Craig Wilson, Jamie Lithgow & Brian Damage
As we approach the end of 2015, it’s only natural that we reflect on the last twelve months from a wrestling perspective. What’s worked? What’s not worked? Then next week we will share our in-ring hopes for 2016.
Craig: I sense there will be much consensus here when it comes to wrestling, particularly the WWE. But let’s look elsewhere first.
Lucha Underground has a second season which I’m very excited about while this side of the pond, Scotland’s Insane Championship Wrestling goes from strength to strength touring the UK and filling Glasgow’s brand new Hydro venue. Those are reasons to be cheerful. Add in NXT and it’s not all half bad, is it?
But then attention comes to the main WWE programming. In this post-PPV era, even less emphasis than before is now placed by the WWE on its monthly events. We stagger from one month to the next with thrown together matches and rehashed feuds to get us interested.
For every highlight like The New Day there are three or four instances of the WWE dropping the ball or just not even picking it up.
Is it a year of many highlights? What positives can you take?
Jamie: I will openly admit to being a ‘WWE guy’. I rarely look elsewhere for my pro wrestling fix these days. However, the declining quality of WWE in 2015 has driven me towards NXT and – occasionally – ICW. Given that WWE now operate in a different universe to other forms of ‘sports entertainment’ it can only be a good thing that people like myself are starting to look elsewhere. I fully intend to give Lucha Underground a look over the holidays, purely because I will have time to kill and WWE is not floating my boat at the moment. Hopefully the fact that this attitude can now be seen on camera with fans leaving arenas early might force WWE to come back down to Earth?
On the bright side for WWE, Seth Rollins has said he is “The Man” enough times that I am now starting to buy it. Injuries are never
Brian: I agree with you Jamie about Seth Rollins disappearing for a few months. I think it will only strengthen his character and dare I predict…come back as a strong babyface. As for the rest of the WWE, it hasn’t been a great year for them creatively…we can only hope that when they enter 2016 it can only get better.
NXT admittedly has been hit or miss with me lately…I sorta expected that with the show losing guys like Sami Zayn and Hideo Itami to injuries and losing several others to the main roster. Lucha Underground was a very unique take on the business…its biggest downfall is that the channel it is on is not available to all to see it.
New Japan has been the shining star this year with guys like Ibushi, Tanahashi, Nakamura, Okada and A.J.Styles among many others…..that promotion has consistently been on point. Ring of Honor has also been very good, but sadly has been removed from Destination America to the COMET channel which I don’t have.
As for TNA, look I realize they haven’t had a few good years business wise….but I must admit that their World title series has been well done and hopefully can continue that momentum on their new channel…POP TV.
Jamie: Seth Rollins aside, I feel like 2015 has been the year when the chickens came home to roost for WWE. Injuries and schedules towards the end of the year completely exposed WWE’s ineptitude in building a sustainable future after the likes of John Cena, Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker can longer be relied upon to return to boost ratings. Of course, in any other year during any other era ratings would fall if three or four big names were unavailable to WWE. However, this would have been the same story last year, and the year before. WWE have once again failed to position enough performers as credible replacements for the likes of The Rock, Cena, Taker etc. and this year they were finally caught out and ratings tanked as a result. This was evident in the amount of Slammy’s that were won this past Monday by people who were not even present at the show. Thank God Rollins actually showed up to accept his award.
Brian: Excellent points and I agree with you 1,000 %! They seemed to have invested all their time and energy in trying to get Reigns over, that a lot of other guys were pushed aside so to speak. Character development is crucial to any wrestling promotion that has a TV deal. You have to want to watch the product and root for or against a wrestler.
Craig: Who would we rather have seen pushed instead? I suspect there’ll be consensus over Cesaro. But I think the WWE could, and really, should have done more with Damien Sandow. I know he’d not be a main event guy but not everyone needs to be. Some proper booking after demise of The Miz and Mizdow could have resulted in an interesting mid card feud and utilised both guys.
Jamie: Dean Ambrose still seems more logical to push than Roman Reigns. As a wrestler, a talker and a character he’s still miles ahead of Reigns. If WWE were just a TV show then Dean Ambrose is the leading man all day long. He’s relatable and flawed, just as every hero should be. Ideally WWE should have booked Ambrose vs. Reigns, but at the very least Reigns should have been Ambrose’s ass kicking sidekick, not vice versa. Ah well, I guess Reigns just makes a better action figure…
WWE’s push of Reigns has maybe been an C+, but their handling of Cesaro and Mizdow is a solid F. Both guys were on the crest of a mid-card wave in 2015 but – and I mean this literally – where are they now? Mizdow should have transitioned into a solid, serious mid-carder possibly in the IC Title hunt, while Cesaro should have rivalled Cena for the US Title in a proper feud. It baffles me when WWE clearly know what fans want – hence the prominent position of Mizdow during his Miz feud and Cesaro’s matches against the big names – but refuse to deliver. Maybe Cesaro isn’t charismatic, maybe he won’t cut it but at least let us find out. That was the frustration in 2015, WWE didn’t even give themselves the chance to say “we told you so” because as Brian said, all their eggs were placed in Roman Reigns’ basket.
Brian: There were a few names that were fumbled in 2015…Mizdow and Cesaro were already mentioned, but what about the Ascension, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks and Wade Barrett? All had momentum or at least potential to be huge in 2015 and have been messed up thus far.
Craig: Which wraps this final Sermon of 2016 up nicely. Next week we share our hopes for 2016 including who we would like to see fair better.
You can read all previous Sunday Sermons here.