Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Why are WWE Ratings at Record Lows? They Have No Attitude

John Cena No AttitudeWhen it was reported that this past week's RAW had the lowest ratings in 15 years, it really got me thinking about how low WWE is going to let things sink before they make a big move to turn things around.  It almost seemed like the angle they ran that took AJ Lee out of the GM position was setting up a change, but Vickie Guerrero replacing her for the time being was just more of the same old same.  But in reality even a big GM shake up isn't the one solution that can fix the much bigger problem.

Why do you think Ryback has such a buzz lately?  If you notice, he's really the only guy who comes out with pure intensity; no smiling, no slapping hands, no corny jokes, just ass kicking.  When the WWE got red hot in the late 90's, it seems WWE was full of these type of characters.  In their own unique way, guys like Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker, Kane, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, and even Vince McMahon were just a FEW characters that brought attitude in that era that was pretty much all serious, all edge, and all business.  Now that WWE is keeping things family friendly again and it has taken the edge off almost every guy in the company. 

Sheamus No AttitudeSheamus is the worst current example in my eyes.  Here's a guy who made an impact as a heel and because of his ass kicking "I love fighting" character, and fans got behind him and he got over as a face as well.  But as is the case with most every face turn in the past few years, Sheamus is no longer an ass kicker, but a smiling, joking, all around nice guy.  I think this effect is what turns fans (especially young male fans) away and prevent them from connecting with characters.  Ryback is the only true ass kicking character we've seen in years and we've seen the buzz he has created.  If Ryback had similar characters to work with, even more buzz would surround 2 bad asses getting in the ring and seeing what happens.

THEN there's John Cena.  What else can be said.  Is there any match involving John Cena against a current star that interests you?  Aside from a match with Ryback or an Undertaker Wrestlemania match, Cena has feuded with and been in multiple angles with every other top guy in WWE.  WWE refuses to turn him heel due to his merchandise sales, so basically we have a Hulk Hogan in the 90's situation where everyone has had their fill of the top good guy, except Hogan turned heel and set the business on fire again.  Until WWE sees that a huge move is needed, Cena's character will remain stale and only see interest in him jump when someone like Brock Lesnar or The Rock are paired with him.

CM Punk is the one guy that has the attitude in him and if wasn't for the PG environment, could really shine by not being held back.  Punk's comments last summer about needing change seemed to be an outcry from Punk himself to bring things back to the Attitude days, but no real change was made.  Now Punk is the champion with Paul Heyman by his side, but other than Ryback, there is no one truly interesting to challenge Punk until The Rock returns.

Overall, I believe RAW's ratings are in the toilet due to boredom.  There aren't enough characters we care about.  Sheamus vs. CM Punk being pushed as a huge champion vs. champion match has been done many times and it feels meaningless now.  Monday's "biggest lumberjack match ever" saw the crowd falling asleep until Ryback made his appearance.  If WWE wants to bring things back up, major shake ups are needed.  Vince McMahon returning to TV gave a temporary spike because Vince brought that edge back, that "let's just fight" mentality.  It's the same no-nonsense approach that gave MMA such a boost in interest the past few years.  Give us more guys with edge who just want to fight and kick ass and give us less smiling nice guys, then watch the interest return.  Seeing the same played out guys in matches 2 or more times a week in some cases is just plain overkill. 

The real question is, can WWE change?  WWE's anti-bullying and other do-gooder campaigns are making their entire roster just a bunch of nice guys and girls, and that just won't work since this is the WRESTLING business after all.  With their focus on being a family friendly public company, can they do what is necessary to bring back interest?  I think that will all depend on how low they sink;  we all know that if Vince McMahon sees failure on the horizon, SOMEthing will get done.

Friday, October 19, 2012

5 Wrestlers WWE Should Send to Japan.

Jack SwaggerFor years now I have thought about certain WWE talents who seem to have all the tools to be stars, but seem to reach a roadblock and just can't make it to the next level.  They seem to have the size, ability, and even personality in some cases, but still become stagnant in WWE and go nowhere.  Thinking about guys like that brought me back to the 80's and 90's when I would read about so many talents from the U.S. wrestling over in Japan.  Guys like Stan Hansen, Steve Williams, Terry Gordy, The Road Warriors, and Vader became legends in Japan while still remaining huge stars in the U.S. 

Then there were guys that had trouble making it in the U.S., but went to Japan and became polished and either remained stars there or came back to the U.S. entirely renewed.  Even WWE's John Laurinaitis became a star in his own right as Johnny Ace in Japan after not doing much in the U.S.  I've wondered why WWE doesn't send guys to Japan to develop further and experience the totally different style of wrestling in Japan, from the crowds to in ring style.  Sometimes seeing a guy who has worked American style basic matches can seem totally different in a brutal Japanese style war.

When when news broke earlier this year that WWE had made an agreement with All Japan Pro Wrestling to exchange talent, I figured the timing was perfect to bring something fresh out of many of their stagnant talents.  Below I've comprised a list of  the top 5  talents that I believe could be renewed after a few months in Japan; I've chosen guys that aren't currently involved in a real storyline or doing anything of note, and are mainly just seen already in the ring ready to take a beating in most of their cases.

5.  Michael Mcgillicutty - Somehow the son of Mr. Perfect has been lost in the WWE shuffle.  He seems to have the drive and determination, and has even openly voiced his disgust of the name he's been given instead of using his real name "Joe Hennig."  His dad spent years working all over the country and it took years before the "Mr. Perfect" persona made magic.  Seeing Mcgillicutty spend time working Japanese matches could be just what he needs to find his niche.

4.  Ted Dibiase - Ted Dibiase is another wrestler who hasn't lived up to his dad's WWE legend just yet.  He started strong in the group "Legacy" with Randy Orton and Cody Rhodes and was in a pretty high profile spot for quite a while, but every singles push he's got just doesn't seem to work.  Here is another situation where we look back and must remember that Ted Dibiase Sr. worked in Japan and numerous territories in the U.S. before the magic of the "Million Dollar Man" hit, his son seemingly needs a bit of the same treatment.

3.  Alex Riley - In the case of Alex Riley going to Japan, it would be a do or die situation.  Riley has been with WWE for years, even before being on TV and in the developmental system.  His highest point was being The Miz's lackey, and then showing some fire in the feud that followed.  Instead of Riley wasting away in WWE, being sent to Japan could at least see if anything else could develop.  The guy has charisma, decent size, but just hasn't clicked.

2.  Brodus Clay - Let's face it, the dancing happy big guy act has a life span, and we're already seeing the evidence of it.  Clay had some buzz going in the beginning because of the over the top character, but now he's being defeated by Heath Slater.  The comedy can only go so far, so what better place to Japan to see a huge guy with some speed and agility develop into something more than Japan.  Guys like Bam Bam Bigelow, Vader, and of course Andre the Giant big men that were icons in Japan, and Brodus Clay could be looked at in similar fashion if sent to the far east.

1.  Jack Swagger - And finally, the number 1 guy I think could benefit from a stay in Japan is Jack Swagger.  Swagger was pushed at the beginning and has the athletic background, size, and ability to be a star, yet something isn't clicking for him anymore in WWE.  Swagger has a background in amateur wrestling, just like guys like Dr. Death Steve Williams that had huge success in Japan.  Swagger even utilizes some of the same moves as "Doc," and could probably develop a similar killer instinct if he spent time working the Japanese "strong style."  For once being a World Champion, Swagger has fallen off the charts and is probably the guy with the most potential that needs a re-charge.

So what do you think?  I believe these 5 talents could be completely renewed just like the old days of guys going over to Japan and becoming stars.  Hopefully WWE does have a deal with All Japan that could see moves like this happen.  Who do you think could benefit from a stay in the Japanese wrestling world?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

CM Punk and Stone Cold Steve Austin Go Face to Face for WWE '13 Interview

It's time once again for WWE's yearly video game release, and THQ is going all out to promote "WWE '13" as the best yet in the series.  THQ has put together an awesome approach this year, which will be the return of the Attitude Era and its stars as part of the game with the current WWE roster.  Of course one of the most interesting pairings in all this is that of WWE Champion CM Punk and WWE Hall of Famer Stone Cold Steve Austin, and THQ actually got the two together for an interview with Jim Ross to discuss the game....and maybe more.

This interview comes across as more than just a puff piece for the game, as Stone Cold channels more of the persona we saw in the 90's than he has in recent years.  The "what if" question seems to pop up throughout the interview with a "only in the game" vibe halfheartedly being pushed.  By the end of it, there is a feeling that seeds may be getting planted for something bigger than just a WWE '13 showdown.  This match would no doubt be THE match that sells WrestleMania 29, but it remains to be seen if the stars will align and this match actually happens.  We hope it does, as the buildup with Punk, Austin, and even Paul Heyman would be must see TV just for the mic work alone.

WWE '13 comes out October 13th for all the major gaming platforms, and there is even a special "Austin 3:16" edition available.  The game is also stacked with numerous current and Attitude era stars that will be released as DLC over the next few months.  This game should have wrestling game fans buzzing for the next few months and well into next year.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Is Ryback the Change WWE Needs?

Ryback WWE ChampionSome online "experts" may say he's green, clumsy, a Goldberg clone, etc., but one thing is for sure, Ryback has exploded on to the scene and has made an impact unlike any superstar in years.  I remember reading house show reports from his first few appearances and not understanding what the former "Skip Sheffield's" new character was.  "Ryback" sounded like some sort of robotic monster similar to John Cena's "Prototype" character from his early years.  In reality, Ryback has just turned out to be an ass kicker that plows his opponents and doesn't have much to say....very similar to Goldberg's rise to stardom in the 90's which has played a big part in the "Goldberg" chants that are still heard during Ryback's matches.

The build for the Ryback character has been great, he's destroyed everyone in his path, and even multiple opponents at once.  We knew the moment would come that Ryback would be matched against higher level opponents, but it seems WWE's lack of ratings has sped up the process and now Ryback finds himself in the main event picture.  For the past few weeks, Ryback has made his presence known to WWE Champion CM Punk, and now we may even see that match on pay per view after the events on RAW last Monday.

While it may seem rushed, I pose the question, is Ryback main eventing exactly what WWE needs?  Ryback is a character that is an anti-John goofy jokes, no being the good guy in any situation, just straight up ass kicking.  The fact of the matter is, Ryback is a guy that adult males aren't afraid to cheer for.  He gets in the ring and destroys opponents, and in brutal fashion.  John Cena has driven these fans away with his antics, and these fans need someone to cheer for if WWE wants to bring them back.

Another fact is that Ryback brings back a sense of realism to the WWE Title scene, he's a guy even non fans would stop and watch because they want to see the big "freakishly huge monster" in the ring and see what he can do.  In a visual side by side comparison, Ryback SHOULD beat Punk.  Seeing him defeat Punk wouldn't feel out of place to a casual fan, Ryback looks like someone who physically should be the champion and would plow most opponents.  The bigger question is, can WWE keep the Goldberg-esque mystique with Ryback by keeping him undefeated for a good long while, unlike Goldberg who was infamously sabotaged in WCW.

Is Ryback ready? Time will tell.  But I have a feeling Ryback would be a champion that would have casual fans drawn in just to see who could possibly beat him.  Is there that type of mystique with Cena or any other top guy?  Not at all, we've seen them matched up in every way and interest just isn't there.  So what do you think?  Would Ryback as WWE Champion spark interest or fall flat? Is now the time or should Ryback continue moving up the roster at a slow pace before reaching WWE Title level?