Tag Archives: Daniel Bryan

Watch, Skip or Skim: Spoiler Alert with “Angry” Andy (12/11-12/13)

Over the course of seven days, there’s a lot of wrestling on TV. But only some of it is actually worth watching. That’s where Spoiler Alert comes in: we break down the spoilers of all of WWE’s pre-taped shows to let you know what you should watch, and which segments and full shows you should skim or skip. This week, Andy sits back and enjoys the build to Tables, Ladders & Chairs.

wwe_main_event_button_1360784176

(spoilers via Wrestlezone.com)

Curtis Axel d Dolph Ziggler in what is probably a pretty good match.  As long as they keep Curtis away from the mic, this should be really excellent.  Axel is solid in the ring, but needs someone to make him look like he’s the second generation stud he’s supposed to be.  Dolph Ziggler is definitely the guy for the job.

Natalya d Alicia Fox.  They’ve been building Nattie up for a credible run with the Divas title, so this is probably little more than a quick squash.  It doesn’t hurt that Alicia has improved over the years.

Xavier Woods & R-Truth d Tons of Funk when Brodus Clay starts arguing with Tensai.  Woods continues to get face time with the fans, Brodus continues his heel turn, and the match ends in a logical, inoffensive way.

WATCH this show. Everything is story-and-character based.  All of it matters.  And it looks like the action should be pretty good, too.

wwe superstars show logo

(spoilers via ProWrestling.com)

Kaitlyn d Aksana.  Man, they sure made a point to kill Kaitlyn, didn’t they?  If you find either of these women attractive, then enjoy the show.  The wrestling itself won’t be so pretty.

Los Matadores d 3MB. Yes, again.  This time, 3MB was represented by Jinder and Drew.  We’re sure El Torito did something the kids will enjoy.  That’s the last of the nice things I have to say for this show.

SKIP THIS SHOW. Just do it.  You’ll thank me.

WWE-Smackdown

(spoilers via Wrestlezone.com)

Daniel Bryan d Luke Harper & Erick Rowan by disqualification, in a 2-on-1 handicapped match. Bray attacks, but Bryan fights him off with a running knee.  Bryan stands tall… which means he doesn’t have a chance at TLC.

The Real Americans d Goldust & Cody Rhodes in a non-title match.  I’d be totally ok with Cesaro and Swagger playing the role of the Quebecers in 2K14 version of the Bret/Own split.  They’re two very talented, very HUGE men, who are both fantastically underrated in the ring.  They’re also joined by one of the best managers in wrestling today… so why not strike while the iron’s hot?

Bad News Barrett talks about the Slammy Awards.  I’m ok with this.  People are complaining, but they’re establishing a new character.  Let them establish him before you demand he wrestle the same match, against the same midcarders, that made you sick of him the first time around.

Mark Henry d Damien Sandow by countout, with Intercontinental Champion Big E. Langston on commentary.  I’d guess he didn’t get to see too much in this scouting mission.

John Cena makes an appearance, to talk about his TLC match with Randy Orton.

Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins d The Usos. Punk appears on the titantron after the match, guaranteeing victory at TLC.  Maybe he hired a sniper.

Big Show d Ryback again.  This time, they continued brawling, along with Curtis Axel and Rey Mysterio.  I smell a filler tag match for TLC…  oh, and a tag team nobody asked for: Mysterio and Big Show.

Kofi Kingston v Alberto Del Rio never happened, because Del Rio has a concussion.  That, and Miz came out to give Kofi the Skull Crushing Finale.  I guess that’s better than watching Del Rio beat Kofi for the hundredth time.

Randy Orton and Triple H  kiss and make up after what happened in Raw’s awesome closing segment.

WATCH THIS SHOW.  WWE is clicking on all cylinders heading into TLC.  They’re putting on quality matches, and booking to logical storylines.  Watch and enjoy it while it lasts.

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Hometown Hero: Raw Regurgitated … LIVE!, 12/09

 

I bought my tickets back on October 9th.  Daniel Bryan had just failed to capture the WWE title at Battleground, but I knew he’d have another shot at the upcoming Hell in a Cell PPV.  By the time Raw rolled up to Seattle on December 9th, I was confident we’d get a championship celebration for our home state wrestling god.  After all the screwjobs and false starts, surely we’d get to greet Aberdeen’s favorite son with championship gold around his waist?  Right?  Riiiiight?

Oh.

Well, since that happened, last night didn’t go down exactly like I envisioned.  What happened might have been even better.

I’m not going to sit here and claim that Seattle just willed Daniel Bryan back into the title picture.  WWE can go ahead and ignore all of this, pass it off as hometown cooking, and keep Bryan fighting the Wyatts until they need him somewhere else on the card.  They’ve done it before, they can do it again.

But if anything, just for one raucous evening, I got to be a part of something truly organic and special.  My ears are still ringing.  I’ve been to Seahawks home games, seen Metallica live in San Francisco at the Fillmore.  This absolutely destroyed any other live event I’ve ever been to.  It was another classic moment in the journey of Daniel Bryan, and I got to be a tiny part of it.

And that’s really the point right?  We can talk about bad booking, and burying and pushes and all that jazz.  We want it all to make sense and look great in a promo package and tie up nice and neatly.  Rarely does that happen  But if we get moments like this, where Daniel Bryan is the best in the world and we let him know as loud as we can go, it sure makes up for it.  If after months and months of wheel spinning, a 90 second all out brawl thrusts Bryan and CM Punk right back into an angle they never should’ve been left out of in the first place, and suddenly creative look like geniuses.  And when John Cena cuts a killer promo, destroying Randy Orton and making everyone else look great, well that completes a trifecta and everybody wins.  I don’t know how it played on television, but it was bliss in the arena.  I’m still a bit woozy.

Woozy, but not delusional.  I’m not confident that WWE can pull this off, or even that they want to.  We’ve been teased and kicked in the dick so many times.  But part of me wants to believe that this is all a wonderful grand plan, that they knew the Seattle crowd would give Bryan the ovation he needed to restart his Authority angle and planned it accordingly.  Daniel Bryan’s hero’s journey to the WWE Championship relaunches, and everyone is happy.

And the entire point of doing the hero’s journey is, well, the journey itself.  Making the man a legend.  I argued that it was the right call to keep Bryan away from the belt because it didn’t add up who he’d feud with.  He still needs a bit more seasoning before he can sell a title feud all by himself yet.  The journey wasn’t over.  The training, the stumbles, the discovery, all the bits and pieces that add up before the victory and resolution.  More to go.

I haven’t been super happy with how things have gone, despite agreeing that Bryan shouldn’t be champ.  The feud with the Wyatts has been great, but it doesn’t make any sense that after chasing the WWE title for months, suddenly Bryan wouldn’t mention a thing about it and just move on.  Cena acknowledging that he should be fighting Bryan instead, and Shawn Michaels getting a running knee both went a long way in erasing months of storyline frustration.  Maybe we’ll make to WrestleMania XXX and finish the journey after all.

And maybe we had a bit more road to travel because once it ends, it ends for good.  Once he’s the man, we don’t get to cheer him like we did tonight anymore.  Sure, he’ll get cheered, but it won’t be, “Daniel Bryan is a guy we love because wrestling is awesome and he’s awesome and why don’t you get it?!?”

Cheers like that come from a special place, a potent mixture of love, anger, spite, and, well, hope.  I have no idea if they’ll ever pull the trigger and acknowledge Bryan is the best wrestler in the WWE.  But while we wait, maybe forever in vain, there’s no harm in telling them what we already know – as loud as we can.  In this world of the scripted spectacle, that’s the realest thing we got.

#JCPWCWWeek: Difference of Opinion (Ish?)

After having so much fun with the stables last month in celebration of the Survivor Series, we’ve decided to turn this December — and all Decembers in perpetuity — into Promotions Month. For a curtain jerker, we have WCW and its predecessor, Jim Crockett Promotions. This is the Final Day of #JCPWCWWeek, the fourteenth installment of our (patent-pending) Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week Series. We mixed it up by giving you a crash course in JCP and WCW and asked you to Essentially View a Promotion You (Should) Probably Know Better. We exposed some harsh truths with the debut of Lies The WWE Told Us and quenched your thirst for Listicles with a Juice Make Sugar Top 10 List. Now, we end everything with a Difference of Opinion, where JMS HQ actually doesn’t erupt into a civil war. But if we did, it would take place inside of a Doomsday Cage.

Nick: This was a weird week for us. I’ve written extensively about WCW and you are a pretty big JCP fan: Although our press times wouldn’t tell you it, this was actually a pretty easy week for us.

Dave: Well, I’m not old enough to be a real JCP fan, but I appreciate the hell out of what I’ve seen. And I feel like this week and last we had a lot of good stuff to say, so times be damned, I felt like it was important to unload both barrels.

Nick: So, the opposite of next week’s promotion, ECW?

Dave: I love several ECW stars (Sabu is one of my all-time favorites), but the promotion as its story lines are the most overrated body of work ever.

Nick: Yeah, and I feel like WCW and JCP especially are “underrated”, inasmuch as that kind of thing exists.

Dave: Agreed! You took the words out of my mouth. Bagging on WCW is so en vogue that people forget the good years JCP/WCW put together.

Nick: Like, “Roy Hibbert” underrated And even when they were “crap”, it was still good. The FPOD wasn’t “bad” in and of itself, at least for me. It’s that it was indicative of a real sickness in the company itself, but it’s not the first time somebody’s thrown a match for a buddy.

Dave: As I wrote in my comment on your FPOD post, I think it was outrageously unnecessary… but not the dump on the chest of wrestling that a lot of people make it out to be.

Nick: And I’ve seen those late-period WCW PPVs. There are some REALLY good matches. 3 Count is REALLY REALLY REALLY GOOD.

Dave: Yeah, the quality of in-ring work was always insanely high outside of the main event in WCW. But most of their main eventers were either miles past their prime or larger than life characters who couldn’t deliver physically.

Nick: What’s weird is that almost all of the WCW fans I know NEVER gave a shit about the main event. At least in the sense that it being good was more of a bonus.

Dave: I feel like most of the WCW fans I know were in it for the match quality. Unlike WWF/E fans who love to engage in the top story lines.

Nick: As a life-long WWE mark I can attest to that. And I think that’s where WCW got into trouble. It wasn’t when they decided to get in the Hulk Hogan business, it was when they let him try to tell them to be like WWF. Where he ran roughshod over everyone with the idea that “the fans will love it, brother.”

Dave: Hey, look! It’s the same mistake TNA has been making the last decade!

Nick: That’s the most notable thing about JCP. It’s SO MUCH DIFFERENT than WWE.

Dave: Oh yeah. It’s SO sports-like.

Nick: Like, if you’re TNA, why aren’t you just recreating JCP now?

Dave: I couldn’t agree with you more.

Nick: And, I get it, WCW was primarily a television show first and a wrestling company second, but I totally agree with the guys on the Rise and Fall of WCW DVD, if JCP had stayed in the mid-Atlantic, they’d still be in business, probably national at this point. I can’t even imagine what would have happened if Magnum TA didn’t get into that car accident.

Dave: Magnum could definitely have been their Hulk Hogan. And, as you said, the Crockett name was so beloved in the Carolinas that their business could have stayed viable, but they got greedy, especially when they got the Road Warriors, and wanted to promote Chicago. JCP turned a great profit until they overextended themselves, whereas WCW intentionally operated at a loss in order to make money for TNN/Turner. People bag on Bischoff and Turner for handing out huge contracts, but the fact of the matter is that the expectation of WCW never to make money on its own. Which makes it unique in the history of big time wrestling.

Nick: Yeah, the difference between the WWF and WCW was always that WWF’s business, as I alluded to earlier, was the WWF and WCW’s business was “the wrestling show of a television network.” Whether or not they made any money was irrelevant. Things didn’t have to be sustainable, they just had to move the needle. And for a while, it worked. They were better at being “televised wrestling” than the WWF was at being the WWF. And it’s because they only had to be concerned about getting people to watch.

Dave: Right, they didn’t have to deal with nearly the same budgetary constraints.

Nick: Like, Bash at the Beach 1996 is the Platonic ideal of what a wrestling PPV is supposed to be. It’s almost a perfectly constructed wrestling show, and a singular moment in the history of wrestling. Purely in terms of “spectacle for which you would pay to see”, WrestleMania III is the only other one in the discussion. And that’s a TERRIBLE show, with one good match and one palpably important match, but that match is what made Hogan (spoiler alert) being the Third Man in ‘96.

Dave: This may be an unpopular opinion, but Hogan was much less of a piece of shit in WCW than he was in WWF. There were things he refused to do and guys he refused to put over, but it wasn’t like WWF where he wanted to be the only big star.

Nick: WrestleMania IX is 100X worse than the FPOD: It shits on his successor while making himself look like a million bucks, at least he just looked like an asshole after the Fingerpoke.

Dave: Yes, because WMIX actually involved undermining the five-year future of the company, whereas FPOD was done against another well-established top star with that guy’s consent (in fact, I think Nash had a hand in booking it.)

Nick: But, like I said, the FPOD of doom IS super important, because it is them blatantly giving up. They were literally saying “we can’t come up with something more interesting than Foley winning, so let’s just see how much heat we can get for something”.

Dave: The sad part is, the majority of wrestling writers still think that way: “How can we get the most heat on the heels?”

Nick: Which is the least WWE thing ever. The WWE is OBSESSED with “giving the people what they want”.

Dave: Rather than “How can we get heat on the heels to make the baby faces look good” And then when a company actually takes care of a top face (Cena), “smart” fans resent the hell out of it (as you and Andy have covered many times).

Nick: Exactly, people say “John Cena is Superman” because he never loses, but what they don’t get is that he never loses, because he’s Superman.

Dave: Yeah, you want to see Speed Racer in danger of losing the race, but he shouldn’t actually lose.

Nick: Daniel Bryan, Spiderman, is going to have to let Gwen Stacy die every once in a while. And CM Punk is always be angry, just like Batman.

Dave: It’s almost like these are time-tested archetypes…

Nick: And while I love that style, I think the real tragedy of WCW’s demise is that there will never be a truly viable alternative to that style in North America. There’s never going to be a professional wrestling organization that feels like a sports league again.

Dave: Absolutely. WWE has redefined the business in a way that has forever changed the discussion in a way that favors them.

Nick: Because they are Wrestling. When people say wrestling, they don’t mean TNA.

Dave: Right. Or ROH. Or Chikara. Or PWG…

Nick: You would be hardpressed to find someone who isn’t friends with a wrestling fan that has even heard of TNA. Most people in the country knew what WCW was.

Dave: Yeah, it’s pretty sad, but it’s a problem that seems impossible to solve.

Nick: So, to be clear, you don’t see TNA signing John Cena after they get bought by TNT when they lose the rights to the NBA, then get Punk and finally have Daniel Bryan/Big E. Langston to “invade” a few years later?

Dave: …Yeah, I think that’s safe to say. They’re still miles more successful than Pro Wrestling U.S.A., though.

Watch, Skip or Skim: Spoiler Alert with “Angry” Andy (12/4-12/6)

Over the course of seven days, there’s a lot of wrestling on TV. But only some of it is actually worth watching. That’s where Spoiler Alert comes in: we break down the spoilers of all of WWE’s pre-taped shows to let you know what you should watch, and which segments and full shows you should skim or skip. This week, Andy starts planning what he’ll do with the time he would have spent watching Main Event and Smackdown.

wwe_main_event_button_1360784176

(spoilers via Wrestlezone.com)

Goldust d. Ryback

This was the advertised main event for this one, and I have a strange feeling it’s not going to deliver.  Goldy wins by DQ when Curtis Axel interferes.  Cody gets involved too.  I’m sure this is building to a tag title match for the least-over team in the company, but let’s face it.  WWE is desperate for this Ryback-Axel pairing to work.  Axel needs heat, and Ryback needs to work with more talented guys.  Unfortunately, the only time anyone cares about these two is when Ryback lifts a giant, or when the crowd decides to chant for a guy who hasn’t been relevant in a decade.

The Usos d 3MB

Jinder and Drew are representing 3MB here.  No idea what gimmick they’ll be representing, but I’m sure it’ll be fun.  The Usos are almost always fantastic, and this should essentially be a showcase for them.  The best current team never to hold the tag titles keeps on impressing.

Damien Sandow d R-Truth

In a logically-booked world, this match becomes an overbooked cluster-f featuring run-ins from Dolph Ziggler, Brodus Clay, Tensai, and Xavier Woods.  You know, because all those guys are currently intertwined in the storylines.  Maybe it happens, or maybe it’s just a simple match that Sandow wins.  I don’t know, because nobody seems to have any detailed spoilers.  Way to go, Tulsa.  This is why we can’t have nice things.

SKIP this show.  Yeah, sure, there is some decent talent on the card… but no one is doing anything interesting.  The only match on the show that matters is building toward a title match no one wants to see.  Spend this hour watching South Park re-runs and preparing for the latest new episode.

WWE-Smackdown

(spoilers via PWinsider.com)

Tyson Kidd d Justin Gabriel

…in the dark match, that is.  Tyson, your 2-week push is officially over.  If you want more TV time, I suggest cheating on Natalya during a Total Divas taping.

Randy Orton says he’s going to beat John Cena at TLC, and apologizes to The Authority for being a big jerk on Monday.  Daniel Bryan says he should be apologizing for being a bogus champion.  Under wrestling law, they must fight tonight.

Big E Langston d Fandango in a nontitle match.

Bad News Barrett says some things.  No idea what kind of things, but I’m sure they’re delightful.  No, seriously.

Kofi Kingston vs Alberto Del Rio never happens, because Del Rio murders Kofi before the match.  I suppose the Miz was busy making straight-to-DVD movies.

The Shield talked about murdering CM Punk, and teased some dissension.

Ryback & Curtis Axel d Cody Rhodes & Goldust in a nontitle match.  They’re seriously building to a title match here.  Ryback and Axel have done NOTHING to earn a title match, mind you, but they’re getting one.  Not the unstoppable Usos.  Not the popular Prime Time Players.  Not the heat-magnet Real Americans.  The so-called team who have maybe wrestled a half-dozen matches together.

CM Punk d Dean Ambrose in a nontitle match.  Reports are this was a good match.  Punk tweeted that he shit himself during the match.  Just like that, you have two reasons to watch.

Natalya d Tamina Snuka, which probably qualifies her for a Divas title match at TLC.

Big Show & Rey Mysterio d The Real Americans I’ll allow it, but only if Rey Mysterio takes a giant swing from Cesaro.

Randy Orton d Daniel Bryan with the RKO.  Bray Wyatt appears on the screen, inviting Bryan to join the family.

SKIM this show.  It definitely doesn’t seem like it’s worth 2 hours of your time (welcome back, Michael Hayes!)  That said, I would not miss Punk-Ambrose or Orton-Bryan.  Everything else?  Grab the remote.

@AndyMillerJMS

Odds and Ends, Fits and Starts: Raw Regurgitated, 12/2

It’s hard to say if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that CM Punk was the person I least enjoyed listening to in a three-way conversation between himself, Kane and Stephanie. At the very least, Corporate Kane has very quickly become my new favorite gimmick remix, replacing long standing champion of my heart, Matt V1. That’s right, I’m a proud MFer.

Stephanie’s a pretty awful actress — which is more than okay considering that she still manages to be better than Dixie Carter and understands how to serve as corporate executive for a business that isn’t the professional wrestling equivalent of a sinking ship on fire — but she plays “awful/detached insanely rich person” like Meryl Streep.

The real problem with the WWE: They won’t let people get over by giving them nearly insurmountable odds against new stars so that they could get over with the crowd by doing the seemingly impossible. If they did that , they could use that narrative dynamic to sell one of the 6-8 PPVs — depending on how one feels about buying the Survivor Series and/or Extreme Rules every year– that don’t sell themselves, while making stars out of everyone involved. If only they did that, things would be so much better.

***

Odds that Dolph Ziggler would face Big E. this early in his IC championship reign for the belt at a PPV: 1,000 to 1. Odds that Damien Sandow beats Langston for the title at TLC: 1,000 to 1. Odds E. loses that belt to Dolph Ziggler at the end of his run: Pick ‘Em. Odds Ziggler faces E. for the Unified Undisputed World War Wrestling Championship Belt Title after Langston wins it: 1,000,000 to 1.

If they are doing “Summer Rae is a female version of Fandango in the ring” with this “dancing while wrestling” thing, it might be the best news in the history of wrestling, because Here Comes the Emmalution. But if they are just having her do this because that’s what they think ladywrestling should be, they might as well just keep the women of NXT down in Florida until they all retire.

Things that are beautiful, but not long for this world: sunsets, a refreshing breeze, #BadNewsBarrett

***

*** WARNING: YOU ARE NOW ENTERING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE! *** PLEASE KEEP EYES AND EARS INSIDE OF KAYFABE AT ALL TIMES *** Man, they should just give Daniel Bryan a shovel, so he can dig his own grave, amirite? Anyone who thinks this Wyatt storyline isn’t fantastic — even with the fits and starts with Daniel Bryan’s whereabouts that 8% of the crowd actually worries about — is a bummer on the level of people who that John Cena has been the most popular performer in the company for the last ten years because of politics. And those people are as depressing as Hulk Hogan being the most popular performer in the world for 20 years because of politics.

And in all this Bray Wyatt “join me” business, while it’s hard to say what’s going to happen, the real interesting dynamic is whether Wyatt is trying to con Bryan, or whether he just wants him to turn heel. The former screams “Hero’s Journey,” while the other leads to a feud with CM Punk — after he nobly dispatches the Shield by himself in a parallel storyline.

This is pretty much the perfect “midcard” feud: it has tons of intrigue and even more stakes, but doesn’t involve a major title, won’t be featured at the end of any show and never be truly resolved, and still serves major purposes in terms of narrative momentum for both characters, marks a fundamental shift in the direction of their careers and, most importantly, will lead to much better things in the future for everyone involved.

Like Andy said last week, this is all highly interesting stuff with huge stakes, and it should be clear that this would be bogged down if the WWE or WHC was involved, especially in the ramp up to the most important “WrestleMania season” ever. They’ve figured out a way, in a manner not unlike Community or Arrested Development, to not just mix meta-commentaries into the product as a nod to those “in on the joke”, but to debate the very notions that the commentaries are pointing at.

Wyatt talking about “taking down the system because they don’t know what they have in you” is the exact same idea as the Bluths complaining about cuts to housing orders that sounded suspiciously similar to the ones made by FOX regarding the number of episodes they wanted to produce.  By making this about existential ideas involved in the modern interpretation of wrestling by its most vocal fanbase — “us vs. them” and shadow politickings — it’s allowed the Reality Era-storytelling to be folded back into the standard tropes of the industry, something that the Attitude Era, like grunge, just never had in it.

What “happens” backstage become, more or less, a new wall of kayfabe, a new layer of storytelling, a new tool to be used to leverage butts into seats. And they are doing so by pushing the fourth wall against every screen they can get their hands on.

That this — the incorporation of formerly radical ideas by the “establishment” — is more often than not what happens after revolutions should not be missed. They — meaning the WWE — are finally calibrating the effect of the internet to a time before Cyber Sunday or even Taboo Tuesday, and that’s a good thing. It coming with more complaining than you can shake a stick at? Something we should be used to by now. *** WARNING: YOU ARE NOW EXITING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE! *** PLEASE ENJOY YOUR COMPLIMENTARY SONIC MILKSHAKE ON YOUR WAY OUT***

WOAH. You can bury Edge and Chris Jericho, hotshot story lines to the top of the card before quickly discarding them in favor of much shinier new toys, and compare yourself to Harley Race and Hulk Hogan, but having Kane be a dick to Daniel Bryan is a bridge too far, Hunter.

***

As someone who has spent an entire life neck deep in white privilege — ICYMI: it’s great, for me anyways, thanks cultural hegemony! — it feels weird to get mildly indignant that a young man working toward his Ph. D is being put into a storyline with two of the most racial caricature-y characters in recent memory in which he’s been accused of stealing the others’ dance routine and companions, seemingly simply because they all happen to share a preponderance of melanin in their skin. But, yeah, this just feels kind of gross, even if it is just entertainment, and the all seem to A) not care about whatever weird racism pangs happen in my head and B) be genuinely enjoying themselves. The only saving grace is the the other guy in the feud (Tensai) was treated just as one-dimensional in Japan, so at least the U.S. isn’t the only one in the “depressing racial stereotypes” game, just the leader in the clubhouse.

Speaking of depressing racial stereotypes, if the WWE believes we are going to be fooled by this Sin Cara/Hunico switch just because it assumes we think all masked wrestler look alike, well … they are probably right.

***

And, finally, we’ve reached an impasse with the Shield six-man tags, as this was one of the first that felt “stale”. While it was a very good match with one or two spectacular moments, watching three guys work over one in the corner makes a lot more sense when it feels like they almost need to do it, not when it’s clear that one of them has beaten entire teams of other people by himself. Roman Reigns’ ascension seems like it will pretty much force the Shield to change how their matches are structured in order to keep the heat as the crowd builds anticipation for Reigns to go into full-blown destroyer mode after well-timed hot tags. Or, they could just keep running train.

The most important part of this match was not the re-dissolution of Kofi and Miz’s team or the solidification Ryback-Axel tag team, but the moment of self-actualization the two man achieved after they, as Jerry Lawler put it, “realized that maybe they weren’t Paul Heyman guys, but Ryback and Curtis Angl-Axel guys”. Namaste, Big Guys.

Ole!

***

Please don’t bring back Sexual Chocolate. Please don’t bring back Sexual Chocolate. Please don’t bring back Sexual Chocolate. Please don’t bring back Sexual Chocolate. Please don’t bring back Sexual Chocolate. Please don’t bring back Sexual Chocolate. Please don’t bring back Sexual Chocolate.

It’s so much fun to watch Antonio Cesaro to get moments of awesomeness like ending a “house of fire” hot tag with the sweet smell of Swiss Death.

***

I’m one of “those” people. I enjoy silly promos from Randy Orton about being people’s nightmares, I like when John Cena says “yadda yadda yadda, jack”, I even enjoy when he uses that silly finisher of his to put people through the table. And I’ve realized why: I like when the crowd reacts to things. And, when they are on, and put together in the right storyline, there is nothing on earth that the crowd reacts more to than Randy Orton and John Cena.

HAVING SAID THAT, if they do not end this thing with an undisputed champion, or at least one title — and it does not matter how they get there, even if it involves the return of the Yeti — they will have lost sight of what they are, and become what they hate. They’ll be WCW.

Andy’s Angry: The Rise and Supposed Fall of Daniel Bryan

I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it:  WWE has been clicking on almost all cylinders lately.  It’s like the writers and the roster got into “Wrestlemania Mode” much earlier than usual.  And while it’s not all perfect, everyone seems to have a role they can play to near-perfection.  I’d go so far as to say it’s the best utilization of the main roster since the Attitude Era.

If you can ignored the ever-half-assed booking of the divas, and a few things that haven’t been given time to flesh out (like the Tons of Funk v Truth/Woods story kicking off tonight on Smackdown), it’s pretty clear that everything is happening for a reason.  Every match, every promo, everything is building toward an endgame.  WWE is doing its best to build its shows now, while building its next big stars.  WWE needs to find its next Cena, Sheamus, Punk, and Batista.

That’s why it’s so frustrating to hear fans complain about the treatment of Daniel Bryan.

bryan harper

The soon-to-be Mr. Brie Bella has a lot going his way.  He main evented a couple of pay-per-views. And even though they were disappointingly-short, he has two WWE title reigns under his belt.  He’ll always be a former WWE Champion.  And, perhaps more importantly, he’ll always be a man who beat John Cena, clean, in the middle of the ring, to win the WWE title.

Lots of fans seem to have forgotten that Daniel Bryan was at the top of the card.  All they see now is that Bryan is teaming up with Punk to take on “the new guys.”

Those guys – The Wyatt Family – just so happen to be the hottest new thing in wrestling, but that gets ignored.  “WWE is treating Daniel Bryan like a jobber!”

Except no, they absolutely are not.  WWE knows Daniel Bryan is a star.  That’s why they’re teaming him up with the guy with the 434-day title reign, who calls himself  “The best in the world.”  That’s why they went over in their pay-per-view title match.  That’s why he’s trusted to take two talented-but-unknown wrestlers, and make them stars.

WWE fans see Daniel Bryan as legitimate.  Some saw it when he made his NXT debut, and his return against the Nexus.  Others knew it when he won the World Heavyweight title, and more caught on as his reign went on.  Those who didn’t know learned real quick when The American Dragon pinned Cena at Summerslam.

Like it or not, though, WWE fans see Orton as legitimate, too.  Listen to the fans react to him over the last few weeks on Raw.  He’s over as a crazy heel, and he deserves to be WWE Champion.  Along with Cena, he’s one of the two biggest stars in the last decade.  It’s why they’re the two guys in the title unification angle.  He’s a legitimate superstar, who deserves his spot.

So is Bryan, and WWE is acknowledging that.  He’s treated like a world-class wrestler.   The announcers acknowledge the crowd’s adoration.  The fans flock to the merch table. WWE responded with what some see as a burial, but what may actually be the most important role on the roster.

bryan rape

Legitimizing future stars.

Erick Rowan is okay, but Luke Harper is an absolute beast in the ring.  He’s a physical monster who can actually wrestle a solid match.  His matches with Punk and Bryan have proven it.  And you may not have noticed it, but Bryan has gone over in most of those matches, making Harper look like a beast in the process.  Everyone gets over.  Everyone looks good.

Some burial.

Back in the territory days, the traveling NWA champion would come into each territory, and defend the strap against the local promotion’s top guy.  He rarely lost.  But the local name would take the champ to the limit, and either slip on the proverbial banana peel, or fall to heel tactics.  The champ keeps his spot, and the local name keeps his heat.

Bryan may not have the belt, but in this scenario, he’s the NWA Champion.  Luke Harper is the local territory’s guy, getting the rub from a big star.  Bryan won’t suffer from it, and can go wrestle Sting or Harley or whoever next week, and still be a top draw.  He’s not being buried.  He’s building the next top draw.

Nobody seems to mind CM Punk doing the same thing for The Shield, but I digress.

punk is dead

For a decade, people have bitched and moaned at the “LOL Cena wins” trope.  Yeah, we get it, he overcomes the odds and never sells anything.  Yeah, we get it, he’s the top guy and nobody ever poses a challenge.  You’re getting the exact opposite here.

Bryan, a top guy, is taking some lumps to get an awesome mid-card stable to the next level.  It’s the way wrestling is supposed to work.  And like it or not, it’s the best way to get talent over.

Keep one thing in mind.  WWE is finally giving us (the internet wrestling fans) what we’ve been begging for.  Fresh new acts helping establish other fresh acts, developing the next batch of legitimate superstars.  Unless you want another 20 years of “LOL Cena wins,” you might want to learn to enjoy getting exactly what you asked for.

@AndyMillerJMS

#4HorsemenWeek: Tully Blanchard – The High Chief of the Mid-Card

01_Tully

It’s Still #4HorsemenWeek. And we’re taking some time to celebrate Tully Blanchard, The High Chief of the Mid-Card.

Until very recently in wrestling history, there was a whole class of wrestlers who had spectacular careers, made great money and matches, while stimulated those feelings of love or hatred that make wrestling work. They were happy there, and they didn’t really want to wrestle tippy top stars regularly if they weren’t positioned to go over.

But now, everyone wants their favorite wrestler to be a main eventer.

Most fans — in particular, the “smart” ones —  don’t feel like they can fully appreciate Dolph Ziggler or Bray Wyatt or The Shield if they’re not positioned in the top angles with World Champions. Much of this consternation is rooted in the thoroughly incorrect belief that wrestling (or life in general) is somehow a meritocracy. A place where the best and most-deserving get the first lick at the cream, and not the biggest and the best looking.

The parts of this misguided notion that don’t come from the cognitive dissonance that one’s personal opinion isn’t always shared with the paying majority comes from a twisted understanding of the importance of belts in the modern era. Nostalgia for a time when the midcard system worked simply because there were so many titles that were over in whatever podunk region the various promotions ran shows in.

Wrestlers understood their individual brand — their only tool to make money in a pre-guaranteed contract era — was far more likely to be enhanced by being perceived as the holder or number one contender to the United States or Intercontinental Title than a “main event” wrestler outside of the title picture. If you had a title, you were guaranteed bookings. It didn’t matter if it was the Southern States Title or the Six-Man Tag Title, or the Brass Knuckles Title; having your hands on a strap meant you were going to get dates and have at least one very good payday when you dropped the belt.

The Four Horsemen’s own Tully Blanchard was in many ways the avatar of this approach. Blanchard held many titles, although never the World Title, and was involved in some of the most memorable feuds of the mid-to-late 80s. Tully could cut promos that sounded like the ones from main event wrestlers, have matches on their level, and because of this, got as much heat from the crowd as anyone at the top of the card. However, he was firmly planted in the middle where he could make the most hay.

Blanchard had basically the same skill set as Flair: he cut the cocky heel promo, bumped big, and even strutted. There was no place in the main event for a shorter, slightly less charismatic Ric Flair, but there was tons of money to be made in the midcard. Wrestlers like Magnum TA and Nikita Koloff could work with Tully and have a great match where they looked strong and could leave fans thinking, “If he beat up Tully like that, what would he do to Flair?” Understanding what a powerful promotional tool this was, Flair, booker Dusty Rhodes, and the Crocketts positioned Tully right next to Flair in The Four Horsemen.

So, given how successful Blanchard was with a single run in the main event, why do so many fans “in the know” want all their favorite stars to be main eventers?

For one, “smart” fans are still stinking marks — just like we are, and just like the fans of previous eras were — even if they don’t seem to realize it. Most hardcore wrestling fans reading dirt sheets filled with “insider” knowledge use the backstage drama in professional wrestling to take the place of actual angles. There’s a very specific portion of the audience who think investing in “the man” Bryan Danielson rather than “the character” Daniel Bryan makes them a student of the game and not a mark, a more misguided thought than the dream of wrestling is a meritocracy.

Even when Daniel Bryan is in a World Title feud with John Cena, fans discuss his chances of becoming “the face of WWE” (a marketing term) rather than “beating Cena and becoming the Champion” (a sports-oriented term). Which, was exactly what the WWE wanted to have happen to people who only love one thing more than Shawn Michaels and HHH making insider jokes about what happened when they went hunting the week before: complaining about Shawn Michaels and HHH making insider jokes.

And since the politics of cracking into the main event (especially in a post-nWo, post-Triple H world) have been so aired out on shoot tapes, insider interviews, and wrestling blogs, internet-era fans have come to see the entire midcard as “less than.” The problem is that this is significantly getting in the way of their enjoyment of the product and their appreciation of great midcard performances.

Whether or not it will come, there should be a day when we stop asking “When is Kofi Kingston going to be pushed into the main event?” and start appreciating him as a fantastic midcard performer who you can just sit back and enjoy. He, like Tully Blanchard before him, has won titles, made money and given you no reason to feel sorry for him.