The Abyss

It’s Monday even here on the east coast as I write this. I decided to skip out on seeing a co-worker’s band tonight and opted to come in out of the rain and spend a quiet evening with the dog.

I haven’t decided if I’m going to watch RAW yet. I was so egregiously irritated with last week’s episode that I’m not so sure I need to sit through three hours of live nonsense again. I don’t write a review of the show, so nothing would be missing from the blog if I did skip it. Sometimes a part of RAW inspires a post, so I could just watch clips of it on youtube tomorrow or even DVR it and fast forward through the garbage parts. I would much rather spend the rest of my evening continuing my research for my next character analysis post.

I don’t expect I will really miss anything of value if I don’t watch. I have spent the past four months holding out hope that WWE would surprise us and suddenly start telling stories worth watching – but I’m done hoping for that. Now I’m just hoping they don’t do anything distasteful or detrimental to the current talent. I suppose every one in a blue moon they’ll accidentally put two people in a match who put on a clinic and cheer me up, but that’s becoming a rarity.

Who even knows how low the viewership is going to have to get before anything really changes in WWE? What are WWE’s numbers in comparison to other products USA could have on in those three hours? Are people also not buying the network or attending live events? I think it’s going to get even worse before it gets any better. There’s also a good chance they may ruin a few of their characters before they even get to a turning point. There are actually times where I feel bad for Roman Reigns. If WWE doesn’t get its act together, he may actually never get as over as he was at the 2014 Royal Rumble. And how does that feel? You’re 30 years old and your peak is in your rear view – ouch.

I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog and in my past writings sticking up for being a feminist wrestling fan. I’ve had people actually come up to me in person and argue with me about how WWE treats women, and I always stick up for my fandom with the same concept: if I stop watching and stop vocally disapproving, how will things ever change? I’m not ready to give up on women’s wrestling, in WWE or any promotion, so I continue to voice dissent and hope some day someone listens. By that same argument, shouldn’t I sit down tonight to watch RAW and then spend some time getting together a solid analysis for why it (most likely) sucked? I call it “shouting into the abyss” and no, I have no reason to believe anyone is listening. But I have always been hopeful that maybe someone is – or one day will be.

But, then again, maybe the abyss is just an abyss – a bottomless void. Maybe there is no one listening. Maybe WWE is doomed to always be one thing, and there isn’t any hope for it getting better. And if that’s true – if that’s really the root of it all – what are we all doing here? Why are any of us bothering?

I think we all understand that just because you can’t see the bottom of a hole doesn’t mean there isn’t one. I’m hoping WWE hits theirs soon, so we can start watching them rise again. Until then we can either refuse to bear witness as they try like hell to self-destruct, or we can sit down together to watch and come here after to talk about it. It’s up to you what you do – I think you know where you can find me tonight.

The Lady J Says

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Dolph Ziggler

So today I started working on my first gimmick profile. This one was a request in the comments, and it seemed too perfect to pass up: Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler is a great character to start working on because there’s a ton of his work out there to explore and because he’s had a run as both a heel and a face in WWE. Starting out with such a solid gimmick, however, has also helped to reveal the issues with my project. So I’m still adjusting.

What I learned from watching a lot (A. LOT.) of matches and promo videos today is that a list is basically useless for this project. This isn’t about facts or details within the company. It’s not really about championships or feuds. All of those things have been put upon a person by WWE. What we’re really talking about is the intersection between the abilities of the performer and the versatility of the character.

I really am glad I started with Dolph Ziggler. I got to watch a lot of great matches (eventually stopped at this year’s Payback match against Sheamus. Too much blood makes me pass out!) and was even reminded that he is not a bad promo. He is definitely entertaining.

The Show-Off character is perfect as a heel. He thinks he’s the best and basically behaves like a cocky prick. He is someone who takes advantage of people, of his relationships, to get what he wants. This opportunistic tendency has actually bled into the babyface version of Dolph Ziggler. You can see it in his matches – he still lies in wait and will sneak a move on an opponent, though he’s not actually breaking any rules at the time. As a babyface, that characteristic plays out more as foresight than conniving. Dolph Ziggler is a fun character to watch, whether he wins or loses. He appears natural in a leader role and can rally troops. He also is interesting to have on a team that he’s not leading, as he’s basically destined to break out as a star in the match.

As a performer, Nick Nemeth is very talented. He really understands timing and how to read a crowd. When you watch him interact with a live audience, you can tell there is a give and take. However, when Nemeth gives backstage interviews they can end up as runaway trains because he has no one’s reaction to read. Nemeth requires some kind of response to gauge where to take his unscripted dialogue next. His in-ring work is compelling to watch and usually paced well. He appears to be in control, even when he does not have the upper hand or is going over in a match. His ability to read and respond to audiences is apparent in his matches, just as it is in his promos. He’s also willing to do fun things to make people laugh, whether it is intentionally as a babyface or “unintentionally” as a heel.

Nemeth’s ability to portray a heel or babyface within the same character makes him extremely valuable. The Ziggler character becomes malleable in terms of the company’s greater storytelling needs. From the perspective of the Ziggler character, it is best to move him fluidly from heel to face and back again. This shouldn’t be done constantly, but as the company’s need for more heels or more faces ebbs and flows, Ziggler’s storyline should reflect that need.

As an individual who has such an easy and believable connection with the audience, why not use Ziggler as a stand-in for WWE itself? When the WWE audience is giving the company what it needs to propel its storylines forward, Ziggler is a babyface. When the audience is at odds with the storyline, Ziggler turns heel. Through very tight writing, these adjustments can be made subtly, especially with the fluidity of the character. When the audience is ready to have someone to cheer, Ziggler can be there for them to cheer on. And when the audience wants to boo, a solid and vicious turn could provide them with an outlet.

At the end of my analysis, I’m going to give ratings. These are based on the following criteria: character versatility, performer talent, how often the character should be involved in major storylines, and whether or not the character could bring something to a title.

Ziggler is an obvious A. The character is versatile, the performer is talented, the character could be used in major stories and, (depending on the depth of the storytelling) could certainly bring something to any of the current title pictures.

What the Ziggler character really shows us is the need for WWE to create one cohesive story image for the company. For example, a complaint (or sometimes just a note) I hear often – and have even made myself – is that The Authority seems to be entirely focused on the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. They occasionally become involved in the Diva’s division, but rarely in title pictures like the United States championship or the Tag Team championships. This creates not only the sense that these things are not important, it also creates the impression that these things don’t exist in the same universe. That’s a problem, a very big and totally fixable problem.

I’m not suggesting that The Authority become further involved in the storylines we see on TV. I’ll talk more about my feelings on The Authority when I do analysis for Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. What I am suggesting is that if there is a larger plan at work that keeps all of the titles seemingly connected and in the same universe, WWE should be able to smoothly move gimmicks from feud to feud, or in and out of storylines as necessary. A character like Dolph Ziggler is the queen in the chess game of WWE storylines, with more possible moves than anyone else as he navigates in and out of other people’s plots.

Knowing there is already such a useful character and performer in the ranks, maybe we should move on to some more stagnant characters, who provide a solid framework within which characters like Ziggler can stir up some excitement. Don’t forget to leave your suggestions for gimmicks to chart in the comments!

The Lady J Says

 

A Few Rules

If you’re going to do something, you’d better do it right. If I’m going to create character charts for every gimmick in WWE, maybe we should define what a character chart is first, and what sort of information I’m going to be looking at.

Character charts are a device writers use to fully mold a character before trying to insert said character into the plot of their story. My first introduction to such a device was actually in training for theatre, as ensemble members of productions were instructed to create character charts so their dialogue-less interactions on stage followed a through-line. Character charts themselves can be nearly novel-length, as they literally include every conceivable piece of information about a character. Obviously, I’m not going to bore you with every known details about a performer, but I’m going to try to include the things that would be important to know when trying to book them.

The most important thing I have to consider is whether or not to work inside kayfabe. (If you’re a loyal reader – and thank you – you already know how I feel about kayfabe.) As the gimmick’s exist inside kayfabe, I’m going to have to work mostly along those lines, but I am going to include information about the physical strengths/weaknesses of a gimmick – which means that actual athletes themselves.

Knowing that, here is the list I’m working with now. Some of them don’t require explanation:

1. Name
2. Status (injured, off-TV, active, etc.)
3. Title history (NOT counting current championships)
4. Current Face/Heel status
5. Team/faction (if applicable)
6. In-ring style
7. Current affiliations – these are legitimate alliances, and not just tag team partners that have been forced on them
8. Past affiliations – other gimmicks they may have legitimate beef with
9. Promo ability – a performance-based analysis of promo work
10. Weaknesses – what is currently holding them back (not counting external obstacles, like bad writing)
11. Strengths – what makes this character someone that people want to watch

It’s going to be hard not to consider current storylines as I begin to dig into each character. But what we’re really looking for here is how the character is on their own, how the character reacts to the individuals around them, and what about that character is appealing to an audience. Knowing those things means we know utilize the character to create the most compelling storylines.

We can’t, of course, compensate for what we don’t know – when someone is going to get injured, when someone might be working on something new to add to their repertoire, or when something might happen outside the world of WWE that directly affects the appropriateness of a storyline. But (for now) these are my basic parameters.

What do YOU think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts on my list, or even a suggestion for who you’d like to see charted first.

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

The Lady J Says

Lady J’s Compendium of Knowledge

I spent all day on Tuesday trying to come up with a decent blog post, but decided you were all better off with nothing at all than with the garbage that was coming to my mind. It’s Wednesday now and almost time for my favorite holiday: Foodsgiving. It is a family tradition to: watch the parade on TV, spend an hour praying that my broccoli souffle won’t collapse in the oven, place dollar bets on all the football games, and sneak into the fridge for an extra slice of pumpkin pie around midnight. Knowing that all of these things are in my future, I’m trying to let that good mood take over. I’m even playing Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” at work.

Monday was a weird day for me. I woke up feeling just as happy as I had when I went to bed after Survivor Series. I went off to run a few errands and was promptly broad-sided by someone in an SUV. But no matter – I wasn’t hurt and my car wasn’t too badly damaged, so I returned quickly to my good mood. I got home and found The Dog had snuck into the last of my Nilla Wafers, but he’s too cute to admonish so I still floated through my good mood. I listened to some podcasts and read articles of people who were going to boycott RAW that night (what did ya’ll watch instead? Football? *sobs into Bills jersey*) But still, my good mood would not quit!

For any of you who were following along with me during RAW on Monday night, you know what happened: J had too much Chianti and ended yelling at the TV. And not in a good “I’m so involved in this” way. I was so incredibly disappointed in every single thing that happened during that three hour program (arguably the only thing that didn’t bother me was the promo involving Stardust and Titus O’Neill.) I could fill up volumes with the kind of rant I wanted to go on at about 11:10pm. But I didn’t. I did laundry. I watched a movie. I went to bed.

Now, two days later, almost 48 hours removed, I am not angry anymore. I’m just disappointed. And now I’m even more angry about that ridiculous interview Triple H did where he said most of us internet fans don’t have 1/100th of the information necessary to book the WWE product. What absolute garbage that is. Not only are you refusing to utilize talented writers to create compelling storylines, you’re feigning difficulty when you can’t actually be bothered TRYING to get it right.

So, instead of walking away (which I am very tempted to do) or giving up writing about WWE (also EXTREMELY tempting) I am going to fine-tune my attention, like using a zoom lens in my writing. Looking at the WWE product as a whole is vomit-inducing, so let’s instead focus on a place where a lot of the problems stem from: characters. I am going to sacrifice myself on the alter of all of WWE-fandom and produce (over the coming weeks) character charts for every main roster gimmick currently in the WWE. I don’t promise I’ll do the part-time people, but I will do all of the full-time people, men and women, singles and teams.

I’m going to call it Lady J’s Compendium of Knowledge. And it starts tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. And also, you’re welcome.

The Lady J Says

 

 

*Maniacal Laughter*

If you came to The Lady J Says blog looking to find out who was victorious at last night’s Survivor Series, you have come to the right place. Because the victor was me.

Was Survivor Series the knock-down drag out PPV of our dreams? No. In fact, going into the show, I wasn’t that excited. I wanted to know who ended up with the WWE World Heavyweight championship, sure, but that was about it. So how did a sullen emo kid like me end up so joyous?

I originally missed the pre-show as it was airing. But to tune is just as Survivor Series was starting and hear that Goldust is back to face his brother, that was a treat in itself! I have always loved Goldust. He is a true character – one who lends himself to variety and the unexpected. That is a great character for WWE to have in their arsenal. I am very much looking forward to a real brother vs brother feud between Goldust and Stardust. If they are given the opportunity to tell a really emotional story, I can’t imagine Dusty’s boys will leave a dry eye in the house. And, in light of recent distasteful storytelling, I hope WWE doesn’t shy away from using the real life aspects of these brothers’ relationship to make it powerful.

Lets move on to the first two matches of the main card. Both semi-final matches were back to back right at the beginning, I imagine to give the winners enough time to regroup before having their final match for the title. Strictly in terms of actual matches, I think I liked these two better than any of the other matches we saw last night. The finishes didn’t seem quite so rushed the way they did in some of the other matches, and there was still a sense of excitement because the title picture was still unfolding before us. Well done to all four men involved (particularly Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens for saving Roman Reigns from his own backstage promo.)

The traditional 5-on-5 Survivor Series match ended up being The Usos, The Lucha Dragons, and Ryback vs. The New Day, King Barrett, and Sheamus. This match was fun, of course, with New Day being out there to inject a little hellish humor into the PPV. I have to admit, once New Day carried Big E off, I was no longer interested in the match. It never eve occurred to me that Sheamus might pull out a win (spoiler alert: he didn’t) so I ended up distracting myself with other things until I heard the bell ring. It was still definitely a fun match to watch, and it was light and funny before getting back into more serious stuff with the Diva’s championship match. You know, everything that happened in the ring last night served a purpose, even if it was to break up the more serious storylines with a few light moments. And I’m not worried about what happens to anyone in this match moving forward – except maybe Barrett, who I am always worried about. I really enjoy his heel characters and want to see him in the ring more, not less.

The Diva’s Championship match is really hard for me to comment on. If you were to take away all of the context of this match, it was actually very good – something people definitely would have been into seeing on NXT. But, this is not NXT. And the context that surrounds this match ended up choking it. I still stand by my predictions for this match and would have preferred it be a squash match to go with the type of story they were trying to tell. But now I don’t know what you do with either of these women and to be honest, I don’t care. WWE’s need to blur the lines between reality and fiction basically killed this whole story and not even a solid in-ring performance could save it. Can we please have someone else in a women’s match for TLC so I don’t have to think about this whole thing ever again? Oh, and someone tell Charlotte that when she puts the figure four leg lock on someone to let THEM do the screaming.

Tyler Breeze vs Dolph Ziggler was fine. I still don’t understand why I am supposed to care about this feud, but the match itself was fun and over pretty quickly – maybe too quickly for them to really tell a story. I’m not really sure where either of these characters are supposed to go from here. I would have imagined putting Breeze with one of his old NXT opponents first would have been better and then building to what seems like a clearly brilliant pairing between him and Ziggler. But instead they blew the whole thing off in Breeze’s first PPV match and now what? I hope WWE doesn’t do to Prince Pretty what they did with some of the other NXT call-ups and figure out where this supermodel’s place is on the roster before the audience forgets why they liked him so much in the first place.

As for the Brothers of Destruction vs. The Wyatts match – I did not go into this match invested in it whatsoever. WWE could not seem to figure out how to tell this story, with week after week of contradictions and massive plot holes, which really pissed me off. If there is ONE PERSON on the roster who deserves to have solid stories, it’s the Undertaker. If that mad is given respect from literally every person on the roster, why can’t the people running creative offer him the same respect and give the man a story worth watching? That being said – I really liked his entrance. I really liked how the match was built so that everyone got something in. Bray sending Rowan in before the bell gets rid of him, Bray and Harper work a really fun program with Undertaker and Kane which could basically be called a Greatest Hits match of all the stuff you could ever want to see these two dudes pull off, and they even manage to choke slam Braun Strowman through the Spanish announce table for good measure. Was it the best match of the night? No. Was it the best story ever told? No. But it was fun and it was everything anyone could want from Undertaker at this point in his career. He’s doing a farewell tour and maybe the fans and creative should get together and make a deal: elevate creative’s level of storytelling to something that doesn’t look like the lunatics are running the asylum, and we promise to applaud and thank Taker like we’re supposed to. Okay? Deal?

Speaking of lunatics – let me just drag this soapbox over here for these last two matches, hang on a second. Okay. To everyone out there complaining about the last two matches – please pay attention. I am speaking to you.

Roman Reigns vs. Dean Ambrose for the WWE World Heavyweight title was set up properly. In my opinion, the match wasn’t long enough and the finish seemed a little wonky, but the basic storytelling was all there. Please go back and re-watch this match if you need to. (I’ll wait. Are you done yet?) I really like that there was no question about getting into this match, they just went for it. This is what we in the literary world call being in canon – canon being the literary version of kayfabe. It sticks with the story. These two guys, these best friends, made it clear they love each other, but they’re not going to hold back when it comes to the title. We see this play out when the bell rings because there was no lock up, they just come in swinging. Now, do I wish the match had been longer? Sure. As someone who doesn’t know nearly as much about the physical side of wrestling as I like to think I do about the story side, it looked like these two were having fun, and I believe I would have enjoyed a longer match.

Now here is the thing. When Reigns pins Ambrose and is given the belt, what happens next is the greatest thing to happen to us, the audience, in a very, very long time. After months and months of us booing Roman Reigns and hating on him up one side of the internet and down the other, we all were proven right: WWE doesn’t care what the fans want, they’re doing to do whatever WWE wants. And they put the title on Reigns. No, they don’t just give him the title, they basically mock all of us by giving him this ridiculous showing with confetti and pyro and it looks like a ticker-tape parade after the Super Bowl. It’s just silly, it looks so mocking, like Vince just stuck up both of his middle fingers at us.

It goes on forever, too. Which, if anyone remembers the finish to Summer Slam, you know sometimes WWE ends things early and just lets you sit in your misery and wallow. And just when we all start to wonder if this is really how the night ends, Triple H comes out to congratulate Roman the Champ, extending his hand to Reigns who ends up spearing the COO. Not cool, Reigns. You messed with the wrong guy. Don’t you remember who that is? That’s the guy that you and your brothers beat at Extreme Rules and Payback last year, before he managed to turn that weasel Seth Rollins against you. That’s Mr. Plan B. And he’s got one for you, right now.

Brogue’d.

Reigns manages to kick out on from the first Brogue Kick after Sheamus cashes in his Money in the Bank briefcase, but he can’t kick out of a second. And there it is – Sheamus is the new WWE World Heavyweight champion. The last image we get of Roman Reigns is his puffy-eyed face rolling staring up at the lights in disbelief before climbing out of the ring, thwarted again.

I. LOVE. THIS. There are no better words to describe my elation. This is brilliant storytelling, and we all fell for it. What’s really sad is that WWE has actually done this already. For everyone out there who’s been crying over WWE turning Roman Reigns into John Cena – do you not remember who was the first person to be cashed in on in history? Do you not remember that Cena got cashed in on successfully twice in six months? Reigns has had his dreams dashed thanks to that briefcase TWICE now since Wrestlemania 31. We all should have seen this coming! But instead, you all got angry. And this is where you lose me.

What are you so angry about? You didn’t want Roman to win. He lost! You’re still mad! “Well, we didn’t want Sheamus to win, either.” Wow. That sounds kind of bratty don’t you think? Sounds sort of like a little kid who doesn’t want to share his toys. “Now they’re going to try to force an underdog Reigns on us, but he’s no Daniel Bryan!” You’re right, he’s NOT Daniel Bryan. Daniel Bryan got cashed in on by Randy Orton in 2013, yes. But when his second chance, he beat not only Triple H, but Orton AND Batista and ended up holding the belt during a big party at Wrestlemania XXX – saw it on my TV and everything. Roman Reigns almost had Brock Lesnar – which is a feat in itself – and it got taken away by his ex-teammate. Now Roman Reigns didn’t just get close, he was HOLDING THE BELT IN HIS HANDS and got kicked in the face. Twice. He’s an underdog! It doesn’t matter if you don’t like him, he is, by definition, now an underdog. There are so many things WWE can do with him now because of this. (Note: I’m not ruling out that they ruin everything tonight on RAW somehow, but for the next seven hours there’s still potential.)

As for Sheamus – no, I don’t like him. But he’s not the same kind of heel as Seth Rollins. And regardless of his character or his wrestling ability, if you’re going to have babyfaces like Ambrose and Reigns in the title picture, the title has to be held by a heel! It’s as simple as that! Plus, I bet if they had left the title on Reigns, most of you would be praying for a Sheamus cash in before TLC. So in reality WWE is giving you what you want without your even knowing it. You can still boo Sheamus until you turn purple, and the guy you didn’t want to win did not win! There, art thou happy!

WWE is not a perfect landscape. There was plenty happening last night that was just bad or botched storytelling. But the title picture was not one of them. It’s Monday now, everyone’s had a chance to sleep. So let’s all have a good stretch and try to remember that the happier, or angrier we get as fans, the better the job WWE is doing.

The Lady J Says

Survivor Series 2015 – Previews & Predictions

The time has finally arrived – tonight is the Survivor Series PPV. It is an overcast, cold day here in Virginia, so I am very much looking forward to curling up on the couch with the dog and watching this particular part of the WWE story unfold before me.

The stories that have gotten us to this point are not all compelling, I must admit. Some of them are leaning too heavily on the appeal of certain wrestlers instead of a well-crafted plot. I will, of course, tune into the Brothers of Destruction/Wyatt match, but it doesn’t really matter who wins. This should not ever, ever, be something a wrestling fan says. The outcome of the match may not be relevant in the title picture, and sometimes stories are built around the idea that no matter who wins, what comes next will be exciting. But the outcome should not be irrelevant in that after the match is over the storyline will change in a way that the previous plot might as well not have existed. That is exactly how I feel about this match.

The WWE World Heavyweight Title picture is more exciting. I think most of us feel that it’s likely Roman Reigns will win, but we’re not sure how WWE will get him to that point. There are a lot of variables and a lot of possibilities. There is also always the chance that we’re wrong and someone else leaves Atlanta as the champion. I am looking forward to all of the matches involved in this story – the two semifinal matches and the final – and have hope that even if I am not pleased with the outcome, that they may set up and interesting new storyline going forward for the new champion.

You all know I have been avoiding talking too in-depth about the Diva’s Championship nonsense that’s been going around, so all I will say about this match is that I hope it ends quickly, and that they either move Charlotte into an entirely new feud, or they put more focus on women NOT in the championship picture for a little bit and give us all a chance to wash that bad taste from our mouths.

As much as I am a fan of watching Dolph Ziggler’s in-ring work, I am a little sad WWE felt the need to rush to a match between him and Tyler Breeze amid all the other chaos. The feud between these two was never given a chance to fully developed while Ziggler was involved in the tournament, so I’m not even sure why they’re fighting. Is it because only one self-centered blonde guy can be on the roster at a time? It seems like that might be it – that, or they’re fighting over Summer Rae which seems implausible. I’m not sure where you take the story after this fight ends, except putting both of these guys with new opponents.

As for the actual Traditional 5-on-5 Survivor Series Tag Match – I am baffled. I am bewildered. I am confounded, dumb-struck, perplexed, and perturbed. This is the match that entire PPV is built around. I’m sure that before Seth Rollins’ injury, there was a planned 5-on-5 match. I don’t know when in the timeline from Hell in a Cell to Survivor Series we were going to find out who was in that match and why, but I don’t doubt one was pre-planned. I also imagine that it’s true that match had to be altered to account for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship tournament. But how do you get to the day of the PPV and still not tell us who is in the match? Is that how you sell a show to your audience? Yes, the first match of Hell in a Cell in October was John Cena vs. a Mystery Opponent who turned out to be Alberto Del Rio and he won the US Championship that night. But ten mystery people? I’m not intrigued. I’m not even thinking of entertaining it. I’m instead planning on taking a twenty minute break during this match to sing Alice’s Restaurant to the dog (with full orchestrations and five-part harmony.)

I don’t know where any of these things go after the PPV is over. So I suppose I am interested to know what comes next. I also always enjoy Tables, Ladders, & Chairs as a PPV, so it should be a fun (slightly terrifying) one to watch. And after that, we’re looking at Royal Rumble, so there is hope on the horizon.

Lady J’s Survivor Series Predictions:

Charlotte (c) vs. Paige for the Diva’s Championship: Charlotte retains
Tyler Breeze vs. Dolph Ziggler: Tyler Breeze
The Brothers of Destruction (Undertaker & Kane) vs. The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt & Braun Strowman): The Brothers of Destruction
Roman Reigns vs. Alberto Del Rio (Semi-Final): Roman Reigns
Kevin Owens vs. Dean Ambrose (Semi-Final): Kevin Owens
Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Roman Reigns

There are also a few things I would like to see in this PPV. First of all, every match in the Hell in a Cell PPV ended clean. Not one bit of interference. Maybe we could get some heels behaving like heels this time. That would be fun. Also, every single tournament match thus far has ended by pin-fall. Isn’t it interesting that NO ONE won by submission? The only individual left who we’ve seen use submission maneuvers is Alberto Del Rio and I don’t imagine him beating Roman Reigns with one. Just a thought, though. Also I’m not going to speculate on a match where I don’t even know who the participants are so I imagine someone will win the 5-on-5 match. And that’s all I’ve got. Make sure you leave your predictions in the comments or tweet me and tell me what you think.

The Lady J Says

 

The Writer’s Lament

So I listened to this interview that Triple H did with a Portsmouth, NH radio station that started out about a charitable organization and ended up making blood pour our of my ears.

I’m not going to BS you all. I really like Triple H. I obviously don’t know Paul Levesque the person, but I imagine the personality we see when he gives interviews, especially with an organization from his native New Hampshire and about such a great cause, falls somewhere between who he really is and his wrestling persona, but most likely closer to the real deal. (REMINDER: I hate that kayfabe isn’t a completely separate thing from real life, and if it WERE, everything I just said wouldn’t sound so strange.)

The 19 minute interview was fun to check out, and I enjoyed how comfortable he was talking with these DJs that he clearly has a rapport with. But about halfway through, he comments on all of us online fans when he says, “everybody sits on the internet and critiques it and criticizes it and armchair quarterbacks it but they don’t have 1/100th of the information that it takes to make those decisions on a daily basis.” This is where I went right over the edge.

I am certainly not going to sit here and claim that he’s wrong. He’s not. He is absolutely 100% not wrong. We, the fans, don’t have all of the information. I think his stats are hyperbolic, but sure, what the fanbase is privy to (even the people you think are insiders don’t know as much as they claim to) is a tiny fraction of what it takes to keep WWE afloat from day to day. But let’s face it, that’s because they play everything close to the chest and they always have.

“Protecting the business” is a phrase used often by industry veterans. Back when kayfabe was a legitimate concern, this meant everything. It was about honor. It was dishonorable to give anything away. The fans wanted to come to events or tune in at home and get lost in it – and back then, the boys were good at delivering that to their audience, because that’s what got them paid. Now, the fanbase takes great pride in stepping back from the product and trying to watch it through a critical eye. Part of why kayfabe has become such a problem inside the industry is because the audience has basically decimated it by trying to work inside and out of it themselves.

As a woman – as a writer – who runs a blog about pro-wrestling and WWE specifically, yes. I am part of the problem. Sometimes I do get caught up in it (I think if you read yesterday’s post you’ll see I admit to actually crying after the finish of a PPV.) But for the most part, I try to look at everything from my unique perspective – the perspective of someone who went to school for performance and creative writing. All of the training I possess is based in delivering the best possible performances and crafting the best possible stories. So yes, I become incredibly frustrated when something that I love passionately cannot rise to the standards I have spent most of my adult life studying. It’s also true that I aspire to create innovative, exciting stories for a pro-wrestling audience to get lost in. When I craft these blogs (especially posts like the one I did about fantasy-booking Becky Lynch) I try to give you all something to think about in terms of passionate and well-crafted storytelling, not just picking my favorites to go over.

But here’s where what Triple H said makes me so angry (and again, this is just me) – there’s no where to go to learn how to write for professional wrestling. If you want to be a wrestler, you go to school and train. You want to be on their writing staff, what do you do? Go to broadcasting school? Take some courses on writing for TV? Writing for pro-wrestling is not like writing for The Walking Dead or for General Hospital. Yes, it’s scripted, but there are so many other components to it. So who gets to learn how it’s done? What makes one person more worthy of being embraced by WWE? If you have talent, if you love the product, if you’re willing to learn, and you’re bringing something fresh to the table, you should be attractive to a company like WWE who has found its greatest success when it is trying to evolve. Should they be stacking creative with wrestling veterans? Maybe the creative team benefits from having people who understand the in-ring component so intimately. But at the end of the day, a television program should have writers who understand writing for the medium as well as solid basic storytelling.

When we picture the future of WWE, a future when Vince McMahon is gone and Triple H is running the business with Stephanie McMahon, what is does that landscape look like? We know who will be running the show, but a leader is only good as the people they surround themselves with. There’s a line in the TV show Sports Night where one of the characters explains what he has learned as the Managing Editor of a sports analysis program: “If you’re dumb, surround yourself with smart people. If you’re smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you.” If WWE had a creative staff made up of trained writers, experience industry professionals, men and women of varying ages, the product would reflect that. Yes-men are worthless in an environment like that. Bring as many innovative people who are willing to think way outside the box together, let them argue and debate and start over and work harder, and I promise – they will give you some of the best programming WWE has ever created.

And as for Triple H – yeah, a lot of us internet dorks don’t have 1/100th of the information you do. But we’re working with what we’ve got until NXT opens a developmental program for writers. And when you do, let me know where I can sign up.

The Lady J Says

Magic to Do

For those who haven’t deciphered this tidbit of information yet from my Twitter, I work in a record store. That is my Bruce Wayne persona – during the daylight hours, I am the dark haired, bespectacled, snarky shop girl who gives you the side-eye when you ask for Rush vinyl or insinuate that I may not have heard of this local band…Minor Threat. I will mock you, I will turn the latest Every Time I Die record up as loud as it will go, and when all else fails I will simply throw your ass out. But here’s the secret about me: when no one is here, it’s 20 minutes to closing, and I’m just straightening up and counting the drawer, I will sing and dance to Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual or start crying in the middle of James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain”. I can actually get swept up in music, regardless of it’s indie cred, or how traditionally “good” it is – I do let my emotions get the better of me, and I think that’s great. “Beyond the Sea” by Bobby Darin isn’t the world’s greatest song, but it will always conjure a powerful image of my mother dancing in the kitchen many, many years ago. That song will always hold magic for me.

Is there any particular reason why all art, entertainment, and even sports can’t be the same way? What is the point for us as a society to say “this is good” and “this is bad”? What about the stuff that just makes you feel something? Obviously this is a huge issue currently in pro-wrestling, and in WWE in general. When we look at the current WWE product, sure there are things that are just bad – things that didn’t go according to plan, things that the audience never bothered to care about – and truly unifying moments (I’m going to go with Daniel Bryan winning the WWE World Heavyweight title at Wrestlemania XXX & I’m sure someone will disagree with me, but this is my damn blog so shush.) Those times are rare, though, when the majority of an audience can get behind something. The rest of the time, the best you can hope for is to have everyone feeling something – whether it be disdain, fear, surprise, elation – because in those moments is a different kind of magic.

As I mentioned yesterday, what’s happening currently with Eva Marie is not bad, because it’s getting people fired up about a wrestler. I think something that IS bad is the story line currently happening between The Brothers of Destruction and The Wyatt Family because it’s not getting people fired up, or talking, or interested AT ALL. And that’s not what you want going into Undertaker’s 25th anniversary. But there is a lot going on in the middle ground – the in-between story lines that we’re all just trying to figure out, and haven’t entirely committed to OR written off quite yet.

I’m not going to be a hypocrite who gets in here and says I was behind what’s happening with the WWE World Heavyweight title since Seth Rollins was injured. I am a convert. I thought it was boring and predictable at first (and, to the shock of no one, I was wildly angry as I am prone to being) but now that we’re going into the semi-finals and the finals at Survivor Series, I am intrigued. We all seem very confident that Roman Reigns is going to be carrying the title on November 23rd’s episode of RAW, but how are they going to get him there? That is my thing when it comes to WWE – not so much the finish, or the winner, but how we get from the birth of a feud to the end. I spoke earlier in the week about how I can’t recall what happened to all of us Shield fans to cause us to turn on Reigns – I can’t pinpoint the moment I stopped wanting him to win and started wishing he would lose (I’m sure someone out there can tell me when that was. Drop me a line.) But here’s the thing – it’s an opportunity. Not just for this guy, but for the whole company. It’s new. Please, for the love of all things good and holy, take this opportunity to put the title on Roman Reigns and do something NEW. The guy has actually worked hard, and he is leaps and bounds better than he was a year ago. He just had a barn-burner of a match with Cesaro on RAW, there is no reason you can’t find a way to make him interesting and give him a feud where he can work the new skills he has. What they need to stop doing is giving him a microphone – there’s no need for him to ever try to carry his own promo. Either he needs to be working with someone who can carry him (like a Heyman or an Ambrose, and I mean as an opponent, not as a mouthpiece) or they just need to bank on that Strong Silent thing. He smolders well – just leave him alone.

Am I going to lose it when Reigns wins the title on Sunday? No, probably not. Am I going to find something else to do on Sunday so I don’t have to subject myself to the PPV itself? No, of course not. I’m going to watch, and hopefully something is going to happen that will make me feel something. For all the complaints that went along with the Dusty finish of the main event for Money in the Bank this year (some of which were mine) I still had a meltdown in those few seconds when it looked like Dean Ambrose had won the title. Not just because I’m a huge Ambrose fan (come at me, Kevin Owens) but because for a split second, I remembered what it was like to have suspension of disbelief – to hope for actual magic. Somewhere, in an alternate reality, Dean Ambrose has been WWE World Heavyweight champion since July. Somewhere, my mother is still dancing. It’s better, I think, to keep hoping for the magic to come back around again. History has taught us that it will, and until then, I’m going to turn the metalcore up and pretend you didn’t just ask me why Stevie Ray Vaughn isn’t in the Blues section.

The Lady J Says

All Heel Everything

I like to think I am open to a lot of things. Unless your argument is baseless, disrespectful, or downright cruel, I like to think I will hear you out. I can’t promise we’ll agree at the end, but I will hear you out.

Today was a weird day. I went into work feeling disjointed and off. I decided to drink too much espresso to make up for it and spent most of the afternoon vibrating. I ended up talking a co-workers ear off and trying to get into Twitter battles. Beware of Lady J looking for a fight.

My fight of choice was about Eva Marie. After hearing that she came out after Bayley beat Alexa Bliss on NXT last night and announced a title match for herself next week, I wanted to vomit. I can’t stand Eva Marie. I never liked her on Total Divas and she was garbage in the ring during her main roster run. I’m told she has improved quite a bit since going back down to developmental (which, let’s face it, is different then NXT at this point) but I wouldn’t know since I skip over any match she’s in. I understand people’s attraction to her physical form, but there’s something about her that makes me uncomfortable. I don’t believe in slut-shaming anyone, or putting another women down for the way she chooses to dress, but there’s something about her that makes me want to turn away. I suppose that’s my problem, though, and not hers.

No one did end up engaging me in a fight (thank you to all of my Twitter followers for not taking the bait when I’m being a jerk) but my poor co-worker listened to me rant and rave. And then they listened to me try and talk through it on my own. Now, I would boo Eva Marie if I could be bothered watching anything she does – which is great, because she’s a heel. Has she earned the right to a title match? I’m not sure. Let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that anyone who is pro-Eva Marie thinks she has. She is also currently aligned with the Big Bad of the NXT Women’s Division right now, Nia Jax. So she’s an über-heel with a heater. She’s pretty much the perfect opponent for Bayley, too. Bayley is not a traditional “diva” – she is a beautiful, strong woman, but not necessarily overly sexualized like Eva Marie is. Bayley’s friends have all moved on to the main roster, while Eva Marie is only starting to form her alliances. While Bayley had to work hard to prove herself and become the champ, she has worked some amazing matches – matches that will go down in the history books – while Eva Marie still struggles to prove herself worthy of the championship or even a place on the NXT roster, for some of us.

I don’t think Eva Marie winning the title off of Bayley on a regular one-hour episode of NXT is a good idea. (Note: I write these blogs assuming you don’t read spoilers. Feel free to assume I don’t either.) I think Eva Marie losing by some technicality is good, because it gives her a chance for a re-match, probably at NXT Takeover: London. This would be a great venue for Eva Marie to win and go back to a Women’s Title heel regime. She could conquer people with the help of Nia Jax until it was time for her to move up to the main roster. Then she could write off people like Becky Lynch, Naomi, Alicia Fox, & The Bella Twins – none of whom could say they were ever NXT Women’s Champion. I would tune in to watch her get in Brie’s face and say “when they told me I sucked, I went down to Orlando to get better. They’ve been telling you that you suck for years, and what have you done about it?”

For me, the problem (besides my own personal discomfort around her) is that she isn’t a very good promo. I know some people might blame the hostile, selfish NXT Universe. There is nothing, it seems, that the NXT live audiences love more than to hear themselves screaming ridiculous phrases. Sometimes I think the NXT audiences just want to see themselves get over and not the wrestlers. But after watching the promo between her and Bayley from last night, I did feel a bit sorry for her. It’s no good for a heel when the babyface has to try to calm the audience down – and they don’t even listen to her because they despise you so much. But here’s the thing anyone who ever gets in the ring to cut a promo should remember: you have a microphone. I have seen gifted actors fall apart in front of live audiences because they don’t get the reaction they were expected. I spent months with a cast of The Rocky Horror Show who were as tight as you can be, but the second the audience started calling things out, they fell apart. When you’re cutting a promo, and the audience gets rowdy, DO NOT ADDRESS THEM. It’s precisely what they want, and then they know they have the power. Instead, just keep talking. Maybe they won’t be able to hear you – but the only person who needs to hear you is your scene partner if they are going to respond. Otherwise, your microphone is going to pick up your voice just fine. I would like to see Eva Marie come out one night and just stand in the ring, let the audience boo her and scream a bit and then cut her promo and leave. Eventually people will pipe down to hear what you have to say. And your TV audience (who, let’s face it, makes up more of the people watching you than your live audience does) will ALWAYS hear you.

I’m not an Eva Marie fan. Maybe I’ll change my mind about her. But right now – I’m willing to wait and see what happens. I spent quite a while last year shrieking on the internet for Lana to get her promos (and her extremities) under control. Guess what? She did. So there’s hope.

The Lady J Says

Everybody Get Out Your Notebooks

It’s Wednesday evening, but I’m going to miss NXT tonight due to prior obligations. I’ll catch up on it tomorrow and save that blog post for Thursday evening. In the meantime, I was daydreaming about numbers, so I was thinking we’d do a math lesson and I’d let you all inside the mind of The Lady J.

First of all, I saw a tweet a little while ago reminding us that the Shield debuted on the main roster three years ago today. I’m going to light a candle and try to remember the happier times when the story went that Paul Heyman paid the Shield to protect CM Punk. (Shut up, YOU’RE crying.) This is what was going on when I returned to wrestling. It didn’t take long at ALL for me to fall madly in love with the Shield as a faction, and watch them go from heel stable to über-over babyfaces. They were perfect as a trio: Reigns the pretty face, Ambrose the loud mouth, Rollins the in-ring show-off. A perfect trifecta. Now they are all the worse for wear not having their brothers and their brothers’ gifts to protect them.

We are currently one ex-Shield member down on TV as Seth Rollins recovers from his knee surgery. In his absence, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose have found themselves both as contenders in a tournament for the now-vacant WWE World Heavyweight championship. Dean Ambrose has become a sillier and less relevant version of his post-break-up self, and we’re all trying to push back as Vince forces a babyface Roman Reigns championship run on us. In the middle of all this nonsense, I’m trying to recall what it felt like to even BE a Shield fan, caught up in the moments leading up to Payback in 2014 and the following night’s episode of RAW. I’m trying to remember what it was like watching Roman Reigns go over the top rope in the Royal Rumble earlier that year, and how hard I booed Batista when he pointed to the Wrestlemania sign. Where did all of that love go? When did we decide he was being pushed too fast?

While I’m taking this emotional trip down memory lane, I am interrupted by a message asking me my thoughts on a report that the internal favorite to win the title is actually Dean Ambrose and not Roman Reigns. This is like asking me if I’d rather be shot and killed or stabbed to death. Either way, the end result is not good. Because regardless of who walks away with the title at the end of the night, there’s still the matter of Sheamus and the Money in the Bank briefcase. Do I think Sheamus will cash in on Sunday? I really have no idea. I just can’t see how any of these options play out well. If you put the title on Reigns, and Sheamus cashes in and loses, you’ve buried Sheamus even further, and what kind of champ do you have? A babyface that the people hate. And, no offense to Roman Reigns, but The Rock is not. His promos are not going to magically save him – they’re going to make matters worse. If Ambrose wins (and keeps the title away from Sheamus) what kind of champion will he be? He’d probably routinely lose the title, leaving it in airport bathrooms and on a booth seat in a Denny’s. He’s not a strong enough in-ring competitor to create the kind of caliber matches we’re used to seeing from the champion (especially after Rollins’ run). And if Sheamus successfully cashes in on ANYONE – oh, Odin Father, save us all from that fiery hell.

Besides, here’s a fact for you. Since the unification of the WWE and World Heavyweight championships, we’ve had five champions: heel Randy Orton, baby faces Daniel Bryan and John Cena, and heels Brock Lesnar and Seth Rollins. It’s time for another babyface run, but perhaps someone who’s ACTUALLY OVER.

And speaking of statistics, the WWE is bleeding right now. Two of their biggest stars are out for the rest of the year (Lesnar & Cena). Plus currently out injured/not cleared to perform are: Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, Nikki Bella, Randy Orton, Rusev, Lana, Sting, Tyson Kidd and Rosa Mendes (who is, in fact, pregnant). So out of the 74 individuals listed as current full- or part-time performers, 11 of them are missing. That’s a lot. That’s one in seven. When you consider how many of those 74 individuals are only part-timers to begin with, that number gets worse. So between this information, and what is currently happening in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship picture, the third thing that came through my Twitter feed today wasn’t surprising at all.  That was a picture of a basically-vacant arena in Knoxville where last night’s SmackDown taping took place. Reports were coming in that the arena, which is a 21,000 seat capacity building, had around 3,000 fans in attendance.

So here’s Lady J math for you: 3 members of the shield create 1 great storyline when they are 1 unit. But 1 boring championship tournament with 2 members of the Shield and 3 sorry options for an outcome, plus 1 out 7 members of your staff suddenly MIA means 1 out of every 7 fan is taking a pass on your product.

I would try and come up with a solution for this very, very bad problem, but there’s so much blood at this point I don’t even know where it’s coming from anymore. And I’m not sure WWE does either.

The Lady J Says