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Fun times with Tito again, still Tito! Welcome back to my column exclusively here at LordsofPain.net and damn, I feel great. It’s kind of like being at the end of a school year… The end is near and you begin to feel the relief of a big weight taken off your shoulders. The “Series Finale” of Mr. Tito‘s “magical mystery tour” will be on October 26th, 2018 which also doubles as my 20th Anniversary of starting here at LordsofPain.net as Mr. Tito. It shall be awesome.
But I still have business to take care of today…
Here is the TRUE LESSON to be learned about the ALL IN show put on by Cody Rhodes, the Young Bucks, and others… No, I’m not going to get into the matches… I’m also not going to discuss Joey Ryan. Everybody else is doing that but I want to make a different analogy.
Look at Sports Leagues right now. Right now in the NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers runningback Le’Veon Bell is holding out, as he refuses to sign the Steelers’ tender offer to Franchise him for a 2nd year in a row. What he seeks is a longer term contract with a decent amount of guaranteed money but the Steelers aren’t budging. In response to that, Bell has opted to HOLDOUT for the 2018 because that is the only true leverage that he has. Because in the NFL, there isn’t much player leverage because of injuries, money isn’t fully guaranteed, and there exists a tight salary cap.
Compared that to Major League Baseball where money is 100% guaranteed and there is zero salary cap. Players can move to any team that they choose and even if they suffer an injury, money will still get fully paid. Players run that league.
Lately, the players in the NBA have finally figured out that they have true leverage. By signing 4 year contracts with the 4th year having an opt-in clause controlled by the players, they can leave a team quickly. Several players are signing 2 year deals with the 2nd year being an opt-in year controlled by the players. NBA players are talking to each other now and actually controlling where free agents are going in order to construct dominant teams. If you just look at Lebron James, alone, he has been able to move to 3 other teams beyond the team that drafted him (Heat, Cavs again, Lakers). Considering that 1 player can completely shift the dynamics of the league because only 5 players can exist on a court at a time, NBA players are figuring out that THEY have true leverage.
What Cody Rhodes realized when he left the WWE during 2016 is that he did NOT need the WWE to be a successful wrestler. As you can see from him travelling the world to various promotions and seeing real success, both professionally and financially, is that his WRESTLING TALENT is what draws and not a brand… Cody and his friends, without any promotion fully backing them, just sold out a 10,000+ arena in Chicago and many of those same wrestlers helped the Ring of Honor/New Japan co-sponsored Madison Square Garden show quickly sell out as well. People are coming to arenas to see Cody wrestle, along with his friends and fellow wrestlers.
If you look at the WWE, wrestlers are completely controlled by Vince McMahon and other managers there. NOBODY has creative control there (not since Hogan following 2006) and he can make sure that the WWE brand is what gets over, not the wrestlers. Take Cody Rhodes… He is the son of “the American Dream” Dusty Rhodes and yet he was locked into a midcard gimmick that wore a full body suit and facepaint. He wanted out of the gimmick but was told by the WWE repeatedly “no”. The Stardust gimmick was a WWE character who can only be seen in a WWE ring. If the WWE absolutely wanted to, they could give that gimmick to another wrestler…
In case you haven’t noticed over the years, Vince McMahon usually likes to push 1-2 guys at the top super strong while keeping the rest of the roster somewhat even. Since 2014, we’ve seen nothing but Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns dominating the entire roster while the rest of the roster is trading wins and losses against each other. Any wrestler who has seen any momentum has been quickly squashed by the WWE Creative Team.
As Alberto Del Rio has repeatedly proved, guys that Vince McMahon wants to push hard tend to struggle getting over elsewhere. I guarantee that if Roman Reigns or Randy Orton were free agents today, they’d struggle drawing for Ring of Honor or Impact Wrestling. For one, “Roman Reigns” cannot exist outside of the WWE because his name is trademarked by the WWE, but without the protection of the favorable booking, he’ll look silly. Ditto for Randy Orton and his 193934939282 chances to be a Main Eventer that doesn’t draw. The rest of the roster, meanwhile, are fed the table scraps and win one night, then lose the next. Over and over again.
I’m baffled at how much guys like Cesaro and Dolph Ziggler can take or how irritated Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose must be to be stooges for Roman Reigns in the Shield? What about Daniel Bryan whose big return has only resulted in him looking silly against Big Cass, losing to Rusev, and losing the big match against Miz at SummerSlam? GET OUT, Daniel, GET OUT!
WWE probably owns about 80%, if not more, of the pro wrestling market share in the United States. Furthermore, they have the best television deals in the country, the strongest streaming service, and are a publicly traded company. Especially with the competition being underwhelming as they have been, the WWE appears to be act like a Monopoly at times. Have you looked at prices for live events lately? Kinda high and that’s not because demand is rising (attendance is lower). Merchandise is also overpriced and again, that’s not because demand is high but because of their strong market share. Single companies in a marketplace can charge a higher price to a smaller group of individuals or actually price gouge.
Vince McMahon can also act as a “Monosonist”, which is a situation where the WWE is almost the only buyer of labor in a market. If you want a full time contract with guaranteed money, the WWE remains your best choice. Impact wrestling is just starting their recovery and Ring of Honor just isn’t getting a full financial backing from Sinclair (starting to come around, however). Furthermore with the WWE and Vince, they engage in an economic practice called “Limit Pricing” which is defined as “setting a price low enough to discourage others from entering the market”. Or in other words, the WWE pays their pro wrestlers just enough money that it doesn’t appear to be lucrative to go elsewhere. Impact and Ring of Honor’s budget won’t let them match the WWE’s offered salaries.
Yet, the WWE could CLEARLY pay their wrestlers more money. WWE earned a profit of nearly $33 million during 2017. The WWE just signed 2 huge television deals that will pay them $400 million+ annually for $2 billion+ for the next 5 years. The company’s balance sheet is being bolstered with an extremely high stock price.
The FACT is that the WWE could pay the wrestlers much more. Since 2000, which was the last true year of WCW and ECW competition, the rate of Inflation has grown by about 37%. Yet many wrestler salaries, notably the midcarders, aren’t seeing booms in their salaries. The recent addition of the WWE Network has also changed the way Pay Per View payouts occur and the reduction of home video sales has also limited other income opportunities for wrestlers.
WWE has their wrestlers by the balls… They are fooling them financially yet their Creative Teams screw with their characters and limit their opportunities to diminish them as assets elsewhere. Until more wrestlers try what Cody Rhodes did, nothing will change for their opportunities in the WWE.
Things could become VERY dangerous if the WWE decides to throw money at Cody Rhodes, Young Bucks, or even Kenny Omega. The monopolistic WWE will see the Madison Square Garden ROH/NJPW event as a threat and use their bigger warchest of money to ruin that event by signing any of those wrestlers away.
They must resist… Cody, Young Bucks, and Omega HAVE to realize that their work is going to HELP the pro wrestling business. There needs to be a 2nd legitimate option for any disgruntled WWE wrestlers to go and make legitimate money. Otherwise, nothing will improve in the WWE.
The wrestlers in the WWE need to realize that Vince McMahon needs them… As you can see from the NXT call-ups, nothing recent impresses him… Thus, if many of those late 2000s or early 2010s call-ups bolt, the WWE is in serious trouble on their talent roster.
And if you really want to discuss finances in the WWE, how much of the Women making in the WWE? Can you show me 1 female wrestler, besides Ronda Rousey, making $1 million in base salary? Because there really isn’t an option for women, even though Impact and ROH try, the WWE can really engage in their monopsonistic and limit pricing practices. As much as we’re trying to play the “equality” game, what is their leverage when they really can’t go elsewhere?
Another week, another RAW averaging under 3 million viewers. No Brock Lesnar, no viewership. With the NFL now back, RAW’s numbers are about to get really low. Hate to say “I told you so”, but we’re in permanent mode now folks.
I’m tired of fighting with my “haters” on this point. Gets old. FACT is that Monday Night RAW was regularly above 4 million viewers during early 2015. With Seth Rollins and then Roman Reigns as WWE Champions during 2015-2016, the WWE seriously lost over 750,000 viewers. I statistically proved that, as well.
When they did the brand split, I declared that “RAW would have under 3 million viewers permanently when being led by Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Stephanie McMahon as the authority figure”. Some viewership spikes here and there thanks to Brock Lesnar, Bill Goldberg, and even Samoa Joe… But with all 3 gone from RAW, we’re consistently under 3 million viewers on average.
Told you so. Go ahead and cry me rivers that lead to oceans in the Comments section. I win, haters and WWE yes-men lose.
Don’t worry, you only have to endure about a month and a half more of gloating. And believe me, I’ll remind you repeatedly.
See WHY the WWE has been bringing back “Attitude Era” stars like Mick Foley, Triple H, Undertaker, and Shawn Michaels lately?
BECAUSE THEY NEED TO.
Mr. Tito’s PHAT WWE Hell in a Cell PREDICTIONS
I have to be completely honest… I HATE doing Pay Per View predictions. For one, it’s boring to me but for whatever reason, the readers want them so I produce them. Honestly, I have no rhyme or reason on my choices. I’m either really right or really wrong. Never consistent but at the same time, I’m just typing through it at the end of my column before I get too sleepy.
New Day vs. Rusev/Aiden English for the Smackdown Tag Titles
I actually forgot who the Smackdown Champions were… I just don’t get how the WWE uses the New Day. For one, they’ll often bench Kofi Kingston for these Tag Matches even though he gives you the best in-ring and high flying action out of the 3. Secondly, they lose too much for a team that is considered “dominant” in recent times. It is a JOKE to me that they beat the Demolition record even though Ax & Smash not only dominated better opponents but were treated as something legitimate. However, Rusev is managed by and married to Lana. Lana was just complaining about her appearance in WWE 2K19 even though the video game producers provided a picture of her wearing the exact outfit that she claimed to have never worn! To quote Rocky Balboa from Rocky 3: “you know, you got a big mouth, you know?”.
Tito’s Pick: The New Day
Dolph Ziggler/Drew McIntyre vs. Seth Rollins/Dean Ambrose
I’m going to assume that Roman wins or retains the title later in the night… I just don’t see the entire Shield holding all of the title belts this early in the game. However, if the Shield is to break up by Wrestlemania 35 and possibly have the “Shield 3 Way” match to headline that show, then this would be the last opportunity to have a Four Horsemen like moment to capture all of the titles. Remember, Seth is the Intercontinental Champion… You know what? I just talked myself into it. Hell in a Cell will be the night where the Shield captures all of the Titles. Then for the next few months, the heels will come after them until Dean and/or Seth turns on the group.
Tito’s Pick: Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose.
Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair for the Smackdown Women’s Title
I’m so happy for Becky Lynch… The WWE tried to force her into a heel spot and in doing so, they gave her a LIVE microphone to let loose. What happens? She cuts an AMAZING promo and she gets over! After being censored by WWE Executive Producer Kevin Dunn because he reportedly did not like her accent, the second she gets a real opportunity to speak, she NAILS IT. Isn’t that funny? The WWE had Becky on their roster for THREE YEARS and didn’t realize that she was INTELLIGENT enough to speak, regardless of her Irish accent. Kevin Dunn, you’re an idiot… You can make the WWE shows look nice on a television screen but you have HORRIBLE opinions regarding talent assessment. You need to STOP trying to find the “next Sable” in your wet dreams, especially after you bombed hard on that Eva Marie push. As for this match, I don’t know… Charlotte won the Women’s Title back and I believe this newfound popularity by Becky is taking the WWE off guard. The crowd could be very mixed and actually booing the babyface Charlotte Flair. Might they attempt to steal a page out of the Wrestlemania 13 playbook and perform a “double switch” on heel/face between Becky and Charlotte. Why not? Hell, Becky could pass out to the Figure 8 while blood rolls down her face for all I care. WWE just cannot deny the crowd response for Becky Lynch which has ALWAYS been there. The thing is, though, is that WWE wants to keep Charlotte Flair strong so that her head-to-head match with Ronda Rousey can have lots of hype at Wrestlemania 35.
Tito’s Pick: Becky Lynch, why not?
Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton
I just don’t have too much excitement for this match… Feels like I have been watching both wrestlers forever and I actually have. As a wrestling columnist heading into his 20th year, I have mostly covered Jeff Hardy’s entire career while I have covered Orton’s entire career. Think about that… And here they are, still in a big spot on a Pay Per View. Personally, I like Jeff Hardy better tagging up with Matt Hardy. “Less is more” with his moveset and when he wrestles singles, he lacks the energy that he usually has when getting a hot tag. I have Randy Orton fatigue. WWE has tried and tried to get that man over with 13 World Titles in his 16 year career with the WWE. What does he have to show for it, aside from yet another character iteration that we’re seeing now? Is he heel? Is he face? Is he both? Just changes like the weather.
Tito’s Pick: Randy Orton
Daniel Bryan/Brie Bella vs. Miz/Maryse
This match seems to have more energy heading into it than the rest of the Smackdown roster, but so did that Wrestlemania 33 match where John Cena proposed to Nikki Bella afterward. How did that mixed tag match workout? I’m still not officially sure if Daniel Bryan signed a full extension or just a temporary contract. When all of these 3rd party websites report that he signed with ZERO sources backing them, I won’t believe it. Until I see definitive proof that Bryan signed a legitimate extension, I’m backing the fully signed wrestler in the Miz. Plus, they seemed to lose out in the brawling on Smackdown in the end…
Tito’s Pick: Miz and Maryse. If AJ Styles retains his WWE title, please move Miz on to the WWE Title. His character has been fixed thanks to 2016.
AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe for the WWE Title
Another Pay Per View, another time where the WWE Title does NOT headline the show. In fact, it won’t even be 2nd to last match. Possibly rightfully so… Smackdown has nothing right now that draws, as evidenced by the sub 2.5 million repeat viewership numbers. And their YouTube numbers aren’t that great either. A few weeks ago, someone posted a picture with the entire non-camera side tarped off for a Smackdown taping. Does the WWE not see what treating this show as second rate will cause? AJ Styles has been treated as a JOKE as a WWE Champion and hasn’t been fed great opponents. The WWE has Miz and Daniel Bryan wrestling in a mix tag team match instead. It’s time for a title change and try something new, although after AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan (whom the WWE is not pushing), what babyfaces are left?
Tito’s Pick: Samoa Joe, particularly as AJ Style’s 3 year deal is set to expire in a few months.
Ronda Rousey vs. Alexa Bliss for the RAW Women’s Title
Pretty apparent that there is Ronda Rousey and the rest of the Women’s Division. I certainly understand that Rousey is a trained fighter and a former UFC fighter… But the WWE ladies are trained wrestlers. Rousey is too strong, in my opinion, and the lack of vulnerability is causing her drawing power to not exist on the televised version of RAW. Granted, she SHOULD destroy everybody in this division, but heels should be able to screw her over using pro wrestling’s rules. In case you haven’t noticed, Brock Lesnar bulldozing the entire men’s division hasn’t exactly left the WWE in good standing once he has left. Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.
Tito’s Pick: Ronda Rousey. No way that the WWE will take this title off of her.
Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman for the WWE Universal Champion
It is LAME that Mick Foley is involved with this match from being announced 1 week in advance of this match. Total desperation… The cage is meant to keep out the Shield but you know that both Rollins/Ambrose and McIntyre/Ziggler will get involved. I just don’t see the WWE stripping Roman Reigns so early, BUT I could also see the WWE wanting Reigns vs. Strowman headline Wrestlemania 35. I am also willing to bet that Vince McMahon doesn’t want his “prized pig” to get the blame for bad ratings coming up here in the 4th quarter. If Strowman wins, you might as well pencil in Roman as the Royal Rumble winner.
Tito’s Pick: Roman Reigns
THE LAST WORD
17 years ago, one of the biggest tragedies occurred on September 11th, 2001 when 4 commercial airplanes were hijacked and used to attack the United States. Two of the planes crashed into the World Trade Towers in New York, one into the Pentagon in Washington, DC, while the 4th plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania (either by heroics or choice). It was awful… One of the worst days in American history.
It happened on a Tuesday and that actually caused the WWE Smackdown tapings to be cancelled. Instead, the WWE was going to have a LIVE version of WWE Smackdown as a tribute to the victims of 9/11. Overall, it was a nice show that had non-storyline matches for fun and many wrestlers or personalities were given a chance to speak their minds. It was a much needed escape from reality and I’m glad that WWE did that show to “carry on” so to speak.
But there was one person who spoke up regarding 9/11 and her name was Stephanie McMahon. Back then, she was deep into her first year as the WWE Creative Team leader and was right in the middle of the whole WCW/ECW Invasion angle where she was the “owner” of ECW who joined with the “owner” of WCW to challenge Vince McMahon as the owner of the WWE. She was not only a main character in that storyline, but she was also in charge of the creative team assembling those storylines.
When it was Stephanie McMahon‘s opportunity to speak, here is what she said:
“A few years ago, some people tried to destroy my family. They attacked my father’s reputation, they attacked my mother’s reputation, and they attacked the World Wrestling Federation. They tried to rip us apart, but all they did was make my family stronger. And that’s exactly how America feels right now. Because on Tuesday, America was attacked. Because America is a united nation. And together, we stand strong. I am incredibly proud to be an American citizen, and I will stand up for my rights and my freedom.”
Are you kidding me? So rogue agents attacking our buildings by hijacking airplanes is EXACTLY THE SAME as the Federal Government questioning your parents’ company for allegedly distributing steroids to pro wrestlers? The funny thing is that many wrestlers were proven to be using performance enhancers back then and then the WWE would have additional problems with performance enhancers during the latter half of the 2000s. That Wellness Policy only existed after Eddie Guerrero died in late 2005 and got stronger after Benoit’s death/killings and the embarrassing online pharmacy reports.
And I need to remind you… Stephanie was the LEAD Creative Writer of the WWE back then with entire rosters full of former WCW and ECW wrestlers in her hands to judge. In just a few months, she helped destroy what should have been the hottest angle in wrestling history and given us YEARS of dream matches to enjoy.
Now, many of you will say “oh, she was just a kid back then”. She was 24 years old back then… But worse yet, guys like Vince McMahon and Kevin Dunn had to OK that pre-taped segment.
I’m just saying, folks, that you combine that idiotic post-9/11 speech with the complete disaster known as the WCW/ECW Invasion, you can easily see why the WWE Empire known as the “Attitude Era” was done after 2001 and the WWE fanbase in the United States of American actually dropped by half. She was the Creative Team leader until late 2013. During 2001, many WWE officials backstage, including her father, should have seen it coming.
WWE has not been the same since late 1999 when it had a good braintrust of Jim Ross, Gerald Brisco, Vince Russo, and Pat Patterson acting not just as backstage advisors to Vince McMahon, but not afraid to disagree with him or show him a better way. Russo left during late 1999 and the WWE luckily had a good understudy in Chris Kreski to keep things creatively fresh for most of 2000. But then he left too. When Kreski left, Stephanie took his job as Creative Team Lead. Luckily for the WWE, they still had Jim Ross as Talent Relations VP. Well, he stepped down by 2004 and was replaced with an incompetent John Laurinaitis. Patterson and Brisco got older and their influence lessened with time.
What has remained? Stephanie McMahon, who gets a free pass from her father on everything, and Executive Producer Kevin Dunn stepped up his say in the product. WWE became more corporate with time. Suddenly, they came up with an idea to have a group of writers to script everything like a television show. With time, and endless stream of bad ideas appeared such as Tough Enough, Divas Search and discarding women’s wrestling, Kane getting unmasked and accused of necrophilia, “3 Minute Warning” and lots of domestic violence, Vince McMahon’s car exploding, son of McMahon, and never ending Title Inflation. Seriously, who didn’t win a “World Title” from 2002-2013? Good lord… The complete disregard for the midcard titles, such as US/IC and Tag Titles, has destroyed the built-in farm system that the Main Roster used to have.
Sorry folks, but the signs were there 17 years ago backstage in the WWE that this company had already peaked and was going to endure back leadership moving forward. LUCKY FOR THEM, no serious competitors rose from the WCW/ECW ashes to ever challenge them in the past 17 years. That is amazing to me. Oh, UFC has grown ever since? Oh…
So before you keep preaching “Vince McMahon should retire”, think about WHO will actually replace him. The Communications Major who has been handed everything her entire life.
Do you really want that? Not me.
And remember… To purchase the Doc’s book Greatest Matches and Rivalries of the Wrestlemania Era via Amazon.com in the United States, GO HERE. To purchase this book via Amazon.com in the United Kingdom, GO HERE. If those don’t work, please inquire Doc via Twitter through his handle @TheDocLoP.
BUY THE BOOK!
So just chill… Until the next episode!
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