By Haydn Gleed, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@haydngleed)
-I wrote about the Royal Rumble and NXT Takeover: Philadelphia in my usual blog on Friday. It was such a busy weekend that I saved my thoughts on this week’s television shows for this bonus Saturday edition. For starters, Raw was a solid follow up to the Rumble, perhaps not the spectacular start to the road to WrestleMania but it served it’s purpose in continuing the feuds that presumably will play out in the next few months. Just to get the negatives out of the way, what they have done with Matt Hardy’s “Woken” gimmick is criminal. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t want to see it because I cringe when they have the random laughing gimmick happening between Hardy and Bray Wyatt. As seems to be the case, if Vince McMahon doesn’t get it, it doesn’t matter how much money he leaves on the table, he won’t allow someone to try something outside the box. Hey, it’s his company and it’s his prerogative, but it’s a shame if this is what’s happening. With Jeremey Borash, who was instrumental in the Broken character in TNA, coming into WWE we may get a change in attitude to it but I won’t believe it until I see it since Borash appears to be assigned to NXT.
-Another negative was the missed opportunity on Raw to push Finn Balor over the edge. This was added to my frustration with how I would argue he was treated as a side note on Sunday. His stint in the Rumble was impressive, but as with anything on a wrestling show, it needed to be showcased by the announcers. There were multiple times when they would be praising Rusev for lasting as long as he did, but they failed to mention that Balor, who had been in the match for the same amount of time, was also still in the match. Yes, they paid lip service to him when he was eliminated, but by then the opportunity was gone. Equally, I thought Monday was a great opportunity to “make” Balor in the eyes of the casual fans by telling the story of him as a guy who had gone nearly an hour in the Rumble the night before but managed to beat John Cena the next night on Raw. With Cena being a part time attraction, I would have loved to have seen them go on a journey where Cena still sounds confident, yet he’s not as good as he once was in the ring and starts losing to some of the newer guys in the company. However, it feels we say that every year. Nevertheless, I do feel it was a missed opportunity to follow up with Balor after his long stint in the Rumble and the rub from being in the final segment of Raw with DX on Raw 25. I guess that’s what happens in WWE if you manage to get injured through no fault of your own during your initial push.
-Is Paul Heyman trying to be Jack Ryan? “Clear and Present Danger” seemed to come out of nowhere. If he says “The Sum Of All Fears” next week I’m gonna guess Mr Heyman has started reading some Tom Clancy novels. #nichereference.
-This is going to sound like something strange to be praising, but I liked how understated both the announcement and the reaction has been to the first women’s Elimination Chamber match. Back when female the female version of the Ironman match and their TLC match were announced, they were billed as historic and given all the build up that they deserved. we as a society and as wrestling fans have progressed to a stage where the women being in an Elimination Chamber is not shocking or indeed seen as a big deal. Rather, it’s seen as something that should happen and I like that.
-I’ve been writing for months about how bland and uninspiring the WWE Smackdown Live television show has been since Hell In A Cell late last year. I’ll come out and say that it pretty much sucks as a show right now. I’m bored with the never ending saga between Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan that doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere. I’m bored with Fashion File segments (even if most are on the WWE website these days) and I don’t understand what their purpose serves. I’m bored by two highly talented wrestlers in Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn being booked in nonsensical situations that make them look bad or at the least make them look like jokes. I’m bored with 50/50 parity booking of pretty much the entire blue roster. On top of that, this week production went crazy by putting graphics on the screen featuring key words as promos are being delivered. That Uso segment with the graphic of the bars whenever they said “lockdown” would have seriously made me change the channel if I didn’t feel obligated to watch because of my work on this website. Yes, it was seriously that cringe worthy and idiotic.
-To end this blog on a high note, let’s focus on Ring of Honor television. It’s not necessarily the most dynamic or industry changing hour of wrestling every week, but in terms of using the time that they have to tell stories while using logical booking, they are certainly doing something right. This week, every segment either built to a match down the road, had a satisfying conclusion to a relatively long storyline arc, or had some form of character development. The highlight was the story involving the young Coast 2 Coast team. For a few months, they have been impressive but ultimately lost matches while the announcers made sure to highlight as much. Just before Final Battle, Coast 2 Coast announced that they had made a decision that if they were to lose their next match, they would take that as a sign that they shouldn’t tag with each other anymore. Through a series of backstage promos and an appearance on Coleman’s Pulpit last week, it came to be that the match would be against War Machine. After a well fought match with the kids showing tremendous heart and getting the crowd on their feet and in most cases backing them, they defeated one of the most internationally recognizable teams in ROH. It received a great reaction and Coast 2 Coast received an endorsement from the now NXT bound War Machine. This is what I mean about ROH storylines in a nutshell. Granted, it might have been a somewhat simple story to tell, but it was told well with a clear storyline arc and as a viewer you don’t fear investing in it because you know they will eventually pay it off.
-So with that, I’m going to take my leave. I’m off to Leeds United to watch my beloved Cardiff City at the historic Elland Road stadium. Only problem is Leeds and Cardiff fans don’t get on, so I’ll have to make sure I have my running shoes on incase it kicks off. With that ringing endorsement to the soccer fan culture in the UK, I’ll speak to you all next week. Have a wonderful weekend everyone!
As always, feel free to get in touch with me, either through twitter @haydngleed or through email firstname.lastname@example.org