MR. TITO STRIKES BACK – WWE Royal Rumble 2018 Pay Per View Predictions & RAW 25th Anniversary Thoughts

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Welcome back to the EXCELLENCE IN COLUMN WRITING exclusively here at LordsofPain.net / WrestlingHeadlines.com. I’m just laughing hysterically at how NEGATIVE the internet has been towards the RAW 25th Anniversary show. One would think that WWE collectively kicked them in the private area and then attacked their grandparents. Seriously, everybody’s expectations for that show were way too high. As of any of your favorite wrestlers above the age of 45 are going to lace it up and wrestle. And for the nostalgia piece of it… Please realize that this is 2018 and NOT and I repeat NOT 1997-2001. Different times, different WWE management in place, and all of your favorite wrestlers from that era are much older. Seriously, the point where WWE finally began beating WCW again in the Monday Night Wars is about to turn 20 YEARS OLD.

What’s my opinion of the WWE Monday Night RAW 25th Anniversary show?

Well, let me say this…

Recently, I wrote a column that presented *MY* Top 10 Greatest WWE Monday Night RAW Moments. Thank you for the warm reception on that… In preparation for that column, I actually rewatched a fair amount of WWE Monday Night RAW footage including full episodes on the WWE Network. It was probably the best research that I’ve ever performed!

What struck me as impressed was the era from November 1998 through Wrestlemania 15 (April 1999). Holy cow, was Monday Night RAW ON FIRE during this period of time. The quality is OFF THE CHARTS! In case you haven’t seen it, the storylines heading into November 1998 was about Vince McMahon‘s lust for having a Corporate WWE Champion that he could control and market in his own image. A complete yes-man who does nothing but the will of Vince McMahon and kind of represent the image of Vince if Vince McMahon were a wrestler. Between Wrestlemania 14 and SummerSlam 1998, Vince McMahon tried to “convert” Steve Austin into that Corporate WWE Champion but of course, Austin resisted. It created the perfect scenario of employee resisting the pushy boss… Everybody could relate.

Through the events of Survivor Series 1998 and the WWE Title Tournament, Vince McMahon found his Corporate Champion in the Rock. Fans were trying their best to turn Rocky into a babyface but the WWE had other ideas at the time… The Rock was so good at being a heel that the fans were beginning to cheer his heel antics. Heading into Survivor Series 1998, the WWE storylines fooled you into think that Vince McMahon wanted Mick Foley to become his Corporate Champion and that Vince had heat with his own son, Shane McMahon, was demoted into become a referee. By the end of the Survivor Series 1998, Shane McMahon screwed Stone Cold in the semi-final match in which he was a referee and Mick Foley got screwed in finals match by the McMahons against the Rock. The Rock became WWE Champion for the first time and he was the Corporate Champion. Associating himself with the McMahons, the Rock received major heel heat again. From there, WWE became Mick Foley/Steve Austin versus the Rock, Vince McMahon, and the Corporation. It was amazing!

If you want to see a GREAT RAW from this era, check out the January 11th, 1999 episode… This follows Mick Foley‘s first ever WWE Title win on the week before in which Steve Austin helped Foley win the title. Show starts off with Foley in the ring celebrating his WWE Title win… Then, The Rock, Shane McMahon, and Vince McMahon come out and cut amazing heel promos against Mankind. The Rock acts legitimately pissed and has no love for Foley or the fans in attendance. He was such a bastard as a heel… Shane McMahon was all about hyping Vince McMahon and being the loudmouth of the Corporation. Vince was all about promoting and protecting the Rock and became hellbent on preventing Stone Cold Steve Austin from winning the 1999 Royal Rumble match to secure the #1 contendership to the WWE Title. The “No Chance in Hell” theme song was created for this event and specifically about stopping Austin!

Late 1998 and early 1999 had EVERYBODY from the WWE in their absolute primes. The Rock was finally arriving as a main eventer and just about to skyrocket on his in-ring ability from his feud (or lessons) with Mick Foley. Mick Foley‘s character was appealing fans everywhere as the underdog and how he directly challenged the Corporation. Little things like “Socko” and the different characters he could play was getting over. Vince McMahon continued his heelish ways and pushed the Austin vs. McMahon feud through his Corporate Champion in the Rock. Stone Cold Steve Austin refused to give up against the Corporation and had a real threat to overcoming Vince with the Rock in the way. Jim Ross‘s role as Talent Relations manager proved to be excellent as his signings of Austin, Rock, Mick Foley, and connections to various independent promotions began forming a “farm system” that would keep replenishing WWE’s roster for years to come. Pat Patterson was the best guy for match preparation and always knew how to payoff a feud. Bruce Pritchard was always a solid mind and idea guy. Degeneration X was a solid midcard act and it was a great vehicle to groom Triple H into a main eventer for late 1999. And then, you had Vince Russo as Lead Writer who was motivated and excited to come to work to work with great talent. His best work, by far, is helping construct the storylines from November 1998 through Wrestlemania 15. After that, burnout began to settle in and adding WWE Smackdown thinned him out.

Compare that to what you see during 2018…

ANYBODY who suggests that today’s WWE product is better than the WWE Attitude Era (1997-2001) is FOOLISH. Let me repeat that… YOU ARE A FOOL if you believe that today’s WWE product is better than the Attitude Era. Period, end of story.

Oh, you want to point out that elements of the Attitude Era were present on RAW 25th Anniversary. Do you? First and foremost, the Steve Austin with Vince & Shane McMahon segment has been rated by most as the BEST segment of the night. Considering that Steve is older and Vince is elderly now, that segment was about the only thing that resembled the Attitude Era… But look at that Degeneration X segment. That was pure garbage that represents 2018 WWE, not what you saw during 1997-1998. What you saw from “DX” on RAW at the Manhattan Center, that was the PG Era version of what the current Creative Team thinks of Degeneration X. Hell, they even joked that they couldn’t discuss things that they did in the past! Michaels alluded that we’re now in the “PG Era”. And DX didn’t have stupid glow sticks to make an “X” symbol… They did the crotch chop and told you what to suck, repeatedly. What you saw during 1997-1998 was very R-Rated… Not this kiddie stuff seen during 2018 when everybody is much older.

The Creative & Talent infrastructure of the current WWE is no where near the quality of the Attitude Era. That’s a fact… And even if you want to argue that today’s wrestlers are “better athletes”, I’ll laugh at you. Steve Austin with a broken neck can outwork just about anybody on the current WWE roster. Wrestling is about PSYCHOLOGY and not just executing moves. The Rock wasn’t exactly the biggest workrate guy but it was his presentation of his character and selling that got his matches over.

That, and the Attitude Era knew how to get their wrestlers over…

Take, for example, how the WWE presented Roman Reigns on the RAW 25th Anniversary show. He’s the WWE’s #1 pushed wrestler and the guy whom they want to replace John Cena as the top babyface. They’ve spent 4 years now on this experiment and will reportedly book Roman do defeat Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 34. Thus, with RAW 25 giving the WWE its biggest audience in about 3 years, what does the WWE do with Roman Reigns? Oh, they have him job to the Miz and lose his Intercontinental Title. Huh? Don’t you want to display your biggest asset as a top and dominant guy? Nope… They had him lose! Almost 5 million people watching the RAW 25th Anniversary and you present him getting duped by a heel. By the way, based on how Miz stood up to Daniel Bryan and then stole the Title from Roman, I’d say that Miz was “MVP” of the show. Nobody on that show looked better than him (plus, everyone can now see the baby bump on Maryse, go Miz!).

RAW 25 had all kinds of broken things going on… First of all, if you had tickets for the Manhattan Center and spent around $500 to attend, the WWE fooled you. Sure, you got to see the Undertaker and Degeneration X in person, but the matches you watch were subpar and there was a lot of screen watching at the other arena.

But then you had MAJOR superstars appearing and you did nothing with them… Chris Jericho was THERE at the show. The guy who just headlined New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom 12 was there… How was he used? 1 backstage segment… Then, you had Trish Stratus actually there and she just came out to wave her hand… What?

And did you know that Royal Rumble 2018 Pay Per View was this Sunday? Barely did much to hype it and sell to the 2 million older or casual fans tuning in this week.

Just amazing… Yes, RAW 25 was a success in its viewership… But what did this show to the promotion LONG TERM? In my opinion, it was a reminder that the Creative Infrastructure and Talent of the WWE for 2018 isn’t even close to what previous years of RAW has presented. I don’t even know how that can be debated.

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I have no comment on Enzo Amore. As far as I’m concerned, his problems are of a non-wrestling nature and personal to the person behind the Enzo character. If he’s innocent, he’ll begin proving it by fighting to clear his name. WWE had a public relations nightmare when this story broke and they chose to act by releasing him. In this recent climate of #MeToo, the last thing that WWE wanted was to lose sponsors because of employing Enzo.

Guilty or not, I wonder what will happen to him financially… Everything that I’ve heard suggest that Enzo spends a ton of money on his attire and look. That stuff adds up quick and without that WWE paycheck, creditors will start asking questions.

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ROYAL RUMBLE PREDICTIONS

WWE Tag Titles: Usos (c) vs. Chad Gable/Shelton Benjamin
Sadly, Jey Uso’s recent arrest for driving under the influence the result of this match. That and where can you go with Gable and Benjamin? This match is quite ripe with a title change although that’s a shame because the Usos had a great 2017.

WHO SHOULD WIN: The Usos and let Gable & Benjamin become singles wrestlers.

WHO WILL WIN: Gable & Benjamin

*****

WWE Title Handicap Match: AJ Styles (c) vs. Kevin Owens/Sami Zayn
So, if Kevin and Sami win the match… Who is WWE Champion? Will this cause the WWE Title to be vacated like it was during 1998 to set up Survivor Series 1998 (as described above)? I don’t really know, nor do I care. This storyline is STUPID as is the idea of forcing the WWE Champion into a handicap match. I expect lots of Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan “sports entertainment”.

WHO SHOULD WIN: AJ Styles should retain the title

WHO WILL WIN: Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn via Daniel Bryan accidentally interfering

*****

WWE Universal Title: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Braun Strowman vs. Kane
Wrestlemania 34 plans seems to have Brock Lesnar losing the WWE Universal Title to Roman Reigns. Therefore, it is very likely that Brock Lesnar retains the title. 50 year old Kane being added to the match tells me who is truly going to lose. Somehow, the WWE has to make Braun Strowman look strong in this match and I hope that is the “true” focus of the bout. How? Well, I don’t know… That No Mercy 2017 match was such a dud.

WHO SHOULD WIN / WHO WILL WIN: Brock Lesnar

*****

Women’s Royal Rumble
Honestly, I don’t know where the WWE is going with this… Unless Ronda Rousey has been signed. Otherwise, money could be on Nia Jax and Asuka with a slight chance of Becky Lynch to challenge Charlotte… Maybe. I don’t know… I would amused if instead of Ronda Rousey, the WWE had Trish Stratus returning and winning the Rumble to take on Charlotte instead. Or maybe Alexa Bliss as Alexa is often referred to as “Baby Trish” or “Little Trish”.

WHO SHOULD WIN: Trish Stratus, as I’d love to see her take on Alexa and/or Charlotte.

WHO WILL WIN: Ronda Rousey. If not her, Nia Jax.

*****

Men’s Royal Rumble
I don’t know if the WWE wants hammered with the live attendance booing Roman winning the Rumble match. Been there, done that with a previous Rumble. I could see Smackdown getting the winner again this year… But who? Depends on who remains WWE Champion from that handicap match. If AJ Styles wins and retains his WWE Title, odds of Shinsuke Nakamura winning could increase. There is also the John Cena factor… Is he really wrestling the Undertaker? I don’t fully know…

WHO SHOULD WIN: Braun Strowman

WHO WILL WIN: John Cena

Honestly on the Rumble, I have no idea.

SO JUST CHILL… ‘TIL THE NEXT EPISODE!

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