411 Fact or Fiction 02.28.13: Undertaker’s Return, Punk vs Cena, Donald Trump, 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. The Undertaker returned, but not quite in the fashion that people expected. Brock Lesnar & Triple H kicked Raw off with a bloody brawl, while John Cena & CM Punk closed the show with a Match of the Year candidate. Glenn Beck did not appear on Raw, much to the delight of most wrestling fans. Donald Trump joined the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame class. Hulk Hogan talked more junk about TNA decision-making. King Mo’s loss in Bellator has people wondering about his value to TNA. Charlie Haas is pissed off.
I’ve invited two 411 old-schoolers to discuss these topics. Introducing first, the man that knows everything there is to know about Ring of Honor…Ari Berenstein!
His opponent is the man that knows everything there is to know about Bay Area sports teams…Dino Zucconi!
1. WWE should not have had Undertaker’s return take place on a SmackDown house show & shown on television via Tout.
Ari Berenstein: FICTION. I wish the last part of that statement was excised because that would make answering this much easier than as it stands currently. Initially, I was very angry after seeing WWE promote Undertaker’s return through a fifteen-second TOUT-not so much the showing it online but LIVE during an episode of Monday Night Raw–especially when it seemed like the likely scenario was Undertaker coming out after the Cena-Punk match to get going with him and Punk for WrestleMania. However and surprisingly Taker did not return on the live show in Dallas, Texas. Now I still believe it’s silly to tease the return of Taker through a TOUT and showing it on Raw, because it ruins the visual impact of seeing someone who has been off screen for nearly a year make his television return.
However, to return to the first part of the statement-I have no problem with The Undertaker putting in a surprise appearance at a house show. First off, it’s a very nice surprise for the fans who decided to pay to see it and had no expectations of seeing Taker there. It is a not-so-subtle reminder that “Anything Can Happen in WWE”. They can do surprise appearances or title changes at house shows to emphasize that point and additionally sell more tickets. Secondly, Undertaker “needs the reps”, so to speak. If he is coming back to wrestle a match against Punk (or whoever) at WrestleMania, then he needs the time and the opportunity to get back into plausible ring-shape and to begin shaking off the ring rust. Lastly, Undertaker only had to travel a few hours away from his home to do this match, so it was convenient and logical for him to agree to appear–the best of both worlds.
Altogether, I’ll say FICTION for this FoF opener. It is a great thing that WWE brought a surprise to its house show fan base and I will also accept (begrudgingly) that it is not the end of the world to show a TOUT of his house show return to TV, so long as it is not run within a segment or two of his actual, LIVE and IN-RING return to WWE television.
Dino Zucconi: FICTION. I love the Undertaker. Since Day 1. He’s a legend, blah blah blah. The fact is, I don’t think announcing his return “Next Week!” would necessarily bring that many more people in, because everyone knows he’d most likely just stand still for 10 minutes, maybe do a throat slit gesture, and then point to the WrestleMania sign. That said, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having his return at the house show. Showing it on Tout? Well, that’s a personal bias since I think Tout’s kinda stupid, but I certainly won’t hold it against them for using newer forms of media to show it. It also makes it easier for fans to understand why he’d show up this coming Raw (hopefully), instead of just some weird “And we have just got word that… THE UNDERTAKER will be returning next week!!” as if he calls them up and let’s them know about it. Taker’s back. Everyone’s on notice. Full Frontal Fiction for that question.
Score: 1 for 1
2. Brock Lesnar bleeding on Raw made you more excited about Brock vs. Triple H.
Ari Berenstein: FACT. Darn it if the opening of Raw this past Monday wasn’t fantastic and memorable, in part thanks to Brock Lesnar getting cut and bleeding all over the place during his brawl with Triple H. There is something about blood in a brawl, especially when it is done the right way, that amps up the spectacle of a brawl and this one had that amped-up factor, in part thanks to the blood (whether or not it happened hardway or intentionally). Now, I know in principle that bleeding and other components of wrestling now thought to be inappropriate such as chair shots to the head should be limited, if not outright prohibited in the case of the latter. A wrestlers’ safety should be of the utmost concern and protecting it a priority. Nigel McGuinness has gone out of his way to talk to wrestlers in Ring of Honor about these issues, which led to ROH agreeing to stop bloodshed on its shows. Generally I agree with Nigel and with that thought process, but I also believe there is a time and a place for gigging and blood in the world of professional wrestling, so long as it is done sparingly and with wrestlers who have tested clean for Hepatitus and other blood-borne diseases. Take the blood away from Lesnar-Triple H brawl–would it still work because it was Triple H and Brock Lesnar duking it out for the first time since SummerSlam? Probably, but the statement was about if the bleeding made me more excited about seeing the match. The answer to that is yes-the blood that occurred due to the brawl put this segment and the build to the match over the top for me.
Dino Zucconi: FICTION. It actually made me really nervous, as I am of the opinion that Brock caught something on that pole that sliced him up pretty good. No, I don’t think he bladed, and no, I don’t think he purposefully hit his head on the pole to bleed. I just think he caught some little piece of metal that sliced him up. I’m also afraid that since we had quite a bit of blood on Raw, that both guys are going to really pull it back. Even if they don’t, however, I was 0% excited for HHH vs. Brock 2 at WrestleMania anyways. Blood, no blood, chairs… I’m just not interested. Not saying the match will suck, not saying this is the worst WrestleMania ever because of it. I’m just saying, I as a wrestling fan do not want to see HHH vs. Brock again. Not when there’s so many other ways to finally get this HHH kid over as a main event star. He’s really got a future ahead of him.
Score: 1 for 2
3. Raw’s main event of John Cena vs. CM Punk was the Match of the Year so far.
Ari Berenstein: FACT. This is judged based on the matches I have seen this year and since I have not seen the New Japan matches on the January 4th show or the talked up Tanahashi vs. Anderson match those matches don’t come into the equation just yet. Cena vs. Punk was incredible and I think the best of any of the matches they have wrestled in the last three years. It was wrestled and executed more cleanly than the epic at Money in the Bank 2011 (though likely NOTHING will ever top the unique atmosphere and crowd reaction of Punk winning the WWE Title in his hometown of Chicago in his supposed “last match” in WWE). Unlike the really good match from Night of Champions this past September, this match had a decisive finish and a clear winner. The variations they incorporate ducking and reversing in and out trademark moves is always exciting, and the different moves like the Batista Bomb and the (BANNED) piledriver only added to the “do anything to win” story. It is undeniable–Punk and Cena have great chemistry as opponents and this past Monday I believe was their way of giving the fans the match that they would have done had they the opportunity to wrestle a singles title match in the main event of a Wrestlemania. It was exciting and they pulled out all the stops and all that considered is my current Match of the Year.
Dino Zucconi: FACT. This is a little tough, just because a) it’s pretty early, and b) I can’t think of any really amazing matches so far this year. I always have a hard time properly rating TV matches, because the cuts to breaks really throws a lot of the momentum off. However, that match last night was freaking awesome. Those two seem to know how to wrestle a match every once in a while, even if half the fans won’t give Punk his proper credit, while the other half shits all over Cena. They both put on a hell of a match. Plus, we got a powerbomb AND a piledriver? Cena throwing a Frankensteiner? (I know, Smarkies: his Frankensteiner sucks. Neat. It’s still awesome he throws one) I was rooting for Punk, but at the end of the match, I was just happy to have watched it. I guess this is a Fact, but I don’t believe in this holding onto the “Match of the Year” title for very long.
Score: 2 for 3
4. WWE is wasting their time trying to get Glenn Beck’s attention.
Ari Berenstein: FACT. At this point in politics Glenn Beck is a nothing little mouse. He lost his spot on Fox News Channel and is currently found on internet / satellite radio programming. He had little relevancy before and now he means absolutely nothing. WWE is wasting its time by invoking the name of Glenn Beck–that is, if anyone in their fan base even really knew or cared about him in the first place. WWE looks nothing but desperate and dumb for spending any time at all on Beck’s idiocy and trying to tie it into its Swagger-Del Rio angle. It won’t tap into any larger audience who will buy the show. Thankfully, the scare of a possible fake-Beck look-alike ala the Rosie O’Donnell-Donald Trump or “Your name is Enus” skits of years past did not come to fruition and the Beck mentions were kept to a minimum on Raw. They kept Michael Cole’s “invasion” ambush interview attempt off the show, relegating it to the nether regions of their internet space, where it belongs. Quite frankly that was the smart move. Now since I definitely feel like I’ve wasted more keyboard strokes on this topic than it deserves, let’s move on.
Dino Zucconi: FACT. He’s just so awful. I don’t even want to waste any more time on him.
So instead, how about Antonio Cesaro?! I love this guy! Ari himself knows that I was big on Claudio long before he was ever in WWE, and that was with very limited ROH access at the time. I’ve also appreciated WWE realizing that strong heels are okay. They’re not perfect yet, but seeing the Super Friends lose at Elimination Chamber was rather shocking. Mark Henry, Wade Barrett, Shield, Cesaro… they’re starting to get it. Now, if they just, you know, WIN a match here and there. Also, Dolph Ziggler, when he wins the championship, is going to be so dominant. You can tell, because he’s already beating everyone. Well… still… they’re trying!
Score: 3 for 4
5. The induction of Donald Trump will generate more interest in the WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Dino Zucconi: FACT. I hate to be the guy that talks “the business” side of things, because I find those types around here to be highly condescending, but Trump = Attention. This guy can tweet anything and it’s news. Trump + WWE? Yes, I believe the media will love this. And, you know, for those who are still crying about this: He hosted TWO WrestleManias (and is the only to do so consecutively). His participation in Mania 23 broke records. He shaved Vince McMahon’s head. How can you have a problem with this? Aren’t you the same jerks who tease “It’s still real to him” and ask “You know it’s fake, right?” Those same jokes and logic apply to the Hall of Fame. Ease up a bit.
Ari Berenstein: FACT. This move is in fact the complete opposite of the Glenn Beck stupidity, because the name Donald Trump does contain enough relevancy and cultural significance to garner attention from the media (sadly enough). If there is anything Donald Trump is truly great at, it is all things Donald Trump. He knows how to maximize the marketing power of his own name and celebrity. Trump may have done a bang-up job over the last year of damaging that reputation for the sake of political gain (merely to expose himself as a ignorant blowhard), but he still has the juice from a “cult of personality” perspective. Hey, I may not like it, but WWE getting Trump in the Hall of Fame a masterstroke of PR genius. Still, I feel that while his contributions to selling WrestleMania 23 and contributing to other angles makes him more than worthy of inclusion I would have preferred it if the induction had waited a year. His name takes away from the truly significant wrestlers already confirmed to the Hall for this year including Bruno Sammartino (whose unlikeliest of returns has been trumped-pun intended), Mick Foley, Bob Backlund and Trish stratus. Trump is going to make this all about Trump, but at least the good thing is it will benefit WWE as far as promoting the Hall of Fame on pop culture shows and in the mainstream news media.
Score: 4 for 5
6. Hulk Hogan shouldn’t be critical of TNA management in public.
Dino Zucconi: FICTION. Hogan shouldn’t be critical about all things TNA in public, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pointing out that having Jeff Hardy as the champ when you have an international tour coming up is the worst thing ever. There are lots of Hardy fans, and that’s fine, but the dude has proven repeatedly to be untrustworthy in big spots, this being another one of them. Has he cleaned up? I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt- and I’m also not one who acts like Hardy drinking booze and taking pills puts him on the same moral level of a child abuser like some other fans. However, his constant chances are getting annoying, and if I’m Hulk, I’m justifiably angry that we can’t bring our World Champion to an international tour. Poor planning, as per TNA’s Contract with Existence. I still watch every week though.
Ari Berenstein: FACT. I think this statement takes into consideration last week’s interview where Hulk Hogan took TNA Owner Dixie Carter to task for waiting so long to take its TV show on tour around the United States. Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff had chances to make TNA into something grander than what it was when they walked in–and failed to do so. Many if not most of their decisions ended up not being successful in elevating the company. He just has no ground to stand on when taking Dixie Carter to task regarding the company. The latest in the “carrot and the stick” process is the idea that taking the IMPACT! Wrestling television show on tour will elevate them to the next level-whatever that means. Look, going on tour with the TV show is nice, but it really won’t do anything more or less impactful than any decisions made in the past (ahem ahem, moving to Monday nights for the “New Monday Night War”-look how well that did). So Hogan trying to prime the pump that this process is the biggest risk they can take and will have a big pay-off–and that Dixie needs ot be all the way in on the this–well, really he should shut up about all of that until there actually is a significant growth, in either ratings and viewer numbers.
Score: 4 for 6
7. King Mo will be more successful in TNA over the next year than he will be in MMA.
Dino Zucconi: FACT. If he wins his first two matches, this is in the bag, right? Even if not, what’s he going to do in Bellator? The Light Heavyweight Tourney still needs to finish, then that title fight needs to happen, and meanwhile a new tourney can start. So, let’s say that at best, Mo fights two more times in Bellator this year. Wins them both. He’d be 3-1. I bet he has more than 4 matches in TNA and wins. And yes, I’m keeping this question as kayfabe as you can, because it’s funnier that way. As far as Mo’s career is concerned, TNA > Bellator. Which is funny, because they’re both basically the same thing, only one’s MMA and the other is wrestling.
Ari Berenstein: FICTION. Well, King Mo has already won and lost one fight in the Bellator tournament process, and that was in the Semi-Final round. Is he good enough to make a come back and win the next tournament? That is entirely up to him and his training process and development camp. As for his wrestling career, he has yet to wrestle an official match in TNA and aside from a guest referee role hasn’t done much else for the promotion. He keeps training with them, which eventually should lead to an in-ring debut, but who knows where he goes from there. I think a lot of his potential for success in TNA depends on his ability to get over with the audience and TNA’s ability to protect him early on while putting him in interesting storylines. I think Mo’s charisma will help for the first part but it is still very questionable whether or not TNA can hold up their end of that bargain. I guess what it comes down to is if one has more confidence in Mo’s MMA training coaches or in his TNA support system to get him to whether he needs to be in the next year. I have more confidence in the former than the latter.
Score: 4 for 7
8. Charlie Haas’s videos about being pissed off make you interested in his ROH endeavors.
Dino Zucconi: FACT. I had no idea what these videos were, so I hit up the YouTubes, and to quote my good, dear friend Bill Medley, I had the time of my life. What in the hell are they doing with these? It’s literally 8 seconds of Charlie delivering the most stilted…. “You know what… PISSES ME off? Uh…” Phenomenal. Beforehand, I didn’t care at all about what Haas was up to in ROH. Now, however, I actually care. So, thanks, I guess, for making me look these up. I’d assume that this basically goes nowhere. Ah well. It’s all wrestling. It’s all stupid. We all love it.
Ari Berenstein: FACT. I think the fix might be in as far as the inclusion of this statement for FoF considering I just wrote a special column dedicated to the Charlie Haas ROH YouTube Videos. Perhaps a bit of a good-natured rib by my good friend Mr. Cook? As I wrote in Column of Honor, these videos have the potential to be great if the execution is improved, but ROH and Haas seem to be more about quantity rather than quality. There is a bombardment of these videos on their YouTube, and it may actually to be to their detriment if they don’t eventually connect the content to actual angles and matches. I actually thought the car dealership brawl (as hokey as it was) with BJ Whitmer did more to make me interested in “The Outlaw” Charlie Haas than many of the videos. Maybe if his next one is about how car dealerships piss him off, that would be good. However, I do like Haas’ current direction and have been entertained by several of the videos, so I’m going slight FACT in this one. Sorry if that pisses you off.
Final Score: 5 for 8
Dino & Ari finish slightly above .500 this week and bring the content! We thank them for participating and invite you to chime in on these topics down in the comment section! Thanks for reading, and we’ll be back next week with more Fact or Fiction!