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CALDWELL & PARKS WEEKLY CHAT 9/22: In-depth discussion of WWE mystery developments, HIAC PPV, Henry, Morrison, Sin Caras, never-ending NXT, Smackdown, Flair

Sep 22, 2011 - 4:06:03 PM

On a weekly basis, PWTorch staffers James Caldwell and Greg Parks have a Lounge-style chat reviewing the week in TV wrestling and looking ahead to what's next for key storylines, matches, and future events. An occasional "Seinfeld" or "The Office" reference is also mixed in for good measure.

James Caldwell: This is PWTorch assistant editor James Caldwell joined by PWTorch columnist Greg Parks for our weekly TV wrestling discussion. Greg, coming out of the Night of Champions PPV and Monday's Raw, WWE is set up for another round of Triple H's character feeling the squeeze as COO, plus more mysteries with the latest "conspiracy" talk. What do you make of WWE's current situation concerning their top storyline?

Greg Parks: We now have Miz, R-Truth and Nash "fired" in storyline. Knowing WWE's history with storyline firings, I'd be surprised if we got to the second hour of this week's Raw without seeing Miz and Truth in some form. Those three may band together in an attempt to take down Triple H as COO. Perhaps Cena and even CM Punk come to Hunter's defense. Cena and Punk were a little too cozy for my tastes on Raw this week, but they had to be back involved with each other in some capacity, given Punk's addition to the Cena vs. Del Rio rematch at Hell in a Cell.

Caldwell: Where does John Laurinaitis fit into all of this? I know - the last person who should be on my mind in this storyline. But, he's obviously working against Hunter, so are we still to believe he's pulling the strings for a higher power McMahon or he just wants Hunter's position and he's acting independently? Does he become the person who "re-hires" Miz, Nash, and Truth? And if so, does it lead to an NWO-style grouping? I've upgraded from indifferent to slightly intrigued with this after what I thought was a decent-to-good Raw show, but I'm leery of where Laurinaitis fits into all of this because I don't think he adds to the show.

Parks: That's one of those things I'm really surprised hasn't been addressed yet - why hasn't Triple H fired Laurinaitis? There's no real hard evidence to connect him to anything, but there's an awful lot of circumstantial evidence connecting him to Nash and Nash's interference at Night of Champions. He's also gone behind Hunter's back several times - and in front of it trying to fire Punk - so I don't get why Hunter hasn't disposed of him in the storyline yet. That tells me he's going to play an important role coming down the pike.

Caldwell: It could be one of those things like Triple H keeping Michael Cole around that it would be too expensive to "fire" Laurinaitis and pay out his executive contract. Of course, then he fired Nash, Truth, and Miz, so wouldn't those be expensive buy-outs, too, especially after Laurinaitis supposedly paid Nash a big contract? It's like R-Truth pulling Punk off a pin on C.M. Punk at Night of Champions - it doesn't make any sense and hasn't been addressed. I definitely agree Laurinaitis will play an important role going forward. I'm sure it will lead to Vince McMahon's return or perhaps a Raw GM reveal? We still don't know who cut off Punk's mic last week, and Triple H interrupted Punk's promo this week before Punk could get to that. So, I think something's afoot. Overall, Greg, do you think WWE's top storyline is in a better or worse position than it was before Night of Champions? Also, when do you expect McMahon to return?

Parks: I think it's a little better, but you mentioned what really bothered me at NoC that wasn't really addressed on Raw: Miz and Truth attacking Punk as well as Hunter during the main event. Awesome Truth were both humble and apologetic Monday night, so I suppose you could say they "felt bad" about attacking only Triple H during the match so they wanted to take out Punk too, but they were so adamant about getting Hunter removed earlier in the night - what changed? The fact that the announcers didn't really call attention to that on Raw either, to my knowledge, makes it even more curious (and not in the good I-think-it'll-be-solved way)

Caldwell: More like in a perhaps WWE realized they screwed up kind of a way. Like you said, it wasn't addressed at all and WWE moved right into Miz and Truth acting apologetic. I agree with you they'll probably be back on Raw before the end of the show, so how do you think it plays out? They "jump the rail" and attack Triple H? Buy a ticket? Laurinaitis sneaks them in? Protest outside the building a la Jericho? WWE could really stretch this "firing" out, unlike C.M. Punk "leaving WWE," but I anticipate them being re-hired this week, in time for some sort of match at Hell in a 10 days!

Parks: Yeah, I could see them interfering in a match the same way Nash has twice now, causing further chaos during Triple H's reign as COO and to make him look even more like someone who doesn't have his ducks in a row.

Caldwell: You touched on something that WWE drew attention to in their Raw preview for next week's show that aired during NXT - that perhaps Hunter is losing his grip as COO. Do you think this is leading to Hunter's removal as COO or just creating more tension to spill out in the next chapter of this storyline feuding against the person(s) higher up the ladder, as Punk alluded to?

Parks: I think it leads to more tension at first, and eventually, his removal. To answer one of your earlier questions, I wouldn't expect Vince McMahon back on TV immediately, but I'd say by the end of the year definitely. Perhaps Vince gets his job back by getting Rock to appear and wrestle at Survivor Series?

Caldwell: That's where I have questions on how WWE reincorporates The Rock into storylines in-time for Survivor Series build-up. Right now, I don't see where he fits in, so perhaps they're rushing through some chapters to get to the bridge that connects where they are now to Rock part of Survivor Series. You could be on to something about McMahon "offering" an appearance by Rock - because it's supposed to be "about business" for Triple H - in exchange for being re-hired. After all, McMahon did reintroduce Rock way back in February when he said he hired the only person capable of hosting WrestleMania. So, that would be the tie-in. It seems like Rock would become a pawn in the McMahon-Hunter power struggle, though, which probably isn't the best way to reintroduce Rock. But, until we see more of where WWE is going with this, I sense that's how he might be reintroduced. Then, they have to connect it to Rock teaming with Cena and that will be a chore, too. Lots of moving parts to this, Greg!

Parks: Definitely. It's difficult to sift through what we've seen and determine what matters in the long run and what is just a one-off thing, you know?

Caldwell: Like Truth pulling Punk off a pin on Hunter! Or, the Raw GM. Just two examples there. Speaking of Punk, where do you think he fits in long-term? He's teaming with Cena now, which just doesn't seem right for his character, even though they've been teaming together and saving each other on the house shows for two months. I imagine Punk continues to play up the conspiracy aspect until he can finally get his message through without interruption, but where do you think he fits into all of this other than being a third wheel in the WWE Title picture?

Parks: I'm guessing he and Cena get more of the focus than Del Rio in the last week or so heading into HIAC. That could always lead to Cena and Punk coming to blows during the match and ADR pulling out a title win. I just feel sticking ADR in with Cena and Punk doesn't do justice to how well he's done in WWE thus far - he really deserves better. I don't think Punk wins the title at HIAC and I would actually put the likelihood of him winning behind Cena AND Del Rio. Don't know why, but I just get that feeling.

Caldwell: I definitely think Del Rio regains the title. Putting it together with what you said, I think Cena and Punk end their "let's play nice and work over Del Rio" mid-match relationship, come to blows, and Del Rio sneaks in a win. So, Cena and Punk don't really "lose" and there really isn't enough tension to re-visit a Cena-Punk feud, so Cena returns to a singular title feud against Del Rio and Punk returns to being involved in wherever WWE is with the latest conspiracy/mystery. How that makes Del Rio look remains to be seen because, as you said, they really haven't done justice to his one-year rise to the top. And Punk doesn't need the title right now, as he can keep himself over just talking on the mic, as long as WWE doesn't drift into insider worked shoot mode, which was one of the top reasons I was thumbs up on Monday's Raw. Greg, any other thoughts on the top storyline or do we need to see more of this play out?

Parks: I think I've already wasted too much brainpower on this angle today - and with the Livecast still to come! Let's move on to other subjects.

Caldwell: Let's move on to Mr. Mark Henry - the other top reason I gave Raw a thumbs up show. Henry was able to turn what could have been a babyface storyline - 15-year quest fulfilled and decisive World Title victory - into a great heel moment. What's your take on the work being done with Henry's character?

Parks: It's excellent, the greatest character work WWE has done for someone in some time - and they haven't screwed it up yet! The only reason I couldn't give his segment on Raw a full thumbs up, and nothing wrong with Henry's performance, was because it was tainted by the usual "let's pick on JR" stuff that WWE always does. It was tough to look past another chapter in THAT book to fully take in the segment on Monday.

Caldwell: That part was certainly unnecessary. I understand how WWE could justify it - sympathetic, popular announcer gets picked on by Henry to reinforce Henry as a heel - but it's not like it was an isolated incident. It's part of a regular pattern of WWE (specifically McMahon) trying to compromise/humiliate/pick on Ross over the past year, and in years prior when he was part-time. It's unfortunate. Staying on the subject of Smackdown before we tackle the Raw mid-card, where do you think they go from here with Randy Orton? Does he regain the title at HIAC or does Henry really keep that title for a long time? And if so, where does Orton fit into the picture during Henry's reign?

Parks: I think Henry's gotta retain the title. I think he's gotta hold it for a while. Confidence in WWE to actually get it done? Not much. But, I guess it's "wrong" for us to expect them to screw up the Henry push, given how well it's gone so far. So I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. I just don't see how losing to Orton at HIAC helps him at all, or even Orton for that matter - he's a big enough star where he doesn't need the title. I'm wondering how Christian fits into this whole thing, because I don't feel his program with Orton is quite finished.

Caldwell: Plus, Sheamus, too. I anticipate the Big Four will continue to rule the World Title picture, especially with Sheamus dominating folks on Raw lately and his segment with Christian at Night of Champions. Perhaps after Henry retains at HIAC, they reset with some sort of #1 contender situation involving Orton and Sheamus. Henry eventually has to move on to other opponents, but I don't see who those people are other than from within the Big Four. I would say Cody Rhodes, but Cody's heel. So, I imagine WWE just rotates Orton, Sheamus, and Christian in that title picture for the rest of the year.

Parks: Yeah, and Sheamus still has some revenge to dish out to Henry after their one PPV match - their feud seemed like it was destined for more, but then Henry was moved over to feud with Orton.

Caldwell: Right. I could see Henry-Sheamus perhaps at Vengeance to split the 1-1 tie in the rubber match. Elsewhere on the Smackdown side of things that played out on Raw, there was that Sin Cara segment. That was a...moment. Your thoughts on where they're going with the Sin Cara vs. Sin Cara deal that you predicted a few weeks ago.

Parks: I thought it made sense for that to be the second part of their angle/feud so far: First being the confrontation, second being it getting physical without having a match, and make it look like they're evenly matched. Crowd was into it when the Caras played to them, but they didn't seem to know how to react when they fought. That's a problem that can be solved by changing outfits. Oh, and the announcers not knowing who was who, despite the obvious size difference and the fans all cheering the real Sin Cara and booing the impostor. Oy.

Caldwell: The announcing is definitely part of the problem, not the solution, on getting this angle over with a U.S. crowd. On paper, I think it sounded like a good idea to show the two being evenly matched or "mirror images" of each other in the ring, but I think WWE needed to establish more of a history to the character before entering into this impostor storyline. Sin Cara needed to be established for months, if not a year, so the audience could sink their teeth into this. It seems too much, too soon. Do you think it eventually leads to a clean write-off of the impostor and they return to normal with the real Sin Cara? Or, do you think WWE keeps the impostor around...ya know, just in case Mistico and WWE butt heads again?

Parks: Well, they'll keep Hunico FCW after the real Sin Cara beats the fake one. The problem you mentioned with the announcing is also an issue because very little is known about the Cara character, mostly because Mistico can't speak English. There's just nothing for fans to relate to, other than the fact that he does fun, high-flying moves.

Caldwell: Right. And Rey Mysterio's already cornered the market on that, plus developed a strong following over the past several years to go with the high-flying. Issues with the Sin Cara character abound for WWE to resolve! Greg, looking at the Raw mid-card, it looks like the Tag Title situation is in neutral with Bourne & Kofi not having a feud after NOC, the Divas division still has Beth and Natalya on the chase for Kelly and Eve, and it looks like Swagger vs. Ziggler is on the horizon. Plus, Zack Ryder had a strong "moment" working with Hugh Jackman, but who knows if WWE will carry any of Ryder's momentum over to next week. Your take on those four items?

Parks: Rapid fire! Without Truth and Miz, tag title situation is back to square one. Good that Bourne and Kofi have them, but who's left? Beth and Nattie constantly being unsuccessful has GOT to be part of the storyline now. I don't know why else you'd build them up as monsters then destroy them so quickly. It's a slow burn to Ziggler vs. Swagger, which is okay by me. It gives both something to do, and they deserve it. I don't expect Ryder's momentum to carry over.

Caldwell: (Rapid Fire sponsored by LightStrike! Rey Mysterio and batteries not included.) I still think the Usos have to be in line for a Tag Title run at some point, even if it's not soon since WWE wants to establish the Air Boom duo right now. Do you think Beth gets another run at Kelly's Divas Title? If WWE goes that route, they would absolutely have to have Beth win on the third try. But, if they remain high on Kelly right now, then they might want to hold off on Kelly-Beth III and have Kelly thwart Natalya this time around. I agree on Ryder. As for Swagger-Ziggler, I could see Swagger getting the U.S. Title at the PPV (assuming WWE books a singles match between them) and that causes more tension with Vickie.

Parks: I'd guess that about the Usos too, but they're starting something on NXT, so I don't know if they'll be up on Raw or Smackdown any time soon. I wouldn't be surprised to see Nattie get a shot at the title before Beth again. I don't know how you could justify giving Beth another shot at this point given the constant losing. Yeah, Swagger vs. Ziggler is coming, but I wonder how soon. I feel like they've still got some work to do there before they are put in a singles match against each other.

Caldwell: Do you think WWE keeps Morrison and Riley in that U.S. Title picture, then? Morrison seems to be way down the depth chart right now, but WWE seems to be high on Riley right now.

Parks: I definitely think Riley more so than Morrison. There's a reason it wasn't Riley taking that minute loss to Del Rio on Monday.

Caldwell: Ah yes, I almost completely forgot about Morrison being fed to Del Rio in a minute. Obviously, WWE wanted to establish Del Rio back on the warpath and a somewhat credible heel challenger to Cena to "stack the deck" against Cena yet again, and Morrison is credible enough for Del Rio to get an impressive win, but couldn't they have picked someone else? To me, it says WWE has lost complete faith in Morrison.

Parks: I always think of Jeff Hardy losing quickly to Umaga on Raw, and then soon after that being shot up the card, so it's hard for me to say anymore. Is it to teach Morrison a lesson? Is it because they really are down on him? Or is it because they think he can afford the loss and ADR will look better because of it? Or is it a combination of those? Tough to say.

Caldwell: It's also a lack of roster depth where they don't have a lot of options to find someone they could sacrifice to Del Rio to give Del Rio a credible win. Morrison, with WWE not doing much of anything with him right now, seemed to be the default option. Greg, anything else on Raw before we move on to NXT and other Smackdown items?

Parks: I guess not. NXT just seems to be on a treadmill now, not going anywhere. At least Young and JTG got the win in their tag match this week!

Caldwell: Even Steven booking at its finest on NXT! It seems like WWE has taken this show from "finding the next breakout star" to simply creating a weekly, episodic show to see how the NXT Rookies fit into a WWE storyline environment. Ya know, instead of the Rookies doing Challenges, they're now involved in typical WWE storylines customary for Raw or Smackdown to see how they perform in simulated situations. I'm waiting for the end of this season when Striker and/or Maryse evaluates each of their performances in the storylines. Seriously! It seems like that's what NXT has become. Speaking of the Young & JTG match victory, there's still no explanation for the Usos on this show. I don't know where they're going with this.

Parks: Did you just cut and paste the first 2/3 of that response? Because I swear you've said it all before here - which is not your fault, but WWE's fault for (a) not sticking to what NXT actually is supposed to be and (b) not giving us anything to even really discuss!

Caldwell: Ha! It's a revised version of my long-standing theory, just taking it a step further to WWE evaluating the show within the show. But, yes, WWE isn't giving us much to talk about since none of it seems to matter until they actually start talking about winning a competition again. Titus O'Neil loosely referred to this strange, foreign, distant thought on NXT being a competition show during the opening segment, but that was it. As for the Hornswoggle mystery, Greg, I don't get it. The announcers acted like Swoggle was still MIA during the A.J. vs. Maxine match, then cameras just spotted Swoggle hanging out in the hallway like no big deal. Am I missing something here?

Parks: I think it's more likely that the NXT writers are missing something. I'm sure if he could speak, he'd have a good explanation for A.J. as to his whereabouts the past week.

Caldwell: That's hilarious in so many ways. Poor A.J. trying to communicate with Swoggle over the phone must be a chore. It's a wonder their relationship has lasted this long. Before we get completely off the rails here, let's touch on some other Smackdown items we haven't discussed yet. Your take on where WWE is with Daniel Bryan and, in a completely separate storyline, Jinder Mahal?

Parks: I feel like WWE is just biding time with Bryan until he cashes in his MITB. Clearly they're breaking up Mahal and Khali in what will no doubt be a match that is hyped on Smackdown only the segment before it actually occurs, despite the time they've given this story.

Caldwell: WWE could be doing so much more with Bryan - actually building up his title chase to a climax at WM28. Instead, it seems like it's more of a case of "well, Bryan has the title match at WM28, so we don't have to worry about his character for a few months." Unfortunate. Do you think Mahal remains on TV after this storyline inevitably concludes or do you think it's a write-off?

Parks: If it is a write-off, he'll just go back to FCW; I don't think it'll end with him being released. But, I think he does have some value on Smackdown. They should've kept him and Khali together longer, with a more serious run at the tag titles.

Caldwell: Yeah, I think something could have been made of the duo in the Tag Title chase. It just seems like WWE soured quickly on Mahal, which is unfortunate because I thought he showed some promise. Greg, any other Smackdown-related items worth commenting on?

Parks: Nah, I think we're set for this week.

Caldwell: Very good. Before we wrap up, your thoughts on the Flair-Sting match from last week's Impact and where TNA is right now heading into Bound for Glory next month?

Parks: Flair-Sting looked like a third-day-of-wrestling-school match. Sure, there's nostalgia in seeing them wrestle, but not if they can't do anything in the ring. I'm sure the main event picture will hinge on Hogan's big announcement, which shouldn't happen because he's pretty much a non-wrestler anyway, but that's what you get with TNA.

Caldwell: Flair shouldn't be wrestling. There shouldn't be any question about it. TNA should let him be a Respected Elder and enhance some stars; not put him in a position to be embarrassed or injured. It's unfortunate. Greg, how about a plug for this week's Gonzo and The Greg before we wrap?

Parks: This week, we eschew our weekly top five list to present our thoughts about being at Night of Champions live.

Caldwell: Ah, very good. I'm anticipating more security stories from Kurt!

Parks: Oh, he'll have them! He's got plenty...his dad has been working wrestling shows in Buffalo for years.

Caldwell: Excellent. All right, Greg, that'll do it for us this week. I'll look forward to hearing more from you on the Livecast today. Until then, thanks for the Chat!

Parks: Thank you, James.

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PWTorch editor Wade Keller has covered pro wrestling full time since 1987 starting with the Pro Wrestling Torch print newsletter. launched in 1999 and the PWTorch Apps launched in 2008.

He has conducted "Torch Talk" insider interviews with Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Steve Austin, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Eric Bischoff, Jesse Ventura, Lou Thesz, Jerry Lawler, Mick Foley, Jim Ross, Paul Heyman, Bruno Sammartino, Goldberg, more.

He has interviewed big-name players in person incluiding Vince McMahon (at WWE Headquarters), Dana White (in Las Vegas), Eric Bischoff (at the first Nitro at Mall of America), Brock Lesnar (after his first UFC win).

He hosted the weekly Pro Wrestling Focus radio show on KFAN in the early 1990s and hosted the Ultimate Insiders DVD series distributed in retail stories internationally in the mid-2000s including interviews filmed in Los Angeles with Vince Russo & Ed Ferrara and Matt & Jeff Hardy. He currently hosts the most listened to pro wrestling audio show in the world, (the PWTorch Livecast, top ranked in iTunes)


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James Caldwell, assistant editor

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