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  1. #641
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    I'm really enjoying the direction Raw is taking lately. It feels like more effort is being made to spread the TV time around, and establishing more of the roster. Not everything works, but could you imagine 6 months ago that the program with the most attention would be Lashley vs Rusev? I'm not discussing quality, but it's nice to see that we are seeing efforts to establish more main event guys (adding to Seth, Orton and AJ, we are now seeing KO, Joe, Lashley, Rusev). We are seeing midcard guys get more exposure, with Andrade as the new US champ, Black vs Murphy getting both over, Rowan having this caged animal gimmick...etc. And with the women, Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan seem to have direction after being off TV for so long, while giving Asuka more focus in a main event spot.

    It's by no means perfect, but the show feels so much more balanced than it's routinely been in a while.

    With the return of squash matches, it's a double edged sword. It's great to help establish guys like Aleister Black to have him beat Shelton Benjamin, but it also irrationally bugs me to see Akira Tozawa do very little but lose to AJ in < 3 minutes. WWE's roster is so F'N stacked that talents like Tozawa belongs as a jobber. Not that he deserves it, but he doesn't have the upside that so many others do.

    I wish the tag division had more options. Other than the 3 teams in the the tag title match last night, there's Ryder/Hawkins and AOP who aren't in the mix right now.

    But Raw feels like a very smart sports entertainment show these days. They have segments and matches booked in advance. Next week's Rusev vs Lashley match will be bigger than it would have been 3 months ago, all because they told this story without having them compete in the ring until now. With the increase of squash matches, we're seeing less blockbuster matches, which is weird to say knowing that next week's show is booked with 3 marquee matches so far. I think THIS is where AEW have influenced WWE the most. While I think AEW is running through a lot of their match ups quickly on TV, it's still a much better balance than WWE usually does. Raw has seemingly taken not just the step back AEW has taken, but an extra step on top of that. On a 3 hour show, last night only had 3 matches that went over 4 minutes. Yet it didn't drag as much as the show did 6 months ago thanks to how well they spaced things out, kept segments shorter, and incorporated more people.


    The problem is that while this show is structured better long term, I wonder if the ratings will take a hit due to the lack of "in the moment" booking. I hope not, but I wouldn't be shocked.

  2. #642
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    As I was posting in the Becky thread, I realized how slowly WWE has morphed their top titles into EXACTLY what I've been hoping for since the first complaint about Brock being an absent champ was mentioned online.

    The champions are not the focus of any of the stories right now. This is healthy, because it means the rosters are being elevated to become credible threats to the title.

    I'll start with Becky since her thread inspired this. She came out of Mania to feud with Lacey, which was tiresome, but necessary to showcase the new champion with solid victories. Then every feud she's been in since was about the challenger more than her. Sasha came back, turned heel, and used this new persona to make herself a threat to Becky. The NXT invasion was about Shayna stepping up to Becky's level. Then Becky got involved in the tag title scene, which turned out to be for Asuka to stand out and become the top challenger to Becky's title.

    On SD, Bayley turned heel, and then has just been a consistent heel champ. The return of Sasha by her side, and Lacey elevating herself as the challenging face has been the main story for the women's division. Yes, Bayley is a huge part of the story, but she's not the focus.

    With the men, Bray Wyatt is so much more interesting right now than ever, and a huge part of it is that he isn't being overexposed by being on SD weekly. Sure, he has his Playhouse clips, but the mystique for Wyatt to actually compete is immense, and rarely happens. Plus, the Miz/Bryan stuff has been great to let the roster establish who is on that main event cusp or level, with Roman now tagging with Bryan and committing to the Rumble. Wyatt is a factor, and the goal, but he's not the focus.

    And obviously, same for Raw with Brock.


    I've long said that the absent champion is truly best for business. While the over the top character of Bray Wyatt certainly benefits from rarely being in the ring, the same goes for all 4 champs despite not having an over the top character. A promo is all that is needed from these champions to remind us of their value, while the rest of the roster competes for a shot at them. It's classic Hogan booking, be it 80s WWF, or Nitro/NWO Hollywood Hogan. A balance is needed, and obviously Brock is away more than the others, and Raw has often struggled over the last 5 years to make the rest of the show interesting without him. But instead of forcing a weekly defending champion like the internet wanted, all the champions basically started doing a toned down version of the Brock formula.

    There's still lots of room for improvement. KO/Joe vs Rollins/AOP is the current top Raw feud, and someone in this mix is likely to challenge Brock at Mania. Yet, none of them are really elevated properly yet. Owens is likely at the front of the line, but needs a big victory or 7 to really be a threat. We should be seeing that happening between now and Mania (if the plan is KO vs Lesnar).

    But this is how the shows should be booked. The title holder shouldn't disappear. They should always be a constant reminder of true dominance. But the focus of the stories should be who is next in line, and how are they getting there.

  3. #643
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    To add to this, Steve Austin didn't wrestle on Raw unless it mattered. Maybe once per month. He showed up every week and cut promos and stunned someone, but he wasn't wrestling weekly.

    Is there room for this in 2020? Can someone like Seth Rollins get away with promos every week and maybe something physical, so that him having a 20+ minute match on PPV matters? Can you make it work with wrestlers who are particularly good in the ring? Maybe they have a quick squash (5 minutes) over a lower card guy once in a while to keep their moves over and show off an impressive spot, but if you want a full length four star Andrade match, you have to have the Network t osee it on PPV.

  4. #644
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    Love that take, Pen. I honestly think they should do it more often, but really there aren't people who are good enough promos to just do that every week. I wish there were.

    I've just got done watching NXT UK: Blackpool II. Piper Niven did a Canadian Destroyer. I think I'm completely done with them now. Not because it was Piper doing one, but just...I'm immune to them. I don't even buy them as a potential fall any more. I'm at that stage I was with the Undertaker at Mania, where I knew his opponent would hit their finisher and 1...2..kick out. And so on. They're just another move.
    Last edited by Oliver; 3 Days Ago at 03:31 PM.

  5. #645
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oliver View Post
    Love that take, Pen.

    I've just got done watching NXT UK: Blackpool II. Piper Niven did a Canadian Destroyer. I think I'm completely done with them now. Not because it was Piper doing one, but just...I'm immune to them. I don't even buy them as a potential fall any more. I'm at that stage I was with the Undertaker at Mania, where I knew his opponent would hit their finisher and 1...2..kick out. And so on. They're just another move.
    Yeah, that was pretty terrible. Again, not because she did it but because she did it and it meant nothing. It wasn't the biggest pop on the show (which you'd think someone her size doing it would be), it was just basically a transition. There were maybe three on the Impact show the same night.

    Everybody does them now. Ricky fucking Morton does them. They're not special at all anymore and that's really sad for what was once the most spectacular thing in the business. It's been prostituted and is a real indictment on the business because it's what always happens.

    Petey Williams doing the Destroyer is really impressive. But it's like a moonsault. When the girls can do it and the superheavyweights can do it and the babyfaces can do it and the heels can do it, subconsciously, the fans start to believe anyone can do it. Maybe even they can do it. And it becomes less and less amazing to see every time.

  6. #646
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    The one Marko Stunt did on Dynamite the other week was really rough, too., The guy could barely reach the mat with his feet, there was pretty much no suggestion he even pushed off to hit the move - it was just Trent flipping over.

  7. #647
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    This is part of Ember Moon's interview when she was on Booker T's podcast (as the main page has more of this). But this is probably the best summation of the problem with professional wrestling these days. And it is coming from an 'active' wrestler. Not a jaded member of the IWC.

    I think because of this weird time and weird transition because when I grew up everybody had a story, everybody on TV felt important. From beginning to end, built across the board, Attitude Era and post-Attitude Era, Invasion stuff, it was about the storytelling from beginning to end. Whether it was Crash Holly walking out with the scale, even if it was that, he weighed in and that meant something. Now it’s weird because we only have like four guys on each show that we are constantly building up despite everyone else and again, they will eventually bring in a Humberto Carrillo, and an Andrade, you only see one new person in that little angle and then they disappear for a while.

    It’s one of those things where with the storytelling, with the building, not just the 4-5 people, and that goes for women as well. But building guys like a Drew Gulak or a Akira Tozawa so that when they do face a Roman Reigns or a Bray Wyatt or someone like that it means something when they lose versus them just going on Raw and having a bang out match for no reason. Now, when I turn on the TV if I see a Drew McIntyre versus Cedric Alexander, I don’t believe that Cedric Alexander is going to win. Even though he is a phenomenal athlete and a former Cruiserweight Champion I just don’t believe it because they haven’t done anything to make me care about him. He jumped off the stage once. I just feel like with the roster being so big that maybe we need a rotating roster or something like that because I feel like we have lost that ability to tell a story for the lower card.

  8. #648
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    Right, and?

  9. #649
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    If Val Venis was booked to face Kane in 1999, nobody was going to think Val was winning.

    It's almost like Ember doesn't understand the concept that there are underneath guys and on top guys. Cedric is positioned as an underneath guy. If Braun Strowman and Drew MacIntrye faced off, you don't know who's winning because they're both on top guys.

    If anything, the problem for a decade or more has been that everyone below the tippy top guy has been positioned as equal. At least now they're trying to position some more guys as top guys.

    EDIT: Maybe she's upset that she's positioned as an underneath talent?

  10. #650
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    That's exactly her issue.

    The only valid point she made was that more effort was made back then to differentiate lower guys a bit better. Almost all the CWs moved over to Raw or SD have no character whatsoever, and are just guys who lose to the bigger names. This is fine if that's their role, but we should still care. We still cheered for Val to defeat monster Kane, despite knowing it wouldn't happen. Drew Akira Alexander Singh doesn't get a reaction.

  11. #651
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    This is why I wanted the 24/7 division to develop a bit more than it has. You look at what it's done for Truth to the point that he can come out and get pops against Heyman and Brock with the crowd behind him. Maverick had a bit of character development and story. There was that great skit where they were all stuck in a lift and two or three others had a unique/interesting character point they got across.

    Val had a character. Every so often, they'd focus on it. They certainly did after he debuted, with the promos and the Kaientai stuff, and then he went into the Goldust feud, and the bit with Shamrock's sister. He had something that WWE could use.

    I think this is the problem with how wrestling has developed - there's this concept, and I think it's come from the indy scene, that being a good to great wrestler is enough without a significant character trait being required too much. That type of Davey Richards/Eddie Edwards sort of wrestler.

    I think it's a shame. I'd like to see more lower tier people given a chance to do something that truly develops them as characters. Like, I think Gulak's Powerpoint presentation thing is great, and while they went away from it on 205Live and taking him back there feels a little regressive, I think it could give him a really good hook. Yet WWE just wants to use it for easy heat and let Braun beat him up. If they'd done some of the Powerpoint work in backstage bits and let it become a proper thing, they'd hook people in more and people would invest in the character more.

  12. #652
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    All completely valid points.

    I doubt we'll ever know if this is WWE creative not putting in the effort, or if the workers ideas are being turned down, or whatever the case. I believe that the talent have more ideas than they are allowed to show, because about a decade ago, we saw a burst of creativity from these people off TV. Be it on the WWE youtube channel (the JBL and Cole Show stuff, for example), or Zack Ryder's social media. It seems that these people are very limited to showcase any character advancement without WWE stamp of approval first.

    I know society and audience taste can change, so I don't mind that more reality based gimmicks work in 2020 than in 1999. The problem is you need to make people stand out. What was Seth Rollins babyface character? How was it different than Cedric Alexander? At least with Shawn Michaels circa 1995-1997, the HBK boytoy aspect was part of his white bread babyface persona. He still found ways to be different as a character. Obviously, he got more mic time than guys like Gulak and Cedric or anyone else at that level, so it's not an entirely fair discussion. I think the corporate control is too restrictive. I will understand their decision to script most talent when in TV. I know that's an unpopular online opinion, but I can understand that they want to build trust in the talent before letting them have that creative freedom. It doesn't take too much of a time machine to go back to Big Cass and see how when talent go off script, it can go badly. So I'll understand the near-micro managing of the on screen stuff. But once the USA and Fox cameras are off, WWE should let the talent explore their characters more. If something doesn't work on Twitter, have the conversation to change that part up. When someone connects with something that works (like the Bad News Barrett angle), then move it to TV and let it work (unlike the Bad News Barrett angle).

  13. #653
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    However. What is the WWE afraid of, by letting their talent explore some more creative angles? Are they afraid of a dropping in ratings? Are they afraid of loss of network sponsorship? Fox has the new show Prodigal Son which is exploring the family life of being the survivors of dad being a serial killer. The show goes deep into the WTF in a good way. USA network in America is still considered pay cable, so they can push the envelope further if they want to. They are not “broadcast tv” so they do not have the same standards. Sponsors always come to popular programs with high ratings. So if the WWE allowed more character growth which may be more edgy, not lewd, not Attiude Era, but more edgy with better/more characters, the audience may improve. Yes you may lose the kiddie sponsors, but others will take their place.

    I’m not saying to go with an R rated product, but. PG or PG-13 where the talent can be allowed more creative freedom with what they say and do, could improve ratings and sponsors.

    Everyone says the same thing, that in the AE there were more characters. Everyone from the top down to the jobbers had screen time, and gimmicks, and some connection to the audience. It seems like the WWE has their agenda now, where they latch themselves onto 3-6 people, and the rest gets a whatever type of treatment.

  14. #654
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    I'm not sure they're afraid of letting their talent be creative, it might just be a case of these guys not being interesting people.

    Mustafa Ali has an incredible attitude as an underdog babyface, and a backstory that every single person can get behind. As a result, he's got a growing fanbase. You're a conservative that supports the police and only likes the "good ones"? Ali is a former Chicago Cop. You like playing identity politics? Ali is a minority. You only care about great matches? Ali is going to give them to you. You're a pearl clutching mother? Ali spreads a great message and seems to be a genuinely great person.

    Who is Cedric? Who is Tozawa?

    Some of this might be a case of guys, as Bruce Prichard often says about people, being entertaining personalities in the back but losing it as soon as the red light comes on.

    Everyone in the AE had characters, but they were just edgier version of the mid 90s gimmicks. We could make Cedric a porn star, Tozawa a pimp and Neese a vampire, but that's not going to change anything. Val Venis was a great porn star because was an entertaining personality outside of that gimmick.

    You don't need to leave a PG environment to have great stories and characters or experiment creatively. All the PG rating is doing is tying their hands so we aren't going to see bra and panties matches, hear Road Dogg talk about going doggie style or find a dead prostitute in a dumpster. (It's also a meaningless self-selected rating that has no impact on anything and only changes if people complain that the show is improperly rated.)

    There's a pretty depressing truth, and it's that a lot of wrestlers today aren't entertaining people. They sit in the back and play Pokemon rather than swapping stories (learning to talk) and trying to pop one another (developing an entertaining personality). The guys I know that are fun, social, entertaining people can be great characters and can get the crowd without taking a bump. The ones that aren't had better be great workers...but if you're a great worker on a roster of great workers it means a lot less.

    I'm not saying that there's no fault on the part of the WWE. Obviously there is, it's their job to try and get people over. But there's always going to be underneath talent no matter what. Otherwise you're AEW where everyone is just on the same level and you might have no job guys, but you also have no big stars. I think it's important not to overuse you top guys murdering your underneath guys too often, that makes for a boring show, and to give your underneath guys wins over other underneath guys to keep them credible. The odd upset win over an upper level guy wouldn't hurt to make people bite on the possibility that they might win next time, too.

    I also don't think that CW guys need to inherently be underneath guys. But I said from minute one of the CW division coming back that eventually the fact that they're such good bumpers, so good at making other people look good and able to do pretty much anything meant that anyone who wasn't "stuck" in the CW division was going to wind up laying down to the larger stars eventually.

  15. #655
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    Quote Originally Posted by Powder View Post
    Everyone says the same thing, that in the AE there were more characters. Everyone from the top down to the jobbers had screen time, and gimmicks, and some connection to the audience. It seems like the WWE has their agenda now, where they latch themselves onto 3-6 people, and the rest gets a whatever type of treatment.
    Well that's just patently false. I know we didn't have the same opinion of Raw, but the show concentrated on Buddy Murphy, Aleister black, Rusev, Lashley, Seth Rollins, Brock Lesnar, R Truth, Asuka, Becky Lynch and Charlotte. That's not everyone who got attention, but everyone who was used to push a story forward. Joe, KO, and Big Show were in the main event, but they aren't the reason those segments worked or the story advanced. And that's just one brand.

    I think fans feel WWE only concentrates on certain stars due to them not liking how certain stars are used. Powder, I know you don't care for the Rusev/Lana/Lashley angle, but you can't deny that the reactions to the segments have been strong. Again, not discussing if the heat is genuine or XPac, just that they get solid reactions. That one story alone is involving 3 people.

    Now, this isn't to say WWE hasn't dropped the ball. I feel COACH sided with WWE more than I would. It feels like not enough effort is put into finding ways to help all talent connect. I know some of the people just don't have the personality, and I'm thinking Ember Moon is one of them. Her mic work and interviews indicate she doesn't seem to have that side of being an entertainer. But I think there are less Ember Moons behind the scenes than there are untapped potential. I'm only gauging from the outside, so I could be completely wrong though.

  16. #656
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    Rocky Johnson passed away today. RIP Soulman.

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