I think I’m getting too old for this shit.
So I went ahead and watched the WWE pay-per-view on Sunday night. Hell in a Cell. I was talked into watching it with my best friend till the end Keesh, because he was going to watch it himself and needed someone to bag on it with him. So I thought what the heck, what harm could it do to spend my Sunday evening watching some grappling, just like old times. But oh man, I wish I hadn’t.
I don’t know if it’s just because I’m so burned out on wrestling right now, but it was a very frustrating three hours for me. I found myself constantly yelling at my screen, critiquing what was happening and making suggestions for what should have been done differently. When I first started watching wrestling, I never did any of that, even though I have always been a know-it-all brainiac who thinks my own ideas are better than everyone else’s. Used to, I could turn my mind off for three hours and take what I was watching at face value as mindless entertainment. WWE nowadays simply does not allow me to do that.
What follows is some of the myriad things I found myself thinking as I watched the show:
Randy Orton needs to go. The guy is just treading water at this point. One of the biggest residual problems from the late 90s Monday Night Wars is that WWE got into the habit of making sure everyone who means anything to the company is locked up for the long term. Only completely fuck ups like Kurt Angle and Jeff Hardy are allowed to leave on their own volition, for the most part. How this relates to Orton is, I find his act to be completely stale. He is serving no greater purpose by winning meaningless opening matches on meaningless pay-per-views.
I thought the outcome to that match was a no brainer. Alberto Del Rio had to win, because he’s the one with any upside potential at this point. Give him a win over the “name” guy and try to get something started with him. Orton is a complete non-starter to me. He’s won the belt umpteen times, he’s feuded with all the top guys, beating them sometimes, losing some other times. It’s just all been done with him. And he’s not an interesting enough character on his own to refresh himself. He, like Christian before him, would just generally benefit from going away for a while and then coming back.
Now granted, there really isn’t anywhere to go but TNA, but fuck it, that’ll have to be it then. It’s too bad WWE would never really consider doing anything like this, but I really think they ought to consider working out some kind of trade with TNA here. TNA would salivate at the opportunity to obtain another “big name” WWE performer. WWE could try to approach this in a couple different ways. One would be to try to get face value for Orton, which would mean someone like Bully Ray. Bully Ray would excel in the current WWE environment. He’s probably my favorite act in all of wrestling for 2012. He deserves one last WWE shot.
Or they could take the opposite approach and poach a couple prospects. Guys like Magnus and Rob Terry, who would seem to fit in with the standard WWE prototype. Either way, WWE needs to shake things up here, and I can’t think of a single better person to use to make that point with than Orton. He does no one any good in the opening match spot. His win was an empty token gesture based on past performance. His presence is actually hindering WWE’s progress at this point, as I think the logical move would have been to move forward with Del Rio, who at least has more upside potential.
Comedy that isn’t funny. I’m beating that dead horse all the way to the glue factory, I realize this, but it drives me up the wall every time. The skit with Daniel Bryan and Kane backstage was fairly funny until it wasn’t funny at all. “On a farm… Old McDonald’s farm! Here, let me sing the Old McDonald song! How long can I string this out?!” If the WWE writers had written the script to The Sandlot, the famous line from that movie would have been changed to, “You play ball like a girl! Because you play ball in a very feminine way! And people who are feminine tell to play ball at a lower level than those who do not play in a feminine way! Therefore, I am insulting your masculinity as well as your ability to play the game of baseball!”
In other words, less is more. If you feel the need to tell a joke, tell the joke. Leave it sit. It’s either funny or it’s not. Know when enough is enough. If you need to explain the joke or continue on the joke for too long, it wasn’t funny and the laugh wasn’t meant to be. As a famous philosopher once said, it’s just tone deaf to do it the way they do it now. I’m all for character building segments like that, but not when it comes attached to a joke that would make a record screech in a bad television sitcom.
Darren Young, Titus O’Neill and Justin Gabriel don’t belong on PPVs. Being on a pay-per-view isn’t a right; it’s a privilege. You should have to earn your spot on the card, not be given it because there just aren’t any better ideas on what to do. Basically this just speaks to the long time theme that WWE doesn’t care about their midcard and can’t be bothered to build it up enough to where people actually care about the competitors therein. So what you get is jack-in-the-box title matches conjured up six days prior featuring someone who has no discernible character, and is just generally an indie guy who wears tights and does wrestling moves.
Every match on a pay-per-view should be meaningful in some way. If it’s a non-title match, it should be between two guys who stand to gain something from a win. Maybe a win gets them one step closer to a title shot. Maybe they have animosity towards each other for some reason, and a win over the other would be exacting an amount of satisfying revenge. But if the match is a title match, it simply cannot have six days build. That’s not adequate booking in any way. It’s simply not acceptable. Title shots should be earned over the course of extended programs. Not just, “Hey, we have nothing for this guy to do and the PPV is coming up.” Justin Gabriel is a decent wrestler, but I have no reason to care about him. I never had any doubt in my mind that he was going to lose that match. That is simply not acceptable. With title matches should come intrigue.
On the other side of the coin, I appreciated the idea behind the Young/O’Neill tag team match. For one thing, you’re building up the tag team division, and for another, as I outlined earlier, perhaps a win there gets them a title shot. It’s just that, like Gabriel, I really don’t see why I need to care about these two. They’re being thrust into a position they’re not ready for, simply because everything in WWE happens too fast these days. Gone are the days of the Rockers slowly, methodically working their way through the tag team ranks for a couple years before even being considered legitimate threats to win the tag team titles. Now it’s just, win this match and you’ll probably be the number one contenders. There’s no build and there’s no character building. I have no idea why I should care about their plight.
Michael Cole seemed like he was in a coma the entire show. Granted, he’s never been any good, and this is yet another dead horse of mine. But come on here. Show a little bit of enthusiasm. Do your job in a professional manner. If you can’t handle it, you need to be replaced. I need someone to explain to me with a straight face why Jim Ross and JBL couldn’t have called that show on their own. I hate three man booths anyway, but especially when one of them is completely dead, and that’s the one that gets the bulk of the talking time. There were several minutes at a time where Ross was completely silent. In no way should that be acceptable.
It is often a telltale sign that the person isn’t listening to you when they simply repeat the last thing you said before you stopped talking. JBL called Cole out on doing that a number of times at the pay-per-view. If the announcer can’t be bothered to pay attention to what is going on, why should the viewer? It is well past time to give the lead announcer role to Josh Mathews. He is young, he is good looking, he is good at what he does, and he is dedicated to always getting better and learning more. Pairing him up with Jim Ross would probably eventually turn him into a candidate for best announcer of all time. Instead, we are stuck with the out-to-lunch, weiner looking Cole.
Ryback should have won the title. You want real change? Then do something that’s really different. It’s that simple. By going back to the old Hulk Hogan formula, you will have enacted the exact kind of change needed to fit with these more kiddie friendly, PG times. Ryback seems like he’s getting over enough that you can justify putting the belt on him. And then, as the slogan goes, feed him continual opponents. Move CM Punk down the card a step, where he can help ensure that the undercards are going to be high quality enough to counter the assuredly mediocre main event matches that will be over because the champion is over, not because of the ring work. Find the balance there and go with it.
Utilize Ryback in the Hogan/Goldberg combo role that he was destined for. In the meantime, you will have shown your fanbase in one fell swoop that things are different now. This is a different kind of champion than Punk or Daniel Bryan or Cena, or really anybody in the recent past. The other important part of this equation is that he needs to hold the belt a long time. Like until at least WrestleMania long. I would even hold out until the *next* WrestleMania, but you absolutely cannot trust WWE to have anywhere near that kind of discipline and long term thought.
And when he does lose, it needs to be in a significant, impactful way. Having him at this point, in the way in which he lost, now ensures that he will never have the kind of momentum again that he had going into the show. This is a classic old school WCW move that cuts the balls off someone who was on the verge of making something happen, all to appease the status quo. It ensures that nothing will ever really change, and that no upswing will happen for the foreseeable future. But hey, we sure were swerved!
Dirty finishes. Again, in the interest of being repetitiously redundant, this has been a pet peeve of mine for a long time. WWE has it exactly backwards in how they book their matches. They put the dirty finish matches on the pay-per-views, and the clean, feud ending finishes on free television. I don’t know how much money pay-per-views are now (I, uh, forgot how much I paid for this, yeah), but it’s a lot of freaking money. And people should expect to get quality bang for their hard earned buck. Instead, we got a disqualification solely on the basis of Kane kicking everyone’s ass, and a heel ref sequence that made Nick Patrick roll over in his grave. Enough of this crap.
Put that kind of stuff on Raw if you insist on doing it at all. I dare WWE to put on a pay-per-view that consists solely of matches ending in clean, decisive finishes. They simply do not have the discipline to do that. They think that’s not entertaining enough. They think all the bells and whistles are what people tune in for, not realizing that if they did enough of everything else right, the clean finishes would be exactly what the people want and expect out of shows like this. They continue to insist on going from point A to point B by going through points C through Z first.
Or maybe I’m just too old for wrestling now.
In any event, you can read more about Keesh at thefullpint.com. You can read more about me at shamelessplug.org.