Thoughts Pre-Elimination Chamber: Start in the Middle

There are always things that can be better in a wrestling promotion. Sometimes it’s on the technical side – the lights, the venues, the camera people. Sometimes it’s the wrestling. Sometimes it’s the marketing & publicity. Sometimes it’s the stories. But whenever something goes wrong (and this applies to most things in life) it’s best to return to fundamentals – that’s where you find your base.

There are so many things happening in professional wrestling today, it would be hard to pick just one thing the fan base would like to see changed. Part of the reason I choose to talk about story lines and promos is because I have a background in theatre and writing, so I feel my opinion has fundamentals behind it. When I think about my ultimate fantasy, the light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel goal for any wrestling promotion, it would be to build one massive story arc that every player could play a part in. I know that, too a lot of people, this sounds like War Games. I wouldn’t hate that, but I am talking even bigger. In WWE, from Wrestlemania to Wrestlemania there should be a way to trace every character for a whole year, and their role should be relevant to the promotion as one entity. But that’s hard to do when, as a company, you’re not actually paying attention to your whole roster.

I see, day after day, people holding up the NXT promotion as if it is this singular perfect thing – the answer to all of the problems of the main roster of WWE. News flash: it’s not. Everything we see weekly on NXT is great, and enjoyable to watch, but leading up to NXT Takeover: Unstoppable, we had seen symptoms of the horrendous illness of the main roster – a focus around a core group of individuals in the title picture and sending everyone else to obscurity.

Since getting into the NXT roster about a year ago, I’ve enjoyed falling in love with the characters as they grow each week. I’ve also enjoyed going back to find more about the individual wrestlers’ history and seeing where they came from. It became almost expected that every Ring of Honor darling would eventually find their way to NXT, it was just a matter of when and who would be there to be in dream matches with them when they arrived. It has been a real treat to see kings and queens of the indie scene get a chance to perform on a top-tier program with high-level production values. But it wasn’t until NXT Takeover: Unstoppable that it occurred to me NXT has come dangerously close to simply being “Ring of Honor: Now With Bigger Budgets”. Of course it’s not the same, WWE is working in a totally different box, and while there’s more money behind it, there are certain rules that can’t be broken. There is always a give and take. For me, what was being given up was the heart of what NXT was meant to be – a developmental program.

Let’s get real about some facts: Samoa Joe is a 16-year veteran. Kevin Owens, Hideo Itami, & Finn Balor, 15 years each. Sami Zayn, 13. While it’s fun to see guys with equal parts talent and experience come to a beloved promotion, they don’t really need it. Perhaps it does take some getting used to in terms of how things are run at WWE, which is understandable. But it doesn’t require an NXT title belt or a year-long run in the title picture. How are you supposed to get people to develop into characters that really connect with the fan base if the fan base never sees them because they’re clamoring for their indie favorites?

Let’s put a pin in NXT for a moment, because the problem on the main roster is not that far off. One thing I’ve brought up before (and I will keep bringing up until it stops happening) is how the main storyline for YEARS now has been The Authority vs. Not The Authority. Triple H, Stephanie and whoever is on their “side” at the moment. Currently counting among the Authority side is Corporate Kane, J&J Security, and current WWE World Heavyweight Champ Seth Rollins vs. just about everyone else in the title picture, like Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Randy Orton. Momentarily at last year’s Survivor Series we saw the tendrils of this boring feud reaching as far as Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, Dolph Ziggler, Ryback, Big Show, and John Cena. But at the moment, none of the story lines outside of the title picture really involve The Authority at all. Occasionally, Kane comes out to make a match by the power vested in him by Vince’s Daughter and her Hubby, but you never see a real presence of the Big Bad in the mid card – and that includes the other titles. Oh, sure, once in a blue moon we do get Stephanie showing up like Lady Macbeth to stir up the Women’s Diva’s division, but most of the time they’re creating intra-division turmoil.

“So what, J? This is how it’s been for a long time.”

I am so tired of hearing that – just generally in life. Just because something is how it’s always been doesn’t mean it can’t change. When something doesn’t work anymore you fix it – or replace it. There was a definite shift in NXT after NXT Takeover: Unstoppable. The next week new story lines began to surface involving lesser-used performers. Currently Jason Jordan is getting himself more screen time, as is Solomon Crowe (who I hope wasn’t just fed to Owens to disappear again). Knowing that Owens has signed a main roster contract and Samoa Joe hasn’t yet fulfilled his contract to ROH, I’m excited to see them use more of the talent that is currently working down at Full Sail. Perhaps someone in Triple H’s office realized, if you’re going to try and sell the show Tough Enough, you shouldn’t also be advertising to the potential contestants that they’d have a better chance of being on WWE TV if they started on Destination America.

Meanwhile, on the main roster, let’s give the mid-card something to do. Right now I am glad to see how full the card is for Elimination Chamber tonight. While I’m sure many of those guys are just glad to get PPV pay days, I’m also sure they’re more likely to get over if they’re actually working. I’m not a huge fan of gimmick-based PPV events, but I think a 6-team tag inside the actual Chamber is a great way to give these particular 12 (potentially 13) guys a chance to show what they’ve got. Something like the Elimination Chamber (along with Hell-in-a-Cell and a steel cage) makes it hard for the fans to actually see, and in this case there will be so many other people in there with you, you have to go big or risk being lost. As for the IC Title match, which is a traditional Elimination Chamber match, I’m not even sure what to think, except good for R-Truth getting some on-screen time. His 5 opponents have been circling the main event picture of over a year now, none of them actually making it into the Authority’s radar for longer than a month. It’s as if the six men in question have suddenly developed their own IC division, and that’s not a good thing.

The best way to get a promotion over is to zoom out – way out – and see the whole picture. Look at your women, at all your titles, at all your story lines, and figure out where you’re going. There should always be someone for the fans to root for. If they’re not cheering or booing someone, it’s usually not the person in the ring’s fault. You could have helped to put them over with how you wrote the match into everything else. “The Brass Ring” has become like an inside joke to wrestling fans, and now every young kid with a Wrestlemania Main Event dream is dropping the phrase into interviews and podcasts. But they can’t get there by sheer will. Someone has to give them a chance to get into a place where they can shine. As a die-hard Shield fan, I’m thrilled to see three of my favorites in the main event picture at the moment. As a huge fan of Prince Devitt, I’m glad to see him as the #1 contender for the NXT Championship. But I’m not the only fan in wrestling, and they’re not the only guys on the roster.

Somebody ought to tell the powers that be – they’ve been stuck in neutral for far too long. They’d better start reaching for their own brass ring, before their ride comes to an abrupt, and silent, stop.

-The Lady J Says

The Lady J “To Watch” List  (The Elimination Chamber Edition):

1. Fight Owens Fight – Regardless of my feelings on John Cena by himself, I think this is a really interesting place to put him and Kevin Owens. The match will be solid, and it’s hard to figure how to make the outcome work in the long term. Could go either way. Stay tuned for a lot of me yelling. Neville vs. Bo Dallas – if you never saw them in NXT together, just trust me on this one.
2. #ExplicitAmbroseViolence – Hopefully it involves him and Rollins in a completely ridiculous spot that makes me cover my face, and does not involve electronics or Bray Wyatt.
3. Tag Team Match – It’s not all Bad News. Currently, the tag team division is solid on the main roster and this ought to be a barn burner. I’ll be the one on twitter shouting “LU-CHA, LU-CHA, LU-CHA!”
4. Naomi 4 Champ – Please for the love of all things good and holy.
5. Neville vs. Bo Dallas – if you never saw them in NXT together, just trust me on this one.

A Farewell at the Barn – RAW 5/25/2015

Late last week, my friend Dave texted me to ask if I had Memorial Day plans. When I told him I did not, he asked if I wanted to go to the last ever Monday Night RAW at Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY. Someone he knew had won tickets via the radio and couldn’t go, so he was now looking for people to go with him. I will say the experience was MUCH different from my last live RAW experience in the Barclay’s center in March of 2014, just before Wrestlemania XXX. The Barclay’s Center is much bigger than Nassau Coliseum and I had gone with a group of 8 die-hard fans last time. While Dave is as dedicated to WWE as I am, the other two companions of ours were not, and spent a decent amount of time asking questions (or texting.)

The tone was set for those of us in the building when Vince McMahon came out between Superstars and the actual start of RAW to say that there was a lot of history in this building and that WWE had made a lot of memories there. He promised a memorable evening. He did not deliver.

At the time of writing this article, I have not watched the actual televised episode of RAW from last night. I did hear quite a bit via Twitter that the show seemed slow, and I can concur that it seemed awfully slow in the building. A lot of the matches came across as slow (the Ziggler/Sheamus match elicited crickets, I don’t even REMEMBER Ryback/Barrett, though I’m told it happened) and the promos were too long. It’s hard to decipher when you’re in the arena, though, because every time the light cues change, you’re not sure if there is commentary happening, a clip, or a commercial.

In terms of really boiling down the story lines and promos of last night (minus the Diva’s stuff, which was limited and I missed it to get cotton candy,) I think there is one over-arcing point that needs to be asked:

WHAT STORY ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL?

Currently, the biggest issue that can be found in EVERY SINGLE STORY LINE that is leading into Elimination Chamber on Sunday is that there appears to either be NO STORY, MANY STORIES, or NO POSSIBLE ENDING. I recently talked about long-term storytelling in terms of last week’s episode of RAW, but clearly that was not something they attempted to do for this week. I understand they’re in a spot: the IC title is vacant, there’s suddenly a LOT of attention on the Tag Team division again, and we need forward momentum. But, honestly – nothing that happened last night made any sense.

I could (and probably will in the future) spend an entire post talking about this Rusev/Lana/Ziggler story. It makes me simultaneously thrilled and angry. I loved how she stood up to Rusev, but don’t understand why she needs to be aligned with anyone. Hasn’t she been training? Why not have her hit Rusev with some nutty finisher a la Sable/Mark Mero, and suddenly she’s a Diva (*gag*)? Instead she stands up for herself to Rusev as a little blonde embodiment of that Destiny’s Child “Independent Women” song and high-tails it to the nearest peroxide-blonde, tan guy? Not to mention – THIS IS NOT GOOD FOR ZIGGLER. Every time Ziggler gets aligned with a woman, there’s some sort of major fall-off for him in terms of crowd reception. Most recently, he got in the middle of the Summer Rae/Layla/Fandango thing and went radio-silent for a bit. I am all for a Lana turn, but that’s not what’s really happening here. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sunday ended with Rusev as IC champ and Lana back on his arm (which is so terrible, now that they’ve established him as emotionally and verbally abusive. She’s embroiled in a domestic abuse story line, she CAN NOT go back to him without it being a massive instance of reckless story telling on the part of WWE creative.)

The tag title story is…fine? I guess? I like that they’re giving a lot of time to everyone and there’s no clear favorite (except that it’s clearly NOT The Ascension. Sad face.) But there’s no clear story line, just lots of gimmick-based talk. “These guys are heels, these guys are faces, we think.” This makes sense, as I’m not sure how you’d write a 15-person storyline (with 3 members of New Day, Nattie, & El Torrito). Plus they’re putting them in a gimmick match to, I don’t even know, sell the show? *sigh*

Diva’s: Paige used to be champion. Now Nikki is champion. Paige wants to be champion again. So does Naomi. But Naomi’s not #1 contender, Paige is. So Naomi sends Tamina after Paige. What? Where is this going, anyway? To a Naomi run-in? To her as champ? To Paige as champ again, which means in her first 18 months on the main roster she’ll be Diva’s champ more times than any other woman currently on the Diva’s roster? Either it’s time to give Naomi the belt (since Nikki isn’t even INVOLVED in the feud for her own championship) or maybe it’s time to start writing for the women like they matter. All of them.

Now that we know John Cena’s match with Kevin Owens is not a title match this Sunday, I’m not sure what the story here is, either. If Kevin Owens is main eventing the NXT shows as their champ and is wrestling the face of WWE on a PPV, where do you go from there? Is he going to be WWE World Heavyweight Champion by SummerSlam? Is this setting up an NXT invasion? That idea isn’t actually out of the question, considering how deep the NXT roster is at this point. Either they need to move some more people up (in particular Tyler Breeze & Charlotte) or they need to thin the herd. (More in this in the future, as last year’s mass WWE lay-off came mid-June.) I am not at all concerned about the level of this match – it should be a barn-burner. But what comes AFTER? If Owens loses, how does he go back to NXT and save face? He’ll be the guy who couldn’t get it done. If Cena loses, Kevin Owens becomes Brock Lesnar and John Cena is…what? The US Champ. The old guy. The veteran.

As for the main event – Dean Ambrose is not going to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Dean Ambrose doesn’t need a championship (though he WAS US champion in 2013/2014). He shouldn’t care about taking Seth’s title, except to piss off Seth. I am slightly concerned about the possibility of a Reigns heel turn, as I don’t think he is ready to be The Big Bad. He definitely doesn’t have the mic skills for it, and unless his heel turn is accompanied by a “I’m a Paul Heyman Guy” t-shirt, forget it. Where does that leave this story? A good, wild match, as Seth and Dean are wont to have, and then a Rollins win (most likely due to outside interference) and then…what? Dean goes back to mid-carding against The New Face of Boring Bray Wyatt?

Please, WWE. Even if you have to fly by the seat of your pants, put some thought into it. It was a shame to be at such a momentous occasion and be given such a bland story line. But it was even sadder to know the future doesn’t look bright for better story lines to come.

For the love of hell, prove me wrong.

The Lady J Says

The Lady J “To Watch” List

1. Rusev/Lana/Ziggler – please don’t make this into an after-school special. Let Lana be Lana!
2. Neville vs. Bo Dallas, in an actual match of NXT vs NXT. This is a feud that makes SENSE!
3. Something blowing up in Dean Ambrose’s face, hopefully not his career.
4. Elimination Chamber being over.

OMG, I’m Back Again – The Weekend Update

For those of you who know me as The Lady J, you know I’ve been a moderate presence in the IWC for almost a year now, my writing debut coming just before Money in the Bank 2014 over at Cageside Seats. Since then, you’ve seen me on-and-off, writing for a few other publications, most recently writing the NXT round-up for FightBooth. There’s plenty of mystery clouding The Lady J (and maybe a little mystery isn’t bad), but lately that veil of mystery has been a downright wall. So let’s get the skinny on where I’ve been (and how I’ve gotten there).

I became a wrestling fan in Spring of 2002. Just a high school freshman at the time, aimlessly wandering through the array of mindless television available to me on a Thursday night, I happened to fall on UPN9. And there, in all his glory, was Edge. I was at just the age (and hormonal peak) to fall head over heels for his cocky attitude and ridiculous attire. But when I tuned in again the following weeks, what drew me in was not just the pretty blonde boy, but the actual matches. I was not an athletic girl, skinny and weak, but I harbored a lot of rage, for a variety of reasons. Watching other people act out my aggressions was cathartic. But I was also raised by a particular Feminist mother who would never have approved of the way WWF (still transitioning to WWE) treated women. So I hid my new addiction, insisting on watching the program alone as it aired, never even daring to put SmackDown to tape for fear of getting caught.

As time passed, there were lulls in my favorite story lines and in early 2003, Edge was out for neck surgery. I found other wrestlers and story lines to obsess over, but as a teenager now ending her sophomore year, there were a lot of other things on my plate. By the time I was graduating in 2005, I was not longer up-to-date on the story lines, and once in college, I had dropped wrestling all together.

In spring of 2013, my boyfriend informed me that he would be attending Wrestlemania 29 in New Jersey with some of his friends. I was dumb-founded. Wrestlemania was still a thing? About a month afterwards, we were surfing through the channels on a Monday evening to discover RAW, which I had no intention of watching at the time. But there I was, ten years removed from falling in love with Edge, and I couldn’t understand who most of the people were. My questions came quickly and with no end in site: Why was Triple H wearing a suit? Who was the guy with the beard chanting YES? Where was The Undertaker? Where was Edge? (NOTE: I had been paying enough attention in 2005/watching the news in 2007 to know not to ask about Eddie or Chris.) I became infatuated with knowing what became of all my favorites, and it was not long before I was sucked back in.

Quick flashback to 2011: I return to my childhood home to care for my mother who suffers from a degenerative neurological disease known as Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease. When she was diagnosed four years prior, she’d been only 54. Since my move back, I went from being someone who kept an eye on my Mom to being her full-time caregiver. During the peak of this time, I was stressed beyond words, feeling a burden so all-consuming, I was sure her illness would kill us both. But as I grew tired, resentful, and angry, I knew where to take my aggression: WWE. I found news ways to focus my passion for storytelling and for character development. By 2014, I was attending my first live event, Monday Night RAW, two weeks before Wrestlemania XXX. The following June, I felt I had bothered my friends via Twitter and Facebook with my wrestling rants and wanted to build a separate place for that passion. And thus, The Lady J was born. Mere days after bringing her to life, I found myself embroiled in a battle of wits with the incomparable Simon Gotch, and from that conversation grew interest. Who was I? Where had I come from? It was not long after that when I finally took my wrestling thoughts and put them down in words to share with other fans.

Now, almost exactly one year later, I have been embraced so warmly by the IWC. I am lucky to have developed lasting friendships with people who know me as J and who know my story. They check in with me, support me, and always let me know when Dean Ambrose is on their screen. The Lady J has evolved into more than just a pen name, she is my gimmick. Or maybe I am the gimmick, and Lady J is the real me.

Ove the past few months since Wrestlemania season, I have been missing from this world. I enjoyed Wrestlemania 31, much more than I thought I would. I was completely shocked by the violence of the following night’s episode of RAW, and momentarily reminded of the lonely 15-year-old girl who needed a place to channel her aggression, and the 25 year-old caregiver who needed the same. But after that, I felt disconnected from the product. I missed Pay-Per-Views, I stopped watching NXT. And then one day, last weekend, when I was feeling a little blue, I turned on the network just in time to watch Dolph Ziggler bust his head open on WWE Payback. Then I kept watching the tag match. And Bray Wyatt and Ryback. And then the “I Quit” match. By the time the show was over, I was not only happy to be back to my passion, but back to my family, the amazing little community of people from all over the world who were there right when I needed them.

I can’t promise The Lady J will never disappear again, but I can promise that she is back to stay for now. You can always find her here on this blog, on twitter, and maybe in the future some lonely girl will turn on her TV and find The Lady J cutting just the promo she needed to hear.

And, Simon Gotch, if you’re out there, thanks for challenging me to a duel. I’m coming to collect on it soon.

-J.

The Future’s Unstoppable – NXT 5/20/2015

Just when you think NXT can’t get any better…it does.

Tonight’s live show, NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable, was a testament to what NXT as a part of the WWE brand truly is: a fully formed, safe-haven product for performers to grow in front of an audience of dedicated wrestling fans. Everyone in the audience at Full Sail University tonight knew the history of each of those performers, and not just as their NXT characters. They knew their true history – who they were before they ever signed on the dotted line of a WWE contract. This is their house.

(Just a quick reminder for new readers: I don’t critique matches because I’m not well-versed enough in wrestling technique. My expertise is in story lines and promos.)

As a whole, Unstoppable was not perfect. It came in waves of excellence. But there is nothing that was unworthy set before us. The opening match, originally a triple-threat match between Hideo Itami, Finn Balor, and Tyler Breeze to be the #1 contender for the NXT Championship, was altered when a video was a shown by a “fan” of an injured Hideo Itami in the parking lot. The video shows Kevin Owens walking past Itami, saying his injury was a shame. Were we, as the audience, meant to believe Owens had something to do with this injury? Did he take out Itami because Owens felt he was the only real competition in that three-way match?
When the match did get under way, Tyler came out to a new entrance with female counterparts holding phones. I, personally, think the phones don’t make the gimmick – the projection of the front-facing camera does. But we didn’t get that. Instead, on the titan-tron was a large, stagnant, typewriter font “TYLER BREEZE” on a white background. *snore* Meanwhile, Finn Balor’s entrance is only getting better. Today’s episode of “Talk is Jericho” feature Balor as a guest in which he explained to Chris Jericho that his name comes from a Gaelic “One-Eyed Demon” called Balor, and Balor’s nemesis, Finn. Balor’s body-paint and ring gear has altered since his first NXT TakeOver appearance, but I think he’s still growing into his WWE persona. I don’t like the dreadlock-hat, but I did like the spiked back piece and the eye hiding beneath it, as well as the slash marks on his legs. I also think the bat wings were okay, but a longer cloak might be more impressive, and if he’s going to wear a headpiece, something with horns is more fitting of a demon. Just a thought.
In the end, the outcome of the first match pits Balor against Owens once again as the #1 contender for the NXT championship. Let’s hope we don’t play this story out the same way as last time.

Following this match was a diva’s tag match pitting Charlotte & Bayley against Emma & Dana Brooke. I’ll be honest, I didn’t watch most of this match, it just didn’t hold my interest, which is a shame, because I really enjoy Charlotte & Bayley. But I would much rather them be opponents then have opponents that are unworthy of them. I am not sure what the point of pitting Emma against Bayley is, and I’m not too pleased Bayley is taking her bait. This type of booking makes Bayley seem petty, like the girl in middle school who gets picked on and lashes out. Bayley is a grown woman who is talented and shouldn’t be falling for Emma’s taunts.
And just in case you, fine reader, do not follow me on twitter, this is my feeling on Dana Brooke:

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Moving on.

As a tattooed freak of a lady, I was on the bandwagon for Baron Corbin from the very beginning. I liked when they developed his Goldberg-esque gimmick of squash matches (and by “they” I mean The NXT Universe did it themselves) but I always knew the character needed to grow beyond that. Baron’s story line with Bull Dempsey was probably a try for that, but I never felt that Bull Dempsey was anything more than a Rhyno wanna-be, short on the mic, big with the punches. When their feud, culminating the last NXT live “PPV” event, fell flat, they needed to try something else to reconnect Corbin with the audience. So why, exactly, did they choose to pit him against the REAL Rhyno, a guy not known for his stellar promos or his in-depth story lines? He’s fun to watch in the ring, but there’s more to wrestling than “I want to gore someone, I pick you!” What Corbin needs is a chance to be challenged. We need to see more of who he is. One of the things that makes the main event picture so great is because there is history and back story to Zayn vs. Owens. We need Corbin to become 3 dimensional – he needs back story. Nobody starts out a lone wolf. What happened to this guy to make him what he is, the bringer of End of Days? He needs to be picked apart. This would be a great opportunity for a Bray Wyatt type, or a Leo Kruger (just sayin’).

I was and was not disappointed by the tag team match. I am a HUGE fan of Enzo Amore and Big Cass, and not just because I’m from New York. Enzo is undoubtedly the #1 stick man in WWE. If (heaven forbid) Enzo should ever get hurt, he needs to be a manager. Him vs. Paul Heyman in a promo-off. (Book it!) Enzo & Cass have made a connection with the audience: their characters are recognizable, they are over-the-top and fun, but they’re still humans and they make mistakes. They try to do the right thing. Blake & Murphy (reigning NXT Tag Team Champs) are ridiculous. They remind me so much of the New Age Outlaws, which is fine. They’re not my favorites – they remind me too much of guys I went to college with who did molly and had black lights in their dorm rooms. But when you get all four of these guys together, they tell you a story. They got Carmela involved, which is very important. Why have a valet if she’s not part of the story? And in the end, she WAS the story, as Enzo & Cass lost the match when Alexa Bliss came in and attacked Carmela from behind, thus aligning herself with some of the worst hair WWE has ever seen. If Alexa Bliss is turning heel, can we fire Dana Brooke? Please? I love Alexa Bliss, regardless of her face/heel status.

The Women’s Championship match was unbelievable. I spent the entire 20 minutes on the edge of the my seat. There was balance to what happened in the ring. They told a beautiful story. Just watching them made me feel exhausted. But everything leading up to this match made sense as well. Becky Lynch was never on Charlotte’s radar when she was champ. To get herself into what (at the time) was the Holy Trintiy of the NXT Women’s division, Charlotte, Bayley, and Sasha Banks, she had to make some changes. She ended up aligning herself with Sasha which worked until her hunger for the title got too big. On the last NXT TakeOver, we saw Becky face Sasha, as well as Charlotte and Bayley, in a Fatal Four Way for the title, which Sasha won. But now Sasha’s ex-minion wanted her chance in the limelight, and boy did she ever shine. The story felt very complete to me, it arced nicely and I would like to see Sasha and Becky move on to face other opponents. They definitely had the match of the night, no question.

The main event was not what I was expecting. The story that has been unfolding between Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn has revealed a side of Sami Zayn we’ve never seen before. Kevin Owens came to NXT as a cold, collected, and vicious fighter. Sami was a fan-favorite, a good guy, a solid worker. When he took that horrible beating from Owens and lost his NXT Championship, I thought they were moving him to the main roster – but no. Sami came back, after a time, and demanded a chance to redeem himself. Owens wasn’t having it. In Zayn’s absence he had turned his attention to other things, bigger fish, like his upcoming match with John Cena at Elimination Chamber in a week and a half. But Sami knew all the right buttons to push. I have never seen Sami Zayn cut promos like the two he cut, one to get the match and two last week. Sami pulled out all the big guns – that everything Owens did has Zayn’s name attached to it and that Owens had to put Zayn down because Owens’ son was a Sami Zayn fan. You NEVER mention a guy’s kid – and definitely not this guy’s kid. But in true resilient Sami Zayn fashion, he held his own until the very end. And when it seemed all hope was lost…

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Some big things are happening in NXT. It’s a great time to be a wrestling fan.

The Lady J Says

The Lady J “To Watch” List:
1. NXT Women’s Division (minus Dana Brooke)
2. Kevin Owens vs. Samoa Joe
3. Samoa Joe vs. Kevin Owens
4. Uhaa Nation is in NXT!
5. Me, passing out from excitement

Long Term Story Telling – RAW 5/18/2015

As someone whose background is in creative writing and theater, my attention as a pro-wrestling fan can always be brought back to two things: the story lines and the promos. You can’t have one without the other. The actual matches themselves do not actually require either, though no great wrestling match became great without in-ring psychology built around a story and backed with solid stick work. As a nit-picking “smark”, my attention always goes back to whether or not a performer is delivering their promos eloquently and with style, and how the story is unfolding.

When I was little, my Mom used to watch General Hospital. Her mother got her into daytime soap operas as a fan of As the World Turns, and my grandfather would walk passed the two of them in the living room and roll his eyes. He would comment on how unbelievable the story arcs were and how dramatic the characters appeared. My grandmother would shoo him away with one simple sentence:
You don’t know how to watch these things.
Soap opera fans, many of whom have been watching their favorite programs for decades, have managed to hang on to a wealth of information about all of their favorite characters: everyone they’re related to, everyone they’ve slept with, how many times they’ve “died” and come back, etc.

An issue that has always plagued me as a fan of WWE in particular is how quickly story lines disappear and history is forgotten. I regularly see an outcry from fans as “canon” is repeatedly broken. (For those unfamiliar, “canon” is not a term synonymous with “kayfabe”, a wrestling term referring to the disconnect between the story lines of the wrestling characters and their real-life counterparts. “Canon” is defined as an accepted principle or rule, and usually in literature refers to a group of works or stories. In this case, the “canon” of WWE would be all of the collective stories of every character, regardless of who portrayed them.) Why would you back-reference certain plot points and story arcs but not others? Why is it that WWE for some reason believes its fan base cannot hold on to the information at the daytime TV audience can?

When Daniel Bryan returned from injury at the beginning of the year, he was put in a series of matches against Kane. There were two reasons for this, inside and outside of kayfabe, the first being that Bryan and Kane have a history together as partners and the still-not-100% Bryan probably felt comfortable working with his old tag partner. The second reason being that, in the canon of WWE, Bryan went out on injuries he sustained at the hands of Kane six months earlier. This makes sense. This is logical.
During the Fatal Four Way match at Payback this past Sunday, there was a moment where three of the participants, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and current WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins turned on their fourth opponent, Randy Orton. Momentarily, all three members of now-defunct super group The Shield were on the same page. Rollins and Ambrose lifted Orton onto Reigns’ shoulders and he was Triple Power Bomb-ed through the announce table. For a moment, the audience went crazy – their old heroes were back together. But, naturally, Ambrose and Reigns gave their turncoat brother Rollins a taste of his own medicine before coming to blows themselves. For a moment, we as an audience were reminded of exactly how Rollins got to be champ: he was part of an unbelievably successful trio of baby faces, turned on them to join the authority, was basically handed a win at Money in the Bank in 2014, and cashed in that contract at Wrestlemania 31 to gain the title.

So why is it that we can’t look further back? Or why is it these small reflections can’t be applied to wrestlers further down on the roster? Why have we never seen a repercussion of the fact that Bray Wyatt once kidnapped Kane, who returned and gave up his mask to Stephanie McMahon? That sounds like an opportunity that could have brought Kane into Wyatt’s match against Undertaker at Wrestlemania. But that’s not what happened. Instead we occasionally see Kane, as the Director of Operations, use Bray Wyatt to punish people by putting them in matches with him. That doesn’t seem like someone who was once under Bray’s control.

As WWE moves forward, it’s never a bad idea to look back and consider what has come before. Occasionally, they have set themselves up (possibly unwittingly) for something brilliant to come in the future. If you have an opportunity like that, use it to your advantage. Don’t ignore your past to build a better future.

–  The Lady J Says

THE LADY J “TO WATCH” LIST:
1. Lana/Rusev – I don’t think she’s really staying with Ziggler, but I am interested to see where her character goes, and where Rusev goes without her.
2. The Tag Team Division – There is a lot happening here, and each of the teams in the running are working really well, so stay tuned.
3. Kevin Owens – coming to kill your Superman, roll his title up, and smoke it.
4. Neville – between him, Barrett, Paige, and Sheamus, I think there’s a chance the UK is taking over.