The Good, The Bad and The King – A look at the WWE announce table

Jamie Lithgow

Having taken in a full dose of WWE this week I feel I have enough thoughts built up in order share them. There has been some good things happening; the tag team division is starting to take shape, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan had a cracking match at Over The Limit and Christian has returned. There have also been some bad things happening; John Cena and John Laurinaitis’ terrible match at OTL, Big Show’s heel turn and forthcoming headline feud with Cena and Daniel Bryan interfering in Kane’s match. The last comment is bad because instead of a Bryan vs Punk feud we could get a Bryan vs Kane and Punk vs Tensai feud.

However, with all this going on my attention was driven to the commentators. At Over The Limit we were presented with a full spectrum of commentating quality. There was very good commentary by all three men at times and absolutely awful commentary by a certain individual at others. I picked up on this because it’s never usually this bad or this good and having both instances so close together highlighted just how much WWE needs to sort this team out. If they won’t do it then I will, here is how I would reshuffle the announce table.

Michael Cole

I like Cole, but not as a play-by-play announcer. He has too much personality, he’s a heel and he’s hated by the fans. Now think back to JR in his prime. He was without doubt WWE’s best ever play-by-play announcer and he had none of those things going for him. Michael Cole has all the tools to be the perfect colour commentator, did you hear him during Cena’s match with Laurinaitis? Some of the things he was coming away with were priceless, perfect colour commentator stuff. Cole is in a tough position, he has to show bias to remain over in his own right as a heel, yet he still has to speak some sense because he is the lead announcer and has the job of putting all superstars and events over. He’s logical and almost always in the right, which is great if you’re the play-by-play announcer, but completely counter productive as a heel commentator.

Booker T

Again, I like Booker as a commentator. He’s followed on from Tazz and JBL as the retired pro that helps to shine light on the intricate details of a match. Actually, “intricate details” may be a bit strong in Booker’s case but he gets the job done. I particularly like him as part of a three man team because he doesn’t have to talk as much but when he does it’s usually with something worthwhile to say. When he’s part of a two man team he has to talk a lot more and can come away with some pretty stupid comments. All he really needs to do to make an improvement is think before he speaks. I like having retired wrestlers on commentary and I like Booker T so there’s no complaints from me, he stays in my commentary team.

Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler

Before I write this let’s all take a moment to remember the 1990’s and how good a heel colour commentator this man was….

Done? Ok, well it’s not 1998 anymore and King has to go, he’s awful. He has so many bad points it’s remarkable how he still has a job.

For starters he’s sexist. Listen to the difference between him and Michael Cole when they call a divas match. Cole will call the action while King will almost always try to bring it back to how the ladies look. I mean compliments are fine, Booker T dishes them out too, the difference is Booker moves on from it and concentrates on the match like he’s supposed to.

He’s a bully, which is sadly ironic given WWE’s Be A Star campaign. The way he talks about Vicky Guerrero is not only getting old but damn near uncomfortable. The fans get on her back because she’s annoying; she’s the classic pantomime villain, we love to hate her. King on the other hand still focuses on the way she looks. “Look you can see her naval” he kept saying that during the tag title match at OTL, he sounded like an over excited 10 year old. Booker T may occasionally take a pop at Vicky, but it’s occasional and harmless. This is fantasy booking gone crazy but next time King makes fun of a 44 year old mother of two because she doesn’t look like Kelly Kelly, Ziggler and Swagger should kick his head in!

He’s just rubbish, he’s the reverse of Michael Cole actually. If Cole is a heel that makes too much sense then King is a babyface that doesn’t make any sense. He still tells lies and tries to bend the truth like he’s a heel, but he’s a babyface and he can’t do that. A few weeks ago on Raw Michael Cole fully explained how Big Show ended up losing his tables match to Cody Rhodes at Extreme Rules but King shot him down by saying “that’s not what happened at all” when what Cole said is exactly what happened. He makes counterproductive comments countless times per show, he’s useless,

He also has this unwavering support for John Cena which does little to endear him to many WWE fans. You can see people caring less and less every time we hear his music and he has a surprise match. He elected no reaction as Daniel Bryan’s opponent a few weeks ago in a beat the clock challenge. What’s funnier still was the support Bryan received in his easy victory in the match. He’s also ancient and out of touch.

So with King gone there’s a spot open. I’ve already decided to move Cole over to be the colour commentator so I’m looking for a solid play-by-play announcer, which rules William Regal out despite his work on NXT. I think Josh Mathews could fit the bill. He’s a good solid announcer, he’s a young fresh face to put on TV and can hold his own when the banter gets going. Also, something most people forget is that Josh has more experience than just watching wrestling. I remember him from a very early season of Tough Enough, so he knows his way around the ring too.

Josh Mathews, Michael Cole and Booker T should be the new WWE announce team. We’ve seen it a good number of times on Smackdown and I think it’s time to give Josh the chance on a permanent basis. If each man knows their role, i.e. Josh is installed as the official play-by-play announcer, then over the long run this could be a really good announce team.

Some of the things I’d change about the WWE

Craig Wilson

It’s probably fair to say I’ve used this blog as a soapbox more than the others to air my grievances about the WWE programming at the moment. Bemoaning, amongst other things, the number of titles currently up for grabs at the moment as well as both the Divas and Tag team divisions. In fact, there’s an argument that writing this blog has made me angrier about the WWE product. While previously I may have laughed off something that annoyed me or just ignored it, now I write articles about it.

I don’t for the life of me think that this list covers everything, far from it but it is my starter for five.

Stop it with all the social media plugs:

We get it, Cole. You like Twitter. That’s plain for everyone to say. I do too. I use it to promote this blog and to highlight all the articles we all write for it. That said, I don’t particularly give a hoot mid match what is trending worldwide. No one can deny that the WWE is big news, of course it is. Soon we reach the 1,000th landmark episode of Raw. Of course you have to be successful to reach that stage and it is little wonder that so many people take to Twitter to talk about what’s happening. It doesn’t mean we need an interruption mid match to tell the viewer that “John Cena” is trending worldwide. Who cares? And the worst bit? TNA have taken to copying the WWE on this one. That’s right, TNA have copied one of the most infuriating aspects of WWE televisions. A great idea…

Stop treating the fans so badly:

Don’t get me wrong, am not trying to pretend every pay per view main event in history has been perfect, of course not. However, few in living memory have been as poor as John Cena v John Laurinaitis at Over the Limit. Another example was this weekend’s announcement of the top 25 wrestlers on the mic which has led to both Rowdy Roddy Piper and CM Punk bemoaning it. It was nothing but more revisionism from the WWE. There is no way any list of that kind cannot be topped by Piper. It just can’t. Also, the Miz in the top 25? Come on now.

Get rid of The “Great” Khali, The Big Show, Kane and Mark Henry:

Sure, the WWE has had giants since the beginning of time with the likes of Andre the Giant being a huge draw throughout his career. But Khali certainly isn’t Andre and it’s almost laughable with him now. Last Monday on RAW when all the faces rushed to the ring to the aid of Cena and Sheamus, the ring was practically cleared by the time that Khali had managed to lumber down to the ring. Whatever talent Khali had is gone now. Even towards the end of his run with the company, Andre looked in better shape than Khali. He serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever. It’s almost like this is turning into ‘pick on the big people’ but I can assure you that’s not the intention. The Big Show, Kane and Mark Henry are another three superstars that are long past their best and just use TV time that could be afforded to up and coming superstars instead.

Ditch the short-sighted booking:

To be honest here, I could have made the heading booking and created a series of sub-headings to address the various flaws with the booking in the WWE, instead though, I’ve opted to focus on the often short-sighted nature of the decisions made by the creative powers that be. The constant bringing back of legends of course serves a purpose, nostalgia mostly, but it also keeps current stars down preventing them from becoming superstars. Of course, I understand that legends have their place at Wrestlemania. That’s the cross-over event when the WWE use everything in its power to bring in non wrestling fans, the use of celebrities since the beginning. But the lack of faith in the current roster has to be infuriating and it was little wonder that there was so much off the record briefing against The Rock ahead of his Wrestlemania matches. We saw at Over the Limit what arguable the top two guys at the moment – CM Punk and Daniel Bryan – could do if given the time. The WWE should give them that time on events to turn them into superstars.

Finally, bring back King of the Ring:

Sure there were some winners of this tournament that didn’t deserve it – I’m looking at you Mabel – but it was a fun tournament that held a lot of prestige and could be used as a launch pad to get an upper mid-carder to the next rung of the ladder. Had there been one this year it could have been a good chance to get things back on track for either Dolph Ziggler or even The Miz but instead we get yet another bland monthly PPV. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want every month’s event to be a gimmick etc but I like a tournament whether that’s the world title ones at Wrestlemania 4 or the 1998 Survivor Series or the King of the Ring. The WWE could do a lot worse than bring this back.

Showbiz Wrestling – The worst celebrity guests from WWE and WCW

, Jamie Lithgow

Showbiz Wrestling I have just watched King of The Ring 1994 for the very first time and there’s only one thing I will remember about that event; Art Donovan. He wasn’t a wrestler, he had nothing to do with wrestling and from what I could tell had never seen wrestling until this point. However, he managed to overcome all of those hurdles to become the celebrity guest commentator for the entire event! I urge everyone to catch some of the action from this event just to hear this guy, it’s priceless. He has no idea who any, and I mean any, of the wrestlers are. I can’t remember him actually making any statements, he asks plenty questions though! His most frequent being “hey Gorilla, who’s that guy?” Having sat through the whole show it did get annoying, but when you notice Macho Man and Gorilla Monsoon starting to completely blank him, because he’s bugging the tits off them presumably, it get’s funny again. The end of the event says it all; Macho Man and Monsoon are on camera wrapping things up and trying to make sense of what has transpired when our pal Art chimes in with some daft comment which both Savage and Monsoon totally ignore, priceless. So how did Art Donovan land this gig as commentator for the day? Simple, he’s famous outside of wrestling. He’s some sort of NFL legend by all accounts. Everyone knows that WWE is a whore to mainstream publicity, they’ll bend over backwards to get celebrities on WWE TV. Some of these celebs get what wrestling is about and that’s really cool. Mike Tyson, Mr T, Laurence Taylor, Pete Rose, Hugh Jackman, Freddie Prinze Jr, Floyd Mayweather Jr and even Snooki came in with the right spirit so fair play to them. It would be nice to see wrestlers get the upper hand a little more often when faced with a Hollywood actor but I won’t harsh too much on the good celebrity involvements because they really do reflect well on the WWE product as a whole. Now for the bad celebrity involvements! I’m not going to talk about how they damaged wrestler’s reputations and sullied WWE’s name, I’m really just interested in how cringe worthy and funny they were. First of all I need to branch out from WWE and go to WCW, although technically it’s all the same thing these days; David Arquette becomes WCW World Heavyweight Champion. You know that belt that Ric Flair made famous? Also worn by Sting, Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Goldberg and inspired the belt Sheamus wears today? Well the guy from Scream won that in 1999 as means of promoting the film Ready to Rumble. Yep, that happened and there was nothing anybody, even Arquette himself, could do about it.

Staying with WCW and staying in 1999 we have KISS playing on Nitro to mark the debut of KISS inspired wrestler The Demon. I think I read somewhere that this was the lowest rated segment of Nitro ever, and that wouldn’t surprise me. Who thinks up this nonsense? Actually, I know the answer to that… Watch Diddy And Machine Gun Kelly Invade Wrestlemania Staying with the musical theme and having musicians perform on a show can be hit and miss. To ensure a hit WWE tries to stick to rock music or at least a home town act. However, at Wrestlemania this year WWE tried the opposite approach when that MGK chap performed. He was greeted with a wall of indifference/silence which turned to chorus of boos when he started banging on about John Cena being an underdog. Hopefully we won’t be seeing him again.

Jeremy Piven and Dr Ken as Raw guest hosts a couple of years ago, horrible, just horrible. To be fair I don’t recall Piven being too bad but that Dr Ken guy was awful, just annoying and overbearing the whole time. I wonder of it was planned or WWE was just thinking on its feet to have him attack and subsequently get roughed up by Cena? Either way he was annoying, very annoying. On the bright side, when Cena threw him outside the ring Carlito and Swagger didn’t catch him properly and he thumped his head off the ground, which the fans loudly cheered.
WWE Big Show vs. Akebono (Sumo Match) by joniamigo Akebono vs Big Show in a worked sumo match, at Wrestlemania no less. There were three major things wrong with this concept; nobody knew who Akebono was, nobody cares about sumo wrestling and nobody wants to see Big Show in a nappy. I only remembered about this when Cody Rhodes was doing his Wrestlemania promos on Big Show, until then it had been erased from my memory.

And finally we head back to WCW and instead of wrestlers we find basketball players and talk show hosts. At first the Dennis Rodman thing in WCW was alright, it worked because Rodman was, well, bonkers. Then Karl Malone come in and eventually at Road Wild 98 Jay Leno competed in, and won, a tag team match. If you don’t know who Jay Leno is he’s an American talk show host with a big chin. To be fair Leno was up for it so props to him, but I just find it ridiculous that America’s answer to Jonathan Ross had a match against Hulk Hogan!

My thoughts on Over the Limit 2012

Craig Wilson

As ways to start events go, Battle Royals aren’t bad ideas at all. The viewers get to see an action packed opening first match and more superstars get the chance to perform on the card. As with most matches of that nature, very few of those involved in it were seen as credible winners. The early stages were very much a clusterfuck, as you would expect, but the finishing sequence was well executed and it is nice to see Christian back competing in the ring.

The tag team titles match was the match I suggested may have been the surprise stand-out of the evening and it was certainly a very strong match. Kofi and R-Truth work very well together as do Dolph and Jack Swagger. I really like the tag champs a lot, particularly Kofi’s high-risk offence. R-Truth did the face in peril very well and it kicked off as an encounter when Kofi got the hot tag. A very good match-up. The Divas Championship was next up and wasn’t too bad a match at all. Layla retained the title in a match that saw Beth Phoenix work on the champions’ knee for much of it.

I was surprised that the next bout was the fatal four way, I didn’t see that being so early on the card despite the announcement that Cena v Laurinaitis was the main event. I wasn’t too fussed about this match from the outset. Out of the four guys in it, I’m thoroughly apathetic about both Randy Orton and Alberto Del Rio so that’s not a great start. The match was pretty much as you’d expect. All guys got their big spots, Jericho continued his PPV losing streak since returning to the WWE and Sheamus kept his title. The end sequence was enjoyable with Orton hitting an RKO on ADR before being nailed by a Brogue Kick and Jericho getting a two from a roll-up on Sheamus before Sheamus got the three with his White Noise finisher. I like Sheamus and I really do hope he’s able to get over as a serious champion despite the dreadful way that he won the belt at ‘mania.

The fall from grace of The Miz has been well documented here and on various other wrestling sites. From main eventing cards to being on the receiving end in squash matches against a big dancing guy. Unbelievably there was worse to come. We were “treated” to the spectacle of The Miz, and I use the term in the loosest possible sense, ‘dancing’. Why don’t they just sack The Miz? He may have gotten in more offence than normal but still a squash match. Reasonably cool top rope suplex from Brodus in this one though.

Continuing with the theme of title matches, it’s the winner of the earlier Battle Royal, the returning Christian, taking on the Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes. This should be good. Guess it is only appropriate that the man of the Peeps wins the Peoples Power Battle Royal, eh? Peep Power as The King suggested on commentary. As you would expect here, it’s all Cody Rhodes as they play up how long Christian has been out of action. I’ve never seen someone win a match that was so one-sided against them but that’s what Christian did here. Be interesting to see where he goes now with the Intercontinental Championship. A very good in-ring competitor, and excellent on the mic, so it bodes well for the championship and a series between Cody and Christian could work very well.

Another title match, this time the big one between WWE Champion CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. There’s a great reaction to Bryan as he comes to the ring first with a lot of “Yes, Yes, Yes” chants and t-shirts in the crowd. The reaction for the Champion is even louder, as I said the crowd are going to be hot for this one. Quite remarkably, the fans of CM Punk and of Daniel Bryan battle throughout this match to see who is louder – an incredible amount of noise for this one. Both men work over the other one’s injury with a wide variety of submission moves. The WWE are definitely prone to hyperbole but I also feared that the variation of a surfboard that Bryan applied to Punk would indeed break him in half! As Punk alluded to pre-match, who would have thought that these two would be main eventing cards and if this one is anything to go by, this feud has a lot of distance left in it and that’s a good thing for the WWE in general.
This is another match where I really liked the finish, Punk rolling the Yes Lock into a pin and tapping out to the move just after the 3-count which keeps this one going.

Wonderful, another squash match, this time Camacho against Ryback. It seems like Ryback now has pyro. More “Goldberg” chants as he made his way to the ring, very very funny. As poor as Ryback is in the ring, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt owing to his lack of in-ring experience; he is aesthetically exactly what the WWE want from a superstar. Some very impressive feats of strength from the big man, and a thoroughly impressive looking finisher, but there isn’t much to him.

If there wasn’t much to Ryback, there’s even less in this main event: a man that hasn’t wrestled in more than a decade against a superstar who is hardly the greatest in-ring performer. It’s fair to say that my expectations were fairly low for this one… You don’t see too many main events featuring a guy in a tracksuit but that’s exactly what Laurinaitis was sporting for this one in an outfit that made him resemble a cyclist. This is an abomination of a main event and I’d have been absolutely devastated to have paid money for this garbage. This is comfortably one of the worst main events in living memory. With the financial reports being as poor as they have been, it’s puzzling that the WWE saw fit to make people pay for this drivel. And the outcome of it? A feud between John Cena and The Big Show. Wonderful…

Overall: A reasonably good event spoiled but an abysmal main event, which was a real shame.

Over the Limit Round table

The Ring the Damn Bell round table returns to look ahead to tonight’s WWE Over the Limit PPV. Here’s what we think will happen…

1) Kane v Ryder in the pre-show match, is this a feud you still, or have ever, cared about?

Jamie: I have never cared about this feud purely because I have never cared about Zack Ryder and haven’t found Kane interesting in years. This match is on the pre show, where it belongs. I love that Zack Ryder showed some initiative and earned his (short lived) push, I just don’t get him. In the ring he’s average at best and I just don’t get his character, what is he? Where I’m from we call people like him a bawbag, so why would I want to cheer for a bawbag? I just don’t get it.

James: I couldn’t give a toss about this, Kane is beyond redundant, he needs to retire and become a road agent. Ryder is still paying the price for having the gall to try and get himself over, so he will pretty much definitely lose. If they are ever planning on rebuilding him, I can’t see that it would be with a win on the pre-show. I feel really bad for him but WWE has always been very petty like that.

Craig: To continue the consensus feel to the first answer, I don’t care a jot about this one either. I’m at best apathetic about both guys in this one but have a grudging respect for Ryder for his efforts in getting over, it’s a bit of a shame it’s backfired for him. Kane, though, is well past his best. I reckon I’d struggle to motivate myself to watch this one if I was there, let alone bothering with watching the pre-show.

2) We’ve talked plenty about the tag team division on this blog, happy to see the titles defended at the event and thoughts on the two teams?

Jamie: I’ve had a lot to say about tag teams of late, so I’ll keep this brief. I want to see Swagger & Ziggler win the titles; they seem like more of a team than Truth & Kofi. However, having not held the belts for too long I don’t see a title change here. Either way, this should be a really good match, if they are afforded the time.

James: It is nice to see the Tag Titles back on PPV. All four men were floundering, so it good they have something to do now. The bout will probably be pretty good too, as they are all decent enough workers. Champs should retain for now, as this feud could have legs. WWE does make some very rash and unpredictable decisions mind you, so who knows.

Craig: Jeez, this is a consensual round-table… I’m delighted the tag team titles are back being defended on a PPV. As for the champs, yeah they are good. Two mid card guys are going to provide a boost to the division so am reasonably happy with them as champions. I’d had higher hopes for Dolph Ziggler, to be honest, but least he’s doing something at the event. I think this could be the surprise match of the evening too and I’m looking forward to it.

3) Who is missing from the card that you would like to have seen compete?

Jamie: As I write this the card looks pretty lean, but no doubt a couple more matches will be added later this week. I would expect to see Ryback squash someone and I have no doubt that Lord Tensai will make an appearance. In terms of who I would actually like to see on the card, I would like Epico & Primo to pick up a win and put some pressure on whoever wins the tag titles. Cody Rhodes is missing, but I can see a match with Santino on the horizon so there’s another possible card filler. Also, I thought Miz was working an angle when he was complaining about not being booked on events, he obviously wasn’t!

James: I really would have liked to see Lesnar compete again, but they are using him sparingly, which is sensible and amazingly shows WWE does occasionally have foresight. Also, what the heck has happened to the Miz and his career?

Craig: James is right, what has happened to The Miz?! I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a last minute addition with a match involving the utterly abysmal Lord Tensai. Also Cody v Santino isn’t a bad shout for another filler match.

4) What do you think will happen between Cena and Laurinaitis?

Jamie: There’s NO WAY that Cena can lose this match, therefore Cena WILL lose this match. There’s obviously going to be some kind of equaliser to turn this in Johnny’s favour, and thus create more of a contest for us to watch. I suspect Lord Tensai will make an appearance just prior to this match to issue Cena with a thorough slapping, allowing Big Johnny to pick up the scraps. I can see a lot of twists and turns before, during and after this match but I think Cena will get screwed and Big Johnny will keep the job that he only just acquired.

James: WWE is pushing Cena still being injured and beat down from his match with Brock, so this could factor into it. I’m expecting something much screwier though, such a Brock interfering and then it turning out that he can’t be fired cause he was in a sort of ‘contract limbo’ where everyone hadn’t agreed what his terms should be and therefore not technically under contract or some bullshit like that. Could also be a new star debuting that interferes, and he wouldn’t be able to be fired because Laurinaitis wouldn’t officially sign him until the next night.

Laurinaitis must win though, they can’t get rid of him after such a short time in the role, and he is too entertaining. And it could only be by interference, as if Laurinaitis beat Cena straight, it would make Lesnar look weak. Maybe Cena will swerve and go heel and team with Laurinaitis. Lots and lots of ways this could go, but has to be Laurinaitis to win.

Craig: As I said the other day, am not sure how this will go… After beating Lesnar last month, Cena would look like a donkey if he lost to Laurinaitis but on the other hand it’d look daft if Laurinaitis relinquished the role of GM so quickly. Then you add in no outside interference so we can’t even get a cheap result. Blimey… Laurinaitis win then…

5) What title match are you more excited by, the WWE Championship match or the World Heavyweight championship match?

Jamie: The only match on the card I’m actually bothered about seeing is the WWE Title match. The matches Punk and Bryan have had on Raw this year have been excellent so with more time and less constraints we could very well see a wrestling clinic on Sunday. I’ve seen plenty matches between these two before but very few in a WWE ring so I’m really looking forward to seeing them work a WWE style match on PPV. A year ago I’d have been worried about the crowd getting into this match, but not now. Plus it’s in North Carolina i.e. Flair country, and they know their wrasslin! As for the outcome, I’d be happy either way. I’m a big Punk fan so I obviously would like him to keep the belt, but if he does lose then there’s no better person to lose to than Daniel Bryan. As a prediction, I think D-Bryan might win, this PPV needs something significant to happen on it.

As for the World Title match, I don’t really care. It’s not a great thing to say as a WWE fan but I really don’t. I’m 99% sure that Sheamus will win so I’m just not interested. Jericho has been booked as an over the hill loser, losing to CM Punk left right and centre. I’ve never really be drawn to Alberto Del Rio, I’ve wanted to but there’s just something missing for me. I prefer Sheamus as a heel, as a babyface he’s just not my thing. He hams up his Irish roots to appear funny and get over with kids, but I’m not a stranger to Irish sayings and I’m not a ten year old, thus I’m not interested. And finally Randy Orton, turn this man heel! He has completely ran out of steam as a babyface. Hopefully his recent confrontations with Sheamus are intended for a higher purpose than to solely build tension for the match.

James: Bryan v Punk is the way more exciting two of the match ups. If they give it time, it should be a match of the year contender. I kinda want to see Punk retain, I’ve mostly enjoyed him as champ, but Bryan is more over than him now, so he will probably take. One or two rematches should be in the offing too.

I don’t really care about the outcome of the other match, but it should provide some class action and Sheamus to win seems logical to me. He is over and is growing into his role more every day. Can’t see why they’d do the switch in a four way, which makes me think even more that Bryan will win against Punk (show closing title changes always go over the best). I’m assuming Sheamus will come out of this and feud one-on-one with one of the other participants but I don’t know who (pref Orton or Del Rio, Jericho like Kane has done everything he can, and needs to be back in a mid-card enhancement role or a road agent).

Craig: Regular readers of this blog won’t be surprised to learn that I am more excited about the CM Punk match… Added to that, he’s locking horns with Daniel Bryan a feud I’ve always wanted to see headline events in the WWE. I’m also fairly apathetic with a number of guys in the World Championship match – am looking at you Randy Orton and Alberto Del Rio – so am not too fussed about that one. I expect Sheamus to leave that one with the belt. I also expect Daniel Bryan to win the World Title. I like CM Punk more when he is chasing rather than being chased himself and him challenging for the title would make for a good little feud between him and Bryan.

All the Small Things pt. 2

James Giles

Having read Jamie’s great article the other day about things he misses from the golden days of WWE, I started to think about why some of these things are no longer around, and how they could be implemented in today’s product, if at all. I’m going to focus on the few items that got my brain ticking over the most.


Stable and factions are perfect for exactly one thing in the current product; disguising the weakness of younger, greener stars, and helping them develop with the assistance of some veterans. Evolution, HHH group from a while back, were a perfect example – Orton and Batista already had the look, but they gained the star rub from working with Flair and HHH, and also developed their promo and in-ring skill from working angles and matches with the vets. Orton and Batista would likely both have sunk as colourless muscle-heads, were it not for their early association with two legends. WWE is running out of things to do that seem fresh with guys like Jericho and Kane, and this would be an ideal use for them to elevate some fresh talent.

I have to disagree with Jamie in relation to groups like The Corre and The Nexus – just stuffing a bunch of greenhorns together will not get them over, no matter how many established stars they beat up, and for me they added nowt to the show. You need that already over member, or at very least someone on the way and near the top, to sell the group to the fans.


As much as I love the managers of old, and what they added to the show back then, they have been made redundant for two main reasons. The first is the introduction of the ‘authority figure’; ever since Vince unleashed Mr. McMahon as the very proactive on-screen CEO of the company, WWE has constantly had some sort of figure like this around, whether it be a Commissioner, General Manager or part-owner. Their purpose mostly is that of what a manager’s used to be; making important announcements about performers (both major and minor) and helping to get angles over and drive the stories forward. The heel ones also help draw heat for themselves and their closest associates.

The other main reason is that all major wrestlers have to be able to talk for themselves and get themselves over through their own words; with characters that are less cartoon-like and intended to resonate with fans more, it is unthinkable that a superstar couldn’t express his thoughts/desires/intentions/motives himself. A manager couldn’t have cut Austins promo from KOTR ’96 for him, and nor could one have spoken for Punk during his kayfabe-bending antics last year either.

The only role I could see them having today actually relates to the above – if WWE did create another major stable or two, then a non-wrestling performer, preferably one who is already over, could join as the mouth piece and help drum up support or heat, depending on the situation. They wouldn’t necessarily lead the group, but would be there because intelligence, and possibly influence, would be beneficial, and they’d be able to clearly convey the message and purpose of the faction.

Heel Commentators

A massively underrated, and useful addition to the product, especially on PPV. For those younger fans that have become accustomed to the piss poor commentary of today, and may not realise the affect great heel/face play-by-play can have, I would recommend watching the Survivor Series 1999 PPV. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawlers’ acerbic back and forth, which escalates gradually through the show, makes what would have been a very mediocre PPV (based on actual action) into a show that is thoroughly entertaining throughout.

I totally agreed with Jamie here, it is all ass-backwards the way things are with Michael Cole and I think Josh Matthews should be given a chance to shine. Its is possible they could re-create the magic of Ross/Lawler circa 1999.

King Of The Ring PPV

This show used to be a good indicator of who WWE had major plans for over the summer; Austin’s win is stuff of legend and Lesnar was rocketed to the moon after his 2002 win, as was Kurt Angle in 2000 and it helped establish both a stars of the future. Booker T was probably the most entertaining he had been during his King Booker phase, and Edge’s 2001 win, while not sending him straight to the top, certainly helped him along the way. Even when the winners didn’t quite make it, it was never through lack of trying on WWE’s part – Billy Gunn and Ken Shamrock never had the tools to go all the way to the main events, and Mabel’s push (and entire career pretty much) is an aberration that I’m sure most would rather forget.

Jamie’s idea that there should be a specific prize for winning makes sense to me; WWE got this right in 2002 when the winner would be granted a shot at the WWE Championship at Summerslam. With Royal Rumble and Money In The Bank already making many titles opportunities, WWE may have to think of another prize, or possibly just scrap Money In The Bank (the concept of which feels tired and over used now).

Tournaments like this, as well as longer title reigns, help reinforce the idea that the wrestlers are actually competing with each other for status and prestige, something WWE seems to have forgotten about in recent years. I know WWE knows we all know that that it is all predetermined, but that is no reason to give up trying to make us suspend our disbelief. That is what makes it so fun and entertaining in the bloody first place.

Phew, rant over now. Glad I got that off my chest.

WWE Over the Limit card

Craig Wilson

Not long now until WWE Over the Limit so I thought I’d take the opportunity to look at the event, match by match.

WWE Championship: CM Punk(c) v Daniel Bryan
World Heavyweight Championship: Sheamus (c) v Chris Jericho vs. Alberto Del Rio vs. Randy Orton
If Laurinaitis loses, he’s fired: John Cena v John Laurinaitis
WWE Tag Team Championship: Kofi Kingston & R-Truth (c) v Dolph Ziggler & Jack Swagger
WWE Divas Championship: Layla (c) v Beth Phoenix
Pre-Show: Kane v Zack Ryder

Overall, I have to say I’m actually quite looking forward to ‘Over the Limit’. It’s good to see the tag team titles being defended on a PPV, the four corners match for the World Heavyweight Championship should be top notch as well as whenever CM Punk and Daniel Bryan have locked up in the ring they’ve always put on a stellar show and when you factor in how over both stars are, the crowd will be hot for that match.

Pre-Show: Kane v Ryder: I have to say, I’d almost forgotten about this feud to be honest. It’s difficult not to feel sorry for Ryder though, he went out of his way to indepdently get himself over with the fans – although I appreciate that has probably gone against him – but he’s a decent enough in-ring performer and reasonably over with the fans so it’s a bit of a pity that a) he’s relegated to the YouTube pre-show and b) facing Kane in a match I can’t see past The Big Red Machine winning.

WWE Divas Championship: Layla (c) v Beth Phoenix: It’s been nice to see someone different carry the Divas title but you get the impression they are just waiting for the return of Kharma. The idea that there will be a run of matches between Kharma and Beth bodes well for the Divas division and its title. Until then, however, it’s difficult to really care too much about the matches. I do expect Layla to come out of this one with the title though.

WWE Tag Team Championship: Kofi Kingston & R-Truth (c) v Dolph Ziggler & Jack Swagger: Hurrah, a tag team titles match on a PPV. I’ve been calling for this to happen pretty much since the formation of this blog! We have four mid-carders/upper mid-carders in this one so the prestige I’ve been crying out for is gradually coming back to the division. Sure, both teams are a bit last minute/thrown together but it’s good to see the belts being defended on a PPV so I can’t grumble too much. i suspect, though, that the champions will retain their titles in a match that could turn out to be a surprise great match.

If Laurinaitis loses, he’s fired: John Cena v John Laurinaitis: On this week’s Raw, Michael Cole was biging up the in-ring work of Laurinaitis from his time in Japan, the problem is that that was many years ago and while he may be many things, he’s no longer an in-ring performer. It would be surprising if Cena went from beating Lesnar one month to losing to Laurinaitis the next but I also can’t see Laurinaitis losing control as GM just two months after winning the position at Wrestlemania. God only knows how this one will go…

World Heavyweight Championship: Sheamus (c) v Chris Jericho vs. Alberto Del Rio vs. Randy Orton: While I have my doubts over the Cena v Laurinaitis match, I suspect this four corners match will get things back on track. As a fan of Sheamus I’d like to see him continue his run with the title and to be honest, I can’t see past that happening.

WWE Championship: CM Punk(c) v Daniel Bryan: These two have great matches together, I can’t wait to see them lock up this Sunday. I wouldn’t be surprised if, due to the reception he’s recently been getting from the WWE faithful, that Daniel Bryan ends the night with the WWE Championship belt in his hands. That said, whatever happens, this will be a great match and owing to who is in it, the crowd will be hot for it.

Overall: Strongest WWE card for a while with some stellar matches already announced. Don’t be surprised if the tag-titles match is a stand-out too.

Ahead of Sunday, we’ll be returning with our round-table discussion where we predict, in my case more often than not incorrectly, the result’s ahead of the event.

All the Small Things – The little things I miss from WWE

Jamie Lithgow

It’s safe to say that all of us at Ring the Damn Bell enjoy a trip down memory lane to see how wrestling used to be, compared to how it is today. These days the production values are higher, there’s more TV coverage and the wrestlers are in much better shape. However for all the good things about today’s WWE I feel there are still little bits and pieces missing from the jigsaw. Here’s my list of “small” things missing from the current WWE product that I would like to see return.

1. The tag team division. There are a couple of recent articles about this so I won’t say too much. To my generation the tag champions are supposed to be just one rung down the ladder from the WWE title. These days you’re more likely to see the top tag teams on Superstars or being squashed by a dancing fat guy.

2. Stables. I love stables in wrestling and having recently watch The Four Horsemen DVD I am desperate to see some in WWE. Am I the only one that enjoyed the short lived rivalry between the New Nexus and The Corre? They provided one of the highlights of the 2011 Royal Rumble for me. We’ve not seen a group of wrestlers band together since then. Although the emergence (or rather re-emergence) of this AW character is encouraging. Hopefully Vicki will add to her list of clients too.

3. Dress sense. The vast majority of WWE superstars opt to wear trunks while in the ring. Not a big deal for established stars, but what about the new comers or guys that are trying to get over? Unless they are absolutely amazing in the ring fans will just remember these guys based on what they look like and if they look like everyone else then why would fans bother to remember them? Back in the day the main event crew mainly sported the black trunk look (Austin, Rock, Triple H, Brock Lesnar) while there was a bit more diversity lower down the card. As an example, the old tag team division featured Edge & Christian, The Hardys, The Dudleys, Too Cool, T&A, The APA and The Holly’s. They all had their own individual looks to match their characters and help them stand out from the crowd.

4. Characters. This is linked to dress sense, Not only do a lot of WWE superstars dress alike but they act alike too, they’re caught in a generic vicious circle. Heels are especially bad right now. To a lot of guys it seems that being a heel means just being a bit of jerk and breaking the rules. There has to be more done to interest me. Kurt Angle was a great heel because he was actually a good natured guy. It was like he didn’t know he was being an arrogant hypocrite. Stone Cold Steve Austin was a killer heel because he actually cared about his performance, not just the result. Stone Cold wanted to win but he wanted to prove he was the best and hurt people at the same time. Edge & Christian were classic funny bad guys because they would make you laugh before making fun of you and beating up your hero. For some reason these days you can only be funny if you are a jobber at the bottom of the card or if you’re a main eventer at the top. Get the balance right and it works in the mid card too.

5. Heel referees. Nick Patrick in WCW is the classic example. A crooked referee, but only in certain matches which gave his character a prolonged shelf life. He would call it straight in most matches so that fans accepted him as a legitimate referee, but he was always open to a bribe.

6. Managers. I miss the days of Jimmy Hart, Bobby Heenan, Slick, Sensational Sherri etc. There are a lot of superstars that just aren’t over with the fans, they need a manager. It is encouraging to see Vicki maintain her role which she plays so well though, and the introduction of AW is encouraging also.

7. Memorable segments. To look at, WWE is mostly the same every week, unless there is a contract signing, which is becoming really over used by the way. These days a non wrestling segment usually means something filmed in John Laurinaitis’ office or two or more guys talking in the ring. I would much rather see Stone Cold show up driving a random vehicle and trashing the place! I just like to see something different every now and then, like DX invading WCW or Mankind throwing a party for The Rock.

8. Heel commentators. I know Michael Cole is a heel but that commentary booth is round the wrong way. The play-by-play commentator should be impartial; the colour commentator should be the heel. For things to be set right WWE should show some faith in Josh Mathews (who I think is pretty good) and let him lead Michael Cole. Also, another change needed would be to not have Cole be right all the time. It’s not so bad on Smackdown but on Raw Cole, who we’re supposed to hate, almost always has a stronger argument than The King. We should remind ourselves that King was once an outstanding heel commentator because he would disagree with almost everything that JR said. The guy would argue that black was white and get away with it because we were supposed to disagree with him. Michael Cole would do well to remember that because at the moment he is far too logical for a heel character in the preposterous world of professional wrestling.

9. Blood. Finally WWE is easing up a little on the PG rating, on PPV at least. This year we’ve seen Cena and Triple H get “busted wide open” which is a marked improvement from nobody in the last 3 or 4 years. Done right the use of blood in a match can really build the drama, plus it seems daft for the commentators to build up the dangers of certain matches yet have both wrestlers escape with barely a scratch on them. The current approach is just right, a little blood helps the audience suspend their disbelief but too much is overkill, like in the blade happy days of the late 90’s and early to mid 00’s.

10. King of the Ring on PPV. I loved King of the Ring, why did they ditch it? I would have had a better prize at the end of it, but the concept was good. It was a bit like The Royal Rumble or Survivor Series in that we saw the same guys as usual but in a different type of competition. Instead of a ladder match I would prefer to see a one night tournament to determine the next Money in the Bank winner.

As you can see all these “small” things could add up to quite a lot of changes to the WWE product. An interesting note is that during WWE’s boom period from 1998 – 2000 most of the “small” things listed above were present in their product but have since disappeared or deteriorated.

A Tag Team Division?

Jamie Lithgow

As a fan of tag team wrestling I read Craig’s earlier article with some interest and on recent events it’s almost like someone within WWE had read it too (hey, you never know!). Over the last couple of weeks there has been what can only be described as effort being put into reviving the tag team division. In the singles orientated WWE that’s actually quite a surprise.

I got into wrestling at the time of The Hart Foundation, The Rockers, Demolition, The Legion of Doom, The Nasty Boys, Money Inc, The Natural Disasters etc. I then got back into wrestling as a teenager when Edge & Christian, The Hardy Boys and The Dudley Boys were at their peak. So it’s safe to say that tag team wrestling has played a major role in my interest in professional wrestling, which is why the last several years have been so frustrating.

Nobody wants to be in a team anymore, everyone is a singles wrestler who might occasionally team with another singles wrestler as part of an angle. However, it seems like there may be light at the end of the tunnel. There are a few teams starting to pop up, which could be the makings of a genuine tag team division.

Kofi Kingston & R-Truth: Two established singles wrestlers, despite the number of tag title reigns that Kofi has had. They have been thrown together until one or the other receives a mini singles push and subsequent demotion to the mid card. Not a long term team but they add a bit of star power to the scene, hence why they are the current champions.

Primo & Epico: I’m not too upset that they lost the belts, they’ll get them back sooner or later, plus they’ve been far more interesting since AW came on the scene anyway. These boys may not have the belts anymore but they’re getting noticed on Raw and Smackdown a lot more, seems like it’s all part of Vince’s grand plan.

The Usos: Rarely seen on Raw or Smackdown and when they are seen they normally lose, but I think these boys are fantastic. They’re entrance is cool and they are exiting in the ring. These lads, like Primo & Epico, need that breakthrough match to cement their spot. The ladder match at No Mercy ‘99 put Edge & Christian and The Hardys on the map, these lads need a moment like that to happen for them.

Hunico & Camacho: As heels they’re gimmick is a bit outdated but at least they stand out from the crowd. The little things like the chopper bike and big sunglasses make them memorable, a face turn could make them marketable!

Dolph Ziggler & Jack Swagger: Zig-Zag Man & The Swag! Both should be much further up the card than what they are but while they are being booked as team mates they should make the most of it. They are the best performers in this embryonic tag team division and it would be nice to see them booked as such. I’d love to see them get the belts and go on a run with them because you know they would get their opponents, as well as themselves, over.

Titus O’Neil & Darren Young: At first I thought they were a bit nondescript, but I see that they are getting some TV time so we might see their characters come out a bit more. I think they might be getting a bit of a push on Smackdown soon.

So WWE has a few teams to work with but it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. If a tag team revival is to happen then a few things need to happen….

1. The guys mentioned above must look competitive. On Smackdown this week Hunico, with Camacho by his side, got destroyed by The Funkasaurus. If tag teams are going to get over then WWE will have to look elsewhere for jobbers.
2. Teams should be booked as better than or at least not inferior to two individuals. Back in the day a match between Stone Cold & The Rock vs. Edge & Christian would have been a cracker and a Raw main event. Can you imagine this happening with Cena & Orton vs. Epico & Primo?
3. Give them time. Creating a competitive tag division won’t happen over night so patience is needed. They also need more time on the weekly shows in order to show what they can do and get over.
4. Get some personality. Ziggler, Swagger and Truth aside all the guys in this potential division are more or less the same, this goes for the WWE in general actually. The bad guys are just nondescript jerks and the good guys are just nondescripts nice lads. A bit of depth and originality to the characters would go a long way to helping the fans actually care about them.
5. Team names. One of my biggest pet peeves in wrestling is tag teams that don’t have a name. Edge & Christian were my favourite team of all time, but it still bugs me that they never had a team name. I don’t mind not dressing alike but you’ve got to have a team name!

We can but hope that WWE will put some real effort into the tag team division, but while I hope this happens I’m not holding my breath. These days WWE, for some reason I’m not quite sure of, favours singles stars. The only hope is if all tag teams get over and do well. If just one or two teams get over then once they’ve feuded they will have nowhere to go and WWE will just slot them back into the overcrowded singles scene.