The Piledriver Report 10.18.12: SURPRISE, SURPRISE
Posted by Ronny Sarnecky on 10.19.2012
Over the past couple of weeks, both the WWE and TNA have made changes that will impact the direction of each company. In the WWE, they decided to shake things up by removing long time WWE front office executive Brian Gerwitz from the head of creative. In TNA, they decided to get the World title out of the hands of the fresh main eventer Austin Aries and put the belt on the waist of the controversial Jeff Hardy. Ronny Sarnecky takes a look at both moves in this week’s edition of “The Piledriver Report.”
On the October 8th edition of Monday Night RAW, word broke out that WWE Head of Creative Brian Gerwitz was released of his duties and demoted to the position of "consultant." It was a shocking development if for no other reason than the fact that Gerwitz was seen as being one of Vince McMahon's most trusted lieutenants. He was with the WWE for thirteen years. Before RAW, Vince was heard telling the staff that he wants "results or resignations." Not surprisingly, this has many people in the WWE on edge.
While I never like to see anyone get fired, I cannot deny that I was a little excited by the news of Gerwitz being removed as the head writer of RAW. The show, with dwindling ratings and a stale product at times, probably needs a fresh point of view to liven things up on the show. In the past, it was competition from World Championship Wrestling that got Vince McMahon to shake things up and put out a better product. Now, its NBC Universal that is putting the pressure on Vince McMahon to improve the ratings. When WCW put the pressure on the World Wrestling Federation, the "Attitude Era" was born. Performers like Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, the Undertaker, and even Mr. McMahon himself helped win the Monday Night Wars. What will the big change be this time?
After watching this week's Monday Night RAW, it became readily apparent that nothing has changed. Sure, Ryback instead of John Cena is main eventing the Hell in a Cell pay perview. However, that probably has more to do with John Cena's questionable health status then the WWE going in a new direction. I looked up the biography of Eric Pankowski, the replacement for Brian Gerwitz, on WWE.com's corporate site.
Here's what they said.
"Pankowski was the Senior Vice President, Creative Affairs for Reveille charged with launching a department that focused on daytime, access and late night programming in syndication and cable. Pankowski spent more than 12 years of his career working for Warner Bros., most recently serving as the Senior Vice President of paraMedia inc., Jim Paratore's production company. Pankowski oversaw paraMedia's development slate which included the development, launch and production of Lopez Tonight where he worked closely with the creative, promotion and product integration teams; managed pilots and sales presentations for all projects including TMZ; and produced and pitched original show ideas to broadcast and cable networks. Prior to paraMedia, Pankowski served as Director of Programming for Telepictures where he oversaw The Ellen DeGeneres Show and several other shows. Pankowski started his career at Warner Bros. Corporate Media Research Department as a Junior Analyst, quickly becoming Manager."
After reading the biography, I'm starting to worry about the switch in head writers. I am a big believer that a wrestling company needs former wrestlers in the creative staff. After all, what pops a wrestling crowd and draws in an audience and pay per view buys is extremely different than what draws viewers into "General Hospital" or "The Big Bang Theory." These are two totally different industries, despite what the McMahons would like to think. Not seeing a wrestling background for Eric, except for his recent WWE stint, that's not even my biggest concern. I have accepted the fact that the WWE wants Hollywood types to write their shows. However, that's the one thing that I did not see in Pankowski's biography. Where are his writing credentials?
Don't get me wrong, I am not killing the WWE on the move. It will take time before we will know if Pankowski is doing a good job. One week is not enough time to give an opinion one way or the other. Will the WWE really present ground breaking change, like they did when they changed their corporate philosophy during the "Attitude Era," or will it be status quo with just a new writer steering the RAW creative team? Only time will tell. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day. We shouldn't expect the WWE to dramatically change in just one day either.
At Bound For Glory, Jeff Hardy beat Austin Aries for the TNA World Championship. If you had told me that this would be the result of the main event of TNA's biggest show of the year, I would not have believed it as late as three months ago. Ever since last year, it seemed the plan was for James Storm to have an almost yearlong chase to the title held by former tag team partner Robert Roode. The question must be asked. Why the sudden change?
I think one of the main reasons for putting the kibosh on a James Storm/Robert Roode World title match at Bound For Glory has to do with the rise of Austin Aries. In June, TNA started a storyline where Aries proclaimed that he wanted a shot at the World title. Hulk Hogan told him that Aries would have to vacated the X-Division title in order to get the opportunity at Destination X. It looked like Aries would just be a filler contender for Roode before the monster push for a Roode-Storm battle on the October pay per view. However, a funny thing happened on the way to Destination X. The fans got behind Austin Aries to such a degree that it would have been foolish NOT to put the TNA World championship on Aries. It reminded me a lot of Jeff Hardy in late 2007-early 2008. At the time, the WWE was building Hardy to be the number one contender to Randy Orton's WWE title. He was supposed to job to Orton at the Royal Rumble, as the WWE had other WrestleMania plans for Mr. Orton and the WWE championship. However, Jeff Hardy got "super over" with the fans. After years of being in a tag team with his brother Matt, and later a mid-card singles wrestler (aside from his stint in TNA), the time was right for Jeff Hardy to get his hands on the WWE title, and become a main event wrestler in the company. However, the WWE was set in their plans, and Jeff Hardy's big push would wait. Thankfully, TNA did not take that approach, and they did not wait on making Aries a star when the fans demanded that he become one.
I still expected that Austin Aries would drop the title back to Robert Roode before Bound For Glory in order to have the Roode vs. Storm World title bout. Instead, Aries kept the belt, and even more surprisingly, Jeff Hardy won the Bound For Glory series to become the number one contender. According to reports, Jeff Hardy's contract is set to expire in February of 2013. The rumor mill has said Hardy would seriously consider a return to the WWE. The feeling is probably mutual with the WWE wanting Jeff Hardy back. This has to make TNA very nervous. Jeff Hardy is arguably the company's most popular wrestler. He is probably, along with Kurt Angle, the company's most famous wrestler to casual and non-fans alike. More importantly from a business standpoint, Hardy brings in the most revenue at the souvenir stands. TNA can't have their top revenue stream leave their company. To try and prevent this from happening, TNA is trying to keep Jeff Hardy as happy as he can be. This is why, if you believe the rumors, Jeff Hardy was given the TNA World title at Bound For Glory. Now, I don't necessarily believe that Hardy is a mark for the belt and that giving him the championship will go a long way into keeping Jeff in the company. Hardly. However, I guess it can not hurt.
Whenever I think of Jeff Hardy's latest TNA stint, I am brought back to March 13th, 2011. That was the night of the Victory Road pay per view. Jeff Hardy showed up in no condition to wrestle. TNA still had Hardy go out and "wrestle" Sting, where he lost in ninety seconds. I thought that would be the last time any company would trust Hardy in a big spot. Since then, Hardy has main evented pay per views for TNA once again. However, I never thought that they would have the faith in him to carry the company's top title. Apparently, they did, so now the Jeff Hardy title reign begins. It appears that Jeff Hardy is past his demons, and is up to the challenge of carrying the company. However, the question that needs to be asked is will he carry TNA to a new contract with the WWE for himself?