What, what, what are you doing?

I would love to spend a day at WWE, talking with whomever currently makes up their creative team. Not because I want to know what they’re going to do with my favorite wrestlers, or what the outcome of SurvivorSeries is going to be. I want them to explain to me, in the most minute details, why it is so difficult for them to write storylines for everyone who appears on their television program.

Tonight’s episode of RAW was about the second round of the tournament for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Four of the show’s matches were a part of round 2 in this tournament: Owens vs Neville, Ambrose vs Ziggler, Del Rio vs Kalisto, and Reigns vs Cesaro. We also saw a match between The Usos and The New Day (with an inexplicable appearance from Ryback). But the other matches that filled out the card showed that when someone (or several someones) are not involved in a title or main event feud, then WWE has no idea what to do with them – and they don’t care.

The first pointless match we saw tonight was between Tyler Breeze (accompanied to the ring by his ring wraith, Summer Rae) and R-Truth (who, I cannot lie, I still say “oh, right, I forgot about him” every time he appears on my TV.) This, I imagine, was to keep relevant Breeze on TV in preparation for his feud with Dolph Ziggler (who is out of the tournament after losing to Dean Ambrose.) But what does R-Truth have to do with anything? There was a very easy fix to this really strange pairing: last week Breeze lost to Dean Ambrose in a first round tournament match for the WWE World Heavyweight title. If WWE had given us one backstage segment with him and Ziggler, it could have moved the feud along. But it also could have lead to a match with The Miz who has genuine beef with Ziggler because he took away his opportunity at the title. And if anyone’s getting their hands on Ziggler first, it should be Miz. Instant feud. Instant match.

The second match of the night that left me baffled was between The Ascension, an NXT Tag Team Championship pairing that came up to the main roster and promptly died, and The Dudley Boys. The Dudleys have been out of the tag team picture since losing out on a second chance at the titles last month at Hell in a Cell to The New Day. They took the win tonight over The Ascension, but for what purpose? This one is a little harder to find purpose before, because I can’t clearly decide who deserves to be on TV more. Three weeks ago Jordan & Gable, an NXT tag team, invited the Ascension back down to Orlando for a match, so perhaps we should be focusing more on giving the Dudley Boys a reason to appear on RAW. The Prime Time Players have been mysteriously absent from TV after being the last team to hold the tag titles before The New Day. Los Matadores are apparently off TV to be revamped. The Lucha Dragons are on a short hiatus while Kalisto gets fed to Alberto Del Rio. That leaves us with – oh, how about another two dudes who lost last week? Sheamus and Barrett were rolling pretty well for a bit there as The Euros or whatever they’re calling themselves, and I think their losses last week would be enough to remind them that maybe if they’re working better as a pair they shouldn’t kill a good thing. And if they are confident enough in their abilities as a tag team, they should be willing to take on anyone the boss can throw at them – even veterans like The Dudley Boys.

And on top of everything else, we didn’t actually get a women’s match. Instead, we were served a train wreck of a main event spot – Charlotte and Paige trading poorly-memorized insults over their Diva’s Championship Match contract. If anyone in that segment deserves credit, it’s Michael Cole, who tried very hard to give the women a central point to return to by consistently pointing to the contract (which Charlotte never signed, by the way) whenever there was a pause wide enough to land a 747 in. This atrocity was avoidable, too. I’ve already hypothesized about how to get Becky Lynch involved in this feud, and successfully set her up for a solid title reign. Where was she tonight? Charlotte talked at great length about Paige having no one behind her – but where was her back up?

It is no secret to anyone who reads my blog that I would love to be on the creative staff for a wrestling promotion. I love good story telling, and I would relish a chance to work with skilled athletes to tell powerful stories. There is no school you can attend to learn how to do this. But I refuse to believe that watching RAW every Monday will teach me everything that I need to know. I want to be better than one main storyline and three matches that have no point or are poorly crafted. I want WWE to be better. Soon.

The Lady J Says

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Look at the Whole Board

I don’t know anything about chess. I know it’s extremely complicated and that it dates back to the 6th Century C.E. I have watched many people play, in parks and on breaks at jobs. I’ve even seen some people play online, though the magnificent physical pieces have always struck me most. A phrase I’ve heard before when more experienced players are trying to teach novices is a reminder to always look at the big picture: “see the whole board.” This phrase is something I try to keep in mind for all I do in life – don’t get hung up on the little things. Look beyond them. And it works in wrestling, too.

Now that Hell in a Cell is over, the whole landscape of WWE has changed. We now Brock Lesnar (with a win over Undertaker), John Cena (with a loss to Alberto Del Rio and missing his US championship), and Randy Orton (with a shoulder injury) are all out for the rest of the year. Every single feud was put to bed on Sunday’s paper view. There were seven matches (not counting the pre-show) and all seven ended in a clean finish. Even the main event, which technically was capped off with an appearance by the Wyatt Family, didn’t see usurpers appear until after the bell had rung. So tonight, it was time to start some new feuds.

Working backwards from Hell in a Cell, Bray Wyatt came out and cut a bizarre promo in which he referred to the Undertaker’s soul as being ripped to pieces and asked the audience to give him a moment of silence. Afterwards, Kane came out, and was promptly ambushed by Wyatt’s minions before being carried out, crucifix-style, by the Family. I imagine this is leading to some kind of Survivor Series match in which the Brothers of Destruction (and partners) face The Wyatt Family.

You also had a #1 contender’s match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. After four matches, the winner of each was entered into a fatal four-way, the winner receiving a match for the title against Seth Rollins. The clear winner was Roman Reigns, though I had hoped before he could get there we’d see a Dean Ambrose heel turn. The fatal four-way was an excellent match and built so that I was actually surprised for a moment when Reigns won. Then he and Seth stared each other down til the show went off air. I imagine this match will also happen at SurvivorSeries, though I can’t imagine how they’ll sustain it for another four weeks. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we’ll see the match before the PPV, and that’s when Dean will turn and it will be Ambrose vs. Reigns at Survivor Series and Rollins will have something else to do. Like laugh.

As four Reigns’ other three opponents in the fatal four-way, it looks as though there are some other stories there as well. I’m not sure who they’re going to be throwing at Del Rio in the future, but his gimmick seems all screwed up. I think, in light of what caused him to leave WWE in the first place, the best thing to do would have been to bring him back as a wily, hungry heel and let him climb over everyone. Instead they’ve paired him with a reformed Zeb Colter and let him comment on the immigration of UK-born WWE wrestlers. How on earth anyone thought this was a good idea is beyond me. Someone save this gimmick before the man defects back to Lucha Underground where he belongs.

Dolph Ziggler is clearly headed into a Battle of the Blondes against Tyler Breeze and Breeze’s new valet/girlfriend, Summer Rae. I have no doubt these two will put on excellent matches together, but I’m not sure what the story is. The Dolph is older? By 8 years. That would be like Triple H telling Stephanie she’s too young to understand. What? How silly. Why can’t the storyline just be that Tyler is from NXT and he wants to make a name for himself so he’s going to go through everyone, starting with The Showoff. Why does it ever need to be more than that?

Finally, Kevin Owens qualified for the fatal four-way against Cesaro. Now we’ve seen these two battle it out before and these matches are incredible. In my opinion, that was the best match of the night, hands-down. I wish they weren’t blowing these matches on RAW. These are definitely two cats I’d like to see in an iron man match for the title and it would probably blow everyone else on the card out of the water. But I’d like to see them work with someone else for a bit. Maybe Cesaro take the US title off of Del Rio. Maybe they should put Owens in a match with a heel like Sheamus or Barrett (who desperately needs a feud worth watching before we all forget how good the Bad News Barrett gimmick was. Remember BNB on his podium with his gavel? BNB. Oh forget it.

Even the women managed to move the story along, albeit in a really obnoxious way. I don’t know why Charlotte, Becky, & Paige had to lose to The Bella Twins and irrelevant Alicia Fox just so Paige could predictably turn on Charlotte and Becky. Can we please now disband all the women’s teams and just let them beat the crap out of one another? That’s all I want. No more story lines. Just fighting. Lots of actual fighting. Force them all to get good at that by not giving them anything else. Then make everyone on the creative team read a book, watch some non-WWE TV and a few movies before they’re allowed to write again.

As far as the tag team champions The New Day go, I have no idea what is in store for them. But if they keep showing up on my TV and cutting promos that actually make the guy in the ring that they’re cutting the promo on LAUGH, then they can stay tag champs. Forever.

New. Day Rocks.

The Lady J Says

The Lady J’s To Watch List:
1. Alberto Del Rio – who knows where this is going.
2. Cesaro – always watch Cesaro. One day they’re going to give this man his dues.
3. Dean Ambrose – sneaky sneaky right here – something is up his sleeves. Other than his arms.
4. Kevin Owens – dude needs a solid opponent, other than a possible returning Sami Zayn.
5. Survivor Series main event – what is going on with The Wyatts and The Brothers of Destruction?

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

Sit Down and Shut Up – Paul Heyman on the Steve Austin Show

(If you’re looking for a round-up on Sunday’s Elimination Chamber, stay tuned. I am still recovering. If you’re stoked for tonight’s NXT – you should be. More on that tomorrow!)

For those of you who live in the back, I am a huge Paul Heyman fan. I don’t like to use the term “mark” when it comes to Paul, because I am generally a fan of him all around. Paul was the writer for SmackDown when I was first introduced to the WWE product, so my respect for what he does, and what he has given to the business, goes back a long way. I am, however, a mark for Steve Austin, and love his podcasts. I could listen to Steve interview anybody and eat it up, but some of the best episodes of The Steve Austin Show are the ones where he interviews Paul Heyman.

On Monday, following RAW, The Steve Austin Show, featuring Paul Heyman as Austin’s guest, was broadcast live on the WWE Network. I wasn’t on social media while it was happening, because I like to just sit back and listen – when you try to live tweet something, you inevitably end up missing something. When I went back to check twitter the next morning, I couldn’t believe how many people said they were bored by what they heard, with the exception being the last five minutes. I am so disappointed that so many people completely missed how much knowledge was dropped during that interview. But hopefully the talent was listening.

Steve and Paul start off by talking a bit about their back story, which is always interesting. Paul doesn’t do a very good impression of Good Ol’ JR Jim Ross (no one does) but he does an EXCELLENT Dusty Rhodes. There is also a great story about Rick Rude if anyone is interested in just some good old-fashioned nostalgia.

The second section of questions touches on Brock Lesnar and where he’s been and where he’s going. (There’s a weird little stop off where Austin and Heyman awkwardly become political. I imagine many of the points throughout the interview that they hit on are pre-planned, but this part seems to tumble over itself and I am sure Vince gave them both a lashing for it. {However, Heyman’s history of The Jews is not, you know, wrong.}) What I think is really key here is how Paul Heyman handles his explanation of how Lesnar got to the contract he’s on now with WWE. He speaks candidly about Lesnar’s enjoyment of his last run in WWE and why he decided not to defect back to UFC – but still manages to paint Lesnar as a beast in both companies by referencing the way Lesnar beat both John Cena and Randy Couture.

Along with the section on Lesnar, Austin asks Heyman about taking on more clients besides Lesnar so we can have more Paul Heyman on TV. Heyman explains that his personal relationship with Lesnar makes their on-screen relationship work, the same as it did with CM Punk (though their personal relationship as well as their on-screen dynamic, are different from the ones Heyman has with Lesnar). This goes a long way to explain what happened with Heyman and Cesaro, without directly referencing it. Heyman also takes a minute to put Punk over here in a really genuine way – sorry, Vince.

Austin and Heyman talk the state of business today – in particular Austin has a bone to pick about selling. What the two of them have to say about finishing moves makes perfect sense to me – if people kick out of your finisher, it’s not a very good finisher, is it? It should be not only the job of the wrestler whose finisher it is, but the job of the commentators AND the rest of the roster to put that finisher over. This way, as Heyman illuminates, when someone kicks out of it at a PPV (his example was Wrestlemania) it’s a huge deal.

In the fourth section (about halfway through) Heyman drops what I feel is the most important knowledge of this whole interview – his outlook on promos. He tells a great story about an early promo he cut where he put everyone over and wears himself out just being Paul E Dangerously and when it’s all over, Dusty says “that was so very entertaining, but where’s the money”. And this is something no one seems to remember anymore – a promo is a tool, something you need to have in your arsenal as a performer to be successful. And when you use that tool, you shouldn’t be waving it around wildly. Stay focused. What are you trying to sell. A match? A feud? An incident? Just you in general? Someone else? Your team? That is more important than anything else.
Well, almost anything else. Austin and Heyman go further with the promo breakdown, and Paul explains the method behind his madness. He explains how he developed his patented introduction “Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Paul Heyman, and I am the advocate for the beast incarnate, Brock Lesnar.” He refers to that here as “engaging the audience”, which is precisely what it does. He lets everyone know who he is, what he does, and then tells them what he’s doing there that night. He goes on to say that many of the promos we see, night after night, are pontificating, are talking at the audience, instead of engaging them. JUST AS A SIDE NOTE: just prior to writing this post, I checked out the Steve Austin Show Unleashed podcast with Sam Roberts. In it, Steve refers to Monday Night Raw as “wrestling for morons,” which is a pretty dead-on label to how I have been feeling lately which watching. Considering what Heyman says about current trends in promos, it’s no wonder the audience feels like the Powers That Be consider us stupid – they’re talking to us like we have no idea what’s going on. Things are repeated 100 times, beaten into us, and because of this story lines never get past the surface level.

Austin and Heyman go on to discuss more wrestling history, and Heyman explains how TV syndication works. Let me just state for the record: if you have any interest in the business side of pro-wrestling, you should know something about this. I recommend listening to what Heyman says here, as well as what he says on his first Steve Austin Show appearance, and what Eric Bischoff says on his appearance. There are a few things on the network that also tell the story of how the territories of pro-wrestling became what we see now on cable TV.

There’s also some juicy tidbits for those of you who love behind-the-scenes gossip, including Heyman denying he ever used cocaine, a story about Austin and Rick Rude, and a frightening story about traveling while in WCW. He also discusses his dynamic with Vince McMahon. I have a lot of respect for the fact that Austin asks Heyman about the “Infamous Plane Ride”, and Heyman doesn’t give details. He even says “Vince has never spoken about it publicly, so I don’t know if I’m in the right to violate that confidence” so he just vaguely explains that they had a bad show, followed by a fight, and things ended right after.

Then they cut a promo. Heyman asks Austin if he wants to fight Brock Lesnar, and Austin (at first) casually says he’d “beat his ass”. Heyman even goes on to remind Austin that Wrestlemania 32 is in Steve Austin’s home state of Texas. They seem to be working off-the-cuff, and Heyman reads things on his phone and cracks jokes before Austin finally says “three words: Texas Death Match“. This is where it becomes clear it’s a promo, because everything that comes out of either man’s mouth afterwards is perfect. Austin becomes the Stone Cold Steve Austin we all know and love, Heyman becomes the spineless jellyfish who tries to save himself by throwing up his arms and proclaiming “I’m just an advocate”, to which Austin replies “you’re about to advocate yourself an ass-whoopin’.” They leave things hanging, the air palpable, and the audience beside themselves, as Austin signs off.

The entire podcast was brilliant. There was enough technical stuff for the nerds like me, enough juicy tales for the historians, and a promo that will go down as one for the ages. I highly recommend checking it out on the WWE Network if you haven’t already, and heading over to PodcastOne.com to listen to Paul’s other appearances on The Steve Austin Show.

That’s it for me for tonight, cats & kittens. Check back tomorrow for thoughts on tonight’s NXT.

-The Lady J Says