Back to back days with NAI columns. This hasn’t happened in. . . Hmm, best not think about it.
Yesterday, I spelled out how Bray Wyatt, to me, is the only real answer for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. I received a fair amount of positive feedback for that piece, and I’m quite proud of it, although a lot of people mentioned whether, much like Taker before him, a character like Wyatt needs the belt. Fair point there, though my argument is that while Bray Wyatt might not need a title, he does need a concrete moment of becoming a true main event guy, and as much as I liked the pyro and lightning, it hasn’t happened yet.
However, in the interest of further discussion, today I will expand my horizons and consider other options. In fact, our goal today is to look back into the sands of time- specifically, previous WWF tournaments - and see whether or not we could see history repeat itself.
The History It was the height of the Attitude Era, and Stone Cold Steve Austin was feuding brilliantly with Mr. McMahon. Vince had done everything he could to force Austin to lose the title, putting him in a Triple Threat match with Kane AND The Undertaker, though the Brothers of Destruction weren’t allowed to pin each other. Both brothers wound up pinning Austin at the same time, and summarily (following some more Stone Cold hijinks) the belt was held up and awarded to the winner of a tournament.
The Rock and Mankind made it to the finals, and in a move that shocked the wrestling world, The Rock turned heel, joined The Corporation and won the World Title.
Roman Reigns will be playing the role of The Rock.
Dean Ambrose will be playing the role of Mick Foley.
Reigns and Ambrose battle their way to the finals, and somehow Triple H screws Dean over, Roman reveals he is in cahoots with The Authority, and we’re off and running on the Road to Wrestlemania.
Why Would it Work?
This one is the tournament most people have and will think of, both because of happening at Survivor Series and because of the seemingly “easy booking” of the result. Fans have been rabidly anticipating one of the two remaining Shield Brothers to turn on the other, and by having Roman turn heel and join The Authority, you can make a lot of people happy, plus it gives Reigns an out, as I explain further down in this column.
In reality, Ambrose would be more of a Foley / Austin combination here, as being betrayed by another brother sends him completely over the edge. More hiding in trunks, more taking over taxi cabs, basically everything that made Dean great before becoming Roman’s towel boy.
The History - During the feud between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, the Eighth Wonder of the World managed to win the World Title, thanks to some referee Twin Magic. The belt was held up and decided in a 14 man tournament.
Hogan and Andre faced each other in Round 2, both getting disqualified in the process. In the end, Randy Savage had a Herculean effort (Sadly, Hercules himself wasn’t in the tournament), winning four matches in one night to win his first World Title. Even so, however, he remained in the shadow of Hulk Hogan, who interfered to help Savage win the belt, sharing in his spotlight.
Roman Reigns will be playing the role of Randy Savage.
John Cena will be playing the role of Hulk Hogan.
We’ve spent the last few months talking all over social media about how Reigns is the New Cena, the next big star, yet just like Hulk Hogan in 1988, John Cena isn’t going anywhere soon. Thus, for the time being, these two stars need to figure out a way of co-existing on the same roster.
I envision Roman Reigns being set up with an impossible bracket for this tournament, having to take out Big Show, Bray Wyatt and perhaps even his best friend Dean Ambrose on his way to the finals. Exhausted, Reigns makes it to the finals, opposed by MITB winner Sheamus, who (as perhaps a new Authority member) has had more of a cake walk in this tournament.
The deck is stacked, it seems, and once again, Reigns will come so close, only to fall so far.
Enter John Cena.
Cena, not scheduled for the tournament and in a surprising move, makes a save for Reigns, allowing him to win his first World Championship.
Survivor Series ends with Cena and Reigns posing for the crowd, sharing the spotlight.
Why Would It Work?
As I said in last night’s column, Reigns isn’t quite ready yet, and shouldn’t be given the pressure of leading the company all on his own right now. Having Cena provide the assist allows them both to shoulder the weight of responsibility as THE guy.
Plus, as we saw by Wrestlemania V, the two best friends turned into bitter enemies, as Savage resented being in Hogan’s shadow and turned heel. But maybe now I’m just hoping.
This tournament was obviously not for a championship, but it’s the most famous KOTR for a reason, as this was the birth of Stone Cold Steve Austin, wrestling legend. Winning his tournament, Austin takes the microphone and cuts one of the greatest promos in history, cementing himself as a future megastar. The World Title was his within 2 years.
Kevin Owens will be playing the part of Steve Austin.
In order to fully explain this, we need to cover Why It Would Work as well.
One of the most common things I saw online following the news of Rollins’ injury was that it was time for someone on WWE’s roster to “step up”. Someone needs to take the proverbial brass ring and run with it. This is going to have to be more than just a solid performance in the ring - We see lots of those each and every week, yet it doesn’t necessarily do anything.
No, at Survivor Series, if someone is going to have an “Austin Arrival” moment, they need to do it on the microphone, letting us know that this was inevitable - that the rise to company domination was something that was only a matter of time.
Sorry Kanyon, but for that, Who Better Than Owens?
If WWE really and truly wants to announce their youth movement to the world, there’s no better way to do it than to give their title to a rookie. “I got here May 18th. Six months later, I’m the World Champion. What do you think of that, Cole?” His promo would write itself.
Kevin Owens could bring forth the dawn of a new era in professional wrestling, just like Steve Austin did nearly 20 years ago. Give him the title and the microphone, and he’ll take care of the rest.
What do YOU think? Will we see history repeat itself at Survivor Series? Be Heard
For today's Thursday column, I thought I'd opine about the lost career of Tekno Team 2000, and what could have been. . .
No, of course not. The only thing that can be discussed right now is the injury to WWEWHC Seth Rollins, and what it means for the roster, the company, and the future.
I imagine that a whole lot of NAI Fan Friday will be devoted to this topic, so rather than belabor every facet, examine every angle. . . Let me do what I enjoy doing, and do some Fantasy Booking.
In truth, to me, there are only 3 possible winners in all - Wyatt, John Cena and Roman Reigns - and neither of the latter two are smart choices. John Cena, while a viable emergency option (Sorry, Sheamus, but it ain't you), sends the distinct message that this "youth movement" we've seen signs of for the last couple of weeks was an aberration. There are a lot of positives to come out of the fall of 2015 for World Wrestling Entertainment and this injury shouldn't signal a step back.
As for Roman Reigns, much like I've said in columns and on DDT Wrestling, it's still too soon. A lot of fans are JUST getting to the point where they can imagine Reigns as a viable main eventer and World Champion. Giving him that status, and the pressure that comes with it, at this point is still way too big of a risk. You want fans salivating for Roman's eventual title win, and that's not happening yet.
Which brings us back to Bray. The logical choice.
Two of the most powerful men, whether it be in terms of stature, #WrestleMagic or sheer WWE careers, have all been kidnapped by the Wyatts. This puts Bray into a very strong position - mysticism wise and standing wise in the company. In fact, taking Rollins and Reigns out of the equation, is anyone bigger than Wyatt right now? I don't think so.
WWE is usually averse to mentioning house show participants, but their hand has been forced here. They will need to address how Seth's injury happened and how they plan on proceeding. People are going to know that Kane was Rollins' opponent.
So how does WWE go from here? Kane magically escaped to Dublin, but was recaptured? Seems silly. Do they try to hide it under the rug and just be vague about specifics? Won't work, not in today's world.
The best plan is to run with it. Kane was wrestling as a member of the Wyatt Family, and now Seth is injured. Bray's #WrestleMagic has taken on new forms, as he is now able to "hurt" others just by thinking it.
I'm imagining Bray opening RAW in his rocking chair, chuckling about Rollins' unfortunate demise. Nothing personal, of course, just a means to an end.
I haven't seen any specifics yet in terms of the format for crowning a new champion, but the odds are ever in Bray Wyatt's favor. His Family was already at 4 members strong. . . And if Kane, and even better, The Undertaker are the newest of Wyatt's thrall, those odds are now insurmountable.
Just imagine it - An 8 (or dare I dream, 16) man tournament, with at least one other Wyatt Family member not named Bray as official participants. The other members of the Family, Taker and Kane included, spend the night of November 22nd doing everything they can to guarantee Bray walks out of the building with the title. Taking out wrestlers in the back, attacking competitors after they've won their opening round contests, knowing they'll be facing Bray in the next matchup. Not to mention, of course, the #WrestleMagic.
Bray coasts to the finals, while Roman Reigns has to fight, scratch and claw his way through his bracket. The main event, championship match is yet another battle between Reigns and Wyatt - Sooner than we all hoped, but certainly not the worst thing in the world.
Before the match, we see Roman Reigns confronted by The Authority. They might not like each other, but they do have a common enemy in this instance, as Bray Wyatt wielding that much power AND the World Title is not, in their minds, "best for business." So an uneasy alliance is formed, with Triple H and Stephanie decreeing that all other Wyatt's not named Bray are banned from ringside.
The match, as expected, is a war from start to finish. Perhaps there's even a stipulation added last minute, since Bray and Roman did so well with weapons in the Cell match.
And in the end. . . . Bray wins clean. Maybe it's the dark, demonic powers surging through his veins, maybe it was just his time, but Bray would need to pin Roman's shoulders on his own to truly arrive in this moment, which is what this moment really would be.
Survivor Series ends with the entire Wyatt Family in the ring, Bray kneeling with his title, his original 'Horsemen' behind him as always, and Taker and Kane kneeling to honor their new master.
So, What happens from there? Oh, only the following.
Bray cements himself as the next big bad beast, and the winter of 2015 is spent under the control of the Wyatt Family.
Roman Reigns, once more, has had glory within his grasp and it slipped through his fingers, continuing to whet fans appetites for the moment when he finally achieves his first title win.
Perhaps, between the #WrestleMagic and now Championship power, Bray Wyatt begins to struggle to contain all of this energy surging within him. His power over Undertaker and Kane begins to slip as 2016 begins, and as Wrestlemania 32 nears, the Brothers of Destruction start finding themselves.
Let's not forget Seth Rollins, who no matter what is coming back from this injury as the biggest babyface the company has ever seen. If that can happen with Bray Wyatt as his first opponent? Shut Up and Take ALL My Money.
I can keep going. Brock Lesnar returns to collect the title he never really lost, now held by Bray Wyatt, who just so happens to have Brock's biggest opponent as a lackey.
Plus, we just saw the first alliance between Triple H and Roman Reigns. Do we doubt it'll be the last? Hardly. #HeelSeedsPlanted.
Seth Rollins' injury is a major blow to this company, but it could very well be the opportunity Bray Wyatt and WWE need to solve their commitment problem.
Are you ready to live in a world where the New Face of Fear is your World Heavyweight Champion? Be Heard.
I always wanted to play Dungeons and Dragons, but I never got around to it.
Being of a creative and improvisational mind, D&D always seemed to be right up my alley. Creating a character, a backstory, a code of conduct, yet doing my best to adapt to the situations that presented themselves - Nerdy, perhaps, but seems like a lot of fun.
The closest I came was in college, and if memory serves, one Doc Manson was part of that group as well. We started making characters for ourselves (I wanted to be a Rogue-type, despite being one of the least stealthy people I know), but it fizzled out before it got very far. I consider it a missed opportunity, though I’m pretty sure that if I had gotten into it, Mrs. Matthews wouldn’t be sitting in the other room, us being happily married for going on five years.
Why am I telling you this, besides to beef up my nerd cred and (possibly) score some brownie points with my wonderful bride?
WWE needs to take a lesson from Dungeons and Dragons.
No, nobody should be casting magic missles into the darkness (well, maybe New Day could), but one thing that D&D is famous for is not having simply “good” and “bad”. They delineate between those who are evil because they, like the Joker, are agents of chaos and between those who break the rules purely for selfish reasons. There are the rule-followers because they follow rules and the rule-followers who just do what they feel is right.
In WWE, we don’t really have that. . . Or at least, not as much as we should. Doc and I discussed this a little bit on last week’s podcast, or maybe the week before that, talking about how not every babyface in the company needs to be filling wishes each and every day.
What made the biggest boom periods in wrestling interesting was that there were different kinds of heels and babyfaces. You had Ric Flair and the Horsemen, but you also had Kevin Sullivan and Purple Haze. You had Hulk Hogan and you had the Macho Man. You had Steve Austin, The Rock and Kurt Angle, among others, all who may have been rulebreakers at one time, but none of them the exact same type of heel.
So, based off of yesterday’s column about my Top Ten talents I’d build around, mixed in with the great NAIborhood discussion over the last few days, and a dab of foreshadowing of my #FantasyBookingWrestlemania, allow me to present some options for current talents, and how they could be differentiated to perhaps bring more interest to the product.
This one is already happening, and has been so for a decade, hence our general boredom. John Cena is the Hulk Hogan of our times, his “Never Give Up” is the training, the prayers and the vitamins all wrestling children of the 80’s were told to take each and every week. Cena has a strong moral compass that leads him to seek to right wrongs and ensure justice. He doesn’t do it because the rules of the land tell him to, he does it because it’s the right thing to do.
One of the problems with John Cena is that there was never a great yin to his yang, much the same way people are having issues with Rollins and the current main event tier right now. Hogan had the Heenan Family and his ever changing cast of goons to battle. Cena has had Orton, JBL, CM Punk (too briefly). . . and whoever else he fought during the decade or so I stopped watching wrestling.
Did he ever have a real nemesis? Someone help me out.
Yes, friends, I’ll be traveling down the Shawn Michaels road again with the NoseBreak Kid, and I’ll continue doing so until I see something that shows me that Rollins isn’t the next ShowStopper.
Contrary to Cena, who does the right thing even at his own detriment, Rollins should be following rules and defending the innocent, but only to a given point. He should always have his self-interest first on his list of priorities, or at least the interest of his close friends and associates.
This makes Rollins a compelling character because we can see the moments where he decides NOT to do the right thing in order to put himself first. He might even become a heel for a brief period if it serves his interests, as opposed to Cena, who never would.
Hence, again, why Cena can be boring. He’s always going to do the right thing, and he’s almost always going to be successful. Perfection is boring.
Depending on your opinion, the batting average of WWE when it comes to character development varies, and while you might not be happy with the career trajectory of our IC champion, you can’t deny that he certainly is one of the most compelling characters in the company.
One of the reasons for that, besides Owens God-given charisma, is the fact that he’s got a definitive and rational reason for doing what he does. He’s working to provide a better life for his family and to prove that he’s one of the best talents in WWE. Can anyone fault him for that logic?
Owens is going to do whatever he has to do in order to fulfill his mission. He’ll break rules, attack people, take the “cowardly” way out, but he might also help somebody unexpected if it’s a means to an end. This is where selfishness comes in handy, just like with Rollins. Owens could someday run out to save John Cena if it was part of a larger plan. He’s always got his endgame in mind.
In many ways, Zayn is a lot like Ricky Steamboat to me. I think he’s always going to be a babyface - he’s just too talented, too charming, too “aww-shucks ma’am” to pull off a convincing bad guy. Zayn will also have a moral code like Cena would, but he’s probably also always going to follow the letter of the law. If the dirty heel gets to the ropes, Zayn will break the hold. He’ll make sure the rulebook gets adhered to.
Unless he’s facing Owens, in which case he’s more likely to beat KO to death with the rulebook than stick to it. When it comes to the ultimate betrayal that we saw in NXT, Sami Zayn will do whatever it takes to extract his vengeance. He’ll break rules, defy orders, face fines and suspensions, all in order to get his hands on Kevin Owens. That’s what makes his character great.
I firmly believe that Roman Reigns won’t become a legitimate main eventer, specifically in the eyes of the fans, until he turns his back on that crowd he currently walks through. The WWE audience (or maybe just the IWC) won’t get behind him until it’s “cool” to do so. If they keep him as Cena 2.0, or this “Big Dog” business, it won’t work.
Roman Reigns should be the new face of The Authority. Let life imitate art - WWE wants him to be the next “guy”, so have them act that way on television. Reigns should do everything he can to make HHH / Stephanie happy and keep himself on the path to greatness. He should be Rollins without the whining. He is not a cowardly heel, but he will follow orders if they lead to future title shots and more glory.
Oh, and he should be an on-screen partner of Eva Marie. #EmbraceTheHate.
As I said in my previous column and on Twitter a million times, the PG era is what’s keeping Ambrose back. If WWE was willing to take risks, Dean is the man to do it, both in and out of the ring. Everyone compares him to either Roddy Piper, Brian Pillman or Steve Austin, and all three of those guys were over because at any given moment, they could do anything. Ambrose doesn’t have that right now. He can do anything, just as long as it is previously approved by the censors.
In a perfect world, Ambrose is the personification of crazy evil. He’s lighting things on fire just to watch them burn. He’s coming out, beating down a random wrestler with a chair, then just chuckling to himself and walking away. No reasoning, no rationale, just bug-nutty crazy.
At any given point, Ambrose should be capable of saying or doing anything. That’s a compelling character.
With Ambrose as the Crazy Heel, Reigns as the Authority’s heel and Rollins as the cocky babyface, you now have the potential for a Shield Triple Threat. Book it.
This has been a long-standing problem with the Wyatt character, in my opinion. He’s spent the last few years trying to “save” WWE from certain talents, yet they all have been good guys. Isn’t that a little limiting? Wouldn’t a better idea for Bray be that he’s trying to save WWE from evil, yet evil, in his warped mind, takes many forms?
Neutral, in D&D terms, means sometimes the character does the right thing, sometimes not. This should be Bray. Why couldn’t he try to save us from Big Show, who is a heel (last time I checked, anyway)? Or Miz? Or Rusev? Or The Authority in general? Just imagine Bray Wyatt coming out to attack Triple H (and if they wanted to push the envelope, Stephanie) because the WWE needs to be saved from its own power structure?
Bray Wyatt could be our Katniss Everdeen!
Apparently talking about wrestling, Dungeons and Dragons AND The Hunger Games in a single column breaks some sort of code, and being a lawful proponent of #PromotingPositivity, that means I’ve got to stop writing.
What do YOU think? Is this one thing WWE needs? How would you classify your stars? Be Heard.
Over the last few weeks, RAW ratings have been. . . Slipping is probably too casual of a word. . .Plummeting might be too harsh. . .Let's settle on declining, and its causing panic within WWE and questions and debate outside of Titan Tower. The Twittersphere has been abuzz with potential problems and supposed solutions, and one of the most common ones is the idea that there just aren't enough "top stars" for WWE to build stories and content around.
This led to questioning the NAIborhood, asking them to pick 6 stars that they'd center their booking around for the next 4-6 years. Since I always try to answer the questions I ask, I'm here to offer my own "A-Team".
Since it was my question, I can tweak it, so I decided to come up with a Top Ten. Unlike my usual lists, I'm actually going to rank them from top down, instead of building to number 1, and since I'm already working backwards, might as well put my overall thoughts and conclusions first.
Completely unsurprisingly, I went ahead and chose 10 guys (I limited myself to male talents, which was the original premise of the question I posed) with what I consider superior wrestling chops, assuming that the rest would take care of itself. Probably a bold assumption on my part, as prior history shows (Hello Dean Malenko) that in-ring ability doesn't equal commercial success.
Having said that, I think all of these talents would and could succeed if creative and management bought into them and was willing to work to create compelling stories and aspects to their characters. Since the question put me in charge of WWE, I can guarantee that would happen.
Dean Ambrose, while he might have the potential to be the most captivating character in the company, doesn't have the ring work to back it up, which to me is a problem. If this wasn't the PG era, I'd probably have included him in my list, as an "extreme" heel Ambrose would be must-see TV.
John Cena probably should be on this list. In the next 4-6 years, he's going to be a major presence, and having him as a cornerstone of the company allows for other stars to become bigger because of him. Having said that, it really wasn't in the spirit of the question to include him. Sorry, John.
Apollo Crews was a popular choice by most of the NAIborhood participants, but he was never really an option for me. I'm still not sold on him as a wrestler. He's got some skills, no denying it, but I haven't seen him wrestle someone on his level, and that to me is a big thing. Anyone can have a good squash match (well, that's not true, but let's go with it), but Crews vs. Breeze will go a long way of getting me on the Crews Ship for good.
Crews Ship? Why isn't NXT running with this?
New Day could be the biggest thing to come out of WWE (besides maybe The Shield) in this decade, but since they are at their best solely as a combination of parts, it wouldn't make sense to include them. Sure, I could have bent the rules, but I already expanded my list to ten. I didn't want the hate mail.
Roman Reigns not being on this list proves that I did want at least a fair amount of hate mail, as I'm sure many people will be very put out he didn't make the cut. Look, he's good, and he's getting better, but he is only ever going to be "OK" as a professional wrestler if he keeps relying on a stupid punch and an overplayed spear.
Bring it on, people. I, like Roman Reigns should, will #EmbraceTheHate.
No question on this one, Seth Rollins is the best wrestler in either WWE or NXT and will likely remain so for at least the next decade. He wrestled two matches at Night of Champions and looked. . . tired. Not exhausted, not wiped out, not "blown up", just tired. Like he just completed a moderate Crossfit workout.
He's going to be the biggest babyface WWE has had since vintage Cena in the next 12 months. Count on it. #PreDCtion
There's a sizable gap between Rollins and the rest of the field, but Kevin Owens could make some headway catching up in the next 6 months, depending on how this IC run is booked.
Owens has supreme skills for a wrestler of any size, and the fact that he's not quite #BullFit only makes it all the more impressive. A heel Owens and a face Rollins could main event MULTIPLE Wrestlemanias.
Owens is like Peter Pan. He can fight, he can fly, and he can crow. No wonder he was a consensus NAIDraft Top 3 pick.
While already 34, Cesaro (and the wrestler that's next on this list) has the physical abilities and body type to wrestling well into his 40's, so I'm not worried about age. Cesaro does things in the ring that I've never seen before on a regular basis, and that's ALWAYS going to make somebody special in my eyes.
I get the reasons he's not main eventing right now, but remember - in this hypothetical, I'M in charge, so Cesaro can be as Swiss as he wants to be, just as long as he lets me put all the money he makes me in one of his countries' lovely bank accounts.
Doc Manson and I have both gone on record during the NAIborhood Podcast in saying that we're not huge Balor fans. The character needs work and I'm sick to death of the double stomp as a rule, but I've never denied he's a top shelf wrestling talent, and that's what matters. We can tweak the Demon if we need to, or, as I really want to do, we scrap is completely and let Balor be Balor.
Sami Zayn is only at this position (and possibly only on this list) because of the feud potential with Kevin Owens. If I'm starting a wrestling promotion from the ground up and can cherry-pick talents from anywhere, Owens and Zayn are probably the first two guys I pick. Even above Rollins. Both are excellent wrestlers and their chemistry together is just perfect. I can build stories around their on-again off-again friendship for years.
This is probably my #PieInSpace pick - the one that's way out there and probably will come back to bite me in the end. Luke Harper is already 35 and unlike Cesaro or Balor, doesn't necessarily have the body type that can last into his 40's (although with that tank top on, maybe he does and I just don't know it).
I'm picking Harper because he is the best 'big man' (only 6'5") I've seen in ages. He's super athletic, he can fly (and I don't even think we've seen his best aerial stuff yet) and he can brawl. Any promotion I am in charge of has Harper as a main event talent, beard or no beard.
Actually, I've seen pictures of him without the facial hair - He needs the beard.
For those who don't know, I'm working on a long term project where I have pseudo-Fantasy Booked (some realism included) from Night Of Champions (my predictions, not the actual results) to Wrestlemania 32. In my work, Kalisto goes from a tag team to a mid-card singles star, and if I expanded further (which would be a nightmare, don't make me do it), he's probably a main eventer.
A lot of people compare him to Rey Mysterio, and that's fair, except he's probably more athletic than Mysterio was in his prime. I think Kalisto could be bigger than Rey. #PreDCtion
There's something about Bray Wyatt's ring style that makes me completely and utterly happy. Maybe its the way that he often just throws his sizable frame at people. Maybe its because a lot of his moves look like car crashes, but unlike Foley's, hopefully won't shorten the length of time where he's able to walk well.
Bray is 28 (younger than everyone on this list but Kalisto) and a complete blue chip talent, in my book. Bray vs. Rollins or Wyatt vs. Owens could last years and I'd love every second of it.
Neville was someone I debated for a while. I love his in-ring work, even if its a bit formulaic at times, but I did have to spend a bit more time weighing that against his character / gimmick deficits than I did with the other guys on this list.
I'd have to go back and explore Neville's minor heel stint in NXT, where he was a little more arrogant and a little less. . . Dopey might be the right word. That's a character I could work with.
The damage might be irreparable in the real world of WWE, but I'm still a big Rusev supporter. I'm a sucker, wrestling wise, for guys who I think look like me, size wise, yet can move around. Bam Bam Bigelow, Big Boss Man, Amish Roadkill, Bray Wyatt, Rusev.
Put him back with Lana, drop the nationalist gimmick and just let him fight. #FreeRusev
That's it. Ten talents who can have amazing matches night in and night out, even if I'm the only one watching them.
What do YOU think? Who would you build around, and more importantly, why? #BeHeard
Social media is a double edged sword. In fact, it’s more like a multi-sided sword, if that’s even possible. . . Can you have a sword that’s also an octagonal prism?
. . .
I shouldn’t write these columns on only 4 hours of sleep.
Last month I realized that I was spending so much time Tweeting, I wasn’t actually watching the wrestling on my WWE Network, and thus was born #SummerSlamTaughtMe, a series of handwritten notes that became a couple of columns and part of a podcast.
This month for Night of Champions, I decided to avoid social media during most of the matches, and once again took up my pen and yellow legal pad. However, as I watched WWENOC, I found myself discovering broader themes rather than just bad jokes and minor observations.
So, for #NOCTaughtMe, let’s do single lessons from each match, shall we?
Doc Manson and I discussed their future and potential briefly on the NAIborhood podcast yesterday morning, but seeing them in action last night really made me a believer. Stardust is a natural leader, this was common knowledge, but what impressed me even more was how different The Ascension looked. No longer bogged down by the pressure of doing everything on their own (especially with that terrible “we’re better than you” gimmick), Konnor and Viktor positively shined just being able to be wrestlers.
I’m excited to see where this goes from here.
One of the most common things I saw online near the end or just following Night of Champions was that the ‘event’ (can’t call it a PPV, can we?) had an “old school” feel to it, and I think we can thank our new Intercontinental champion for that. Mr. Owens had a match that Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard and our own MagnumNAI would be proud of, spending the majority of it isolating a body part and working it over with some of the most innovative offense I’ve seen in quite some time.
Hammerlock Russian leg sweeps, sentons directly to the arm, it was a treat to watch, and for what it’s worth, Ryback did a fine job of selling that injury. He really didn’t have to do much else.
Maybe Kevin Owens didn’t inspire the rest of the roster to break out their 80’s wrestling psychology, but it was notable that many other performances that followed (including, most surprisingly, Nikki Bella’s) involved similar styles of wrestling.
The prestige and honor of many fans (this one included) favorite title is in your hands, Mr. Owens. Make us proud.
They probably didn’t have the best match on the card, but Dolph Ziggler and Rusev definitely had themselves a pretty good match, yet nobody seemed to care. Why? Obviously because we all have gotten so tired of this angle that nothing can save us.
You know who else was obviously tired of that story? The wrestlers themselves. It’s Rusev and Ziggler, so you’re going to get a good match regardless, but couldn’t you tell that there was just a little less than full effort coming from them? They weren’t really giving it their all, which would explain why, on a couple of occasions, we saw phantom bumps. Rusev runs the ropes to hit Ziggler on the apron, and Dolph takes off before Rusev gets there. Rusev sells a DDT without his head actually hitting the canvas. Those kinds of things.
Truthfully, we can’t blame the talents - This has been dumb for a long time and I’m sure both talents would like to move on. Whether or not they can do so is a different story.
One thing I will say, though. I love me some #SadRusev.
No offense, Mr. Luger, but Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods are everything that is nice and good in professional wrestling. We saw it with their ‘Table for 3’ episode, we see it each night on RAW, and we absolutely saw it at Night of Champions.
What do we want from a “perfect” wrestler? An impressive look, excellent wrestling skills (which hopefully include power, aerial ability and some technical know-how), and charisma, particularly if it can translate onto the microphone. While it could be argued that no member of New Day has all of those features (though I could make a case for Big E), with their powers combined, they are something to behold.
I know this because, for that entire match, I couldn’t have cared less about the Dudleys. They were just in the way of the Day, if you will. I enjoy Bubba and Devon, but they were easily and completely overshadowed by Rufio and his Lost Boys.
New Day could be, historically, something very special.
I stayed on social media for this match, figuring it would play in the background and I’d glance at it from time to time, but I actually spent a good portion of the match paying attention, and that was all thanks to Nikki. When did she become Dean Malenko? Why wasn’t I given a memo? If Nikki has really been that skilled all this time, why on Earth did they not let her defend her title?
A lot of people were confused by the nature of that match, but it made sense to me, One of the biggest criticisms of Charlotte’s game has been her ability to sell, and that gave us all a chance to see if she’s improved in that area. It was a bit over-the-top, in my opinion, but she’s a Flair after all, so I guess that comes with the territory.
I almost felt a little bad for Nikki, to dominate the match the way she did and then lose so quickly.
Am I starting a #GiveNikkiAChance movement? No, but I have far more respect for her than I did before. That’s something.
As I said on the podcast, one of the matches I was most looking forward to was this six man tag, solely because I love a good mystery partner. When I saw the countdown and heard the music. . . I was less than thrilled.
In fact, I was borderline devastated. There were about 7-8 other guys that would have been more preferable to me, and those were just the likely names. Heck, I would have probably been more excited to see Big Show waddle his way down to the ring.
Jericho didn’t make any sense other than he fought with Bray Wyatt a long time ago. He didn’t have the size, the strength or the relevance to make a lot of sense there.
Then he made the blind tag on Roman, and it all started to make sense.
Chris Jericho wasn’t going to work as an opponent of the Wyatt Family. . . But he does make some sense as an opponent for Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose. . .
NAI Honorary Team Member Adam hit the nail right on the head with his prediction, so props to him. I went from disappointment to intrigued with that tag, and I’m excited to see where this goes from here.
Well done, WWE, you do know what you’re doing.
The last two matches went back to back, so I’m going to group them together for a couple of final points.
Throughout the night, I found myself criticizing the logic of some of these matches. Why would Nikki Bella even participate in this match? Why not take a countout or blatant DQ? (I forgot about the no DQ rule, and thanks to the 457 people who reminded me) I was told to stop being rational, to suspend disbelief and to just enjoy the show, but I found it hard to do that with all these questions. I’m all for surrendering to the rationale of pro wrestling, but there needs to be SOME adherence to common sense.
Seth Rollins seems to incorporate that, and I really appreciate it.
I first noticed it when Cena was doing his “Cena thing” hitting the shoulderblocks. What happens next is textbook - The wrestler takes a giant swing, Cena ducks, hits the side slam or Blue Thunder Bomb (whatever it is) and goes for the Five Knuckle Shuffle.
Except Rollins didn’t swing. He feinted, then hit a neckbreaker, and if memory serves, he gave the crowd a little “no way” look as he did it.
I loved that. Rollins is already a super talented wrestler, perhaps one of the best I’ve seen in a very long time. Adding some actual logic and intelligence just sealed the deal. I also appreciated the number of times he tried to crawl or walk away with his title during the WHC match. That’s what a heel champion should do - anything to save the belt.
He might not be the next Shawn Michaels or Bret Hart, but Seth Rollins is a special talent, and you saw the way he randomly decided to control the crowd in a wave - He’s going to be the biggest babyface in the world REALLY soon.
We’re not sure what the nature or severity of Sting’s injury is, but obviously something was wrong during that title match, and that’s not even counting the huge bruise on his arm from smashing into the monitor on the Spanish Announce Table.
That was a scary moment, though, seeing him collapse in the middle of the ring. For just a second, I thought he was going to need to be carted out, and it was terrifying.
I give Steve Borden all the credit in the world for fighting through whatever the injury was and continuing the match, no matter how short it may have been. We’ve all spent a lot of time discussing Sting’s legacy, or the manner in which it has been portrayed by WWE. That moment there, staggering to his feet and continuing the match, might be the best thing Sting has ever done in a McMahon-controlled ring.
We all knew that Sheamus was going to try to cash in last night, but I didn’t see anyone on Twitter predicting that Kane would make his presence known during the main event. I figured he was there solely to give some slight air of mystery to who would be teaming with AmbReigns.
I have never been as big of a Kane fan as Jason Moltov or Liam Stryker. He’s been a fine and loyal WWE worker and I’ve enjoyed some of his matches, but I’ve always been ‘meh’ when it comes to the Big Red Machine, even more so when he went Corporate.
Yet there was a moment. . . After chokeslamming Rollins AND Sheamus. . . Where I was sitting upright in bed, quietly (since Mrs. Matthews was sleeping) begging Kane to grab the MITB briefcase, cash it in, and become World Heavyweight Champion.
Maybe it was because the “Demon” was back. . . Maybe it was because we hadn’t seen him in a while. . . Or maybe it was just #AnyoneButSheamus. . . but. . .
For just those few seconds, I became the kind of fan WWE has always wanted us to be - Lost in the moment, all reasonable thought out the window, pleading for a 20 year veteran I’ve never really been in love with to beat, as I just described, my favorite wrestler.
Goofy gimmicked stables. . . Working over a single body part . . . Solid storytelling. . . Totally bought in.
Now that’s Old School.
In 10 days, WWE will bring us Night of Champions, the annual PPV where every title belt is on the line. As many of you know (I shan’t assume you’re all well versed in current-day storylines), that puts Seth Rollins in an interesting spot, being the current World Heavyweight AND United States champion. Mr. Rollins will be defending the US belt against John Cena and the World title against Sting.
Everybody with me? Good.
There are four possible outcomes stemming out of Night of Champions, assuming, of course, that all of the matches wind up in clean, straightforward decisions.
Based off of a question by @Cody_Burris, let’s chat about each outcome one at a time, discussing why it might happen, what it could mean, and how likely it might be.
This might happen if WWE wants to take the Seth Rollins character in a new direction. So far, we’ve rarely, if ever, seen Seth struggle. He was highly successful with The Shield and then transitioned directly to The Authority’s Golden Boy. Up until now (if memory serves), we’ve never seen Rollins on the ropes.
To put it another way, playing off of a character from a few months ago, we’ve never seen “Sad Rollins”.
By having Rollins lose both titles in a single night, Sad Seth comes to the forefront. For the first time, there’s doubt, both in his mind and in the minds of The Authority. What if Rollins ISN’T all that and a bag of organic, vegan vegetable crisps? What if Triple H and Stephanie picked the wrong horse? This would make for some compelling television.
How likely is it? Honestly, not very. Doing this sends a very clear signal that WWE has lost some semblance of faith in their champion, so much so that he’s not even worthy of a mid-card title. I don’t think this is the world we wake up to on the first day of autumn.
This might happen if, compared to the first scenario, WWE wants to send a message that Seth Rollins IS the superstar of the next 10 years, and that’s the end of the discussion. In the 90’s, Shawn Michaels held the World and European titles for reasoning that escape me right now, but it was around that time that he was THE guy. As much as people might balk at the comparison, Rollins CAN BE the next Shawn Michaels if WWE wants it - uncanny ring work, charisma galore and even the potential for backstage drama.
Seth Rollins is the NoseBreak Kid. Copyright DC Matthews, 2015.
How likely is it? Only slightly more likely than him losing both titles, really. As Liam Stryker says each and every week on NAIpod, the biggest problem WWE has right now is with commitment. They don’t seem able to fully put their weight behind a single star, so they’re just dancing around with a group of them.
I have a hard time seeing WWE allowing Rollins to beat two all-time legends, even if one is “merely” a WCW icon in Sting. Just don’t think they want to put all their eggs in that basket.
This might happen if WWE wants to hit the reset button on the last 6-8 weeks. Just like you, I can’t possibly explain the whole Jon Stewart debacle from Summer Slam. Maybe Stewart insisted on having some ring action, maybe it was just to get the publicity - who knows?
What I do know is that the vast majority of the WWE universe (and NAIborhood, a very exclusive part of the Universe) thought Cena dropping the US title to Rollins made no sense, and perhaps WWE has been swayed. Putting the title back on Cena allows them to “do it right”, even if Owens is the IC champion by then.
How likely is it? Far likelier than the other two so far, solely because it requires very little effort on WWE’s part. They love their lazy booking, and by going back to the US Open Challenge and Seth Rollins World title promos, they’ve written almost a third of RAW already.
This entire column stemmed from the notion that WWE had a bunch of John Cena US title t-shirts ready to be shipped, which led people to believe that a Cena victory was imminent.
My thoughts on that? Please, people. There are ALWAYS Cena shirts ready. I’m sure they have designs prepped for a John Cena Diva’s title, if ever there’s a need.
This might happen if WWE recognizes the golden opportunity they have right now, one that they’ve been squandering since Survivor Series of last year.
As much as Vince McMahon and friends might hate to admit it, Sting IS A LEGEND. They might not have educated new fans on Sting’s role in wrestling history, but his place can not be questioned.
Giving Sting a run with the World Heavyweight Championship, as ludicrous as it might seem, will draw older fans back and potentially create a new flock of fans. Sadly, Raven won’t be involved.
They don’t need him to hold the title for very long. Survivor Series at the shorter end, the Rumble at the longer. A couple of title defenses and a hotly contested loss to John Cena (that’s who he’d lose it to, there’s no question) is all WWE needs to honor an icon and make wrestling fun again for anyone who was a fan of the surfer / Crow / Joker these last few decades.
Plus, Rollins retains a title and can be a contender for the top strap again anytime WWE needs. (remember, HHH held the IC title after winning his first World title.)
How likely is it? This is, in my mind, the likeliest scenario for Night of Champions. It keeps Rollins relevant, it makes Sting relevant and it puts Cena in prime position for his 16th world title. Hate it if you must, but that’s going to be a big piece of the puzzle.
WWE will likely feel it is best for Seth Rollins to retain his US title and for Sting to win the World Heavyweight Championship. As the hip hashtaggers would say, #BookIt.
What do YOU think? What is, in your mind, the most likely scenario? Be Heard.