Browsing Posts in Ray Bogusz

Happy New Year! It’s a holiday so instead of writing an introduction that anchors the column, let’s just jump straight to…

Take Five

  1. It’s still a few months until WrestleMania, so I’m sure I’ll have to address this again somewhere, but stop with the “Steve Austin might wrestle again” rumor mongering. Steve Austin isn’t returning as a wrestler and you’re beyond braindead if you think otherwise.

    The man’s neck is one encounter with MacGyver away from being held together with nothing but silly string and toothpicks. That wasn’t a worked promo when he talked about his neck problems on WWE.com in 2003. Those problems are real; he risks paralysis—or death—if he takes any ill-worked bump to the head, neck, spine, etcetera, etcetera. Yes, he could choose to come back anyway. I could choose to self-immolate.

    The notion that the angle with CM Punk would be an exception because Punk is a safe worker is equally ludicrous. Was there some sort of Safe-Worker-Shortage in 2003 which I’m not aware of? Ultimately, when you stir up this particular muck, all you’re doing is playing Fantasy Booker. For everyone’s sake, stop it.

  2. I give Chikara and Mike Quackenbush a lot of flack. Part of it stems from my own choice to invest my time more in Mexican and Japanese promotions, leaving me with a lack of an emotional investment in Chikara’s product. Part of it is that I think Quackenbush’s entire business model is a little dated and silly. Part of it is that I think their fanbase has some really unrealistic perspectives. What I can’t deny is that they have a really dedicated fanbase and a product that’s enjoyable, if you decide that’s how your wrestling investment is best spent.

    Ultimately though, they’re confined to the Internet, which is a really mediocre place to lock yourself in. You sort of have to wonder what might happen if they’d just think a little bigger…

  3. My Indie darling—AAPW out of Carbondale, IL—essentially no longer exists. I’m supposed to write a DVD review for a friend of mine who is involved with its descendent—and I will—but there’s a point to be made first.

    There’s all sorts of quasi-legal mumbojumbo and infighting going on which doesn’t directly involve me, or you for that matter. What’s important here is this: Just about everyone who made AAPW worth going on YouTube to watch has jumped ship to a new entity called Pro Wrestling Collision. I’m sure the product will be great.

    What’s sad is that all too often, Independent promotions fold, or change names, or shift direction, or lose focus, or completely revamp their identity. I know the Collision guys tried to keep the AAPW name, because they recognize the importance in consistency too. Independent promotions often offer up a perfectly fine product, but without consistency on the circuit, how can people be expected to emotionally invest?

  4. CMLL has the next major show for the lucha promotions, Fantasticamania in January, but I’m an AAA man, and that means I’m already looking forward to Rey de Reyes in March. The event is Mexico’s answer to King of the Ring and it just about always manages to deliver a great show.

    AAA has shown a lot of progress in the last year, including putting their world title around El Texano Jr. earlier in December, so picking a Rey de Reyes Tournament winner is a total shot in the dark right now. For me, the most interesting build will be anything involving L.A. Park and his AAA Latin-American Championship. He’s held it for over a year now and a major event like Rey de Reyes would definitely be the kind of place someone of his caliber would show up to defend.

    It’ll certainly beat the hell out of any Undertaker build.

  5. Speaking of Undertaker, he can bring us full circle here. Does anybody really miss him? For the first time in…ever really, I’m totally ambivalent to Undertaker showing up for WrestleMania. Going back the last four or five years, the roster needed his presence on the card because there was so little happening. This year, you could make a great Mania card without even mentioning Undertaker’s name in passing. Yes, you’d like to see him get some kind of retirement angle down the line, but for my money, if he never laced-up again, he’d have had a fine ending to a career long overdue for pasture.

December is by far the least important month in wrestling. Ironically, this means a column can’t get written until the Tuesday after a pay-per-view. We wouldn’t want to miss someone else’s slightly less irrelevant weekly show. Onward. Instead of a full, regular column. Let’s Take Five.

1. WWE isn’t PG Anymore

A lot happened on Raw last night. In fact, enough happened that Derrick, Brady, and I probably could do a full show just on that material.

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I’ve been saying for months now that WWE is in a holding pattern, and as such,  none of what you see with the WWE Title should be taken with much credence. By and large, that’s all played out in my favor. Punk has retained against Ryback twice (and after Hell in a Cell, nobody should have been surprised at Survivor Series), Cena has remained a mostly non-factor since summer wrapped up, and all of the signs still point to The Royal Rumble as the place where everything is finally going to start coming together.

Everything else is in a holding pattern too, more or less. Bigger feuds can’t really start going into the least important ppv of the year (in the whole industry, not just WWE), mid-card feuds have nowhere to go with the Rumble coming up, and the tag team division sort of has to sit around and see where this whole Cody Rhodes Problem ends up. Other than the Punk stable that seems to be developing, there seems to be little to go with right now.

While it’s nice to be right, nobody wants to have to sit through another month of WWE putting out more than 7 hours of programming which amounts to little more than them saying “Hey guys, ignore the corner we painted ourselves into until January please!”

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Photo by HighSpots.com

This January, the NWA World Heavyweight Title turns 65. When Orville Brown defeated Sonny Myers to win the belt for its initial run, it’s hard to believe that the men involved would have thought the belt they were dueling over would go on to to have an almost uninterrupted lineage (and none at all until 1994, more on that in a second) and become arguably the most important title in the history of the sport.

My how times have changed.

The NWA Title is all but dead, the concept all but buried. Only in the world of professional wrestling–where basic economic principles are seemingly turned on their heads–could this have possibly happened. In theory, the NWA title should at least be competing for the honor of being the World’s second most important title–behind the WWE and possibly NJPW titles–and should be lending itself a group of increasingly strong promotions, not increasingly fractured ones.

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Alright. So nobody was expecting any bleeding, and “Heck in a Kitty Carrier” is taking it a bit far. Fine. On to the big picture.

Pay-per-views are weird things. Sometimes, a great one never really seems to get its due recognition (Wrestlemania 2 comes to mind). Other times, one gets embraced as being good, even though other people can’t really seem to understand why (pick any Spring Stampede you want). But, if you’ve ever wondered if it’s possible to put together a solid show, with good matches top-to-bottom, and accomplish nearly everything you needed to, without leaving people unsatisfied, yet still have the show be difficult to get through, congratulations! Hell in a Cell 2012 shows that is possible.

Let’s start with the little matches. All the matches were solid, even that Divas Division match. Kaitlyn really stood out as an improved wrestler, and Eve kept the belt–a move that seems for the best for now.

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Last week, I sat down late in the evening on a Sunday and wrote a column following TNA’s Bound for Glory for this spot. While I’m happier to be writing earlier this week, in all honesty, I’ll be sitting down at about 10pm local time again next week to write a column centered around the upcoming Hell in a Cell pay-per-view. The time I start writing is about the only thing those columns will probably have in common because the contrast between Bound for Glory and Hell in a Cell is staggering when you think about it, even from the perspective of a wrestling column.

Think about it: Last week, I was writing about one of the important promotions in the United States’ biggest show of the year. TNA should have put out its best possible matchups, had its biggest crowd, and heard its most vocal fans of the year. It should have felt like a major event–and sometimes it did.

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If you’re trying to grade a pay-per-view, there are two ways you need to look at the event.

The first way is to look at the event as a stand-alone, individual occurrence with no bearing on the past or future. Look at the matches and promos for what they are, and look to see if the crowd is hot or not. You ask if the matches would have made sense if they were someone’s first exposure to the company. Does the event, stripped of outside meaning and context, work well overall–or at least more often than not? Does the company in question display at least a rudimentary sense of backstage technological sensibility, thus allowing us viewers to focus on the match and the crowd instead of peripheral things? (For your information, despite the fact that I’m a total mark for what they theoretically stand for, Ring of Honor has yet to get full marks for that last one.)

Getting positive answers to those questions is a sign that–at the very least–the show in question wasn’t a complete disaster. By and large, TNA did that. As a stand-alone event that was completely independent from everything else, Bound For Glory wasn’t a bad little show. Sure, the crowd died for a little while and there were a few hiccups when it came to psychology, but I never found myself questioning the spending of my time on the show despite my panning of the Tenay-Taz booth for all three hours on Twitter. (A brief aside: Tenay and Taz are an undeniably and unforgivably horrible broadcast team. Taz in particular has no place in a booth.) By and large, it was three hours of reasonably solid matches…and something involving Al Snow and a retro porn star.

The second way you need to look at things is in a broader sense. Look at the past and toward the future and ask if what you watched made sense. Do the matches–and the event itself–feel as big as they were supposed to feel? Does the company appear to be headed in a positive or negative direction? Were the ideas presented fresh, or at least exciting re-makes? Are your company’s important slots in good hands? Was this, in the broader and more complicated picture, a good event?

It’s there that I think my colleagues and I start to differ. It wasn’t a bad show, but it was a letdown with some questionable decisions which should make any objective observer question what exactly it is that TNA plans to do going forward. Yes, as stand-alone events the matches were solid. Ten years from now someone might even pop this into their DVD player to introduce someone to wrestling and actually succeed in making them like it. But for us big picture folks, this event just didn’t live up to the hype or deliver the kind of breakthrough moments we keep waiting for TNA to have.

If you were looking for a grade from me, I’d say it could probably range anywhere from a 75-80 out of 100 depending on how generous you want to be and what you plan on scoring. Like I said, despite my sardonic commentary throughout the night this wasn’t a bad little show. But this column isn’t about giving TNA a grade on a pay-per-view. This is about TNA not treating their supposed answer to Wrestlemania like it is an answer to Wrestlemania; this is about TNA making the same mistake with its primary title that it has made time after time after time.

Regardless of how one feels about hardcore matches (I don’t), you’ll be hard-pressed to make the argument that they don’t take a lot out of a crowd. Roode-Storm was no exception to this principle. While that’s not a problem in-and-of-itself, the rest of the show was allowed to plod along while while the then dead crowd contributed to it not feeling like the company’s biggest event of the year. Sure, some of that is out of the company’s hands, but Roode-Storm was the third match on a card that opened with RVD challenging and defeating Zema Ion for the X-Division title, and Magnus challenging, but losing to, Samoa Joe for the television title. (Aside: Isn’t the point of a Television title that it is defended on Television?) Surely they could have spaced the better matches out to give people time to breathe. That’s not me being a nitpick, that’s Card Building 101.

It’s a shame that happened too, because while I have problems with the Aces & 8′s angle, the reveal of Devon as a figure within the group should have elicited more than the tepid gasp it got. Even the smartest of the Smarks should have at least given polite applause to TNA for keeping something fairly under wraps. That sort of leads into the problem of what TNA plans to do long term, because there are concerns that should arise with this new reveal.

So Devon is the leader of the group–or at least is a power figure within it. What’s the payoff? Is it Devon versus Bully Ray? Does Sting somehow factor in at the end? It wouldn’t be out of the question for that to happen. But the reaction is “so what” no matter what. Just as importantly, when is the final payoff for all this? Logically it’s next year’s BFG, but that’s a long way off for three guys whose combined average age is almost 45. In the mean time, what happens from here? Is Aces and 8′s going to run out of control from a creative standpoint?  I, for one, fear it will. This whole thing feels too nWo-ish for me. And how do you keep the angle going for a year?

And why did everybody play so nice in a no disqualification format? Yeah yeah, suspension of disbelief and all that jazz, but I’m not saying the Aces should have showed up with shotguns either. It’s No DQ and if you lose you’re “gone.” Break counts, use weapons–hell, if you watched the matches before yours you’d know they were available to you–don’t just stand around and hope something good happens for you. The Aces seemed to spend a lot of time doing that. Why show up to a match with no rules if you plan to spend the whole night following them?

If there was ever a pay-per-view that shouldn’t leave people asking all these questions, it’s your promotion’s premiere event of the year. I’m not against a big reveal at your biggest show, but the questions I’m asking border on being basic procedural stuff. And while I shouldn’t be able to predict what’s going to happen step-for-step, I should at least be able to say “Ah, okay, I have (compelling angle 1 and 2) to look forward to now!”

But speaking of basic procedural stuff, we get to what really soured the show for me: The Main Event.

Much like the rest of the show, the match was great as a stand-alone event with no implications to the future, nor any past fears to dig up. If it was just a one-off event that happened independently, it was actually a really great match. I’m saying this even though I still see absolutely no wrestling skills in Jeff Hardy’s possession, or even a reason to be interested in him for that matter. He’s wrestling’s answer to the Mexican Jumping Bean, and I commend Austin Aries for getting an otherwise really good match out of him…it…whatever.

Still, this makes the second time in three years that Hardy has won the TNA WHC at BFG. Meanwhile, I can’t imagine he’s staying clean and he definitely hasn’t remained uninjured, or under contract, or even interested in wrestling. Hardy isn’t only older, he has harder miles on his body and at the end of the day has never been someone whom could be trusted to have a company built around them. He’s definitely over with a lot of people, but that should tell you something when someone so over still gets shoved aside by an even bigger promotion with a more driving need for that sort of thing.

Seriously, four years (ish) ago, Vince McMahon sat down and said something to the extent of “Jeff, you’re really over and we almost don’t even have to try to make gobs of money off you. But we’re going to go with four other people: a guy who can’t even get over in his hometown, a former reality tv personality with almost no wrestling background, CM Punk, and something my son-in-law calls Sheamus. I don’t know. Anyway, good luck doing your painting or whatever.”

Meanwhile, Austin Aries got the call to be Ring of Honor Champion as it made its initial move to television and held the belt during what was arguably its most successful period to date. And while I can’t truthfully say that I know for sure why he left Ring of Honor, if I said “Ring of Honor is kind of cheap” none of you would really call me on it either.

The match was a microcosm of the entire night if you think about it. Fun to watch in isolation, painful when you begin realizing what it all means.

I sure hope TNA knows what they’re doing. It would be nice to have them prove me wrong for once.

Quick Hits

- During my live tweeting of the show I took some shots at the laughable TNA Hall of Fame video package with sting. This got me called out by wrestler Joey Image. The conversation went as follows…(edited only to remove superfluous Twitter things)

Me: ”When I was a kid I dreamed of being in front of tens of thousands of people.” – Sting. Not all dreams come true.

Image: did WCW not draw tens of thousands?

Me: Numbers vary, but WCW was lucky to get 15k at a ppv. at best, that’s “ten of thousand.”

Image: He didn’t specify “at a PPV”. He just said “in front of”, and that dream came true.

I didn’t really have the space to respond on Twitter, so I’ll do it here.

Fine, Joey, I concede your point. In a mindbogglingly reductionist world you’ve managed to split a microscopic semantic hair with me and sort of eek out a philosophical victory. Never mind that even in the world of professional sports broadcasting the phrase “in front of the crowd” almost always refers specifically to the on-location attendance. Never mind that ten year old Sting couldn’t have even been aware of the concept of being viewed on a pay-per-view or closed circuit television format in someone’s home. (PPV wouldn’t even become a recognizable and sustainable technology until 1980, by which point Sting was around age 21 and CCTV never caught on as a method for home viewing.) And speaking of ten year old Sting, never mind that no ten year old has ever thought in such broad platitudes.

Actually, I don’t concede that point. You’re humorless.

- It will be really interesting to see how guys get time distributed on Raw tonight. I say this because of something we sort of touched on during ITR last week, but didn’t really get into a whole lot.

Based on last week’s numbers, Vince knows the following things: 1. Ratings were up once he came into the picture. 2. These were the ratings which were up during CM Punk’s time. 3. John Cena seemed to have no impact on ratings, but that could be a red herring because of when Cena’s airtime was.

Vince and crew will need to see if they can find tangible evidence of who does and does not impact ratings the most. That will dictate a lot of what is going to happen between HIAC and the Rumble, and by proxy Wrestlemania.

- I’m getting really, really tired of all these Steve Austin comeback rumors. Please…for the love of Jesus…stop.

Thoughts Completely Unrelated to Wrestling

- Nice to see the Packers get back on track, at least for a week.

- Thank God I’m not a big UFC fan because I could never do those late pay-per-views.

- “People of the CTA” is an interesting Facebook Page. While I will absolutely deny your friend request if you find me, you should check it out anyway.

I <3 The 80′s Song of the Week

“Golden Brown” – The Stranglers

Ray Bogusz is the co-host of the In The Room Show and a syndicated wrestling columnist. You can reach him via his Twitter @RayITR. To get his column on your website, email intheroompodcast@gmail.com.

Photo by WWE

About a month ago, in my monthly column for The Color Commentator, I made a passing comment that the Big Show had done something I’d thought wouldn’t happen: He completed the Grand Slam by winning the Intercontinental championship in April. I realize that that’s an odd way to start off a column that features the Undertaker in the title, but I’ll get to that.

At some point, the Undertaker is going to come back to WWE. It may not be until November—it might not even be until January—but at some point this winter, Undertaker is going to come back to the ring. That’s just what he does. That’s just how his schedule works. And because he’s Undertaker—because he’s pretty much done it all and been one of the all time greats—he can do that; for better or worse—right or wrong—we’re going to watch.

We’re going to watch because the Undertaker is one of those transcendental stars—like Savage or Sammartino—who will be looked at decades later as being one of those who reached a level of greatness unattainable to nearly all wrestlers. But we’re not going to get anything out of it.

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