Every Level of WWE Titles to Be Unified?

Keeping up the recent Jericho theme, here he is after unifying the WWF and WCW Heavyweight championships

In some more speculation, I have also recently heard that the forthcoming unification of the Women’s and Divas Championships could be the start of a process to unify every level of WWE championships – The two world titles, and the IC and US titles being the others.

In theory, I think this is a good idea, but as I said in my RAW review, it should only be done with the caveat that every champions hould appear on both shows. I do think that if every title is unified, then that will happen.

I would also suggest that every level of title being unified should lead to the introduction of a new lower-middle card championship – the hardcore title or a television title perhaps.

Obviously each title would automatically have more prestige, and it wouild also probably lead to different people getting in to top title matches. I say this because I remember hearing an eye-watering statistic (quite a while ago too) about the mainstays of the RAW main event (HHH, Cena, Orton and Batista were the ones labelled) dominating it. Indeed, the last time none of those four main evented a PPV for RAW was No Mercy in October, 2008 (nearly two years ago), when Chris Jericho took on Shawn Michaels in a great ladder match for the World Heavyweight Championship. A PPV, by the way, which was really well received by fans. So it is with that in mind that I hope these unifications can diversify the main event.

However, if it instead lead to the guys seens as ‘top’ guys (Cena, Orton, HHH, Edge, Jericho) dominating the world title, that would be a step in the wrong direction. Perhaps taking a top title away will reduce opportunities for up-and-comers to get in to the top tier.

Another potential plus point may be that while the world title will be being defended on, say Smackdown, one month, the top guys on the other brand will have to main event based on a strong storylines. What i’m saying is that it could be good for the depth and originality of storylines. Again, we’ll have to wait and see about that!

We’ll see if this comes to pass, but if it does, it woull certainly mean big changes to the WWE which could be very beneficial.


Chris Jericho Career Update

Chris Jericho as the host of game show, Downfall

When I started this blog, I said it would be a Critical look at wrestling, and not a rumour-mill, but in this case (as I have in others, admittedly), i’m making an exception.

On RAW this week, Chris Jericho said in a backstage interview that if he doesn’t win the WWE Championship at Night of Champions, he will leave the WWE for good. In my review of the show, I speculated that this angle would end in Chris Jericho taking some time off, but not retiring. I made this prediction based on the fact that relatively recently, I heard that Jericho had a tour coming up with with his band, Fozzy, but also that Jericho felt good and wanted to keep wrestling for a couple of years.

I know I should take what the dirt sheets say with a pinch of salt, but it has been widely speculated after this week’s RAW that Jericho may indeed be retiring. There are several reasons for this belief: one is simply his age. He is not too old to wrestle by any means, but a man of his all-round talent could mean that he wants to retire and move on before he gets stale. Also, he has apparantly acknowledged his expiring contract in several recent interviews, and has suggested he’s considering moving on.

It’s no surprise that he sees himself in the wider entertainment industry in the future (as could be seen by his hosting of the quiz show, Downfall), as well as commitments with Fozzy and his family.

All I really want to say is that I really hope he doesn’t retire yet. Him being my favourite wrestler, this may be selfish of me, but I think he could easily wait a couple of years to move on without losing his star potential. My instinct is still that he will only be taking a brief hiatus, a’la 2005 before coming back as a HUGE babyface, but I must admit, i’m taking the retirement rumours more seriously now … I just hope it isn’t true.

For posterity, here is a link to a recent interview with Y2J, which I think backs up my instinct that he wont be retiring just yet: http://theuppercardnetwork.com/?p=4709 I think this line is especially reassuring: “I’ll leave the business when I’m ready to and I’m not ready yet. I still want to continue to work. I still have some things that I can offer. I still think I’m among the best in what I do,” but I think I should stop speculating. Only Jericho gets this treatment from me! I think i’m projecting …

RAW Recall (30/08/2010): 900 and Counting

Some of RAW's top stars over the years: (from left to right) The Rock, HBK, John Cena, Y2J, and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin

Before I get on with review proper, I would like to state an obvious fact. It is a remarkable feat for any show to reach 900 episodes, and as the WWE kept on emphasising, that is a huge number (bigger than other juggernauts like The Simpsons or Friends etc), and is a testament to what is usually a high quality show and it’s place as a pop-culture juggernaut.

Despite all this, I doubt there were many that were satisfied by this show, both as a 900th anniversary, and as an episode of RAW generally.

The show started out appropriately enough, with Bret Hart cutting a nice promo about the history of RAW and how he and The Undertaker are the only remaining superstars to appear on the first ever episode. He was about to suggest a match with the Deadman when Kane inserted himself in to the situation, and cut another very good promo himself. He made an interesting point about wanting to replicate and even top his brother, and as ‘Taker retired Shawn Michaels, he wanted to take out Bret. At this point, Undertaker showed up from under his dark light, looking stronger than in previous weeks, leading the anonymous GM eventually booking the match between Taker and Bret. As booking goes, that was good for the nostalgia element. This would have been the perfect segment for HBK to make an appearance of some sorts, obviously not in a wrestling role, but perhaps as a special referee, given his history with both guys and the fact that he was aslo on the first episode of RAW. Him not being there wasn’t terrible, but it would have been a great addition to the show.

The first match was one of two decent matches throughout the show, and was another example of good booking. It was a triple-threat tag team match pitting the current NXT finalists, Michael McGillicutty, Alex Riley and Kaval, and their pros, against each other (apart from Kaval, who tagged with Daniel Bryan, which makes sense because he could hardly tag with both of his pros, while Bryan would get to share a ring with Miz). It could have done with more time, but it was a decent match. I like that there were three competitors in the ring at any time (rather than there being two and either competitor could tag anyone in), and that each finalist got to show off some on RAW. Afterwards, Miz again assaulted Bryan, further fuelling their rivalry. The only thing I don’t understand is why they US title match at Night of Champions hasn’t been announced yet. They easily could have announced it and started a more specific build-up by now.

The next match and segment may have been my least favourite. It was a divas tag match between LayCool and Melina & Eve Torres. It would have been nice to have seen a match of decent length given that LayCool were visiting RAW, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. We got about a minute of a match in which neither Michelle McCool and Eve Torres didn’t even feature. That was bad enough, but then we had the revelation that the two women’s championships will be unified at Night of Champions. In theory, this may be a decent idea, focusing the lost division. That will only be the case if the champion is obligated to appear on both shows. Unfortunately, I worry that it will be more like the Hart Dynasty currently – only really appearing on RAW. If that is the case, then it will leave one show with a divas division without a credible focus. I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, but if it turns out like I predict, it will be a step in the wrong direction.

Next up was another unsatisfying match, ostensibly to find new #1 contenders to the tag team championships. The match saw Truth & Morrison take on the new team of Cody Rhodes & Drew McIntyre. After another minute, this match had been thrown out. It was even unclear what was hapenning regarding the tag team championships. Lawler suggested that neither team would become #1 contenders, but if that was the case then the whole match would have been completely pointless and unsatisfying.

Then we had the Taker vs Bret match. That match didn’t take place either, after Nexus interfered and beat down Undertaker. There was some interest here as Kane and the Undertaker seemed to battle for control of ‘dark forces,’ with each controlling the lights at different points, eventually coming off best and distracting enough to have Nexus gain the upperhand on Taker and lay waste to him. Perhaps it was a little comic book, but I liked the representation of them battling for prominance. I doubt it is actually the case, but perhaps Kane could be a ‘higher power’ controlling the Nexus? Despite my liking that, it was shame to have one of the most hyped matches of the night effectively not take place.

Jack Swagger then took on Evan Bourne in a decent enough match. The story of it though, was Alberto Del Rio inserting himself in to the match, interrupting with his entire entrance while not caring about the match. Eventually, Swagger went over with his ankle lock. Good for him, but not that encouraging for Bourne. Del Rio then took over, saying he wanted to replay his attack on Rey Mysterio for the RAW fans. This was all pretty good, and was a good way to get Del Rio some air time on RAW. I actually think he would suit the show well. He was scuppered by Mark Henry, but he exited looking his usual egoistic dislikeable self and got over well as a heel.

CM Punk came out next with the Straight-Edge Society (minus Serena of course) and cut a fantastic promo which really acknowledged the nostalgia of the night and saying that he is better than The Rock. He was talking about how RAW was a sickening show which didn’t promote family values (a pretty funny point given the move to PG!) citing things like the infamous Katie Vick angle, and the beer-swilling “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. In a brilliant moment, he teased that Austin would again be making an electrifying entrance with a beer hose, only to reveal that he had tricked the audience! Great stuff. Eventually Big Show came out and confronted them, eventually sending them skulking off. The Stone Cold revealed one of the big problems of this show. Stone Cold wasn’t there, and neither was The Rock, HBK, or J.R. I realise they may not have been able to get Stone Cold, Rock or HBK, but they could at least have had J.R. call the main event! The show really missed that kind of appearance.

The main event saw the match I suggested booking for the ‘go home’ show: Nexus against Sheamus, Edge, Randy Orton, John Cena and Chris Jericho. Speaking of Jericho, he asserted earlier in the night that if he doesn not win the WWE Championship at Night of Champions, he will be ‘gone’ from WWE. This means one of three things: either Jericho will be winning the WWE Championship, Jericho will be taking time off, or Jericho will be retiring. I think the most realistic option is that he’s taking some time off, which is understandable. As long as isn’t retiring yet, that’s fine! This match was the other decent match of the night (i.e. not interrupted or something else of the sort). What was good about this match was how good the Nexus guys were made to look. Heath Slater pinned Sheamus, Justin Gabriel pinned Cena and Barrett pinned Orton for the win, making him look particularly strong seen as how strong Orton has been made to look recently. This was good build-up for the WWE Championship match at Night of Champions, and as I say a good match, but not enough to save the quality of the show. Having written this, I feel my initial reaction to the show may have been too harsh. After all, the show started well, had a good segment in the middle with Punk and ended well, but the rest was pretty horrible.

Jake The Snake Roberts Retires

I probably should have posted about this earlier, but I was away over the weekend.

At a 2CW 9Squared Circle Wrestling) event earlier this week, Jake the Snake Roberts wrestled his final match with the reason for his retirement relating to health issues and the recent passing of his father. His farewell speech can be seen here:

I was never a huge fan of the ‘snake’ gimmick, but the guy is undeniably a legend of the industry (not least for inventing the DDT) and deserved all the pladits and thanks that come his way.

Thank you Jake.

Luna Vachon Passes

It was discovered today that ex-WWF performer, Luna Vachon, passed away today.

I only vaguely remember watching the niece of ‘Mad Dog’ Vachon and former wife of Gangrel on the TV, but as I always say, I think it’s important that fans of wrestling pay tribute to the wrestlers thay have watched when they pass. Another one gone too young …

So RIP Luna, and thank you.

Smack of the Week (27/08/2010): Paradise Lost

This week's Smackdown had the dark cloud of the quarrelling Brothers of Destruction hanging over it

I’m going to be honest and say from the start that I didn’t like the booking of this week’s show, almost without exception. That’s not to say that this episode was particularly poor, I just don’t think much was achieved.

The first match had Rey Mysterio take on Kane in a Summerslam rematch. Personally, I think i’ve seen enough of Kane against Rey over the past few weeks, and seen as they’ll be going their seperate ways now, this seemed a bit needless without offering anything new. I’d have rather have seen Rey take on Drew McIntyre or Cody Rhodes. They’re too good to not be on the TV, and would have embelished their growing dominant reputation by going over Rey like Kane did. There’s no reason why Alberto Del Rio couldn’t come out and attack Rey after a match with one of them. They did have a good match though, and it being no disqualification meant that there were some nice hardcore elements to it. Rey is definately one of the better sellers in the business.

Next up we had what must have been about the 4th Intercontinental Championship match between Dolph Ziggler and Kofi Kingston, this time with the stipulation that if Ziggler got disqualified, he would lose the IC title. Initially, I was upbeat that this would mean Ziggler going over clean and the end of the series of title matches. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case as Ziggler won by count-out, surely setting up a future match with no disqualifications and no count-outs. I understand what management are going for with this series – in which Ziggler will be forced to ‘earn’ his belt. For me, it’s dragged on too far. Instead, you could book him against Christian, even as similar competition to Kofi as a build-up to a Kofi-Ziggler rematch at Night of Champions. Nevertheless, they did have a pretty good match together. They do have good chemistry, which is why I was initially high on the coupling, but the overbooking of the storyline has slightly spoiled it for me. At least now I can’t see how they could extend this any further than a final match now – a match which should be very good.

Next up, JTG basically jobbed to CM Punk. It being a job, there’s not much analysis to go into the match. The main point was to continue the story of Punk as the disciplined leader of the Straight-Edge Society, which was successful after he made JTG tap to the Anaconda Vice (a move it was nice to see return).

What I think came next was ‘The Jack Swagger Sr Invitational’ segment. I like the idea of an MVP-Swagger feud, but this seemed a bit far removed from a hot feud, and now that Swagger won the competition, I don’t know how much it can hot up with Swagger hosting the VIP lounge, but we’ll wait and see. Nonetheless, I can still see it being helpful to both guys.

After this, Luke Gallows tried to live up to CM Punk’s high expectations of him in a match with the Big Show. This was ok, but not much better than that. I would have liked to have seen Gallows go over with the help of Mercury and Serena (for whom this was the last appearance). That could have set up a match for Joey Mercury next week where the onus was on him intensely, which if he lost, could lead him to being ostracised from the group. That would have added a bit more interest to this storyline, especially seen as Serena’s departure will probably catalyse the end of the group.

The final match of the night saw Alberto Del Rio take on a local competitor. This is the only match with which I didn’t really have a problem with the booking. If they’re setting up a feud with Mysterio, it doesn’t make much sense to book him against another big star. This keeps him looking strong without disturbing a burgeoning big feud with Rey Mysterio. This is the right way to use ‘local competitors’ and squash matches. A highlight of this match was Del Rio staring at his opponent with a condescending grin before pulling off his trademark wink and pusing him off the ropes, almost like a sociopath.

The main event segment didn’t progress much either, but was still fantastic. It was one of the best promo exchanges i’ve ever seen in fact. It was between Kane and the Undertaker, and told their story of brothers battling for dominance of the dark side, and for the favour of Satan, perfectly (hense the slightly awkward Paradise Lost reference). Undertaker came out, and brought with him the aura he demands. Indeed, eventhough he was selling being weak, he came across as on his way back to the top. Then, as in a tug of war, Kane came out and started to outshine his brother – looking hugely powerful in comparison to his passive brother. This went back and forth from Undertaker and finally back to Kane again. Like last week, he got the better of his brother. Again, it was good to see Undertaker not automatically getting the upper hand.  Not much came from the segment, but it was nonetheless very compelling!

NXT (24/08/2010): Kaval is the Strongest Link in NXT’s Penultimate Week

Kaval with his pros, LayCool, after winning the WWE trivia quiz

In the penultimate NXT before the season 2 finale, the rookies started the night out cutting promos on how they felt being in the NXT final. McGillicutty played the babyface, talking about how amazing it was to be seen by so many people on a global stage in the same ring his father fought in, in what was a nice, fluent, but hardly earth-shattering promo. Riley cut right through the sentimental mood and got a tonne of heat for doing it – going so far as pressuming he would win the NXT prize of a title shot and threatening Sheamus that he would be coming for the WWE Championship. This was a strong promo apart from the end where he said that the WWE Champion would ‘be dismissed.’ I realise that’s his catchphrase and part of his gimmick, but the gimmick is stupid – more Mean Street Posse than breakout star. Kaval was up last, and did his duty in thanking the WWE Universe, before calling out Cody Rhodes, the man who attacked him last week as part of a temper tantrum following Husky Harris’s dismissal from the show. Kaval went so far as to challenge the ‘dashing’ pro to a match. In response, Cody was excellent on the mic, pulling out some real gems on his way to rejecting the challenge, selling it as being ‘above’ Kaval. MVP stepped in at this point to defend the rookie, and to challenge Rhodes to a match instead that, MVP being a pro, Rhodes couldn’t justifiably refuse. This was seemingly a way of putting Kaval over as a dominant force, stepping up to the main roster. Whether this is a telling sign of who could win the competition remains to be seen.

Next up was this week’s challenge, a WWE trivia quiz. In theory, this could have been a valuable segment, with the rookies showing a passionate knowledge of their wrestling forefathers, so to speak. Unfortunately, it was a bit too much like a quiz show parody, with cheesy background music and a big buzzer. The questions were mostly good, and did genuinely interact with the history of wrestling (for instance, there was a question about Pat Patterson), but overall, it was a little bit too goofy, and an example of a challenge that could definately have been cut down – maybe five questions (from five eras) with the person getting the most right being declared the winner. Kaval again looked good, winning the challenge and the opportunity to have a wwe.com feature on him for some time during the final voting. Depending on how much of a say the voters have in the fnal decision, this seems to definately be WWE getting behind Kaval as a prospective winner.

When the Cody Rhodes-MVP match got underway, it was at such a point that I expected it to be the first match of two. As it turned out, it was the main event, and one that lasted a good 15-20 minutes! In that sense, it’s one of the best matches that NXT has ever hosted. What was best abot the match was how believable it was. Eventhough it lasted a long time for a televised match, there were a lot of near-falls, all of which seemed completely believeable. Also, there was a nice use of momentum, with MVP starting off the aggressor, before Rhodes turned the tide, before the end of the match where it could have gone either way. Something about the momentum not switching that often added another sense of realism to the match. Eventually it was Cody Rhodes that went over. I have no problem with this as it seems they’re trying to make him, along with Drew McIntyre, a dominant force on Smackdown. As for MVP, he certainly didn’t look weak, and will be no doubt looking good against Jack Swagger in the coming weeks. Just that sort of TV time is good for both stars.

My only problem with the booking was that, again, as has hapenned previously in this season, it was the pros that took prominance in the main event. I realise they’ll be saving a triple-threat match for next week’s finale, but it would have been nice to have seen some sort of tag match. I also realise that Miz wasn’t at the taping, rendering it hard to book such a thing, but I still think a Kaval & McGillicutty (seen as he was playing a face) against Riley & a returning Husky Harris. I don’t think there would be anything wrong with putting Husky in a match after last week’s brawl. It would have meant less time for the MVP-Rhodes match, but that’s a price worth paying for the benefit of the ‘rookies.’ Plus the fact that the MVP-Rhodes match would have still been very good if 5-7 minutes were taken from it.

Next week is the the final of this season of NXT, so with that in mind i’m going to again rank the rookies, and predict who will win:

1) Kaval
2) Michael McGillicutty
3) Alex Riley

As for who will win, I think it’s between Kaval and Alex Riley. I think McGillicutty can be ruled out. He hasn’t had the same prominance as the other two (which continued this week, with the shortest promo time) and isn’t as over as the others. My instinct says that Kaval will and should win, but there is the consideration of the Miz to be considered. If Riley doesn’t win, it could possibly reflect poorly on the Miz, who will also probably be dropping the US title at Night of Champions. These things could act as a bit of a stumbling-block on his meteoric rise to the top. Plus, i’m sure Kaval is at a point now where he could get over without being the NXT winner. Saying that, a bit of adversity may be desirable for Miz. It’s difficult to choose between them, but overall, given the amount of exposure he’s gotten lately, i’m going to plump for Kaval.