By Haydn Gleed
-Hello, everybody! By the time you are reading this the chances are I’m on my way to London getting ready to experience the NFL live and in person for the first time. I have brought my pillow and sleeping sunglasses so I can catch up on some much needed sleep after a man in two tons of padding is tackled by another man in two tons of padding and then a gap of about 2 hours until the next play happens. Joking aside, I am looking forward to the experience and I’ll hopefully be live tweeting my experience on twitter if you want to follow along to see a soccer mad person experience American Football for the first time.
-Last Sunday was WWE TLC and I thought it was a decent event. Everything had some sort of purpose and for a single brand non-big event show it was an enjoyable three hours. I can’t say that the bells and whistles in the main event was to my tastes but at the same time if I look past some of the garbage trunk sized plot and logic holes I can accept it for what it was. Of course, the match of the night was AJ Styles against Finn Balor, made even better by the family in the 5th or 6th row in the arena that held up the Welsh flag towards the end of the match. Hopefully the WWE main roster will present more of these no-storyline dream match type of contests in the future as they do have a place where people just want to watch a well wrestled match between two guys they respect. William Regal made some very good points on twitter when he talked about the match being a good example to the younger wrestlers that you don’t need a big elaborate storyline to have a reason for a match, the story is two guys in a contest who want to win. Progress Wrestling does this really well as there’s a nice split of about 70 percent of matches on a chapter that have storylines and feuds and then 30 percent of matches that are dream matches where the only story being told by the guys is a desire to win to prove who is the better wrestler.
-Speaking of AJ Styles, is beating him the kiss of death? One week Baron Corbin beats him and then loses to Sin Cara by count-out, then Balor beats him and loses to Kane the next night. I could go on about how I feel about Balor’s momentum once again being derailed for no reason, but there’s not enough space in this blog for the verbal shaking of my head, and I need to save room for my major rant of the week…..
-The biggest story coming out of Raw was the now annual Raw vs Smackdown feud and the start of the build for Survivor Series. It felt we saw the best and the worst parts of the brand/roster split. When Kurt read the list of matches, aside from the insanity that is Jinder Mahal vs. Brock Lesnar, I thought to myself that some of the matches seem fresh. I’m not saying they are dream matches by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m intrigued by the prospect of Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins taking on The Usos, as I can’t remember ever seeing it before. OK, Alexa Bliss against Natalya probably won’t happen, but it doesn’t feel like a repeat of something I’ve seen recently. By keeping both rosters apart, it does present opportunities for people to get excited about seeing a match that they are not likely to see week in week out.
However, the way they frame these Raw vs Smackdown feuds is all wrong. Do any of us know someone who says, “I’m a Raw fan, f— Smackdown” or visa versa? The wrestling homer equivalent to a Vikings fan enjoying when the Packers fail, or somebody who’s a Liverpool fan in soccer rising a smile when Manchester United don’t do well? My point being is that the fans who go to these events are there because WWE are within a distance they are willing to travel, not because it’s Raw or Smackdown. I’m not saying everyone is like that, but I would bet that the vast majority of the people in the arena at Raw would be just as likely to go to the show in the same location if it was a Smackdown show. WWE is the draw, not the brands. So by framing this as a Raw vs. Smackdown feud you are asking the fans to choose a side. And because I don’t feel there’s a strong feeling either way for either brand it leads to apathy and a feeling of “I don’t care who wins so why should I be invested in this?” Even worse is if you do manage to make the fans care about say Raw more than Smackdown and they are someone who regularly watched both shows, once this feud is over are they meant to forget that they were only just recently hating everything and everyone on Smackdown? How does that make business sense if that person then stops watching Smackdown due to Raw loyalty?
-If it was me booking these feuds, I would give the feud a purpose. It wouldn’t be about proving who the better brand is, but instead there’s a something on the line similar to the Royal Rumble with a championship opportunity as the prize. What you could do is say whichever brand wins the most matches or points during the course of the night, they get the first draft pick when NXT talent are being brought up to the main roster. This would give the feud something more meaningful to aim for. You could then keep the wrestlers in each brand in character and be able to explain that if a brand signs the top young talent then the brand will make more money and therefore so will the talent. You could even lace brand specific storylines into this where say Shane McMahon reluctantly puts Sami Zayn into his Smackdown team because he’s one of the top talents, but Sami walks out halfway through because he doesn’t want another talent on the Smackdown brand taking his spot and opportunities. There are so many opportunities to make this more than a “choose a brand” until Survivor Series but please keep watching afterwards or wrestlers on each brand hating each other one minute but the next they hate Raw wrestlers more because their gang wears blue and the other gang wears red. WWE is falling back into a lazy booking pattern that they seem to do every year.
Having watched Smackdown, I’m even more down with the entire concept. It’s been pointed out elsewhere but Shane’s excuse of “Kurt Angle disrespected my brand so we took over” doesn’t hold any water. Essentially, what WWE are asking us to believe is that either the wrestlers were within an hours drive away from Raw at all times and had their blue shirts at the ready or they all hang out backstage anyways, in which case why haven’t there been many brawls with the Raw wrestlers before?!
-Incredibly random musing, but I was reading an old newsletter from 1990 where there was an interview with a young Paul Hayman. Why I found it interesting was he used the term Sports Entertainment . Even all the way back 27 years ago, the term was being used. As I said, this is completely random but think about that next time if you do what I do and roll my eyes when sports entertainment is used instead of professional wrestling by WWE.
-Am I the only one that finds it weird that the Fashion Files are referencing movies that their target audience haven’t or at least shouldn’t have seen? In the UK, Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs are 18 certificates, and with the PG era and the marketing to kids isn’t that going to lead to awkward requests to watch the movies by little Johnny to his or hers parents. I know I’m still not considered old enough mentally to watch these movies, but that’s okay because I get to play with lego’s…..
-So Impact Wrestling has its own pizza……….I bet it’s all the right ingredients but put together in a ridiculous and over complicated way. What does that remind me?………anyways…..
-I’ve been watching a lot of ROH recently trying to catch up ready for my glorious return to members’ audio, and I have to say I’m still impressed with the way ROH has gone about their TV show since the turn of the year. Not every segment or match feels like it’s telling a story, but the majority of the show feels like it is being showcased for a reason or there is some progression of some feud or another. I do still worry that their roster is aging and aside from one or two guys I don’t feel they have much in terms of youth talent, but I am enjoying the show so members look out for my return to audio in the next couple of weeks.
-Speaking of returns, Progress Wrestling is back on Sunday at the Electric Ballroom, Camden (I had to give up my ticket to go to the NFL game) and it looks like a nice card on paper. New Progress Champion Travis Banks is taking on 2017’s big indie star (in more ways than one) in Keith Lee, as well as an intriguing match between Tyler Bates and Trent Severn taking on David Starr and Jack Sexsmith. On top of all of this will be Pete Dunne addressing Progress fans and management, which should be interesting. Look for a review here at Prowrestling.net as soon as the show is up on the on demand service for Progress a few days after the event.
-That’s going to do it for me for this week! All that’s left for me to say is go Vikings, beat your opponents by using your hands better in football!! I’m sooooooo going to get beaten up at this game for my sarcastic comments…..
As always, feel free to get in touch via email firstname.lastname@example.org or via twitter @haydngleed