Craig Wilson, Brian Damage & Jamie Lithgow.
As we pass the half way mark of 2015, it seems only apt that we reflect on the world of wrestling from January through June. And that is exactly what Craig, Brian and Jamie do in this latest Sunday Sermon.
Craig: It’s not that 2015 has been a particularly bad year, it just hasn’t been a terribly good one either. Basically, I’ve not hated anything but nor have I loved everything. For every 3 hour Raw and 2 hour Smackdown or Impact there’s a one hour NXT or Lucha Underground episode that’s better. Perhaps I prefer my wrestling in bite size chunks or maybe it’s on those shows that the best wrestling is found.
Recently we discussed fixing Raw and since then – and I’m not suggesting it’s related – but Raw has improved slightly. This past week’s episode was actually pretty good. I’d give it a 7 out of 10. No Authority promo to start, even just a Paul Heyman one made it feel fresher with the last hour and a half – starting with the Brock Lesnar segment – through to the end was very good. An excellent main event and a solid tag match building for background.
My WWE MVP for the first 6 months? Undoubtedly Seth Rollins. Biggest disappointment? Where to start: Dolph Ziggler again drifting aimlessly, King Barrett having no direction at all and in dire need of programme, Randy Orton not really doing much and still too much Kane and Big Show on our screens despite it being 2015.
Or am I just being relentlessly negative?
Brian: I think pro wrestling overall has seen a big boom with TV networks and that certainly isn’t a bad thing at all. Jeff Jarrett is finally getting his Global Force Wrestling off the ground….TNA while struggling…has put on some solid shows and Lucha Underground has been very entertaining. Add to that Ring of Honor finally getting a national TV deal and things on that end are looking up. Even some smaller indy promotions are getting some type of TV deals.
As for the WWE, it has been both hot and cold. NXT has been hot for a while and WWE Raw and Smackdown have been crap shoots from week to week. I will agree that this week’s show was very good. Cesaro I think has proven…he can be a main event talent if pushed properly. The Dolph Ziggler/Lana/Rusev story is a bit stale and made Rusev look like a groveling wimp…but now that he is healthy again…maybe they can get back to what he does really well.
Jamie: It’s probably unfair of us to repeatedly hark back to the Attitude Era and the quality of wrestling in 2000. If we are comparing 2015 to the product 15 years ago then there is no comparison. However, on recent form – i.e. the last few years – it’s been a pretty solid six months.
Raw has been crap, for the most part, but I’ve enjoyed most of the PPVs/special events. Seth Rollins is all but cemented as a main event mainstay for years to come, Kevin Owens has come in and been positioned as a big deal… and backed it up by his performances. NXT is as good as ever too. The existence, and quality, of NXT makes me quite optimistic about the state of WWE.
On the flip side, the Divas division is the worst it has ever been in my opinion. I may be overstating things with that statement, but it is in such stark contrast to WWE’s other women’s division in NXT. The Divas/Womens division in WWE has been more bad than good over the years, but never before have we been presented by what we could have as an alternative.
Brian: We will agree to disagree on the Divas division as being the worst it has ever been. Paige, Naomi, Emma and even Nikki Bella to a point are talented…they just aren’t being utilized to their fullest capacities. This group is still leaps and bounds better then the days when Sable and Debra McMichael were battling over the women’s title.
With that said, let’s hope this storyline with Paige against the Bellas goes someplace interesting. Raw is hit or miss at times for me…I no longer watch the show live…but DVR it. It allows me to fast forward all the nonsense they try to jam into a 3 hour broadcast. Also, can we please stop crapping on John Cena? I know will never be Bret Hart or Curt Hennig in the ring…but he is no slouch either. He works hard and gets reactions like not many around him. It just feels like a big time match when Cena is involved. Granted, I am no fan of his…but I respect him.
Craig: The divas division is abysmal and that’s despite the performers in it. The problem isn’t the wrestlers but the lack of interest the WWE shows them – in-ring that is – and the lack of time they are given. If NXT has shown Raw and Smackdown just one thing, and surely it’s shown them more than one thing, then it’s that the WWE’s female performers are more than capable of putting on a show. Whilst I’m not going to suggest that Charlotte Flair vs Sasha Banks is the female equivalent of Ric Flair vs Ricky Steamboat, they have shown that there is a place for female wrestling on WWE programming. Perhaps they should just ditch the term “divas” but perhaps that’s a future topic in itself.
Like Jamie, NXT is the thing that excites me most. Hell, SummerSlam weekend is in August but I’m probably more excited about the NXT Takover show the evening before – and not just because it’s more convenient to watch for us fans in the UK.
To go back to Brian’s earlier point about the number of wrestling promotions out there, absolutely there are plenty out there but I’ve still serious reservations about whether Global Force Wrestling will be a success and just how much gas is left in the TNA tank. Ethan Carter is one of the best heels on wrestling TV at the moment but giving him the TNA title – isn’t it just a case of too little, too late?
Ultimately, though, if TNA was in a vastly stronger position it would force the WWE to up their game and perhaps we’d be being a lot more complimentary about the WWE’s first six months of 2015.
Jamie: I agree with pretty much everything Brian and Craig have just said. There’s still no promotion even close to WWE, their ratings suggest little movement in their fanbase and the Network is now steady. I wonder how many of the negatives we pick up on are a result of a “we’re the best, so why try harder?” attitude?
One person that attitude cannot be levelled at is a man Brian mentioned; John Cena. I swear, he is only hated because we (the fans) have to label people as good guys and bad guys. We make ourselves believe that what Michael Cole and JBL say about him is important. We have to believe that WWE is black and white. The unfortunate truth for everyone who doesn’t buy into John Cena is that he’s really good at his job. His 2015 so far has been really good. I liked his encounters with Lesnar and Rollins, his feud with Rusev was way better than I expected and his rivalry with Kevin Owens has been fantastic so far. Rollins stands out as a new character, but for me John Cena is 2015’s MVP so far.
Craig: So ratings for the first six month – even just a pass or fail – and is there enough reason to be excited about for the next six months? In reverse order, absolutely there is. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Owens on the main roster, presumably as US Champ. Charlotte should make a difference with the divas division, Seth Rollins vs Brock should be good and NXT is likely just to get better and better.
As for a grade: B minus. The WWE must try harder.
Brian: I’ll second that B minus.
The improvements they need to make are in the Divas division and allowing new faces more TV time. Less talk…more action….this is a new breed of wrestling fan. Fans who WANT to see wrestling over fluff and nonsense.
You can read all previous Sunday Sermons here.