WWE Raw Rundown LIVE – 8/19/2013

Refresh this page throughout the show for LIVE ongoing coverage and analysis!

Less than 24 hours after an incredible SummerSlam event, tonight’s RAW looks like a loaded show.  We expect Triple H to explain his surprise turn, and fallout from “The Best vs. The Beast.”  And who knows, maybe Ryback will find somebody else to bully backstage? [Read more...]

WWE SummerSlam 2013 Reaction and Review

Make sure to check out the SummerSlam 2013 Rundown for complete coverage of everything that happened on last night’s Pay-Per-View.  Also, listen to Brian and Steve discuss what they think on the latest Between the Ropes Podcast. [Read more...]

WWE SummerSlam 2013 Rundown – LIVE

WWE Returns to Pay-Per-View with it’s second biggest show of the year, SummerSlam.  The card is loaded with two World Title fights, and “The Best vs. The Beast.”  Be sure to refresh this page throughout the night for LIVE ongoing results and analysis. [Read more...]

WWE Raw Rundown LIVE – 8/12/2013

The show kicked off live from Sacramento, CA, with Daniel Bryan’s entrance to the ring.  Final hype for SummerSlam should be the story of the night… [Read more...]

The Art of Promotion in Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena

Bryan Maddox Cena contract signingThere’s no doubt the WWE Universe is excited to see Bryan challenge Cena for the title at SummerSlam. But it wasn’t until this past Monday on RAW that we finally got a framework for their confrontation. If Punk vs. Lesnar is “The Best vs The Beast,” then Bryan against Cena has become “The Wrestler vs. The Entertainer.” [Read more...]

‘WWE Monday Night Raw’ Reaction and Review – July 29th, 2013

For complete coverage of everything that happened on Monday Night Raw, be sure to check out last night’s WWE Raw Rundown.

daniel bryan 2Internet fans finally got what they wanted, with Daniel Bryan confronting Vince McMahon to kick-off the show. Smart decision by creative here. With Vince openly confronting Bryan about his chances to win, viewers have an even bigger reason to pull for Daniel Bryan. This segment sold Bryan both as a legitimate title contender, and as a main-event superstar. And while I thought the “anti-Cena” rherotic was a bit weird coming from the boss, it leaves me curious about where this storyline is heading. My prediction? An Orton-McMahon alliance is in the wings.

Ryback didn’t look nearly as impressive as Bryan, though. His match with Cena was fun. The problem is, he’s lost countless times now, and his character seems utterly directionless. Is he still a main-event guy? Is his heel personal even relevant anymore? Seeing him put a random backstage citizen through a table just felt forced, and inspired nothing in me but a strong desire to change the channel.

Mark Henry and The Usos lost their match against The Shield, but they ended up as the last group standing… again. I feel like they’ve gotten their “babyface revenge” at this point.

CM Punk, however, still hasn’t gotten his hands on Paul Heyman. These two didn’t cut a promo against each other last night, and they honestly didn’t need to. What’s needed to be said has already been said. Heyman sneaking away by any means necessary only makes the fans hate him more, and things should pick up considerably once Lesnar returns. This was filler, but that doesn’t make it bad by default.

Also falling into the “more of the same” category was the Wyatt Family’s attack on Kane. It was a necessary evil, having to re-introduce Kane to these guys after a few weeks off, and vice-versa. I’m looking for WWE to bring something fresh to the table in the coming weeks.

Christian’s winning streak continues to be one of my favorite things on WWE television right now. He’s already defeated a few low-to-mid profile acts, but cemented his return with a strong victory over Alberto Del Rio in a very competitive match. These two had great chemistry on Raw, and I’m hoping they end up locking horns at SummerSlam. It’s nice to see Christian finally treated as the true veteran he is.

Overall show wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. I like a little more intrigue from my WWE TV (and a little less “Total Divas” filler). And while the show tried to live by its strong in-ring action, it died by the number of non-finishes throughout the night. It was a paint-by-numbers kind of evening.

What did you think of last night’s show?  Sound off in the comments below, or let me know on Twitter @therealwiseman. Also, be sure to follow @BetweenTheRopes while you’re at it!

WWE Raw Rundown – July 15th, 2013

rawIncredible edition of Monday Night Raw that delivered with surprises, entertainment, and excitement. The three-hour show was booked to the fullest. Let’s take a closer look: [Read more...]

WWE Money in the Bank 2013 – Reaction and Review

Last night’s highly anticipated “Money in the Bank” Pay-Per-View brought us a loaded card with numerous surprises, and the much-hyped return of Rob Van Dam. But did it deliver? Read on to find out. [Read more...]

WWE Raw Rundown – June 24th, 2013

rawRaw got off to a great start, but seemed to stall about halfway through. Luckily, a strong main event, plus a couple of big announcements, helped prevent the entire show from being a bust. Let’s take a look. [Read more...]

Mark Henry Should Be the Next WWE Champion

henrycenaExciting surprises are synonymous with televised professional wrestling. Throughout the rich history of a company like WWE, there have been countless events that people still talk about today. Remember the time Eric Bischoff showed up as the GM of Raw? What about the evening Stone Cold Steve Austin drove a beer truck down to ringside and doused The Corporation? And we’re almost to the two-year anniversary of CM Punk’s career-defining “pipe bomb promo.” [Read more...]

WWE Raw Rundown – June 18th, 2013

rawWhile in-ring action wasn’t the top priority for Raw this week, the number of great surprises and unexpected returns worked together to create a noteworthy show. Payback’s momentum carried over here in a good way. [Read more...]

WWE No Longer Needs the World Heavyweight Championship

dolph-zigglerNormally, a World Champion being out of action for five weeks would seem like a big deal. In his absence, a wrestling company would still find ways to highlight him. It would show vignettes on his return, interview him from his home, or even put him in the ring and let him cut a few promos. If he ran the risk of missing one or two Pay-Per-Views due to the injury, he might even be stripped of his title
(anybody remember the classic “a champion must defend his title once every 30 days” rule?).

Instead, the WWE just ignored it.

Dolph Ziggler was out for over five weeks due to a concussion, and the company just moved on as though he didn’t exist. They barely mentioned him on television, rarely checked in with him during the recovery process, and never spotlighted what his absence, along with the World Heavyweight Championship, meant to the company. For those five weeks, WWE existed without two top champions.

And guess what… it survived. Not only that, but Smackdown (former home of the World Heavyweight Champion) seemed to actually thrive. By putting together a string of shows focusing more on other championships, like the United States and Tag Team titles, the show was the most enjoyable it’s been in months.

Let’s take a step back for a moment. The World Heavyweight Championship was originally introduced for Raw just a few months after the start of the brand extension. It only made sense that a top guy existed on each show to headline house shows and serve as the “face” of that brand. Eventually, when both Smackdown and Raw started hosting their own Pay-Per-Views, each World Champion was given his own headlining event.

But things have changed. WWE stopped hosting separate brand-extension Pay-Per-Views in 2007. In late 2011, both shows essentially merged with the ‘SuperShow’ format. And since then, the powers-that-be have come out and said that the brand extension is over because they want the product to flow between all the different platforms.

Unfortunately, nobody seems to care about the disparity between the two World Titles. Did you know that the World Heavyweight Championship hasn’t been contested in a Pay-Per-View main-event match since 2010’s Hell in a Cell? It has, however, opened up a Wrestlemania. Twice. And at last year’s Money in the Bank Pay-Per-View, the World Heavyweight Championship contract match was open to the entire roster, while the WWE Championship was opened only to previous champions. How is that considered equal?

Even CM Punk addressed this on an episode of Raw in September, when he confronted reigning World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus and told him that he was only the “second-best in the world.” And Sheamus didn’t really argue with him, either.

But the idea that WWE would let Dolph Ziggler stay at home for five weeks as the reigning, defending, World Heavyweight Champion, and do nothing to address the situation, completely boggles my mind. When CM Punk “walked out” with the WWE Championship two years ago, the company was ready to crown a completely new champion the next night on Raw. Now, things just hum along like business as usual.

So is Dolph Ziggler considered a second-class champion? Where does that put current United States Champion Dean Ambrose, or Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett?

Unfortunately, the World Heavyweight Championship is now treated like a stepping-stone to the real top title. When WWE thinks you’re ready to break through, they’ll give you the big gold belt. And maybe one day, if you’re lucky (or your name ends in “CENA”), you might get to hold the WWE Championship. Maybe.

If you go back 10 years, this was the exact purpose of the Intercontinental Championship. It highlighted guys on their way up – guys who might not quite be at the top of their game yet, but who had a chance of getting there one day. It was defended more frequently on free TV, and often changed hands, but it was always backed-up with purposeful booking. Now, both it and the United States championship are handed off seemingly at random. They’re just filler championships used to pad the resume of whoever Vince’s flavor-of-the-month is. They have no prestige.

And the World Heavyweight Championship is going down that same path.

So please, WWE, I’m begging you: unify both World Titles. Re-instate the IC Championship for the young, hungry guys, and make the United States Championship whatever it needs to be. Just retire the World Heavyweight Championship while it still has that strong, proud lineage to fall back on.

Championships need to feel exclusive to be important. It’s time to bring that idea back to WWE.

Why Kofi Kingston is the Face of the WWE Problem

kofi kingstonIn late 2009, Kofi Kingston was finally ready for his breakout moment.

His career arc up to that point included all the typical WWE milestones: after signing with the WWE in 2006 he did a stint in developmental before eventually working his way onto the main roster. By late 2008, he had collected a few mid-card titles (including the tag-team championship with CM Punk), and had shown that his athleticism and work-ethic were some of the best in the company. Hardcore and casual fans loved him. Plus, he had paid his dues.

When October of 2009 rolled around, Kingston had been in and out of the main event picture for most of the year. His brief run-ins with Edge and Chris Jericho made him seem like a star, and a lengthy United States title run further decorated his resume. He was only looking for that one rivalry to put him over the top.

Enter Randy Orton.

Orton was fresh off a WWE Championship reign. His heel-tactics had earned him the ire of the entire WWE Universe, and so a victory for the babyface Kingston would establish Kingston’s status as a main event superstar. Their rivalry was fresh and exciting. Unfortunately, that’s as far as it went. Kofi Kingston got his victory over Randy Orton, but it was a flukey win stuck in the middle of three Orton-dominated matches. Then Kingston went on to spend 2010 in mid-card hell. Despite a few highlight-worthy moments since, and a handful of great matches, his career has never truly recovered.

So what’s the real issue here?  It seems WWE struggles with handling a sustainable build, and often fails to follow-through. Kingston undoubtedly has all the tools of a superstar, but he’s never been spotlighted long enough to create the buzz that follows other main event players. His rivalry with Orton should have been the launching pad to bigger and greater things. Instead, it was the high point of a single storyline. They had nothing serious planned for him once he lost to Orton.

Kingston’s not alone here. CM Punk captured the World Heavyweight Championship TWICE, and still had a hard time getting traction. In fact, he didn’t cement his place atop the roster until after his infamous ‘Pipe Bomb Promo’ and the ensuing rivalry with John Cena. That was when WWE Creative finally gave CM Punk both an angle he could sink his teeth into, and a storyline that kept him in the spotlight.

Fans often complain that if a young gun could just get that one victory, or grab a World Championship that one time, they’d be set. I argue that it’s less about the championship itself, or even the victory, and more about what takes place after.

Remember Zack Ryder? He got his shining moment, winning the United States Championship and celebrating with Punk and Bryan the next night on ‘Raw.’ Now he’s the jobber to the stars. What about Jack Swagger? He climbed the proverbial ladder and is billed as a “former World-Heavyweight Champion.” Today, his career can’t seem to find anything that clicks. Cody Rhodes defeated Rey Mysterio at Wrestlemania over two years ago, and he’s rarely even featured on PPV pre-shows anymore. The examples go on and on.

I’m not arguing all of these guys could, or even should, be headlining pay-per-views. But I think they’re all shining examples of WWE’s short-sightedness. Creative puts a wrestler out there, gives him some momentum, then tucks tail and runs because they can’t immediately sell merchandise like John Cena or Randy Orton. News flash, WWE: Those guys took years of build to become as popular as they are today. And unfortunately, giving a superstar a small push then immediately pulling them from TV for weeks does more to harm a superstar than help them.

As a fan, I want time to invest in a superstar, so I can genuinely care. Give me feuds that build to bigger and better things, and let me see an actual progression of character. I want surprise wins and heartbreaking losses. Take The Miz, for example. He was never supposed to be a WWE main-eventer, or even a real threat for TV time. However, when he split from John Morrison, the WWE writing team laid the groundwork for his rise to success. They spotlighted him on WWE television, gave him mid-card wins, and let his stock rise for a year. Then, in late 2010, he cashed in the Money in the Bank contract for his first WWE Championship reign.

Miz Money in the BankBut notice how things didn’t just stop there. In the subsequent months, they continued to put him in meaningful rivalries, eventually culminating in a Wrestlemania match against John Cena. After he reached the top, they let him stay. It was over a year later before they finally changed The Miz into a face, and it was at a time his popularity was starting to wane. It actually felt like a great refresh.

I think the WWE had the right concept with Ryback. They wanted him to be a beast, and so they let him decimate anybody on the roster. While his feud with CM Punk last year felt premature, it also felt plausible, if only because he looked like the kind of guy that could beat anybody in the company. Fans even started chanting along with him. But then, less than four months later, WWE changed its mind and decided to make Ryback a heel. A guy that was finally starting to get over in popularity was changed to an entirely different character. And, subsequently, his current feud with John Cena feels bland.

WWE is losing viewers on a weekly basis, and people are less interested in the product than ever. When former stars like The Rock or Brock Lesnar have to show up and sell your pay-per-views, something isn’t right with the way you’re handling talent.

Kofi Kingston might never become a world champion, and Zack Ryder might never main-event again. Those are things I’ve learned to accept. But something I can’t accept is a mediocre, warmed-over product, when the WWE has all the right pieces to be so much more.

WWE Raw Rundown – June 3rd, 2013

rawWWE had its hands full with NBA competition last night.  Unfortunately, it failed to rise to the occasion. Read on for my thoughts on last night’s Raw.

[Read more...]