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So I’m back, exclusively here at LordsofPain.net / WrestlingHeadlines.com… Need to be brutally honest here: I don’t feel like writing on current WWE topics. As a longtime customer of the WWE since the late 1980s, it breaks my heart to see what this wrestling empire has become. Time is beginning to prove that Vince McMahon needs a good supporting cast (Pat Patterson, Jim Ross, Bruce Pritchard, Gerald Brisco, etc.) to help him create superstars and piece together good storylines. He doesn’t have that support group right now and seems to only have people who tell him “yes” to everything.
So I’d rather talk about something else…
Before I get to that “something else”, two things:
– RAW’s average viewership was just under 3.1 million this week. I’m willing to bet that odds of Brock Lesnar getting re-signed are increasing by the week.
– Quick WWE Fastlane predictions:
• John Cena wins the 6-Pack Challenge to become WWE Champion
• Randy Orton defeats Bobby Roode for the United States Title
• Usos retain the Tag Titles
• Charlotte Flair defeats Ruby Riott
• Shinsuke Nakamura defeats Rusev
• Natalya/Carmella defeats Becky Lynch/Naomi
That’s all I’m going to say on current stuff…
What I want to talk about is WRESTLEMANIA specifically and what this event means to me. Looking back, I would say that Wrestlemania 5 helped permanently make me become a WWE wrestling fan. During the late 1980s, I was aware of the WWE and Hulk Hogan but I wasn’t watching WWE programming every week. It wasn’t until I was completely captivated by seeing a tape of Sting vs. Ric Flair at Clash of the Champions #1 around October 1988. I completely bought that Sting was going to defeat Ric Flair for the NWA/WCW Championship and from there, I was hooked. In addition to inhaling NWA/WCW on TBS, I began checking out syndicated WWE shows and their “All American Wrestling” show on Sundays on the USA Network. When I saw the “heat” between Macho Man Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan, I was amazed… Then, I convinced my parents to tape the late night WWE program where the Mega Powers broke up in a tag match against Big Bossman and Hakeem.
When I think about Wrestlemania, my memory starts with 1989’s show. I was aware of Hulk Hogan vs. Andre “the Giant” but mostly as pop culture figures. You have to realize that I was a kid during the 1980s. As Hogan and Andre headlined Wrestlemania 3, I was just finishing 1st Grade! I was happy with my Transformers toys or Garbage Pail Kids more than the scripted conflict between GOOD vs. EVIL that is portrayed in a square circle.
Once I was hooked on pro wrestling by late 1988, me and my older brother began renting many shows from our local Video Rental place. There, I began watching older events… We watched all 4 Wrestlemanias, the 1987 Survivor Series, and the 1988 SummerSlam event. DAMN I LOVE THAT SummerSlam 1988 event! I began an instant Ultimate Warrior fan when he crushed Honky Tonk Man and then in that main event with Mega Powers vs. Mega Bucks, when Miss Elizabeth creates a “distraction”. My jaw dropped… I was pretty sure that I’d go on to like girls. Madonna’s “Material Girl” video got the ball rolling and Miss Elizabeth’s red panties fully confirmed that I was straight. And then Vanna White turning those letters on Wheel of Fortune… And then someone jumping out of a cake in the movie “Under Siege” (I hope that a particular reader sees that reference).
Getting back on track, I was quickly caught up on Wrestlemanias by the time Wrestlemania 5 rolled around… But I don’t hold as much of an attachment to Wrestlemanias 1-4 than I do #5. In fact, I kind of dislike Wrestlemanias 1, 2, and 4. Kinda boring overall to me. Wrestlemania 1 and Wrestlemania 2 seems to be riding the fumes of Rocky 3 as much as possible by heavily featuring Mr. T and Hulk Hogan while the match quality is kind of down. Wrestlemania 4‘s tournament just takes forever to watch and only gets interesting at the very end when Macho Man Randy Savage wins the WWE Title. Other than that… “eh”. Wrestlemania 1 and 2 just don’t hold up well on match quality but hey, that was the WWE and Vince McMahon just getting started.
Wrestlemania 3, however… Damn, that was a GOOD show. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre “the Giant was epic. I don’t care about the match quality or if you believe that Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Ricky “the Dragon” Steamboat “stole the show”. They didn’t steal the show… Wrestlemania 3 matters because it’s Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant. No matter how bad that match was, the moment of Hogan just beating Andre is what people paid to see. Nobody, back then, knew how badly injured that Andre during that match. To most, they felt that it was the Andre of old who was still the most legitimate big man in pro wrestling who probably hasn’t lost cleanly for years. Wrestlemania 3 puts the WWE on the map but WWE grew more when the babyface stage could be shared by another wrestler other than Hogan. After beating Andre, what was left for Hogan to accomplish?
That’s why Macho Man Randy Savage was so great. Not only was he a great wrestler, but he was full of charisma and personality. Then, he had an x-factor in Miss Elizabeth whom he could either berate to generate heel heat or openly love to make fans become emotional at the first couple of pro wrestling. Seriously, their saga has made wrestling fans cry such as their 1991 reunion and then their on-screen marriage. Then, the WWE began having Randy Savage begin to self-destruct with jealousy following SummerSlam 1988 and that led to that the Main Event show where Miss Elizabeth was bumped and Hogan took her to backstage himself for medical attention. Savage was pissed about that and also took a beating from Hakeem and Big Bossman was Hogan was tending to Randy’s woman backstage. Savage attacked Hogan backstage after the match and Wrestlemania 5 was on. HOWEVER, in my opinion, the wrong guy won. Macho Man should have retained the title through screwy means and then set-up a rematch at SummerSlam 1989. Instead, the WWE tried to force the actor who played “Zeus” in the WWE film No Holds Barred to become a wrestler instead. Wrestlemania 5, in my opinion, is the absolutely peak of the Hulkamania era and it went all downhill after that.
As a kid, I adored Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior at Wrestlemania 6. Total was baffled by 2 babyface wrestlers going at it. That and thanks to SummerSlam 1988, I was “all in” on Ultimate Warrior. I HAD HIS WRESTING BUDDY! That’s right… Action figures as well. I was heavily rooting for Warrior to become champ and to my surprise, he did it… But as soon as Warrior won it, you could just almost feel by that ending that maybe the wrong guy won that match. Focus seemed to be on if this was the “end of Hogan” instead of the beginning of Warrior’s title reign. But don’t worry, Hulk Hogan would get his WWE Title back at Wrestlemania 7 which did a tasteless portrayal of the Desert Storm conflict on screen in a WWE ring. When I see WWE doing their annual supporting of the troops, I’m often reminded of those 1990-1991 storylines and Sgt. Slaughter turning heel against his country. Many people like the Retirement Match between Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage, my 2 childhood favorites in the WWE… But I still wonder how Warrior survived 5 freakin’ Top Rope Elbows in a row. How?!?
Wrestlemania 8, DAMN THAT WAS GOOD! Just give me Bret “the Hitman” Hart vs. Roddy Piper and Ric Flair vs. Randy Savage ALL DAY LONG and we’re good. Pure greatness to me and it baffles me how WWE’s drawing ability was declining in 1992 with all of that great veteran talent. I was even in awe of the spectacle of Sid Justice vs. Hulk Hogan. Bad match, yes, botched finish, guilty as charged… But I just got done LOVING the Skyscrapers in NWA/WCW destroying any jobber tag team in sight and I thought Sid was a badass back then. I’m not ashamed to say it… I LOVE me some Sid Vicious, Sid Justice, Psycho Sid, etc. He is the MASTER and the RULER OF THE WORLD!
Then, you had Wrestlemania 9… I remember renting that show with my brother and we were in awe of the set and the outdoor atmosphere. That, and we were excited to see that our FAVORITE announcer, Jim Ross, had joined the WWE. We adored him from NWA/WCW and were very welcome to see him in a new environment. He calls matches like a sports announcer and there were times that we thought that Vince’s announcing was a bit over-the-top. Wrestlemania 9? Yeah, that event sucked… Hulk Hogan getting the title again felt really desperate and I remember being happy when Yokozuna took his title back later during the year. Thankfully, the next Wrestlemania was AWESOME.
In Wrestlemania 10, you have 2 amazing 5 Star classics with Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart and the Ladder Match between Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon. It was the last Wrestlemania match for Macho Man Randy Savage, too… In many ways, I was relieved that the WWE called an audible and went with Bret Hart to become WWE champion. Lex Luger was just overpushed in the WWE and just wasn’t a babyface type like Hulk Hogan. “All American” Lex Luger. Come on, man. On that Ladder Match… What can I say? Great match, but I just don’t think that Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) getting enough credit for that match. He’s taking bumps, too, and isn’t botching moves despite the match being new to work. Sad to watch this event and see how GOOD Owen Hart was against his brother. Why the WWE never pushed that guy harder is beyond me.
I feel that it was a shame that Bam Bam Bigelow didn’t get anything in return by the WWE for losing to former NFL Football player Lawrence Taylor. This was such a short-term cash grab at Wrestlemania 11 and did nothing for WWE long-term. That said, it wasn’t time for Diesel vs. Shawn Michaels as both guys had their best years soon to come with much better characters in place. Wrestlemania 12, I feel, gets too much credit due to the Iron Man Match between Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart. Sorry, but this match bored me. It should have had multiple falls to captivate audiences. It wasn’t until the early 2000s until other wrestlers figured out that multiple falls = great Iron Man matches. Just seemed like Hart and Michaels were just trying to get through the first 60 minutes to complete the match with the “Sudden Death”. I don’t know… I seemed more excited for Ultimate Warrior‘s return and total destruction of Triple H in a singles match. Cool moment although Warrior disappeared shortly after this match.
Wrestlemania 13 didn’t excite me at all with its Sid vs. Undertaker match but DAMN did Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart impress. Holy cow! All of my buddies in the room watching that Pay Per View totally understood WWE’s storyline attempt at a “double switch” to convert Bret into a Heel and Austin into a babyface. Everybody got it. As Jim Ross has said many times, newer wrestlers should just watch that match to see how wrestling works. Things improved for the WWE just 1 year later for Wrestlemania 14. Mike Tyson built hype for that show but Steve Austin becoming WWE Champion for the first time is what matters. As a fan of “Stunning” Steve Austin from WCW, I was happy to Steve Austin become a legitimate main eventer that he was denied in WCW. The use of Tyson to hype this event, build Steve Austin, and Iron Mike’s performance at Wrestlemania 14 was just perfect.
From a storyline and main event basis, Wrestlemania 15 was a great show. Many criticize the quality of the midcard matches but the storylines crushed it at this event. It was Vince Russo‘s finest hour as the Creative Lead. WWE fooled everyone by reuniting Triple H with Chyna but then having them turn on X-Pac during his match with Shane McMahon. It is done perfectly and helped launch Triple H as a heel main eventer. The Rock vs. Ausitn match is flawless and I prefer that one to the Wrestlemania 17 match. It was both wrestlers in their prime, with Austin in the middle of his and Rock just entering his. It just felt BIG as if what you were watching was groundbreaking. Wrestlemania 15, to me, was the true “peak” of the Attitude Era as everything began to change after that event. Austin vs. McMahon was running on fumes, Vince Russo began to suffer from burn out, the Rock turned babyface, and the rise of Triple H’s era began. Later during 1999, Austin would be out with his neck injury and then a bunch of new talent were about to debut. Angle and Jericho during late 1999…
2000 was a GREAT year for the WWE. While Steve Austin and the Undertaker’s injuries occurred, guys like Triple H/Rock/Foley stepped up while new talents like Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, and the big WCW departures of the Radicalz (Benoit, Guerrero, Malenko, Saturn) filled the void. On top of that, WWE acquired the Dudley Boyz from ECW and they are a massive success in the WWE. At the same time, Hardy Boyz and Edge/Christian were beginning to peak as tag teams. The 3 teams would come together and legitimately carry Wrestlemania 16. Without that match, this show is an incredible letdown (though I enjoyed the Jericho vs. Angle vs. Benoit triple threat). Though it was not called a “TLC” match, Hardys, Edge/Christian, and Dudleys tore down the show with one of the most violent matches of all time. The Wrestlemania 17 match was excellent but not as unique as the Wrestlemania 16 war.
The McMahons ruined Wrestlemania 16. All of that talent yet the made the show about them. “McMahons in every corner” when Wrestlemania 16 should have been headlined by Rock vs. Triple H in a singles match without any gimmicks. It’s no secret that RAW viewership began to decline and live events weren’t selling out after this show as instantly as they were before this show. But then, the WWE gave us Wrestlemania 17 to prove what a LOADED talent roster could provide. It is probably the best in-ring Wrestlemania from top to bottom of all time. Triple H vs. Undertaker, TLC 2, Angle vs. Benoit, Austin vs. Rock, and even Shane vs. Vince was reasonable. The Gimmick Battle royal was incredible and it was a treat to hear Bobby “the Brain” Heenan back on commentary and killing it. Many absolutely love the Austin vs. Rock match and consider if their best of the series… Ehhh, for me, that ending just sours it. Austin should have NEVER turned heel, especially in Texas.
Wrestlemania 18 has Rock vs. Hulk Hogan which is one of those special WWE moments that only pro wrestling can provide. The fact that all of those Toronto fans suddenly realized that they were in the presence of Hulkamania was awesome. I personally enjoyed Ric Flair vs. Undertaker. Just had a great psychology to it and the match seemed like the “old” Ric Flair was back again. Other than that, well… Triple H vs. Chris Jericho was a letdown but I think that the psychology heading into the match brought it down. Jericho teamed with Stephanie and the “heat” was from Triple H/Stephanie’s car of Lucy, their dog. Seriously. That, and Triple H returned to the WWE with about 40 pounds of extra muscle packed on to his already large frame. This and he was recovering from a quad injury, he seemed abnormally slow compared to his 2000-2001 greatness.
But then, we had Wrestlemania 19. In my opinion, one of the finest Wrestlemania shows of ALL TIME. Headlined by Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle and featured Rock vs. Austin III, Hulk Hogan vs. Vince McMahon (very good bout!), and Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels. Michaels vs. Jericho was incredibly good and helped convince Shawn Michaels to keep wrestling for another 7 years. The show just has a good flow even if a few matches, like Booker T vs. Triple H, fell flat. Booker T should have won that match based on how Triple H belittled him in promos beforehand but this was part of Triple H’s dark period in his career where he was too dominant as a heel champion.
I personally don’t like Wrestlemania 20. Just too bloated of a show. In my opinion, you can just skip to that 5 Star Triple Threat match between Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit. Lesnar vs. Goldberg and Undertaker vs. Kane were extremely dull. However, I like the Kurt Angle vs. Eddie Guerrero match. Both have different styles yet, with time, it begins to develop into decent chemistry. The show proved to be a “bust” as both Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero, ending the show as champions, didn’t last long as main eventers. The WWE figured it out a year later with Wrestlemania 21 which put over Batista and John Cena as World Champions. Both guys would carry their brands and help stabilize the declining WWE seen between 2000-2004 along with guys like Edge helping to contribute. It’s a great show and props need to be given to both Triple H and JBL for making stars that night.
Wrestlemania 22 has its moments such as Mickie James being filthy with Trish Stratus and Shawn Michaels getting really violent with the McMahons… Good moment for Rey Mysterio although business didn’t really blossom much with him as World Champion. Cena vs. Triple H was just OK…
So now we enter the 2007-2010 years where my mind is hazy… See, I retired as Mr. Tito during the Fall of 2006 as I was in the midst of buying a house, was about to get married, wanted to start a family, and I was burned out on pro wrestling at the time. That, and the death of Eddie Guerrero during late 2005 really bummed me out. I was tired of seeing pro wrestling letting its wrestlers die without any kind of tough drug testing with consequence. I loosely followed Wrestlemania 23 and honestly didn’t care about it… I was probably the only one as the Vince McMahon vs. Donald Trump feud drew serious money. Looking back, though, the Shawn Michaels vs. John Cena and Batista vs. Undertaker matches were damn good. Pretty strong show, to be honest… Later during 2007, Chris Benoit killed his family and himself. From June 2007 through late 2010, I quit the WWE cold turkey and didn’t watch other than Wrestlemania 25 which featured the first Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker match. Wrestlemania 24 is really a blur to me, even after I watched the show later on the WWE Network. The Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair match, though, is heartbreaking to me because Ric Flair helped me become a full blow wrestling fan.
On Wrestlemania 25, of course Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker was excellent. Why would it not? One of the best matches of all time, period, end of story. Poor Triple H vs. Randy Orton had to follow that… And they failed. Before I make my point, it is entirely unfair to rip Triple H here because loses often at Wrestlemania had has put wrestlers over… But I just don’t get why he beat Randy Orton at this event. Orton needed the win badly to help return him to Main Event form and losing, in my opinion, permanently kept him a peg under from being a draw. Following Wrestlemania 25, I figured that WWE would want to try another Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels match. Sure enough, the rematch happened and it was another great match (though the WM25 match was better, in my opinion). There were other matches on Wrestlemania 26? Could have fooled me.
Through 2011, I was fully back as Mr. Tito and hitting my strides again with my “Blog is Tito” daily columns. Thus, I remember Wrestlemania 27 foldly. Being excited to be deep into the wrestling world again, I actually LIKED Wrestlemania 27 upon its first viewing. Undertaker vs. Triple H was amazing and I wasn’t as critical of the other stuff on the show. Now that I look back on it, eh… It was a thin show. Basically, Wrestlemania 27 just served as a way to hype up the big match 1 year later between the Rock vs. John Cena at Wrestlemania 28. Hype for that match was HUGE as the match was booked 1 year in advance and Rock’s babyface act was wearing out fast in their promos. When John Cena stung Rocky for writing notes on his hand… Ouch! Cena vs. Rock was just OK, though, as a match as Triple H vs. Undertaker stole the show once again. This show’s heat was killed, however, by the 18 second Daniel Bryan loss to Sheamus. Just awful.
Rock vs. Cena would also headline Wrestlemania 29 for another just OK match. On the undercard, however, was CM Punk vs. the Undertaker. That match was tremendous! It is truly amazing to see CM Punk in that match being careful yet convincing looking with his moves on the Undertaker. Seemed that Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar had a rough night, but from what I read, both sustained injuries during this match to limit both wrestlers. Come Wrestlemania 30, CM Punk was gone from the company… He was supposed to wrestle Triple H but Punk was tired of the many false promises apparently made to him. To me, I just cannot enjoy Wrestlemania 30. It is such a rigjob to over-correct for the error made during late 2013 when the WWE tried to dismantle Daniel Bryan‘s momentum. The idea of Randy Orton vs. Batista for the WWE Title headlining Wrestlemania 30 was a bad idea because again, Orton wasn’t that big main event draw. He was “damaged goods”. Batista disappeared for 3 years. I was SHOCKED when Brock Lesnar ended the Undertaker‘s streak. Holy cow!
And then we get to the 2015-2017 Wrestlemanias, the SOUL SUCKING Wrestlemania shows… Like today’s WWE, they are pushing the wrong wrestlers and having poor storylines to set-up each show. All 3 Wrestlemanias were headlined by Roman Reigns in attempt to get him over as the #1 Babyface while 2015-2017 also served as years where WWE wasted the guy he was trying to replace, John Cena. As Wrestlemania 34 rolls around, the WWE will be making their 4th Wrestlemania show in a row headlined by Roman Reigns and the SECOND one headlined alongside Brock Lesnar. WWE wants so badly for Reigns to the one appearing superior to Brock Lesnar… Yet wins against big stars like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, Triple H (at Wrestlemania), Undertaker (at Wrestlemania), and John Cena don’t count and are unable to get him over?
But don’t worry, paying $5 Million or so per year to Ronda Rousey will be worth it. Especially if she’s the FIRST person to actually scare Stephanie McMahon. Sure, Rousy was a former MMA fighter but all of the females in the Women’s Division are TRAINED WRESTLERS. They should be able to harm Stephanie McMahon instantly. WWE has this real problem of having part-time wrestlers or personalities like Triple H, Stephanie, and Shane McMahon being able to only wrestle occasionally but when they do, full-time wrestlers struggle against them. To me, it was embarrassing to see Undertaker and AJ Styles having to sell for backyard wrestling stuff from Shane. At least Triple H will put you over… Aside from that awful Sting match which terribly relived the “Monday Night Wars”, Triple H put over Daniel Bryan, Roman Reigns, and Seth Rollins.
I don’t know, man… WWE is just sucking the life out of me as a pro wrestling fan. I have all of this creative energy as Mr. Tito and I’m highly motivated to write… But it’s depressing to even think about the WWE. If we’re going down this dark road of a Brock Lesnar-less WWE following Wrestlemania 34 with Roman Reigns as World Champion, I really don’t want to see it. Many will try to insist that Roman is the “top merchandise seller” right now and I’ll laugh. Yeah, of a reduced audience of 1 million RAW viewers lost and thousands in live attendance. Kids will buy anything and like Kevin Dunn and Vince McMahon, they are fooled by the “look” of a wrestler.
I’m really taking a good hard look at the wrestling world right now… Lately, I’m content just sitting down on my couch, relaxing after a hard day’s work to play some Rocket League while various TV series stream on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime. I’m good with that and it doesn’t make me as miserable to see the company that I began to love almost 30 years ago, just fall apart. It’s very clear to me that Vince McMahon is a successful business man but the creative and talent relations side of things, he needed help. Once guys like Jim Ross, Pat Patterson, Gerald Brisco, and Bruce Pritchard were out of the picture, WWE’s quality seemed to drop fast.
It’s very sad… And the competitors in the wrestling world do nothing for me. If you like the other promotions, good for you. It’s not for me.
I’d rather FIX the WWE from killing itself.
And do all of you seriously think that WWE jumping to FOX is a good thing?!? Maybe in the short-run if the WWE gets a fat contract for a few years, but long-term, they are doomed. If you think that the PG Era is bad, wait until the WWE gets to deal with Network Television’s Standards & Practice fools. They’ll neuter the WWE even more than what you see today! Don’t forget what happened when Smackdown was on UPN during the early 2000s. They were constantly overseen by Network executives and groups like Parents Television Council (PTC) went bonkers. The PTC began challenging advertisers and the WWE had a hell of a time remaining on UPN after that debacle. For whatever reason, the television watchdogs hold the Networks as sacred ground. They’ll turn a blind eye at Sinclair Broadcasting buying them all up to form a local television monopoly, but hey, they agree with Sinclair’s politics so “nothing to see here”.
If the WWE does negotiate a deal with FOX and/or sells the company, they need to have existing assets to sell. If Brock Lesnar leaves, WWE’s value has declined significantly because nobody on the existing roster can replace his star power. Don’t give me Ronda Rousey because she’s not popping ratings yet and has yet to prove that she can draw on a Pay Per View. I’m laughing at the rumor of Kurt Angle/Ronda Rousey vs. Triple H/Stephanie McMahon possibly Main Eventing on Wrestlemania 34. You put all of that effort into Roman Reigns‘s HUGE WIN over Brock Lesnar and yet you want to end the show with Stephanie screaming in terror when the women are finally tagged into the match.
FOX is currently attempting to sell their intellectual properties, film, and other media departments to Disney. They’ll be FLUSH with cash after that and could either (a) overpay the WWE (that would resemble Viacom buying a declining WWE during 2000 which was my focal point of my famous “Winner’s Curse” column from 2005) or (b) outright buy the WWE Corporation. I just don’t see “(b)” happening for FOX, as their new focus will be Media for news coverage and continuing to grow their sports brand. WWE’s Cost of Revenues was $459 Million and I fear without having a deal with Comcast, the bandwidth use of operating the WWE Network suddenly becomes more expensive without Net Neutrality.
If anything, I am ROOTING for FOX to win the bid just to get Monday Night RAW down from 3 hours to 2 hours. That 3rd hour actually helps my famous “under 3 million” prediction from 2016 because its lower viewing drags down the first 2 hours. But hey, I remember a time when the last hour of RAW during 10-11 strongly outdrew the first hour. When you have real top drawing stars like Steve Austin, Rock, Mick Foley, Undertaker, etc through 1999, numbers tend to pop. What worries me about the real future of the WWE is the lack of vision and scouting at WWE Developmental. There is NO replacing Jim Ross. The man ran WWE Developmental like a pro sports General Manager and legitimately scouted talent from everywhere. Then, he put in place great trainers at Ohio Valley Wrestling (Danny Davis, chief among them) and had Jim Cornette oversee the day-to-day operations and booking. Y’all hate me for praising the “Class of 2002” but Jim Ross produced Brock Lesnar, Shelton Benjamin, John Cena, Randy Orton, and Batista to replenish the talent to follow the eventual departures of Rock, Austin, Foley, and other veterans who were getting older.
It just BAFFLES me how the man who created the dominant force in the 1980s with Hulkamania and then the rebirth period of the late 1990s with the Attitude Era is SO OBTUSE with the current state of WWE. FINGER OF SHAME to you, Vince McMahon. How were you so right then but so wrong now? It reminds me of 1992-1994 when WWE was lost without Hulk Hogan and started looking at guys like Lex Luger to overpush. By then, turmoil hit the WWE to lose a few backstage guys and others moved on to other promotions. Thus, Vince McMahon without a support system has gone wild on bad creative decisions. I laughed when Stephanie McMahon told Lillian Garcia’s Podcast that Vince almost fired her a few times. Huh? You were the complete enabler of the destruction of WCW/ECW Invasion, Katie Vick, the Divas Search and calling female competitors as “Divas”, lots of Title inflation, Smackdown’s decline, and the destruction of CM Punk from becoming a top superstar. Guys like Pat Patterson, Gerald Brisco, Bruce Pritchard, or Jim Ross would have legitimately disagreed on Vince’s creative decisions… Hell, even Vince Russo would and WWE ruined that creative talent by burning him out during 1999.
And again, I have NOTHING against wrestlers like Alberto Del Rio, Miz, Sheamus, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Jinder Mahal, and others. I just find this “lack of trust” in what built top level superstars to be disturbing. If WWE would simply watch their own WWE Network, they’d visually see the process in practice. Debut as a lower midcarder and start working your way up the ladder by defeating other lower midcarders. If fans notice you, start to work with other mid level midcarders to see if you’re legit. If fans notice you there, begin to chase the midcard title. If the fans believe in your chase, then eventually reward that wrestler with the United States Title and/or Intercontinental belt. If that wrestler actually draws as a midcard champion, then you begin discussions of letting them try to wrestle Main Event wrestlers here and there. If the wrestler appears to hang with those bigger stars and fans feel that he fits in, then consider the promotion. Work with other Main Eventers here and there and if fans react, then begin discussions on a plan to pushing them into a CHASE for the World Title. If fans believe in the chase, then you create the Royal Rumble to Wrestlemania scenario to put them over as Champion.
Simple, simple formula that most top level superstars worked… John Cena and Batista were the last “true” superstars to go somewhat through that formula. Worked as midcarders since 2002 and by 2005, they were ready to carry the company on their backs. That’s why Wrestlemania 21 is so special to me because it legitimately made 2 stars that night with the process. In the past, guys like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, the Rock, Triple H, Mick Foley, John Cena, and Batista all followed that process to become huge stars. Grew from the midcard as singles wrestlers, promoted to the top. Someone like Randy Orton also when through that process but WWE tried to push him too fast to the WWE Title as a freakin’ babyface in a very forced fashion following SummerSlam 2004. Nobody bought it. You need to have their characters just right, too, Creative. Someone who didn’t go through that process was the Undertaker. They rushed him to the WWE Title in 1991 and it popped nothing. In fact, I’d argue that the Undertaker wasn’t as strong of a draw until he began wrestling smaller guys who could push his athleticism in the ring like Mick Foley and Bret Hart in 1996, Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin during 1997-1998. When Undertaker returned from injury during 2000, he was ready to be “the guy” for the next 17 years.
That’s what disturbs me about Triple H‘s great work in NXT developing characters since late 2012 and then they are marginalized when joining the WWE roster. Bayley is a perfect example. Go watch NXT Takeover: Brooklyn 2015. She was a huge babyface sensation with a dastardly Sasha Banks heel in her way. All you need to see is their pre-match video promo and then the match. You’ll “get it” as I did. Bayley was legitimately WWE’s #1 merchandise mover for the WWE as a NXT performer with only a few items to sell and she was crushing the Bella Twins merchandise, which has lots of items, despite how hard the WWE has pushed their line. When Bayley joins the WWE roster, she becomes that “Ah Shucks” person and just has bad loss after bad loss.
I know that the Internet Wrestling Community LOVES Shinsuke Nakamura… Sure, he had a great career in New Japan… But he could also deliver stiffer kicks and didn’t have to wrestle 250 dates and make many autograph signings as he has to do with WWE. Nakamura cannot adjust to WWE’s lighter style and that is confusing him in the ring. The result has been very subpar matches on the Main WWE roster. So what does WWE do? Oh, let’s have him WIN the Royal Rumble despite NOT being ready for that big World Title spot. Sorry, but the MAJORITY of WWE fans do not (a) watch NXT and (b) care about New Japan Pro Wrestling. Thus, Nakamura seems forced to them and they don’t understand what makes him great. In case you haven’t noticed since that Rumble 2017 win, Smackdown’s attendance has actually become much worse. Yes, Jinder Mahal was a weak draw and helped get that ball rolling but Nakamura’s win or the thought of AJ Styles vs. Nakamura isn’t exciting anybody. That’s why I wouldn’t be surprised if John Cena wins on Sunday to force a Triple Threat. I’m 100% behind this because Styles and Nakamura won’t be allowed to replicate their great Wrestle Kingdom match under the WWE banner.
Nakamura should have debuted and worked his way up the midcard like many greats before him… Again, if it worked for Hogan, Savage, Warrior, Hart, HBK, Austin, Rock, Triple H, Foley, Cena, and Batista… Why not him? Don’t put Nakamura in a bad spot to where he’ll FAIL to draw because he was rushed too quickly to a big Main Event spot. Then, he’ll joined my “rushed” list with Reigns, Swagger, Miz, Rollins, Sheamus, Del Rio, Mahal, and others. WWE Creative needs to do a better job and they need to grow balls to challenge Vince McMahon to remember how the wrestling business works.
The THOUGHT of how Wrestlemania 34 will turn out just depresses me. I’ve been an early adopter of saying that Roman Reigns will NOT work as a Main Eventer because he was NOT READY for the big spot. During early 2014 when the WWE actually had him defeat CM Punk 100% clean on a January edition of RAW, I noticed that he was clueless in the ring. The storyline was that Roman could beat Punk but the other 2 members, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, could not (failed during previous weeks). Then, the WWE has him become runner-up during the Royal Rumble 2014 match. For those GREAT Evolution vs. Shield matches, who was scoring those big pins? And then soon after those Evolution matches, WWE places Roman in 2 back-to-back WWE Title matches at Pay Per Views and then has Roman go on to defeat Randy Orton 100% clean at SummerSlam 2014.
If you watch his work from late 2012 through late 2013, Roman Reigns was CLEARLY the weakest member of the Shield. He couldn’t cut a promo to save his life, his inexperience as an in-ring was masked in Tag Matches, and what “got over” was the Powerbomb spot that the 3 members DID TOGETHER. Yet because Vince McMahon and Executive Producer Kevin Dunn liked his LOOK and figured it would be a cool action figure to sell (he resembles the Justice League’s Aquaman actor and character so much), they began to manufacture him as a Main Event talent during 2014. They just handed it to him… Guys like Hogan, Savage, Warrior, Hart, HBK, Austin, Rock, Triple H, Foley, Cena, and Batista scraped and clawed their way to the top spot. In other words, THEY EARNED IT. They weren’t entitled to a damn thing. Look at Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin… They had previous wrestling promotions messing with them. AWA wouldn’t give Hogan the title while WCW, thank you Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan’s signing, discarded Steve Austin as any kind of drawing talent.
The LACK of the Superstar making process that existed in the past has FAILED the likes of Roman Reigns and others before him (Sheamus, Swagger, Del Rio, Miz, etc, and now Jinder Mahal and Shinsuke Nakamura). Just handing someone a Royal Rumble match victory or a World Title DOES NOT GET THEM OVER. The fans get you over by appreciating the process, enduring the chase WITH the wrestler, and actually absorbing a few failed attempts at becoming the top guy. If you look at Steve Austin following King of the Ring 1996, he was ready to become a Top guy. Yet it took the WWE 2 years to make him become WWE champion with several highs and lows on getting there. He went through hell dealing with that Hart Foundation and then Degeneration X.
However, once Steve Austin became WWE Champion, WWE had a plan in place for him with the Austin vs. McMahon stuff. That drew for almost 2 years.
What’s the plan for Roman Reigns after he puts the nail in Brock Lesnar‘s coffin to become WWE Universal Champion? Who is there left to defeat? Once Wrestlemania 34 happens, he will have CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Triple H, Randy Orton, John Cena, the Undertaker, and Brock Lesnar on his resume while already defeating the ENTIRE ROSTER several times in various other matches. What compelling storyline could you write? Oh, something against Braun Strowman? Didn’t we see them wrestle in many matches already during 2017? Many types of matches, too?
Anybody ready in NXT? Nope… Do we have any midcard champions ready to be elevated? I’d say maybe the Miz, but he doesn’t have that momentum and swagger that he did during 2016 on the Smackdown roster.
It is a tragedy that is waiting to happen, folks…
I don’t know how much more of this that I can take, folks… I’ve put in almost 30 years as a WWE fan and 20 years writing here for FREE at LordsofPain.net. I love the process of writing creatively for a nice LoP audience. It is you, THE READERS, who keep me around and honestly, being Mr. Tito has helped me weather bad times in the wrestling business. My columns have kept me around… But now, I enjoy streaming lots of television shows as a binger and I’m content with playing Rocket League every night on my Nintendo Switch. When Smash Bros. arrives for the Switch later during 2018, I’ll want to play that.
I’ve also made a few lifestyle changes that are also coming into play… I had a key family member pass away on me during 2016 that has “scared me straight”. I’m now taking a few health matters seriously and I have significantly cut down on my Caffeine consumption levels during 2017. In the past, if I needed to get a column posted, I’d down another Sunkist orange soda drink (loaded with Caffeine) and get that damn thing posted by 1:30am… But then I was wired for another hour or even two. Now, when I start writing as Mr. Tito at 10:30pm, my eyes start watering around 11:30pm and now I refuse to push myself. It’s not healthy and I’d rather be around for the next 20-30 years instead of pushing myself late at night to write columns on a WWE promotion that I’m beginning to hate.
That’s the shame of it… WWE‘s recent product is actually causing me to dislike pro wrestling
I WANT to like the WWE’s product and am willing to fork over my disposable income to them, if the product was much better. WWE Fastlane is in Columbus, OH this weekend. I could easily afford it and travel to it. Not happening because I don’t want to. Smackdown brand also has a “LIVE” show in March in Pittsburgh, PA. Same situation. I can afford to go and it’s a shorter distance to drive for me, but I don’t wanna. NO THANK YOU.
I’m really looking at Wrestlemania 34 closely and then the build-up to SummerSlam 2018. If WWE cannot radically fix itself by then, I’ll consider my options. The 20th Year of Mr. Tito happens on October 26th, 2018 and I want to at least make it to that milestone.
But as always, it is YOU, the readers, who keep me going as Mr. Tito. I want to keep writing… However, do I want to keep writing on pro wrestling? That is up for the WWE decide because I don’t have to give them my money. I walked away before (2006-2010) and have the will do to it again.
Hell, if anything, WWE will double down on their Roman Reigns stuff just to get rid of me. Go ahead and make my day!
Come on all of you big strong fans.
Uncle Vince is stealing your money again
Yeah, he’s got himself in a terrible jam.
Way down yonder in WWE land.
Cancel your WWE Network subscription and consider yourself done.
We’re gonna have a whole lotta fun.
And it’s 1, 2, 3.. What are we watching for?
Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn.
We’re total enablers for the McMahons.
And it’s 5, 6, 7
Remember when wrestling was great?
Well, there ain’t no time to wonder why, Whoopee! Pro wrestling, thanks to the WWE, is gonna die.
Most of you are like “what the hell, Tito?”. And then you take a listen to Country Joe McDonald’s I Feel Like I’m Fixing to Die Rag and you’ll figure it out.
SO JUST CHILL… ‘TIL THE NEXT EPISODE!
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