Maverick Deals: The New “New Generation”

The world of pro wrestling, much like life, is cyclical. Popularity and quality of the product sometimes go from warm to cold, like the changing of the seasons. Over the last few years the WWE seems to have reached a transitional stage for the company. It reminds me a lot of what happened back in the early ’90s. They called it the “New Generation Era,” and it was one of my favorites. The were coming off the hottest period the company had ever seen, and as Hulkamania came to an end, they had to create new stars to keep the company on top. The territory system was all but dead, and as WCW grew from a regional “rasslin'” show to a national TV program, the WWE found themselves not only competing for viewers, but for talent as well.

Just look at where we are when it comes to wrestling. It is a sport that thrives on the internet, and fans all over the world know just as much about any independent wrestler as they do the top superstars in the WWE. Recently a shot was heard round the world, as the “All In” Indy show in Chicago sold out in less than a half an hour. This is indeed a great time to be a fan of all wrestling, but the more I think about it the more I see the WWE in a transitional phase. They have a tremendous amount of in-ring talent, but they lack a larger than life megastar that can carry the company into a war that is just beginning. To prove that what goes around comes back around, let’s take a look at some of today’s stars, and compare them to the “New Generation” alum that they resemble most. Starting with…..

Roman Reigns is Diesel:

I’m sure some of you were expecting the obvious Big Cass/Diesel comparison but when you break it down, outside of size, it doesn’t make much sense. I don’t see Cass as a main event talent just yet, and to be quite honest, he can’t touch Kevin Nash on the mic. Putting Roman Reigns in that spot gets clearer the more you think about it. Diesel debuted as Shawn Michaels bodyguard, Reigns as a the muscle next to Ambrose and Rollins in the SHIELD. When WWE brass saw something they liked, they were fast tracked to top guy status. Sure it took Reigns longer than Nash to win a World Title, but it was chance the WWE took to try and create a new star from nothing. What brings them together is the hate both guys garner. Diesel’s WWF Championship run is regarded as one of the worst in company history. As talented as both men are, neither ever really had the respect of the hardcore fan. Further more, there was a tremendous amount of talent behind them on the card, that many fans felt more deserving of the top spots. Even though Reigns is a better in-ring performer, it still shows that no matter what you try, sometimes the fans just won’t buy in. Reigns can definitely get his career back on track with a character adjustment, much like Nash did when he left WWE for WCW, and was one the founders of the nWo. That run put him in the Hall of Fame, we’ll see if Reigns can carve out a similar path.

Speaking of shields and Kliq’s…..

Seth Rollins is Shawn Michaels:


Comparing these 2 guys as in-ring performers is nothing groundbreaking, but their career paths are more similar than meets the eye. Both broke into the WWE as part of a group, then shockingly turned on said group in order to further their career. Except Rollins shot to top right out of the gates, where Michaels took the longer road to world championship glory. Where they set themselves apart is how they have upheld the tradition of having the Intercontinental Champion be the “wrestlers title.” Much like HBK, Rollins continues to steal the show every night, and his matches have become must-see TV. Rollins may be the next all-time great in the making, and it won’t be long before he finds himself back in the main event picture.

Every great wrestler needs a great rival…..

Finn Balor is Razor Ramon:

Tell me a bad match Balor and Rollins have had this year…I’m still waiting. The same applied to HBK and Razor. What makes the Balor/Razor comparison work in my eyes is their place on the roster. As good and as popular as Razor was, he was always a step behind his contemporaries. Same goes for Balor. He is great but I just don’t see him being at the level of a Rollins, Styles, Owens, Reigns, etc. Only time will tell if Finn can separate himself from the pack, and become what we all hope he can be.

Enough with the little guys, we need a monster…

Braun Strowman is the Undertaker:

Every generation needs the giant scary guy, and that is exactly what Braun Strowman is. The fans are fascinated by him, and want nothing more than to see him dominate the competition. This is where you can draw the parallel between Braun and the Undertaker. They both struck fear in their opponents with nothing more than their aura. Take away Taker’s first world title run that lasted only 6 days, and it took him until 1997 to taste legit championship glory. Braun is destined to climb to the top of that mountain. He has got all the tools, including a catchphrase that makes no sense! That’s all you need!

We also need an underdog:

Sami Zayn is Owen Hart:

Sami Zayn is an Uber talented wrestler, who the fans adore, and he will always be in the shadow of his best friend/greatest rival. Sound familiar? Zayn can have great match after great match, but he will always be connected to Kevin Owens, just like Owen was to Bret. The jury is still out on Zayn. As gifted as he is, like Owen, he has not been able to crack the main event consistently since his impressive run in NXT. He is on a hot streak right now, here’s to hoping he can stay on it.

Finally…..

AJ Styles and Kevin Owens are Bret Hart:

I know this may seem like a cop out, and it is. I couldn’t decide on which one of these guys fit the Hitman’s mold better. But the more I thought about it the more it became clear that they each embody the best of Bret Hart. AJ Styles has had to be the steadfast veteran in a period that desperately needs it. He is a true champion that puts on a great match every time he steps through the ropes. Like Hart, he can those performances out of any wrestler, any size. He is a cornerstone of the WWE in 2018. Kevin Owens shows us what Bret Hart would be if he were active right now. Babyface promos in 1993, are heel promos in 2018. Owens has a bigger personality, but his constant whining about the world being against him echoes the same sentiments Hart spoke of back in the day. Being Canadian helps too. In WWE world void of heels he is the best kind. He’s annoying. He’s whiny. He can wrestle.

All of the guys on this list may not be on the mainstream level of a Hulk Hogan or a Steve Austin, but they are the building blocks to get the WWE into their next phase. I trust these guys will get the company back where it needs to be, the next great generation.

Honorable mentions: John Cena/1993 Hogan, Elias/Jeff Jarrett, Bray Wyatt/Papa Shango,

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Maverick Deals: When It’s “Time” To Change

We are only a few days removed from the end of the 2018 installment of the Backlash PPV. At least I’m assuming it ended a few days ago, as I took my old ass to bed following the WWE Championship match. It was at that point I realized that I am quickly becoming a cranky old man when it comes to my wrestling. Before too long I will be sitting on the front porch, yelling at the neighborhood children to get off my lawn, all the while waxing poetic about the “good ‘ol days” when men were men and Stone Cold Stunners were a dime a dozen. At 36, I know I am far too young to feel this way. However with the way the current product is presented, as well as the way some fans behave, I have found it is just easier to embrace it.

Up until the middle of last week, I was going to attend Backlash in Newark. My friend had purchased the tickets when the originally went on sale, and after WrestleMania 34 made him immediately regret that decision, he asked me if it was alright to put the tickets up for sale. I had no issue with this whatsoever on many levels. It is always a throwaway PPV that recycles Mania matches, and with the added “Greatest Royal Rumble” show, this year was worse than others. Not to mention from where I live, Newark is a bitch to get to. I would be much happier sitting at home, drinking not $10 beer, and being able to turn it off whenever I felt the need to. Thank you WWE for proving that I made the right decision.

Now I refuse to sit here and break down this show match for match. It would be a waste of time. My main takeaways from Backlash have a lot to do with the WWE as a whole. They seem to be ignoring the glaring issues that hamper their ability to put on a cohesive and entertaining show. The action in the ring isn’t the problem. Having never set foot in a ring I wouldn’t dare question the men who put their health on the line for our entertainment. What I will question is how these shows are constructed. I am a paying customer dammit and I’m angry and now you are going to hear about it!

A big complaint I see amongst fans is that these PPVs are too long. WrestleMania this year, if you include the pre show, topped out around 7 hours. Backlash, a non-major show, was 4 1/2 hours with pre show. Now I love wrestling, but when you factor in 6 hours of programming a week(if you include NXT), it can be a little overkill. The great part about PPVs back in the day were that they all came in under 3 hours. The fact of the matter is the WWE wastes so much time on non-essential junk in between their matches. During Backlash, 5 of the 8 matches on the main card had a video package that averaged around 3 minutes. Why do they treat the fans like idiots who don’t watch their weekly programming? Not every match on the undercard needs a hype video! Furthermore, they showed 5 commercials, mostly for the WWE Network. Who are these ads for? We are already watching you! Throw in the 20 minute segment with Elias and everybody else who didn’t have a match that night and you’ve wasted almost an hour on superfluous nonsense. This is inexcusable considering the bell for the main event didn’t ring until AFTER 11 o’clock eastern time. With no cable operators to answer to anymore these shows can go as late as they want without consequences. In a world where everybody gets neck strain staring at their smartphone, how can you expect your fans to focus their attention on the ring, when there is nothing going on in it?

So what about when there is action in the ring? One of my dear wrestling Twitter friends, Myron(from the Tapped Out Wrestling Podcast Network), made the point that the matches are too long as well. Combined with the delays between matches, watching events like this feels like a chore. I decided to put these theories to the test and compare Backlash to show from the Attitude Era. I chose the biggest event from 20 years ago, WrestleMania 14. Keep in mind this is not a great Mania, but boy was it efficient. If we take out the pre-show and it’s match from Backlash, both shows had 8 matches. Yet, Backlash clocks in at 3 1/2 hours, WM 14 was a speeding 2:45. It still had video packages and interviews before most of its matches, but they averaged about a minute less than the ones this past Sunday. My buddy Myron was right, the matches are longer! Bouts at WM 14 averaged just over 11 minutes, Backlash was over 13! 3 of those matches on Sunday went over 18 minutes, only the main event did that at WrestleMania. These numbers baffle me. You have a product that caters to people of all ages, including children. You have to speed up the show if you want to hold their attention. I fell asleep during WrestleMania this year. I fell asleep during Backlash. It must be the WWE’s fault, because I doubt I have wrestling narcolepsy.

During the Monday Night Wars, as WCW Nitro or RAW would draw to a close, it would always leave me wanting more. I hate to say it, but I now find myself waiting for some of these WWE shows to end! As fan, I want to be taken on an adventure. I want to count the hours until RAW and SmackDown start. I want to be excited for what is next to come. I love you product, but I have a life too. I shouldn’t take me 2 days to get through your biggest show of the year. The big discussion in baseball now is pace of play, and fans losing interest. WWE is straddling this fence. If they keep this up, I’ll be more than happy reliving the glory days 2 hours at a time.

Maverick Deals: The Roman Reigns Conundrum

Roman Reigns is the most disrespected man in wrestling. In the 30 years I have been watching this sport I have never seen a performer draw a reaction quite like he does. It defies all logic. It baffles even the most intelligent wrestling minds, especially this one. The WWE has a major league problem on their hands. A supreme talent, a marketable look, a desperate search for the next “big star”, and fans want no part of it. The WWE has can not get people to buy in to Roman Reigns. Worst of all, the evidence points to a frightening truth: They have no idea how to do it.

To further examine this we must go back to the beginning, to the exact moment the WWE Universe turned its back to the Roman Reigns experience. January 25, 2015. Philadelphia, PA. Daniel Bryan enters the Royal Rumble at #10, after nearly a year off due to injury. The rabid fans in Philly are salivating at the fact that their hero will once again shock the world, and main event WrestleMania for the 2nd year in a row. Less than 11 minutes later that dream would die, when Bryan was eliminated by Bray Wyatt. The crowd lost all interest in the match from here on out, and got all Philadelphia. They focused their anger and disappointment towards hijacking the match. They chanted and booed, deciding then and there that whoever would be the last man standing at the end of the night, would not be worthy of their adoration. That man just happened to be Roman Reigns. Since then, this phenomenon has snowballed into unrelenting hatred toward a man that has done nothing over the last 5 years except show up for work.

Injuries are a part of all sports. You can’t predict them, and you can only hope to be able to adapt without your best players being healthy. Over the last few years, there have been a slew of injuries that have plagued the main event scene in the WWE. The names on the list are a who’s who of top flight stars: Seth Rollins, John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Samoa Joe, Dean Ambrose, Randy Orton, Finn Balor, etc. Every single one of those guys has missed a WrestleMania over the last 3 years. One of the big reasons why we always see Roman Reigns in a main event, is because he has managed to stay healthy throughout his run. He is not being “shoved down our throats.”

While we are on it, lets talk about those 4 straight WrestleMania main events that everyone loves to complain about. In 2015, following the aforementioned Royal Rumble, he faced Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship. We all know how that turned out. That match fantastic, but the night belonged to Seth Rollins. The year after Reigns faced Triple H, once again for the championship, and this time he would stand victorious. Yet I can’t help but wonder that if Rollins’ were healthy, would Reigns have even been in that match? I can buy the argument that he was the wrong guy to take on the Undertaker last year. What I can’t buy is the blame that Reigns gets for the match being bad. The match was hard to watch, but it was at no fault to Reigns. He worked so hard to get a good match out of 52 year old man with broken down everything. Not to mention the enormous pressure of being put in a spot where, at least at the time, we thought it was the Undertaker’s swan song. Which brings us to this year. The fans had put the WWE in a lose/lose situation. With Brock Lesnar’s contract status locked up for a while longer, and the immense hatred towards Reigns, the WWE made the smart play by keeping the title on Lesnar. They really had no choice.

So a 2-2 record in WrestleMania main events, and he’s considered the chosen one? Please. There are other interesting stats, that when examined, poke holes into the theory that Reigns is the top guy, and nobody else is given a fair shot. Out of his three WWE Championship runs, he has held the title for a total of 118 days. That puts him tied for 29th on the All-Time list for number of days as champion. To put that into perspective, Jinder Mahal has been WWE champion longer than Roman Reigns. You have to put some stock on who is your world champ. When a guy hasn’t held either one of your biggest titles in almost 2 years, he shouldn’t be getting flack from the fans because he’s the “golden boy.” It’s just inaccurate. To go down this rabbit whole even further, let’s take a look at Roman Reigns in PPV title matches. He is 4-10. Three times a Money in the Bank briefcase has been cashed in during a match he was involved in, including his first WWE Championship win. Reigns is not the superhuman fans make him out to be. So how can we change this perception?

The WWE can’t seem to find a way to get Reigns over that sticks. The sympathetic underdog is ridiculous. Fans chewed up and spit out the larger than life superhero. For years there has been a clamoring for him to turn heel, but at this point that makes little sense. He is already getting booed out of every arena. If you made him a bad guy, he would probably get cheered. I agree they need to make a change in his presentation, but the WWE has really put themselves in a bad spot. How do you do it? From my seat there is one way we can turn Roman, where it would all make sense, and fans would be able to accept him for what he should be. They need to align him with the greatest heel of them all, Vince McMahon. Play to smart marks out there. Show Reigns being Vince’s chosen champ. Show the irony of their encounter before WrestleMania, that led to Reigns suspension. Make it interesting, and see if you can cash in on giving the fans what they want. Give them a logical reason to hate a man they already hate.

It is an interesting case the likes of which we have never seen. At a different time Roman Reigns would have the fans in the palm of his hand. These days fans have an undeniable sense of entitlement. If you are one of these fans please remember, the WWE is not a restaurant. You can’t just order off the menu, then if you don’t like the meal, chant it back to the kitchen. The WWE is in constant motion. I know its hard sometimes, but its important you enjoy the ride. If you don’t like Roman Reigns, fine. Nobody is asking you to. I will ask that you don’t be disrespectful to him, or any other wrestler who puts their bodies on the line for our entertainment. I love this sport. You love this sport. Start acting like it.

Episode 34: State of the Union 2018

stateofunion

The guys are back after a long holiday break!  Inspired by recent events, and Gregg’s recent blogging, your hosts decide to put the classics aside and talk about the current state of wrestling.  From the fans, to NJPW, to the Royal Rumble, Chris and Gregg give their insight on all the hot topics going on in the world.  They also give their thoughts on the performers they think are overrated in 2018.  You don’t want to miss it!

Episode 34: State of the Union 2018

NOTE: This episode was recorded after our “Clash of the Champions” show, so ignore the “thank you’s.”  It was also recorded before Raw and Smackdown, so anything that happened this week, we didn’t know about.

Maverick Deals:Wrestle Kingdom 12 Superlatives!

The first major wrestling event of 2018 took place this past week in Japan. It goes without saying that Wrestle Kingdom 12 was an excellent show from top to bottom. Now, I could put together an in-depth wrap up breaking down all the matches into a fine powder. That is not what you are going to get here. It’s just not my style. If you want that you can listen to a hundred different podcasts, read the Wrestling Observer, or even Bleacher Report. Here at HSLB we like to have a little fun. So I put together a list of superlatives(like your high school yearbook!) highlighting the best parts of this fantastic NJPW show. Enjoy!

BEST DRESSED-Tetsuya Naito: Let us begin where the show ended. Before putting on an epic main event with rival Kazuchika Okada, Naito made an equally impressive entrance into the Tokyo Dome. He was draped in a white suit, fully equipped with a cape and mask. I can only assume he was going for the Don Fanucci look from “Godfather Part II.”

Reference!!

REFERENCE!

None of this, however, can take away from the incredible match Naito and Okada put on. They have one of the best rivalries in all of wrestling. It was a perfect ending to a near perfect show.

BEST COUPLE-Cody and Brandy Rhodes: Ugh I know this is so obvious, but we must give credit where credit is due. There are very few active on/off screen power couples in wrestling. The Miz has been off filming a movie while wife Maryse is on maternity leave. The Bella Twins have their own show, and haven’t been a regular part of WWE television in quite some time. Even Triple H and Stephanie McMahon do most of their work behind the scenes rather than in the ring. This has left the door open for Cody and Brandy to take the reigns at the top of the mountain. Cody’s career is red hot since he left WWE, despite back to back big match losses. The on screen addition of his real life bride has added a much needed wrinkle to his all world personality. I am excited to see where these two go from here.

MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED- “Switchblade” Jay White: Full disclosure: I had never seen a Jay White match before I watched WK12. Does that make me a bad wrestling fan? Maybe, but I have a wife and a 1 year old. I can’t see everything! Needless to say I was impressed with this young man from the start. I said it on Twitter, and I will say it again here: If I were a WWE talent scout, I would call Jay White everyday until he showed up at the Performance Center. He has all of the tools to be a megastar. He has a great look. He is a physical presence in the ring, and at 25, even the sky may not be the limit. I mean look at him? He looks like the love child of Wade Barrett and Trent Reznor!

And you could have it all…….

The amount of young talent out there is astounding. We live in a wrestling world of big spots and extraterrestrial athleticism. Jay White is breath of fresh air for fans like me who love a good brawler. I am excited to see what the future holds for this kid from New Zealand. Speaking of leaping aliens…..

MOST ATHLETIC: Will Ospreay- Another obvious one, but this dude does some nonsense in the ring that can’t be understood by our earth born brains. He is a human video game glitch. Not a single thing he does should be physically possible. The man literally walks on air. I do have a few concerns about his future. At only 24, the risks he takes in the ring may end up costing him down the line. Ospreay’s unlimited agility will get him a seat at the table without a doubt. I just think he needs to slow down, and find the wrestler in him. It is there, we all know it, and it will add years to his career. I am also not a fan of his finisher. Ospreay hit it a few times during his IWGP Jr. Heavyweight title win at WK12. Honestly, it is an impressive maneuver on his part, but he will always be in the ring with guys that are not quite as gifted athletically. When his opponent clearly needs to jump into the Oscutter, it looks mildly shitty. Obviously I am just nitpicking here, but details matter. I want this guy to get to the next level just like everyone. I wish him nothing but the best.

MOST TALKATIVE: Kevin Kelly and Don Callis- One of the things that made this show so good was the English commentary by Kevin Kelly and Don Callis. Callis, in particular, was most entertaining as your typical “heel” half of the announce team. It was nice having the announcers actually calling the matches, rather than being fed lines and plugs in their headsets. They also did a fantastic job of telling the stories within the matches. The team knew they were probably speaking to a good chunk of fans that may not know the ins and outs of all things NJPW. They were able to paint the necessary picture to get the casual fan invested in every single match. Kudos to Kelly and Callis for providing depth to the already impressive in ring performances.

And finally……

MOST DEPENDABLE: Chris Jericho(and fine Kenny Omega, too)- The match that had everyone’s attention going into WK12 was a battle between a legend and a guy building his own legacy. The hype for this match was out of control, and boy did it deliver. I was not surprised at all. Even with the high expectations, you knew that these 2 men were going to live up to every bit of it. Kenny Omega is one of the best wrestlers in world, enjoying the best parts of his prime. The real story here is Chris Jericho. At 47, his ability to still put on main event caliber matches is unparalleled. His match with Omega will go down, and rightfully so, as one of the best of his career. Personally, my favorite Jericho match ever was against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 19. The top 2 guys on my list, facing each other on the biggest stage. To put it in perspective, Jericho was 33 at the time of that match, Michaels was 38. 14 years later, Y2J has yet to lose a step.

I hope you enjoyed this feature on Wrestle Kingdom 12. Chris and I will be back on the air in the coming weeks. Until then enjoy all of our archived shows on the website!

Maverick Deals: Dear Angry Wrestling Fans-Part 2

So now that we’ve had a little while to digest Part 1 of this letter, please enjoy the continuation:

“Chan-ting Non-sense”- Since we have already covered awful you sound on social media, it’s how you act in the arenas that is the most irritating. I wish I could pinpoint the moment that it all happened. When did wrestling crowds decide that the shows were about them instead of the action going on in the ring? People are literally paying hundreds of dollars to see if they can get the crowd to join them in some bullshit chant. It was at the previously mentioned Live Event that I had the pleasure of sitting 3 rows in front of “Yelling Guy.” We all know this guy. A guy so void of brains that he just screams ran-dom wo-ords with the hope that can go home and tell his bros that he started a chant at a wrestling show. I’m assuming his mother didn’t hug him enough. There came a point during the night that, if I wasn’t with my 6 year old nephew, I probably would have attempted to embarrass him with my own words.

During a women’s tag match that featured Alexa Bliss/Nia Jax vs. Asuka/Dana Brooke, the guy directs a, “Big and Beautiful,” chant at Ms. Jax. A chant that to me seems counterproductive. Yet when Alexa Bliss entered the ring, he starts in with a, “Short and Ugly” chant! This dude had so many rancid farts for brain cells, that he couldn’t even decide which team he wanted to win the match. All he wanted to do was, at the top of his lungs mind you, yell at some women. It is almost like we have forgotten how to cheer or boo. Sure it’s fun to turn your phone into a firefly, or swipe your arm while saying, “Delete!,” but if after the bell rings you can hear conversations across the arena, then we aren’t doing are jobs as fans. The matches actually should matter to you, especially when you are in attendance.

The main event that night was Roman Reigns vs. John Cena for the Intercontinental Championship. A pretty decent match for a non-televised event if you as me. Yet when you looked around the crowd, it looked like their heads were going to explode. Sure there was a nice buzz around Madison Square Garden, but they had no idea what to do! It’s not that hard people. You pick a horse, and you cheer for him. It’s not a battle of which guy sucks more. The negativity is palpable. If you honestly hate both guys that much, just keep your ass home. I’ve been to shows in that building, where sound had feeling. I long for those days again. We need pops. We need claps. We need to cheer again! (P.S.-Enough with the CM Punk chants. I liked the guy too, but you treat him like the first girl that touched your wiener. She doesn’t care and neither does he. Let it go, man.).

And finally-

“Everyone is a Tweener”- I see this statement a lot and it always makes me chuckle. It’s the idea that babyfaces and heels don’t exist anymore, at least in the classic sense anyway. It’s the idea that the WWE has changed the way it is presenting their talent. I laugh at this because the WWE hasn’t changed a thing. You’ve changed! Somewhere along the way we as fans have stopped accepting who these characters are. We refuse to cheer guys like Roman and Cena. We refuse to boo guys like Samoa Joe or the Miz. Root for whoever you want, I don’t care. But thinking that everyone is straddling some gray area is just plain untrue. The WWE still has good guys and bad guys. There is no reason for them to change that formula. Yet when the fan base wont allow themselves to accept these terms and conditions, this is how we get the bullshit on social media, and in the arenas.

You see it all ties together. We have to collectively end the negativity that surrounds the sport we all love. Superkicks and flips aren’t “killing the business,” the fans are. If a fan says they like a certain wrestler, 15 people call them stupid. It seems liking both AJ Styles and Kenny Omega is somehow frowned upon. We should like it all! It is the greatest time to be a wrestling fan. There is literally something out there for everyone, and it is all available instantly. When I was younger, being a wrestling fan was like being part of a secret club. Now we have bouncers at the door telling us we’re stupid because we like certain people. It can’t be like that anymore. I’m guilty of things on this list. We all are. So my pledge for 2018 is to be a better wrestling fan. To bring back the days where watching wrestling was fun. Where we cheered our heroes and booed their opponents. If you are willing to take this pledge with me, I’m happy to have you along for the ride. But if you want to continue degrading your own, while crapping on the people that put their bodies on the line for your entertainment, well I think it’s about time you hide and go fuck yourself. Happy New Year, friends.

Maverick Deals: Dear Angry Wrestling Fans….

The following is an open letter to all fans who have no idea how to enjoy pro wrestling anymore. Please share!

Dear Angry Wrestling Fans,

You may not be aware of this, but you are ruining one of the few things that I hold dear. You might not think you are part of the problem, but you are. You might not think I am talking to you, but I am. By the end of this you might be a bit angry with me, but you shouldn’t be. The only person you should mad at is the mug that looks back at you in the mirror. The negativity that fuels you is killing wrestling, and it’s about time somebody called you out on it. So where do I start? How about…..

The Complaining: One of the biggest stories of 2017 was Jinder Mahal’s unlikely run as WWE Champion. Was it the greatest title run in history? Of course not! But it was not nearly as bad some of you made it out to be. While it may have lacked in mass appeal, we got to see something we rarely get in WWE: A guy who was an afterthought, improving at his craft under the brightest spotlight, up against the harshest of critics. But instead of focusing on the WWE trying to create new stars by throwing them in the deep end, you would rather sit there and rattle off names of people who “deserved” to be champion more. So that’s how it works now? You should be picking the title holders? What we need to be doing as a fan base is be more patient and let situations play out. I understand we live in a “we need it now” world, but one of the greatest wrinkles in wrestling is the payoff. If every Monday or Tuesday you got exactly what you wanted, why would we need the next match?

There are also these jackasses out there who seem to think there is “too much” wrestling for them to handle. 25 years ago, there was no Monday Night Raw. We had an hour of WWF on Saturday morning, and an hour of WCW on Saturday night(At least on my cable system). That’s it! Now we can watch whatever we want, however we want, and all at the touch of a button. Sure 6 hours a week of WWE, not including PPVs, is a big investment. I’ve gone on record numerous times about how near impossible it is for me to catch Raw, Smackdown, or NXT during their scheduled times. But that’s just it, you can watch them all whenever you want! Nobody is sitting there with a gun to your head, forcing you to watch Raw live, ignoring you family and jobs. You create your own viewing schedule based on your needs. You catch up when you can, and fast forward through the boring parts! You can create your own positive experience. This goes for wrestling podcasts too. I constantly see tweets from people crying to Conrad Thompson or Bruce Prichard about how long a particular episode is or how many commercials there are. You realize this is a completely voluntary activity right? This is not life or death people. It’s just wrestling. We live in a world where you can control your entertainment consumption. Try to remember that when you bitch tweet about a 5 hour podcast that comes equipped with a pause button.

“Ugh, I miss kayfabe!”- No you fucking don’t. Somewhere along the way you have to accept the fact that this is a TV show starring actors playing a role. This past week I saw a lot of people ripping the WWE and Braun Strowman for their “Elf” parody. “How can we be invested in Braun now after this?”, some of you opined! Honestly, what does that even mean? When the Rock played a computer scorpion in “The Mummy Returns,” not once did it cross my mind about how his wrestling character would be affected. I understand the Braun thing is a little different since it was a WWE produced video, but one has nothing to do with the other! Are you that brain damaged that you can’t comprehend the same guy playing a different role on something else? It’s damn near laughable. The same people that yearn for kayfabe to return are the same people that can’t live without their 4 dozen wrestling websites. They would burst into flames without their inside scoops on all the backstage happenings. What we need from you in 2018 is for you to take a step back. Remember it’s just a show, and shows are supposed to be fun. Continuing to cling to an ancient tradition that can’t possibly exist anymore will just fuel your hate fire. Take a deep breath. Like I said before, it’s just wrestling……

This concludes Part 1 of my “End of the Year” post. Part 2 will be arriving shortly!

Maverick Deals:The Brain

“I’m a legend in this sport…if you don’t believe me, ask me.”

-Raymond Louis “Bobby” Heenan, 1944-2017

I have been a wrestling fan for as long as I can remember.  I was fortunate enough to live through some of the greatest decades in the history of the sport.  I was a child of the 80s, so I experienced Hulkamania to its fullest.  I was in high school from the 1995-99, so my formative years were spent discussing Raw and Nitro Tuesday mornings in Home Room during the height of the” Monday Night Wars.”  During those memorable times there were countless performers that entertained me.  Yet as I look back, very few made me laugh and enjoy wrestling more than Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. 

There will always be the great debates when it comes to the best of all time, especially when it comes to managers.  If you gave me 100 ballots I would put Heenan #1 a hundred times.  I will fully admit to my New York bias on this one.  Growing up in the Northeast  it was all WWF all the time. My earliest memories of Heenan the manager came from his time with Andre the Giant. As a kid I knew I was supposed to hate Bobby and his Heenan Family but for some reason I couldn’t.  Plus Andre was awesome, how could you hate who he was hanging out with?!  They made me smile too much.  I still rooted for the Hulkster without question, but my Saturday mornings were always a little brighter if The Brain was on my TV.  Even when he was running with Mr. Perfect and Ric Flair, in all the bleach blonde glory a Clorox factory could handle, you couldn’t help but adore him.  He was the “weasel”, but I didn’t care.  He represented the worst of the worst, and he managed to make you question your morality with his hijinks.  He was brilliant.  He was “The Brain.”   

By the time I became a teenager Heenan was now a full time commentator for WCW.  If you ask me, the greatest 3 man announce team ever was Tony Schiavone, Dusty Rhodes, and Bobby Heenan.  They brought out the best in each other.  Schiavone played the professional play by play announcer.  Dusty was the expert color man who could break down a match to a fine powder.  Then there was Heenan.  He provided the most integral part of wrestling, the entertainment.  He would crack jokes about anything and everything going on in the ring.  As an announcer he poked holes in everything a babyface did.  He would once again make you question, “Should I really cheer for this guy? Brain may have a point!”  One of the more famous instances of this was during Bash at the Beach 1996, the notorious “Hostile Take Over” match.  Everyone sat at the edge of their seat, wondering who the 3rd man to join the Outsiders was going to be.  Hulk Hogan marches out, ready to save the day!  Heenan was the only one to question his motives, asking, “Yeah but who’s side is he on?!”  We soon found out who’s side he was on didn’t we?  Over the years that comment has been a topic of debate.  Did Heenan give away the finish?  Hardly!!  He did what he had been doing for years at that point.  He made us question the purity of our beloved heroes.  Only this time, he was right!! When you can manipulate an audience like that, it speaks to the ungodly talent a human can possess.  Bobby Heenan had all of us in the palm of his hand.   The only choice you had was to accept it, and enjoy the ride. 

I got to see Bobby Heenan in person once.  It was at Wrestlemania 20 in New York.  He was one of the inductees into the WWE Hall of Fame that year, before that was really a thing.  I hadn’t seen him on TV in a while, and I knew he had been sick.  The words were slightly slurred, but that guy could soften the hardest of hearts.  There was a backstage skit involving him, Gene Okurland, Moolah, and Mae Young.   4 legends mixed with the allusion of old fogey group sex was a pleasant bit of comic relief during a long night.  When they brought out the entire HOF class later in the evening, you still heard a smattering of “Weasel” chants aimed at Bobby.  Yet you knew it was all out of love and respect.  Bobby Heenan was one of a kind. 

It has been a tough week for all wrestling fans, especially for old timers like me.  I avoided most of the articles and the tributes, because I wanted to remember Bobby Heenan through my own heart, not someone else’s eyes.  He embodied what professional wrestling should be…..fun.  Unfortunately, the “fun” is something sorely missing from today’s WWE.  The announcers try too hard to be real broadcast journalists.  The fans take their passion and opinions WAY too seriously.  There is a severe lack of personality behind the beards and wet heads.  There is a void in the world of wrestling, and it grew bigger this week.  It’s time for us to have some fun again.  That’s how we all can honor the legacy of Bobby Heenan.  Inspire us, Brain, the way you always could.  We love you, and need you now more than ever. 

Maverick Deals: Lost Summer

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Thursday, August 31, 2017. 10:30am.

As much as I would love to join my wife and son for a late morning nap, I’m antsy. There are too many thoughts rolling around in this crazy head of mine. I decide to put my sneakers on get some fresh air. The only thought I had at the time, that I could understand anyway, was “Go take walk.”

It was always burned into my mind that once September hits, summer is over. This year’s installment went by faster than any I can remember. I feel like last week the Yankees were in 1st place, Aaron Judge was the MVP and Rookie of the Year, it was Memorial Day and we were about to debut on the Tapped Out Network. When I woke up this morning, the Yankees were clinging to a Wild Card slot, Aaron Judge strikes out more than I did in college, the NFL season starts in a week, and the podcast is on an island once again. What the hell man?!

I feel like this summer passed me by like a stranger in a crowd. There were no trips to the beach, no concerts attended, and no rounds of golf.(That last one hit me hard as I stroll by the 5th on the course I live near.) It was my first summer as a dad and all I had to show for it is 3 months chock full of hollow plans. Yet when I think about where I started in May, and where am I as August draws its last breath, it might have been the summer I needed most.

(At this point I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “What’s this have to do with wrestling?” Relax, we’re getting there)

It took me way too long to realize how much pain I was in, 24/7, both mentally and physically. For years I have battled anxiety and depression. This is a phrase that gets kicked around a lot these days, thankfully. When I was 12 I was just “shy” and “distracted”. At 36, it’s a legitimate illness that is a daily fight for millions everywhere, and thankfully much more socially acceptable. Stress was my downfall earlier in the year. Sure it’s the normal stuff, working 60 hours a week at my restaurant, being a new parent, and living far away from friends and family all factor in to your stress levels. It was also the pressures of turning what was once a hobby and a passion, that now had become work. Putting out a quality wrestling podcast, week in week out, is difficult enough. Having a contract with a network, meeting deadlines, as well as trying to keep things fresh in a saturated market, is a pressure unto itself. That pressure ultimately brought me to my knees, but it wasn’t the only thing.

I was physically breaking down over the course of the spring and summer. What started as the occasional sore back from 20 years in the restaurant business, was now constant and severe pain. I could barely move, yet I did nothing to take care of it. The combination of the anxiety and the physical pain was more than I could handle. I broke down. At one point, during an episode, I thought I was having a heart attack. It was at that point I knew I had to get my head right first, and the rest would fall into place. There is a line in “The Matix” given by Morpheus that says, “The body cannot live without the mind.” I was living proof of that.

I thank God every day for my wife. She is the most caring badass of a person I know. She found a medical doctor who specializes in treating anxiety and depression. Yes there are people like this out there! We put together a plan, and over the last few months, with the right medicine and diet, I haven’t felt this good in a long time. The same goes for my back issues too. The anxiety I deal with makes it difficult for me to make phone calls. Once I was able to calm those nerves, I called my chiropractor. It turns out I had a pinched nerve in my back, that was just getting worse and worse. After weeks of therapy, I am feeling great again. I am back to exercising regularly, and I am hoping pick up those golf clubs that are collecting dust in my closet very soon. I guess the point I’m trying to make is this: There are people all over the place willing to help you. They have these jobs so they can do just that. The most important thing you can do in life is ask for help. Nobody can do anything alone. With so many remarkable people in the world, there is bound to be one out there that will have the life jacket waiting for you. It’s never too late, I can promise you that.

Which finally brings us back to why you all know who I am, and listen to our podcast: Wrestling. Throughout all of my troubles, and as I mentioned before, we had a short stint on the Tapped Out Wrestling Podcast Network. We couldn’t have been more excited to work with and connect with such great people. Unfortunately, not everything you do in life works out, and my co-host, Chris, and I thought it would be in our best interest to move on and leave the network. The notion of feeling like I failed at this game killed me. I had let something that should have been fun, consume me. I wanted nothing to do with it anymore. During our hiatus, I put wrestling, something I love dearly and have tremendous passion for, off the side. I barely watched any wrestling on TV. I couldn’t even turn on a wrestling podcast. I had no desire to even record my own. It felt like I was going through a breakup. I wasn’t going to be ready, until I was ready.

Our first show back will drop this Monday, September 4th. Sure it was the second attempt at this episode, but damn it felt good to be back behind a microphone. It felt right again. I know in my heart of hearts that we will be stronger than ever, and I hope each and every one of you enjoys the ride with us. In hindsight, maybe this summer wasn’t lost after all. Maybe I just needed go through all of this muck, and come out a stronger person on the other side. I needed to find what got me into this podcast racket to being with. It all starts with a passion, a passion I had lost at some point during the Summer of ’17. Yet as the calendar turns to fall, it is a passion that burns once again.

Maverick Deals: Summerslam and Chill

Every week in the world of wrestling garners some level of debate. It’s why we podcast. It’s why we blog. It’s why we Tweet. The wrestling fan is so overloaded with programming and information, and so vocal about the product they consume, it’s hard to tell if anybody is actually enjoying anything anymore.  

All too often we take the things we love much too seriously. I’ve been known to throw things during a N.Y. Giants loss, hell we’re all human. Wrestling fans are no different. In the age of social media and the internet, we are all guilty of having a quick trigger when commenting on the current state of wrestling affairs. What scares me though is as a die hard fan, have we forgotten how to enjoy wrestling for what it is?  

All I see everyday is fans arguing. If you like a different wrestler or watch a different promotion, it’s almost like putting a target on your back. When I was a kid, being a wrestling fan was like being part of a secret club. We had our own language, our own stories to tell. There was a sense of family. That doesn’t exist anymore. It’s too much “my dad can beat up your dad” or “This person doesn’t deserve to be champion.”  We have forgotten how to come together as fans, and just have fun. We are still part of that small family who can find joy in the absurd.  So as the 30th edition of Summerslam looms over this weekend’s horizon, I ask only one favor of you. Have fun!! Don’t get caught up in results. Don’t worry about guys getting “buried.” Don’t concern yourself with who’s walking in or out of Brooklyn as championship. We are primed to have some great matches on Sunday. Get comfortable, and for a few hours allow yourself to remember why you became a wrestling fan to begin with. Trust me, its not to argue with some jabroni in Cleveland about who deserves to be Intercontinental Champion. 
Here are my quick picks for Sunday:

Hardy’s & Jordan, Orton, Big Cass, Corbin, Balor, Styles, New Day, Rollins & Ambrose, Natty, Alexa, Tozawa, Mahal, Strowman. 

Enjoy Takeover as well, kids. We will be back in September with fresh podcasts! Until then follow me on Twitter @ddtarchives and my co-host @TheCourageous_1 

Until next time, it’s the Maverick signing off.