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James Caldwell: This is PWTorch assistant editor James Caldwell joined by PWTorch columnist Greg Parks discussing this week's WWE programming and looking ahead to tonight's TNA Impact. Greg, one of the big news stories today is Ricky Steamboat reportedly being hospitalized last night. The timing is interesting since it came two days after the big Nexus angle on Raw. What did you think of the angle and how do you think WWE will address Steamboat's "real injuries" going forward after playing up his "fake injuries" on Tuesday's NXT?
Greg Parks: I think his injuries may be something they address in passing on TV in the coming weeks, just to put over the destruction the Nexus group has brought, but I don't think it'll go any further than that. As for real vs. fake, I don't think they'll bother making that distinction; they should just stay with the story they put out there on NXT.
Caldwell: Agreed. It's interesting they pulled the "fake injury report" they published after Raw, which Michael Cole basically read from on Tuesday's NXT, after publishing an actual news report on Steamboat's health issues today. And they also changed an initial report on the Nexus angle perhaps affecting Steamboat's health. To me, it was them trying to cover their back-sides in-case Steamboat's health concerns can be tied back to the injury angle in WWE's ring.
Parks: And I think a serious injury trumps a fake one as well, so it was smart to remove mention of the fake one, so as to not confuse people.
Caldwell: I think WWE likes to muddy that line between reality and storyline since they put real announcements in the same "news section" as their storyline-driven announcements. It's fascinating to see how WWE handles situations where reality crosses over into their fictional world. ... All right, let's talk about Monday's Raw. Based on our Roundtables, we were about the same place of giving the show a slight thumbs up despite some issues with the show. What was your main takeaway from Raw?
Parks: I suppose it was the Nexus angle with the legends, and Randy Orton standing tall on the ladder, previewing the possibility of him winning MITB. The Nexus angle was kind-of a place-holder with Wade Barrett out. Nexus has lost their best wrestler (Daniel Bryan) and best talker (Barrett) at least for the moment, so we should see if someone else steps up to stand out. The main event tag was pretty fun, and I liked how we didn't got the traditional route of having to sit through qualifying matches to get into the Ladder Match. It's nice to change things up every once in a while. We also know now that, even though Orton got the visual of winning at the PPV, it doesn't necessarily mean he WON'T win at the PPV, right? Rey Mysterio proved us wrong on that a few weeks ago getting the pin on the go-home show on Smackdown.
Parks: Yeah, WWE trying to challenge conventional wisdom on their booking! My impression of the Rey Mysterio title change was that it was a last-minute decision leading up to the PPV, so they threw the booking out the window. Randy Orton standing tall on Raw holding the MITB briefcase seems to be an indication he won't win since they booked that well in-advance. They could always pull another switcheroo to defy conventional wisdom again, though. Also, they've been heavy on Edge's track record winning MITB, which means he probably won't win either. So, my early pick is The Miz. There's a bold prediction for today.
As far as the Nexus group goes, I think Skip Sheffield has definitely stepped up as a second leader behind Wade Barrett. They still don't have anyone who can wrestle, which is a problem, but hopefully they can continue to stretch this out until it becomes a necessity to get the Nexus Rookies inside the ropes.
Parks: Unfortunately, Sheffield was one of my least-favorite NXT Season One guys, but I'll admit, since he dropped the goofy shtick, he's been much more effective.
Caldwell: Agreed. As for the Mystery Raw GM, do you have a guess with some more clues in-play from Monday's show? I'm leaning toward Michael Cole, but I wouldn't be surprised to see someone completely off the radar step in.
Parks: Cole totally played his role as a heel, albeit somewhat subtly, just in his tone of voice and the way he announced what the GM had sent him. I could totally see it being Cole, but it would be an odd way for him (in storyline terms) to go about keeping it a secret, presumably sending e-mails to himself. Then again, Cole comes off as a bit of an odd guy.
Caldwell: There would have to be numerous explanations, including why McMahon would suddenly give Cole complete and absolute control of the show. Let's talk about the John Cena vs. Sheamus feud. I like the addition of the cage stipulation, as it actually makes sense in the context of the storyline with Nexus. I have a scenario unfolding in my head where Sheamus retains, then goes on to face a returning Triple H at Summerslam in the rubber match. Meanwhile, Cena continues the feud with Nexus and they have some sort of blow-off match at Summerslam. Do you have a prediction yet for Cena vs. Sheamus at the PPV?
Parks: I think they really need Sheamus to retain, just to give some sort of semblance of consistency in the title. Your timeline works for me, as WWE wants Summerslam to be their #2 PPV behind WrestleMania, and having Triple H return (again) at that show could pump up the buyrate a bit. I don't mind continuing the Cena feud with Nexus, because it makes Nexus seem like a big deal, but they really need to long-term book this Nexus angle to continue to make it seem like a big deal, and so as to not lose steam along the way. By the time they get to Summerslam, Cena vs. Nexus could be an afterthought, given their history in booking big angles like that over a long period of time.
Caldwell: I definitely agree with needing to have some consistency to the title. I imagine Sheamus won't get a clean win at the PPV, but they could get more heat on him if he retains over Cena with a slightly under-handed tactic that wouldn't be a cheap win, but a heat-generating win. It would be in WWE's best interest to keep the Cena vs. Nexus program strong leading to Summerslam after all of the TV time invested into the program. It's time to translate that into PPV buys. I am starting to think the angle is cursed, though, with Bryan Danielson released, Wade Barrett's Visa issues, and Ricky Steamboat's health issues.
Parks: It'll be like the episode of the Simpsons, "Homer at the Bat," where all of the Power Plant ringers get caught up in some weird circumstances that leads to Homer being able to play. As for Sheamus, I really think he could use a strong, clean win over Cena. Both of his title wins came under nefarious circumstances, so while I wouldn't bet the farm on it actually happening, I'd like to see him beat Cena cleanly, with no questions.
Caldwell: And if Triple H has a hand in how the title match plays out, he'll want Sheamus as strong as possible for him to come in and build up a mega-title match at Summerslam. Nice Simpsons reference. Very applicable! Anything else on Raw we need to cover?
Parks: I can't take credit for it...I did read it elsewhere on the 'net. I think those were the only two really big moments from Raw. Do you have any issues with the eight men in the MITB match? Anyone you would take out and replace with someone else?
Caldwell: I'm a little concerned about sticking most of the top stars - Orton, Jericho, Edge - in the MITB ladder match, as that seems to be more of a mid-card type match. I understand it for this PPV since WWE needs to sell the event on the strength of the MITB matches, but I would have perhaps included someone like Zack Ryder in one of those slots and booked a one-on-one between two of the top stars in the match. Did you have an issue with the line-up?
Parks: Not really, but I do wonder what both brands will be doing for undercard matches. You've got the two title matches, the two MITB matches...and a women's match maybe? Is that enough?
Caldwell: I could see them adding another round of Harts vs. Usos. And Smackdown has some relatively strong mid-carders not in the MITB match just yet. So, I could see a bonus Raw and a bonus Smackdown mid-card match added to the line-up. I think it's relatively strong right now with a strong cage match, a potentially strong Rey vs. Swagger match, and two MITB ladder matches. It's stronger than last month's line-up, I would say.
Parks: Definitely. How about NXT two nights ago...I know you certainly were not high on the show. What did you think about the elimination of Titus O'Neil? Where did you have him on James Caldwell's Super Secret NXT Season Two Top Ten List Presented By PWTorch.com?
Caldwell: I thought the show was a complete mess. I actually had O'Neil last on my super-secret list with a yet-to-be-determined sponsor! I'm re-reading my Top 8 Rankings from my NXT report last Tuesday and I had O'Neil #8, Husky Harris #6, and Lucky Cannon #7. So, I wasn't far off from the Bottom Three ranked wrestlers. O'Neil just didn't stand out personality-wise and Lucky Cannon might be one of the worst babyfaces I've seen the last five years on WWE TV. The poor guy needs much more work at FCW.
Parks: Eli Cottonwood's size can't make up for his lack of ability or charisma, in my eyes. I had him last. O'Neil didn't stand out, but I thought he was OK in the ring and actually made his error on the mic in episode one into an actual uplifting catchphrase. Points for that, too.
Caldwell: Make it a win, Greg. Eli is an interesting guy. I don't think anyone would pay money to see him do anything, but I think he's someone who could fit into a TV storyline to help get sympathy on an underdog babyface. So, he could be utilized on TV as a more agile version of Great Khali. Oh no, that reminded me of something from Raw. What was up with Singh apparently turning heel and cutting a promo on Khali?
Parks: More importantly, what happened to Khali going back to India and taking a few months off? I was hoping I wouldn't have to see him involved in bad comedy or bad matches for a few months, but I don't think he ever left!
Caldwell: Apparently it just turned into a quick promotional deal and he was sent home before the Punjabi police suspended him again or something. Ugh. Back on NXT, what did you think of the Top 4 Rankings with Kaval, Percy Watson, Hennig, and then Alex Riley #4?
Parks: I might do some shuffling, but they're the four that stand out most so far. I may have had Harris instead of Watson, before Harris's match this week that set wrestling back about five years.
Caldwell: Oh man, poor Husky Harris thrown in the fire for 15 minutes with MVP on national TV. This was one of the big concerns going into NXT Season 1 sticking unseasoned wrestlers on national TV. Riley and Low-Ki had a great match Week 1 of this season, but Husky isn't ready for prime time. Do we need to discuss the keg carry or shall we move on to previewing TNA tonight?
Parks: I never thought I'd say this, but: Please, let's move on to TNA.
Caldwell: Indeed. Impact tonight has Jeff Hardy vs. Abyss with RVD as special ref. Also, Samoa Joe vs. A.J. Styles, plus Matt Morgan vs. Jay Lethal, and other matches with no advanced hype being given away on free TV. What do you make of the line-up tonight?
Parks: It doesn't matter. It'll draw the same rating it always does. The matches sound good on paper, but you know they probably won't end in clean finishes. Both companies are fond of giving away PPV caliber matches with little to no hype...could it be that the wrestling companies are right and we are wrong when it comes to hyping matches beforehand?
Caldwell: No, we are not wrong. I managed to avoid a double negative there. It comes down to a lack of awareness for the product and TNA trying to throw a lot against the wall without really deciding to take a long-term approach to book a product that can build upon itself rather than cut the legs out from under itself.
Parks: I would agree, but WWE is guilty of not advertising big matches ahead of time, too. I'm wondering if there is some sort of ratings research done that we're not privy to that lead pro wrestling head honchos to not advertise ahead of time as much as we may think they should.
Caldwell: I think it comes down to both promotions undervaluing wrestling match-ups as a tool to draw ratings on TV. The landscape has changed - I believe for the worse - where the emphasis on TV is less on pro wrestling and more on "non-wrestling action and drama" that tries to dance around emphasizing actual wrestling matches.
Parks: TNA is trying to draw a non-wrestling audience in, too, so I guess for them, it wouldn't make sense to really hype the matches ahead of time, either. Anything else from TNA you think we need to cover?
Caldwell: The problem is they don't have awareness to draw in a non-wrestling audience (much to Vince Russo's chagrin). And turning off wrestling fans who are looking for quality wrestling with good drama & action in the context of a wrestling match isn't going to help build the audience. I think we've covered the important items for Impact tonight. It's the same Impact we see most weeks and the same 1.2 million viewers expected to tune in without that awareness to re-build an audience. So, there ya go. Greg, anything else to cover today?
Parks: I think we can call it a day.
Caldwell: Indeed. All right, Greg, have a great Fourth of July weekend and we will talk on the Livecast on Monday leading to Monday's Raw.
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