wrestling / Columns

411 Fact or Fiction Wrestling: Is Rousey vs. Jax at WWE MITB a Bad Idea?

May 20, 2018 | Posted by Larry Csonka
Nia Jax Ronda Rousey WWE MITB Money in the Bank

Welcome back to 411 Fact or Fiction, Wrestling Edition! Stuff happened, people loved/hated it and let everyone else know. I pick through the interesting/not so interesting tidbits and then make 411 staff members discuss them for your pleasure. Battling this week are 411’s Len Archibald & Jake Chambers.

  • Questions were sent out Tuesday.
  • Participants were told to expect wrestling-related content, as well as possible statements on quantum physics, homemade pharmaceuticals, the Turtle Total Trip Theorem, pizza and hydroponics.

    1. Rushing Ronda Rousey into a singles match with an inexperienced performer like Nia Jax is a bad idea.

    Len Archibald: FACT – I can see WWE’s reasoning behind this. They want to take advantage of Rousey as a name and put her in a high-profile situation right away. I am sure NBC demanded that Rousey have visibility at the NBC/Universal Upfronts to show her off. It’s a business, businesses are in business to make money and business, business, capitalist business. I can’t blame anyone for that. At the same time, unless Ronda has been imbued with the spirit of 1989 Ric Flair, I can’t possibly see a match between her and Nia Jax working. Now, this is not a 100% knock on Jax – no, she is not championship caliber or is anywhere near a great worker, but when she is given the opportunity to play her monster role well, she is serviceable. The issue is that WWE is too scared of offending…someone by having Jax play up her actual strength – her size – as a strength. Jax has a hard time with Alexa Bliss who is over 100lbs lighter than she is. Yet I am sure WWE will laughably try to make it look like Rousey is an underdog. Rousey’s progression was actually on the right track working with Natalya and Mickie James. WWE had an opportunity to build up Jax’s credibility as Raw’s Women’s Champion. All of that will be undone and now retroactively we will look back and figure that Bliss beating Jax at WrestleMania would have been the better call so a Rousey championship chase would have been more compelling and seeing Bliss get…OBLISSerated (omg, did I really do that?!?!?) would have been infinitely more entertaining.

    Jake Chambers: FICTION – This is a good idea, because – honestly – at least it’s interesting. Do we really want to see Rousey slowly baby-ed up to a title match like they did with Asuka – a process that made a unique wrestler completely boring? Rousey is such an unbelievable get for the WWE that they need to capitalize on her fame, passion and originality ASAP. There’s no reason to train her to be the next Sasha Banks in the ring, because that’s not even working to get Sasha Banks to the next level. The UFC sold a shit ton of PPVs based on Rousey working for like less than a minute in the octagon and the fans loved it, so the WWE needs to steer her towards that kind of audacious performance and not, like, working a chin lock for 5 minutes with an experience ring veteran. Rousey should win the match against Nia Jax in seconds by doing something so ridiculously cool that it makes all those UFC fans stand up and take notice (here’s to hoping Fit Finlay or Tyson Kidd get the chance to pull out one of the quick finish blockbuster spots they’ve been sitting on for years). Jax really doesn’t need to be Bull Nakano 2.0 to pull this off, she just needs to go in there and be a rag doll for one well rehearsed, bad-ass Rousey sequence.

    2. Roman Reigns turning into a whining character that claims that politics & management are against him will finally lead to him turning heel.

    Len Archibald: FICTION – There is only one scenario where Roman Reigns turns heel: Vince McMahon’s death. And he isn’t dying for another century. There is nothing else to add except plugging my YouTube Channel, Ring Riffs where I have fun with some of the absolute worst wrestling matches in history. Click Here to Subscribe to Ring Riffs.

    Jake Chambers: FICTION – Just on the surface, I would say that if Roman Reigns is “whining” about management, and said management are the uber-heels of the McMahon family, then he’s technically still going to be the babyface. On the other hand, I’m stunned that we’re getting sucked into this heel/babyface discussion again in 2018, when nobody in pro-wrestling really adheres to those traditional roles anymore. The WWE (and all of us) know what will happen if they turn Roman Reigns into some kind of evil, shit-talking bad guy: the fans that boo him now will start to cheer, and the fans that love him now will start to boo. So what’s the point? Just like they orchestrated for over a decade with Cena, they’ve already clearly got one character who can evoke an intense emotional response from the audience no matter what he does (and most of what he already does is pretty heel-ish). Continuing to perpetuate this anger in a segment of the audience who think they know the “real” formula to make money from Roman Reigns, despite the WWE making more money with him on top then they probably have in history, is exactly the brain-warping loop of fan discombobulation the WWE manipulates for maximum results. Shouldn’t we be more worried about whether the WWE cares about letting Reigns have good wrestling matches again? Because heel or face, the guy is kind of stinking up the joint this year, and I’m not sure it’s all his fault.

    3. You are surprised that the “All IN” show ran by Cody & The Young Bucks sold out 10,000 tickets on day one.

    Len Archibald: FACT – I am not surprised that All In sold out. I have always felt that the wrestling industry was approaching a new golden age for business outside WWE and Cody was going to be a part of that (Sigh. I have now become everything I hate.) I AM absolutely floored and ecstatic that All In sold out on its first day. It is indicative that there is a legitimate scene outside of Stamford and that fans are craving other options. New Japan events are selling out. Ring of Honor and Impact are showing increases in live attendance. This is a great time not only to be a fan to have so many viable options, but it is a great time to be a performer – knowing that they do not need to conform to the whims of WWE to make a great living. In the 1970s, even though the promotions were the hotbeds, the talents actually self-promoted so they were able to keep relevant when they reached a new stop. We are seeing this idea modernized. It is exciting because for a generation, fans were catered to believe that WWE=wrestling, and now they are discovering that is not the case. Driving home from Florida, I “2 Sweet”-ed no fewer than seven people at various stops when I noticed them wearing Bullet Club memorabilia. I now believe the hype. Bullet Club is the hottest thing on the planet and I am stupendously happy for it. Congratulations to Cody and The Bucks.

    Jake Chambers: FACT – Damn right. I get that they said they could do it, and I guess I kind of figured it would be possible to eventually massage a sell-out by the day of the show with discounts and giveaways, but to actually sell 10,000 tickets in one day – one hour even – that’s gotta surprise everyone, no? Shouldn’t they at least have needed to announce some killer matches or something, because even the line up of wrestlers they have is what you could see on any upper-tier indie event already. So to sell it out with only the potential of a match between Cody and whoever is NWA Champion at the time – it’s insane! Am I crazy for being shocked here? I mean, let’s be serious, we don’t know what kind of show this is going to be since it’s not related to any specific narrative: will it be work-rate style matches like you’d see in PWG or Evolve, or is it going to be storyline-focused stuff like you get in Lucha Underground or ROH? Who knows? I seriously think the reason it sold so many tickets to fans was just simply based on the business challenge of selling so many tickets. And if so, that’s such a masterful shift in indie-wrestling booking strategy towards the WWE’s biz-minded “Mediocrity Era” style of motivating fan interest in simply the discussion of the structural possibilities of an event more than any anticipation for, or satisfaction from, actual good wrestling matches. I didn’t think it would be possible to get such a large number of wrestling fans to enthusiastically support pure financial success in the abstract. So yeah, I’m surprised, I’m impressed, I’m slightly jealous, a little bit depressed, but still only tentatively curious to watch the show.


    4. Asuka should defeat Carmella to win the Smackdown women’s title at MITB.

    Jake Chambers: FICTION – The word “should” in this statement pushes me to the Fiction side, because wrestling logic tells us that the person with no momentum, no story, and no heat should lose – and that’s Asuka. You gotta think the WWE isn’t letting go of a blonde, attractive, trash talking, northeastern-er just as she is clearly settling in to her role as one of the top performers on Smackdown, while it feels like they consider Asuka interesting at best but likely awkward and un-marketable at the worst. Asuka’s clean loss to Charlotte at WrestleMania was not a great sign of the WWE’s confidence in her, but then again Charlotte’s clean loss to Carmella at Backlash was an odd move too. And now Asuka being gifted a title shot without getting her win back on Charlotte is probably the biggest clue that she “should” lose at Money in the Bank, since her role appears to be a prop for the elevation of the Carmella character. Another demerit on Asuka’s record would at least then set up the kind of post-push losing streak the WWE tends to employ, before re-building her character in a redemptive title chase angle. Of course, “should” and “did” are only mildly related verbs in the WWE’s creative vocabulary, as many learned when trying to predict the endgame of the Asuka winning streak angle.

    Len Archibald: FACT – Earlier, I mentioned discussing a potential compelling chase between Ronda Rousey and Alexa Bliss if WWE decided to go that direction. This should not be a chase. This should be a full on reset to the Smackdown Women’s Division. MITB is a heel concept, so cashing in on Carmella would turn basically anyone babyface. Cashing in on Askua, though – that would be something else. I was one of the many who was upset at WWE screwing the pooch having Charlotte defeat Askua at WrestleMania, but looking back at her time in NXT, what made The Empress of Tomorrow’s streak impressive was not the fact that she was undefeated – it was that she was an undefeated, fighting champion. That is Askua’s wheelhouse. Have Askua destroy Carmella, take on all comers, and finally, when she is too exhausted to nobly defend the title, have a heel cash in and take the heat. Notice I have no further plans for Carmella after she loses the title.

    5. The entire John Cena/Nikki Bella situation is nothing but a work to hype Total Bellas/Total Divas and their “big reconciliation” for the cameras.

    Jake Chambers: FICTION – Look, if the premise of this statement is asking me to believe that couples generally don’t break up, then I’m compelled to go Fiction hard on this one. From what we know, either by the things we see on TV or from our educated meta-knowledge of the situation, it’s impossible to conclude if the Cena/Nikki breakup is a reality show “work” – we can guess, but we don’t know. However, people actually break up on the regular. If civilian marriages have a 50% chance of lasting, then odds of a celebrity couple making it have gotta be like 15% – they fall apart constantly! I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve seen some of the most stable looking relationships around me end abruptly; I’ve known parents, grandparents, high school sweethearts, and intense short-terms lovers, all break up for a plethora of ridiculous reasons. And, hey, some of them even get back together – it’s very unpredictable. I’m not immune from being a part of confusing, impromptu break ups, and I’m sure neither is anyone reading this. So, I can absolutely believe that John Cena and Nikki Bella really broke up, and it’s just coincidentally being captured on the reality TV show cameras that follow Nikki around all day. In fact, the only reason reality shows like Total Bellas even exist in the first place is because so many people actually do break up and we like to watch that shit happen, since we can all relate.

    Len Archibald: FACT – I don’t want to be jaded. I don’t want to be cynical. I am by nature. I suffer from massive trust issues – but I have been really working on learning to trust more. But, this…At first, I felt this was a terrible thing to have happen. It doesn’t matter who it is, when a relationship ends it is a tragedy. Either John Cena is truly SEVERELY shook by the break up and has been using his time on television to genuinely plead and beg Nikki Bella to take him back like a horrible Robin Thicke album or Cena and Nikki have degraded themselves into Kardashian territory – to which I would have lost a LOT of respect for both for manufacturing drama and really, in essence – wasting everyone’s time. I don’t want to be jaded and I don’t want to be one of those “IT’S A WORK!” guys….but unless Cena’s “FAKE LOVE” tweet has any real weight to it, I am going to sit on the side of shameful promotional manipulation.

    6. Shinsuke Nakamura NEEDS to defeat AJ Styles to win the WWE Championship at MITB.

    Jake Chambers: FACT – “NEEDS” in all caps obviously puts this one a step above the “should” scenario for Asuka in the earlier statement, yet I can see why you’d consider Nakamura in a more delicate position. While both are highly touted Japanese stars who won a Royal Rumble and lost clean in their title shots at WrestleMania, Nakamura turned heel afterwards and has still been unable to capitalize on the kind of identity change that generally leads to title wins in pro-wrestling. This situation is more unique since the hardcore fans are actually more interested in Nakamura just eventually fulfilling the “classic match” potential of this pairing with AJ Styles, and probably care less about him becoming champion or a great villain. So for an average-match-having Nakamura to continue as a main event level player, you’d think that he really does NEED to beat Styles for the title to remain relevant in the WWE. But as a long-time fan who watched all of Nakamura’s New Japan career, do “I” need him to win this match though? Eh, not really. While you could argue that a loss here might start him on the slide towards a Dancin’ Naky tag team with like Zack Ryder or someone that I often feared was his fate on the WWE main roster, I gotta say that I’ve kind of given up hope that the Nakamura who faced Sami Zayn in his NXT debut is still in there somewhere. If him winning the WWE Title at Money in the Bank means that he’ll just continue along with this bland version of his once great NJPW persona in the dreadfully mediocre WWE main event scene, then maybe I’d prefer some kind of ridiculous mid-card run that shakes him out of his currently lazy character and style. So, sure, Nakamura needs to win the WWE Title from Styles at MITB, but I think “I” NEED him to lose.

    Len Archibald: FACT – I think WWE is at a crossroads with Shinsuke Nakamura. He arrived with all the hype and fanfare he could be provided. He was provided with accolades and was showcased as one of NXTs and WWEs main attractions. He won the Royal Rumble and was placed in a situation to over-deliver at WrestleMania. Nakamura has been a mixed bag – good to great at times, but has been in second-gear for most of his time. His heel turn has energized him (and I have thoroughly enjoyed the 411 posters who have risen in his cockpunching honor), but we are at a point where WWE needs to decide to pull the trigger. If WWE wants Nakamura to be seen as a major player in the fans eyes – if they do not want to further alienate those who prefer Japanese wrestlers and have them fully defect to New Japan and if Nakamura wants to prove that he has what it takes to perform in the biggest promotion in the world consistently, Nakamura must become WWE Champion. There’s nothing more to it – except to reminisce over Jenna Morasca vs. Sharmell and thank your lucky stars that AJ vs. Nak will never get this bad. Click here to watch Ring Riffs Episode 1: Sharmell vs. Jenna.