By Haydn Gleed, Prowrestling.net Staffer (@haydngleed)
-If anybody wants to see how sport can induce a nervous breakdown on a man, check out my Twitter feed from Friday. With eight games to go in the league, my beloved Cardiff City are so close to reaching the Premiership, which is arguably the best league in the world. We had a season in the 2013/2014 that unfortunately ended with us being relegated, but we are now fighting to get back there. To say my nerves are on edge for every single minute of every single game is an understatement, but would I change this for the world? Nah, I love it deep down. We beat Burton Albion 3-1 on Good Friday and I went from happy to sad to angry to furious to delirious to mocking all within 90 minutes.
-As for Raw this week, I thought the opening segment was both fantastic and a wake up call all wrapped together. In theory everything was done exactly as it should be done. The heel manager builds up his client as this monster and tells some lies about how the babyface doesn’t have what it takes to beat the beast while at the same time telling the fans that their hero doesn’t have the bottle to even show up, knowing full well that his client injured the hero last week. And then the babyface made an ill-advised appearance to show his fans and his opponent that he will not give up the fight. But your hero in this scenario is Roman Reigns and your heel and his manager are Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman. This should be the final wake up call that everything has been setup to make Roman the sympathetic yet tough babyface, and it’s still not getting the desired reaction from the masses. There was literally nothing that could have been done better than Paul calling Roman a coward and saying he hadn’t showed up just to see Roman limping his way to the ring to gain sympathy. But yet the crowd still popped as Lesnar repeatedly hit the prone hero on the ground. Yes, part of the appeal of Lesnar is that he’s cool in a badass sort of way for the things he does, but you put Daniel Bryan in place of Roman Reigns and I firmly believe people would be baying for the blood of Lesnar not chanting “one more time.”
This analysis is nothing ground breaking, I hear you all say. Oh, look another writer telling us what we already know, Roman is not over as a babyface. Why I’m writing about this is I can’t imagine anything more WWE can do to get people to cheer him. They will argue that he gets a reaction, but people felt more connected to Daniel Bryan and invested in WWE as a product after a ten minute promo last week from the bearded one than they have in two years of seeing Reigns put in the face of the company position. It doesn’t matter if he gets a reaction or not, you want the fans to care one way or another, not react in a negative way that they are getting something they don’t want. The ideal scenario would be a heel turn at WrestleMania with Heyman siding with Reigns and screwing Brock out of the title to set up a big rematch at SummerSlam, perhaps for Lesnar’s last match.
Imagine in that scenario if Roman went a full year with his arrogant, unlikeable personality amplified with Heyman on the mic and at the next WrestleMania a babyface at the level of Bryan taking down the disliked heel. Wouldn’t the emotional investment and reaction to that scenario be better than a visceral reaction that a large percentage of the audience still continue to have with Roman? Will this happen? No, it won’t. I wanted to commend WWE on their attempt and the performances of all the people involved, but WWE needs to wise up and see that there’s literally nothing they can do to get Reigns cheered by the masses until he has a heel run. It’s as simple as that and this perfect scenario and execution proved this.
-I was looking at my potential travel plans for the shows that I intend on attending in May when WWE hit the UK shores and I noticed that the arena websites were advertising Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe as the main events. I will preface all of this by saying that arena lineups are not always accurate and even if this sticks it doesn’t mean that Reigns will be winning the championship or that Joe would be his first opponent coming out of WrestleMania. However, let’s just say that this is accurate and Joe has the unenviable task of being the first opponent for Reigns through the post Mania months, my instant reaction was in the negative side of things. But when I sat and thought about it for a while, I’m not sure exactly what more I could want.
The fact of the matter is, Joe will never be the face of the company or someone the company will strap a rocket too and push to the very top, especially as a heel. Three years ago, we would all have been delighted if Joe was even in WWE let alone on the main roster. If this arena listing is indeed accurate, I’m comforted in the fact that WWE holds him in such high regard to be part of the first post championship win program with their golden child. I’m also trying to ignore the fact that in the minds of most people he could be so much more than a gatekeeper to the main event. Sometimes we have to accept that our favorites are not going to reach the level we feel they deserve and at least look on the positive side of things that he or she are in decent positions.
-While I’m on the subject of the WWE UK tour, they are not coming to Cardiff for the first time in many years. Whatupwivdat, WWE? Do you not like Wales anymore? I blame England. I’m not sure how but I’ll come up with something *shakes fist*. Either the English or people from Swansea are to blame.
-Do you remember the outrage from WWF back in 1997 when Shawn Michaels went into business for himself on a taped Raw when he called out The Undertaker knowing full well he wasn’t there? Wasn’t the general consensus that it made Taker look bad for not responding. Flash forward twenty one years and it’s the main hook for what is likely to be John Cena and Undertaker at WrestleMania. I’m not suggesting for a second that John Cena is going into business for himself, but it does lead me to question this approach for what could have just been a major match that didn’t need bells and whistles to sell it. After all, the more hardcore fans would understand that Cena isn’t breaking script and in a lot of cases are probably rolling their eyes at the worked shoot style comments. Meanwhile, the casual audience is probably questioning why Undertaker hasn’t responded and wondering if what Cena is saying about him being a coward is true. I don’t see any positives from this approach and as I wrote at the start of this point, I don’t see any real differences in terms of fans perspective of the Undertaker between this scripted build and the shoot build that upset the company so much back in the day. Oh, and John, please never ever do that bug-eyed look while doing the throat slash gesture again. You looked like a tool.
-There’s no denying it, Smackdown was the better show than Raw this week. It’s strange that with the news of Daniel Bryan’s return, everything seems a little more focused and fresh on the blue side of things as opposed to a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps the waiting on what direction they could go in with the Bryan feud was contributing to a holding pattern feel of the show for the last month or so? I guess we will never know. I’m not sure what to make of everything going on with Shane McMahon and his hospital stay, but I’m getting a sneaking suspicion that it will play into the finish of the match to give Bryan and McMahon an out as to why they lose the match at WrestleMania. They have booked themselves in a corner where Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn are technically fired and need to win this match to regain their jobs, but at the same time do you really want Bryan to lose his first match back?
-I’m mildly more interested in the U.S. Title match after this weeks show, although I doubt I’ll get my wish and see Rusev parachuting from a military class helicopter above the arena while Aiden English sings while bouncing to the ring in a tank turned into a low rider, but I digress.
-There’s been a lot of talk this week about Hulk Hogan possibly returning to WWE with fan speculation being that he could end up on Smackdown in some form of general manager position if Daniel Bryan gives it up. There’s no denying that it was Hulk Hogan and the larger than life persona that drew me into wrestling as a kid. I still have a picture of me dressed up as Hulk Hogan as a 8 year old, fake moustache and all (and no that’s never being put in the public domain unless I receive $1 million dollars in used notes), but I can’t think of anything I want to see less in 2018 than a disgraced and fallen Hogan using Smackdown to not only earn a living but rebuilding his public persona. As much as I admired him as a kid for the Hulk Hogan character, the reason Terry Bollea was banished from the WWE in the first place has really has knocked the Hulkster from the pedestal that he was on for me and I suspect for millions of others.
Again, we are talking about something that may or may not happen, but imagine if you will the first time he has to interact with The New Day or other African Americans on the Smackdown roster on television. No matter how it is booked and produced, there is nothing positive that can come from it. If the elephant in the room isn’t addressed then it comes across as ignoring his failings and trying to hide from them. On the flip side, if it’s addressed it could come across as profiting from his disgraceful thoughts and feelings expressed in the infamous video. Nothing good can come from it and for me that is why Hulk Hogan can never again be somebody that is used weekly on any wrestling platform no matter how genuinely sorry he is or no matter how much spin is put out there that he has reformed.
-Dot Net Members have already heard me rant about this week’s Ring of Honor television show and how much I’m disliking the Bully Ray enforcer role at the moment. Weeks ago, he declared he was only there to resolve any issues where the fans could see something wasn’t fair, or when wrestlers go against the rules of ROH and need to be punished. He proclaimed that he would not become another boss character and in fact stressed he sure as hell wasn’t going to be an authority figure. This week, he was on three out of the five segments of the show and was instrumental in changing a match at Supercard of Honor and also booked two matches for that particular show. Kenny King asked Bully Ray right in front of him if he could have a last man standing stipulation added to his match with Silas Young, which Bully Ray agreed to. After Flash Gordon and The Young Bucks made peace, he instantly booked them in a six-man ladder match.
That is very much the role of an authority figure, not an enforcer. Added to this is he seems to allow disregard to the rules if it’s a babyface team (see The Boys doing “Twin magic” in the middle of their match) but yet he punished The Kingdom for equal rule breaking. This week’s ROH television show was the first time in nearly 18 months that I found myself questioning the direction of the company and it’s a shame. Because Bully Ray and his match making was all over the show, there was literally no attention paid to the Bullet Club breakup or the big Kenny Omega and Cody match that will take place just over a week from now. These are two of the biggest stories in wrestling today. It baffles me where ROH is going with this.
-Wow, I feel like I’ve cleansed some negativity out of me with the end of that blog. But let’s end on a high note since we are entering the biggest week of the year in the wrestling calendar and, of course, Prowrestling.net will be your home of the best coverage out there. I have a lot of things planned for WrestleMania week, and of course there is so much great wrestling to look forward too. As long as Cardiff City beat Sheffield United on Monday (a game I’m traveling to unless the predicted snow makes it impossible to get to Sheffield) and Wolverhampton Wanderers next Friday, it will be the perfect week for me. Have a good weekend, everyone!
As always, feel free to get in touch if you have any thoughts or opinions on anything discussed in the blog or indeed if you want to shoot the breeze. You can find me on twitter @haydngleed or via email firstname.lastname@example.org
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