WWE

IWC Night Of The Superstars IV – FUTURE SUPERSTARS!

This past Saturday, April 11, the International Wrestling Cartel (IWC) presented its fourth edition of Night of the Superstars, from Meadville, PA

The event was headlined by WWE Hall of Fame legends Ric Flair and Kevin Nash! Also on the card that evening was “Reborn” Matt Sydal (formerly Evan Bourne), Gangrel, Rhino, and current IWC World Heavyweight Champion, Tommy Dreamer! And while the superstars were out in full force Saturday night, what caught my eye most was the FUTURE SUPERSTARS of the IWC!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the IWC is one of the most respected and legitimate independent wrestling companies in the country. Since 2001, IWC has showcased some of the best young talent in professional wrestling. Many of those talents have gone on to appear in World Wrestling Entertainment. Saturday night provided a glimpse in to the potential of several young stars, those themselves who one day may end up in a WWE ring.

It’s no secret that the independent wrestling scene can be exhausting. Weekend after weekend, driving several hundred miles to high school gymnasiums and recreational centers ONLY enables the wrestlers to perform in front of as many as 2,000 people (as was the case Saturday night) or as small of a crowd as 50. Pay usually covers gas and food for the evening, but the opportunity is given for these young and raw talents to hone their skills and make a name for themselves.

I’ve been following IWC for about two years now, always watching for that “next” prodigy. There are several things that are needed to be a professional wrestler, or should I say – a SUCCESSFUL professional wrestler. Not many make it to WWE or TNA, let alone Wrestlemania. Those who do must combine the follwing things, and turn them in to a total package.

First and foremost is in-ring skill. A million dollar body can only get you so far, so being able to perform night in and night out is the most essential aspect to being a “star”.

Next is character development. Even though you can wrestle, do you have what it takes to keep the audiences attention?

Finally, charisma and desire. A lack thereof is blatantly obvious and can crush any skill and character you may have.

With that said, here are a few of the IWC talents who have the potential to one day return and HEADLINE the Night of the Superstars.

1. RJ City – In ring ability, CHECK. Character development, CHECK +. Charisma, CHECKMATE! City combines his love for the industry with his love for himself. Granted, that may come off sounding contradicting, but RJ is everything OTHER than cocky. He is confident, and it is that confidence that will guide him to the top of whatever mountain he wants to climb. In ring, his character is portrayed as a pompous, egotistical, and self-centered jackass heel who uses his self-proclaimed perfection – and his weasel of a manager, Justin LaBar – to outsmart his competition. That said, RJ- the actor performing the role of the wrestler- is a student of the proverbial game. He utilizes his skills like a conductor brings together a symphony orchestra. When I think of RJ, I think of The Miz. RJ City has been and continuously is awesome.

2. Dalton Castle – The “Party Peacock” brings something extra to the ring, and I don’t mean his escorts and peacock feathers (though it does provide for a visually entertaining entrance). For what RJ brings with his confidence and wittiness, Dalton brings the energy and intensity. The ring attire, facial expressions, and “strut” bring together the Castle character brilliantly. Think of the entrances of Ric Flair, Lex Luger as the Narcissist, and Ravishing Rick Rude – this is Dalton Castle. And that is BEFORE he kicks it in to another gear with his wrestling ability. He makes a simple hip toss look like a work of art. The former IWC World Heavyweight Champion possesses an above average frame as well, which will only increase his chances of strutting his way down a WWE ramp one day.

3. Darin Dinero – I haven’t seen much, as he is still in his first year of wrestling, but if you have ever seen something and just knew it was meant to be, this kid has “IT”. He might be raw and he might be green, but one day he has the POTENTIAL to be ON RAW and MAKING GREEN! I stress potential because I am being honest to myself and, more importantly, to Dinero. In every sport, industry, and walk of life, there are many examples of potential being wasted. If I can be Dinero’s biggest critic, I will be. I WANT to see him succeed. It’s like that coach you had in high school that you absolutely “hated” BUT, if you could get out of your own way, you’d soon realize that constant nagging and criticism was actually coaching and positive reinforcement. I hope Darin plays the role of a sponge and absorbs EVERY bit of coaching, advice, and experience from those he needs to in the industry. In the year 2000, there was a 20 year old kid who made his debut in Mid-Missouri Wrestling Association-Southern Illinois Championship Wrestling. At the age of 24, he became the youngest WWE Champion, ever. That was Randy Orton. I am not saying the next Viper/Apex Predator/Legend Killer is currently wrestling for IWC, but the parallels and potential is. *As a note: One of Randy Orton’s first WWE matches was against the current IWC World Heavyweight Champion, Tommy Dreamer. Hopefully, Darin has the opportunity to use Dreamer as that “hated” coach!

By no means are City, Castle, and Dinero the only three good wrestlers in IWC, they are just three that catch my eye and jump off the page (out of the ring) each time I see them for their in-ring ability, character, and charisma. Others include Asylum, Andrew Palace, Colin Delaney, and Keith Haught. Those four each have their own unique persona’s, abilities, and potential. Other seasoned veterans of IWC who I very much appreciate and enjoy performing are “Big League” John McChesney, Joe Brooks, Jimmy Vegas, and VIP Joe Rosa. When you throw in other younger up and coming talent including the likes of Jay Flash, Dylan Bostic, and Krimson, you’ll understand why the SUPERSTARS always return to the IWC!

CSR Wrestlemania Weekend, California Dreamin’

It’s showtime folks… And so it was, Wrestlemania 31 weekend is in the books. This by far, was the best Chair Shot Reality Wrestlemania takeover, ever… at least since I’ve been part of the show. One word can be used to describe this weekend, hustle. Not John Cena hustle, loyalty and respect, more like Deadicated Clothing’s dream big and hustle hard.

Since early November the planning was ongoing. I would send no less than a dozen emails/texts and phone calls to Justin LaBar each and every day. Hotel, airfare, sponsorships, partnerships, tickets, packages, event planning, and anything else you can think of. It was a fun process, but a tiring one.

No sooner did the wheels touch down in San Jose, that I immediately began “working”. First stop was J Lohr wines to meet Lisa Boissier, her staff, and do a walk through for Saturday night’s A Taste of Reality Hall of Fame viewing party. The facilities are awesome, and they produce and bottle their wine on-site. 12,000 cases each day. 144,000 bottles! Following the walk through, Blake Mitchamore and I were invited to a tasting on the spot, with the goal of setting the 6 glass sampling menu. We sipped and sipped, while Lisa was teaching us how to properly taste. We continued sipping…. and sipped some more! An hour later, our menu was decided and it was time to move on to more business.

We summoned a Lyft and made our way to Rookies Sports Lodge, our central hub for the weekend. As soon as I walked through the door I was greeted with pleasantries and kindness from the entire Rookies staff, led by Jordan and Trisha. Let me tell you, this spot has no faults. I met Michael Hobson, owner, in person for the first time. I exchanged dozens of emails with Michael the entire lead-up to Mania. He was likely sick of seeing my name pop up on email, text, and his phone! Everything was great all weekend long at Rookies. Great venue, great staff, and GREAT food! That can’t be mentioned enough. We squared away everything for the weekend and waited for our first event to kick off, the CSR Wrestlemania Welcome Party.

The first fans and friends began filtering in at 4:15, and the entire Tailgate room was filled by 4:45. We had calamari, wings, pizza, and more. Being Catholic, I chose to refrain from the meats this day. We also had our first surprise guest of the weekend make an appearance, Nasty Boy Brian Knobbs. Let’s just say he brought the nastiness to the party, and an armpit to my face. I went to Nastyville!

After an hour break, Vince Russo arrived for the evening and our VIP meet and greet, uncensored Q&A, and he captured the crowd. He discussed everything under the sun, and more. There couldn’t be an easier person to work with in planning and execution of a guest appearance than Vince. Along with past guests of CSR including Matt Hardy, Matt Striker, and Kevin Nash, Vince brought professionalism, integrity, and passion. Night one at Rookies was in the books.

From there Justin and I made our way to the San Jose Sports Bar for the PWR Kevin Nash party, hosted by David Herro, Dameon Nelson, and Linda Kay. Following some quick “business” affairs (shocker) and housekeeping with Dameon, we were set for the evening. PWR is a first class production with awesome people involved. The night was fun, talking shop with Al Snow, Jeff Hardy, Abyss, and many more. Around 11:20 we were to hook up with big Kev for an autograph signing of wine labels for Saturday night. In the madness of the party, a good madness, I slowly and unintentionally let my emotions get the best of me. Picture 300 people in a small space, lots of noise, and a touch of alcohol, and that’s what my roadblock was. I held the labels, a priority for the entire weekend, to be signed and then- in the midst of it all, drop everything, including this iPad I am typing on. I uncharacteristically became rattled, flustered, and not myself. All the planning, all the time and money spent just to get these labels signed and I felt like I was going to drop the ball, as I did with everything in my hand. Well, in the end, everything was gathered, labels were saved, signed, and secure…. though my iPad now has a minor screen blemish!

After all that, I needed to get away. It was time to get out of the best party at that time of the evening. Even though I wanted to stay, my better senses got Justin and I out of there. It was the best business decision I could have made all weekend. On the way home I lost it, all the stress hit me and I broke down. After some reassuring from Justin, I was back to the room and ready to call it a night. Add that entire scenario to the fact that I hadn’t slept in since Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. and therein lies the problem. It was the end to a marathon 42 hours.

Saturday morning our VIP Experience guests Ethian (not pronounced anywhere near Ethan I later learned) and Jean-Francois (JF) joined Vince, Josh, Caroline, Blake and I for breakfast, while Justin was working Axxess. We had a chance to talk about Friday night and more, even though E and JF were 45 minutes late! Following breakfast, thanks to Trevor and Amber Ellison, we had an impromptu day of fun in the sun, pizza, a few drinks and a lot of NON-wrestling talk (which was nice). Somehow, at the end of it all, Justin, Josh, and I found ourselves in the pool. Once we dried out, we all headed to our rooms to get ready for our Taste of Reality Hall of Fame party at J. Lohr.

I led the charge to get everything ready at the winery but, that wasn’t needed. As Blake and I arrived, we saw WWE balloons, title belts, Hulk Hogan standup cut out, and so much more. This was amazing and a relief to me- I didn’t have to lose my mind tonight. I did make sure everything was ready, looked over the menu, and pulled up the WWE Network. We were ready to roll. Soon thereafter, Justin led in the rest of our team of friends. At 6:00, all guests had arrived, and I welcomed everyone and introduced Lisa to the room. From there, she took over with her team and we were in to our first tasting in the reception room. For 3 hours came wine and cheese/salami pairings, as well as candid Vince Russo reaction to the Hall of Fame. When I mean candid, I mean dying of laughter! As the night continued, I asked Lisa if I could purchase a bottle or two of their Mourvèdre to sample. We are talking $40 bottles of wine and she said “we will take care of that,” in the words of the Miz, awesome! This wine hits the pallet like a Mike Tyson right hook. So hard and so good, and goes well with any wild game meat. It’s so good, I purchased a bottle to take home for dinner this week. I will also be purchasing a case, soon. Only 470 bottles of the vintage remain. We began our final tasting prior to Kevin Nash’s induction, where we presented our special gift- an autographed bottle of special label, collectors edition (25 bottles) Kevin Nash J. Lohr 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon. Following our final tasting, we gathered for a group toast and pictures to end our evening with applause for J. Lohr.

We then headed back to the hotel to drop off our wine, and headed to the casino for dinner. We were 20 deep, and soon were joined by the PWR team of Herro and Nelson. We always get a group shot at Mania, so we did so for 31! Vince and I sat side by side and had a very special 30 minute conversation over dinner, discussing everything from wrestling to family, career goals, life goals, and so much more. I can’t thank our second package winners John Thomas and Will “The Thrill” McNiff enough for picking up our dinner tab, they damn sure didn’t need to do so. These two guys were awesome all weekend long, had intelligent wrestling conversations, and John had the booking moment of all time, but I doubt WWE will be as smart as he is on booking! Following dinner we retired early for the night, knowing the marathon of a day that was to follow on Wrestlemania Sunday.

6:00 a.m. My alarm went off. I jumped out of bed, full of piss and vinegar, and said to Blake, let’s do this! We called a Lyft and made our way to the gym. We clanged and banged non-stop for an hour. Super setting everything, we covered all muscle groups. It was officially time to play the game. We then walked back to the hotel, all the while I am- you guessed it- working. I received a text from the humble one, Brian Karavlan, that he wanted to purchase our second and final Wrestlemania Sunday package. So, in order to secure his tickets, I was on Eventbrite trying to close ticket sales, not wanting to oversell. It all worked out and soon enough, Blake and I were already back to the hotel. After a shower and change of clothes, it was off to Rookies for our CSR tailgate party.

Bloody Mania’s were the drink of the morning, and that is confirmed by our tab! Once again we were joined by 40 friends and fans, as well as Knobbs. Bob Dunn, formerly of Pittsburgh, also purchased a Sunday package. He arrived and we were officially game on. Also on hand, were Brian and Kate Kelly. Talk about some cool cats, these two were a joy to be around. Down to earth and full of knowledge. They purchased the Raw with Reality package, which included 2 tickets to Raw, Friday night tickets, and Mania after party as well.

As the tailgate continued, I decided to hand out 14 Wrestlemania tickets, making sure nothing went wrong. Zig Daniels, a rockin’ friend, had already picked up his ticket in the morning. The last ticket to give out was Isenberg’s… and the first ticket to go missing and needing replaced was, Isenberg’s! No less than 2 minutes after having it, he lost it! The following 45 minutes wasn’t fun, BACK TO WORK! We fixed the ticket fiasco and were in a car on our way to Levi’s Stadium.

We were there, met the group and made our way in. Of course, drama ensued as Caroline couldn’t take her purse in. We all warned her! Oh well, it was a nice Coach clutch while it lasted. We made our way to our seats, encountering many CSR fans on our way. Took a few pictures, and then took over section 131, row 29, seats 5-20. Justin, Josh, Caroline, Blake, Trevor, Amber, Bam, Zig, John, Will, Brian K, Bob, Trisha, Ethian, JF, and me. I shouldn’t say Zig, he showed up 2 hours in to the show!

Wrestlemania was amazing. Top to bottom, including the pre-show, the 31st edition of the Super Bowl of wrestling was sound. There were a few low spots, but for the most part the night was great. Check out Chair Shot Reality this weekend for full reaction. One match I will detail here though is Sting v. Triple H. Goosebumps and silence, that is all that needs said. The reason I am in the wrestling business, let alone a fan, is because of Steve Borden. His entrance was similar to the grand entrances of his in IWGP and NJPW. He took his sweet ass time to the ring, and rightfully so. This was his one, and maybe only, Wrestlemania moments. The first time I twitched a muscle was his first howl to the crowd, and I was as loud as could be. Next out was Triple H, and his entrance was nothing less than spectacular as well. We immediately got a stare down, a this is awesome chant, and a collar and elbow tie up. Sting’s first bump was a shoulder block from HHH, and Justin turned to me and said “do you see his rope burn already?!” The next sequence let everyone know Sting “still got it!”

After a crotch chop from Hunter, Sting then provided an arm drag followed by a “patented Stinger drop kick” in the words of Dusty Rhodes. The crowd of 76,000 plus went off with a you still got it chant. As the match progressed, no one sat down. And then, in the middle of a scorpion death lock, out comes DX! Of course, it makes sense. And Sting took them down! HHH then nailed a pedigree, and Sting kicked out. And, just before a sledge hammer could be used… NWO! The Monday Night War had been reborn as all hell was breaking loose. After some one ups on both sides, Sting sat down on the death lock again when, surprise, sweet chine music from HBK! At this point I am expecting either Ric Flair or Shane McMahon to come down and even out the score, again. The finale in that scenario would have seen Vince McMahon end WCW once and for all. Though that never happened, neither was the realistic chance of WCW’s all time top draw defeating WWE’s COO at Wrestlemania. As Triple H stood victorious, and the handshake followed, even though Sting lost, he lost in a strong showing. It took HHH, DX, a super kick, and a sledge hammer to the face to keep Sting down. I was very happy with the match and representation of Sting.

The rest of the night played out and those thoughts as mentioned before will be heard on CSR. No sooner did Seth Rollins get the three count, that I said to everyone “I gotta get the hell out of here.” I grabbed Josh and Blake and we were off to hunt down a Lyft. We literally jogged no less than 2 miles, as far away from the stadium we would get to secure a ride. We did find one after some heated moments between Blake and several drivers, and we arrived at Rookies by 9:00 p.m. As we walked in, again I was assured our evening would be perfect and that the staff would cater to all our needs. Michael and Nikayla made sure we were set to go and the food soon came out as the fans began arriving (what a traffic nightmare it was for some). Wings, calamari, chicken quesadilla, chicken parm, loaded mac and cheese, salads, pizza! Holy spread! Vince arrived and we kicked off our final event of the trip, the Hot Tag Reaction with Vince. Great insight from the Godfather of the Attitude Era. As the event ended, thanks in part (all) to Blake, we were able to thank Vince with a piece of San Francisco Giants memorabilia. You can hear more about this at this link https://t.co/81MODvOKcB (first 5 minutes).

Justin and I were the last to leave Rookies and, after a final shot with Michael, he offered us a ride back to the hotel. Needless to say, my eyes were no longer capable of staying open to watch Sting v HHH back in the room. Justin and Blake can attest to this! I was ass-kicked and down for the 10 count.

Upon waking Monday morning, Bam (who is just a great person top to bottom- especially his hair) was hungry! So, already planned, we headed across the street for our Wrestlemania Hangover Brunch. We talked about the weekend, and had some great laughs. Vince, Josh, and Caroline were on their way home already. Our remaining group made our way to San Pedro Square and O’Flaherty’s for an unscheduled Raw tailgate party. We ran in to fans, friends, and had a group shot (both Jameson and picture definition). We then headed over to SAP for Raw! And then, what a mass of disaster outside the arena.

17,000 fans, and 3 lines to get in… Talk about poor planning. I sneaked one in and slipped in line with a CSR fan. I was in the arena for Superstar’s, the rest of the crew barely made the start of Raw. But good thing they did because Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman were on a rampage! More on this on CSR.

After Raw, we made our way back to the Square to Blush Sushi. It was a much needed sushi dinner. After another minor mental meltdown from the 4 days of nonstop action, Blake, Trevor and Amber reassured me that all the work I did was worth it and everyone appreciated it all. I needed to hear that. And back to the room we went.

We wrapped up our trip with breakfast at the hotel. We all said our goodbyes to Bam, Trevor, and Amber. Then there were 3- Justin, Blake, and myself. We made out way to J. Lohr to ship some wine home and proceeded to the airport. We got to the airport at 10:15. We went to grab some food not knowing that 2 gates away were Undertaker and Sting boarding a flight to Dallas. This was a YOU’VE GOT TO BE SHITTING ME moment. Why did I have to eat? The pictures that surfaced that everyone was afraid to ask to be in, I would have done just that. If I ever regretted anything in my life, it would ALMOST be this lost chance! C’est La Vie!

We finished eating and all three went our separate ways. I had an hour to kill so I sat in a corner and watched Sting vs. HHH once more. It was at that precise moment in time that I realized “holy shit” – I was there for Sting and Wrestlemania. Of all the ringside seats, Raw’s, Mania’s, and wrestler interactions over the years, this was the crowning jewel. That match, that moment, and that guy was the entire reason was there, that I am in the business, and that I am writing this blog. Everything happens for a reason, Sting is the reason for ALL of this… For meeting Blake, Trevor, Amber, Bam, JF, Ethian, Brian Kar, Brian and Kate Kelly, Kamp, Jose T, Enrique, Bob Dunn, Zig, John, Will, Justin, Josh (working with those two), Vince Russo, Matt Hardy, Matt Striker, Kevin Nash, David Herro, Dameon Nelson, Vic T, all the fans, all the boys, and all the memories. The partnerships with Rookies and J. Lohr, TagMeADate.com, Brad Bohannan, Spirits on Bourbon, the Avenue Pub in New Orleans… Jaime from Maniacrawl, and giving back to Connor’s Cure. Vince Russo said it best, God has a plan (regarding his running in to Bubba and Velvet)- and for me, he put Sting on a TV screen for me to see 27 years ago and, because of that, I have all of this! This I am thankful for.

Most thankful though of all, I am to my wife, Dayna. She puts up with a lot from me and this wrestling gig. It’s one thing to work 50 hours a week during the day, it’s another to sacrifice my space time to work another 10-20 hours on CSR both on screen and behind the scenes. I love it though, and I love her more. She was unable to come this year, but she will damn sure be in Dallas for 32! She enjoyed 30 in NOLA, and she even likes wrestling (a bit) now! Oh, and speaking of Dallas, plans are already in the works for the biggest and best CSR Wrestlemania weekend, ever! More fans, more friends, more special moments, and more CSR!

Once again, thank you thank you thank you – Michael and the entire Rookies Sports Lodge, Lisa and J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines, TagMeADate.com, Vince Russo, my co-hosts/CSR team, most importantly Justin LaBar. Bro, the potential is endless! All the fans, more of the friends, and all of the memories. Dream Big Hustle Hard!

Top 10 WWE Superstars (using the Mitchamore scale)

Recently, it has come popular to try and rank to top 10 wrestlers in WWE history based off of various scales, ranking systems, etc. There are dozens of ways to determine who had the best run in their WWE career, including time on top, mic skills, mat skills, title reigns, Wrestlemania headlining matches, etc. For me, if I were using my own scale, I would rank on 5 categories:

1) Ownership of Character – because at the end of the day, you have to be a great character to make it in the industry.
2) Storytelling ability – once your character is established, you must be able to tell the story, work with other characters, and complete the ultimate ending of a storyline.
3) In-ring ability – that story must be told and executed in the ring.
4) Mic skills – If you have it, you have it. If you don’t you need a mouth piece. If you don’t have either, you aren’t going to be great.
5) Value to WWE – Do you sell PPV’s, merchandise, and ultimate capture the PR the WWE is looking for.

For this article, I am going to use the Mitchamore Scale, thought up by Blake Mitchamore (@BlakeAaron73)…

His scale took in to account the following…

1. Longevity- How long was there run on the top?

2. In Ring Ability

3. Mic-Work – How good were they with the stick in their hands.

4. Mainstream appeal – Were they just big in the wrestling world or did they break out to the mainstream?

5. Flexibility- Could they reinvent themselves? Did they have multiple runs on top or were they the same exact character throughout their career?

6. Wrestlemania- How many Wrestlemania were they in one of the main event matches on the card?

* Tie Breaker- I used Wrestlemania main events as the tie breaker.

Using this ranking system, here is the way I ranked a short list of superstars. Once they were out of contention, I cut them. Those stars included Roddy Piper, Randy Savage, Andre the Giant, Kane, Edge, Batista, Mick Foley, Warrior, Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar (due to longevity alone). I didn’t feel CM Punk deserved to be considered.

Hulk Hogan – 9,5,9,8,7,10 = 48… Yes, he was terrible at #2, average is a compliment. Remember, this is WWE, not WCW – so #5 shows no real change (he wasn’t a heel during his main WWE run).

Bret Hart – 8,9,7,6,7,7 = 43… Bret really never crossed over in to the “mainstream” media. He was shaky on the mic in my opinion.

Steve Austin – 9,7,8,7,8,9 = 48… Austin was good in the ring, not great. He can’t be a 9 or 10 on the mic because that is for the best, he wasn’t the “best”.

Undertaker – 8,7,6,5,8,10 = 44… Taker’s career has been extended in the last 5-7 years by fighting a limited schedule. I wouldn’t say he was ever “mainstream”. He is however, one of two that I rank at the top of the Wrestlemania scale, 21 … and 1.

The Rock – 9,8,10,10,8,9 = 54… Longevity might be a bit too polite, but even if I drop it 1, that puts him at 53 overall. He worked the mic like no other and, he crossed over like no other. For the overrating he may have gotten from me in longevity, he was underscored in flexibility (should be 9). Heel/face, it doesn’t matter!

Shawn Michaels – 10,9,8,7,8,10 = 52… HBK was a lifer, he was almost perfect in ring – until his back caught up. He was sneaky good on the mic and, well, he is Mr. Wrestlemania!

Triple H – 9,8,8,7,8,8 = 48… Sorry Blake, Triple H isn’t #1. Is is very good though. He wasn’t a lifer, but he is locked in for life now. He’s technical in ring and better than good on the mic. Mainstream – no. He was flexible in character and lost 3 times to Undertaker at Wrestlemania!

John Cena – 10,7,8,8,7,9 = 49… He’s a lifer, in-ring, well… and he’s held the company above water the past decade.

Randy Orton – 8,8,7,8,8,8 = 47… Randy Orton just gets it done. If it weren’t for John Cena, Orton’s legacy would be something much greater. Orton and Cena could have been Rock and Austin part 2, but it wasn’t.

Chris Jericho – 7,8,8,7,7,8 = 45… Y2J was under-appreciated, both in WCW and WWE. Vince saw his potential, which is why he was the first undisputed WWE Champion. That said, he had a shorter run, left and came back as a part timer. He was I.C. champ 750 times, tag partner with 50 guys, and he had the red carpet debut with the Rock. I find it hard to rank him above Undertaker, which is why I think this scale and system needs adjusted.

All that said, here are my top ten according to the Mitchamore Scale.

10. Bret Hart (43)
9. Undertaker (44)
8. Chris Jericho (45)
7. Randy Orton (47)
6. Triple H (lost tiebreaker to Austin based on Mania) (48)
5. Steve Austin (lost tiebreaker to Hogan based on Mania) (48)
4. Hulk Hogan (48)
3. John Cena (49)
2. Shawn Michaels (52)
1. The Rock (54)

NOW, on to the scale I mentioned above –

Bret Hart – 8,7,9,7,7 = 38… He was the Hitman, he owned the character, but he never took it to the next level. He was OK at telling stories, at best. He was damn near perfect in ring, shaky on the mic and ultimately never gave the WWE the ROI they had hoped for.

Undertaker – 9,9,7,7,9 = 41… The reason for the knock down here is when he cut his hair and became a damn biker! He told great stories, was very good for a big man in the ring, could speak when needed – but had Paul Bearer, and he sold millions of Wrestlemania buys, thus of great value.

Chris Jericho – 8,7,8,9,8 = 39… He played too much with his character in my opinion, but made up for it with mic skills. He was a fantastic worker and, like mentioned above, was very transparent. That Rock debut again, didn’t hurt his cause!

Randy Orton – 8,7,8,8,8 = 39… Much of the same as Jericho. Had a chance to be great, but he had John Cena to deal with – stole his thunder. Also, a few suspensions didn’t help his cause.

Triple H – 8,8,8,9,8 = 41… Hunter was very good, just not GREAT in any specific area. He was consistent, and his mic skills in DX gave him a great asset.

Steve Austin – 9,9,8,9,10 = 45… Austin’s character was brilliant and that’s the bottom line! He sold the storyline, was pretty damn good in ring, worked the mic like a champ and his value was top.

Hulk Hogan – 10,9,7,9,10 = 45… So he is tied with Austin, we will break that later. His only flaw was in-ring to me. He didn’t everything else the American way. He headlined the biggest events – Andre, Savage, Warrior, Slaughter. He even came back and work a great one with the Rock (see what I did there?!).

John Cena – 8,8,7,7,10 = 40… Imagine Cena in the Hogan era, what could have been between those two! You could have gotten away with turning Cena heel! That said, Cena is bland to me over time. He really isn’t special in-ring, but his value is second to none, tied with the best.

Shawn Michaels – 9,8,9,8,9 = 43… If it weren’t for injuries, HBK would rank higher. Sorry, but it’s part of the game. He wasn’t durable enough to be on top – but he is still one of the best.

The Rock – 9,9,8,10,10 = 46… Dwayne recreated the way to succeed in the industry. His character was awesome, heel or face. He told a story in the ring and on the mic. His only hitch, to me, was that he was very very good in ring, but others were better, which is why I gave him an 8. His mic skills, yeah. Value, double yeah.

So lets break down this top ten…

10. Bret Hart (38)
9. Randy Orton (39)
8. Chris Jericho (40t)
7. John Cena (40t) – overall value is greater than Jericho
6. Triple H (41t)
5. Undertaker (41t) – this is a judgement on what he DID for the WWE, not what he WILL DO in the future
4. Shawn Michaels (43)
3. Hulk Hogan (45t)
2. Steve Austin (45t) – Hogan created it with Vince, Austin executed it with Vince.
1. The Rock (46)

Now, lets compare my rankings and the Mitchamore scale to come up with an average and comparison.

    Wrestler – Mitchamore/Gulish

Bret Hart – 10/10
Randy Savage – 9/NR
Randy Orton – NR/9
Chris Jericho – 8/8
John Cena – 7/7
Steve Austin – 6/2
The Rock – 5/1
Hulk Hogan – 4/3
Shawn Michaels – 3/4
Undertaker – 2/5
Triple H 1/6

The average ranking would appear as follows –

10t – Savage/Orton
9 – Bret Hart
8 – Chris Jericho
7 – John Cena
6 – Steve Austin
5t – Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, Undertaker, HHH
1 – The Rock

Overall, the results are similar. Each wrestler has their value for each ranking. My problem with the Mitchamore scale rating Triple H 1 and Undertaker 2 is the fact that the Undertaker is 3-0 at Wrestlemania vs. Triple H. Our biggest differing of opinion is Steve Austin and The Rock. However, both scales for me show greater value for those two wrestlers.

It’s all a matter of opinion, but the top 10 is a great list and a good place to start. Who would be the WWE Mt. Rushmore? This is just WWE in the past 20 years – imagine if we added WCW, NWA, and all the other territories and great wrestlers. Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Harley Race, Terry Funk, Sting, Dusty Rhodes.

The interesting thing about the combo scale is the 4-way tie for 2nd/ or 5th. Hogan was Mr. Wrestlemania, Michaels became Mr. Wrestlemania, Undertaker is 21-1 at Wrestlemania and HHH one day will book (w/out Vince) Wrestlemania.

What are your thoughts? Leave comments below or let me know on Twitter @BrianGulish

The Stumble in the Rumble!

Off the heels of the best ending segment to RAW in a long……….. long time, and a perfect triple threat match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship (or WWE Championship, or WWE Title – depending on which superstar or talking head is on the mic), the WWE couldn’t screw up – could they? They couldn’t possibly do the unthinkable and ruin the most anticipated night in many moons – could they?

YES, they could!

I am not upset by the fact that Roman Reigns won the Royal Rumble, or the fact that many WWE fans all act like petulant and immature crybabies – what, did everyone in attendance in Philadelphia and watching on the WWE Network expect a hug and free gear from Triple H for crying? THERE’S NO CRYING IN WRESTLING!

Hell, I’m not even upset that the under card wasn’t even suitable for WCW Thunder.

I am upset that the WWE had the ball – fully inflated, in hand and… dropped it, or deflated and let all the air out!

Kane and the Big Show – yeah, because they were REALLY going to main event w/ Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania. Sure, Rusev – the Russian bull who is unstoppable was left but, they pretty much ruined that as well. The anti-American was actually cheered to win the damn thing by the time it was down to him and Roman Reigns.

Dolph Zigger – wasted, Dean Ambrose, yep – same. Ryback, Bray Wyatt (who I actually was behind in this match and expected great things from), and yes, DANIEL BRYAN all were made to look of no value to the WWE by night’s end. How could something SO promising be SO disappointing in the end?

HELL, a recent TNA talent was one of the top 3 moments of the Rumble!

As Bray was cleaning house, the EASIEST card for WWE to play would have been Bo Dallas coming to the ring and going toe-to-toe with his real-life brother. We aren’t idiots, we know they are brothers. And don’t say – “you have to separate fantasy from reality.” Because if that’s the case, WWE24 wouldn’t air tonight with all the backstage footage from Wrestlemania 30. And once Bo and Bray would have been going blow for blow, who would have been best to play mediator? How about their father, IRS?! How can I book that and WWE not? Is there no value in that? You could have then had the brothers eliminate the father, and told him to pay his taxes!

Miz and Mizdow – yep, ball deflated yet again.

The Bunny should have eliminated Adam Rose, although the Rosebuds saving Kofi and not Rose was OK, at best.

Why not utilize ALL 30 spots with big names, not c-list stars which included…

R-Truth, Curtis Axel/Erick Rowan (and all of us will save breath even trying to explain his role), Sin Cara, Tyson Kidd, Titus O’Neil, The Boogeyman (of all the surprises you could have had), and Fandango. Those superstars occupied 7 of the 30 spots! Those 7 spots could have been filled by….

Bo Dallas, IRS, Randy Orton, the Bunny, the American Dream (see Bo/Bray – imagine if Dusty would have come out in a bodysuit and face paint!), John Cena and Seth Rollins.

Yes, Bo and IRS as previous noted, the Bunny as well. The American Dream, see above. Orton could have returned to eliminate and jump start feud with Rollins, and John Cena just because. No need even for Sting or the Rock… actually, let’s talk Dwayne Johnson.

A) I have been an advocate of bringing him in to HELP, not be Roman Reigns! Mentor him, work on his mic skills, and yes – save him from an attack. BUT, to have him come out to try and silence the boos, not smart. The Rock was booed. The post-show interview was trash. The Rock even noted on Instagram – “Booed the hell out of my boy.”…

B) Why the teasing all day from both the WWE and The Rock? Pictures of the Rock in South Philly, pictures of the Rock and his mom. If they really wanted the Rock to be over and help put Roman over, do it IN the match, not after – which wasn’t actually after since Rusev was playing hide-and-seek outside the ring.

C) No Rock v. Brock, no Rock v. Rusev (insert John Cena), no Rock vs. anyone at Wrestlemania 31. I’m fine with that.

The Royal Rumble had the buzz, the anticipation, and the hope… in the end, the Rumble was a trip and stumble. Tonight’s Raw will be interesting – does Orton return? Does Reigns address the crowd on the mic? He is going to be booed from Hartford to Boston (pending Blizzard Juno), Boston to Pittsburgh (March 9), and Pittsburgh to Santa Clara. Do we hear from Daniel Bryan? Is the only way to fix this is by having Bryan team up with Reigns so the crowd cheers the duo – or would that backfire and play the role of Miz (Reigns) and Mizdow (Bryan).

From the hottest Raw in years to the best title match in well, years… to the Stumble in the Rumble, We are 62 days away from Wrestlemania and it’s already a Rocky road!

First, WCW… Now, Sting saves WWE from the Authority

What an ending, the rumors were true (finally). Sting, the Franchise – the Icon, officially made his WWE debut last night at Survivor Series. And, for as awesome a moment it was – I couldn’t speak during or for about 5 minutes after Survivor Series went off the air.

It was the perfect setting – the perfect time, Triple H and the Authority running roughshod over the main event and seemingly nobody in sight to stop the inevitable. At 10:50 PM I tweeted out “I hear voices in my head…” followed by the punch “they’re telling me the WWE trolled us, again” in regards to a Sting debut. It was also a slight bit of anticipation of Randy Orton returning in his hometown to save Team Cena.

So as the inevitable played out and Triple H pedigreed Dolph Ziggler through the mat, it was now or never for a regime change. Triple H proceeded to roll Seth Rollins on top of Ziggler and called for a ref to come out and count the 1-2-3. Cue Scott Armstrong.

Sliding under the bottom rope, Armstrong got in to position as Triple H rolled up he sleeves.

1…

And then I noticed something … The most awkward coil up of an officials arm. It was almost as if Armstrong’s arm was being held back by gravity. “OH SHIT!” I exclaimed… And then the sound of a lightning strike with thunder and a crow’s cry.

I jumped out of my chair and a half, clutching my phone as I proceeded to tweet… “#StingWatch ahahahahhdjfkfjfjrffndksldkfkfjdjdj wooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!”

THE MOMENT I HAD WAITED FOR WAS NOW. Realizing it, the anticipation I had for Sting for years, especially this Survivor Series Sunday, my wife said “just enjoy it” – knowing I would likely be live tweeting it. But even with her thoughts, I wouldn’t have tweeted… I couldn’t tweet. I was frozen. I was in awe. I was reliving my youth – from the 1990 Great American Bash, Super Brawl 1991, Starrcade 1992, Beach Blast 1992, Starrcade 1997… All the matches with Ric Flair, Vader, Ric Rude, Muta, Cactus Jack, and even Hulk Hogan, ran through my mind… AND THEN –

I blinked, and then – he appeared.

For starters, the horror-movie music was a great touch. Part of me wanted his old “Turbo Charged” theme to blast the arena and out would come sting with bleach-blonde hair, but the other part of me said ‘this is right.’

As the cameras got up in his face, followed by a great zoom out – I then began to hear Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and JBL commentate this moment. This was mistake number one, and it was a big one.

Aside from Jim Ross, there should have been no one speaking as Sting made his way to the ring. This should have been a moment to listen to the music, the crowd reaction, and the visual excellence which the production of the moment was. All I would have liked to have seen added would have been smoke or fog rising as he walked through to the ring.

Back to the trio of announcers.

Cole: “Oh my God.”
Lawler: “What?”
Cole: “It’s Sting!”
Lawler: “What!?”
Cole: “Stinger’s here!”

And then, ruining the moment, JBL proceeds to give us a Wikipedia rundown of Sting’s accomplishments.

JBL: “A six-time WCW champion. The two-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion. The Icon, the Franchise.”

Lawler: “But what the hell is he doing here?”
Cole: “The man who’s never stepped foot inside WWE’s arena before.”
JBL: “Well what a hell of an impact he’s made the first time he did. Hoah, God.”
Cole: “But why is Stinger here?”
JBL: “It’s none of his damn business I’ll tell ya.”
Cole: “This is incredible.”

As I watched back more than 2 dozen times already I am more and more troubled by the announcers involvement in the entrance and spectacle of Sting’s debut. Not so much Cole and Lawler (since King couldn’t get a word in), more so JBL.

This was supposed to be a ‘surprise’ moment. A ‘saving’ moment for the WWE against the Authority. Cole set it all up perfectly. He gave us the WOW, Lawler gave us the SHOCK, and then JBL gives us… a resume! As great a wrestler and as storied a history Sting has had, why would it be natural for JBL to tell us his career accomplishments? Then, the next time JBL speaks he says “Well what a hell of an impact he’s made the first time he did.” He hadn’t yet made any impact. He made an appearance. And then after Cole asked why Stinger was here (which I am totally thankful for every time he is referred to as STINGER, since it is his proper character name) JBL bloats out “It’s none of his damn business I’ll tell ya.”

Did JBL know what Sting was doing? Did he know his intentions? How could he speak to Sting’s business when the man literally just appeared less than thirty-seconds prior? Had JBL stayed silent or been muted the commentary would have been.

Cole: “Oh my God.”
Lawler: “What?”
Cole: “It’s Sting!”
Lawler: “What!?”
Cole: “Stinger’s here!”
Lawler: “But what the hell is he doing here?”
Cole: “The man who’s never stepped foot inside WWE’s arena before. But why is Stinger here? This is incredible!”

I am sorry, but JBL took away from the moment for me. But moving on…

Sting approaches the ring and Armstrong comes out to confront him for some reason, not sure why. Immediately, any doubt as to what Sting’s intentions were were erased. If Triple H sent Armstrong to encounter Sting, then Triple H knew he was the intended target.

Sting gets in the ring. Hunter looks unsure of the situation, yet stern in staring in Sting’s eyes. NEITHER BLINKED as the crowd chanted “Holy Shit!” I didn’t chant, I was still speechless, taking in the moment. Everything was surreal. Trench coat, face paint, black and white ring gear – everything was how I remembered it… but then, I blinked. And I blinked again. And again.

This was the first shadow of doubt I ever had with Sting’s WWE debut. My first question – “Is this going to hurt his legacy?” “Does this feel right?” And I asked myself this because it was the first time I saw Sting as a 55 year-old man, in the ring. This WASN’T the Stinger from Starrcade 1997. There was no flowing black curly hair, no youthful face under the paint. Every part of the gimmick was great, but the man playing the part wasn’t who I remembered.

Sure, we all see our hair recede at some point, but I couldn’t get away from this fact with Steve Borden, the man. As I began to pry the doubt away from my mind, Sting then rotated his back to the hard camera only to reveal a very thinning scalp and hair line on top.

The doubt returned… “Is this best for Sting? Is it worth it?”

As the stare down proceeded with NO SOUND from the announce team, I began envisioning the next action sequence… And it began with Triple H clearly questioning “WHAT” Sting was doing, not kindly to say the least (I am sure you can read lips). After a brief acknowledgement from Sting, Triple H pulled back looking to unload on Sting, who ducked the punch – gave a fierce kick to the gut and a seemingly atomic Scorpion Death Drop!

As Sting shot up, he adjusted his coat to the right side on his left knee – got up and rolled Ziggler on top of Rollins. He proceeded to walk past a downed Triple H, through the ropes, and out of the ring as the ref magically appears after being out for 10 minutes to make the 1-2-3 count signifying the end of the Authority!

So, how do I truly feel? How did I truly react?

I felt an adrenaline rush. I felt weightless as I stood in front of my TV, neglect to any of my surroundings. It wasn’t too much, and it wasn’t too little – as far as the spot, it was just right (aside from JBL). Sting didn’t speak words, rather actions. It was the culmination of what Vince said would be a historic Survivor Series at the beginning of the night.

For as happy as I am that Sting has stepped foot in a WWE ring, I am thrown a bit, and only a bit in my thoughts by the fact that it is a 55 year-old version of the man. A month shy of 17 years ago at Starrcade 1997 is the ‘Crow’ Sting I want to remember. I am sure these thoughts of doubt will pass the more I see Sting’s WWE run play out, but I never thought I would DOUBT this moment. And, for a few seconds I did and, might still be.

So where do we go from here? Does Vince kick off Raw tonight and introduce a new authority figure(s)? Does he bring out Sting? Does he reference Sting? Does Sting start the show? Does Cena start the show? Do we see Triple H and Stephanie at all?

The most important question – Does this lead to Sting vs. Triple H at Wrestlemania 31? For all the talk about Sting vs. Undertaker – and even Triple H vs. The Rock, is this the match-up we will see in 4 months? If so, I am fine with it – ONLY if Sting wins.

I think this is truly the best option for Sting. He and the Undertaker wouldn’t be as athletic as Sting and Triple H. Sting and Bray Wyatt wouldn’t make sense from a historical standpoint. But the power of Vince McMahon on two fronts – overseeing HIS company and FINALLY signing Sting, makes this match-up much more enticing. I think Triple H can pick Sting up on the big stage and, Sting himself will seize the moment.

I have so many more thoughts on last night and I will join @JustinLaBar on Wrestling Reality – heard of SportsTalk TribLive Radio tomorrow at 2:00PM – SportsTalk.TribLive.Com

THE ONLY THING FOR SURE ABOUT STING, IS NOTHIN’S FOR SURE….

IT’S SHOWTIME FOLKS!

WWE Drops the ‘Bat’ with Sting DVD

The WWE had the perfect opportunity to reintroduce Sting to the WWE fan base, 21-45, while also having an even better opportunity to introduce Sting to the young WWE fans who may have never seen, let alone heard of the Stinger.  This face painted ‘Little Stinger’ was letdown.  I was let down more than the little Hulkamanics were at Bash at the Beach 1996… and that was historic.

The Best of Sting – 3 disc DVD was nothing more than a quick money making venture for the WWE off of the Sting trademark.  Hell, you know you were in for a fraud when Jeff Farmer, aka the NWO Sting, was on the back cover.  Surely the WWE production team didn’t think it was great marketing to place a phony on the back cover of the real thing!  And they didn’t think it- matter of fact, the obviously didn’t care to think or proof the DVD cover to cover.

Aside from Disc 1, the DVD was nothing more than a collaboration of matches that can be viewed on the WWE Network – for only $9.99.  I paid $21 to get this “exclusive” DVD with special footage, etc.  I very much enjoyed the early days of Sting.  Matches from the mid to late 80’s, but then I received a Rude Awakening when nothing more than a few WCW Saturday Night and Nitro matches were on discs 2 and 3.

The biggest transformation of character in professional wrestling history was barely covered.  I wanted behind the scenes footage of Sting preparing to take on the NWO, I wanted the story behind the character change, I wanted to know why the Starrcade 97 main event was an absolute let down.  Sure, I know – Sting came in 10 pounds overweight and pale – but that had nothing to do with his performance in the match.  It had nothing to do with the booking of the match.  It had everything to do with Hulk Hogan being in control of ever aspect of WCW.

I did realize after watching that the NWO Wolfpac version of Sting was very cool and, could have been even better.  He came out of his “Crow” shell – he talked trash and was even ” a little cocky!”  I don’t know what I am reaching for at the end of the day but, I do know I will be reaching for my receipt to return the DVD ASAP!  Someone call me when the REAL Biography of STING is released by the WWE.  I wanted MORE interviews and insight from Ric Flair, Vince McMahon, Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan, Vader, Mick Foley, Steve Austin AND, the man called STING himself.  Giving me Sting interviews from 95 and 98 was a joke.  If the WWE is going to parade Sting around right now at Summerslam, do yourselves a favor and interview him for his own ‘BEST OF’ DVD!

If you have purchased the DVD, what are your thoughts?  If you haven’t, DON’T!  You can save $11 by paying $9.99 for the WWE network.  You can also go to YouTube and pull that matches that are on the DVD.  If this were the rotten tomatoes movie review, the Sting DVD would get a 3 of 10… with no Bret Hart restart for a fast – slow, Nick Patrick count!

Disclaimer – I didn’t proofread this post – then again, I don’t think it matters- since the WWE surely didn’t proof the Sting DVD!

 

 

When All Else Fails, WWE No Longer SHIELDED From The Truth

Last night, WWE Raw was much more important than initially meets the eye.  With all the struggles of World Wrestling Entertainment recently, including the low subscription numbers for the WWE Network and even lower WWE stock value, last night may have signaled the lowest point of them all – that being the lack of SUCCESSFUL young talent on the WWE roster and in NXT.

There is a distinct difference between being a talented wrestler and a talented superstar.  Being a talented wrestler means you are very good in the ring.  Being a talented superstar means you don’t have to be very good in the ring (although it is a bonus if you are), making up for it with your character, mic skills, and crowd endearment.

It is seemingly apparent to me that the WWE has a crop of talented young wrestlers, but clearly – and dearly, lacks young SUPERSTARS.  For every Bray Wyatt, there is a Bo Dallas.  Unfortunately for WWE, there are a plethora of Bo’s for every Bray.

Since the start of 2013, WWE has force fed many promising young superstars to us.  Fandango, Curtis Axel, Xavier Woods, Rusev, Adam Rose, and Bo Dallas.  Unfortunately, all these stars are one of two things – flavor of the week award winners or “what the hell was that” award winners.

Granted, the WWE has hit a couple home runs, but few game changers to say the least.  Bray Wyatt and the Shield (as a whole) have been sure bets since their debuts.  However, the jury is still out on many other sophomore and junior talents including Cesaro and Big E.

So, after dismantling the grandfathers of Evolution the past two pay-per-views/special events, WWE decides NOW is the time to disband the Shield, or at least relieve them of a member.  (I want to point out that I am not sure why everyone thinks this is the ‘end of the Shield.’  Evolution returned with three members, and one quit, and then Rollins joined if I recall.  So why can’t the Shield move forward with two members, possibly recruiting a third?)  Personally, I think the WWE felt they had no other choice but to unleash a bit of shock and awe in dire times.

If you truly think Seth Rollins is going to steal the spotlight, you are gravely mistaken- at least with Evolution he won’t.  While it may seem like a great idea to team Rollins with the COO of the WWE and the ‘face of the WWE’, how is Rollins expected to standout in a trio (assuming Batista doesn’t return, again) that includes 16 WWE Title and 9 World Heavyweight Championship reigns?

While HHH may give up a bit of the spotlight (I doubt it), Randy Orton is another story.  Since Batista returned to WWE and Evolution reformed after Wrestlemania XXX, Randy Orton has seemingly taken a backseat to all.  Again, please explain to me how this tradeoff will ultimately benefit Rollins?

At the end of the day, I believe the WWE felt they ran out of options.  This was a snap judgement move made due to the extremely thin pool of “superstars” on the current WWE roster.  Honestly, does the WWE have more than a half dozen true superstars?

Sheamus, Bad News Barrett, Rob Van Damn, Cesaro and more are all very good wrestlers and talent, but they lack that extra something special to stand out as a superstar.

For a long time, the WWE was ‘shielded’ from the truth.  They were able to get away with their anorexic roster of superstars, being bailed out by part-timers.  But now, with so many big names and part-timers either injured, retired, contractually taking time off, or quitting, the McMahon-Levesque empire had no other choice but to make a move.  A move that unfortunately has more cons than pros.

Have you asked why Rollins and not Dean Ambrose or Roman Reigns?  It’s a simple answer, with one of the few pros being the fact that Rollins wasn’t a standout in the Shield, those honors went to the “leader” of the pack – Ambrose, and the “chosen one” – Reigns.  So the WWE felt it was best to give Rollins some fresh air, a new start, and a chance to create buzz when they needed to do so in a bad way.  However, I’m afraid I’ve …. no, I don’t want to overuse that line anymore.

If Rollins was 1-C in the Shield, what makes the WWE (or any of you who support the move) believe that he will be anything more than 1-C in Evolution?  And what comes out of this, a tag team match at Money In The Bank between Orton and Rollins vs. Ambrose and Reigns?  In the long run it is more than apparent that Reigns will have a high profile match at Summerslam, likely against Triple H.  Keep in mind, Reigns’ road to Wrestlemania XXXI already is in the fast lane to a potential main event match with whomever the champ is, or with his cousin, The Rock (who could be champ in a potential scenario, but lets beat that drum a different day!).

As for Ambrose, there are many ways his character can evolve, but there is too much meat on the Evolution/Shield bone to simply disband the Shield, now.  Which is again why I ask the question: Why do so many people think that the Shield has disbanded?  They haven’t and they won’t, at least not now.

Has anyone thought of the potential for Batista to return as a face and join the Shield?  For as bad a mistake it was to have Batista return as a face and win the Royal Rumble, this could be the fix the WWE needs for the man with the Red, White and Blue running through his veins!  Joining Ambrose and Reigns would surely give Batista the setting he would need to be a face, just as long as he shaves his head and stays off the mic.

No matter the next step or end result in last nights developments, this shocking twist can’t hide the facts that follows:

Daniel Bryan (WWE WHC) – Injured

CM Punk – MIA

Brock Lesnar – Vacation

Chris Jericho – Rockin’

The Rock – Fast & Furious 48

Undertaker – Defeated

THOSE ARE SUPERSTARS!  They all are currently not available for one reason or another.  And while John Cena is comparable to the sun as he always rises (sure, above hate), the WWE currently has a talent roster comparable to the Pittsburgh Pirates and Florida Marlins, when it needs to be the caliber of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays.

As Rollins’ position on the WWE roster continues to “evolve”, it’s hard to think this is the best blueprint for his potential success.  This could be another example of the WWE not letting the cards play themselves out, rather going all-in with pocket Jacks against pocket Aces and hoping for a bad beat on the river.  If you are going to BELIEVE in something – I think you’d want to NOT BoLieve, but rather continue to BELIEVE in the SHIELD!

 

 

 

The “Excellence of Independent Wrestling”

Less than one week removed from an epic journey to New Orleans for Wrestlemania XXX, I was on hand Saturday night in Meadville, PA for the International Wrestling Cartel’s (IWC) “Night of the Superstars 3.”

Comparing Meadville to New Orleans isn’t fair.  Comparing IWC to WWE isn’t fair.  However, comparing the overall festive atmospheres and crowd appreciation is fair.

Shortly after 3:00 p.m. Saturday I began the 90 minute journey north from Pittsburgh to Meadville on interstate 79.  Riding shotgun and joining me for the evening was my wife, Dayna, who had never been to an IWC show.  She also joined me in New Orleans, along with the Chair Shot Reality team, for our Wrestlemania weekend of events that included a Q&A with Matt Striker, a ‘Mania Sunday crawfish boil with Matt Hardy, and one hell of a weekend of fun!

Matt Striker joining the CSR crew and VIP guest Blake Mitchamore at Spirits on Bourbon in New Orleans.

Matt Striker joining the CSR crew and VIP guest Blake Mitchamore at Spirits on Bourbon in New Orleans.

 

I wasn’t sure how Dayna would take in her first IWC event, explaining to her that it would be much different than Wrestlemania or Raw, with its smaller crowds and lesser known wrestlers.  She asked many questions during our commute to Meadville Middle School including ‘what cutting a promo was’ when I explained to her that Chair Shot Reality’s Justin LaBar (also an IWC manager) would be cutting a promo tonight, along with his client RJ City.  She also was curious about the Steiner Brothers, AJ Styles, and Bret “Hitman” Hart – all who would be on the card that evening.

Most of my answers were simple for me to explain, but to someone just getting in to this thing known as ‘sports entertainment’, it was not as easy for her to understand.  It’s hard to ever find something Dayna can’t understand, as she is definitely the brains of this marriage, earning her master’s degree from the prestigious Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

We arrived in Meadville just after 5:00 p.m. and the venue was already jammed packed for the VIP meet and greet.  We entered through the back to join LaBar, along with IWC guests for the weekend, Trevor and Amber Ellison.  The Ellison’s were in town from Riverton, Wyoming for a weekend of wrestling in Pittsburgh.  Both Trevor and Amber are fans of CSR, and Trevor is now and forever WINNING his battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  Shortly after learning about Trevor’s diagnosis, we reached out to Amber about surprising Trevor with a trip to Pittsburgh to be on CSR and take in Night of the Superstars.

Trevor and Amber Ellison

Trevor and Amber Ellison from Riverton, Wyoming!

 

IWC owner Chuck Roberts gave us his blessing to invite the Ellison’s to the event that evening, with VIP access to several of the superstars, as well as preferred seating.  Chuck also made Trevor a special guest ring announcer for the evening!  Recently, Chuck’s mom lost her courageous battle with cancer, and her memory will forever live on with Chuck’s dedicated and tireless work to put on some of the best entertainment you will find on the independent wrestling scene.

Trevor serving as guest ring announcer for the Striker v. Fish match!

Trevor serving as guest ring announcer for the Striker v. Fish match!

On to the event itself, top to bottom, there was not a single lull in the evening!  The sold out crowd of more than 2,000 was enthusiastic from the moment the doors opened to the gymnasium.  The wrestling card for the evening was stacked, and kicked off with Chuck welcoming everyone to Night of the Superstars, thanking everyone for their support and what the evening meant to the Meadville Middle School, which the show benefited.  He also apologized for the 45 minute delay to the start of the event, as there were still nearly 100 people waiting to meet Bret Hart at the VIP meet and greet.

“I would like to apologize to you for the delay in tonight’s action however, it is only fair to give those who paid to meet Bret Hart their opportunity to do so.  Each and every one of you tonight deserve the best, and I will make sure the best is what you get!” (PARAPHRASED)

Then, the night kicked off with a three way dance which saw the “Neon Ninja” Facade come out victorious while overcoming all odds.  The opening match was followed by one of the wildest 8-man tag matches I have ever seen that was not on a Survivor Series card.  The overly-entertaining team of Keith Haught, Bronco McBride, Jay Flash and Gregory Iron defeated the Sexy Talented Dudes (STD’s) with various high-risk moves, greatly thought-out double, triple, and even quadruple-team moves, and comedy that had everyone from 5 years old to 75 years old laughing with tears!

The first appearance for LaBar on the evening was with his “new client” Matt Taven.  I’ve seen Taven on several occasion’s over the past year and he is one of the great young talent’s in ALL of professional wrestling.  The longest reigning Ring of Honor Television Champion was set for battle against the IWC World Heavyweight Champion, Dalton Castle.  While this match was third on the card, it was WWE pay-per-view worthy.

Longest reigning TV Champ in ROH history!

Longest reigning TV Champ in ROH history!

 

With a crowd that was on fire, The Founding Fathers were out next for a match against Asylum and Rocky Reynolds.  Again, another match and not a single disappointing moment in the action.

The final match of the first half of the show brought LaBar to the ring once more, this time with the ever so eloquent on the microphone – IWC Super Indy Champion, who prefers to be called the Super Entertainment Champion, RJ City.  However, City’s super entertainment on the mic was cut short by the “Excellence of Execution” Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart!  This was one of the highlights of my night, not seeing Bret this close, and live, since a house show at the old Civic Arena in Pittsburgh back in the early 90’s.  Then, I sat ringside and got a high five from Hart at the end of his match.  This time, I sat 7 rows up in the bleachers and took in the sight, the moment, and all the energy of the Hitman’s appearance!

RJ City and Justin LaBar taking over the IWC ring!

RJ City and Justin LaBar taking over the IWC ring!

 

After a great speech to the crowd, in which he thanked the fans for coming out and supporting not only the IWC, but also the Meadville Middle School, Hart then sat in the corner of his nephew Davey Boy Smith Jr.  The bout between City and Smith was great, the finesse of City against the power and experience of Smith.  When it was all said and done, Smith had scored the pinfall, but in a display of wisdom and creative genius, City was able to ‘plant’ brass knuckles in Smith’s trunks, leaving the ref no choice but to call for a reverse decision and disqualification of Smith, giving City the win.

The Excellence of Execution addressing the IWC fans.

The Excellence of Execution addressing the IWC fans.

 

Next up was intermission, which included the chance to get in to the ring and snap a photo with the Steiner Brothers!  I for one have been a fan of the Dog Faced Gremlin and Big Poppa Pump since the late 1980’s!  Seeing them live for the first time was awesome.  It was also awesome seeing nearly a quarter of the audience take the opportunity for pictures with Rick and Scott.  While it did drag on, it also raised money for a great cause!

Following intermission was a one-on-one bout between Bobby Fish and Matt Striker.  This match was especially meaningful to me on several levels.  For one, I have been privileged over the past 5 months to get to know Striker outside the ring.  His knowledge of the business and advice has been priceless.  The way he interacts during an appearance, a match, and in person is always professional and with great respect.  Not only has he been a guest on CSR, he was also part of our CSR meet and greet in New Orleans at Spirits on Bourbon.  Aside from the great insight he shared to the crowd on Bourbon, he takes the time to truly appreciate the fans.

Not only did Striker call up a young fan who attended our event in New Orleans, thanking his father for getting his son in to wrestling, he also met and talked with both Trevor and Amber on Saturday prior to the show.  In New Orleans, we gave Matt the background on Trevor and without hesitation he said “please let me know if there is anything I can do.”  Sure enough on Saturday afternoon, Matt took significant time to sit with Trevor and learned first hand what Trevor’s story was.  From my point of view, there aren’t many in the business I have more respect for than Matt Striker.

Matt Striker taking time to chat with the Ellison's and learn more about Trevor's fight.  Here, Matt is watching the CSR surprise invite to Trevor!

Matt Striker taking time to chat with the Ellison’s and learn more about Trevor’s fight. Here, Matt is watching the CSR surprise invite to Trevor!

 

Fish and Striker went on to amaze the crowd, even including the referee for several entertaining spots!  While Striker took the loss, he will forever be a winner in and out of that 20 by 20 foot squared circle.

tweet

Striker tweeting out to Trevor following the show.

Next up was The Steiner Brothers, who joined Jimmy Nuts, to take on Team Big League.  Again, seeing the Steiner Brothers for the first time was something I won’t soon forget.  All the signature moves, aside from a frankensteiner, were brought out for this one.  The classic Rick Steiner “woof woof woof” was heard loud by all.  The flexing of the Big Bad Booty Daddy, culminating with an elbow drop, pull up pin, and push-ups made the fans thunderous with applause!  Ending this bout was Rick coming off the top rope for a classic Steinerizer!

 

2014-04-12 22.44.05

Big Poppa Pump – Scott Steiner

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The Dog Faced Gremlin – Rick Steiner

 

And then, it was main event time.  Making his return to the IWC was “The Sensational” AJ Styles.  The two-time IWC Super Indy Champ sqaured off against Anthony Nese in a bout billed “First Time Ever!”  Hopefully, it won’t be the last.  From bell to bell the action was phenomenal, with moves precisely executed and sold with authority.  This was also the first time I saw Styles live and he was everything I thought he would be, and more.  The ending to this match was something fit for a Wrestlemania card.

Nese missed a 450 splash from the top rope, to which styles began a vicious comeback with a series of chops and kicks, culminating with a Styles Clash!  For 35 seconds, the crowd didn’t know whether to cheer in excitement or stay silent in appreciation.  Once Styles secured the one-two-three, the entire venue erupted with cheers.  I was fortunate enough to record the finish on my phone and immediately watched it over and over again.  Dayna was also very impressed, and perhaps left wanting more of this thing called sports entertainment.

On this night, entertainment was abound with non-stop action, which no doubt “totally” could stand toe-to-toe with a few of the more televised and advertised wrestling companies.  After my first and second IWC shows, I was able to appreciate what went in to the events from a behind-the-scenes perspective.  Saturday night, I was able to take in the crowd, the action, and the EXCELLENT ENTERTAINMENT!  Once again, I would strongly suggest visiting IWCWrestling.com to learn more about the promotion, it’s extremely talented stars, and when you can next see these great young stars in action.

 

Respect in the World of Independent Professional Wrestling-

I recently had the opportunity, for the second time in 10 weeks, to have an all access look behind the scenes of the International Wrestling Cartel (IWC).  And, for the second consecutive show, I left with a greater appreciation of the atmosphere, the overall production, and most importantly – the boys.

Since February 8, 2013, I’ve taken on this professional wrestling industry as a second career.  From the onset, I wasn’t sure how I’d fit in or how my future in the business would play out.  54 weeks later, through the guidance of Chair Shot Reality (CSR) executive producer, Justin LaBar, I’ve learned more than I ever knew in a very short period of time.

Prior to joining CSR, I was a “casual” fan of sports entertainment.  I was a diehard growing up as a kid enjoying the performances of Sting, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Bret Hart.  As I grew older, I still followed the sport – having monthly WWE pay-per-view parties at a friend’s house.

And then I went to college.

I no longer tuned in to USA or Spike TV every Monday night at 9PM.  I no longer had the time or money to watch the big shows each month.  But, I did still have the itch, the guilty pleasure, and most importantly, the friends who still had a passion for professional wrestling.

It was by chance, when I was a senior at Point Park University, that I would meet a skinny kid with blonde highlights and a love for professional wrestling.  That scrawny pretty boy was LaBar.  I was 23 and he was 18 when our paths crossed for the first time.

Fast forward to Saturday night, December 14, 2013 – IWC’s ‘Winner Takes All’

Thanks to the generosity of IWC owner Chuck Roberts, I had an all access pass that night.  I didn’t know what to expect, but I did know I wanted to learn.  I desired wanting to learn everything I possibly could in order to have a better understanding of the overall world of the industry.  And learn is exactly what I did.

What I left with that evening was a greater appreciation for the business and everything that goes in to it.   I won’t give all the details, but I will say that behind the curtain, professional wrestling is a work of art.  Some of the art is that of beginners however, much more of the art is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Before John Cena was the face of the WWE, he was learning how to wrestle just as the stars of IWC were on this evening.  He wrestled in a local gym, in front of a crowd of 300, dressing in an open area with 30 others, while rehearsing his match against his opponent in the dark, and at the end of the night was a better performer because of it.

The night of December 14, former WWE wrestler and commentator Matt Striker was the special draw of the evening.  He wrestled a match against Andrew Palace, which was the first in a series of upcoming matches that will crown the IWC Super Indy Champion.  Palace was victorious, but Striker’s feedback to not only Palace, but the entire IWC locker room was worth more than anything they made that evening.

Matt Striker was also invaluable to me as well.

While Striker was in town, he was a guest host on CSR.  Meeting him earlier in the week, I was able to communicate seamlessly with Striker at the IWC event.  In fact, there wasn’t one person on the IWC roster who wasn’t accommodating to me.  They each introduced themselves to me, a total stranger to most, as soon as they arrived at the venue.  One by one they approached me, extended their hand and said “Hi I’m (FILL IN THE BLANK).”

WOW, talk about respect!  I immediately turned to LaBar and pointed out how impressed I was by the professionalism of all the talent.  Not just as wrestlers, but as real life people.  It was this that made me appreciate the boys endlessly.

The night ended up being a great success.  Colt Cabana performed in a triple threat match – which was won by the ‘Neon Ninja’ Façade.  RJ City defeated Shima Ion, and Dalton Castle defeated ‘Big League’ John McChesney to win the IWC World Heavyweight Championship.  It was the dawning of a new era for the IWC!

At the end of the evening all the boys rallied together.  For some, dinner was on the agenda after a night of blood and sweat- adding a beer to celebrate a night well done and successful show by all.

It was at that dinner when Roberts asked me “how was it?”  My response- great!

I further explained to Roberts that I was impressed with everything from start to finish.  I saw what I could only imagine prior to the event.  And, I then reiterated what stood out the most to me- the individual respect and introductions from each and every one of the IWC performers.

I’ve heard horror stories from independent wrestling shows about lack of morale, no-shows, and dead crowds.  I encourage you to visit the IWC website (www.IWCwrestling.com) and pick a show in the near future to attend.  You will get great value for your entertainment dollar.

This past weekend I was on hand once again for the ‘New Era’ event.  I arrived to the venue with LaBar and guest talents of the evening- Luke Gallows and Amber O’Neal.  Immediately, I said to myself, ‘I am going to walk up to each of the boys – and girls – one by one and shake their hands.’  However, before I could even begin that process, they all approached me, again.

It is something I’ve come to expect and greatly appreciate.

This was no fluke, the IWC locker room is something special.  There is only one place this could come from, and that is the leadership of Chuck Roberts.

Observing Roberts more closely this evening, I was able to see the hustle and bustle of the promoter of the company.  His dedication to each and every detail was precise.  He knew what he wanted and made sure all hands were on board.  I can only think that in Vince McMahon’s infant days in the business, he was the same way.  I sure hope so, because I don’t see how the WWE could be where it is today without the tireless effort of its leader.

Chuck Roberts is a leader and, I wish him all the best in one day making IWC one of the biggest draws in the industry.  This evening, in addition to Gallows – Al Snow was on the card.  But IWC is no stranger to top talent.  Several current top WWE stars have performed over the years for IWC.

Cesaro and CM Punk are just two of the many who wrestled in an IWC ring.

Recently, another IWC grad and original, Logan Shulo, began his quest to make the WWE roster down at the WWE Performance Center and NXT.  I was fortunate enough to see Logan’s last IWC show in December and I am certain I will see his first WWE match sooner rather than later.

At the end of the night, there was once again a rallying of all, and the boys were complete once again in blood, sweat and a beer.  And finally, I accomplished what I had set out to do 7 hours earlier, I initiated farewell handshakes with the boys and let them know just how much I appreciated their work.

The IWC stands for International Wrestling Cartel, but to me- it now means- Infused With Class.

The Elimination Chamber “GO HOME” Show Sums Up Where WWE Creative Has Been Lately… HOME

January 27th, the night after the biggest pay-per-view let down in recent WWE history.  For all the ‘wrong’ that WWE did unto its fans at the Royal Rumble, they had an opportunity to make it right the next night on Raw.  However, CM Punk went home and, it seems the entire creative team has packed their bags as well.

Last week on Chair Shot Reality, which I co-host with @JustinLaBar and @JoshIsenberg4, Josh and I went one-on-one during our “Fired Up” segment.  If you missed it, view here ( http://www.wrestlezone.com/news/453341-kurt-angle-to-wwe-vince-mcmahon-back-on-tv-sting-rumors-csr-508) before you continue reading.  What came from that ‘heated’ conversation was my overall evaluation that WWE has dropped the proverbial ball on recent Monday Night Raw’s.

Now, while some people either confuse math skills – or just don’t care – I felt like it was time to dive in to each segment on last night’s show, grading on Twitter throughout the night.  While doing so, I also asked on Twitter for fan grades as the show proceeded through the 9:00 and 10:00 hours.  What I discovered was the truth – WWE Raw continues to underachieve, which is especially troubling heading in to a PPV weekend.

Raw started with John Cena coming to the ring….

ACTUALLY – Raw started with a production error from the start!  Did you notice the still shot of the video hold from “last week” for a second before Cena made his way to the ring?  IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT MAKE THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE!

…to the usual mixed reaction of Let’s Go Cena and Cena Sucks.  I was actually intrigued as to why Cena would start out the go home show, rather than Orton or HHH/Step, even the Wyatt Family and their build.  That said, it was refreshing to hear Cena start the show.  BUT, from the moment Cesaro and Zeb Coulter made their way to the ring, this opening segment was a repeated, washed up and unessecary start to the show.

Ok – EVERYONE in the Elimination Chamber match was going to have their music hit, say a one-liner, only to be cut off by the next competitor, and so on.  Quite frankly, it was 12 minutes of “I’m going to beat you… NO, I am going to do this and win the title… Sorry FELLA, the only thing paler than this segment is the color of my skin… BOOM!  No, actually, Kane is pastier than Sheamus.”

This did nothing for the show, for the pay-per-view, or for the fans.  By the time the A block was all said and done, it was announced that Cena would face Cesaro, and Daniel Bryan would face Christian – NOW!  So, to recap, we needed 15 minutes, 7 entrance themes, and Kane to tell us there were two big matches scheduled for Raw… yes, my friends – that is wasted space.

(Somewhere C.M. Punk is shaking his head and thinking of his next theme song to return to.)

While I expected Daniel Bryan to get his usual pop and put on a great match, what I didn’t expect was Christian to take heel heat just for facing Bryan.  ***Remember, Vince doesn’t want faces and heels anymore – which is why Christian vs. Bryan can work!***

It did work, but it did so due to the fact that Christian attacked Bryan in heel like fashion before the match.  What came out of it all was a sweet finishing sequence and a win by Bryan.  Oh, and then Corporate Kane announces Bryan has a second match, against Kane and it’s NOW!  Oh joy, more random AWESOMENESS – NOT!  Daniel Bryan couldn’t even save this match, as the fans were clearly heard chanting BORING, BORING.  They get it, we get it, but – the WWE doesn’t.

For starters, NO ONE wants to see Kane anymore without a mask and in character!  It’s played out and run its course.  It was catchy the first 2 weeks of the angle, but now – it’s just another boring part of the show.  And, before I forget, how can Kane have a “birds eye view” of the Bryan/Christian match from ringside?!

As mentioned on twitter – the opening segment was a C- and the Bryan/Christian match was a B… 1/6th of the way in to the go-home show and Raw was average, at best.  Bryan vs. Kane killed all the momentum that the opening match built up and, personally, I saw it as a D at best.  Now, we have a C- Raw through 38 minutes (8:38pm eastern).

Next up, we get Santino and Fandango again.  Fandango has fallen so far, his entrance isn’t even a big hit anymore and not worthy of being televised.  Santino always gets a pop – and that is what should be expected for a goofy jabroni!  It’s comic relief for the awkward boring beginning of the show.  I do get it, this is more about Emma and Summer Rae than anything – but folks, Emma and Summer Rae aren’t Trish and Lita, Torrie Wilson or Stacey Keibler… Summer has some looks, and sure, maybe Emma does as well, but do we see either being a Divas champion?  Speaking of Divas champion, I wonder if she is laughing at home with CM Punk during this part of the show?!  This match gets a C for comedy and nothing else.

Mark Henry and Reigns then peaked my intrigue for the show, as my bedtime was quickly approaching.  The Samoan Slam that Reigns executed was an OK show of strength, it’s not like he F5’d him or anything!  Great spear to end an otherwise B’ish match.  After the fact, we get more of Dean Ambrose doing what the heel ‘leader’ of an otherwise babyface faction does, jumps on to show strength in a cowardly way.

LIGHTS OUT – They’re here!

After some in-ring and on screen interaction, the Wyatt’s make their way to the ring for a face off against the Shield.  Not forced like the opening segment, this encounter is what BUILDS a PPV pay-off, and it was executed perfectly.  Overall, this match/segment scored an B+ due to the fact that I was hoping for a slightly better match than we saw.  At 9:06pm, Raw was still an average show- C.

Jack Swagger v. Kofi Kingston left something, perhaps, to be desired?  Highlight of the match was Kofi executing the S.O.S. to Swagger, on to see Jack kick out.  Explain to me in character building how Kofi Kingston can defeat Randy Orton (Jan 13th RAW), then a few weeks later tap out to Jack Swagger?  I understand Swagger is in a title match Sunday, but is he really going to defeat Big E after all the stock and time that has been built up and put in to him?  If Raw was a C going in to this match, it was a C- after.

Speaking of Big E, he makes his way the ring immediately after Swagger gets the win and I kind of like the interaction they teased about the title match Sunday night.  I don’t disagree with having Zeb on the mic the entire match of Big E vs. 3MB, but hell, it was better than listening to an announce team that has also been sub-par lately.   Big E was ruthless in this match and I am surprised NO ONE was seriously injured during the course of this one.  And again, at the end of the day – this was another AVERAGE match on a LESS THAN AVERAGE SHOW.  Match- C.  Raw- C-.

John Cena vs. Cesaro was pure magic!  This match was better than EVERY SINGLE MATCH from the Royal Rumble.  The WWE needed this and they needed it in a BIG WAY. Cesaro showed he could go toe-to-toe with the best in the company and hold his own.  While it would have been nice to see Cesaro be pushed to the extreme with a win, it still leaves a LOT to be desired and there are only great things – hopefully – in Cesaro’s future with the WWE.  Cena is Cena, nothing more – nothing less.  He takes care of business in and out of the ring and saves the show in doing so.  Match- A.  Raw- C+.

Again, another chance for the show to capitalize on momentum and they totally LOSE it with the backstage segment between HHH, Orton, Batista and Del Rio.  The star of it all was Orton, he really was.  His storytelling is improving, even if it’s bland and monotone.  Batista is not needed and continues to do nothing for the product since his return.  Del Rio out of nowhere with a neck brace on, yeah!  NOT.  HHH looking lost between them all.  At the end of it, we have the bully Batista pushing an injured Del Rio.  Now, correct me if I am wrong but, shouldn’t the HEEL do that to the FACE?  Segment- C-.  Raw- C.

Something fresh was needed at this point and, sure enough, Titus O’Neil delivered!  His backstage segments with Renee Young have shown a side of Titus not many knew he had.  Champion – T-I-T-U-S… Throw an A in there, because this segment was all of that, and more.  Now, I could dock him for the Brock Lesnar voice crack in the scream but, it gives character I guess!  Be sure to pay close attention to the match Sunday between Titus and Darren Young.  It has a chance to be a show-stealing performance.  Don’t believe me, go back and watch Young v. Cena from RAW on March 18th of last year.  Young will bring his A game, and so will Titus.  Segment- A.  Raw- C (trending toward C+).

Los Matador’s/Sin Cara vs. Wyatt’s… YAWN!  I don’t need the Wyatt’s this much, especially when they are set for the Shield on Sunday.  The WWE loves building momentum, only to break it down with a match like this in the 10:00 hour.  But don’t worry, they will outdo themselves with Jey Uso vs. Billy Gunn!  The best part of this match was the Outlaws intro.  As my esteemed colleague Justin LaBar would say, the Outlaws are “over like Rover.”  Note to WWE:  Please stop trying to book the tag champs as heels!  Remember when you tried to turn Daniel Bryan heel – that lasted all of two weeks!  It’s not needed.  Let them do their thing, get the pop, sell the merch, make the cash, and be the life support of the tag team division!  Both Matches- C-.  Raw- C.

The main event of the evening was Orton vs. Sheamus.  It was a mediocre match, and the ending was a regurgitation of the opening segment – this time with the Shield and Wyatt’s involved, and a big brawl ensuing.  Now, I am not the smartest cat in the litter, but I damn sure know that this was more of a final go-home for the Rumble than the Elimination Chamber.  It just didn’t make sense.  It seemed as if the WWE was building up a month of feuds in 3 hours.  Perhaps the writing could have been better the prior 2 weeks and this could have been a seamless transition to Sunday?

I don’t want to hear any excuses of ‘but if CM Punk hadn’t have went home’… because that is what it is, an excuse.  What, just because someone goes home, the entire WWE creative team needs to follow?  Raw was once again an average show.  There were more bad segments than good.  There were two matches in the 10:00 hour that should have been in the 9:00 hour.  The Wyatt’s didn’t need to face Los Matador’s and Sin Cara.  Kane didn’t need to face Daniel Bryan.  Fandango and Santino could have been a spot filled by several others in a match, to build someone up, not drag out a comedy show.

At the end of the night, Raw will be highlighted by 3 things and three things only.

1.  Cesaro v. Cena

2.  Shield / Wyatt confrontation

3.  Daniel Bryan v. Christian

Honorable Mention:  Titus O’Neil.

On the flip side, Raw will be forgotten by many more than three things!  WWE, what we need is QUALITY not QUANTITY.  Don’t be afraid to book multiple matches that exceed 12-15 minutes, as did Cesaro and Cena.  Use the 180 minutes you have more efficiently – or whatever is left after commercials.

Next Monday night is the launch of the WWE Network, fresh off of the Elimination Chamber.  Now, if the WWE is banking on several big name returns that night, as well as the Network launch and the official road to Wrestlemania to begin, shame on them.  You already lost popularity by the way you booked the Rumble, and the last 3 weeks of TV.  Sure, the Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, Hulk Hogan and Sting may all magically appear – but you can only cry wolf so many times.

At the end of the day – or year in this case year, three of those four stars could be retired.  And, eventually, all your part timers that you rely on to save poor ratings will eventually go off in to the sunset.  10 years from now, those part time roles will be filled by John Cena, Randy Orton, and Daniel Bryan.  You WILL eventually, and DO need NEW stars.  Sure, you may not want to throw them in to the fire at a PPV such as the Rumble or Wrestlemania, but you can build them up through RAW and SMACKDOWN!

Utilize your time, your talent, and maybe even your creative staff.  If not, they might as well pack their bags and go home.