Posted in: Mr. Tito
MR. TITO STRIKES BACK - WWE is Desperate to Save Wrestlemania 32, RAW is Hulu, and Donald Trump
By Mr. Tito
Mar 2, 2016 - 12:03:28 AM

Follow Mr. Tito on @titowrestling

Desperate times call for desperate measures... Reportedly, Vince McMahon really wanted Undertaker vs. John Cena BADLY to co-headline Wrestlemania 32 (along with Reigns/HHH) and he was holding out hope that John Cena could be healthy enough to make a surprise early return. However, Cena's usual super healing ability has been lost (or he's enjoying time off for once in his life) and the Undertaker was left without an opponent. Either by feeding the insiders information to test an idea out or it was legitimately leaked, I'm guessing Vince didn't like the reaction by WWE fans to proposed Wyatt Family match-ups with the Undertaker (possibly Braun Strowman, maybe Bray Wyatt).

So... Needing to create a short-term pop for Wrestlemania, because Vince McMahon DEEMS THAT NO ACTIVE ROSTER MEMBER COULD DO IT, Shane McMahon was placed into a Hell in a Cell match with the Undertaker at Wrestlemania 32.

Think about that for a second... Nobody on the active WWE roster could impress Vince McMahon, CEO and Board Chairman of the WWE, to land that Wrestlemania 32 spot against the Undertaker. Even if they were to lose...


What does that say about the current WWE roster?

But in many ways... I agree with Vince McMahon.

What the WWE has right now is a TALENT and CREATIVE problems. Yes, I know, I'm stating the obvious but these problems go deeper. I could get into the change from WWE to WWE Corporation, putting Stephanie McMahon in charge of Creative during late 2000, and ridding themselves of great wrestling minds (Jim Ross, Pat Patterson, etc.) that made the WWE a great wrestling company. You would reading a column right now that I have written many, many times now. WWE's problems are largely caused by the surrounding management around Vince McMahon. He replaced sound wrestling minds with family, Hollywood writers, and non-wrestling guys with VP titles to fit a Corporate structure.

Been there, done that...

The Creative Team, however, could be solved overnight... After all, just look at Vince Russo. He was deemed a genius in WWE but no so much in WCW. Why is that? Well, in WWE, he had Steve Austin, the Rock, Mick Foley, Undertaker, Kane and many other younger wrestlers either in the primes or about to hit their primes. Russo goes to WCW and he doesn't have that great collection of talent that is compelling to a younger wrestling audience. It's like in the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, etc. when a great coach moves to another organization and yet the General Manager at that team has poorly set up a team for the future. Suddenly, that once-great coach struggles... You NEED talent in any profession to succeed.

I've said it many, many times... The WWE Developmental System for Talent has struggled since Jim Ross was relieved of his duties through 2004. Ross was not only able to pick off the perfect free agent wrestlers away from WCW/ECW (very few misses), but he had an eye up and coming talent that repeatedly restocked WWE's farm systems with great talent for years to come. I know, I bring up the Ohio Valley Wrestling "Class of 2002" often, but it's a fact... 2002 saw amazing call-ups in the form of John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Batista, & Randy Orton while having a host of other midcard wrestler who also had potential (Shelton Benjamin should have been a HUGE WWE star as well). For the next 2 years, Ross began transitioning the VP of Talent Relations job to John Laurinaitis until finally relinquishing the position to Johnny Ace by 2004. Laurinaitis would hold that position until mid-2012 until Triple H obtained that position.

Laurinaitis was hit or miss as the Talent executive of the WWE... He seemed to struggle early on, almost becoming a yes-man of Vince McMahon (hence, many hosses joining the WWE from mid-2000's through 2010)... But towards the end, he began raiding some Indy promotions to acquire the likes of Seth Rollins in 2010, Dean Amborse during 2011, Rusev during 2010, Daniel Bryan in 2009, Roman Reigns (with Vince's reported pushing) during 2010, Wade Barrett during 2008, and many others... If you look up and down the WWE roster, you'll see many wrestlers whom Laurinaitis signed. I'd argue that he stocked the WWE pool well enough and particularly with the members of the Shield, he did an adequate job to his credit towards the end.

Triple H as EVP of Talent since mid-2012? I'll say this... He has rebuilt the NXT as a secondary brand extension that the WWE can market independently and use as a legitimate drawing force for WWE Network. He put wrestlers in charge of the booking and the shows are highly entertaining. HHH's best work has been creating a fun midcard with excellent Tag Team action and for the first time in history, a Women's Division that is compelling. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley won many "Match of the Year" honors for 2015 by many wrestling publications, including my column. Triple H will be able to restock the WWE's midcard with great Tag Teams and Divas for years to come.

But what about the Main Event scene? That's where, in my opinion, Triple H is weak... I'm sorry, but NXT just doesn't have any Main Event ready guys on its current roster. Finn Balor? I like him but he appears undersized for Vince McMahon's liking, he's older, and he may be injury prone because of his wrestling style. Baron Corbin? I like his toughness and look but I think he might be better served as a bodyguard role right now than instant main eventer. I was high on him until his NXT Takeover match with Apollo Crews... Just awful. Baron just couldn't deliver heat driving moves against Crews and in my opinion, Crews has a lot to learn on selling moves and psychology. Just watch that match... He's supposed to sell pain and he struggles to do that against Corbin. His best matches have been against Finn Balor which have been just glorified offensive spotfests. I'm just not buying Sami Zayn as a bigtime WWE Main Eventer. Great wrestler but I need to see more at a high level with him. Could be good... And then there's Samoa Joe. If you watch his mid-2000's matches, you'll be amazed at how much this guy has unfortunately aged since both in terms of actual age and mileage. Not the same guy.

So far, I would grade Triple H LOW in terms of providing the WWE Roster star power, but building up NXT to be its own fun brand especially on the Tag Team and Divas level... I grade him HIGH.

The talent issue might not be John Laurinaitis or Triple H's fault... As you can see with time, both Johnny Ace and HHH realized that their best road to success was just raiding the Indy scene. It's hard to find another Brock Lesnar, Shelton Benjamin, Kurt Angle, the Rock, or even Roman Reigns that the WWE developed from scratch who didn't have prior pro wrestling experience. And maybe the pro wrestling landscape has changed too much that athletes are no longer considering Pro Wrestling as a viable option to make a big living. That, or the risks of the business are no longer worth it...

For example, many potential pro wrestlers could be looking to become a Mixed Martial Arts fighter instead, particularly with the booming growth of Ultimate Fighting Championship. As WWE's domestic audience has been cut in half, UFC's business has grown during much of the 2000's. When Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar, and Shelton Benjamin joined the WWE during the late 1990's or early 2000's, MMA wasn't as fashionable as it became through the late 2000's. Heck, Brock Lesnar himself joined UFC... Because pro wrestling isn't as popular now as it was during the early 2000's, there's LESS INTEREST in younger athletes to give sports entertainment a try.

In my opinion, though, wrestling's image has scared people away.

Right now, there's real fear that the National Football League (NFL) and it's true feeder system, College Football have peaked because of the concussion and other injury risks scaring away kids from playing football in high school. Same concussion risks exists for the WWE. Just look at Daniel Bryan, forced to retire from pro wrestling (or WWE). Former Tough Enough contestant and WWE wrestler Chris Nowitsky began speaking out about brain injuries years before it became a bigger issue to the WWE or the NFL. Then, injury results became louder...

But I also think that many wrestler DEATHS have played a role in scaring younger athletes away. Many wrestlers from the late 1990's and early 2000's are no longer with us due to the performance enhancer and prescription drug craze that hit backstages of WWE, WCW, and ECW. It wasn't until late 2005 when Eddie Guerrero passed away that the WWE formed their own Wellness Policy during early 2006. Then, that program gained teeth following June 2007.

Chris Benoit's actions has hurt the WWE in many, many ways. His actions were deplorable but the fact that he's tied to BOTH drugs and concussions is a double whammy for the WWE. Benoit ripped the lid off of both internal problems that pro wrestling was having and caused the industry to change for good. WWE increased its seriousness of the Wellness Policy and now has tougher concussion tests to pass for its wrestlers. Case in point, the WWE refused to clear Daniel Bryan. Benoit's actions caused news organizations to cover the WWE for weeks on end and it was not positive. Pro wrestling received a major black eye because of Benoit that it caused many fans to walk away (I did for 2 years) and many younger athletes to remove wrestling as a potential career option. Hey, MMA has grown ever since June 2007.

I also believe that the WWE struggles to recruit black athletes to its promotion. One would figure that the success of the Rock would draw more African American athletes to the WWE. However, I believe that the treatment of other wrestlers may have caused the opposite. The way Booker T was marginalized by Triple H and the Creative Team during 2003 through Wrestlemania 19 disgusts me to this day. HHH was legitimately putting Booker T down due to his race in that promo leading up to Wrestlemania 19 and then, Booker T doesn't win the match to overcome that racism. Then, you have the treatment of Shelton Benjamin. Pound for pound, one of the best in-ring wrestlers of the last 15 years... Yet, despite his thrilling performances, what is the best thing that the WWE has for him to do? Escort his stereotypical overweight black mom to the ring and deal with her at ringside. That being said, WWE tried to make Bobby Lashley a star... One would think that with the NFL career averaging about 3 years, there would be many former NFL linebackers looking for career opportunities. There's just no interest in pro wrestling.

Image matters... Take Major League Baseball (MLB) for example... Because that league is so rigid on old traditions, it scares off various demographics from participating. Oh heaven forbid that you celebrate a homerun! We just can't have that... In baseball, you're required to talk, dress, and act a certain way while dealing with many, many unwritten rules. To many potential young athletes on the outside viewing in, baseball is less appealing. Lucky for Baseball, they have found other countries full of baseball talent to make up for the lack of American black athletes entering their sport. Younger athletes see the way that current athletes are being treated in MLB or NFL and opt to try something else instead... Image is everything and for anyone giving me what about the Rock?, I'll simply respond that he's a major exception to the rule. Look at how well he's doing in Hollywood. That guy could have made it anywhere.

While I'd argue that Triple H and John Laurinaitis were NOT Jim Ross, I would suggest that both HHH and Laurinaitis are dealing with a true lack of interest in younger athletes to become pro wrestlers. Much of it has to do with the WWE's own numbers shrinking in the United States (just listen to what Shane McMahon said on RAW last week, FACT), but MMA is a major competitor for talent and WWE/pro wrestling's image has taken a major hit by many deaths, concussion problems, drug problems, and poor treatment of wrestlers at times. Fast forward to 2016 and the WWE has a thin Developmental System for MAIN EVENT level talent. The perception of the pro wrestling industry has greatly changed in the last 15 years to younger athletes despite the 6-figure salaries that WWE pays most of its roster. Not worth the trouble...

Now, that being said about TALENT, the WWE Creative Team is a disaster on the main WWE roster and many Triple H/John Laurinaitis developed wrestlers should be stars by now.


RAW is HULU Review

Missed the Cut (Hulu show is 1.5 hours)
- The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler
- Lucha Dragons vs. Sheamus/Rusev
- Ryback vs. Adam Rose (really?)
- Jey Uso vs. Bubba Ray Dudley
- Naomi vs. Brie Bella

First of all, please read LAST WEEK'S COLUMN and you'll see how too much McMahon drama can hurt a show. See Wrestlemania 16. That main event was a hot mess because it was less about the 4 Way for the WWE Title and more about the McMahons in each corner. Tonight, the show starts off with Triple H for an in-ring talking segment... Which, I honestly have no problems with because HHH has to sell his actual wrestling match with Roman Reigns. Then, Stephanie McMahon gets in the ring to make her Vincent J. McMahon speech and goes on an extended rant about Shane. Later, Vince McMahon comes to the ring, introduces the Undertaker (who does nothing), and denounces Shane as his son (but now a "son of a b*tch"). And guess who will appear on RAW next week? Shane McMahon... WWE's Attitude Era hit a peak through Wrestlemania 16 and it has been all downhill ever since.

Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.

I found the opening interview segment between Dean Ambrose and Triple H to be very awkward between the two parties. They just didn't mesh... Seemed like Dean improvised from script and I could see Triple H quietly squirming in reaction. Reminds me of that in-ring segment during 2011 between Triple H and CM Punk. We know how that all ended... Just seemed like Triple H was put off by the segment and Dean Ambrose's speaking style did not work at all against a professional like Triple H. Not good for Dean, but I've seen worse body language with Triple H against opponents.

Opening match was Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch. Sorry, but this just isn't working for me. They are getting no reaction, even Sasha Banks at time. Just move the Divas to NXT to become an official feature there so that they continue to build on the goodwill with the smaller arena audiences there. Mainstream WWE fans don't care and WWE Creative are booking them poorly. Double pin for a match that didn't impress. Later, Charlotte would cut an odd promo backstage against both to hype a match for Smackdown.

Long Stephanie McMahon promo and she used lots of run-on sentences to avoid the "WHAT?!?" chants. Still, just endless McMahon garbage that we saw repetitively during 2000. By the way, that was 16 years ago...

I HATE Non-Title matches... FINGER OF SHAME to the WWE for this LAZY BOOKING (© Chrissss) to hype Chris Jericho/AJ Styles (Y2AJ) vs. New Day for an actual title match. Can't you run singles matches between the members and/or 6 man matches? Y2AJ (love that name!) wins the match and that sets up an actual Title match next week on RAW. Hey, they are actually hyping matches ahead of time tonight. What changed?

Vince McMahon in the ring... More McMahon "blah, blah, blah", and then the Undertaker appears. He grabs Vince by the throat and that's about it. Shane vs. Undertaker match is STILL ON and Undertaker will do Vince's bidding. Huh? I expected more resistance by the Taker. Vince then cuts a promo against Shane, disowns him, and calls him a "son of a b*tch". Yep, we're stuck in 2000-2001 all over again with the McMahon drama. Gee, will Linda McMahon appear on a future edition of RAW?

Blah to Kevin Owens vs. Big Show. Owens is just in a no-win situation by wrestling against the Big Show. In Vince's eyes, nobody can truly beat the Big Show in a match yet Vince never pushes the Big Show as his top guy. We're fighting over the Intercontinental Title, too. Who cares?

RAW is Hulu (LOTS of stuff cut tonight) ended with Dean Ambrose vs. Alberto Del Rio and in predictable fashion, the League of Nations beats Ambrose down... Triple H then comes down for the attack. In a nice moment, Ambrose showed a second wind and was able to fight HHH back briefly... Briefly, I said. HHH quickly slapped Ambrose in the Pedigree and then walks away... In a funny moment, Ambrose gets on the mic and says "thanks". That pisses HHH off and another beatdown occurs. I don't mind this too much because it's technically hyping a WWE Network special event headlined by Ambrose vs. Triple H. Hopefully, the match itself is good and allows Ambrose to impress management backstage.

Ratings wise, the average looks lower, but the numbers are actually more consistent than last week. The 1st and 2nd hours were absurdly strong last week and dropped hard for the 3rd... This week, the 1st and 2nd hours weren't as spiked (with Shane's return) and the 3rd hour was actually closer in viewership to the 2nd hour. I guess people like McMahons... Ugh.

SHOW THOUGHTS: It's beginning to feel a lot like 2000 again... Everywhere is McMahons. As I said above, if the WWE had talent ready and available, we wouldn't have to rely on gimmicks like Shane McMahon coming back in his 40's to wrestle the Undertaker in a cage match. I'm just not feeling Wrestlemania 32 other than Ambrose vs. Lesnar... Yikes. Hot mess of a show and I saw this show with many necessary Hulu cuts of bad matches. I can't imagine how anyone endured the USA Networks version of RAW. [ C- ] grade.

And no, I'm not a spokesperson for Hulu. I legitimately cut my Cable cord to save costs (about $100 per month) and LoP needs some sort of RAW review out there. That's why I do it, but I have to disclaim which show I'm reviewing... If Hulu wants to begin paying me, we can have that conversation...

After all, I do write this column for FREE and always have...



I do discuss politics often on my Twitter account but I don't go overboard on throwing my support towards one guy (or girl) or the other. Sure, I have my political leanings and will back candidates (often, ones who can do math to balance budgets), but I try to keep things light-hearted because I have a loyal audience of readers who want to see me Tweeting about pro wrestling and not politics. It's as Michael Jordan used to say when he took no political stances as an NBA player: "Republicans buy my shoes too".

But I keep getting asked about Donald Trump over and over and over again... Can he legitimately become President? Initially, my answer is "NO" because of his comments towards women (Rosie O'Donnell, Megyn Kelly, Carlie Fiorina) and Hispanics (tough early comments about illegal immigration) and I still feel that way. The Democratic Party is good at appealing to specific demographics to win elections and with Donald Trump facing a woman, Hillary Clinton, those "pig" comments that he's made about Rosie O'Donnell could come back to haunt him. If the Democratic Party can easily demonize Mitt Romney over keeping a binder of women applicants, they can easily destroy Trump with actual footage of him mocking women. Trump insisted that FOX News's Megyn Kelly was mean to him because she was menstruating! He mocked Carlie Fiorina's looks on the campaign trail...

However, anything can happen in politics...

This is not a politics column... Tried to write about politics on LoP's BLOGS during early 2010 and then you begged me to write about wrestling again. 6 years later, here I am...

What I want to specifically talk about is Donald Trump's rise as the GOP's Presidential Candidate... He did it all by playing the equivalent of a HEEL in pro wrestling.

Heading into the 2016 elections, Donald Trump wasn't exactly the #1 candidate. Given the financial resources surrounding him, it was actually expected that Jeb Bush would win the GOP Presidential nomination. Bush was gaining such financial support that Mitt Romney quickly left the GOP race because he saw where the money was flowing. However, as you can see now, Jeb Bush dropped out of the race following the South Carolina Primary. Why? Because despite about $100 million being spent, Jeb Bush barely received votes in comparison to the rest of the field, often well below 10%.

What happened? Donald Trump destroyed Jeb Bush verbally throughout much of late 2015, often to Jeb Bush's face during the debates. Worse yet for Jeb Bush, he didn't stick up for himself as say a pro wrestling babyface would against a strong heel. Jeb is no John Cena, as Cena can fend off any heel with some Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect talk... Worse yet for Jeb, he doesn't heal as well as John Cena from injury (at least the younger Cena). Jeb couldn't recover. Now, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are feeling Trump's wrath... Cruz, Rubio, and Bush entered the Presidential election to join traditional debates and campaigns but Donald Trump is changing the game. He's going on social media, doing as many televised interviews as possible, and he KNOWS HIS AUDIENCE.

The GOP base are hungry for someone who is against how everything has become Politically Correct. Donald Trump, who has historically sided with the Democrat Party and has even donated large sums of money to them (including Hillary Clinton multiple times, invited her to his recent wedding!), is feeding into what that Tea Party political base wants. 2008 featured John McCain and 2012 featured Mitt Romney, two moderate candidates who didn't stoke the flames of a base who felt that their country was slipping away. Both McCain and Romney were careful with their words and polite to their opponents... Donald Trump is the opposite, at least in character... He's acting like a wrestling heel with a microphone pipebomb in his hand and tearing down any opponent in sight. To Trump's advantage, nobody from the GOP has shown any guts to hit him back equally as hard and any recent attempts are just too late.

The fact is that Donald Trump KNOWS what many Conservative voters want... They want someone who will say "build a huge wall", "this guy is a p***y", "keep those people out", "this guy is a choke artist and this guy is a liar". Trump also knows that there is inner-turmoil within the Republican Party as to its future political direction. Trump is doing and saying everything that the Conservative base wants even if his past political stances actually don't match theirs. He just gets on the mic and talks smack to make the base feel better... Again, look at Trump's past political stances and his donations... Democrat all the way but yet because he's so convincing in presentation and with communication skills, he can fool anybody. And his personality is drawing more attention than any amount of money that Bush, Rubio, and Cruz can raise and spend.

Trump knows how to play the Conservative audience and the WWE could learn from Trump in that aspect. Instead of exploiting their fans' tastes and preferences, WWE goes against them. WWE fans were BEGGING for the WWE to make CM Punk the top guy during 2011 and Daniel Bryan during 2013-2015. BEGGING... Yet, what did WWE do? WWE pushed Alberto Del Rio and Triple H's COO role instead during 2011 against Punk fans and pushed Randy Orton, Batista, and Roman Reigns ahead of Daniel Bryan for 2013-2015. WWE has pushed Roman Reigns so hard for the past 2 years and that's despite some real issues with drawing power. Lower RAW viewership, failures to sellout events for 2016, and complete desperation mode happening for Wrestlemania 32 (needs Shane McMahon for "drawing" power). Seriously. And then Vince McMahon wants to Braun Strowman to be the co-star of the WWE along with Reigns. Good God.

As for heels, have we seen a diabolical heel as good on the mic as we've seen with Trump? Oh yeah, we saw that during 2011 with CM Punk that the WWE systematically destroyed. To her credit, Stephanie McMahon is good at receiving heat with her excellent mic skills. Most wrestlers these days are completely scripted by WWE's Creative Team and it neuters them from captivating an audience. I believe the closed thing we've seen to true heels on the mic, besides Stephanie, is the New Day. They have the guts to say uncomfortable things in front of crowds to get a reaction of some kind... That's what heels do... They need to generate heat with their actions and their words. WWE relies too much on Authority Figures to be their top heels (Triple H, Stephanie, Vince) while keeping everybody controlled on their words. The result? Nobody is getting over and any heels have to bow down to the Authority. Just ask Seth Rollins who could never be a legitimate top drawing heel because he never felt in charge and was easily marginalized by the Authority.

WWE lacks that heel personality that everyone has a positive or negative reaction towards, which either way, is a reaction. Fans either admire the heel's evil ways or want to pay top dollar to see them get their teeth knocked in. In Donald Trump's case, most just want to hear what he'll say next or observe what he'll do next. Have you seen the ratings of Debates that Donald has attended? He is setting records on Cable... Record participation in GOP Primaries so far! Like him or not, he's commanding the media's attention as well as the nation's. Will he become President? Not sure... I think he has many demographic strikes against him that will cause Hillary Clinton to become a tough opponent. However, it wouldn't surprise me... Who knows what he'd say in a Presidential Debate?

When CM Punk once held up a microphone to Vince McMahon and said "see this? This is power", Punk was absolutely right. Donald Trump is winning the War on Words and may very well become President because of it. If not, just having the opportunity to become President is better than most... All because he's using very simple tactics to (a) get attention on himself, (b) take attention away from other candidates or humiliate them, and (c) Trump knows what the Conservative audience wants.

Vince McMahon could learn from his old pal Donald Trump... Trump is showing how pro wrestlers can easily get over but doing it in real life. That's power.


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