Saturday, 30 June 2012

SmackTalk 29.06.12

WWE has decreased the number of televised World Heavyweight and WWE championship matches over the last few years. That’s helped the belts mean more and cultivated a feeling that televised title bouts are special. This week saw one of these championship clashes, and the fact that super worker Dolph Ziggler was involved alongside the always reliable Alberto Del Rio and Sheamus made it even more of a highlight.

‘The Show Off’ was the man who carried the match. The exchanges between ADR and ‘Great White’ occasionally felt slow and clunky whilst Ziggler’s work was fluid and believable. Once again his ability to take big bumps came in handy as it made his opponents look great and increased the number of highlights in the match.

‘The Heel’ wound up in the WHC scene by fluke (because of injuries and suspensions) and I hope WWE recognise that he’s improved things by being there and don’t demote him when the established stars start returning to television. Ziggler has earned a top spot and I hope something special is done with him at Money in the Bank. Whether it’s a title match, a prominent singles bout or winning a briefcase doesn’t matter, having a plan for the guy is what’s important.

Speaking of Money in the Bank, the upcoming pay-per-view received some unexpected but welcome preparation on this week’s SmackDown. Five men qualified for the World Heavyweight Money in the Bank match. Damien Sandow defeated Zack Ryder in a basic but enjoyable outing, Tensai handily toppled Justin Gabriel, while Christian and Santino qualified together with a tag team win over David Otunga and Cody Rhodes.

Lastly Tyson Kidd got a surprise victory over the doomed Jack Swagger. Two years ago ‘The All American American’ won a Money in the Bank match at WrestleMania. Now he’s being jobbed out to Superstars regulars. Things don’t look good for him. On the plus side it’s nice to see Tyson Kidd added to a pay-per-view clash as he will up the quality and get the chance to show that he warrants a greater television presence.

Back to Cody Rhodes: immediately after the match I assumed he would receive a second opportunity to get into MITB on next Tuesday’s live SmackDown, because it’s impossible to imagine WWE not putting him into a briefcase battle on July 15th. Later on in the show this hunch was confirmed when Cole, Mathews and Booker revealed that Rhodes had lodged a complaint at the ruling because he hadn’t lost.

I fully expect him to end up in the ladder clash and, assuming that he does, he will almost certainly be my pick to win.

Opening

Tweet 1: Randy Orton is still prominent in the SmackDown opening. He's definitely not getting fired.
Tweet 2: The word "historically" was just used with regard to Money in the Bank. The first one was in 2005...
Tweet 3: Championship match for the main event. Great Stuff.
Tweet 4: Recap of Bryan pinning Punk on RAW! Yes! Yes! Yes!

AJ v Layla

Tweet 5: AJ v Layla. I always think shows should start with an exciting match with over performers. WWE clearly disagrees.
Tweet 6: Handshake? C'mon girls, this ain't ROH...
Tweet 7: I say girls, Layla's about thirty-five.
Tweet 8: Cole thinks AJ has an agenda. Booker thinks she's "lost her mind" because Bryan dumped her. Most viewers don't care.
Tweet 9: Even though I'm watching YouTube #SmackDown still trending. Nice timing.
Tweet 10: Daniel Bryan! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!
Tweet 11: AJ is distracted by a hilarious Yes-athon and loses the match. Priceless.

Daniel Bryan promo

Tweet 12: Now Bryan's just standing on the apron watching AJ beat Layla. He's brilliant.
Tweet 13: Bryan doesn’t crave attention.
Tweet 14: I'd watch two hours of Bryan shouting "Yes!" It's better than most of the matches you get on RAW and SmackDown.
Tweet 15: Random thought: where's Sin Cara's push?
Tweet 16: Bryan and AJ are having a "Yes!" off. TV gold.
Tweet 17: I have little use for Vickie Guerrero if she's not introducing Dolph Ziggler.
Tweet 18: I like Vickie knocking Bryan's overuse of catchphrases.
Tweet 19: Bryan wants AJ banned from ringside at Money in the Bank.
Tweet 20: I hope that happens. Punk v Bryan needs to happen without any gimmicky nonsense. It should be a straight wrestling feud.
Tweet 21: The Money in the Bank theme is great.
Tweet 22: AJ will referee Punk v Bryan at MITB. No focus on wrestling for me.
Tweet 23: This is a very fluid episode of SmackDown. Three segments have run together so far.

Money in the Bank qualifier – Damien Sandow v Zack Ryder

Tweet 24: World Heavyweight title MITB qualifier. Zack Ryder v Damien Sandow.
Tweet 25: The point of Sandow's promo? He wants to win MITB and become world champion to help enlighten fans. That's nice of him.
Tweet 26: That was a tidy little match. Sandow beats Ryder clean with a neckbreaker then performs a celebratory cartwheel.
Tweet 27: Both men are over enough to be Money in the Bank. I'm interested to see who gets put in the match over Ryder.

Daniel Bryan hunts for AJ backstage

Tweet 28: AJ's not in the Divas' locker room. WHERE COULD SHE BE?!

Money in the Bank qualifier – Jack Swagger v Tyson Kidd

Tweet 29: Jack Swagger v Tyson Kidd for a spot in the Money in the Bank ladder match. I will be astounded if Kidd wins this.
Tweet 30: They just mentioned Swagger won MITB in 2010. That didn't do much for his career did it...
Tweet 31: Swagger should start doing a piledriver variant and call it the Tannen Driver.
Tweet 32: "... the winner will have an opportunity for a World Heavyweight title any time in the next year. A World Heavyweight title match that is."
Tweet 33: That's why Cole's the lead commentator. #paidthebigbucks
Tweet 34: Kidd is being allowed to show resilience against Swagger. More matches like this could get him over as a babyface.
Tweet 35: Tyson Kidd wins with a Blockbuster. That is ASTONISHING. WWE seems to be putting together a match with a newcomers feel to it.
Tweet 36: It's a surprising result, but in a good way. I won't pick Kidd as a winner but I think he'll add a great deal to the show.

Jack Swagger is in control here but it was Tyson Kidd who earned the victory

Money in the Bank qualifier – Christian and Santino v David Otunga and Cody Rhodes

Tweet 37: Tag team MITB qualifier? I hate these sorts of situations. It's a singles match they're trying to get into, why are they teaming?
Tweet 38: Santino's involved. That just makes me like the match less.
Tweet 39: Christian saves it.
Tweet 40: I said this last week but it's worth saying again: the MITB ad starring Del Rio is gold.
Tweet 41: OTUNGA COAT KLAXON!!
Tweet 42: "Look at that body, Book" - Michael Cole on David Otunga's physique and posing
Tweet 43: Rhodes is Otunga's partner. Three guys I'm a fan of are involved in this. I can tolerate Santino's nonsense.
Tweet 44: Let me say this: Santino is no Edge.
Tweet 45: Otunga just performed a shoulder block. I think he should use it regularly and refer to it as the Autumnal Charge.
Tweet 46: Otunga is incorporating flexes into his matches. He is a modern day Scott Steiner. Sadly he doesn't have 'Big Poppa Pumps's' promo skills.
Tweet 47: Christian and Santino get into MITB. More guys will qualify on a live SmackDown next week. I'm expecting more heels to be added.
Tweet 48: Rhodes is kicking off because Otunga lost, not him. I smell a second chance for him on next week's show. Because who else is there?

Matt Striker interviews Sheamus

Tweet 49: Sheamus. #bumpkinpromo
Tweet 50: "I DON'T WORRY, I JUST KICKE ARSE!" - Sheamus, world champion of a company that promotes an anti-bullying campaign

RAW flashback

Tweet 51: Rock's This Is Your Life segment was great. I remember watching it on a Tuesday evening after school.
Tweet 52: This was back when Rock wore "thousand dollar shirts."

Daniel Bryan finds AJ backstage

Tweet 53: Why hasn't AJ changed out of her wrestling gear?

Ryback v Dan Barone and Brandan Burke

Tweet 54: Dan Barone and Brendan Burke are rapping. Didn't some other Ryback jobbers do this gimmick a couple of weeks ago?
Tweet 55: Burke (or member it's Barone) looks like a poor man's Heath Slater.
Tweet 56: You want to face Ryback you need to learn how to take a stiff bump.
Tweet 57: I like Josh Mathews' claim that last week he followed Ryback and did things he did. Last week was a workout, this week was eating.
Tweet 58: I want that to be Josh's gimmick: Ryback's pal.
Tweet 59: Barone and Burke get a shock victory over Ryback! ... Just kidding. Ryback is currently chanting his usual "Feed me more!"

Ryback, on his way to another squash victory

Teddy Long speaks to Antonio Cesaro and Aksana backstage

Tweet 60: Antonio Cesaro! Heeeey!
Tweet 61: Teddy is running RAW and SmackDown next week? Didn't his loss at WrestleMania "prove" he's not qualified for the job?
Tweet 62: Antonio and Aksana v Beth Phoenix and Khali next week. I think Antonio could get a good match from Khali (who can't even walk properly).

Money in the Bank qualifier – Tensai v Justin Gabriel

Tweet 63: Tensai's gimmick was good when he came back. It's being stripped back. The most interesting thing about him now is that he bullies Sakamoto.
Tweet 64: I expect Tensai will win because the MITB match is currently light on heels. Gabriel would be a better addition though.
Tweet 65: Rhodes is filing a protest. He will wrestle in a second qualifier next week and I expect he will win.
Tweet 66: If Rhodes is in Money in the Bank I will probably pick him to win.
Tweet 67: Those "tattoos" on Tensai's face have been smeared...
Tweet 68: Tensai wins. He's a strange addition. I can't imagine him excelling in a ladder match.
Tweet 69: During the match Josh Mathews mentioned Tensai had "ploughed through" the competition in Japan. No companies were mentioned.

World Heavyweight championship – Dolph Ziggler v Alberto Del Rio v Sheamus

Tweet 70: Albertooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo Deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeel Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiioooooooooooooooooo!!
Tweet 71: Is ADR destined to win this evening? I doubt it...
Tweet 72: Are WWE booking Ziggler as a tweener? It's hard to tell but they certainly should be.
Tweet 73: "He's a fightin' Sheamus" - Booker T on Sheamus
Tweet 74: The best way to describe a clothesline from Sheamus: meaty.
Tweet 75: Del Rio has patented the cross armbreaker has he, Cole? I really doubt that.
Tweet 76: Ziggler is carrying this match.
Tweet 77: "Ironically it's Del Rio grabbing his shoulder that time" - Michael Cole, as Del Rio grabbed his elbow (no explanation was given for the mention of irony)
Tweet 78: ADR took a nasty-looking bump from the top rope onto the apron and then to the floor. No wonder the guy gets injured.
Tweet 79: Why are Ziggler and Del Rio being allowed to knock Sheamus about at the announce table. This isn't a no DQ match.
Tweet 80: Sheamus, you hit your finisher. Why aren't you covering?
Tweet 81: FAMEASSER!! #BadAssBillyZiggler
Tweet 82: Brogue Kick to 'The Show Off' earns Sheamus a win. Del Rio should have done the job.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Masterfully Avoided

Remember Chris Masters? He’s the guy WWE have released twice and has been campaigning on and off for months for a job with TNA Wrestling. He got his chance to earn himself a contract with a tryout match at a recent IMPACT taping. That didn’t go too well for him.

Despite having an impressive physique and experience with TNA’s Indian affiliate Ring Ka King ‘The Masterpiece’ did not get a regular gig in Orlando.

I’m surprised by this. TNA has never been shy about hiring former WWE names and while Masters cannot be considered the world’s greatest wrestler or the biggest name ever to be released by Vince McMahon’s promotion he’s a decent enough worker who has proven he’s dedicated to improving his craft. This was evidenced by the greater quality of his matches during his second run with WWE: he had honed his skills after being released from WWE in November 2007.  

A former WWE star who can wrestle to a satisfactory standard seems like the ideal hire for TNA. While I doubt such a move would have turned the company around or turned out to be the shrewdest business move in the group’s history it would have at least freshened up the roster and created some fresh scenarios. Those are things TNA is very much in need of.

How did TNA pass on that physique?

Masters made his name in WWE as a heel. His general demeanour and physique lend themselves to the role. However, he has proven surprisingly good at working as a good guy too. That’s always a useful attribute for a wrestler and would have opened up TNA’s options for introducing him to television. No matter which side of the heel-face divide ‘The Masterpiece’ came in on he would have had enjoyable matches waiting for him with James Storm, Bobby Roode, Kurt Angle, AJ Styles, Chris Daniels, and Samoa Joe.

I’ve not written this because I am angry about TNA’s failure to sign Chris Mordetzky. I don’t feel that his campaign for a job in Orlando should have paid off. There are dozens of performers that I think would make better additions to the TNA roster. I’ve written this because I’m surprised by TNA’s decision to pass on signing the guy. Their roster is in desperate need of some new names and Masters would, as I said above, have made a fine addition. If they’re not signing Masters you have to wonder what exactly TNA are looking for in new acquisitions, and even if they’re intending to brighten up their drab roster at all.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Styles Affair

AJ Styles is without doubt one of the most talented wrestlers in TNA. It’s not a stretch to describe him as one of the best wrestlers in the world either. With this being the case you have to wonder why the writers who put together IMPACT Wrestling each and every week aren’t emphasising these skills and are instead choosing to include him in storylines that require him to act more than grapple.

Over the course of the last few months Styles has entered into a feud with his former pals Christopher Daniels and (Frankie) Kazarian. On paper that seems fine. All three men are great talents and more than capable of concocting the sort of matches that TNA should be promoting all the time. Overlook the fact that Styles and Daniels have clashed many times over the years and it’s nothing but a positive situation.

That is until you remember that Dixie Carter has been added to proceedings.

The basic plot is that Daniels became aware of shady goings on between Styles and Carter and attempted to make out that ‘The Phenomenal One’ had slept his way to the top of the organisation, instead of making it there on merit. Kazarian was turned against his buddy by a few carefully chosen words by ‘The Fallen Angel’.

The problems with this are obvious. Styles and Carter are both known to be happily married. A fake affair requires too much suspension of disbelief. More importantly Styles has been one of the best wrestlers in the promotion since its formation ten years ago, before Dixie joined the organisation. Also, his spot in the promotion is upper mid-card at best. Are we really to believe that ten years of hard work and sleeping with the boss have resulted in a pretty mediocre spot?

Why have these two been paired up for a storyline? Why?

If TNA want to book a programme involving Styles, Daniels and Kazarian then it would be best to keep the storyline as straightforward as possible. In an ideal world they would be engaged in a more sports-based rivalry, constantly exchanging wins in an effort to prove who the better man is. With Kurt Angle involved as Styles’ tag team partner it would be very easy to produce this sort of simple but effective programme. Doing this would provide IMPACT and various pay-per-views with a plethora of engaging matches. That’s what TNA fans want: not nonsense promoting Dixie Carter as an on-screen performer.

Why should anybody watching care if they have had an affair anyway? Why should anybody care about the recent revelation that the two have actually been visiting a woman bringing up a child single-handed (or some equally banal activity)? They shouldn’t and they won’t. Storylines like this just don’t have a place on a wrestling show.

When plots focusing on outside-the-ring activities do make it onto a wrestling programming they should be thought about and planned carefully. In an ideal world they should include less experienced wrestlers as it creates a tighter focus on their promos, which is useful for learning and improving their act.

Clich├ęd, overbooked, unplanned soap operas are not the sort of thing that will improve a wrestling show in 2012 and they certainly aren’t something that a wooden actor and talented wrestler like AJ Styles should be exposed to. If TNA really wants to make use of him they should let him do what he’s best at: wrestle.

Monday, 25 June 2012

The Highlight of the Night

A month ago Chris Jericho was suspended for mercilessly attacking a Brazilian flag at a WWE live event (read about it here). When he disappeared from our screens he was playing a bad guy and was just entering into a feud with Randy Orton. Things have changed since then.

Tonight ‘Y2J’ will return to RAW. Considering WWE’s current lack of top line babyfaces and the video of Jericho on stage with Fozzy that was aired on last week’s Monday night show there’s a good chance he will be coming back as a good guy. That would be a good move for WWE to make. Not only would Jericho help plug a gap on the roster but he would also have a chance to freshen up his act. Even though he’s only been back in the company since January it’s sorely needed: the cartoon villain he likes to play has become depressingly stale.

Whether he comes back as a good guy or a bad guy ‘The King of the World’ will definitely not be resuming his rivalry with ‘The Viper’ this evening. Orton was hit with a suspension the week after Jericho and will be on the side-lines for another month. Rumours that he’ll be switching back to a heel role upon his television return mean that a Jericho v Orton feud is still a possibility but  even if that’s the play Jericho will still be without a storyline for a month.

Will Chris Jericho be the highlight of the night when he returns to RAW?

Thankfully WWE has plenty of potential opponents for ‘Y2J’. The man I would personally like to see Jericho tangle with over the next few months in Daniel Bryan. The former undisputed champion tends to work better when facing smaller opponents and ‘D-Bryan’ gets a good match out of anyone. I would expect a Jericho v Bryan series to easily better the Jericho v CM Punk series we saw earlier in the year.

The former ‘American Dragon’ is underrated on the microphone too. He’s become a little overshadowed by a certain word recently and has always been more known for his wrestling skills over his verbal skills (and rightly so) but he’s very accomplished on the stick and could hang with a talented talker like Jericho. Their promos could be very memorable.

Speaking of talented talkers, how about Damien Sandow as an opponent for ‘The Paragon of Virtue’? He’s arguably the most promising newcomer introduced to WWE programming this year and would benefit from working against a man with Jericho’s reputation. He’s not had much chance to shine in matches thus far but I think he’s good enough to work an enjoyable six or seven minute match on pay-per-view.

Jericho could even be used to give the tag team scene a boost. The Prime Time Players could interrupt his return speech (you know he’s going to give one) and attempt to “take his spot.” That could lead to Jericho and a partner entering into a three-way programme with the heel PTPs and the tweener duo of Epico and Primo unit. ‘Y2J’ could even replace R-Truth as Kofi Kingston’s tag team partner.

WWE have given up on the push of Tensai over the last two months. That’s a shame because Matt Bloom has improved a lot since his previous run with the promotion as A-Train and could, if given a sustained push without constant changes being made to his character, get over as a star in the organisation. He’d make an interesting, not to mention unexpected, choice of opponent for Jericho.

The Fozzy frontman could be used to finally elevate Cody Rhodes further up the card. The former ‘Dashing One’s’ programme with Christian feels liked it’s being dragged out for the sake of it right now. A feud with Jericho would be something fresh and interesting and would also be building for the future. WWE have been neglecting Rhodes since WrestleMania when they should be doing everything possible to help him make it to the top bracket. A high profile programme with Jericho could be his ticket out of the mid-card, which the promotion should want because he has the potential to become their next bankable heel star.

Jericho needs to be used to crete as many new stars as possible. His commitments with Fozzy may see him disappear from TV again within the next few months and he’s stated in several interviews that music, not wrestling, his now his number one priority. WWE needs to make use of him while they have him.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

SmackTalk 22.06.12

I don’t know if there was a new agent helping with match layouts or there was a conscious decision to improve the quality of the in-ring action but for whatever reason this week’s episode of SmackDown featured some great wrestling sequences. The final moments of Christian v ADR was the standout but Kane v Bryan featured some nice moments too and the entire Ziggler v Sheamus match was exceptionally laid out.

The result of this renewed emphasis, conscious or otherwise, was that the matches were more entertaining and the participants looked like bigger stars. I’m hoping this is something WWE continues in the future.

I was also impressed by the fact that Ziggler v Sheamus went on last. When it was announced at the start of the episode along with Kane v Daniel Bryan I was sure the men feuding over AJ would headline the show. Having ‘Great White’ in the final bout of the evening was the right move if he’s going to get over as a franchise star for the organisation. It helped ‘The Show Off’s’ standing too. He entered yet another great performance. Sooner or later WWE will put a world title on him. I hope it comes sooner rather than later but for now at least he’s getting to show what he can do in a featured position.

I thought Ryback got a nice response this week too. The lack of “Goldberg!” chants is a promising sign that the man from Sin City is beginning to get over in his own right, as does the audience’s readiness to chant along with his cry of “Feed me more!” If WWE keeps using him in exactly the same fashion (perhaps increasing the number of guys he’s squashing to three and perhaps even four in a month or two) I think Ryback will get over huge and could have the potential to be a successful world champion.

The key to Ryback’s success is that he doesn’t sell much. As soon as he’s asked to show weakness he will lose some of his lustre. If and when he’s put into matches against top names he needs to be booked in exactly the same fashion, no matter who the established name is.

The final comment I have to make is that Cody Rhodes is slipping back down the card. A few months ago he was a regular on both RAW and SmackDown. Now he is reduced to a brief run-in on the blue brand and he’s still associated with the Intercontinental championship.

Considering the lack of main event talent at the company’s disposal ‘The Dashing One’ should be getting a much stronger push. That’s something WWE really need to look into. There’s still plenty of time to have him ready for a world title bout by SummerSlam. That’s something that should be strongly considered by the writing team.

Show intro

Tweet 1: It's SmackDown time... with a new beginning video?
Tweet 2: Barrett's on it anyway. I don't remember that form before.
Tweet 3: Josh Mathews just mentioned Money in the Bank. That should have been done on RAW...

Big Show promo, featuring Brodus Clay and David Otunga

Tweet 4: Teddy Long is back helping to run SmackDown. Losing at WrestleMania meant nothing then?
Tweet 5: Big Show is cutting exactly the sort of promo Kevin Nash would have cut when WCW was winding down.
Tweet 6: Big Show in a Money in the Bank match? That will be poor. Put him against Sheamus instead: he needs a hefty heel opponent.
Tweet 7: Brodus Clau. #seriousBrodus
Tweet 8: Otunga! Yes! Clay v Otunga is money!
Tweet 9: According to Booker David Otunga knows all about cowardly attacks from the backside. No comment.
Tweet 10: Big Show beats up fan favourite Brodus Clay and the fans decide to chant "You can't wrestle" at him. Why? He's not TRYING to wrestle now.
Tweet 11: Big Show says he doesn't care about their boos. He does. Deep down he just wants to be liked...
Tweet 12: Big Show screaming at children to smile is one of the most heelish things he's ever done.
Tweet 13: Otunga is now on the mic talking about he's going to call Clay's momma.
Tweet 14: Otunga does the dancing gimmick way better than Brodus. Why? Because he incorporates flexes into the routine!

Big Show gives the Funkasaurus a good kicking

Ryback v Frank Venezia and Jared Wachtler

Tweet 15: Frank Venezia and Jared Wachtler. TNA should sign these guys...
Tweet 16: Venezia looks like an extra from Arrested Development.
Tweet 17: Wachtler is the cousin of Brickhouse Brown is he, Booker? That sounds like rubbish.
Tweet 18: An idea for Ryback: have him squash an assortment of legendary jobbers on RAW 1,000. Naturally this would include the Brooklyn Brawler.
Tweet 19: In a few months Ryback should be booked to win the World Heavyweight championship in precisely this fashion.

Backstage segment featuring Mick Foley, Yoshi Tatsu, Vickie Guerrero and the Great Khali

Tweet 20: Tatsu and Foley backstage. Why is Tatsu in a suit?
Tweet 21: "Don't you have some sushi to go eat?" - Vickie Guerrero to Yoshi Tatsu. A beautifully racist little comment there.
Tweet 22: Khali and Foley dance. Sadly Foley would not escape the scene without being raped by Khali.

A Spanish advert for Money in the Bank

Tweet 23: I'm watching a version of SmackDown with Spanish adverts. Their version of the MITB ad is BRILLIANT. I hope we have it too.

Alberto Del Rio v Christian

Tweet 24: Alberto Del Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiioooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!
Tweet 25: Ricardo must have a sore throat tonight. Pity.
Tweet 26: Christian's new T-shirt is designed to resemble the periodic table. WHY?!
Tweet 27: ADR just took a big bump over the top rope. That's very impressive for a guy his size.
Tweet 28: Back from the break to see Del Rio applying a modified Crippler Crossface. That wasn't acknowledged by Cole.
Tweet 29: I never like Christian's finisher being called the Killswitch. The Unprettier is a much better name.
Tweet 30: That was one of the best finisihing sequences I've seen on a WWE TV show in months. More matches need that level of attention.
Tweet 31: Cody Rhodes wants his shiny white belt back. He should be going after a world title in my opinion.
Tweet 32: I really want the Ziggler v Sheamus match to headline the show. It will help establish both men as main eventers in the eyes of viewers.
Tweet 33: Which should be a top priority for WWE.

Kane v Daniel Bryan

Tweet 34: Why did Kane stop his "Embrace the hate" campaign?
Tweet 35: Daniel Bryan v Kane. Who's meant to be the face here? I know who I'm cheering for...
Tweet 36: Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!
Tweet 37: How many times are they going to cut to AJ during this match? We get it, she's the "special guest timekeeper"! Stop ramming it home.

Guest timekeeper AJ looks concerned doesn't she?

Tweet 38: Yes kicks!
Tweet 39: Headbutt into a choke slam attempt into a Yes lock attempt into another choke slam attempt countered with a guillotine choke...
Tweet 40: ... is another great sequence.
Tweet 41: AJ randomly ringing the bell. No, I didn't see that coming. #sarcasm
Tweet 42: After some AJ-inspired confusion Kane gets the win via choke slam. Most enjoyable Kane match I've seen for a while.

Mick Foley promo

Tweet 43: Foley's in charge this week. Vickie's in charge next week. I'm looking forward to the return of the Anonymous RAW GM.
Tweet 44: Heath Slater's new gimmick is interrupting promos from old stars? It's better than nothing.
Tweet 45: 'The One Man Rock Band' is actually a pretty good comedy heel.

Zack Ryder v Heath Slater, followed by Foley and Ryder celebrating backstage

Tweet 46: Ryder v Slater. This will be worthwhile if they get five minutes and 'Long Island Iced Z' goes over.
Tweet 47: Right result but they should have had a little longer to, y'know, wrestle.
Tweet 48: All too brief Sandow appearance. One of the best characters in WWE. You're welcome.

The Prime Time Players v The Usos

Tweet 49: AW is a very crisp promo man. The "hashtag" mentions are a nice touch to his character.
Tweet 50: Rare mention of Rikishi there. I'd like to see him come back to get squashed by Ryback.
Tweet 51: According to Cole and Booker AW is "paying dividends" to the PTPs. Thing is, they were winning before...
Tweet 52: Brief backstage scuffle between Epico and Primo and the PTPs there. Why not book that to happen in the ring after Young and O'Neil won (read more on these teams here)?

Santino looks for signs in the ring, with no explanation as to why

Tweet 53: Santino in the ring talking about audience signs. This feels like a during-the-break segment... because it is.
Tweet 54: Some random woman dressed in Santino merch is now in the ring. She's clearly a plant.
Tweet 55: She kissed Santino and is now fanning herself with her hands. Clearly a plant. What a stupid, pointless segment.
Tweet 56: No offence to the woman but doesn't have the look that Vince McMahon likes so she's clearly not a new callup. No idea why it happened.

Dolph Ziggler v Sheamus

Tweet 57: Dolph Ziggler! #heel #showoff #heelsdoitbetter
Tweet 58: Giving Sheamus v Ziggler the main event spot is a good move. This should be a solid match.
Tweet 59: Ziggler sold those steps SO well. Give that man a headline push!
Tweet 60: FAMEASSER from the steps!! #BadAssBillyZiggler

Ziggler v Sheamus was an excellent main event to a show that was far above average

Tweet 61: "Let's go Sheamus!" "Let's go Ziggler!" PUSH THE HEEL!
Tweet 62: White Noise countered into a sunset flip, followed up with a jumping DDT. There are some amazing sequences on tonight's show.
Tweet 63: Punch from Sheamus when he was sitting on the top rope: Ziggler sold it like he'd been hit with an anvil.
Tweet 64: Ziggler goes down to the Brogue Kick in a tremendous match.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Prime Time

At No Way Out, in one of the many unadvertised matches to make it on to a WWE pay-per-view this year, Abraham Washington (who now bills himself simply as AW) turned on his clients Epico, Primo and Rosa Mendes and helped the Prime Time Players win a four team number one contenders match, which also included the Usos and Justin Gabriel and Tyson Kidd. The likelihood is that this swerve turn was not the plan when AW originally became the manager of Epico and Primo. That doesn’t matter. It was a good move.

Since being placed with AW in the weeks following WrestleMania the former tag team champions have done very little. They originally joined AW’s All World talent stable because they were tired of being left off television. Ironically their affiliation with AW resulted in them getting even fewer matches but it didn’t matter, we were told they were biding their time and waiting before instigating their contractually obligated championship rematch.

AW becoming the agent for the Prime Time Players is a much better use of him. Titus O’Neil and Darren Young have few things going for them but they are at least enthusiastic about their job and appear dedicated to improving. AW will help cover their weaknesses and make them a more rounded act.

AW and the Prime Time Players: for better or for worse the future of WWE's tag team division

The PTPs have been getting regular matches on RAW and SmackDown, winning a lot, and have been allowed to experiment with their on-screen characters. Those are all signs that somebody in the organisation thinks they have potential. While I don’t agree with that view at least WWE are giving a new act a consistent push that is mindful of their current skill level.

I actually think part of the reason for switching AW over to the Prime Time Players was to allow WWE to book a tag team feud. With R-Truth injured he and championship partner Kofi Kingston are unable to engage in a proper feud right now. Using Epico and Primo as avenging babyfaces is a good way to keep building Young and O’Neil before they’re able to take the gold from Kingston and Truth. In the long run it will be good too: a deep doubles division needs more than one face unit and if Epico and Primo are handled well they could fit the bill nicely.

I would assume WWE will either wait until Truth is injury free or, if too much time elapses, book either some sort of injury angle with ‘The Suntan Superman’ that means Kofi must defend alone or find a replacement partner (I’ve suggested Zack Ryder for the role). Of those options I think the injury angle and handicap match approach is best as it clearly illustrates the underhanded nature of the Prime Time Players, and the unjust nature of the title change would make people anticpate a rematch that little bit more.

What scant future the WWE tag team division has is linked to the Prime Time Players. They may not be great but they’re better than nothing. On the bright side WWE clearly has interest in them and AW should help them a more bearable act. Sooner or later they’ll get their hands on the ugly tag straps: that’s when they’ll really have their chance to prove they belong.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Summer Games

Last Sunday’s No Way Out saw Triple H discuss his storyline legal battles with Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman. That’s the sort of segment that is usually reserved for Monday nights on RAW but because this one had implications for SummerSlam it was decided that it warranted a spot on a pay-per-view card.

I’ve suggested WWE make this move before. February’s Elimination Chamber is a good example, it struck me at the time as a wasted opportunity. An unadvertised match between Jack Swagger and Justin Gabriel clogged up the card and the next evening on RAW The Rock made an appearance. To my mind it should have been the other way round: fans should have been paying to hear ‘The Great One’s’ latest thoughts on his WrestleMania opponent John Cena and Swagger and Gabriel should have been facing one another in a filler spot on RAW.

I’m pleased to see that WWE have finally decided to at least experiment with taking promos that advance big matches onto their pay-per-view events. Even if it’s just part-timers like Triple H, The Rock and The Undertaker it’s a step in the right direction.

Triple H’s promo was designed to begin the build-up to his long-rumoured clash with Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam. While that continued on Monday’s RAW the fact that it was begun on a PPV event is what’s important. WWE places a lot of importance on promos such as this and while the majority should be on RAW (or at a push SmackDown) the big ones that start or considerably advance feuds are a natural fit on bigger shows. If the hype is being handled correctly audiences should be eager to see what happens next.

So where next for this particular story?

We’ve already seen Paul Heyman tell ‘The King of Kings’ that his client (is that still the term they’re using?) is not interested in either returning to WWE or wrestling at SummerSlam. Triple H’s response was to floor Heyman with a punch, his thinking being that if Lesnar still didn’t respond after that it would make it look as though ‘The Pain’ is scared of getting floored by HHH in a similar fashion.

This story is likely to get at least a mention every week between now and SummerSlam. Future appearances by Heyman are assured and it’s very likely he will return with yet another lawsuit filed against ‘The Cerebral Assassin’ and possibly a security team comprised of indy wrestlers too.

At some point Lesnar will appear on television to confront Triple H face-to-face and officially agree to face him at SummerSlam. He’s advertised for the August 13th RAW (the final episode before SummerSlam) so that’s a good bet and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him used on the 1,000th episode on July 23rd. WWE will need him to appear to create interest in the match and get some footage for a video package to be aired at the event.

Lesnar’s limited dates contract with the organisation means that he is unlikely to appear more than twice because WWE wants to save a set number of dates for the build-up to next year’s WrestleMania. That means whatever appearances he does make are likely to be eventful.

When Lesnar does put in an appearance WWE should continue to get all the money they can from having him under contract and the way to do that is simple: advertise his “official in-ring response to Triple H’s SummerSlam challenge” for Money in the Bank. Make people pay to see that face-off between the SummerSlam opponents.

Brock Lesnar's light schedule means he has plenty of time to relax before SummerSlam

The match itself should be interesting. Triple H is one of several big names from Lesnar’s original WWE run that he didn’t face on television. It’s a big match that should encourage a big fight atmosphere and a significant number of pay-per-views buys (the early announcement should help with that too). This is a promising approach: WWE may finally be attempting to turn SummerSlam into a blockbuster event in the fashion of WrestleMania.

I’m keen to see how the match is booked. Triple H used the word “fight” when issuing the challenge which makes me think it will be at least partly booked as an ego trip for him so he can say he went toe-to-toe with a former UFC champion. That won’t hurt his image as a tough guy wrestler at all. Striking a certain point on someone’s face to make them bleed, a trick we saw employed in Lesnar’s clash with John Cena at Extreme Rules and Triple H’s ‘Mania bout with The Undertaker (designed to get around WWE’s self-imposed no blading policy), will almost certainly be utilised as well.

If I had to make an early prediction as to who will win I’d go with Lesnar. This will be only his second match since returning to the organisation. He lost his first match to John Cena and if WWE want to use him as a drawing card for WrestleMania next year he’s going to need to be seen as a threat to whoever he faces. That’s going to be much harder to achieve as the number of losses he suffers increases.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Fantasy Booker: Making Ring of Honor the Best in the World

A few months ago I posted a short article (read it here) about what I’d do if I were suddenly (and inexplicably) put in charge of Ring of Honor. In it I stated that I was happy with the direction the company was going in and couldn’t come up with anything I’d do differently. In the end I simply stated that I’d have Andy ‘Right Leg’ Ridge join the House of Truth.

I’ve thought more on the subject since then and I now realise that there are several changes I’d make to ROH if I were put in charge. As usual with articles in which I state how I’d run a wrestling company I will attempt to be as realistic as possible and be mindful of ROH’s tight budget and current product. I shan’t, for example, suggest hiring Dave Bautista.

The financial situation in Ring of Honor is probably a good starting point. When the promotion started out the goal of every show was to break even. That meant making enough money to pay the talent and cover all the expenses that booking a venue entails. The idea was to make a profit on DVD sales. I think that’s a good model for a smaller promotion. It eliminates some of the pressure of promoting a show and encourages a keener focus on booking: if you want to make your money from DVD sales you’ll make sure to make every show as good as possible so that more people want to buy it when it’s released.

I would make an attempt to return to that philosophy. ROH has been criticised for not putting much thought into its live events (house shows, non-televised events, call them what you will) for a while now and I think if more effort was made with them it would marginally increase DVD sales (because fans would be encouraged to shell out on a greater number of purchases) and improve the quality of on-going storylines too because there would be a tighter focus on quality.

This man would be the face of my Ring of Honor

The number of shows ROH currently promotes is fairly sporadic right now. A regular touring schedule would benefit everyone involved. Fans would know when the company is next set to run a show, meaning no events would be forgotten or overlooked. More importantly the company’s contracted performers would be able to agree to appear for other organisations farther in advance because they would know what dates to keep free for ROH.

I think ROH should be running four live events and one television taping per month. The simplest and most effective approach would seem to be making the first and third weekends of every month house show weekends and the second weekend a TV taping weekend. That leaves the end of the month open to host internet pay-per-views as and when required.

Four non-televised events a month gives the company enough time to run shows in all of its current markets without becoming overexposed. It also leaves time for new towns and venues to be tried once in a while as well. The current Friday and Saturday night approach seems to be working for the promotion so I’d stick with that. If business becomes more brisk or a weekend of events is planned in a particularly strong market there’s always the option of adding a third show to the run on the Thursday or Sunday (and possibly even adding a fourth night too).

Currently the TV show is recorded every month or so in Baltimore. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand it’s good as Baltimore is home to the HQ of ROH owners SBG, allowing filming costs to be kept low. A regular audience is attracted too, which is a good thing for a company in Ring of Honor’s situation because it ensures the majority of people watching will be familiar with current storylines and passionate about the product.

On the other hand a regular location for TV recordings means that the majority of the company’s key angles and storyline developments take place in the same place, meaning other loyal viewers don’t get to see as many eventful plot developments. Ultimately I think I would keep filming the TV show in Baltimore to keep costs low and because my booking philosophy (as outlined above) would be to make house shows more worthwhile, meaning a greater number of meaningful events occur away from TV (but would still obviously be recapped on TV once they’ve happened).

I am currently not overly impressed with the television show’s content. The match quality is consistently high and the commentary is always dependable but the show generally feels very slow and formulaic. I actually preferred the HDNet approach. Generally speaking those shows featured a squash match or two, a match of decent length to open or the show or in the middle of the card and a strong main event.

I understand that the SBG output is designed to get over the promotion’s top stars but featuring more matches with less running time each gives more wrestlers screen time, thus meaning there’s a greater chance of someone new getting over. The key with the television show should be to expose as many members of the roster as possible. I also like matches featuring non-roster talent as a means of discovering potential new signings.

One of my goals would be to get the TV show into foreign markets. The TV show is already being made so why not try to sell it abroad and get some money from it? Germany, Ireland, Italy, and (of course) Britain are all countries that have plenty of wrestling fans in them so those should be immediately targeted by Ring of Honor. Longer term I would want to run a three or four date tour of Britain in 2013 and having a TV presence would certainly help with that.

The iPPV approach ROH is currently using is not great. Putting aside technical issues suffered on the last several live broadcasts my big problem with ROH’s supershow calendar is that there’s little regularity to it. I think the company should be promoting an internet pay-per-view at least once every two months. The company has announced its PPV output for most of the rest of the year but I would like 2013 to have a more regular approach. The last week of February should be the anniversary show, a new show could air in April (or perhaps Supercard of Honor could become an iPPV), followed by Best in the World in June, Death Before Dishonor in August, Glory By Honor in October and Final Battle in December. If things were going well other broadcasts could be slotted in on the “off” months but those would be the core six.

With attendance numbers currently low and critical acclaim hard to come by I would concentrate on keeping the league popular in existing markets. New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Toronto, and the Carolinas should be getting at least two spectacular cards per year in order to keep interest high. What would this entail precisely? First of all those should be the only areas considered for PPVs. When a card isn’t going to be broadcast it needs to be treated as something special and have big title matches and grudge bouts announced for it. A by-the-numbers approach simply isn’t enough to keep the company afloat anymore.

Looking at the announced locations for future pay-per-views it seems that ROH has finally stopped relying on NYC for its supercards. That’s something I’d continue as having pay-per-views coming from different areas alleviates some of the negatives of having the TV show come from the same town every week.

Wrestlers currently contracted to Ring of Honor are able to work for most other promotions as long as they are not required on an ROH show. Basically they are free agents but their contracts mean that they must give Ring of Honor dates priority. I think that’s a fair approach as it allows wrestlers freedom but ensures that ROH will have access to its top stars when needed. I would continue the approach for all of the company’s key performers.

Now let’s get to the fun part: roster changes! Right now Ring of Honor is struggling to elevate new talent and is far too heavily reliant on its thin main event crew of Kevin Steen, Davey Richards, Eddie Edwards and Roderick Strong. Kyle O’Reilly, Adam Cole and Michael Elgin have all been recipients of pushes of varying strength but none of them are ready to move up to the top of the card permanently just yet.

I would set a goal of having O’Reilly, Cole and Elgin ready as headline talent by the beginning of 2013. The company can just about hang on with its existing four-men main event team if they aren’t booked against one another too often and are used to build up new stars and aid with the mid-card scene where possible. Tommaso Ciampa, Mike Bennett, Jay Lethal, PAC and TJ Perkins should be solidified as the stars of the middle ranks.

Right now the roster lacks depth. That’s something that could easily be rectified by hiring new talent. There’s no financial concern there because the ROH contract system is to sign guys to contracts that give ROH first dibs on using them on any particular date and paying them an agreed sum for any appearances they make. They are not given an annual salary or paid to sit at home. That means that Ring of Honor is in a position to sign a fair number of stars.

The first man I’d sign (and I will continue on the assumption that I’d be able to convince everyone I want to sign with the company to do so) would be John Hennigan (formerly WWE’s John Morrison). He’d be the ideal man to bring into the company as he wouldn’t look out of place in headline matches and is talented enough not to encourage resentment from fans or wrestlers. Realistically I imagine he’d sign a one year contract as I suspect he’ll be back in WWE by 2013.

The other former WWE talents I’d sign would be Harry Smith and Montel Vontavious Porter. Smith is big enough to look like a monster compared to the average ROH worker and I have what I believe to be a nice storyline direction for him (which will be outlined below). Having the son of the British Bulldog working in ROH would be a healthy talking point too. MVP would be hired because I believe he could teach many members of the locker room a lot about creating a successful gimmick, cutting a promo, and connecting with a crowd. He’s passionate about the independent wrestling scene too, which would come across when promoting the product.

I’d approach Alex Shelley and Jimmy Rave about returning at Best in the World (more on this below) and I’d do everything I could to encourage the Super Smash Brothers to sign a contract. I believe they would be a great addition to the promotion’s tag ranks and could produce some sizzling encounters with the Young Bucks and the C&C Wrestle Factory.

I’d like to sign Sami Callihan, Johnny Gargano, PAC, and Tony Nese but I’m unsure of whether that would be possible due to their affiliation with Dragon Gate USA. I imagine I’d be able to sign at least some of them and I have at least now stated that that would be my goal. Callihan would join Cole, O’Reilly and Elgin as men I’d want prepared for main event spots by January 1st 2013.

For clarity I will recap my intended roster below:

Adam Cole
Alex Shelley
Andy Ridge
Caprice Coleman
Cedric Alexander
Charlie Haas
Davey Richards
Eddie Edwards
El Generico
Grizzly Redwood
Harlem Bravado
Harry Smith
Jay Briscoe
Jay Lethal
Jimmy Jacobs
Jimmy Rave
John Morrison
Johnny Gargano
Kenny King
Kevin Steen
Kyle O’Reilly
Lancelot Bravo
Mark Briscoe
Matt Jackson
Michael Elgin
Mike Bennett
Mike Mondo
MVP
Nick Jackson
PAC
Player Dos
Player Uno
Rhett Titus
Rhino
Roderick Strong
Sami Callihan
Shelton Benjamin
Steve Corino
TJ Perkins
Tommaso Cimapa
Tony Nese

That’s a roster of forty-one. While that may sound excessive I believe it’s a number that allows enough flexibility for the booking process without being unwieldy. There would be less strain on the homegrown main event crew thanks to the signing of Morrison and MVP and a multitude of young stars being groomed for top positions in the near future. There are enough options in that list to sufficiently liven up ROH cards over the coming months with fresh matches and new booking options.

That brings me (neatly, I feel) to what exactly I’d be booking. I’ve chosen Best in the World as a starting point as it provides a good time to draw rivalries to a close and kick off news ones. Here’s the current announced card:

ROH world championship – Kevin Steen defends against Davey Richards
ROH world tag team championship – Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team defend against The All Night Express
ROH world TV championship – Roderick Strong defends against Tommaso Ciampa and Jay Lethal
Fit Finlay v Michael Elgin
Eddie Edwards v Homicide
Adam Cole v Kyle O’Reilly
Mark and Jay Briscoe v The Guardians of Truth

I’ll start at the bottom and work my way up. Right now it’s not been revealed who Truth Martini’s lined up to face the Briscoes. This is what I alluded to when I mentioned having Rave and Shelley return at Best in the World. I’d bring them back as a regular tag team unit, managed by Truth, to give the tag team division a boost. Their return would really need a promo attached to it: they would get a strong babyface reaction despite being the allies of a heel, so they’d need to get some heat in order to encourage boos.

Alex Shelley would be returning to ROH to join the House of Truth

Cole and O’Reilly, as mentioned, are two guys I’d be trying to elevate to the headline level of the promotion. In order for the booking plans I’ll reveal below to work effectively Cole would need to go over here, setting him up as the faster rising star of the two young men.

I would have Edwards beat Homicide because (as the eagle-eyed among you will have noticed) ‘The Notorious 187’ is not included in my roster list above. He’s a very good wrestler and character but I just don’t know how I’d use him in my Ring of Honor. Post-match I’d have Mike Mondo run-in and jump Edwards to kick off a brief programme with ‘Die Hard’.

Finlay v Elgin would be booked (and likely will be booked) as a very stiff encounter. I’d keep it short and have Elgin dominate the veteran for the most part. If Finlay is going to be used on the roster he needs to be putting guys over decisively. He’s not on my roster either, but I’d consider bringing him in for the occasional TV taping or iPPV.

The three-way TV title match would go on before intermission and would see Lethal eliminated first and Ciampa second. ‘The Sicilian Psychopath’s’ elimination would be via a desperation rollup so as to keep him looking strong in defeat. This is the match which should have either seen Ciampa’s losing streak end or become the new TV champion. I’d keep the gold on Roddy as I have someone better in mind to take it from him.

The tag title match would get around fifteen minutes and would feature a clean win from ANX. Titus and King have been kept waiting for far too long to have a run at the top. They’re ready for some increased exposure and would be getting a nice lengthy run as champions.

The main event “anything goes” match between Steen and Richards would get around twenty-five minutes. That’s a good length of match for both men as it discourages ‘The American Wolf’ from trying to cram too much in and makes it less likely that Steen will become winded. Steen would win via Package Piledriver.

I don’t know what the current plans are for TV tapings or how many episodes are already recorded but as soon as possible I would begin taking the TV output in the direction I want. That would begin with the announcement of a “bonus” iPPV in July.

That pay-per-view would focus on an influx of new talent and would be called something like Regeneration or Reboot (probably the former). An announcement declaring it as a way for new talent to get noticed would be made by Jim Cornette, who would also reveal that Adam Cole would be challenging for the ROH world title in the main event. This would bring out Kyle O’Reilly, who would want to know why he isn’t getting a world title shot against Steen. The answer there would be that Cole won at BITW. O’Reilly would be booked in a match against the debuting PAC instead.

The other major storyline development between Best in the World and Regeneration (I’ll refer to it as that for ease) would be Davey Richards’ new focus on the tag team division (because his loss to Steen would mean he gets no more title matches during Steen’s run). He would tease teaming more frequently with O’Reilly before revealing that he has encouraged his apprentice to pursue Steen and the ROH world championship. His new tag team partner would actually be revealed at Regeneration in a match opposite the C&C Wrestle Factory.

Regeneration’s other big match would be for the TV championship. A four-way number one contendership match would be held on TV with TJ Perkins coming out on top. If there was time TJP would get a televised win over Rhino before the big show, to further the gimmick the he’s used to target people the House sees as a threat to Strong.

This is the card I’d book for Regeneration:

ROH world championship – Kevin Steen defends against Adam Cole
ROH world TV championship – Roderick Strong defends against TJ Perkins
ROH world tag team championship – The All Night Express defend against The Young Bucks
The C&C Wrestle Factory v Davey Richards and a mystery partner
Michael Elgin v El Generico
Kyle O’Reilly v PAC
The Super Smash Bros. v The Bravados v The Guardians of Truth
Sami Callahan v Johnny Gargano v Tony Nese v Jay Lethal
Eddie Edwards v Mike Mondo

As I stated above, this card would be designed to put the emphasis on new talent and introduce some of the new faces I’d signed to the roster. In addition to those matches it would be announced that John Hennigan would be at the show. He would come out for a promo at the end of the show’s first half and be interrupted by Truth Martini and select members of the House of Truth. Their aim would be to recruit him to their stable. That wouldn’t happen. Instead we’d have a fresh Hennigan v HOT feud established nice and early.

Edwards would beat Mondo handily in their match. The four-way match featuring the three newcomers and Jay Lethal would be designed as a way of highlighting the newcomers and making Lethal look like a rising star. Callihan is the one I’d have the biggest plans for so he’d get the win (likely over either Nese or Lethal so as to keep Gargano protected a little too).

The three-way tag match would be designed to get over the two newcomer teams. Rave and Shelley are over enough to be able to not be harmed by an early elimination so that would happen in order to leave the two new teams on the roster to battle between themselves. The SSB would go over to give them a solid start in the promotion.

O’Reilly v PAC would probably be one of the best matches of the show. I’d want to keep the Team Richards member winning so he’d beat PAC at around the fifteen minute mark: enough time to produce something special and show how good PAC is. Elgin v Generico would again be designed to show how dominant ‘Unbreakable’ is so wouldn’t go longer than seven minutes. Generico wouldn’t be going down too easily but Elgin would look dominant.

The new member of Team Ambition (and Davey’s new regular tag partner) would be Harry Smith. This team would play on the fact that Richards has been favourably compared to Dynamite Kid and that Harry is the son of Davey Boy Smith, who teamed with Dynamite as the British Bulldogs. They would beat C&C in what I hope would be a match that shows how good all four men are.

The tag title match would be a continuation of the recent Bucks v ANX feud. While both units are already on the roster full time (I know the Bucks and TJP have “been given the summer off” but I think that’s a stupid decision so I’d ignore it) Titus and King would just be getting started on their first tag title reign and the Jackson boys are young enough to be considered future stars of the promotion so I would feel justified in putting this match onto the “rising stars” iPPV.

The TV title match would see TJ Perkins beating Strong clean in the middle of the ring for the belt. I think TJP is an excellent choice to build a mid-card division around as he could have great title defences against so many guys on the roster. On the subject of the television belt, once a guy has been a world champion they would not ever be booked to challenge for the TV gold again: it’s a title for rising stars, not former world champions who have nothing else to do.

The main event of Regeneration would be designed to get Cole over as a potential future champ by having him take ‘Mr Wrestling’ to his limit. After the match Steen wouldn’t shake hands (that’s completely out of character for him) but he would be asked to do something to indicate he sees potential in Cole.

TJ Perkins would not be getting the summer off on my watch

Then he’d return to the ring to give Cole a Package Piledriver. Just to keep him unpredictable.

Regeneration would be the real start of my booking plans. From there I’d place the emphasis on building new stars, keeping the tag team division interesting, and making Steen’s world title reign as varied as possible.

Years ago it wasn’t uncommon for ROH championships to be defended every weekend. Over the last several years title bouts have become far less common. Davey Richards had the ROH world title for eleven months but only made ten successful defences and the Kings of Wrestling held the tag straps for almost a year but only defended them nine times. All Ring of Honor’s titles would be defended with a greater degree of regularity, and I would strive to vary Steen’s reign in particular as much as possible.

After July’s Regeneration the next scheduled iPPV is Death Before Dishonor on September 15th. For that show I would build up a three-way rivalry between Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly and Kevin Steen. O’Reilly would become increasingly bitter about Cole’s success as a singles grappler and Cole would claim that he always wanted to make Future Shock work but gave up and focused on his own career because O’Reilly had no interest in their team. Steen would do all he could to play the two former teammates off against one another.

During the build for that feud Steen would make title defences at house shows against the likes of Lethal, Strong and Edwards. I’d try bringing in Lance Storm and Finlay for live event title bouts too. I like the idea of Steen being in tag matches with Jimmy Jacobs and-or Steve Corino on a Friday against his title match opponent for the Saturday. That would be the format I’d try and use.

Sometime in August I’d book Steen in a title defence O’Reilly on a Saturday and have then book Steen, Jacobs and Corino v Richards, Smith and O’Reilly on the Friday. That’s just an example of the sort of approach I’d be trying to take with these house shows. Without typing out every single card I can’t be much more specific (and I have no intention of writing out card after card for shows that will never happen), but it gives you an idea of the approach I’d be striving for.

Following that three-way feud (which I’d want to climax in September) I’d shift Steen gradually in the direction of Michael Elgin. I’d build towards a title match between the two at Final Battle and begin foreshadowing it from around September, which should hopefully get fans geared up for it. At Glory By Honor XI on October 13th Steen would defend the title against John Hennigan. I think by that point the former ‘Monday Night Delight’ would have had time to embed himself in the promotion and be over as either a face or a heel (see below for how I’d use Hennigan). Whatever he was over as he’d be a heel at GBH: it’s being broadcast from Canada, proud home of ‘Wrestling’s Worst Nightmare’.

The autumn is when I’d really varying the wrestlers getting title matches with Steen. Charlie Haas, Kenny King, Jimmy Rave, and Shelton Benjamin would be towards the top of that list, and newcomers like Harry Smith, PAC and Tony Gargano would hopefully be ready too.

I’d put Survival of the Fittest on iPPV in November, and have Steen defend his gold against Roderick Strong. Part of the build for that match would be the increasingly fraught relationship between Elgin and the rest of the House of Truth: ‘Unbreakable’ would want the title for himself but the House’s “chosen one” would be Strong. It would be designed to lead into their the Steen v Elgin clash at Final Battle.

Before I get to Final Battle let me take a step back and detail the star building process and the booking of the tag team division.

The All Night Express would be the lead tag team in Ring of Honor for the foreseeable future. I would have no plans of taking the belts off of them until at least 2013, and would instead focus on giving them a run that allows them to face a variety of opponents and show how good they are as a unit. Title reigns that continue getting the champions over are always the best.

Their feud with the Young Bucks would be scaled back but would be an ongoing theme. I’d want the Bucks to be seen as an ever-present threat to the championship. The same goes for the Briscoes, although I’d wait a while before promoting a match between those units because they only feuded last year (which is recent on the ROH timescale). WGTT would be promoted as being one of the bigger threats too, although there would be no mutual respect between them and ANX because the former WWE boys are dastardly heels.

For ease I’ve listed the regular combos I’d be booking below (yes, another list!):

The All Night Express – Rhett Titus and Kenny King
The Bravado Brothers – Lancelot and Harlem Bravado
The Briscoe Brothers – Mark and Jay Briscoe
The C&C Wrestle Factory – Caprice Coleman and Cedric Alexander
The Guardians of Truth – Alex Shelley and Jimmy Rave
Steve Corino and Jimmy Jacobs
The Super Smash Bros. – Player Uno and Player Dos
Team Ambition – Davey Richards and Harry Smith
Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team – Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas
The Young Bucks – Nick and Matt Jackson

I think that gives the tag team divison some nice depth and provides plenty of variety for ANX’s reign. In addition to regular tag bouts they’d be defending in three- and four-way matches on occasion, to keep things varied, and I’d be keen on booking units of established main eventers or rising mid-carders together once in a while to change things up and have some different faces in different positions (which used to happen years ago and was usually highly  enjoyable). As an example I think a live event would be nicely spiced up by having Eddie Edwards and Roderick Strong or Johnny Gargano and Sami Callihan being granted a tag title match.

I would allow Team Ambition to rise through the ranks slowly, giving them feuds with teams like the Young Bucks and WGTT to keep them occupied. That’s not to say that they wouldn’t be getting a title match at any point but if they were to challenge for the belts they’d lose due to interference from a team they were feuding with. I would want to save a proper ANX v Team Ambition feud for the end of the year so as to promote a clash between the two teams at Final Battle.

The star building process would, as I’ve mentioned, be something I’d want to concentrate a lot of time and effort on. If ROH is to survive indefinitely new stars need to be created who can keep existing fans satisfied while also attracting new ones.

That’s a large part of the reason I would bring in John Hennigan and MVP. They can help attract new fans while not being a deterrent to existing ones (I’m sure some people would say they would stop watching ROH if either or both of these guys were signed, but not enough to make any impactful difference on the company’s success).

As outlined above Hennigan would be introduced at Regeneration and would be placed immediately into a feud with the House of Truth. Working against an effective heel like Truth Martini should help establish Hennigan as a face and would open him up to immediate matches against Jimmy Rave, Alex Shelley, Michael Elgin and Roderick Strong. Those are all fresh pairings that should satisfy anyone watching.

I would want to gradually build Hennigan up for the aforementioned world title match at Glory By Honor XI in October. If he came in and immediately had a title match he’d be resented by wrestlers and fans alike, but after four months I think he’d have put enough time in to warrant a match without any backlash. His name value would hopefully aid the selling of that show too, especially if he was given a pinfall victory over Steen on TV in the weeks before the event.

From there I’d put him into a rivalry with Eddie Edwards, designed for Hennigan to gradually go heel. It’s possible his match with Steen would see him permanently switched anyway but even if not he’d be a full-on bad guy by the time he clashed with Edwards at Final Battle in December.

MVP (and if I was unable to use that name I’d ask him to use his old Antonio Banks moniker, possibly altered to Antonio Banks Cash) would be introduced on television as the newest member of the Embassy. I used to love the Embassy having members that didn’t really look right together and that would be the case with MVP (or ABC) and Ciampa. I’d consider adding Andy ‘Right Leg’ Ridge to the stable as well, just to bulk the numbers up a bit.

MVP would be used in a star maker role, feuding with new babyface talent like PAC and Johnny Gargano, as well as existing good guys like TJP and Jay Lethal. He wouldn’t be jobbed out, but his role would be to help other guys get over as mid-card talent. I think Nana and company would help him to stay on the heel side of the fence and not garner unwanted popularity. I’d sporadically book him in tag matches alongside Ciampa and, towards the end of the year, have him challenge for the world title at a live event.

The newcomers wouldn’t all be earmarked for top spots. PAC and Johnny Gargano would be used a mid-card babyfaces alongside TJ Perkins and would be considered for stronger, headline, pushes in the second half of 2013 (or sooner if ROH suffered a sudden talent crisis). Tony Nese would join Mike Bennet and Tommaso Ciampa as mid-card heels, and together this group of men would form the core of ROH’s middle card.

Sami Callihan is one new guy I’d be pushing towards the top immediately. A simple but effective storyline would be employed for him: he would announce his intention to face and beat every top star in Ring of Honor and eventually capture the ROH world championship. From there it would simply be a matter of having him defeat any mid-card wrestler he faces and suffering the occasional loss to main event names, before getting a victory over them in a tag battle or rematch.

I would want Callihan to be considered one of the company’s top names for January 2013, at which point he’d become heavily involved in the world title picture.

I’ve mentioned Final Battle a lot above, so I feel it would probably be a good idea to outline the card I’d book. The show’s date and location have yet to be announced, so I’ll say now that I’d like to broadcast it from Philadelphia on December 29th. It’s been too long since ROH put on a show between Christmas and New Year and I’ve always liked Final Battle falling in that week.

Here’s the card:

ROH world championship – Kevin Steen defends against Michael Elgin
ROH world tag team championship – The All Night Express defend against Team Ambition
John Hennigan v Eddie Edwards
ROH world TV championship – TJ Perkins defends against Kyle O’Reilly
Adam Cole v Sami Callihan
PAC v Roderick Strong
The C&C Wrestle Factory v The Young Bucks v WGTT v The Bravado Brothers
The Guardians of Truth and Rhino v The Briscoes and Jay Lethal

Some of these matches may be considered filler (the four team match and the six man bout, I’m looking at you) but they’d be built up on TV beforehand and have a reason for happening. The four team match would very possibly be a number one contenders match for a guaranteed shot at whoever holds the gold at the Eleventh Anniversary pay-per-view in February.

PAC v Roderick Strong, O’Reilly v TJP and Cole v Callihan strike me as good matches to book to get those six men onto the show, and it would be easy to create disputes for them in the weeks leading up to the event. By this point all three members of Team Richards would either be displaying signs of a heel turn or would already have made the switch. I think that’s the best thing to do with Davey and his team right now and it could be done gradually over the course of the six months to Final Battle. Hennigan v Edwards, the tag title match and Steen v Elgin would be the three most heavily hyped bouts.

The results of the card would be decided closer to the time but I know some outcomes now. Smith and Richards would fail in their quest to take the gold from ANX and would heelishly attack the champions after the match to keep the feud alive. Their pal Kyle O’Reilly would be more successful as he would end TJ Perkins’ reign as TV champion and head into 2013 with the gold.

Most importantly Kevin Steen would lose the ROH title to Michael Elgin in the main event. That may seem a short reign for Steen (seven months) but I think by the end of the year Elgin will be the company’s hottest star and be ready to become the champion. I’d book him to turn on Truth Martini mid-match so that he becomes champion by himself and heads into 2013 as a strong face main event talent.

Early in 2013 I’d have an in-ring segment on ROH’s TV show in which a host of men come out claiming they deserve a shot at Elgin’s world title. Adam Cole and Eddie Edwards would say they’ve been winning for months and have earned a title match. Roderick Strong would say it was agreed Elgin would hand the title to him. Davey Richards would say he’s not had a title match in over half a year because of a “poor decision” made by Jim Cornette. Sami Callihan would say he’s beaten every top name ROH has to offer and is the future of the promotion. And finally, Kevin Steen would say he’s the former champion (and hopefully ad-lib something about every other man in the ring being boring) and so has a contractually obligated rematch.

After some storyline chit-chat from Cornette three singles matches would be announced for TV: Eddie Edwards v Sami Callihan, Roderick Strong v Adam Cole, and Davey Richards v Kevin Steen. Callihan, Cole and Steen would win those matches and face off in a three-way match to decide who challenges Michael Elgin for the world title at the Eleventh Anniversary Show.

Who would win? What else would be booked for that iPPV in February? It’s fairly ridiculous that I’ve thought even this far ahead without adding to the lunacy by saying who’d challenge ‘Unbreakable’ in February 2013. None of the above is going to happen in reality (or if it does it will be purely coincidental) but wouldn’t it be great if it did?

Hopefully I’ve some readers are a little more enthused about the current Ring of Honor product having read this. The potential for greatness is still there. The company just needs to find its form again.