G’day Lords of Pain and welcome to FACT or FICTION, the monthly column where we put the the hot topics going around the world of WWE in front of a pair of my Lords of Pain brethren and we determine if they are FACT of FICTION.
In case you have never read one of these before I have come up with five statements for myself and my guests to discuss and determine if they are FACT of FICTION. I have picked four contemporary topics and one more historic statement to be dissected. All of them are inspired by different conversations on the LOP Forums so if you want to weigh in or ever want to feature in one of these columns down the line you should sign up down there today.
Just for the sake of introductions I’m your new host for this series Sir Sam, @Sir_Samuel on Twitter, you may have read my work here on LOP either in Sir Sam’s Court or my Daniel Bryan series YES Relived. That is enough about me though, allow me to introduce my guests for today:
‘The Doc’ Chad Matthews – @TheDocLOP: Author of The Greatest Matches and Rivalries of the Wrestlemania Era (get your copy today), host of The Doctor’s Orders on LOP Radio, writer of the Doctor’s Order and member of the LOP Columns Hall of Fame. If you’ve been around Lords of Pain for any time you know this guy is amongst the best wrestling writers on the internet.
KingZak – @KingZak: Long time columns forum member, he has written predictions and reviews to every PPV since Wrestlemania 28, in fact he has a Take Over and Summer Slam prediction column waiting for you right now. This guy is one of the hidden gems on the columns forum.
Zak’s Dog: KingZak’s long time companion who is crazily accurate at predicting PPV matches; Zak sets up bits of food with each answer and records how he does. Let’s see how he does on FACT or FICTION in his main page debut.
Now the formalities are out of the way, let’s get this show on the road.
The women only Evolution PPV will be the best main roster WWE PPV of the year.
Doc: At this point in time, I will cautiously say FACT, but that is less because I am confident that WWE will put together an awesome show in late October and more because there has been so little competition for that distinction in 2018 to date. To its credit, WWE handled the women’s Rumble with great care, it has been doing a great job with Ronda Rousey’s push, and we are not too far removed from the very well produced original Mae Young Classic; so, in a year when so little in WWE proper has seemingly been handled with care, you would have to at least feel somewhat encouraged that WWE would be extra careful with Evolution given the occasion and the stakes of this being the first-ever women’s-only PPV.
Evolution is going to get a lot of press, and WWE will want to put its best foot forward. Naturally, as a fan, I would rather answer this question based on the idea of the women knocking it out of the park and outshining their male counterparts, who had already dominated several awesome shows throughout the year, but WWE has made a habit in 2018 of letting booking get in the way of the talent. It is, thus, more appropriate to ponder the influence of forces beyond merely what happens in the ring, sad as that may be.
Zak: This feels like it is an almost certain fact, however there is a problem here. This PPV is going to contain all three women’s title matches plus the finals of the Mae Young Classic (Also according to Wikipedia, a UK Women’s title), all of these matches are going to be good match with a lot of hype going in, however the problem is, there is no feasible way to make them take up the 3-4 hours that the PPV is going to be. There is going to be at least an hour of filler-y crap in there.
While I am excited for these main matches, I can honestly say there is nothing else the women’s division can offer that I would give the slightest fuck about. At this moment I like Charlotte, Becky, Asuka on SmackDown. Rousey, Bliss from Raw (with a slight nod to Sasha and Bayley who I couldn’t care less about right now, but could easily be back to interesting any time now), and sadly I don’t see any NXT matches aside from the two already set. So realistically, we are expecting for WWE to given Women not involved in title feuds an interesting or meaningful role on the show. WWE have struggled to do that for years across both genders.
So this show is simply going to be half filler or nostalgia, so the goal would be to offer good filler/ or limited fun nostalgia and not just hammer it to death. If it can manage that, then I can see it beating Money in The Bank’s or the Royal Rumble’s (currently the Main Rosters best this year) and their ranking of “pretty good”.
The biggest obstacle for them really, may actually be SummerSlam, while some of the builds have been lacklustre, the card itself is actually looking pretty good and if given the opportunity could be a very good show. Couple this with a recent resurgence in Survivor Series and the two remaining of the big five actually pose a threat to the women’s show.
I am going to have to say FICTION for this one, and honestly it is a close one. I feel like one of the shows we get is going to surprise us at least a little bit and the inevitable Bellas vs Kelly Kelly match they are going to add to Evolution is gonna do enough damage that it does not reign as the best show. If I were to compare it to any PPV, it would be WrestleMania, the good stuff is great and the bad stuff is terrible. I would like it to be best, I just feel with the stiff competition it will struggle.
Dog: The question made him yawn, but he went FACT immediately.
Sam: As far as the WWE has come with women’s wrestling, I think there is one piece of the puzzle they have yet to really put in place, midcard feuds away from the title. Smackdown briefly flirted with it at the tail of 2016 and start of ’17 but more often than not, even with the brand split in place, the entire women’s division on both shows has circled around the championship belt merely playing a backing role or off TV all together.
This show should finally rectify this problem giving the likes of Sasha and Bayley at least one other pair of wrestlers who have been locked out of the championship scene a chance to establish a fully fledged story away from the title.
Every time the women have had a chance to do something ‘for the first time’ they have knocked it out of the park and unlike the filler Zak has predicted I expect nothing less than a roster hungry to show itself in a three dimensional light. FACT
Roman Reigns winning at Summer Slam and leaving as Universal Champion will ultimately be the best thing for the Universal Championship title and Raw.
Zak: This is a bit of a tough one in my opinion, I am kinda split on this one, because anyone but Lesnar would be an improvement for champion, on the flip side, Roman is literally one rung above Lesnar on my list, I’d rather see Heath Slater beat Lesnar for the gold (that would be amazing to watch, talk about an underdog story). Seriously, just about anyone on Raw would be a better Universal Champion than either of those two. At least the rest of the roster has actual support or heat instead of “go away” heat.
So Roman winning and leaving as Universal champion is better for Raw as they will finally have a main event title again, honestly I think the best thing for the Universal title is just to trash it and bring in a new belt (I like the idea of bringing back the World Heavyweight title personally), the belt may just have too much of a negative stigma to it at this point.
However this is a short term fix, as we only have sorted one problem, we still have Roman Reigns being his usual dull and omnipresent self. The best way to progress would be Braun as champion, however, I can wait till WrestleMania for that. So I guess I’m gonna say FACT begrudgingly.
Dog: Briefly stared, then picked FICTION
Sam: My response is two fold. Firstly as Zak has correctly stated, any full time roster member beating Brock Lesnar would be an improvement at this point. His reign has completely stalled the main event scene which has halted the momentum and stunted the growth of Samoa Joe, Braun Strowman, Finn Balor, arguably Seth Rollins, and even Roman Reigns himself. While the champion has been cooling his heels all of these amazing performers have been forced to tread water to some extent when they should have been taking the next step in their careers. So in that sense it is 100% FACT.
The caveat for many though is that Lesnar should be beaten at Summer Slam but ultimately either Braun Strowman or Kevin Owens should cash in MITB and be the ones to carry the belt forward. To me that would be folly and lead to more long term problems. Like it or not Roman Reigns is the top guy on Raw and even if someone else takes the belt it will still be seen as only a matter of time until Roman Reigns wins it back. The best responses Roman ever got were after he won the belt at Wrestlemania 32 and after he beat The Undertaker, in other words, when he was put in that undisputed top guy position. During these runs the WWE was able to combine Reign’s undeniable talent in the ring with the heat he generated to legitimise AJ Styles, Finn Balor and Braun Strowman on the main roster. Winning the belt cleanly off Lesnar will allow Reigns to finally have the reign that we know Vince wants him to have and also give the likes of Owens, Strowman, Balor, Rollins and Ambrose a chance to build on the momentum they already have against a guy people love to hate. FACT
Doc: It really depends on what happens after Summerslam, should he indeed become champion. If they continue down the road of playing him up as this “hero of the diehard fans” character and sprinkle a bit of fighting-from-the-knees-up on top, then absolutely fiction.
I’m so ridiculously tired of people saying that diehard fans boo Roman Reigns because of his success or because it’s fun to be contrarians or because wrestling fans are stupid; sorry, apologists, but Roman being booked in these types of roles is clearly ridiculous. No self-respecting male wants to cheer for the guy who looks and acts like he would try to steal your girlfriend in a bar and wink at you while he does it; no fan in the digital age is going to willingly get behind a wrestler being characterized as an underdog, especially when he’s not good in that role, when everyone who has surfed the web since 2014 knows that he’s the new Golden Boy – Vince McMahon’s Golden Boy. These are not nitpicking issues that lead to Reigns being jeered out of the building every week, but perfectly reasonable gripes.
That said, if Roman wins on Sunday and he then leans into his attitude again, like he did in the post-WrestleMania seasons of 2016 and 2017, then sign me the hell up because that version of Reigns, regardless of whether or not he “turns heel,” is the most compelling wrestler for about 80% of the roster to wage war in the ring with (making the answer here, “fact”). Sadly, I have no confidence in WWE’s ability to handle Reigns well right now, so FICTION
Putting the NXT Championship on Tomaso Ciampa was the best thing for NXT.
Doc: Absolutely, FACT. Ciampa is the most over wrestler in NXT. There is no such thing as being above the title unless you are a veteran former multi-time titleholder who has dominated at the top for several years, so I’m not buying that counter-argument. I am also not buying that Black was the best choice, because frankly I just do not see the reasons to be so enamored with him; he is a very good wrestler with a unique gimmick, but he lacks the same kind of unmistakable presence as his predecessors at the top of NXT, in my opinion. Black is more Kane than Sting or Taker to me, and while that is not a bad thing, it is a statement of how I feel about his place as NXT Champion. Ciampa is the best heel under the WWE umbrella, meanwhile, someone who fans willingly love to hate – in this world where kayfabe is broken by the time your age hits double-digits, that’s a wonderful attribute – and someone who has been one half of the developmental promotion’s greatest all-time rivalry. Seriously, who would be a better choice?
Zak: I honestly can’t think of a statement that is more FACT and comes across as more of a stupid question (no offense Sam). Putting the world title on the top heel is always one of two best decisions (no prize for guessing the other) and right now it has gone from Aleister Black, who while a quality superstar and a joy to watch in NXT, his reign has coincided with the blood feud between Gargano and Ciampa. There are some times in history where a feud becomes bigger than the world title and main events over it, this is one of those times.
Unfortunately this has had a fairly negative impact on Black as he ends up as a somewhat second rate champion without a Takeover Main event to his name. he is somewhat a victim of wrong place wrong time. I hope that when he returns he gets something good to do, though he is probably gonna return on the main roster so unfortunately his peak is overridden by another feud stealing the thunder.
Ciampa as champion is definitely the best choice. He is hated in a way that wrestlers aren’t in the modern day. Merging the title into the Gargano/Ciampa feud is somewhat unnecessary but it will give the title something big in it’s history, so that’s a positive. But yeah, this is FACT 100%
Dog: Sniffed the choice, picked FICTION
Sam: When I wrote this question a few weeks ago I was originally going to say fiction. I think that it is always important to have a hot upper midcard feud away from the championship scene and Ciampa’s red hot heat without even coming close to the title seemed to be a golden chance to do that even outside of his feud with Johnny Gargano. I though he could be a fantastic opponent to launch someone like Ricochet or even Pete Dunne to the next level.
However now I have seen Ciampa with the belt and this intriguing plot line that is developing as Gargano and Aleister Black chase Ciampa while also butting heads I am completely on board. So I will change my mind and side with all the guys above me (except the dog) and say FACT.
Fans who have purchased a ticket have a right to act in any way they want.
Sam: I wrote a column about this in the heat of the moment after the countdown clock debacle at Extreme Rules. In the piece I stated that audience members who knowingly detract from the in ring product with distracting chants, beach balls, etc are not wrestling fans and should probably leave. My sentiment has not changed.
I’m happy if you want to booo Roman Reigns, I have no problem if you want to endlessly chant the names of the tag teams in the ring, I don’t mind if you want to shout the promotion’s name over and over again, I don’t even care if you want yell ‘you still suck’ at the face and cheer the heels. What I cannot stand though is when people turn up to a show, resolve to actively ignore the in ring product and knowingly distract from the show the company wants to put on. I refuse to call these audience members wrestling fans. Wrestling does not live in a vacuum and the live audience plays a crucial part in its presentation, a role that can turn good matches into a great matches and sadly, in it can turn great matches into matches you want to forget.
If you are a wrestling fan then pay attention to the wrestling, get invested in the stories being told and you will be rewarded for it. If you don’t like what is being presented then change the channel, focusing on the negative has never actually made people happy long term. If you aren’t a wrestling fan but instead love countdown clocks or beach balls then buy a stopwatch or go to the beach, just don’t show up to a wrestling show. FACT.
Doc: An exchange during the Summerslam 1989 match between Ultimate Warrior and Rick Rude comes to mind here. Jesse Ventura, in response to Tony Schiavone’s comment that a title belt shot should not count because it was outside the ring, stated, “What are you gonna tell me, Schiavone, you can shoot someone outside the ring, as long as it’s outside the ring?” I feel very similarly about this asinine notion that you can do anything that you want just because you paid for a ticket. Well, of course this is FICTION and to suggest otherwise is short-sighted at best and moronic at worst.
There are a list of things printed on the back of the ticket that you are not allowed to do even though you paid for that ticket, first and foremost. Naturally, there are ways that we are expected to act while in attendance at any event for which we paid money for a ticket. As wrestling fans, we’re there to watch wrestling and engage as an important cog in the wheel of the performance, but we’re not there to act as if the performance in the ring does not matter. May as well bring a whistle to the show and blow it the whole time, booger eaters, because quite frankly you are entirely distracting to everyone else who is not up for your antics – and we, the annoyed, outnumber you 1 million to one. Take your buzzer-beater noise, shine it up real nice, and stick it straight up your…
Can you tell that is perhaps my biggest pet peeve as a thirty-plus year fan?
Zak: Another difficult question here. I am all for free speech, and honestly without it we would never have gotten superstars like CM Punk and Daniel Bryan in the main event scene. Plus if we just cheered and booed who we were told then there would never be a natural way for superstars to turn heel or face since usually the fan support has already begun swinging that way and is awaiting WWE to just turn into the skid, so to speak.
However, where does this rule end, “any way they want” is a very ambiguous statement, could fans just start chanting the N-word at superstars or “We Want Titties” during the women’s matches. Being given blanket permission to act as you see fit is not something that can actually be trusted with most people in the modern era. People are idiots, as exampled by literally every social media site ever. Chances are there are several idiots reading this, the internet gives stupidity a platform and makes it louder and that has spilled over into group environments now, with people more interested in their fifteen minutes of fame than anything else.
I think this is FICTION, Fan’s don’t have the right to act any way they want, there has to be a limit somewhere, and while I am of the opinion they had the right to shit on Dolph vs Rollins at ER (The match I am sure prompted this question), I think that is as far as they should go, you can shit on a match as much as you want but anything further is a bit too much for me. So like I said, FICTION
Dog: Immediately choose FACT
Randy ‘The Macho King’ Savage v The Ultimate Warrior is one of the top 10 greatest matches or rivalries of the Wrestlemania era. (From the Doc’s new book The Greatest Matches & Rivalries of the Wrestlemania Era).
This was my conclusion from the very chapter of my new book that prompted this question:
“WWE is inherently a melodrama as much as it is an exhibition of elite athleticism, hence the sports entertainment label. From top to bottom, from the establishment of the modern main-event plot device of spectacularly engaging finisher kick-outs to the commentary to an unforgettable “WrestleMania Moment” to character-acting of the highest order that wrestling has to offer to elaborate pre-match routines, Warrior vs. Savage was a microcosm of sports entertainment as a philosophy and taught us everything that WWE matches could be.”
Zak: Hmm, this is a bit of a tricky one. I only started watching in 2007 and wasn’t even aware this match happened until about 2011 when I looked at WrestleMania history stuff. So the fact that I had never heard of it surely means it can’t be that great can it.
Well since then, I have heard nothing but positive things about this. people describe it as underrated as a match, and truthfully it does sound one of the better matches of WrestleMania with a memorable ending with Savage and Elizabeth’s reunion.
But is it a top ten match or rivalry?
Well as luck would have it, I have a table statistically displaying every WrestleMania match ever (part of a different series) So I can infact say whether it is top ten or not.
I have the match listed at 4 stars, so here is every WrestleMania match I have listed at five stars.
Ricky Steamboat vs Randy Savage (WM3)
Bret Hart vs Owen Hart (WM10)
Shawn Michaels vs Razor Ramon (WM10)
Bret Hart vs Steve Austin (WM13)
TLC II (WM17)
Shawn Michaels vs Chris Benoit vs Triple H (WM20)
Shawn Michaels vs Kurt Angle (WM21)
Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels (WM25)
For those of you that can’t count, that is eight matches, and with a whole bunch listed at 4.75, 4.5 and 4.25 stars, as well as others at four stars, there is actually a big gap between this match and top ten … honestly it may not even crack the top 25 matches in WrestleMania history … and we aren’t just talking WrestleMania, everything from March 1985 to now. there is no way this is a top ten match in all of that time.
A very similar sentiment goes to rivalry, however that one is more subjective. However off the top of my head, here are rivalries better than Savage/Warrior
Hogan/Andre (not a great match but undeniably one of the most important feuds of wrestling history)
Daniel Bryan/The Authority
(Those last two are more a personal preference)
Now, I do understand that everyone has a different opinion, however just based on some of these matches and rivalries importance to history, it is insane to think that Savage/Warrior is near the top, as good as it may have been at the time, it no longer belongs near the top of a list, top 25 maybe, top 50 certainly, but not top 10. So this is FICTION, plain and simple.
Dog: Showed him the question, he ripped the question in half. He then forced a draw by getting both at once … I have spare though, put his paw on my leg and grabbed FICTION.
Sam: I can’t say I have devised a formula and executed a list in quite the same way Zak and Doc have however after thinking this through I cannot come up with any answer other than FACT. Alongside Hogan V Rock this would probably rate as one of the most perfect distillations of ‘sports entertainment’ in the WWE’s history and is a far more intricate match after a re-watch. To put it simpley Macho King v Warror has everything you could want in an sports entertainment match, from the underrated in ring action, character development in equal part for each wrestler and of course the amazing progression in the Macho Man storyline.
Savage was known for meticulously planning out every step of his big matches and it shows so clearly in this match were every movement has a meaning and reason behind it within the fiction of the story being told. Even the divisive sequence of five elbow drops in a row that Warrior ultimately kicks out of, speaks so deeply to each character: Savage’s desperation and waning powers contrasted with The Warrior’s ability to absorb and feed off the energy being expelled by Savage. All of this of course climaxes in possibly the most touching moment in WWE history as Miss Elizabeth rushes to the side of the beaten and humbled Macho Man who, for the first time ever, opens the ropes for her. Wrestling fandom can sometimes leave us in a bit of a negative place but this is a moment that would touch even the jaded of us.
And that brings the return of FACT or FICTION to a close for August. Thanks to The Doc, Zak and his Dog for joining me today, don’t forget to follow them on Twitter and check out their work here on LOP.
Feel free to leave your thoughts on the topics we discussed in the comment section below. If you’re someone who really likes commenting and would perhaps like to try your hand at one of these columns in the future, I invite you to make your way to the Columns Forum and take your shot at being LOP’s next big thing. It is where every one of us started as writers on this site and even if you don’t feel the need to write a column yourself, it is the best place on the internet to find creative and informed wrestling writing and discussion.