Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Does WWE Care about Us?

We're about a month away from the biggest event in wrestling, WrestleMania 28 and I'm more than disappointed at the current WWE product. In years past, this was the time that WWE begins to kick it into gear with extra captivating storylines and solid in-ring wrestling. In this year 2012 however, the reverse has seemed to happen. Instead of getting better at storylines and wrestling, for the most part the product has decreased significantly. The best example for me is the way in which Daniel Bryan and Sheamus' match for the World Heavyweight Championship has been all but forgotten in the shuffle of shows.

Sheamus, the Royal Rumble winner, has been reduced to quick and pointless job matches while Daniel Bryan has been relegated to an overdone series of matches with CM Punk billed as "Champion vs Champion" bouts. The problem isn't that Bryan and Punk don't have good matches, in fact the match they had last on the February 21st Live edition of SmackDown was one of the better WWE matches of the year in my opinion. The problem lies in the fact that the focus of both champions should be on their opponents for WrestleMania and not on each other, which in and of itself should be promoted much better. Call me old fashioned but a "Champion vs Champion" match should be a rarity, not a weekly occurance. Regardless, moreso than the poor booking of this situation it doesn't build to the ultimate WrestleMania result which is Sheamus vs Daniel Bryan. I'm aware that most likely the World Heavyweight Championship match will be the opening match and also fairly short however, this should be much more important than it is being portrayed.

The WWE Championship match isn't any better in this department. The angle used for the upcoming Chris Jericho vs CM Punk title match at WrestleMania is completely backwards and confusing. Unlike the days before where a heel would consistently beat down a babyface until that babyface rose up is now reversed with this storyline. At Elimination Chamber, in and of itself one of the most god awful shows I've seen WWE put on, Jericho is "injured" by a kick from Punk but never official eliminated from the Chamber match. Thus, Jericho has a legitimate and clear reason to have hate for Punk, furthermore Punk looks like the asshole here. So, Jericho wins a lackluster battle royal and overcomes adversity, something a  heel should never do. All in all, this story is folding out into a way that makes Jericho look like the one overcoming adversity despite his heelish tactics while Punk looks like the dick rubbing his title in Jericho's face. Honestly, WWE's writers must be on some strong hallucinogenics to think this works and as you can see the only response that is given to this by the fans is the generic "OMG I LUV PUNK, BOO JERICHO" simplicity only found in stupid people and children. No surprise that WWE has shifted their audience to cater to both of these demographics.

This of course leads me to the overly contrived and over saturated match between John Cena and The Rock. Month after month, this match is thrown in WWE viewers' faces virtually after every segment of every show. We get it, we really do. WWE wants to make it painfully obvious this is the "most important match in wrestling history" despite it getting much less fanfare than some of the lesser matches from shows prior. Also, whatever happened to the legendary Andre the Giant vs Hulk Hogan 'Mania 3 match? Wasn't that the most important match in WWE history all the way up until a year or two ago? Or how about the famous Steve Austin vs The Rock feud from the Attitude Era? I can guarantee you that much more importance was given to those WrestleMania main events in 1999 and 2001 respectively than this upcoming Cena/Rock match, not to mention they were fighting for THE championship. None the less, WWE wants to change that. This is a chance for them to have their two darlings, The Rock who has become not only a wrestling icon but an overall entertainment mogul against the force fed cross over John Cena. This is a match that has been rumored for years, that is very true and I don't doubt there will be a huge amount of electricity in the Sun Life Stadium however, the promos have been overdone. Especially since the last few times The Rock has done live promos on RAW they have been awful. You can say the same thing about John Cena as well and don't even get me started on the horrendous Kane feud that lasted far too long. My point being that this match, albeit important and big, is given far too much importance in my view. Call me crazy but to me, Triple H vs The Undertaker trumps this match by leaps and bounds.

Ah yes, the epic rematch from WrestleMania 27, WrestleMania 17, King of the Ring 2002, various RAWS from 1999 to 2001 and so on. Of course I'm being douchy on that but honestly, this is the best storyline going into WrestleMania and why is that? It's logical and simple. Last year, there's no doubt these two men put on a phenomenal match and captivated an audience. A year later, both men have clearly decreased in health as well as profile. Only until February did Undertaker return and even then, he has been sporadic at best. Triple H spent the fall in a half-assed feud with CM Punk that ended in an even less impressive feud with Kevin Nash that ended in a TNA-riffic gimmick match at the December TLC pay-per-view. In all intents and purposes, Triple H is not who he once was. Now in the role of on air "Chief-Operating Officer" he's not in the ring and he's calling the shots. Undertaker has made it a point to goad Triple H into a rematch, which at first was rejected until a heated ultimatum by Shawn Michaels which was manipulated by 'Taker when the words "You can't do what Shawn Michaels couldn't do because he's better than you." That lead Triple H to make this rematch a Hell In A Cell match.

Honestly, a one on one Hell in a Cell match between Undertaker and Triple H has been a wrestling fan of my age's wet dream for about a decade now. Both men have been considered the masters of the Hell In a Cell match with winning percentages that are astronomical compared to many others. Not to mention they've been in more Hell In a Cell matches combined than anyone in history. It's a perfect cap on a feud that has been over a decade in the making and honestly, this match alone is worth the price of the show. I have no doubts that these men are going to put on a brutal and amazing match, perhaps their last in either case. Part of me wants Undertaker to lose and hang it up but a larger part of me wants to see Undertaker win and send Triple H off with a nice legacy before he is allowed to tarnish it. In the end, the result will be one I believe that will be likeable and fun. Then again however, as is always the case with WWE logic, any and everything can happen. Sometimes we're given Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 12 and other times we're given Hulk Hogan vs Sid Justice, only time will tell how this WrestleMania will go.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Steenalizing Professional Wrestling

The following is just an article that sprouted into my head last night following the very good in-ring segment with Kevin Steen and Jim Cornette. Before you write me spiteful emails about this, just realize this is strictly my opinion. I do not claim Kevin Steen is going to change everything in one fell swoop, merely I am writing in appreciation for what he's done in wrestling over his career. With that, I hope you enjoy.

He’s fat and grotesque. He’s got a farmer’s tan most of the time, other times he’s simply pale. He clearly used to have acne as a child and his face shows it. He looks like the guy that does the landscaping at your local city buildings but believe it or not, he’s the future of the professional wrestling business. Who exactly am I talking about? One man and only one man, from Montreal, Quebec Canada and his name is Kevin Steen. There are many that are surely going to read these words and go haywire, screaming and acting like morons because they just can’t accept such a large statement about a man so physically unimpressive. Believe me though; this is certainly the way it is. Ring of Honor is truly honored to have Kevin Steen in their company and not because I said so, just listen to the fans the next time you watch a ROH event. The fans love Steen despite his overly rude and hate filled antics. They appreciate and respect the fact that he is incredibly athletic despite being portly and unassuming. They are amazed at how well Steen can cut promos despite English being his second language. More than anything, they notice that he’s what wrestling has needed for decades; a different outlook on wrestling.
Steen represents the oppressive nature of many wrestling fans that have followed the great entertainment medium that is professional wrestling. For too long, the image of the pro wrestler has involved fake tans, overly developed and generic muscular bodies and short haircuts. It’s been called many different names from the “robotic”, to the more descriptive term “the FCW look” that is both a jab at the feeder league as well as its parent company WWE. We’ve all noticed this; from the Randy Ortons to the David Otungas it all starts to blend together. The move sets are even quite similar and the matches formulaic and furthermore; archaic. Kevin Steen breaks every bit of that mold, sporting a T-shirt and shorts in his matches. He doesn’t want to look like a walking neon factory, all he wants to do is perform and that he does greatly. I’ve recently found myself watching more and more Steen matches from various companies, most notably PWG. In these matches Steen does one thing fantastically, one thing no one else in the business today can even parallel him in and that is violence. Kevin Steen is the most violent and believable man in wrestling. Steen brings a combination of amazingly aesthetic wrestling acumen as well as guttural fighting spirit. In a nutshell, Kevin Steen brings the realism to a wrestling globe that is becoming more and more cartoon by the minute.
Last June, everyone began to talk about the now hugely popular face of WWE CM Punk following a promo on RAW now gleefully renowned as the “shoot promo”.  In it, Punk displayed true emotion and belief on the things that were boring and unoriginal about the WWE product and how John Cena represented to him what was wrong with professional wrestling and more so that everything had to change. What would spur that change? Himself. He did just that and within the summer, CM Punk became a household name once and for all. The problem however, is that someone beat Punk to the gun on the whole “shoot” promo angle. Just one day before that now legendary edition of Monday Night RAW, Ring of Honor held an iPPV named “Best in the World”. In it, Steve Corino furthered his reforming from evil storyline by inviting Kevin Steen to the building despite him being banned from ROH following a match with El Generico in December of 2010. The idea was that Kevin Steen was reformed just as Corino was, who now was being “sponsored” by another former evil man Jimmy Jacobs. In short, Corino lost his match that night to upstart Mike Bennett and was being beaten up after the match and Kevin Steen appeared to help out his former mentor. The crowd went insane for Steen who simply asked for a mic. With it, he created a now infamous promo to all Ring of Honor fans:
“Thank you, thank you. Listen I’m not going to take long. I know I’m not supposed to be here. Steve I’ve been tellin’ you for months that all I want is to make things right. All I want is to come out here and get a chance to apologize and I’m really thankful to get to stand in the ring today because Steve I told you this, so I could stand here and tell you. (And) tell you Jim (Cornette), tell you Cary(Silkin), the new owners, all the boys in the back, everybody here tonight, and everyone watching on the Internet. My name is Kevin Steen, and fuck Ring of Honor!”
The crowd popped for just a second and began to look amazed as Steen delivered a sick Package Piledriver maneuver to Steve Corino, laying him out. Immediately security rushed the ring, sending him away in a crowd surfer’s position that Steen turned into what looked like a crucifixion position. The crowd went wild for him and thus began Steen’s latest surge of popularity. These events happened exactly one night before Punk’s famous promo to end RAW on June 27th, 2011. I’m not claiming that Punk knew anything about Steen’s promo nor do I claim that any of WWE’s higher ups and writers did either. All I’m saying is Steen has continued over the past eight months to be ahead of the curve in this business. From his promos, to his in ring style Steen is single handedly changing how wrestling fans of this era look at the products. It’s no longer about having a cool finishing move or a flashy set of tights. With not just Steen but also with guys like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and a few others; you must have more to you than just a single trait. You have to be believable over everything and you have to grab people with what you’re doing. “Working” the crowd has evolved, no longer do people take anything done in a wrestling ring at face value. With that, the workers must change the game. How do you do that? You work with what they already know. You make reference to real life things, such as Steen has done with Jim Cornette’s admiration for what he calls ROH’s “golden boy” Davey Richards. He mentions that he’s fat and that regardless of it, he’ll kick your ass and he’s so believable that you know it’s true. In short, Kevin Steen is what wrestling used to be but also what wrestling could never have imagined it would become. Kevin Steen is legitimate not because he has a MMA background, not because his moveset is simply composed of strikes and ground work but because Kevin Steen makes you believe what he does. Steen is simply charismatic and strange. Kevin Steen is a breath of fresh air in a business full of carbon copies and dull stories. Most of all, Kevin Steen is everything you want to hate but also everything you want to admire about the mostly wild and silly business that is professional wrestling.