Remember when Hulk Hogan and race in wrestling was all anybody could talk about? You know. . . About 10 days ago? How quickly things change in this social media world, for in less than a fortnight, we’re now talking about Piper (obviously, that would have happened no matter what), Ultima Lucha and some team that may or may not be called ‘Beef Mode’.
For those who wondered how Hogan survives the fallout of his released audio, the answer is in the previous paragraph. Today’s society has a massive case of collective ADHD - We automatically move to the next shiny thing that captures our attention. If Hogan were to disappear from the public eye for a while, only to come back in 18-24 months with a series of tell-all interviews, giving a total mea culpa for his actions and showing us that he is actively seeking forgiveness, a lot of people would break out the red and yellow boas and welcome him back with open arms.
It might seem ludicrous right now, but its true. It could, and possibly will, happen.
Regardless, while most of the world is now too focused on the difference between the “fake” and the “real” forms of entertainment, there’s still the racial elephant in the room, specifically when it comes to how WWE responds in the coming days and weeks. Tonight’s Roddy Piper tribute will offer an opening answer - We’ll see through the editing and clip selection how far away from Hogan the company will choose to go, but it’s even more than that.
While Vince McMahon & company have avoided the majority of the racial magnifying glass, at least with the mainstream media, they still should probably do something in response, and not just crown John Cena as the new World Heavyweight Champion, and thus the REAL American WWE flag-bearer. If I’m on the WWE creative team, I’m trying to find the best way to put as much focus on African American talent as possible, and as much as I like them, I’m not talking about New Day.
Now is the time to start trying to build to the first ‘black’ World Champion in WWE history, and in this Chief of Staff’s opinion, there’s a talent currently on the main roster that could be that guy.
I’ll freely admit, up until the Prime Time Players reunited recently, I didn’t have a high opinion of O’Neil as a wrestling talent, and based on the conversations I had on Twitter last night, there are a number of you that still feel the same way. Take a look at his work thus far in 2015 (both in NXT and as one half of the PTP), though, and you’ll see there’s some workable talent there.
I’m not saying he’s the second coming of William Regal, or that he’s even on the level of Booker T, but Titus has shown he can be a dominant ‘power-wrestler’ who can hold his own in a match. Take a look at the history of World Champions (can you say Batista? I knew that you could), and you’ll see that the description I just gave you is good enough for a title or two. WWE will happily overlook a deficit in wrestling ability if you make up for it in other ways.
There’s far more than just talent to being a World Heavyweight Champion, otherwise Shelton Benjamin would have won about half a dozen or so during his WWE stay, as would Billy Gunn, Mr. Perfect, Tito Santana and, oh yeah, that Sandow guy. . .
Being the World Heavyweight Champion means you are an ambassador for WWE. Besides John Cena, who has long passed the point of needing championships to define him, the WHC is THE public face of professional wrestling. Seth Rollins was on The Daily Show last week, not Sheamus or Roman Reigns or even The Miz. World champions appear on talk shows (I remember Kevin Nash going on Regis and Kathie Lee with his WWF title), they do promotional appearances, and they walk around in public carrying a large gold trophy. Ring ability is not their only pre-requisite.
A World Champion needs to be eloquent, camera-friendly (that’s a very politically correct way of saying physically attractive), and preferably trying to make a positive difference. In other words, just like Titus.
We’ve heard him on commentary verbally slapping JBL around - Titus can talk. He’s a physically imposing specimen who smiles a lot and puts people at ease. He’s been voted best Dad and he takes homeless people out to dinner. He’s ALREADY one of WWE’s best superstars from a public relations standpoint. He is, from a color blind viewpoint, the ideal talent to consider as a future World Champion.
I’m not willing to delve too far into the intricacies of the racial views of the folks behind the WWE curtain, so for the purposes of this column, I’ll assume that Titus would get serious consideration as a contender for the title. So, our major question is. . .
How do you get Titus from his current position in the company to World Champion?
It can’t be too quick - If he randomly won the title in the next month or two, everyone would know EXACTLY what was going on. This needs to be relatively gradual. . . In fact, the ideal scenario would be building Titus to his own “Wrestlemania moment”, which gives us 8 months to work with. I’ve put on my fantasy booking hat, and sketched out a PPV schedule that I think could work. Are there better options? I’m sure there are, and I invite you to leave a comment with your own plan.
- Prime Time Players lose their titles to New Day in whatever multi-team match they’re planning. In my head, New Day cheats (obviously) to get their belts back, causing even more bad blood between the tandems.
- Titus and Darren, extremely frustrated at how New Day used their three man advantage to win, sets out to end the trio tyranny, challenging the Positive Power to one more match at NOC. The stipulation? The losing team must disband.
New Day wins, of course, because this group is amazing and must remain together, and this forces the split between Darren and Titus. In a perfect world, Darren Young goes on to get a solid mid-card push while also being able to address being the first openly homosexual wrestler in WWE, but that’s another column.
- Titus begins his singles run and almost immediately falls into conflict with Big Show. Hate him if you must, but there’s no denying that a win over Paul Wight is almost always the first step towards main event status. Cena did it, Reigns did it, and frighteningly enough, Ryback’s going to do it.
Titus battles and defeats Big Show at HIAC, sending Titus into the upper mid-card. This leads us to. . .
- In an actual Survivor Series elimination match (shocking, I know), Titus, along with Ryback and the recently promoted team of Enzo and Big Cass, takes on Big Show, Rusev, and a team I’ve had in mind for quite a while now, King Barrett and a newly heel Neville.
Titus is the sole survivor of this match, overcoming 3 on 1 odds by defeating Big Show, Neville and finally Rusev all on his own. Rusev attacks him after the match, however, which takes us into. . .
and a “Bulgarian Brawl” - basically a No DQ streetfight between Titus and Rusev, who obviously is back to being a monster, and not just a funny fishmonger.
Since I can’t fantasy book one guy without fantasy booking others, I’m going to say that Rusev wins this match, just barely, although TItus continues his strong showing. He definitely doesn’t tap or pass out to The Accolade - I’ll say the two of them wind up crashing through a table somehow, and Rusev manages to drape his arm over Titus.
- Entering somewhere in the middle (14th? 17th?), Titus is one of the more dominant participants in this year’s Rumble, eliminating multiple guys, including Rusev, earning a little bit of payback from his loss at TLC.
Dominant participants are the name of the game this year, as Titus, Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns all have single handedly eliminated more than 5 men. They are so strong, in fact, that the three of them are all alone in the ring before all 30 men have entered the Rumble.
In fact, we’re just about to see who drew Number 30. . . The buzzer goes off, there’s a little bit of silence, and then. . .
Sami Zayn, making his return to ring action and his official WWE debut, sprints to the ring, springboarding off the top rope and diving onto Kevin Owens, enacting just the beginning of his revenge for the NXT events of 2015. The two of them wind up brawling with such fervor and fury that they eliminate each other, continuing to fight all the way backstage, setting the scene for their Wrestlemania clash.
That leaves Titus and Roman Reigns. . . The same Roman Reigns who won last year’s Rumble, the same Roman Reigns who has spent the last 12 months fighting and clawing his way to the top, overcoming overwhelming obstacles and finding respect and admiration from the fans of World Wrestling Entertainment.
And then Titus tosses him out. . . Fairly easily, I might add.
Roman snaps, as we’ve all been hoping he would, and the Samoan Savage is unleashed, taking out Titus, maybe even dusting off the powerbomb and putting O’Neil through the announce table.
I’m taking way too long for this booking, so moving quickly through 2016. . .
- Titus vs. Reigns, not for the chance to go to Wrestlemania, just because they hate each other. Steel cage match, and a brutal one at that. Much like TLC, this is another chance to showcase Titus’ bona fides as a main event star, but just like TLC, Roman gets the win, escaping the cage mere seconds before Titus can climb out.
Regardless, as winner of the Rumble, Titus heads to. . .
to take on the World Heavyweight Champion. I considered Lesnar as the champ, but Jason Moltov is right, the next person to beat Lesnar needs to be, really and truly, the Next Big Thing, and at 38 years old, Titus isn’t that.
(In case you’re curious, in this alternate universe I’d have heel Reigns exact some revenge, beating a face Lesnar)
No no, the champ really needs to be John Cena for this to work. Being the first African American champ is amazing unto itself, but doing so by beating THE superstar of WWE. . . That’s really something. It’s an unspoken signal that the race problems in WWE, while they might still exist, have overcome their biggest hurdle.
Wrestlemania 32 ends with Titus O’Neil’s children in the ring with him, celebrating. John Cena shaking his hand and raising his arm to the Dallas faithful. The ring is filled with wrestlers who have come to congratulate the new champion, of all races, though Darren Young chief among them. The Prime Time Players embrace in the middle of the ring, doing the Millions of Dollars dance one more time, but this time Titus has the World title on his shoulders.
And, just for fun, we’ll have Darren Young as the US champ as well.
Will it happen? Sadly, I doubt it. WWE is set in their ways, and I mean more than just race when I say that. Roman Reigns looks to be THE guy in 2016, and if not him it’ll be Kevin Owens or maybe even Cesaro. I don’t think many of us would complain if that was the case.
But, the fact remains, Titus O’Neil COULD be a World Heavyweight Champion. He’s got the tools, he’s got the look, and, as you just read, he could have the story.
What do YOU think? Could Titus be the first? How would you book it? Be Heard.
One of the less-talked about aspects of the “Attitude Era”, mainly because it wasn’t very exciting to most people, was the ‘gang warfare’ that took place in the late 90’s. I’m obviously not talking about the nWo or DX here, rather the feud between the Nation of Domination, Los Boricuas and the Disciples of Apocalypse.
Now if two of those stables are completely unfamiliar to you, I wouldn’t be surprised - as I said, it’s not necessarily a hallmark of the era, but I loved it, solely because as anyone paying attention knows, I’m a big stable fan. I think there should be stables all the time, so naturally, I crafted a What If Wednesday that goes along perfectly with that.
Today I’m mainly focusing on the WWE roster. You’re welcome to make your own version, or do an NXT edition. All fair game.
For those who follow along with me on Twitter, many of these will not come as a huge shock to you. All set? Good, on with the show!
Besides the Authority, we’ve gotten away from the “mega” stable, and this would rectify that. As I’ve spoken about repeatedly, Bray and Bo would be the double headed leaders of this group, though obviously Bray would get more of the main event push.
Truthfully, if I was running this, Bo would be more of a manager than anything else. He’s capable enough in the ring, but it’s on the microphone where he does the majority of his best work, so I’d stick with that.
Bray goes after the World Title, Harper is the mid-card belt contender and The Ascension could handle the tag titles. Rowan would be the silent muscle, like if Mr. Hughes wore a sheep’s mask.
Yet another one of my favorite ideas, though adding Kalisto was a last-minute thing for me. He’s going to eventually get a major push beyond just being a Lucha Dragon (provided he doesn’t keep having issues like he did at Elimination Chamber), and this could be a fun fit for him.
As much as I love KiddAro as a tag team, this really would need to be Cesaro’s time to shine, though I imagine Rusev might have something to say about that. Also, and not surprisingly, I’d want there to be a cruiserweight division so that Kidd and Kalisto could have something to do besides being the undersized underdogs.
We’re taking slight artistic license here, since Snuka is from Fiji, not Samoa, but I imagine Vince wouldn’t care about that. He had a Bulgarian Russian, he can have a Fijian Samoan.
Reigns is going to turn heel at some point and when he does, having him lead a group would be a good step forward. He wouldn’t even need to change his ring gear for this - everyone else would just start dressing like him. I think this trio (quarter, including Snuka) could be fun.
And no, since you’re asking, I wouldn’t put Samoa Joe in this stable. I’m not sure he’ll be around long enough to be in a group of any kind, but that’s another article.
You could go a lot of different ways with members for this group. Ziggler, Adam Rose, Fandango, all would make sense. I’m choosing these three because it all fits together right now, and I have other plans for the other guys. If you wanted to add one of them, I wouldn’t be offended.
Rather than a stunt double here, Breeze becomes Miz’ protege, and we don’t wind up seeing dissension in the ranks for a long time. Breeze and Summer have been rumored to be a duo when Tyler gets his WWE call up (which should have happened months ago) and Miz and Summer have the movie connection, so it all makes sense.
What am I doing with Ziggler then? I’m glad you asked.
This whole idea stems from my belief that Swagger looks like every 80’s movie college bad guy in history. I imagine him in a varsity letter jacket or a sweater vest. While this wouldn’t be Mean Street Posse 2.0, it would harken back to the days of Pete Gas and Joey Abs.
While Ziggler got top billing above, I’d really want this to be Cody’s group. (I’d also make Ziggler go back to a brown crew cut - No more showoff!) Swagger and Axel could be the tag team, Ziggler would handle the IC belt and Cody could finally ascend to the main event picture.
This group is so good I’m not touching it. Keep on keepin’ on, boys.
Frustrated that all these NXT guys keep coming up to WWE and “taking their spots”, this gang heads down to Full Sail to take out their aggression on these “young upstarts”, while hopefully also redefining their own careers at the same time. This is cheating a little, as I wouldn’t have this group in WWE at all, but I just wanted to mention it.
A little dig with the name on the ROH Kingdom stable, and if I’m being honest, I just came up with it about 12 seconds ago, so its a title in progress. Barrett needs a group to “rule” in order for this King thing to be more than just a jobber in a cape, and these guys would all work well together.
Plus, you leave the possibility open for Finn Balor and Becky Lynch to come up and join sometime in the future, leading to all sorts of possible shenanigans.
Each time I see the Matadors, I cry a little inside. Both these guys are talented, but they’re floundering right now. They need a change. They need new attitudes.
They need an apple spit in their face.
This is the only time I’m bringing in a new superstar, though it’s technically an old superstar being brought back, but if I’m WWE, I’m signing Carlito and letting him smack the masks off his relatives faces. I don’t want them becoming bandana waving, bicycle riding thugs, but I do want them being proud of their heritage and standing up for themselves on this roster.
It’d be cool.
A catch-all to get more guys on the roster, I imagine that with all this craziness happening, Cena would want to unite some folks to be able to stand as one, fighting to save WWE from being overrun by these mobs. Pretty much take any wrestler not listed above and they’d fit here. Big Show could turn face (he’s good at that) for a while, and I’d have Sandow be the standout, naturally.
Alright, only one stable to go, and this is just a toss-in to try to break the internet and get all your money.
While The Shield tried to save WWE, this group is trying to destroy it. Just imagine these three cutting a promo together.
What do YOU think? What changes would you make? How would you stable-ize WWE? Be Heard.
There are days where it is hard to be a wrestling fan. If you read the Summer Slam preview Doc Manson and I had late last night, you could tell that for both of us (though Doc is suffering far worse than I), there is a definite vein of pessimism in how we feel about the WWE product. In our minds, too much has been mis-managed, too many worthy superstars are being ignored, and there is way, way, WAY too much being shoved down our throats.
Yet, despite the negativity that can drag me down at times, I have hope. Perhaps its, as @NewAgeInsiders says, just because the relationship I have with WWE is an abusive one. Or perhaps its because, as an actual classroom teacher, hope is sometimes all you can hold on to in order to maintain your sanity. But I think there are opportunities abound here for WWE to start heading in a positive direction.
We all have our ideas on how we’d book it were we a McMahon, so I humbly submit my own thoughts on a few directions WWE could go.
(Disclaimer: All of this is conjecture, based on the information I have gleaned, rumors floating around, or just my best guess. This should not be considered to be anything other than a series of thought experiments, and should in no way be considered entirely original thoughts.)
World Title Picture
Tonight, I want to see Brock Lesnar win the title. I want it to be a competitive match, but mostly controlled by Lesnar, with Cena having to resort to more and more desperate acts to stay in it. In the end, though, Lesnar’s just too big and too bad.
On RAW, I want Heyman to come out and be presented with the new belt. Lesnar would be here, says the Advocate, but frankly, there’s just no reason to be. He dominated Cena, and there is nobody out there who is worthy of a title shot, so Brock’s going on a little vacation.
Heyman than calls out the WWE roster and says, simply. . . “Impress me”. He wants to see somebody step up and make themselves worthy of the honor of being next conquered by The Beast.
The next week, Heyman comes out again, once more condemning the lack of worthy talent. This brings out Chris Jericho, who reminds his good friend Paul, and the rest of the WWE universe, of his track record. Before Jericho can finish, however, he is interrupted by another blast from Heyman’s past, Rob Van Dam, who also seeks to stake his spot as a potential contender.
Heyman, shrewd as he is, begins to pit the two would-be challengers against each other, and a match is made between the two for later that night. Heyman says he will be at ringside to watch, and once again, reminds them. . .”Impress me”.
The winner of that match is irrelevant, really, because Heyman returns the next week to state that while they both have had great careers and are close personal friends, they are still not worthy of the champ. That’s when Jericho and Van Dam get creative. They begin going back and forth on how sad it is to see Heyman in such a position. Paul Heyman, once the creator and lifeblood of ECW, now just shilling for the corporate champion.
Heyman, who was the one to make stars of Austin and Foley. Heyman, who single-handedly began the Attitude Era. Heyman, who created the Three Way Dance.
Heyman, shrewd as ever but swayed by the “ECW ECW” chants that you just know would ring through the arena, begins to cave. “Three Way Dance? You two and BROCKKK LESNARRR in a 3 way dance? That’s really how you want your careers to end, huh? Well, who am I to turn down the last request of a friend. You’re on!”
Night of Champions: Brock Lesnar vs. Chris Jericho vs. Rob Van Dam for the World Title.
Rise of The Undercard
After Heyman’s announcement on the RAW after Summer Slam, we see the Authority backstage. Orton is not happy about feeling like he has to earn a title shot, Rollins is looking smugly at his briefcase with his new protection at his side (more on this later), and Kane just looks like Kane.
Amidst the hubbub, Dolph Ziggler enters the room. He walks up to Triple H and all but demands to be given the opportunity to show his stuff, fully intending to prove his worth to Heyman, Lesnar and the world. He refuses to be “held down” any longer.
The Authority, naturally, finds this hilarious. Triple H, in his weekly poke at the Twitter-verse, asks if Ziggler has been dropped on his head one too many times, daring to come in here like this. But, being in a good mood (with Cena out of the picture), he sets up Ziggler vs. Kane for that night. Ziggler, despite the size and experience advantage, picks up the win.
Random aside: Did I mention in my booking, Cena takes a few months off to sell Lesnar’s beatdown? You’re welcome.
The next week, Ziggler appears again, insisting on another match. This week, it is Rollins who is set up against Dolph. As Dolph gets ready for his match, he is approached by a handful of lower-card talent (Woods, Kofi and Big E was my original idea, but you could insert anyone who isn’t where they should be). “You’re fighting our fight,” they tell him, “Fighting for the guys who The Authority won’t let through the glass ceiling. We got your back.”
Despite having his security team with him (wait, friends, your patience will be rewarded), Ziggler once again is victorious, thanks to the assistance of those lower card guys I just mentioned.
The next week, Triple H addresses Ziggler personally, talking about the “little troupe of misfits” he seems to be acquiring. (Which, as we see backstage, has now nearly grown to the entire undercard of the roster.) Despite the dig, HHH does praise Ziggler for taking the ball and running with it, unlike some people he knows, looking dubiously at Orton (who lost to Reigns at Summer Slam.) Maybe Ziggler does deserve a title shot, muses the COO. Orton, naturally, flies into a frenzy, challenging Ziggler to a match at Night of Champions.
Night of Champions: Dolph Ziggler vs. Randy Orton
Protectors of the Briefcase / Tag Team Dominance
During the lumberjack match, Big Show and Mark Henry, who had been scaring the bejesus out of Rollins each time he rolled out of the ring, turn heel, attacking Ambrose and helping Rollins pick up the victory. (Also giving Ambrose an out to go become a movie star)
It is revealed on Monday that Big Show and Mark Henry are the newest members of The Authority, had their services bought by Rollins and Triple H in exchange for a tag team title match on RAW. The Usos, though blessed with that all-powerful “Twin Magic”, basically are steamrolled in quick succession, giving the WWE a new dominant pair of Tag Team Champions.
Rollins and the champs come out to the ring the following week (before the Rollins / Ziggler match) to gloat at all of their success, only to be interrupted, oddly enough, by The Wyatt Family. While not officially making a face turn, Bray and his boys do take issue with the “World’s Biggest Tag Team” for taking ‘their titles’, and Bray accuses Rollins of not being man enough to handle his problems on his own, as Bray did by defeating Jericho solo at Summer Slam.
We see a six man tag the following week, and we now have two matches scheduled for our next PPV.
Night of Champions: Big Show and Mark Henry vs. The Wyatt Family (Tag belts)
Bray Wyatt vs. Seth Rollins
(Note: Will move more quickly through the last few, as I don’t want this to become ridiculous in length)
Reign’s Next Roadblock
Reigns comes out following his victory over Orton at Summer Slam to call out The Authority, basically saying he’s toppled every single member, so what’s next? (With a ‘Believe that!’ thrown in for good measure). Triple H comes onto the Titantron and sets up a rematch with Orton for that night. After beating Orton again (this time by DQ), Triple H comes out to say “Oh wait, I forgot. There’s still one more member of the Authority you haven’t beat.” Everyone expects it to be Triple H himself, but then Batista’s music hits, and the Animal runs to the ring and destroys Reigns, starting off their feud.
Night of Champions: Roman Reigns vs. Batista
International Take-Over / Mid-Card Title Relevance
Despite having lost his flag match to Jack Swagger, Rusev’s post-match beatdown assured us we hadn’t seen the last of the Bulgarian Brute. On RAW, Lana comes out and sets their sights on a new target; the United States Championship. Never being one to back down from a fight (at least on camera), Sheamus comes out and accepts the challenge, and we have a US title match on our hands.
During the match, Sheamus is attacked by Cesaro, who seems to have aligned himself with Rusev and Lana. Moving gracefully away from all the pro-Russian banter, this new pairing of “International Mercenaries” (the name needs some work, I grant you) is hungry for respect and power in the WWE. While Rusev continues to go after the US title, Cesaro begins issuing open challenges to anyone. Being relegated to pre-show status for Summer Slam was an insult, and he’s going to force the WWE to notice him.
Meanwhile, The Miz, bragging about being able to hold onto his belt post-Summer Slam, has been getting into it with Jack Swagger. According to Zeb Colter, Miz’s Hollywood lifestyle and cowardly antics are entirely un-American, and its time to honor that title (giving opportunities to promote the history and relevance of the title) by putting it around the waist of a real hero.
Having been beating his opponents (sometimes 2 at a time), Cesaro’s joins this group, declaring himself the rightful heir to the IC title. Zeb can use Cesaro’s ‘betrayal’ of their team as fodder, while Miz can try to set his two opponents against each other and weasel out of the way.
As these three argue, Bo Dallas comes out, saying he’s tired of hearing all this hostility, especially when everyone knows that the real IC champion just has to . . . You guessed it. . . Bo-lieve! I imagine this would be where everyone else beats down Bo, but he winds up in the mix regardless.
Night of Champions: Rusev vs. Sheamus (US title)
Miz vs. Cesaro vs. Swagger vs. Bo Dallas (IC title)
Oh Yeah, the Diva’s Title
Paige beats AJ. Brie beats Steph.
Night of Champions: Brie Bella vs. Paige (Diva’s Title)
Just for Fun: Let’s do the Pre-show, too
The Uso’s vs. The Dust Brothers vs. RybAxel vs. Kofi / Big E for #1 contenders to tag titles.