CALDWELL'S TAKE CALDWELL & PARKS WEEKLY CHAT 2/24: Mania Big Four set, Eve heel turn, Rock-Cena latest, MITB match at WM28?, non-finishes on Smackdown, Impact's missing ingredient, Roode-Sting
Feb 24, 2012 - 4:35:22 PM
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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, a lot has happened since last time we chatted - Chamber PPV, live Raw, live Smackdown, and Impact. So, let's start off with the Road to WrestleMania with the Big Four matches set. Which match do you think has the most momentum behind it right now, and which match are you most looking forward to seeing how the build-up unfolds?
Greg Parks: Taker vs. Triple H, to me, clearly has the most momentum behind it. Probably not a coincidence that it's also gotten the most TV time, as well. Taker's promo got off to a rough start on Monday with the crowd giving him the "what" chants, but it picked up nicely when Hunter joined in, and by then, the crowd was in the palm of their hand. The story is still a little muddied because it was Hunter who basically called out Taker a few months ago, now he's backtracking with no reference to it, plus they're somewhat ignoring that Taker won the match against Hunter last year, even if he did have to be carried out. Still, I think it's been solidly built so far, but Jericho vs. Punk and Bryan vs. Sheamus were just recently made, and without Rock around, it's hard for that match to get a lot of momentum, so maybe in another month, I'll have another answer for you.
Caldwell: I think the entire Hunter-Taker story is about planting a big seed of doubt in casual viewers's minds that Hunter has a chance to end The Streak, even though everyone knows Taker is winning. So, they almost have to make Taker look weak on TV by distorting the story. I think the next step will be adding Michaels to the mix, likely as special ref, to create intrigue over the finish. I think I'm most looking forward to Punk-Jericho now that the riff-raff has been cleared out and they can just have a one-on-one feud. I don't like the re-introduction of Jericho thus far, but perhaps now they can re-focus on exactly what Jericho's mission is. I am concerned the title will become an afterthought, but that's another story. I just want to see what Punk and Jericho can come up with to heighten this feud when it's basically starting from nowhere after Jericho "backed in" to a title shot in that Raw main event.
Parks: Speaking of the title being an afterthought, I've read some say that the title shouldn't be on the line here, that someone else should have it (Cena?), because it would make another match that much more important and as you said, these two are basically arguing over who is the best in the world. But to me, wouldn't it cement you as the best in the world when the winner retains or becomes champion? That said, yeah, Jericho's charachter hasn't completely been fleshed out yet, but if he and Punk get a long Taker-Hunter like promo segment, they could flesh it out in one week. Of all the matches as far as in-ring quality, yeah, Jericho vs. Punk is the one I'm looking forward to.
Caldwell: In theory, holding the WWE Title should make Punk or Jericho the "best in the world," yes. I think the problem is WWE has lost touch with what the top title means and how to present it. I mean, if Jericho wins the WWE Title, will it even mean anything to him or the title? WWE, Jericho, and Punk have to find a way to quickly re-establish the value of the title (beyond an empty promo or robotic Michael Cole speech) and make it seem like Jericho really wants the title. I'm concerned the build-up will just be about the "personal" issue and BITW label, with the match just so happening to be for the title. I feel like WWE feels the title isn't marketable or "gets in the way" (which is why Rock-Cena isn't for the title), but that's their own fault for de-valuing the title over a long stretch of time. I think it would give Jericho-Punk something to add to their feud, where they could say their match is for BITW because for it's the title and "all other matches" are less important. But, Rock-Cena and Taker-Hunter are the top draws, so they have to be careful not to knock the main events and make people not want to pay to see those matches. I think the whole thing is a mess, Greg!
Parks: True; in order for what I said to come to fruition, it's up to WWE to make that connection from "best in the world" to "WWE champion," and I don't know if that's something they have planned. The whole thing is a mess because WWE has referred, directly or indirectly, to about three or four matches as "main events" for this show. It's kinda silly and one of those things that makes fans roll their eyes, especially when the World Title match was the opener last year after Del Rio won the Rumble and promised to main event WrestleMania. Granted, WWE could just say, "hey, that's how big this show is! There are so many main events!' and could argue that in this instance, "main event" doesn't necessarily mean "last match on the show," but still, it is a little strange.
Caldwell: Yeah, the label "Main Event" has seemingly become just a marketing tag with no real meaning behind it. Like you said, when Sheamus is out there talking about being in the "Main Event" of WrestleMania, people know his World Title challenge will be mid-card or opener like last year, but I think WWE has to push that to keep the Royal Rumble PPV and match strong. There should just be another way to say it! While we're on the topic of Sheamus and Daniel Bryan, they had a bit of an exchange (that also involved Miz) on the live Smackdown. What did you think of the official beginning of their feud and what will be the issue between them that plays out leading to Mania?
Parks: I guess they can keep the issue just being "Sheamus wins Rumble, wants title at 'Mania moment." That's the beauty of the Rumble; the winner doesn't need a complex storyline like Cena-Kane or Taker-Hunter. He just challenges for the title, and WWE should say boys, have at it, may the best man win. That's probably not "entertaining" enough for WWE so they'll add some more drama in somehow I'm sure; my point is, they don't really need to.
Caldwell: Yeah, like Sheamus begins courting A.J., drawing Bryan's ire. No thanks. It would be refreshing to just have a straight-up title match when so many other matches on the card have a big issue in-play. Speaking of big issues, there's Rock-Cena, which picked up steam with Cena's promo ahead of this Monday's Raw when Rock returns to TV. Greg, what did you make of Cena's promo and what do you expect from Rock, in terms of the promo content, crowd reaction, and whether Cena will respond?
Parks: As I said on the Livecast yesterday, I loved Cena's performance in the segment, but wasn't thrilled about the content. Clearly that's how WWE is going to play this feud out; I don't agree with it, but I guess I just have to go with it. It just seems so shallow to debate about who stuck around and who didn't, especially when it devolves into pandering to the audience. When Rock returns, things will pick up steam, but WWE has been in a tough spot not having Rock around to help build this match.
Caldwell: McMahon said in yesterday's conference call that WWE is using big stars at Mania to build the next wave of stars. Okay, sounds great. And, we think the Zigglers, Swaggers, Sheamuses of the world. But, it really goes to WWE trying to lift Cena's star working with Rock since Cena is their top drawing act. Like you said about the "Cena is here and Rock is not" line being shallow and pandering to the audience, it seems like WWE is using that to get sympathy on Cena for Mania, but also for after Mania when WWE will try to get fans to cozy up to Cena again. Obviously, there will be some who will never like Cena, but it seems like the entire feud is designed to get the general audience back on Cena's side. I will be interested to see if Rock gets the floor to himself on Monday, then perhaps Cena responds in two weeks, and they interact in three weeks. As for physicality, do you see Cena and Rock having a physical exchange before Mania or keeping it merely verbal?
Parks: I think they need to keep it verbal as much as possible. They've alrdy given away Rock's return in a tag match at Survivor Series, so the only golden goose left in this feud is Rock and Cena in a physical altercation. I would think they'd want to keep that to a minimum before 'Mania; not saying they won't do anything at all, but it shouldn't be much. Yeah, given the way the Kane feud ended and all the different ways it could've ended, it's clear the long-term plan is to keep Cena babyface. If they wanted to even give him the hint of being a heel against Rock, I think his feud against Kane would've ended with a bit more shade of grey than it did.
Caldwell: Then, throw in Eve's heel turn to make Cena seem even more sympathetic - he got the "heat transfer" of the audience being mad that Eve screwed over their favorite, Zack Ryder, and Cena benefited from standing up to Eve to defend Ryder. What did you make of how Eve's turn played out and what's next for Ryder and/or Kane?
Parks: It seemed to be a rushed bow onto the Kane-Cena angle so Cena could turn his attention to Rock. I don't know where Eve goes from here, but I also don't think that's on WWE's short list of concerns right now. Does she side with Kane? Was her act independent of Kane torturing Cena? Will any of these questions get answered? I assume they keep both Kane and Ryder off TV for a little while, but, James, do you see the two of them squaring off at 'Mania? Or do they keep them off 'til after and start something up then? I don't know if I see both Kane and Ryder being left off the 'Mania card.
Caldwell: The natural way for this to progress would be Ryder-Kane, but I think WWE has to decide what type of character Ryder is before they can book that match. Is Ryder just a goofy sidekick to Cena and host of a goofy YouTube show? Or, is he a serious character and the guy who won the U.S. Title? If he's going to be taken seriously, then I think giving him a win over Kane would be a big deal. But, if he's going to be a goofball, then it would hurt Kane, who could be feuding with Cena again after Mania, by losing to Ryder. Part of me says the match will be at Mania, but I think WWE has to figure out Ryder beforehand. Like you said with Eve, I have no idea where they go from here with her. Nervous break downs on a weekly basis? Does she interrupt a Rock-Cena exchange in a few weeks? I just don't know. And, I don't know if those valid questions you raised will be answered, either.
Parks: That's certainly the trouble with getting invested in storylines with WWE; you don't know when or if the payoff will come. James, we've hit on the top WM matches; anything else from Raw you want to touch on?
Caldwell: Other than a one-minute Divas match and that chaotic battle royal that is too painful to re-visit, it seemed like the rest of Raw was about the Smackdown brand, including over-exposing Smackdown talent, having mid-to-top-level Smackdown heels losing in short matches, and the latest from the Teddy Long-Laurinaitis issue. This can lead into our Smackdown discussion - what did you make of Henry losing clean on Raw, Otunga over Zeke, and Kofi & Truth defeating the tag champs, then turning around and losing to Swagger & Ziggler on Smackdown?
Parks: I thought maybe we'd see Kofi and Truth pushed to a Tag Title program with the champs, which would've been cool, but losing to Swagger and Ziggler didn't really help. Gave Ziggler and Swagger a credible win though, something they both needed. I was more surprised at Otunga beating Zeke a second time on Smackdown than doing it the first time on Raw. As for Henry, they're just not protecting him like they had been in previous months, and I'm wondering if that has anything to do with his lingering injury issues or not.
Caldwell: I think WWE needs to take a step back with Henry and re-evaluate how to book him on TV - if he's injured, then don't put him in main event situations to take losses and just let him win easy matches. If he's healthy enough, then give him something to work with before WrestleMania so he can stay relevant. When WWE is short on top stars, they really can't afford to let a guy like Henry flounder. Looking at the tag situation, do you see the Tag Titles making it to Mania? And, would the only way be something like a three or four-team match with makeshift teams a la Primo & Epico vs. Truth & Kofi vs. Swagger & Ziggler vs. fill-in-the-blank, just to make sure some of these guys get on Mania, but WWE doesn't have to take time away from the Big Four to create an issue that would get them on Mania?
Parks: I think that's a decent proposal, but it all depends on what happens with a MITB match and now, a possible Long vs. Laurinaitis multi-man tag match. If one or both of those matches take place, it makes a tag title match less likely because you're taking guys like Kofi and Truth who could be in a tag title match, and possibly putting them in one of those other matches. The tag champs are at least appearing on the main shows, but 'Mania? I'm thinking no.
Caldwell: You are right about the Long-Laurinaitis and/or MITB situations. You could extend the Tag Title scenario to the GM Battle tag match, just removing the tag champs and adding some singles wrestlers to the heel and face sides. Rey Mysterio put it out there this week that he would like to be in the MITB match if he's able to return from injury before Mania. Do you think a MITB match will occur, Greg, and do you think that's the right way to re-introduce Rey? Also, could a hypothetical MITB match turn into an Injured Main-Eventers match with the likes of Rey and perhaps Orton, Del Rio, Christian, Henry, and even Barrett if he's healthy enough? MITB is typically where mid-carders are elevated, but could this be a year where main-eventers are lumped together?
Parks: It seems to me to be a little late to introduce the MITB concept for this 'Mania since they haven't even talked about it yet. If they do, a MITB match of former champions has been discussed, and it would allow WWE to bill it as a "first-time ever!" type of MITB, which we know they love. Personally, I like using the MITB to help elevate someone, but a match full of former champions would be an interesting way to go, I'd admit.
Caldwell: That type of marketing would help the main-eventers, for sure, where it doesn't seem like they're "stepping down a notch" or seem out-of-place. Like, a college star stepping onto the field with high school stars. But, if you put all "college stars" in there, then it elevates the match. The problem would be even fewer spots for guys below that level. I guess WWE could throw those guys in the pre-show battle royal to get them on the Mania card, though. The WM undercard should be fascinating to watch unfold. Greg, let's go ahead and break down the high (and low) points from the Live Smackdown. We covered Sheamus-Bryan and the GMs feuding. There wasn't much else besides the continuation of Rhodes-Show (another potential Mania undercard match) and the "two out of three falls" Punk-Bryan main event. What did you make of the live Smackdown overall and some of the big items from the show?
Parks: I wasn't a huge fan of the show. Bryan vs. Punk was obviously a great near 20-minute match (despite the interruptions), and while the non-finish in and of itself didn't hurt, it did hurt because the only other match that was advertised at the start of the show, Henry vs. Show, also ended in a non-finish; literally, there was no finish announced. We sometimes see that with DDQs or No contests, but this seemed to be a straight-up case of a count-out. And to make it even more strange, the announcers didn't even discuss the finish and went right into plugging the next segment. So to have two of the top matches end with no finish, while it made sense in the main event, it's not good in the long-term to do that often.
Caldwell: It seemed like both were a case of WWE avoiding announcing a finish to protect everyone because they couldn't come up with a finish that protected everyone. First, Henry-Show shouldn't be booked unless it's made to mean something, and they really couldn't have Henry lose yet another match and they want to protect Show, so they just pulled an Impact c. Summer 2011 and just ended the match without ending the match. Like you said, it really hurts long-term - like the storylines that don't payoff and/or are simply dropped from discussion a la the Raw GM. I think the best thing to do leading to Mania - when WWE is actually trying to protect stars - is to scale back on big star vs. big star matches, put some big stars against lower-level stars, and have maybe one big star vs. big star match on each TV show so that it can be effectively hyped and made to mean something. The problem is, WWE doesn't have enough stars! So, the thin roster hurts there. Greg, anything else from Smackdown you feel is worth discussing?
Parks: I don't think so, James, but I'll just echo your thought about no winner being announced because they wanted to protect both guys, and I think I brought up that idea in my Smackdown report. To me, if you feel like you need to protect both guys to the point that you can't even announce a finish...then don't have the match! Sheesh, it ain't rocket science.
Caldwell: Exactly! "Don't book it unless you can finish it." That should be the slogan. All right, Greg, let's talk some Crazy Sting from Impact. They set up the inevitable Sting-Roode match for Victory Road, leading to Roode-Storm at Lockdown. Which do you think is the more intriguing main event right now and what did you think of the Roode-Sting set-up on Impact?
Parks: I guess the Roode-Sting set-up was fine. I'm assuming it won't be for the title at Victory Road, and it doesn't really need to be either, especially having announced Roode vs. Storm at Lockdown. I'd say not having the title on the line would hamper the credibility of the PPV, but this is TNA we're talking about here. It's almost like the Rock where TNA gave away Sting's return in a tag match a few weeks ago but they want to treat this as his real return match.
Caldwell: What did you make of they played up Sting's "I'm done" tweet throughout the show with the "retirement" tease that turned into a typical TNA swerve that no one bought and that could hurt the connection with the audience when it's so transparent?
Parks: I'm sure WWE is upset that they didn't come up with the "use a Tweet to lead to a big announcement through the entire show" thing first. I'm guessing (or I'd hope) most fans knew that the Tweet was just a swerve, and since it did lead to a Roode vs. Sting announcement, I'm sure it's forgivable.
Caldwell: Very true on all accounts. As for Brandon Jacobs and his involvement, TNA president Dixie Carter claims she's had talks with Jacobs about him potentially joining TNA post-NFL. From what you've seen, what do you make of Jacobs in a wrestling ring?
Parks: He can talk the talk, but certainly too early to tell if he can walk the walk. His in-ring promo was well done, but if you don't have some wrestling ability to back it up, then it isn't worth much, and we won't know Jacobs's ability until after his football career is over.
Caldwell: Or, if everyone is just blowing smoke to extend TNA's turn in the spotlight. The rest of the show had a little bit of everything - Tag Title match, TV Title match with poor A.J. Styles in the mix, X Division match, and a Knockouts match incorporated into the budding Gail Kim-Madison Rayne feud, plus the latest from the Bischoff Family Feud. What stood out to you from those items or something else?
Parks: Yeah, Robbie E. goes from defending against Shannon Moore to defending against A.J. Styles. That's quite the jump. Divas match was fine and I thought TNA would be tempted to give ODB the win there with Rayne's distraction, but I'm glad they had Kim go over. The Bischoff feud was relegated to video packages, so no problems there. I thought the show was a thumbs up overall.
Caldwell: Would you agree that Impact has become consistent and is typically a thumbs up show, but is missing something to draw in more than just the typical viewer? I think TNA needs to keep being consistent and not regress trying to go for shock value or to pop a rating, but are they missing a spark?
Parks: Oh they're definitely missing a spark, that C.M. Punk shoot-promo moment, or The Rock returning to Raw moment, or Hunter-Taker promo exchange moment to really get the fans talking. Yeah, the shows are consistently decent, but there's a certain energy missing.
Caldwell: Even when they were in the U.K., they couldn't get it in terms of ratings results. So, part of me thinks they just need to keep doing what they're doing and let the audience come to them with consistency, but part of me thinks they might need to reshuffle the deck on top. Even the ol' tried & true re-focus on Samoa Joe.
Parks: Don't hold your breath, James.
Caldwell: Yeah, you're right about that. Greg, anything else from TNA worth breaking down?
Parks: I don't think so.
Caldwell: Very good. How about a preview of Gonzo & The Greg this weekend?
Parks: This week, we'll be profiling the top five greatest play-by-play men (or, as it is now, "lead announcers") of all-time.
Caldwell: Let the debate rage on Solie vs. Ross! I'm looking forward to hearing your lists. All right, Greg, we have a relatively quiet weekend before Rock's return on Monday. We will see what's next for Rock-Cena and talk about it next week!
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