CALDWELL'S TAKE CALDWELL'S BLOG: Panic Week a/k/a WWE Draft thoughts, Desmond Wolfe health update, Daffney vs. TNA issues
Apr 25, 2011 - 2:24:59 PM
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By James Caldwell, Torch assistant editor
-- It's Panic Week a/k/a The Draft tonight on Raw. WWE's lack of stars + slipping post-Mania ratings + completely damaged/non-existent brand split = "shake things up again" soundbyte from McMahon.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out over time if WWE actually keeps Smackdown wrestlers on Smackdown and Raw wrestlers on Raw or continues to mix and match talent. If Randy Orton moves to Smackdown, the immediate temptation will be keep Orton on Smackdown for a few weeks, then start featuring him on Raw again as a "special guest" trying to pop a rating.
The question then becomes whether WWE should combine the brands. On Friday's Bruce Mitchell Audio Show, Bruce and Wade Keller had an interesting discussion on whether WWE quickly announcing a Draft and only having a two-hour show will lead to an announcement the brands are being merged.
I agree with Bruce that it would be a mistake. Not only would it lead to John Cena being over-exposed and create the perception that Smackdown is getting Raw's left-overs, but it would continue to avoid the real issue: WWE needs to develop new stars. Instead of allowing someone like Cody Rhodes to develop into a top-flight heel on the Smackdown brand, he would probably be stuck in a going-nowhere feud on the mid-card picking up a few matches here and there.
Regardless of what happens tonight on Raw, the key will be developing those strong secondary characters that can eventually become top stars in 3-5 years.
-- The "announcement" of TNA wrestler Desmond Wolfe having Hepatitis C is being attributed to former TNA production worker Randy Ricci. Wolfe's condition has been known since summer 2010, but Wolfe told friends he wanted to keep the matter private.
Wolfe has also dealt with concussions, which was the original story going around in the TNA locker room about why he wasn't cleared to wrestle after a relatively strong run at the beginning of 2010.
It remains to be seen if Wolfe will ever be cleared to wrestle again in TNA, but right now, his personal health should be the chief concern.
-- A story that received a lot of attention last week was Cagesideseat's blog (cagesideseats.com) on former TNA Knockout Daffney (Shannon Spruill) and her treatment in TNA, especially being stuck with medical bills resulting from her injuries in TNA. That story has validity. However, the blog stretches a bit suggesting TNA is intentionally trying to hurt people with their decision-making.
From talking to people in TNA from a lot of different perspectives over the years, my conclusion is TNA isn't a cold, heartless company that wants to screw over their workers, rather, the company just isn't run competently.
Either understaffed in certain departments or having the wrong people on staff, I've concluded TNA really shouldn't be in the pro wrestling business. (The same conclusion could be drawn from watching an episode of Impact, but that's a booking/writing issue.)
One person backstage at the Lockdown PPV noted that TNA management freaked out when Kurt Angle nearly broke his neck on the top rope spot, especially since management allegedly did not know about the spot and would not have approved the spot for safety concerns.
Of course, my response was that TNA never should have allowed Angle to be in the ring in the first place because of his health issues and desire to out-do himself doing some sort of crazy spots pushing his body to the limit "competing" with himself.
The same people who didn't see the Jeff Hardy debacle coming at Victory Road the month before - despite massive red flags all over the place for months ahead of time - decided it would be a good idea to book Angle in the ring this month. Not cold or heartless, just incompetent.
There's also the issue of wrestler pay. Cagesideseats noted Taylor Wilde had to work a side job when he was on the TNA roster since she wasn't being paid well by TNA. It's certainly considered not fair by the men & women in the locker room that TNA overpays wrestlers who were part of the Attitude Era/have extensive WWE experience and underpays talent who had the unfortunate curse of not headlining WCW Nitro in 1998.
However, I've been told that strides have been made to up the pay for the Knockouts. Sure, it's not much, but TNA is at least reacting to outside pressure, especially with extensive coverage of the pay scale discrepancy over the past two years.
According to one TNA source, the top Knockouts (which, of course, includes some former WWE talent) are now being paid more than some of the X Division wrestlers. It doesn't fix the problem, which is an across-the-board discrepancy on the pay scale (including the X Division) made even worse by TNA shelling out another "sweetheart deal" to Sting. The system doesn't work, but I don't believe it's intentional.
There are different set of rules in WWE and TNA for top stars vs. lower-card stars, and with TNA essentially copying WWE's operational model on a much smaller scale, the discrepancies are far more apparent. In the case of Shannon Spruill, she was unfairly victimized by the system.
Does it make it better? No. But, there are people in TNA management who are generally concerned for the health of talent. The problem is the system is set up to fail certain talent. Not cold and heartless, just incompetent.
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