Saturday, April 14, 2018

Twitter Request Line, Vol. 231

After a rough start, Kapler's got the Phils on the right track
Photo Credit: Rich Schultz/Getty Images
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:

Firstly, BIG apologies for omitting this question last week. It was an honest mistake on my part. As for the question, I mean, it's been quite the first couple of weeks of the season, a veritable rollercoaster if you will. If I had answered last week like I should have, the answer might have been different because Gabe Kapler got off to a really rough start at the worst possible time (in the beginning of his first season). That being said, the pieces are in place. I think adding Arrieta was a no-brainer because this team is going to mash pretty hard. I mean, the rebuild feels nearly complete. IT was all going to hinge on Aaron Nola's development into a number one starter and the hitters continuing to progress. It's early, so guys like JP Crawford, Jorge Alfaro, and even Carlos Santana slumping might not be cause for alarm, but it looks like the other pieces like Rhys Hoskins, Scott Kingery, Nick Williams, and Cesar Hernandez are all raking early. Even Maikel Franco is bouncing back. The pieces are there; it's just a matter of them gelling. I'm ready to ride with this team.

The reason why Nakano got dumped from WWE and really hasn't been in the company's purview since was a sketchy arrest for cocaine use. That being said, her reintroduction into WWE's bloodstream is dependent on two things. One, has Vince McMahon felt enough time has passed since the arrest (or has he been sufficiently cajoled by his daughter to think it has), and two, the more pressing question, are people in the company willing to dampen their double standard when it comes to substance abuse between genders? Women who abuse drugs or alcohol get swift judgement even today. Look at how Serena Deeb got fired from WWE initially, for "breaking character" by being caught in a bar while a member of the Straight Edge Society. Rumors swirled about Kimber Lee/Abbey Laith's drinking getting her in hot water with WWE officials as well, but I stress those are rumors that were unsubstantiated. That being said, it's totally believable that she'd get the axe for liking alcohol too much while male superstars get the treatment for their additions that they need and deserve. I'm not knocking Mike Bennett at all and I'm glad he's sober. That being said, if it were Maria Kanellis on a substance? You can bet she'd have been gone.

Now, Deeb came back to the Mae Young Classic, so maybe the doors are open for Nakano to get into the Hall or what have you. Who knows, maybe she'd been extended an invite and turned it down because of how shoddily WWE treated her for her cocaine arrest while half the locker room at the time at least probably candied their noses on a regular basis, including the supposedly feelgood World Champion around the same time. Either way though, I'd be cautious about hoping for her to return to WWE for enshrinement. Wrestling can be a cruel business if you're a woman.

For the women, it's easier to handicap, since so few female superstars were on the main card of WrestleMania. Discussion should always begin with the Horsewomen who were in the Women's Battle Royale: Sasha Banks, Bayley, Becky Lynch. Naomi is another who bears mentioning, as she's always near the main event but almost never presented as The Woman. If WWE builds to its rumored Charlotte Flair/Ronda Rousey main event next year without having either one win the Rumble, Naomi is a sneaky good bet as a Sheamus/Alberto del Rio-type winner. For the men, it's a little harder, and one probably has to dig into NXT or outside of WWE to get the drop on a good answer. Of those in the Andre the Giant Battle Royale, the only one I feel has a great shot to leapfrog to a Rumble win is Woken Matt Hardy. After that, the next biggest shots are the guys too injured for Mania, like Jeff Hardy, Samoa Joe, and Dean Ambrose. After that, you're looking at the outsiders, guys like the recently returned Bobby Lashley, a NXT import who catches fire like Andrade "Cien" Almas, Aleister Black, Lars Sullivan, or EC3. Then you get the guys wholly outside the company right now, whether alumni like Batista or Rey Mysterio, or name free agent signings like Kenny Omega. So who's the best shot? If Rousey and Flair are headlining Mania, it might cause WWE to think it can maybe slip a Rumble winner out of the hyperfocused main event but still has cache from a surprise return perhaps. Dean Ambrose fits that bill pretty well.

You don't have to do anything you don't want to, and I wouldn't blame you for fearing that Michael PS Hayes and Road Dogg might screw up NXT's meanest Mean Girls like they have, well, just about anyone not in New Day or with the surname Uso. But I mean, you know you wanna see the Iconic Duo. I always want to see the Iconic Duo. Sometimes, you just gotta make the hard choice, son.

Man, it's still three weeks out, and it's ALREADY a fiasco. Provided it's not a work (and with Rusev and social media...), the kerfluffle with Michelle McCool getting righteously indignified over Rusev calling Undertaker "old" and people putting two and two together when the Handsome One was removed from the casket match in favor of Chris Jericho is alredy peak WWE bullshit. Even if it is a work, and look, it probably is, it's one of those cringey, almost Russo-like things where everyone looks petty and shrill, and only the saddest and most boring people think is compelling storytelling. Add that up to the fact that the show is going to be like 8 hours long with seven title matches, PLUS the 50 man Rumble match, PLUS Taker/Jericho and Triple H/Cena, and man, some people are gonna be wiped out on a Friday afternoon. Another underrated aspect is that it's a 14 hour flight from New York to Jeddah with one layover, and Saudi Arabia is a dry country. All I'm saying is, watch out.

This might change when I watch more matches, but for now, it's Nick Fuckin' Gage, who was the only guy to really explore the entire studio space at Bloodsport (and the first guy to take a bump off the side of the ropeless ring) and who spiced things up with PLUNDAAAAHHHH against Penta El Zero M at Spring Break. PCO might have been the better story at Spring Break, and other guys may have been more incredible in singular roles, but Gage carrying the load for the GCW freakshow cards means a lot. I also hear he did some things for the WWN Live family. Of course, when I watch more of the shows, it could change. I heard Matt Riddle did some big things in WWN Land, and his matches vs. James Ellsworth and Minoru Suzuki that I did see were very good, albeit in different ways. You can't really go wrong with either Tommaso Ciampa or Johnny Gargano either if you're speaking strictly of The Fed. I don't know. But right now, it's the King, MDK, Gang-Affiliated.

Firstly, I'm sorry for your traumatizing experience. Second, I don't think Vince McMahon knows how to satisfy anyone, even himself. His only pitch for a football league was "STANDING FOR THE TROOPS." Like, that's not a sales pitch, that's a racist e-mail. He got got by his good friend's kid in the football league attempt, and that dude actually has a plan! Anyway, what was I saying? Oh yeah, Kid Rock sucks now, even though I still bang out to select tunes from Devil Without a Cause.

I actually made the following predictions:

Now that that's out of the way, congrats to Penguins and Kings fans for your teams making the finals!

From protected user @adamsgroove:
who do you think is switching from Raw to Smackdown, and vice versa, in the SUPERSTAR SHAKE-UP?
Alexa Bliss - She laid down for the debuting Ember Moon, which is a clear sign that she's going to go back to Smackdown Live, where she began her ascent from NXT throw-in post-draft to Goddess of WWE.
Braun Strowman - The only thing he did on RAW Monday was relinquish the Tag Titles, so I see that as a sign that he'll go to be Smackdown's resident main event kaiju.
The Miz - Daniel Bryan's back in the ring, and I don't see him being on the same brand as Roman Reigns. Also, he has unfinished business with Miz. Two plus two equals a hot mixed tag main event of one of those B-PPVs... well, it would be if WWE didn't get rid of brand-exclusive shows out of pure desperation or whatever.
Sasha Banks - Having the Banks/Bayley match so soon feels like a sign they're being split up for the time being.
Cesaro and Sheamus - They're meant to have BRUISING HOSS BATTLES with the Bludgeon Brothers.

Big E - WWE made a point to say teams could be split up, and this could be the way to split the New Day up without someone turning on another guy. Big E needs a rocket to the main event yesterday.
Charlotte Flair - The endgame is Flair/Ronda Rousey at Mania, right? Getting them on the same brand early is a good way to get the ball rolling.
AJ Styles - Daniel Bryan makes him redundant, and he's also not nearly as toxic to the Roman Reigns brand as Bryan is. Shinsuke Nakamura beats him at Backlash to facilitate this.
The Usos - They've conquered all the worlds they needed to on Smackdown, and they need to be able to throw down with the Woken Cult and the Authors of Pain.
Natalya - Hey, not every move needs to be good or useful, eh?

It's a top three feud/long-term story in NXT history. Honestly, it might make me a fuddy-dud to say this, but I still really love the Scrappy Rise of Sami Zayn and Sasha Banks vs. Bayley as two benchmarks. The thing is that whether or not the endgame from their inclusion in the first Dusty Classic was this past Saturday at Takeover: New Orleans was written in stone from day one or whether they wrote it on the fly is irrelevant. As a whole arc, it's masterful at how it turned out: their shared signing, the Cruiserweight Classic match, the feud with The Revival, the emotional Tag Title wins, the turn, the mental block of being unable to get over Almas, the return, and then the grand fight in New Orleans. It's as good as storytelling as WWE, at any level, has ever done. So if you want to rank it as number one, I wouldn't argue. I can't really rank my favorites, because as I grow old and shriveled, I realize that maybe being rigid in my preference isn't as prudent as savoring the things I know are good. But I know that the emotional impact has been similar to seeing Sami Zayn go from pestering Cesaro to winning the title from Neville or the sweeping war between Banks and Bayley. That's what matters.

They kinda did have her as a manager of Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose between her injury and her retirement. That would've been a great role for her except for her inability to bump. But I figure her as the leader of Absolution after recruiting a new member would've been the path, perhaps a male performer? If only Cezar Bononi wasn't so green, he'd be perfect as a heavy for the group in the male division and someone whom Paige could've fawned over as arm candy.

It's not the hardest path. Miami will give them a fight, because Miami seems to play them tough this year. I really like Hassan Whiteside in the middle; he could disrupt both Ben Simmons and make life hard for a freshly-returned from injury Joel Embiid. I still think the Sixers will win in something like six games. Then they get the winners of the Bucks/Celtics series. They're a great matchup for the Bucks, and the Celtics are banged the fuck up. The Eastern Conference Finals are a reasonable goal for sure. Then, the series vs. either the Raptors, Pacers, or most likely the Cavaliers will be as good as any that the West can put up. Trust the Process.