We’re back again with more questions being answered. In case you weren’t around last week, you might want to check out last week’s edition, which can be found right here:
In short, my name is Thomas Hall and I’ve been watching wrestling for over thirty years. I thought some of you might find my knowledge of wrestling to be a bit of a resource and therefore opened the floor for whatever wrestling questions you might want to ask. It can be historical, trivia, modern, fantasy booking or pretty much anything you would like. As always, you can use the Facebook comments section to ask whatever you would like to see answered next week. Let’s get to it.
1. Can you say something nice about Dolph Ziggler? A paragraph will do.
Back in 2013, Ziggler cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase on World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio to win the title in one of the loudest reactions you’ll ever hear in WWE. The fans wanted to see him get the title and that’s exactly what they got, with one of the coolest and most awesome moments ever on the night after WrestleMania Monday Night Raw. He looked set to become a major star….and then Ziggler had to Ziggler.
Dig that insane pop.A concussion canceled his first major title defense at Extreme Rules 2013 and put him on the shelf for a month. He lost the title back to Del Rio at Payback 2013 and steadily fell back down the card into the midcard role that he had filled for years. Of course the concussion wasn’t his fault, but how many times can you get close to breaking through to the other side but not quite get there before it’s on you?
Then over a year later, Ziggler was the sole survivor at Survivor Series 2014, defeating the Authority and getting rid of Stephanie McMahon and Triple H for good (or three weeks because AUTHORITY). He then went on to win the Intercontinental Title from Luke Harper (another lame duck champion) in his hometown at Tables Ladders and Chairs. Again, it seemed like they were ready to push him hard but never mind again because he lost the title about three weeks later.
There was a good run in 2016 though as Ziggler feuded with the Miz, who had a big surprise: it turned out Ziggler had never won the big one. Apparently being a former World Heavyweight Champion didn’t count because it was all about holding the title and Ziggler hadn’t done that (because a 69 day reign didn’t matter for reasons of storyline convenience). This then turned into Ziggler needing to win the Intercontinental Title to show that he still belonged in WWE. Ziggler won the title, held it for a month, and dropped it back to Miz. The story was terrible but the match was great, giving Ziggler one more chance.
The best of modern Ziggler.And then nothing happened for about a year as Ziggler returned to form: a cocky heel who can’t win a big match and doesn’t venture outside of his comfort zone. Now he’s with Drew McIntyre (who seems far more talented and one of the most can’t miss prospect this side of forever) and has somehow gotten the Intercontinental Title back again. Maybe this leads to McIntyre winning it and pummeling Ziggler, but hopefully it just ends with Ziggler going away and not being the huge disappointment all over again.
Oh yeah I was supposed to be nice about Ziggler. Let’s get this out of the way.
Ziggler has talent and I don’t think anyone would really argue that. The problem is he never evolves or changes in any way. If you’ve seen one Ziggler match you’ve seen them all, and that gets a little tiring after ten years of the guy. His fired up promos are great but you never see those go anywhere in the ring. If they could find some way to get something fresh out of Ziggler he would be a valuable asset but as he is, it’s the same stuff year after year and WWE insists on going back to him with one failed push after another. There’s talent there and the fans love him but he needs to step it up a few notches or let it go.
From Aeon Mathix
2. If I may ask for next week, with NXT over the years bringing in all these huge Indy names, did CM Punk and Daniel Bryan really break the mold as far as smaller less physically imposing guys breaking into the big time?
After Takeover: New Orleans, Jim Cornette’s co-host Brian Last said that the junior heavyweights are taking over the world as it seems that they’re always headlining shows. Really, it seems that he’s got a point as you have so many smaller wrestlers dominating so many shows. On the main roster you have top names such as Finn Balor, Seth Rollins and AJ Styles to go with names like Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano down in NXT. They really are taking over the shows and while they’re not exactly the only top stars, they’re all major names.
This was the start of something big.However, I’m not sure I can go with Bryan and Punk getting the credit for that as you can go back for years and see the same people. Before those two, you had Miz as WWE Champion in 2010. Before that, it was Jeff Hardy in 2008. You could keep going back with this for years because it really has been the case for a long time now. However, it’s not quite the same thing.
It’s true that the smaller wrestlers have never been so prevalent in the higher spots on the card, but it’s not like this sort of thing has never happened before. If nothing else, look at the names who are probably some of the biggest inspirations for this generation of wrestlers: Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart. Those two had one of the most dominant long term rivalries in wrestling, starting all the way back in 1992 (first meeting in 1990) over the Intercontinental Title and going on until 1997 with the Montreal Screwjob. They headlined two Survivor Series and a WrestleMania against each other, which is about as big as you can get.
Hart was billed at 6’0 and 235lbs while Michaels was 6’1 and 225lbs. For the sake of comparison, Punk was 6’2 and 218lbs, Bryan is 5’10 and 210lbs, Gargano 5’10 and 199lbs and Ciampa is 5’11 and 210lbs. The modern guys are only slightly smaller and I’d certainly put them in the same size class as Hart and Michaels. None of these guys are exactly big or physically imposing yet they’ve all been big deals over the years. You could go back even further to people like Randy Savage (intense face and attitude but nothing special as far as size) or WAY back to Antonino Rocca, who was a top star in the 50s at 6’0 and 224lbs.
Sit back and take notes.It’s a great time for the smaller wrestlers but it’s not like this is something that’s never been done before. The look is one of the most important things in wrestling as it’s the first thing people see. However, it’s not like these smaller, less physically imposing talents haven’t been on top of the company before. Bigger, more physical guys are always going to be a major part of wrestling and it makes sense to have them be the focal point of the show. The smaller guys have come a long way, but they’ve been there before to hit and miss results.
From Ron Cogdill
3. Could Paul Heyman be Roman Reigns’ advocate after he’s done with Lesnar?
This is one of those ideas where you could absolutely go either way, but you have to consider a bunch of factors. It’s also a situation where WWE needs to make a few major changes, not limited to turning Reigns heel, keeping Heyman around and having Lesnar be completely gone, or just having him split from Heyman. Assuming all that happens, let’s take a closer look at this.
First of all, there’s the idea of Reigns needing a mouthpiece/advocate. Usually, and in Lesnar’s case, people who don’t have the best talking skills are the ones who have managers or people to talk for them. Reigns may not be the best talker in the world but he’s capable enough on the mic. He can get his point across and get the fans into what he’s saying, but some of his stuff isn’t the strongest in the world.
When Heyman is on, he’s a master. This might be his best ever.Then you have Heyman, who is one of the best talkers in wrestling history and pretty easily one of the best in WWE today. He can talk very well….if you don’t have him talking about something other than Lesnar. Something that fans often forget is the fact that he doesn’t have the greatest track record with his talent. CM Punk worked well, but Punk certainly didn’t need someone to talk for him. Ryback, Curtis Axel and Cesaro weren’t the biggest success though, and there’s no guarantee that Reigns would work either.
That brings us to the biggest problem of them all: Reigns isn’t the most popular guy in the world. You can have him doing almost whatever you want and the fans just aren’t going to cheer for him. Some always will, but the booing is far louder than the cheering. WWE has tried everything from having Daniel Bryan put Reigns over to having the Rock endorse him to having Braun Strowman put Reigns over multiple times and it’s still not working. He’s booed out of the building in every big match and there’s no indication that the fans are going to change their minds anytime soon.
Part of the problem is that Reigns just isn’t a character that fans would want to support. When it comes to Lesnar, he’s choked time after time, lost to him at the Greatest Royal Rumble, a WrestleMania (plus not being able to beat him at another) and a Summerslam. Reigns’ response to this tends to be saying he got ripped off again and again for whatever reason and the fans aren’t cheering him as a result. You know, because they don’t like cheering for a whiny guy who keeps losing to the unstoppable monster who looks cooler than almost anyone in WWE history.
Does this sound like someone who needs a mouthpiece?So would it work to have Heyman as the advocate of a then heel Reigns? As odd as it would be, I would think the result would be more like Punk but without the chemistry. If Reigns was a full on heel who didn’t do a lot of talking and just stared wrecking people, there’s no need to have Heyman doing the big talking segments for anyone. Heyman is best when he’s talking for people who either don’t need to talk or like Lesnar, who would think that talking to the people would be beneath him.
Heyman could do some good things with accentuating Reigns’ positives (which he can do as well as almost anyone else ever) but Reigns on his own is great at pointing out those factors. Reigns is a 6’3 275lb monster with some good looking offense and part of one of the most famous families in wrestling history. It’s not like Axel, who is a generic looking guy or Punk, who isn’t the most physically intimidating looking guy in the world. Reigns is a monster on his own with some talking abilities. That doesn’t exactly scream the idea of needing a manager.
Really, I could see WWE doing it but I don’t think it’s something they need to do. Reigns doesn’t need a manager or someone to talk for him and Heyman is hardly bullet proof in something like this. You could go with the same story of Heyman jumping from Lesnar to Big Show in 2002 but I think it’s best to just have Heyman ride off into the sunset. You can bring him back later on if necessary, but I don’t think Reigns is the kind of guy who needs someone to talk for him. All those Superman Punches will do the job just fine.
4. Where do you think Bayley vs Sasha ends up? In your honest opinion, what would be the most logical finish between the two ladies?
Oh yes, this feud, which is still going despite really only starting. Bayley and Sasha Banks are former best friends/rivals who are once again having issues. The problem is they’ve been having issues for several months now and we’re no closer to getting anywhere with the story than we were before. They keep fighting each other and then it pauses for a few weeks and then they fight each other and then it pauses for a few weeks and then Bayley attacks Banks and for some reason it’s supposed to be a heel turn after Banks has been a jerk to her for months.
WWE has really done this feud no favors by waiting around for everything. Banks and Bayley had their first major issue at February’s Elimination Chamber, seemingly setting up a match at WrestleMania 34. Well that wasn’t the case because we needed to have the Fabulous Moo….er the WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal. Bayley had that won by eliminating Banks, only to be tossed out by Naomi for the win. You remember Naomi. She’s the woman who has done NOTHING since winning, because Heaven forbid you use that match to advance a feud when you can just waste the match instead.
Their first Takeover match is one of my all time favorites and for good reason.Bayley and Banks already have a long history together to go with their current issues, dating all the way back to their time in NXT. They feuded over the title with Bayley taking it from Banks and then defending it against her in a thirty minute Iron Man match in the main event of Takeover: Respect. Now you would think that would be enough to set up their main roster feud, but for some reason we’re stuck with the usual “we’re best friends but now we hate each other like all the other women” because WWE doesn’t know how to write female characters.
So where should they even go from here? Well first of all, they need to have a first big match. The two of them have had a pair of matches on Monday Night Raw earlier this year, with Bayley winning the first and the other going to a draw. If you can’t remember either of those matches, don’t worry because neither of them meant a thing. Neither of them were interesting or important and neither solved a thing.
The thing is, these two need to have a match that means something. In order to do that though, they need to give us a reason to care about them, which brings up the biggest issue: these two cannot act. Banks is slightly better and sounds only horrible while Bayley sounds like a twelve year old in a middle school play. Now a lot of that is due to the horrible lines they’re asked to read, but you know that WWE is never going to change that so it’s kind of a dead end.
The solution here would be to have the two of them keep things short and give them bullet points instead of scripting the promos out for them, but given WWE’s fear that someone might wind up being a good talker, we can’t possibly go there. We’re stuck listening to these two talk forever and take away what interest there is in this story. Now why is it so much harder to make it work here than it was back in NXT?
This just isn’t working.Well aside from how horribly Bayley has been used since the main roster call up, the problem mainly lies in the lack of motivation. Their NXT feud was built around the idea of Bayley being the young, plucky star who wanted to prove that she belonged here while Banks belittled her for being a big wrestling fan. That’s a motivation that people can relate to and it worked very well down in NXT.
Now why is the WWE version of the feud not working? Well mainly because no one has any idea why they’re fighting. They’ve been feuding for months now and a lot of it has just been them fighting because they’ve been fighting. It’s been going on for so long and has been so start and stop that whatever reason they have to be fighting is gone. In other words, they need to have a concrete reason to not like each other and then you can build from that.
So what would I do? I’d give them one big match because the fans are going to groan if they do a match and have it go to a double countout or a double DQ. A street fight doesn’t seem to fit (and Bayley was HORRIBLE in that style of a match against Alexa Bliss) so I’d put them inside a cage. Let them beat each other up, tease the idea that one of them still cares for the other, and then go violent in a stab to the back to walk out and win the match and feud.
The problem here is they’ve already set up the feud to fail by waiting so long to get anywhere. They can go back to this feud later on, but at the moment it’s not a feud that can handle doing a regular match and set up something else later. I’d have a cage match with the two of them beating the heck out of each other and Banks stabbing her in the back to win before moving her over to SmackDown because she doesn’t have anything else to do on Monday Night Raw.
From Ron Cogdill
5. Will Raw be interesting after Brock Lesnar loses the Universal Championship?
You guys don’t make this easy on me. Normally I would go into a point by point discussion of whether or not Monday Night Raw was boring without Lesnar in the first place….but yeah it really is that boring at the moment and a lot of that does have to do with Lesnar. Well to be fair it’s more because we’re STILL waiting around on Reigns to defeat Lesnar to win the title which he’s been chasing for over three years now (ignore the three World Titles Reigns has won since his first match with Lesnar because those just don’t count for whatever reason).
The problem with Monday Night Raw is there’s nothing for the men to fight over. Since Lesnar’s last match at the Greatest Royal Rumble, which took place on April 27, the only thing left to fight over is who gets to challenge Lesnar for the title. That’s fine, but at some point Lesnar has to actually show up and defend the belt. Otherwise you’re stuck watching a bunch of people running around talking about something that’s not going to happen anytime in the near future, which the fans are going to catch on to.
Would these have worked without the title?Wrestling revolves around titles. You can have people call them props all you want, but to wrestling fans, it’s the top prize in a company. Wrestlers fight each other for the ultimate goal of becoming a champion. Sure there are often some things that sidetrack them, but the finish line is winning a title (hopefully the World Title). In short, wrestlers need titles to fight for, because otherwise, there’s not much of a reason for them to be fighting all the time.
The thing is, there’s more to it than that. You also have to keep your title strong by keeping it important. Lesnar has basically frozen the title, with ten title defenses in a fourteen month reign. For all intent and purpose, the title doesn’t exist for about 80% of the year. It’s not like the title has a long history in the first place (Lesnar is the fourth champion) and that’s not the best way in the world to make it mean much. If you don’t believe a World Title can be damaged, let’s take a little trip back through time.
Flash back with me to January 2000. WCW was in a state of turmoil and things weren’t going to get much better. One of the big reasons? The World Title meant as much as a coupon for a free coffee at a gas station. From January 16 thru January 25, as in a span of ten days, the WCW World Title changed hands SEVEN TIMES, including being vacated three times. Things settled down in February and March, but the title changed hands four more times in April (including David Arquette winning it) and then seven more times in May.
Where do you think that left the title? You know, the one that was won by a celebrity, handed over to people on multiple occasions, vacated five times and treated as a joke. The title stopped meaning anything because no one wanted it and having it taken away and given to people over and over again. That meant that fans didn’t want to see it defended and didn’t care who won the thing.
You can’t stop a good title match, especially with talented guys in there.The same thing is starting to happen to the title now. Lesnar has held the thing for so long and goes so long between defending it that there’s little reason to care about what happens to the thing. Why would I want to see what else is going on with the people who are fighting over a shot at a title which has almost no value and is almost never around? They’re fighting for something that barely exists, and that’s not a good or interesting thing to build your show around.
So would putting the title on someone else, as in someone who is actually going to be around and defending the thing at least at a regular pace going to solve the problems on Monday Night Raw? No, but it certainly won’t hurt things. In a word, it would give the show a purpose. You can only do the personal feuds or the matches for a potential title shot so many times and WWE has long since surpassed the idea.
It also doesn’t help that Lesnar is presented as being miles ahead of everyone else on the roster. Aside from a fluke, there is no reason to think that anyone has a realistic chance of surviving Lesnar and Suplex City. Having someone defeat him will bring up the rest of the roster as they won’t have Lesnar looming over the whole roster. Why would I want to watch a show full of people who just aren’t good enough to stop one guy who only wrestles a handful of times a year? It’s like getting interested in a battle for a second place ribbon, which doesn’t live up to the idea of watching the best in the world.
Don’t you miss this kind of awesome?So overall, no, Lesnar winning the title won’t save Monday Night Raw from all of its issues. What it will do though is make things a good bit more interesting as the wrestlers will have something to fight over. It’s going to take some time to build the title up, but if you have someone who can beat Lesnar, they’re going to make someone look huge as well when someone beats them. It’s not a switch you can just flip on, but it would be closing the drain that is sucking the life out of the show.
6. Which was worse/harder to review: 2003 Raw, 2000 WCW or 1995 WWF/WCW?
We’ll go with something a little more personal to wrap things up. In case you’re not familiar with me, I review wrestling shows. Like, a lot of wrestling shows. Last year I completed my 5000th wrestling show review and I’ve covered a lot in my time. Over the years, I’ve done every episode of 2003 Monday Night Raw, 2000 Monday Nitro, a good chunk of 1995 Monday Night Raw and all of 1995 Monday Nitro (and every other year of the show for that matter).
To say that each one of these is horrible would be an understatement. There’s very little to most of them that would make you want to watch the show and something special on each one that makes it its own unique blend of horrible. Some of these things are far worse than others and there’s a long stretch of time where the shows are more boring than bad, but that doesn’t make things much better.
Let’s take a look at each of these shows and for the sake of simplicity, we’ll go in chronological order.
1995 Monday Night Raw/Monday Nitro
Just look at some of the schmucks in here.
Oh my we’re not starting in a good place. We’ll go with the WWF first. Above all else, the wrestling wasn’t very good. You had Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels doing their thing and making things work while they could, but at the same time you had Diesel as the WWF Champion and if he wasn’t against the right opponent, there was no saving the matches that he would inflict upon us.
On top of that you had all of the horrible jobbers, such as the Goon, Freddie Joe Floyd and TL Hopper, most of whom were just dreadful gimmicks (on otherwise capable wrestlers) which just felt dumb. The main event of that year’s WrestleMania was Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow and that doesn’t exactly leave much to look forward to, especially with King Mabel as the big bad of the summer. It’s one of the darkest times for the company and that’s over the course of a lot of years.
Then you have Monday Nitro, which was only around for the last third of the year. That makes things a bit easier, but at the same time the show was still finding its footing and had a stale Hulk Hogan on top of the show. I’d put it above Monday Night Raw just because it was fresher, but it still wasn’t that much fun watching Hogan vs. Kamala and the Shark (Earthquake) in 1995. Things would get better in a hurry, but those first few months were pretty rough.
2000 Monday Nitro
Gorillas in the Thunder?Now if Monday Night Raw in 1995 was boring, this is the polar opposite, to the point of being gnirob. The problem with this show was how much stuff was going on. As mentioned above, there were a ridiculous amount of title changes in the first half of the year. In the entire year 2000, there were eleven World Title changes on Monday Nitro alone. The show turned into a mess with things happening so fast that you couldn’t keep track of what was going on, let alone make sense of it.
This was the height of Vince Russo’s WCW, and things would get even worse as we hit the summer, with titles changing hands all over the place, five swerves after another, WAY too much Russo (including the time where he survived a minute in Ric Flair’s Figure Four and won the match), a bunch of just dumb ideas, and almost nothing worthwhile the whole year through.
That being said, there was also Thunder, which was such a complete disaster that it made Nitro look like the greatest show of all time. Thunder was a lot of stuff that felt unworthy of being a dark match or segments being aired out of order (seriously) or airing the same vignette multiple weeks in a row. This might be the worst wrestling show in history, and that can be said without exaggeration.
2003 Monday Night Raw
I mean, it did have one of the best heel promos of all time.This is where the boring comes back, as the show was almost all about Triple H, who set new standards for bad as a World Heavyweight Champion. The matches weren’t anything from a quality standpoint and the promos, with Triple H droning on about how he was the best in THIS BUSINESS for months on end and talking about how he was going to beat up Kevin Nash in pay per view main events never worked whatsoever.
The rest of the show wasn’t much either, as half of the year didn’t have an Intercontinental Title, leaving everything about Triple H and the big gold belt. Sometimes you need something a little more interesting and fun, which wasn’t the case for this year’s Monday Night Raw. The shows just kept going and going no matter what, which doesn’t help when they’re not good in the first place.
So was there anything good on the show? Uh….well maybe here or there, but for the most part it was all about SmackDown, which had the big matches, the talent, the lack of Steve Austin vs. Eric Bischoff in a battle of the bosses, and the effort of a bunch of people who wanted to become top stars. Things would slowly get better by the end of the year, but egads it was a nightmare on the way there.
Which was the worst though? Well we’ll cut out 1995 right away for one very easy reason: the shows were an hour each instead of the usual two hours. Monday Nitro wasn’t too bad that year and the shows being so short made them easy to sit through. While it’s bad and boring, it’s the shorter form of it and there was the chance that Michaels or Hart could have some random great match to save any given week.
I actually have to take 2003 Monday Night Raw off the list as well, mainly just because the shows were somewhat watchable outside of the Triple H segments. The problem though was how much of the show those segments dominated. The shows needed something fresh on top and just more energy overall, but the occasional Rock appearance helped and the midcard was solid enough to make some of the shows watchable.
That leaves you with 2000 WCW, which would be safer if it was just Monday Nitro, but Thunder drags this to new levels of awful. It was clear that WCW did not care about the show whatsoever and I shouldn’t need notes to keep track of who was holding the World Title that week. That was the case more often than not and it became a chore to watch. Thunder was far worse, as I can stand bad segments if you got good matches with them. What we got on Thunder was neither though, and that’s enough to bring the whole year down to the lowest level.
That’s all for this week but make sure to send in some questions for next week in the Facebook comments.
Until next week,
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his Amazon author page with 27 wrestling books. His latest book is the NXT: The Full Sail Years Volume III: From Dallas To New Orleans.
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