Battleground & RAW

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Preach

Things have gotten out of hand in the nearly two weeks since I wrote my last blog post. DC is still shut down from the blizzard, so I’ve had a lot of time to be on Twitter as well as watching old Rumble matches in preparation for yesterday’s PPV. I really appreciate all of the positive feedback I got on my thoughts as I made my way through 18 of the 28 Rumbles – y’all are too kind.

Most of you.

Some people were heard complaining that the Royal Rumble is an outdated or boring gimmick, with no place in contemporary professional wrestling. I saw a lot of tweets that people weren’t excited to watch because they knew what would happen. I think what they meant was that they knew the finish. Surely they didn’t know the intricacies of the entire match, and managed to boil down the excitement and significance of an hour long match into the last two minutes. These people should feel free to continue being the type of individuals for whom nothing is ever good enough, and really wonderful things can be spoiled by the smallest unpleasantry. Best of luck in life.

Some of the people waited until the actual PPV started and came at me about my Ambrose fandom. Yes, I am a Dean Ambrose fan. Yes, I have been unhappy with his character lately. Yes, I was extremely invested in the Last Man Standing match for the Intercontinental Championship. Even though my expectation (based on my, let’s face it, limited knowledge of how wrestling booking works) was that Kevin Owens would win, I was ecstatic to see Ambrose triumph. I was even more pleased to see him in the final two of the Rumble match, alongside Triple H. Do I think the version of Ambrose who crosses himself when he wins a title is my Ambrose? No. My Ambrose is the one who started the 2014 Hell in a Cell main event match against Seth Rollins on top of the structure. My Ambrose is more Moxley, but I want him to do well because he’s my favorite. That doesn’t make me fair-weather, or wishy-washy. If you are incapable of being flexible and enjoying the ride as your favorite wrestling character ebbs and flows, as they navigate the rollercoaster of their career, then you should do yourself a favor and get as far away as humanly possibly from professional wrestling. Do it now.

Some Twitter users seemingly exploded with glee when I went off on the Ric Flair/Becky Lynch kiss. There are people who take a great deal of pleasure in further rustling your already sufficiently-upset feathers – these people are called “Trolls”. Some of the people who ended up in my mentions really disagreed with me – those people should feel free to unfollow me. Some of them, however, just wanted to see how far they could push me before I exploded. So I had to slam on the brakes and just lay it all out there:

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This isn’t my “über feminazi” side showing through. This isn’t me being overly PC. This isn’t even about being too sensitive (what the hell does that even mean?) This is about a stupid, pointless booking decision that made a large portion of the audience feel uncomfortable with absolutely no pay-off. When WWE did the Reid Flair storyline with Charlotte and Paige you could MAYBE (and this is a big maybe) argue that at least they got sizable media attention from all the heat. But it was still gross and bad, because it’s real (and we all know it’s real) and wrestling isn’t. What makes this incident so egregious is that there has always been a sense in the community that Ric Flair has a wandering eye; that it would wander to his daughter’s ex-best friend, a woman 38 years his junior who has in ABSOLUTELY NO WAY invited his advances is disturbing. Maybe Flair is the schmoozing promo-cutter, maybe he is the dirtiest player in the game, but neither are appropriate here. Are you suggesting that Flair is a hapless, drunken old pervert, or are you suggesting that he is a vicious, aggressive rapist? Regardless, are either of these suggestions that belong in a product that is supposed to be considered TV-PG? Of course not. They will likely never discuss it again (it didn’t come up on RAW, Flair stayed at the top of the ramp when Charlotte ran in to break up the Becky/Sasha Banks match) and poor Becky will have had to subject herself to that for no reason.

Speaking of RAW, some of you called me a turncoat for waking up to the reality that The Rock is a bullying, disgusting character that I wish Dwayne Johnson would put down like a ten-ton sack of shit and walk away from forever. Being a conniving smooth talker is fine – I like Paul Heyman. Being an unapologetic dick is also fine – I like Kevin Owens. Being a clown in a unicorn horn is even tolerable. But watching one of the most successful people in the world return to the place that made him a star and start running his mouth like nothing he says has consequences makes me wish he’d stay away forever. Rock’s 25 minute promo made my skin crawl. I wanted to change the channel, but I wasn’t the only person watching it in my house. I thought I was a Rock fan. He was never really around when I watched all those years ago. He wasn’t on SmackDown when I was watching and I never caught RAW back then. When I returned to the product in 2013, Wrestlemania was already over and I’d missed him. I caught him the few times he was on WWE TV since I came back, but it was always a short, focused (in Lana & Rusev’s vile) attack on someone and then he was gone again. I felt unprepared for how repugnant he is, and want him off my TV as quickly as possible. You should feel free to disagree with this opinion, but you should also know that the Earth is, indeed, round. Society is changing, evolving, and people aren’t tolerating nonsensical prejudice and hate-speak anymore. Not even from fictionalized television characters. If you want so badly to relive the Attitude Era, you can do so whenever you choose on the WWE Network. That time is over, and I don’t want even the slightest trace of it in WWE programming today.

And then, some of you people are the actual problem – the top of the food chain-type heinous villains. When RAW started and Triple H joined Vince and Stephanie out in the ring, I was thoroughly enjoying the nuclear heat that he got by saying he was going to keep the WWE World Heavyweight Title as long as he wanted, because he’s the COO and he can. Until, of course, I realized that what he was saying was completely true and completely poisonous to the entire company. I have been saying for a long time (and hearing it from others as well) that the main issue with last year’s Rumble match being won by Roman Reigns was with WWE creative and not the wrestler himself. If we all know Vince and Triple H make the decisions, and their on-screen characters are heels, then anyone they decide to push should also be a heel. So if Reigns is getting the push and wins the Rumble, he’s The Authority’s chosen one and deserves to be booed. It’s a vicious cycle that was masterminded by the perpetuation of The Authority as kayfabe storyline characters. If we never saw Stephanie (which would be a shame) or Triple H on TV anymore and let the heels and babyfaces have no on-screen interaction with the business side of WWE, we could maybe start viewing them in a more clear way. Instead, we’re forced into this weird fiction/non-fiction cycle controlled entirely by the people in charge. If they really want us to stop getting on the internet and pretending we know how they’re going to book the show, maybe they should stop showing us how they do it. Imagine if the head writer of your favorite TV show wrote themselves into the story as the main villain. Good luck unraveling the knot that comes of crossing reality with fabrication. Not only is it confusing and infuriating, it makes it nearly impossible to enjoy the program. Now I loved watching Royal Rumble. But none of the matches the proceeded the actual Rumble had anything to do with the Authority. It wasn’t until the Rumble itself happened that we were reminded the real Big Bad of WWE isn’t Brock Lesnar – it’s Vince.

So to all of these people, know this: you are not going to ruin this thing that I love, not for me and not for my friends. We are not going to let you. I will wait in the tall grass for all of you, because it’s people like you who are killing professional wrestling.

– The Lady J Says

Cautious Optimism

Okay, so I’m not pissed off.

I think the appropriate term for how I’m feeling right now would be “cautiously optimistic.” Last night’s TLC PPV was surprisingly entertaining. Watching it with someone who has only ever seen one wrestling program before (last Monday’s episode of RAW, at that) meant I got to talk over the parts that didn’t interest me in the slightest, filling her in on the information I thought was important for her to have in order to enjoy it. (P.S. Yes, this is the same person whose quote appears at the end of this post. Looks like she changed her mind!)

I was wrong in three of my eight predictions yesterday. I am sorry to say that Becky Lynch did not triumph over Sasha Banks, but at least she lost to legitimate heel tactics. Though, I am not enjoying the New Day-type of antics that Team B.A.D. are getting up to. I like them as strong, sassy, arrogant women – not as caricatures. I was also sorry to see that the Lucha Dragons did not triumph during the opening ladder match for the tag team titles, but the match itself was so damn good, it almost doesn’t matter. The Salida Del Sol over the top of one ladder onto another has to be the craziest spot I’ve seen in a long time. In fact, after that match I showed my companion Edge speaking Jeff Hardy in mid-air and it didn’t seem quite as gnarly as a move whose landing was on a ladder. Ouch. But it certainly did cement, for me at least, the necessity for WWE to find a place further up the card for Kalisto – he works hard, he’s entertaining as hell, and he clearly wants it badly (or he wouldn’t be putting his body on the line like that.)

Obviously, my other prediction was for Kevin Owens to retain the title, and I was wrong. I WAS WRONG. Dean Ambrose is currently the Intercontinental champion. I actually watched almost all of TLC twice last night because I felt I missed some things. Re-watching the IC title match, it really was well done. But I still couldn’t believe my eyes when the ref counted three. To the great dismay of my companion (and the utter delight of my dog) I knocked over a half glass of eggnog jumping up on the couch in excitement during the first viewing. I’m not going to lie – I am very happy as an Ambrose fan. But I’m not entirely sure what you do with an Ambrose champion going forward. Owens will assuredly get a rematch and I hope he doesn’t just take the title back (have they done something like that in a while? Might be overdue. Oh lord, my little icy heart…) I know some of you are also concerned that Ambrose will have an IC title run similar to his run as US champ, but that seems unfounded. When he was US champion, he was also a part of the Shield. There was a lot of things he was involved in at that time. Right now, he has nothing going on (though I wouldn’t be surprised if he was going to receive punishment for what Reigns did after the main event. Poor Ambrose. I’m just breaking my own heart now.)

In the matches I did accurately predict, I wasn’t really disappointed by anything. The Rusev/Ryback match was short enough that I didn’t feel like I was suffering through it. Hopefully that feud is now over. The US championship chairs match was also just about as long as it needed to be, and I had no real complaints about it at all. What I thought was so interesting was the fact that Zeb Colter didn’t appear at all during the match – I don’t even remember if they mentioned him on commentary. Even if he’s not “gone,” hopefully he’ll just return as Jack Swagger’s manager and leave Alberto Del Rio to move on to a more interesting (and less potentially inappropriate) opponent. I do want to take a second to give ADR props on selling his leg injury. As someone who spent four years of college studying performance, you’d think I can tell when someone’s faking an injury. He really had me there when the match was over and he couldn’t climb the turnbuckle. But then again, with all the injuries WWE has seen recently, it might also have been fear that made me worry.

Speaking of selling, somebody needs to sit Charlotte down (preferably NOT her father) and explain to her how selling works in the ring, because the concept seems to have eluded her completely. I know we all make fun of people like Dolph Ziggler all the time for overselling, but there is an actual difference between taking your bumps to the next level and just looking like you’re faking it. And Charlotte looks like she’s faking it. I don’t know why she doesn’t understand how ridiculous that makes both her and her opponent look. When she is on the receiving end of something, she screams as loud as she can, regardless of what it is that’s happening to her. When she’s got someone locked into a submission maneuver, she yells almost as loud! It must be pretty hard to sell for her when she’s drowning you out with her own mindless shrieking. Seeing as how I don’t like her promos either, it might be best if Charlotte just stop making sounds altogether. I think at this point I’d prefer Becky Lynch end up in a feud with Paige than Charlotte. Oh, and get rid of Naitch, he’s grating on my nerves.

When I watch a TLC match, I expect a few things from the participants. I expect them to utilize all of the props in ways that make sense for them as individual performers. This means I don’t want people who aren’t high flyers suddenly jumping off of ladders when they clearly have no idea what they’re doing. I expect them to not to forget to wrestle. This shouldn’t be something I need to say, but some people are bothered when TLC matches don’t go straight into the crazy stunts and that is just silly – it’s still a wrestling match! Wrestle! I also expect the stakes to be super high – as high as they can be. We all knows as fans that these are the matches where people can (and do) get badly hurt. Knowing not only that the WWE World Heavyweight championship is dangling above the ring, but also no matter what the guys in the ring do they WILL leave in pain sets lofty stakes. Roman Reigns and Sheamus gave us a match that nestled so perfectly into these parameters: they didn’t forget what they do best, they didn’t forget to actually wrestle each other, and they knew they had to basically kill each other in order to win.

What more do you want from them?

A better storyline leading to the match. Different people being in the feud. This guy being pushed less, that guy being better on the mic. You know what? This isn’t perfect. In fact, this entire show – not just the match – could have been a slow and painful death for everyone involved. Instead, it peaked nicely in the appropriate places, kept you on your toes, and the main event paid off better than I could have hoped for under the circumstances. Yes, a League of Nations run-in was predictable. Yes, Sheamus retaining was predictable. You know what wasn’t? Roman Reigns going apeshit and beating the crap out of Sheamus with a chair. Then he turns on Triple H and quite literally leaves him lying in a puddle on the floor. I was satisfied. I was more than satisfied, I was shrieking with glee, totally beside myself.

It’s entirely possible that tonight’s RAW could undo everything that was good about last night. If you remember, dear reader, I was super stoked on Sheamus successfully cashing in the Money in the Bank briefcase at the end of Survivor Series – and I wasn’t wrong to feel that way. Even though the RAW the next night (and all subsequent nights) was trash, it paid off last night. I also did a whole post about how Roman Reigns is an underdog because we won’t cheer for him, and I wasn’t wrong about that either. He wasn’t a Daniel Bryan underdog, he was hated by the fans more than he was hated by The Authority, and he knew he could never get over with the way he was being booked. And unlike John Cena, who was once begged by Paul Heyman to give him a solid beating and let all that aggression against his oppressors and an unforgiving crowd out, Roman Reigns took matters into his own hands. He went into business for himself, which is exactly what we always wanted. It’s satisfying, it’s cathartic.

Stay tuned. I know I will.

The Lady J Says

TLC: Predictions and Stats

Alright, gang, we’re in the home stretch. It’s almost 3pm EST here in the DMV, which means there are five hours left before TLC starts. Let’s talk matches and predictions, and sort of hope it’s not the travesty we’re all expecting.

WWE just announced the kick-off match and I am feeling very conflicted about it. The kick-off show will feature a match between Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks, which is almost certain to be a barn-burner. But I have two questions: why? and why not on the main card? WWE had more than enough time to build more a feud between these two powerhouse ladies, considering the first women’s match on the RAW following Survivor Series was between Banks and Lynch. Also, why was Becky Lynch not folded into the Charlotte/Paige feud as they hinted they would earlier this month? For no good reason, I’m sure. While the match will undoubtedly be the best of the entire night, I’m not sure what purpose it’s going to serve other than filling a time slot. I hope these ladies set the bar so high that they basically wreck the rest of the card.
Winner: Becky Lynch (in order to look strong going into a feud with current Diva’s champion Charlotte)

Ryback and Rusev are going to have a match because, during Miz TV, Ryback interrupted a showing of love between Rusev and Lana to let the entire WWE Universe know details of Lana’s sex life. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, regardless of Rusev’s affiliation with the League of People No One Cares About, Ryback is basically the heel of this feud. You don’t cheer for someone who still thinks, in 2015 (almost 2016) that outing someone for being sexually involved with someone they were dating is a good insult. The only part of this whole feud that I am enjoying is Lana and how well she seems to be dealing with the fans. Not to mention she seems more comfortable in her own body and on the microphone. Her promos aren’t perfect, but seeing a noticeable improvement is reassuring.
Winner: Rusev

Speaking of it being almost 2016, here is the part where I’m forced to write about Tommy Dreamer and Rhyno. Listen, I’m not a hater. I don’t get off on the idea of bashing these people. If nothing, they deserve respect for a lot of things, not the least of which being their dedication to the business for decades. But that doesn’t mean I want to watch them on my TV. It was fun to see Dreamer show up on RAW a couple of weeks ago, but I was hoping it was a one-shot deal. I am not in favor of guys pushing the end of their careers to make returns that last more than one match. That’s why the chant is “one more match”. Two is too many.
Regardless, there is absolutely no good finish to the tables match between The Wyatt Family and Team Extreme from a storytelling standpoint. Beside the fact that the Wyatts have no reason to be feuding with the Dudleys and their extreme companions, the Wyatts haven’t won a PPV match since Night of Champions in September and the Dudleys haven’t won a PPV match since their return to WWE (not counting their pre-show appearance at Survivor Series, as it was not part of an actual feud.) They BOTH need this win to appear a threat in any way, but I suppose the Wyatts need it more, as they are hoping to stick around longer than the Dudleys are likely to. Regardless, I hope no one gets actually hurt in this match.
Winner: The Wyatt Family

All of the titles are on the line at TLC. Alberto Del Rio will be defending his US championship against Jack Swagger in a chairs match. Apparently Del Rio has cast off Zeb Colter as his manager (after Swagger reminded Colter that he used to be Swagger’s racist manager, not Del Rio’s, or something) so maybe they are actually fighting over the love of Grandpa Zeb? I’m not sure. This whole feud makes me really uncomfortable. I think it’s one thing to guide your storylines with your finger on the pulse of current events, but it’s something else entirely to drive you storylines against the tides of national issues. Also, the only white American currently holding a title is a woman, so maybe we ought to back off the racism stuff. Forever.
Winner: ADR

I don’t have  much to say about the Diva’s championship match between Charlotte and Paige except that I wish pretty intensely that it wasn’t happening. They’ve tried to backtrack over some of the really awful stuff they had done leading up to Survivor Series and included Ric Flair, Charlotte’s real-life father, in the storyline this time. They’re also in the process, it seems, of turning her heel, but haven’t fully committed yet. Not sure what this match will do for that idea, as nobody fully turns heel by wrestling another heel. Also this match doesn’t include any of the gimmicks normally associated with this PPV because…I don’t know why. I am very eager to see the ladies get into some of these gimmick matches, because I know they will bring something to the table (sorry) that the guys just can’t. I don’t know that I would want it to be Paige and Charlotte, but one day WWE is going to be advertising the first ever women’s TLC match and it’s going to be amazing. (NOTE: The only women’s gimmick match to appear on the TLC card to date was a tag-team tables match between Natalya, Beth Phoenix, and LayCool in 2010.)
Winner: Charlotte (if only so they can set up the next feud to be with Becky Lynch)

The triple-threat ladder match between tag-team champions New Day, the Usos, and the Lucha Dragons is likely to be an exciting one. Two thirds of the teams were a part of the Elimination Chamber match for the tag team titles at Elimination Chamber back in May – one of my favorite tag team matches of all time. It was so well-designed, and had me on the edge of my seat. I am getting a little bored with New Day’s antics, but I know their in-ring work, paired with the Lucha Dragons and the Usos will make for something fun, funny, and (at the very least) watchable. Really hoping for a title change here, as the tag titles are due for a move.
Winner: The Lucha Dragons

The Intercontinental championship match between champ Kevin Owens and my personal favorite Dean Ambrose makes me shake my head. There are so many things wrong with this match. Why would a character like Dean Ambrose want a title anyway? Just to take it away from Kevin Owens? Fine. But then he’d better throw it into the harbor when the match is over. They can refer to that as the Boston IC Party.
The other thing that bothers me about this match is that it’s just a singles match for the title. They are participating in a gimmick PPV and they’re not using the gimmick. Fine, not all of the matches need to, but we’re talking about Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose. As much of a huge Ambrose mark as I am, Owens could out-wrestle him any day. He doesn’t play at Owens’ level. The only way to make this match even SEEM even would be to include props of some kind. AND THIS IS THE PROP PPV. Ambrose is great with props, and Owens is no stranger to a ladder match. So why is this match just a straight-up singles match? No one knows. The mystery continues.
Winner: Kevin Owens

Finally, we have the TLC match for the WWE World Heavyweight championship. I don’t think there’s any chance we won’t end up with eight guys in the ring when the League of Nations, Dean Ambrose, and the Usos all run in to their comrades’ aide. If that’s true, then the match is going to end in a disqualification, and Sheamus will retain. And why shouldn’t it? I guess a clean win from Sheamus will mean that the feud is over and that’s preferable from an audience perspective. But it would be a true moment of pure idiocy to put the title on Roman Reigns in such an unceremonious manner, when the audience has basically forsaken him entirely. I expect most of the match will focus on Reigns being dominant and them some kind of typical-heel nonsense will keep him from becoming champion. I just hope it’s over quickly.
Winner: Sheamus (as it will most certainly not be the audience)

By my predictions, most of the heels are the more likely candidates to pick up a win. That being said, I don’t know what they could be setting up for Roman Reigns, the Usos, and Dean Ambrose if they all lose tonight. It certainly doesn’t make any of them underdogs and there isn’t anyone except Kevin Owens who I think is a true favorite (or even remotely plausible) to win the Royal Rumble next month.

Catch me on Twitter live-tweeting the whole shebang, beginning with the pre-show at 7pm EST. And look for my (likely pissed-off) round-up tomorrow!

The Lady J Says

TLC Stats:
1. This year is the 7th TLC PPV.
2. The World Heavyweight Championship has changed hands at TLC more than any other title: 3 times in 6 years.
3. Both the Intercontinental and Tag Team tiles have changed hands twice at TLC.
4. The only title to never change hands at TLC is the Diva’s championship.
5. In 2012, there were no title changes at TLC.
6. Sheamus has won two matches at TLC and lost two.
7. ADR  and Jack Swagger have both only ever lost matches at TLC, with three losses for Swagger and two losses for Del Rio.
8. The Wyatt Family, Rusev, Ryback, and New Day have all appeared on the  TLC card only once before and won their matches.
9. Dean Ambrose first appeared at TLC as a singles competitor last year in a TLC match against Bray Wyatt and lost.
10. The Usos won a tag team title match against The Miz and Mizdow last year, but it was by disqualification so they did not win the titles. They won two weeks later on RAW.

TLC: The Last Call

2015 is almost over – can you believe it? – which means we’re quickly approaching the last PPV of the year, TLC. One of the things I’ve been doing regularly since the summer is going back to see where WWE’s storylines were for the same PPV (or the PPV in the same time slot) the year before.

When considering the 2014 TLC card, one has to remember the fallout of 2014’s Survivor Series: Sting had debuted, The Authority was no longer in power, and Dean Ambrose had basically given up a real finish in his match against Bray Wyatt just to plug the next PPV. Afterwards, we had a series of guest GMs on RAW including Daniel Bryan and the Anonymous RAW GM making matches for TLC.

The actual PPV itself was not a bad one, but was certainly not a stand out show. For me, the two most memorable aspects would have to be the awful finish in the main event – where poor Ambrose has a TV explode in his face – and the ladder match between Dolph Ziggler and Luke Harper. This might actually be my favorite match that I’ve ever seen either man in, and certainly one of my favorite ladder matches of all time. But I’m actually not a fan of ladder matches in general, particularly ones like the Money in the Bank match where there are more than two guys in the ring. So, this was just the right amount of chaos and carnage for me.

When I consider how lackluster last year’s TLC was, I shouldn’t be that shocked by what is happening in WWE’s storylines right now. They assume a large portion of their audience tunes out until the new year when we all start thinking about the Royal Rumble. Which is fine – maybe if WWE had an off-season, we wouldn’t have so many of our favorite wrestlers out injured right now. I must admit, I would prefer that they did just that, though. Why not actually take off? Just shut it all down for a month and let everyone take a break and refresh for the new year?

In my archaeological quest for information about last year’s TLC and what my own temperature was going into it, I found this article I wrote in December of last year. Wow. I was PISSED. Glad I’ve chilled out a (very small) bit since then. December was a strange month for WWE, as we saw the first live Stone Cold podcast on the WWE Network with Vince McMahon as his guest. This was also amidst the two podcasts of Colt Cabana’s that CM Punk appeared on. And Kevin Owens hadn’t even made his NXT debut yet. What a year it’s been. And this makes me think about what comes after TLC, about how we ended up where we are now.

I don’t think fans are angry with WWE because they put the WWE World Heavyweight title on Sheamus. I don’t even think fans are angry because Roman Reigns is being forced on us. I think that after a year of crappy PPV after crappy PPV, of unresolved storylines and repetitive feuds, of over-scripted promos and stalling drive, we’ve had enough. TLC 2014 was not good. The Royal Rumble in 2015 was a disaster. I didn’t even watch FastLane, and Wrestlemania 31 was offensive in it’s lack of imagination. Extreme Rules was forgettable, Payback was redundant and it wasn’t until Elimination Chamber, the PPV that wasn’t even supposed to happen, that I suddenly woke up from a nightmare of Cena/Rusev matches and something about kissing someone’s ass. At least that PPV saw Kevin Owens defeat John Cena, and also had one of the best tag team matches I’ve seen in a long time. But then Money in the Bank begins the steady decline once again with the set-up to Survivor Series (and I am reminded that I will likely never see Dean Ambrose as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion.)

So based on all of the research I have done, here is my prediction for TLC: It’s going to be very bad. And so is the Royal Rumble. And even Wrestlemania 32. If WWE insists on following their trend of outdoing themselves with worse PPVs each month, they are going to wake up in April with no live viewers and no more PPV buys. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me 16 PPVs running, and I have to call it a day.

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

 

HIAC Predictions

We are finally here – PPV day! Before the show starts, just wanted to share my predictions. Make sure to leave yours in the comments or @ me on twitter.

  1. Pre-show: Dolph Ziggler/Cesaro/Neville vs. Rusev/Sheamus/King Barrett
    Prediction: the faces go over. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a MITB cash-in gone awry from Sheamus tonight, so I don’t think it’s important that the heels win. This show also has a lot of loose ends to tie up, so I’m sure most of these gentlemen are due for new feuds. Ziggler/Cesaro/Neville win
  2. Kevin Owens (c) vs. Ryback for the Intercontinental Championship
    Prediction: This match requires outside interference. It was a clean win for Owens at Night of Champions but if he wins again and retains (which he needs to) it’s not good for Ryback to seem that weak. Plus a run-in sets up the next challenger. Owens retains
  3. Charlotte (c) vs. Nikki Bella for the Diva’s Championship
    Prediction: The only acceptable outcome is for Charlotte to retain. I imagine a little outside interference from Paige wouldn’t be shocking, but it won’t cost Charlotte the belt. Would like to see the Bellas moved out of the title picture. Charlotte retains
  4. The New Day (c) vs. The Dudley Boyz for the Tag Team Championship
    Prediction: As much as I’d like to see The New Day retain, I don’t think WWE is that smart. They’re hot right now and they didn’t need the Dudleyz to put them over – they just ARE over. It would be unfortunate to take the titles off a great heel stable to put them on a team who’s been out of the WWE for 10 years, but I think that’s precisely what might happen. I hope I’m wrong. Dudley Boyz win
  5. John Cena (c) vs. Mystery Opponent for the U.S. Champsionship
    Prediction: I’ve been avoiding social media all day because I don’t want to know who the mystery opponent will be until the last possible second. If it’s Tyler Breeze, great. If it’s Sami Zayn, even better. I’ve been hearing Cena is going away for a bit from TV, so I’d like to see him drop the title to whomever and have them continue the open challenge. It makes the title more fun knowing it could change any episode of RAW, because it’s always on the line. A fighting champion is the best kind of champion. Mystery Opponent wins
  6. Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt inside Hell in a Cell
    Prediction: I don’t really care to be honest, but I hope it involves interference from Dean Ambrose as payback for last year’s HIAC main event debacle. Particularly if he appears in a puff of smoke. Don’t count out Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, and the new guy, what’s his name – Burt Stoleman. Could be a high body count. I hope they make this more interesting than it sounds. Dean Ambrose kills everyone (more likely Roman Reigns wins. *yawn*)
  7. The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar
    Prediction: If Taker wins, I will be sad because it means no Heyman promos for a while. Also, what a weird thing to do to Brock Lesnar and I don’t know where he goes from here. If Taker loses, I never want to see him again. That’s it. He couldn’t beat Brock so he’s done. UNLESS he somehow gets involved with a story with his brother and the last two matches here are intertwined leading to The Brothers of Destruction in a Cain and Abel match (which I just invented and am now patenting) at Wrestlemania XXXIIUndertaker wins
  8. Seth Rollins (c) vs. Kane for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
    Prediction: If Kane wins, we should all kill ourselves. And if there is a run-in from Sheamus, he should lose. Please. Seth Rollins retains

 

There you have it folks – Lady J’s predictions for tonight. See you at the matches!

The Lady J Says

The Stats Don’t Lie

Sometimes you need a reality check to get back into the right headspace. After yesterday’s post, it occurs to me that it’s not my job to make you love wrestling again. If watching it and seething with anger is what you prefer to do every Monday, then by all means – jack that blood pressure way up! I, personally, find it’s bad for my complexion. And I do love a good dissenting opinion. So if you disagree, please feel free to tweet me or leave a comment. Just know that I do practice dark magic and I can turn you into a reptile or a piece of antique furniture.

In reviewing the card for Hell in a Cell, I began to wonder how we even got here. How did the WWE end up giving us these matches? The same way that watching last year’s show paints a very early picture for what we have now (or does it?) I thought it would be useful to go back and consider the progression of the story lines by PPV, starting from SummerSlam. Before we get to that, here are some stats (which I love. Maybe you do, too.)

39 individuals were in matches at SummerSlam
19 individuals were in matches at Night of Champions (plus Demon Kane & Sheamus for 21)
13 people are scheduled for matches at HIAC (not counting the kick-off match with Ziggler, Cesaro, Neville, Rusev, Sheamus, and King Barrett for 19 & the missing match between Ambrose, Orton, Harper, and Strauman for 23) {note: the previous 3 stats do not include valets, but do include all 3 members of The New Day, regardless of who was in the match}
10 matches were held at SummerSlam
7 matches were held at NoC
7 matches are scheduled for HIAC (again, this does not include the 6-man tag match for kick-off)

Hell in a Cell is made up of:
17 wrestlers with the unknown opponent for John Cena (not including the kick-off match)
13 of who wrestled at NOC and
13 of who wrestled at SummerSlam,
3 rematches from NOC
1 rubber match following Wrestlemania 30SummerSlam
1 singles match created by pulling one face and one heel from a tag match at NOC
1 match with a mystery participant (we had this at NOC as well, before Chris Jericho came out to join Reigns & Ambrose against The Wyatt Family)
1 gimmick match we’ve seen in this gimmick before (Lesnar retained the WWE Championship against Undertaker inside the Hell in a Cell structure at No Mercy in 2002)

The Undertaker/Lesnar match is the easiest to trace. Undertaker came out during an episode of RAW in May of 2014 to begin a feud with Brock Lesnar that lead to their Wrestlemania 30 match. After Undertaker lost, he disappeared, and Brock went on to become the WWE World Heavyweight champion. Undertaker reappeared a year later when he answered the taunts of Bray Wyatt and beat him at Wrestlemania 31. After reasserting himself, Undertaker called out Brock Lesnar for flaunting his conquering Undertaker’s streak, and they had a match at SummerSlam with a Dusty finish. Now they are going to settle the score inside the Hell in a Cell structure.

The WWE World Heavyweight championship match goes back almost as far. Seth Rollins turned on the Shield in June of 2014, and joined up with the Authority – a heel faction that already included someone we’ve come to know as Corporate Kane. Kane ran a great deal of interference for Seth Rollins by being ringside at his matches or even in some of them – including the ladder match at Money in the Bank, stopping Dean Ambrose from getting the briefcase before Rollins could. But Rollins never seemed grateful for Kane’s presence, and after Brock Lesnar broke Kane’s ankle before Money in the Bank in 2015, he seemed to disappear. That is until NoC, when Demon Kane reappeared and set his sights on Seth Rollins – though Corporate Kane has no recollection of such events.

These two matches I can see as having an appropriate build-up. Though, I’m not sure how any outcome for either of these matches will help anyone move forward. What do you do with Demon Kane if he loses? There is a match stipulation that if Demon Kane loses, then Corporate Kane loses his job – so what do you do with The Big Red Monster? Hopefully the outcome is a win for Rollins, as I don’t think a champion Demon is such a great idea. But I think, perhaps, if Undertaker beats Lesnar (though I can’t imagine how) then Undertaker and Kane can feud leading to Wrestlemania 32 in Texas.

The three rematches don’t really interest me at all. I can’t see Charlotte losing her title to Nikki after only a month. It’s too important to the Women’s Division that Charlotte move on to a feud with someone else from NXT. Thought what do you do with the Bellas once that happens? I’d also like to stop seeing the use of the teams when someone is in singles competition for the title. Charlotte is not from Team PCB as a champion – she’s just the champ. Though I do still enjoy Team Bad (minus Tamina.)
Kevin Owens v. Ryback is so incredibly boring. Owens is not elevating Ryback by having a rematch. The last one was not one of Ryback OR Owens’ better matches, so why do we need to see it again? Because that’s what we do now – we give rematches when a title changes hands. How boring is that? The fact that there are three of these on the card (even though I have no idea why The Dudley Boyz are getting another shot at the tag titles) is ridiculous. It makes HALF of the PPV completely pointless and boring. Maybe if the Diva’s match was the first with women inside the HIAC structure? But of course not – not yet, anyway.

If there is one thing to be said for the three rematches over the WWE World Heavyweight Title & the Main Event match is that at least the rematches are set up with someone for us to clearly cheer for. Those matches have heels (New Day, Nikki, Kevin Owens) and faces (Dudley Boyz, Charlotte, Ryback). The other two matches have no clear faces or heels. Brock Lesnar always seems to be a heel these days, but he was wronged in the last match – Undertaker hit him with a low blow which is textbook heel behavior. Both Seth Rollins and Demon Kane are aligned with the Authority, which is a heel faction as I’ve already said, so is there even a face in this match? Who do we want to win? Rollins, I suppose, as Kane is truly a monster.

This is really where the problem of what I wrote about last week comes into play. When we were younger, there usually were heels and faces – there were people you were expected to cheer for, and people you were going to boo. Has there ever been anyone as polarizing in pro-wrestling as John Cena? We now live in a world where the WWE Universe is so divided all the time. Maybe that’s part of the process when booking these matches – nobody knows what the WWE Universe wants because we all don’t want one thing. We want indy darlings and old heroes. We want hot girls and talented workers. We want high flyers and grapplers. As the WWE tries to figure out how to satisfy their whole audience, they are going to leave everyone disatisfied along the way. It might take as long as years to figure it out. But until then, maybe they could at least change the matches from PPV to PPV.

The Lady J Says

 

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.