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Dolph Ziggler, Randy Orton Face Turn and Other WWE Thoughts

October 29, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

I have to hand it to the creative team that put together Monday Night Raw. For the first time in ages, I was engaged and excited about the program, the matches and the dialogue.

Randy Orton stole the show early on, Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose kept the momentum rolling and when we all needed a solid dismount, John Cena and Seth Rollins killed it.

That, my friends, is how you kick off Raw after a pay-per-view event. And now – on to Survivor Series. The WWE did a great job on Sunday night of making matches that were entertaining and mattered to the current state of the company and by doing so, it created something we really have not seen in quite a while – DRAMA.

Every match with the exception of the Bo Dallas-Mark Henry and Sheamus-Miz matches, everything was a solid “B” or “A” on the card. Maybe Triple H found some of Vince McMahon’s stroke and dipped back into the time machine and found the formula for building great pay-per-view events.

And while we are on the subject of building greatness, has anyone noticed the WWE is creating the rebirth (again) of Dolph Ziggler as a major star to be reckoned with?

Until the two main event matches, Ziggler and Cesaro was in fact the best match of the night. Hopefully this is the spot where Ziggler, a two-time world champion, takes his career to the next level.

A few years ago, someone asked me if Ziggler could be the next Shawn Michaels. The similarities were there and at the time, there wasn’t a harder worker in the WWE – pre Daniel Bryan days. But thinking on it now, Ziggler should be – as all WWE superstars – his own man. Yes, I see some Michaels in him, but I also see some Roddy Piper, Chris Jericho and even some Randy Savage in him. I also – and this is a huge compliment – see a young Stunning Steve Austin in him. For those reasons alone, Ziggler could carry the WWE, if Triple H, Stephanie and Vinnie Mac would let him.

Since 2008, he has won the United States Championship once, the Intercontinental Championship three times, and was the 2012 Money in the Bank winner. He is also a two-time world champion, having held the World Heavyweight Championship twice.

ORTON MAKES HIS MOVE

If I am a betting man. Survivor Series will be Randy Orton’s crossing over party.

The Survivor Series teams will build week by week. Orton will be the final piece of the puzzle, and The Authority will clamor it was everything in the bag – then we see the famous “revelation” that Orton is pissed at how he has been treated.

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE TAG TEAMS?

Now that Mark Henry has made his move (like we did not see it coming) will there be another super-sized tag team? The move against Big Show on Monday night should have happened on Sunday night at the pay-per-view, but fans got a free look at the heel turn. Will Ryback, who came back to the WWE Monday night, become the fan favorite again – possibly forming another tag team?

Also, where have Luke Harper and Erick Rowan been? I know the Wyatt Family is basically disbanded, but there is a place for both of them in the tag team division.

THE WYATT WAY

Now that Bray Wyatt is back and has set his sights on Dean Ambrose, the WWE fan will see one hellacious feud. Both wrestlers can tear down the house by themselves. Think of what will happen between spots on the mic and action in the ring.

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Five WWE SmackDown 15 Taping Takeaways

October 08, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

I attended the WWE SmackDown 15 taping in Philadelphia, PA this week with my niece (Hi Alyssa) and brother-in-law. Rather than give you the typical spoiler rundown of the results, I thought it would be more interesting to give you some quick takeaways from the big anniversary event.

One thing I should note before I get into the takeaways and news from Tuesday’s taping is that this was the first WWE live event I have attended in 15 years. Ironically the last event was a SmackDown taping in Trenton, NJ. Needless to say the presentation is entirely different as we are talking Attitude Era vs. PG era WWE. So with that in mind, here are my five takeaways from the big anniversary event.

So that was an anniversary show? – I have to admit I got pretty excited when news broke that the Tuesday taping was going to be presented as the 15th anniversary event. I look back at the big RAW milestone shows and they were always full of surprises and big matches. I expected the same Tuesday, especially with 15 years to celebrate. What I got instead was nothing more than an ordinary SmackDown show with some very minor surprise.

The “celebration” was disappointing. I expected much more. The biggest surprises were the returns of Teddy Long and John Laurinitus. That was it! Sure, you got The Rock in a tremendous taped segment with Triple H but that was the extent of it. Expenses were certainly mitigated here as the WWE didn’t even bring Hulk Hogan back for the event. I think I’ll temper expectations for future anniversary events.

Strange timing for a NHB Ladder Match at Hell in a Cell. – In case you missed it, a stipulation was added to the John Cena vs. Dean Ambrose at Hell in a Cell. The match will not only be a No Holds Barred Match, but it will also be a ladder match as the winner must grab a contract to wrestle Seth Rollins which will hung above the ring. This screams of a lack of creativity from the WWE. It is very reminiscent of WCW and TNA when they’d just throw stipulation matches around with little reason or regard for future booking.

The stipulation would be fine if not for two important factors. The first factor being that it will take place on Hell in a Cell. Isn’t the HIAC enough to draw viewers to the $9.99 WWE Network? The second and most important factor is that the next special event is Tables, Ladders, and Chairs. Why in the world would you book this the month before you are trying to sell an entire show based on that very same concept? Overall it just seems like a case of poor planning to me.

Dolph Ziggler is a machine! – I walked into the show as Ziggler was wrestling Bo Dallas. I think we can all agree that Bo is nothing special in the ring. I am sure he is a nice guy but he isn’t what I’d call a Blue Chipper or standout. Yet Dolph made this kid look like a million bucks. Dolph worked like a maniac throughout the match, running and bumping like he was working the WrestleMania main-event. I have always been a fan but seeing him live gave me more of an appreciation for how talented he really is. I don’t know what this guy did to get on the boss’ wrong side but he deserves a lot more than what he has gotten the last year.

Why in the world is The Rock hanging out with Triple H? – I don’t want to spoil too much but The Rock taped a segment which will air on SmackDown in which he walks into Triple H’s dressing room to reminisce with the Game. The segment is one of the best I have seen on WWE television in months, and credit goes to both men for that. Rock and Triple H argue a bit about their past rivalry and then start pontificating about a future WrestleMania match. The segment ends with Stephanie walking back in the dressing room, calming them down, and then sending them both off to eat dinner together. In the words of Steve Austin, “What?”!

This goes back to a blog I wrote several weeks ago about the WWE wanting it both ways with Stephanie and Hunter. One minute they are the dastardly authority figures screwing with John Cena and Dean Ambrose and the very next night they are going to dinner with arguably the most popular star in the WWE. That makes zero sense to me! Additionally, why would a character like The Rock be going to dinner with the guy cheating the fans and screwing the heroes? As great as this segment was and it was tremendous it made zero sense to me.

Dean Ambrose is the future WrestleMania headliner, not Roman Reigns. – The WWE really have something with Dean Ambrose. As much as we all hate the idea of someone losing their spot due to injury, the timing of Roman Reigns’ injury is the opportunity that Ambrose needed. The fans in Philadelphia just loved him and he was far and away the most popular wrestler of the night.

I think it is becoming more evident by the week that it is Ambrose, not Reigns who should be the future of this company. He certainly isn’t the prototypical WWE superstar that Vince and Triple H would choose to be the face of their company. However, he has something that no other babyface has had in years. He is authentic and he is someone the fans can relate to. Even CM Punk as popular as he was in 2011 lacked the authenticity that Ambrose has. Quite frankly I never expected the jeans look to work for the guy but what it has done is make him something of a common man. There is a lot of Stone Cold Steve Austin in Dean Ambrose and that is something the company has not had in many years.

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Dolph Ziggler Talks WWE I-C Title, Goals, and More

October 06, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

I know Dolph Ziggler is great, you know Dolph Ziggler is great, his peers know Dolph Ziggler is great, and Dolph knows Dolph Ziggler is great. Dolph is not only supremely confident but according to a recent interview, he is on a quest to become the greatest WWE performer ever.

The frustrations of following Dolph Ziggler’s career in the WWE have been expressed almost daily on social media by pro wrestling fans far and wide. Yet Dolph continues to persevere and fight through them. Yet through it all Ziggler remains confident in his abilities thanks to the numerous accolades he has received in and out of the business.

I get a lot (praise) of it from legends, I get a lot of it from my peers backstage, I get a lot of it from my bosses backstage,” Ziggler told philly.com. “People recognize when someone is awesome at something and I’m not going to pretend to be humble about it. I’m very vocal about it. I’m good at this. I’m real good and one day when I finish I may be the best ever, but right now, everyone talking in my ear is just fun.

The guy definitely seems to have a great attitude about things. I have seen dozens of talented wrestlers crack under the pressure of stress known as the WWE political landscape. Ziggler would have every right to be one of those guys. Instead, Ziggler is channeling these booking mishaps into opportunities. According to Ziggler, there are more reasons to account for his roller coaster booking than simply his talents.

It’s good and its bad,” Ziggler said. “Sometimes it sucks that people have to wait for years of having the best match on the card, getting some of the best reactions and you’re not at the top.

Sometimes, that doesn’t matter”. “It doesn’t matter about talent, it doesn’t matter the situation. It matters where the storyline is going.

I think that is the biggest point of frustration that Ziggler’s fans have. His fans and even critics, recognize the amount of talent he brings to the ring with him nightly. He is arguably the most talented in-ring performer in the WWE. Yet the WWE continue to book him in these situations that do absolutely nothing to elevate his career.

Finally, Ziggler talks a bit about his current run as WWE intercontinental champion. Back when I was a kid the I-C title had almost as much prestige (depending upon who was holding it) as the world title. Today, the title has lost a lot of that luster. Ziggler is on a mission to bring credibility and integrity back to the title.

Right now, that is not the case, but hopefully it will be in due time ” he added. “People were complaining that the title wasn’t prestigious enough are now the same people are now complaining that in three weeks I’ve defended six times. You can’t have both, but I love it. I live for it. I live to fight every single day and outdo myself.

Hopefully, with the passion that I have and that the fans have toward this title we could get there, but it’s going to take some time.

I think old school fans like myself would all love to see some prestige brought back to the I-C title. Growing up I would often see the intercontinental title featured on the WWF house shows. Today it is lucky to even have a spot on those shows. That said, I don’t think there is any better choice than Ziggler to help elevate that title.

Read the entire interview over at Philly.com.

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Dolph Ziggler Is Becoming Hard To Root For

September 22, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Ever since the days of the Attitude Era, it’s become harder and harder to distinguish what a “good guy” is in the world of wrestling.

With the inception of that era, gone were the traditional bubble gum good guys telling you to say your prayers and take your vitamins. There was no black and white, merely different shades of grey in which everyone operated. It was the time of the anti-hero.

All these years later, nothing has changed. The bad guys are often the ones with the fairest points and the most logic while the good guys are the ones making dick jokes and antagonizing the bad guys who either committed marginal wrongs or none at all. They are hypocritical, egotistical and behave like your average bro at a brodown.

With that in mind, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to cheer for someone like Dolph Ziggler.

When Ziggler is playing the heel, it’s perfect for him. He gets to be arrogant, smarmy and dickish because that’s how he’s supposed to be behaving. It’s how an a**hole would behave and that’s what he’s supposed to be.

But when he’s supposed to be a good guy and keeps playing that exact same character? It just doesn’t work. You can’t be snarky and hypocritical and expect regular wrestling fans to cheer for you. Sure, the smarks will get behind you, but the average fan operates on a good vs bad basis and in that scenario, there’s nothing good about the character.

Take for example the bit Ziggler did recently where he came into possession of “leaked” photos of The Miz. Firstly, it was an awful play on the recent celebrity nude photo scandal, but that isn’t so much Ziggler’s fault as WWE being hilariously inept at being topical. No, the bad part came when Ziggler, who is covered in tanner and has no body hair, laughed at the Miz for tanning and shaving his chest. Again, this is a good guy. Why would you cheer for this guy when he’s basically asking you to ignore the logic sitting right in front of you?

More importantly, Dolph Ziggler doesn’t really seem to have a character anymore unless that character is “just be a d*ck to everyone and get cheers for it”. There’s no motivation to his character, no direction. He’s just there to crack bad jokes and point out how gay the bad guy is because “lol he’s gay”, am I right? It’s the dichotomy of the WWE face.

The only thing saving a guy like Ziggler for someone like me is the fact that he’s still aces in the ring. He’s got that momentum to him that Daniel Bryan had where every one of his matches feel bigger and Ziggler is flying around the ring at 100mph like every move means something. Before, he was just there to sell and get in the occasional move. Now, he still bumps his ass off, selling moves like he’s been shot, but he’s starting to make his offense look meaningful and important.

I’m starting to turn on Ziggler and will likely continue doing so until he has some sort of character shift. Unless, of course, he continues his run as Intercontinental Champion and makes that belt worth something again. Then maybe I can forgive his recent character behavior.

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Stephanie McMahon, Raw and Other WWE Thoughts

July 30, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Either the WWE did the smartest thing this year in turning Stephanie McMahon vs. Brie Bella into a main event match, or the company is struggling so much it is hoping for any kind of ratings to boost failing story ideas.  The segment Monday night with Stephanie and Brie was so reminiscent of the inner workings of “daddy” Vince McMahon it was sick.

And oh, so salacious.

The best thing about seeing something like this is the fact that – although the company does not see it the same way – but a new form of the “Attitude Era” has returned to Monday night.

Hallelujah!

It could also become the precursor to the return of Daniel Bryan – who while not in the picture for the WWE World Title, challenging the Authority and Triple H is something that produces two things – the almighty dollar at the gate and of course – RATINGS!

Could this also mean that the Chairman of the Board is behind the controls again of the circus and would this lead to Vinnie Mac making a return to television on a regular basis? I have written about how Triple H the COO of the WWE and Triple the wrestler are two entities who – in my opinion – are on opposite ends of the wrestling spectrum. Stephanie actually makes a more believable character to watch, mainly because she is cut from the same cloth as her father and although it has been 10 years since she has been in a ring in competition – seeing a McMahon fight someone like Brie Bella or another member of the McMahon family is worth its weight in RATINGS.

GREAT SHOWING BY ORTON

Just when you thought Randy Orton would become the cancer that spoils Roman Reigns march up the WWE ladder, the two put on one heck of a display in Houston. Orton, as it appeared, was the subject of rumors of halting Reigns title shot, like he has done in the past with other WWE superstars.

Kofi Kingston is the most notable wrestler who has felt the “wrath” of Orton, who has been known to pout until he gets his way. Why Orton has all the stroke is beyond me.

But in terms of entertainment and value to a story line that needs to remain fresh until SummerSlam, these two keep it coming.

ZIGGLER’S WORLD

I think a feud (without the Usos) between Dolph Ziggler and The Miz could be a summer classic – if the WWE allows it to become one.

So many times the framework for a great program is set and after a pay-per-view or two, the company and its writers push the envelope and wrestlers leave for other pastures. Ziggler and Miz (who I think would be an awesome tag team as well) are thrill-a-minute fun where both could be a mid-level champion. S

ince there is some thought that a unification may eventually happen, does the WWE want Sheamus to confront The Miz or Ziggler – because ultimately, the winner would come back to face Wade Barrett at some point.

LESNAR VS. CENA = BORING!

Now that the gauntlets have been dropped, let the boring promos begin.

When Lesnar entered the arena last week, the only thing exciting was the idea of watching Paul Heyman and his shtick, which is the best thing going today. Lesnar is as mechanical as RobCop and as boring as some of the shows on E! Entertainment.

Cena is the same song and dance and while he looks all bad and talked a tough fight Monday, there is nothing about this matchup that is exciting – since we already know who will walk away with the title in Los Angeles.

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WWE Half-Year Predictions For 2014

July 01, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

There is still plenty of time to go in 2014 as we cross the halfway mark. Thus far it has been one of the least predictable years in recent memory. What other shockers and/or surprises await the WWE Universe? Let’s dust off the crystal ball and see if the rest of 2014 will be full of just as unpredictable.

If you were to make predictions at the start of 2014, I would have missed out on some of the bigger stories of the year. Would you have predicted that Daniel Bryan would ascend at WrestleMania only to lose the title due to a legitimate injury? Would you have predicted that Seth Rollins would be the one to turn on the Shield and unite with Triple H? Would you have predicted that the Shield going over Evolution twice? Would anyone have predicted that CM Punk would walk out and retire within the first 30 days of 2014? Maybe you would and maybe you wouldn’t but it is fair to say that most of the big stunners were missed.

Dolph Ziggler will get a push - The pressure is starting to mount. Recent reports reveal that Ric Flair has gone to management and suggested they push Ziggler. The voices are growing and the sounds of fan support get louder and louder every time he is in the ring. He is hands down one of the most talented guys they have inside the ring and rarely if ever has a bad match. Why he isn’t utilized more is one of wrestling’s biggest mysteries. I think it happens, not at the top, but more mid-upper mid card by year’s end…at least I hope it does.

CM Punk will not be back - I think it is time to close the door and throw away the key. If Punk ever comes back it isn’t going to happen for awhile. We have all heard the different theories on why he walked but have yet to hear it directly from the horse’s mouth. Punk’s colleagues continue to predict his return, yet those who know him best say otherwise. The irony is that Punk probably walked at one of the most inopportune times during his WWE career. With Daniel Bryan out, Cena stale, and the new crop of babyfaces not quite ready for the top spot, he would have had the run of the kingdom up top if he stuck around. He knows that and the fact he’s still not here tells you he doesn’t care. I think the next time you see him in a ring will be on some indepdent show for charity or having fun with his friends. It won’t be in a WWE ring.

Kurt Angle will be back - Punk may not be back but I am betting that Kurt Angle will be back. I will be the first to admit that this is more wishful thinking than anything else. The WWE have a new class of young stars ready to ascend to the next level. Unfortunately what they don’t have are many established veterans to put them over and give them that stamp of approval. Angle provides that in and out of the ring. Angle’s outside of the ring troubles are certainly cause for concern and those issues will likely be the only thing that prevents his return. He is still one of the most entertaining personalities in the business and when he is on in the ring, he is on. It all boils down to how big of a gamble the WWE want to take on him. I think they go all in!

Dean Ambrose will make a bigger imapct than Roman Reigns - It is no secret that Roman Reigns is the “chosen one” to become the next John Cena according to numerous reports. Yet it would appear at this point that his biggest threat is coming from his old Shield teammate Dean Ambrose. In the few weeks that Ambrose has gotten time as a singles, he has consistently delivered the best promos among the wrestlers in the company, only second overall to Paul Heyman. In the ring he has more charisma and versatility than Reigns and has more of the tools to produce long, main-events on the special events. It is going to be real interesting come December which is when we’ll have an idea who is being positioned for the WrestleMania spot. As of now all of the money is on Reigns. The more I hear Dean talk and the more I see him in singles action the more I think that could change.

Daniel Bryan will not have another WWE title run - This isn’t much of a bold prediction but it appears that Bryan won’t be stepping back in the ring any time soon. The decision has yet to be made as to whether he will need a second surgery so I am basing this on Bryan coming back without a second surgery needed. I think the ship has sailed on Bryan and the WWE are moving forward with Reigns, Ambrose, Rollins, and Wyatt which leaves Bryan out in the cold. The Yes Movement was lightning in a bottle and you can already hear the chants getting softer. The WWE finally has their out and Bryan was never their guy. This isn’t to say that Bryan won’t get another title run in 2015 or 16, I just don’t see it happening in ’14 if he does return to the WWE rings.

Bray Wyatt will be a top babyface - The booking of Wyatt has been one of the strangest WWE creatives in awhile. He was pushed to be one of the top heels of the company yet he’s been booked like a babyface. This all came full circle at Money in the Bank when he received one of the biggest reactions upon his entrance to the match. I will be the first to admit that I missed this one. I never expected a character like this to resonate with fans but I am dead wrong. The people absolutely love him. Reigns not only has to worry about Ambrose nipping at his heels, he has to worry about Bray. I predict Bray goes full-fledged babyface by year’s end and goes into the Rumble as one of the top five favorites.

Prince Devitt and Kenta will not live up their potentials - The news is out and it appears that these two international stars are WWE bound. The WWE are scheduled to hold a press conference to announce the signing of Kenta in a few weeks. Does this sound familiar? These guys are both two incredibly talented wrestlers but that was outside of the WWE. I think the track record is pretty clear on how these kind of international stars fare in the WWE. They don’t do well. The only guy to break the mold in recent years was Rey Mysterio and he had a fresh coat of WCW seasoning on him. Maybe they live up to their potentials down the line but I think that these guys have a ton of hard work ahead of them to do so. It won’t happen this year and it may not happen at all which is a damn shame.

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3 Simple Steps to Fixing the WWE Undercard

June 17, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

The top of the card in WWE is producing some top quality storylines at the moment. With Seth Rollins heel turn and the World Heavyweight Championship saga, there are some exciting things happening. However, the undercard isn’t quite as stimulating. In fact, it’s downright boring.

Go ahead, name the most exciting thing about the undercard. Rusev’s semi-racist weekly destruction of minorities? Cody Rhodes picking horrible tag team partners for Goldust? Wondering how R-Truth wasn’t on the latest “future endeavored” list? With the exception of the antics of Bo Dallas (I am an unabashed Bo-liever), everything on the undercard makes me thankful I watch RAW on DVR. The creative team doesn’t seem to bother giving the undercard wrestlers and secondary championships any attention when it comes to creating interesting storylines for them or developing their characters. If they don’t care about these guys, then why should the fans?

It wasn’t always this way. Go back to the “boom periods” of the Rock and Wrestling Era and Attitude Era, and you’ll notice that one major advantage those time periods had was that the undercard was far superior to the current product. This isn’t due to the current product having less talent. There is arguably as much talent on the roster now as there has ever been. The biggest difference is the way the talent is used today compared to past, more successful eras. Now that we’ve established the problem, how can it be fixed? There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, but here are a few suggestions that might help.

Secondary Titles

When I was a young fan, Intercontinental title matches and feuds were almost as important as World Title matches, sometimes more important (see Summerslam 1992). The Intercontinental Title was sought after by everyone not in the main event picture. It was a springboard to bigger and better things for the likes of Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Macho Man Randy Savage, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Ultimate Warrior among others, and a crowning achievement for career mid-carders like Owen Hart, Mr. Perfect, Razor Ramon, etc. Nowadays the most important job an IC or United States champion has is to lose almost weekly to those at the top of the card.

Making the secondary titles mean something again is going to take some time. The first thing I would do is a pretty obvious step; stop having the champions lose non-title matches! When the fans see the IC or US champ constantly losing non-title matches, devalues the titles and the wrestler holding the title. I’m not saying that the champion should never lose. There are times when this can be done to set up contenders, like when Tatanka pinned IC champ Shawn Michaels twice in non-title matches to set up their encounter at WrestleMania IX. I am saying that the champions should not be losing weekly to wrestlers who are “above” these titles

Another suggestion I would make would be to eliminate the US title and introduce a 3rd tier championship, like the WWF European title or WCW TV title. This could be accomplished pretty easily. The simplest route would be to have a foreign heel (i.e. Rusev) win the title and declare the USA not worthy enough to have a title named after it and change it to the European title (or something else for that matter). Another, more entertaining way, would be to have a unification bout between the IC and US champions. This would eliminate the US title, while simultaneously boosting the worth of the IC title. Next, as Jim Ross suggested on a recent podcast, hold a tournament to declare a new TV or European champion.

JR suggested having someone underutilized, Dolph Ziggler, who would have quality matches every week win the title. While this would be entertaining, it would also cement Ziggler’s place at the bottom of the card. The way I, personally, would have the tournament play out would see Bo Dallas emerge victorious. Bo would then proclaim every week to his Bo-lievers, that the TV title is the most prestigious title in the WWE. This accomplishes two things: 1) It helps Bo establish his delusional character further. 2) His belief (or Bo-lief) that the title is prestigious helps establish that it is actually prestigious.

Tag Teams

Another commonality of previous successful eras is quality tag team divisions. The late 1980’s was arguably the golden age for tag team wrestling. Teams like the British Bulldogs, Hart Foundation, Brain Busters, Rockers, Demolition, etc. were responsible for some of the best feuds and matches of the time. During the Attitude Era, teams like Edge & Christian, the Hardy Boyz, Dudley Boyz, Acolytes, and the New Age Outlaws brought the excitement back to tag team wrestling. Tag team wrestling not only enhances the undercard, it can be a launching pad to singles stardom. Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Edge, Jeff Hardy, and many others have used their success in the tag team ranks as a stepping stone into singles glory.

There have been teases of more emphasis being put on tag team wrestling, but that is all they are, teases. Just a few short months ago, it appeared that tag teams were on their way back to relevancy. There were more pertinent teams than any time in recent memory, and didn’t consist of randomly thrown together single stars. The Shield, The Brotherhood, The Usos, The Real Americans, Primetime Players, The Wyatts, Los Matadores, Tons of Funk, 3MB, and Rybaxel, while not a murderer’s row, was a respectable tag team division and were getting a solid amount of TV time.

It seems the strides that were made were all for naught. The tag team division is in shambles again. The Shield is in the process of becoming individual stars. The Brotherhood, who carried the division for months, are in the middle of a breakup. The Primetime Players and Tons of Funk both saw one member turn heel and then all members drift into obscurity. Two thirds of 3MB were just given their walking papers. The Usos are gaining popularity, but how many times can we see them take on the Wyatts and Rybaxel before everyone quits caring. I’m thinking that number is rapidly approaching.

This problem can be eradicated by adding more quality tag teams (not hastily thrown together singles acts) and investing more time in tag team feuds, and not just feuds for the title. There is enough underused talent currently on the roster that could be used to bolster the tag team division. The Ascension has been rumored to be called up to the main roster for a while. Guys like Justin Gabriel, Tyson Kidd, Adrian Neville, Sami Zayn, and the recently fired Curt Hawkins and Evan Bourne are all tremendously talented, but don’t have a consistent spot anywhere besides NXT. Package them together in any combination and you have three exiting high flying tag teams. Not to mention the guys that have charisma and/or a good look but have deficiencies in the ring or former stars that have lost a step that could be combined with the aforementioned group to produce entertaining tag teams.

There are also a ton of quality tag teams on the indy scene and in Japan that would immediately boost the WWE’s weak tag team division. The Young Bucks, ReDragon, The Briscoes, Killer Elite Squad, Karl Anderson/Doc Gallows, and Bad Influence would all be the #1 or at worst #2 tag team on the roster immediately if they were signed. Don’t forget that The American Wolves made one appearance on NXT before going to the soul-sucking hellhole that is TNA. There are talented teams out there, and that could be made on the current roster that could be used to tell some fantastic stories. Instead, we get a tag team roster that is four teams deep and almost no stories.

Tell stories with the undercard!!!

This seems simple enough right, having actual storylines for guys not in the main event or named John Cena? This is an option isn’t it? I’m not crazy am I? If you’ve only been watching wrestling for a short amount of time, you may think I am crazy. I know the norm for an undercard feud is Kofi Kingston and Dolph Ziggler having a match on every single show with no reason at all for months on end, but there was a time when guys would have a reason to have a feud with another guy. The stories don’t have to be extravagant. They just need to be stories. Rick “The Model” Martel was a lifetime mid-carder, but I vividly remember his feuds against Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Tatanka. Martel was a heel, and did things that heels do, spraying his “Arrogance” cologne into Roberts’ eyes, and stealing a feather from Tatanka’s Native American headdress. The faces wanted payback to these injustices, and eventually got it.

These were examples of simple storylines that gave the fans a reason to hate the heels and cheer for the faces. It’s that simple. You want fans to care about wrestlers, give them a reason. Give them a reason to boo the heels, and a reason to cheer the faces. Take time to develop the characters. Instead of showing endless replays of what happened at the beginning of RAW or the horrible “comedy” segments, take some time to tell what the undercard guys are all about. Better yet, let them tell us! Let some of these guys talk! Instead of writing bland promos for everybody that gets the rare chance to talk, give them bullet points to cover and leave them to their own devices to get their characters over. Kofi Kingston has been with the WWE for what seems like forever. We still don’t know anything about him other than he performs innovative athletic moves, has won several mid-card titles, and smiles a lot.

Take out the smiling and that describes Shelton Benjamin and John Morrison’s tenures as singles stars. That is a lot of wasted potential in those three guys. If they were the only three to suffer this fate, that wouldn’t be a huge problem. However, this has been a problem for years and there are WAY too many talented wrestlers suffering this same fate. Granted, all the guys that weren’t given any kind of character development wouldn’t have found success. They would have all had a chance though. Let the fans know who these guys are, give them stories to continue developing their characters, and then the fans have a reason to be interested. If the fans are interested, then everyone wins. These steps wouldn’t fix all the problems with the undercard, and won’t happen overnight, but they would be a start in the right direction.

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Dolph Ziggler, Kofi Kingston and the New Jobbers of the WWE

June 10, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

The names have changed, but obviously, the jobs have not. Welcome to the world of professional wrestling and the role of the jobber – the guy there to do his job, to make the heel or champion look good night after night in arena after arena.

Welcome to the world of Dolph Ziggler and Kofi Kingston. No matter how wildly successful they have been as champions and as stars in the WWE, their careers have taken a path of the broken road. The company is overstocked with talent or numbers there is nowhere to go and since there are not traditional roles in wrestling like there used to be, some wrestlers fall on the sword for the good for the company. But it is hard to imagine these two as “jobbers” after such success in the past three years alone.

A slightly higher position is “jobber to the stars” (also known as a “glorified jobber”), which is a wrestler who still defeats pure jobbers and mid-carders but who consistently loses to top-level or up-and-coming stars. This often happens to popular faces and sometimes heels towards the end of their careers, including Tony Garea, Ivan Putski, and, more recently, Val Venis, Goldust, Victoria, Chavo Guerrero, and Montel Vontavious Porter (MVP when he was in the WWE).

Growing up, names like “Snake” Brown, “Wild” Bill Snyder, the Mulkey Brothers and George South were “known” jobbers who lost each week to Ric Flair, Rick Rude and Jake Roberts. The “Brooklyn Brawler” has been a staple in the WWE for decades and Barry Horowitz – who had a gimmick that made him a popular figure in the WWF. Incidentally, Horowitz was at one time the Florida Heavyweight Champion after defeating Kendall Windham back in the late 1980s. Consider it a small victory for all jobbers in in the business.

By definition, a “jobber” is a professional wrestling term used to describe a wrestler who is routinely defeated by main eventers, mid-carders, or low-carders. Jobbers usually end up losing any match they participate in. Most promoters don’t use the term because of the negative connotation. Jobber is also used in boxing to refer to an unskilled fighter who would earn just enough money to pay for a breakfast of “ham and eggs”. A number of wrestlers have made a career out of jobbing.

Jobbers are used since the 1950s, and they were popular in promotions of the United States and Canada around this time.

What bothers me about the use of Ziggler and Kingston in this role has more to do with message it sends to the WWE Universe. The losses mount and the ladder to the top of the title picture is hard enough. It appeared the company wanted to give Ziggler another push – having been a world champion just over a year ago. Evidently, that ship has already sailed. Now, he is making Randy Orton and the Authority’s newest member, Seth Rollins, look like the next coming of Eddie Guerrero.

Kingston is another case of being one of the most athletic performers in the company, but size and gimmick do not mix in a company that wants bigger, stronger, faster and more dominant. Kingston’s acrobatics are great and the fans get over with his gimmick, but Kingston would be better served as a heel – and like Rick Steamboat, that will never happen.

The WWE did its part to create a better tag team division to find spots for wrestlers who essentially did not have a spot. That saved the careers of Curtis Axel and Ryback and have hurt Damien Sandow and Kingston along the way. Sandow is another one of the great talents that have become a laughable win for the “big” stars.

It is only a matter of time for that to become reality – and the reality is even the biggest stars of just a few years ago have fallen farther than they could have imagined. The new jobber is the one we all think is just a win or two away from winning gold again.

Follow David on Twitter @davidlevin71

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Ric Flair Talks Wrestling Again, Dolph Ziggler, and Charlotte

May 30, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Did you really think Ric Flair was going to stay retired? The 65-year WWE Hall of Fame wrestler revealed in a media interview that he will be putting on the tights and is ready to take one more backdrop in September.

Flair spoke to his old friend Mike Mooneyham for a fantastic story in the Post & Courier. Among many interesting quotes, Flair breaks some news that seems to be making headlines all over the wrestling world today. Ric Flair will indeed wrestle again. Flair will be going to Japan in September. Flair was asked about his conditioning.

(Heck) yeah! I’m excited. I’ve got so much energy, it’s ridiculous.

This is a bit of a surprise. Flair is reportedly working towards returning to the WWE full-time. One of the big sticking points by WWE from my understanding over the years is that they don’t want Flair in the ring. At the same time I can’t imagine Flair putting a full-time job on the line for one pay day.

It has become conflicting to be a Ric Flair fan. I love the guy I watched for three decades and think he is one of the best that ever lived. However, he has worked hard to ridicule his cherished legacy in recent years and this return to the ring will only contribute to that mockery. I am sorry but at 65-years old it is time for Flair to sit back and relax. That said I think it is fair to presume that the money to be made is too good for the Nature Boy to turn down.

Back to Flair coming back to the WWE. One of the recent rumors is that Flair will be coming back to manage someone. Flair has reportedly been pushing hard to manage Dolph Ziggler. I love that idea and hope it comes to fruition. Flair talked briefly about Ziggler to Mooneyham and revealed he is a big fan.

“I think he’s awesome. He’d be a great guy to manage. He looks like a million bucks. He just can’t find his gimmick. He needs to work on his entrance. I could help him with that.

He is right about that. What is Dolph Ziggler’s gimmick? Not that you necessarily need a gimmick in 2014 to be successful, but Ziggler is desperately missing that wrestling character. The talent is certainly there and with the right gimmick, he could be a headliner. I think a combination of Flair and Ziggler on WWE television would be tremendous.

Flair also made a bold prediction about his daughter who wrestles as Charlotte in WWE NXT.

She will be the greatest Flair of all time.” “Her credentials speak for themselves,” says Flair. “I’d put her resume up against anybody.

Talk about pressure! I don’t think she is catching her father but if her match at NXT Takeover is any indication, she is going to be damned good. There is nothing wrong with a father boasting about his child, but statements like that put an enormous amount of pressure on her.

It’s a great article with comments from Shawn Michaels and Triple H among others about Flair. I’d highly recommend giving it a read.

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Dolph Ziggler Pokes Fun At The Spirit Squad

May 28, 2014 By: Category: Videos, WWE | Pro Wrestling

Dolph Ziggler is not only of the most entertaining WWE stars in the ring, but he is also pretty damned funny outside. Ziggler steals the show once again in this brief Countdown Extra video where he takes a self-deprecating look back at the Spirit Squad.

This “You Wish You Could Pull This Off” features Ziggler recapping his run in the Spirit Squad. While the Spirit Squad may go down as one of the corniest gimmicks in WWE history, Dolph was able to use that run as a springboard (no pun intended) to a successful singles career. It just goes to show you that there is life after a terrible gimmick in the WWE. As goofy as it may be to look back on, I am sure Dolph learned a lot from this period in his career.

It’s less than 2:00 but it is a fun look back with one of the guys that lived the nightmare. Well done Nicky!

Dolph Ziggler is Best Choice to Work With Ric Flair

May 26, 2014 By: Category: lists, WWE | Pro Wrestling

Any of you who know me and my writing, you know what a huge Ric Flair mark I am. As a charter member of the NWA fan club and a follower of “real” wrestling in the Carolinas, Florida, Georgia and any of the other dozens of promotions across the country, seeing my “idol” while growing up has saddened me as of late. The antics, the court dates, the arrests and the drunken stupors have me twisted in knots over the use of “The Nature Boy” as of late.

Hopefully recent news of Flair becoming more involved in the WWE’s plans this year and into the future will prove the 65-year old mat man has gotten past some of his demons and can be a viable character on Raw.

Flair’s last stint with the WWE was short-lived but it involved a program with The Miz – a paring that looked to be magical, but was quick to fail for one reason or another. Part of the problem is Flair is much better as a heel and The Miz is one of the better marketing tools in the company, so his baby face persona really does not match him as a true heel. The paring would have worked – had it been a heel manager and wrestler.

The beauty of Flair is he can be paired with just about anyone and it works. Even with his recent appearance on Raw and support of The Shield over his old running boys, Evolution, he could work with anyone. But these wrestlers especially could go far with Flair by his side.

According to my good friend and fellow Camel Clutch Blogger Eric Gargiulo, the plan was laid out in a story by Dave Meltzer.

Dave Meltzer has all of the details in the newest Wrestling Observer newsletter. According to Meltzer, there is a plan to get Flair back into the company as a full-time character. Flair must undergo and pass a cardiovascular physical before he is cleared. Flair has also dropped some weight recently in anticipation of a return.

Back in the day, no one was better at cardiovascular conditioning than Flair, who was affectionately known as “The 60-Minute Man” for being able to wrestle 60 minutes a night all week long.

You all know the story, as Flair has won ten NWA Championships in NWA/WCW, as well as three NWA Championships in All Star Pro Wrestling, All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) and Central States Wrestling (CSW). Along with these, he is an Eight-time WCW Champion, two-time WCW International World Champion, two-time WWF Champion, making him a 26-time world heavyweight champion. You cannot get much better than that.

So how does the WWE plan to use Flair? He certainly won’t be wrestling on a full-time basis. But as a manager and a foil to Paul Heyman or maybe someone who challenges Triple H and his “Authority” on screen, he is quite useful.

Enter Dolph Ziggler.

The best way to use Flair in an advisory role is to put him in a program with Ziggler as they together fight the establishment. Flair would best utilize Ziggler as a brash, younger version of himself. Ziggler’s recent remarks toward Batista seem to make this a good fit. It has been rumored that Flair even asked the company to allow him to work with the former World Heavyweight Champion. According to a report in The Examiner, it looks like the company wants to team him up again with The Miz in an attempt to resurrect his career. But in all honesty, why couldn’t Flair work with both superstars? I see the potential of an Arn Anderson/Tully Blanchard-type partnership that could be every good at tag team wrestling and singles competition.

Now that we know he is coming back to live television, it will be great to see my idol strut a bit, talk a bit and advise “someone” in the WWE. Finding the right paring is crucial. What it remains to be seen is will it help this “clientt” or Flair more in the end.

Follow David on Twitter @davidlevin71

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5 WWE Superstars Who Could Transition To MMA

May 15, 2014 By: Category: lists, Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts, WWE | Pro Wrestling

30 years ago the debate would be which pro wrestler was the toughest of the locker room. Today, it is about which pro wrestler could jump over to the UFC. So I thought I would have a little fun and take a look at 5 WWE superstars that have the intangibles to fight in the UFC.

Please keep one thing in mind with this entire list. I am certainly not saying that all of these guys would jump into the UFC or MMA and have the success that Brock Lesnar. All I am saying is that these five guys have the background and skills to at least attempt a jump to MMA without embarrassing themselves.

So with that said, let’s dive deep into the resumes of your favorite WWE superstars and take a look at who has a shot…albeit a long shot of jumping into the octagon. Whether they would be Brock Lesnar or Bobby Lashley will always be up for debate until the day comes when they bite down on the mouth guard and throw down in the world of MMA.

Wade Barrett - For those of you unaware, Wade Barrett is probably one of the most street-tough superstars in the WWE. Barrett is a former bareknuckle boxer. In other words, Barrett boxed for years in his native England…but without gloves. I have no doubt that Barrett could jump into the octagon tomorrow and at least be competitive on his feet.

On the ground is another story. Barrett has no amateur wrestling in his background as far as I know. This would make him vulnerable to the ground attack of almost any MMA fighter. This isn’t to say that Barrett wouldn’t have a puncher’s chance of catching someone shooting in with an uppercut or right hook. It just means that Barrett would have a lot of work to do if he ever decides he’d like to try his hand in MMA.

Santino Marella - How ironic is it that one of the toughest guys in the WWE is portrayed as one of the wimpiest? Forget about the guy you see on RAW and SmackDown (well barely), Santino is one tough dude. Santino also has minimal experience in MMA which makes you wonder about how well he’d fare at this stage of his career.

Santino is well experienced in judo, practicing judo for over 20 years. According to one report, I saw that he had a 6-1 record but I haven’t seen much else. Santino said in an interview awhile back that the only reason he left Japan and MMA was that he overstayed his Visa. If that is the case, he is one guy that could do some serious damage if he was to jump back into the world of MMA.

Dolph Ziggler - You would never believe it watching him in the ring but Dolph is one of, if not the most accomplished amateur wrestler in the WWE. Dolph was a standout high school and collegiate wrestler. Even better, he was teammates with Gray Maynard who appears to have done pretty darn good with his transition into MMA.

How good was Dolph as an amateur wrestler? Ziggler scored an unbelievable 82 pins which is a record in high school. At Kent University, Ziggler holds the second most wins in school history at 121. He is as legit as they come. He would certainly have to work on his standup and submissions, but the guy appears to be a prodigy of sorts. Even better, imagine the fun confrontations between Vickie Guerrero and Dana White!

Alberto Del Rio - Alberto like Santino, is the only man on this list to actually have MMA experience. Unfortunately Del Rio’s success in MMA wasn’t quite the same, going 9-5 overall. However, I think it is fair to say that he has more actual MMA experience than anyone in the WWE right now. Who knows how well he would do if he returned to the sport.

Alberto’s amateur wrestling background is one of the most impressive in pro wrestling history. Alberto is a Mexican national champion freestyle, won the Greco-Roman bronze medal teenage world championships; 1997, and placed 5th at 214 pounds Pan American Games.

Well quite frankly I don’t think he’d do that well at all. He does hold a record of 7 wins by submission which is none too shabby. He even put together a six fight win streak before joining the WWE. However, at 34 and after a few years inside the WWE, he probably has the least shot of making any real waves than anyone on the list. Ironic because if there was anyone that could certainly give it a go tomorrow, it would be him.

Jack Swagger - If Jack Swagger jumped into the world of pro wrestling 30-40 years ago, he would probably have had several NWA world title reigns by now and be regarded as a pro wrestling legend today. That is because Swagger is boasts an outstanding amateur wrestling record and with his size, he would have been a top draw for years throughout the territory.

Swagger was a two sport athlete in college, and this wasn’t just any college. This was the University of Oklahoma. At Oklahoma, Swagger took part in both wrestling and football. He concentrated on wrestling full time after his freshmen year and became one of the most successful wrestlers in school history. Swagger was a true All-American and set a single season record for most pins at 30.

With his size and his athletic background, Swagger could conceivably be a powerhouse in MMA. Of course he would have to train hard and develop a standup game, but he could certainly hold his own on the ground. His background shows a guy that is great at anything he sets out to do athletically. He’d also be fighting as a heavyweight, which doesn’t always have the best athletes. At 6’6, 263, and 29 years old he has all of the tools to jump into the octagon with some training and make some real noise in the MMA world.

Will any of these guys make the leap to MMA? I don’t think so. But it would be interesting if they did.

Note: This was originally published on October 13, 2011

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