Cheap Pops - Wrestling News & Views - January 10, 2016

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Cheap Pops - January 10, 2016

by Chris Delloiacono, Mike Maillaro and Jeff Ritter


This week!

  • Major Royal Rumble Announcement
  • WWE to sign four big names from NJPW
  • Look back at 2015

Mike: While it was nice to have a few weeks off to rest and recuperate, Team Cheap Pops is back to work.   Once again, I am Mike “Lil Sexy” Maillaro and these are my stable mates, Chris D, and “Jolly” Jeff Ritter.  


Major Royal Rumble Announcement

On Raw, they announced that Roman Reigns will have to defend his WWE Title...IN THE ROYAL RUMBLE!  

Mike: While the Rumble has been for the WWE title before, I am pretty sure whenever that happened, the title was always vacant.  This definitely adds an interesting new element to the Rumble.  That said, it seems very likely that they will be using the Rumble match to help continue building Reigns up as a beast.  Will he retain?  Probably not...but I can see them having him come in at number 1 and sticking around the entire match, only to get eliminated in a screw-job fashion at the end of the match.

Jeff: It’s interesting to me that the WWE has spent so much time, effort and money on Reigns when the WWE Universe, which they claim to listen to, clearly wanted to see Cesaro or Wyatt get the big push for what, two years now? Personally, I think this could be the worst Rumble in recent memory, and I attended the one in St. Louis a few years ago which was very mediocre. I hope they surprise me. I’ll bet you a Taylor ham sandwich they won’t.

Chris: I’m looking forward to the Rumble this year for many reasons.  Just the idea that the match isn’t for the title shot at ‘Mania, but the title itself, lends the event some freshness.  There's a bit of unpredictability to the match, and that's vitally necessary, which is a rarity of late.  We will talk about that more in a bit.

I agree with your thoughts on Reigns.  He will come out of this looking very strong, but he's going to lose.  He's only been pinned twice by my count.  One by Big Show of all people, and when Rollins cashed in at ‘Mania.  This is the perfect way for him to suffer a loss without getting pinned.  

Gut instinct says that Triple H wins the Rumble, which brings us a natural main event with Roman for the biggest show of the WWE year.  I can see scenarios where John Cena, Chris Jericho, or Brock Lesnar win, but it's really those 5 from the field of 30.  Do you think there's anyone else with a chance?

Mike: I am kind of hoping they are holding back Daniel Bryan, and he will be a big surprise return.  But I doubt it.   

Maybe a big call up from NXT?  If you watched Breaking Ground, Sami Zayn had said that he would consider returning to NXT after coming back from injury to be a step backwards in his career.  Sami Zayn enters the Rumble, wins the title and we get Owens/Zayn for the title at Wrestlemania.  Yes, I am delusional.  

Chris: Sweet Christmas, your delusions are the stuff of my dreams, but they are just delusions!  If only, my brother!  If only.


WWE To Sign Four Big Names From NJPW

All weekend, the internet was buzzing with rumors that the WWE will be signing AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Karl Anderson and Luke “Doc” Gallows.  The WWE website even got in on the fun hyping these rumors:

“The sports-entertainment world has been buzzing this week with speculation that WWE has signed four massive international Superstars.

Numerous media outlets reported Monday that AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Karl Anderson and Luke “Doc” Gallows — most recently of New Japan Pro Wrestling — are in negotiations to compete under the WWE banner.

The office of WWE COO and EVP of Talent Relations, Triple H, declined to comment on the rumors for WWE.com.

Reports began circulating late Sunday that all four had reportedly given their notices to New Japan management. Fueling the rumors that Styles, Nakamura, Anderson and Gallows were WWE-bound was a series of tweets involving reigning NXT Champion Finn Bálor.

Until recently, Styles, Gallows and Anderson were all part of New Japan’s Bullet Club faction, a stable formerly led by Bálor when he wrestled in Japan under the alias Prince Devitt. For months, Bálor has made it clear that he’s still tight with the Bullet Club members, even tweeting photos of them wearing his “Bálor Club” T-Shirts. On Monday, Bálor stirred the pot again, tweeting an image of Anderson sporting trunks that bore Finn’s “demon” design. Additionally, the official Twitter account for the Bullet Club tweeted the NXT Champion Monday, telling him to keep more Bálor Club shirts on hand in case they need them. That tweet has since been deleted.”

Chris: This should be a ton of fun!  All four of these guys can work, and will get over with the crowd.  I salivate at the matches AJ and Shinsuke Nakamura will put on.  They are easily top-10 in the world right now, and that's not a stretch.  I think Nakamura can succeed where other Japanese stars have failed, because he's blessed with otherworldly charisma.  YeeeOhhhh!  Anderson and Gallows are a heavy hitting team that should be fun to see go with the Dudleyz, Usos, and New Day.  

I doubt any become main eventers, but they should all make Raw way deeper each week.  None and I do mean NONE of these men should go to NXT.  I'm hoping this leads to Finn Balor getting the call as well.  I'd love to see AJ, Finn, Gallows, and Anderson form a unit.  Hey, did you see the photo of Finn in the Bullet Club shirt?

Jeff: While I totally get where you’re coming from, Chris, I’d rather they go to NXT than the main roster, since the main roster seems to mired in a long slump of non-creativity on the part of the worst-named department since “AT&T Customer Service.” Imagine Bullet Club coming into NXT in the nWo fashion, and courting Finn Balor to return to the fold. If he does, maybe they break Nakamura out as a singles face? NXT Nation (aren’t they a little small for a Universe?) has heartily endorsed KENTA and Kana, and Nakamura would get over huge at Full Sail University.  By the way, just in case anyone out there doesn’t know who he is, Luke “Doc” Gallows is the former Cornfed Colossus, FESTUS! One might guess that he doesn’t have the same reaction to ringbells as he once did.

Mike: From what I can tell, there is a pretty hard cap on what guys in NXT can earn, so part of it might be that they may had to have signed them to WWE deals to allow them to pay them what they needed to get them out of their NJPW contracts.  They may still show up a little in NXT, but I think they pretty much have to treat them as main roster guys.  That said, I agree with Jeff entirely. In terms of getting the most out of these guys, I have a lot more faith in NXT than WWE in being able to make that happen.  


The Best and Worst of 2015

- HAS WWE BECOME TOO PREDICTABLE?  

Mike: As I sat down to type this, Mick Foley posted this message on Facebook “17 YEARS AGO, TODAY: The Night The Channels Changed

“Yeah, that's me, holding the WWE title aloft after defeating Dwayne The Rock Johnson, on the Raw that aired 17 years ago today. I think it's safe to say that it was a big moment in the Monday Night Wars, and I am very thankful that so many people recall that moment fondly after all this time. Let me know if you were one of the 600,000 who changed the channel from ‪#‎Nitro to ‪#‎Raw after hearing the news.”

And that is where I want to start the conversation. One of the biggest problems with the WWE to me last year was that things were often real predictable (especially after Wrestlemania). So many times we did PPV predictions and we pretty much hit on every big match and title change. That is why this comment from Mick really jumped out at me. I don’t think anyone expected Mick Foley would have won the title that night, and it really changes the whole landscape of the wrestling industry. The Monday Night Wars were full of these unpredictable moments...granted, some of it was just random but it still gave the product a huge sense of surprise. These days the plotting has become so incredibly predictable. Most of the last two months were a matter of WHEN will they finally put the strap on Roman Reigns.  

Chris: This is a perfect breakdown of the problem with WWE television. Think about the last two Royal Rumbles. There was no question that Batista and Roman Reigns were going over in those matches. Yes, we got a small swerve with Daniel Bryan winning the title at Wrestlemania 30, but really, we all knew that was happening once he  was added to the match. I will say, Seth Rollins cashing in last year was a small surprise, but that was clearly coming sooner or later. Nothing at all seems to knock our socks off with WTF excitement like the night Foley won the title. We need that again.

The thing is, back in the Attitude Era there were legit main eventers all over the roster. Sure Steve Austin and The Rock were the biggest stars, but Triple H, The Undertaker, Kane, and Mick Foley were all legitimate top of the card stars that could carry the gold as well as the big dogs.  

Today, who can really carry that belt that’s on the roster?  Sure WWE has pretty well transitioned Roman Reigns as the top guy.  Not sure if he’s going to be worthy of the spot, but the shows haven’t been bad of late.  Who else could actually beat Reigns and hold that belt?  Cena, Orton, Lesnar, Rollins, and Jericho if he sticks around for any length of time….  That also leaves Triple H and ‘Taker, but their workload means nothing more than a custodial period as a big angle.

Is there really anyone else?  Sure you’ve got former champs like Del Rio and Ziggler, but they’re nothing but midcarders anymore.  What that leaves you with is four guys that have held the belt dozens of times between them and Rollins.  Jericho and Brock are barely ever on TV, so that presents a problem.  Now, we are down to Rollins, Cena, and Reigns.  That’s it.  That’s all.  Nothing more.

Same old story, no new blood has been built.  There’s why the show lacks any kind of surprise factor.  There are a few guys that could push into that stratosphere, but it would take a stunning moment to propel them into the rarified air.  It’s high time for WWE to shock the world and let Bray Wyatt, Cesaro, Dean Ambrose, or even Kevin Owens grab the strap on an episode of RAW.  Create some havoc on the shows.  Bounce that belt around.  Come on WWE!

Jeff: Chris, I’m not entirely in agreement with your assessment of the Attitude Era roster. Steve Austin was not a main event Superstar. He was The Ringmaster and nobody much gave a damn. It wasn’t until Vince McMahon got out of the way and let Steve Austin be Steve Austin that the Texas Rattlesnake came in existence. The Rock started out with a quasi-Islanders sort of gimmick. Triple H was still long-form back then: Hunter Hearst Helmsley, the privileged blueblood. The problem today is Vince, plain and simple. Zack Ryder went and got himself over entirely on his own and what did he get for that? A career-killing angle with John Cena and a one-way ticket to Superstars.  Bray Wyatt got himself over with the Waylon Mercy gimmick and got jobbed into the mid-card.The WWE needs to let their characters breathe again. Let the wrestlers have their own say. They don’t have to script everything. They should police the Superstars in order to maintain their TV-PG rating but there’s no reason they can’t return to the creative of the Attitude Era without the vulgarity.

Mike: How about a real shocker?  AJ STYLES IS THE NEW WWE CHAMPION COMING OUT OF THE ROYAL RUMBLE!!

Chris: I'd sign up for that in a heartbeat!  Predictability goes out the window, and anything could happen on TV from then on!

 

- Is there any possibility of competition?

Mike: WWE has always seemed to do their best when there was some real competition out there.  These days, there really isn’t anyone that can come anywhere near to challenging the WWE on their level.  And when you look at the “competition” that probably won’t be changing.

Lucha Underground: I did think that Lucha Underground definitely provided one hell of an alternative to the WWE.  The storylines were well laid out, and many of them were given plenty of time to play out.  There were stories that started in the first episode and ran all the way through to the season finale.  And many of my favorite matches of the year came from Lucha Underground.  BUT, Lucha Underground is on the El Rey Network….which has a relatively small market penetration. They have some big names and big production values, but they are going to remain no real competition if people aren’t able to see it.

TNA: Definitely a real bad year for TNA.  Many of their big names seemed to be jumping ship, including many of them heading to WWE/NXT.  On top of that, their TV contract situation seems to be a real mess too.  They are debuting on the Pop Network soon (actually, they will have debuted by the time this ends up in the readers’ hands)...I have no idea what that even is…

Global Force Wrestling: Jeff Jarrett seems to have been on the hustle the last year or so trying to build up his newest wrestling promotion.  But, so far they have not been able to get any real TV deal. According to Wiki, they did TV tapings last May, but they still don’t have any TV deal in the United States to actually air them.  They have been doing some fun stuff with TNA and some indy federations like Pro Wrestling Syndicate, but in my opinion, Jarrett isn’t all that much a draw, and they don’t have anyone else on that roster that will grab a lot of viewers.   

ROH/NJPW - I honestly don’t know much about either of these, so I am leaving this to Chris or Jeff.

NXT: Ironically, the biggest competition for the WWE might be itself.  Over the last year, NXT has really stepped up its game going from developmental territory to a viable brand of its own.  NXT has been able to do shows all over the country, and even had a successful tour of the UK. Plus, one of the headline matches of WWE’s big “Beast In the East” show in Japan was a NXT title match between Kevin Owens and Finn Balor.  Granted, NXT is on a much smaller scale than the main roster WWE, but they are putting on terrific shows and really building up a lot of fan interest.    

BUT, NXT’s biggest problem right now is scale.  What works at NXT doesn’t always seem to translate well to the main roster WWE.  Look at Tyler Breeze, Adam Rose, even some of the “Four Horsewomen.”  In NXT, they were all huge, but in WWE they really haven’t been able to do anything with them. Granted, some of that might just be booking and writing, but I also think that the problem is that a WWE audience is a lot more “mainstream.”  Names like Prince Devitt, Kevin Owens, El Generico, and Uhaa Nation don’t hold a lot of weight with the average WWE fan.  NXT’s audience seems to be made of more “wrestling” fans with a wider knowledge base.

Chris: The hardcore fans that don’t like all the nonsense on the main roster with hulking guys that can’t wrestle all that well, really can see great matches on NXT.  It’s definitely my favorite show to watch in the wrestling world.  Places like ROH and NJPW offer wonderful in-ring product, but they don’t have a chance of ever crossing over as real competition for WWE.  ROH has poor national exposure and often loses its top stars to WWE.  With NJPW, there’s the language barrier, and no easy outlet for Americans to get their fix.  I find it hard to imagine anyone competing with WWE on a global scale ever again.  There are plenty of alternatives, much like the ones you outlined above, but they are not competition.  

Jeff: What Chris said! I, like many people around the world, have cut the cord. I don’t subscribe to cable or satellite television service providers anymore. I could watch NJPW via their own online Network, but I don’t currently have a good means of doing so on my television, and my PC is on it’s last leg. and maybe a quarter of the screen size. I personally don’t care either way about the language barrier--I used to collect VHS tapes of Japanese shows and enjoyed them immensely even though the only English I ever heard was “BRAINBUSTAHHHH!!!” ROH is, for all intents and purposes, the “other” NXT, where veterans like Shelton Benjamin and Jay Lethal can enjoy a relatively normal work schedule with limited travel and up & comers can hone their skills. I still can’t comprehend why Jay Lethal isn’t already a WWE Superstar but I guess they’d just dump him into the New Day so he can tag with Kofi, because WWE is never very original when it comes to black wrestlers.  

Mike: I can’t imagine it would be feasible in this day and age, but I would love to see some of these indy’s band together and form a new version of the NWA and the territories. Though the WWE seems to be doing everything possible to prevent that by pulling every possible draw in under the NXT or WWE umbrella. For years you heard AJ say that he could earn more doing his own thing than he could in the WWE...so I imagine WWE had to pay a small fortune to lure him to the “dark side.”  Even Sting ended up doing business with the WWE in the end.  They really are the be all and end all of the wrestling industry right now.

Chris: The NWA is still around and it is the old territory system.  Unfortunately, they are relegated to the south mostly, and the territories are mostly small independent outfits.  It would be amazing if ROH, PWG, Global, PWS and some other areas really put something big together.  Sadly, most of the people running those shows would rather be a big fish controlling their own small pond.  Control, control, they must have control!

Jeff: You nailed it--even in the old NWA days there were constant power struggles amongst the individual territory promoters. TNA has more or less collapsed into a ROH style Indy itself, so if you put those two together with PWG, for example, or even J-E-Double F J-A-Double R-E-Double T’s non-promotion (at this point) you’d have a roster with a couple of recognizable faces, a lot of Botchamania segments and no real competition.

You know what I’d like to see? I’d like to see Lucha Underground and ROH team up, work out a talent share deal with CMLL or one of the Japanese promotions like NJPW, and then hire someone to not run the booking but the show itself. Someone who understands the production of a 1-2 hour wrestling program. Or maybe even a couple of people, so that there’s always a sounding board, and decisions aren’t made in the vacuum of a single all-powerful person. Who would I propose run this Alliance? Eric Bischoff and Shane McMahon. Bischoff knows television. Shane McMahon knows wrestling. They’d be a great combination. If they could bring in Paul Heyman for purely creative purposes,  you’d finally have a legit second option to the WWE! NXT should NOT be the WWE’s competition. All that says is that the future is bright but the present is pretty much terrible.  .