Saturday 28 March 2015

Jimmy Jacobs To The WWE By Simon Wight

One of the more notable stories circulating WWE over the last few weeks was that Ring Of Honor’s Jimmy Jacobs is joining the company, but as part of the creative team and not as a wrestler.  It is unknown what brand he will be working on, but most likely NXT. However, I hope he will utilised on the main brands and be a new voice among the much maligned Hollywood writers.

Now wrestling shows on television have changed from being a promotional tool for the big show to becoming the big show (especially in terms of revenue now the WWE Network will have altered WWE‘s Pay-Per-View business), WWE has grown less willing to allow improvisation and spontaneity in their product. They now favour a more structured and scripted product suitable for television.  As such they utilise writers with experience of television production, if not with wrestling, to make the stories and the feuds.  The wrestling input is left to the in ring-portion, with road agents (often retired wrestlers) laying out matches.  In many ways, the writers have a tough job, having to write stories for various characters covering five hours a week for 52 weeks a year, while dealing with many factors that are out of their control (injuries, releases, fickle boss etc).  

However, while WWE is a show on TV, it is not a TV show in the way that something like EastEnders is.  A soap doesn’t require any input from the viewer.  It is a closed world with no active interaction between programme and viewer.  In wrestling, the input of the viewer - the fan - is encouraged in their support for their favourite wrester, be it buying a ticket to a show, a T-shirt, or the Network.  The problem is, in recent times, the writers have neglected and continue to neglect the wrestler.  They instead opt for the spectacle, the twist and the shock in the storylines to try and draw people in.  They write storylines in which they fit wrestlers into, rather than taking wrestlers and building storylines around them.  

Take the build-up to the Intercontinental Title match at WrestleMania.  Once upon a time the challengers would be chosen and wrestle each other for the right to be Number One contender.  Bad News Barrett would scout his opposition, while arrogantly claiming he‘ll beat whoever the challenger is. Now you have a bunch of guys physically stealing the belt from each other while Barrett loses his matches every week!  The twist of everyone ’holding’ the belt except the actual champion doesn‘t help the match.  What is needed is perspective from a wrestling standpoint.  

Which is where Jimmy Jacobs comes in.

First things first.  He is a wrestler.  In fact, he’s a 15-year plus veteran, who has wrestled in ROH, DGUSA, CZW, IWA Mid-South and pretty much any other Indy you can name, with and against the likes of Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Daniel Bryan, so he has friends in high places who could lobby for his ideas to be used.  He also as a very proficient promo ability, and a reputation for constantly updating and evolving his character, a sometimes overlooked but important part of wrestling.  He is someone who knows wrestling, and also knows what the modern fan wants.  Need that new killer heel to cut a sinister promo?  Look at Jacobs’ promos as leader of The Age of the Fall.  A big feud needs a layered build that leads to it ending in a hard-hitting bout?  Look at the Jacobs/B.J. Whitmer feud in ROH.  A wrestler needs a change that goes beyond the cosmetic?  Look at how ‘The Barbaric Bezerker’ is different from the bitter veteran of The Decade, but both personas are still Jimmy Jacobs.  Whether it be offering a wrestler’s perspective into a storyline or creating one all his own, Jacobs has insights that could be useful on so many levels and a little more modern.  

Of course, this column is mostly based on a hypothetical situation, and Jacobs will be at the Performance Centre helping the developmental talent harness their characters and promo skills, which isn‘t a bad thing.  He may end up on the main team, but there is always the possibility that his ideas are shot down or changed by one of Vince impulsively changing his mind.  But you never know.  Maybe Jimmy Jacobs’ arrival with kick-start a creative resurgence in WWE and become much-watch again.  If that does happen, and it leads to a more wrestling-orientated product, then Jimmy Jacobs could prove to be one of the most significant signings from the independent scene.

Thursday 19 March 2015

Another Note on Booking By Adam Timmins (@AdamTimmins83)

So I dashed off a less-than-200-word piece on Monday, emailed it to Stuart, and didn’t really give it much thought, but apparently it created quite a stir when it when was shared; some of it over the fact I called Brian Danielson, er, Brian Danielson. To avoid bringing Gottlieb Frege into things, I’ll refer to him as Daniel Bryan from hereon in. 

A couple of points came up after I wrote the original note which I wanted to address. I remember thinking last year when the whole Bryan/ Wrestlemania thing was playing out that it was a funny old world when a wrestling company has a guy who’s massively over and it’s a real problem. And history has repeated itself this year in terms of the problem of Bryan’s popularity; except that where the Fed acceded to fans wishes last year, this year it’s tough love.

Of course, the incongruous word in that sentence is ‘wrestling company’. Naturally for years the Fed has been referring to what it does as sports entertainment; but I always just rolled my eyes and thought “it features wrestlers, in a wrestling ring, having wrestling matches – it’s wrestling.” But when you reach the point we have now; where wrestlers are actually being punished for getting over (I’m thinking of Ryder here); or at the very least being held back even though you’re doing what you’re ultimately supposed to do as a wrestler – then they’re right – it’s not wrestling. When you reach a point where you’re violating the fundamental norm or rule of what is supposed to guide you, then whatever you’re doing becomes something else. So in a sense, Vince has now achieved what presumably he thought he’d done years ago – that is, created sports entertainment. 

The other point someone made to me on Monday night was that it’s not just Bryan who’s been subordinated to Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania; John Cena finds himself scrabbling around in the mid-card for the first time in ten years or so. Generally I refrain from commenting on Cena, on the basis that no-one can agree on anything said about; the debate about Cena wallows in the sort of fragmented chaos that the historiography of the French revolution once did. Ultimately though, the difference between the current predicaments of Cena and Bryan is that on the eve of Mania Cena could squat down, defecate in his hand, and hurl it in Vince’s  face; and still be guaranteed a decent post-Mania push. Bryan, I suspect, has to tread a bit more carefully. 

I’m probably going to get hammered for referring to the French revolution here [you pretentious twat –Ed.], so I might as well finish with another historical comparison. In the twenty years or so prior to the Russian revolution, everyone knew that Russia was a mess internally, and that a revolution would happen sooner or later – indeed, there was an aborted effort in 1905. Of course, no-one knew the form that it would take, but it was bound to happen. It strikes me we’re in a similar situation with the WWE; indeed, we could take the Russian analogy further – an out of touch, autocratic leader is currently heading up a tottering empire. It’s unlikely however, that Vince will be overthrown by an uprising from below. It’s generally accepted though, that change won’t occur until Vince is gone (i.e. dies). And that will happen at some point, but no-one knows when. But until then, it’s a case of just marking time….

NXT Recap March 11th 2015 By Jeromme Graham (@JerommeGraham)

First match of the night is Enzo & Cass vs. the Lucha Dragons. Enzo & Cass aren’t accompanied by Carmella and it’s funny how much better their entrance shtick flows without her. The Full Sail crowd didn’t really seem to be all that into the Lucha Dragons, but Enzo’s comedic timing went over well. The match itself was pretty solid. Enzo & Cass got the win over the former NXT Tag Team champions and it wouldn’t be a shock to see eventually see them sporting the titles.

We then get a killer Kevin Owens video package recapping how he won the NXT title and showing how dominant he has been.

Next match up is Carmella vs. Alexa Bliss. If you’ve been watching NXT regularly, you know that the women’s division gets a ton of well deserved praise. However, that praise tends to largely be focused solely on Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Bayley. It’s nice to see Carmella and Alexa get some time to shine. The match felt a little clunky at points, but the potential of both ladies was very evident. Alexa got the win with the Sparkle Splash from the top rope.

We’re then taken to a backstage Alex Riley promo. To call this promo passionate would be an understatement. With his #FreeRiley campaign on Twitter, Riley made it very clear that he wants to be an in-ring competitor more than anything you can see that he’s serious about it and giving it his all.

CJ Parker vs. Alex Riley. It seems that CJ Parker is now the go-to guy for matches against returning stars or debuting acts. The crowd was soundly behind Riley and that was great to see. Riley looked good and picked up the win with a Blockbuster. This was a decent match designed to re-introduce Riley as a wrestler and it got the job done. NXT Champion Kevin Owens came out after the match to taunt Riley and to make his presence felt, building up tension of the Owens vs. Riley match.

From there, we get right into the main event.

Tyler Breeze vs.Hideo Itami. Both Breeze and Itami are beloved guys that fanswould love to see more of, so to see them main eventing the show is great. There has been a lot of talk that Itami was struggling to adapt to the WWE style, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue any longer.  Breeze picked up the win with the Beauty Shot after dodging a dropkick from Itami. I’m sure this feud is far from over.

Overall, this was a solid episode of NXT. It furthered along the Breeze vs. Itami and Owens vs. Riley feuds and we got to see Bliss and Carmella get more ring time. While this episode didn’t feature some of the top tier NXT names like Balor or Neville, the wrestling didn’t disappoint.

Monday 16 March 2015

A Note On Booking By Adam Timmins

So I came across the final card for this year’s Wrestlemania this morning, and my reaction was “wow, this is pretty bad.”For a Wrestlemania anyway. But the one thing that really stood out was the placement of Brian Danielson in the IC Title Ladder Match. Here’s a guy who’s over like crazy; probably the most over guy in the company…and he’s lost in the shuffle.

Now this got me thinking about booking in general. In any other promotion, wrestlers are told “it’s your job to get yourself over.” It is your goal as a wrestler; it’s how you know you’re doing your job correctly. If you’re over, then you’ve earned your shot at titles, main events, decent payoffs etc.

Unless of course you’re in the WWE. You have to wonder what’s going through Danielson’s mind at the moment. If he’s making decent coin, and obviously he has his beautiful wife, maybe he’s not too fussed about. But there must be part of him, somewhere, that’s saying “this isn’t right.”

Thursday 5 March 2015

Bill DeMott Issue Raises It's Ugly Head Again

So, more former WWE developmental wrestlers have come forward with stories of Bill Demott's treatment of them while they were there. The first time I'd heard of DeMott's abuse towards trainees was way back on the Two And A Half Wrestlers podcast which is hosted by Kevin Matthews.

Some time back I interviewed former developmental talent Rampage Brown on  The Indy Corner and I did mention to him what I had heard but he couldn't shed any light on the matter.

However, there's no smoke without fire, I know many will say it's just disgruntled wrestlers who didn't 'make it' in NXT but I think there is more to it than that. Even people who had dealings with DeMott in the past who were not actual talent have said he was a bit of a hard ass so again, I think there is something in this story and I  advise you to seek out Kevin's podcast to hear what he and his guests had to say about DeMott.