Thursday, July 20, 2017

Twitter Request Line, Vol. 196

Is Dave Meltzer co-opted?
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:

I honestly don't think any real "news" site is co-opted or "gotten to" in the way that the office of a wrestling promotion is the Vladimir Putin to its Donald Trump. I mean, every blog has its biases. Most cut and paste sites feed off a WWE teat. Dave Meltzer likes New Japan more than any other company, and it shows in his opinion writing. How many news sites have a harmful bias? Well, they'd have to be important enough for that bias even to register as harmful, which is laughable at best. But if you look at "gotten to" as easily bothered and sent into "mad red and nude online" status, that answer is easily Pro Wrestling Torch, the site that still treats ratings as newsworthy as they were in 1998 and kayfabe as sacred as it was in 1972. Now, it doesn't mean that everyone at the site is bad or thin-skinned. It's just that the top guy, Wade Keller, has a very short trigger and sets the tone for his site's reporting. Of course, that kind of interpretation of wrestling has an audience, but it's not one I care to be a part of.

The real answer is first blood, but that match may never happen again due to the company's policy against blading. Granted, I believe rumors that WWE officials silently condone gigged blood for special occasions, but the company line is such that it'll never be able to promote a first blood match, i.e. a match where it publicly flaunts the release of blood. While I understand appeals to drama to allow blood to flow, I'm generally for any policy that prevents the intentional release of bloodborne pathogens. However, I'm dodging your question.

The answer based on current WWE regulations isn't so much a gimmick match, because most of those are mined to hell, whether good or bad, but a match with consequences. When was the last time WWE had a good lucha de apuesta, a hair vs. hair or mask vs. mask or some kind of consequential match where someone loses a core part of their identity? People complain all the time when a wrestler gets a haircut that they should have lost that hair in a match, but for the nostalgia tinged sanctimony attached to it, WWE should have more luchas de apuestas. The last one I remember was Enzo Amore vs. Sylvester LeFort (remember him?) on one of the first Takeovers, and before that, it was what, the Edge/Kurt Angle hair match? I'm not saying I want WWE: HAIRCUT THE PAY-PER-VIEW to happen, but maybe a Braun Strowman/Roman Reigns Beard vs. Hair blowoff to their feud would add an extra layer of finality to it.

The answer is money for everyone not WWE, and for WWE, the answer is drastically changing its scheduling practices for a period of time to make a round-robin tournament as comprehensive and lengthy as the G1 Climax viable. If WWE were to do a 20-person tournament of that scale without it lasting for a million years, it would have to run the heft of it on house shows. Of course, the company hasn't shied away from making those shows important over the years. The NXT Championship and United States Championships were notable house show switches, and at least two of the Sheamus/Cesaro Best of Seven Series happened on unaired events. Additionally, the company could even milk that format into Network interest by airing those shows, whether live or offering them as on-demand content. The question then becomes would Vince McMahon ever change standard operating procedure to accommodate a stolen idea that is so wrestling intensive, and I laugh.

As for other companies, Impact Wrestling came closest with the Bound for Glory series, but that tournament was nowhere near the size or scope of the G1 in the last few years. If any promotion wanted to pull a copycat off, it'd have to have money to pay 20 workers appropriate wages and run a lot of shows in a short period of time, and folks, right now, the only company that can do it is already running it.

If it were up to me, no, they would not be required, but this goddamn Draconian society has other ideas so sadly, yes.

When it abandoned any hope of Luke Harper entering the Randy Orton/Bray Wyatt feud and instead focused it on Orton trying to "kill" Sister Abigail, it shifted focus of Brand Blue from A-plus workers like AJ Styles, John Cena, and Dean Ambrose as well as tremendous characters like The Miz, supplemented by a surprisingly frisky Dolph Ziggler, to the same ol' bullshit sports entertainment. Orton has proven time and time again that when he's at the center of attention, the show falters, and any time he's been great in a main event role, he's been paired with other guys who were so energetic and charismatic that he had no other choice but to keep up, like Edge or Daniel Bryan. Shifting spotlight to Orton gave the audience endlessly limp feuds with Wyatt and Jinder Mahal, and everything else, as if by reflex, started to deteriorate. Seriously, when was the last one-on-one feud for the Women's Championship that didn't involve Lana because she was the only one management didn't trust to put in Money in the Bank? And where did all these foreign evil heels come from? It's like Orton is a tesseract of racism and boring non-storytelling.

I'd like to see Breezango move away from procedurals, even ones as esoteric as Twin Peaks and The X-Files and seeing what other hourlong dramas it can spoof while keeping its police investigation oeuvre. Even though Gotham is pretty much a procedural drama set in a comic universe, it's both fantastical and crazy enough to be a good launch point. From there, they can move onto The Sopranos, LOST, and maybe even Breaking Bad, although I'm not sure I trust the Brian James/Michael Hayes Smackdown creative tandem to come up with anything smart enough to both play to and hide the overt references to drugs in it.

This question is hard because it almost feels like wrestling is at a plateau right now. Unless shoot-style/English grappling/chain wrestling is still niche enough to say that its breakout is the next evolution, then I'm not sure where else it could go without adding in special effects a la Street Fighter II hadouken fireballs 'n shit. That kind of theatrical enhancement would work on a televised-only product, but good luck touring with it. Perhaps the best analogue would be to introduce Kaiju Big Battel-style costumed wrestling to a more serious, wider audience, and gimmick their costumes so they have enhanced powers at the ready. I don't know. But of course, I may not be looking at a wide enough picture, and I will be happy to be surprised if/when the next big wave comes crashing onto the shores.

I'm not sure they'll have time to fuck so dangerously when the threats are all over the place and only 12 episodes remain. The Army of the Dead still looms from the North. Euron Greyjoy is going to be a threat on the Eastern and Southern seas. Cersei Lannister is still holed up in King's Landing and has a zombie Hulk at her disposal. Something tells me the titties are gonna be mostly on hold for the gore, and by the time Dany realizes that Jon is her cousin and thus becomes 100 times more attractive to her inbreeding Tagaryen ass, he'll be at the business end of a noble sacrifice for the good of the realm.

Oh, the Punjabi Prison isn't even the worst WWE gimmick match ever. Remember the Kennel from Hell, the double-tiered cage with dogs roaming outside between the ring/cage and the Hell in a Cell structure, and how the dogs ended up just shitting on the mats? But then you move into WCW and the Doomsday Cage from Uncensored 1996, which combined all the glories of ubermensch babyfaces conquering entire armies of hilariously undermanned heels, bad sightlines, and contrived, hard-to-follow rules. But TNA/Impact Wrestling maybe took the cake with its bevy of bad gimmick matches, crowned by the reverse battle royale, which took the easiest match in the world to execute and fucked it up to the point where no one knew what the hell was going on. The Punjabi Prison, in comparison, is a Steamboat/Flair mat classic.

My jerk reaction is GOD I HOPE SO. Seriously, few wrestlers, especially post-adolescence, feel special, and Strowman is one of them. I hope he anchors the company forever and a day. But will he? Wrestling is more volatile than real life. John Cena worked out for WWE, but Brock Lesnar, CM Punk, and Daniel Bryan, for whatever reasons, didn't as they were first planned. Strowman doesn't seem like a dude with a big mouth or a giant ego, and even though those qualities aren't necessarily bad in a person, especially labor, those are the things that get you fired from WWE. He also doesn't seem to have any ambitions of wanderlust either, not that outside a tour of New Japan Pro Wrestling would something be out there to stoke said wanderlust. So yeah, barring some massive left turn or a tragedy, I'd pencil in Strowman as a WWE roster member in three years.

I am not plugged into the tastes of girls, although as my daughter grows older, I will by force, so I'll have to hem and haw on this a bit. On one hand, it's WWE showing its proclivity to market to kids by co-opting something the people in charge loved as kids rather than what children today are into. On the other, Barbie feels a lot more timeless than The Jetsons or Scooby-Doo. So maybe the odds on this turning into a regular yearly deal feel better than usual. Either way, WWE gotta indoctrinate those kids, because old men eventually die.

Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady never should have been broken up. Like, even if Vince McMahon wanted to do the singles run for Big Cass, Amore should've been his hype man the whole time through. McMahon doesn't seem to view alliances as permanent things. Look at how long the Rock 'n Roll Express was a thing. Then look at how long Demolition lasted, and that was both anomalous and one of the rare WWE tag teams/alliances that ended in apathy rather than fiery breakup. And that fuckin' sucks, to be blunt.

American Alpha, however, always felt like more of a vehicle to make one or more singles stars, but even then, their run was truncated too. They were never really featured as a main roster act, even as Smackdown Tag Team Champions. They came up to Smackdown at the worst possible time, when the Heath Slater/Rhyno team was red hot. Their title win came in service of another team's story, and then it felt like they were blamed for not being hot, not the people directing them and not featuring them. So to answer your question, yes, it was way, far, extremely too soon for both teams to break up.

One, he shuts up. No more long, winding promos. Two, his in-ring style is changed from Bastard Hybrid of Triple H and Kenny Omega to Jeff Hardy For An Indie Audience. Three, he gets Room 23'd to become a literal bump-and-selling machine. Once that's done, Seth Rollins goes from zero to hero.

To be honest, none of the men fit that bill. AJ Styles is closest, but I don't want him and his regressive social views as my ambassador. John Cena is part-time. Randy Orton blows. Jinder Mahal isn't ready to do more than provide representation to a new market. Shinsuke Nakamura doesn't seem to give enough of a shit on this contract to fill that role (which is fine, get that money boo). Baron Corbin is off-putting by design, a tailor-made top antagonist. Sami Zayn's charm is in losing a bunch of times and getting sporadic wins that are culminations of stories. Kevin Owens and Rusev both could fit that role admirably except they feel like better fits as angry motherfuckers. However, the women have two great fits: Naomi and Becky Lynch. Both are high energy in-ring workers with high marketability, great promo skills, and natural likability. If I had to choose one, I'd probably pick Naomi just because it's about damn time WWE had a person of color anchor one of their shows, but Lynch fits just as well and wouldn't be a bad choice either.