Imp’s Wrestling Adventure
Oh hello Saturday my old friend! I guess that means it’s time for me to roll out yet another Imp’s Adventure, covering RAW, AEW, SmackDown & NXT from the past week whilst longing for the outside through a window.
It’s feeling drafty in here.
WWE’s roster sorting extravaganza felt a little strange this time, a reaction not really down to of the picks we all knew or drab presentation. There’s a mix of emotions in the air, one of positive change/the excitement from the new era and the other of WWE at the same time promoting one of the very things that has turned off a lot of fans in their NAME REDACTED shows. All whilst the smell of Hell In A Cell is still lingering strong, a new era but the reset’s not taken place yet and recent effects are still in play.
Maybe in time, but as of now whilst the Wildcard’s aren’t actually dead, the only thing that has genuinely progessed in WWE is the staging and production. My God how much does pyro add to the presentation? Especially when used correctly like with Seth Rollins’ entrance, such an addition to the entire presentation.
AEW’s arrival as well somewhat changes how I see WWE, with the new promotion simply putting out a solid production and building a consistent world over anything. The proof is there, WWE’s product can be better. The question is will this new era be the thing that drives it? Did the 2019 Draft work?
I for one am pessimistically undecided.
Monday Night RAW | SmackDown Live
October 14th– October 18th 2019
WWE Draft Part Deux
Smackers on FOX
Jesus Christ the lasers are out of control!
The production value on SmackDown feels so over the top with those entrances, lights shining bright in every single direction in an overload of flash. But is it another layer on style over substance? WWE possibly becoming the place to go for the spectacle, but not if you want content to sink your teeth into. The style and incredible production is all there, but the actual quality seemingly hasn’t improved alongside it at all.
It’s almost as if the staging and camera angles were never the issue. Lipstick on a Big Dog.
The one aspect that’ll really help them in the long is likely FOX’s push for the sports side, especially given the in ring quality of their current roster. If they get time to kill it in that ring SmackDown’ll be a blast, it’s the Sports Entertainment stuff I worry about. Purely because that second part relies so heavily on the writing being on point, which honestly it really isn’t and hasn’t been for quite some time.
There has been spots of greatness, like the way WWE adjusted to the sudden rise in popularity of Kofi Kingston and Becky Lynch. Neither were planned to be that, the former a fill in for an Ali injury and the latter originally booked as a heel turn. But I won’t take away that the change in direction once they realised what they had was carried out incredibly, to a point where Kofi’s WrestleMania story will go down as one of the greatest in history and they’ve created a bankable female megastar in Becky Lynch.
So it’s not all bad, but there are massive issues dragging everything down. One example we used on LOP Radio this week was comparing WWE to The Avengers, a series that spent a long time building up its heroes and getting you invested in those characters. Come End Game you knew and cared about all of the players on the field, the question and intrigue was in how it all went down. Compared to WWE, who’ll do all that to only bring in Bruce Willis as John McClane and have him destroy all the villains.
I mean, yeah, I like Die Hard, but that’s not the story you’ve been telling these past few months at all.
The other issue being they’ve not built most of the characters consistently, or in some cases focusing in on one trait directly. It’s a very commercial way of thinking, branding every act with one identifiable quality that becomes their whole gimmick. Ricochet’s like a superhero, Rusev and Mike Kanellis have hot wives and therefore must be cucks, Chad Gable’s not tall, the War Raiders are Vikings, etc.
Like seriously, they’ve got Olympian Chad Gable out there telling the crowd not to let their insecurities overcome them, to accept who you are. With the losing of his last name his entire character is now based around fighting the adversity of being 5’8… he’s a freakin’ Olympian! But nope, he’s slightly short so Shorty Short Shorts it is. Meaning whenever he does anything impressive the commentators react like it’s the most amazing thing ever that he’s actually good… is the story here that it’s meant to be surprising a short person is talented? Why else is every victory of his commentated as a ‘major upset’?
Final point… HE’S NOT EVEN SHORT! The man’s literally the US male height average.
Smackers has become the home of the big lads, so Gable will stand out more than he would on the RAW roster full of people he’ll look normal next to. But how is this meant to get him over again? The man’s talented enough to draw people in to cheering for him come bell time, but I do just want to double check the adversity his character’s trying to overcome here. It definitely is that he’s 5’8?
Honestly it’s one of WWE’s lesser important issues, given my bar at the moment is to at least tell consistent stories with non-diverging characters for more than the one arc they’re currently in. That first part wasn’t being met over the summer, so there has been improvement, but they’re still below par. I’m talking minimum requirement for storytelling not being met, the comparison is you result in a world where you’d have no idea what was meant to be canon from one Avengers film to the next.
SmackDown LOOKS great on FOX, but content wise there’s still a lot to ask for. Unfortunately for WWE, for people like me there’s now an alternative delivering on those exact levels. I compared WWE to Marvel, but given their storytelling woes they’re actually closer to DC. Making bank in spite of themselves is something that can only last for so long.
From inside network pressure, to outside competition and falling attendances, the home market for WWE is anything but secure. They’re thinking short term, they’re booking short term and their characters are – in every meaning of the phrase – falling short.
Explosions and lasers are cool though.
The 2019 WWE Draft
Too many people, making too many problems and there’s not much love to go around. Can’t you see this is the Land of Confusion?
Overall this year’s draft was pretty easy to follow, not particularly delivered in an exciting way, but after the confudled disaster of the previous Shake Up the simplicity was definitely welcome. For me the aftermath and how this new world plays out is more important, so I’m not holding the actual switch up shows that high into scrutiny. With the biggest pro being that the world destroying Wildcard Rule’s officially dead, well after WWE’ve blasted through their shows for which they’ve already announced talent. Hence The Fiend on RAW… so not quite dead yet but it will be soon!
Hopefully dead that is… I’ll be honest the ‘get out clause’ created has me a little bit worried. Everything was going fine with the draft, right up until trades were immediately made after the fact!
Let me get this straight in kayfabe: Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross were available to draft as a tag team, USA executives then decided to use two picks to draft them separately, then traded them to FOX as one act for an IOU of an undisclosed nature down the road. Maan the USA execs come out of that being written as so incredibly stupid, they’re being buried I tell yer!
For me it’s the issue that immediately out of the gate the announced draft is no longer right, with a trade back to RAW hanging over the list of SmackDown talent. In result, we were told the two networks would have their own completely separate rosters, only for us to straight away have something in place to get out of that. All I’m saying is that the IOU in return for the trade is so vague that my mind jumps to it possibly being anything from a talent in return to an open slot that vetoes the veto of the Wildcard.
As for the rest, there weren’t really any surprises or real excitement to this draft. It’s like it was a reset that was desperately needed as they’d creatively fecked it all beyond belief, so more a manner of getting through the business of the process than making entertaining television. They tried to make Stephanie McMahon reading names off a list interesting, but good luck with that. If anything it really fit that feeling of, “Come on guys, let’s just get through this so we can all go home.”
The execs as well all celebrating in their War Room as I realise in real time the reasoning behind the name change for the War Raiders was BS. Aren’t business meetings exciting guys?! Look how happy they are in their office environment! If you couldn’t tell those rooms aren’t a thing over here in our UK sports ball games.
Instead we’ve got Transfer Deadline Day! Feel the excitement oozing from Jim White’s yellow tie.
A necessary reset, the start of a new era. But without the state of their creative process changing at all, how much are WWE actually going to improve?
Seth Rollins vs The Fiend
How Not To Execute On Months Of Great Build
Yep, we got burned alright.
Is there any better example of incredible production mixed with awful creative decisions?
I used to play a game with my PPV previews called ‘Worst Case Scenarios’, where I’d book the upcoming show as badly as possible. Destroy momentum, set up God awful storylines. But I had to stop playing because it got to a stage where I genuinely couldn’t book the thing any worse than WWE actually was.
A tad of hyperbole, but after Jinder Mahal’s reign, correctly predicting Styles vs Nakamura being focused around kicking each other in the bollocks and Reigns/Rollins’s main event matches booed out the arena in successive years; the horse is already decapitated.
There you go, that’s a metaphor the Prince’ll understand.
Then after such an all over the place summer, that’s when The Fiend rolls around. Which such a high amount of quality, bringing all of his character into relevancy and bringing the arrival of such a terrifying but also complex character. WWE took their time to get us invested, but once again they show a DCU trait and ‘lol CGI baddy is there because our heroes need a warm body to fight’. At least DC have the courtesy of only half trying with their villains before killing them off, WWE put genuine time and effort into The Fiend! To a point where we as an audience were genuinely invested in the character, ready to see the rise of a horrifying villain.
And we arrive at Hell In A Cell, when it came crashing down and Seth hurts inside.
One thing before I rip the current arc apart, none of this is the fault of the performers. The talent themselves are of such a damn high quality, pulling out damn incredible performances over the course of the year. But there’s only so much they can do when the creative side takes a turn like this, the fans aren’t booing Seth Rollins the performer/act, he’s simply their outlet for all their hatred to be directed towards because of how Hell In A Cell went down.
To add to the confusion, the two are set to battle again in NAME REDACTED. A match where the monster who’s character has taken a massive hit in momentum is on the other brand, so surely once again there’s no plans for him to win. Why on Earth would you continue a feud that was received so badly when you’ve just had the gift of a ‘Get Out Clause’ in the reset?
Even Corey Graves tweeted after HIAC saying that maybe there was a reason for the big reset on the horizon. Yeah, he’s bloody right there was, but they’re continuing the arc regardless. An arc that continues to push Seth further down the hole of the figure for fans to take their frustrations out on. I don’t want to pass judgement on this area of the feud until I’ve properly seen it play out, but with the way things are going I have nothing but straight up questions asking what on Earth WWE are thinking?
This week Seth Rollins went Fiend hunting and successfully found the Firefly Funhouse. Okay, not where I would have gone with it but toys are still in the pram. Ain’t the end of the world, folks. The main point here being that Seth’s there, so I think ‘oh the Funhouse is real then?’ This confirms that the Funhouse is indeed a real location, not a safe place for Bray Wyatt or anything, a straight up nearby studio set that is 100% real/physical/now in canon. However the Funhouse cartoon ‘bonks’ and ‘boinks’ were playing during Seth’s attack, so wait, what is reality here?
The idea of the Funhouse being a mental safe place for Wyatt was thrown out the second Seth started interacting with it on the titantron, but this next step just creates so many questions. Was the set in proximity to the arena every week? Were the cartoon noises playing because Seth was on a children’s TV set? Or were parts/none of it real? In that case, as Bray questioned on Twitter, how on Earth did the feller get to the Funhouse?
Really this episode brought several things into canon:
- The Funhouse is a real place.
- Which was also close to the arena so it’s a travelling set.
- WARNING Seth Rollins carries a lighter around in his wrestling tights. ‘Burn It Down’ isn’t just a phrase.
- Bray is now a character with split personality, simplified down from the friendly version in a mental safe place but The Fiend his actual, physical, horrifying form.
But most importantly of all, the crowd booed the entire segment. Be it Hell In A Cell backlash, or genuinely not enjoying this creative direction. Either way, they ain’t responding and it ain’t working. Not their fault, not their job to blindly enjoy and not criticise the thing they love. That’s my biggest takeaway from this angle, the sheer amount of reaction to this one character, it proves how much they genuinely cared about The Fiend.
WWE did it damn right, which is why it hurt so much more when it brought back into the same standard as everything else. He’s a more complex villain, but at the end of the day just another monster. Which isn’t a bad note to reach eventually, but the bugger’s only had two matches with properly debuting in the ring only 2 months ago.
Oh and a fun thing to end on, it says on the graphic for their Crown Jewel match: Falls Count Anywhere “Can’t Be Stopped For Any Reason.”
Amazing that they thought that clarification would fix expectations. The Fiend’s on the other show, Rollins is retaining, amigo there’s going to be an ‘unconventional’ ending. In the words of Nelson, “Why are you hitting yourself? Why are you hitting yourself? Why are you hitting yourself? Why are you hitting yourself?”
There is one saving grace though, my own narrative I’ve put on this segment that it’s actually another Wyatt inside metaphor for Rollins destroying The Fiend character. Not the story they’re telling at all, but when you watch WWE you tend to plug in the gaps that would help things link and make a bit more sense.
AEW’s TNT Debut | NXT on USA
October 16th 2019
AEW Passing With Flying colours
Mox and Omega are cooking up a fight!
I’ve got this thing I do with American television called ‘The 3 Episode Test’. The way TV pilots work over there means they aren’t always the best at for judging products as a whole, so I’ve ended up waiting till I’ve seen 3 episodes of shows I decided to check out before making a proper judgement.
And after this week that’s three for three for AEW! Consistently building arcs/characters and developing/improving as a product, this week with the improvement on promos via Jericho’s titantron message and Jon Moxley’s side video. I’ve enjoyed each passing week more and more, gaining this feeling that the investment of time won’t feel wasted by the start of the next month. Come November the stories told will matter, the losses over that period will matter and the character development will bloody well matter.
The ultimate test of that theory of thinking will be in how Full Gear plays out and the month that follows. WWE’s often been criticised for moving from one story to the next, in the process making their universe feel like passing ships rather than a lived in shared world. So holding them to a certain standard, I can’t compliment AEW on their consistency until said months have passed. But it’s great to have witnessed these three weeks where every part of the show has continued to build.
Every character has continuity, arcs, consistent traits that are also developing in front of our eyes. Really the biggest thing I’ve asked for is consistency, which is the one area WWE has let me down the most in recent years. As if character traits are selected on if they’re convenient for the rivalry or match of the moment, how many times have you watched a segment and muttered, “Nobody talks like that,” to yourself as a wrestler relays a script that could apply to any character with catchphrases thrown in?
So far I’ve been damn satisfied with AEW and they’re not doing anything extraordinary, they’re just being solid and consistent. Not just with the production and overarching narratives, but with the actual characters themselves. Everything you see is canon, for better or worse. Do you even know what is considered canon in WWE? Last year they had Alexa Bliss confirm that Bayley was a virgin, but is that canon? They said it on the programme, replayed it and everything. So why isn’t it? The answer is not only are they making creative mistakes that need retconning, but their characters have an extremely short consistency shelf life. I praise them if they make 3 months, never mind a full year.
Which is why I’m kind of slow to jump full on with praise with AEW for being new and innovative with this, because continuity and consistency over a long period isn’t special. But it feels like it is because of what wrestling has been in America for so long, WWE has owned the mainstream and in effect been able to define what wrestling is. Which means when we’re now getting those things it does feel special, it’s like a revelation. It’s exactly how we reacted to seeing continuity in NXT.
On that Moxley and Omega for me had my favourite of all the character moments so far this week, with the building tension of violence and the fact the two are becoming so focused on each other that it’s effected other characters around them. PAC’s dead set on that AEW Championship, but Moxley just wanted to beat the living shit out of Omega with a barbed wire baseball bat. So what happens? Of course they clash, Mox bids salute with the middle fingers and costs the Geordie the match.
This has resulted in a bout between the two being announced for next week, the consistency of these character’s traits caused friction and the following week we get to see the fallout. This sort of thing really is basic stuff, but it feels so great to see. It makes the world feel alive, no slotting characters into a storyline plot, but the characters ARE the storyline.
The difference between writing narratives for wrestlers and stories for television.
Undisputed Era Fight Back
We’re the champs, babay!
I genuinely loved the sequence of events here, with the lads walking out to seemingly confront Ciampa but instead throw a USB stick Mauro Ranallo’s way. When I saw Strong with Dream’s shades and ripped shirt I genuinely thought he’d decided to add some style to the taunt to his rival, however when we see what was on the USB it turns out said rip was from the group beating down Velveteen Dream backstage. Some lovely creativity, seeing the aftermath in Roddy’s appearance before even knowing a beat down had occurred.
The wrestling world is in such a positive mood come Fridays now, be it AEW or NXT or both, fans are being happily entertained by what they’re seeing. I’m personally falling into watching AEW immediately, but then I’ve got so much on I’m really struggling to fit in NXT. For the second week in a row I’m watching it after SmackDown right as I’m writing this on a Saturday afternoon.
Honestly, with JCool’s in depth Cool Points coverage and Tito’s Top 10 of the week currently regular, LOP’s got NXT covered. The show may very well drop out of this column as an every week feature, as much as I enjoy the shows I’ve got even more time consuming creativity arriving on my table so time’s going to be even sparser. Unfortunately, 9 hours minimum every single week is simply too much.
That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the shows when I get round to them however. This week once again building really nicely to that next big event, after their full 2 hour debut opposite AEW’s debut went big with a TakeOver esque episode of television. They’re not as high adrenaline as those first few weeks, but certainly are delivering in the areas I was moaning about earlier in regards to WWE’s other products.
Really my only negative is that the shows tend to sag a tad in the middle, as NXT is still at the end of the day a developmental it’s going to feature those stars that are finding their feet. Everyone’s more than decent at the wrestling bits, but the characters are being figured out and tweaked so that does somewhat bring the pace down. Not necessarily a bit thing, but it is an apparent trend. There are areas of NXT shows that are simply ‘fine’.
In fact, the more I watch AEW I’m increasingly comparing it in my head to main roster WWE and not NXT. Ratings and interest wise I obviously am comparing the Wednesday night numbers of fun, but in terms of actual content AEW feels like a main roster product. Right now NXT has the fact it still is developmental hanging over its head, main roster awaits for these men and women.
Perhaps going on the road could help with that, but whatever it is NXT has fallen from an immediate watch after AEW to last minute in time for the column.
Imp’s RAW Grade – The 2nd half of the draft and another mixed reception for Rollins/Wyatt. Not great, but perfectly fine.
Imp’s AEW Grade – Yet another solid show, 100% up my street and a recommended watch.
Imp’s NXT Grade – A fun watch if not an adrenaline fuelled one.
Imp’s SD Live Grade – Big boy land of big boy wrestling and FOX dollar dollar. It was alright.
But now to hear from you!
Did you enjoy this week’s RAW/SmackDown/NXT/AEW?
Was the WWE Draft a success?
Are you still keeping up with it all?
Comment below, rate and click an emoji too. I’ll be here to reply and chat this weird wrestling world.
Imp’s LOP Radio Adventure is LIVE every Thursday, this week Imp was joined by LOP columnist SirSam to talk NJPW King of Pro Wrestling and all the Power Struggle & Wrestle Kingdom news!
Imp’s most recent columns:
Imp’s Wrestling Adventure – WWE Draft 2019 Thoughts: You’re A RAW Superstar, Harry!
Imp’s Wrestling Adventure – The Wars Have Begun! (RAW, AEW, NXT & SmackDown on FOX, Oct 5th 2019)
Imp’s Wrestling Adventure – The Fiend Guaranteed To Win At Hell In A Cell? (RAW, SD Live & NXT, Sep 27th 2019)
Imp’s Wrestling Adventure – All Hail King Corbin! (RAW, SD Live & NXT, Sep 19th 2019)
Imp’s NJPW Adventure – The Story of Hiroshi Tanahashi Part 1: Becoming The Ace
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