wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Are Raw And Smackdown’s Rosters Unbalanced?

September 8, 2017 | Posted by Mathew Sforcina
John Cena Jinder Mahal Raw Smackdown

Hello, and welcome to your one stop Selling Briefcase Storyline shop, Ask 411 Wrestling! I am your host, Mathew Sforcina, and got a lot of questions this week, so let’s get to answering a small fraction of them!

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Mahal’s Improvement: I agree, his in ring work is not yet up to an acceptable level for his current position. But his look and gimmick and entrance and such, if there were given to someone who could work, that would work. I’m not saying he’s on an upward swing that should get him where he’s going, just that WWE’s production has done good work to make him look like he belongs where he is, right up until he has to wrestle. And/or talk.

People Who Never Tapped: Ok, so lots of suggestions, let’s go down the list. Now remember, the question was guys who never lost to a submission hold, so there is a distinction that I will draw there.

John Cena: Tapped to Angle, tapped to Benoit.

Roman Reigns: He hasn’t tapped, but he did pass out in the Coquina Clutch one time at least.

Daniel Bryan (WWE run): Uh… Connor The Crusher?

Oh, ok, The All American American Amercian American! Raw, Feb 18, 2013.

CM Punk (WWE run): CENAWINSLOL, Dec 14 2009, the Slammy Superstar of the Year tourney.

Roddy Piper: This one’s legit, by the looks of it.

The Ultimate Warrior: Likewise

Sting: Dude tapped to frigging MAGNUS.

Yokozuna: Yeah, no-one got Yoko.

The Trivia Crown

Who am I? I was interviewed by the above at least once, albeit with a gimmick on Mean Gene’s end. A former Hardcore champion, I’m part of a wrestling family, but not really, connected to a HOF/World Champion/legend in the sport, but only for a short while, and was upper class, but not on the main roster. My last WWE match saw me lose to a former IC champion, and my last Summerslam match… Really wasn’t a match. I currently am a wrestling trainer, and Hornswoggle has… Done something to me. I am who?

Jarvin Driftwood has it down 100%.

Who am I? I was interviewed by the above at least once, albeit with a gimmick on Mean Gene’s end (WCW’s “Dirty Old Man”). A former Hardcore champion (WWF as Mighty Molly), I’m part of a wrestling family (Holly Cousins), but not really (none of them were related), connected to a HOF/World Champion/legend in the sport (Randy Savage), but only for a short while (Team Madness only existed from April-June of 1999), and was upper class (Lady Ophelia), but not on the main roster (gimmick in Memphis, when it was a WWF developmental). My last WWE match saw me lose to a former IC champion (Miss WrestleMania Battle Royal won by Santino er Santina.) and my last Summerslam match… Really wasn’t a match (Diva Dodgeball 2004). I currently am a wrestling trainer (The Academy with Daivari and Ken Anderson/Kennedy), and Hornswoggle has… Done something to me (poked her at Raw’s 15th Anniversary). I am who? (Nora Greenwald)

Who am I? I have the same amount of Hardcore title reigns as the above. My last match in WWE was a qualifier, although I finished my contract on a brand other than the one that I last wrestled on. I’ve been part of a tag team with a math related name (although it’s off by a factor), part of a tag team with an acronym name, and part of a tag team that formed out of a third person getting injured. I’ve been Italian, I’ve represented a musical genre, and in storyline, I’ve seen more of Trish Stratus than you, probably. Who am I?

Getting Down To All The Business

Jorge from PR has a simple quick question to start.

Quick question regarding the MNW. Just saw Edge’s debut match against Jose Estrada. I guess it was a botch and Estrada suffered a neck injury because the match ended in a count out. Was it a real injury? Did Estrada wrestle again in WWE?

Yes, it was a real injury, Jose Estrada injured his neck on the dive.

Edge has said that he ‘retired’ Jose in this, or at least that was the implication, but he didn’t, as Estrada did have more matches for WWE, a few months later he was back, although it was one episode of Heat…

And then pretty much solely on Super Astros, WWF’s little known Lucha show.

He quit WWF, along with the other two members of Los Boricuas in early 1999. But it was a legit injury when Edge landed on his head.

CyberVenom asks about how Mahal, and foreigners in general, are perceived by said foreign countries.

The rumored reason behind Jinder Mahal’s title reign has me thinking about something and I’d like to hear your input and/or insight on it. Supposedly, Jinder won to help get the Network and the WWE in general more recognition in India. As a heel, he does the “I’m speaking to my people in my tongue” promo. What I’m wondering is, is Jinder perceived as a face or a heel in India? I could see the WWE editing the cheers and boos to be more geared to the audience, but that seems like an awful lot to do. And with promos like Randy Orton’s where he threatens to RKO everyone in the country, it might not be so difficult. Does this happen with some foreign wrestlers and not others? Was Rusev considered a popular face in Russia, even though he was a heel? Thanks for all the intelligent conversation!

Jinder does appear to be in a similar situation to The Great Khali, in that it was known that when Khali was on Smackdown, when that was shown in India it would edited slightly to make sure he looked awesome and such, he was portrayed as a huge part of the show. Although I don’t believe they are doing that as much in terms of editing the show overall, he is clearly being shown in a positive light in India, compared to the rest of the world. Take, for example, the promo filmed for India at Backlash, after Jinder won the title.

From what I can understand, this is a fairly generic promo, saying how proud he is to represent India, how he looks forward to defending it there, feels awesome to be champ, so on and so forth. But the way it’s filmed and the voice and such, it’s a generic humble, hardworking babyface promo. Compare that to the promo he filmed for the general population.

He told you so, and he’ll aggressively point at you while doing so!

So yeah, Jinder is being presented in a different light in India. Apparently this is something that is, while not being a regular thing, is somewhat common, in that local announce teams will apparently put over local talent. According to one post I found from someone passing on a message from their cousin in St. Petersburg, when Rusev was in full bore Russian hero mode, the Russian announce team did put him over as Putin’s favorite, talk about the Gold Star, and excuse heel actions. Now he’s back to being Bulgarian, they are much more mocking of him and treat him as a heel.

But I don’t have any primary sources for this, Australia gets the same feed as the US, so even though she’s Australian and we’ll be happy for her when she comes out and such, we still have Emma portrayed as a heel, for instance. But any of you dear readers hailing from another country that can help us out here? Do other countries get edited shows to portray hometown boys and girls in a good light? Let us know below!

Stuart had a bunch of questions. This is the last one he sent!

Drake Younger. Did he know that he was being hired to be a referee when he signed his contract?

Yeah, he knew, it was a natural fit, all things considered. Drake had begun to move away from Deathmatch stuff in 2012, 2013, and was transitioning into a more traditional wrestler’s position, in PWG especially.

That, coupled with some work for WWE as an extra, as pretty much every indy worker ever will, at some point, be a WWE extra, he got spotted by Regal, and then got a tryout at the Performance Center, which if you’d said would happen back in 2007, you’d have gotten confused looks as people wouldn’t know what a performance center was.

Anyway, he aced the tryout, but WWE didn’t have a spot for him as a wrestler, so instead they offered him a contract as a ref. Given that was apparently something he was considering anyway, and he’d seen people like Sara Del Rey and Robbie Brookside go from wrestler to trainer and such, plus with another kid on the way, he made the decision to accept the offer. But yes, the offer was for him to be a ref from the get go.

And that’s cool… But one day, I still want to see someone get in his face a bit too much and then eat a Drake’s Landing Drake ‘n’ Bake Death Valley Driver off him…

(Another) Matt asks a question of people asked at the time.

Why the hell did Heyman put the ECW title on Justin Credible? I mean, a transitional reign or a short 1 to 2 month reign I can maybe stomach, but 6 months was ridiculous! I always hear that Heyman put the belt on him because of WWF/WCW headhunting talent, but I don’t fully believe that’s the reason. Why not put the belt on Rhyno earlier or give Steve Corino or Jerry Lynn a longer reign? Hell, put it on Yoshihiro Tajiri!

Sometimes in wrestling you can make a mistake that is totally logical and should work, but by the time you realise it’s not working how you want it, you’re committed. Credible in ECW as World Champ is one such example.

See, from the get go, Heyman thought Credible was going to be big, and so he built him up slowly but surely, starting with pinning The Great Sasuke and then the Impact Players and such, he had gotten to the point where he seemed ready to become a big deal when it went down. He had history with Dreamer, so it made sense he’d challenge Dreamer suddenly, and that Dreamer would accept. Credible could hang with the tech guys, while also be able to do the hardcore stuff, so he could conceivably work with anyone. He was loyal, and it was unlikely WWF or WCW would want him anyway, so Heyman could plan long term around him. He was hated as a heel, he had heat, and people didn’t think he ‘deserved’ to be there, they’ll be eager to see him lose, which could happen at any time. It all points to Credible being a good choice to be champion.

It wasn’t, though.

Now, of the options you gave, Rhyno wasn’t ready yet, he’d lost to RVD and Taz too many times, he needed to be built a bit more. Same with Corino, he was a comedy guy when Credible got the belt, he had to be built up also. Lynn… you could argue that, but the thing was, Dreamer was hurting, badly, and you needed a heel to be the one to take him out, and turning Lynn would be WAY out of left field. MAYBE you could do something like Credible injures Dreamer, Lynn somehow gets the shot out of it… It’s too messy, and out of nowhere. Yes, Credible didn’t work as champ, but it made sense. Tajiri… I wouldn’t object, but that still doesn’t have the same level of history behind it.

Sure, a couple months in, you can argue for calling an audible and change direction, but Credible was the best choice at the time, and once you made that choice, you can argue that it was better to keep going.

But hey, even the best bookers can’t bat 1.000.

Brian asks about a move.

Did Mr. Perfect ever do his Perfect-Plex from the second turnbuckle, ala a Super-Perfect-Plex or Avalanche Perfect-Plex? I remembered emulating that as a kid, but perhaps that was something I actually innovated. PS if yes, I would love to see video of it.

I know of Fisherman’s Busters off the ropes, but no, I don’t recall seeing anyone do that, let alone Curt Hennig. That’s a hell of a fall to take that high up on your neck, the Perfect/Fisherman is not quite a head drop, but there is more than usual pressure on the neck, and doing off the top… That sounds rough. But perhaps a reader knows someone who has done it.

APinOz asks if WCW really was that bad.

In last week’s column, you referenced the interview with Ted DiBiase where he described his three years in WCW as the most miserable of his career, due to the extreme disorganisation within the company. I’m just wondering how much of this is Ted speaking the “company line” ie what WWE wants us to hear. Clearly, WCW fell apart due to total disorganisation but it certainly didn’t seem disorganised in the early days of the Monday Night Wars, with the long-term Sting Hogan program playing out, the ascension of the NWO, the role of the cruiserweights in the midcard, Goldberg’s run to the title. So at what point in DiBiase’s tenure there would “disorganisation” have begun to destroy the company? And how miserable could a stint at a place be when you only have to work 5 days a month for (I assume) a pretty large pay cheque?

There is something to be said for that, you do have to view statements made by people who have some connection to WWE, or who wish to at a later stage, through the prism of WWE’s approved thinking at the time. However, WCW being disorganised isn’t something that is just WWE revisionist history. From the excellent Death of WCW book through to a lot of interviews and such, WCW did have severe problems with wasting money, odd choices, talent overflows and the like. They got stuff right, sure, and getting enough right to get hot was good in the sense that they rode that heat for a couple years wherein all the mistakes didn’t matter as people were still tuning in and buying tickets and such, but the problem is, once things went bad, they went really bad quickly.

Hogan/Sting, which got dragged out a lot longer than originally thought, didn’t end the way it should have, it got dragged out a couple more months for the sake of trying to chase another payday/play off Bret Hart’s situation for some reason/Hogan’s opinion of Sting/Sting.

The nWo got a lot of attention and made WCW hot. The attempts to make this into a separate brand died before birth, but not before ruining the brand name.

The Cruiserweights put on great matches and were a drawcard… Until they weren’t any more, due to not elevating anyone and just running the same matches all the time.

Goldberg’s rise was epic… As was his fall, for exact opposite reasons.

Saying that WCW had no good ideas or sucked 100% or anything like that, that’s WWE revisionist history. But saying they were disorganised, that’s pretty much fact.

And as for being miserable for sitting around getting a big check, obviously some people would love that, or even having to work 10 days a month for said fat check. But wrestling is odd, when it comes to money, in that most people who get to the point of being in that position must love wrestling. It’s not easy, especially at that time, to get to the point of being someone important in wresting without working hard for no money first. You have to love wrestling, love the industry, to put up with the crappy years until you get to the good stuff. The upshot of this is that wrestlers want to perform. They like performing, they want to feel the crowd, work the matches, whatever it is, it’s why they do it, often times. The money’s nice, and sure many people are focused more or solely on that. But someone like DiBiase cares about the job, and wants to do the job, rather than just sit around and get paid to travel to random cities and sit in catering.

It’s not everyone, and it’s not all the time, but yeah, wrestlers want to wrestle, all things considered.

Michael brings us back to Mahal.

If you put expectations into consideration, wouldn’t you say for all the flak he gets , that Mahal as champ has been better than Nakamura’s WWE(not NXT) run? Nakamura came in as the best thing ever, always putting on classics, etc. and he’s basically been a bust. And he’s wrestled enough skilled wrestlers with different styles(Cena, Ziggler, Corbin, etc.) that one just can’t say “who has he wrestled?” He’s looked slow and his matches have been plodding at best. Mahal was basically a jobber so why would people expect to him to be great all of sudden? Thoughts?

I’ve written and deleted a start for this like a dozen times now, so let’s go with the meta acknowledgment of hesitation and then dive in.

If you compare the two periods of these men’s careers, and view them through the expectations that the IWC had for them, then yes, technically, Mahal has done a better job, in that he’s shown some slight improvement in some aspects, while Nakamura has remained constant.

But that’s practically meaningless, as these two have such different paths, different levels of what the IWC expects, what WWE expects, what WWE wants… Trying to compare the two is kinda silly. I’m all for looking at their runs by themselves, and reaching conclusions, sure.

Yes, Mahal is slightly improving in some limited aspects of his presentation. But he’s not making any real movement in key aspects of performing as a main event heel, let alone a centrepiece champion heel. And even if he meets the WWE expectations of making major waves and inroads into India, which is a perfectly legitimate and worthwhile goal, that still doesn’t really excuse the rest of it. WWE wants to be a global company, they act like they should be, but with that comes an expectation of consistency, and overall acceptance of the overall product. Alienating large parts of the audience to appeal to a specific subset is not a good idea, generally speaking.

Whereas Nakamura, you can absolutely level legitimate criticism about his entire run in WWE, sure. Apart from the Zayn match, maybe Joe, Nakamura has indeed maintained a certain level of coasting, yes. He’s working at 75, 80%, and he seems unable or unwilling to work hard to bridge the gap between himself and his opponent when it comes to skill levels and the like. That said, a 75% Nakamura is still a lot better than a lot of wrestlers, Mahal included right now, and especially on the main roster, you can argue that he hasn’t had a lot to work with. Again, you can argue against that too, but the thing is, he’s not the champ, he’s not being expected to lead the brand right now, and he’s wrestling a slower, safer style than he used to. That can be defended, that can be attacked.

At the end of the day, the thing is this. We expected Nakamura to be great based on his track record as a wrestler and our desire to see him do good work. We’re disappointed by his merely being above average. We expected Mahal to be great because WWE is pushing him and focusing on him, and therefore there is an expectation as to the level of talent, ability, and interest one should have with that level of attention. We’re slightly impressed by some small improvements he’s made, but he’s still not at the level he should be.

Mahal isn’t at the level WWE is treating him at. Nakamura isn’t at the level we know he can be. That’s a world of difference.

Natan asks about if Mahal is justified. Well if anything, he’s certainly causing interest by question volume.

In regards to Hall Of Fame inductees…would it logical to say that anyone who was been a World or WWE Champion is automatically worthy of being a Hall Of Fame inductee? If so, can there be any justification in inducting say a Jinder Mahal or Great Khali?

Oddly enough, for both Hall of Fames the answer is no, but for different reasons.

If you’re talking about the WWE Hall Of Fame, although I have said in the past that being a WWE/World champion is sort of automatically enough, at the end of the day it’s not about if you ‘deserve’ to be there, it’s if Vince/WWE thinks they can sell you as being HOF worthy, if they like you, if you’re available on the day, and if you’re willing to sign a Legends’ deal. I’m fairly certain the WWE video division could make anyone from Hade Vanson to Buddy Austin look like they belonged there with a good video package. So with that Hall of Fame, if Vince likes them, they’ll get in, with their title reigns used as justification, sure, but not actually playing a roll in them getting inducted, just a roll in their placement in the proceedings.

If you’re talking for an actual Hall of Fame, like the Observer one, for instance, then no, being a champion is not an automatic entry. Plenty of former champions are not in, and won’t be, due to the rules that are laid out. Merely holding the title once doesn’t make you a Hall of Fame worthy wrestler. It’s about your career overall, and what you did with that career, your in ring work, your drawing power. The titles, while being part of it, are not that essential. That said, Mahal’s career still has a way to go, so I can’t judge that yet, but Khali… You can actually argue that one, in that it comes down to if being the face of wrestling in a country/culture is enough to put you in the running. Several wrestlers are in the Hall of Fame who are relatively unknown to American audiences. You probably have heard of Blue Demon, but have you heard of Cavernario Galindo? Devil Masami?

My point is, if Indian wrestling becomes a major thing, either through just becoming popular, or through actual wrestlers and companies and such… Khali is by many accounts an icon of the sport/business in India, and so he conceivably has a leg to stand on in terms of popularity and such. Not in terms of workrate or anything, no, but there’s an argument there, maybe.

I wouldn’t vote for either of them, but Mahal could get there and Khali has a weak case, but a case nonetheless.

Paul wonders about balance.

So, with the assumption that the rosters are actually supposed to be balanced, it appears the raw brand is top heavy. There are at least seven raw brand wrestlers that “outrank” smackdowns main guys. Only Orton, Styles, Nakamura, and Owens could swap to Raws main event. Lesnar, Roman, Cena, Joe, Rollins, Strowman, Balor, Miz and maybe Ambrose and Wyatt could go over to smackdown. What would you do to level the playing field?

Well, ok, for starters Cena is now a floater, he’ll turn up wherever they want him to, so it’s not fair to include him.

Secondly, and more importantly, they aren’t supposed to be level, at least not 50-50. Raw has three hours, and therefore should have a few more ‘names’ than SD, since they have more time to kill. Some imbalance is to be expected.

However yes, I do think SD was somewhat gutted by the last switches, and while they’ve made some steps to fix it (Roode!), they could do with a couple more. So what would I do?

Well, you could just wait for after WM and rebalance them that way, which is what WWE will probably do, but if you wanted to do it quick… Miz loses the IC title to Jason Jordan on a Raw when Jordan accidently runs into a ref, Angle sends out another ref, then on a Jordan suplex both men’s shoulders are down, each ref counts a fall with the original ref counting Jordan down, new one Miz down, Angle then declares that the second ref is the official one since the original ref was still groggy, therefore Jordan is IC champ, Miz immediately files a protest, and as settlement, the Miztourage is transferred as a unit to SD, as well as Miz getting automatic #1 contendership for the WWE Title at PPV after next. Bring back Harper and Rowan as a babyface upper mid tag team, turn Rusev, have Jericho come back, and make Cena pop in occasionally and that should be enough star power to rebalance it a little, I think. Moving Mahal into the upper mid heel, with Miz as the centrepiece of the brand and Owens as the roving midcard to main eventer as required, that’s a solid enough trio. You don’t need to have Smackdown guys be able to hang on Raw as much as you need guys on Smackdown who can entertain and be enough for the show. If you keep measuring to the other brand, you’ll never match up. So just focus on the talent you have, get some that is being underused on the other show, and have Cena there to keep the kids happy. All you need.

Or just have Brawn show up because he wants to.

Connor brings us back to Edge to finish.

Why did Edge stop using the Downward Spiral? It was a killer finisher to use in the early Smackdown games

The Downward Spiral, aka The Give Myself A Rock Bottom?

Supposedly, Gangrel suggested the Spear as a move for Edge, which is why the first move he did in his debut was a spear, as you can see in the video at the start. An agent, or possibly even Vince, apparently liked it and wanted it to be his finisher, but Edge preferred the Spiral, as he felt he couldn’t pull the Spear off as a finisher. But the Spiral didn’t really work, since it looked too similar to the Rock Bottom. Yes, the dynamics are slightly different, and delivering a move means you absorb impacts differently, but at the end of the day it’s still the same basic movement as a main wrestler’s finisher, expect the guy taking the move is giving it, or vice versa.

At least, that seems to be the case, he wanted to use it, then changed his mind, went through a bunch of moves and then settled on the Spear. Although did we ever get a Edge Downward Spiral counter to a Rock Rock Bottom? That seems like it would have been cool, but confusing.

But yeah, I don’t know for sure, but that’s my guess. And on that ambivalence, goodbye for now, see you next week!