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CALDWELL & PARKS WEEKLY CHAT 11/11: In-depth discussion of Raw, next week's Rock is Raw, Smackdown, Survivor Series, Turning Point, Impact

Nov 11, 2011 - 4:35:12 PM

On a weekly basis, PWTorch staffers James Caldwell and Greg Parks have a casual, yet insightful, 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 chat. Greg, the chat will Get Rocked next week when we review a three-hour Raw featuring Rock's return, but what did you think of this week's Raw and their attempt to build anticipation for Rock's return and Survivor Series?

Greg Parks: I didn't think it was great. I found it odd that WWE seemed to worry more about giving Zack Ryder rub and making the fans happy than actually making Miz and R-Truth more of a threat to Cena. I thought you nailed it in your report: the main event felt like a house show match in the way it was structured. Now maybe they're saving the big guns for this week when, like you said, Raw is three hours and The Rock shows up. I'm guessing WWE teases some dissension between Cena and Rock this week heading into Survivor Series, making fans wonder if they can truly get along. I think that'll be more the concentration than building up Miz and Truth as credible opponents. What say you?

Caldwell:: I thought it was really interesting (and somewhat funny) how WWE tried to "reset" the hype for the tag match at Survivor Series by having Ryder in Rock's spot, having Miz & Truth pick up the win, and make it seem like Rock is the answer to solve the Miz & Truth riddle...despite Cena singlehandedly taking out Miz & Truth last week. At the end of the day, Ryder got a nice rub being in a TV main event with Cena and he didn't really lose anything being that "buddy" to Cena who wasn't good enough to hang with Miz & Truth. Just being in the main event was a victory for his character. I'm sure there will be plenty of dissension teased between Rock and Cena on Raw to play up the idea of them possibly exploding on each other at Survivor Series because they can't stand being in the ring together. Really, that's the selling point - can Cena and Rock co-exist or will they destroy each other six months before WM28? If WWE can hit that point on next week's Raw without giving away too much of Rock on free TV, it could help the buyrate for the PPV. Otherwise, where they are right now, WWE hasn't created a special feel to Rock's in-ring return next Sunday. Greg, how do you think WWE handles Rock's return next week on a three-hour show without giving away too much so people will still want to see more of Rock at the PPV?

Parks: I think they keep him in backstage stuff, almost like last year's WrestleMania, interacting with the talent, then one segment in front of the crowd. I don't think you want to bring him out to the live crowd too many times, but from WWE's POV, I don't think you want to go long stretches of the show without utilizing him, either. You almost have to have a Cena-Rock confrontation at some point, and it wouldn't even surprise me to see Rock as a special guest ref in the main event as Cena takes on someone (or some people). I think he's got to interact with Miz and Truth too, and that could be highly entertaining, but something that's getting lost in the shuffle as well.

Caldwell:: I think WWE could run into trouble with this being a three-hour show because of what you said about not wanting to go long stretches of the show without utilizing him since the entire show is marketed around him. But, they would run the risk of over-exposing Rock ahead of Survivor Series. I said on the Bruce Mitchell Audio Show on Wednesday that I think WWE would be much better off with a regular two-hour edition of Raw so they can more effectively use Rock. I fear they're going to reach the end of the possible Rock segments and have him do something Muppets-like backstage with Hornswoggle. But, Rock is smart about this, so I'm sure he will be protective of his role. I like the idea of Rock as special ref for a main event involving Cena. I think they could close the show with that visual of Cena winning, then finding himself in a stare down with Rock to close Raw and hype Survivor Series. Or, they could have Miz & Truth deliver a beat down on Cena & Rock, but I think WWE would like to keep the focus on Cena and Rock. I do anticipate one of those long Rock promos in front of the live crowd and a possible interruption by Miz and Truth. So, I think they have a lot of options, but three hours seems like too much to fill. ... What's interesting to me, Greg, is people seem to be more interested in Punk vs. Del Rio over the tag match right now. Do you think it's because Rock isn't on TV, the current state of the PPV main event hype, or focus on Del Rio-Punk on Monday's Raw?

Parks: There's always going to be a faction that is into whatever CM Punk is doing, so because of that, I'm not surprised. I don't know if I'd agree that people are more interested in Punk and Del Rio: As lame as the build for Rock and Cena vs. Miz and Truth has been, the build for the title match hasn't been much better. However, the intrigue in the tag match is Rock returning to the ring. The title match doesn't have anything like that to hang its hat on. I think my problem with the title match is that Del Rio and Punk both feel like they've been dumped from better storylines; Del Rio was dumped so that Cena could go into his tag match with Rock, which is going to be the true ME of Survivor Series; and Punk was dumped from the Hunter storyline without much of a resolution there. So despite it being a title match, it feels like both guys are, not quite afterthoughts, but not really at their peak as far as the storyline goes.

Caldwell:: And the promo exchange on Raw showed they really don't have anything to sink their teeth into with this feud. Evaluating Del Rio's promo skills? C'mon. What happened to two guys having a fight and seeing who the better wrestler is? I thought the backstage bit with Del Rio attacking Punk was an okay recovery, but the storyline of Del Rio trying to beat up Punk so badly that Punk will give up the title shot seems so desperate. No one is buying it, the announcers aren't stressing it, and Del Rio's character isn't taken seriously enough as a threat to execute it. I think you're right about one of the main reasons why some people are higher on Punk's match over Rock & Cena teaming at the PPV because of Punk's following being into whatever he's involved in. Greg, last week, I was solid in my prediction of Del Rio retaining the title at the PPV, but I'm moved to a slight lean of Punk capturing the title. Where are you on that right now?

Parks: I'm still on Del Rio for now. I'll re-evaluate after Monday, but that's still where I stand. I feel like putting the title on Punk won't change much at this point, and there's no real reason for him to win. Having him win at TLC makes a little more sense to me, and Del Rio would get an extra month of credibility as champion. I think he needs it now more than Punk.

Caldwell:: That's exactly what I was thinking last week, but I just got this feeling this week that WWE might go with Punk capturing the title. It would run the risk of overshadowing Rock & Cena, though, but also deliver a hot moment in front of what will assuredly be a hot crowd for Punk in MSG. I'll reserve my final prediction for next week's Chat after we see Raw. You mentioned Punk being removed from the Triple H situation, perhaps prematurely, in favor of the current Nash-Hunter feud. What did you think of Nash's return promo on Raw and do you think WWE will go with a Nash-Hunter match at Survivor Series or hold off?

Parks: It would be great if Del Rio beat Punk and would say, "See? It doesn't matter who has the better mic skills or who's more interesting...I beat you in the middle of the ring, and that's all that counts." Last night on the Livecast, I was effusive in my praise for Nash and his mic work on Raw. I thought he did a great job after some poor outings the last few months. He also cleared up a lot of issues that were left over from the whole "Triple H as COO" storyline and what role exactly Nash played in the whole thing.

Caldwell:: I just don't know how much people care, though, and that's on WWE. WWE dropped the ball with McMahon's quick TV return, the appointment of John Laurinaitis as interim GM, and not much resolution to the conspiracy storyline. Now, they have shifted it more toward an easy-to-invest-in "brotherly betrayal" story with Nash claiming he was betrayed and Hunter can come back and say how he felt betrayed by Nash. So, that works well, and Nash's delivery in his heel promo was solid. It makes me wonder if Hunter makes his big, epic return "early from injury" to confront Nash on this week's Raw on the same night Rock returns to TV, or if they hold off for after Survivor Series. It would be a classic re-visiting of Hunter vs. Rock political maneuverings from the Attitude Era. Greg, what else jumped out at you from Raw or anything else you're curious to see play out on next week's Raw?

Parks: John Morrison got a win! What does that mean for him, or was it more done to give Ziggler another loss (of which he's had a few lately)?

Caldwell:: That's like Jack Swagger's eye twitch - I want to see if it's something or nothing after a few weeks. For Ziggler, it's that WWE booking of having heel champions lose all the time to appear to be vulnerable for a babyface chase (prior to actually establishing the credibility of said champion so it means something when they're being chased), but for Morrison, I have no idea. It could be a sign he's re-signed, but it could also be a one-week thing to give Ziggler another loss as part of his storyline. I just don't see WWE getting behind Morrison right now, especially after all the damage they've done to his character. But, stranger things have happened!

Parks: Ugh, the Swagger eye-twitching. Let's move on before I start ranting on that one.

Caldwell:: Hi, I'm Jack Swagger, a former World Hvt. champion, and I lost to a Muppet. Oh, Jack, it's so Heel Ted DiBiase 2010 losing dance-offs to "get heat." As for the Divas, things seemed to be kept in neutral with a Magazine Poster Reveal and no formal announcement of Eve's impending title challenge. What are your thoughts on the State of the Divas?

Parks: I don't feel, for whatever reason, that the writing on Smackdown and Raw are in sync with each other as far as the Divas go. The shows seem to alternate focus. I don't mind Eve getting another shot at the titles - I just wish Beth and Nattie didn't feel like such a rip-off of Lay-Cool. It's like WWE found something interesting for the Divas and are bound to repeat the same storyline over and over again (they had the Bellas doing a similar thing to Lay-Cool before they gave way to Phoenix and Neidhart).

Caldwell:: There are only so many stories they can grab from the Divas Bag of Stories, apparently. And, Awesome Kong's departure wiped out a big item from the Bag, so they're back to the tried-and-true Divas stories. There's been talk of a Beth vs. Natalya feud sometime down the road. What do you think of that possibility - the ol' Break-Up and Feud story from the Bag?

Parks: That's bound to happen, but I don't see it happening anytime soon, even though WWE has become notorious for rushing storylines like that. With Fox now a face, I assume she gets a shot after Eve since she has been winning lately too. I think A.J. and Kaitlyn would make a good opposition to Beth and Nattie too, but they're also not Barbie Doll Divas, so the heels will have to change their trajectory if WWE goes to that feud.

Caldwell:: Speaking of feuds involving Divas, I know we've tabled NXT talk until there's something resembling a conclusion to this season, but Johnny Curtis has now been injected into the Maxine-Bateman love story. What do you make of Curtis's new role on WWE programming?

Parks: His whole Smackdown "promotion" is a study in psychology. It almost felt like, since the edict came down from Triple H that he wants vignettes to introduce new characters, that the WWE writers didn't even want Curtis on Smackdown or thought he was so bland, so they did vignettes to make him SEEM bland since they had no ideas for him, then jobbed him out immediately to Mark Henry. After the 41-man battle royal, he hasn't been heard or seen again. It may seem like a stretch (or, dare I say, a conspiracy against him), but I don't know how else to read into his Smackdown failures. As for NXT, at least he's getting time to improve and work as opposed to sitting on the sidelines.

Caldwell:: Are you accusing the writers of sandbagging poor Johnny Curtis?! Yeah, I would agree with you based on those "ketchup and mustard," etc. skits. He does carry himself well on NXT, so perhaps it's a chance for him to "return to AAA" and get a fresh start, find himself, and then perhaps return to Smackdown. We'll see. Greg, let's move on to Smackdown, where Daniel Bryan is in the mix with Henry and Show in their World Title feud. What do you make of the current Henry-Show PPV build-up and Bryan's TV involvement, which seems to be giving Henry something to do without having to give away more physical interaction between Henry and Show?

Parks: It's nice that they're sort-of foreshadowing Bryan's involvement in the future title picture (because of his MITB briefcase) now, perhaps getting people to think about Henry vs. Bryan at WM, whether that's WWE's plan or not. And for Bryan, it's not coming a moment too soon, as his character has really taken a hit with the constant losses as of late. I'm interested to see week two of the Big Show-Bryan tandem, if there is one, tonight on the show.

Caldwell:: What did you make of the whole deal last week where Show was encouraging Bryan to cash in his MITB briefcase on Henry? Was it one of those Cena things where he's supporting the fan favorite underdog or did it seem like a heel move where Bryan would be an easier champion to defeat for the title over Henry? I'm curious what you thought of how that was presented.

Parks: I liked it either way you think about it. It makes sense from Big Show's perspective: he comes off like a babyface, but if you think about it, it could be the motivation of a heel. I like how they didn't make it real obvious which way we were supposed to think, leaving it open to the interpretation of the viewer.

Caldwell:: And you don't get that very often from WWE writing. And, as you said, it could make for interesting follow-up. Also on the Smackdown brand is the build-up for Team Orton vs. Team Barrett at Survivor Series. What do you make of Barrett selected as the heel team captain and the overall match-up?

Parks: It's a bit strange since Orton and Barrett don't have an issue at this point, but with Orton's big win over Rhodes last week, maybe they're now moving on from Orton vs. Rhodes to Orton vs. Barrett, and this is the way they're doing it.

Caldwell:: It also seems like another indication that WWE is getting behind Barrett with this re-started push. You never know how long it will last, but Barrett selected as team captain over some other candidates is a good sign for him right now. Like you said, if it's the start of a new feud between Orton and Barrett, then I think it only helps Barrett's chances of this push sticking. As for Rhodes, where do you think he goes from here? Is there a solid mid-card babyface ready to rise up and challenge him for the IC Title?

Parks: Hmm...good question. I know Rhodes and Bryan had a short-term thing a few months ago, but they could go full fledged with that, unless they want to keep Bryan around with Big Show and Henry. Maybe Kofi vs. Rhodes for a few weeks to give him something to do 'til Evan Bourne comes back from suspension. Ted DiBiase got a win out of nowhere last week, so they could revisit that. Sin Cara doesn't seem to be done with Hunico (and now, Epico), but he's another candidate. A name out of left field would be Yoshi Tatsu, who has had success with a new character on NXT, and I think it's one ready for prime time.

Caldwell:: All pretty good candidates, but, I don't think WWE has a great candidate thanks to several weeks of not really focusing on the mid-card, which isn't necessarily a bad thing in the grand scheme of things with Smackdown ratings kicking... WWE dabbled in Rhodes vs. DiBiase for a bit, but then got away from it. I like the Kofi idea to give him something until Bourne is back. Do you think Dark Yoshi or Happy Fun Time Yoshi would be a better candidate for a Smackdown TV return possibly going after the IC Title? It seemed like the audience didn't really "get" Dark Yoshi.

Parks: That's on WWE though for not really explaining it to the audience. I think either one could work, but I'm more of a fan of the "dark" Yoshi so that'd be my personal choice. I mean, he's still a babyface despite not being as outwardly cheery as his previous incarnation

Caldwell:: Similar to WWE not really explaining the Sin Cara vs. Sin Cara feud a few months ago. Greg, anything else from Smackdown on your radar leading into tonight's show?

Parks: Not really. Let's move to last night's Impact. Out of nowhere, in the last minute of the go-home show, A.J. Styles was announced as getting the title shot against Robert Roode at Turning Point. That had to be one of the more haphazard title announcements in...well...ever. What did you think of that, and is there a way for TNA to defend that in storyline, given the condition of James Storm by the end of the show, maybe saying they didn't think he'd be able to compete at the PPV?

Caldwell:: I think it's indicative of these off-brand PPVs "getting in the way" of what TNA really wants to do - just write television shows. Based on their style of writing and based on the lack of demand for 24-25 main wrestling PPVs per year from WWE & TNA combined, TNA needs to drop 6-8 PPVs from the schedule and build toward a Big Four-Six. With all of the changes to the main event scene and with all of the title switches and matches on TV immediately after Bound for Glory, this PPV comes at the worst possible time. I think TNA sees Roode vs. Styles as a match that "sells itself" to their hardcore audience, which is apparently all they expect to get for Turning Point, so they didn't feel the need to build up that match on last night's TV show and could get away with a last-second announcement. I do wonder how Storm fits in at the PPV or if he even appears on the show, and like you said, I think they could use the storyline injury to explain why he wasn't put in the title match at the PPV.

Parks: I'd like for that feud to simmer a bit at the PPV and just have Storm sit this one out - they've rushed this to the point that slowing down may be a lost cause, but at least give it one week to breathe by having Storm continue to sell the injuries sustained last night.

Caldwell:: I agree. Let the PPV be the PPV and resume Roode-Storm on Impact, as much as I disagree in principle with the idea of TNA even being at this stage of a Roode-Storm feud one month after BFG. Greg, what else jumped out at you from Impact?

Parks: Abyss turns face again - is that even worthy of being a headline coming out of the show? Without Hogan, Immortal is in shambles, especially since they're now fearing Garrett Bischoff on top of everyone else.

Caldwell:: All of that needs a lot of time to breathe and sort itself out to make sense. TNA has thrown out so much since Bound for Glory that a lot of pieces aren't fitting together right now. This PPV doesn't need to happen on Sunday and TNA really needs another month or two before their next big event. What did you think of Ronnie from Jersey Shore on the show?

Parks: I didn't mind it; they didn't take up a lot of time with it (though the match got more time than other, more deserving matches), but I didn't have a huge problem with it. What about A.J. vs. Daniels? Was that the blow-off last night, with Styles moving to the PPV to fight Roode and Daniels taking on RVD?

Caldwell:: It's hard to tell. I could see Styles losing that PPV match to Roode and going back to a feud with Daniels, especially if, say, Daniels interferes to cost Styles the match. Plus, RVD seems to be floating from feud to feud these days, so I don't see an RVD-Daniels feud sticking. Even after last night's match between Styles and Daniels (where the focus was more on Bellator than the match), I don't think they're done yet. On the Knockouts front, what do you think of Gail Kim's involvement through four weeks and the attempted build to Kim vs. Velvet Sky at the PPV?

Parks: I like Kim being back, since she adds some in-ring credibility, but overall the division is a mess. Too much focus on Karen, and Velvet hasn't been a strong babyface since her title win since the focus is always on the heels.

Caldwell:: I think TNA is so high on Karen as a TV character that she ends up dominating the allotted Knockouts time per show. It's one of those things where you see TNA moving away from a wrestling show since Karen's involvement will never result in her settling the issue in the ring. Unless it's some sort of joke match like WWE has attempted with Vickie Guerrero. I think focusing on Gail-Velvet could carry the division for the time being with Karen in the background. Greg, anything else on TNA or is it time for a look ahead to Gonzo & The Greg this weekend?!

Parks: It's ALWAYS time to look ahead to Gonzo & The Greg! In the show that should be posted tomorrow afternoon, we'll look at the top five best finishers of all-time. I was working on my list while doing this chat James, and this is one of those weeks where I wish this were a top ten list!

Caldwell:: All you have to do is start with Jake Roberts's DDT at #1 and the rest should take care of itself! I'm looking forward to hearing what you guys come up with. Good topic. All right, Greg, that will do it for us this week. Thanks for the Chat and have a great weekend!

Parks: You too, 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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