Unpopular Opinions About WWE Right Now – by Mike Sanchez

This week I accidentally dragged myself into a heated debate with my friends over the answer to a simple question about a particular food brand – namely which of the most popular brands I preferred. Apparently my answer was not popular and though some chose to question my decision, others jokingly thought I’d lost my marbles. I didn’t back down, and we eventually agreed that I had stumbled upon an unpopular opinion – something I staunchly believe to be true, but will leave myself wide open for criticism, or outright disbelief that I think such things.

Though some of the following opinions of mine are light-hearted and not judgments I’m willing to die on a hill for, it’s worth remembering the golden rule; opinions are like assholes, everyone has one. Just because I think something doesn’t mean you have to agree, but this is wrestling and it’s not supposed to be taken too seriously.

Baron Corbin was the right choice to win King of the Ring

I know, many of you will have stopped reading as soon as you saw that, but hear me out. I wrote a few weeks back that the whole point of the King of the Ring tournament was to elevate a mid to lower card wrestler. Established names or guys with titles need not apply. This is purely to give stars some much-needed exposure and hopefully propel a career that may have stalled. Someone who at one time showed much promise, but for one reason or another, hasn’t hit the dizzy heights expected of them and needs a push. Corbin ticks all of these boxes.

Look, I wanted Chad Gable to win this Monday on Raw, I really did. But WWE doesn’t always give us what they want and sometimes with good reason. Gable has been the plucky good guy since he arrived in WWE, always up against the odds, and the KOTR tournament gave him a shot at winning over the crowd – and to be fair, he was doing a good job. However, perhaps WWE’s plans for him are as a heel going forward, or as a frustrated good guy who thinks the world is against him and will fight and scrap for everything from here on out. Worked out ok for Becky Lynch, didn’t it?

Back to Corbin and I’ll be the first to admit he wasn’t my favorite guy in WWE. Then again, when I think about it, he’s been hampered with some awful gimmicks; the annoying authority figure on Raw, the whiny wrestler who inserted himself into feuds and generally whining about everything. In recent weeks he’s changed. He’s stopped bitching and become cockier. He’s winning matches rather than fluking them, he’s berating the crowd a lot during his matches and now he’s won a high-profile tournament.

Corbin is never bashed by his peers inside or outside of the business and seems to be well-respected. He took on those awful gimmicks and tried his best with poor material. I don’t think it was his fault he didn’t connect with the crowds, but perhaps all he needs is a fresh start, a new feud and an opportunity. Gable will likely get a feud with Corbin out of this, so hopefully putting Corbin over was the right call and can elevate both guys in the long run.

Seth Rollins Isn’t The Biggest Name in Wrestling

Is Seth Rollins talented? Hell yeah. Is he a top guy? Of course. Is he one of the most well-known stars on the roster? Yep. Is he the ‘biggest’ name in the company? Well, that depends on who you ask. Being the champion of a brand or show in wrestling proves two things; you’re the man/woman to beat, and the company has faith in you right now. Rollins is a very safe hand and a credible champion. He never phones it in and is a poster boy for hard work, determination and toughness. Do I think he should be champion? Yes, I do. He’s popular with the fans of all demographics and is the standard-bearer for Monday Night Raw. His recent engagement to Becky Lynch has only served to make him more likable and popular.

However, some questioned his #1 ranking in the recent PWI rankings, and though I don’t class myself as a wrestling scholar or at the same level as those who ranked over 500 pro wrestlers – I mean, where do you even begin with that list? – is he the biggest name in pro wrestling right now? Let’s do some searches on Google. If he’s the biggest name out there, surely he should be top of the search rankings, right?

  • Seth Rollins – 25.9 million results
  • Chris Jericho – 26.6 million results
  • Bayley – 26.7 million results
  • Becky Lynch – 30.3 million results
  • Roman Reigns – 40.5 million results
  • Sasha Banks – 198 million results
  • AJ Styles – 260 million results
  • Daniel Bryan – 310 million results

And to prove the internet is a fickle mistress and not all wrestlers are equal:

  • Gillberg – 1.08 million results
  • Braun Strowman – 4.8 million results
  • Kenny Omega – 9.75 million results
  • Baron Corbin – 9.9 million results
  • Kofi Kingston – 13.7 million results
  • Randy Orton – 18.5 million results
  • Hulk Hogan – 36.4 million results
  • John Cena – 228 million results

So does that prove that Rollins’ popularity doesn’t transcend outside of WWE? Perhaps, but if that was the case, AJ Styles would be mega-popular outside of wrestling and more people would know Roman Reigns than Hulk Hogan. Take it with a pinch of salt, but my opinion is that Rollins isn’t the biggest star WWE have on their books – at least to the non-WWE audience.

Brock Lesnar is Money and an MVP Whenever He’s in WWE

It came as no real surprise that Brock Lesnar has been brought back to WWE to coincide with Smackdown Live’s launch on FOX. I’ve gone on record before that Brock is a blessing and curse to WWE. He is a draw. He is a freak of nature and a natural talent. He is a star attraction. If he lived, breathed and bled WWE, he would be the biggest star in the industry since Hogan or Austin, perhaps even bigger. Thing is, he doesn’t live for wrestling. WWE is a paycheck to him and nothing more. And honestly, who can blame him?

WWE will always find themselves in a Catch-22 situation. They try to push new talent, but forever go back to big names for their biggest shows.

Wrestlemania coming up? Book Undertaker, Triple H and Goldberg in matches. Got a high-profile show or major change to the brand on the horizon? Throw money at Brock Lesnar and give the Rock a call to see if he’s busy. What’s that? There’s a new X-BOX/Playstation game being launched and we need some talent for the promotional video? Find Sting and tell Hogan all is forgiven.

It’s a never-ending cycle. If WWE won’t push or build new stars for the future, they’ll be forever relying on big names from the past. It would be like NXT bringing in Samoa Joe or AJ Styles to headline a Takeover show.

The problem now is that everyone mentioned above can’t put on a show longer than ten minutes in a high-pressure match with the exception of Lesnar, so they have little choice in bringing him back. Lesnar is their current go-to guy, and sad as it may seem, he is a big attraction and will generate interest – also due to the fantastic hype man that is Paul Heyman. I’d love to write that Rollins, Reigns or Kingston were the big ticket guys who will draw in new audiences, but they just aren’t right now. Reigns does have a good demographic reach and a recent study showed non-wrestling fans find him the most intriguing/interesting/handsome of the current crop on TV, but his run as champion a couple of years ago, along with a negative reaction from WWE fans, saw that idea put on the back burner for a while.

As it stands, we’re stuck with Brock Lesnar being billed as the big draw for WWE. I don’t hate the guy, far from it, but it would be nice for WWE to try something new and showcase some of the current roster and use them as ways to draw in new audiences. Do what NXT does; build from within and use the talent in the locker room to get out into the world and make names for themselves. Garner interest from outside and bring new eyes to the product.

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So what do you think? Do you have unpopular opinions about wrestling? Did you disagree with all of mine, or did I get some right? I’d love to hear your thoughts. – Oh, before I forget, the unpopular opinion I had with my friends that caused so much outrage? I said the Burger King Whopper is a better burger than anything on offer in McDonald’s. There, I said it. I’ll die on that metaphorical hill.

The post Unpopular Opinions About WWE Right Now – by Mike Sanchez appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

The Four Horsewomen: The Most Valuable Team in WWE? – by Mike Sanchez

This Sunday at Clash of Champions, there will be two WWE Women’s Title matches that will see Bayley defend her Smackdown Women’s Championship against the nine-time champion, Charlotte Flair. On the same show, “The Man” Becky Lynch will defend her Raw Women’s Title against a rejuvenated Sasha Banks.

I doubt either match will top the bill as the ‘Main Event’, but I’m looking forward to them and predict both contests will be of very high quality. All four participants have been showcased well on TV in recent weeks, and they’re all excellent athletes who will undoubtedly deliver on the night. I’ll save any predictions, as I’m honestly happy with any outcome. It got me thinking, are the Four Horsewomen of WWE the most valuable team in the company? And are they collectively carrying their entire division?

Step back in time to 2018 and there was one woman who sat on the top of the WWE Women’s pyramid – Ronda Rousey. Rousey was an excellent and shrewd acquisition by WWE. They signed probably the most well-known female MMA fighter ever and one of UFC’s biggest stars in their history. She’d suffered defeats at the end of a stellar career in UFC and looked to take the next step in her life. WWE saw this opportunity and swooped to pick up this star attraction. I was one of those fans who was very excited to see what WWE would do with such a talent and though I, like many others, had reservations about her ability to learn how to be professional wrestler, she picked it up as naturally as Kurt Angle did when he arrived. Sometimes talent shines through and if you’ve got it, you’ve got it.

The issue with Rousey being top of the pile – and being a very credible, dominant and believable champion from SummerSlam to WrestleMania – was that it stifled the rest of the roster. Over on Smackdown, Asuka was being pushed, but the momentum behind Charlotte, Becky and others means she stood on unsteady ground and soon lost her title before slipping down the pecking order. Rousey, however, stood firm and fended off all challengers until the momentum behind a reignited Becky Lynch in the early part of 2019 saw the champion toppled and off our screens to hopefully take time with her husband and start a family. Therefore, post-Wrestlemania, the new guard had been dethroned and the Four Horsewomen began to rise again.

Becky Lynch was at the forefront of this rise and although she dropped the Smackdown Women’s Title to Charlotte Flair (who held the belt for just under five minutes before Bayley cashed in her Money in the Bank briefcase), Lynch has been a mainstay on Raw and like Rousey before her, has defeated all challengers. The introduction of the Women’s Tag Titles allowed the women’s division to breathe and expand outside of two titles, however they haven’t been as successful as WWE would have liked and the lengthy reigns with minimal defenses haven’t helped either. Only in recent weeks did WWE move away from the ‘newer’ women in the company holding the titles and opted to put them on the more recognizable faces on the roster. Alexa Bliss has done a fine job in pushing the titles and bringing Nikki Cross along for the ride, but even that hasn’t jostled the top tier of women wrestlers form their position.

To be fair to WWE, they have tried to improve the division; Natalya has been superb in putting over the other women and they’ve given Lacey Evans a fair crack at the whip, although her push appears to be on the wane of late. The IIconics (Billie Kay & Payton Royce) were given the Women’s Tag Team titles, capturing the new belts from the inaugural champs, Bayley and Sasha, Banks at Wrestlemania. The IIconics held the titles for 120 days, yet I struggle to recall any of their defenses. Asuka disappeared from the title picture and has yet to return, while others on the roster such as Ember Moon, Tamina, Mandy Rose, Liv Morgan and Sonya Deville have rare forays at the top of the women’s card if any at all. WWE seems firm on the idea that the trusted members of that roster are Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Bayley and Sasha Banks.

That isn’t a criticism of WWE at all, but the fact is they’re blessed with four of the most talented women in professional wrestling right now. Each has their own unique look, style, move-set and approach. They’re way above average than most on the mic, although I think Bayley is bottom of that small list, but improving. That being said, Bayley and Lynch are natural faces in the company. Bayley has a connection with younger fans and has a huge following from children and young girls in particular. She’s smiley, colorful and playful. Her recent descent to the dark side notwithstanding, she is a draw for a big demographic of the WWE fanbase.

Lynch was catapulted into the next level after her fracas with Nia Jax (and attack on Rousey that same night) that saw ‘The Man’ character be born. Her unending quest to be crowned champion was a well thought out story that carried over several months and culminated in her victory at Wrestlemania. Her recent engagement to Seth Rollins (arguably the biggest name on Raw right now) only serves to raise her profile both inside and outside of WWE.

Both Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks took a back seat post-Mania and didn’t enjoy the push their former NXT colleagues did. Charlotte is not someone who can be kept quiet or away from the spotlight for too long. She’s arguably the most talented of the group and has the pedigree and championship history to prove it. She’s a natural heel who comes across as arrogant, entitled and determined, yet is a fully believable champion and every bit as dominant as Lynch or Rousey.

Sasha Banks has returned from a hiatus to become her best persona, a heel. Banks is a popular character, but her best work is as the bad girl foil to a babyface. Her NXT run was spectacular and she is a great worker. I believe WWE is doing the right thing by pushing her in that direction once more. It’s apparent that WWE is focusing on the foursome going into 2020 with little to stop their momentum. They’re a tight-knit group and I don’t foresee anyone challenging their spots anytime soon.

What does the future hold for the Four Horsewomen? Are they set to be dominant for the next five years or more? I think they’re comfortably top of the pile for now, but WWE aren’t daft and know they’ll need to bring through the next group of women to challenge them, rather than rely on another Ronda Rousey. NXT is the breeding ground of great talent and none more so than their women’s division. Though perhaps not just yet, WWE can’t be far away from considering main roster debuts for Shayna Baszler, Bianca Belair, Io Shirai, Rhea Ripley, Mia Yim and more.

The present may belong to the Four Horsewomen, but the future is far from certain. It’s up to them to continue to prove they’re the best and we know they’re up to the challenge.

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WWE Network: Adrian Street Documentary Review – by Mike Sanchez

I’ve said before that the word ‘legend’ is bandied about too much these days. It’s become a term of endearment in everyday language and somewhat distanced from its origins. The same can be said for many words we use, but one which still retains some of its original meaning is trailblazer. The dictionary definition for the word is ‘a person who is the first to do something; an innovator’. This is the perfect definition and when people use it correctly, it adequately sums up the thoughts and feelings about a particular person. Last week prior to NXT Takeover UK Cardiff the WWE Network aired a documentary about one particular trailblazer; Adrian Street.

The documentary itself was too short for me, lasting about 20 minutes, but in the small time-frame, it managed to catch the history and spirit of a man who changed professional wrestling forever. Born in 1940 in Brynmwar, Wales, Street was expected to follow his father into the main line of work for men in that part of the world at that time; coal mining. To those not familiar with the mining industry in the UK at those times, it was the lifeblood of communities. Mines would employ thousands of men in one area and provide income for many more thousands of families. The mining industry in parts of Scotland, the North of England and especially in places like Wales meant that entire towns and cities were built upon land where coal was mined deep below. It was a dangerous job and many men were injured and killed doing their work. Conditions weren’t great and without the health & safety standards we have in workplaces today, many men would descend the huge elevators into the dark pits not knowing if they would ever return.

But not everyone born into these communities aspired to follow their father’s footsteps down a coal mine. One such young man was named Adrian Street. He didn’t want to be a miner. He wanted to be a professional wrestler. He’d been inspired by the Buddy Rogers, Lou Thesz and Don Leo Johnathan’s of the industry and wanted to be just like them. Standing 5’7 tall, Street wasn’t the tallest of men to be a wrestler, but he had a dream and wanted to pursue it. He told his family and at sixteen years old, left his home to train to be a wrestler. His father told him he was wasting his time and would soon be back at the mine with his tail between his legs. He did return, but we’ll come back to that later.

Street had his first wrestling match in 1957, but his career was only starting out and he began to sense that he needed to change in order to stand out more. One evening, a few years into his career, he taunted the audience and began to get a reaction. He taunted some more and the audience became louder. He knew then that perhaps if he rubbed them up the wrong way, provoked them or taunted them even more, he could have something. Street changed his look and style into something much more flamboyant. He tied his long blonde hair into pigtails. He wore pink makeup with sequins on his face. He wore lipstick and feathers in his hair – also to make him look taller – and began to prance around the ring and blow kisses to his opponent. The audience, and bear in mind this was in the 1960’s, so not the most liberal or accepting of times, naturally felt uncomfortable around this oddball and began to boo or shout at him louder and louder each night. In wrestling terms, Street was over with the crowd.

Street aligned himself with a manager/valet in the form of Miss Linda. Miss Linda was no wallflower and proudly led Street to the ring where she would be in his corner and play the dastardly heel manager in helping her man win matches. Street comments on the documentary that sometimes when he was approaching the ring, fans would try to take a swing at him and more often than not, Miss Linda would be right there to swing a fist back in their direction. She was no joke and played her part amazingly. In later life, Street proposed to Miss Linda in 2005 and the pair married soon after. Don Leo Johnathan was his best man.

Street traveled all around the UK as a wrestler and did make it across the pond to the US. He wrestled some of the territories where his unusual look and style caught the attention of the American public. Brian James (Road Dogg) talks about how he first saw Street wrestle when he was young and though he was impressed by the European/British style of wrestling on show, he can vividly recall the look and performance of Adrian Street; the leaping around the ring, the costume, the sequins, the makeup and the kissing. It was so different and new, he was stunned by it. Street’s style and look certainly made him a trailblazer, and it’s fair to say without his impact in those early days, would we have seen a Goldust? Would we have seen a Velveteen Dream? Who knows? Many wrestling alumni and knowledgeable fans will say that Street had an impact on professional wrestling unlike any other before him.

Street was invited to the NXT UK Performance Center where he works as a trainer and imparts his wisdom on the students. Street wasn’t just a persona, he could wrestle extremely well and could fight when he needed too. Men who grew up in mining towns and especially in the Welsh valleys, knew how to look after themselves. Speaking of the valleys, Street’s popularity at his peak outside of Wales, had caught the attention of the local press who called his friends and family for interviews. Street agreed to do an interview and photo opportunity, but only on his terms. Knowing what time his father finished his shift down the mine, Street took the photographer to the mine elevator and when his father walked out, grabbed him and told him to stand still for a photo. Street was dressed in full costume and makeup and the look of bewilderment and shock on his father’s face – as well of those in the miners behind – is there for all to see. Street returned to the mine, just as his father predicted, but this time he was a champion and a trailblazer.

Final Thoughts 

I really enjoyed the documentary, but still think it was far too short to go over Adrian’s early life and upbringing, which gave him his appreciation for hard work while knowing what career he would have had he not been such a success as a wrestler. The wrestling parts were focused mainly on his appearance and style, but didn’t show that much of his matches and in-ring work aside from his flamboyant behavior. I would have liked to see more of his matches and especially hear more from big names in wrestling who knew him, wrestled him or were inspired by him – perhaps some words from the current generation.

I think WWE have produced something well-polished and informative and I think they should do more about wrestlers from the 60’s, 70’s and perhaps 80’s too. The younger fans around now may not know or be aware of these iconic people who paved the way, broke down barriers and made themselves stars through hard work, determination and grit. Adrian Street’s story is a great example of that and also pays tribute to the era of British wrestling in Town Halls and small indoor stadiums that have long since vanished around here.

I’d highly recommend watching it if you haven’t already.

Side note – I posted on Twitter that I’d enjoyed the documentary and was contacted by @FilmAdrian who have produced a feature-length documentary about Adrian Street that will be released soon. I’ve put their YouTube clip of a trailer below and would encourage you to give it a look and give them a follow. I’ll certainly be watching it.

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A Friend in Need: Looking At Alliances in WWE and How They Help the Stars – by Mike Sanchez

The wrestling business can be a fickle mistress, one minute you’re the toast of the town, the most popular person on the roster, and the next you’re out of the main event, sitting in the locker room dreading the words we hear so often from those who’ve been there before; ‘Creative has nothing for you’. It’s a sad fact that not every wrestler can be top of the bill at once. Every person in WWE may want to be champion of their respective division, but it may not happen. True, hard work, determination and a sprinkling of luck may get some to the very top, but for others, they can sometimes ascend the mountain only to slip back down at a rapid pace and see others take their spot.

Recently in WWE, there have been alliances either forming or going from strength to strength. There have always been stables in wrestling and that’s unlikely to change, but sometimes stars are paired up or form allegiances to get ahead. This may take the form of a tag team, a temporary arrangement between parties to even the odds against and opponent who has people in their corner or it may be the creation of a faction or stable like I’ve mentioned. If we begin with stables, the most successful usually last a long time, are recognizable to the fans and carry an aura that is more than the sum of their parts. The Shield were a great example of a stable who achieved more when together rather than alone. Even though it’s unlikely we’ll see them reunite (again), there are some very strong stables in WWE right now that boost their members when they unite rather than stand alone.

The New Day typify this in how they’re multi-time Tag Team Champions and have yet to even show a hint of a fracture between their members. It’s been teased a couple of times, but their strength lies in their unity. It was inevitable that one of the group would take the next step, but since Kofi Kingston became World Heavyweight Champion, his New Day brothers have always had his back. The same could be said for the Undisputed Era in NXT. They’re a team of talented guys with perhaps Adam Cole as the standout among them, but again their numbers and strength as a team has seen them capture gold in the company. I think the Undisputed Era have molded themselves like the New Day in that they’re better as a stable than individuals and by keeping them together, WWE can put them on the main roster as a group and have them make maximum impact on their competitors. Think about it; is there another four-man faction who could take them on?

Perhaps some stars don’t arrive in WWE already in a stable and need to form an alliance to help boost themselves up the card. Recently two tag teams have aligned themselves with a singles star to form an alliance or a stable. The OC have re-joined with their old pal AJ Styles in a move that has seen them revitalized in the company. I’m not saying Gallows and Anderson weren’t being used properly, but their partnership with the incredible Styles has seen them go from a tag team who struggled to cement their place at the top of the tree to a dangerous group who look more and more formidable with each week that passes. I really like how WWE has given the entire group the heel persona; they deliberately gang up on wrestlers and cheap shot others to help further their cause. Styles may be out of the Heavyweight title picture for now, but the OC are making waves nonetheless without carrying any gold around their waists.

Speaking of the WWE Heavyweight Title, a return for Randy Orton has seen him installed as the #1 contender for the belt at Clash of Champions, going up against Kofi Kingston. Orton is a very capable standalone character in that he’s rarely a chickenshit heel, more of an opportunist who strikes hard when he can. He was part of arguably one of the most successful stables in WWE when he was the young apprentice in Evolution alongside Triple H, Ric Flair and Batista. It was from Evolution that the Randy Orton we see today emerged. He dabbled with Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase Jr when they formed Legacy, although Orton was now leading the pack rather than following. His new mini-faction has seen him team up with The Revival. This is a really positive move by WWE as The Revival are a good, solid tag team who should have been more successful since their main roster debut. Like Gallows and Anderson, hopefully their alliance with Orton will take the group to the next level. Like the OC, they too overwhelm their opponents although their feud seems to have a clear destination when a likely six man tag match with the New Day seems inevitable.

I’m not alone in saying that WWE needs to create more stables in the company, so perhaps these alliances are a way towards that. Even now we’re seeing some lone stars who have been floating around the periphery of the cards being paired up to try and create something new. This past week on Raw saw a Tag Team Turmoil tournament that saw Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode win to get a shot at the Raw Tag Titles. Is this just filler for the upcoming PPV or is there something more meaningful going on? With the push behind the OC and other tag teams of late, I hope this Ziggler/Roode pairing can elevate both guys – even if it goes some way to repaying Ziggler for his fantastic selling for Goldberg at SummerSlam. The guy is a selling machine and has had some seriously bad luck over the years. It would be nice if WWE replayed him in some way. Perhaps this alliance will be the one that reaps the most reward at Clash of Champions? Who knows? That being said, another guy who seemed to be overlooked in recent months, Braun Strowman, has been catapulted into the main event scene by pairing with Seth Rollins and capturing the Raw Tag Titles. Strowman has made no secret of his desire to be Universal Champion, so maybe his partnership with Rollins has an ulterior motive? Only time will tell.

So what do you think of the alliances in WWE? Is Randy Orton in it for the long haul with the Revival? Can Ziggler and Roode be a potent partnership? Will WWE bring the Undisputed Era up to the main roster as a unit to continue their dominance? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, thanks for reading.

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Does Size Matter in WWE or Can the ‘Smaller’ Guys be Future Stars? – by Mike Sanchez

Professional wrestling has long been viewed by the outsider as a sport starring big, burly muscle men throwing each other around a ring and pretending to hurt one another. Ask someone you know who isn’t a wrestling fan to name some wrestlers and I’d suspect the names Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, The Rock, Randy Savage, and Ric Flair may be mentioned. For us in the UK, the old wrestling scene here is remembered fondly by a certain generation who saw performers live on TV or in small local arenas. Again, if I were to ask a non-wrestling fan here to name a wrestler, they’re likely to say Giant Haystacks, Big Daddy or Kendo Nagasaki. Legends of the business are they all, but two of them are remembered more for their sheer size rather than their technique or skill sets. I doubt many Brits would have Dynamite Kid on their minds, however, his larger than life tag partner for many years, the British Bulldog, would probably be more recognizable to them.

Perhaps it’s the psyche of people to naturally remember larger than life people they see. Is it a part of our subconscious from a bygone age to recall the big people we saw so as not to run into them again, or is it a general rule of thumb for pro wrestling that bigger is usually better? Come see the giant! Come see the wonder of the world! Come see the strongest men alive! All things you may have heard at a Victorian circus, all designed to draw you in and spend your money. Though such attractions may have worked well back when Thomas Edison was recording his voice for the first time, but today the modern audience is quickly satisfied once the curtain has been lifted and we’ve seen the giant on show. Now we want to see what he can do. And here is where it ends for most wrestling fans. Though Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy were household names, they weren’t the best wrestlers the world had ever seen – then again, they sold lots of tickets, had big personas, and drew in a TV audience so perhaps both men shouldn’t be criticized too much. Their eventual epic showdown lasted barely three minutes. If you want to check out the grainy footage, take a look below.

From the giants of the past to the wrestlers of today. The reason I wanted to write about size in wrestling today is that I think there’s been a definite shift in both approach and response to many of today’s superstars. The traditional ‘big men’ of wrestling may be popular and there will always be a place for them, but there doesn’t seem to be as many now, or at least at the top of the card. Braun Strowman has been quiet of late, but he captured the Raw Tag Titles this past week on Raw with Seth Rollins. The other larger men in the company such as The Undertaker, Big Show, Kane, Luke Harper and even Erick Rowan are either semi-retired or have very limited on-screen time, if any at all. The more ‘regular-sized’ guys such as Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, Roman Reigns (he’s billed at 6’3, so not the tallest guy out there), Samoa Joe etc. are showcasing that professional wrestling is definitely moving away from having big men as star attractions and little else and instead allowing the talent to showcase their skills no matter what their size or stature.

For prime examples of this, look no further than the recent mini-push of Buddy Murphy on TV. Sure, Murphy has had success on 205 Live, capturing the title in a great match at the Super Show-Down in Melbourne, Australia last year. The 205 Live show was a good idea, but I think the show found itself playing fourth fiddle behind Raw, Smackdown and even NXT. It was a good showcase for the smaller talent on the roster, but some fans can’t watch hours upon hours of WWE each week and 205 Live always seems to be the one show many don’t watch, even if it is for just an hour. In fairness to Buddy and his colleagues, they’ve not admitted defeat and in recent months, a steady stream of smaller guys have, or are in the process of, making a serious impact on the main roster, and good for them.

Perhaps it’s determination, tenacity or just taking an opportunity, but WWE is certainly trying to showcase all of their talent. Buddy Murphy has had two excellent matches on TV these last two weeks. Roman Reigns may have defeated him on Smackdown Live, but it was certainly no pushover. The same can be said for Daniel Bryan who lost to Murphy this past week in another great encounter. Bryan typifies the smaller guy struggling against the odds in WWE. We all remember his meteoric rise from NXT rookie to Wrestlemania main eventer (and multi-time World Champion) in little over a few years. The same too can be said for the legendary Rey Mysterio. A guy deemed ‘too small’ to hang with the big boys in the ring, Mysterio rose to the top to become a firm favorite and a deserving champion. Both men took advantage of the opportunities they were given and ensured that the company couldn’t ignore them anymore.

As I write this, the opportunity is knocking for a lot of the smaller talent in WWE. The King of the Ring has returned and listed participants include; Buddy Murphy, Ali, Chad Gable, Cedric Alexander and Ricochet. The whole purpose of the old King of the Ring tournaments back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s was to build a new top guy. The tournament should be made up of mid-card talent with a splash of former champions and the winner should be the next big superstar who will be pushed to the next level in their careers.

Looking at the contenders, neither Kevin Owens (who lost on Smackdown in cheap fashion) nor Samoa Joe need the win. Drew McIntyre could be considered a favorite, as could Andrade, but I think this tournament is the ideal opportunity – see, there’s that word again – to push someone who can be a truly great talent going forward and have the ability to make themselves a star. Ricochet already is a star, so I would really like to see, from the Smackdown Live half of the draw, Buddy Murphy and Chad Gable reach the semi-finals with one of those men crowned the champion. Gable is an awesome talent that just hasn’t got the break he so deserves. He has the background and talent to succeed and really be a phenomenon in the WWE.

WWE has taken a chance with going against the tried and tested methods of pushing the biggest guy they have on contract before, and it’s worked. They’ve also taken chances by crowning lesser-known stars as their King of the Ring and seen them go on to greatness. Perhaps the best of both worlds can collide with this revamped King of the Ring tournament and a new up and comer can be crowned king and usher in a new dynasty to rival the Rey Mysterio’s and Daniel Bryan’s of the professional wrestling world.

The post Does Size Matter in WWE or Can the ‘Smaller’ Guys be Future Stars? – by Mike Sanchez appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

WWE: A Good Week for “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt, Seth Rollins and Sasha Banks – by Mike Sanchez

Due to unforeseen circumstances and streaming issues with the revamped WWE Network, I found myself binge-watching lots of WWE content this week. It’s fair to say that there were some good matches to be seen and the progression of some characters was a welcome surprise. WWE has come in for a bit of stick lately, what with the instant gratification some fans have wanted form Eric Bischoff and Paul Heyman’s new roles, but we need to understand that these things take time and though many do want to see wholesale changes in the product, the green shoots of promise are there to see and are growing week by week. I wanted to take a look at some of my personal highlights from WWE’s latest offerings.

Seth Rollins

I’ve written many times about Brock Lesnar being both a curse and a blessing to WWE. A blessing purely because of his natural look, ability and aura in the squared circle, and a curse because he sometimes is presented as that star attraction and once in a lifetime performer that is special in every way. The problem with that last part is that he’s difficult to book long-term because he should be dominant. He should beat everyone. He should be a champion with a lengthy reign. If this were boxing or MMA, then that would be great. He’d be defined as a pioneer, a true great of the sport and a legend. This isn’t boxing or MMA though, this is WWE. This is pro wrestling where – especially in this era – predictability and long-standing champions (who are absent more than most) devalue the title they hold and the product itself.

Brock Lesnar is freakin’ awesome. I think he’s elevated WWE in a way no other person could have done, but looking at it purely from a storyline sense, perhaps he was built up too big and therefore became this all-conquering dominant force, making it difficult to even think someone could topple him. True, WWE sold us a good story with Goldberg having Brock’s number on more than one occasion, but Goldberg isn’t a long-term solution. WWE needed to build up an opponent that was determined, a fighter, a bankable asset and someone who would believably beat the Beast when it came down to it. Enter Seth Rollins.

WWE had an easy out when it came to dethroning Brock, and that would be Roman Reigns. However, due to Reigns’ battle with leukemia last year, plus the lukewarm responses he was getting from crowds prior to his illness, Rollins seemed like the sensible choice. He had form; having cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase at Wrestlemania 31 to steal the Universal Title from both Reigns and Lesnar, plus his previous title reigns (even as Intercontinental Champ) elevated the titles. He comes across well with the fans, is a likable character and plays the underdog excellently when matched against bigger opponents. His arsenal of moves are varied; from high-flying dives, good use of the ring posts and turnbuckles to his swift finishing moves like the superkick and Curb Stomp, he can end a match in a matter of seconds.

What I particularly liked about his SummerSlam win this past week was the wonderful story the finish told. Rollins was never going to defeat Brock with one move, but the build-up to the ending was very well done. A splash onto the Spanish announcer’s table, another in the ring, a superkick and finally a curb stomp. It was a worthy set of moves to down the beast that is Brock Lesnar. Rollins came off the match as a fighter who put everything he had and more into the match to take back the title he wears with pride.

Sasha Banks

To quote Corey Graves; ‘Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.’ – Although I’m not talking about The Revival’s debut on Monday Night Raw, no, I’m talking about WWE putting Sasha Banks into the heel category again. For those who missed it, Sasha Banks returned to Raw on Monday while Natalya was talking to the crowd about her late father, Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart. Banks’ initially hugged the veteran and the crowd cheered for a second until Banks beat the crap out of Natalya. Becky Lynch ran in to help only to have her ass handed to her by Banks with the help of a chair. Then, like she did in her NXT days, Sasha sauntered back up the ramp, flicking her bright blue hair with a smile on her face and an acknowledgment to the crowd that she’d done what she intended to do; be the heel once more.

I’m not alone in saying that I think Sasha Banks’ best work is done when as a heel. She’s a likable babyface, don’t get me wrong, but to me, she revels in the bad guy role. She knows the nuances and small gestures that great heels have, whether it’s spitting a biting comment on the mic, pulling dirty tricks in the ring or making fans cry (seriously – the time she made the kid cry in NXT was a hark back to real old school wrestling), Sasha is and should be a big fixture going forward under this persona. I did worry for her these last few months. While the other three of the Four Horsewomen (Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair and Bayley) were gaining momentum and getting regular time on TV, Sasha was off TV since WrestleMania. Hopefully, she can stake her claim as not only a member of the roster who should be on our shows weekly, but as the serious challenger needed to reignite the Women’s Division and create a feud with Becky Lynch that should be epic if given the right time and build to it.

The Fiend

How awesome was that entrance at SummerSlam? After weeks and weeks of build, after weeks and weeks of vignettes and clips of Firefly Funhouse, we finally go to see the debut of The Fiend in WWE. Yes, I know it’s the artist formerly known as Bray Wyatt, but yet again he has revamped and reinvented himself into something new. The match itself was simple enough. It showcased what the Fiend could do; hard-hitting moves, a creepy, stalker-esque movement and a brutal approach to disabling his opponent. Credit must be given to Finn Balor for some of this too. It would be easy to have had the Fiend go against and unknown and toss him around the ring for two minutes, but in Balor I think WWE is building to something much bigger down the line.

What I liked about this new approach was that Balor played into the mindset of The Fiend and was caught out on more than one occasion by the shock tactics and unexpectedness he was presented with. Balor is a credible opponent and no pushover, so to have him brutalized in such a way on a big PPV shows that WWE really believe in the character.

It’s also worth mentioning that The Fiend didn’t appear on Monday Night Raw or Smackdown Live. I like this as too much of a good thing can dilute what is supposed to be a special character, someone the audience will respond to. It happened for a brief time with Becky Lynch who, being both the Raw and Smackdown Women’s champion, appeared on both shows and as such lost some of her star appeal since we saw her all the time. Drip feed us The Fiend. Let us see his alter-ego before we see the monster. Let Dr. Jekyll do the talking and let Mr. Hyde take action.

As for what the future holds, perhaps The Fiend will inevitably meet the Demon at some point. If the build to that is anything like it was these past few months for Bray Wyatt’s other persona, WWE could really be onto something special.

So what were your highlights from this week? Do you think Seth Rollins is a believable champion when it comes to toppling Brock Lesnar? How do you feel about Sasha Banks turning heel? How would you present The Fiend going forward? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, thanks for reading.

 

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WWE: A Good Blend of Youth and Experience, or Sidelining the Younger Talent? – by Mike Sanchez

The second-biggest WWE PPV is almost upon us, SummerSlam – although I personally regard the Royal Rumble as the second biggest, with SummerSlam coming in a close third. The build for SummerSlam has been okay. Both Raw and Smackdown Live are trying new storylines, new feuds and generally finding their feet as WWE approaches a huge period for the company. The FOX deal is on the horizon and WWE seems to be doing all they can to draw both new and old eyes on the product. So much so, that they’ve delved into their past and pulled some veterans out of semi or full retirement and back into the squared circle. I think this can be both positive and negative for WWE going forward, and I want to explain why I think that.

In recent months WWE has begun to put some of the biggest names in their history front and center on their TV shows. Rey Mysterio has decided to have another run and I think WWE has struck gold by pairing him with Andrade, a younger talent who has excellent chemistry with the veteran Mysterio. Both men tell a great story and their feud doesn’t need outside interference, a title or a gimmick. They’re both just so good when paired against one another. It can only do wonders for Andrade’s career right now.

For the ladies, Trish Stratus has returned and is looking incredible for her age (42), and even though she’s hinted that her SummerSlam match against Charlotte Flair will be her last in WWE, her name will certainly be a draw to the huge Canadian fanbase WWE will have at the PPV. Add to that the return of Goldberg (at age 50) in what must be the lock of the night in his match against Dolph Ziggler. A strange addition I thought, but Dolph will sell to make Goldberg look like a million dollars, so perhaps a smart pairing from WWE.

Over on Smackdown Live, Randy Orton is making his presence known by challenging Kofi Kingston for the WWE Heavyweight Title. Though not ‘retired’ as such, Orton has certainly slowed down his career and taken time out away from WWE. Orton’s push in the title picture is similar to that of Natalya in her feud with Becky Lynch. Both Becky and Kofi are popular champions and their title wins were very well received, but their current spots make some think the chase is sometimes more exciting than the title run. Kingston has defended his belt well, but after four months as champion, do fans and WWE feel a change of direction is needed? The same too can be said about Becky. It was smart to have her drop one of the two belts she won at Wrestlemania, but is the division in danger of becoming stale on Raw at least, with her recent appearances being in tag action or alongside Seth Rollins instead of standing alone and taking on all comers?

I think we all understand that WWE is a business and the purpose of the business is to make money. By advertising Goldberg, Trish, Orton and others for big SummerSlam matches, WWE are pushing their ticket sales and viewership on the WWE Network. Then there’s the FOX deal. FOX have stated in media releases that they fully intend to promote and push WWE in a big way on their network. WWE won’t be treated as a niche or small part of their shows, but a major player and a big draw. WWE needs to hold up their part of the bargain by ensuring their fans tune in to FOX and raise their viewing numbers. The easy way to do this is to appeal to the widest demographic and try to catch as many fans as possible.

I’m not saying WWE has talent that people don’t want to watch, but the names like Trish Stratus, Randy Orton, Goldberg and even The Undertaker are names older fans who may have strayed from WWE will recognize. These are the fans who are spending money and subscribing to networks, so they are the ideal target. Will they tune in to the first WWE show FOX broadcasts on October 4? Perhaps, but are they more likely to tune in to a show that’s been heavily promoted and will include appearances from their favorite stars when they were kids? More likely, I would suspect.

Where does that leave the ‘lesser known’ stars to the wider audience? If you haven’t been watching WWE for a few years, you may be unaware of Aleister Black, Ricochet, The Viking Raiders, Kari Sane, Nikki Cross, The IIconics and Buddy Murphy. You may be unaware that Drew McIntyre returned to the company, and even if you took a passing interest, the lack of regular TV time and/or pushes for Sami Zayn, Sasha Banks, Bobby Lashley, Rusev, Lana, Kevin Owens and Braun Strowman may mean you’re not familiar with many of them. But if WWE is looking to push on with the new exposure FOX will bring, surely now is the time to showcase the talent on the roster rather than wheel in the veterans? Unfortunately no, while Trish, Goldberg and Orton all have matches scheduled for SummerSlam, everyone listed above with exception of Ricochet and Owens (who is yet again facing Shane McMahon – sigh), hasn’t been put on the card as yet. There’s hope at least one or two may be added, but this is WWE, so don’t expect too much to change.

Is this the proverbial Catch-22 for WWE? They want to boost their viewing figures and grow the company, but they continue to rely on bringing back stars from yesteryear to draw in the fans, rather than push their younger talent on their own merit. The only problem with that is the veterans aren’t getting any younger, and the superstars of the Attitude Era (the biggest professional wrestling has ever been) just aren’t interested or physically able to go like they once did.

Does WWE need to change tactics for the years ahead? Is there anyone who was part of the Attitude Era who could realistically put on a match in 5-10 years? If not, who will be the next crop of veterans to be brought back to the company? The Rock recently confirmed that he’d officially retired from wrestling. Perhaps WWE had been in touch to try and bring him back too? Does that only leave John Cena as the most well-known veteran of the modern era who could put on a match? Perhaps WWE should trust in their younger talent to make themselves household names and be the future of the company? Right now is as good a time as any to do just that.

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