Inside Pulse Wrestling » divas http://wrestling.insidepulse.com Wrestling news, rumors, reviews and commentary, from WWE to TNA to ROH and everything in between... Tue, 02 Sep 2014 09:54:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Wrestling news, rumors, reviews and commentary, from WWE to TNA to ROH and everything in between... Inside Pulse Wrestling no Wrestling news, rumors, reviews and commentary, from WWE to TNA to ROH and everything in between... Inside Pulse Wrestling » divas http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://wrestling.insidepulse.com LIVE ON-SITE Coverage Of WWE RAW 6.30.14 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2014/06/30/live-on-site-coverage-of-wwe-raw-6-30-14/ http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2014/06/30/live-on-site-coverage-of-wwe-raw-6-30-14/#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2014 21:07:26 +0000 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/?p=167902 20140630-165947-61187215.jpg

- Looks like it will be a legit sellout tonight for #RAWHartford. People at the box office are searching for even single seats.

- According to the Hartford wrestling fans, CM Punk is returning tonight. Take that for what it’s worth… & keep in mind it is coming from a classy woman with vodka in a water bottle.

- Ready to roll.

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- Lively crowd so far that are itching for the show tonight. Looks like a legit sellout too.

- A ton more kids than a normal RAW or SmackDown in CT, the “Let’s Go Cena!” are actually holding their own. There’s also FAR more young girls in the arena decked out in Total Divas merchandise, complete with replica Divas Championship belts!

- Looks like there’s no pre-show tonight as Renee Young (MUCH hotter in person) & Todd Phillips come out to call Superstars.

- Big E pins Titus O’Neil clean in the first Superstars match.

- Del Rio (who was in the main event last night) makes R-Truth tap after a botched cross arm breaker.

- Lights are on bright!

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- It seems as if Triple H has been teaching Seth Rollins the fine art of baby oil as Rollins looks jacked!

- Hartford is hot & LOUD tonight! I love it when a crowd is this into the show.

- The Usos are insanely over drowning out any chant in favor of the Wyatt Family.

- Awesome 6-man tag match that had the whole floor standing the entire match.

- Good God that was a great show. I will have more to add tomorrow because my phone is just hitting 1%.
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Creative Control: Goodbye Divas, Hello Women (WWE, Natalya, Tamina, Emma, Paige, Trish Stratus, Molly Holly, Kharma) http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2014/03/10/creative-control-goodbye-divas-hello-women-wwe-natalya-tamina-emma-paige-trish-stratus-molly-holly-kharma/ http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2014/03/10/creative-control-goodbye-divas-hello-women-wwe-natalya-tamina-emma-paige-trish-stratus-molly-holly-kharma/#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 10:00:32 +0000 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/?p=165333 I cannot quite put my finger on it, but there was something about the Stephanie McMahon commercial for the WWE Network on last Monday’s Raw that just bugged me.  I am not sure if it is the way she made it about her (by talking about her “friend” Andre the Giant, her dad, her children, and her husband); her blatant use of her children to make Vince McMahon seem like a sympathetic individual; or yet another subtle as a sledgehammer effort to instill that Triple H is one of the greatest performer’s the business has ever seen.  My wife pointed out that she sees they were trying to go with a “we all have a connection to our love of the history of professional wrestling.”  However, it just came off to me as shameless self-promotion of her and her husband while at the same time trying to make a grab at our money with our heartstrings.  Maybe I am just being too cynical, so I would love to hear other people’s take.

Second Thoughts:
Last week, I outlined how I wanted to see Raw in Chicago unfold.  My main fanboy desire was to see CM Punk show up, tag with Daniel Bryan and see the two fan favorites become involved in the Wrestlemania main event.  Needless to say, it is a good thing I was not a betting man and put any money down on my ideas coming to reality.

As for my layout for the show, waltkovacs gave me the compliment that my layout did feel like an episode of Raw, which was my goal.  Duh seemed to enjoy the “show,” which is like many of the epic episodes of Raw, a couple of strong segments surrounded by a lot of filler.  Apparently my writing was a little unclear as someone in the comments section suggested that the WWE Title Match for Wrestlemania be a four corners match of Orton vs. Batista vs. Bryan vs. Punk.  That is what I intended, but apparently it got lost.

Comment of the week though goes to MeccaRabbi who came up with a brilliant idea to have Punk show up, but turn on Bryan and go corporate sell-out heel.  This leads to Punk vs. Bryan at Wrestlemania.  As he pointed out, it would have been a fantastic sociology experiment to see how the Chicago crowd would have reacted.  Would this have been the event that pushed the fans over the edge to finally boo Punk?  I have to think it would.  It was fantastic outside the box thinking.

What were my thoughts about the actual Raw that occurred?  I thought they handled the opening of the show beautifully.  If there was anyone who could manipulate the crowd at the top of the show and help gain control, it was Paul Heyman.  His sitting in the middle of the ring, his acknowledgement of Punk, and his seamless turning on the crowd and segueing into Brock Lesnar was a master’s class in “cutting a promo.”  It was great to see the Usos win the tag titles, but I would have liked to have seen them hold off on it until Wrestlemania, but it still pumped up the crowd.  I enjoyed the crowd during the Bryan/Triple H promo where they were absolutely silent while Bryan talked and made every effort to drown out The Authority.  However, it was again a case where Triple H looked in control, dominant, and kept cutting Bryan off at the knees, and not just in a storyline standpoint.  I knew a schmoz ending/Dusty Finish was coming for the end of Batista vs. Bryan.  I am sure it sounded good to those in charge to end with Triple H stand victorious over Bryan yet again (as a way to rile the crowd), but the cynic in me is starting to wonder if Bryan will come out victorious over Triple H.  Scott Keith wrote something a few months ago about the top 10 times Triple H did not do what was best for business, having some convoluted justifications about why he needed to win for future storylines.  I’d like to think we aren’t going to see that at Wrestlemania with his match against Bryan, but I am having a little doubt.  Overall, a good show minus Punk, but they could have done better.

They Are Wrestlers Too
As I sat here trying to come up with a topic to write about this week, I thought back to this past Smackdown.  My wife joined me in the living room as the Natalya &Eva Marie vs. AJ & Tamina match was on and actually became sucked in.  She is at best, a very casual fan who started watching when we started living together.  She will watch with me, but usually will be doing some writing or checking the internet, only paying marginal attention.  She has her favorites who she will stop to watch.  She also makes some unique observations that catch me completely off guard.  I remember shortly after we moved in together, she saw Nunzio/Little Guido and marveled at the “poster tube” stuffed into his tights.  Being an average heterosexual man, I had never once looked.  Thanks to her though now, whenever I catch an old FBI match, my eyes gravitates to his trunks.

Tangent aside, my wife is not a fan of the Divas.  90% of the time if they are on when she is in the living room, I flip over to something else as she cannot stand the embodiment of every bad female stereotype most of them represent.  She cannot stand the degrading dance offs, musical chairs, or the (now defunct) bra and panty matches.  When they have storylines, they are usually over vapid, non-engaging matters.  Her biggest complaint is that most of them look like they could not actually hurt anyone.  The brief period that Kharma was in the WWE, my wife was glued to the programming.  I was already planning on getting her a shirt.  So last Friday, when she actually stopped to watch and pay attention to Natalya and Tamina, she was entertained.  She appreciated Natalya’s skills and Tamina’s size.  As she put it, the two of them looked like a pair of women that could actually hurt people.

I then looked for and showed her some of Emma and Summer Rae’s NXT work along with Paige that I have heard people rave about.  She appreciated that while the three of them were attractive, they could actually wrestle.  My wife finds Emma’s gimmick amusing.  She sees it as someone who is a klutz and space cadet everywhere except inside the ring, not as a stereotypical bimbo.

It got me thinking about what the WWE needs to do to tap into the market that is my wife: women who like watching ass kicking.  Whether we want to admit it or not, everyone of us at one point or another has imagined ourselves as professional wrestlers (a couple, like Mr. Steve Gepp actually has tried their hand at it).  We have thought of ourselves as technical masters, massive monsters, or some genetic freak hybrid of the two.  Anyway you look at it, we as men have always had at least someone who we could look to as our avatar and ideal for taking control.  For women, that has not been the case.  Even when the WWE had talent like Trish Stratus, Lita, Victoria, and Mickie James, it was more a happy accident that they could perform in the ring.  It was clear that first and foremost they were T&A that fulfilled Vince McMahon’s narrow image of what women should look and act like.

Therefore, I think it is time for the WWE to overhaul the Diva’s division.  With the increasing popularity and legitimate appeal of female fighting (Rhonda Rousey in UFC), it is time to step away from just treating the women in the roster as an afterthought or eye candy.  It is also time to stop playing off the bad stereotypes that the only way they can appeal to women is through vapid “reality” relationship television like Total Divas.  I am sure there are more women out there like my wife who would watch more regularly if there were talented performers of all kinds on the roster.  Below are 4 suggestions that are needed to start taking women’s wrestling in the WWE to new heights.

Step 1: No more “Divas”
What is wrong with calling them “Superstars” like they do with the men?  It’s one thing to distinguish between the genders, it is another to treat them like second-class citizens.  The fact that a number of people refer to the WWE title the women compete for is nicknamed “The Tramp Stamp Title” says it all.  Therefore, before they can go anywhere with improving the division they at least need to refer to it with terms that make it seem as legitimate as the men.  Therefore, it should be the WWE Women’s Title.  The female members of the roster are just Superstars.  I know the company line is they are using the dictionary term for diva, referring to a highly talented female performer.  However, in our modern society more often than not, “diva” is a derogatory term to refer to a self-centered woman.  Look at the show, Total Divas.  It plays off the negative connotation of the word and the commercials show all of the women at their worst arguing, name calling, and talking about themselves and what they need.  Therefore, to put them on equal footing, they should just be known as superstars, like the men.

Step 2: Storylines like anyone else
I do not know how creative duties are divided up amongst the various writers.  If there is not at least one person who is devoted to just focusing on the women, there should be.  There probably should be two.  These people are responsible for coming up with storylines and feuds for the women that can be about someone looking to prove they are the best to getting revenge over an opponent costing them a title shot.  You know, the same reasons the guys have matches.  I know there have been some dumb male feuds (Edge/Booker T’s “Shampoo” conflict and Jericho/Kane’s “Coffee Clash”), but the women most times are going against one another for no reason or for stuff that is dreamt up by a man who has no idea what goes through a woman’s mind except for what they read in Cosmo.

The example my wife always go back to as the worst example of storylines was Molly Holly’s virginity.  For weeks, Chris Nowinski was focused on “deflowering” Molly Holly.  The fact that she was “pure and virtuous” made her a heel.  A heel that wore unattractive underwear and was the primary way she was ridiculed by her opponents (such as face Trish Stratus).  It is the classic example where a woman was defined purely by her sexuality.  There has never been a case of a male wrestler being defined purely by whether or not he has put out.  By treating the women as people and letting them go at it for anything and everything, just like the guys, will make their feuds and matches more engaging.  Giving time for storylines to develop just like the men’s will stop making the women seem as an afterthought, which they should not be.

Step 3: Hire women of all types
Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, Batista, Goldust, Big Show, Mark Henry.  Each man has a distinct look, a different body shape, and (theoretically) a different kind of move set that looks to capitalize on the strengths of that body.  With the women, about 95% of them all have the same general body type with little variation.  Nearly all of them are ultra skinny and tall with long legs, and small noses.  Very few of them look like they could actually hurt someone.  Fewer still show the talent.  One of the few women’s feuds in the past 5-10 years that is respected is Awesome Kong/Kharma versus Gail Kim from TNA.  The feud was a classic David versus Goliath story where Kim used her arsenal of moves and tactics to combat the size and power of Kong.  It is a feud that is played out countless times with men.  With women, it is a rare exception.  Anytime there is a larger female wrestler, she is stereotyped as “the fat chick” (anyone remember Bertha Faye?).  Or if she is tall and muscularly built, she is treated as being “less feminine” or “man-like.”  The WWE needs to throw out the Barbie model and go with a variety of women, just like with their men.  First and foremost, they should be able to wrestle.  If I want vapid and pretty, I watch a beauty pageant; if I want to just watch two women rolling around, I’ll watch porn.  When I turn on to wrestling, I want to watch talented athletes perform.  And no, different hair color and varying breast size is not enough.

(I do realize that over the last several years the men’s division has seen the proliferation of “the bro”/mimbo in their ranks.  And that has gone over as well as it has with the women.  The most successful in the last few years have been those that have not fit that stereotype: Bryan, Punk, Cesaro, and Big E.)

For anyone (Vince McMahon) who says no one wants to pay to see “some fat chick” in the ring, I direct everyone to remember the premiere of Kharma.  It is not clear if they were intending her to come in as a face or heel.  The audience though, firmly embraced her as a face.  I remember when she delivered her reverse powerbomb to Alicia Fox on her second or third appearance.  The audience not only exploded in cheers, they started a very loud “One More Time” chant.  Despite what management might think, the fans will support the those who show they can go in the ring, regardless of their looks.

Step 4: Renee Young as Smackdown commentator
I talked about this in my very first column.  Renee Young has shown she has the personality, the timing, and the skills to hold her own with the roster.  What little of her commentary I have caught on the bits of NXT I have seen is some of the best.  It is time for WWE to let her break through the glass ceiling and have a fulltime female play-by-play announcer for one of their main shows.  While I would ideally pair her with William Regal, I think it would be interesting to have her do a couple months with Jerry Lawler.  Why?  To see how well Lawler reacts with to a woman with a brain confronting him about his sole focus on women’s matches being the looks of the women.  Or following it up with her mocking Lawler by during the next men’s match making equally lascivious comments about one of the male wrestlers.  Having a women on commentary to put the women over as competitors would go a long way, probably more than just having the men attempt it.  Having a woman on commentary in general would go a long way, especially one as talented as Ms. Young appears.

The WWE is doing some things right as the most recent women hired have shown their talent in NXT.  Emma, Paige, Summer Rae, and Bailey all give me hope that the company is pursuing talent over style.  However, they are still very similar in their looks.  There is only Tamina to fill the monster role on their roster.  I wonder who are the female equivalents of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan out there; not stereotypically beautiful but able to kick ass with the best of them.  I think if WWE was serious, they could develop a women’s roster that is just as engaging as their men’s.  Unfortunately, it requires a shift in the misogamist culture of the company that will not stand a chance of ending until Vince McMahon’s death.

Until next time, I relinquish creative control.
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The View From Down Here – What’s the Hubbub, Bub? http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2014/03/04/the-view-from-down-here-whats-the-hubbub-bub/ http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2014/03/04/the-view-from-down-here-whats-the-hubbub-bub/#comments Tue, 04 Mar 2014 12:24:38 +0000 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/?p=165187 I said I might be back, but it’s not in any way, shape or form a regular thing.

What have I done this year? Some wrestling parodies that got me a heap of emails with people sending me their own, ranging from the very good (‘Zeb the Faux Grand Dragon’ by Jay Hillard – bravo, sir) to the downright crap (two people who sent me parodies entitled ‘WWE Bites The Dust’… guys, it doesn’t even scan!), and a heap of vitriol for wasting the time and space on the site (thanks, oh confident and wise internet user ‘Sheet’ who hides behind an anonymous name like any… meh, why bother; it’s like talking to goats, it really is). I’ve updated some news on JJ’s new wrestling promotion, and I wrote a column about 5 PPVs you should track down on the new network. Oh, I also comment here and there.

But I shouldn’t.

You see, I have put my money where my mouth is.

Yeah... something like that... sure (from TVrage.com)

Yeah… something like that… sure
(from TVrage.com)

I am not happy with the direction of the WWE in storyline or main eventers (although I like that Daniel Bryan is in the main event, albeit as everyone’s whipping boy at the moment; and, yes he is in the main event. How many more shows does he have to be in the end of for him to be considered main event by everyone?) and the recycling of yet another authority figure angle.

 

This is supposed to apply to consumables... not overused storylines. (from umass.edu)

This is supposed to apply to consumables… not overused storylines.
(from umass.edu)

I was also not happy with some of the production. The Michael Bay-ing of their camera shots, zooming in with kicks, shaky-cam stuff. This is wrestling, not Hollywood. And speaking for some-one who has seen too many of the WWE’s filmic attempts, it’s definitely not Hollywood. Nothing WWE does is Hollywood.

And I was really unhappy with the women’s wrestling. Again, as some-one who has watched Shine and Shimmer, I knew that the USA had some great female talents. I also knew there were some talents on the WWE payroll. But what we got was more AJ, who outstayed her welcome after, oh I don’t know, a month, and others who people claim have improved, but, then again, some people claim that the Twilight books improved as well… but being less shit than before is still being shit.

In the midst of all this, I grew so put off by TNA - as did my son – that getting rid of that bit of watching was not a strain. Especially after AJ Styles left. But that show was giving me a headache, watching so much talent go to waste and watching people like The Bromans, Anderson and EC3 being pushed at the expense of people with ability.

This is why we can't have TNA in the house anymore. (from news.open2view.com)

This is why we can’t have TNA in the house anymore.
(from news.open2view.com)

I watched the Rumble… Was underwhelmed. No, it wasn’t terrible or bad, just… meh. But I always watch the Rumble. And then there was this Rumble from Japan:

 It’s an hour and a half long, so if you’ve got time…

This actually brings me to my point, but I won’t go there just yet. More whingeing first.

You see, I also live in a country that won’t get the WWE Network for at least a year, probably longer. The regulations here – and an incoming Internet filter – are just ridiculous. When it comes to old stuff, I think I have copies through old tape trading days and friends in the US of nearly every PPV from WWF/E, WCW and ECW (and most of TNA as well, though that doesn’t count) up to 2010. Old Raws, etc don’t interest me (though I do have a copy of Raw is Owen), so actually the Network only has one thing to keep me enthralled – NXT.

Guess what, I can’t get NXT here any longer either. I saw Arrival (thanks Travis! – who sent me a copy on USB) and thought it was the best WWE PPV (they called it a PPV… but is it a PPV when you don’t Pay to View?) show I’ve seen in ages. That was the first time I’d seen a full NXT show, and what I’ve missed out on is clearly my own stupid fault.

Yes, I fail this bad.

Yes, I fail this bad.

 Okay, my point. So many commentators out there are saying that the WWE isn’t giving the people what they want. They say they aren’t happy, they say they want to be entertained their way and yet the WWE is giving them Randy ‘Boring as Batshit’ Orton and Dave ‘In It For The Movie Roles’ Ba(u)tista as their Wrestlemania main event. They say that there’s too much HHH and that nothing makes sense.

And they still watch.

Why?

Just so they can complain? Really?

That's about the size of it. (from kayfabenews.com)

That’s about the size of it.
(from kayfabenews.com)

 But, they invariably say, we like wrestling. What else is there to watch?

Well, I can’t feel good about myself if I recommend TNA (and I’m not just saying that because they rejected my job application, but it has led to some other interesting prospects in the USA… not bad for a guy from the arse-end of the universe*), so I won’t.

Nyah nyah nyah. (from coachella.com)

Nyah nyah nyah.
(from coachella.com)

 But I’ve got into ROH and DragonGate. I’ve discovered a bit of Puroresu. I’m actually looking forward to Jarrett’s new promotion. (No, really.) The local scene here has been off my radar for a while, partly due to the politics of some of the people involved, and partly because if I can’t do it, then I am having trouble watching people not as good as I was (and I was shit).

I don’t need WWE. I still like wrestling. ROH’s latest PPV I got on some sort of internet video on demand thing that didn’t cost me an arm and a leg and, apart from one or 2 matches, kept me thoroughly entertained. My son watches the old DVDs and VCR video tapes, and there’s enough there for him. He’s recently discovered In Your House 16: Canadian Stampede and the main event. I have no issue with that at all.

How could anyone get tired of watching this?!

How could anyone get tired of watching this?!

So why do we still have people wanting to “riot”, “hijack”, “take-over”, “demand” or whatever the WWE’s shows? Stop watching! It will hit their bottom line, their hip-pocket, and that’s the only thing they’ll listen to. But, you see, at the moment they don’t care that you hate the product because

YOU

ARE

STILL

WATCHING

THE

PRODUCT!

Oh well. I’m NOT watching their product. I’m not missing their product. ROH and my video collection will do us just fine. They want me back, and my family, and the friends that family could turn onto this (as my son’s friends love the wrestling video collection here… most of them just love the concept of a video as half have never seen one of them before either… modern technology – you suck), then they need to give us wrestling (not just one good match per Raw), storylines that make sense and less guys hired because they were relevent half a decade or more ago.

Oh well. That’s where I stand.

 

 

 

 

*If any other wrestling bodies need a writer, drop me a line. I reckon I can easily juggle another one – or 2 – in there. Here’s my writing blog. [/shameless_plug]
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WWE Releases Extensive Listing Of What Will Be On The WWE Network http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2014/02/19/wwe-releases-extensive-listing-of-what-will-be-on-the-wwe-network/ http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2014/02/19/wwe-releases-extensive-listing-of-what-will-be-on-the-wwe-network/#comments Thu, 20 Feb 2014 03:33:26 +0000 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/?p=164705 WWE Network 500x250

WWE NETWORK ANNOUNCES PROGRAMMING LINEUP

 

STAMFORD, Conn., February 19, 2014 – WWE Network, the first-ever 24/7 streaming network, has unveiled its programming lineup, which is highlighted by WrestleMania 30 on Sunday, April 6 at 7 pm ET live from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

In addition, for the first time ever, the WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will air live in its entirety on Saturday, April 5 at 9 pm ET on WWE Network. This year’s current inductees include The Ultimate Warrior, Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Lita. A one-hour special will also air on USA Network on Monday, April 7, immediately following Monday Night Raw.

WWE Network will officially launch on Monday, February 24 at 9 am ET and fans will instantly have access to live programming and the most comprehensive WWE video-on-demand library upon signing up exclusively at WWE.com.

WWE Network will be available through the WWE App on TV via connected devices including Roku streaming devices, Sony PlayStation 3, Sony PlayStation 4 and Xbox 360. WWE Network will also be available through the WWE App on iOS devices, including Apple iPad and iPhone, Amazon’s Kindle Fire devices and Android devices, as well as on desktops and laptops via WWE.com.

 

The programming line-up on WWE Network includes:

WrestleMania 30

- WWE’s pop-culture extravaganza, WrestleMania 30, will air live on Sunday, April 6 at 7 pm ET from New Orleans. More than 70,000 fans from all 50 states and more than 30 countries are expected to converge on the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with millions more watching around the world. Current WWE Superstars will be joined by a host of WWE Legends for a celebration 30 years in the making.

WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

- For the first time ever, the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will air live in its entirety on WWE Network on Saturday, April 5 at 9 pm ET from the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans. This year’s current inductees include The Ultimate Warrior, Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Lita.

Live Monday Night Raw Pre-Show and WWE Raw Backstage Pass

- A live, 30-minute Raw  Pre-Show will air each week and premieres on Monday, February 24 at 7:30 pm ET.

WWE Raw Backstage Pass will air live each week immediately following Monday Night Raw, providing analysis of the night’s action and exclusive backstage interviews. The premiere will air on Monday, February 24 at 11:05 pm ET.

Friday Night SmackDown Pre-Show  and WWE SmackDown Backstage Pass

- A 30-minute pre-show for SmackDown will air each week and premieres on Friday, February 28 at 7:30 pm ET.

WWE SmackDown Backstage Pass will air each week immediately following SmackDown, providing analysis of the night’s action and exclusive backstage interviews. The premiere will air on Friday, February 28 at 10 pm ET.

WrestleMania Rewind

WrestleMania Rewind will provide fans with a comprehensive look back at the most groundbreaking matches and dramatic moments in WrestleMania history. The series premieres on Tuesday, February 25 at 9 pm ET with a sneak peek on Monday, February 24 at 9 am ET.

WWE Countdown

- A one-hour, groundbreaking, interactive, countdown series that will put the power squarely in viewers’ hands by giving the audience the chance to discuss and rank WWE’s most spectacular Superstars, unexpected moments, best catch phrases and more through digital polling and social media interaction. The series premieres on Tuesday, February 25 at 10 pm ET with a sneak peek on Monday, February 24 at 10 am ET.

WWE Legends’ House

- WWE’s greatest Legends reunite for a new title – only this time, they’re competing outside of the ring. Imagine a beautiful house in the suburbs – perfectly furnished, with gorgeous landscaping, a lovely pool and quiet, respectable neighbors. WWE Superstars from the past including Rowdy Roddy Piper, Tony Atlas and Hacksaw Jim Duggan will turn the neighborhood upside down as the house staff tries their best to keep these Legends on time, on speaking terms, and out of trouble in this new reality show. The series premieres on Thursday, April 10 at 8 pm ET.

This is NXT 

- A one-hour special that will take viewers inside the action-packed world of tomorrow’s WWE’s Superstars as they aspire to become the future of WWE. Featuring behind-the-scenes moments and in-ring action from WWE’s Performance Center, fans will get up close and personal with the next generation of Superstars. The series premieres on Monday, February 24 at 11 am ET.

NXT ArRival

- WWE Network’s first live in-ring event will air on Thursday, February 27 at 8 pm ET. The live special will showcase the brightest and best of WWE’s rising stars from WWE’s Performance Center, as well as appearances by WWE Superstars John Cena, Sheamus, The New Age Outlaws and WWE Legends Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels.

Thirty minutes prior to the event, the NXT ArRival Pre-Show will air at 7:30 pm ET and include exclusive interviews and appearances by NXT Superstars, WWE Superstars and Legends.

WWE NXT

- Each Thursday at 9 pm ET, WWE Superstars and Divas of tomorrow face off on WWE NXT, a one-hour, weekly show that features the brightest and best of WWE’s rising stars. WWE NXT showcases the Superstars and Divas from WWE’s Performance Center as well as appearances from WWE Superstars and Legends in an intimate setting. WWE NXT broadcasts from the state-of-the-art Full Sail LIVE venue on the Full Sail University campus in Orlando, Florida. The series premieres on Thursday, March 6 at 9 pm ET.

WWE Superstars

- A one-hour, weekly show highlighting the best of WWE Superstars and Divas in heart-pounding matches. The show will also feature highlights from all WWE programming, as well as a special glimpse at everything going on in the WWE Universe. The series premieres on Thursday, February 27 at 10 pm ET.

Beyond the Ring

- An all-access pass to the fast-paced action of WWE’s home video library. With classic matches and groundbreaking biographies of WWE Legends, fans will have all the action from WCW, AWA, ECW and WWE right at their fingertips. The series premieres on Saturday, March 1 at 8 pm ET.

Best of Raw

- Every Wednesday at 9 pm ET, Best of Raw will feature the most memorable episodes from the longest-running weekly episodic show in television history. Each week, see some of the most incredible matches and controversial moments featured over the years on Monday Night Raw. The series premieres at a special date and time on Thursday, February 27 at 4:30 pm ET.

Best of SmackDown

- For more than a decade, Friday Night SmackDown has brought amazing action and memorable moments to the WWE Universe. On Saturdays at 1 pm ET, WWE Network will showcase the most exciting episodes of SmackDown. The series premieres on Saturday, March 1 at 1 pm ET.

Expansive Video-On-Demand Library

- In addition to live and original programming, fans will have access to the most comprehensive WWE video-on-demand library the instant they subscribe. WWE Network will offer all WWE, WCW and ECW pay-per-views as well as encores of Raw and SmackDown totaling more than 1,500 hours of video-on-demand at launch.

Click here to learn more about WWE Network and to view sneak peeks of WrestleMania RewindWWE Countdown and Monday Night War. Read the WWE Network FAQ here.
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Guys and Divas #15: Mr. Brightside (Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Trish Stratus, Lita) http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2014/01/22/guys-and-divas-15-mr-brightside-daniel-bryan-cm-punk-trish-stratus-lita/ http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2014/01/22/guys-and-divas-15-mr-brightside-daniel-bryan-cm-punk-trish-stratus-lita/#comments Wed, 22 Jan 2014 15:17:18 +0000 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/?p=163503 Hump of the day to you, reader!

Welcome back to “Guys and Divas”; the only column on Inside Pulse Wrestling that chose the dead of winter as a good time to shave its head. (See?)

In this week’s “Divas”, I take a second-hand look back at highlights in the careers of–arguably–the two greatest of all-time; and in “The Bonus Ball”, I go all Jerry Maguire on you (again).

…BUT FIRST(!), with this year’s “Royal Rumble” just a few days away, we thought we had things all figured out. After this Monday, confusion and disappointment are the name of the game. It’s all happening in this week’s…

GUYS

It seemed like a sure thing to so many of us.

Daniel Bryan–fresh off his victorious trouncing of Bray Wyatt last week–was off to bigger and better things; namely winning the Royal Rumble Match and headlining Wrestlemania XXX, where his ascension to the top of the mountain as the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion was all but a certainty. However, while stranger things have happened, it seems that the path we foresaw for our favorite goatfaced underdog is now closed; or at the very least, being modified drastically.

Indeed, with this past Monday’s announcement that Daniel Bryan will face Bray Wyatt in one-on-one competition at this Sunday’s event, many are now a bit heartbroken.

Meanwhile, it seems that my Gretzky (and likely some of yours) CM Punk is on a bit of a detour on the road to Wrestlemania. Most signs pointed to a clash of Punk and Triple H on April 6, but Corporate Kane has finally become a factor in proceedings and not the way many of us expected. While my infamous theory regarding the Big Red Machine’s involvement in the Bryan/Wyatts situation isn’t entirely unfeasible, it grows more and more unlikely.

Now usually this is the part where I–like many wrestling pundits–would start forecasting; or in my case, modifying my previous cracker of a premonition. However, I’ve recently come to realize that slavish adherence to prediction only leads to disappointment, and that such thoughts run counter-intuitive to my ongoing quest for optimism. (If you enjoy a good what if scenario, I once again recommend John Kincaid’s dynamite “Creative Control” series; right here at Inside Pulse Wrestling.)

As such, I think it’s time for me to get back to what I always intended: not lamenting over what I believe WWE may be doing wrong, but rather focusing on what I believe they’re doing just right…or at the very least, where they’re moving in the right direction.

Naturally, let’s begin with the two subjects of this week’s “Guys”: the uncrowned face of WWE Daniel Bryan and “The Best in the World” (although, those quotes could/should easily disappear) CM Punk.

Yes, it’s bothersome that–unless we’re in for a surprise–Daniel Bryan is out of the Royal Rumble match. However, I certainly wouldn’t scoff at one more one-on-one confrontation with Bray Wyatt. Their tension as face and heel is the best I’ve seen between two characters in a very long time, and we know that both men are capable of putting on a dynamite match. So, at the very least, we’ll be entertained when they lock horns (or beards, as it were) this Sunday.

“But Jeff,” you ask, “where does that leave D-Bry’s future as a world champion?”

Well, dear reader…I think the key thing to remember is that Daniel Bryan HAS a future as a world champion. As reported right here at Inside Pulse, the powers that be–including Vince McMahon himself–were very impressed with the final segment of last Monday’s Raw and the reaction that it elicited from the Rhode Island crowd.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: WWE knows that they have something special with our boy D-Bry; and they’d be fools not to cash in and cement his status as THE face of the next generation. Moreover, let’s not forget; there’s still the Elimination Chamber in February, and who knows how the result of that event will affect what’s in store for us in New Orleans? Or what about the idea I proposed last week?–A full-circle redemption story concluding at SummerSlam. I would be no less satisfied, and I sincerely hope you wouldn’t either.

The possibilities are endless, folks. Daniel Bryan’s rise is undeniable; and no matter how this shakes out, 2014 has the potential to be a hell of a year.

The same can of course be said for CM Punk. As announced on Raw this past Monday, he’ll be entering the Royal Rumble match at the dreaded #1 spot. As that fabulous “by the numbers” video always tells us, that’s a number that has created as many winners as sweet #30. Perhaps WWE thinks it’s time for another feel-good, long-haul win at the January classic.

Let’s be honest. Would anyone take issue at the thought of CM Punk holding the big gold again?–I certainly wouldn’t.

All of this being said, I think the key idea I’d like to get across this week is that there is something just as alluring about not knowing where this story is going as there is getting exactly what we wanted or foresaw. Maybe…just maybe…there’s something even more intriguing waiting around the bend. It just requires a little patience.

Good vibes, my dearies.

See what I mean?–It feels alright…and if you’re still uneased, click that link up there. You’ll feel groovy before too long.

While I’ve got you in a good mood, let’s do something a little different for the next segment. Two of the greatest of all-time sat down this week to reminisce about some of their fondest wrestling memories. Let’s join them (after a fashion) in this week’s…

DIVAS

I’ll admit it. Things have slowed to a pretty dead halt in the Divas division lately. The matches continue to improve week-by-week; but narratively, there’s practically nothing going on.

So you can imagine I was pleased as the proverbial punch to see this article pop up on my Twitter feed Monday night. Indeed, former Divas Champions and all-around awesome ladies Amy “Lita” Dumas and the legendary Trish Stratus sat down for a look back at ten of their most memorable collaborative moments in WWE.

Naturally, I’m a sucker for sports entertainment nostalgia–especially when the Divas are the topic–so I thought I might count down their selections right here, and offer some of my own thoughts and memories. Enjoy!

#10: Trish’s “Walking Kiss of Death” Promo – 11/1/2004

While I’m known to gush endlessly about the short but storied ongoing career of (my spirit animal) AJ Lee, there’s no topping Lita for memorable storylines. I could go on and on about her various relationships and scrapes with all manner of WWE superstars and Divas…but wouldn’t you know it?–Trish saved us all the trouble and put together a video piece chronicling one of the more bizarre periods in Diva history.

It’s easy to immediately point to the effectiveness, the power–hell, the very existence of a segment like this as merely a product of the deservedly revered “Attitude Era”, but there’s no reason we couldn’t see another rivalry like the one these two legends had in the current WWE. Some may scoff and balk at the idea of any of the current crop pulling something like this off; but to be fair, emotional resonance isn’t WWE’s strong suit of late, no matter the gender of the people involved.

Obviously, what makes this segment so great is Trish’s commitment to character. As the old adage goes, “when she was good, she was great…but when she was bad, she was even better”.

 

#9: “OH MY GOD, IT’S KANE!” – April 2004

As covered above, 2004 was an interesting year for Lita; and when one thinks “interesting” in WWE, very often the Big Red Machine is involved.

Kane has long been my favorite character on the show, because he is–as I’ve said many times–a capital-C CHARACTER. Even now, as he stands backstage as The Authority’s sore thumb of a Director of Operations, we’re getting something very unique. What motivated him to surrender the mask? Why the sudden change of heart?–Hopefully we’ll find out soon enough.

In the meantime, we have this clip. In the spring of 2004, Kane took a decided shine to Lita. Obviously, this didn’t sit well with her longtime boyfriend Matt Hardy who defended his lady-love at every turn…but Kane was persistent and, well…Kane. This put Lita in quite the traumatized state, so of course her long-time frenemy Trish decided to have a little fun. Thus, another classic moment from these two great rivals.

 

#8: Trish & Trips vs. Lita & The Rock – 7/24/2000

As I get older, I have a much more divisive relationship with the concept of the intergender match.

On one hand, I’ve seen so much man-on-woman violence in the world around me (particularly over the past decade) that just thinking about it in the context of sports entertainment leaves me significantly uneased. On the other, I routinely have discussions with acquaintances about the equality of the sexes in the world of legitimate sports. (How is women’s ski jumping only just now in 2014 an Olympic event?)

Watching this, I’m definitely more in the latter headspace; because I think we all know that Trish Stratus and Lita are two of the toughest cookies to ever emerge from the proverbial jar. (Bizarre metaphors!)

What I find even more striking about this match however, is just how early in the legendary careers of these two influential Divas it took place. It’s unquestionable: these are not the polished, consummate performers that Trish and Lita would later become. These are two young upstarts who–at the time–were only just getting their feet wet.

I think many in the current fan culture could stand to remember that everyone–male or female–that we revere and canonize today started somewhere; and while the Divas division of today is still shaking off the ill effects of the Diva searches and model auditions that gave us people like Kelly Kelly, I can see the potential in so many of the current ladies of WWE to be the shining examples Trish and Lita have become.

An important moment, to be sure.

 

#7: Trish and Lita Go “Dynasty” – 3/14/2002

“That escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast.”

As Trish and Lita note in their comments, yes. Those slaps were VERY real, and led to nothing short of a classic knock-down, drag-out brawl between these two bitter adversaries. Obviously, we all wish we could see that kind of intensity from the current Diva roster; but I think the fact that we likely won’t is less a matter of lesser talents than of WWE’s stricter safety standards in the last seven years or so.

 

#6: Lita’s Bloody Revenge – Survivor Series 2004 (11/14/2004)

Pregnancy certainly allows a girl time to build up some frustration.

In this, the penultimate match of their tremendous 2004 conflict…well, it certainly stops being a match pretty quickly; and becomes a brief statement on what these two can do when put against each other. Lita’s legitimate bloodying of Trish’s nose is a declaration that the Divas can raise hell with the same ferocity as their superstar counterparts.

The rubber match a month later was a decided exclamation point on that declaration…

…but we’ll get to that next week.

“Hold on there, Jeff. You’re only on #6.”

Oh, I know that, dear reader. Call it a precaution, but–and as you know, I say this with love–I can’t be certain I’ll have much in the current Diva milieu to discuss next week, so we’ll count down the top 5 Trish/Lita moments either here or in next week’s “Bonus Ball”.

Speaking of which, it’s time for THIS week’s edition of my anything-goes third segment. You know it. You tolerate it. It’s…

THE BONUS BALL

As I kick off my second calendar year here at Inside Pulse Wrestling, I think it might be a good idea to go back and revisit what led me here. (Calm down; it’s not another long-winded retelling of my nascent days as a fan of sports entertainment.)

In the spirit of “Jerry Maguire”, I want to present a sort of revised mission statement. (Fair warning. This will be a bit of a stream of consciousness, so bear with me.)

I was–at long last–listening to CM Punk’s appearance on Marc Maron’s “WTF?” podcast; and as my Gretzky and the podcasting pioneer chatted about Punk’s origins in wrestling, I began to contemplate not why I like to watch but why I like to discuss.

On my Twitter feed, I somewhat jokingly refer to myself as a “semi-professional media maven”. This is an identity I realized I carried in my last few years at my university of choice. I lived to bring rare films and television series to the attention of my friends, and reveled in the wonderful, thoughtful conversations they often created.

As you might understand, I was a bit reticent to broach the idea of my love for WWE with my various acquaintances. No matter how times change, this is still a niche form of entertainment that carries with it a history of…well…unpleasantness. While many of us look at it from an almost academic perspective, there are still countless others that see our enjoyment of this business as a sign of lower intellect.

I wanted to change that. I started by bringing my best friend Nick into the fold; and–as you may remember from way back in my very first column–quickly had an ally. While he’s never been an active viewer of the show, he’s never shied away from letting me gab at length about the characters and stories that have kept me watching this show for almost two decades now.

Shortly after I graduated from college, I noticed that my old chum Chris Sanders was a member of the staff here at Inside Pulse Wrestling; and I began to long for such a forum in which I could share my thoughts and feelings on this roller coaster of a business with like minds and provocative thinkers.

As a long-time reader of internet wrestling sites such as IPW, I knew however that I would face a bit of an uphill climb should I ever get my opportunity. It’s simply a fact: pessimism, hate, and general abject grumpiness are the name of the game, it seems. This saddened/saddens me considerably.

“Why?” I thought, “Why would someone not only watch, but regularly and publicly speak at length about something that caused them so much frustration?”

In my case, I knew the answer was that there’s another side to this coin; that for every time one of our favorites gets shafted from an opportunity, every time a segment makes us roll our eyes, every time WWE simply misses the point…there’s also a moment where we are reminded why so many of us keep watching.

As a devout optimist, I try to keep my mind on those moments; and while I wholly understand that that may not work for everyone, I encourage others to do the same.

One thing that helps me do that is something that has helped me keep this academic eye on professional wrestling over the years; and that’s knowing that while what unfolds on our screens may not always satisfy us, we’re still watching a cast of real human beings who dreamed of getting even a moment out in that ring, under the lights, broadcast live around the world and now they get to live that dream each and every week.

So often I think we forget that these actors (and yes, I will continue to use that term because at root, that’s what they are) are not always in control of how often or how significantly they get to make their presences felt on these weekly television shows. We forget that–I feel it should be reiterated–these are human beings; real people with thoughts, emotions, beliefs, flaws…everything that makes all of us who we are…

…and no matter how we feel about how they’re utilized or how often or in what fashion, they put their lives on the line for us every week.

Do I wish backstage politics weren’t so obnoxiously transparent sometimes?–Of course; but I’m not going to let that diminish the way I feel about this business, these people, and the millions () of us who have brought this crazy thing called professional wrestling into our lives.

Things happen. Things change. People succeed. People fail. It’s nothing that any of us should take personally…because at the end of the day, it’s still JUST a TV show.

It’s a TV show that I love very dearly; and because I love it very dearly, I love to talk about it; and when I talk about it, I love to talk about it with a smile, a sense of hope, and a deep and abiding respect for the individuals who make it all possible.

I won’t deny it. Sometimes, I have a hard time living up to my own credo. Sometimes, I make mistakes. Sometimes, I fail myself. Sometimes, cooler heads don’t prevail; but when those moments come, I step back and breathe and remember why this show is so important to me.

In the end, the key reason: it makes me happy. With this column, I have always wanted more than anything to share that happiness with all of you; to recreate the discussions I had with friends and family; to share in the love of this ridiculous industry.

I sincerely hope we can continue to do that together. With respect. With fondness. With intelligence.

Thank you for letting me be part of the conversation.

…and on that unexpectedly sincere note, this week’s “Guys and Divas” comes to a close; but what kind of column would it be if I didn’t leave you with a few topics of discussion?:

  • This past Monday’s Raw left many of us scrambling to adjust our predictions for the Road to Wrestlemania. Who will main event in the Big Easy? What will become of Daniel Bryan and CM Punk?–Posit possibilities about the proceeding period. (Alliteration strikes again!)
  • I tagged up on a look back at the most memorable moments of Trish and Lita. What are some of your favorite moments from these two legendary ladies?–Perhaps you’re fond of something that I’ll cover in the top 5 next week; but regardless, reminisce away!

As always, join me for my weekly Raw live-tweet (@biscuitman18; #GuysAndDivas) and hey!–Maybe I’ll let a few thoughts fly during this Sunday’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view! Follow me and find out!

Until next week, I’m Jeff Heatherly saying “Eat a carrot, for god’s sake!“. Good day, all!
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Guys and Divas #13: (D-)Bry-nese New Year (Daniel Bryan, Aksana, Jake “The Snake” Roberts) http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2014/01/08/guys-and-divas-13-d-bry-nese-new-year-daniel-bryan-aksana-jake-the-snake-roberts/ http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2014/01/08/guys-and-divas-13-d-bry-nese-new-year-daniel-bryan-aksana-jake-the-snake-roberts/#comments Wed, 08 Jan 2014 12:28:40 +0000 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/?p=162854 Happy 2014, everyone!

Welcome back to “Guys and Divas”; the only column on Inside Pulse Wrestling that found the hidden continuity in recent Wii U and Taco Bell commercials. I hope everyone had a fabulous holiday break, but now it’s time to get down to business.

In “Divas”, I take a look at a sudden winning streak and what it means for the division; plus, in this week’s “Bonus Ball”, I ruminate on the current value of some notable wrestling legends.

…BUT FIRST(!), it’s the story everyone’s talking about and FAR too many are stressed over. Let’s spin the legend of Daniel Wyatt in this week’s…

GUYS 

I’ll hold off on the “I told you so” dance until the story has completely unfolded; but sufficed to say, the past two weeks have made me feel pretty damned good about my prediction skills.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that–in addition to your possible insurance savings–Daniel Bryan has joined the Wyatt Family and is now training himself to be a “monster”. It happened a little differently than my infamously verbose forecast told it a few weeks ago, but otherwise it’s pretty much right on time.

Now, I could follow suit and spin another lengthy yarn about where this could (and is feeling more and more likely to) be heading; but first, a plea to the IWC.

CALM DOWN. STOP CRYING. GET A GRIP.

Ever since that deliciously bizarre ending to the New Year’s Raw went down, I’ve read countless columns, missives, comments, etc. declaring this development to be the definitive end of all the past year’s narrative momentum for our favorite goatfaced underdog. I’d like to address a few of the more repeated kvetchings, if I might.

IWC: “Well, WWE finally did it. They blasted Daniel so far out of the main event scene, he’ll never make it back.”

JEFF: Ummm…no. I know you were so busy sputtering angrily at the fact that the show didn’t immediately give us what we all want, you probably missed it but…did you happen to notice when Daniel’s surrender to the Wyatts actually occurred?–It was somewhere between 10:30 and 11:15pm. Hey…you know what?–I may just be blowing smoke here, but I believe that’s called THE MAIN EVENT. The image of Daniel slowly ascending the ramp to follow his new leader–strangely and poetically resemblant of a toddler taking his first steps toward his father–was the last thing we were left to think about in WWE in 2013. I’d say that’s pretty important.

IWC: “But…but…they’re telling us he’s a heel now! If we have to boo him, he’ll never be a main-eventer; let alone a face ever again.”

JEFF: Sigh. …Read and heed these words: YOU DON’T *HAVE* TO BOO HIM. YOU HAVE FREE WILL. It astounded me how often I read this complaint these past two weeks; how often so many (mostly) intelligent adult human beings immediately forgot that they–statistically speaking–very likely comprise the “CENA SUCKS!” side of things each week. If you can boo the character that has been positioned as the end all-be all of babyfaces, you can cheer a guy who you say you love who just happened to align himself with a less-than-reputable “family” of psychopaths. In fact, cheer him more than ever. If you’re so scared that a heel turn (which I would argue, this doesn’t entirely constitute; and our own Chris Sanders will back me up on this) means the systematic burial of your favorite person on the show, just remember: YOU DON’T HAVE TO TAKE IT. Keep cheering. Keep chanting. I have a good feeling about where this is all headed anyway.

IWC: “…but…but…Cena…Orton…Brock…Batista…burgaburrrrr…zorbs…nyeaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!!! [head explodes]”

JEFF: …Whoa. Sorry, fella. Didn’t mean to make you go all “Scanners” there. Just listen to me, okay?–Yeah, it sucks that we’re getting Cena/Orton Part Eleventy Billion (although I would argue that it makes the most narrative sense for right now). Yeah, the return of Brock Lesnar and the impending return–and Royal Rumble Match appearance–of Batista are a bit worrisome for the Wrestlemania picture…but at the end of the day, there are far more ways this gets us to the pretty much universally-desired end result (Bryan wins the belt at Mania) than there are that don’t.

I know WWE can be a bit dense when it comes to giving the people what they want (no matter how many times they babble about everything being about the “universe”) and that the machinations of the people in charge don’t always go where we want them to…but they would have to be next-level oblivious not to notice how much the people love their D-Bry.

Thankfully, I don’t think they are. Let me just sum it up with this:

On this past Monday’s “Old School” Raw, the newly Wyatt-ified Daniel joined Luke Harper and Erick Rowan in a six-man tag team bout against Rey Mysterio and The Usos. Traditionally, it seems to be the norm that the more narratively pressing team will get the win here…but Daniel and the Wyatts lost; and as our own Matt Harrak pointed out during his live-tweet, that’s infinitely more intriguing. Not only that, but we got a backstage scene with Daniel berating his partners for the loss and explaining his mission to become a more menacing competitor, along with an announcement that he and Bray will team up next week.

If you’re not optimistic–or at least interested–about where this is all going, I guess you just don’t like fun…and for that, I’m sorry.

Now that I’ve said my piece about that, let’s head over to the fairer sex side of things and a look at an unexpectedly victorious two weeks for a once-floundering female in this week’s…

DIVAS

Over my countless year-end evaluations of the current Divas roster, I’m sure a few things have become glaringly apparent: I love AJ. I don’t care for Eva Marie. My girlfriend worships Tamina. Et cetera.

Part of that et cetera has been the utter lack of recent notable appearances for the Lithuanian heiress-turned-raven-haired sexpot Aksana. While conditions in the division over the past few years have been on a visible uptick, she’s stayed pretty roundly out of the spotlight.

That’s all changed over the past two weeks, as Teddy Long’s former temptress has scored two decisive victories against Nikki Bella in two very entertaining matchups. (TWO!–Sorry. It just felt necessary.) While this hasn’t necessarily said much for the Aksana character as a whole, we’ve finally gotten a very good impression of what she brings to the table as a competitor. Please enjoy a brief bullet pointed-list(!) of such observations:

  • As befits the character, Aksana has a very slinky (almost serpentine) way of conducting herself about the ring. In the hands of others, this might come off as an all-too-desperate attempt to inject sexuality into the PG-era Divas division. Coming from her, it makes perfect sense; and unlike the Eve Torres booty pops of yore, it never strains the credibility of the match.
  • I’ve also noted this of her opponent Nikki Bella in recent columns, but Aksana’s strikes and other offensive maneuvers have a very measured and calculated delivery. Fast-paced (often botched) spot-fests became the norm in this division in the days of Kelly Kelly, but there seems to be a concerted effort to pace these matches believably and effectively and that’s good for everyone concerned.
  • As my girlfriend keeps pointing out…girl can stomp.

Now, do I think this means Aksana should be the next to challenge (my spirit animal) AJ for the butterfly belt?–Not necessarily; but a widening field of competition, and rivalries not entirely based on a championship or whether or not someone is on a (very entertaining) reality series are sorely needed and infinitely appreciated right now.

I say, bring on Nikki/Aksana III!

…and lastly this week, “Old School” Raw brought out lots of familiar faces. Well…familiar to some anyway. Let me ramble about the young folk and the old folk in this week’s…

THE BONUS BALL

As our own CB and I have discussed in countless comment sections lately, gimmick episodes have a VERY spotty track record. (“Raw Country” will go down in history as one of my most hated episodes of any wrestling show ever.)

That being said, I always view “Old School” episodes to be a bit of a breath of at least somewhat fresher air. They tend to be oddly more match-intensive, they seem to always bring us another edition of “Piper’s Pit” and–as CB and I have noted–the final segment always seems to bring the house down.

On that last tip, this week’s take on the theme did…a fairly decent job.

“But, Jeff! Jake “The Snake”!”

I know, reader (and good to see you survived that head explosion); and it made me happy to see the troubled legend in such great shape. (I saw him in person about three years ago while interning at a radio station. To put it mildly, he wasn’t looking his best.) However, after the parade of cameos that preceded it, it also filled me with a mix of sadness and dread.

Throughout the episode, it became distressingly clear just how young the majority of the current WWE Universe really is. From the uncharacteristically lukewarm reception Ric Flair received at the top of the show to the stark silence of “Mean” Gene Okerlund’s WCW Hotline comedy bit in the last hour, I felt like I was watching the latter-day adventures of Randy “The Ram” Robinson all over again.

To make matters worse, the debatably-entertaining “Bad News” Barrett even chimed in; saying outright some of the things that it saddened me to be thinking as I watched the show.

The validity of that flea market analogy (and the use of the non-word “fruitile”) aside, it raised the question: is there a true sense of history in the up-and-coming generation of wrestling fans?

In this post-Benoit time of tighter health restrictions and longer careers, will WWE’s ostensible current core audience (21st century children) even be able to reminisce? Will there be demand for cameos from the faces of decades past to a generation who’ve watched John Cena be the star of the show for over eleven years now?

I think Vince McMahon’s quest to diminish the word “wrestling” in World Wrestling Entertainment may be working a little too well. In this that some have termed the “reality era” of sports entertainment, there isn’t much room for colorful characters like (God love him) “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and Jake “The Snake” Roberts.

Not that they aren’t people of merit or faces I’m glad to see on my screen, but this may not be a business that can appreciate them anymore…and that is very sad, indeed.

Don’t let me be misunderstood. I have a deep and abiding love for everyone (well…most everyone) who has ever played a role in this wonderful industry. I was happy to see every returning legend on this past Monday’s show, and I wouldn’t trade their presences during that three hours for the world…

…but I just can’t help thinking about the future.

To be fair, isn’t that the job of the wrestling columnist?–On that ponderance, I think it’s time to punch the clock for this week’s edition of “Guys and Divas”; and speaking of ponderances, here are a few to chew on for the week…

  • The arrival of “Daniel Wyatt” is one of the most polarizing events in a long while. Where do you stand? If you can muster the optimism, where do you think this could be heading?–Gab about the newly sheep-faced Goatface.
  • Aksana is coming out of…well, relatively nowhere and turning heads as a competitor of late. Who are some Superstars and Divas who’ve surprised you with their skill?–Ramble about repressed and hidden talents.
  • “Old School” Raw was a fun–if somewhat saddening–flashback to Superstars past. Of the current crop of Superstars and Divas, who do you think you’ll remember fondly on future “Old School” episodes?–Speculate about speculative retrospectives. (Ooh!–Nice one, Jeff.)

As always, join me for my weekly Raw live-tweet (@biscuitman18; #GuysAndDivas) and (I know I’ve said this before…but seriously now…) stay tuned for some exciting news about my future media endeavors. I think your ears are about to be entertained, folks!

Until next week, I’m Jeff Heatherly saying “Please pass the jelly!“. Good day, all!
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Guys and Divas #12: Late Motif (Brodus Clay, Nikki Bella, The Authority) http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/12/19/guys-and-divas-12-late-motif-brodus-clay-nikki-bella-the-authority/ http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/12/19/guys-and-divas-12-late-motif-brodus-clay-nikki-bella-the-authority/#comments Thu, 19 Dec 2013 16:00:36 +0000 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/?p=162230 (ONE DAY LATER…)

Hey there, ho there, hi there, everybody!

Welcome to my twelfth and final edition…of 2013! (Sorry, detractors. Didn’t mean to get your hopes up.) Yes, it’s “Guys and Divas”; the only column on Inside Pulse Wrestling that’s just bacon and cars.

In the “Divas” segment, it’s one more bloody (literally) evaluation for the road; and in “The Bonus Ball”, I look back at the birth of wrestling’s most powerful couple in this month’s edition of “Wayback Championship Wrestling Federation Entertainment”.

…BUT FIRST(!), this year in WWE shenanigans came to a close this past Sunday at TLC. Where do we stand heading into 2014?–Find out in this week’s…

GUYS

Well, there you have it. Randy Orton is our new WWE World Heavyweight Champion.

…Now what?

You know, lately I’ve been kicking off the “Guys” segment with a bullet-pointed(!) summary of the WWE main-event status quo…but truth be told, that’s about it; and unfortunately, this week’s Raw didn’t offer much more in the way of narrative development. You would think that with a special Christmas episode (oh, boy) already set for next week and the first of 2014′s “big four” pay-per-views immediately on the horizon, WWE might want to start setting the stage for some significant things…but I can’t say I’m shocked they failed in that regard.

It is in times like these that we must look to the midcard for inspiration…and lucky for me, there’s quite a bit happening.

Following a surprisingly show-stealing performance at TLC on Sunday, it looks like the hastily thrown-together team of Big Show and Rey Mysterio will be the next to challenge for The Rhodes Brothers’ WWE Tag Team Championships. Had you told me that even a week ago, I would have stared at you incredulously and groaned very loudly. Why would that be a thing that could happen?–It would have simply made no sense (and, for the record, I’m generally not as down on these two fellows as most people…but seriously).

Big E Langston’s reign as Intercontinental Champion continues, and it looks like–SPOILER ALERT!–he’s headed for a long-awaited confrontation with the beloved show-off Dol–FANDANGO? …What? …Okay.

However, the midcard shenanigan that has most prominently caught my attention is the dissolution of everybody’s favorite comic-relief tag team (no, not Los Matadores because they’re terrible; #SavePrimoAndEpico) Tons of Funk.

During a surprise singles bout on Sunday, Brodus Clay continued his rivalry with newcomer Xavier Woods by taking on his mentor/tag team partner R-Truth. After attempting to reason with the newly aggressive Funkasaurus, Tensai and the Funkadactyls walked out, leaving the big man to suffer a quick roll-up pin from the rapping superstar. The following night, Brodus put the definitive kibosh on his fun-loving, funk-dancing stable after roundly assaulting the former Asian Lord-turned-Sweet T and loudly berating his adorable backup dancers.

Truth be told: I LOVE IT.

When Brodus first re-emerged as the dancing babyface back in January 2012, I was as shocked as anyone. What a left-field character turn for a man who for months prior had been teased as an impending storm of out-and-out terror; a rotund monster with a penchant for inflicting pain.

We all asked: how did we go from this…

…to this?

(To wit, that opening dance has NEVER been as good since.)

I distinctly remember numerous conversations with our own Chris Sanders in which we tried to make sense of it all. After a few days, we couldn’t help but love it. It was just such a beautifully absurd, “only in WWE” kind of moment that we were on board pretty quickly.

That being said, I’m BEYOND excited to finally see the aggressive, indomitable wrecking machine we were promised over two years ago; and even more intrigued that it seems he’s got his eyes set on the main event scene. If Brodus can make it big, it’ll be proof-positive of an idea I’ve been kicking around of late.

As mentioned numerous times of late, I’ve found myself watching countless old pay-per-views from my almost sixteen years as a wrestling fan; and while I’ve certainly suffered the requisite amount of the usual “bring back the Attitude era”-type grief, one thing that has really stuck out has been the effect of a strong midcard on the show as a whole.

The WWE (or WWF, as it was) that I started watching back in 1998 was a federation where no matter who you were or how often you were on the television screen, you always seemed to have something going on. So many promos, backstage segments, true character-building scenarios for even the Crash Hollys and Spike Dudleys of the world…and what was most startling: it WASN’T always about comic relief. These were legitimate storylines with high stakes and real repercussions.

The midcard is where–in a perfect world–the main eventers of tomorrow hone their craft and their personality. Can you imagine the world of difference it would make to lose all the awkward WWE app tutorials and full-length replays of scenes from earlier in the show (that could usually easily be explained in roughly two lines of commentators’ dialogue) and instead give us a real rivalry for a midcard title?

Because while Big E Langston is a really entertaining guy and a worthy holder of that white belt, the viewer knows virtually NOTHING about him. What if–to use his impending challenger–Fandango really turned the screws on? What if he cut promos denigrating Big E? Did dastardly things to weaken Big E’s resolve?

In short, what if the midcard got as much screen time as the main event?

Let’s be real. At any point during three hours of Raw, are you really in any danger of forgetting who’s in the main event or who’s going for the newly dubbed WWE World Heavyweight Championship (which should only need a single belt, by the by)? Are you REALLY going to forget that John Cena exists?–I highly doubt it.

Are you going to forget who’s currently in the running for the IC or Tag Team belts?–Much more probably.

My feeling is, once someone has reached main-event status, we should know them well enough from their years of midcard work that we don’t really need long scenes and so much pomp and circumstance to know what their motivations might be heading into a big match…but in the current WWE, we often don’t.

This leads to failed experiments like the main event push of Ryback this past year. Honestly, going into his rivalry with John Cena this past spring, can we really say we knew much more about him than “Feed Me More”, his RVD-esque singlets and his strong resemblance to a certain former WCW Champion?–Eh. Eh, at best.

So, call me nutty. Call me overzealous. Call Jake Bradley (JAKE BRADLEY!)…but I’m putting just a bit of hope into this main event monster heel Brodus Clay experiment. Join me, won’t you?

…and from the fall of the funk to a busted Bella, let’s take a look at this week’s goings-on with the…

DIVAS

Sometimes it’s not always about a championship.

While such a statement might bother a few people, it’s something I’ve gone back to a lot as the year of Diva action comes to a close. At the conclusion of Raw this week, there was no real indication of who would next challenge (my spirit animal) AJ Lee for the butterfly belt…and that was okay.

What WAS clear however, is that this is a division on the move. As usual, I can’t in good conscience commend WWE for any amount of intentional subtlety; but over the past twelve (or let’s be more realistic, six) months, the creative minds behind my favorite female protagonists may have stumbled onto the building blocks of what could be a dynamite 2014.

In case you missed it, this past Monday saw a six-Diva tag match pitting the aforementioned Divas Champion, her muscle Tamina Snuka and the ever-vacillating Alicia Fox against the “Total Divas” trio of Natalya and the Bella Twins. It was a really enjoyable showcase of where these six (or honestly, five out of these six; I’m pretty sure Natalya was never even tagged in) women stand as we hit the precipice of a new year.

Sparing you my usual gushing and fawning over my dear Ms. Lee, I instead focus on–undoubtedly–the most improved Diva (nay, person in general) in WWE this year: Brie Bella. As documented on their popular E! reality series, Brie’s time apart from sister Nikki has done absolute wonders.

Together, they’re often simply identical eye candy meant to titillate people with weird incestuous twin fantasies. As individuals, they’re finally allowed to shine as unique human beings each with skills all their own. Brie (as I’ve stated before) has really emerged as a competitive figure. When she’s in the ring, you truly believe she’s out to win; and not just to reach the predetermined result. As for Nikki, she’s still got a bit of a ways to go; but there is something distinctly more measured and deliberately paced about her movements.

Gone (for the most part) are the days of repetitive clotheslines, cat fight-like head banging and unnecessary booty popping. Whether you feel inclined to compliment their in-ring prowess, you simply cannot deny that no matter what the skill level, the Divas division is ready to be taken seriously again.

…Sorry. Got off on a bit of a tangent there.

Obviously, the biggest (and bloodiest) story to come out of this week’s Raw was a collision of boot and face.

Yikes. Say what you will (and have)…but I couldn’t imagine a Kelly Kelly taking a kick like that and walking it off.

A hearty ouch and kudos. This game just got real.

…and finally, it’s time for another of my monthly trips down memory lane. Let’s harken back to some matrimonial mayhem in this edition of…

THE BONUS BALL presents “WAYBACK CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING FEDERATION ENTERTAINMENT”

WWF Raw Is War – 11/29/1999

In the nineteen months that I had been watching professional wrestling, a lot of big things had happened.

The Monday Night Wars were red hot. The nWo continued to run wild over the WCW landscape. Goldberg became World Heavyweight Champion after soundly defeating Hollywood Hogan in front of a hometown Atlanta crowd. The Rock went from People’s Champion to Corporate Champion to an even more beloved People’s Champion. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin got hit by a car…I could go on. Point is, every Monday night had the proverbial “big fight feel”. Something was going to go down, and that was simply that.

For some reason however, nothing seemed bigger to me than the marriage of a billion dollar princess and a former Motley Crüe roadie.

Stephanie McMahon debuted as an on-screen character in early 1999. She was adorable, endearing and every bit her daddy’s little girl. Naturally, terrible things started happening around her. She was abducted by the Undertaker, crucified on his logo and almost forced to wed him in a satanic ceremony…you know…that old chestnut.

Around that time, flirtations began to arise between Steph and Corporation-turned-Union member Test. After a brief courtship (that was temporarily opposed by brother–and everyone’s favorite–Shane, leading to a “Love Her or Leave Her” Greenwich Street Fight at Summerslam 1999), the two were engaged that fall.

Meanwhile that September, Stephanie’s father and WWE owner Mr. McMahon returned from a brief hiatus as a face and defeated Triple H for the WWE Championship on an episode of Smackdown; igniting a battle between the McMahons and The Game (backed by D-Generation X) that would last for months thereafter.

November 29. We set our scene at the then-recently-opened Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. Tonight, the long-awaited nuptials will take place. The whole roster (save for The Acolytes and The Dudley Boys who are preoccupied with a poker game backstage) is decked out for the occasion.

Throughout the night, we’re shown a series of clips from Stephanie’s Las Vegas bachelorette party; which is attended by a handful of her friends from back in Connecticut and–because why not?–The Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young. It’s a pretty low-key, one-camera-angle affair with a game of Truth or Dare, copious amounts of champagne, a stripping electrician (who is chased away by the ever-amorous Mae), some light dancing to some royalty-free funk music and lastly a not-at-all-suspicious celebratory shot of vodka which is hand-delivered by a member of the hotel staff; all taking place under what appears to be a massive portrait of “Dragnet” star Jack Webb.

(Yeah. Take all of that in.)

Early in the evening, D-Generation X takes to the ring and–after a brief pause due to some audio technical difficulties in the arena (i.e. some inept Staples Center employee accidentally turned on some disco music…no, seriously)–vow that we will not see our anticipated live wedding this evening. Father of the Bride Mr. McMahon hits the stage (keeping his distance due to a Temporary Order of Protection that was filed after this happened) and informs the band of degenerates (especially their leader) that tonight’s festivities are only open to immediate McMahon family/invited guests and should any uninvited WWE personnel interfere, they will be fired on-the spot.

To that end, Vince books two matches: Triple H vs. Test and a Six-Man Tag pitting the remaining members of DX (X-Pac, Road Dogg and Mr. Ass) against The Rock ‘n Sock Connection (The Rock and Mankind) and a partner of their choosing.

In the first bout, something seems a bit…off.

That couldn’t be the boss under that mask?–After all, that would be in violation of the aforementioned court order and there’s no way Patterson and Brisco’s calls to Vince in the bathroom are a (terribly-acted) ruse…is there?

No matter. In the prelude to the latter match, we see an unmasked Mick Foley attempting to convince his pal Al Snow to be the third man on his team. To put it mildly, Al Snow doesn’t care for The People’s Champion. Comedy ensues.

(Rock’s delivery on “Who is this roody poo?” is worth the price of admission alone.)

With all our matches out of the way, it’s time for the real show.

As you might imagine, a McMahon wedding is an all-out affair. A long line of WWE Superstar groomsmen, the groom’s arrival to his entrance theme (because of course) and the entrance of the bride (during which Steph almost trips twice on her gown’s massive train) all lead to the ceremony proper. The priest says his bit. There’s an awkward full-length romantic duet from what I can only assume are some local wedding singers…and then the moment where everything changes (starting at 1:20 and followed by the deal-sealing aftermath at Armageddon 1999)…

Needless to say, as Raw faded to black that night, my twelve-year-old mind was blown. At the time, I was somewhere in-between knowing that this is a scripted performance and still thinking that maybe, somewhere in there was a nugget of reality…so this was pretty huge. (It should be noted that this is the only episode of WWE programming I ever felt the need to tape.)

Here we are fourteen years later, and despite a few kayfabe spats (a faked pregnancy or two; you know, the usual whatnots) the fictional-turned-real-life power couple is as strong as ever; and while many (somewhat rightfully) grouse about the way the McMahon family (including Triple H) handle things…I’ll always have affection for these two. They’re easily in my top 3 married couples I don’t know personally.

Now, usually here in the WCWFE segment, this would be the moment in which I talk about all the things I miss, don’t miss, etc. about the Raw of 1999…but let’s face it: we of the IWC have pretty thoroughly covered our fond memories of the Attitude Era. As such, I’d just like to conclude this memorable affair with a few errant bullet-pointed(!) thoughts.

  • I’ve mentioned the unpleasant grunginess of the Attutude Era WWF many times; but watching this episode, I felt like that feeling is no better encapsulated than in the person of Sean “X-Pac” Waltman. Every time he was on screen, I felt genuinely gross; and while I know I came in long after he’d abandoned the 1-2-3 Kid moniker AND that I’m–by all accounts–not alone in my distaste for the man, I ask my dear readers…seriously, was he always this way? How did I/we ever put up with him? (Early homework assignment.)
  • You know, there’s probably nothing a vibrant 23-year-old girl wants more at her bachelorette party than two sex-crazed octogenarians.
  • This was obviously my first televised professional wrestling wedding, so some of my older readers might forgive me for falling for the twist all those years ago. I’ve certainly seen many more since and will readily admit that this wasn’t an uncommon occurrence…but it was still classic.
  • Triple H’s gleefully delivered “consummate the marriage” line remains one of my favorite bits of dialogue in my 15+ years watching this show. Just golden.
  • This episode is also notable for the introduction of the short-lived Diva Barbara “B.B.” Bush, who–like any average Jane EMT–challenges then-Women’s Champion Ivory to an Evening Gown Match. You know…like you would.
  • Can you believe there was once a time where a character went by the moniker “Mr. Ass”?

…and that’s it for this month’s “Wayback Championship Wrestling Federation Entertainment” join me again on January 15 for another nostalgic look back at my history in sports entertainment.

So. There you have it. So ends the year in “Guys and Divas”. As you might expect, I’ll be taking next week off for the holidays; but in the meantime, here are some things to caper and sing about…

  • Looks like Brodus Clay is finally becoming the monster he was always meant to be. Does he have what it takes to be the “main event player” he so claims? What are some midcard-to-main event success stories that have really piqued your interest over the years?–Amble and ramble about the ascent of superstars.
  • Nikki Bella’s one tough cookie, and she’s got the busted lip to prove it. What are some other badges of courage you’ve seen superstars and Divas endure over the years that made you stop for a golf clap? Who turned tough-as-nails and turned you into a fan?–Show some respect to the scars of battle and those who bear them.
  • The infamous drive-thru wedding of Triple H and Stephanie remains one of my favorite blockbuster twists of all-time. What are some moments that boggled your mind with their audacious outrageousness? What made you stop and think “Wow. They went there”?–Mumble about mind-blowing minutiae.

As always, don’t miss my weekly Raw live-tweet (@biscuitman18; #GuysAndDivas) and–as 2013 comes to a close–a big thanks to everyone who’s stopped by my column over these past twelve weeks. Your words and your readership have meant the world to me, and I hope to see you all again in 2014!

Until next year, I’m Jeff Heatherly saying “Freezer I’ll Shoot!“. Happy holidays, everybody!
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Guys and Divas #11: Slammy, Go Home! (Daniel Bryan, The Bella Twins, Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler) http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/12/11/guys-and-divas-11-slammy-go-home-daniel-bryan-the-bella-twins-jim-ross-jerry-lawler/ http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/12/11/guys-and-divas-11-slammy-go-home-daniel-bryan-the-bella-twins-jim-ross-jerry-lawler/#comments Wed, 11 Dec 2013 10:52:57 +0000 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/?p=162085 Hey, hello and hi, everyone!

I believe I see a one next to a one up there, so that means I should welcome you to the eleventh edition of “Guys and Divas”; the only column on Inside Pulse Wrestling unafraid to come out and say that Mr. Not PG!‘s “Bonnie Button” tweets are only funny to Mr. Not PG! and should stop being a thing. (Seriously, if you laugh at those…let’s never meet.)

In this week’s “Divas”, the Bellas get booed AND in “The Bonus Ball”, I get all comment-y about commentators.

…BUT FIRST(!), we got a go-home show (as always, I hate that phrase) and a theme show all in one three-hour shot. How’d that go?–Find out in this week’s…

GUYS

Watching Monday Night’s 2013 Slammy Awards edition of Monday Night Raw, I was reminded of a comment from our own CB a few weeks back following the entertainment septic tank that was “Raw Country”:

“…one disturbing formula is when WWE knows a big angle is coming at the end of a show, it’s almost like they make it a point to have the rest of the show suck.”

Now, to be fair…this wasn’t an out-and-out suckfest like the disastrous Nashville affair of weeks past; but given that it was our last true 180-minute teaser for the final pay-per-view of the year, it was pretty weak sauce…UNTIL(!)–as CB notes–those final glorious moments. So many narrative threads were cast, teased, mangled and kicked in the face, and I loved every second of it.

As is becoming a staple of this segment, let’s see exactly where we stood as we faded to black with my first bullet-pointed list(!) of the week:

  • Triple H attempts to monologue about the prestige of the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships, but is roundly drowned out by the cacophonous “YES!” and “DANIEL BRYAN!” chants of the Seattle crowd.
  • John Cena cuts his best promo in quite a while, reiterating his (arguably accurate) belief that Randy has become complacent, lazy and spoiled over the past eleven years; and even pulls the crowd-demanded Daniel Bryan in to prove what hard work and perseverance can accomplish.
  • Randy mumbles something vaguely pompous and heelish and then punching happens.
  • MASSIVE Cena/Orton brawl, tamped down unsuccessfully by the former champions (including some hall of famers like Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart) leading to the dynamite final sequence which goes (to a fault) as follows:
    • CM Punk takes a shot at Randy Orton.
    • Triple H pulls Punk off of Randy and tosses him aside.
    • Punk takes a few shots at The Game.
    • Shawn Michaels hits Punk with Sweet Chin Music.
    • Daniel hits HBK with the running knee.
    • Orton attempts an RKO on Daniel who counters by shoving Randy away…directly into Stephanie McMahon.
    • An enraged Triple H Pedigrees Randy.
    • The Authority, Kane and Cena check on Stephanie and then gather in a corner, staring at a prone and out-of-breath Randy in the opposite corner. The crowd is still chanting “YES!” and/or “DANIEL BRYAN!”. Fade out.

So much to say, and–as I write this–many already have.

First, I’ll take a moment to mourn my undeniably dynamite booking plan from last week’s column (although it’s still not entirely impossible…just highly unlikely). I simply yearn for the serpentine elaborate plots of my youth and what can I say?–I dig the cut of my own jib sometimes.

With that out of the way, let’s just think about everything that list up there suggests. CM Punk is still a factor in the big picture. Daniel Bryan will clearly have his day soon enough, and (as an added bonus) got some long overdue revenge on his former mentor HBK. Randy’s ego has clearly grown larger than even The Authority can handle; to the point of possibly aligning themselves with his opponent. John Cena is still John Cena.

To put it shortly, there’s a lot of places this show can go after TLC this Sunday. However, I can’t stop thinking about the suggested conclusion column reader Starcade left a few weeks past; particularly after seeing the elaborate mechanism on which the two belts will be suspended.

In the brief (but effective) lead-up to this historic match, there’s been so much pomp and circumstance; from the contract signing to this past Monday’s overdramatically-titled “Championship Ascension Ceremony”. A lot of images and ideas are being exhausted in the pursuit of telling the audience that there can be only one champion at the end of this Sunday’s pay-per-view.

Could WWE truly be oblivious enough to think that ending the match by simply swapping the belts won’t cause a bit of fuss amongst the fans? Or will we honest-to-your-chosen-deity, no joke, for realsies go into 2014 with a single, end-all, be-all best-of-the-best champion?

I can’t get these questions out of my mind; and to be honest, I have no potential answers for you. All I can do to conclude this week’s “Guys” portion is throw out the following speculation.

As reported throughout the IWC today, the home of 2015′s Wrestlemania XXXI (or 31 or…red YouTube-ish play button icon, as it may be) will be Santa Clara, California’s Levi’s Stadium. As usual, this announcement came with a Superstar-(and Diva)-studded press conference, during which the logo for the event was revealed for the first time…and here she be…

Simple. Tasteful. Elegant–hey, wait! What’s that pointy thing up top?!

Indeed, the sharp double-W we’ve seen acompanying countless premature announcements for the allegedly still-upcoming WWE Network has finally made its way to a tangible part of the WWE Universe. Naturally, speculation has run rampant as to when or if the new logo will at (arguably) long last replace the “scratch” design that has defined our favorite former Federation for almost two decades.

Some say that the recent WWE Championship redesign is still too hot off the presses to undergo such a drastic brand overhaul, but with a title unification in the offing, one certainly wonders…and look, I know this is purely cosmetic and the majority of wrestling fans don’t really care enough to gasm about newfangled iconography…but hey, look! SHINY NEW THING!

…and while you’re nice and distracted, we’ll move on to a Slammy surprise in this week’s…

DIVAS

Let’s be real. The validity of any fan-interactive shenanigan in the WWE Universe is always suspect.

For as much as we remember the name Team Hell No fondly, we all know we voted for “Team Friendship”. (Our own Chris Sanders has rightfully never let that dream die.) During 2011′s “Power to the People” episode of Raw, one poll result was memorably so far from the fans’ true intentions, WWE surprised everyone by apologizing and giving the people the match they wanted. (I know. Can you even remember a time when we wanted to see that?–I kid because I love.)

Never is the suspicion quite so high as during the (somewhat) yearly Slammy Awards, and this past Monday’s 2013 edition was not without its share of head-scratchers. (Cena vs. Rock II for Match of the Year?–Surely you jest.)

Naturally, the award I kept the closest eye on was the announcement of the 2013 Diva of the Year. When voting time came, I was thoroughly conflicted, but almost by default decided to give the duke to my spirit animal AJ Lee. For while others have made great strides this year, the Divas Champion remains the centerpiece–nay, life force–of the division.

When the envelope was finally opened (by cameoing former Divas Champion Eve Torres), I was pleased yet thoroughly puzzled at the announcement that “Total Divas” stars The Bella Twins were walking away with this year’s golden…guy press slamming another guy. For the Seattle crowd that puzzlement quickly turned to rage, as the future Mrs. Daniel Bryan and John Cena were soundly booed off the stage, and even played off to their own theme.

Now, as has been noted here at “Guys and Divas”, 2013 has been an eye-opening year for me as it pertains to Brie and Nikki. I remember very clearly groaning as they returned to the fold shortly before Wrestlemania earlier this year. Over the past nine months or so, I’ve really come to appreciate these sisters for who they are as people; and as luck would have it, the popularity of their E! reality show has helped bring personality and humanity to their kayfabe personas, as well.

In short, they certainly wouldn’t have been my first choice, but I can live with this.

However, in the spirit of Seattle’s (to put it mildly) disagreement with the decision, I’d like to take a moment to look at the remaining nominees for this year’s prize and see what they all would have brought to the Slammy table. How does one justify these potential winners?–Here’s another bullet-pointed list(!) to explain…

  • AJ LEE – What can be said that I haven’t already gushed onto my Twitter feed and this column over the past eleven weeks?–She’s the Divas’ Champion for a reason; with the strongest character and the most visually-arresting moveset, my spirit animal is the total package.
  • THE FUNKADACTYLS – While I would argue that Naomi alone deserved this nomination, the backup dancers-turned-”Total Divas” have had a truly notable year. Naomi continues to impress in competition, with a memorable bout against Natalya last August still keeping the internet talking. Cameron…well, she’s certainly got personality to burn, now doesn’t she?
  • NATALYA – In truth, the rightful winner. For years, the daughter of the Anvil has been the athletic heart of the Divas division; but with her newfound reality TV exposure and an upcoming (long-overdue) Divas Championship bout at this Sunday’s TLC pay-per-view, she’s arguably the uncrowned queen of WWE.
  • KAITLYN – No Diva makes me swoon quite like her. As the second half of this year’s strongest storyline in the division, she’s more than earned this nomination. Her disappearing act of late may have taken her off the radar a bit; but as a recent WWE.com poll shows, the fans are still waiting for her to get her hands on her former best friend one more time. In the hearts and minds of many, the second-billed Diva; which is nothing to sneer at.
  • EVA MARIE – …Sigh. …Okay. I’ll say this. While I heartily and sincerely dislike this girl, it’s clear that she’s developing quite the name for herself (despite BARELY having competed). I don’t think I’ve heard such strong heel heat for a Diva since…well, Vickie. If she could add a modicum of in-ring skill to that, maybe we’d really have something.

In truth, The Slammy Awards are nothing to get too worked up about. They’re merely a sort of annual status update for the kayfabe world of WWE; and while I may somewhat understand Seattle’s disappointment with this year’s Diva(s) of choice, it’s undeniable that all (okay, most) of these talented women have had one hell of a 12 months.

The division is on the rise, and I can’t wait to see what 2014 holds for my favorite female protagonists.

Lastly this week, a brief stream of consciousness on professional wrestling’s stream of consciousness. Let’s talk talking heads in this edition of…

THE BONUS BALL

Weeks ago, in preparation for the most recent edition of “Wayback Championship Wrestling Federation Entertainment”, I took a walk down memory lane with a look at the first three Survivor Series of my life as a wrestling fan. Ever since then, I’ve been a bit obsessed with revisiting the pay-per-view events that have signposted the major events of the past 15+ years of WWE action.

During these revisits, I’ve been quite taken with how much the show has changed over the years; how the characters have toned down a bit, the storylines tamed, the production values exploded, etc. However, something that has really struck me in my more recent viewings has been how a show can truly be affected by the men and women calling the action.

As I ruminated on this topic, I started to think about how the role of the commentator has changed since I started watching WWE back in 1998. As it happened, my first team were arguably the best duo to ever sit behind the desk, Jim Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler. Nobody did it better and I don’t think anyone ever will.

However, the J.R. and King of 1998 are stylistically almost unrecognizable compared to when they last shared the announce position (alongside JBL) this past January. In 1998, The King was firmly in the corner of the heels; always scrambling to justify their actions, no matter how heinous. J.R., ever the voice of reason, was the everyman; the viewer; the true host of this bizarre thing called sports entertainment.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this legendary duo at the time however was their commitment to the show. Rarely if ever did either Jerry or Good Ol’ J.R. break kayfabe. The events they and we saw unfold were as real as it got, no matter how insane or cartoonish. They were as much a part of the wacky cast of personas on the screen as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and the Undertaker (at his most gothic and supernatural).

True, sometimes real life made its presence felt. I know there are many of us who will never forget the shock of watching Jim Ross somberly announce that Owen Hart had died before his very eyes. In many ways, the horrific accident that claimed the life of the future Hall of Famer in the spring of 1999 was the first time we the viewers were forced to truly face the fictional nature of this show we so love and how starkly it contrasts with the harshness of reality.

Surprisingly though, the fiction of the WWE Universe was pretty resilient; and as years went on and names like Paul Heyman, Jonathan Coachman and Joey Styles shuffled in and out of the booth, the kayfabe aspect of their roles remained as strong as ever.

As with many things, a marked change seemed to arrive with the 2009 decision to lower the content rating of WWE programming from TV-14 to TV-PG. The commentators seemed to be a bit more self-aware; a bit more open to the idea that they resided in a fictional universe.

I would contend that such changes have had a tremendous detrimental effect on the overall atmosphere of WWE television.

It’s just a bit more difficult to emote and react to the actions of dastardly villains, triumphant heroes and those who fall in-between in a time when the folks calling the action have subdued so incredibly much. It’s as though the current team of Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler and John “Bradshaw” Layfield have become as jaded as so many of us to the white-washed repetitiveness that plays out before them.

Meanwhile, over on Spike TV’s TNA Impact Wrestling, “The Professor” Mike Tenay and Taz are very much living in the fictional universe that surrounds them. During my brief tenure as a viewer of WWE’s biggest non-MMA competitor last year, they were one facet of the show about which I simply could not complain. No matter how ridiculous things got (and if you do the math, you’ll note I was watching during the nascent days of Joseph Park and the dreadful AJ Styles/Claire Lynch storyline), Taz and Tenay were–if you’ll pardon a colloquialism–dealing with some real sh!t; and as a viewer, I found myself gripped to even the most unwatchable moments.

As wrestling pundits, we focus our dissatisfaction with the WWE product on so many facets; the creative team, production design, the superstars and Divas themselves…but just ask yourself: how much easier would the missteps and weaker moments go down with a committed team of voices talking us through it all?–I for one would have a lot fewer reasons to grouse…for a little while, at least.

…and as that stream of consciousness enters calm waters, this week’s “Guys and Divas” comes to a close.

In next week’s “Bonus Ball”, I’ll take a look at one of my all-time favorite Raw episodes in this month’s “Wayback Championship Wrestling Federation Entertainment”. In the meantime, here are your homework assignments on which to ponder:

  • The Wrestlemania 31 logo got many of us wondering if WWE’s headed for a major cosmetic overhaul. What would you change about the look of our favorite brand of sports entertainment? How about some nostalgia? What have been some of your favorite logo designs, set designs, etc. over the now-50-year history of the McMahon family business?–Vociferate on visual changes.
  • Debate rages on the validity of this year’s Slammy Award-winning Divas. Who would you have voted for? For our NXT fans, who stands out as the yellow brand’s Diva of 2013?–Lay out your thoughts on the best ladies of the year that was.
  • For many, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler are THE WWE commentary team. Who are some of your favorite personalities who have sat at the desk over the years? Any favorite moments from the voices of professional wrestling?–Talk it up about the folks who talk it up.

As always, don’t miss my weekly Raw live-tweet (@biscuitman18; #GuysAndDivas) and stay tuned in the coming weeks for some exciting news about the future of “Guys and Divas” in 2014!

Until next time, I’m Jeff Heatherly saying…”What did you see, old man?“. Good reading, all!
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The GPS to Wrestlemania XXX, Part 1 (Daniel Bryan, John Cena, Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, Triple H, Dolph Ziggler, Natalya) http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/12/09/the-gps-to-wrestlemania-xxx-part-1-daniel-bryan-john-cena-undertaker-brock-lesnar-triple-h-dolph-ziggler-natalya/ http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/12/09/the-gps-to-wrestlemania-xxx-part-1-daniel-bryan-john-cena-undertaker-brock-lesnar-triple-h-dolph-ziggler-natalya/#comments Mon, 09 Dec 2013 11:00:11 +0000 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/?p=162035 Welcome back everyone.  My thanks to all those who commented on my initial column, especially to Jeff Hetherley of Guys and Divas for the generous praise and pimpage.  I also hope he has learned his lesson about sticking his nose into in-depth, long-term fantasy booking around here (cracks knuckles).  Nothing personal Jeff, just business.  I have my eye on you too Ralph Hardin and your plotting.

Before we get into this week’s topic, I wanted to introduce a segment that will begin each column.

Second Thoughts:

This will be a spot for me to mention an idea or two that was brought up in the comments from the previous week’s column.  So last week, I overhauled the WWE’s format, focusing on a hard brand split that allowed for an 8-week break for each show to allow performers much needed vacations, but still allow for original wrestling to occur every week.  With the split, I had two separate champions.

In the comments section, CB asked me to address how I would deal with having one, unified champion based on the current Cena/Orton program.  I responded in the comments that my best solution was making the “Undisputed Champion” designation the WWE’s equivalent to a Super Bowl title whereby the World and WWE champions faced off at the December PPV for the honor of being considered the undisputed champion for the following year.  Apparently, that wasn’t good enough for CB (some people), and wanted me to integrate the one champion into my paradigm.

Given all the factors in play, the best solution is to put the Undisputed Championshipship on a set, three to four month rotation between the two separate brands.  This way, the championship is evenly divided between the two shows and it moves at a designated point.  During the hiatuses, the championship obviously resides on the active brand.  For the brand that does not have the championship, there is an interim brand title that indicates the top for that period.  When the Undisputed Championship transfers to that brand, the brand champion is the number one contender for the undisputed title. The Money in the Bank briefcase naturally is a contract for the Undisputed Championship. The key is to ensure the rotation of the championship is kept consistent to avoid the potential of preferential treatment for one brand.

Now with, that out of the way, let’s move on to this week’s topic.

Booking Wrestlemania XXX (Part 1)

We are in the turn lane for the on-ramp to the road to Wrestlemania right now.  Many are asking what will the “granddaddy of them all” look like for its 30th anniversary (by WWE logic; I do know this is not the 30th anniversary).  Some others on this site, who do not know their place, provided their own thoughts regarding the top of the card.  Given we are four months out; it is the perfect time (and format of this column) to put together Wrestlemania XXX’s card based on the current roster and storylines.  The card is presented top down in match order along with the storyline explanation of how we arrive at this point.  I also provide a brief comment on my thoughts about the match in its overall place in WWE continuity and rumor.

This week we focus on the top of the card.  Why two parts for the card?  Because after I got to the sixth match, I was already two pages longer than my debut column.  While I intended to write a long column every week, I know people will eventually reach burnout reading it.  Therefore, this week I present the upper card and main event (six matches) and next week will provide the undercard (four matches, plus the preshow match).  This allows more space to address questions and comments about these matches in next weeks “Second Thoughts.”

So, on with the show:

Undisputed, Unified, There Can Be Only One WWE World Heavyweight Champion of the Universe (formal name pending)

Brock Lesnar (Champion) vs. Daniel Bryan

How we get here:  We start at TLC, where no shenanigans ensue (versus all expectations) and John Cena claims both titles and is deemed the undisputed champion and face of the WWE.  On Raw the next night, Cena is awarded his new title by the Authority and he launches into a promo about how he looks forward to defending the title against the cream of the crop of contenders such as Punk and Bryan.  The Authority cuts him off, noting it’s not Cena’s place to book his opponents anymore, and that he should not get the hopes up of those who are not “company material.”  Cena does his good guy, voice of the common man and fair opportunity spiel.  He’s warned that he will toe the line, as he can always be replaced by someone with more marketability and cross-promotional appeal.  Cena refuses to stand down, and actually challenges Bryan that night, to a SummerSlam rematch for the title.

The match does not occur however.  Bryan is laid out backstage and abducted once more by the Wyatts.  When Cena comes out and demands that the Authority book the rematch for the Rumble, they agree, but it won’t be a Cena/Bryan rematch.  This brings out Brock Lesnar, making it a rematch of their 2012 Extreme Rules encounter.  It will also be the first undisputed champ in 11 years versus the last undisputed champ (who never was beaten for that title).

Lesnar defeats Cena for the championship at the Rumble.  He then goes on to successfully defend the title at Elimination Chamber against Cena, CM Punk, Dolph Ziggler, Randy Orton, and a returned and now heel Sheamus in the Chamber.

Bryan on the other hand loses his match at TLC to the Wyatts by disqualification when at the end of the match, he snaps and grabs a chair and goes nuts on the clan and storms off in a fit of rage.  At Raw the next night, he’s blindsided by the Wyatt’s backstage where Bray compliments him on the progress he’s making down the path of his destiny, but there’s still work to do and is dragged off for more supposed brainwashing and release like a tagged animal.  Bryan wins the Rumble, which includes an extended segment where he must face all three Wyatts and overcome them during the match.  At Elimination Chamber, Bray and Bryan face off in a steel cage match, where it is win by escape rules.  The point made by Bray that when the time is right, Bryan will do the right thing and know his place in the confines of the Wyatt family.  Towards the end of the match, as Bryan is making his comeback, Bray starts making some kind of gesture, saying its time.  Bryan slows down and starts to look like he is under sway.  He will stand before Wyatt, who will tell him to kneel and wait as Wyatt leaves.  Only Bryan doesn’t kneel.  Wyatt becomes more and more infuriated and starts slapping Bryan, who just starts smiling and chanting No.  He then hits his running knee, locks Wyatt into the Yes Lock in the middle of the ring, and keeps it locked in until Harper and Rowan make their way to ringside and scale the cage.  As they start to descend into the cage, Bryan bolts up and out, leaving Bray Wyatt an apparent broken leader.

This way, Lesnar and Bryan do not start feuding until after Elimination Chamber and can run through a modified version of the past summer program where Bryan is challenging the power of the Authority again.  This time though, it is through Lesnar’s mouthpiece Paul Heyman.  It is a storyline of the well-known face and name of MMA returning to dominate professional wrestling, versus the barely-known, scrawny independent wrestler whose own fans wouldn’t recognize on the street.  The match is a classic David versus Goliath story and culminates with Bryan’s victory with the running knee and finally an actual run as champion.

Side Note: I know many people are asking why not Lesnar vs. Punk II as the main event?  I feel the narrative of the struggle of Daniel Bryan to fight back to the top and prove victorious justifies him in the Title match.  I also feel Lesnar is the right opponent, especially with the way he is brought in and built up (as elaborated above).  I felt Punk was better suited in the match I discuss below.  I also found a better place for Orton, preventing a Bryan vs. Orton title match.

Yes, like Jeff, I do feel Kane should be revealed as a member of the Wyatt family (after all, the last time he was seen before he went corporate was being dragged away by the Wyatts at SummerSlam), and that Bryan should become a target for them again once that connection is revealed.  You will just have to wait two weeks to see how I would play that out.

Triple Threat Elimination Match

 John Cena vs. The Rock vs. The Undertaker

How We Get Here: John Cena comes up short in the Elimination Chamber of capturing the title and getting his match against Daniel Bryan.  On the Raw following Elimination Chamber, he comes out and starts going on about he was up all night trying to figure out what to do after the loss.  Should he hang them up considering his increased injuries he’s both worked through and been sidelined with?  What is there left for him to accomplish?  He’s been every nature of champion and faced just about every modern legend in the industry.  But it’s Wrestlemania and he can’t just walk away from that.  And he then realizes that there is one thing that he’s not done at Wrestlemania.

Before he can come out with it, the Rock comes out to interrupt him.  He notes that he and Cena have unfinished business.  The two of them are one and one after the last two Wrestlemanias.  Therefore, there needs to be one last encounter; a rubber match to truly determine who is the best.  Cena retorts that he wasn’t thinking of the Rock, but the Undertaker.  But Cena appreciates the reminder and decides that the best way to cement his legacy is to beat two legends in one night. And come to think of it, the Rock never faced the Undertaker at Wrestlemania.  Cue the blackout, the gong, and the sudden appearance of the Undertaker who “Wrestlemanias” to the sign then points to each man and does the cutthroat sign.

The match is elimination style to allow Cena to beat the Rock to close the book on those two definitively, and then Undertaker to beat Cena and go to 23-0.

Side Note: My preference is to just have Cena vs. Undertaker with the build-up of the one challenge Cena has not gone after in the WWE is taking a shot at “The Streak.”  They could reference Cena’s first year in the WWE when Undertaker ran what I call a “tough love” angle where he tagged with Cena, but at times double-crossed him or left him on his own to teach him to be ready for anything.  I merely put Rock in here given the split decision he has with Cena over the last two years and all rumors that the WWE wants the Rock at Wrestlemania XXX.  The idea of the Rock and Undertaker going at it is appealing given the two did not have a lot of encounters in the years past.  The match is elimination style to add a little more intrigue and ensure that Undertaker definitively wins with the final pin and no one saying they were not beat in the match.

Shameless Ego Stroking Match

Triple H (with Stephanie) vs. Randy Orton (with Mr. McMahon)

How We Get Here: So following his loss at TLC, Orton demands a rematch for the unified title, claiming some other weak excuse about why he lost and how he deserves another shot.  This is of course shot down by the Authority as they bring in Lesnar to be their new corporate approved champion.  This leads Orton to demand a preferential spot in the Rumble, saying he should be given the main event at Wrestlemania and a shot at what he feels is his championship.  When he comes up short in the Rumble, he immediately demands placement in the Elimination Chamber match, with no need to qualify.  Further, he feels entitled to be in the last pod to open in the match, so he can save himself for the main event of Wrestlemania after he wins the title.  When he fails to win that match, he then demands that the Authority make the title match a triple threat match, and include him as the third participant, as by his lineage and accomplishments, he is entitled to headline Wrestlemania.

After dealing with months of Orton’s endless whining and demands of what he is “entitled” to, Triple H finally pops off and dresses him down.  He digs into their history and notes that if it wasn’t for Triple H’s pity and influence, Randy would be just like most sons of former wrestlers; a never was that relies on his family lineage to get anywhere.  He also notes that while Orton was picked by the Authority to be the face of the company, he failed miserably as the Authority had to protect his ass the entire time.  Orton furious, vows to make Triple H regret his abuse.

This leads to Orton going over Triple H’s head to Vince.  Vince notes how Triple H’s accusations are hypocrisy. He notes that if it wasn’t for Shawn Michaels bugging the hell out of Vince to give Triple H a chance, he would never have come close to sniffing the WWE Title.  Vince goes on to say that part of being a successful promoter is grooming your selected champion, just like Vince did with Triple H.  Of being there to give him that extra push, to find that opponent who isn’t better than him, or to make sure the referee’s count is just a hair faster than usual to ensure the chosen champion retains.  Vince notes Orton was Triple H’s first big test as an executive, and he failed and Vince had to protect his ass again with going out and getting Lesnar.

The war of words culminates with a challenge for a fight, but Vince concedes he’s not a spring chicken anymore, and will therefore rely on the man who Triple H failed; Orton.  The match is a rare heel versus heel match.  Both sides should be insulting to each other and the fans.  The pure self-centered ego of all four players should not be downplayed at all.

It’s a coin flip over who makes the most sense to go over.  Be it Triple H who shows that while he is now an executive, he can still bury the competition; or Orton, who with an assist from Vince is the preferred choice of the company owner.  I’m a sucker for tradition, so let Triple H bury Orton (again).

Side note: I am not crazy about this match.  However, given the rumor mill about Triple H and Vince wanting to do a Wrestlemania program and the need for Orton somewhere on the card (despite what people feel about him, the fact he is considered main event cannot be ignored), this storyline makes a lot of sense.  The part I am most sold upon is Orton’s months of whining and demanding preferential treatment and failing.  Also, it keeps these four all contained and away from the Undisputed Title program by letting Heyman be the much needed mouthpiece for Lesnar.

Unification Title Match

Big E. Langston (Intercontinental Champion) vs. Dean Ambrose (U.S. Champion)

How We Get Here: Big E. impresses with his win over Damian Sandow at TLC.  Langston and Ambrose have their first collision during the Rumble, where Langston falls victim to a Shield beatdown and elimination.  This leads to Langston having an obvious grudge against the Shield and wanting some retribution against them.  Roman Reigns accepts the challenge, but Langston has to put the Intercontinental Title up at Elimination Chamber.  Reigns wants to obtain his first single’s title, and put himself on equal footing with Ambrose.  At that match, Ambrose causes some minor distraction that leaves Reigns susceptible to Langston capitalizing and retaining.  The question arises if Ambrose’s interference was an accident, or was it intentional, in order to keep his unofficial position as leader of the Shield (since he is the only one who still has a title).  Ambrose steps in and then decides that he will set the example for the Shield and deal with Langston.  And since it will be champion versus champion, why not do it right and unify the belts?

The match is like a precursor to the Undisputed Title match as it is power versus skill.  The rest of the Shield is absent from ringside following a minor squabble earlier in the evening (discussed next week).  Ultimately, Ambrose falls victim to the Big Ending, and Big E. captures both titles (which will just be known hereafter as the Intercontinental Title).

Side Note: With the company unifying the main title, there is no reason not to unify the secondary titles.  Big E. having to take on the Shield and coming out on top would help with to continue to build his monster-like push.  It will also help to develop his promo skills and let his witty side (as reportedly shown on Twitter) come out.  This program helps to sow the seeds of a three-way Shield break-up that would extend into the spring and summer.

The Loose Cannons Match

CM Punk vs. Dolph Ziggler

How We Get Here: In the lead up to Elimination Chamber, Ziggler is desperate to get into the Chamber, which requires the participants to have been former champions.  The Authority, naturally degrade, insult, and belittle Ziggler for his brief title runs and that they are not sure if he is the right material.  After all, he has a problem with the company line, and that a champion needs to have a certain amount of decorum and tact.  They give him a chance to prove himself over the weeks by competing in a series of qualifying matches against other potential candidates (Alberto Del Rio, Kane, Mark Henry).  On the other hand, the night after the Royal Rumble, Punk cuts a scathing promo about how the Authority is scared to put the Straight Edge Superstar into the Chamber because their worst nightmare would be Punk vs. Bryan at Wrestlemania and they be proven wrong when it blows out all buy rates.  They are also scared that Punk will not just beat, but embarrass their chosen champion Lesnar as he extracts his revenge from SummerSlam.  The promo leads to a confrontation with Triple H who in a fit of anger just gives Punk a spot in the Chamber match.

In the Chamber match, Ziggler at one point nails Lesnar with the ZigZag and goes for the pin, but Punk breaks it up.  Ziggler is livid as he does not understand why Punk would do that, given the rules.  Punk gestures that Lesnar is his.  The two then start going after each other with Ziggler getting the upper hand.  But he then turns right into an F5 by Lesnar and is eliminated.  Later in the match, Lesnar eliminates Punk (in fact, I would have Lesnar eliminate all five opponents in the Chamber, to build up his monster status and the challenge that Bryan faces).

The night after Elimination Chamber on Raw, Punk comes out to the ring for a promo and is blindsided by Ziggler who administers a significant beatdown.  Ziggler then delivers a promo against Punk.  He complains how Punk talks about how he is the voice for the voiceless, the outsider, and the rebel.  If that is so, then how come Punk still gets all his promo time?  How is it that Punk is always at the top of the list of Undisputed Title contenders?  Sure, Punk gets beaten and attacked, but he is still on TV, and always is given the opportunity say more.  Dolph on the other hand, when he opens his mouth, he is buried.  He’ll go weeks without a match.  And when he is put in a match, it is some joke of a contest where he always ends up getting destroyed; made to look weak and pathetic.  Ziggler then declares Punk is not a true rebel; he’s the corporate approved “rebel.”  The perfect image of counter-culture and just the right foil for the corporate leadership.

The remaining of the build for this match is an intensely personal promo based fight as Ziggler attempts to undercut Punk’s credibility as an outsider.  He also turns on the fans, noting how the moment he got injured, he dropped out of their favor and replaced by Bryan.  Where were the Ziggler chants?  Where was the rally of support demanding he not be screwed over?  Ziggler declares his independence from anyone and everyone.  He will just be a cog in the WWE machine; a cog that destroys everyone that the fans like until there is no choice but to make Ziggler champion.

The match itself should be the most intense and personal of affairs as the two have attacked each other’s integrity, which is one of Punk’s dominant qualities.  If possible, the two should agree to work the match stiffly to sell it.  The flashy moves should be kept to a minimum to portray the hatred and make it a technical brawl (yes I know that’s an oxymoron).  The match ends with Ziggler breaking out a new finisher that catches Punk by surprise and helps to send “The Show Off” back up the ladder with a new, ruthless demeanor.

Side Note: This style of blurring the lines of reality and fiction program is right up Punk’s alley.  Ziggler is the perfect opponent for the feud and it provides an easy inroad for rebuilding Ziggler, provided WWE feels he has been punished enough.  Punk can survive the loss, despite his large number of losses in big matches over the past year.  The key is to helping build up the upper guard and making Ziggler feel important and legitimate again as a main eventer.

Diva’s Title Match

Tamina (Champion) vs. Natalya

How We Get Here: At the Royal Rumble, there is a Diva’s Battle Royal for the title.  AJ spends most of the match using Tamina as a blockade to protect herself; and taking opportunity of weakened opponents.  Towards the end of the match, someone strikes Tamina, which causes her to fall back into AJ and send her out of the ring, eliminated.  Tamina ends up as the champion.

While AJ is initially infuriated about the outcome and is demanding her bodyguard give her a match for the title where Tamina just lays down and accepts a pin, Tamina instead offers to let AJ carry the belt for her all the time.  This is acceptable to the unhinged woman and the two maintain their alliance.

Natalya becomes the number one contender and the two have a rivalry, based in part on looking to build their reputations as wrestlers outside the shadows of their respective fathers.  During the feud, Paige is brought up as Natalya’s protégé and sparring partner.  Paige impressed Natalya on NXT, especially when she defeated her.  Therefore, Natalya decided to bring the rookie up to help her make the leap to the big time.  During the match itself, AJ starts a brawl with Paige on the outside of the ring which leaves Tamina susceptible to Natalya, who ends up claiming victory.  After the match, AJ goes bat-guano insane that she no longer has the title in any form and takes it out on Tamina.  The former champ levels AJ and leaves her laid out in the ring, leading to the start of a face turn for AJ.  It also can lead to the start of a feud with Paige, who will hold her NXT victory over Natalya’s head, spurring her on to an eventual match.

Side note: My initial thought was to have Brie Bella in this match.  You know WWE would love to have an image for Total Divas of Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella together with their respective titles at the end of Wrestlemania.  However, I feel this would be a better program, as it involves two wrestlers and the basis of the feud (standing on their own two feet, out of the shadows of their fathers) is better than most of the feud ideas the WWE comes up with for women.  It also opens the door to a strong feud with Natalya and Paige; a feud based off skill and victory; not eyeliner and boyfriends.

So, there you have it, the top of Wrestlemania XXX and where it comes from.  I look forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts and opinions on not just the matches, but the prospective build-ups. Be sure to come back next week for the undercard, including an innovative pre-show match that would actually get the crowd excited.

Until then, I relinquish creative control.
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Guys and Divas #10: The Conspiracy Concoction Shenanigan (Daniel Bryan, Summer Rae, Sin Cara, Big E Langston) http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/12/04/guys-and-divas-10-the-conspiracy-concoction-shenanigan-daniel-bryan-summer-rae-sin-cara-big-e-langston/ http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/12/04/guys-and-divas-10-the-conspiracy-concoction-shenanigan-daniel-bryan-summer-rae-sin-cara-big-e-langston/#comments Wed, 04 Dec 2013 11:35:04 +0000 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/?p=161939 Hello and hi, everyone!

(Some said it couldn’t be done, but here we are with me saying…) Welcome to WEEK TEN(!) of “Guys and Divas”; the only column on Inside Pulse Wrestling that did a thing the others didn’t. (Yeah. Week ten…or more like WEAK ten!–Am I right, guys?)

The WWE seems to have cemented its new A-list ladies in this week’s “Divas”; plus, something else happens in “The Bonus Ball”.

BUT FIRST(!), a lot of narrative balls [hold for laughter] got rolling this past Monday and it’s all open for discussion and rampant speculation in this week’s…

GUYS

After two weeks of pretty thorough garbage, this week’s Raw was a breath of fresh air. No gimmicks, no guest hosts, just the show we love (for the most part).

At the risk of recapping (a job that multiple people now hold here at IPW) and the certainty of this week’s first bullet-pointed list(!), here’s where we stood as the screen faded to black Monday night:

  • Daniel Bryan and CM Punk will both be in 3-on-1 Handicap Matches at TLC, against The Wyatt Family and The Shield respectively.
  • John Cena vs. Randy Orton is now officially a title unification match, where The Authority assures us there can be only ONE winner when all is said and done.
  • Big E Langston will defend his recently won Intercontinental Championship against Damien Sandow at TLC.

It must be said: having what could be argued as the top stories in the company all set to ignite with two weeks to go until our final pay-per-view of the year is pretty fantastic, especially considering the dreadful rush job that was last month’s Survivor Series booking.

At the top, we have our Title Unification bout between Cena and Orton, which–no matter how you feel about either man–has some really intriguing implications. Whether or not those implications will be made manifest is still a matter of debate; particularly with the repeated insistence of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon that at the conclusion of the TLC pay-per-view, there can be only one top champion.

Not to go on too much of a tangent (apologies for last week’s “Alias” ramble), but I finally got around to watching Sarah Silverman’s new HBO stand-up special “We Are Miracles” last night. It was a delight (as if there was any doubt), but one of the concepts discussed in the special was the idea of creating doubt where none would naturally occur. Per her example, it’s as if one is getting into the shower and their roommate calls out that the showerer (if you will) needn’t worry that the roommate will read their diary. Why would the showerer have even thought that?–Quite simply, they wouldn’t.

So, by that line of logic, why would WWE insist on repeating the idea that THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE WINNER?

I draw your attention to a very thought-provoking comment on last week’s column from a reader known as Starcade:

“[It] really makes me wonder if I can call the finish at TLC…

Both men on the ladder, opposite sides. Tussle at the top, both fall off…

… each holding the other’s belt.

Meaning, I would assume, Cena is WWE Champ, Orton is WHC — which is probably what they had in mind in the first damn place.”

Has all of our intrigue been for naught? Is all of this pomp and ceremony just a long-winded setup to a simple case of the old switcheroo?–I can’t decide if, were this to truly be the result, I would feel duped and betrayed or if I would have to hand it to WWE Creative and give them a respectful golf applause?

Meanwhile as seeds of doubt are sown in our main event, we have our hard-bitten heroes CM Punk and Daniel Bryan going down separate but VERY similar paths, taking on the two most dominant trios in the company today.

In the former case, I’m as giddy as anyone to watch arguably the best worker in WWE today (Punk) take on three of the most promising faces of the next generation (The Shield); particularly the ever-impressive Roman Reigns, whose star has risen considerably on the merits of his deliciously destructive performances at Survivor Series and the following night’s Raw. Whether or not the looming presence of The Authority’s possible involvement in this plot comes to fruition, we can be safely assured that we’re getting a potential classic a week from this Sunday.

As for Daniel Bryan’s current entanglement with the Wyatts, while I’m sure the resulting Handicap bout will be a fun watch, this feels more like a story than a rivalry. In fact, I think we may have finally arrived at the true purpose of the mysterious bearded clan’s presence in the WWE Universe. After months and countless cryptic catchphrases, it’s time for everything to come together; and if I may be so bold, I think the comparable conundrums of our favorite Ring of Honor alums are one and the same.

Roll with me on this.

CM Punk trash talks Triple H last week, and shortly thereafter is brutalized by The Shield. Meanwhile, Daniel Bryan is carried away by the Wyatts for an undisclosed amount of time, after which he is left in a random supermarket parking lot (admittedly, a weak throwaway explanation; thanks, WWE) with no memory of what has occurred between his match and that moment.

This past Monday, Punk takes to the ring and accuses The Authority of siccing the Hounds of Justice upon him for his derogatory comments about The Game. Stephanie–via Corporate/Citizen/Director of Operations/Whatever Kane–vehemently denies any involvement in the attack, but places Punk in his impending 3-on-1 shenanigan just for sh!ts and giggles.

Later that night, Daniel Bryan faces Erick (can’t believe that’s how I have to spell that) Rowan and afterward is the subject of a (dynamite) promo from family leader Bray Wyatt. Bray tags up on his Smackdown promo, implying that he has somehow already affected Daniel in ways of which he may not even be aware and casually throws in a comment regarding Bryan’s fiancé Brie Bella for good measure. Bray is sure Daniel will soon be joining the family, following buzzards and whatnot.

This is where things get interesting.

Let’s say next Monday, Punk continues to suspect the Authority’s involvement in his current quarrel with The Shield, to which they continue to deny, deny, deny. Meanwhile, Daniel grows more and more concerned about what influences the Wyatts may have already subconsciously had on him. It obsesses him and fuels his desire to take on the family at TLC. Bray sees this and continues to manipulate our Goatfaced hero, perhaps even targeting his beloved fiancé Brie as a means to hit him where it hurts.

At TLC, Punk faces the Shield; but win or lose, he still believes the Authority is playing games with him. Bryan faces the Wyatts, and comes close to finally trouncing these monstrous men…but when it comes time to finish the job…he can’t. Something won’t let him. He simply stops…and walks away, into the proverbial waiting arms of a triumphant Bray Wyatt. He has finally joined the family.

“But Jeff, where does Punk come in?”

Oh, dear reader…it’s only just begun.

Punk’s suspicions of the Authority’s treacheries toward him make him a major thorn in the side of Triple H and Stephanie. While still denying any involvement in The Shield’s attack, they’ve had enough. They enlist the help of any number of heels to dispatch of the Best in the World. Concurrently, Daniel Bryan and his newfound family run rampant over the roster. The underdog has finally become the monster his charismatic new leader Bray once promised.

At the Royal Rumble, Punk possibly faces an Authority-recruited opponent; but as it should be, the real story is the Royal Rumble Match itself, where Daniel Bryan is the last man standing and is on his way to Wrestlemania to face the Undisputed WWE Champion (which is what the belt should be; those poll results were EXTRA-suspect on Monday). For this scenario, either Randy Orton or John Cena will do (although Daniel’s recent history with Randy might make him the more logical choice).

At Elimination Chamber in February, the Authority finally thinks they’ve got the perfect end-all/be-all opponent for Punk: Daniel Bryan. The two square off in what is destined to be a classic and it seems that Punk is finally about to get his revenge, albeit on someone he considers a close friend.

Right on cue…”SIERRA, HOTEL, INDIA…” (you know the rest). The Shield appears and lays Punk out once again, as an emotionless Daniel Bryan walks up the ramp once again to leader Bray who grabs a mic and says something to the effect of “My apologies, Punk. The Devil made them do it.”

“WHAAAA?–Jeff. JEFF. What in the BLUE HELL are you getting at?”

THIS.

Kane’s music hits. (…I know, right?) The Devil’s Favorite Demon takes the stage, laughing a classic evil laugh. He pats a maniacally-grinning Bray Wyatt on the back and takes his former (and as you will, see current) little buddy Daniel Bryan in his arms, as the former members of Team Hell No hug it out once more!

It was a setup all along. Kane’s surrender to the Authority, the new suit, the new demeanor…it was all a cover. He has enlisted the help of the Wyatts (because of course, they’d get along famously; what with all of them being psychopaths), infiltrated the Authority, sent the Shield on a dead-end wild goose chase after Punk (unbeknownst to Trips and Steph) and pulled all the right strings so that after all the hubbub this past fall over his brother of destruction from another mother…of…destruction…ANYWAY(!) Daniel being allegedly unfit to be the face of the WWE, he is now going to Wrestlemania, where he will finally be the face we all knew he could be.

In a weird, roundabout and somewhat questionable fashion, The Wyatts, Kane and Daniel are all now faces again (or at least, antiheroes)…but what about The Shield and Punk, you ask?–Well, obviously they’re all feeling a bit duped.

WRESTLEMANIA XXX. (Oh, yes. It’s come to this.)

The team of Kane and the Wyatt Family (together at last!) take on the somewhat strange bedfellows concoction that is Punk and The Shield in an Eight Man Tag Team Match…

…and the man at the center of it all, the guy who they said couldn’t/shouldn’t/wouldn’t be the face of World Wrestling Entertainment takes on the WWE Champion (Cena or Orton; once again, it doesn’t really matter…but it should probably be Orton–and hey!–it being Mania XXX, that frees John Cena up to be the Undertaker’s opponent on this most historic of nights) and wins, as the city of New Orleans puts the waves of the Gulf of Mexico to shame with their cacophonous crashing cries of “YES! YES! YES! YES! YES!”, etc., etc. etc.

BOOM.

THREE-SPOT.

BANG IT.

UNH.

…Now. Is WWE creative capable of pulling off something that great (if I do say so myself)?–Probably not…but with your permission, dear reader, I’d like to give myself a hearty pat on the back for having concocted that entire scenario by the time Raw came to a close this past Monday. (No kidding. ALL OF THAT.)

As I bring this segment to a close, let me also pat the back of one of Inside Pulse’s newest scribes John Kincaid and his full-time fantasy booking-themed column “Creative Control“. In his first edition, he takes a pragmatic, thoughtful and wildly intriguing look at a potential full WWE overhaul. It’s a hell of a read and I hope you all check it out.

Phew.

That took a lot out of me…but not so much that I can’t talk about the latest happenings with my favorite female protagonists. It’s time for…

DIVAS

Monday night also brought us a cracker of a six-Diva tag team match, in which Natalya and The Bellas took on the team of (my spirit animal) AJ Lee, Tamina Snuka and Summer Rae. While its intended purpose was clearly to help further the idea of the victorious Natalya as a threat to AJ’s Divas Championship reign, I think it also spoke volumes about which of these wonderful women are leading the charge of the division in its current state.

I’m most delighted at the presence of Summer Rae, who after two weeks of airheaded comic relief work finally got to shine from an offensive perspective. As one of NXT’s brightest up-and-coming Divas, she–in many ways–represents what time spent in WWE’s developmental division can really do. She’s a magnetic presence, a real character in a division not currently known for many and as they say, the girl can go.

This is not to say that it wasn’t a showcase for the remainder of its combatants (it was), especially considering that the biggest name in the match (AJ) spent the majority of its duration skipping around the ring and allowing her partners to do the heavy lifting. Call me overly optimistic (and I’m sure some of you have/will), but it’s matches like this that make me think there is, indeed, a concerted effort being made–the horror of Divas Musical Chairs aside–to make this division relevant again.

Because while I love all of the Divas (wait; Eva Marie’s still a thing…so strike one, but still), I’m well aware that the strategy of keeping them all around in a big personalityless (if you will) clusterf*ck isn’t helping anyone. Set the works-in-progress aside, and wow your audience.

Put your best foot forward, they say…and in recent times that foot is wearing knee-high Chuck Taylors, pink and white wrestling boots, black leather biker boots, dancing shoes and…whatever the Bellas are wearing (in that order).

(Kaitlyn’s combat boots were on assignment getting engaged this week.)

I know that seemed awfully short, but what can I say that hasn’t already been said?–I remain optimistic and progress is being made, slowly but surely…although some story might help me fill out that segment a bit more. Just saying.

(Seriously though. This week’s “Guys” segment really winded me. If I can put an idea that grandiose into that many words and have it come out coherently enough, I suppose I can forgive myself for not being able to ramble as plentifully in the last two segments, right?)

(Right?)

Here’s…

THE BONUS BALL

So…yeah.

…How was everyone’s Thanksgiving?

…Yeah?

Good. Good. Good to hear.

Ah, screw it. Here’s a bullet-pointed list(!) of some other errant thoughts I have about WWE of late.

  • I swear to God, if Titus O’Neil ends up with an ongoing vomit gimmick…just…no.
  • It seems Hunico is finally taking over the role of Sin Cara full-time. Long overdue; although if I’m honest, am I the only one who thought he was only slightly less botchy than the real article on Monday?
    • SUB-POINT: Am I crazy or was the real Sin Cara not so bad when he first arrived?–While I’m on board with everyone’s grumbles about his spastic style and the infamous broken finger incident, I remember being pretty suitably dazzled by him and weirdly REALLY invested in the “evil Sin Cara” storyline that brought Hunico into WWE.
      • SUB-SUB-POINT: Alberto Del Rio went from feuding for the World Heavyweight Championship to losing cleanly to a character that hasn’t been seen in months AND is now played by a completely different actor (if you will) over the course of about two weeks. Wow. Just…big wow.
  • I keep quietly hoping that the resurgence of Goldust of late could finally lead to a long-overdue WWE Title run. To be fair, I felt the same way about William Regal during his villainous General Manager role a few years back; the one that ended abruptly due to wellness violations…so I don’t have the best record with these things; but seriously, never have those “YOU STILL GOT IT!” chants been more apropos. The guy’s been in the business over two decades and he honestly seems to be in the prime of his career. It’s just marvelous.
  • CM Punk’s got pipes. (I don’t have a follow-up for that one. It’s just a fact.)
  • THIS.
  • Korn is providing the theme to this year’s TLC pay-per-view…which is how I learned that Korn is somehow still a thing.
  • Xavier Woods rocks a Black Ranger t-shirt on Smackdown and then provides the commentators with a Hip-Hop Kido reference on Raw. He’s seriously rocketing up my list of favorite people.
  • …and speaking of amazing references…Big E Langston is a magical human being. Don’t believe me?–There’s also THIS (with bonus Kaitlyn swoonage).

…and I’m truly spent.

So, I’ll freely admit it. On the whole, this probably wasn’t my best. Let’s put it this way: if THIS was my “Raw Country”, this week is my Michael Strahan episode…so at least that means next week will be my this week’s Raw…so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice…if that made any sense at all. (It didn’t.)

HOMEWORK!

  • I laid out…a pretty elaborate idea of where the main event scene could be heading as we move toward Wrestlemania. What do you see as being the status quo of WWE’s top names after next Sunday’s TLC pay-per-view?–Fantasy book to your heart’s content.
  • Six of WWE’s best (and in some cases, underrated) Divas squared off in a great contest Monday night. Who are some Divas of the past who didn’t get the credit you thought they deserved?–Blab about some of your favorite underrated ladies of the past.
  • The Slammy Awards are this coming Monday night and WWE’s got most of their categories locked (as you can see here). Who would you nominate/vote on for this year’s trophies?–Open the proverbial envelope and tell us who you think will and/or should go home with those statuettes next week.


As always, join me for my weekly Monday Night Raw live-tweet (@biscuitman18; #GuysAndDivas), and seriously check out “Creative Control”. Great stuff from a great new voice here at Inside Pulse.

Until next week, I’m Jeff Heatherly saying…here’s some pure, undistilled joy for you. Take it easy, folks.
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Guys and Divas #9: Full Disclosure (Daniel Bryan, Total Divas, Survivor Series, John Cena) http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/11/27/guys-and-divas-9-full-disclosure-daniel-bryan-total-divas-survivor-series-john-cena/ http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/11/27/guys-and-divas-9-full-disclosure-daniel-bryan-total-divas-survivor-series-john-cena/#comments Wed, 27 Nov 2013 11:54:43 +0000 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/?p=161810 Good day, all!

Welcome to the ninth installment of “Guys and Divas”; the only column on Inside Pulse Wrestling that was once called “the crispy noodle in the vegetarian salad of life”. (True story.)

This week, I take a look at the highs and lows of our surprise double-dose of Divas Survivor Series matches in–naturally–the “Divas” segment; and in the “Bonus Ball”, I give thanks. (What does that entail?–Read on and find out.)

…BUT FIRST(!), after a weak Survivor Series and a marginally better Raw, the stars of our show have all seemingly taken their places for the proverbial Road to the Road to Wrestlemania. Let’s see where they all landed in this week’s…

GUYS

(NOTE: The following contains SPOILERS for the second and third seasons of the TV series “Alias”. If you want to skip it, feel free. If you don’t but find the sheer length of what follows to be bothersome, let me preemptively assure you: I’M GOING SOMEWHERE WITH THIS.)

I’ve been revisiting “Alias” with my best friend recently. It’s one of my favorite series ever and has held up to countless viewings since it ended its run in 2006.

Unfortunately, this also means making it through the show’s polarizing third season.

At the risk of going too off-topic, the show’s second season concludes with our heroine Agent Sydney Bristow (the adorable Jennifer Garner) awaking in an alley in Hong Kong; seemingly moments after defeating an assassin/genetic double of her best friend in a knock down, drag out fight to the death. After contacting HQ, her former CIA handler/ongoing love interest Agent Michael Vaughn arrives to inform her that she’s been missing for over two years. (Say WHAT?!)

Cut to Season 3, which finds Sydney attempting to piece together what happened in her forgotten two years; all while combating the forces of an evil organization called The Covenant who presumably have something to do with her disappearance.

Needless to say, things didn’t go well. The ratings slipped, the fans were vocally dissatisfied with certain developments that had occurred as a result of the plot twist, and honestly it just didn’t feel like the same show.

After a customary winter break, “Alias” returned in January with an episode called “Full Disclosure”. In it, FBI Assistant Director Kendall (played by John Locke himself, Terry O’Quinn) reveals that he knows everything about Sydney’s disappearance because the two had worked together during her missing two years AND that he’d been party to the neurological procedure Sydney voluntarily underwent to forget some of the more violent and questionable acts that she’d committed.

In that 44 minutes, show creator J.J. Abrams ostensibly apologized for recent creative missteps and reset the show to something resembling the “Alias” its fans adored in its first two seasons.

“But Jeff, why did you just tell us all this on your professional wrestling column?”

Because, dear reader, I believe we’re in the midst of WWE’s 2013 equivalent of “Full Disclosure”.

(NOTE: Those who skipped all of that can rejoin the segment now. Thank you for your patience.)

By the end of this past Monday’s Raw, we were all left with a good idea of where all of the questionable events we, the viewers have had to endure these past few weeks have been heading.

  • John Cena and Randy Orton will clash at TLC in the titular Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match with BOTH the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships hanging in the balance.
  • The Shield clearly has its sights set on CM Punk.
  • Daniel Bryan is the latest abductee of the Wyatt Family.

WWE’s bizarre reluctance to call the Cena/Orton Match what it is (a title unification) aside, we now know that they finally recognize the redundancy of two world championships in a post-brand extension universe. This also helps flush out anymore bland championship main events like the pair that headlined this past Sunday’s “fall classic”. (That being said, Cena/Del Rio was far better than it had any right to be.) Now, not only will the presumable Unified WWE Championship truly represent the best the company has to offer (in theory; it’s obviously not either of these two competitors), it’ll make it that much bigger when…

…well, let me take you on a journey.

Let’s assume that the CM Punk/Shield and Daniel Bryan/Wyatts situations are leading to some sort of four-on-four battle of strange bedfellows at TLC. With a possible Daniel heel turn (presumably via some Wyatt brainwashing/presumably temporary), that’ll satisfy our thirst to see the two trios and the two Ring of Honor legends clash in one fantastic explosion of awesomeness.

Meanwhile, (I’m going to be bold and say) Randy Orton wins the two belts at TLC. He cements his status as the (bastardized) “face” of the company and confirms such in his inevitable rematch with Cena at the Royal Rumble.

Daniel Bryan wins the Royal Rumble Match and challenges Randy for the belt(s) at Wrestlemania XXX. (Hopefully by then, they’ll have just retired the WHC belt.) At long last, Daniel wins the WWE Championship on the biggest show of the year, cementing his status not just as the current face of the company but as THE GUY; the person that casual and/or non-wrestling fans think of when they hear the letters WWE.

Now, if this all comes to pass…make no mistake: I don’t think this was always the creative team’s plan. I’ve watched this show long enough to know that the best moments are often products of pure happenstance, but my point is thus. It’s almost December. When’s the last time a year-end storyline really knocked your socks off or had any strong bearing on what was to come?

We’re all grousing right now about crappy theme shows (guilty; and there are still a few more to come, if I’m not mistaken), the side projects of WWE superstars (“Christmas Bounty” is airing as I write this. My TV is off.) and our general disappointments with the 2013 that was…but it’s all about to change.

RESET. (Somebody get J.J. on the horn.)

As always, I remind my readers that the night is darkest before the dawn…and 2014 is going to be a beautiful day.

Speaking of beautiful, the lovely and (for the most part) talented ladies of WWE have had a very busy week so far. Let’s see what they’ve been up to in…

DIVAS

Our own CB knows me well.

I was VERY excited about this past Sunday’s 14-Diva Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match; a match which thankfully didn’t disappoint. Sure, some of the pins happened way too quickly, but I think we can all give it credit for a lot of good, well-paced sequences showcasing (for the most part) the best of the division today.

The following night’s rematch?–Not so much. I’ll admit it’s a bit frustrating that the superior of the two clashes happened on pay-per-view, leaving the awkward encore for the larger audience to digest and take as a (misrepresentative) indication of what the women of WWE have to offer of late.

Regardless, I believe this calls for the second of this week’s bullet-pointed lists(!); an analysis of the participants, Diva-by-Diva:

  • TEAM NON-TOTAL DIVAS
    • SUMMER RAE – As ever, a delight; but it bothers me that they opted to go with a comedy spot of airheaded dancer antics (even worse when used as the finale of Monday’s rematch) instead of showing off the in-ring chops we’re well-aware she possesses.
    • AKSANA – Quickly eliminated in both matches. I think she has the potential to be something really entertaining, but perhaps a brief stay in NXT would do her some good. She’s been languishing since the saxophone-riddled days of seducing Teddy Long have come and gone.
    • ROSA MENDES – Another quick elimination. I often lament how casually her big-time debut as the Mickie James to Beth Phoenix’s Trish Stratus was cast aside back in 2008. It may have been derivative of a previous (albeit, amazing) storyline, but I think she would have flourished. (I fondly recall referring to her as “Psycho-Roucka” before she was given her stage name.) I commend WWE for supporting her during her recent issues, but a one-night stint as Miz’s anti-Summer and these two appearances aren’t cutting it.
    • ALICIA FOX – Maybe the most underrated Diva on the roster today. We can (rightly) snark about the creative team’s inability to decide if she’s a face or a heel all day, but there’s no snarking about the girl’s skills. She can go, as they say (which made her elimination on Monday all the more infuriating). She still needs a touch of mic work, because the word “undefined” still makes many of us cringe to this day; but other than that, she shouldn’t be discounted.
    • KAITLYN – If someone can give me a good (READ: not smart-mouthed) reason she’s been back-pedaled so much since her feud with AJ this past summer, I’d love to hear it. Obviously she can’t feud with her former on-screen bestie forever, but there’s no disputing that she’s one of the most magnetic faces–not just in this division–but the company as a whole. Watching her play victim to one of Sunday’s many rapid-fire pin sequences was heartbreaking.
    • TAMINA SNUKA – Creative needs to turn her on AJ and put her in a Divas Championship feud ASAP, and subsequently take my money. The lady is a powerhouse. Her time spent in the ring both nights was undoubtedly the highlight. I’ll finally concede that she may need to cool it on the Superfly Splash (or simply work on the landing), but otherwise she’s a tremendous monster Diva in the tradition of Victoria and Beth Phoenix. (My girlfriend refers to her as “[her] queen”. All hail!)
    • AJ LEE – [sigh] My spirit animal. She’s the face of the division for a reason, and that probably won’t change anytime soon. Her pre-match “pep talk” to her teammates on Sunday was another masterful performance. One only wishes she had some stronger retorts from her co-stars. As for her in-ring work: stellar. She’s beyond analysis at this point. She is the template, and as ever, I adore her.
  • TEAM TOTAL DIVAS
    • JOJO – The youngest and most inexperienced Diva. It warmed my heart to hear the Boston crowd chanting “We Want JoJo!”; and I’m happy to report that when they got their wish, the newest newbie didn’t disappoint. She may not have made a lot of offense, but through her sheer size and (let’s be honest) superhuman adorableness, she played the face in peril better than some veteran Superstars and was arguably the emotional core of both matches. Clearly the fans have already taken a shine to the 19-year-old with the frizzy hair, so I look forward to seeing what happens when she graduates from NXT.
    • EVA MARIE – …It pains me to say this…but she may have some value to this division; not for in-ring ability, to be sure…but my God, the heel heat she drew. I don’t know if the fans are simply as disgusted as I am with her conniving backstage ways, the way her confidence is wildly disproportionate to her abilities or if (and I know this isn’t the case) people are really still holding a grudge for having slapped Jerry Lawler on her Raw debut, but the bottom line is she makes the crowd react. In a division that is plagued with disinterest, this could have incalculable benefits. …I still don’t like her, though; on or off-screen.
    • CAMERON – Obviously being partnered with the superior Naomi has been beneficial for the wackier Funkadactyl, but I always find myself fearing for the safety of her opponents. Thankfully, she was kept to cooperative sequences with her partner during both matches; but there is potential there. I certainly won’t deny it.
    • NAOMI – Cameron’s (much) better half is shaping up to be one of the division’s best strikers. I’d love to see her break loose from the Funkadactyls and be the tough scrapper she’s clearly meant to be; like a modern-day Jacqueline. I hope she loses the booty bump, though. While she’s quite impressively endowed in the region, I’ll never believe it’s enough to get a pin.
    • NIKKI BELLA – Nikki’s been impressing left and right since returning from her injury. Her maneuvers are far more measured and adopting the Torture Rack as a signature move is a stroke of genius. Perhaps her fella’s commitment to the business is rubbing off.
    • BRIE BELLA – More and more, I find it fitting that she’s the lady in Daniel Bryan’s life; because her attitude since returning to the WWE is very reminiscent of The Beard. Yes, this is an entertainment production, but I like the look of athletic determination (if you will) that she’s projecting. When Brie’s in the ring, I truly believe she’s out to win and not just filling her weekly quota of bumps; a stark contrast to the Brie (and Nikki, for that matter) of years past. If there’s a superlative for Most Improved Diva, the future Mrs. Danielson is it.
    • NATALYA – What can I say?–She’s the glue that holds the division together, and I’m very excited that she’s being pushed as the next in line to challenge AJ. With luck, we’ll get some great bouts between the two; because putting the spotlight on the most technically proficient Diva (Nattie) and the most charismatic Diva (AJ) would raise the whole division to another level.

In general, I’m wildly optimistic about what 2014 will hold for my favorite female protagonists and I hope the higher points of these two matches got you all feeling that way too.

…and now that I’ve hopefully got you feeling pleasant, let’s journey over to this week’s special holiday edition of…

THE BONUS BALL

Following my trip down memory lane for last week’s “Wayback Championship Wrestling Federation Entertainment” edition of “The Bonus Ball”, I decided to continue my retrospective of the Survivor Series events that have taken place during my tenure as a wrestling fan.

2001′s edition was a throwback to one of my favorite periods in WWE history (the “invasion” of WCW and ECW) with some great matches, delightful memories and a particularly exquisite performance by Stephanie McMahon at the height of her “Billion Dollar Princess” persona. (Seriously, seek out the backstage segment which found Steph screeching in terror to Kurt Angle about the possibility of having to become a “regular person” should the WCW/ECW Alliance fold. Pure gold.)

I had a bit of trouble finding access to the 2002 edition which memorably featured the first Elimination Chamber match, so I moved on to 2003…and within minutes, I was lost.

2003 was probably my weakest year as a wrestling fan. Exorbitant amounts of homework and the recent drama of my first high school relationship had given me quite the case of insomnia, and as such I found myself taking long naps in the early evenings. Unfortunately, this often meant missing episodes of Smackdown on Thursday nights.

This was never clearer than when watching the Smackdown brand bouts of Survivor Series 2003, particularly the show’s opener: a Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match between Team Brock Lesnar (Brock, Big Show, Matt Morgan, Nathan Jones and A-Train) and Team Kurt Angle (Kurt, Chris Benoit, Hardcore Holly, Bradshaw and John Cena) and a WWE Tag Team Championship match between challengers Los Guerreros (Chavo and Eddie) and the Basham Brothers (with Shaniqua).

I found myself awash in names and gimmicks I didn’t remember, particularly the Bashams’ valet Shaniqua who I didn’t even know was a person who existed; nor did I know that JBL’s future security staff originated as an S&M-themed duo. Meanwhile, I’ve heard the name Nathan Jones bandied about over the years, but if you put him in a line-up, I’d never recognize the guy. Matt Morgan I know mostly from my brief attempt at watching Impact Wrestling last year (and his Direct Insurance ads).

However, the most startling thing was realizing that I may have completely missed the nascent days of John Cena’s Marky Mark-esque “Doctor of Thuganomics” persona. Sure, by the time my memory gets a bit clearer (around the spring of 2005), he was still rapping a promo here and there and his to-date only album had recently been released and (confession) would go on to be one of my post-graduation purchases that summer…but otherwise, this period in the career of WWE’s biggest star of today is a pretty solid blank to me.

“Again, Jeff…why did you tell us all of this?”

Well, dear reader, in preparation for this week’s special edition of “The Bonus Ball”, I decided I’d like to celebrate Thanksgiving with a look back at a classic moment from WWE’s storied relationship with the holiday.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find the hilarious Rock promo in which he grilled Michael Cole about his level of experience with “poontang pie”…but in its stead, I found something…else.

I must reiterate, I don’t remember this happening. In many ways, it’s probably for the best…but in the spirit of the season, I present you with this.

You’re welcome and/or I’m terribly sorry. Take your pick.

…and with that nontraditional take on “The Bonus Ball”, I call this week’s “Guys and Divas” to a close.

While you let this article and your various Thanksgiving dishes digest, a few homework assignments on which to nibble:

  • All the pieces seem to be in place for the year-closing TLC pay-per-view. Where do you think WWE’s top players (Cena, Orton, The Authority, Bryan, Punk, The Wyatts, The Shield) will stand when the year comes to a close? Where will they all merge onto the Road to Wrestlemania?–Posit your theories on 2013′s proverbial season-ender.
  • The Divas (save for a conspicuously absent Layla) took center stage two nights this week. Who impressed you? Who let you down (and try to be constructive)? Where do you see things heading for the women of WWE in 2014?–Gush, mourn and theorize away, friends!
  • WWE has been known for its share of memorable Thanksgiving moments. I harkened back to one of my favorites and presented you with a forgotten prayer from the future Mr. Nikki Bella. What are some of your favorite Turkey Day-themed shenanigans from Raws and Smackdowns past?–Gobble and gab about your favorite memories of how sports entertainment gave thanks.

As always, don’t miss my weekly Monday Night Raw live-tweet (@biscuitman18; #GuysAndDivas) and–in lieu of another self-promotional blurb–have a safe and healthy holiday, dear reader.

Until next week, I’m Jeff Heatherly saying “YOU RUINED THANKSGIVING!“. Later, all!
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Guys and Divas #8: Country Weak (Big E Langston, AJ Lee, Vickie Guerrero, Survivor Series) http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/11/20/guys-and-divas-8-country-weak-big-e-langston-aj-lee-vickie-guerrero-survivor-series/ http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/11/20/guys-and-divas-8-country-weak-big-e-langston-aj-lee-vickie-guerrero-survivor-series/#comments Wed, 20 Nov 2013 11:05:18 +0000 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/?p=161598 How you holding up, dear reader?

Welcome to week eight of “Guys and Divas”; the only column on Inside Pulse Wrestling that makes it weirder than Pete Holmes.

…Oh, boy.

So, obviously in this week’s “Divas” segment, I’ll be addressing the insulting disaster that was the Diva portions of this past Monday’s “Raw Country”; and on a happier note, I’ll be looking back at the first three Survivor Series events of my life as a wrestling fan in this month’s edition of “Wayback Championship Wrestling Federation Entertainment” in this week’s “Bonus Ball”.

…but first(.), this week’s column is going to be a rant-ish stream of consciousness for the most part, and it all starts with the latest edition of…

GUYS

Let’s be fair. I knew this week’s country music-themed episode of Raw would probably not be my cup of tea. However, little did I know that it would skid right past being a cup of tea in general and instead become a frothing cauldron of disease-ridden urine.

Now, in this column’s ongoing spirit of optimism, I’ll start by giving credit where it is due.

Big E Langston emerged from this week’s show as the long-awaited savior of the Intercontinental Championship; finally wresting it from the bland, forgettable waist of Curtis Axel. It was a great match that put a spotlight on both men’s strengths and a fantastic way to start the show proper.

Props also to my spirit animal AJ Lee and the invaluable Vickie Guerrero for taking their admittedly somewhat weak and indisputably mean-spirited “match” and making it as entertaining as possible. While I don’t care for WWE poking fun at AJ’s recent overseas health scare, they at least had the sense to put their top Diva and one of their greatest character performers into a segment that involved neither music nor chairs.

Also, a great debut for NXT’s Xavier Woods. While we may mock R-Truth from time to time in the IWC, pairing him up with the highly-educated newcomer was a fun time for all concerned (3MB notwithstanding).

…and of course, there was that main event. WWE’s decision to waste what would have been a blockbuster traditional Survivor Series match on arguably the worst episode of Raw this year aside, it was still these twelve men that we were all itching to see go toe-to-toe following the conclusion of last week’s show and a tremendous way to close out the night.

THAT. BEING. SAID…

…I don’t entirely know the profanity policy here at IPW, but [censored just in case].

What a three-hour pile of festering garbage! Not only was it just a terrible weekly show, but that it was ostensibly the go-home show (a phrase of which I’m not a fan, but no matter) for the last of this year’s “big four” pay-per-views is incredibly upsetting.

How did I hate it?–Let me count the ways:

  1. At the risk of completely quoting my own Twitter account, whoever decided Big E’s entrance theme needed a noisy, overproduced dubstep remix should be slapped. Really, really hard.
  2. Even if you enjoy the genre, there’s no justifying the agonizing snippets of current country music videos that took us to and back from commercial. Also, seriously Blake Shelton? A song that celebrates tobacco spit?–God, I hate the south. I’m counting the days in which I no longer have to live in this excruciating, stereotype-ridden region.
  3. I’m with our own Chris Sanders. Since when have Damien Sandow and Dolph Ziggler had “issues”? Like, was this episode written by a staff of one-off writers who had never seen the show before?
  4. (Not really about this episode, but it was announced in the midst of all this, so…) GOD, I thought we would never have to hear the phrase “guest host” ever again. No disrespect to Michael Strahan, who–despite my not giving the faintest of damns about football–seems like a perfectly charming and enjoyable fellow…but it feels like WWE just wants to take any and all progress they’ve made in the past two years or so and throw it out the window (but not before dousing it in gasoline and setting it ablaze), seemingly out of absolutely nowhere. Just ugh.
  5. Living where I do, I grew up on country music. In fact, my childhood coincided with what was arguably the biggest period of mainstream success for the genre; with names like Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire topping all the charts, no matter what the category. Even if that boom were still happening and the artists of the day were still on the level of those two multi-talented legends, the genre is still so specialized that interrupting your wrestling show for a musical performance by a band that only a minimal percentage of your viewing audience has heard of or cares about only further alienates the majority of your viewers (who’ve already had to suffer the preceding 150 minutes of godawful television) and makes your product seem overly niche and closed off. Never do this again, show.

So, yeah. Maybe those all come off as purely cosmetic gripes, but I defy anyone to have sat through that show and not just felt a pervasive sense of…BLERG.

Not to mention the incredibly foolish booking decisions that saw the most talked-about clash in recent memory (the 12-Man Tag) wasted at the tail-end of a beyond-lackluster free(ish) show instead of the impending pay-per-view that is ENTIRELY BASED AROUND MULTI-WRESTLER ELIMINATION TAG MATCHES; or what about Big E Langston’s IC Title win?

How much bigger would that have been for both Big E and the somewhat-tarnished midcard belt to have their moment of long-awaited redemption and triumph in the midst of one of the biggest shows of the year?–The same can be asked of the upcoming Tag Team Championship bout between the reigning champion Rhodes Brothers and the #1 Contenders The Real Americans, which has been scheduled for Friday’s episode of Smackdown. None of this makes any sense.

Admittedly, my rage has tamped down considerably after a good night’s sleep, but it doesn’t diminish the fact that WWE seriously screwed the proverbial pooch this week. It’s going to take a lot to redeem missteps like these in 2014…but I must remain diligently hopeful they can pull it off.

Speaking of missteps…you knew I’d have to talk about this. Here’s this week’s…

DIVAS

As I closed my eyes to rest Monday night, one thing was clear: I was HEARTBROKEN.

I’ve made no bones about my battle with depression here at “Guys and Divas”, and over the past few years I’ve really come to rely on my entertainment choices to help see me through the hard times. I’ve been disappointed before (post-Season 1 “Community”; post-Season 5 “Doctor Who”, etc.), but it never gets any easier.

If it hasn’t been made apparent in the past eight weeks of this column, I adore the Divas. Yes, some of that is because they are physically attractive and I have eyes. Slightly more of it is my lifelong affection for strong female protagonists. However, as discussed in recent weeks, the biggest reason is because I appreciate these performers (and this includes the Superstars, as well) as human beings. I want to see them succeed and do so in a manner that they and we can all be proud of.

This doesn’t mean (as I’ve often been incorrectly accused) that I’m not aware that things could be better. They could have more screen time, more substantial storylines, better booking…but to be fair, a lot of the very same things could be said of the male quotient, particularly in the midcard. (I digress.) There is also the not-entirely-unfounded criticism that a number of the Divas have not been trained nearly enough to be where they are right now.

None of this should be levied at these women themselves. Yes, things could be better; but these are decent, intelligent, adult human beings and to dismiss them wholesale as people and ignore the fact that the people in charge of their place in this business are doing them grave injustice after grave injustice is shortsighted and mean-spirited; i.e. the very reason why I decided to do a column like this one. (It’s not that the column is Diva-centric per se, it’s merely a column where you can be guaranteed that these women will be–without fail–regularly discussed in a respectful, understanding manner.)

I’ve basically said all of this before…but watching the travesty of a television segment the majority of WWE’s Divas were subjected to this past Monday night, I knew I’d need to reiterate my mission statement before I go on (at length) about how utterly infuriated I was.

“But Jeff, it’s not the first time that these women have participated in such a frivolous segment; and more to the point, it’s sadly not the first time they’ve played musical chairs.”

I know that, dear reader. That’s not my issue (although it’s not a good excuse, just to say).

What troubles me is that after the past two-ish years of undeniable progress and concerted efforts to make this division something special again AND with a group of women who have been culled down to–I think it can be argued–the best (or at least, most potentially great) we’ve seen since the departures of the holy trinity that is Trish, Lita and Mickie AND on the final show before one of WWE’s “big four” pay-per-views…they were paraded around like strippers/Hooters waitresses/braindead Playboy centerfolds in thematic outfits playing a childrens’ game.

Am I glad it’s led to the upcoming 7-on-7 Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match (Total Divas vs. Non-Total Divas)?–Yes…but the ends most certainly do not justify the means.

Mock me if you must (and undoubtedly will) but I respect each and every member of the Divas division (even, begrudgingly, Eva Marie) as a person of intelligence and ambition and think they deserve better than this. Because for all the hand-wringing that’s been done about the overall state of the division, you can’t dispute that this was an incredibly low move; definitely the lowest in a very long while.

Let me put it this way: I would gladly watch the aforementioned Eva Marie haphazardly roll-up Tamina Snuka for a cheap pin in a Six-Diva Tag Team Match over and over and over and over, etc. before I’d ever want to see this kind of immature nonsense again.

Bad form, WWE. The worst form.

On a positive note, I sincerely can’t wait for the aforementioned 7-on-7 match at Survivor Series. I want to really see what all these ladies can do. I know there’ll be some disappointment, but in the end, I think we’re going to see a lot of promise and get a match we can call be proud of.

and speaking of WWE’s “fall classic”, I decided to revisit a few of my first experiences with the event for this month’s…

THE BONUS BALL presents “WAYBACK CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING FEDERATION ENTERTAINMENT”

WWE Survivor Series 1998/1999/2000

That’s right. This month I’m tackling a veritable triple threat.

Last week, I spoke briefly about my very first Survivor Series, 1998′s “Deadly Game” Tournament. All those memories flooding back, I decided I wanted to truly relive it. So, through the magic of the Internet, I watched all roughly three hours of the memorable WWE Championship tournament that saw (SPOILER ALERT) The Rock come out on top AND make, quite possibly, his most notable heel turn as he became Vince McMahon’s “Corporate Champion”.

When that was over, I found myself still awash in nostalgia…so I watched the 1999 edition…AND the 2000 edition; and when it was all said and done, I realized I’d truly just given myself a cross-section of what made the “Attitude Era” the period we all know and revere today.

…but I’m getting ahead of myself. First, some memories…

Sounds like one hell of a match, right?–It sure would have been…but devotees will remember, it didn’t exactly turn out the way we expected.

One of the main things I took from revisiting these three events was remembering what a strong sense of continuity WWE had in those halcyon years. In 1998, Vince (and our favorite, Shane) McMahon “screwed” Steve Austin out of the WWE Championship in order to place the belt on someone they feel to be more suitable as the face of the company. (Sound familiar?)

By 1999, the tumult between Austin and the McMahons had died down considerably, the Rock was once again the People’s Champion and Triple H was just beginning his long journey to the COO’s chair. These were the top three men in the company, and the tensions among them couldn’t have been higher. In the twelve months since the prior Survivor Series, their roads began to intersect more and more and a collision was inevitable. Although, I don’t think anyone predicted THIS collision:

To wit, the–at the time–face McMahons wouldn’t allow this misdeed to go unanswered, and refused to kowtow to whoever was responsible. There would still be a Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship, and Austin’s replacement: the 500-pound Big Show. Show had just–for the most part–wrapped up (that very night, in fact) his notorious rivalry with the Big Boss Man, which included the unforgettable incident involving Boss Man towing the casket away from Show’s father’s funeral, as the giant sobbingly rode atop  it. He was renewed but still angry; and in a shocker, he came away from Survivor Series 1999 as our new WWE Champion.

Meanwhile, “Who Ran Over Stone Cold?” became the #1 question. In professional wrestling’s answer to “Who Shot J.R.?” (or to a comedic extent, “Who Shot Mr. Burns?“), the entire WWE roster was subject to a full-scale investigation that took up almost the entire ensuing year. The McMahons immediately began to suspect the members of D-Generation X, led by Triple H. This sparked a rivalry between Vince and Triple H that ran–most notably–through 1999′s Armageddon pay-per-view, and included the infamous on-screen wedding of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon (on an episode of Raw that may very well be the subject of next month’s WCWFE).

About ten months later, “Stone Cold” returned to the WWE looking for payback. It wasn’t long before the legendary Rikishi stepped forward and, at long last, took responsibility for  having run down Austin. The pair faced off in a No Holds Barred Match at No Mercy 2000, which memorably included Austin attempting to run Rikishi down in the parking lot with his pickup truck.

Finally, as November approached, the truth was revealed. It had indeed been Triple H who masterminded the attack on Austin one year prior, hiring Rikishi to be the wheelman and protect The Game’s reign as WWE Champion. Naturally, the Texas Rattlesnake was hellbent on revenge, and would finally have his chance at Survivor Series 2000.

After two years, the battle was finally on. Austin would meet Triple H in a No Holds Barred Match for the WWE Championship. At the event, Triple H–who had recently aligned himself with the Radicalz–seemed pretty confident he would come out of the fracas unscathed and still our WWE Champion.

To his credit, he was half-right.

Stone Cold and The Game had one hell of a bloody battle in the ring, until finally the action spilled out and headed backstage, where Trips’ new buddies The Radicalz waited to beat Austin into submission. The champ ran out to the parking lot and got into his car, where it quickly became apparent that he intended to see history repeat itself. The match having been thrown out, the Rattlesnake had pretty much nothing to lose. This trilogy of classic Attitude Era events concluded with a bang.

(The uncut version is a bit more fun, as you might remember.)

As always, it was fun to look back on some notable moments in my life as a wrestling fan, particularly three such formative pay-per-views to my philosophies as a viewer; but of course, this being “Guys and Divas”, it wouldn’t be complete without a bullet-pointed list to sum things up. It’s time for this month’s installment of MISS/DON’T MISS/CONFLICTED/NOTEWORTHY: Survivor Series 1998-2000 Edition!

  • MISS: The continuity. It can’t be overstated. WWE is at its best when it remembers the details, and the evolution of the relationships among Austin, The McMahons, The Rock and Triple H were on full display with these three events. I wish the writers would write long-term like this again, but perhaps it was all just more a matter of lucky booking.
  • DON’T MISS: Jerry Lawler the pervert. Make no mistake; I’ve never said that all facets of the way the Divas were handled in the past were sterling, but some of the comments The King made in this time period are even more mind-blowingly awful in retrospect. At the time, it was just part of the show’s trashy charm. By comparison to the show (and the Lawler) of today…just wow.
  • MISS: The weird gothicness of the Attitude Era. Just watch the opening video of Survivor Series 1998. From the creepy music to Freddie Blassie’s narration to the skull logo of the “Deadly Game” tournament, it’s all very spooky. It’s like a horror movie crossed with a biker gang (and this was two years before Undertaker’s biker gimmick).
  • NOTEWORTHY: (…and on that note…) If I’m not mistaken, the lead-up to Undertaker’s WWE Championship match with Kurt Angle at Survivor Series 2000 included the first utterances of “this is my yard” and “I’ll make you famous”, two of the more iconic catchphrases of Biker Taker.
  • NOTEWORTHY: (…and on a tangentially related note…) Survivor Series 1999 saw the WWE debut of 1996 Olympic gold-medalist Kurt Angle, as he took on Shawn “Meat” Stasiak. Watching the match, I was immediately taken back to those promo videos that heralded his arrival AND taken aback at how ballsily meta WWE was for referring to him as the only “real athlete” in the company.
  • MISS: J.R. and The King on commentary. It goes without saying that there may never be a better duo at the desk. Their rapport as on-screen rivals is made that much more fantastic knowing what great friends the two are off-screen. I wish they were still calling the action.
  • MISS: (…and on yet another related note…) How unabashedly this was a TV show. Sometimes, I’m glad we’ve come to a point with WWE that the fourth wall is broken so regularly; but watching these events, I remember how gripping it was when the show seemed to take place all in its own little world. Attempted vehicular manslaughter?–Not a problem. Roofied drive-thru marriages?–Why not? A Satanic cult led by a long-haired figurehead and his rotund stepfather?–Of course! While I love the access that changing culture and the advent of social media have given us to the reality of this business, I really wish it was still possible to get lost in the fiction. Maybe it’ll happen again someday. I can only hope.
  • CONFLICTED: The underlying trashiness of it all. As a young man, I felt so rebellious watching this show with its harsh language, well-endowed women and bloody battles. It was, as I say, part of its charm…and yet, it’s kind of nice living in a time where WWE is such an established brand of legitimate entertainment that I don’t have to feel quite so ashamed to tell people it’s one of my favorite things in the world.

All in all, another fun trip down memory lane. Join me again on December 18th for another edition of “Wayback Championship Wrestling Federation Entertainment”!

…and that just about does it for this week’s “Guys and Divas”. It seems it was good to talk out my frustrations, and honestly, I’m still rather excited to see what comes out of this Sunday’s Survivor Series 2013.

As we head into Thanksgiving Week, your last homework assignments before the break:

  • “Raw Country” was a tough one to endure, but it certainly wasn’t the first big stinker for Monday Night Raw. What are some of your least favorite episodes?–Rant freely about sub-par sports entertainment shows.
  • Divas Musical Chairs was certainly a low point of this week’s events, but to be fair, the Superstars haven’t always been given the best to work with either. Tell us about a Superstar moment that made your jaw drop in a similar disgust.
  • Of course, Survivor Series 2013 is just a few days away. I took some time to remember some of my favorite years for the WWE’s “fall classic”. What’s been your favorite Survivor Series?–Don’t be the sole commenter to gush about the past!

Of course, don’t miss my weekly Raw live-tweet (@biscuitman18; #GuysAndDivas) where I’m sure I’ll have plenty to say about the unwanted return of guest hosts, and hey!–If you’re feeling crafty, why not follow me on Pinterest? (Apologies. I just needed something to put after the live-tweet plug. I hope you understand. It’s just a stylistic choice.)

Until next week, I’m Jeff Heatherly saying…well, at least one good thing came out of that terrible segment. #Swoon
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Flatlining: C.R.E.A.M. Get The Money (AJ Lee, Vince McMahon, Feminists and Reddit) http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/11/16/flatnining-c-r-e-a-m-get-the-money-aj-lee-vince-mcmahon-feminists-and-reddit/ http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/11/16/flatnining-c-r-e-a-m-get-the-money-aj-lee-vince-mcmahon-feminists-and-reddit/#comments Sat, 16 Nov 2013 20:13:09 +0000 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/?p=161500 Long time no write, huh? Some of you might have caught me invading the comments section, or heard about me torturing Blair (dude was in debt to me, he’s lucky to be getting away with a single recap), but the main thing I’ve been doing over the past few months is just real-world stuff. I started college, so I’m generally sleeping before RAW starts. This will come as a surprise to Americans, but colleges in Scotland aren’t about fucking/drinking/getting high/playing hand-egg and all that other “fun” shit, we study one thing for a whole year (or two) and we get to do so for free. I’m doing Computer Arts and Animation, which is a fancy way of saying “fucking about in photoshop”. It’s the least pretentious of all the art courses, but still…

Anyway, lots of people have left Pulse while I’ve been away. Steven Gepp, the rock (or, uh, mineral) of Pulse Wrestling, the dude who’s columns set the bar for everyone else writing, has bought himself a small island with all the profits from his published works. Mike Gojira, the man who made Smackdown somewhat entertaining, is walking the earth in search of both inner peace and his recap partner, Kelly Floyd. Kyle Fitta has bounced around about 15 wrestling sites while trying to find someone to take what he types seriously. Ralph Hardin and Reymundo have fell off the face of the earth. James Sawyer has been trying to avoid the temptation to break into the meth industry while going through his latest sessions of chemo…

In their place, new people have tried to fill those slots. Some have had success, some not so much. They’ve brought some weird fucking commenters with them though, and now people are being accused for being “MRAs” and whatnot.

MRA stands for Male Rights Activist. The term gets a bad rep because of reddit and morons jumping on the bandwaggon. Some things actual male rights campaigners want include:

Better legal recognition for male rape.

Divorce proceedings (custody, alimony, etc.) to be based on circumstances rather than gender.

 

Some things “MRAs” (the internet stereotype) want include:

Women in kitchen.

 

It’s slightly more complicated than that, but if you find yourself being branded as an MRA in the comments, this’ll probably clear that up for you.

Similarly, lets clear up feminism as well, then I can get on to writing about some actual wrestling in this wrestling column…

Some things feminists want:

The right to choose what they do with their body.

Better legal recognition of rape.

Divorce proceedings (custody, alimony, etc.) to be based on circumstances rather than gender.

 

Again, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but you’ll notice the lack of “to cut off your balls” on that list. You should also notice the overlap of things male rights campaigners want and things feminists want, this is because the end goal of both is equal treatment, regardless of what they happen to have between their legs. Certain people will try to turn it into something else, but every community has the odd extremist or two.

So, that’s covered the whole “feminists vs MRAs” thing I’ve seen popping up in the comments of some of the columns here, lets take a look at how that equality concept works in wrestling…

WWE have had their fair share of female, uh, “leaders”? Power figures is a better term, I guess. AJ, Steph, Linda and Vickie have all had some sort of on-screen power, and two of them actually had power backstage. They’ve not really been the nicest of people, but the only WWE “corporate figure” any of us would have actually enjoyed working for was Commissioner Foley. Post-Jack Tunney, they’ve all had their own agenda (even if the agenda was just “lets tell jokes about Al Snow”).

In terms of in-ring action, we’ve only ever seen two women compete with the men. Chyna and Kharma. The women compete in their own division and, mostly, in their own little feuds that don’t affect the rest of the roster in any real way. I think if corporate cared about it at all, “Divas” would be it’s own little show on Saturday mornings. They’d still have the girls separate from the boys (which they seem to want), and the women would actually get to wrestle in lengthy matches (the type you actually gain experience from).

The problem with using that as an example of WWE’s poor treatment of women is that light-heavyweights are in the exact same boat.

A few years ago, all the dirtsheets and wrestling blogs were running a story about WWE doing a “luchas” show with their light-heavyweight guys. Nothing ever came of it, so Yoshi Tatsu’s still confined to 5min matches on whatever the modern day equivalent of Shotgun/Velocity/Metal/Jacked/Livewire/Afterburn/Heat is.

I’m not saying WWE treat woman fairly here. Shit, you just have to look at Johnny Ace’s time as head of Talent Relations to figure that out. Im saying that the people in charge care about what they think is a draw. For Vince, it’s always been tall guys with ridiculous muscles and endless supplies of baby oil. For HHH, it’s HHH. For Steph, it’s probably HHH.

AJ Lee took up a lot of airtime last year and got backlash in the comments and whatnot. What we failed to see from those commenters was their stance on Teddy “Hold on, i’m gonna make this a tag match, playa” Long or any of the other GMs WWE has had over the last few years. Still, we have people that call the “Divas” matches “piss-break” and whatnot, so the fans are also partly responsible for this.

If the majority are calling a match “this piss break”, why would someone with any sort of creative sway say “I know, we’ll do a 20min Divas match at the top of the show”?

People don’t have the same hatred to Chikara’s Joshimania, or Shimmer and whatnot as they do for Divas matches, but if you were running WWE, would you spend a ridiculous amount of money hiring and training women from the indy feds when the majority of people are saying “we don’t want to see women’s matches on RAW/Smackdown/PPV”? Instead, they got one woman from the indy feds and are using her to train the current crop of “divas”. It’s a business move that makes sense.

Another business move that made sense was the reality show. Total Divas on E! Might sound like one of Johnny Ace’s many nights out in the New York club scene, but it’s an attempt to get a new audience caring about these characters. Has it worked? Fuck knows, but WWE have historically used their top guy in their non-wrestling ventures (i.e. Hogan’s cartoon, Hogan’s album, Rock’s early movie appearances, Cena on boxes of cereal…), so it’s some sort of change, and that’s about all you can hope for from a company that has repeated the same gimmicks and storylines for the past 30+ years.

 

 

 
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Guys and Divas #6: That Suit and Tie Sh!t (Kane, Eva Marie, Big E Langston, Dolph Ziggler) http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/11/06/guys-and-divas-6-that-suit-and-tie-sht-kane-eva-marie-big-e-langston-dolph-ziggler/ http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/11/06/guys-and-divas-6-that-suit-and-tie-sht-kane-eva-marie-big-e-langston-dolph-ziggler/#comments Wed, 06 Nov 2013 11:00:39 +0000 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/?p=161233 Good November to you, dear reader!

Welcome to the second month of “Guys and Divas”; the only column on Inside Pulse Wrestling that opens each edition with the phrase “the only column on Inside Pulse Wrestling…” (as far as I know).

This week, “The Bonus Ball” looks at the art of the face turn in the “PG Era” and in the “Divas” segment, I finally give the people what they want (which is sort of a depressing thought) when I wax grumbly about one of WWE’s most notable up-and-coming ladies.

BUT FIRST(!), it’s the moment from this week’s Monday Night Raw that everyone is talking about. Let’s dive into the buttoned-up madness that is “Corporate Kane”. HEY, YOU…

GUYS

As chronicled in my very first column last month, my first taste of WWE programming came one fateful Saturday morning in the spring of 1998.

I was laying in bed channel surfing when, for whatever reason, I stopped on the USA Network; and the first thing to appear on my screen was a rotund, mustachioed gentleman with a high voice standing on a stage bathed in blue light…and standing next to him: a nearly 7-foot-tall, long-haired creature in red spandex and a mask straight out of a slasher movie.

The girthy fellow gabbed a bit; his words clearly directed at the gothic-looking bearded gentleman with the long black hair in the ring…and then, lo and behold, two caskets were set ablaze.

Paul Bearer and Kane lit the exhumed caskets of the Undertaker’s birth parents on fire…and I fell in love with a TV show.

It wasn’t long after I started watching WWE programming full-time that I realized Kane was one of my favorites. Of all the characters (and, this being the Attitude Era, there were A LOT of characters), he seemed the most fleshed-out, the most elaborate, the most (to continue using a phrase) capital-C CHARACTER on the roster.

Over the years, Kane evolved pretty constantly; from the fire-scarred silent monster I first met to the voice-box-utilizing pseudo member of D-Generation X, to the inexplicably full-throated southern good old boy who still looked like a horror movie killer, to the unmasked psychotic pyromaniac who lived to torture Lita, to the Brother of Destruction, to the re-masked best friend of a goatfaced go-getter…it goes on and on.

(JUST TO SAY: I’m a big fan of Michael Chiappetta and David Stern’s novel Journey Into Darkness. For the uninitiated, it’s a prose-style biographical history of the Kane character. It has a few continuity issues, but beyond that, it’s a really fun read and if you’re a Kane fan, it’s essential. Seek it out.)

Monday night, the evolution continued.

In the final moments of a somewhat lackluster Monday Night Raw, the gothic strains of Kane’s theme rang out over the newly-dubbed Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, SC (where I attended another Raw earlier this year). Excitedly, I glanced up from my Twitter feed…and saw this. (NOTE: The moment in question occurs at 0:35.)

My jaw dropped…and then formed into a big smile. He did it again.

Others’ reactions have been mixed to say the least, but I think the one thing everyone should do is WAIT. We’ve only seen this iteration of Glenn Jacobs’ signature character for–all told–about three minutes; and maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s only going to get more interesting from here.

(Sub-point: Don’t let the lackluster reaction of the Greenville crowd dictate how you feel about this. Having been there before in person, trust me; that city shouldn’t be anyone’s cultural gauge for anything.)

Now, let me get the flimsiest of criticisms aside before I ramble a bit and imagine the possibilities.

Anyone who is comparing this character turn to the Joseph Park character in TNA is a fool, plain and simple. They’re two monsters who suddenly appeared in business suits. THAT’S. IT. Moreover, let’s be thankful that WWE knows (in this particular case, at least) not to insult the intelligence of its audience by pretending at length that this is literally a separate human being from the Big Red Machine we all know and love. Don’t get me wrong; Joseph Park was–for the most part–an entertaining experience, but no one should ever look to it as something to aspire to creatively, and there’s no way in hell that’s what WWE’s done here. So there.

Now, on to the gushing.

Where might this all go?–Well, I think we’ve already gotten a taste. “Corporate Kane” (as we all seem to have dubbed him) is going to be a lackey; the Patterson and Brisco to Triple H and Stephanie’s Vince. However, unlike those “sterling” characterizations, we’re undoubtedly going to see CK (if you will) face some inner turmoil for this decision.

Let’s face it; we all know how this will end. Eventually, Kane’s destructive nature will consume him once more and–mask or no mask; we shall see–he will be, at the very least, part of the inevitable downfall of the Authority. Along the way, there’s no doubt we’ll see his former friends/partners approach him to ask “Why?”; in fact, I’d bet he’ll cross paths with his little buddy Daniel Bryan within the next two weeks…and be honest with yourself. The moment he and his half-brother The Undertaker find themselves face to face (presumably sometime in the next four months), it’s going to be a hoot and a half and a quarter and a third. (That’s 2 and 1/12 hoots, for those keeping score.)

In short, it should go without saying (but I’ll say it anyway): WAIT AND SEE. I feel pretty confident we’ll all be rewarded, no matter how unimpressed the former Bi-Lo Center crowd was. (Seriously, pay them no mind. Let me just throw these six words at you: Yosemite. Sam. Suede. Jacket. With. Fringe. …Yeah. That happened, and he was sitting right in front of me. Enough said.)

…and while the fashion police hops into a time machine and heads off to a seasonable spring night from earlier this year, we move on to this week’s “Divas” segment.

Let me preface what you’re about to read by saying that I have a pit in my stomach just thinking about it…but it needs to be said.

Gird your loins. Here it comes.

DIVAS

I don’t care for Eva Marie.

I’ll give some of you a moment to squeal happily at that statement.

You done?–Okay. Let me explain.

As has been made obnoxiously clear over the past six weeks here at “Guys and Divas”, I love the women of WWE. They are, in many ways, the top reason I tune in to Raw each week. This has been the case for the majority of my 15+ years as a fan of sports entertainment.

During that time, that affection has evolved from a standard heterosexual attraction to a deep-rooted interest in Diva storylines as television writing to–with the advent of social networking–an appreciation for who these women are as people. As we stand, my current feeling is sort of an amalgam of those three (at roughly 20%/30%/50% respectively). This is what guides me as a viewer and dictates the opinions and analyses I bring you each week in this column.

That being the case, you can probably guess that the arrival of E!’s “Total Divas” this past summer was a bit of a gamechanger.

Far too little credit has been given to the series for its surprisingly candid presentation of the lives of these seven women. True, it being a reality show on a cable network not known for its realistic portrayals of human behavior does require the slightest modicum of suspended disbelief at times, but–and I say this with love–most of these girls probably couldn’t pull this off were it a “Hills”-esque fiction; and while some of the situations feel a tad manufactured, there’s no doubt that over the past half-season (which resumes this Sunday at 10pm EST on E!), we’ve gotten closer to–at the risk of being on the nose–the reality of what it means to be a WWE Diva in the current landscape.

To put it simply, I’ve gotten a better feel for who these women really are than bursts of 140 characters or less could have ever provided.

In some cases, this has been a positive experience.

For example, when the Bella Twins returned to WWE this past spring, I audibly groaned in annoyance. When last we’d seen them, their stock in trade had become randomly showing up on the arms of celebrity guests or–I’m holding in some vomit as I say this–Johnny Ace and delivering atrocious lines about the former’s current projects or the latter’s sinister plans. So, needless to say, I was none too pleased to see their (mostly) identical faces again.

Then I tuned in to the premiere of “Total Divas”…and things took a decided turn.

Over those first eight episodes, I came to appreciate these girls for who they are as human beings: Brie, the awkward tomboyish hippie chick and Nikki, the well-meaning but occasionally obliviously shallow girly girl. I thought to myself, “I know them. I’ve known them my whole life.” I began to recognize qualities in these sisters that I know and love in people in my personal day-to-day.

I suppose such a realization was inevitable, what with my repeated comparisons of WWE to a traveling theatre troupe. Having worked in theatre myself, I’ve known plenty of people who can play obnoxious, horrible characters on the stage and then exit stage left as a kind-hearted person of unmistakable value. In short, “Total Divas” has been a revelation.

Unfortunately, some revelations might be best left behind closed doors.

Such is the case with Natalie Nelson, or as we have come to know her, Eva Marie.

This Monday night the striking newcomer with the Kool-Aid crimson hair got the pin on Tamina Snuka in a Six-Diva Tag Team Match that saw Eva Marie teaming with the Bellas to face (my spirit animal) AJ Lee, the aforementioned daughter of the Superfly and Aksana.

Seconds later, this happened on Twitter.

Seriously. Who let this happen?

You see, dear reader, for all my continuous defending of the Divas division with all its flaws, we do share an opinion on one thing: some people just shouldn’t be allowed to wrestle.

Such is the case with Eva Marie.

Don’t get me wrong. The lady is bloody gorgeous. I’ve felt compelled to pause and swoon every time I’ve seen this post-match victory photo when it’s popped up on WWE’s various online areas these past 48 hours; and truth be told, I’m always glad to see a new face making waves in this division.

Just not this one.

For the uninitiated, here are a few (bullet-pointed!) choice Eva Marie moments from the first eight episodes of “Total Divas” that have led to this unsavory opinion.

  • Episode one. Eva Marie is ordered to dye her hair blonde in order to help her stand out in the Diva crowd. (I know. It doesn’t make any sense because Natalya, Summer Rae, (at the time) Kaitlyn, etc. were already cornering the market on chlorinated follicles…but I digress.) At the salon, she decides to risk reprimand and get her now-signature Jessica Rabbit red. She narrowly escapes said reprimand; arguably because there are cameras following the whole shenanigan and WWE probably wouldn’t want to react how they normally would in such a situation and kick the girl to the curb on national reality television.
  • Episode two. Eva Marie auditions to be Fandango’s permanent ringside dance partner, citing many years of dance experience. FUN FACT: This turns out to be a lie, and she embarrasses herself, Fandango and the WWE officials making the decision and even faces the wrath of Stephanie McMahon.
  • Episodes seven and eight. While her fellow newbie and quote-unquote “best friend” JoJo looks into using her vocal and musical talents to her advantage (leading to her one-night stint as an auxiliary Funkadactyl and singing the national anthem before this year’s SummerSlam), Eva Marie has a photo shoot with Maxim. When JoJo’s first on-screen performance (the aforementioned Funkadactyl fiasco) goes less than stellar, Eva Marie is more concerned that her 19-year-old counterpart isn’t fawning over her (arguably) far less substantial “achievement” than she is with her distraught roommate and friend’s earnest attempt and failure at making good.

I’ll admit. As I typed that, I realized how catty my complaints are and that most of this has a real “you had to be there” quality…but my point remains the same.

What happened in our ostensible main event match Monday night was bothersome, to say the least. I shall keep my fingers crossed that it was merely a moment of half-hearted triumph for the “Total Divas” cameras to catch, and that this isn’t the beginning of Eva Marie’s road to the Divas Championship. (Let’s face it. We’ve seen #1 Contenders born out of much, much less.)

What can I say?–I can’t stand deceitfulness, selfishness and hypocrisy; and unfortunately, the visually-stunning “Total Divas” newbie with the Little Mermaid hairdo has those (for lack of a better term) qualities in wholesale supply.

To answer your question, yes; it hurt like hell writing that. However, I felt it needed to be said.

Moving on. With our last few moments together this week, let’s take a look at the rise and fall of some WWE faces in the latest edition of…

THE BONUS BALL

One of the highlights of this week’s somewhat disappointing Monday Night Raw was a match featuring current WWE Champion Randy Orton.

I know. I was shocked, too.

In this case, the Viper was to go one-on-one with one of three possible opponents, as chosen by the fans on the overly-promoted WWE App. Our choices: Dolph Ziggler, Big E Langston and The Miz.

I made my vote and waited through the ensuing preliminary segments, and then…with a whopping 75%(!!!) of the vote, the newest face of the trio, Big E Langston took to the ring and put up one hell of a fight against the so-called “face of WWE”. Having voted for my beloved AJ Lee’s former ringside bestie, I was certainly pleased with the results; but more than that, I was unquestionably wowed.

A mere two weeks after aligning himself with CM Punk in his ongoing quest to take down the Paul Heyman Guys, the former NXT Champion had overtaken the former World Heavyweight Champion AND a former WWE Champion–both of whom had been in much higher-profile situations of late than he–in a court of public opinion.

Let’s be clear here. I really like Big E. A lot. That’s not what this is about. This is just another clear illustration of how WWE has really lost its touch when it comes to crafting new faces in this, the dreaded “PG Era”.

Remember 2012?–For personal reasons, I try not to (up to late October…but I digress); but if you’re a fan of Dolph Ziggler (and I am), I’d imagine it’s damned near impossible to forget.

2012 was arguably the year of Ziggler. After about half a decade in the mid-card, Dolph was finally on his way to the top; and to be fair, we all knew he had it in him. As a top-tier heel, Dolph Ziggler was a charismatic throwback to the heyday of The Rock with a dash of Mr. Perfect (something the latter’s own son Curtis Axel can’t even claim). He was a dyed-in-the-wool villain, but by God, we loved him. How could you not? To top it all off, at the conclusion of the year, he was placed in an on-screen relationship with my adorable spirit animal AJ Lee, with whom he had an electric chemistry; and both of their proverbial stocks soared right through Wrestlemania XXIX in April of 2013.

The next night, Dolph cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase on a prone then-face Alberto Del Rio, and to the delight of an unforgettably raucous crowd, captured the World Heavyweight Championship…and weirdly, that’s sort of where the trouble began.

In the course of the inevitable Dolph/Del Rio rematch at Payback in June, both men’s alignments changed; with Dolph becoming a tenacious face and new champion Del Rio a relentless heel. Shortly thereafter, the onscreen Dolph/AJ romance came to an end and the World Heavyweight Championship soon moved on to other men.

Since then, Dolph’s appearances have grown more sporadic and much lower-profile, with a feud with US Champion Dean Ambrose being the most notable happening.

So…what happened?–The same thing that has happened to countless heels (including Dolph’s fellow poll loser The Miz) over the past few years: they turned face, and in the process, lost everything that made them who they are.

For Dolph, this is more tragic than most. As a heel, we already adored him. His charisma, his in-ring work and his dynamite promoing skills already had crowds cheering, even as he took on some of their most beloved characters. As a face, he’s squeaky-clean, markedly less cocky, just…bland.

It’s similar to the way heels and faces were denoted within the Divas division for an unfortunate number of years: if they come to the ring smiling, they’re a face; if they scowl, they’re a heel…and Dolph has certainly been smiling an awful lot these past few months.

What is it about a face turn that the creative team feels requires a character to lose all their signature facets? Honestly, was Heel Dolph’s cocksure attitude too risqué for him to be portrayed as heroic? Seriously, what’s the deal here?

Usually, this would be the part where I explain said deal…but in this case, it truly makes no sense.

Sorry about that downer ending, folks. With luck, next week’s column will be the cavalcade of optimism that’s become a hallmark of “Guys and Divas”…but if it makes you feel any better, I’m feeling alright. It’s just…Chinatown, I guess.

In the meantime, your homework assignments:

  • “Corporate Kane” seems to have taken the IWC by storm. Tell me your thoughts on the Big Red Businessman, and where this could all be leading.
  • Eva Marie may be nice to look at, but backstage (to quote the immortal Bell Biv Devoe), that girl is poison. Have your perceptions of a wrestler ever been changed by their real-life behavior/attitudes?–Sound off on two-faced title fighters.
  • Big E Langston’s star is on the rise, while Dolph Ziggler is almost forgotten. What do you see as the benefits–if any–of the new squeaky-clean Show-off? Is it possible to execute a face turn in the “PG Era” without losing your proverbial street cred?–Your thoughts on such questions would be greatly appreciated.

Don’t forget to join me this coming Monday for my weekly Raw live-tweet (@biscuitman18; #GuysAndDivas), and stay tuned in the coming weeks for some intriguing news about my return to one of my favorite media. (Mysterious, no?)

Until next week, I’m Jeff Heatherly saying…well, THIS. Good day, all!
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Current Rumored Booking Plans for WWE Survivor Series PPV Sunday 11.14.2013 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/11/01/current-rumored-booking-plans-for-wwe-survivor-series-ppv-sunday-11-14-2013/ http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/11/01/current-rumored-booking-plans-for-wwe-survivor-series-ppv-sunday-11-14-2013/#comments Fri, 01 Nov 2013 10:05:04 +0000 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/?p=161079 The latest news on the planned booking for WWE Survivor Series 2013 Sunday 11/14/13 is as follows:

–The show is approximately 80 percent confirmed

–Randy Orton vs. Big Show for the WWE Title is very likely in place

–The Shield and The Real Americans vs. The Usos and The Rhodes Family

–In some form or another, The Wyatt Family against CM Punk and Daniel Bryan

–Dean Ambrose vs. Big E Langston for the U.S. Title

–There will likely be no more than two traditional Survivor Series matches, using either some of the above configurations or ones not yet known such as using the Divas for one of these slots. Also, John Cena may end up in a traditional SurSer match depending on his elbow.

–And brace yourselves, it looks like the early rumor for the TLC PPV in December is Big Show vs. Triple H to supposedly help drive up buys for that show.
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Guys and Divas #5: Silver Linings Playbooker (John Cena, Damien Sandow, Summer Rae) http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/10/30/guys-and-divas-5-silver-linings-playbooker-john-cena-damien-sandow-summer-rae/ http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/10/30/guys-and-divas-5-silver-linings-playbooker-john-cena-damien-sandow-summer-rae/#comments Wed, 30 Oct 2013 09:55:21 +0000 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/?p=161003 Hello and hi, everyone!

Welcome once again to “Guys and Divas”; the only column on Inside Pulse Wrestling that gets its hair care advice from beloved NBC newsman Brian Williams.

It’s been a hell of a week in the world of sports entertainment, and an equally crazy week for yours truly as a viewer. I left Hell in A Cell this past Sunday (up to about the 9 o’clock hour of Raw on Monday) feeling like WWE had created a series of impenetrable narrative roadblocks for themselves. By 11:05 Monday night, I felt overwhelmed by the promise of a wild and unpredictable future for the characters we all know and love.

In this week’s Bonus Ball, I’ll bring you a stream of consciousness about my first month here at IPW; and in the Divas section, I’ll look at an abundant week of Diva action, including the big-time in-ring debut of the adorable “Mrs. Fandango” Summer Rae.

BUT FIRST(!), it seems there’s only one topic on everyone’s minds as it pertains to the male side of things. Allow me to throw my intellectual hat in the ring and try to find the upside of the new status quo in WWE. It’s time to talk about the…

GUYS

Let’s not mince words.

Randy Orton and John Cena now sit at the top of the WWE food chain and a lot of people (including myself, for the most part) are not happy about it.

Now, to be fair, Randy winning was always a possibility; an illogical possibility, but a possibility just the same. Cena beating Alberto Del Rio was practically a given. What has clearly upset a great deal of the WWE viewership is how things were handled from there.

The first hour of this past Monday’s “Raw” was one of the most frustrating in my 15+ years as a fan of this business, and if Twitter and even the pages of Inside Pulse Wrestling are any indication, this was a common feeling. John Cena took to the ring, and with his fakey Marky Mark blaccent firmly and inexplicably back in place, gave the usual Hustle Loyalty Respect spiel we’ve come to expect.

A literal chorus rang out, and Damien Sandow emerged with his beautifully crafted faux-leather briefcase to remind Cena that now is the time to watch his back. This was all well and good, and could (and arguably should) have been left at that. Maybe Cena walks away shaking his head at this brash upstart with his Money in the Bank contract,  Sandow has a random match with some upper midcard schmo and the show goes on.

As we all know, this is not what happened.

Sandow takes the opportunity to give the new World Champ a round and severe beating; perhaps the most brutal we’ve seen on Raw or Smackdown in months. He sees that he’s softened Cena up enough to be the kind of opportunist that briefcase has been creating for almost a decade now, signals the referee, and the match is set. The viewer sees this and thinks, “Oh, wow. This is actually about to happen. This is quite exciting!”

And then they went to commercial. This should have immediately indicated to all of us that this wasn’t going to end the way we’d like.

When we return, we get–let’s be honest–a pretty great match between champ and challenger, with lots of false endings and the like. The audience is into it. There are multiple “THIS IS AWESOME!” chants. This could honestly go either way.

Arguably, there’s only one way it should have gone, though; and that’s not the way it all went.

John Cena, still sporting a protective elbow pad and having been beaten mercilessly for about twenty minutes, suddenly has the gumption to pull off those infamous five moves and before we’ve even hit the first half-hour mark of the night, Damien Sandow’s chance at championship glory has come and gone.

At the moment, I was frustrated. This show just implied that even with a practically useless arm and a nagging leg injury, John Cena is still “better” than everyone else on the WWE roster. It’s beyond the usual–to steal a term from Pulse’s own Chris Sanders–circlejerk. It’s a downright slap in the face…

…and in a weird way, I wish I could still be angry about that.

But then the rest of the show happened.

We get a really fun six-man tag match with The Usos & Big E Langston taking on The Shield. Shawn Michaels puts on a tremendous performance as he attempts (and fails) to beg forgiveness of his former protégé Daniel Bryan. Kane cryptically turns heel(?) and unmasks for Stephanie McMahon. The Wyatts go on a rampage attacking their most high-profile targets to date. The Real Americans stake a firm claim to be the next to challenge the Rhodes Brothers for the tag belts, and not one but TWO DIVAS MATCHES(!). Top it all off with the locker room dogpiling on The Shield as The Big Show defiantly (and I mean defiantly, not definitely; as these are two separate words–something the denizens of the Internet could stand to learn) throws down the gauntlet at The Authority.

In spite of everything, I found myself excited to see what happens next. Everything we all predicted for the WWE and World Heavyweight Championship picture is dead and buried…but I can’t stop smiling.

I begin to wonder: is it just my natural optimism seeking hope in the rest of the show or has WWE subconsciously changed the focus of their entire show, all the while placing the championships on–arguably–their two biggest names? After all, it’s not unheard of for the WWE and World Championships to take a backseat to other storylines. Perhaps in this, the darkest hour of so many viewers, it’s on us to find the bright side.

Maybe it’s the resurgent tag team division. The Rhodes Brothers are effortlessly bringing prestige and importance back to those “big pennies”, and there seems to be an abundance of strong duos looking to take them on.

Maybe it’s Kane. After sixteen years as–quite possibly–the most fully fleshed-out character in WWE (if not professional wrestling as a whole), he still finds a way to surprise us, and leave us asking all sorts of provocative questions. Why align with The Authority, who’ve spent the better part of a year antagonizing his close friend Daniel Bryan? Why unmask? Simply WHY?

Maybe it’s the Wyatt Family. While their motivation and ultimate plan is still unknown, their targets are growing more and more notable; and Windham Rotunda’s performance as Bray continues to be one of the most fascinating and entertaining things in WWE today.

Maybe (and I’l obviously cover this in more detail in the next segment) it’s the Divas. Opinions about their in-ring viability aside, their presence as important and influential figures within the company is on a marked rise. AJ Lee is still the Divas champion, Tamina is still her muscle, and by God, Brie Bella is actually showing some commendable chops in the ring…and that’s arguably barely scratching the surface!

Maybe (and this is somewhat surprising) it’s the Big Show. Yes, he’s apparently fired but still has his entrance theme at the ready and a camera waiting for him in front of some comedy club-esque brick wall whenever he needs to rant; and yes, it’s fun to snark about that…but in the big picture, he may have just set off a company-wide civil war of sorts.

Yes; it sucks that Cena’s a top champion again. Yes; it’s less than ideal that Randy Orton beat Daniel Bryan. Yes; it’s incredibly frustrating that the company just wasted the potential of one of its most talented and watchable up-and-comers in Damien Sandow…

…but look at all this other stuff!

In short (and at the risk of getting a bit dark), if WWE clearly doesn’t care about its top championships right now…maybe we don’t have to either…and maybe that’s not a bad thing…because again, LOOK AT ALL THIS OTHER STUFF!

Next Monday, let’s all plop down, turn on the TV and watch the adventures of a pair of brothers with giant copper belts, a bearded religious cult from the deep south, a possibly no longer masked pyromaniac and his new corporate mistress, a wacky mentally unstable girl and her Amazon bodyguard, and a bald giant with nothing left to lose.

Yeah, there’ll probably be a former white rapper who spouts obnoxious family friendly platitudes and a sweaty, tattooed snake of a man who speaks in an unchanging monotone; and yeah, they’ll both have some big gold things around their waists and/or over their shoulders…but they don’t have to matter. Starting next Monday, they’re the b-plot.

Optimism. It’s what’s for dinner.

…yeah, that got a little abstract. Sorry about that; but I hope you get what I mean.

Let’s tango on over to our next segment, in which a valet becomes a full-fledged competitor in this week’s…

DIVAS

Make that FOUR DIVAS MATCHES in TWO NIGHTS(!) and Messrs. Sanders and Leonard are on the money.

Needless to say, while other events of the past week have been a bit disheartening, the doubled presence of my favorite female protagonists on both Sunday’s Hell in A Cell card and this past Monday night on Raw made my heart soar.

It all kicked off roughly forty minutes into WWE’s most recent pay-per-view offering, as Fandango and (GASP!) Summer Rae teamed up to take on the (distressingly) reunited team of The Great Khali and Natalya. Thankfully, the gents took a backseat in what turned out to be a fun back-and-forth between the semi-debuting “Mrs. Fandango” and the third-generation Canadian Diva.

About ninety minutes later, we got our Divas Championship bout between reigning champ (and my spirit animal) AJ Lee and challenger Brie Bella. It was a short but sweet affair, with the future Mrs. Bryan Danielson putting up an admirable effort against our favorite deranged girl next door, but coming up short after some interference by the imposing Tamina Snuka (and to a lesser extent, her sister Nikki).

Truth be told, I favor their second clash in tag team action this past Monday which saw the Bellas trounced handily by AJ and mostly Tamina, whose match closing Samoan Drop and hesitant tag to her current (for lack of a better term) employer suggest that not only is the Superfly’s daughter a force to be reckoned with, but that her client may soon be feeling the brunt of some reckoning of her own. (My prediction/hope from two weeks ago seems to be coming true, ever so quietly.)

Topping it all off, we got the Raw singles debut of Summer Rae as she took on her previous night’s opponent Natalya (frustratingly entering to Khali’s theme; #SaveNatalya). Watching this match, I got a much clearer picture of what Summer will bring to the table as a competing Diva.

As a valet, she’s proven infinitely enchanting with her silent movie starlet histrionics and that brain-meltingly gorgeous smile. As a competitor, she couples that with a sort of effortless and (if you will) graceful aggression; reminiscent of Miz’s main squeeze Maryse. Summer is a stark reminder that while technical proficiency is what we all want in our Divas, it’s nothing without a strong, magnetic personality; and she’s got that in spades.

A happy camper?–Color me the happiest in the bunk.

If that seemed a bit brief, it’s only because it’s time for our main event.

This column marks the conclusion of my first month here at Inside Pulse Wrestling, and in this week’s “Bonus Ball”, I’d like to take a moment and reflect (naturally) at length about my first 30ish days of Diva-defending, bullet-pointing, unexpected controversy-creating columnization.

THE BONUS BALL

One month ago, when our own Chris Sanders brought it to my attention that there was an opening in the ranks of Inside Pulse Wrestling, I jumped at the chance to join this distinguished band of pundits, ranters and recappers.

I’ve loved professional wrestling for the majority of my life at this point, so this is something that means a great deal to me; and to get the opportunity to talk shop on a weekly basis with a group of individuals with a similar passion has been a thrill and a rewarding experience.

Doing this column has also allowed me to put a more defined chronology on my experience as a viewer and fan of this industry. I value memory and treat milestones as mnemonic devices with which to organize the knowledge and experiences I attain in my life. So, with that in mind, how will I remember October 2013?

It was a month of CONTROVERSY. At the risk of re-stirring a pot, I remain somewhat astounded at just how extreme some reactions were to the idea of a Diva-centric column. I apologize again for taking such a militant and defensive stance at the outset of my work here, but I must reiterate that it all came/comes from a place of affection and optimism. I adore these women and want to see them succeed, no matter what form that may take. Maybe I’ll change some minds along the way, maybe not; but at the end of the day, we’ve started a dialogue and that’s always something to appreciate.

It was a month of SURPRISES. John Cena’s “miraculous” recovery radically changed the landscape on which we’d all prepared to travel into 2014. However, as mentioned in this week’s “Guys” segment, don’t let this get you down; and don’t levee all of your disappointment on this one story point. Bear in mind, Randy would have won on Sunday regardless of what was happening with Cena and Del Rio. For all of our grumbling and outrage, it looks like there has always been a plan and it will continue to play out over the next few months. Don’t count Daniel Bryan out. WWE may not have the best track record for paying attention to the fans, but they’d have to be next-level oblivious toolbags to not see how over this guy is. He’s a top guy and he always will be.

It was a month of PROMISE. The Divas division is making progress, little by little. I hate to pull out such an old cliché, but let’s not forget that Rome wasn’t built in a day. We’ve gotten some really great, well-paced matches over the past few weeks; and ladies we may not have put much stock in from a technical perspective are clearly working very hard to make lemonade out of lemons. Tips of the cap to Brie Bella and the aforementioned Summer Rae, who’ve both stepped up their game and impressed even some doubters this month. There is a concerted effort being made here, and I truly pity anyone who can’t see it.

It was a month of GREAT PERFORMANCES. There are times when I lament an overlong promo or non-wrestling segment, but I’ve reveled in each and every moment of the Daniel/Randy/Authority/Big Show plot. Everyone is at the top of their game, led with tremendous turns by our favorite power couple, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Every backstage segment, every promo; hell, even the contract signing two weeks ago…aces, all. One of my biggest gripes about the “reality era” of WWE has been a lack of strong characterization. Outside of capital-C characters like Kane and Bray Wyatt, we’ve sort of fallen into a trap of (admittedly, well-built) average Joes and Janes duking it out in a fictional arena; but within this storyline, these performers have raised the game, and brought something extraordinary out of characters that have become more and more ordinary. Kudos.

It was a month of TRIUMPHS. There’s something so magical about watching all the pieces of a puzzle fall into place. So it’s been with the Rhodes Brothers and, indeed, the tag team division as a whole. Over the past month, we’ve seen the ascension of a new big name player in Cody Rhodes, the redemption and long-overdue commendation of a hard-working legend in Goldust, and the return of prestige to a division that has often gone forgotten these past few years. Just look at how many full-time tag teams are making waves right now: The Rhodes Brothers, The Usos, The Real Americans, The Primetime Players, (God help me) Los Matadores, etc. It’s a great time to be a fan of tag team wrestling, and it looks like it’s only going to get better.

At the risk of sounding Sorkin-esque, what kind of month will November be?–I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to find out AND I can’t wait to be part of the conversation with all of you here at “Guys and Divas”.

…and with some nostalgia and a dash of sentimentality, the first month of “Guys and Divas” comes to a close.

I truly appreciate all your great questions, comments, thoughts, etc. and hope this week’s homework assignments will help us to continue that tradition.

  • Cena and Orton got you down?–Tell me what mid-card/non-championship storylines you’ll be finding solace in while the top gold rests on their waists/shoulders.
  • Following the successful in-ring debut week of Summer Rae, I’m sure we’re all looking forward to which current NXT Divas will soon be following in her footsteps. Tell me who you’d like to see on the big stage next. Would you start them as a valet like Summer? If so, for whom would they valet?–Let’s do some fantasy booking for the next up-and-coming lady of WWE.
  • I managed to rattle off a look back at the top moments of October without a single bullet-point! (I impress even myself.) How has the tenth month of 2013 treated you as a wrestling fan? What facets of the show have stood out to you?–Sound off with highlights and memories of our first month together as columnist and reader.

As always, join me for my weekly Monday Night Raw live-tweet (@biscuitman18; #GuysAndDivas) and while I’ve got your eyes, why not stop by Turntable.fm’s “Connect the Songs! Read Info!” room sometime?–I’m in there quite often, kicking out the jams and having a laugh with the gang. Join us for music and fun!

Until next week/month, I’m Jeff Heatherly saying “Be a man and take responsibility for your child!“. Later, all!
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Guys and Divas #4: Nowhere To Go But Up (Triple H, Daniel Bryan, Divas Tag Team Championships, Smackdown) http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/10/23/guys-and-divas-4-nowhere-to-go-but-up-triple-h-daniel-bryan-divas-tag-team-championships-smackdown/ http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/10/23/guys-and-divas-4-nowhere-to-go-but-up-triple-h-daniel-bryan-divas-tag-team-championships-smackdown/#comments Wed, 23 Oct 2013 11:26:19 +0000 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/?p=160799 Good whatever-time-of-day, dear reader!

Welcome back to “Guys and Divas”; the only column on Inside Pulse Wrestling that has a Google alert for the terms “AJ Lee puffy coat”. (Am I kidding?–I’ll never tell.)

This week, I ruminate on the continued viability of WWE’s “blue brand” AND in this week’s “Divas” segment, I wonder aloud about pairing off some of our favorite fighting females for some prized waist-wear.

BUT FIRST(!), Monday night’s show-closing Hell in A Cell contract signing was at turns the standard affair and a promoing tour de force for its primary players. In the midst of all of it however, I suddenly had a spot of creative clairvoyance. Let’s explore it in this week’s…

GUYS

The main event pay-per-view contract signing.

Some dread it. Others are indifferent. The rest don’t watch the show.

This Monday’s take on the scenario brought a collection of the biggest names in WWE to the carpeted squared circle and they all came out swinging. Stephanie was traditionally catty but authoritative. Randy was…Randy. Shawn was goofy but serious when necessary. In the middle of it all, Daniel Bryan and Triple H began their road to Wrestlemania…or at least, that’s what I suddenly found myself picturing.

For years now, I’ve seen/heard so many speculate about HBK coming back to the ring for the fabled “one more match”; and that when that day would come his opponent would undoubtedly be his longtime best friend Triple H. After watching the two of them shuffle in and out of each other’s Wrestlemania moments these past five years or so, it seems like an inevitability…but maybe there’s another way.

So much of Monday’s segment centered around the idea of Daniel as Shawn’s former protégé and Triple H’s seeming attempts to undermine that relationship in order to sway HBK to his side in this Sunday’s match. Obviously, Shawn was having none of that, and his smiles and jests soon gave way to some serious contemplations of what happened to the man with whom (e.g.) he once played strip poker on live television.

It was a light shot, but the first shot in what I believe will be a long-running war between the two best friends. However, Shawn doesn’t strike me as the “I retire except for fifty more matches spread out over the next ten years” type. Additionally, there’s been so much talk about some sort of match involving Triple H, possibly some McMahons and surrogates representing them in said match, I feel that the conclusion is obvious.

We’re headed for Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan (with HBK in his corner) at Wrestlemania XXX.

Now, the first question of course: can they stretch this story out that far without wearing it out?–and to tell you the truth, I genuinely don’t know. Let’s face it. WWE isn’t known for strong long-term storytelling; and even when they seemingly pull a lengthy plot off, it feels more like a happy accident than well-prepared narrative.

The second question: will the era of “The Authority” (as we’re now calling them, apparently) even last that long?–Recent history says no. I may be forgetting but I genuinely can’t recall a storyline involving a villainous authority figure lasting more than four or five months at most since…well, probably the days of Austin vs. McMahon. It’s one of the many ways that it seems the show is catering toward an audience with a short attention span of late. The idea of the hero of our piece (Daniel) having to contend with a powerful enemy like this for what will amount to the next six months could wear out its welcome quickly with the common sports entertainment consumer.

I don’t mean to toot my own horn…but I’m not common.

Picture if you will the next four pay-per-views: Survivor Series, TLC, Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber. Picture also Daniel coming out undisputedly victorious this Sunday at Hell in A Cell. That gives us four months of a frustrated Authority throwing seemingly insurmountable challenger after seemingly insurmountable challenger at Daniel, with the beloved champion overcoming the odds at every turn; until finally, Triple H can’t take it anymore.

If no one else can end Daniel’s reign, he’ll just have to do it himself. He throws down the challenge for Wrestlemania. Daniel proposes making it a Championship vs. Wrestling Career Match. In his hubris, The Game accepts the challenge. Daniel wins at Mania, and the defeated King of Kings can finally no longer deny it: this goatfaced young man is the new face of WWE. Fireworks, fade to black, boom.

Again, I may be giving the creative team too much credit; and as we all know, wishful armchair booking is one of the things we of the IWC are best known…but maybe this time, we (or in this case, I) will finally get something right.

As always with a dash of hope, we move forward to this week’s “Divas” segment.

With the return of Nikki Bella to active competition this past Monday, we got what I felt was a tremendous Divas tag team match between the Bellas and the champ/heavy combo of AJ Lee and Tamina Snuka. In the aftermath, the old wheels in my head got to turning. Hence…THIS.

DIVAS

Over the past month here on “Guys and Divas”, I’ve seen a lot of debate and discussion about ways to improve the current fledgling Divas division. From scathing scorched-earth policies to the emergence of rising NXT talents, we’ve all had a lot to say.

Watching this past Monday’s quite entertaining tag team match, I was reminded of another tack that often seems to float around these kinds of discussions: the possibility of a Divas Tag Team Championship.

I’m certain there will be some that will put the Undertaker to shame with the whiteness of their rolling eyes at such an idea, but hear me out.

As mentioned a few columns ago, there are currently fourteen Divas actively competing (or at least, potentially so) in WWE. The debate about how many of those are truly ready for action aside, that’s still a lot of talents with often very little to do. (Compare this to the Knockouts Division of TNA [who just retired their own women's tag team belts after the intergender pairing of ODB and Eric Young shamefully carried them to little effect], who now number at a startlingly meager six active competitors.)

Whatsay we pair up some of these ladies and see how they do in cooperative competition?

“But Jeff, as you say, there are only a few that can put on a solid match right now. How can you justify putting the rest in such a spotlighted position?”

Well, dear reader, let me throw this at you. What if we pair an established, ring-competent Diva with a struggling up-and-comer or a long-suffering B-lister?–It will allow some of the lesser known ladies more screen time, while helping them hone their craft alongside someone with experience.

Tossing aside established pairs like The Funkadactyls, The Bellas and the current AJ/Tamina shenanigan, allow me to propose some duos from the remaining names. (First bullet-pointed list of the week, GO!)

  • KAITLYN/ALICIA FOX – It’s a tale of two former Divas’ Champions, combining two fairly experienced veterans into one cohesive, potentially very potent unit.
    • STRATEGY: Kaitlyn would be the dominant force of the two, doing the heavy brawling and power moves. Our favorite “undefined” Diva Alicia tags in and puts the cherry on top with her aerial and acrobatic attacks, concluding with a classic axe and/or scissor kick.
    • BENEFITS: Kaitlyn, while one of the more competent of the new crop, could still use some work in terms of finesse and physical presentation. Pairing her with Alicia who–the writers’ inability to decide whether she’s a heel or face from week to week aside–has a lot of charm and charisma but lacks a bit in terms of execution, you get a perfect combination of strength and glamour.
  • LAYLA/JOJO – The de facto elder stateswoman of the division partners up with the newest of the newbies.
    • STRATEGY: Whether or not you think she’s been up to her full potential of late, Layla has the most honored history of Diva tag team work on the current roster. We know she’s got the ability to carry on a match and the years of experience within WWE to work with the audience. The adorable 19-year-old newcomer JoJo is utterly untested. In reality (and I say this with love), there’s little to no reason for her to be an active member of the roster and she’d be best served learning the ropes down at NXT for the foreseeable future…but if we’re throwing her into this proposed fray, there’s no one better than THE veteran.
    • BENEFITS: See above. (I sort of got on a roll.)
  • NATALYA/EVA MARIE – The absolute best in-ring performer in the division with the beautiful, yet often grating throwback to the poorly conceived “model casting calls” of  recent years past.
    • STRATEGY: Let Nattie handle all of the heavy lifting. No, seriously, ALL OF IT.
    • BENEFITS: In a word, ENDLESS. As we’ve seen on E!’s “Total Divas”, the crimson-haired rookie is 100% novice. It’s clear that like some Diva names that have come and gone, she only wants in this business for the exposure. What could beat that out of her better than the incomparable third-generation lady from up north?–Obviously, this isn’t a team that would be going for the proposed tag belts anytime soon, but this combination of Natalya’s unmatched skill and experience with the striking visual that is Eva Marie could be a fan-favorite in no time.
  • ROSA MENDES/AKSANA – The wild card of the bunch.
    • STRATEGY: Unknown, because…
    • BENEFITS: Well, what do we know of these two?–Frankly, next to nothing; but clearly Aksana has shown that she’s got the passion and the dedication to make something happen. Rosa meanwhile…I simply cannot fathom how she hasn’t been competing from the moment she hit our screens a few years back. During her days in NXT’s predecessor FCW, she made a lot of waves and impressed the folks down in the Sunshine State handily. That she’s been languishing as Primo and Epico’s (and very briefly recently, The Miz’s) arm candy through most of her tenure in WWE is just distressing. Now, as reported, she’s currently taking some time off to deal with some substance abuse issues and I certainly wish her the very best…because pairing up these saucy, raven-haired Divas could lead to some real fireworks, and I’m ready to “ooh” and “aah”.

Of course, this is all just theoretical; but as you’ve hopefully learned over the past four columns, I think the world of these women and want to see them all flourish. Perhaps this is just the way to make that a reality.

…and as we draw near to our goodbye for the week, we turn to this week’s edition of “The Bonus Ball”.

This week, a tweet from a reputable wrestling pundit gets me blue, and in my classic style, I try to find the silver lining. (Get it?–Blue and silver! …Oh, me.) Anyway, here’s this.

THE BONUS BALL

During my traditional Monday Night Raw live-tweet this week, a tweet from beloved Grantland columnist David Shoemaker caught my eye. It reads:

I chuckled, but almost immediately regretted it; as it raised a question I’m sure a lot of us ask regularly: what happened to the blue show?

Time was there was a reason to tune in to each and every WWE program. Now, I make no bones about my commitment only to Monday Night Raw and most pay-per-views. On Friday nights, I’m often too busy having an adventure about the city with my girlfriend to devote even a moment to the comings-and-goings of the superstars on SyFy.

Now, being that I strive for optimism and problem-solving here at “Guys and Divas”, I can’t just leave it at that realization. Having started watching wrestling in 1998, “Smackdown” has been as much a part of my life as “Raw” (and before them, “Nitro” and “Thunder”). I feel a responsibility, even merely in theory, to find a way to keep this just so.

I’m not going to lie to you. My ideas probably won’t break new ground, but I hope these expansive ruminations might open a nice stream of consciousness as to the future of WWE’s Friday night offering.

Let’s dive in.

    • MAKE THE SHOW LIVE FULL-TIME – It’s the age-old suggestion. While we may be within the mostly white-washed confines of the “PG era”, a little spontaneity is invaluable; not just to the viewers, but to the creative team. When the writers don’t have to worry about their show being spoiled three days in advance, they’ll make a point of making their show must-watch television and the results will be marked and arguably immediate. Now, obviously this would take some doing in terms of scheduling on the road, which means the process could take a year or two…but the rewards are worth the risk and effort–and that’s just if they stick to Friday nights. As we’ve clearly seen, it’s not out of the question to shoot the show live on a Tuesday night; it’s merely a matter of network scheduling and frankly, I don’t think SyFy’s got anything it can’t shift right now. Point is, give the audience a reason to tune in right then, right there…and they will.
    • SPLIT THE BRANDS AGAIN – It’s the OTHER age-old suggestion. When the brand extension started its long road toward complete dissolution a few years ago, I was a bit excited. It would be like the early days of Smackdown when the cliffhangers with which we were left on Mondays would carry over to Friday (or as it was then, Thursday) nights…but then it wasn’t. Not even two years ago, Raw and Smackdown–while starting to share more and more talent–still felt like two separate and vital entities. At the very least, the two shows’ top titles (WWE and World Heavyweight) still seemed exclusive to their respective brands. Now, the WHC is caught in a nebulous, “close but no cigar” second banana role to the WWE Championship; and with the forgettable reigns of Alberto Del Rio and even Dolph Ziggler these past two years or so, it doesn’t look like the creative team has any plans to elevate it anytime soon (or at least they didn’t before John Cena’s “miraculous” rapid recovery). Not to mention the countless superstars and Divas who seem doomed to pointless midcard throwaway matches, with little to no hope of ever reaching the heights of the paltry handful of men and women who seem to be our indefinite top-tier cast members. They could use a home. Why not a cozy spot on a distinctive sapphire-tinted brand?–There’s zero reason they can’t have it, and even less of a reason to re-merge the brands. You tried it, WWE. It’s not working. To quote your chairman, “It’s time to shake things up again!”.
    • SOME NXT EXCLUSIVES – What if Smackdown became the bridge between NXT and the proverbial big time of Raw?–Picture it. A few of the most promising up and comers start appearing on Friday nights in exhibition matches. Then, perhaps we add a mid-card title into the mix; either pre-existing or new (TV Title, anyone?), and as things progress, the best of the best are gradually filtered over to Raw. It would kill three birds with one stone: making Friday nights more of a destination, creating new stars AND making sure they’re truly established before putting them into high-profile situations. For example, just think how much bigger Big E Langston would be–Monday night’s appearance notwithstanding–if the primetime SyFy audience got to know him before he showed up as AJ/Dolph’s heavy all those months ago. Or what about the man who beat him to become the current NXT Champion Bo Dallas?–He had that vague program with Wade Barrett earlier this year and then…GONE, without a trace (to the common viewer, as it were). I know NXT does okay on Hulu, but let’s face it: most people just stick to what they can easily find on their televisions. Why not give the audience the biggest bang for their buck?
    • GET IT BACK ON NETWORK TELEVISION – Let’s be real here. All the trouble can pretty much be traced to the day Smackdown moved to basic cable. I don’t know what it was about WWE on broadcast network television that made it seem so much more…magical…but there it was. One of the best things about Smackdown was always its accessibility. It was the great economic equalizer, because anyone could watch it; cable/satellite subscription or not. One of my fondest memories of the show is watching it on a portable black-and-white TV while I rode around the town on my high school graduation night. It was there on one of the most important days of my life, and I still remember the episode fondly. (Watch for a future “Wayback Championship Wrestling Federation Entertainment” edition of “The Bonus Ball” on that very episode. I know I’ll want to go there eventually.) True, I graduated high school right before the mandatory switch to digital broadcast television, so such a feat would be nearly impossible today…but you get what I mean. In many ways, Smackdown was the A-show for a lot of people over its 10+ year run on broadcast television; because it was there and we could all enjoy it. I know this is probably the least likely/least financially feasible idea on this list…but I can hope.

So, yeah. Maybe I’ve covered some previously trod ground here…but I think saving WWE’s Friday night presence doesn’t require much thought, i.e. it’s a no-brainer…or it should be, at least.

…and so ends our fourth week together as columnist and reader. I hope you enjoyed it; and with that in mind, posting some questions for you fine folks to ponder in the comments seemed  to work like gangbusters last week. So once again, some homework for you (and our last bullet-pointed list of the week):

  • What are your thoughts on the future of the Daniel vs. The Authority storyline? Will it lead to my proposed Game vs. Goatface confrontation at Wrestlemania XXX or could there be another direction?–Lay out your potential bookings for this blockbuster.
  • I laid out some potential pairings for a Divas Tag Team division. Would you swap some of those names? Are there any NXT Divas ripe for cooperative action? What are some pairings of former Divas you’d love to see?–Gush and grumble about fighting females brawling two-by-two.
  • Is Smackdown still appointment television for you?–No matter your answer, layeth the commeneth down with your thoughts on how to make the blue brand shine brightest. (That was a stretch, but it got us there, eh?)

As always, join me this coming Monday night for my weekly Raw live-tweet (username: @biscuitman18; hashtag #GuysAndDivas) and be sure to join me for my final column of October next Wednesday right here at Inside Pulse Wrestling!

Until next week, I’m Jeff Heatherly saying “SPORTS GO SPORTS!“. See you again, everybody!
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Guys and Divas #3: After the Stampede (Cody Rhodes, Goldust, Tamina Snuka, WCW Monday Nitro) http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/10/16/guys-and-divas-3-after-the-stampede-cody-rhodes-goldust-tamina-snuka-wcw-monday-nitro/ http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/10/16/guys-and-divas-3-after-the-stampede-cody-rhodes-goldust-tamina-snuka-wcw-monday-nitro/#comments Wed, 16 Oct 2013 09:50:29 +0000 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/?p=160542 Good day, everyone!

Welcome to week three of “Guys and Divas”; the only column on Inside Pulse Wrestling that puts its legs on one pant at a time.

I’ve got a real cracker of a column for you this week. In this week’s “Bonus Ball”, I’ll be taking a trip down memory lane to the show that started it all. Plus, the Rhodes Brothers make history and the latest adventures of  the daughter of the “Superfly”, Tamina Snuka!

But first(!), some business.

I’d like to apologize to anyone who might have taken certain facets of my column thus far the wrong way. I’ve wanted to write something like this for a very long time, and I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea about what I’m about or how I feel about the lively and thoughtful discussions that are no doubt in our futures.

I assure you that the use of the epithet “Kids” in the preface to last week’s “Bonus Ball” was merely a stylistic choice, as the whole segment was intended to be conducted in the style of a family meeting. I didn’t intend to put forth a tone of condescension or to imply that I’m “better” than anyone. It was, as I say, a stylistic choice and nothing more.

As my column progresses, I fully intend to engage in the comments. My request to not be pulled into arguments was a response to a specific commenter (who believe it or not, didn’t even return for week two, so it was pretty much all for nought) who I felt misinterpreted the gist of what I was saying. It obviously would have been better to address that commenter directly within the comments section, and that was my mistake and for that I am sorry.

I’m new here and I’m still learning when and where and how to address the things that happen around my column. I’ll get there, but I’ll need some patience in the meantime. I sincerely hope I can count on all of you for that.

In the spirit of that, I must stand firm on one thing however. I DO love the Divas division, and that comes from a long-standing, deep-seeded affection for the strong female figures I’ve known both personally and through various entertainment media. I agree that the Divas division and the way it is treated within WWE isn’t in the best shape right now, and I would never argue to the contrary. My position is simply that despite their flaws and the flaws of those who are in charge of their adventures, I care about these characters and the women who portray them very deeply. I know that’s not a very common sentiment, but it is what it is and that’s the place from which all my thoughts will spring forth.

So long story short (too late), I hope we can all move forward from all this and start a healthy dialogue about this thing we all love…and remember, the column’s called “GUYS and Divas”. I’m going to cover it all, and I hope you’ll all come with me as I do.

Thank you for your time.

…AND NOW, ON WITH THE SHOW!

This Monday night saw the crowning of new WWE Tag Team Champions and arguably the beginning of one of the most long-awaited storylines in years. Let’s raise a verbose but well-earned glass…to Cody and Goldust!

GUYS

Capping off what I felt to be a really solid Monday Night Raw this week, we saw the long-running Tag Team Championship reign of The Shield’s Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns come to a decisive end at the hands of The Rhodes Brothers (Cody and Goldust)–with a little help from The Big Show.

What a match, too! All too rarely these days do I really feel like I’m watching characters fight for their lives. Perhaps it’s just the cynicism of adulthood and having watched this show for so long, but sometimes it feels like the performers are so consumed with trying to reach the predetermined result that they forget to take us on a journey.

Not these four men. Not this time. Cody, Dustin, Seth and Roman had me glued to my television and never sure where this could all go; not to mention how refreshing it was to see the Tag Team belts being defended in the main event, with very few strings from other storylines attached. If anyone has any doubt about the prestige of the “giant pennies” being alive and well, this match cemented their importance in a big way. (As I mentioned last week, the mens’ singles titles could use such a boost, and I hope they get it soon.)

After a perfunctory (yet, I’d imagine, quality) rematch sometime soon, it’s a safe bet that The Shield will return to their new roles as Triple H and Stephanie’s bodyguards and muscle with nary a dent. As for the Rhodes Brothers, I think we’re all abuzz about the possibility that the long-awaited Cody vs. Goldust Wrestlemania showdown is waiting in the wings.

Frankly, the recent reemergence of Dustin Rhodes in general has had me in a constant state of theorizing how we might find ourselves with that dream match. Will it just be another standard “tag team breaks up over a minor quibble” scenario or are we in for something really special and really personal?

I opt for the second possibility. I think the seeds were planted a few weeks back during the Dusty and Stephanie confrontation. After proposing that “The American Dream” decide which of his sons would be returning to the WWE ring, our Mrs. Levesque seemed to sum up the relationship between the legendary father and his two sons. Cody is the clean-cut golden child and Dustin is the troubled, often ignored and misunderstood rebel. I have to believe sometime in the next 6+ months, that dynamic is going to become a factor.

Now, the question becomes: who’ll be the face and who’ll be the heel?

From a sentimental perspective, I don’t see how Dustin is our heel. He’s the wily veteran getting a chance at redemption. I can’t fathom how that would lead to a villainous role. He’s got to be the face; the protective older sibling who worries that his kid brother’s getting a big head from all of his newfound success. Moreover, if we get this match, I’d say it’s highly likely it’ll be some sort of retirement shenanigan. Heel Cody defeats Face Dustin, whose career is ended…but then Cody reaches a hand down and lifts his brother up for a tearful embrace. He’s earned his respect and accepted a passed torch. A Wrestlemania classic, to be sure.

Regardless of how it all turns out, I think we can all agree that we’ve got great things in store courtesy of the sons of the son of a plumber.

…and speaking of multi-generational superstars, let’s head over to this week’s Divas segment for a look at one of the division’s best and brightest, and her new place in the WWE Universe.

DIVAS

April 15. I take my girlfriend to her very first live WWE event. She’s been watching the show with me for about six months at this point and has come to love it from her usual literary perspective; something I adore about her.

After what seems an interminable wait outside the Local Grocery Store Conglomerate Arena, we take our seats. It’s a perfect view: dead center (both vertically and horizontally) on the camera side. We’re getting a live panoramic view of what we see on our television screen every week.

A bit of pyro. Some videos touting WWE’s work with the National Guard. A DVD trailer or two…and then, it’s on.

The screaming guitar and the modified version of “Hart Attack” heralds Natalya to the ring. I’m ecstatic that not only are we going to see arguably the best Diva on the roster in action, but she’s not flanked by her lumbering then-on-screen boyfriend and their leprechaun pal. I wonder, can it get any better?

Then it gets better.

Tribal drumbeats ring out and out steps an Amazon in blue. My girlfriend’s eyes widen. I smile big. Tonight we’re going to see Natalya vs. Tamina Snuka, and it is going to be FANTASTIC.

My girlfriend is now enamored of Tamina, and why wouldn’t she be?–She’s big, loud, powerful and bloody gorgeous; like a Samoan Sigourney Weaver.

Sadly, this was pretty much the last we saw of her for a while. Plagued with injuries and having just earned a role in her cousin Dwayne’s upcoming Hercules film, Tamina took some time away from the ring. Meanwhile, the rivalry of former best friends AJ Lee and Kaitlyn and the debut of E!’s “Total Divas” monopolized the division’s airtime.

Now the dust has settled, and we’re kind of back to the standard Diva plot of the last few years. There’s a challenger. There’s a champion. A match is nigh…but oh, wait! What’s this? AJ’s got some muscle…and in the immortal words of Leon Phelps, it’s a lady!

Mark my words: AJ and Tamina will have a falling out…and the results will be glorious.

Here’s what I picture. The champ and her enforcer split (probably violently). Tamina remembers that she’s the alpha female of this proverbial canvas jungle. She challenges her former client for the butterfly belt (and to tag up on a comment from last week, I agree we need to get the Women’s Championship back in the mix like whoa). She dominates.

Now we have a monster heel holding all the marbles. Diva after Diva after Diva steps up to the plate, only to be flattened by a big boot and a Superfly Splash. It seems like no one can stop this second-generation lady-trouncing machine…

…and then, as gives rise to so many hidden characters in “Super Smash Bros.”, A NEW CHALLENGER APPEARS!

Who will it be? A newly-promoted NXT face? A returning Kharma? Or maybe it’s just the end of the line…and standing tall, waiting to take it all down: Natalya. I don’t know about you (although I can respectfully guess for some of you), but all this makes me pretty giddy for the next few months of Diva action.

Ta. Mi. Na.

Ta! Mi! Na!

TA. MI. NA.

TA! MI! NA!

Like music to my Diva-loving ears. This is going to be fun. I just know it.

Finally this week, I’m proud to present a new sub-segment here at “Guys and Divas”. Starting here, I’ll be periodically taking a look back at a formative, memorable or favorite moment in my life as a professional wrestling diehard.

This time around, we go to the root of all the madness: my first time watching wrestling on television. Buckle up, put some refuse in Mr. Fusion and hold tight. The proverbial DeLorean is on the move, for today…

THE BONUS BALL presents “WAYBACK CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING FEDERATION ENTERTAINMENT”

WCW Monday Nitro: April 20, 1998

This is where it all began for me.

It’s the night after WCW/nWo Spring Stampede 1998. The top stories:

  • “Macho Man” Randy Savage is your new World Heavyweight Champion after defeating Sting in a No Disqualification Match. The nWo is beginning to split, and will eventually form two factions: Hollywood (black and white) and Wolfpac (black and red).
  • Raven is your new United States Champion after defeating Diamond Dallas Page in a Raven’s Rules Match. He already has his first challenger in the thus-far undefeated (74-0, to date) Goldberg, and his own organization (The Flock) is dealing with infighting.
  • Booker T is your new WCW Television Champion.

After fifteen years, I slipped into watching this episode like a glove. I thought the production design, the sound of Tony Schiavone calling the action or the sight of those chrome plated letters on either side of the stage would cause a bit of nostalgic jet lag…but I was thankfully mistaken.

What a different show this was, though. Compared to the WWE (or even TNA) of today, there was very little prose and matches seemed to flow naturally from one to the next. Characters defined themselves by their actions instead of their words, more often than not. It felt like a show about WRESTLING, and I had no idea how much I missed that.

I know I’ve stated numerous times thus far here on “Guys and Divas” that the main crux of my attention as a viewer of professional wrestling is in the writing, the theatricality and the storytelling. Watching this, I began to wonder if perhaps that was less about a personal predilection and more about the changing times. When I watched these shows as a young man, every second counted and the fights themselves gripped me far more than promos or interviews. Is it a product of aging? Of my years in the theatre? Or is it a defense mechanism I’ve developed to combat those who might sneer that at 26, I still make a point of watching a show about sweaty men faux-fighting and acting out a live soap opera?

Whatever the answer, as I watched, I started making a mental list of things I miss, things I don’t miss and things that left me conflicted.

  • MISS: A prominent Cruiserweight division and a strong presence from the world of lucha libre. In this episode in particular, I was treated to a bout between “The Chairman of WCW” La Parka and the Ultimo Dragon. I recall watching matches like this one in a state of wonderment. When you’re a kid and you’ve got school the next day, every moment of your night counts, and I guess the presence of these acrobatic performers (traditionally during the 8 o’clock hour) was something I held very dear, and something I remember with great fondness.
  • DON’T MISS: The Hogan of it all.
  • CONFLICT: The grunginess. I remember when I started watching wrestling, it was viewed as something trashy on the level of “The Jerry Springer Show”. I’ve always been attracted to forbidden things, so I felt somewhat rebellious. To be fair, this was also when the business was at the to-date unmatched zenith of its popularity, so I wasn’t part of a shameful minority. Sometimes I miss that rush of feeling like “This is weird. I shouldn’t be watching this…but I’m still going to anyway.” Then I remember what that outward controversy meant backstage. These were the days before we lost so many talented men and women to the addictions that that environment tended to breed. As homogenized and squeaky-clean as this business may seem sometimes today, I feel better knowing that there is a concerted effort being made to keep these performers as safe and comfortable as possible. Does it result in a loss of spontaneity and unpredictability?–Perhaps; but I sleep better knowing I’m not always watching someone for the last time…and on that tip…
  • MISS: Eddie Guerrero. It goes without saying, but GOD, he was something.
  • MISS: Bobby Heenan on color commentary. Sure, Jerry Lawler gets off a clever one-liner now and again; but “The Brain” was a font of hilarious thought. So many times during this episode, Tony Schiavone would throw to commercial; and as the camera panned over to the Nitro logo sitting on the ground, Heenan couldn’t help but fire off one more ridiculous quip. Just fantastic.
  • CONFLICT: Buff Bagwell. I miss him because I remember finding him ridiculously entertaining. I don’t miss him because he’s Buff Bagwell.
  • DON’T MISS: The WCW Hotline. It got me into a lot of trouble when I was 12. Not a good memory.
  • MISS: WCW’s sense of continuity. To use an example from this episode, at one point Schiavone mentions something from a pay-per-view two years prior that leads DIRECTLY to the then-current Nash/Savage contingent. I know it’s a small thing, but it made me really happy.
  • MISS: The competition of two shows on a Monday night. True, the fairly recent attempt by TNA to be WWE’s new rival was a failure, but there’s something about that “other show” being around that really seems to up the creative team’s game.

All in all, it was fun to look back at the night where my relationship with this business kicked off and I look forward to revisiting more such events the third Wednesday of each month. Let’s get nostalgic up in this mother.

…and like that, the third installment of “Guys and Divas” comes to a close. I hope you all had fun reading it; and speaking of fun, I’ve got some homework for you, dear reader.

In the spirit of keeping the comments lively and interactive and fun, I’d like to hear from you on the following questions (in addition to your traditional thoughts and queries).

  • I laid out my potential Cody/Goldust plot. Where do you think it could go? Do you think Dustin COULD be the heel?–Help me predict the future for the Rhodes Brothers.
  • If not Natalya, who do you think could be the David to Tamina’s Goliath? Is there anyone in NXT who’s caught your eye?–Sound off on this potential Divas blockbuster.
  • What was your first televised wrestling experience?–Share your memories of the first time you glimpsed the world of sports entertainment on your screen.

(OBVIOUS CONFESSION: I love a good bulleted list.)

As usual, join me for my weekly Monday Night Raw live-tweet (username: @biscuitman18; hashtag #GuysAndDivas) and again thank you for your patience and your thoughts. I really do appreciate you all.

Until next week, I’m Jeff Heatherly saying “Come on, Mary Todd Lincoln. I’ll buy you a drink.” So long, everybody!
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Guys and Divas #2: The Divas’ Advocate (John Cena, Alberto Del Rio, Eva Marie, JoJo) http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/10/09/guys-and-divas-2-the-divas-advocate-john-cena-alberto-del-rio-eva-marie-jojo/ http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/10/09/guys-and-divas-2-the-divas-advocate-john-cena-alberto-del-rio-eva-marie-jojo/#comments Wed, 09 Oct 2013 09:51:11 +0000 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/?p=160186 Hello, all!

Welcome back to “Guys and Divas”, the only column on Inside Pulse Wrestling that identifies itself as “heteroflexible” (based on a true story)! 

In this week’s column: the “Total Divas” newbies hit the ring for the first time; plus, a bud gets nipped early (and often)…

…BUT FIRST(!), the World Heavyweight Championship has been dancing a hearty limbo for most of 2013. After last night, it looks like that may change. Let’s hear it for the boys!

[NOTE: If you please, skip ahead to this week's "THE BONUS BALL" segment before reading the rest of the column. It was written days before and informs a great deal of what you're about to read. Thanks!]

GUYS

True story: I spent most of this weekend up to about 9pm Monday night planning on making my first “GUYS” segment a lively rant about the boring and seemingly interminable World Heavyweight Championship reign of Alberto Del Rio, after which I’d segue into a ramble about poorly-executed heel/face turns this year.

However, in the ongoing spirit of optimism and due to recent developments, I think it’s time to talk about the future of the goldest belt in WWE.

As most of you saw Monday night, John Cena will make a “miraculous” return to the ring at Hell in a Cell to challenge ADR for the WHC. WTF? (NOTE: I’ve never used the acronym “WTF’ before this column. I detest internet-speak with a violent passion.) Confusion aside, I like when this show surprises me, and this did an honorable job of making my eyes bulge. (Plus, Ricardo got a pin out of it, so right on.)

So, taking it as a foregone conclusion that the returning Cena will win the belt, what’s next for the current champ?

This year has been seemingly a failed experiment in things to do to the Alberto Del Rio (or as I sometimes call him, Albert Rivers) character. From his beyond-random face turn to his current shoddy, clearly-out-of-creative-desperation heel run, the Man with the Destiny is all but a non-issue. The question can be raised: is it the man or is it the belt?

On the former tack, I’m pretty stumped. The more layers that have been pulled away from the Del Rio we met in 2010 (the cars, the elaborate entrance, Ricardo, etc.), the more uninteresting he has become. Traditionally, this would probably call for a complete character and gimmick overhaul (likely, knowing this show, as comic relief); but this isn’t a lower card schlub like Zack Ryder or the members of 3MB (#HeathSlaterIsADateRapist #NeverForget).

This is a guy who debuted as a main eventer. Sure, there was some vague, cosmetic character building via small programs with guys like Rey Mysterio, Christian, and a pre-beard Daniel Bryan; but within four months of his first live (to tape) televised appearance, he was part of a Fatal 4-Way Tables Match for the belt. His cache as a modern legend of lucha libre made him a valuable part of the WWE roster…but that can only take you so far.

So, what will it take?–As of late, it seems tag teams are the re-birthplace of solo stardom. Daniel Bryan–talented as hell though he may be (and is)–was pretty much down and out as the standard tenacious technician (with an admittedly entertaining inferiority complex) until those glorious anger management sessions. Pairing a cookie cutter character with a capital-C CHARACTER like Kane proved the catalyst for the heir apparent to John Cena as the face of the whole damned company.

Who could fill the role of ADR’s Kane?–Aye, but there’s the rub. Other than the Wyatt Family (who have their own thing going; although, I’m looking forward to seeing what exactly that’s going to be), the “reality era” has really sucked the CHARACTER out of this show. There’s Santino, but–tempting as it sounds (I keep my fingers crossed that he gets a serious run someday)–there’s no fathomable reason their two worlds would collide. Where’s Dr. Shelby when we need him?

Meanwhile, what of the belt itself? The sight of it around John Cena’s waist will certainly help it reclaim some of its lost glamour, but then what?

The obvious answer is Damien Sandow, but–as much as we all love him–is he really ready to be main eventing alongside the company’s top man?–From a technical standpoint, certainly; but he seems to be fading into a level of obscurity, even with that finely-crafted leather briefcase. Then again, perhaps I’ve just answered my own question.

In general though, the continued use of the World Heavyweight Championship perplexes me. Now that the brand extension is–save for separate GMs–nonexistent, what is its purpose?–WWE itself seems to waver about whether or not it’s still to be considered on par with the WWE Championship. In the current scheme of mens’ singles titles, I see the hierarchy thusly: WWE, World Heavyweight, Intercontinental, United States. Even simply denoting such a pecking order would do wonders for not just the WHC, but every belt in the company.

Rumors of a WWE/World Heavyweight title unification continue to run rampant and, truth be told, having the future Bella Husbands (Cena and Bryan) with the two belts could go somewhere really interesting. Maybe I’m not giving the creative team enough credit…but I doubt it. I shall stay positive. (It’s what I do.)

…and another thing I do is talk about the lady half of the equation. It’s time for the real reason this column exists.

Yet another surprise this past Monday: the in-ring debut (in a fashion) of “Total Divas” newbies Eva Marie and JoJo. How did they do? Where do they go from here?–Let’s discuss.

DIVAS

So, the contents of this week’s Bonus Ball aside, my commenters made some good points last week. (Although, most of their feelings for the Divas division in general leave a lot to be desired. Hence, the Bonus Ball. WE’VE COME FULL CIRCLE!) However, I’d like to tweak their thoughts a bit.

Monday night, we saw Eva Marie in action for the first time and–it pains me to say this–yikes. I found myself experiencing flashbacks to the dreadful era of Kelly Kelly; where half-hearted clotheslines were THE offensive maneuver. Having seen Eva Marie’s backstage dealings on the hit E! reality show, it wasn’t all that surprising.

The crimson-haired rookie is a product of what made the later half of the last decade somewhat distressing for me. She’s a model, not a wrestler. I know that accusation could be lobbed at a lot of the roster currently, but–before anyone calls me a hypocrite on the comments–we have to remember that it’s not the Divas themselves that are to blame. These girls are going out there with the best of intentions, and for the most part, I see potential in all of them. It’s a booking failure, plain and simple.

Now, unlike one of my readers last week, I don’t think it will take a scorched-earth overhaul of the entire division to fix this. Moreover, I think strides are already being made. The Divas division down at NXT is doing some great things, all told; and with Sara Del Rey at the helm, I think it’s safe to say the future of women in WWE is in good hands.

Dealing with the current failures is the key here. At the risk of doing another full roster evaluation (SEE: last week’s column), let’s count off the current faces who’ve got the skills (regardless of whether or not they’re being utilized to the fullest right now): AJ, Alicia, Brie (yes, I said Brie), Kaitlyn, Layla, Naomi, Natalya, Tamina. That’s eight–count ‘em, EIGHT–currently-competing Divas who’ve proven able to carry out a feasible to great match. That’s 8 out of 14, 57%, O.57–no matter how you slice it, that’s not a bad number. Hell, that could keep the creative team busy with Diva stories for a good long while…and sometimes, they do.

(Let me state something: I never said the division is perfect, but [1] as I said above, it’s not the Divas’ faults themselves, and [2] writing off the entire enterprise is foolish and–considering some of the arguments I’ve seen laid before me–borderline, if not entirely, sexist.)

So, what do we do with the remaining 43%?–Let me throw this word at you: VALET.

Do you remember this word?–I sure do. Admittedly, their kind was dying out when I came into this business, but we all know that valets have played a pivotal part in some classic matches and storylines.

I remember my older sister (who’s only been watching this show–at the behest of her husband–for about two years now) invoking the name of Miss Elizabeth when AJ rose to prominence last year. Clearly, the late Former Mrs. Randy Savage made an impact on not just the world of wrestling, but culture as a whole. (Seriously, my sister is more the Jane Austen/Audrey Hepburn type than a member of the WWE Universe.)

Or how about Sable?–Yes, we remember her as one of the first Divas to hold the Womens’ Championship when it was reinstated at the end of last century; but we came to know and love her as the woman on the arm of her forgettable ex-husband Marc Mero.

Sunny/Tammy Lynn Sytch?–Not only spent time as the sideline presence for people like The Road Warriors and Farooq during her time in WWE, but was the veritable figurehead of her partnership with Chris Candido in both ECW and WCW.

Hell, why not even Vickie? (That’s right. I said it.) True, her valeting did tend to coincide with her various stints as a governing body on Raw and Smackdown; but I know there are a lot of us who will never forget her on-screen courtship with Edge (Oh, that fabulous romantic montage in the park!). Her unmistakable cackle and immortal delivery of “EXCUSE ME!” helped skyrocket that particular heel run for the Rated-R Superstar AND made her an irreplaceable presence on WWE television.

The adorable Summer Rae stands as the company’s lone valet at the moment, but if the crowd chanting her name during Fandango’s matches is any indication, she’s already made an indelible impression on the WWE Universe. Why can’t the untested 19-year-old JoJo?–She’s already been an honorary Funkadactyl on a number of occasions. Heck, Eva Marie and Nikki are, in many ways, already Brie’s ongoing ringside support.

It CAN be done, AND(!) with NXT just…sitting down there in Florida, there’s no reason the more technically-lackluster Divas can’t improve their in-ring skills while cheering on a Superstar or, indeed, another Diva on the proverbial main stage.

There’s always hope. This division is not a lost cause. We just need to get the people in charge to pick up the slack…and I’ll be waiting patiently until they do.

…Go on now.

…and sadly, it’s almost time for us to part for the week, but for those of you who didn’t heed my bracketed note up there, it’s time for this week’s edition of…

THE BONUS BALL

(I’ve thought long and hard about whether or not I need to do this, and I’ve concluded that if I don’t do it now, it may only devolve further than I can live comfortably with.)

Let me start off by thanking everyone who stopped by for my first column last week. I’ve wanted to be part of the Pulse Wrestling family for a very long time and it seems I’ve been welcomed with the openest of arms.

That said, we need to have a family meeting.

Kids, I decided to do a Diva-centric column for a number of reasons. Over the past 15+ years that I’ve been a wrestling fan, I’ve had a lot of opinions about the show. I’ve cheered as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin stunned pretty much anyone in his path (including women; something that in retrospect, I regret deeply). I’ve shed tears watching promising individuals lose their lives for the business they love. I’ve rolled my eyes at plenty of miscalculated character ideas (Los Matadores, anyone?).

However, there has been one constant. I LOVE THE DIVAS DIVISION. I truly, truly do.

When I was 11, the Womens’ Championship had just been reinstated and over-the-top characters like Sable and Ivory were ruling the roost. I was like any other guy at the time, grunting approvingly as the present-day Mrs. Lesnar took to the stage and asked us if we were ready for “the grind”.

Thankfully as I matured, the show did with me. Sure, there were still Divas and storylines meant solely to titilate (SEE: Torrie Wilson and Dawn Marie); but there were also real wrestling talents making statements every week. It feels almost redundant at this point to mention names like Trish Stratus (who, to be fair, had to evolve past being Mr. McMahon’s on-screen mistress and other such degradations), Lita (once merely the forgettable Essa Rios’ arm candy), and Molly Holly (WCW’s former Miss Madness)…but the fact remains that these women were bringing something–for the most part–legitimate and respectable to the table.

I, like most people, lamented greatly a few years back when WWE made the shift to the much-maligned “PG era” in a blatant bid to aid Linda McMahon’s repeatedly failed senate campaigns. The show got less risqué, the stories less compelling, the characters less interesting. For a few years, the show was generally pretty hard to watch.

Maybe it’s clichéd to do so, but one must attribute the undeniable resurgence in quality these past three years or so to CM Punk’s legendary “pipe bomb” promo in Las Vegas. Over the course of roughly five minutes, he showed the audience (and the creative team) that it was time to get back to why we loved this show in the first place; and the fruits of his statement proved wide-ranging and plentiful.

This, of course, included the Divas division. Sure, there’ve been some speed bumps (e.g. the ill-treated all-Diva season of NXT), but it can’t be disputed that there has been a concerted effort–particularly in the last two years–to make the fairer-sex portion of the show more important.

It feels more redundant still to attribute the rising notoriety of the Divas to the current champ AJ Lee; redundant…but arguably accurate. Did her rise come through less than traditional means?–Perhaps. I never expected that an on-screen romance (let alone several) would be the saving grace of an entire portion of the company, but there it is. (Let me reiterate though that–as I stated last week–the contingency that wants to credit only AJ’s leading men for her rise to prominence is, I feel, woefully mistaken.)

From AJ came the reinvigorated presence of her real-life bestie and fellow NXT hopeful Kaitlyn. While it’s clear that the company has known they’ve had something special in the lovely former bodybuilding champ, what with her presence as a public face of many of the company’s charitable works (their partnership with the National Guard, most notably); it was a rare spot of continuity from the writers that brought her back to the forefront. Like it or not (and I’m in the former camp), AJ vs. Kaitlyn is a true Divas feud with deep roots that has brought us some quality matches over the past year.

Then of course, there’s “Total Divas”.

I’ll admit, when the idea of a weekly reality show focusing on–most notably–the Bella Twins was presented, I groaned a bit. For all my nearly unconditional love of this division, Brie, Nikki and I haven’t been very…simpatico. I’ve bought into all the trash-talk; the Johnny Ace hot tub jokes, the accusations of backstage political skullduggery from former employees such as–one of my favorites–Maria Kanellis, etc.  I’ve often placed the blame for the less-enjoyable facets of the division squarely on their identical shoulders.

I sit here today, hat in hand, ready to eat crow.

Over the course of the first run of the E! series, I’ve come to appreciate these sisters a great deal. If I may harken back to my thoughts on the concept of celebrity from last week, we hold notable personalities to a high standard that we cannot reach ourselves. I’m not a perfect guy. I’ve got hypocrisies out the proverbial wazoo, and to deny anyone else the courtesy of recognizing that would be absurd.

The conniving Eva Marie notwithstanding, the cast of “Total Divas” are a group of women just like those in our own lives. Yes, they work in a popular entertainment industry and that has gained them some level of moderate wealth and ease as they go about the world; but they are still human beings, with flaws and idiosyncrasies but also, kind hearts and hard-working spirits. We may not agree with the paths that have led some to the WWE, but these girls truly have a passion for what they’re doing and you’d have to be pretty hard-headed and set in your ways to not respect that.

Which brings me to the reason why I’ve just said all this. Let me reiterate: I LOVE THE DIVAS DIVISION. It has its highs and its lows like anything else, but I love it.

Let me tell you a little something about ol’ Jeff. I’m 26 years old, and for the past 23 years I’ve lived in a house full of women. My father passed away when I was three, and so I’ve spent the bulk of my life being raised by two sisters and my indomitable mother. I’ve seen my family go through a lot, but what they’ve taught me through their example is that no matter your flaws and hypocrisies and traumas, everyone is a human being that–at root–just wants to live their lives peacefully and without incident.

I respect women. I respect them more than any other gender, genus, class, phylum, etc.

With that in mind, I’d like to address some comments made by readers (JUST LIKE YOU!) after last week’s edition.

Once again: I LOVE THE DIVAS DIVISION. Anyone who gleans anything to the contrary from my words is (A) putting words in my mouth, (B) clearly not reading the same column I wrote, (C) a set-in-their-ways bag of hot wind that will–to quote one of my heroes Patton Oswalt–”miss everything cool and die angry”.

So on that tip, I’d like to request that commenters don’t try to pull me into their arguments. What I feel about the topics upon which I write is right there on the page. No interpretations needed. If your thoughts can’t stand up on their own (or last for more than four consecutive hours), keep them close to the vest.

As I stated numerous times last week, this column comes from a place of affection and optimism. I’m not here to make loud, across-the-board statements of dissatisfaction; which unfortunately seems to be the m.o. of the bulk of the IWC. I’m here to talk about a show I love, characters I adore and (if you’ll pardon the term) the actors who portray them. Perhaps a lack of conflict will drive readers away, but I’d rather lose your eyes by saying something positive than gain them by being a raving grump about every little thing.

So, in summation, if the thought of someone speaking fondly of the Divas division on a regular basis bothers you to the point of uncontrollable rage, there’s the proverbial door. I’m not changing a thing. Sorry, not sorry.

Family meeting adjourned.

Well, that just about wraps up this week’s edition of “Guys and Divas”. I hope we can all sit back, relax and ponder all those thoughts I just laid down for you; and that this is the start of a beautiful, enlightening, fun, informative, thought-provoking friendship between you and me, dear reader.

As always, join me this Monday for my weekly live-tweet (@biscuitman18′s the username; #GuysAndDivas is the preferred hashtag); and a big thanks to all of you (and I mean ALL OF YOU; yes, even the detractors) who stopped by for my debut column last week. Your questions, comments and eyeballs were appreciated greatly and I look forward to typing up a storm for you all again.

Until next time, I’m Jeff Heatherly saying “Kill the fish tank.” See you next Wednesday!
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WWE Wants To Hear From You: New Surveys Speculate On Potential DVD Titles http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/10/03/wwe-wants-to-hear-from-you-new-surveys-speculate-on-potential-dvd-titles/ http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/10/03/wwe-wants-to-hear-from-you-new-surveys-speculate-on-potential-dvd-titles/#comments Thu, 03 Oct 2013 21:28:57 +0000 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/?p=160125 If you are a super duper WWE fan and a member of its “Fan Council,” then you may have received an e-mail recently with a link to a survey asking questions about potential new WWE DVD and Blu-ray releases. Some may actually it make it to schedule in 2014.

Titles include a complementary Randy Savage documentary retrospective to go along with 2009′s Macho Madness – The Randy Savage Collection. There’s also the possibility of some of the very best WCW Pay-Per-View Matches to have its own multi-disc set.

Here’s the full list of titles listed in the survey:

Macho Man Randy Savage – Documentary plus matches
Chris Jericho – Best Matches
Shawn Michaels – Best Matches
John Cena – Documentary plus matches
Rhodes Family (Dusty, Dustin/Goldust, Cody) – Documentary plus matches
RVD – Best Matches
Class of 96 (Rock & Stone Cold) – Documentary plus matches
Batista – Best Matches
Stone Cold Steve Austin – Stone Cold Steve Austin picks his favorite WWE matches
Daniel Bryan – Best Matches
Best of WCW Pay-Per-Views – Best Matches
Rey Mysterio – Best Matches

But wait, there’s more!

There’s a new “Fan Council” survey regarding new budget line titles similar to what WWE did with the single disc Superstar Collections featuring the likes of Kofi Kingston, Daniel Bryan, and Sheamus among others.

A lot of these are bargain bin material, but there are a few that could be interesting to older WWE fans who remember programs like Velocity and Shotgun Saturday Night.

Best of Shotgun Saturday Night (January 1997-August 1999)
Best of Velocity (May 2002-June 2006)
Best of Superstars (April 2009-April 2011)
Best of Saturday Morning Slam (August 2012-May 2013)
Thanksgiving Moments
Best of Bra and Panties
Top 25 Superstar Entrances – (Shawn Michaels at WM 12, John Cena WM 23 etc…)
The Christmas Collection (All of WWE’s best Christmas themed moments)
Music of WWE (The Best entrance Songs … DX, Chris Jericho etc.)
Best of the Slammys
Best of Tribute to the Troops
Brothers of Destruction
Top Divas
Santino Comedy Hour





Don’t see anything you like? Sound off below in the comments section with DVD releases and compilation concepts you’d like to see from WWE in 2014.
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Guys and Divas #1: Origin Story http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/10/02/guys-and-divas-1-origin-story/ http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/10/02/guys-and-divas-1-origin-story/#comments Wed, 02 Oct 2013 09:52:01 +0000 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/?p=160039 April 20, 1998.

If my memory (and Wikipedia) is correct, that is the night my love affair with professional wrestling truly began.

It was an episode of WCW Monday Nitro, the night after Spring Stampede 1998. The big story (or at least the one that always comes to mind) was the new United States Champion Raven, who’d won the belt from Diamond Dallas Page in a “Raven’s Rules” Match. I tuned in that night after months of increasingly-piqued curiosity courtesy of my then-best friend and the countless hours we’d spent playing “Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game” and “Super Wrestlemania” on his Super Nintendo.

Around that same time, I recall waking up one Saturday morning and turning it to the USA network for whatever reason to see Kane and Paul Bearer gleefully setting the exhumed corpses of Undertaker’s parents ablaze on the stage of Monday Night Raw. I had never seen anything like it…and I decided I was never going to miss it again.

Oh!–Where are my manners?

My name is Jeff Heatherly. You may know me from my work in the Camp Hope promotional video. You may more seriously recognize me from the comments sections of this very site. I’d like to welcome you to my new column here at Inside Pulse Wrestling: “Guys and Divas”.

So. I suppose the immediate question would be “What am I, the discerning reader of online wrestling pages to expect from you and a column with a beloved Broadway musical as the basis for its title?”.

Perhaps I should explain a bit about my philosophy, Jerry Maguire-style.

I call this segment…

“THE THINGS WE THINK AND DO NOT SAY”: A Mission Statement

You know when you’re a kid and you come up with some abstract idea that you think is completely original and revolutionary…

…and then you find out that toothpaste squeezers already exist and that your popsicle stick and rubber band concoction (aptly called TUBEY) isn’t going to change the way people brush their teeth any time soon?–Okay, that one may just be me.

But you get what I’m saying. Well, in this particular case, I was hardly a kid. I was 22 years old and a Junior(ish) at my university of choice. My former roommate and to-this-day best friend Nick was coming to visit before heading off for a semester abroad in the U.K. Knowing it to be a Monday night, Nick agreed to sample that week’s WWE Monday Night Raw for the first time in his life.

He picked a hell of a night.

It was the final Raw before Wrestlemania XXV. The big story of the night was the final build toward the WWE Championship match between Triple H and Randy Orton. Randy was taking the night off, we were told; and would be checking in periodically with live via satellite interviews from his home. Having watched professional wrestling for eleven years at this point, I had a pretty good idea where this was going. Fantastically, Nick did not.

As we neared the final segment, I was getting noticeably giddy. It was time for our main event; a two-on-one handicap match with Cody Rhodes & Ted Dibiase, Jr. taking on Triple H. Triple H was nowhere to be found and…well, you remember the rest.

Ah. Glorious. Nick’s approving laughter as The Game approximated Jack Nicholson in “The Shining” is a memory I will treasure forever.

This moment would never have been possible, were it not for a conversation a year prior; in which Nick asked me why a guy like me would watch what is often considered a trashy, silly, widely-mocked form of entertainment.

After a beat I responded, “I watch it for the writing.”

It was simple, it was brief and it said everything about why I’m sitting here today, a wrestling fan for 15 years and counting. I thought I had had the epiphany of a lifetime. I had found an explanation that would combat every cockeyed stare I’d ever received while walking about the world in black t-shirts adorned with shirtless men and chesty women striking tough poses and spouting cheesy catchphrases like “Who’s Next?” and “I’m Your Papi!”.

In truth, I’d discovered the IWC without ever having set a proverbial foot in it.

I’d like to think there is something unique about my perspective though. When I watch Monday Night Raw, I’m not watching a modern gladiatorial soap opera. I’m watching my friends put on a high school play. I’m watching a traveling theatre troupe tell wild stories through boisterous monologues and semi-choreographed fights. I’m watching a living comic book…and I’m loving every minute of it.

UFC figurehead Dana White was recently quoted as saying, “I think the WWE is one of those things you watch until you are like, 14 and then you move over to real fighting.” All due respect to Mr. White, but I think he missed the point by a mile.

When I started watching WWE, I was 11 years old. I was a shy, gawky kid with a big imagination and–not to toot my own horn–a big heart. I remember running into my living room the night Mick Foley “put butts in the seats” and won the WWE Championship, cheering loudly and feeling on top of the world. The colorful–if slightly deranged–hero in the tattered business attire and leather mask had won the day, and I was absolutely thrilled.

Here we are fifteen years later, and I felt a similar thrill watching Daniel Bryan win his first of two (already!) WWE Championships two months ago. Not because the “goatfaced” underdog had achieved his dream, but because a hard-working guy named Bryan Danielson had just reached the pinnacle of the industry he loves. Now, the “reality era” of the business aside, I think this meant more at 26 than Mankind’s Rocky-like victory did at 11.

This is because I believe WWE is an experience that ages like a fine wine. The older one gets, the more the facade of kayfabe is pulled back, and therein lies a much deeper story than Mr. White’s mixed martial artists could ever tell. Sure, there are those backstage horror stories of corporate jiggery-pokery (sometimes a little too much of the latter, if you know what I mean), but at the end of the day this is a group of men and women traveling the world practically every day of the year, reaching for brass rings both real and imagined; giving hope to viewers young and old. If Mankind can win the belt…if Daniel Bryan can win the belt…maybe a kid can survive the next day of junior high…and a 26-year-old can write a wrestling column on the internet and be part of one of the best pop cultural conversations around.

“I watch it for the writing.”

I stand by my statement.

…and I apologize for how rambly that got. Like the title says, it’s an origin story. You’ve got to let me climb the mountain and give Liam Neeson the blue flower before I can save Gotham, you dig?

With that in mind, let’s get to the real reason we’re all here. Seriously…what can you expect from “Guys and Divas”?

IN THE WEEKS AHEAD…

The basic framework is thus. Each week, I’ll appear on your screens with a three-fold look at the latest developments in the WWE Universe.

  • Segment 1: GUYS – In which I wax philosophical and opinionated on current events with the Superstars
  • Segment 2: DIVAS – (The reason I wanted to do this column) In which I wax EVEN MORE philosophical and opinionated on my favorite strong female protagonists on television, the Divas
  • Segment 3: THE BONUS BALL – In which anything goes (What does that mean?–Come back and find out!)

…and as Doug Benson says, “Final-all-ally…” the real purpose of this week’s column.

In case you just joined me, this whole shenanigan is called “Guys and DIVAS”. There’s a reason for that.

I’m a big fan of a female protagonist. Scan my DVD shelf and you’ll find a collection of amazing heroines like Buffy Summers, Sydney Bristow, Kara “Starbuck” Thrace and (here’s an obscure one) Helena “Huntress” Kyle. I hold these characters very dear to my heart; and right alongside them are names like Trish Stratus, Mickie James, Melina and Beth Phoenix.

In the past few years, I’ve been heartbroken to see the decline of the Divas division on television. We went from the high of Trish vs. Mickie to the embarrassment of inconsequential 10-Diva tag matches, where the only distinction between heels and faces was a smile or a scowl. From the embarrassment of the commentary team’s utter ignorance during the all-Diva season of “NXT” to the all-too-brief WWE career of Kharma…what can I say?–It’s been tough.

Just as heartbreaking (if not, slightly more) was the decline in Diva coverage on the internet. It pained me to read recap after recap, live-tweet after live-tweet of (mostly) men declaring any and all Diva segments their “pee break”; to hear scuzzy alpha males chortle at jokes about the Bellas and Johnny Ace’s alleged backstage hot tub meetings; to watch some of the strongest female characters in current fiction be derided into oblivion.

Let it be known: YOU WON’T FIND THAT HERE.

Now, thankfully with the advent of AJ Lee (my spirit animal) and the popularity of E!’s “Total Divas”, there seems to be a cavalcade of wonderful promising things on the horizon and I couldn’t be happier about that.

It’s in that spirit that I bring you the final segment of this week’s “Guys and Divas”. Let’s take a look at the current WWE Diva roster and find the strengths (and admitted weaknesses) of today’s crop of sports entertainment super-women.

¡VIVA LA DIVA!: THE BEST AND BRIGHTEST OF TODAY AND TOMORROW

AJ LEE

Well…let’s just get right to it then!

She’s the glue that holds the entire division together. There. I said it. I know I’m not the first to, but I also know that there is a growing, very verbal minority who want to take away the power of her rise not just as a champion, but as one of the key faces of the entire company; who want to attribute her success only to the Superstars with whom she’s been aligned over the past two years.

I think a majority of us can agree, it was AJ that made those pairings work and not the other way around. You wouldn’t give Brad Pitt and Spencer Tracy all the credit for the successes of Angelina Jolie and Katherine Hepburn, would you?

She’s adorable, witty, funny, crazy. She’s great in the ring and fantastic on the mic. She’s a compelling underdog as a face and a believable threat as a heel. Add in quite possibly the most innovative and exciting finishers in the entire company (The Black Widow) and you’ve got a legend in the making.

We always hear she idolized Lita. I can’t wait to see the girls who idolize her. Simply put, AJ Lee is a star.

***
AKSANA

(Now, here’s the part where the length of the blurb for each Diva will become very telling.)

Aksana.

Aksana.

Aksana, Aksana, Aksana.

At the very least, I’m glad she’s left behind the bleach-blonde Lithuanian heiress gimmick and the role of sultry golddigger who comes complete with her own late-night Cinemax saxophone score. The fact of the matter, here’s a girl who’s been on our screens for a little over three years (if I’m not mistaken) and we still know next to nothing about what she’s really capable of. Fingers crossed that the recent rise in Diva activity could work in her favor, but as of right now, she’s like Yoshi Tatsu; you know she’s still there but you have no idea what she’s up to.

Other than her new short hair, which is ADORABLE.

***

ALICIA FOX

The show’s blatant attempts to turn her into the African-American Maria Kanellis aside, I’ve always quite liked Alicia. Sure, she’s seen her share of flubs (she’ll always be our “undefined” champion), but even in limited doses she’s always impressed me in the ring.

Now, if only the writers could decide whether she’s a face or a heel and just…stick with it for a while. Oh, and lose the Spirit Hoods. They’re just tacky.

***

THE BELLAS

Two years ago, I genuinely disliked the Bellas. Like, violently so. I found them useless, cringeworthy, unnecessary…just awful.

What a difference getting to know someone makes.

“Total Divas” is a gamechanger for myriad reasons, not the least of which being–the manipulativeness of reality television editing aside–that it’s given us an unprecedented look at what goes into the making of this show we all love, and the humanity of the people who bring it to us.

As (for lack of a better term) commoners, we often hold celebrities up to impossible standards. We expect a level of perfection and class that we ourselves cannot always live up to. We forget that in most cases, our matinee idols and worldly heroes were born into lives just like ours.

Brie Bella is a witty hippie chick. Nikki Bella is a total girly-girl. Yes, they have their foibles but so do people we know and adore in our daily lives. Watching the real-life adventures of Brie and her new fiance Bryan, I think of earthy folksy girls I knew in college. Watching Nikki live it up in John Cena’s insanely large mansion, I think of the fun-loving, catty girls I knew in high school.

We know these girls, and thankfully it looks like the writers know that we know them. Just this past Monday, watching Brie run to ringside to kneel beside her fallen fiance as we faded to black, I let out an audible swooning sigh. (On a related note, if Brie changes her stage name to Brie Bryan after the wedding, I may need to be hospitalized due to excessive preciousness.)

Brie. Nikki. I dig the cut of your jibs. (PHRASING!)

***

EVA MARIE

I may need to take back my earlier statement of universal affection for WWE Superstars and Divas.

Just as “Total Divas” showed me how to stop worrying and love the Bellas, it also introduced me to…just the worst type of person; a person named Eva Marie. From her run-ins with the creepy, middle-aged, bowl-cut woman who’s apparently in charge of the Divas (viewers know what I’m talking about) to showing off her “dance experience” with Fandango to her snobby, take-no-prisoners attitude toward fellow newbie JoJo…I just don’t know about her.

Her hair is amazing, though. There’s no denying that.

***

THE FUNKADACTYLS

When Brodus Clay redebuted last January as the Funkasaurus, we were given a bounty of gifts. Dance numbers! An absurd(ly catchy) theme song! A mirror ball! Creepy celebrations with local children! (Okay, maybe not that last one.)

Then there were his heralds. One, an infamous former “Tough Enough” castoff; the other, a badass up-and-comer from the developmentals. The former (Cameron) had a nice smile and a lot of energy and I took a pretty quick shine to her. The latter (Naomi) remained a mystery to me.

Then, reports started making the rounds: this girl’s pretty good in the ring. WHAT?!–Stealing a house show in a one-on-one with Natalya? Who is this lady?

In an ideal world, Naomi would be a perennial contender for the Divas Championship, and Cameron her flashy hype-woman. Let’s look forward to such things together, shall we?

***

JOJO

Guys. She’s 19. I FEEL SO OLD!

The adorable frizzy-haired honorary Funkadactyl who shares a last name with TV’s Ron Swanson.

Let’s see where this goes.

***

KAITLYN

First things first: WHERE THE HECK DID SHE GO?

True story: a few weeks ago, I headed over to WWEShop.com to look over all the new merchandise. As you can guess, I grow more and more pleased at the sight of so much Divas gear hitting the digital shelves…but when I got to Kaitlyn’s page, I noticed something.

Everything was on sale.

I felt a genuine panic attack kicking in as I scanned the internet for any information on if WWE had (foolishly) let her go. Nothing to be found. I clicked article after article, site after site, and finally came back to that intimidating screen where “8th Militia” shirts were 20% off. Setting my worries aside, I clicked on the catch-all Divas merchandise page…

…where EVERYTHING WAS ON SALE.

“WHAT IS GOING ON?!” I hyperventilated. I went outside to get some air…and came to terms with the giant mistake my beloved WWE was about to make.

I came back in and sat down in front of my computer…and tilted my gaze up ever so slightly.

“TODAY ONLY! ALL DIVAS MERCHANDISE 20% OFF!” read the brightly-colored banner at the top of the screen.

I slumped down in my seat and let out a deep sigh of relief. “Well,” I thought, “I’m certainly an ass.”

I tell you that story to tell you just how important I believe Kaitlyn to be for the health and future success of the Divas division. For every Lita, there needs to be a Trish. For every AJ, there needs to be a Kaitlyn.

It’s a common comparison. Everyone’s made it. The blonde hair, the dedication to fitness, the smile that melts you to a puddle on sight, the everygirl charm…the former bodybuilder shares all these qualities with our favorite new Canadian mommy/WWE Hall of Famer.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad to see Brie Bella get a shot at the Divas Title this Sunday at Battleground…but as a recent WWE.com poll can attest, I and many others could watch our favorite former best friends duke it out one more time.

Stay with us, Kaitlyn. We need you.

***

LAYLA

First order of business: GET THIS WOMAN A NEW THEME SONG.

When someone is the de facto elder stateswoman of your entire division, you’d think the folks in Stanford could kick Jim Johnston a few sheckles to give her something, ANYTHING better than a hand-me-down ditty from forgettable Divas past.

That out of the way, what can I say?–I adore Layla. I’m a sucker for a British accent and there’s no denying it: lady can go.

Unfortunately, it seems she’s been a tad adrift since her longtime partner Michelle McCool beat an early retirement. Like Homer Simpson once said of himself, she sometimes seems “like David Spade without Chris Farley; alone and useless.”

I had a moment of hope when she was (admittedly, somewhat haphazardly) paired with AJ about a month ago…but that proved pretty fruitless, now didn’t it?

We all know Miss El is capable of great things. I’ll keep my fingers crossed we see some of them soon.

***

NATALYA

Another reason to be thankful for “Total Divas”: it got the most technically-proficient woman in the Divas division off the arm of the oafish Great Khali. (Although, her dresses were always super-cute during those matches.)

If there’s an argument for splitting the Divas roster by brand and bringing back the Womens Championship, here she is. True, the whole division is in a bit of a rebuilding season, but that the Anvil’s daughter has only held the butterfly belt once to date is preposterous.

I’m not a fool. I know; all things in good time…but Natalya’s so good, it makes me impatient.

***

ROSA MENDES

If you see her anywhere, tell her I think she’s fabulous and I miss her.

***

SUMMER RAE

“Mrs. Fandango” is so adorable, even my girlfriend swoons at the sight of her.

I am admittedly a bit behind on the new NXT, but from what I hear, our girl’s much more than just a pretty face and some dancer’s legs. Something about her silent movie queen facial expressions to her intoxicating smile has already endeared me deeply, and what can I say?–I want to watch her hit someone.

In the meantime, keep chanting for her, everybody. I’m glad we all see something special.

***

TAMINA SNUKA

I can’t gush enough about how pleased I am to see our Samoan Warrior Princess playing AJ’s heavy these past few weeks.

Tamina is as close to a real-life superhero as the Divas division has. I had the distinct pleasure of seeing her live a few months ago at a Raw taping. Watching her dive from the top rope for the Superfly Splash brought forth audible gasps and made my aforementioned girlfriend an instant fan.

Keep this lady around, WWE.

…and long story short (too late), so ends the first edition of “Guys ands Divas”. I assure you, dear reader; future installments will rarely–if ever–be this lengthy.

I’d like to thank Inside Pulse’s CB and Chris Sanders for their help and support in getting me started here, and thank Mr. Sanders and his partner Joel Leonard over at the “Classy Ring Attire” podcast for helping spread the word about this column during their always-fantastic Monday Night Raw live-tweet this week. They are ace characters, all.

Join me this and every Monday night for my very own Raw live-tweet (follow @biscuitman18–THAT’S ME!; and use the hashtag #GuysAndDivas for extra fun) and look for me in the Inside Pulse Wrestling comments sections, as always.

Until next Wednesday, kids! I’m Jeff Heatherly saying, “I really need a catchphrase.”
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10 Thoughts: WWE Smackdown 6.14.13 (Chris Jericho, The Shield, Antonio Cesaro) http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/06/16/10-thoughts-wwe-smackdown-6-14-13-chris-jericho-the-shield-antonio-cesaro/ http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/06/16/10-thoughts-wwe-smackdown-6-14-13-chris-jericho-the-shield-antonio-cesaro/#comments Sun, 16 Jun 2013 06:17:23 +0000 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/?p=157281 Just three days from Payback, did the WWE do anything more to help sell this filler Pay Per View?

1. Daniel Bryan deserved to be pushed to the moon more than anyone on the roster other then The Shield. The benefit with Bryan is he is one of the few guys the WWE has that can work well as a heel or babyface.

2. Even though Antonio Cesaro is 1-2 in his return to being used on television fans of his, myself included, have to be excited to see the Swiss Superstar back against main event caliber guys. I still will never understand why he isn’t good enough for Vince McMahon? He has one of the best looks, works amazingly in the ring, and can talk with the best of them. There has to be some underlining heat somewhere, right?

3. Why am I not surprised, Dolph Ziggler has been gone for 30 days and in that time did the WWE think about how they could improve Ziggler? No in fact, the night he returns to help sell this pay per view and he loses clean on a roll up, a ROLL UP? Wow, no one can match how the WWE buries their own talent.

4. What’s more entertaining than watching a Heath Slater and Great Khali match? Being a fly on the wall when they finally get released, because that time has come a long, long time ago.

5. I can’t believe the WWE is actually advancing another Diva’s character. Kaitlyn may not be as good as AJ, she isn’t that far behind. I just hope after she drops the Divas Championship to AJ at Payback she doesn’t become another diva sitting in catering, not eating. JK

6. I do love Curtis Axel, and I think he has a lot of potential but this character could of been Wade Barrett, Fandango and other countless mid card guys who were pushed and then nothing. Giving the Intercontinental Championship to Axel is a step in the right direction. Maybe he can rejuvenate a division that used to be the stepping stone to the WWE Title. Now a days, it just another pointless feud mixed into between John Cena and WWE App promos.

7. I was already excited to watch the Triple Threat Match for the Intercontinental Title but after the match between Barrett and Axel I am completely sold. The Miz seems to be the weak link, if you will, in this feud. I would make rather see a post Barrett-Axel feud than Miz-Axel. I was a fan of The Miz, but it just doesn’t seem like his heart is into wrestling anymore.

8. Another solid Six Man Tag Team Match from the WWE. To think one of the few things TNA did better than the WWE, and bam, the last few months has had a lot of great matches involving The Shield and fill in the blank with babyfaces. God would I POP for a Shield v. Austin Aries, Bobby Roode & Chris Saban match. Oh well, back to reality.

9. If anyone has a problem with The Shield losing clean and or losing clean on Smackdown is just over thinking wrestling. Some suspense was needed to be built for the Tag Team Titles Match, with a win over The Shield the suspense of the titles could change hands has now been built. The Shield doesn’t look weak at all, they are still the number one force in the WWE.

10. Other than the Divas stuff on Raw, Smackdown did a match better job of selling the under card of Payback; because I know if you are reading this there is no way in hell you are buying to see the 3 Stages of Hell Match. I will be live tweeting this Sunday so come say hi @CamDougharty
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CE’s Final “Wallpaper Of The Week” Poll http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/05/28/ces-final-wallpaper-of-the-week-poll/ http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/05/28/ces-final-wallpaper-of-the-week-poll/#comments Tue, 28 May 2013 18:37:09 +0000 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/?p=156842 So, as this is the last week for Creatively Endeavored in its current incarnation, I wanted to create something that all the readers & followers of this site would like to see. Typically for our weekly graphics I choose someone or something that is the biggest story of the week but it seems as if I am just rehashing the same talents repeatedly.

So I want to hear from all of you.

I want to try something different, sort of bracket voting to whatever the majority would like to see. We’ll start first with just a general poll. Then we’ll break down the results of that poll into another one to get the final idea for the last Creatively Endeavored “Wallpaper Of The Week” & the very first HTC Wrestling “Wallpaper Of The Week”! I’d like to get this done before the launch of the new website on Sunday so I’ll be keeping the first poll open until Thursday around noon and then the second poll open until Saturday morning around 10am.

If there are any specific ideas you would like to see, I IMPLORE you to start a discussion below. Like I said, I’m flat-out of ideas, so any ideas would be great!

Here’s the first poll that will close on Thursday 5/30 around 12pm:


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E! Network to Air New WWE Divas Reality Series “Total Divas” http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/04/22/e-network-to-air-new-wwe-divas-reality-series-total-divas/ http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/04/22/e-network-to-air-new-wwe-divas-reality-series-total-divas/#comments Mon, 22 Apr 2013 21:16:31 +0000 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/?p=155941 This summer, the E! Network will broadcast the WWE reality series “Total Divas”, which was originally slated for the WWE Network. WWE.com’s description of the show is as follows:

“The show will highlight the lives of five current WWE Divas — Natalya, The Bella Twins and The Funkadactyls — and hit the ground running, following a tag team match between The Bellas and Funkadactyls on the last Raw before WrestleMania 29. The show will follow the lives of WWE’s women as they travel around the country, living, loving and competing along the way. Viewers will also be introduced to Eva Marie and Jo-Jo Offerman, two prospective new Divas who have yet to earn their stripes, and will be tested along the way before they’re accepted into WWE’s prestigious women’s corps.”
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WWE’s Top 10 Diva WrestleMania Moments (Chyna, Trish Stratus, Molly Holly, Wendi Richter) http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/03/09/wwes-top-10-diva-wrestlemania-moments-chyna-trish-stratus-molly-holly-wendi-richter/ http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2013/03/09/wwes-top-10-diva-wrestlemania-moments-chyna-trish-stratus-molly-holly-wendi-richter/#comments Sat, 09 Mar 2013 20:07:42 +0000 http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/?p=154359 Enjoy WWE’s Top 10 Diva Mania Moments:

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