Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pushing Through

Professional wrestling, what are you doing to me? I return after a long hiatus and (all humility aside) post an article that I consider to be pretty damn good. How do I follow up? Good question... In a week where XPW decided to rise from the ashes of mediocrity and hold a reunion show, Test gave his opinions on gun control, and Roadkill did something or other, I had to question. Am I back in a wrestling rut? Am I going to disappear for 4 months? Not this time. I am going to attempt to fill the void.

First, let me handle some comments from my last article:
JJ said, “Cena is the best and thanks for saying he’s a winner.”

Well, JJ, I think you’ll notice that many of my 411 colleagues agreed this week, as Cena won Wrestler of the Week voting. Let me make this statement clear right now, the fact that fans that do like Ring of Honor are considered “smart” bothers me. If you were truly smartened up to the business, you would understand that the purpose of any business is to make money, nothing more and nothing less. Eliyahu Goldratt will tell you, that is “The Goal.”

No one is truly smartened up to the business, not even Vince McMahon himself, but I guarantee you that there is no one in the world today that has a better understanding of it than him, because if they did, they would be making a few million dollars, and not armchair booking from their blogs. I think it’s great that Nigel McGuinness found his niche as a heel, and that Kevin Steen is getting a push, but there is no way that anything that ever happens to an individual superstar in Ring of Honor will be bigger than a WWE Superstar earning a main event spot at WrestleMania, and it makes me throw up in my mouth to see 411 writers voting otherwise. Are those writers really the ones who are “smart?”

Guest#3855 said, “Hardy is a loser and Hornswoggle is a winner? You’re freakin' crazy!”

Well, Guest, I am not trying to suggest that the Swag is a more important superstar. I do think that he has found his way into being one of the most popular superstars on the program and is being rewarded with a fitting spot at Mania. Hardy is probably the only guy getting bigger pops than Mr. Swaggle right now, but Hardy should be main eventing. That is why he is a loser. It’s because he broke out and became the hottest thing in the company, and he is doing the same damn thing he did last year. Obviously no one is ready to throw him into the WrestleMania Main Event yet, and whether the reason is lack of faith or politics is moot. Even if Hardy wins MITB, he will not unseat Triple H, John Cena, or the Undertaker for a World title anytime in the near future. If WWE doesn’t capitalize on Hardy while he’s hot, he will go the way of Samoa Joe in TNA. You gotta strike while the iron is hot. Hell, if the AWA had done it with Hulk Hogan, they might be the promotion left standing today.

Wally wrote, “You forgot about Batista. I'd say he's in the loser category right now. They have nothing for him.”

Actually, Wally, I didn’t forget about “The Animal.” I didn’t write about him, but I didn’t forget about him. Even now that it has become apparent that he will be thrown into a meaningless Smackdown vs. Raw showdown with Umaga, I still don’t really have a lot to say about him. Quite frankly, I think that Batista is an arrogant dickbag, and for my 50 dollars, I would like to see him put Umaga over. After all, Umaga has been doing the favor for every major Raw babyface for the past year and a half. Why not reestablish him with a major victory over a major superstar? Batista turns 40 next year. When he debuted, he was fed Kane, so that he was established as a monster. I think it’s about time to pass the torch. There is nothing gained from giving Batista another three World Heavyweight Title reigns. I am of the mindset that Batista is only in pro-wrestling for the money and the glory, and not one bit for the love anyways.

The Glide wrote, “Mad props on the Val Venis love,” and Guest wrote, “What's with the rager for Val Venis???”

I have been a wrestling fan for a long time, and the key to making money as a professional wrestler seems to be having “the look,” being able to deliver the big match, and being good on the stick. Val Venis is three for three. So what’s the problem? He was saddled with a stupid comedy gimmick, and could never break past the midcard. For the past four or five years, Venis has been used to put over anyone and everyone. A rose by any other name would have smelled much sweeter. I shuddered on the night when it was announced that any former Intercontinental Champion could wrestle for the IC title, and Sean Morley once again returned to the Val Venis name. I am sure that it gets a decent pop on house shows, the same way Scotty 2 Hotty got a decent pop ten years after the attitude era, but the difference is that Val Venis was a can’t miss prospect, that was never allowed to shine. Take off the purple tights, lose the name, lose the music and the titantron, move to Smackdown or ECW, and become a main event f’n wrestler. You are too damn good to be anything else.

Jason S. said, “Isn't it getting a little old and pointless to talk about HHH's death grip on the main event and/or title scene?”

Yes, Jason it is old. No, Jason, it’s not pointless. Triple H had his picnic reuniting DX and having some fun with buddy Shawn Michaels for a while, knowing full well that his spot at the top was only on loan. Even while “putting over” John Cena, he took every opportunity to outshine him. When Chris Jericho returned, backstage Triple H was his harshest critic. Triple H will undoubtedly one day have more World title reigns than Ric Flair, and will do whatever else is needed to massage his bloated ego, but frankly, Triple H as World Heavyweight Champion, where every Raw begins with “Time to Play the Game” and a twenty-minute NWO-Hogan-esque promo and concludes with Triple H defeating Jeff Hardy, Mr. Kennedy, and any other up and coming superstar on the roster is not something I enjoy watching. I will not be surprised if Ric Flair defeats Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania and is named number one contender, and loses his career to Triple H at Backlash. It would look nice-ah next to Kane’s mask-ah on the Game-ah’s mantle-ah.

Ok, on to new business.

Smackdown Sucktown:
It was announced that Big Show’s new home is officially on the Smackdown brand of World Wrestling Entertainment. My first thought was good. Smackdown needs some name talent. Especially after the raping they took after the last Draft Lottery. Maybe King Booker would still be in the WWE had he not been moved to Raw. Anywho, looking at the Smackdown roster page is a sad affair. Clumping in the ECW roster only gives you a brand that has Big Show, Great Khali, Mark Henry, and Big Daddy V all working the same monster heel gimmick, to take on monster babyfaces Kane, Undertaker, and Batista. No wonder I don’t watch Smackdown anymore. Finlay and Flair appear on Raw, Gregory Helms is hurt, and Edge, Victoria, MVP, and Jamie Noble are the only other Smackdown talent I remotely give a damn about. It’s almost becoming glorified developmental. Smackdown has announced My Network TV as its new home, which is much more of a coup for the network than for the program, but isn’t a bad thing necessarily. Vince takes a bite in the butt as far as the expense of the move to HD, but I guess rumors are that they can get their Thursday night timeslot back. Don’t underestimate this benefit, as I am one of many with an actual social life, who doesn’t sit at home from 8-10 on Friday’s to see Chuck Palumbo, Jimmy Wang Yang, Deuce, and Domino. Perhaps the head to head competition with TNA will also force WWE to balance their rosters a bit more. I don’t think it will take too much for Smackdown to pull high three’s on Thursday’s and drive TNA off TV.

Bush League Buttsex:
The internet was up in arms with stories of a WWE contracted wrestler appearing in the crowd of a TNA House show. It’s too bad that the WWE contracted talent was Tommy Dreamer, otherwise this could have actually been a story. The man formerly known as the “Innovator of Violence” is pandering in the most recent issue of WWE magazine to get a spot in Money in the Bank. Unfortunately for Tommy, I can think of a number of other wrestlers I would much rather see get the spot. Dreamer’s best days in the WWE were when he wore a New York License Plate version of the Hardcore title, which I can’t find a picture of anywhere (admittedly I didn’t look too hard). Team 3D and TNA’s acknowledgement of Dreamer’s presence screamed we are a distant second. I don’t foresee WWE announcing that Lance Hoyt bought a ticket and is sitting in section 222 and asking if WWE fans would wish to see him in the WWE, to which fans would respond with a rousing chorus of “who’s?” Still, I am sure that the figurative love fest between Brother Ray and Tommy Dreamer served to make both men feel better about themselves.

Mikey Whipwreck V.2.0:
Speaking of Dreamer, his protégé Colin Delaney officially signed with World Wrestling Entertainment, thus furthering the illusion that literally anyone can sign a WWE contract. Now we can count on many more pasty white teenagers showing up on Indy Shows around the country, similarly to how a number of fat hardcore white guys and guys shorter than 5’5” appeared when Mick Foley and Rey Mysterio achieved prominence. Delaney has the pleasure of being WWE’s new Zack Gowen, only the tenacious Delaney will be working with Big Daddy V, Matt Striker, and Tommy Dreamer, rather than Roddy Piper, Vince McMahon, and Hulk Hogan. Still, I gotta give Delaney props. He is living the dream. In 6 months when the storyline dries up, I will be side by side with World Wrestling Entertainment wishing him the best on his future endeavors at NAPA Auto Parts.

The Rock at the Oscar’s:
Quite frankly at this point I would prefer Oscar at the Rockers. What does that mean? I’m not sure. I guess it would be a VH1 reality show about Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels living together and having various Oscar’s over for dinner. Oscar de la Hoya, Oscar de la Renta, Oscar Gutierrez, Oscar Peterson, Oskar Schindler, Oscar Wilde, Oscar Roberston, Oscar the Grouch, whomever. Watch and Discuss. Basically, the point is, this is NOT wrestling news. The Rock is no longer a wrestler. Goldberg is no longer a wrestler. Brock Lesnar is no longer a wrestler. Chyna is no longer a wrestler. One of my biggest pet peeves is clicking to my favorite wrestling website and reading the headline that Chyna is hosting a show about Robots or Goldberg is hosting a show about cars. Who gives a shit? However, the fact that the Rock is inducting his father and grandfather into the WWE Hall of Fame IS wrestling news. Unfortunately, for WWE fans who don’t like the sight of the Rock in a Tux, get ready for round two, as Dwayne Johnson will not be dropping any people’s elbows, no matter how loud the “Please come back” and “One more match” chants are during the Hall of Fame Ceremony. In fact, I would expect Dwayne to keep the charisma in his back pocket all together, as the night is not meant to honor him, but rather honor his father and grandfather. FINALLY, THE ROCK HAS COME BACK TO THE WWE is more than out of place at such a ceremony, if you smell lalalalalala, what Tim Haught is cookin’. EDIT: I wrote my scathing editorial prior to John Cena’s comments, but I have to give props to Cena for calling out The Rock on his abandonment of professional wrestling fans. Here we are hanging on to every word he says and everything he does, and he gives us absolutely nothing. Hard not to group him with those aforementioned in my blurb.

Total Nonstop Agony:
Are you f’n kidding me? Two years after his failed attempt to be a professional wrestling manager, and two years after his 15 minutes of pop culture relevance, Johnny Fairplay is going to sign a two-year contract with TNA? I have never seen a company so proficient in killing their own momentum and wasting money. If that was not enough, TNA is punishing the Motor City Machine Guns for refusing to get color in their PPV match against Team 3D and Johnny Devine. I am not going to blindly defend the company or the Guns. The best way to analyze this situation is to rationally break it down. TNA considered this a high profile match. I will go ahead and say, sorry TNA, but if you believe that, part of the problem lies right there. Just because this angle has drug on forever, and will likely start over with a new heavyweight that hates the X Division, Team 3D and Johnny Devine vs. MCMG and Jay Lethal did not add nor subtract any buys to your pay per view. MCMG’s winning the tag titles? Sure. Jay Lethal showing what he has in a classic X Division showdown? No doubt. A watered-down six-man tag match blowing off a tired angle? Not really blade worthy. Let them save the juice for their tag title run. TNA will run an angle like this every three months, which equates to four hairline scars a year. Robert Roode, you have been feuding with Booker T. in the angle that is supposed to make your career for some time now. Prepare to don the Crimson Mask, but win or lose, don’t expect to break through the glass ceiling. TNA wrestlers better pray that they don’t start losing their hair. Oh, and as a side note, what did Lethal get for regaining his X title and being put over? A feud with Sonjay Dutt. Congrats… In more what the hell are they thinking news, Abyss is getting repackaged. Granted he’s been around for a while and they have done all the monster feuds they could do, but c’mon TNA. The Undertaker was hot for over 15 years before they repackaged him as the Bikertaker. How about you let Abyss be over and contend for the World Title. Sting left. Give him Sting’s place.

WWE, We Waste Earnings:
Speaking of wasting money, it would be unfair to castrate TNA without mentioning WWE’s decision to drop 20 million on a one-time appearance of a relatively unknown boxer. Now I see why they call him Floyd “Money” Mayweather. Makes you wonder how much Evander “Real Deal” Holyfield got paid for his SmackDown appearance a few months back. Granted he is past his prime, but at least your average person knows who he is and what he does for a living. That 20 million dollars is equally to 400,000 buys at 50 dollars apiece, and the buys have to come from non-crossover fans who like Mayweather but would have ordered WrestleMania anyways. I am surprised at how many buys his boxing pay per views have done, as I thought the sport was all but dead. Still I question how many new buys Mayweather can translate his boxing popularity into, especially since ESPN has stuck it to the WWE by ignoring the angle altogether.

Raw Thoughts:
Great to see Chris Jericho get the win en route to the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. However, the crowd reaction definitely shows the discrepancy between Y2J and Jeff Hardy. Despite the fact that the win meant absolutely nothing to Hardy, the crowd was firmly behind him for the majority of the match. Don’t overate this match though. A rematch might be great, but this match was sloppy.

I don’t understand the decision to throw a plot twist into the Finlay/McMahon/Hornswaggle saga this close to WrestleMania. Finlay had alluded to a deal between him and McMahon for weeks, and McMahon always squirmed. Apparently, that has been dropped. Hopefully, JBL’s accusations end up being nothing more than a lie intended to protect him from McMahon’s wrath last night. Worst-case scenario involves a rehash of the bastard storyline and Ken Kennedy becoming a McMahon. This storyline was so hot two weeks ago. Throw in JBL and a plot twist and now its just more bullcrap.

How about DH Smith eating a fat piece of squash? I am sure there are many online who are up in arms about Bulldog’s son’s not-so-triumphant return, but it worked for me just fine. Umaga needed reestablished. DH is coming off a suspension, and the so-called can’t-miss-prospect is still young. I would prefer to see him teaming with Cody Rhodes and Bobcore Holly shipped to outer space and left there, but unfortunately I don’t own a rocket.

In my opinion, Lance Cade and Paul Birchill could end up right behind Mr. Kennedy when it comes to being the stars of the future. Speaking of Kennedy, I wouldn’t have believed they could take his awful music away and replace it with music that is more awful, but somehow they accomplished it. Keep the new music, drop the lyrics.

You want a great song? Look no further:

More on This Story...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Winners and Losers on the Road To WrestleMania

After a long hiatus, I must first apologize to my faithful readers (all six of them) for my absence. The Pro Wrestling Pundit disappeared in November, leaving many (or six) to watch reruns of Saturday Night Live and uninspired headlines on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

So what led to this writer’s strike? Well, I have stewed over it for three months, but it seems as though now is the time to get over it. Despite the anticipation and excitement, three months after the fact I am left with only one question: What the hell did the WWE do with the return of Chris Jericho?

Obviously, the plan would have been for Cena to remain healthy and handily defeat Randy Orton at the Survivor Series. The next night on Raw, Chris Jericho would return triumphantly, telling fans he was there to save them from Cena. How much would the fans have popped for that?

Instead, from showing him backstage all the way to missing the word Jericho on the Titantron, the mismanagement of Jericho’s return sucked the wrestling life right out of me. Added to that were the facts that Jerry Lawler was defeating Santino Marella, Carlito was running through fictional holes in walls, and Hardbody Harrison was convicted of sex trafficking… Ok, maybe the last one was irrelevant, but still, it was damn hard to write an article.

All around the net, writers were finding things to write about. Jake Roberts went to rehab, and Ron Simmons, Scott Hall, and Sean Waltman soon followed. No word if the New World Snake Nation will be debuting in TNA anytime soon. It just sounds like something they’d do. Oh, and Test retired and unretired. Next thing you know the internet will be buzzing with news concerning Damien Demento? Oh, wait…

While I continued watching, when it came to writing, I couldn’t help but be anything other than indifferent. Big Daddy V and Mark Henry as a team was teased, but never allowed to become the super force it should have. All I could come up with was that fans still have to sit through two separate matches featuring these guys when they go see a Smackdown/ECW show, a more than hearty helping of black monster heel.

Charlie Haas had a brief appearance where he debated being a masked superstar. Jim Ross seemed into it, but I wasn’t sure I could churn out a whole article on the subject. Luckily I didn’t try, as Haas hasn’t been seen since, unless you are an avid Heat watcher.

BobCore Rhodes took home the tag titles, and as with anything else involving Hardcore Holly, I was indifferent.

About the only thing I felt I could truly write about was a cameo by Sunny at Raw’s 15th Anniversary Show, but I was not sure if readers would be enthralled with the onset of my puberty and stories of the many hours spent alone with calendars ripped from the pages of WWE Magazine.

What is a writer supposed to do? Rob Van Dam showed up for 5 minutes to put under Santino Marella, then disappeared into the Titantron sunset. Mick Foley showed up for about 10, but at this stage of the game, who gets remotely excited about a Mick Foley appearance? Ron Killings and Chris Harris are coming, and still I can’t shake the feeling that I just don’t give a shit.

Until last night when I was watching Raw, and I had to ask myself. Pro Wrestling Pundit (as I like to call myself while creating revisionist history), what the hell is it about wrestling that you do care about?

Well the answer certainly wasn’t Ashley. The fact that Ashley’s skank ass came back on Raw is a total downgrade. No matter how much applause Matt Hardy and Paul London get from WWE fans, they can always remember that they got the clap from Ashley.
It also wasn’t Lashley. Bobby Lashley seemed too vanilla to live up to the nickname of Black Lesnar. Well he showed his true colors when he decided that a US title reign, multiple ECW Championship reigns, a main event slot at WrestleMania, and one million dollars was an unsatisfactory professional wrestling career. Imagine how Super Crazy feels. Dear Mr. Lashley, Have fun in MMA douchebag. Hope someone breaks your legs. Sincerely, Tim Haught.

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. What I care about is getting my money’s worth. What I care about are superstars who will work hard and bust their ass to entertain me. What I care about are superstars who can make a fluid sentence on the mic, and then back it up in the ring. Well, those things and Sunny, as aforementioned. Anyways, disregarding Val Venis and Victoria, who should be ECW Champion and My Wife, respectively (I hope you guys know what respectively means, or you are gonna think I am hella-gay), I present to you the winners and losers on the Road To Wrestlemania.

Loser: Ken Kennedy
While the Jeff Hardy train continued rolling, Ken Kennedy got a clean victory over Shawn Michaels. Were things looking up? Nope, not really. Michaels got his heat back relatively quickly, and since then, Kennedy has been in midcard purgatory. A clean loss to Ric Flair is all the momentum he has going into Mania, and rather than a meaningful singles match, he has a chance to repeat as Mr. Money in the Bank. Unfortunately for Kennedy, it seems as though that ship has sailed. I don’t know anyone that views Kennedy as the next big thing at the moment. Chances are, right before his next push to the next level, he will get hurt again.

Winner: Big Show
When Big Show announced he was returning, my immediate thought was to have him cost Triple H his shot at the Rumble and his shot to main event WrestleMania, leading to a one on one match between them. Instead WWE waited to debut the Show until No Way out, but it didn’t hurt him in the least. This story with Floyd Mayweather might not be exciting to me, but Big Show went from walking out on Vince McMahon and Donald Trump last year to getting all the mainstream media attention WrestleMania will garner this year. Too bad now that Mysterio is hurt, Show can’t convince Hogan to return and stand by Mayweather’s side, to really draw money and mainstream attention.

Loser: Mickie James
James seemed to be the superstar with the most legitimate shot of knocking of the Glamazon. Instead, she has been on the jobber world tour, losing so much to Phoenix that it brought her to tears on Raw. With Maria showing her goods in Playboy and the return of Candice Michelle, she falls further back down the totem pole, and will likely only be seen at Mania if a horrible women’s gimmick match is booked. Apparantely each time she comes out and the crowd pops, no one in the back is watching.

Loser: Santino Marella
Another superstar reeling from the impact of Maria’s Playboy decision is Santino Marella. Now forgive me for being visionary, but I looked at this storyline as a real opportunity for Santino. Instead, the WWE went down the same road they have traveled with Marc Mero. I can’t speak for Marella’s in-ring credentials, but on the stick, there is no one more entertaining than him currently in the WWE. So what do you do? Saddle him with Carlito. I suppose the idea was similar to putting Billy Gunn’s “athleticism” with Road Dogg’s “mic skills,” but thus far it has fallen on deaf eyes and ears. When Santino and Carlito were put together and a few people popped. Those who were too stupid to understand the current state of the WWE Tag Team Division, that is. Carlito’s decision to stay in the WWE after half-assing the majority of his time in the WWE doesn’t seem to be working out the way he intended. Maria and Santino have been an item for quite some time in the WWE. As soon as the internet began reporting the possibility of Maria in Playboy, I would have had Santino ask her to marry her, with the proposal coinciding with her Playboy decision. When Maria announces the offer, Santino vehemently protests, telling her that it’s him or Playboy. He then softens, drops to one knee, and asks for her hand in Maria Marella Matrimony. The next week, we are cordially invited to their nuptials. Maria suggests that she had always dreamed of posing for Playboy, however she loves Santino. If she respects his wishes of not posing in Playboy however, he should respect her desires for him to clean up his act and essentially become a fan favorite. Marella takes her hand and delivers a vicious STO on the altar, grabs the mic and begins to berate her, calling her a slut for even considering Playboy. Marella is now a more serious heel, with comic undertones. Name your babyface (Jericho, Hardy, shit somebody push Val Venis), and you have a hot feud and a match for WrestleMania. Instead, Santino will likely slap the mat while Maria has her ass handed to her by the Glamazon.

Loser: Shelton Benjamin
Shelton Benjamin received a new home on ECW, and the Gold Standard appeared to be ready for big things. If looking like “Natural” Butch Reed is the key to getting you off heat and onto another brand, grab the peroxide. Shelton is undoubtedly the most athletic superstar in all of professional wrestling, as evidenced by how 75% of the MITB highlight reel featured him, and he hasn’t even participated in all of them. Benjamin looks to be on his way to Money in the Bank yet again this year, which of course is better than not appearing at all. However, up until Chavo Guerrero won his first World Title (if you can call the ECW title that), it appeared as if a Shelton/Punk ECW World Title match was the logical choice for Mania, and undoubtedly had the potential to steal the show and establish both men as the future of the company. Instead Benjamin will add a few extra highlights to his resume and continue to languish until the company figures out how to make a ton of money with him.

Loser: Chris Jericho
Coming off a huge pop that one would have thought at the time solidified him as a main event player, Chris Jericho went to Raw the following week to wrestle a lackluster match with Santino Marella. By all means, the Orton storyline was not going as well as it would have with John Cena at the helm. Jericho wrestled Umaga in a match that he won, but looked lucky in doing so. A year ago, that would have been worthwhile, but Umaga is nothing more than main event job fodder these days. Jericho is out of position to be World Champion, and takes a boot from JBL to solidify that. It didn’t take long for JBL to bring his new manboobs out in his feud with the Ayatollah of Rock N’ Rollah. The Wrestling Gawd and his mammaries choked the hell out of Jericho on Raw to relatively no reaction. In fact, just about everything JBL has done, from calling out Jericho’s kids to having a ton of pyro go off for 10 minutes, to recently attacking Hornswaggle has gotten no reaction. JBL JackieGayda’d a bulldog at the Rumble, sending Chris into overdrive to save the match. To JBL’s credit, their Raw blowoff match was actually good, but too little too late. Jericho will be fortunate to be in Money in the Bank this year, and stands little to no chance of winning the match.

Winner: Edge
All it took for Edge to take his rightful place back at the top of the Smackdown Mountain was stealing Doink’s gimmick. Rey Mysterio wasn’t exactly the most convincing challenger for him at the Rumble or No Way Out, but it doesn’t matter as long as a long awaited Edge/Undertaker showdown is a go. You may remember people clamoring for this one a few years back; before Edge dropped his match at WrestleMania 23 and both were undefeated. Even without that angle to work, this match should be one for the ages as WWE’s only real heel and their top babyface square off at the pinnacle of both of their careers. Yes, despite his age, I think that the Undertaker started peaking about a year and a half ago and will remain hot until he hangs it up, and this upcoming title reign will be more significant than his post Wrestlemania 13 reign or any other reign he has had thus far.

Loser: Ric Flair
When Ric Flair returned to announce he would NEVER RETIRE, it seemed we had a storyline for the ages. When Vince appeared to suggest that Flair’s next loss would be his last, it seemed intriguing. It was apparent that Flair would get one last run with one of three world titles, and when he finally dropped it, he would gracefully step away from the sport to which he has given so much. Yet, as the New Year approached, it became more apparent that Flair wasn’t heading towards one final run as champion. The storyline began to fizzle. Flair would steal matches from a number of up and coming superstars, serving to do nothing more than add a sense of predictability to his matches. For those young fans that weren’t around 20 years ago to see Flair in his prime, they are likely cheering MVP and Kennedy in their futile efforts to unseat the Nature Boy and send him packing. Unfortunately, a rub like that will not be given to a superstar that needs it. Instead, it is looking like HBK will add another notch in his belt by retiring Naitch. A Naitch Notch if you will. God, I sound like Dusty Rhodes on the Muthaship. Forget the image of Ric Flair holding the big gold belt one last time. Forget the fanfare of him walking that aisle at Mania to pass the torch, and the emotional moment afterwards. Forget any possibility that Sting makes his first WWE appearance to make the match even that much more intriguing since it isn’t for the title. Flair will wreck his body one last time, to lose one last match after a strand of cheap wins he has accumulated that are relatively meaningless. WWE hasn’t dropped the ball this hard since the Invasion. I just pray that Batista doesn’t somehow end up in this one.

Loser: Jeff Hardy
At Armageddon, everyone got excited, as it appeared Jeff Hardy had broken through the glass ceiling. 3 months later, I have a more realistic perspective. Jeff Hardy got a few turns with the mic, and despite his horrible voice and tendency to say everything the exact same overstated yet emotionless way, somehow endeared himself more to the audience. Hey, I can get into the guy as long as he’s not strung out and painting his body in glow in the dark paint. Jeff Hardy defeated Umaga in a very underrated cage match that made him the hottest thing in the company. Jeff followed his fantastic cage performance with a crazy ass dive from the Raw set onto Randy Orton. I marked, saying this is the best the WWE has done at creating a new main eventer in a long time. Rumors even started that Jeff Hardy might win the belt at the Royal Rumble. Too bad that pushing the most over guy in the company to a World title puts a kink in the plans of the most having sex with the owner’s daughter guy in the company. Hardy put on a great match at the Rumble, but fell to the randomness of the RKO, which WCW did a great job of putting over its ability to come out of nowhere, but WWE has not. Then, Hardy is the last man to enter the Elimination Chamber but is no match for the Cerebral Assassin, the Game, The King of Kings, the guy who will win 40 world titles by the time he finally hangs up the boots, Triple H. Hardy is the favorite to win Money in the Bank this year. Maybe you can win a world title at Summerslam Jeff. That is of course if you head to a brand without Triple H, John Cena, or the Undertaker. The only way Hardy ends up with a win, is if he wins MITB and cashes it in that night against the winner of the Triple Threat.

Winner: Hornswaggle
Many people on the Internet continue to bitch about Hornswaggle. Too bad that the little bastard’s pops are bigger than almost anyone else’s. No matter what you think of the interactions with his father, his feud with Khali, or his midget battle royal (which was priceless, btw), Horny is established as one of the most popular superstars on the roster, and that has directly rubbed off onto his big buddy Finlay.

Loser: Finlay
Unfortunately for Finlay, becoming a top face is not easy to come by. Just when it seemed undoubtable that Finlay and Vince were headed for a WrestleMania showdown that would have made Finlay’s popularity reach unimaginable levels, John Bigtits Leyfield sticks his, well, bigtits into things. Finlay was receiving one of the most genuine fan reactions in the WWE in sometime, with both internet smarks and marks alike wanting to see him succeed. Now instead of a classic confrontation with McMahon, he is lined up for a standard knock down drag out midcard match with a guy who isn’t eliciting any fan reaction whatsoever. Mr. Leyfield, please go back behind the Smackdown announcing booth, and let McMahon and Finlay handle their business on their own.

Winner: Triple H
Triple H has dominated the Raw brand since his return at Summerslam, and continued dominating the brand in Cena’s absence. Whether his actions made him a heel or face, it didn’t seem to matter. Triple H was sure to position himself to be the most important guy on the show. Whether reuniting DX fifty times or bludgeoning William Regal or the languishing Umaga, The King of Kings was sending the message he was ready to get back on the throne. On the road to WrestleMania Triple H beat Snitsky, Mark Henry, even got to destroy the old TitanTron. Despite missing two weeks of Raw due to a family emergency and being far from the most over guy in the match, he dominated the Elimination Chamber at No Way Out, and got to pedigree both of his challengers on the most recent edition of Raw. Basically get ready to see the same guy that buried RVD, Kane, and Booker T back on your television’s come April. This time however, it will be Randy Orton, Ken Kennedy, and Jeff Hardy who feel his wrath.

Winner: John Cena
Huge props to the WWE for working the entire internet and creating probably the greatest moment in Royal Rumble history. Smarks can bitch and moan as much as they want, but I am one who is happy to see Cena return earlier than expected. The guy is a workhorse, and just based on crowd reaction alone is always controversial and entertaining. Plus, anyone that keeps that gold strap off Triple H is fine in my book. Not many come out on top of Cena, but no one gets destroyed in the process. The Game-ah cannot say the same-ah.

Loser: Randy Orton
Obviously WWE does not have faith in Randy Orton to put butts in the seats, as this is the second time they have thrown a third element into his World title match at WrestleMania.

Not sure how so many can’t miss prospects and can’t miss storylines came nowhere near the mark on the Road to WrestleMania. The Showcase of the Immortals could have been all that much more spectacular with a more visionary focus and some creative long term booking. Instead, outside of the two main events, you might as well call this the Showcase of the Glorified midcarders, as never before has it been so apparent leading into a WrestleMania how bad writing and bad booking have hindered the breaking of the glass ceiling. Will the lack of momentum for so many superstars effect buy rates? Most likely not. It’s WrestleMania for God’s sakes.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Monday, February 11, 2008

Is it Possible? Could Finlay be a top Face?

Tonight on Raw we have seen the solidifying of the feud between Finlay and Mr. McMahon. Historically, Mr. McMahon feuds with one of the top faces in the company. Can this mean that they are considering Finlay one of the top babyfaces?

In recent years, Mr. McMahon has only spent significant time in storylines with some of the top babyfaces at the time.

When Hogan returned, Mr. McMahon was all over his case.

Vince feuded with DX to build their popularity once more.

When Lashley got one of his biggest pushes, it was spurred by a heated angle against Mr. McMahon that culminated in Vince's head being shaved.

Now, we see Finlay smashing McMahon in the head with a shillelagh, and McMahon threatening Finlay with possible dismissal.

Sure - this face-off is logical. McMahon is constantly riding Hornswoggle's ass. Finlay has come to the aid of the shortest adult McMahon about half a dozen times. It's only a matter of time until McMahon's ire gets the best of him and he goes after Finlay.

Yet still it surprises me to see McMahon investing his time in a guy like Finlay. No disrespect meant to Finlay, but the guy isn't exactly known for being at the top of the title picture...

Is this an effort to build the stardom of another member of the roster and to deepen the Raw talent pool?

Is this merely a contract obligation to Finlay being met by Vince?

Is this an attempt to slowly steer McMahon away from the seemingly never ending angle in which he has found himself with Hornswoggle, his illegitimate son?

To tell you the truth, I don't think any of these possibilities are what we are really seeing.

While I'd be happy to see a long-time veteran like Finlay get a push, it is just too hard for me to believe in this angle.

I'm getting a strange vibe from this whole deal.

Let's face it - Finlay is not one of the top babyfaces.

Finlay is not getting a huge face push.

I smell HEEL turn.

At No Way Out, we're all getting swurved - Finlay will turn on Hornswoggle and hand him a beating worse than the one King Kong Bundy administered to Little Beaver at Wrestlemania III.

What do you think?

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