Knee Jerk to the Face(Or Heel)

When it comes to wrestling fans, patience is a virtue that does not apply to us. We think our favorite performers should be in the main event right out of the gate. If a character appears to be in a rut, we automatically want them to “turn” or something. In a society where all the information we could possibly want is available instantly at the touch of a screen, waiting on a story to build seems absurd. I see the chatter on social media all the time with fans saying, “The WWE’s storytelling is garbage nowadays.” This begs the question: Has the WWE lost it’s ability to tell compelling stories? Or have we as fans lost the ability to shut up and listen.

One of the more memorable moments from a spectacular Summerslam weekend was when Becky Lynch tore off on Charlotte Flair after losing their match. Almost immediately fans on social media applauded a new “Heel Becky!” When she appeared on Smackdown a few days later, she cut an excellent promo finally bearing her soul. Once again, almost immediately, hardcore Lynch fans were defiant in their position that they will refuse to boo the bad Becky. They would say, “This isn’t working! This is bad booking!” It took 2 shows and literally 10 minutes for Becky Lynch to show a major progression in her character. It took 10 seconds for the fans to make up their mind that this was the wrong move. This type of knee jerk reactions aren’t helping anyone, especially Becky Lynch. The sample size is too small to cast it aside so flippantly. Is Becky Lynch really a heel? Who knows?! It’s barely been a week. Give it a chance to develop. Give her a chance to grow into her new persona. Listen to the whole story, instead of just reacting to the moment.

The same logic applies to everybody’s favorite superstar punching bag Roman Reigns. When The Shield reunited on Raw this past Monday to take out Braun Strowman, that was deep rooted heel stuff. Sure the crowd popped, the Hounds of Justice are badass. But fans still seemed to question the move, spouting off conspiracy theories that its all an excuse to get fans to cheer Reigns again. A 3 on 1 attack on a popular star is not heroic, especially when its objective was to protect ones championship. Maybe the WWE are finally positioning themselves for a change in approach. Maybe the good monster will have to face the evil champion. Maybe we just need to enjoy the ride. In the long term is Reigns a failure as a babyface? To be honest I think the WWE has failed him. Think about the top guys in the company over the last 30 years and who they faced. Hogan had Piper. Bret had Shawn(and vice versa). Austin had Mr. McMahon. Cena had JBL and Edge. Who has Roman Reigns’ greatest adversary been? You could make the argument for Brock Lesnar, but his absence and lack of true sliminess pokes holes in that take. A hero is only as good as his villainous counterpart. If the WWE can’t provide Roman with a true dirtbag opponent we can all collectively hate, how can they expect us to have his back?

The fact is in this day and age the classic “babyface and heel” concept does not mean what it used to. Fans are too smart and will back who they want regardless of how they are portrayed on television. On the flip side, they seem to want to be told directly whether or not someone is good or bad. They can’t decide for themselves. Like they expected Becky Lynch to come out on Tuesday night and say, “Surprise I’m evil now.” You can’t have it both ways. Either you pick the horse you want in the race, or do your job as a fan. Cheer the hero. Boo the villain. The WWE hasn’t changed their way of telling us who’s good and who’s not. We have changed how we process that information. Let the story simmer before you taste it and decide its trash. I promise you the experience will be much more enjoyable in the end.

Summerslam:Predictions and Memories

The dog days of summer are in full swing. It’s hot and muggy. I am in the throws of my annual birthday depression, and that can only mean 1 thing…..It’s Summerslam week! To me this has always been the unofficial signal that the season is coming to an end. It is the last thing I get excited about before football season starts, and this year is no different. The card is absolutely stacked, and unlike Wrestlemania this year, I’m actually emotionally invested in a lot of the feuds heading into Sunday. Yet as I look ahead to Summerslam 2018, I can’t help but reminisce about the first time I attended a PPV event.

I celebrated a major birthday in the summer of 2002, my 21st. There was so many great memories from that year, but the one that stands out most was my experience at Summerslam. Getting tickets was only the first part of the adventure. My buddy Chris and I drove out to Nassau Coliseum on a Saturday morning the day they went on sale. It was a little more than a hour drive from where lived. That’s right, we DROVE TO GET TICKETS!! How archaic is that?! When we got to the arena we couldn’t believe what we saw. There was a line for days! It took up almost the entire parking lot. It was at that moment we knew this was going to be a futile effort. Summerslam ’02 just wouldn’t be in the cards. Then it hit me! Let’s call Ticketmaster from the line! I guess waiting in line wasn’t primitive enough, I could pull out my 8lb cell phone and talk to a person! I got through, but unfortunately the only tickets that available were single seats a row apart. Not going to work. Then a miracle happened. There was a nice guy behind us in line that was also trying to call for tickets. His operator had 2 tickets together in the upper deck, he didn’t want them, so he handed me his phone. A few minutes later, we were on our way to the biggest party of the summer!

The card that night read like an all-star team. The “popcorn” match featured The Undertaker for crying out loud! Rey Mysterio debuted in the opening contest against Kurt Angle. There was Jericho/Flair, Benoit/RVD for the IC Title, Edge vs Eddie!! We saw Christian/Lance Storm vs Booker T and Goldust for the tag team championship. As if we hadn’t already gotten our moneys worth with this undercard, the 2 main matches were something to behold. First up, I got to see something nobody ever thought was possible. My favorite wrestler of all time was back! After 4 years away, with what we thought was a career ending injury, Shawn Michaels returned to battle his former partner Triple H in an Unsanctioned Street Fight. It was a tremendous match. HBK hadn’t lost a step. It was an inspiring performance and an instant classic. Then came the main event. It was the passing of the torch in a lot of ways. The WWE Undisputed Championship was on the line, as The Rock took on one of his greatest challenges, the “Next Big Thing” Brock Lesnar. Lesnar would be victorious that night, and at the time became the youngest WWE Champion in history. It was a fantastic event and an experience I’ll never forget. I watch the show every now and again, and even 16 years later it never loses its luster. I suggest you do the same. But enough about the classic stuff, it’s time for my predictions for the big show on Sunday!!

Let’s start off with the obvious:The card for Summerslam 2018 is without a doubt LOADED! The storylines and buildups to this event have been solid all around. I will even go as far to say that I am more into this show than I was for Wrestlemania this year. So without further ado, here’s what I think will go down this Sunday:

FINN BALOR vs BARON CORBIN: This has been a pleasant secondary feud on the RAW brand. It is a classic mismatch concept that I have always enjoyed throughout the years. As great a Balor is, I feel as if Corbin is starting to come into his own in this “Constable” role. I think Baron takes the win on Sunday in what might be a sleeper hit of the weekend.

JEFF HARDY vs SHINSUKE NAKAMURA(US CHAMPIONSHIP)- It’s shocking this match isn’t a three way dance with Randy Orton included. He has been an integral part of the build up to this rematch, but with Smackdown already having a Triple Threat title match on the card, it makes sense for him to be on the outside. I see this match being decent, then ruined by a DQ finish when Orton decides to get involved.

NEW DAY vs THE BLUDGEON BROTHERS(SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP)- Another match that has the potential to be sneaky good since everyone involved can work. I just don’t see the New Day getting the advantage here simply because this seems to be an event with a lot of title changes at the top. Rowan and Harper will continue their dominance of the SD Live tag division.

BRAUN STROWMAN vs KEVIN OWENS(MITB BRIEFCASE IS ON THE LINE)- I’ve a lot of chatter on social media about how Kevin Owens has turned into this coward during his feud with Strowman. I have to admit, this criticism baffles me. The “heel who’s terrified of the monster babyface” is a staple in wrestling. We all know Owens can fight, but honestly, who WOULDN’T be afraid of Braun Strowman! I’m taking Strowman here. I see little value in him dropping the case to KO, especially when he headlined a PPV to win it. They made merch out of it for crying out loud! I also think that after this match, Strowman won’t be holding onto the briefcase for very long. More on that in a minute….

CHARLOTTE FLAIR vs BECKY LYNCH vs CARMELLA(SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP)- This will boil down to who actually needs the title more, I just don’t see it changing hands at this particular event. Carmella has established herself as a major player in the Women’s division. She is a great heel with the perfect touch of annoying. I think she will weasel her way out of the match unscathed, and with her title in tow. Fans may be disappointed in this result, since Lynch seems to have the heart of the crowd. This match will be a stepping stone to bigger things, especially between her and Charlotte. With the Evolution PPV on the horizon, the WWE will be looking to save a little for that special event.

SETH ROLLINS vs DOLPH ZIGGLER(INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP)- I laugh to myself every time I see fans say, “Ugh Reigns/Lesnar again?!”, when we are getting this matchup for the third time in 2018 as well. The added drama this time is the addition of each combatants partner in their respective corner. As much as I enjoyed the return of Dean Ambrose, the timing of it just seemed a little off. Sure evening the odds makes sense, but I would rather see Rollins and Ambrose doing their own thing than be tied together again. I’m taking Ziggler in this one. Rollins is ready to move on to bigger and better things.

RONDA ROUSEY vs ALEXA BLISS(RAW WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP)- It’s funny how things change in a few months. Everyone was curious about Ronda Rousey going into Wrestlemania. She put on a great performance there, and I expect no different here. Putting her in the ring with a top level talent like Alexa Bliss will only help her. Bliss will take her beating like the champ she is, and we will have a new Raw Women’s Champion.

DANIEL BRYAN vs THE MIZ- By far the most compelling storyline going into this weekend, as this is the match fans have had circled on their calendar since Daniel Bryan returned to action. In a world where everyone wants heel turns, Miz is the last of a dying breed. He is a classic despicable heel, going up against everyone’s favorite underdog. The emotion behind this match will carry it through, but I’m taking the Miz here. This is only the beginning……

SAMOA JOE vs A.J. STYLES(WWE CHAMPIONSHIP)- Given that the main event is being regarded by fans as the match, “nobody wants”(which is dumb), this is the match EVERYBODY wants. This match is the most unique, as it is the only one of the card where both men made their names elsewhere. Another potential show stealer, I will be stunned if this match is a let down. This will be Samoa Joe’s night. Styles has been a tremendous champ, but its time to move on. Heel champs are better anyway!

ROMAN REIGNS vs BROCK LESNAR(UNIVERSAL CHAMPIONSHIP)- Here we go again! Quite possibly the most controversial main event in Summerslam history. The hate these 2 guys generate is astounding. I plan on watching this match on mute. I want to see the story Reigns and Lesnar can tell, without hearing the whiny fan base make it about them. I’m anticipating another hard hitting brawl, with Roman Reigns finally getting over the hump and beating Lesnar. But that’s not all…..Braun Strowman WILL cash in his MITB contract, and send the crowd home happy. It will be the smartest play to swerve the fans, who will most likely hijack this match from the bell. One more thing….Paul Heyman will have a new client by the time this show goes off the air.

This has the potential to be a classic Summerslam. The only thing that will hold it back is its length. I hope I will have the stamina to last through this marathon, something I wasn’t able to do for Wrestlemania. Enjoy the show friends!

“All-In”: The Dawn of Wrestling’s Next Great War

Back in May of 2017, an honest question from a fan prompted an honest answer from everybody’s favorite “star man” Dave Meltzer. When faced with the idea of Ring of Honor selling 10,000 tickets to a live event, Uncle Dave quipped, “Not any time soon.”. After hearing this, Cody Rhodes fired back with what may be the most pivotal, “Hold my beer,” that wrestling has seen in years. Joined by the Young Bucks, they decided to gather up all their friends, and with ROH’s blessing, put on a show. “All-In”, with it’s star power and grassroots hype machine, could very well be the genesis of something we have not seen in over 17 years….legitimate competition for the WWE.

Trust me, I am not getting ahead of myself here. As always I am just calling it like a see it. Cody Rhodes has managed to something that nobody else has been able to do. He created a big time event out of nothing. When tickets went on sale in May, they sold out in a half hour. 10,000 tickets, in 30 minutes, not a single match announced, and only a handful of confirmed performers. It may not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but its a BIG FREAKING DEAL. If you don’t believe me, here are some numbers to back it up.

1997 is arguably one greatest years in the history of wrestling. It was the heart of the Monday Night Wars, and WWF and WCW were must-see TV every week for wrestling fans. Both companies put on 25 PPV events combined that year. Out of those 25, only 12 were in venues over 10,000 people. That’s less than half! Some of the biggest stars who ever breathed were active at this time, countless Hall of Famers, and they weren’t in arenas in the 5 figures. This is a significant stat that cannot be looked over, especially by the WWE in 2018.

Now I’m not naive enough to think the McMahon family(Triple H included) are shaking in their proverbial boots, because they shouldn’t be. But it would be against their better judgement not to at least sit up in their chairs. There is no true threat to the WWE right now. NJPW is an excellent product. It’s viewership in the US is growing every day, especially since it is readily available to watch or stream on their pay site and AXS TV. Yet they can not been seen as a viable competitor because of simple geography. They are half a world away, and aren’t kicking down the doors in Stamford. They are an excellent alternative when we need a break from the WWE, but that’s where it ends. “All-In”, and to a point ROH, can change all that on September 1st. Cody and the Bucks are putting together something that nobody has had the balls to do since Eric Bischoff, and they are doing it in the WWE’s backyard.

Speaking of backyards we can not ignore the ROH/NJPW Supercard show at Madison Square Garden next Wrestlemania weekend. As a native New Yorker, MSG and wrestling go hand in hand. For years it has been WWE’s home field, and I’ve seen a bunch of amazing shows in that hallowed building. Running shows Mania week is nothing new, but having one THERE, on THEIR biggest weekend, is a warning shot right across the bow of Titan Towers.

This week with the announcement of “All-In” being available for viewing on the Fite TV App adds another wrinkle to this already compelling story. The show is already a success based on the gate, and with the buzz being created, as well as matches finally being announced, it primed to be a landmark event in the history of the industry. Even if the show is bad, it won’t matter. Why? Because they were able to pull it off. The Starrcast convention being held that week is just icing on the cake. Now it’s interactive. The fans are getting what they always dreamed…a wrestling weekend that is about THEM.

As a fan I have no choice but to be excited for this event. A lot of that has to do with Cody Rhodes. He is one of the most fascinating wrestling stories of the last decade. He is on his way to being the first guy in the post-WCW era to have success in WWE, leave the company on his own terms, and be even more successful on his own. He has the knowledge, the talent, and the pedigree to change the business as we see it. Could Rhodes become the next Vince McMahon? Probably not, but that’s not what the WWE should be concerned with. From the WWE’s perspective, the scarier outcome is that he becomes the first Cody Rhodes.

Leaving Twitter:How I Saved My Wrestling Soul

In the 2006 film, “Superman Returns”, there is a scene where Superman asks Lois Lane what she hears. When she tells him nothing, he responds with, “I hear everything.” I never thought I could relate to that quote on any level, that was until I became more engaged in the toxic playground that we lovingly call, “Wrestling Twitter.” Every thought, opinion, and complaint of millions of wrestling fans at the touch of a button? What could possibly be wrong with that?! The truth is….plenty! It was not until I stopped to really think about it that I came to this chilling revelation….Wrestling Twitter was the only promotion I watched religiously, and that hurt my soul.

Growing up as a wrestling fan was like being part of a secret club. It was not, and to a point still isn’t, a socially acceptable way of spending your time. If I had a nickel for every time I mentioned wrestling around a non-fan and had to deal with, “You mean that fake stuff?”, I could retire yesterday. It’s eerily similar to the Harry Potter-verse. We are the wizards, and they are the muggles. It is why the amount of negativity that pollutes Wrestling Twitter is so baffling. I never knew there were so many of us. I never thought I could feel that sense of community outside of my circle of 2 friends that I’ve been watching wrestling with for 30 years. We used to come to each other’s defense to honor something we love so much. Now we can’t wait to jump at the chance to tear somebody down because they like a certain performer, or certain promotion, or because they don’t watch the indies. Our secret society has imploded. It has gotten so big that the worst thing that can happen to every community happened:We had turned on each other. Since summer was upon us, it occurred to me that maybe it was time to take a little vacation from this madness.

The fact was I wasn’t enjoying wrestling as much as I used to, and I couldn’t figure out why. At first I thought it was the product, but I wasn’t sold on that one right away. It was deeper than just not being engaged in a story line, or seeing a bad match or 2. Was I too old? Had I just become a curmudgeon who could not look past the glory days of my youth? Was I going through some sort of wrestling mid-life crisis at age 36? What was different about it? What was different about how I watched it? Aha! There it was! It had nothing to do with the what I was watching, it was what I was doing while watching. My phone was always in my hand. If I wasn’t watching on my iPad, it was right next to me, ready to check how all of you were reacting. Ready to make a funny observation in hopes of entertaining my fellow fans. Segments or matches I thought were good, would get obliterated on social media. That made me feel like I was missing something, or like I was out of touch. It also made me question whether or not the show was actually good. When I realized how much that influenced my experience, and the weight that those opinions carried, I knew I had to change my approach. I had to get back to basics. I had to rediscover why I loved this sport so much.

I deleted my Twitter app on May 30th. Instantly I felt that this was the right thing to do. I was excited to see how I would change throughout this experiment. I had to know if something that started out as a fun add-on to my favorite TV, had turned into an addiction. The first week of my hiatus was easier than I thought. I watched Raw and Smackdown on my own time, with no outside interference. I was able to enjoy the NJPW Dominion show relatively spoiler free over the course of 2 days. The only result that I knew of being Chris Jericho’s victory, and that was Facebooks fault. As the days turned into weeks I felt more connected to the shows, instead of being connected only to other fans. The next big WWE show was Money in the Bank, and I was able to watch that the morning after, completely spoiler free. Was it the best show ever, of course not, but for the first time in what felt like eons the product felt fresh. I simply watched. That was a big deal to me. That made me think of a question to ask all of you….How long has it been since you actually WATCHED wrestling? Because you can’t tell me you are focused on the show, and really taking in all that is going on, if you are constantly looking at your phone, and scrolling through a Twitter timeline. Your attention is on that, not what is on the television. That is a fixable problem that fans in 2018 are ignoring, and I promise taking a break will help you cleanse your wrestling soul.

Look I get it. The amount of followers you have on social media matters in the world we live in. Wrestling blogs and podcasts are a dime a dozen, and you have to do what you can to stand out in that crowded room. It is our passion, and it is important. What I do ask is that you don’t mortgage that passion for the sake of followers and downloads. Maybe take a break from “live tweeting” Raw, lock your phone away and just watch it. Ignore the opinions of others, reflect and form your own ideas. It may surprise you how much it will impact your fandom. Hell it may even improve your projects! I am ready to step back into this forum because I believe in my heart I can help bring our wrestling community back from he brink. So for the sake of your sanity please take a breath anddecide for yourself how you want to consume wrestling, as well as interact with good people who also share in your passion. Take stock in what kind of fan you are, and what kind of fan you can be. Avoid letting the opinions of others get to you. Avoid pushing your opinions on others. Talk to one another instead of argue. If we can stand together as fans once again, the wrestling community we have created can flourish. If you need help getting there, you know where to find me.