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Welcome back to the best pro wrestling column in the land, Mr. Tito Strikes Back exclusively here at LordsofPain.net. I’m just LAUGHING at the recent news courtesy of Dave Meltzer and the Wrestling Observer… Guess what we get to endure for the THIRD time this year? That’s right, another Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns match at SummerSlam 2018. The previous 2 matches this year, the singles match at Wrestlemania 34 and the Cage Match at Greatest Royal Rumble, were subpar matches. Worse yet, NOBODY and I repeat NOBODY cheered for the overpushed “#1 babyface” in Roman Reigns. In fact, the reactions to the matches have been very negative.
But no, let’s do it one more time… “Third time is the charm”, as the old phrase goes.
Am I the only one observing how much Monday Night RAW has been in a free fall in viewership since Brock Lesnar took his Summer vacation? We’re dropping, bigtime, and last Monday couldn’t blame it on the NBA Playoffs. Smackdown, which gets the “RAW hangover” effect, is about to go below 2 million viewers.
The decline in business whenever Brock Lesnar is not around OR when we’re out of the Rumble to Wrestlemania season is a total indictment on Roman Reigns. He is the guy presented by the WWE as the #1 guy as he has a strong winning record and the announcers just fawn over him. I seriously wonder how much Michael Cole hates himself for showering Roman with love and praise on a weekly basis. We have endured 4 years of this non-stop push and Roman has actually ruined the careers of many top names by his subpar efforts in matches resulting in pins over the biggest names. If I told you 4 years ago that a wrestlers was going to defeat CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, Undertaker, Triple H, and John Cena 100% clean, what would you say? “Man, that wrestler must be really over by now”. NOPE – LOWER television viewership (FACT), LOWER attendance numbers (FACT), and now through early 2018, LOWER merchandise sales (FACT).
But that’s OK… Let’s give Roman Reigns another try against Brock Lesnar during 2018 with this one likely in having Roman finally beat Lesnar. And then after that, Lesnar is GONE from the WWE (or at least becoming a Wrestlemania/SummerSlam only attraction, I predict). What will the WWE do after that?
Oh wait, the WWE already got its money thanks to Comcast and FOX being so desperate for any kind of viewership that they’ll overpay for a declining entity. History is repeating itself as Spike TV made that mistake during 2000 and ESPN‘s revenues are dropping off after overpaying on both the NFL and NBA (while foolishly letting the Big Ten go, in my opinion). ESPN is getting hosed badly on Monday Night Football while NBA regular season games are crushing them.
I know what you’re saying, Negative Nancys in the Comments section… “There he goes again on the Roman bashing”. But it’s true. I CARE about the WWE’s growth long-term. It BOTHERS me that they’ve pissed away opportunities to make CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman, Dolph Ziggler, and others into top stars. All because Vince McMahon and Kevin Dunn like Roman’s “look”. Vince’s mind has been warped since the 1980s when he began selling action figures. Problem right now is that there isn’t a Territory system to steal talent from, like what happened during the 1980s, and there isn’t a genius like Jim Ross signing and developing talent to reload the WWE during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Ross freakin’ signed Mick Foley and Steve Austin at a time when everybody thought they were failures in WCW. Then, Jim Ross creates a developmental territory recruits like John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, and Batista.
WWE lacks a major territory system to steal talent and they have never replaced Jim Ross’s managerial skills for developmental. As much as I admire Triple H‘s ability to create a women’s division, we’re not getting much that Vince likes on the male side.
How much data and failed overpushes do we need with Roman Reigns for Vince to give up? Hard to say… There is nobody backstage who has the balls to challenge Vince creatively. Nobody… You either have family who have appreciated the great lifestyle that he’s given them, an Executive Producer (Dunn) who is all about the look of the television product and not of the substance performing in the ring, and then a whole slew of marketing types within the WWE Corporation who are poisoning Vince’s mind with reports.
To quote Jim Ross… “Don’t be half pregnant”. WWE, if they really wanted to make Roman Reigns their #1 guy, just have him beat Lesnar at Wrestlemania 34. Get it over with, ya know? Don’t let us suffer through 2 more matches… But Lesnar existed to FOOL Comcast and FOX that “Lesnar wasn’t leaving”. Contracts get signed to lock in that $2 billion over the next 5 years and suddenly, plans appear for SummerSlam 2018. Isn’t that lovely? When Lesnar is possibly gone forever (I still say he wrestles once or twice per year), what will executives at Comcast and FOX do when Lesnar isn’t advertised for shows?
The WORST part about this is the FACT that the WWE has NOT groomed anyone else for the top spot… Intercontinental, United States, and Tag Titles have been taken for granted for the past 4 years. In the past, those were internal “farm systems” to help develop your next stars. Is it no secret that Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart came from the Tag Division and then entered the Intercontinental Title scene? How about Austin, Triple H, and the Rock all fighting over the Intercontinental Title proudly before becoming top stars? Randy “Macho Man” Savage was a dedicated Intercontinental Champion before his World Title push. John Cena got over as United States Champion.
And then you have someone like Braun Strowman, who COULD be your next top guy, gets bodied at No Mercy 2017 against Lesnar and then wrestles with a freakin’ KID as his tag partner at Wrestlemania 34. The WWE would have to invest another year or so to build him up as a star thanks to the past year’s worth of booking damage. He was RIGHT THERE… Following that amazing SummerSlam 2017 performance where he looked legit against Lesnar, Strowman should have won the 2018 Rumble to then challenge Lesnar at Wrestlemania 34. But nooooooo, we had to start the first of 3 Lesnar vs. Reigns matches…
Don’t worry, though… WWE already stole $2 billion from Comcast/FOX.
There is “no sense of urgency” to improve… Even if we boycotted the WWE Network in response to Reigns vs. Lesnar happening again, the morons at Comcast/FOX have more than doubled the WWE’s previous 2014 television deal. WWE makes just over $100 million on the WWE Network and the television deals give the WWE an extra $200 million.
What more can we do as wrestling fans? Just walk away completely… With Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns booked at SummerSlam with a high probability of Reigns winning, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. October 26th, 2018 is the 20th Anniversary for when I started with LordsofPain.net. I have been contemplating whether or not to walk away following that event… Odds are looking quite strong if Reigns becomes WWE Universal Champion and Lesnar goes away. My main hope would be that CM Punk has a “come to jesus” moment to join the ALL IN folks and that Daniel Bryan leaves the WWE to join them as well. Otherwise, other promotions besides the WWE do nothing for me.
I wouldn’t doubt that the WWE compromises with disgruntled fans to have Braun Strowman cash in the Money in the Bank briefcase to defeat a newly crowned WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns at SummerSlam 2018… But the FACT remains that the WWE just WASTED Brock Lesnar for 3 in-ring wrestling matches with just Roman Reigns. Why not give someone else a chance?
FINGER OF SHAME at you, WWE, for trying Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar again during 2018. The WWE is paying Reigns about $3 million per year, which is hilarious to me considering he hasn’t proven to draw a dime since the beginning of his 2014 push. WWE is acting like Comcast/FOX by overpaying something that won’t give you anything in return.
My email is bursting at the seams lately… Time to get through it and it could make for some interesting discussions.
Question #1: Who do you like more and side with more in their feud? Jim Cornette or Vince Russo?
Wow… My issue is that you have two grown men getting into a petty fight about wrestling that happened 20 years ago or over how poorly both handled TNA wrestling. It’s quite sad…
In terms of who I’d rather seek for wrestling content or who I respect more overall… That is Jim Cornette. On his own dime, he has made Smoky Mountain Wrestling and Ohio Valley Wrestling successful. Meanwhile, anywhere he appears as an on-screen talent, he gets over… One of the best managers of all time. I LOVE listening to his 2 podcasts, the Experience and Drive-thru, and consider them must-listens for wrestling fans. That said, I would just have him as a member of my creative team for sound traditional advice and not in charge of it. If you listen to him, the Midnights vs. Rock N Roll Express was the greatest thing ever in pro wrestling. That, and the Southern style is what works and nothing else (very evident from the way he booked in SMW/OVW). At a time when the WWE needed to modernize its booking, his voice backstage needed reduced through 1997 in favor of a new guy who had brighter ideas.
To me, Vince Russo is like a member of a band who tries to create his own solo act and fails. Good comparison to Russo would be David Lee Roth of Van Halen. He tried his own solo career but aside from a cool “California Girls” cover, Roth failed as a solo artist. Russo struggled in WCW when more of the creative decisions were his own. Then, later, Roth tried to become a radio host (following Howard Stern) and he struggled with that as a second act… Kind of like Russo with TNA. Russo was a better contributing member to a cause than to be in charge of the cause itself. That, and usually as a band member, your best ideas are usually shared within the group’s first 2-3 albums… Many artists are shot after that 2nd or 3rd album. For Russo, his album after his 2nd or 3rd was as a solo artist and thus it failed.
My main issue with Russo is how he isn’t too honest on his Podcasts or appearing on other shows. If you notice, he’s always using Third Person to describe himself (often saying “Vince Russo” did this or that) and also using many repeat phrases (“bro”). I’m convinced that Vince Russo is trying to act in character for his Podcasts or appearances elsewhere instead of being real. Jim Cornette is NOT an act which is why his Podcasts are better and I respect him more, even if Cornette tends to go off the rails often with pure rage. We know all about Jim Cornette, the man, more than Vince Russo, the character. For everything that I’ve seen with Russo, he always appears to be in that character. That stuff with Cody Rhodes was just ridiculous. The irony is that Russo bashes “marks” yet he always acts like the biggest mark in the land. He needs to appear more real than he portrays himself. Cornette probably needs some anger management help, although that rage makes for entertaining podcasts.
Question #2: Why do you dislike New Japan Pro Wrestling?
I do NOT dislike New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). I enjoy some of it… My main issue is with its diehard fans telling me that “NJPW is great, nothing else matters” and going out of their way to bash how “inferior” that the WWE is by comparison. I have watched NJPW’s major events and I didn’t quite see that comparision. Furthermore, besides AJ Styles who was good already before he joined NJPW, the wrestlers acquired from NJPW haven’t delivered in the WWE, especially Shinsuke Nakamura.
And then when a fact like the July Cow Palace show being 2,000+ tickets short of a sellout happens for about a 10,000 arena… I simply point that out to the fans constantly attacking the WWE. And then I can also laugh at how their streaming network only has 100,000 members worldwide and how viewership numbers on AXS TV are impossible ot find… You know, facts.
Just enjoy the wrestling that YOU like but don’t make odd comparisons without concrete facts.
Question #3: What does a higher stock price mean for the WWE?
More capital… If you ever look at a balance sheet of a publicly traded company, Equity (or # of shares * $ value of the shares) is a part of the Liability side of a Balance Sheet. With balance sheets, both sides (Assets & Liabilities) need to be equal for accounting standards and compliance with the Securities Exchange Commission when made public. Thus, when Liabilities increase that allows for the Asset side to also increase. In other words, the WWE can use the extra funding from the higher stock to invest more into their company’s operations that can be counted as Assets. This could range from facilities, intellectual properties, more production, investing into other industries (like WWE Films), buying more trucks and equipment, etc.
A great example would be ensuring that the FOX Smackdown during 2019 remains live. WWE having back-to-back nights on television for their current structure saves them a ton of money based on their production crews and the locations of the events usually being close. Spreading that out from Monday/Tuesday to Monday/Friday is going to cause downtime for when you pay your workers and haul around trucks. With the $1 billion paid by FOX for Smackdown combined with Equity increasing, the WWE should be able to easily make Smackdown LIVE on Fridays happen.
Of course, the WWE’s stock price could also decline… That’s why the WWE would rather rely on a big television deal for their funding and investment (Cash) to invest into their investments instead of Equity. It’s usually at the initial offering part of where the company sees its greatest expansion and the WWE became a bigger force during the early 2000s thanks to the funding mechanisms from shares of stock being sold. Then, by becoming a bigger company thanks to that capital investment made by shareholders, they become stronger and it helps to keep other competitors out. That is why the WWE’s overcoming of the Time Warner corporation backed WCW during 1998 is so remarkable. WWE beat WCW with a much smaller operation and wrestlers making much less.
Question #4: What do you consider to be the “best year” in Pro Wrestling?
I was shocked recently when Dave Meltzer considered 2017 to be the best ever. That said, if you’re a diehard New Japan fan and you really enjoyed last year’s product, I can understand that comparison. To me, it is a close tie between 1989 and 1997 and it isn’t always about how good in the in-ring product was.
1989 is special to me because that’s my first full year as a full-blown wrestling fan. I began watching during late 1988 so things like Mega Powers exploding and Ric Flair/Ricky Steamboat matter so much to me. That said, the quality of the in-ring stuff, particularly on the WWE side, wasn’t there. WCW during 1989 was great for anything involving Flair but the rest has its moments in hindsight. Man, I really loved the Great Muta back then…
1997 would probably get my award… It saw WCW roaring like a machine and possibly having the BEST midcard of all time. NWO was still great but the main events were subpar. WWE hit rock bottom but then quickly rose with Steve Austin, Hart Foundation, and Degeneration X. The Montreal Screwjob existed there and that just flipped the wrestling business over. Then, you had a THIRD promotion that was great to watch in ECW. Despite losing lots of talent, ECW still had a quality product.
I’d suggest 2000, but that was WWE heavy while ECW/WCW were dying. 2002 was a fascinating year to me but it had its shares of messes, too…
Probably 1997 as the #1 year in pro wrestling for me.
Question #5: Do you think that John Cena and Nikki Bella’s break-up was a work?
In my mind, I don’t think that the television executives of the NBC News division would let John Cena perform a wrestling angle on the Today Show. That said, Total Divas/Total Bellas is on the Comcast sister station, E!.
Everything coming out makes it appear that Nikki got “cold feet” and it was her that called things off. Weddings are a big deal and being married is a life “game changer”, but I also wonder if Nikki Bella wonders if John Cena will be a dedicated husband as his Hollywood career takes off.
If you think that it’s a work, what does John Cena gain as a celebrity for it? That’s my issue… The second that publications find out that they’re working the press, they’ll blackball him. That and why would a “storyline” played out on Total Bellas help out John Cena’s Hollywood career? I don’t get that… Maybe if both were full-time competitors in the WWE, yeah, I’d agree about it being a work. I think that John isn’t getting too deep into the celebrity life as an actor and thus his plea to get Nikki back on the Today Show was real.
And that is all I have in the tank this week… I’m out of town and won’t be lugging the computer equipment around. Thus, no columns for the week (this column is trying to make up for that).
SO JUST CHILL… ‘TIL THE NEXT EPISODE!
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