Sunday Sermon: 2014 in wrestling

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Craig Wilson, Jamie Lithgow and Brian Damage

As is the norm at this time of year, it’s time to reflect upon the last twelve months and look ahead to what 2015 has in store also. In today’s Sunday Sermon we’ll do just that with our review of the world of wrestling in 2014 as well as looking ahead to what we hope to see happen in 2015

So, without further ado…

Craig: For me 2014 has had way more misses than it has had hits.

It started with everyone wanting Daniel Bryan but getting Batista and ends with a part time WWE Champion and John Cena as the number one contender. It just doesn’t feel fresh.

More pleasing, however, is the number of guys just below that level that are hot at the moment. Am talking about Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose and, of course, Mr Money in the Bank Seth Rollins.

Add in the returning Roman Reigns and you have four guys that will make a significant dent next year.

But so much of this year has left me feeling flat. Wrestlemania, like much of the WWE’s ppv output has been lacklustre. 3 hours of Raw is more pain then pleasure with NXT consistently being the best show the company put out.

Elsewhere, I’ve zero interest in TNA. Last time I watched it was live shows that I went to with Jamie in late 2013. Says a lot I’ve not watched a single thing of theirs since.

I am more hopeful for Lucha Underground,to which I am a recent convert – as explained in depth in ‘this Week in wrestling’. I hope they continue to make innovative wrestling programming. I also hope Global Force Wrestling comes to something.

Have I been to hard on 2014? Have we reason to be hopeful for 2015?

Jamie: That’s not too hard at all, that about sums up my feelings too. While we leave 2014 with plenty of reasons to be hopeful for the future, I am not holding onto those hopes. I am excited to see just how far Rollins, Reigns, Ambrose and Wyatt go next year, but I’m in no way excited about seeing John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar again, or the likes of The Rock and Triple returning for Wrestlemania.

WWE is like a latter day WCW: plenty of good performers and good things going on, but ultimately it doesn’t matter because the same guys will remain at the top of the card and shall not be moved. While some might argue that we could just enjoy what Ambrose et all are doing and not bother with the likes of Cena and Big Show, that is an impossible task. It’s hard for me to really get excited about these guys because I just don’t see WWE backing them ahead of Cena vs. Lensar anytime soon.

2014 really has been an odd year in that respect. Here we have a brand new chasing pack, but that’s all they are and all they will be in my view. Hence my slight disconnect from WWE at the moment. On the bright side, NXT has been fantastic and looks set to continue to be brilliant.

Brian: 2014 wasn’t the greatest year for the WWE and TNA both creatively and financially. I’ll be a bit of an optimist here and say that while 2014 was indeed lackluster in some areas….there were some bright spots. TNA really seemed to turn a corner and were improving slowly but surely by the end of their Spike TV run.

While they are by no means real competition to the WWE, they are resilient if nothing else. Their talent pool has vastly improved as has the match quality. Destination America isn’t the greatest channel on cable TV, but at least they look committed to allowing TNA to grow and develop even more.

NXT is loaded with talent that the main roster can be excited for. Their shows are consistently good to great. The main roster has suffered quite a bit from bad booking and creative short comings…but as has already been touched on…the future does seem bright with guys like Rollins, Ambrose, Wyatt, Harper, Reigns and Rusev. Dolph Ziggler seems to be getting his mojo back and Damien Mizdow is finally over.

Lucha Underground is interesting and unique and hopefully the EL Rey network can be picked up by a few more cable companies. New Japan will be making its way to the United States in January which is great. Global Force is still a mystery…but I rather Jeff Jarrett and company hold off until it is right than rush it and flop.

Finally, the network has slowly been getting better and better with their content. I know the UK still doesn’t have it…but trust me….it is improving and well worth the $9.99 asking price.

Craig: I see that the WWE have added Tuesday Titans to the Network. I’m most excitined about that old school content. It’s things like that, the Saturday Night Main Events and the MSG shows etc that most interest me about the WWE Network. Long may they continue to add shows like that.

The New Japan show sounds exciting for sure. It’s apparently made easy to watch in the UK as well so in all likelihood it’ll be something I’ll watch. Especially with Jim Ross calling the action. That’ll be a big draw for many.

Jim Ross is a good segue in this discussion. We can’t not mention how utterly woeful the announcing on the WWE programming is. Jerry Lawler hasn’t cared for years, JBL seems intent on only putting himself over and more often than not Michael Cole comes across as corny. Raw was a great example. New Day had their awkward promo which concluded with Xavier and Kofi needlessly mocking Big E. for being sweaty and when they returned to the announcers Cole was talking about their positivety. It was just very naff, and I’m only talking about the announcing here and not New Day…

I think the best example of commentating is that on Lucha Underground. Matt Striker and Vampiro talk about *shock horror* what’s going on in the ring at that moment. They don’t talk about what’s coming later in the show, what is trending or how to download an app on a phone or tablet. Instead they focus on putting the match over. Something so obvious – i.e. calling the actual match – is getting Lucha Underground a lot of praise. Which, in itself, is sorta nuts. “Their commentary is good because they talk about the match.”

I guess also as it’s the end of the year it means it is time to predict that next year should be Dolph Ziggler’s year. The last few years I’ve done that as he’s always looked on the cusp of breaking through. Post Survivor Series I felt that stronger than ever. Now, he’s got the IC title back around his waist and now I’m speculating whether or not he’s stalled, or is being stalled, again.

Jamie: I’m a fan of Ziggler too, but – and again, my lack of hope is based on previous experience – will he continue to be afforded the chance to shine once Reigns is back up and running, once Orton is back, once Lesnar is back, once Bryan is back, once Batista inevitably returns? I think he finds himself in the position he is now – which is ironically the position and title he has always held – purely by default. With a fully fit roster I doubt Ziggler would have even made it onto Team Cena in the first place.

Your point about commentators is bang on the money, especially about JR being a selling point of the NJPW stuff. I still need to catch Lucha Underground, but from your description it sounds right up my street. Back to commentators, and what exactly are the WWE team commentating on? The guys in the ring are supposed to be the ones telling the story, so why do we need Michael Cole to tell us about Bray Wyatt’s motivation? Without calling the actual moves and providing me with information all they are is noise, they add nothing. Oh yes, and I find all three of the Raw announce team to be extremely irritating.

That all sounds extremely negative, so here’s a positive – Corey Graves, who has been forced to retire due to injury, is being kept on to become an announcer. Now there’s someone a bit different to throw in the mix. He’s certainly more relatable for the WWE audience than Jerry Lawler or JBL.

Again, NXT supplying hope for the future…

Brian: I’ll agree the announce team needs to desperately be freshened up. As Jamie has said, Corey Graves is now working as an announcer….they have a true announcing talent in Arda Ocal aka Kyle Edwards the WWE just signed to NXT as well. Alex Riley I also feel has a skill as a color commentator…so overall….the future of announcers looks bright.

Now for the pink elephant in the room….Vince McMahon. I think it is time Vince really starts to consider walking away. Listening to his guest spot on Steve Austin’s podcast…he really sounded a bit out of touch. Especially when it came to a man like Cesaro. Granted, Cesaro will never be mistaken for the Rock on the mic…but he isn’t Gangrel either. Cesaro had all the momentum in the world and creative kept stopping…starting…stopping his push…how the heck is that beneficial to him? The argument doesn’t even hold real weight, because Roman Reigns is very weak on the mic too…but yet he is allowed to be pushed strong.

Vince has had a tremendous run….but it is time to start easing up on the gas pedal and allow the younger generation to take over the business. I’m not saying Stephanie will be any better than Vince at this stage….but surely…it can’t be any worse creatively….can it?

Craig: You’re correct about Vince sounding out of touch, it was something Jamie and I discussed via a series of texts yesterday. I am left feeling, more often than not, that some of the worst/least funny segments are those that are not only approved by Vince but are ones that he finds very funny.

Regarding the announce team, I agree with everything that’s been said. I’d like to see Renee Young utilised more. Be good to see her calling more of the action as she brings something different to the plate. That said, I imagine much of what Cole/JBL and Lawler come out with is fed to them via their headsets so maybe that’s where hte problem actually lies. Either way, more chat about the match and less about what is trending on social media – after all, who cares?

Discussing Cesaro is a good segue into discussing what other stars we want to see given a proper chance in 2015. And what about The Ascension? We seem very close to them being given their chance to shine. The vignettes being aired are quite Road Warriors esque, which is interesting. I guess it’s been that long since there really was that LOD/Powers of Pain/Demolition type duo in the WWE that for many viewers it will be fresh. For those of us of a slightly older vintage, it has just the right level of nostalgia, right?

Jamie: I loved The Ascension promo on Smackdown last week. They seem slightly tweaked from their dark and brooding NXT characters, and more in the vein of The Road Warriors or Demolition. In my view there will always be a market for big guys who look cool and kick ass, something the tag team division has been lacking since…… probably Demolition and LOD. Very interested to see how these guys do.

Elsewhere I’m keen to see Luke Harper’s talent’s utilised. I don’t think he’ll ever be a permanent fixture in main events, but for me he could be Kane’s successor as WWE’s resident monster, pushed as a heel or babyface whenever needed. Away from him I’d like to see Tyson Kidd finally cement a spot on the main roster. He’s been hovering between Raw and NXT for years now. The guy has more than earned his spot, it’s time he was given a chance with IC or US Title.

Craig: Good shout on all of that. I think Erick Rowan has something to give as well.

What the WWE do with The Ascension will be interesting. I envisage they’ll destroy a few teams early doors – Los Matadores being early victims – but then what? To succeed they’ll need to be booked the way Ryback should be booked. Don’t give them 10-15 minute matches, let them mow throygh team after team.

Re Kidd, absolutely. The tension angle with Natalya doesn’t seem to have a payoff anytime soon and now that the Bellas have been thrown into the mix it screams Total Divas related which sends shivers down my spine.

I’d like to see Natalya do something meaningful. If the WWE gave anything resembling a toss about the Divas division it would feature Natalya, Paige, Charlotte, AJ Lee, Sasha Banks and Naomi. You’ve enough there to have several things going on but, more importantly, better matches.

Brian: I agree…The Ascension need to be booked properly. Total monster heels who demolish their opponents. Word has it that Adrian Neville will also be making his way to the main roster soon. I am admittedly a little more worried about Neville..not because of his talent…but because of his look and mic skills. He may be better suited in a tag team initially. Either that, or a really solid gimmick.

Craig: And what of TNA. It returns, post reboot, in early January. Anyone got any intention of giving them another go?

Brian: I will…..TNA is a lot better than it was before. They have refocused on the wrestling aspect and less on sports entertainment. The talent is there…and with the reboot I am sure they are going to want to do something that gets a positive buzz.

Craig: I am still so sure that TNA’s best bet is to distance itself from looking like a second rate WWE. I’m not convinced that signing former WWE announcer Josh Matthews will do much to shake off that impression…

Brian: You have a very valid point, but aside from the announcing….the talent has been shifting away from exWWE talents. Sure, for “shock value” they have brought in guys like Broadus Clay…but keys wrestlers have been Low Ki…Samoa Joe…The Wolves…Bobby Roode….James Storm….etc.

You can read all previous Sunday Sermons here.

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3 thoughts on “Sunday Sermon: 2014 in wrestling

  1. I have to admit, I stopped watching WWE years ago but looking at this promotion for The Ascension, it shows some hope unless Vince screws it up and brings in a wooden dummy to help them. TNA was improving as the contract with Spike ran out, better matches, less silly vignets, and the talent has improved(Bro-Mans for one, dumping the Joseph Parks character another). I think TNA will be much better.

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  2. This was a bad and very disillusioning year for me as a WWE fan. It did start off bad with Batista winning the Royal Rumble to a poor reception. I did enjoy WrestleMania XXX and SummerSlam though the events and RAWs during those seasons were a mixed bag. I thought things were going to get better after Summerslam as the RAW after that event was a joy to watch with Paul Heyman putting Brock Lesnar over and Stephanie McMahon wearing that Steph! t-shirt. Then it went downhill once I saw Hulk Hogan sucking Cena’s cock on TV and it got lamer the week after where I decided that I can’t watch this shit anymore. It was supposed to be a protest of sorts but as I read all of the reports. It became this slow detachment between myself and the WWE as I would watch clips on YouTube and realize that things were getting worse. Then came Survivor Series and Sting showing up which did bring me back but I got bamboozled into watching another lame RAW.

    CM Punk on Colt Cobana’s podcast definitely became the final straw for me as well as hearing what Vince had to say as I concluded that Vince is an out-of-touch old fool. I’ve been trying to watch other wrestling programs like Ring of Honor TV which is good (especially the Cedric Alexander-Tommaso Ciampa match which was great) despite its production values. Yet, it’s been a struggle as I’ve been watching WWE for so many years that it’s kind of hard in getting into something new. I think it’s just me getting older as I’m having a hard time really enjoying myself again. I would say that 2014 has been a bad year for wrestling fans and I’m not very optimistic about 2015 considering that WWE is acting like WCW in its final days while they’re pushing a guy like Roman Reigns who isn’t ready to be the next big guy.

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  3. Pingback: Sunday Sermon: Fixing the WWE | Ring the Damn Bell

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