As usual, these are in no particular order.
You know who really got my attention this week on “Monday Night Raw?” Curtis Axel. I’ve long since given up on the idea that he could be anything important in WWE (though stranger things have happened) but he was showing some fire before his match against Bo Dallas this week. Maybe it was just because he was in his hometown or maybe it was just a lucky night but I bought in on the idea of him going somewhere.
Axel looked like he was going to be something special when he came under Paul Heyman’s tutelage but that wound up going nowhere, like so many other things in WWE. However, I’ve always thought he would be great as a face. He has an awesome look, has shown he can wrestle a perfectly competent match and has the genetics to back it up. The Axel name isn’t great (Would it kill WWE to just call him Joe Hennig?) but it’s better than Michael McGillicutty. It’s not like they’ve got a ton of midcard depth so roll the dice on the guy. If he bombs, just have him go back to being the nothing jobber that he is. What can it hurt?
Let’s go to TNA for a minute. Assuming you haven’t been trying to get back the money Dixie Carter owes you, it’s possible that you’ve seen the rather lovable Allie. Portrayed by indy wrestler Cherry Bomb, Allie is the often ridiculed apprentice to Maria Kanellis-Bennett. Last week on “Impact Wrestling”, Allie finally stood up to her, only to get beaten down by the villains.
This is the climax of a long running story as Allie has been tormented for months by her former boss, including being forced to lay down and surrender the Knockouts Title that she accidentally won. The fans have gotten behind Allie in a way that few TNA wrestlers can claim (mainly because TNA is horrible at producing characters fans can relate to). This has worked very well and I have fun watching Allie on TV. I can’t say that about much in TNA but Allie has become a bright spot.
Speaking of lone flashes of goodness in an otherwise endless sea of darkness and despair, let’s talk about “Monday Night Raw”. In particular, let’s talk about Sami Zayn vs. Braun Strowman. Last week, Zayn said he would fight Strowman because no one else would. That’s his entire character in a nutshell, just like Strowman showed his entire character by not having a match with Zayn, who he doesn’t see as competition. This should be a fun story going forward and Strowman could get a big rub as a result. Everybody wins. Well save for whoever loses but you get the idea.
Let’s stick with the red show for the time being and look at the sad state of the cruiserweights. These things just aren’t working and while I won’t bother going into the long list of problems, we’ll take a look at the lack of characters. There are only about six or seven members of the division at the moment and, save for Sin Cara who was grandfathered in, the division has set up the following characters:
TJ Perkins likes video games
Brian Kendrick is a villain wanting one last run
Rich Swann likes to have fun
That’s about it and there’s no way to call that enough for a whole division, let alone a title feud. Perkins isn’t the most interesting champion to begin with and Kendrick is just there as a villain. Swann is entertaining but this division is rapidly becoming a chore to watch instead of anything interesting. Either upgrade the heck out of it or drop the thing as an early Christmas present to all of us.
Continuing with the idea of titles that don’t really need to exist, here’s a two part entry: the Ring of Honor Six Man Tag Team Titles and the yet to be announced Team X Gold Titles (Obviously this one isn’t a guarantee but I figured the word GOLD was an indication.). These don’t work for different reasons and we’ll start with Ring of Honor.
I don’t think it’s any secret that New Japan has basically taken this promotion over (just look at the Ring of Honor pay per views if you need proof). At the moment, the youngest New Japan title is the Never Openweight Six Man Tag Team Titles. Less than a year after their inception, Ring of Honor announces a tournament for their own version of the titles. Considering the fact that Ring of Honor had to bring in some outsiders to fill in the brackets and it’s fairly clear that these belts don’t need to exist. But hey, Japan does it and that makes it cool.
Then there’s Team X Gold, a trios title for the X-Division (which sounds like an attempt to cash in on the Cruiserweight Classic/cruiserweight division). Given the fact that the division has about five people at the moment anyway and the champion barely has to defend the regular title because he’s out of challengers, who thought it was a good idea to add more belts?
If that’s not enough, consider this: with these three new champions being added, TNA will have NINE title belts floating around at once (World, Grand, X-Division, Knockout, Tag Team, X Gold). Even WCW would think that’s a bit much for a show with two hours of TV a week. You could cut it down to four and that would probably be enough at this point.
Let’s go with something else good going on at the moment, which we’ll find in TNA’s World Title scene. Yeah I’m as surprised as you are but the World Title picture is actually picking up around there. At the moment you have Moose, Lashley, Cody and champion Eddie Edwards fighting for the belt. While Cody and Moose seem to be moving on to their own stories, those guys are making the title feel important right now, which hasn’t been the case in a long time. At least there’s some good news coming out of that promotion for a change.
What hasn’t been handled all that well is Bayley. While she hasn’t been a failure, there’s not much to be said about her. If there’s one thing “Monday Night Raw” is horrible at (and that’s the understatement of the year), it’s setting up one major story at a time for a division. Right now, the main story for the women is Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks. Bayley vs. Dana Brooke is there but it’s hardly anything interesting.
Now there is more than enough time for Bayley to turn it around (Or Turn It Up.). If she’s the next challenger to the title, a lot of this will be taken care of because Bayley is one of the rare talents that can make the fans care about her through the sheer force of willpower. However, these stories aren’t doing much for her and they’re not going to hold up for her much longer. Bayley is talented and pushing her would be more interesting than the Shining Stars selling travel packages or the Titus Brand.
You know who has been handled well? Heath Slater. He debuted on the main roster over six years ago and has been little more than a comedy goof for most of that time. However, be it as the NXT/Nexus goon or the leader of 3MB, there’s always been a little something to Slater and there’s always a reason to keep him around.
Then came the 2016 WWE Draft when Slater wasn’t chosen by either brand. This set up a story with Slater trying to get signed, meaning he had to fight Randy Orton and Brock Lesnar. When those things fell through, he had one option left: win the Smackdown Tag Team Titles with Rhyno as his partner. Somehow Slater pulled it off, all the while talking about wanting to move into a double wide trailer, putting in an above ground pool and feeding his 2-7 kids.
And you know what? Slater has blown the doors off the thing. It’s a stupid character that doesn’t seem to have any legs to it but Slater has reached heights he hasn’t seen in years, if ever actually. He’s funny, putting on acceptable matches and coming off as a totally fine champion. I’m not saying he’s Bret Hart or something like that, but this is Slater living WAY above his means and that’s something WWE is smart enough to capitalize on.
We’ll wrap it up with one more good story as we look at Eli Drake. I’m really not sure what to say here other than he’s on a roll at the moment. I’ve been a fan of the guy since he was first handed a mic in TNA and he’s been nailing it ever since. Now he’s in a feud with Ethan Carter III and also is carrying the Bound For Gold briefcase, good for a future World Title shot. It’s nice to see someone young and talented getting pushed for a change in any company.
I know there’s a lot of other major news going on at the moment but it gets a bit tiresome talking about the same stuff over and over again. Sometimes you need to look at the less important stuff and see what else is going on in the world of wrestling. I’m sure Survivor Series will wipe out a lot of these stories but they’re still worth checking out before we get there.
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