t get any worse, we then are “treated” to a match between R-Truth and Titus O’Neal thrown together, on the premise, and I shit you not, of Truth trying to give O’Neal’s favorite candy bar to another wrestler. Now, while I can appreciate both men as they have skill and could be great if pushed properly (yeah right, as if that would ever happen), they certainly should not be in a match facing each other. Why, you might ask? Because they have a combined age of fucking 83. R-Truth is in his mid-forties and Titus is 39. This is not a live-TV match. This is not something you expose people to and then try to laugh off the sliding ratings to the board of directors. In simple terms, this is not a match you put on TV if you want people to take what you do seriously.
Backstage segment with Perkins and Kendrick showcasing the 50/50 booking again. I won’t even elaborate on any of that. Braun Strowman then squashes the “Splash Brothers” (who look like a Sheamus and Xavier Woods cosplay couple) and then asks Foley for stronger competition. If only Braun could be what he’s asking for: better talent. He has become a spectacle much like Big Show, Kane, and The Great Kahli before him. Vince will take a giant, twist and contort them, and turn them into a traveling freakshow.
And then the inter-gender match. Holy shit what a waste of time. Rusev and Charlotte against Reigns and Banks. The big creative ending here was Sasha making Charlotte tap to the Bank Statement timed perfectly with Reigns hitting Rusev with a spear. Been there, done that, played all the way out. Then Reigns and Banks stand with their arms in the air, smiling. As if Reigns was suddenly a good guy. Then T.J. Perkins defeated Jinder Mahal. Oh wait, that was Ariya Daivari. Another useless squash match doing nothing for anybody, including the viewers.
The main event was Seth Rollins versus Chris Jericho. Alright, I really can’t complain about this if I’m being fair and unbiased. It was a great match, highlight of the night for me. My only real gripe is that Jericho has main-evented a shit ton of Raw’s this year and did so again last night. Yes, Jericho is awesome. And his work these past few weeks with Kevin Owens has really been the crutch that has saved Raw from swirling into a black hole from wince there is no return. That being said, Jericho is older than both R-Truth and Titus O’Neal. Is the best WWE can do is to have a 45-year-old in the main event? Does that sound bonkers to anyone else? It says a lot about how incredibly talented and what great shape Y2J is in; but it also speaks volumes about how weak WWE thinks their own product is.
They don’t trust their youngers guys to do the job. They don’t have faith or confidence in their roster. And this is true across the board. Both Raw and Smackdown suffer from this inability to pull the trigger on younger talent. The result is getting a 39-year-old John Cena in a main event trying to get another world title. When is WWE going to move on? They speak of a new era and yet continue hitting us with out-to-pasture talent. Now the big hyped up sell is a potential match between Brock Lesnar and Bill Goldberg, a match about fifteen years too late between two men with a combined age of 88. Granted, both men are genetic anomalies (Lesnar more so on the chemically enhanced side) and will probably look great. But the point being is that WWE continues to live in the past. And the WWE Universe seems nostalgic to days gone by.
That’s why Sasha Banks gets a pop for mentioning Eddie Guerrero. That’s why Charlotte gets a “Woooooooooo!” every single time she mentions her dad. WWE doesn’t do anything to make their current talent relevant. They are censored and limited and forced to get over by mentioning long since retired or dead Superstars. It’s a vicious cycle all the way around. Fear, uncertainty, doubt; it all mixes together to make WWE unsure of their talent, the talent unsure of their place, and the fans unsure of why they should even give two shits about any of it. There are so many problems to list but I’m just one man and this article is already absurdly long. I have a love/hate relationship with WWE. It’s a frustrating partnership because I see the potential of what this company could be. As a kid I watched wrestling. Then I grew up. But wrestling never did. It plateaued and in some instances took a step back.
You can blame the break of kayfabe. You can blame the dirt sheets. You can blame the internet. You can even blame Vince for bringing too many promotions together and “killing the biz.” It doesn’t matter what the cause was. The effect is what truly matters, and in this case the effect is mediocre, unfulfilling, lazy, and often boring professional wrestling. CM Punk said it best: “Vince McMahon is a millionaire who should be a billionaire.” The reason why he isn’t is that the wrestling experience he presents is no longer thrilling to a certain extent. We demand more but WWE keeps coming up short. Smackdown Live is on tonight and we won’t be doing a live review for that either. If they want us to write something, they need to give us something worthwhile to write about. Until then, let the onslaught begin.
Article by Jamie Curtis Baker
Earlier this year, Matt Hardy turned heel, winning the TNA World Heavyweight Championship from Ethan Carter III in January. What started as a subtle, typical pro-wrestling story, evolved into an ever expanding universe of strange weirdness. After being injured (in kayfabe) by his brother Jeff in an I Quit Match soon after claiming the title, Matt was taken to the hospital. When Matt returned in May he at first was merely a Willow imposter, attacking Jeff from behind. This would crescendo into Matt Hardy becoming “broken” at the hands of his brother, and giving wrestling fans some of the most delightfully bizarre television we have ever seen.
As we reported back in July, the Broken Matt Hardy angle was one of the best things TNA has ever done. Period. Matt crept out of the gate with an odd accent and a white streak in his hair. It was weird and not well received by fans as they questioned just what in the hell Dixie Carter and Billy Corgan were thinking, or if they even were. But where WWE might have cut their losses and abandoned the gimmick, TNA battened down the hatches and ran with it, refusing to give up on Matt’s creation until it was completely exhausted. And things at TNA have been all the better because of it. Matt continued to groom and nurture the Broken gimmick, battling Jeff in every possible way until finally defeating him at his Cameron, North Carolina home in what was called The Final Deletion and awarded Broken Matt with the sole custodianship of “the Hardy Brand.”
The Final Deletion was glorious and that was even after the previous weeks featuring vignettes, Full Metal Mayhem, and Six Sides of Steel in the Impact Zone. It featured an outdoor match with a ring in the middle of the forest, Tiki-torches, fireworks (being shot at human beings) and things being set on fire. What we assumed was the apex of the entire Broken Matt Hardy saga, ended up being just the beginning! Soon after, Brother Nero became Obsolete Jeff. Then in an amazing twist, Matt caused Jeff to snap and now he too was broken!
Jeff began to come out to a new obsolete theme song, wearing solid white contact lenses and giving up his bread-and-butter “spotfest monkey” moves that were his claim to fame throughout his career. All the while, Broken Matt Hardy refined his gimmick coming up with new and clever accents, vignettes, and pre-taped video packages that helped strengthen and solidify TNA’s ratings. Every time it seems like the Broken Matt Hardy angle has worn out its welcome, he surprises everyone with something even more over the top and hilarious than he has ever done before.
Matt was recently on the Talk is Jericho podcast and said it was important for Impact Wrestling to find their own way and identity, claiming: “My broken universe is something different that has never been seen anywhere else before.” Even going so far as to say Vince McMahon would be scared of it and would never let Matt attempt it. He certainly has caught the attention of everyone across the pro-wrestling landscape, including Bray Wyatt. It’s now rumored that WWE is interested in signing Matt once his TNA contract is up in February. But why would he want to leave? TNA’s ratings are strong and he would never have this level of creative freedom on Monday Night Raw.
It just goes to show that if you commit to a concept and give everything you have towards it, people will embrace it. One could argue that Matt and Jeff are in the twilight of their careers and might be close to retirement. But then along comes this Broken Matt Hardy idea and they are now the most talked about segment, not just on Thursday nights but in all of pro-wrestling. Matt has to be commended for putting his entire being into this role, come hell or high water, and really helping to single-handedly put TNA back on the map. There’s even rumors of WWE buying them out now.
Featuring self-aware drones, mischievous gardeners, explosions, divine mystical beings in the lakes and woods, under water costume changes, pool fights, child abduction, a car-jacking, and pretty much everything but the kitchen sink, Matt Hardy’s Broken Saga has been truly groundbreaking. With even Billy Corgan teasing that perhaps this will all culminate with a Broken Matt Hardy movie. With Delete or Decay coming up at Bound For Glory, TNA has a real chance to continue building on the non-stop train that is Broken Matt and Jeff Hardy. If they can somehow defeat Decay and become Impact Wrestling’s Tag Team Champions, the story will once again evolve in another direction and give us yet another reason to tune into TNA’s product.
Tonight is the final show before Bound For Glory. Be sure to tune into #ImpactOnPOP and see what new antics Broken Matt has for us as we head into this weekend’s pay-per-view. And be sure to check out our friends over at the King of the Mountain podcast for complete TNA coverage.
Article by Jamie Curtis Baker
Forbes reported earlier today that among the potential buyers of TNA’s Impact Wrestling (to include Billy Corgan and Sinclair Broadcasting) WWE has shown interest in purchasing the company, not to keep it afloat but mainly for its library of footage.
This wouldn’t be another WCW Invasion storyline. Vince would buy out TNA, bury it and then add their footage to the WWE Network. He wouldn’t be buying TNA to help keep it on the air. So don’t expect any last minute saves, here. If Sinclair Broadcasting could purchase it, that could be very interesting as they own Ring of Honor and if the two promotions could somehow merge and get a bigger TV deal, now we’re talking genuine competition with WWE and incentive to sign new independent wrestlers. Not really sure about Billy Corgan’s net worth, but it would seem unlikely The Smashing Pumpkins album sales gave him a fat enough bank account to make any significant bid or company restructuring.
As always, any rumor pitted towards TNA needs to be taken with a grain of salt as the roller coaster speculation reaches every end of the spectrum. Disgruntled former employees say TNA is always two seconds from going bust and owe them buckets of money. Current employees say there are no problems and they get their paychecks on time and love working there. It seems every ‘smart-mark’ with a webpage has an opinion for either side or claims to hold some secret “insider knowledge” for a company they have never worked for. Nobody really knows what is going on financially backstage with TNA except their own people. Yes, we’re calling you out Dave Metlzer.
It’s hard to take any seriousness with the idea of TNA being moments away from bankruptcy when they keep signing talent like Moose, Aron Rex, and Cody (he of the Rhodes fame); plus the addition of a completely new title belt and keeping a major name like Bobby Lashley on the roster when his talents could easily be utilized elsewhere. The loyalty of Ethan Carter III, Drew Galloway, and The Hardy’s suggests that things aren’t as bad as people make them out to be. I mean, these guys aren’t working for free. It’s hard to tell the difference between the real truth, glorified exaggerations, and flat out lies.
That being said, TNA’s ratings do remain fairly strong, especially in comparison to Ring of Honor or Lucha Underground. They are far and wide WWE’s biggest direct competition. And considering the amount of former TNA talent WWE keeps signing, it can be said for certain that Vince McMahon or at least his front office keeps an eye on all things TNA. Impact Wrestling isn’t a bad product. In fact, some weeks it puts out a better show than either Raw or Smackdown. They have talent, their ratings aren’t in decline, and they have the balls to let Creative take risks. All and all that makes for something I really like to watch. Face To Heel definitely hopes TNA doesn’t fold, go under, or worse: become yet another causality in the ego-driven empire of Vincent Kennedy McMahon.
There is a place in pro-wrestling for TNA, their staff, writing and especially their roster. They are a great company that unfortunately has made some poor decisions over the years. For all intents and purposes, 2016 seems to be the year they have been trying to really right the ship and seek their own identity. We just have to hope it’s not too little, too late.
Article by Jamie Curtis Baker
For those of you who are fans of listening to podcasts of the pro-wrestling variety, The Ross Report recently put out a great episode featuring Jim Ross talking to Terri Runnels for the better part of an hour. It’s a delightful conversation and a must listen for any Attitude Era or WCW Monday Night Wars enthusiasts. Runnels talks about her time with WWF and WCW, as well as working for CNN. She discusses her tumultuous marriage with Goldust (Dustin Runnels) and his father Dusty Rhodes (Virgil Runnels Jr.) and their falling out in the late 90’s.
Later, she talks about the volatile Brian Pillman and her very close friendship with Big Bossman (Ray Traylor Jr.) as they traveled the road together. Terri and JR discuss the passing of Chyna, aka Joan Laurer, and her changing personality over the years due to drugs. For hardcore nostalgia fans, Terri goes into detail about the creation of the Marlena character and taking the concept to Vince McMahon.
It’s a really easy listen and she tells many great stories. I recommend it to all. Please check it out on iTunes or wherever you download your podcasts.
Article by Jamie Curtis Baker
For those of you who missed the Battleground pay-per-view, you can check out our full review, match results and feedback right HERE. If you witnessed the show, something really interesting happened. The WWE World Heavyweight Championship stayed with champion, Dean Ambrose, and became the official belt of the new Smackdown Live programming. The outcome of The Shield triple threat matchup was a bold statement from WWE. It showed their confidence in Dean Ambrose and also their hope of making Smackdown a watchable show again. Love it or hate it, lines were drawn in the sand and there’s no turning back. But what does this mean for the future of the company? Face To Heel explores below.
The Rising Russian
First and foremost, this big win by Smackdown means that suddenly Rusev is the most important guy on the Monday Night Raw roster, at least for the foreseeable future. Why? Because he holds the only male singles title in the locker room. Whether or not this means the United Championship becomes a top coveted prize remains to be seen. Rusev vs Zack Ryder doesn’t really do much to elevate the belt. Will we see a big push for Rusev as the main draw for a time. And if not, then what happens next? If the US gold isn’t the end all, be all, what is?
A New Title
WWE has a tendency to create and delete titles without much forethought. It would be out of character for the world title to go to Smackdown and Stephanie McMahon not make a big stink of it. So, is WWE planning to bring back a secondary world title for the Raw brand? This would seem ill advised, especially after they just combined the titles within the last couple of years. But there is the new Cruiserweight division. Are we on the cusp of seeing Crusierweight Champion, Seth Rollins? He’s small enough and can do a lot of high-fly moves. This might be the perfect title for him. It’s likely we’ll see the Intercontinental Championship come to Raw soon enough. If Roman Reigns takes on Rusev and Seth Rollins has match of the year quality battles with some of the new signees from the Cruiserweight Classic, the world title might become a thing of the past in terms of importance.
WWE Is Backing Shane
When Vince McMahon came out and said that Raw would get more picks in the draft and still be the flagship show, we all assumed that would make Smackdown Live dead before it got off the launch pad. But putting the world title with Smackdown means that WWE is ready to take risks and wants Smackdown to succeed. That’s a good sign. And it also means that with the world title and IC belt, Smackdown holds most of the cards headed into SummerSlam. And since Night of Champions has been changed to Clash of Champions for later this year, we should all expect really big things from WWE for the remainder of 2016.
What do you all think? Bad decision by WWE or a sign of an actual change in direction for the entire company? Let us know in the comments below. And be sure to tune into Monday Night Raw tonight to see the fallout. Face to Heel will be live tweeting and will post an article shortly after the broadcast.
Article by Jamie Curtis Baker
We recently covered Roman Reigns’ suspension due to violating the wellness policy. Our coverage wasn’t all bad. We threw him a bone and also explored a few different ways that he could come back with a vengeance and really put his mark on WWE. Unfortunately for Reigns, it seems that he is destined to be hated until the day he retires. But why is that? Here are five reasons why the fans are never going to rally behind The Roman Empire.
5. He is Vince’s Guy, Not Ours
Vince McMahon loves Roman Reigns. That is crystal clear even to the most casual of viewers. The incessant push, the spotlight, the title, the main events; they were all given to him without much consideration as to whether or not he had actually earned them. Since going solo at the hands of “Plan B” in 2014, Roman has won the World Heavyweight Championship three times. This Sunday he gets yet another shot at the title at WWE’s Battleground pay-per-view, despite being recently suspended. We could start Monday Night Raw next week with Reigns as the world champion. Too bad he’s not the champ we want.
Roman’s thrust to high-tier, top-card status has never been favorable with the crowd. Granted, the WWE Universe shouldn’t be able to hijack Vince’s company and demand whatever they want. But they do have a pretty good track record. Just ask The Rock, Stone Cold, Edge, Daniel Bryan, and Shinsuke Nakamura. When a guy is truly an undeniable superstar, the fans know how to pick ’em. The moniker that Vince loved to throw at Daniel Bryan about being a “B+ player” really and truly fits the character of Roman Reigns.
The fans never once wanted Roman Reigns to be the guy, not even a little bit. But WWE persisted and Vince demanded we show his new goldenboy favoritism. Roman Reigns got labeled a star before he was ready, and long before we had given our stamp of approval on him. He was pushed prematurely, right into the title picture with his only previous exposure to a belt being a single Tag Team Championship run with Seth Rollins. WWE didn’t care about fans’ reactions towards Reigns. This was no more prevalent than at the 2015 Royal Rumble, when Reigns won the match, via interference from his cousin, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The crowd heavily booed, both Reigns and The Rock. If The Rock is getting booed, you know you have a problem. Despite our backlash, Vince continued pushing Reigns, even going so far as having Daniel Bryan put him over in an attempt to make people like him. They made Reigns put in blue-colored contact lenses, make more Make-a-Wish appearances, and having Reigns seemingly bury every other talent on the card during his matches to paint him as a lovable underdog. Hell, they even let him win a Slammy for being Superstar of the Year after not wrestling most of the calendar year. WWE’s best efforts did no good and Reigns entered WrestleMania 31 to a massive amount of hatred, being booed and flipped off live in front of thousands. Vince loves the guy. We unfortunately do not, and probably never will.
4. Lacking Complete Confidence
Roman comes across as unsure of himself when giving promos on the mic. He’s better on pre-taped interviews, but on live television he is hard to watch. He doesn’t deliver and he just doesn’t pack any bite. That may be chucked up to bad promo writing, but even if you are given crap dialogue, you can still find a way to deliver somehow. Then again, his lack of surefire confidence might all be psychosomatic. Look at his gimmick. All black ring-gear, same entrance music and moves since 2012. He’s bland, he’s white bread. He’s a plate of meat and potatoes with no gravy or seasoning. It’s safe, predictable, and worst of all boring. He’s so generic that, as we mentioned above, WWE tried changing his eye color. Nothing about him is exciting. He’s two-dimensional. And to the viewing audience it would appear that he is very much aware of how watered-down he really is. There is nothing unique or exciting about Roman Reigns, and that speaks to our lizard brain, informing us to leave him behind because he’s weak. This leads to our next point.
3. He’s Not a Good Guy or a Bad Guy, He’s Just a Guy
Roman Reigns shined when he was with The Shield. Why? Because he hung around in the background looking menacing, and he let Ambrose and Rollins do most of the talking. He was the muscle of the group. Since going solo, he has been uninteresting. He couldn’t get over as a babyface. They haven’t bothered trying to turn him heel yet. And prior to his wellness violation suspension, he was playing the role of a weak in-betweener. He even said as much with his post-WrestleMania promo: “I’m not a good guy. I’m not a bad guy. I’m the guy.” There’s no reason to cheer someone like that. And the main reason we boo him isn’t because of heel heat, we just don’t want to see him in the ring. He has gripped the world title three times and never once carried himself like a champion. In his first quest for the belt, they had him take a massive ass-whooping at the hands of Brock Lesnar, and we all cheered the Mayor of Suplex City. Roman Reigns just doesn’t have star quality. He has no pop. He is the equivalent of putting ice in a glass of water. No flavor, no depth, no anything. And that’s just as much WWE’s fault as it is Roman’s fault.
2. John Cena (Spicy Hero Remix)
Roman Reigns is nothing more than an emo John Cena. Women and children love John Cena. Women and children love Roman Reigns. Real fans of professional wrestling hate them both. Cena and Reigns are both self-righteous and are portrayed as never say quit heroes always looking to fight and do the right thing. Neither is really a heel, neither is really a face. They just come out and do the same moves every single match, make the same remarks during every single feud, and get a non-stop hype train from the commentary team. John Cena uses some form of phrasing to talk about his opponents “balls” or “testicles.” Roman Reigns does exactly the same thing. They fill the same role for Make-a-Wish kids. Roman Reigns shirt says “I Can. I Will.” And John Cena’s towels say “Never Give Up.” Reigns is a spicy Cena clone, nothing more. It’s evident in similar pushes to the top and the fact that neither man can stay out of the championship picture for long. Similar to Super Cena’s Attitude Adjustment, anytime Roman Reigns lands a Superman Punch in the ring, we can safely assume a 90% victory rate. And unfortunately, it’s inevitably that the two will meet at some future WrestleMania for the world title, and we’re all losers in that matchup.
1. He’s Good, But Reminds You of Something Better
Roman Reigns came to prominence from the dismantling of The Shield. But unlike Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns never moved on from the group. He continued using The Shield “Special Op” entrance theme. He continued coming out through the crowd. And he continued dressing in the black military gear The Shield wore to the ring. Nothing about Reigns changed. Of all the guys from The Shield, why was he singled out as the one to continue using everything? Especially when Seth Rollins was billed as The Architect of The Shield. Seth Rollins transformed his look, as did Ambrose. Both got exponentially better on the microphone, and the pair expanded their repertoire in the ring. Roman Reigns never improved. In all aspects of his career, he is the same character he was four years ago. There has been no growth.
He still uses the Superman Punch. He still uses the Spear. He still cocks his fist. He still sucks on the microphone. Reigns never evolved. And so, subconsciously, every time his music hits, it just reminds us of The Shield, one of the best angles in WWE over the last decade. It makes us think of another time, pinning for a group where Reigns was the weakest link. While Rollins is the star and Ambrose is the “likable” one, Roman Reigns is just a former member of The Shield. That’s what made his mega-push so baffling. He never showed signs of being a breakout star, and still hasn’t to this day.
Despite being hated, Rollins rose to the top and has actually gotten the fans behind him now. Despite being put into shit angles, Dean Ambrose has excelled to become a big fan favorite. Roman Reigns was booed, is booed, and will continue being booed because he is not someone we care about. And the fact that he gives interviews showing a nonchalant attitude about the whole thing, declaring he doesn’t care what we think, just makes him come across as being lazy and having a shit attitude. He could be a marketable heel, he could get cheered as a hero; but he just doesn’t seem interested in either path. He’s walking a straight line in his career and before long it will be too late to do anything with him. And to think, I actually wrote THIS article about him.
Article by Jamie Curtis Baker
Rumors online say that Vince McMahon is genuinely pissed at Roman Reigns for his wellness violation, and maybe rightfully so. When you are pushed for the better part of two years, you cannot blemish your career by using drugs during what could be considered the “peak” of your push. This might be an instance where Reigns gets pushed to the back of the line and has to eat shit for the rest of the year. Vince holds grudges. After Battleground, Reigns might need to work his way back into the chairman’s good graces. Creatively, he may have flat-lined at WrestleMania. But there is still light at the end of the tunnel. Here are three ways that Roman Reigns could return to action and make a big impact.
1. One Man Army
If and when he has his first appearance on Smackdown, he needs to take a stand. He needs to be angry about his suspension and the way Seth Rollins has ridiculed him. And it needs to show through aggressive actions. Perhaps he puts Commissioner Shane McMahon through a table? Then Shane kicks him off the show. But the next week he does the same to Commissioner Stephanie McMahon and she kicks him off Raw. If they still want Reigns to “be the guy” the best way to do that is have him become a viable heel. Right now he isn’t, not by a long shot. Maybe they set up a match between Reigns and Shane at SummerSlam with Steph as the special guest referee and the stipulation being if Reigns wins he gets to choose which show he goes to. He wins and we spend a few weeks and maybe another pay-per-view trying to figure out what to make of him. Make it seem he is above the lottery system. Hell, don’t even include him in the lottery draft. Keep selling it and let Shane and Steph argue over who gets him because they don’t want a “drug user” on their roster. Make his gimmick special without forcing us all to watch him carry the World Heavyweight Championship yet again.
2. Sierra. Hotel. India. Echo. Lima. Delta. Shield.
A month isn’t a whole lot of time to do this, but setting up a reunion for The Shield to take on The Wyatt Family or The New Day (or both) at SummerSlam could be fun. The problem this leaves is who does the world title go to? There aren’t a lot of options, and it would include someone dropping the title on Raw and Smackdown; although, possible selling point for an “anything can happen on a live Smackdown!” angle. Now would actually be the perfect time to bring back The Shield because the brand split and lottery is going to cause tension and there will certainly be some injustices visited to many guys. The Hounds of Justice could return once more to set things straight. This seems like more of a slow-burner program for 2017. But WWE has been known to push storylines too soon or too fast, so it’s quite possible they pull off some sort of shenanigans after the Battleground triple-threat blowoff match.
3. The Real Roman Empire
One thing’s for sure: Roman Reigns messed up big time. He needs to come back focused and serious. That means coming down the ramp and making a direct line to whatever guy has pissed him off. No more crowd work. No more smirks. No more screaming, fist-cocking, rope whipping. He needs to be stone-faced. He should be stoic and serious, and just look like the badass monster that he has been sold as for most of the year, but hasn’t quite yet delivered on. Reigns needs to go heel, for so many reasons. The best impact he can make is to protect Ambrose as champion, but pull-off a double turn with Rollins during the Battleground match. Ambrose leaves as champ and we set up heel Reigns versus babyface Rollins at SummerSlam. Dean gets a new opponent for the “summer Mania” and we are all the better off for it. A Roman Centurion would never carry or conduct themselves in the way Reigns has the past few months. Now might be the time to retool Reigns towards heel heat, as opposed to just letting him get booed for no reason every time he comes to the ring.
Other obvious options include winning the World Heavyweight Championship or Vince being really petty and sending him back to NXT, which isn’t really the worst thing that could happen. Probably the worst thing to come of Reigns returning is we have a wishy-washy match at Battleground and then have to watch another triple threat at SummerSlam, which is just as boring as it sounds and not even worth the $9.99 Network subscription. What do our readers think? Where does Roman Reigns fit into the current roster and impending brand split? Let us know in the comments below.
Article by Jamie Curtis Baker
The title of this post is misleading. It would suggest opinion on my part. My declaration that TNA is getting better sounds like a fanboy getting excited over something other people roll their eyes at. But the truth of the matter is, I don’t have to give any opinion at all. I can write this as an unbiased sports journalist with a passion for sports entertainment. The people saying TNA is getting better are the same people who many consider to the be the pinnacle of global, professional wrestling. The folks taking notice of TNA’s Impact Wrestling, and ultimately showing a few beads of sweat on their forehead, is Vince McMahon’s juggernaut, WWE. And the boost in TNA’s relevance can be attributed to an unsurprising wrestler, one who was once a part McMahon’s vast empire. We’re talking about none other than one half of The Hardy Boyz, Matt Hardy.
The writing is on the wall. Vince is presumably annoyed about Jeff and Matt Hardy having great success with another company. The Broken Hardy angle has forced Vince to try his own hand at putting on farm fights between the beloved fan favorite and a creepy anti-pariah. The Wyatt Family vs The New Day is a bad idea, any way you look at it. The two personalities of both groups clash in such a bizarre way that not even a great match could really make this feud passable. It’s oil and water, and it is almost painful to watch. Their fight this week on Raw featured a row of truck headlights, a puddle of water and just a bunch of big sweaty dudes yelling and brawling. The production was low and was subpar compared to WWE’s usual theatrics. Meanwhile, TNA last week featured the Hardy brothers going to war in an outdoor ring, with ladders, trees, fireworks, a stun gun, a faked lake drowning, and a literal pit of fire. There were costume changes, drones, dirt bike chases, violin solos, and loyal Spanish gardeners. All within a single match and storyline. WWE, for all intents and purposes, rode TNA’s coattails and tried to mimic their formula with a stunted carbon copy. Nobody bought into it and most of social media made fun of WWE because they just weren’t being original. This led Bray Wyatt to passive-aggressively subtweet TNA and Matt Hardy during their broadcast (which was live, by the way) Tuesday night. It was a bit out of character and made the usual demigod-like Wyatt come across as a petulant child.
Well, lest we forget, Matt Hardy came on the scene in 1992 while Bray Wyatt was five or six years old. Bray didn’t debut until 2009. And without The Undertaker perhaps no one would have become one of Wyatt’s fireflies in the first place. This is a petty act by the Eater of Worlds and would suggest that not only has WWE and Bray Wyatt been paying attention to TNA, but they are concerned and felt that they somehow needed to respond or even outdo TNA. With Bray Tweeting out during the broadcast, it would suggest that he was watching TNA live. If other professionals in your field start watching and paying attention to what you are doing, that should be a good indication that you are doing something right. This isn’t WWE’s only tell sign, though. Recently, TNA’s X-Division has been going through a revitalization. It’s become a hot item in the world of wrestling, and the matches always seem to be highlights of every broadcast. On Tuesday night, #DestinationX was trending for several hours after the broadcast. People were still talking about it the next day. It’s raising eyebrows in the industry. Interesting, then, that WWE all of a sudden cares about promoting cruiserweights.
The Cruiserweight Classic is WWE bringing in under 205 pound talent from all over the world to compete in a tournament. Guys from Iran, Japan, Mexico, and other parts of the world are battling in single elimination matches. TNA has made an attempt to diversify their roster. Earlier this year, they signed two guys from France. In the recent past they signed several guys from the United Kingdom, including Drew Galloway whom they put the world title on. They recently signed their first wrestler from India and signed a 6-year deal with Indian television. They utilize Japanese heroes and Luchadors on a regular basis, many of whom competed in or have held the X-Division Championship title. They are bringing in wrestlers from all over the world and making a high-flying division relevant again. Hmm, who does that sound like? Didn’t we just see something similar on the WWE Network Wednesday night, a day late and a dollar short?
And the best thing going for TNA is that talent actually wants to come there. Tuesday night they had a debut for a surprise signee that nobody saw coming. From Ring of Honor, Moose, came to the ring and made a big IMPACT right out of the gate. He attacked Bobby Lashley, suggesting he is coming in and going right into the title picture. Two black men going after the world title? TNA breaks new ground again! Good luck ever convincing Vince to do that in his company. Bottom line, TNA is an attractive market and now they are starting to sign big name independent wrestlers. NXT is no longer the only hot ticket in town. TNA has a good roster. WWE thinks so too as they have hijacked several big names from TNA fame. Austin Aries, AJ Styles, Bobby Roode, Eric Young, and current NXT World Heavyweight Champion, Samoa Joe, just to name a few. TNA must be doing something right if Vince scrambles to scoop up their wrestlers every single time they are free of contract.
Now WWE wants to make Smackdown live and move it to Tuesday nights. It’s a power move trying to squash real competition. It’s no sweat off TNA’s back as they are just moving to Thursdays at 8PM. The point is that it would appear all eyes are on TNA. Thanks to Matt Hardy, people are talking about the company. Now that they have signed Moose, people will be watching the company. If TNA is patient and keeps on steadily improving, they will have to be taken seriously by the rest of the industry. No one will be able to refuse them any longer. And god help Vince if TNA becomes popular again and actually gets a television deal with a big network. When you get down to brass tacks, there is one very important take away from this: TNA’s Impact program is not Ted Turner’s WCW when it was sold for pennies on the dollar. TNA isn’t a chop shop of insanity that Vince can just swoop in and hide away. TNA has value and it’s stock (and viewership) is on the rise. Industry experts know Vince and Company have very little to worry about, but it doesn’t appear that way to WWE’s Creative department.
Jeff Hardy recently spoke on Jim Ross’s podcast and stated, “I’m not sure how our ratings are doing, I really don’t care. I just try to go out there and do the best I can.” And that’s the whole trick behind TNA’s resurgence. Their guys don’t care what you think. They don’t care who is watching. They carry themselves like professional athletes and give the crowd in attendance and the viewing audience inside the cameras every ounce they have. Try telling them they are a joke. Try convincing anyone in that locker room they are hacks. They carry themselves like the best wrestling promotion in the world and it comes across in their actions and words. They mean it and they don’t think they’re underdogs. Do they always get an angle over? No. Do they always knock it out of the park? No. But do they try, every week, to entertain the fans? Absolutely, without a doubt. Their conviction is there, and if they just stay the course, they genuinely might be able to get over again.
Article by Jamie Curtis Baker
Smackdown is going live. WWE is doing a brand split. There’s got to be more to it then just the basic facts. So what can fans hope to see during the July 19th live premiere? Check out our list of some surprises we might get below.
The Rock — This is, after all, The Rock’s show. He took off after The Nation of Domination, where he started to “layeth the smacketh down” on some roody-poo candy asses. To have the show go live and split the brand up, it would seem obvious to have The Rock show up. There aren’t a whole lot of spoilers online for this event, and we are still over a week out. WWE could release statements about what may happen or who might show up, but currently there is no information regarding whether The Rock will be there. Having the show kickoff with his music hitting would really help set the pace for the evening and kick things off to an exciting start. Dwayne Johnson (The Rock’s real life name) is currently busy filming Ballers so this might be a pipe dream. But what could be better than the king of laying the smackdown showing up on Smackdown?
Vince McMahon — We have to assume this big idea was mostly Vince’s. Even if it wasn’t, he’ll claim credit for its success or pass the buck for its failure. This is a big move for WWE, so the chairman will more than likely make an appearance. In fact, it’s a safe bet that he will come out and pander to the crowd, only to be interrupted by his children or the annoying general managers that have been making cameos the past few weeks. Followed up by a backstage segment with Vince, Steph, and Shane inevitably arguing about something.
An New Debut — There are a lot of exciting guys and gals on the NXT roster. A live Smackdown premiere is a great time for an NXT main roster debut. Someone like Bayley, or maybe even Finn Balor, would really set the stage going forward. Keeping it a secret would be key. Just let their music hit and the crowd go ape shit. Use them to interrupt somebody to set up a future feud. Or maybe have surprise draft lottery picks with an NXT star going to Raw and Smackdown both. Another possibility is a new group comes out featuring three or four underutilized wrestlers looking to make a name on Smackdown. If they hadn’t already done it, now would be a good time for something like The League of Nations. A unique trick might be to have a new member join The Wyatt Family….perhaps a female new signee who goes by the name Sister Abigail?
A New Title — No, not a world heavyweight title. We do not need that sort of champion with each brand. But bringing back an old classic, maybe like the Hardcore Championship, or inventing a new belt would give us something to look forward to. WWE Network is making a big deal out of this Cruiserweight Classic, so perhaps a Cruiserweight Championship could be introduced. That could also help explain why in the hell we had Kalisto as the United States Champion for an absurd amount of time. WWE might have been testing the water for smaller guys with titles. This also would have been a great venue to introduce the Women’s Championship, but they already wasted that opportunity at the Never-ending WrestleMania. Speaking of the women’s division, it’s getting pretty stacked. Maybe a female tag division could be something fun to try out as well. With potentially two brands and two distinct rosters, an additional belt might be necessary to keep things flowing.
Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton — They announced this past week on Smackdown who Brock Lesnar’s SummerSlam opponent will be. None other than The Viper, Randy Orton. This is a weird thing to just announce, considering the two have not interacted in a really long time and we haven’t seen either for quite some time. Just throwing them together with no backstory is strange, but we’ll roll with it because this should actually be an exciting matchup. Saving this announcement for Smackdown is a little hint that maybe the two will come out on the live premiere and go at each other, enticing the fans for the August pay-per-view.
Whether or not the live Smackdown and brand split fails is yet to be determined. But one thing is for sure, WWE definitely has some tricks up their sleeves for the live premiere. If you are a fan of professional wrestling, you better not miss this one. It might not pan out in the long run, but the premiere episode should be entertaining at the very least for the novelty of it. Tune in July 19th and let us know in the comments below what you expect or hope to see on the live Smackdown.
Article by Jamie Curtis Baker