Saturday, August 20, 2016

Twitter Request Line, Vol. 166

Imagine Vader and Bigelow against Rick Steiner and Angle
Photo Credit:
It's Twitter Request Line time, everyone! I take to Twitter to get questions about issues in wrestling, past and present, and answer them on here because 140 characters can't restrain me, fool! If you don't know already, follow me @tholzerman, and wait for the call on Wednesday to ask your questions. Hash-tag your questions #TweetBag, and look for the bag to drop Thursday afternoon (most of the time). Without further ado, here are your questions and my answers:

Protected user @bee_tee_ess asks:
You can pick any four 80s/90s WWF or WCW wrestlers for a tag team match. What the are two pairings?
On one side of the ring, you have two of the most talented, decorated amateur wrestlers who made the jump to the professional game. On the other, two beastly giants with measurable girth and even more wrestling talent. Am I talking about American Alpha vs. the Authors of Pain in current day NXT? Nope, give me Kurt Angle (who debuted in '99 and thus technically is eligible) and Rick Steiner going up against Big Van Vader and Bam Bam Bigelow. I am getting chills just thinking about how awesome that one might be.

With the proliferation of wrestling on television/The Network nowadays, crafting a fantasy WWE league based on only match results would be pretty easy to do. A win on Main Event or Superstars would be one point, and a loss zero, no matter what it is. Pinfall victories on RAW or Smackdown would be worth five points, submissions seven, countouts or disqualifications three points, and no contests or draws would be worth two points for each superstar. Retaining a Championship would be worth a bonus five points, while winning one would be ten. For pay-per-view events, pins would be worth seven, submissions ten, countouts and DQs four, and draws would be worth zero, because draws shouldn't happen on PPVs, dammit. Championship bonuses would remain the same. And of course, the first pick overall would still be JOHN CENA, at least for now. He seems to be the surest bet for consistent points, although that situation only exists with the fall of Roman Reigns from grace.

I don't think criticisms of her are only being flung at her because she's a woman. She has let some iffy at best and heinous at worst shit fly during her tenure as the head of TNA. That being said, said criticisms are louder and more gleefully given and her reputation is probably sullied more than, say, Vince McMahon's, because she's a woman. I'm not giving any of her misdeeds a pass, but look at McMahon's transgressions. He allegedly covered up a murder. His negligence led directly to a performer's death. He aired a tribute to a wrestler who committed double homicide and killed himself despite knowing what he had done before the public did. He set the industry standard for abusing the "independent contractor" label (something Carter only really followed when noted McMahon scions Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan were advising her). He runs his business with all the spite of a toddler and the macho bravado of the weightlifting section of a Gold's Gym. Yet people still judge him more as a businessman rather than a sociopath and blight on the industry. People still even call him a genius, even those who yell at Carter across the abyss. One might say that McMahon gets a pass because he's monetarily successful, and this country worships money. However, other men who have run failing ventures of wrestling promotions get their misdeeds glossed over more than Carter has. It's insane. I'm not saying she should be free of critique, but it feels like many folks, even myself at times in the pass, have raked her over coals they feared do for McMahon or Jeff Jarrett or Sinclair Broadcasting Group or Bushiroad or Paul Heyman or whatever other booking/promoting/owning body.

Unfortunately, I won't be watching any of them live this weekend because I'll be away with my family. But of all the matches scheduled to take place, I'm most into Asuka vs. Bayley II. Their match at Takeover: Dallas was overshadowed by Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, but it was still a world-class contest worthy of praise and inclusion in Match of the Year consideration. This rematch will have a lot more story behind it, plus booking intrigue. Will Bayley be sent to RAW or Smackdown with a hard-fought loss, or will she be the one to stop the grinding buzzsaw formerly known as Kana and thus throw the future of the NXT Women's Division into even more confusion?

While that's the match out of all shows I'm looking most forward to, I'll name the ones on top of the suspense list for the other promotions running this coming weekend. For Chikara, who will return to Internet pay-per-view with No One's First and You're Next, available on its streaming service Chikaratopia, the choice is difficult. The entire card actually is packed with interesting matches with huge implications. The fourteen-man tag between Team Nazmaldun and Team Fire Ant will have stakes for the soul of Chikara. The four-way double-elimination match for los Campeonatos de Parejas is guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser. But Princess Kimber Lee vs. Heidi Lovelace is another rematch of a critically acclaimed match that has major storyline development attached to it, and the winner will have the three points necessary to challenge Hallowicked for his Grand Championship. That's the match I'm looking forward to the most from Chikara.

Finally, SummerSlam, the main event of the weekend, looks like it could be a notable show with a lot of matches that could be good-to-great, but I think I'm most interested in Dolph Ziggler vs. Dean Ambrose. If you told me that'd be my answer around the time of the Ambrose/Chris Jericho feud, I would have laughed at you, but Ziggler seems reinvigorated and Ambrose is always great with a good opponent.

Of course, ROH, EVOLVE, and AAW aren't listed here because I was a big dummerd and didn't get this done in time to cover the Friday shows, although I heard all three shows had big highlights. EVOLVE also has a show tonight too, but I'm not feeling any singular match on there.

I haven't seen Lucha Underground since before the FIRST Ultima Lucha, thanks to Unimas dropping it as a Spanish language carrier. However, from what I remember of it and what I've seen of Smackdown so far, I definitely notice the blue show taking camera cues, especially the close-cropped shot of the ring that has become a favorite so far. I like the camera work too, as it makes the show feel fresher and gives a different feel than what I remember from watching LU. It's amazing how much aesthetic can make a similar camera shot in one environment change when it's used in another. Now if Smackdown starts using the backstage segment style of LU or introduces more supernatural characters, then everyone will know its inspiration...

Thanks to the advice of my good friend Winston Zeddemore, I will always answer this question with a resounding YES.

The only real answer I can think of is the former Chuck Taylor because I'm not so sure Max Smashmaster is really gone. That Abominous Rex guy looks an awful lot like him in body build, and he's got Sidney Bakabella pulling the strings. But if the Taylor departure isn't a work (and I'm not so sure it isn't to be honest), then it's a true bummer because he's part of the heart and soul of the company with his ability to combine serious work with comedic antics. This company lost Gran Akuma and Tim Donst and all these other guys in past years, and it finds replacements, sure. However good they are, it always stings harder when an original guy walks out. Hopefully, Taylor's leaving is a work and he comes back under the ominous DUSTIN moniker from EVOLVE or in some other way. Or hopefully things blow over, and his absence isn't as long as the recently returned Jigsaw's was. But if he's done with Chikara, then hoo boy, it's gonna be a hard one to swallow for years.

What is the most read wrestling criticism, and who is the most influential? Right now, the most-read is probably the blog-based writing, which can be fruitful, but a lot of time delves into pop culture references and populist lines amplified. The most influential writers, however, are the paid guys who write the dirtsheets, and whose idea of criticism is parsing crowd noise and trying to create narratives on who draws. What's missing is a more artistic, academic critique of pro wrestling, which is in part due to its carny nature. The former category touches on this, but deep critique doesn't generate page hits. The latter doesn't seem to care. What if smarter criticism did exist? I'm not sure how it would affect the fans, because such a large, nebulous group of people is hard to predict, entropy and all. But wrestling companies might take notice. WWE might not latch on right away, but smaller companies might read it and latch onto what those critics are saying. Anything to get a different angle on the market would be useful for indie companies living on the margins anyway. WWE gets its ideas from smaller companies, so the smarter criticism would eventually filter up. Or maybe not, I don't know, I'm just a hopeless idealist.

It's good for WWE, obviously. ESPN's journalistic integrity is up for debate, but it has name cache. Now, does it benefit ESPN? Honestly, I don't think it hurts or helps. It's just more content for the company to use to fill up time. For every lipid-brained sophist who yells about ESPN covering "fake" happenings, a pro wrestling fan will be there to counteract him/her. Most people probably won't care. This whole deal is definitely a plum for WWE though.

Honestly, putting Cesaro or Sheamus in a best of seven series against anyone else would be a recipe for success. But if you're talking specific matchups with great chemistry, then I have a few requests going forward.

  • John Cena vs. Samoa Joe - They have history, although it's history that would have to be built upon by the announce team. Cena has always had the strongman shtick, but he's slowly gravitated towards super-indie workrate. Joe has had both, and he's been rejuvenated thanks to being away from TNA's stank (and to be honest, his decline in TNA was far overblown). Seven matches between these two would own, and own hard.
  • Kalisto vs. Neville - You wanna get Kalisto over? Let him and Neville defy the laws of physics against each other. Again, WWE likes to steal from other promotions, and Will Ospreay and Ricochet got people talking. Kalisto and Neville, over seven matches, may not reach singular heights of that match, but they would make enough memories to get both guys more into the fans' good graces.
  • Rusev vs. Big E - Who wouldn't love two big, young, beefy lads slapping up against each other for the amusement of a paying audience? A goddamn fascist, that's who.
I think those three series would give something for everyone, but hey, seven-match series are definitely a better way to have two guys go up against each other ad infinitum than WWE's current booking plan of trading wins with no stakes.

Slater should end up being the official bridge between WWE and EVOLVE. Feeling disheartened by his lack of work in WWE and his desire to feed his six, I mean 14, I mean 24 children, he goes to work for Gabe Sapolsky, where he goes on an improbable winning streak. He scores an upset victory over one of the less established guys like Jigsaw or Fred Yehi, and then from there he keeps beating dudes with greater and greater confidence. He parlays it into an EVOLVE Championship match, but right before he goes on, both Mick Foley and Daniel Bryan come out to engage in a bidding war. He ends up choosing RAW, but just as he's about to sign the contract, the Champion, whether it be Timothy Thatcher or Drew Gulak or whoever rolls him up. Foley gets disgusted and leaves, but Bryan, no stranger to the underdog role and quick losses, offers him the contract anyway to a huge pop for the live crowd.

He could be. Right now, Kota Ibushi is the most unpredictable wrestler on the planet because his mind is in orbit around the Earth. He's like a modern-day Antonio Inoki. He's totally in business for himself and no one else, but his mind also churns and turns differently than most others. He will go where he can be himself. IF he can get New Japan to give him a freelance run into WrestleKingdom, he'll do that. IF he somehow gets Vince McMahon to convince the shareholders and sponsors to let him wrestle Yoshihiko on RAW, then by god, he will be there for the launch of the cruiserweight division. If he can somehow book a show in the crater of Mount Fuji for his research institute, then he will do it. I'm not totally in tune with the intricacies of NJPW's booking futures, so I'm not sure who else could be the timebomb guy. Who knows, maybe it'll be The Ryback. But if it's Ibushi, then know he's there to do what he wants.

The funnier thing is that Eva Marie was invited to the party as well. I heard on Twitter up to ten people got popped. Funny that the first two names to drop were ones with nothing going on. Eva Marie had a match at SummerSlam, but it was in an easily replaceable role and one that actually fits with her character. It's going to be intriguing to see who among the losers at SummerSlam is going to get an unpaid vacation.

No lie, I'd actually pay to see a match between del Rio and Saraya Knight because it might be interesting, which is something I can't say about any of the former's matches after his surprise return. What a disappointing run for el Patron, which is sad because he was doing some interesting shit in Lucha Underground at least.

The last brand split went on for nearly a decade before sputtering out, so I'll gladly take the over. Vince McMahon still has the final say, but he's ceding a lot more control. It feels like the next generation, Triple H and his scions, are a bit more patient. Look at guys who get protected, look at longer burns for stories. WWE is not at the idyllic stage for a wrestling promotion, and maybe it never will be, but it feels like the dedication to story is getting stronger. I would be shocked if on August 20, 2018 that everything was smushed back together again.