A long time ago, or at least it seems that way, Doc Manson and I set forth on a journey - to blog about professional wrestling. We called ourselves the Number Two Contenders, which made us feel all sorts of fancy.
What would set us apart, we surmised, would be the fact that we would sometimes blog as a conversation, going back and forth and sharing ideas. What you are about to read is the very first of those conversations.
I originally had asked for your tender mercies here, claiming that "we knew not what we did." Upon re-reading, though, I don't feel I can say that. I'll explain more in the comments.
The Teacher: For our first foray into the blogging realm, we thought we’d step back a bit and give you our “State of the WWE”. What we like, what we don’t like, and how we feel about where things are going. So, Doc, start us off. What’s the biggest reason you’re watching WWE right now?
Doc Manson: There are many good reasons to be watching WWE right now. After years of wishing for new stars, there are a plethora of new faces. Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns - all of these guys are highlights right now.
The Teacher: I notice you didn’t include Seth Rollins in said plethora.
Doc Manson: Not to take anything away from the guy, but Seth Rollins was always the least interesting of the guys in The Shield. Personality-wise he has been pretty one note. He has some killer abilities between the ropes, for sure, but he’s going to have to show me something more than the cowardly heel before I can jump on the Rollins hype-train.
T: Why is he called “The Architect”? Where did that nickname come from?
I agree with you on the personality piece, though I can’t say I get very excited any time Roman Reigns picks up a microphone. He’s got the “main-event” look in spades, but I don’t get much else out of him.
D: A week ago, I’d have agreed completely. His promo on RAW last week, culminating with calling Kane a “bitch” showed me that maybe he’s got some personality in there to back up those monstrous looks.
The real travesty amongst the former Shield members has got to be Dean Ambrose though, at least to me. I like the guy, he’s in a good program right now, but come on. If anyone in that group should have come out as the next top heel, it was Ambrose.
T: Top guy, absolutely, though I think Ambrose has almost-Stone Cold level potential as an anti-hero going up against The Authority. I love that he is refusing to let Rollins cash in his MITB briefcase, although we don’t need to see it each and every week.
D: I love when Ambrose just comes out of nowhere, but yeah the constant threat of the near-cash-in can only be fresh for so long.
T: Here’s a slight tangential question for you. I was watching a then-WWF PPV from 1997 today, back when Kane had first made his debut and was trying to goad the Undertaker into fighting him. In my memory, that seemed to last for a long time. ‘Taker would refuse to fight his brother, Kane would come hit him or cost him a match, and it just kept building and building.
Does the slow build of a storyline or match happen in 2014 WWE? Or is everything shoved down our throats based on the number of hours of programming they have to fill?
D: The slow build absolutely still exists. The lead-up to the Daniel Bryan title reign was so slow it seemed to risk losing momentum each and every week. I think the underlying problem is the internet. In the age of immediate gratification, its difficult to keep the audience’s attention for the long-term. Still, slow builds do still happen although I think most fans just complain about them while simultaneously complaining that they don’t exist anymore. Not to call you out.
T: Fair enough, I may resemble that remark, though I certainly didn’t complain during the Daniel Bryan lead-in. Granted, I wasn’t watching very often.
Have we seen the last of Daniel Bryan as an everyday wrestler?
D: What a set-up. Yes! Yes! Yes!
T: I do what I can.
D: But, no. Not really. DB will be back, although I suspect with a significantly different move-set, and without ever climbing back to the top of the card.
T: I think DB will have difficulty adjusting his repertoire. When Austin broke his neck thanks to an Owen Hart Tombstone back in the 90’s, he was able to fall back on brawling. Bryan’s lack of size is going to make that sort of thing tricky, even if he does administer some of the better kicks I’ve ever seen.
D: So, what about you. Why are you watching the product today?
T: To be honest? The WWE Network. Being able to watch each and every PPV whenever I want (which fits my old man schedule), both past and present cards, brought me back to being more than a casual observer of current storylines. I began to feel compelled to watch RAW each week, since I now had a better idea of what was happening.
D: The Network needs to receive the latest episodes of RAW and Smackdown! in a more timely fashion. I could cancel cable if they weren’t being posted a month out from the original air date.
T: In Vince McMahon’s perfect world, I’m sure that would eventually happen, though he’d lose some amount of money from the mainstream cable channels.
Outside of that, I’m in much the same opinion as you. I love that there are a number of new stars and soon to be stars I can watch each week.
While I’m on the subject, Luke Harper, in my opinion, can be a main event talent some day. Thoughts?
D: Is that the guy with the sheep mask, or the other guy? The other guy is good, but I’m guessing since I can’t remember which is which, he’s going to have some problems transitioning into a strong singles run.
T: Yes, Luke Harper is the one in the tank top. Wild eyes, sometimes goes “yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!” and does the occasional leaping over the ropes. Erick Rowan is the one in the sheep’s mask.
In an alternate universe, he and Sheamus are doing a version of the Highlanders’ gimmick right now. Coming out in kilts and animal furs.
D: Yeah, Harper has been impressive, but he’s going to have trouble when/if he has to transition his character into something more than crazy, backwoods bodyguard.
Elephant in the room: Thoughts on CM Punk?
T: I have to imagine that at some point, he’ll make a return to WWE. There’s just too much money to be made both for him and for the company not to work out some sort of arrangement.
Having said that, I don’t imagine it will be during this calendar year. From what I’ve read, Punk might wind up doing a podcast or a TV show, so it looks like he’s going to try just being a celebrity for a while.
D: Yeah. CM Punk is a great talent, was one of my favorites on the roster. Honestly though, I don’t have time to miss him too much. Guys are stepping up and earning the spotlight right now.
T: Cesaro, for example.
D: God, Cesaro! That guy is incredible right now. Well, correction, that guy was incredible coming off winning the Andre the Giant Battle Royal at Wrestlemania 30, and has just been struggling with Paul Heyman ever since. I love Paul Heyman, but people want to cheer Cesaro right now and once again they are in danger of killing this guy’s momentum on a weekly basis.
T: I always thought Cesaro was an odd choice to be a Paul Heyman Guy. He has enough natural charisma and verbal skills that he doesn’t need a mouthpiece.
You use Paul Heyman for someone who can’t seem to articulate their message or get over on the mic. I want Kofi Kingston to be a Paul Heyman Guy, darn it! If there’s anyone who needs a character reset and a heel turn, he’s got to be high on the list.
D: Adam Rose.
T: Totally a situation where they got a single idea… “Hey, let’s have a party guy entrance!” … And then did zero thinking besides that. Because once you’ve seen that entrance once or twice, you get it. Then you just have a guy with a lollipop and some dork in a bunny suit.
D: Bo Dallas. Yes, I’m just scrolling through the current roster on WWE.com.
T: I didn’t think I would be, but I’m becoming a bit of a Bo-liever. He’s pouring his guts out into that, though I could do without the midget fighting.
OK, I’m going to give you easily one of my Top 3 things going on in WWE right now. Might even be the number one.
D: Love the Stardust character. He is finally hitting a stride, and the matches that the Dust brothers are churning out every week are fantastic. Promos are always a highlight - crazy but fun. Hopefully, this ends with the long rumored Cody v. Dustin at Wrestlemania.
T: Two things.
OK, we should probably wrap this up, so a final thought.
We’ve gone through all of our favorite reasons to watch WWE, yet we didn’t utter the words “Orton”, “Triple H” or “Cena” once. Coincidence?
D: Nope. Again, I’m super happy to see new faces right now. Those guys are established, and the roster maybe needs them as a strong foundation, but its time to let the new stars shine.
T: Personally, I think all 3 could go away and we wouldn’t miss them all that much.
Alright, folks. There you have it. The “State of the WWE”, straight from the minds and hearts of the Number Two Contenders.
We welcome your well thought out comments and opinions to our own comments and opinions.
For my partner Doc Manson, this is The Teacher, signing off.