Friday, September 13, 2019

The Three Dimensional Chess That Is CLASH OF CHAMPIONS


With all that is about to go down in the WWE looking at CLASH OF CHAMPIONS feels a bit like what it would be like to play three dimensional chess. Trying to figure out this card gives me a headache:

Who do you want to hold the belts going into the draft before the alleged brand split becomes a reality again until it’s not?

Which wrestlers do you want on the two brands?

Do the WWE and Universal Championships and the two mid-card belts have to remain on their current shows and what about the Women’s Tag Team belts if we are going back to a true brand split?

How are we going to “strengthen” NXT as it takes on the challenge of confronting AEW on Wednesday nights?

Have we entered the era of NXT “call downs” and, if so, who goes back to their NXT origins and flourishes again?

All these questions and others have to be on the minds of the powers that be as they book this card. Ironically, a PPV which features all the belts in play is the perfect leadin to this transformative moment in the WWE and professional wrestling in general.

One clue as to what might go down on Sunday is how AEW put the belt on Chris Jericho going into their premiere on TNT. I think the WWE knows it’s not the time to start this new era of competition with the straps on some untested talent. You want your biggest stars with the gold and you want them on the right shows. I think RAW will continue to be the “big guy” show, SMACKDOWN will go for athleticism over size and NXT will be the most exciting “indie” with the story telling taking place in the ring.

All these things are going through my mind as I make my match and, of course “Holy Shit”™ predictions. Let’s figure this all out.

AJ vs. Cedric Alexander (US Championship)

Cedric’s getting the push but I think AJ retains and he’s headed over to SMACKDOWN most likely with his posse. SMACKDOWN is the house that AJ built and I think it will be a better fit and, down the road, set up a feud with Kofi and the New Day. This should be a solid 💩💩💩💩1/2 match.

BLISSCROSS vs. FIRE AND DESIRE (Women’s Tag Team Championship)

I have no idea what’s going to happen with this belt given the brand split. Will this remain a floater belt? No idea. What I do know is that, if she’s healthy Alexa Bliss is one of the top shelf performers and they’re gonna need her to be on her own. She’s helped build up Nikki Cross but it’s time and their opponents are solid wrestlers who will benefit from winning the straps. This feels like a 💩💩1/2 match. I think all four stay on RAW.

ROMAN vs. ROWAN

Daniel Bryan makes his presence felt in some way and we go from there. I think no contest or Rowan with shenanigans. 💩💩 and I assume Bryan and Reigns are on SMACKDOWN when the dust settles.

BECKY vs. SASHA (RAW Women’s Championship)

I find it hard to believe that they would take the belt off of Becky right now and I don’t think they would reward Sasha so soon after her return. Becky stays and Sasha goes over and joins her bestie on SMACKDOWN. I think they want to tear down the house so I’m guessing a 💩💩💩1/2 match.

NAKAMURA vs. MIZ (Intercontinental Championship)

The WWE wants the strap on the name talent and they (and COMCAST) want The Miz over on RAW so he can promote his show. Look for the mid card belts to switch brands. Also, here’s a bold prediction: Sami and Shinsuke join KO on NXT as part of a group of “call downs”. Both will benefit and they will elevate NXT. The match will be a quick and painless 💩1/2.

NEW DAY vs. REVIVAL (SMACKDOWN Tag Team Championship)

You’re just not taking the belts off of these dudes with all that’s going on. The Revival are solid wrestlers but they’re not the New Day. Few are and I’m a 69 year old guy who wears a New Day tee. Big E and X never disappoint and I’m going 💩💩💩1/2

Going to skip over the Cruiserweight and go to

KOFI vs. Randy (WWE Championship)

I feel there’s more to this story so Kofi retains in a 💩💩💩💩1/2 match.

SETH/BRAUN vs. ROODE/ZIGGLER

Have to believe that this match will go early in the card and set up the story for the championship match which will most likely close the card. Hard to see the boys retaining here. Question is who turns and what role, if any, is Bray “The Fiend” Wyatt gonna play here or later in the evening. This feels like 💩💩1/2 to me. Roode and Ziggler are solid workers and talkers. They can handle all shapes and sizes.

BAYLEY vs. CHARLOTTE FLAIR (SMACKDOWN Women’s Championship)

More than any move on the roster, having Charlotte Flair with the strap to start the new era of SMACKDOWN on FOX is essential. She is one of the best all-around wrestlers and a dominant run while putting over some of the new talent (Toni Storm, Io Shirai) will pay off for the brand. Bayley is not going to make it easy and I think this is a minimum 💩💩💩💩 match.

SETH vs. BRAUN

This should be brutal and bloody and I think Seth retains. You don’t beat Brock Lesnar clean on two occasions and lose to a guy who Brock manhandled. The big questions are does Seth come out of this a heel , and, as mentioned above, is it Fiend Time. I’m going 💩💩💩1/2

The more I think about it this could be a solid PPV with lots that will start here and unfold over the next few weeks. I really hope NXT winds up with the three wrestlers mentioned above as well as Andrade Cien Almas (with his full name back) and Asuka who has been so mistreated on the main roster it’s criminal.

Interesting times.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

PRO WRESTLING'S EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES EXPLODES!!!!!!!!!!

In late December 2017 I was writing for "TV By the Numbers". The announcement of the FOX/Disney merger had occurred. What would remain of 21CF, the company I had worked for since 2000 until retiring in August 2015, was FOX Sports and the FOX network. The news channels and the papers had already been separated. FBC would no longer have a sibling studio as a primary supplier of programming.
Around this time Vince McMahon announced that he was going to take a second run at the XFL and there was some speculation of him selling WWE.
I thought about all this and decided to write the following for the TVBTN website. It ran under the headline "HEY RUPERT MURDOCH - WHY NOT BUY THE WWE?"
Here it is:
"You’re Rupert Murdoch. You have $53 billion, more or less, in your pocket after selling off most of 21st Century Fox to Disney (pending government approval, yeah right). What’s a lad to do with all that money?
Let me digress for a minute.
Over my career there were three occasions when I almost got involved in what many of you who read my stuff know is one of my passions: professional wrestling. All occurred when I was at NBC.


I was in audience research in 1985, when Dick Ebersol made a deal with the World Wrestling Federation to carry Saturday late-night wrestling on weeks when “Saturday Night Live” would take a break. I got to know the head of syndication for the WWF. He would call to discuss the ratings, and we developed a friendship. When he was leaving the company, he called and offered me his job. I would have taken it but for the traveling, as the Masked Daughter had just been born.
A year or so later, I was approached by Turner about a creative job on the West Coast. I met with Brad Siegel and said I would consider it if part of my responsibility was overseeing World Championship Wrestling (Ted Turner’s answer to the WWF). That was a no go, so I turned down the gig.
The third occasion was in 1997 and it’s what got me thinking about how Rupert should spend his money. We lost the AFC Sunday football package to CBS (which had lost the NFC package a few years earlier to FOX), and I was thinking about how we could fill the void on Sunday afternoons.
I thought about how much money we spent on the NFL and how, for a small piece of that, we could create a professional wrestling organization and put on matches every Sunday afternoon as an alternative to football. We could try to lure a few of the name talent and then scout the independent scene to fill out the roster. I thought about the merchandizing possibilities and did some research on the “Monday Night Raw” ratings vs. “Monday Night Football,” which at the time was on ABC.
I went in to see my boss, Warren Littlefield, and we decided to go up to Don Ohlmeyer and pitch him on the idea. Don was intrigued but a few days later told us it was a no go. I think Dick Ebersol may have put the kibosh on it, given his relationship with WWF head Vince McMahon.
Anyway, a few days ago there were rumblings that Vince McMahon was thinking about reviving the XFL, which was a disaster for him and NBC. There’s a really good ESPN “30 for 30” on it. I follow the wrestling business, and I read some articles about Vince thinking of cashing out a la Dana White and the UFC. My Spidey Senses started to tingle.
What if Rupert Murdoch bought the WWE? I looked up the market cap for the WWE. It’s a bit over $2 billion. That may be lying in the crevices of Rupert’s couch. It would give him two nights (minimum) of programming and a promotion base for FOX’s more male-skewing entertainment shows (assuming they stay in the scripted game), as well as their sports programming.
WWE is also in the entertainment field, and they could develop some scripted shows featuring past and current WWE Superstars. They would also get a streaming channel in the WWE Network. Merchandise and house shows generate revenue as well.
Given that FOX Sports remains part of the family, this would fit in just fine. ESPN has made a big push in pro wrestling coverage over the past few years. It is no longer the bastard child. Think about it, Rupert. It’s some free advice, and you may actually lure me out of retirement in the process."
A few days after this was published I got a one sentence email from a high ranking 21CF executive:
"How did you know we were talking to the WWE?"
I told the exec I didn't know but was just thinking about how FBC could be programmed after the merger and I assumed there would be a greater emphasis on sports. It just made sense to me.
Anyway in the summer of 2018 I had the opportunity to talk with the major players at 21CF about the new company. The first meeting took place the day after the five billion dollar SMACKDOWN deal was announced. The WWE weekly live show would move from the USA Network (COMCAST), where it aired on Tuesday night, and start running Fridays on FBC beginning October 2019.
I congratulated the executives and here's why I decided to write this post:
I immediately told them that there are two things that I would suggest talking to WWE about ASAP. One, I will not mention because perhaps it could still happen. The other was NXT. "Get NXT for 21CF!" I then proceeded to tell them why.
A few weeks later I had another opportunity to discuss this with some pretty important people in the organization, I went through the evolution of NXT and I told them something else.
There are legitimate competitors to WWE and the WWE's own product (NXT) is far superior to the main roster shows. In addition, there are other wrestling groups that are emerging as at least creative challengers to WWE and, with the various ways of delivering product to the fans, WWE's hegemony is coming to an end. I mentioned two examples. New Japan Pro Wrestling and the journey of Cody Rhodes and how more wrestlers may follow in his footsteps.
Since those conversations the quality of WWE has eroded although, to give them some credit, it has been better lately. NJPW continues to attract fans and just finished their yearly G1 Tournament which is about the best thing in professional wrestling. The big news though is the emergence of All Elite Wrestling which is funded by the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars with Cody Rhodes as one of the leaders of the organization. They have a deal with TNT to start airing weekly two-hour shows on Wednesday nights beginning in October.
This morning to counter this WWE announced that NXT will be doing a two hour show (I assume live) which will air on USA head-to-head with AEW. For a while the rumor was FOX Sports 1 would be the platform but I think it has something to do with a Big East Basketball Wednesday night commitment by the network.
NXT had been running a one hour taped show which drops Wednesday night on the WWE Network. Now it's in the big leagues.
This morning, on my Twitter feed I tweeted #RIPNXT
I'm not gonna get into that now. I just want to share two thoughts about all this.
I'll start with the positive. Pro wrestling exploded as a result of the "Monday Night Wars" between Ted Turner (WCW) and Vince McMahon (WWWF/WWF/WWE) and I am looking forward to the NXT/AEW battle. Wrestling is best when there is competition and for quite a while the McMahons' stranglehold on the business has resulted in an inferior, highly commercialized product. It led to a resurgence of independent wrestling and it's led us to this.
The other thing about all this is FOX got screwed. When this deal was made I don't think that anyone thought that there would be four hours of product between RAW on Monday (USA) and SMACKDOWN on Friday. I know NXT is a superior product and I have a feeling AEW will be as well or, at least, the shiny new object for a while. There's also NJPW doing two hours on Saturday night over on AXS TV. Oh and the FITE app has Ring of Honor and a few other indy shows every week. Also the WWE Network will probably replace NXT with something, possibly EVOLVE which they could drop on a Thursday night. 
Wrestling podcasts are huge and with all this product, and a show on Friday, I wonder if SMACKDOWN will get the attention that RAW, NXT and AEW will be afforded.
One more thing. I have no idea if SMACKDOWN and RAW will be different "brands" each with its own roster. Right now it's sort of pandemonium in the WWE with this bullshit 'wildcard" rule. If they will not be distinct brand that will make Smackdown less special.
I love wrestling. I'm concerned that NXT is going to deteriorate now that Vince McMahon will pay more attention to it. His son-in-law Triple H was fathered and nurtured it. It is an amazing product and their live Takeover shows make watching the WWE Pay Per Views which air the day after excruciating at times. I'm hoping that more NXT wrestlers stay on the brand rather than being called up and buried on the main roster and maybe some (cough Asuka, Sami Zayn, Samoa Joe) go back to NXT and thrive again.
I really hope this works out for FOX. It's just going to be more difficult and we'll see what sort of a partner the McMahons will be.Also, if any of the FOX execs I spoke with read this and remember the other idea I pitched, think about it.
October is going to be insane.

Oh, by the way I never took the job with the WWF but, when the Masked Daughter was born we did get a massive box of WWF goodies including all the Wrestling Buddies.





Friday, August 9, 2019

SUMMERSLAM 2019 WINNERS AND HOLY SHIT PREDICTIONS


This is  a wild time in professional wrestling. We are a little over two months away from SMACKDOWN moving over to Fridays on FOX and the premiere of AEW, a legit competitor (or at least it seems), on TNT. We are heading to the end of probably the best competition in wrestling, New Japan’s G1 tournament, which appears to have elevated the profile of that organization. There is serious talk of NXT moving over to FS1 to compete head-to-head with AEW. So, we get SUMMERSLAM this Sunday and, more exciting, NXT TAKEOVER: TORONTO on Saturday night. I’m not excited.

The WWE, in my opinion, continues to make a mess of the product and, as the new TV deals approach, has completely eradicated the distinction between the brand. The company needs to do a lot of work to separate the wrestlers again since I find it hard to believe that FOX and COMCAST are going to be OK with the crossovers. What started out as the “wildcard rule” has deteriorated into pandemonium. I find it hard to remember what brand several of the talent are on and the belts have all become insignificant. The heat in the women’s division has subsided with the whole Becky Two Belts gimmick having a short shelf life. The buildup to Seth/Brock has been lame. At least KO is building momentum, The Club is sort of reforming and there’s always Samoa Joe.

I look at the SUMMERSLAM card and it feels sort of meh with more singles matches than I recall on a WWE PPV card and none really generating the heat you would expect from one of the big four PPV’s. I again expect NXT to overdeliver and outshine the main roster and there’s G1 this weekend.

Anyway, here are my choices and Holy Shit predictions for the card. I assume all matches have finishes knowing that will not be the case.

DREW/ONEY CRUISERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
I don’t care but probably 💩💩💩💩 ½

TRISH/CHARLOTTE
This is a strange one given that this is in Trish’s home town. The WWE does tend to have locals loose and I really hope that this is the case here because Charlotte is in the  company’s top five (women and men) and, with some of the talent down in NXT coming up, there are several women that she can put over like no other in the business. Trish will give it her all but….
Winner: Charlotte 💩💩

GOLDBERG/DOLPH
Dolph has a specific role in the WWE as the dude that has never gotten the respect and gold that he deserves. Losing only adds to his persona of having to lay down to others. Win or lose there’s a Sean Michaels match in Dolph’s future because he is a pretty good wrestler.
Winner: Goldberg 💩

AJ/RICHOCHET

This should be match of the night and I have to believe that they will keep the strap on AJ with all the gold on The OC thus setting up something with the also golden NEW DAY down the road. Also, Ricochet needs the journey to continue. He will be top dog at some point, just not right now.
Winner: AJ 💩💩💩💩 ½

FINN/FIEND

This starts the program for Bray and, with Finn taking some time off, we know the outcome. When Finn returns we will get the Demon/Fiend matchup. Time for Bray to go on a winning streak and he will be an attraction on either RAW or SMACKDOWN because I have no idea which brand he is on.
Winner: Bray (Fiend) 💩💩

KO/SHANE

The Kevin Owens “Stone Cold” program can only have one outcome here. KO is my favorite wrestler at the moment and seeing him turn face has been fun and for this to matter…
Winner: Shane McMahon 💩💩💩💩 and let’s see how the KO leaving the WWE story plays out because you know he ain’t leaving.

KOFI/RANDY

Should be a solid match but no way Kofi drops the belt. Not much more to say other than Kofi really hasn’t had a great program yet which is sad.
Winner: Kofi 💩💩 ½

BAYLEY/EMBER MOON

I don’t see many title changes on this card so this could be where the hugger turns heel after losing to EM and being pissed that she offered her the chance. Maybe this is where Sasha returns and costs her the belt. Either way…
Winner: Ember Moon 💩 ½

BECKY/NATTY

Props to Natty who is a solid worker but, seriously, other than this being another Canadian on the card, I don’t get it. There are so many solid women wrestlers who are being wasted and I feel no heat for this match. I miss Nia Jax.
Winner: Becky 💩

BROCK/SETH

They are most likely paying Brock a shit ton of money to have the strap when the new TV deal kicks in and Seth has been pathetic for a while now. These beatings haven’t helped. After the last two Brock beat downs the logical story would be for Seth to prevail but, nah.
Winner: Brock 💩💩

Yeah, I’ll watch but this is a pretty meh SUMMERSLAM card. If I were the WWE I would have FOX and USA agree to a new WWE draft the week before the new deal and air it on both platforms. Make a big deal about a new start and a real brand split because this shit ain’t working and…AEW,NXT,NJPW are better alternatives.