Vince McMahon has to tinker with everything. “Pro wrestling” can’t simply be called “pro wrestling.” No, it has to be “sports entertainment” — even if 99.9 percent of the public doesn’t recognize McMahon’s pet term. (I’m sure there’s a part of McMahon that cringes at the thought of his greatest achievement, WrestleMania, has “wrestle” in the title.) Fans can’t just be “fans.” They have to be “members of the WWE Universe.” Likewise, “wrestlers” are “sports entertainers.” Established indie wrestletainers can’t keep the names they’ve built their reputations upon. WWE has to get a piece of the action, and understandably so that the company wants to own the intellectual property. So Kevin Steen, Prince Devitt, KENTA, El Generico and Pac are now Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, Hideo Itami, Sami Zayn and Adrien Neville.
Even Sting, who has nearly three decades of name-brand recognition, has to get a little McMahon sizzle. So Sting — the “Icon,” “the Franchise” of WCW — is now “the vigilante Sting,” via McMahon mandate. That turn of phrase is pretty annoying, but McMahon went a step too far Monday night. He changed Sting’s voice.
“I am Sting,” the voice in the video above says. My first reaction: No. No you’re not. And then I didn’t hear another word because I couldn’t stop thinking that this isn’t Sting talking. But the Wrestling Observer‘s Dave Meltzer reported that the distorted voice was actually Sting’s. McMahon just wanted “Black Scorpion Sting.” Confused? I am too, considering the Black Scorpion — SPOILER ALERT to Vinny Mac — was Ric Flair. Well, and Ole Anderson on interviews teasing that he was the Ultimate Warrior.
Sting vs. Triple H didn’t need any extra pizzaz. Sting could easily have sold this match by himself on the mic. But McMahon cannot trust someone — especially an outsider from WCW who he didn’t create — to get over. Where was Triple H to stop this insanity? It’s Triple H’s match. Why isn’t he protecting it?
McMahon may own the master tapes to Sting’s legacy, but he cannot change that history no matter much he’d like. Well, he can go in and distort Sting’s voice in all of those old Clash of Champions and Monday Nitros. Oh, no. Please don’t.
It’s a shame McMahon cannot keep his ego from stripping away the shred of interest I have in his biggest show of the year.
Undertaker flaunts his mystical powers from … Heaven?
If your suspension of disbelief wasn’t lost to not-Sting’s voice, then here’s a classic, smoke-and-mirrors Undertaker build with a mystical urn, Bray Wyatt’s sacred rocking chair and a lighting strike to center ring. Johnny Cash-loving Undertaker has finally accepted Wyatt’s challenge for WrestleMania. This is another match build that would have been better served by Taker actually showing up in the flesh and accepting or, at least, pointing to the WrestleMania sign.
John Cena turns heel for America
WWE booked itself into a corner by making Rusev have to grant John Cena a rematch. The story makes no sense in the context of Cena’s character. Yes, Cena loves America. But good guy Cena attacking the former “Bulgarian Brute” and locking him in the STF until he passes out? Does that fit Cena’s character? How about grabbing a bottle of water, dousing an unconscious Rusev with it, and locking him in the hold again until Rusev’s girlfriend, Lana, begs him to stop killing her boyfriend? .
At least Cena didn’t cause Rusev to lose the U.S. Title and his undefeated streak to a scrub like Curtis Axel. But Cena vs. Rusev could have been built upon the Russian “super athlete” claiming that Cena can’t beat him, that he’s not afraid of him and he’ll crush him again for the last time at WrestleMania.
Cena could have enlisted “real American” Hulk Hogan as his trainer. It should write itself.
On the other hand, I love that Cena wants to be U.S. Champion. If/when Cena wins the title at WrestleMania,WWE could build the championship into a top prize that’s defended in pay-per-view main events. The top guys should hold the belts, and Cena as U.S. Champion would go a long way to rehabbing the belt. Just listen to the reverence that Cena lends the championship here.
The Intercontinental Championship is still meaningless
McMahon’s stubbornness kept him from riding the guy who the fans wanted to main event WrestleMania, Daniel Bryan. Instead, Roman Reigns is getting the rocket to the top a year too early. And Bryan is stuck in a mid-card feud for the Intercontinental Championship in which everyone keeps stealing the belt from the champion, Bad News Barrett, who can’t win a match to save his life.
The notion of a weak champion is the worst trope in WWE. It’s fine for the heel champion to be booked as vulnerable. But have the guy cheat to win. Barrett should be escaping these matches by cheating his ass off. Then, come WrestleMania, he’s booked in a ladder match where no amount of cheating will save him from the fray.
While there’s hope for the U.S. Title, the Intercontinental Championship is still treated as a joke prop. It’s about as meaningful as the toy belt that Bad News Barrett pulls out of the sack in this video.
WWE’s championships hold not meaning. Compare that to New Japan Pro Wrestling, where the Intercontinental Champion, Shinsuke Nakamura, is booked strong. He’s not losing to Captain New Japan in non-title matches. He’s challenged by former champions, like Yuji Nagata, and he defends the title at the top of the card. WWE runs two separate tours every week. The Intercontinental Champion, say Daniel Bryan, if booked strong, could be defending the title at the top of those tours.
Paul Heyman rocks the faulty mic … again
Paul Heyman is the best promo in the business. He’s putting over Roman Reigns as a “badass Samoan” while also getting over Brock Lesnar as the unbeatable champion. This was the best part of Monday Night Raw. It felt real, especially after last week’s reportedly contentious meeting between Lesnar and McMahon. Heyman announcing that Lesnar could spend the summer unifying the WWE and UFC championships. This was an absolute clinic.
And here’s the problem for McMahon, the more Heyman talks, the bigger the babyface Lesnar becomes. Get the checkbook, Mr. McMahon. This man is worth all of the money.
Randy Orton is a face and Seth Rollins is the dumb
Randy Orton’s babyface turn finally came to fruition this week … after helping Seth Rollins defeat Roman Reigns last week. After weeks of pretending to be a part of the Authority — and killing any momentum that Orton had built after being kept of TV — Orton is officially a face. There was little-to-no heat for the attack, until Orton RKOed Rollins through the announcers’ table. And this only served to underscore how bad the announcers are in these situations. There was zero emotion in Cole’s voice as he called this. Living in the past sucks, but good ol’ Jim Ross would have sold this like the beating of a lifetime.
What about Roman Reigns?
Last night, Reigns really felt like an afterthought, not a WrestleMania headliner. Orton stole the spotlight in the main event. Heyman and Lesnar talked themselves into the babyfaces vs. the WWE corporate machine. With two weeks of WrestleMania build left, the WWE machine has a lot of work to do.