Catapulted to the Glass Ceiling: The Bottle-Neck of New Stars in WWE (+ Some a Preview of Payback 2013)

The Wyatt Family - causing a stir and set to be the newest stars of WWE, photo credit to WWE

The Wyatt Family – causing a stir and set to be the newest stars of WWE, photo credit to WWE

WWE is increasingly finding it in a seasonal cycle. Precisely, a cycle of two seasons: WrestleMania Season, and Transition Season. WreslteMania Season is the period from (roughly) the TLC Pay-per-view until (roughly) the RAW after WrestleMania and is characterised by big-drawing part time stars and WWE’s toppermost talent being booked in dream matches, with only rare and fleeting appearances by full-time lower level talent and ‘divas’ who enjoy much less meaningful spotlight and feature time on WWE TV. This is a sea change from only recent years (up until WrestleMania 26 perhaps) when WrestleMania was traditionally a showcase for every active WWE talent to get a spotlight and a pay-day, even if it was just a spot in the preshow battle royal. WrestleMania 27 saw the return of The Rock to the WWE and the onset of part-time stars returning for WrestleMania builds and matches. During this time it becomes incredibly hard for non-established wrestlers to get any significant TV time to get over as top stars themselves. A recent exception to this has been The Shield who became firmly one of the most exciting, compelling and spotlighted acts on WWE TV in the build-up to WrestleMania 29, and even with that they were still only featured on an undercard match (though still a significant high-point of the show). This has led observers to criticise this new era of WrestleMania build for a short-sightedness regarding their year-round product and the state of their card after WrestleMania when the part-time stars are gone and they are left with spots to fill and only talent they haven’t deemed important enough for major spotlighting for 4 months previously (and so who the audience equally don’t deem important).

So after the post-WrestleMania RAW, with the part-time stars gone, WWE enters its Transition Season where they need to fill the vacated spots and – without the pressure of WrestleMania business – start to experiment with new stars and pushing stars to try and make more stars for the top of the card.

This roundabout summary of the WWE calendar is a way to set the scene for the topic of this article – the way fresh talent is pushed in WWE; and more specifically, how the way WWE cycles work is impinging on the potential of debuting new stars. In the past, around the time when – simultaneously – Brodus Clay, Ryback, and Lord Tensai debuted as unbeatable monsters (though of differing character), I had considered writing an article about how all these features basically guaranteed the failure of at least one of these unstoppable ‘big guys’ because they all had similar acts. I didn’t write that article but both Brodus Clay and Lord Tensai did indeed fall in to insignificance, together, as Tons of Funk. This article is about a similar danger. On top of Fandango, who only debuted towards the end of WrestleMania Season, WWE has introduced Curtis Axel and are set to introduce Bray Wyatt and his family in the coming weeks; and though they aren’t all similar acts, they all share the characteristic of being shot to prominent positions instantly upon their debut (Wyatt hasn’t debuted yet, but I think it’s clear that he’s only going somewhere prominent fast).

But because only this transitionary period from after WrestleMania until around Survivor Series is a time when WWE will put significant effort in to making and pushing new stars, these prospects find themselves trying to justify a top spot, and the creative team trying to write them in to top spots simultaneously, and when there simply aren’t enough top spots for them all. I think when you consider the push that Fandango got and the shine he got from being flavour of the month, that took him to a WrestleMania moment and a big victory over Chris Jericho, but when Curtis Axel debuted a few weeks later, he took the flavour of the month shine from Fandango before Fandango had really gotten over as a top star; and within weeks, Fandango seemed like an afterthought from the top of the card, stuck as he was in a triple threat with The Miz and Wade Barrett. Axel has replaced him in this feud, but that is more of a hotshot to make up for Fandango’s injury and is a match Axel will almost certainly win, giving him the title his father was one of the most celebrated champions of, and propel him further. Though Axel’s build has been based on somewhat sullied victories over top stars, he has been positioned among them, and certainly has the ‘new star glow’ that Fandango was enjoying before him. It will be interesting to see then what will happen to Axel and Fandango when Bray Wyatt and his Family debut (maybe even as soon as the next RAW). Wyatt has been the most hotly anticipated debutant in years having set imaginations alight with his genuinely scary, creepy, yet infinitely watchable preacher/cult leader character, and equally fascinating vignette’s introducing him. When he, his two Family members and his rocking chair finally debut on RAW, it isn’t difficult to imagine him being one of the brightest spots on the show, as well as the inheritor of that ‘new star glow’; and like Fandango before him, there is a risk that Axel could lose the rub that being the hot new star provides before he and WWE have capitalised enough to make him a top guy. This isn’t to criticise Fandango or Axel, who still very well may have bright futures ahead of them, it is simply to say that the frequent rate of debuts at this time of year, mixed with the simultaneous pushes of new stars handicaps their chances of success whereas if debuts were spaced out affording each new star the opportunity to grow in that valuable period where they are the freshest act on the show. Imagine if ‘another big thing’ debuted after Brock Lesnar – in retrospect, Lesnar would probably have made it anyway, but it would certainly have taken some shine away from him.

This isn’t the only problem though. As new debutants join the card, they join existing talent supposedly destined for success while much fewer leave or are fired. So while Fandango, Axel, and Wyatt have arrived to an opportunity to make themselves, their spot comes at the cost of another star deserving of a shot at the top. The two foremost examples of this in my mind are both members of Team Rhodes Scholars, Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow, but also Sin Cara, who had a chance to capture the erstwhile WWE Universe’s interest before being overshadowed by others. Perhaps this is an intentional state of competition, bred to encourage performers to stand out, as Daniel Bryan has recently, above the rest of the roster. Bryan undoubtedly deserves, and will get, a push thanks to the overwhelming, infectious reaction he has been receiving of late, but that kind of reaction is a rare gem, and just because one stands out, doesn’t mean than those that can’t match up aren’t deserving of an opportunity. Considering the current crop of new stars, to my mind, no act will be able to live up to that of Bray Wyatt and the family, and given the fact that all three can’t long be sustained with simultaneous winning streaks, one or both of Axel and Fandango may have to slip in estimation and could slip in to irrelevance like Tensai and Brodus Clay before them. Though this fits the ‘survival of the fittest’ model, both Fandango and Axel have interesting acts that deserve attention, and could be successful if nourished correctly, or ideally, at different times. If they fail, but are lucky, they might be able to keep a spot for further down the line where their talent could shine through and they get another shot (though that’s more unlikely with is a gimmicky act like Fandango’s). This is where Rhodes and Sandow are – incredibly talented but overshadowed by a cycle of new acts coming and being given the spotlight; and while they are occasionally given prominent matches it seems right now that they might have to wait – possibly forever – for their next opportunity where they are given a push and attention.

This is what I mean by talent being ‘Catapulted to the Glass Ceiling’. WWE has enough faith in these talents to push them hard to the top, but usually not to the point where they win or even compete for top titles straight away, and especially with competition, they are almost doomed to failure to meet their expectations apart from the most notable of exceptions. To make things worse for the current up-and-comers, a bonafide top star in CM Punk is set to return to the WWE this Sunday at Payback, taking a top spot right away and creating even more competition for spots at the top and below as potential top stars are displaced. And so without further ado, some WWE Payback thoughts …

WWE Payback, 16/06/13, from the Allstate Arena, Chicago, IL, photo credit WWE

WWE Payback, 16/06/13, from the Allstate Arena, Chicago, IL, photo credit WWE

This wont be quite in the detail of the PPV previews from what i’ll go ahead and call the ‘RTV Era’ but you will get predictions in match order:

Match 1) World Heavyweight Championship Match: Dolph Ziggler (c) def. Alberto Del Rio
A sleeper match because Dolph has been away and the build has had nothing to do with him – a mistake seen as he could have been a visible presence on TV at least. These two could have a very good match together though to kick the show off hot, but Ziggler is champ to stay for a while.

Match 2) United States Championship Match: Dean Ambrose (c) def. Kane
Difficult o place it so early, but despite Ambrose’s talent and Kane’s veteran abilities, this will probably be the least intriguing match of all. After the strange decision to hand The Shield their first six-man loss ever on Smackdown, and seen as Ambrose has only been champion for a month, I don’t see him dropping the title because that would seriously damage one of the hottest acts on WWE TV.

Match 3) WWE Tag Team Championship Match: Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns (c) def. Daniel Bryan & Randy Orton
I feel we’ll get the ol’ Shield one-two here. Daniel Bryan is now the hottest act in wrestling, and the reaction in Chicago may well even match Punk’s, but saying that, I don’t think that leads to another tag title. I haven’t read any spoilers but an Orton heel turn seems possible – turning on Bryan maybe due to him stealing the show? At the very least they wont be able to stay on the same page against the ‘Hounds of Justice’, who will retain for the same reason Ambrose will.

Match 4) Divas Championship Match: AJ Lee def. Kaitlyn (c)
The Kaitlyn and AJ saga is one that has lasted, organically, for years. That makes it a welcome relief in the Divas division – an actual storyline that isn’t based on one simply calling the other a bitch. It’s telling that i’m eating it up and hoping Kaitlyn kicks the bejesus out of AJ for her treatment, but in my head the better story is AJ beating the emotionally broken Kaitlyn, holding a title alongside Dolph, and then having Kaitlyn, with the crowd right behind her, chase the title.

Match 5) Intercontinental Championship Match: Curtis Axel def. Wade Barrett (c) and he Miz
This was a terrible build made instantly more interesting by the introduction of current ‘hot new act’, Curtis Axel. In short, Axel can’t lose and i’ll be absolutely flabbergasted if he does. This is his first PPV match and that is a crucial spotlight and even if he didn’t take the fall, it would damage his shine. On father’s day, Axel will win the title his late father was one of the greatest champions of.

Match 6) CM Punk def. Chris Jericho
This is the most intriguing match of the night, and only not the main event because a Cena match with that stipulation is almost main event by default. When this match was made, it came without warning out of left field as what otherwise seemed a throwaway segment on Jericho’s Highlight Reel, and for that reason I then didn’t believe for a second that we’d get that match, and i’m still not sure if we’ll get a straight-up match between the two, but the degree to which they’ve advertised the match makes me think Punk will certainly appear and may well wrestle. What actually happens is up in the air though – it really smells like some sort of twist will have to happen. I don’t think Jericho turns because he wont be around to follow up on it soon as he goes on tour, but think Punk turning on Heyman for exploiting his name and turning face is possible, and that doesn’t rule out a match. Now Axel is in a match, I don’t see him replacing Punk, so I don’t know what would happen is Punk shows but doesn’t wrestle, but if Punk wrestles, he probably goes over (with the outside guess that if Punk turns on Heyman before the match, Axel comes out and costs Punk the match).

Match 7) WWE Championship Match: Three Stages of Hell – John Cena (c) def. Ryback
I think Cena retains here as you’d expect him to retain more than once. I think because he is losing on PPV AGAIN he will win the first fall clean somehow, gives him a rub of a clean pinfall against Cena and gives Cena the mountain to climb, but then Cena wins the next two falls to retain. It also gives Ryback a reason to demand another title match next PPV. Though Bryan/Cena is rumoured, it doesn’t quite make sense to me. I don’t see Bryan going heel seen as he is SO over, and though there is a possibility of a Cena-Bryan respect feud it seems a little off to me on face value. I would finally give Ryback the title at the next PPV and have the much smaller but hotter Bryan chase, and eventually win, the title from the monster.

Hell in a Cell Review, 2010: Hell Freezes Over probably put it best ...

I think most people wary of a poor PPV with only a limited build-up will be pleasantly surprised today, as for the second time in a row, WWE produced an excellent, surprising PPV. A picture of the biggest surprises can be seen in the picture heading this post, and though it’s tempting to go right on and talk about those, i’ll discuss this PPV ‘as it happened’.

Daniel Bryan def. The Miz and John Morrison to Retain the United States Championship
This is only the second time this stipulation (Submissions Count Anywhere) has been enforced, but I am now convinced that the stipulation is fantastic! It is hugely important for a match with a stipulation to tell a story that incorporates it (I may talk about this more later in the review), and this match certainly did so. In a falls or submissions count anywhere match, you want the fall to occur outside of the ring, and indeed, this match was probably only inside for the first few minutes. All three worked really well with their surroundings, with Miz even at one time hooking Morrison in a Dragon Sleeper using a guard-rail for leverage. Everything was used, guard-rails, production chests, the set, and every competitor looked great. Bryan, as you might expect, really shone hear, deploying submissions of all sorts from his regular LaBelle Lock to the Cattle Mutilator. For Miz and Morrison though, this is uncommon ground, but nonetheless, they took to it, with Miz, as I already mentioned, using a Dragon Sleeper among other things and Morrison using a Texas Cloverleaf (a move I think he should incorporate permanently), and consequently, every guy looked like accomplished wrestlers. That is the real joy of this stipulation; apart from innovation, it provides some great grappling. No one thought it would be Miz that would tap out, and indeed, I was surprised when he did as I too thought there was a risk of him looking weak, but then I realised the beauty of it! Not only now can Miz have no claim whatsoever to fighting Bryan or fighting for the US title, and can finally concentrate on his MITB opportunity; but now Bryan has a good feud to transition into; remember, Bryan helped after Alex Riley stopped Morrison winning with the Texas Cloverleaf. No doubt Morrison will have a problem with that! No doubt either that he will be the next challenger from RAW for the US title.

Randy Orton def. Sheamus to Retain the WWE Championship
In some ways, for me, this was a pleasant surprise. While a HIAC match will always produce at least a decent match, I expected nothing more from this. As it happened, I believe that at least in terms of an isolated match, this was the superior Cell match on the night. It took a few minutes to really get some momentum going and to start exploring the hostile environment of the cell, but when it did, it really worked! The real pivot was Orton’s extraordinary scoop-slam, driving Sheamus in to the steel steps – not only a feat of timing, but of aggression and physicality on both parts. From there we saw a real interaction with the cell: face-scraping, bodies slamming and sheer brutality. If WWE wants to show it’s detractors that PG wrestling can still be brutal and aggressive, they should show this match. Both men were made to look excellent here, with a lot of great near-falls. Indeed, it seemed at certain points that Sheamus might do the unthinkable and reclaim his title just two weeks after losing it! In the end it took the pretty extreme move of an RKO on the stairs to put the Celtic Warrior away, and Orton to retain the title. Sheamus will most likely float around until HHH returns. Looking at the RAW roster, it’s difficult to work out who will be Orton’s next challenger. For me though, there is a front-runner: Wade Barrett, who, now that Cena is ‘Nexus’, has no particular nemesis, may use his recent success to reason that he deserves a WWE Championship shot. We shall see.

Edge def. Jack Swagger
While I thought Edge could possibly show up at the PPV, I didn’t expect to this match at all. The affair began when Alberto Del Rio decided he deserved some PPV air-time and started complimenting himself on his recent achievements and wondering just who would be next for him … It seemed Edge wanted to provide the answer as part of his crusade to rid the WWE of stupidity. That is fine. Edge has the sense of humour to pull it off, though I did think he took too dogmatic a view in his definition of stupidity at times. Before anything could happen between those two, Swagger made his way to the ring, still stinging after Edge made him the first victim of his crusade on Smackdown. This was all starting to feel like filler, but at this point, Edge was cornered by Del Rio and Swagger before Del Rio decided he had had enough and left and the anonymous GM sanctioned a match between Swagger and Edge. The match itself was ok. It picked up a lot towards the end, with lots of reversals (as you might expect from the grappler, Swagger and the veteran Edge) and good chemistry. It is a testement to these guys skill that an uninspiring match which the fans weren’t behind at the start eventually elicited interest and emotion from the WWE Universe. Eventually Edge got the better of Swagger and Speared him for the win. At that point I though ‘well, what was the point of that? They’re on different brands, it’s meaningless.’ But I have since ‘learned’ from the dirtsheets that there may be plans for a full-blown Swagger-Edge feud. That would give the match more meaning, and so I would support it, but it also points to a trend that, now Smackdown is on an NBC network, there will be lots more cross-promotion between the brands, allowing for this sort of feud. I may talk about this more in my now inevitable brand-merging post, but for now i’ll say that though the Del Rio angle was probably just filler, and this match had (obviously) the least build-up and therefore emotional draw for the audience, they did a decent job – enough to make me interested in a feud which would be great especially for Jack Swagger.

Wade Barrett def. John Cena
Yes. Maybe just knowing the result is remarkable enough. Eventhough I was well aware of the importance of this match beforehand, I can’t recall the last time I had such butterflys and goosebumps while watching a wrestling match and a storyline unfold. This a symptom of my being beyond childhood and having more an adult reverence for the spectacle and the performers, y’know, as opposed to thinking it’s real. But here, as at Taker-HBK at WM 26 or, as a pre-teen, the final match of the 2001 Invasion storyline, my heart was in my mouth the whole way through. This says a lot for this storyline which, only two weeks ago I thought had never been more interesting than it’s first night, but has now gripped me entirely. The atmosphere was electric and this lended itself to a well-wrestled match, which Barrett and Cena produced. I loved that the WWE locker-room came to dispatch Nexus. That instantly added to the idea of camaraderie that is important for this sort of storyline, and was probably missing before two weeks ago. This storyline lives on Nexus being perceived as a legitimate threat to what the fans hold dear, and if their ‘bigger plans’ were to recruit Cena and ‘demoralise the WWE’ than I totally buy-in to it (before now, many people included me thought that the ‘bigger plans’ thing had been forgotten). Every pinfall was therefore nerve-racking, and I, praying for a Barrett win, was convinced Cena would do it again, especially when he hooked in his STF.  But then we had the crucially non-Nexus interference, which I thought was actually a fan interference, so good job there. To me the second guy who clocked Cena looked a bit like Husky Harris. Now, if it were other ex-NXT guys and Nexus incorporates some of them, then this storyline will get even hotter as Nexus grows evermore. That remains to be seen. When Cena was pinned I was almost breathless, as were most in the audience (I understand lots of kids started crying and some parents had to take them home at this point). For this reason, this match is a Match of the Year candidate. The wrestling, although very good itself, was probably not as good as in, say, the first match, but as a story and a spectacle, it stole the show and will undoubtedly be a legitimate classic moment forever. Michael Cole did the best announcing job i’ve heard him do too. J.R. has always said announcers should be emotional at the table, and Cole certainly went nuts in a ‘not this way’ fashion. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to Cena, how Nexus will utilise him, and whether he’ll be a willing heel or an uneasy task-master. Of course it will be much more interesting if he turns heel. Indeed, hell would have seemingly frozen over …

Natalya def. Michelle McCool via DQ
After all that, it would be difficult for anyone to follow and rightly (though i’d rarely say that) this match was a short one without much shock. That is not to detract from this match however, Michelle and especially Nattie are extremely skilled and put on a pretty good match despite the time constraints. This one was really submission-based and with either woman’s submission move being so compatible, there was some really good grappling – speaking mainly of Natalya locking in the Sharpshooter only for Michelle to turn her over seamlessly into her Heel Hook and back again. With the Sharpshooter apparently locked in, Layla took it upon herself to throw her shoes at Natalya and earn a DQ for Michelle. A DQ was probably a good call, then, for another reason, i.e. that Natalya will probably get a re-match which will allow for further heat to build between the two sides and make for a good title match, probably with Layla, the shoe-throwing culprit being the one to defend the title next. Nattie has shown she has the skills and I hope she does stay in the title picture.

Kane def. The Undertaker to Retain the World Heavyweight Championship
Well, i’d actually venture that this was the most unpredictable result of the night! It is important to not that this was a very different kind of Cell match to the first, and the participants very different in both. My reaction to the match as a Hell in a Cell match was that it was pretty good, but nothing particularly special. It was violent enough, and the wrestling was certainly very good, but the match was much more driven by the storyline than by an interaction with the Cell. When the match started out outside of the cell (and indeed when the door was later opened), I hoped for more action outside of the cell, if not on top of it. This however was limited, and though it was violent, it never really seemed like ‘hell’. However, alongside the Nexus, this has been one of the most engrossing storylines of the year and for a very long time. I remember thinking ‘I sure am glad it didn’t turn out to be Rey Mysterio that attacked the Undertaker, because then we’d have none of this!’ and I stick to that, as this match certainly had an atmosphere that only the Brothers of  Destruction could provide. As the match goes, it was solid throughout and grew towards the end with near-falls only believable because it was Kane or the Undertaker kicking out. The two mirrored each other in an eerie but brilliant way, and after Chokeslams and Last Rides and even a Tombstone Piledriver, neither brother was willing to be defeated. Enter Paul Bearer, who initially seemed to be in Kane’s firing line, shuffling away with that intentionally grotesque gait of his. But as Undertaker went to take advantage with a Tombstone Piledriver of his own, Bearer used the power of the urn to elicit a light to startle the Deadman, before handing the urn, with all it’s power, to Kane, with which he clocked his brother and Chokelammed him for the win. Despite what anyone might say, a heel-turn at this point was (literally) unpredictable, and again, the Dallas crowd was stunned quiet. Again this feud progresses in a surprising and entrancing way, and it is hard to see how the Undertaker will recover from this. I still, however, see a rubber match being booked (if not for the inter-promotional Bragging Rights PPV, for the seminal and seemingly apt, Survivor Series, where we’ll see, I hope, who will survive a Buried Alive match – though prolonging the feud at it’s current state for near two months may be tricky and quite hurtful to the storyline).

Thank You Shawn! (A Post Not Just About HBK or Wrestlemania …)

Mr. Wrestlemania Makes History at Wrestlemania X

One of the main reasons I started this blog  was the emotion I felt both after HBK’s sublime match with the Undertaker at this year’s Wrestlemania and during his ‘Farewell Address’ on RAW the following night. It seems only right that the first post of this blog is dedicated to him.

I’m writing this six days after the best Wrestlemania in years (dare I say, the best ever?), so I wont really be talking about that. All I will say is that, though i’m unsure as to whether such a thing as a ‘perfect match’ can take place, HBK vs Undertaker at Wrestlemania 26 was damn close to a perfect match! It was probably the best match i’ve ever witnessed, in terms of storytelling, emotion, excitement, technicality and imagery. The ending was perfect, seeing Shawn Michaels, the most controversial character ever, a man who would do whatever it took to break his opponent’s heart, taunting the Undertaker in the face of defeat when ‘Taker compassionately told him to “stay down.” To paraphrase Paul Gambaccini, this match was ‘the best of Shawn Michaels, and Shawn Michaels is the best there was.’

I was reassured by Shawn saying he was going to honour the stipulation of his match. This comment was of greater prominance given that parallel to RAW was iMPACT! featuring Ric Flair, the man who retired (in circumstances similar to HBK after a match with the Showstopper on the same stage two years earlier). I know Shawn has reluctantly given Ric’s return to the ring his blessing, and I wish I could share his compassion.

But I can’t, quite. I know he’s had money issues, but I struggle to see how the Nature Boy couldn’t get paid outside of the ring. Even if he took on a ‘managerial’ role, or a scouting role, or whatever – which I have no doubt he’d be able to get – it would be acceptable. But he hasn’t, he’s lacing up the boots again, and in doing so, he’s effectively spitting in the face of WWE, he’s spitting in the face of Shawn Michaels, but worst of all, he’s spitting in the faces of  those that loved and made him, the fans. I shed tears for Flair when he took his supposedly final curtain call and was given the fantastic retirement he deserved. I, like millions of others around the world, thanked him for the spectacles he’d given us, and he’s thrown it back in our faces. I know Shawn wont do the same.

Speaking of TNA, I watched the end of this week’s episode to see how its doing. I hear it only got a .6ish rating, and that seems a fair reflection. I tuned in to see ‘Mr. Anderson’ cutting an dragging, insignificant promo against Kurt Angle that was met by silence and even indignation from the crowd. Not only that, but it was just stupid and overblown. A ladder match to get a key to a cage in a future match? So what? I’ve never seen opening the door be a big obstacle in a cage match. It just goes to show that he’ll never be able to cut it at the top.

The iMPACT! main event was equally disappointing. Lasting five minutes or so, the vast majority of the match was a boring, sloppy and not very interesting. Half of 6 Pac’s match was botching locking the cage and with dinosaurs like Nash and Hall in there, the match wasn’t going anywhere. Not even RVD (surely the company’s next best hope after Angle) looked good. The end of the match, an (admittedly risk-taking) spotfest drew chants of TNA! TNA! But why?  Dare-devilish spots  don’t maketh good wrestling. It’s simplistic and gets uninteresting very quickly.  It also goes to show the reason behind TNA’s (modest) success. Its status as an alternative has meant that anything remotely impressive will have it’s fans in raptures, even if it’s surrounded by horrible content. This came the day after the Money in the Bank ladder match at Wrestlemania, which saw a great deal of bodily sacrifice by the participants and much more innovation (Shooting star presses from set up ladders, walking on two ladder halves like stilts, etc), all of which deserves raucus WWE! WWE! chants. The fact that these aren’t forthcoming (though the fans certainly showed their appreciation) is due to the fact that this kind of innovation is established in WWE and consistant in it to boot. This is expected by fans of WWE, so when it’s forthcoming, it doesn’t draw the excitement and appreciation of the fans in the same way. Its an understandable shame.

Finally, i’d like to mention the breathless episode of Smackdown this Friday. It looks like a lot of things are getting shaken up in the aftermath of Mania (perhaps to replace the function of Backlash?), not least the fact that Jack Swagger has gone from nearly-man to World Heavyweight Champion, headlining both RAW and Smackdown. This was a shock to all surely, but it goes to show WWE’s continued and accelerated push of younger stars. This is a good thing, and Swagger deserves his main-event status. However, it seems to have all happened a bit too quickly. His near-attempt at cashing in his contract on RAW  suggested there would be unique MITB storyline in which he would hesitate on several occasions cash in, before finally doing it at some point in the future (and therefore, when he had gained a bit of kudos at the main-event level). While his cashing in was certainly a shock (a good thing), I worry that his first reign could be a flop. We’ll have to wait and see.

This first month will be crucial, and especially his first defence. I was convinced (and hoped) that it would be a triple-threat ladder matchat Extreme Rules. This would make perfect sense given Jericho and Edge’s history and affinity with this stipulation, as well as the way Swagger became champion. It looks though, that it’ll be a one-on-one affair (with no defined stipulation as of yet), which I think is a mistake. Not only will a successful defence in a brutal ladder match help his credibility, but it’ll be better for all involved if three are involved. Jericho and Edge can really mentor him through the match, and help maintain a high standard. Not only that, but both Jericho and Edge look less weak if they lose in a match with more competitors and the more the competitors, the better Swagger looks in defence. Its not set in stone yet, but I hope they find a way to make it a triple-threat match. Again, we’l have to wait and see.