411 Fact or Fiction 02.21.13: Swagger, SuperDome, Blossoms, More
Hi, hello & welcome to 411 Fact or Fiction! I’m Steve Cook, and it’s been another crazy week in the world of professional wrestling! Elimination Chamber took place on Sunday, and Jack Swagger was the man to exit the Chamber with a WrestleMania title shot. CM Punk lost his match against The Rock, but thanks to John Cena he still has a chance to get a title shot at WrestleMania. Some have postulated that both Cena & Punk will get a title shot at WrestleMania. WWE announced that WrestleMania XXX will be held at the SuperDome in New Orleans, a historic venue that has hosted some great wrestling action in the past but never a WrestleMania. The spinner belt has finally been dismissed, but it seems like people still aren’t happy with what the WWE title belt looks like. A recent Maria Kanellis tweet has some people believing she may be headed back to WWE. Rumor has it that the next edition of TNA Lockdown will not be all cage matches all the time. Last week’s episode of Impact featured the TNA debut of the Blossom Twins, two lovely Brits that were featured on British Bootcamp and have been in & out of OVW for years. The International Olympic Committee has decided that amateur wrestling is on the bubble for the 2020 Olympic Games and have certainly riled up fans of all forms of wrestling, including the professional variety.
Lots of stuff! I’ve invited two of 411’s finest to discuss these topics. Introducing first, the man that brings you the Ring Crew Reviews…Jack Bramma!
His opponent is a man who podcasts even more than I do. Give it up for Mark Radulich!
By the way, I allowed both men to make adjustments to one of their answers based on a certain wrestler getting busted on Tuesday night.
1. 1. The WWE Title match at WrestleMania XXIX should be a triple threat match with The Rock, John Cena & CM Punk.
Jack Bramma: FICTION. The WWE has forced their own hand into a situation like this before. The most well-known example is from 2004. Benoit won the Royal Rumble and Trips was the dominant heel champ but HBK had recently went to a couple of draws with Triple H so the match became a triple threat. The set-up there (and in similar scenarios in 2008 for Cena/Orton/Triple H and 2009 for Cena/Edge/Show) was simple: a heel had deceived, lucked, and short-cut his way into a championship reign and it was finally time for his comeuppance. Orton had DQ’d his way out of Cena’s reach at No Way Out 2008 and Edge had used his favoritism with Vickie Guerrero to take out Kofi Kingston and sneak into the elimination chamber to “steal” the belt at No Way Out 2009.
This year the situation is different. Punk has already been dethroned and then lost his rematch. There’s no schadenfreude to be had from marks in seeing him lose to Rock again right now. You could make mitigating arguments that this will get the WWE around Cena/Rock Twice in a Lifetime and it would help hide Rock’s diminished wrestling and cardio abilities, but neither of wrestling considerations will affect the buyrate or live gate. They’re going to sell out even if it’s the second time they’ve had the match and even if Rock is blown up a few minutes in again.
Obviously, the biggest wild card is who will Undertaker wrestle, if he wrestles. I think he is going to wrestle at Mania and it will be against CM Punk. I think this singles match with the title shot on the line next week between Punk and Cena is a red herring just to get WWE through the next couple of weeks during the SEVEN WEEK layoff before Mania. The only other interesting idea I see for Punk is Punk/Ryback blowoff, but Ryback is tied up with the Shield for the foreseeable future. I could see Punk/Jericho with the roles reversed from last year, but that’s such a staggering plummet down the card for Punk, that I think it’s unlikely. Punk/Taker is the answer.
Mark Radulich: FACT. I sympathize with the people making the, “Twice in a lifetime” jokes. I’m all for novelty matches, freak show fights and super fights but you can have too much of a good thing. Cena vs the Rock in Miami was fun once…once. There is no need for a rematch and from what I can tell, most people either don’t want the rematch, are ambivalent towards it or are children who will be interested in John Cena vs a ham sandwich. I realize the WWE outright detests its adult audience and the thinking is pretty much Phase 1) Rock vs John Cena II; Phase 2) …; Phase 3) Profit. However, if there is any desire at all to write a compelling story that ends in a match fans over the age of 14 would be the least bit interested in it would be a triple threat with Cena, Rock and CM Punk. I think there is the opportunity to tell a really interesting story with those three wrestlers and merely recycling last year’s main event presents nothing interesting at all. I mean really, what is there to key into with The Rock vs Cena II? Either Cena beats the Rock and they are tied or he loses again and then…what? The writers have made Cena one of the most bland characters I’ve ever seen. Whether he’s tortured by the Nexus, tormented by Kane or beaten by the Rock his reactions are always the same, “I will never give up.” Great. That’s about as interesting as a greeting card. The addition of CM Punk into the mix allows them to book a match with a number of different outcomes that no matter what will at least keep the audience guessing. It also gives them some place to go when it is all over that I think fans will be interested in. Definitely the triple threat is the way to go.
Score: 0 for 1
2. Jack Swagger was the best choice in the Elimination Chamber match to challenge Alberto Del Rio at WrestleMania XXIX.
Jack Bramma: FICTION. I think Swagger is a fine choice, even a good choice, but not the best choice. I’m thrilled they have done something with him. He’s a former world champion from like three years ago, but never got a chance to get off his feet. He won the MITB and cashed in on Jericho, but the WWE seemed to get bored with him as soon he won the belt. Show completely dismantled him in his only PPV defense before he lost it in a nothing fatal four way to Mysterio. Without a couple of months, Swagger couldn’t even get on a PPV. Ever since then, Swagger went from US/IC champ to contender to tagging with Ziggler to job guy to walking out in disgust. Swagger comes roaring back with a vengeance as a tea party, conservative caricature with an even less subtle more overt caricature mouthpiece. I know the WWE are geniuses and all that and we complain that they don’t push guys and then when they do push guys, if the push fails, that’s supposed to be on the guy, not the company. I think this push will fail (due to lack of commitment on the WWE’s part) and Swagger will get saddled with the blame and branded as “can’t talk”/”not over”/”will never get over.” The same thing happened to Shelton Benjamin after he got several shitty pushes including a gold haircut and a big mama instead of a much more effective gimmick as guy who wins matches and championships and main events. If Swagger wins the belt at Wrestlemania and a few defenses beyond just rolling up Randy Orton on Smackdown, this could work. But if the WWE wilts due to PC pressure and jobs out Swagger and he goes back to trading the IC title back and forth with Wade or Miz in a few months, it’ll be another waste.
All that being said, I think Mark Henry is a better choice. Just based on crowd reactions alone, Henry is getting huge reactions beating up the likes of Khali, Hornswoggle, and Sin Cara. I sincerely hope we’re not headed for a Khali/Henry program at Wrestlemania considering Henry is WAYYYYY more over than that. I’d much rather see Henry and Del Rio work a Sting/Vader like program through the spring since Del Rio and Show has worked wonders for Del Rio’s babyface credentials the past few months.
Edit: Above is my initial response which I stand by, however with the addition of Swagger’s arrest to the plot, Henry is a virtual lock now to take over the spot.
Mark Radulich: FACT.
Edit: Assuming this idiot isn’t yanked from the match due to his recent actions, I believe the following…
Given his new character and manager I think they made an appropriate choice. My only other choice would have been Mark Henry but there’s no reason he can’t face off with ADR at Summer Slam down the road. Swagger has basically reinvented the Sgt Slaughter turncoat character and that’s a great foil for a face champion that happens to be Latino. I know people are already complaining that this is a bash on the Tea Party and that it is cheap heat and all of that. To those people I would say, “Hello, this is Pro-Wrestling. You may remember such characters as the Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff and Muhammad Hassan.” Cheap heat and antagonists that draw from America’s real world socio-political issues have been around since pro-wrestling was shown on TV. Swagger vs ADR is throwback to decades old tradition and there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s also nice to see that Randy Orton isn’t in yet another WM championship match.
Score: 0 for 2
3. New Orleans, Louisiana’s SuperDome is a great choice for the site of WrestleMania XXX.
Jack Bramma: FACT. There’s an obvious symmetry to WWE going back to MSG but there’s too much money in a stadium show to pass up. This isn’t the same WWE that had to paper the crowd and cut prices begging for thousands of people to pack the Alamodome seeing local hero Shawn Michaels at the 97 Royal Rumble. This is a company that can legitimately sell out massive stadiums based on the Wrestlemania name alone. There is one name in wrestling today that can sell out arenas and stadiums anywhere in the country and it’s not Cena, Punk, Rock, Austin, Hogan, Flair, Undertaker, or Sammartino; it’s Wrestlemania. And more importantly, that’s not a trend that will last into perpetuity. It’s inevitable for the WWE to put on some stinker Manias and ruin the stadium-sized goodwill and brand recognition that they have earned so far, so the WWE virtually has to keep going back to stadiums until they destroy a fanbase that size. They’ll just wanna make sure all of the power strips are plugged in and transformers are reinforced.
Mark Radulich: FACT. I’m a little heartbroken that WM XXX isn’t in the Garden but that’s life in 2013. Tradition gives way to the almighty dollar and the fact is that WM can and does sell out football stadiums. Madison Square Garden is a lot of things but big isn’t necessarily one of them. The SuperDome (despite the blackout faux paux) is a great place to have a marquee event and frankly, the city of New Orleans could use the tourist dough. I’ll be looking forward to it and since it’s a fairly short distance (relatively speaking) from my home in Tampa, I’ll probably be there live.
Score: 1 for 3
4. You approve of the new WWE Championship belt design.
Jack Bramma: FICTION. I’m much more a fan of the traditional belt designs from previous years. Whether it’s the Winged Eagle or even the Big Green belt that Hogan won off Sheik, I like my belts with more iconography and less gaudy extravagances and gimmick-themed snakes, spinners, or brahma bulls. While I think the addition of removable themed-plates on the side can be interesting considering how it goes, I’d still just prefer a more classic design and less of what feels like the giant scratch logo on the same spinner belt just one that doesn’t spin.
Mark Radulich: FACT. It’s fine. I thought the spinner belt was rather stupid looking and God knows the Diva belt is atrocious so at the very least, this new WWE Championship belt is a step up from recent debacles.
Score: 1 for 4
5. You’d be interested in Maria Kanellis returning to WWE.
Mark Radulich: FICTION. Interested is too strong of a word. Ambivalent would be more appropriate. I’m sure she’s great in ROH but considering how women are treated in the WWE it is hard for me to get excited about anyone. I had high hopes for Awesome Kong/Karma but a number of factors (least of all her being with child at one point) stopped her push before it truly began. I just have no faith the WWE writing a compelling character for any woman under their employ so while Kanellis is talented and all, I think she would be wasted on WWE TV and therefore I just don’t care.
Jack Bramma: FICTION. I’d be more interested in a Mike Bennett signing with Maria coming with him, than the other way around. Bennett was on the cusp of indie big things in ROH a couple of years ago, but they passed on putting the TV belt on him and he’s settled into a midcard heel role for a while now. I don’t see Bennett moving much than that even in the WWE, but being a WWE midcard heel is much more rewarding than a ROH midcard heel. The pay’s better and the style is more suited to Bennett’s strengths.
As for Maria’s prospects in WWE, she’s already achieved everything she can there. She posed in playboy, won some titles, and got come D-level celebrity status out of it, so good for her, but any hopes of her reigniting her career or the division is misplaced. She could probably parlay a new deal into another run with the diva’s championship but that’s hardly something to hang your hat on. If she can make more money in WWE and likes it better, again, more power to her, but I wouldn’t be any more or less interested in the women’s division with Maria back.
Score: 2 for 5
6. TNA’s Lockdown PPV would be a better show if it wasn’t an entire show of cage matches.
Mark Radulich: FACT. Some matches just don’t need to be in a cage. The formula for the Elimination Chamber and Hell in a Cell works for this sort of thing. You can have a PPV with a yearly gimmick as long as you reserve the gimmick for something that deserves it. CM Punk vs Ryback II made some degree of sense to have in a Hell in the Cell considering it was a rematch and the stakes were being raised. The curtain jerker doesn’t need a gimmick and as I said in question 1, too much of anything is a bad thing. I remember the last Lockdown I watched was Joe vs Angle in the main event and as much as I loved that match, by the time we got there I was tired of watching cage matches. Lockdown should make the main event and maybe one other match a cage and the rest be your regular PPV standard fare.
Jack Bramma: FACT. A cage match is limited gimmick as far as storytelling goes. A cage match used to be the pinnacle of violence and hatred for wrestling, but the addition of escape rules in most promotions soured the power of the match. Rather than trying to pound a heel into submission who had been running away like a coward for weeks, faces are now diving for the door trying to escape first. That can still work in limited quantities but an entire PPV with upwards of 8-10 matches all following the same format is a tough pill to swallow, especially when the booking hasn’t shown enough foresight to book 8-10 matches worthy of cage matches. Then the reason you’re having a cage match isn’t because the feud demands one, but because it’s April.
Moreover, any PPV with all of the same gimmick matches would be tiresome, whether it was 8-10 ladder matches, tag matches, I Quit matches, Hell in a Cell matches, or Coal Miner’s Glove matches. Even when WWE was doubling down on the themed PPV with Fatal Four Way, Elimination Chamber, TLC, Hell in a Cell, etc. they were still smart enough to spread around their gimmicks throughout the night and not have any of them contain all identical stipulations all night.
TNA should keep it as Lockdown but only with 1-2 cage matches and keeping Lethal Lockdown in the main event every year. That way, they can have their fill of cage match violence but still allow for some regular storytelling in the undercard.
Score: 3 for 6
7. The Blossom Twins will be successful in Impact Wrestling.
Mark Radulich: FACT. Successful is a relative term isn’t it? They will probably get a push and an interesting feud on TNA television. One or both may even win a title. People who watch IMPACT will know them, follow them and be interested in what happens to them on IMPACT TV. They may not make as much money in TNA as they would in the WWE but then they also have less chance of being completely misused, abused, forgotten about and ultimately cut in TNA either. It’s really sad that the above is the criteria for success in mainstream pro-wrestling for women but that’s the world we live in now.
Jack Bramma: FICTION. This to me is similar to the Maria question, because it all comes down to how you define successful in wrestling for women. Titles? Money? Fame? Since they’re a tag team, that would lead to the Knockouts Tag Belts, which have been in limbo for about a year and not defended since last April, so I’m guessing no there. They’ll probably make more money in TNA than most indies, so a yes there. And the fame isn’t happening. Also, I don’t see them rising above even the middle of the weakest division in TNA behind Velvet Sky and Miss Tessmacher.
Score: 3 for 7
8. The IOC is making a terrible decision by eliminating wrestling from the Olympic Games.
Mark Radulich: FACT. One thousand times FACT! Now granted I don’t follow much of the Olympics but I do watch the sports I’m interested in such as wrestling, boxing, weight lifting, etc. Did I miss the part where the Olympics turned from being about proving oneself athletically to being about reality game-show-like idiocy? Have you seen the pics/internet memes where they show what is still an Olympic sport and what isn’t? This is a nightmare. From what I’ve read the decision to strike wrestling from the Olympics was mostly political and stemmed from it being perceived as chauvinistic. I feel that without wrestling (and some other traditional sports as well) the Olympics has meandered too far from its original intent and now has become a slightly more respectable version of ABC’s Wipe Out. Frankly I’m mortified.
Jack Bramma: FACT. It’s very easy to lapse into an American-centric view of the Olympics and sports in general meaning that because Americans care about the sport, then it should be in the Olympics, and if they don’t, then it shouldn’t. However, that’s not a danger here because wrestling is a world-wide sports with decade if not centuries of tradition and competition. I don’t think it would make much of a dint in high school and collegiate wrestling in America which is well-established even without the allure of the Olympics. However, it just seems like a decision made for television and commercial break timing. Any sport that doesn’t neatly divide into highlights and dramatic moments digestible for your average TV watcher is discarded in favor of things that do like volleyball, gymnastics, swimming, sprinting, etc. I’m not going to claim to be an expert on the merits of curling, badminton, water polo, fencing, or a thousand other sports, but it would just seem they could find a place to keep wrestling one of the few sports with world-wide regard, main stream recognition, and a future career prospect going into MMA.
Final Score: 4 for 8
Lots of disagreement here, but I gotta say I’m shocked that neither Mark or Jack are interested in Maria Kanellis. Regardless, I thank them for participating and invite you to chime in with your thoughts on these pertinent topics in the comment section. Thanks for reading, and we’ll be back next week with more Fact or Fiction!