Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What's Wrong with Roman Reigns?

I have started and deleted a Roman Reigns post more times than I care to count. The debacle at the Royal Rumble makes this seem like the right time to finally push through and finish this.  This video was the other inspiration to finally complete my "What's Wrong with Roman Reigns?" post.



I've said before on my usual message boards and on Twitter, etc. that the biggest issue with Roman Reigns is that WWE has given him the CM Punk treatment.  What does that mean?  It means that WWE will push him, but only after they neuter him.  Specifically, they take everything you like about the guy, strip that away, force him into this John Cena template and then strap the rocket to his back.  With Punk the only difference was they kind of made him into a bootleg Stone Cold with John Laurinaitis as his bootleg Mr. McMahon.

Subtle differences aside they basically hurt both guys in the same way.  They take away what people liked and gave them less than stellar material to work with instead.  None of this is to absolve Roman Reigns from any responsibility here.  He clearly doesn't perform on the mic or in the ring up to expectations, but instead of minimizing those flaws WWE has accentuated them.  Roman should not be talking as much as he does to begin with and if he is then he needs to be able to be himself.  The ring work doesn't bother me as much as it does others, but I've heard complaints that he's forced to sell too much and also that they force him into longer matches than he's ready for at this stage of the game.  I can see both of those points.  Both of those things could be dealt with better by WWE, but for whatever reason they have kind of set Roman up for failure.

One thing I hear that I do reject is that Roman lacks charisma.  He has a definite presence about him and when you couple that with his look it's clear why people reacted to him so strongly when The Shield debuted.  I believe the video above gives you a peek at some of that.  Notice how much more relaxed and natural he comes across there.  Why?  It's because he isn't trying to regurgitate some Vince McMahon scripted material.  He's being himself and you can tell that he is much more comfortable.  As far as mic work and charisma goes he shouldn't be force to talk so much.  He would work perfectly fine as a silent killer.  When he does talk it needs to be kept short and sweet and needs to sound like something the guy in that video would say and not a Vince McMahon promo that was written for John Cena.

To that point the other problem for him is that it is so blatantly obvious that he is Vince McMahon's hand-picked "guy."  That in and of itself is enough to cause the crowd to push back especially when they feel that a guy like Daniel Bryan is actively being sabotaged.  Again Roman isn't blameless, but the WWE machine and Vince McMahon are far more responsible for this mess in my mind.  A Philly guy I follow on Twitter, Dan Aleksander, @HaveTilFive, was at the Royal Rumble and said it this way:
 I feel bad for Reigns because it isn't his fault but Vince McMahon isn't out there for me to boo so...
That cuts to the heart of the matter.  The rejection of Roman Reigns is as much a rejection of the arrogance of Vince McMahon and the WWE machine as anything.  One of the fine posters on WCMB basically said in our Royal Rumble 2015 thread that this is a sign of a problem that has been brewing for a while and that WWE and its fanbase is basically engaged in open warfare at this point.  That sounds like hyperbole, but if you stop and think about it that comment is pretty spot-on.  

Roman Reigns can be saved.  It will be difficult to effectively get this thing turned around before WrestleMania 31 though.  That's a shame because I believe Roman Reigns deserves better and as a fan I want WrestleMania and the road to it to be as entertaining as possible.  As of right now I fear that we won't get the Mania we want or deserve, but then again things looked rough last year around this time as well.  Can WWE turn it around in time?  I hope so.  They need to listen to their fans, drop some of their pre-conceived notions of what a main eventer should do an be and help guys let their natural charisma shine.

"Believe that."

Upload Credit: WWE

Monday, January 26, 2015

Royal Rumble 2015: Roman's Rise & Fall

Photo Credit: SmarkOutMoment.com
Last year I was bummed that the WWE Network wouldn't launch before the Royal Rumble.  The Rumble was one of the few PPVs I ever bought back in the day aside from SummerSlam.  WrestleMania has been a must-buy since Stone Cold's first title win at WrestleMania XIV in Boston.  I was genuinely excited for the show last night and I thought it was pretty good actually.  As #CancelWWENetwork shows that puts me in the minority.

I'm going to do something a bit unusual here and comment on all of the matches in reverse order.  Typically I just hit the highlights or what really mattered to me when I look at a show.  Since the Rumble ate up so much time and talent last time I figured I might as well take a look at everything.
  • The Rock Returns--It was blatantly obvious what WWE was looking to accomplish here.  Run the Rock out there to endorse his "cousin" and to give the Philly crowd something to like once the Rumble was over and they turned on Reigns.  I was glad to see the Rock.  He did what he was asked to very well.  Unfortunately and unsurprisingly the ploy did not work.  I hate that for him and I hate that for Roman, but WWE should have known better. 
  • Royal Rumble--The Rumble itself was good I thought.  I liked the nostalgia acts aside from the Boogeyman who did nothing for me at all.  Seeing DDP was nice.  Bubba Ray Dudley returning to a WWE ring in Philadelphia of all places was really nice.  R-Truth playing D-Von was fun and funny.  Bray Wyatt's push as the guy who stayed in the longest worked for me.  The deal with Mizdow and Miz worked, but having Mizdow tossed so quickly was a huge letdown.  The crowd last seemed excited to see Ambrose enter.  I thought Ziggler would pop them at 30, but that didn't appear to be the case.  Curtis Axel getting to be the guy who didn't ever enter so he technically never got eliminated was funny as were all the takes on Twitter about it.

    The biggest problem was the inclusion of Daniel Bryan.  That crowd and wrestling fans on Twitter very much had a "Daniel Bryan or bust" mentality to that match.  WWE should have known that and they should have done more to mitigate that which I will talk about below.  They were smart to keep him clear of Reigns, but even that didn't work ultimately.
  • WWE World Title Match--This match was great IMHO.  The elbow to the announce table from Rollins to Lesnar wasn't groundbreaking, but it was well-done.  I knew that Lesnar wasn't hurt and would be back, but I actually started to question that to some degree at points.  Brock Lesnar looked the beast he is.  Seth Rollins was given an opportunity to shine and I believe he did.  John Cena was present and didn't win so I'll take that.  Some have said that parts of the match were boring.  I don't recall ever being bored with it.  Like many WWE big matches it relied a bit too heavily on near falls and kicking out of finishers, but I've kind of just grown to accept that.  It's a minor complaint.  I thought this match absolutely delivered.
  • Divas Tag Match--Heard some negativity towards this match, but I thought it was solid.  Paige's pin attempt on Brie Bella was entertaining and if you saw it you know exactly which one I mean.  I think Natalya would benefit greatly from a change in attire.  Something like the gear Beth Phoenix used to wear would be a huge step in the right direction.  I still enjoy the Bellas' theme far more than a 30-something year old man should have, but what are you going to do?
  • WWE Tag Team Championship--Nothing special, but solid.  The Philly crowd really helped this match and Mizdow remains incredibly over.  I don't agree with the idea that Miz looks better because he does all the work and Sandow clowns around which I have seen out there.  To me, it's more about Miz not wanting his stunt double to get any of the glory or opportunity.  They've got a real opportunity to make a star out of Sandow, but for obvious reasons I'm concerned they will botch that.  It still amazes me that WWE despite all their failings have been able to salvage The Usos.  I liked them when they first arrived, but I thought they were done as done could be.  That obviously hasn't been the case and WWE deserves some credit for that.
  • New Age Outlaws vs The Ascension--The payoff on RAW Reunion was nice. I had little desire to see the Outlaws to be perfectly honest.  It was a short match which helped.  The NAO at least knows how to rile the crowd up some which is good.  The Ascension seems to be in trouble already and I'm not sure that's going to be able to be saved, but you had to give them the win here if you want to have any chance to push them further.  Unless you were planning on releasing them this match served its purpose.
  • Kickoff Match--Honestly, I had a function I had to attend and missed this.  I'm not going to lie to you folks and claim I'm going to track this down.  In general I often preach patience, but New Day seems to be DOA.  I hoped that gimmick would help those three, but I don't see it happening unless something drastic is done.  It's a shame because I like all three guys.  On the other side of this I like Cesaro, Kidd, and Rose.  Hopefully they get some traction.
I said I would address this later so what could WWE have done to mitigate that crowd's reaction to the Roman Reigns win?  There's a couple of things.  The obvious one is that you had Daniel Bryan sitting home all that time.  There was no need to rush him back and they had to know that the WWE Universe would latch on to him.  They had to know that a Royal Rumble crowd in Philadelphia was going to want to see Daniel Freaking Bryan win that thing over Vince's hand-picked golden boy Roman Reigns.  They tried to help themselves by getting him in and out before Roman Reigns even arrived. The thought being that the crowd would be hot about it, but over it before Roman's time to shine came.  They were dead wrong on that.  The other thing they could have done was simply reverse the match order.  Do everything just as you did, but after the Rock comes out to endorse Roman you still have a WWE World Heavyweight Championship match there to satisfy the crowd especially since Brock Lesnar was going to leave with the title.  Lastly, I thought that this scenario would have worked better as well.  Have Reigns win by tossing Big Show and Kane.  The two of them go on the attack and here comes a returning Daniel Bryan to make the save.  DB would overshadow Reigns in that scenario, but at the very least the crowd would be excited to see him instead of focusing their hate on him.  This situation is an even better option if the Rock wasn't available.  I know they still turned the heat on for Roman even with the Rock's endorsement.  I don't think they would have done the same with Daniel Bryan standing there in the ring with Roman Reigns.  I could be wrong, but I think it would have been a viable option.

The show was solid in my opinion.  It helps that I wasn't married to the idea that Daniel Bryan had to win the Rumble and go on to wrestle Lesnar at Mania.  It also helps that I'm a big Roman Reigns fan despite some of his shortcomings.  The danger of the Royal Rumble show is that it really becomes a one or two big match affair.  When you don't give the fans what they want in both matches you run the risk of what happened last night.  The Road to WrestleMania got a lot more interesting in a bad way.  I will be fascinated to see how other WWE towns respond as we get closer to Mania.  If Philly is any indication it's going to be a very rock road.  I hope that isn't the case.  I love Mania season.

#CancelWWENetwork Is Runnin' Wild!

Photo Credit: WWE
No, I am not canceling my WWE Network subscription.  I'm not here to rally support for that cause either.  Personally, I love WWE Network and think it's a terrific product and a tremendous value.  That said, I find this movement absolutely fascinating and surprising.  Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, but I'll admit I was.  The response to last night's show was swift and brutal and seems to have culminated with the #CancelWWENetwork movement.

While I disagree with this movement I respect the passion behind it.  This is also different than previous passionate movements such as #OccupyRAW.  That one was certainly as passionate as this, but it had a few failings.  One, it was kind of hokey.  During this segment the crowd will turn their backs, at this point we will chant such and such.  I appreciate where your heart's at, but that's just goofy.  Two, it was convoluted.  You had to basically print out these instructions and take them with you to the arena and respond appropriately throughout the show.  You were also going to have to drown out the casuals who don't care or aren't aware of the #OccupyRAW movement.  Three, it was difficult to execute this kind of hostile takeover of the crowd.  Lastly, it was a statement that might be heard in that arena that night, but would be unlikely to have any lasting effect.

To that point, I went to bed last night thinking that I had witnessed another Philly crowd that passionately rooted for what it wanted to see and killed what it didn't like.  That was the case, but it was also something bigger than that.  I kicked around some of these topics on Twitter (@S_ATL_Wrestling) and the crowd itself will be addressed in the Royal Rumble post that should be up later today.  The gist of that will be that you can't overreact to how that one crowd responded to Reigns as they have long had a reputation as "independent thinkers" that may not reflect the WWE Universe at large.

When I woke up I was shocked to see that #CancelWWENetwork was trending.  As I got in bed last night I read that the page for canceling subscriptions was overwhelmed and that the topic of canceling subscriptions was escalating.  I figured it would blow over fairly quickly and we'd be back to normal.  As of early Monday morning that clearly isn't the case.  I think it's a shame in one regard because I want to see the WWE Network and WWE do well, but their arrogance in some regard has created this mentality in their fans.  For once, there's a large segment of the fanbase that can say they did more then "get online and complain" and it's pretty impressive.

What will it mean in the long run?  I have no idea.  Personally, I enjoyed the show last night.  I'm a Roman Reigns guy so I had no issue with him winning the Rumble and the title shot.  WWE could have mitigated that reaction in the building and possibly online with some fairly basic decisions that I will touch on later.  In the end it seems that this is another example of Vince McMahon thinking that he could manipulate the audience as he pleased, but it appears that he was dead wrong.  The arrogance shown by that man and his promotion is astonishing.  Will they be able to win back some of the #CancelWWENetwork contingent?  I don't know.  I hope they do, but it seems that there's a good number of folks that are fed up with Vince McMahon and his hand-picked Superstars.  Maybe the day and age of WWE pretending they know what people really want is over, but I'll believe that when I see it.

Is #CancelWWENetwork a turning point for the fanbase and the company or a minor hiccup on the Road to WrestleMania?  I don't know, but tonight's RAW and the rest of the build for Mania will be interesting to say the least. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Spoiler Free Look at Anarchy Wrestling Taping

Norko and I (part of the group FKA The South Atlanta Boys) made our first trip since NWA WildSide's final show up to Cornelia, Georgia for last night's Anarchy Wrestling TV taping.  Back in the AJ Styles, Adam Jacobs, Onyx, Jason Cross, David Young, Rick Michaels, Lance Dreamer, White Trash, Crazy Train, etc. days of NWA WildSide we were regulars.  Norko continued to go to Anarchy shows up until 2006 or so after WildSide folded, but I never made it back up there with him.

Having said all that last night was a good opportunity to revisit that place and see what was going on with Anarchy with the new ownership situation.  This is a no-spoiler look at the taping, but I will go ahead and say that the match of the night for me was the opener between Slim J and Fred Yehi.  I will be interested to see what others think of the match though.

The inside of the arena looked pretty sharp.  The red and black was a good look and the new WRESTLEVISION monitor looked far better than what was there before.  Now I personally don't think the monitor is necessary, but it was an improvement over the previous setup from over 10 years ago.  The ring announcer was excellent as well.  I never caught his name, but I believe it is Jonathan Feltner.

Inside The Church of Southern Wrestling

 Jeff G. Bailey, as usual, was 100% on point and made his somewhat small role on the show matter more than it probably would have.  Bailey is a guy who is always right there in the moment.  He's completely believable and you never get the sense that he's "playing wrestling."  I was also really impressed with Miss Rachael who I had only heard of before last night.  Much like Bailey you don't get any play wrestling vibe off of her.  As a matter of fact I paid close attention to her during a match and she had the perfect facial expressions, etc. throughout.  She was great.  One thing that bothered me though was the crowd's reaction to her.  She got a ton of heat (which is good), but as you could imagine it was vulgar.  The thing that kind of pushed me over the edge was when I turned around and saw a 10 year old boy screaming "SLUT!" at her.  Now I'm not going to tell anyone how to parent, but that right there is flat unacceptable IMHO.  I'll have more on the crowd when the show airs because there was another aspect of the crowd that I didn't really appreciate.  Until the show airs though I don't want to spoil that particular angle.

It was a solid show and an even better bit of nostalgia for Norko and myself.  Stopping at Barbecue Kitchen (College Park) on the way up and then The Varsity (Atlanta) on the way back home were also good decisions.  My lifestyle is such that I'll never be in the "let's hit every TV taping" mode again, but I will go see a show a lot sooner than 10 years from now.  That much is certain.




Thursday, January 22, 2015

Happy Birthday Tully Blanchard!

Original 4 Horsemen, "That sonofabitch" Tully Blanchard turns 61 years old day.  Now I've never seen much of his pre-Horsemen work, but as a member of that group he was absolutely phenomenal.



When he and Arn took off to WWF/WWE and were paired with Bobby "The Brain" Heenan as the Brain Busters his excellence continued.  



Here's arguably my favorite thing I ever watched. An absolute classic moment from TBS that Dad and I actually kept on VHS for years. Unfortunately, we finally misplaced that tape, but thanks to the wonders of YouTube we can still see it here.



Anyhow, Tully was smug greatness and his "I Quit!" match at Starrcade '85 with Magnum TA is possibly my favorite match of all-time. 

Upload Credit: davnc89, Blogwire Deathmatch, smoothjazzandmore2

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

#RAWlternative

Me and David had talked about this a few weeks ago on the A1 Podcast and last night the event took place. Presented by Beyond Wrestling along with many various other independent wrestling promotions, the purpose of #RAWlternative was the present themselves as alternatives to watching the WWE.

The show opened with Colt Cabana presenting the show, letting the viewers know the reason for this special event, to showcase the various promotions across the country as an alternative to those disenfranchised with the WWE. Plus, he mentioned a reminder that guys like Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, even his friend CM Punk came from somewhere. And with these promotions, we may be seeing the next set of stars through promotions like the ones we were about to see.

With these promotions, they all presented something different, something that any wrestling fan would've found one or two to latch on to.

There were some things that I liked and some things that simply didn't work for me. But what didn't work for me, I'm sure many others would've liked.

The numbers were in, representatives from Beyond Wrestling had mentioned they were expecting around 1,000 viewers for the live stream. They got over 12,000, which to say is a resounding success.

You can listen to my full review on episode 214 on the A1 Podcast. I will say this, the two matches that really stuck out for me as standouts on the show were the Athena vs Mia Yim match from AIW and the Super Smash Brothers vs the Young Bucks match from Smash Wrestling. The latter standing out as my favorite match of all of #RAWlternative.

Bottom line, if you are tired of what the WWE has been offering, there are alternatives, and they're out there, waiting for you to find them. Some may be harder than most, but they're there.

RAW Review: It's Reunion Time

RAW Reunion was a good fun.  It wasn't an amazing show top-to-bottom or anything like that, but it delivered the promised nostalgia and then gave us some major storyline moments in the end.  I'm not going to complain about a show like that especially after the lackluster RAWs we've endured recently.

I often wrestle with how to approach these RAW Reviews.  Typically, this centers on whether I should try to bullet point the whole show or simply comment on what really mattered to me.  This week I am doing the latter.  Let's go.
  • STING DEBUTS ON RAW!--As a huge Sting mark this was obviously the highlight of the show for me and the first "Things have gotten REAL" moment leading into the Royal Rumble and the Road to Mania.  Seeing him on the screen, hearing the crow sound and then watching him point at Triple H were absolutely awesome.  It was a fitting RAW debut for "The Vigilante" Sting
  • Main Event--I despise handicap matches, but this worked for me.  It worked in large part to Sting's debut, but it also worked in general because it didn't feel like the typical "Cena overcoming the odds" nonsense.  One thing that helped was the hot Dallas crowd.  Another was the interplay between Lesnar and Rollins specifically after Rollins failed to defeat Cena.  Triple H was excellent after Sting spoiled the match and every time the camera was on Stephanie she was perfect as usual.
  • Legends Panel--Since I dig nostalgia I was happy to see Hogan, HBK and the Nature Boy.  These segments have the potential to fall flat, but Big Show's arrival kicked things up.  Flair was hilarious in going after Show and getting knocked out for his trouble.  Check out this Deadspin article for a GIF of Flair getting punked.
  • The Ascension Gets Their Due--This moved to fast, but we got a payoff for The Ascension's smearing of legendary tag teams.  It was kind of sad to be reminded that "Father Time is undefeated," but it was nice seeing the nWo, New Age Outlaws and especially the APA.  Bradshaw's Clothesline from Hell was nice as was him calling Ron Simmons/Faarooq down.  Good times.
  •  Dean Ambrose vs Bad News Barrett--This was the biggest miss for me.  Not because I ever have a problem with Dean Ambrose winning clean, but there's no reason whatsoever to put the two of them in a match against one another at this stage of the game.  On that note...
  • Bray Wyatt vs Daniel Bryan--Everything I said just above is true.  In this case Bray is Dean and Daniel Bryan is BNB.  It made no sense to have Daniel Bryan to lose here even if it was in screwy fashion with Corporate Kane's interference.
  • nWo in the House--I'm a huge fan of the nWo much like Sting and most things WCW.  Damien Sandow as X-Pac/Syxx was the highlight of this segment though.  
  • Booker T on Commentary--It dawned on me why I like Booker's commentary so much.  Main thing is I just find Booker T to be immensely likeable in general.  The other thing is that the commentary is kind of out there and almost reminds me of Dusty Rhodes' commentary from WCW.  Just random and hilarious enough to work no matter how absurd it often was.  Highlight from tonight was, "That's not Sting, that's a picture of Sting" when he was shown on the big screen.  You'd have to hear it to appreciate it, but Booker T is a fresh voice who has replaced the beyond tired Jerry "The King" Lawler and I love it.
This was the perfect example of a show that wasn't great.  May not have even been particularly good, but was fun. Sometimes that's all you need.  Sometimes that's more than enough. 

MAJOR UPDATE!   It was JBL who said, "That's not Sting, that's a picture of Sting."  I attributed that to Booker T initially.  My bad.  Booker actually said, "That's Sting!" which was also awesome though.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Updated Fanmade WWE Lonely Road of Faith Video

Whoever did this deserves major props although seeing "Mcmahon" was kind of jarring at the beginning.  I still contend the original is arguably the best wrestling video ever made.




The only other thing that I personally wouldn't have done is include Benoit in this thing. It seems like this position often puts me in the minority, but I just don't see any reason to acknowledge that guy considering what he did sick or not.

The other thing this video accomplished was to make me miss CM Punk.

Good work out of this dude in putting this together aside from two minor complaints.  

Upload Credit: Scott Chua

Friday, January 16, 2015

It's Friday! This Fire Burns

One of the best days of the week is here again and I'm staring down a three-day weekend.  This is truly cause for celebration so here's to Friday and the upcoming weekend!

I know I've gone to this song frequently in the past, but I wanted a really solid wrestling theme to close out the week.  This one and Edge's theme "Metalingus" are my go-to songs for that.

Enjoy!



Have a great weekend, folks!

Upload Credit: Demus Johney

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The IWC and "Pedantic Idiots"

FilmDrunk is one of the blog sites I check every day that isn't a wrestling one. Anyhow, I started reading this article when this thought crossed my mind.
This mentality is the exact reason I have often chosen to watch wrestling without checking in on Twitter or going to A1 or WCMB.  A lot of the criticisms are similar to the ones the author of this piece mentioned.  The money quote in the article was:
 The point is, being a pedantic idiot is not the same thing as criticism.
Vince Mancini articulated my issue with a large part of the IWC better than I have and you weren't even writing about wrestling!