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It's winter holiday celebration time, which for me means Christmas! As I move towards the day jolly ol' St. Nick arrives with presents for the kids (or so they think—one of them anyway!), it's also time to make my own Christmas list for the world of pro wrestling! Read on, friends...
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Christmas time is here, and it's always fun to get smarky and write a Christmas list wishing for the top indy stars, or CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan in the WrestleMania main event, etc. And while that second part sort of makes my list, I present you with my "Christmas List For Wrestling!"
For this year, I want...
A Real #2 Competitor in Pro Wrestling
As much as I love TNA, they are from a competitor for WWE, and their recent ratings dip shows it. It's not a significant drop, but it came on a week with another "Free-Per-View" with Final Resolution—and when the company was crowning a new world champ in a match that included proven TNA draw Jeff Hardy. This can't be good news for the company as they try to usher in a new era, one that will hopefully reset some expectations and build new stars.
But all that actually moves then farther away from being a chief competitor to WWE, who sits today with no competition. In fact, the only competitor WWE has is itself, and the decisions they make. Copying or worrying about TNA, ROH or any other promotion is silly for WWE—they have no competition.
So my biggest wish for this Christmas is for Santa to bring me a legitimate competitor for WWE, one that will challenge the biggest wrestling company in the world to get their creative heads out of their asses and put out a product that makes the audience watch out of inspiration and not out of habit.
The first step is identifying that competitor—and it's a daunting task. In the United States, there is one real candidate—TNA.
TNA as it stands today cannot compete with WWE. The Carter's ownership isn't in a position to make the investment—read: take the hit—necessary to take their product to another level. If a legit buyer came into play—possibly a media entity that wanted to compete like Viacom or Fox, then we could be talking.
However, if that media partner were to get involved, TNA already has the country's second largest fan base, as well as talent to easily push a company forward.
There is a second, dark horse candidate—and no, I'm not talking about my beloved Ring of Honor. I'm talking about New Japan Pro Wrestling, who is drawing great houses and has built an American fan base thanks to their iPPV ventures.
New Japan has the talent needed, and the in-ring performance is so great that it could easily suck fans in. With a character like Prince Devitt (pictured) appearing on subway trains in Japan, there is definitely some marketability there.
It would take the same media giant involvement to give NJPW the right marketing push, and there would need to be some organization in splitting their schedule between the US and Japan every few weeks, but it could be done. And it'd be a true alternative to WWE, which is the key to being a true #2 in the American wrestling landscape.
CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania
I know I referenced it earlier, and I will admit it now—this match wouldn't be "best for business" at WrestleMania XXX. Best for business would be Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H (with Shawn Michaels as special guest referee) and Royal Rumble winner CM Punk vs. WWE World Champion Randy Orton.
But given 20-30 minutes in the middle of the card, these two would tear the house down at WrestleMania.
The Next Golden Age Of Independent Wrestling
I'm not complaining about indy wrestling today—but it's not what it was in the days of Bryan Danielson, Christopher Daniels, Low Ki, Samoa Joe, CM Punk and so many others.
Today's crop is great, but it's not the legendary status we once enjoyed. Just like mainstream wrestling is in search of its next "Golden Age," so is independent wrestling. And it's on my Christmas list!
What's on your Wrestling Christmas List?
A tradition started at the end of each point when I wrote The Wrestling 5&1, "You Decide!" is your chance to weigh in on a major question facing professional wrestling each week. Vote once per hour, and leave your opinions in the comments section!
Batista is rumored to return to the WWE in the new year, and it's a rumor I can buy. Batista has his biggest non-WWE venture to date coming up in Guardians of the Galaxy, and the WWE media presence could be the perfect supplement to the usual media blitz.
Given his potential involvement, who would you like to see "The Animal" stand across the ring from at WrestleMania 30?
Voting closes Wednesday night!
WWE will be negotiating its television rights in the coming months, and there is big business to be had here. According to a report by Variety, the company could look to triple the current rights fees. Those fees today account for $139.5 million in revenue for wrestling's top media sensation.
WWE has a set of marketable television properties, and in the past each property had its own negotiating period. The company quietly (and expertly) set things up to expire at the same time, and they can now come to the table with their entire television portfolio—and they're primed to make a serious splash.
WWE's Television Properties include:
WWE (Monday Night) Raw
WWE Friday Night Smackdown
WWE Main Event
WWE Saturday Morning Slam
E! WWE Total Divas
Clearly, WWE finally has things aligned to maximize the potential for the TV rights, as said by the company's Chief Revenue and Marketing Office Michelle Wilson.
"We've had to evolve our thinking," Wilson says. "We are clearly entertainment-based, but if you think about the characteristics of our brand, it's live action, and that's sports. We want to be compensated for a live audience, since live content is getting a very significant premium in the marketplace."
Quote courtesy of the linked Variety exclusive.
How big is this for the company? According to Variety, the company produces 156 episodes per year (I believe this number is a little low, actually), and averages a 2.2 national rating. NASCAR airs 154 races that average a 1.38 rating, and the WWE has a more desirable and diverse audience.
The cost of NASCAR's recent deal with NBC and Fox? $820 million per year.
Variety states that the WWE could triple their pull, which would put them at $418.5 million. In all honesty, I think $418.5 million is a low estimate for what the company will do. I predict they'll exceed $500 million and could approach $600 million.
There are two reasons why.
WWE isn't a "sport" like NASCAR, the NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL, but they are sports entertainment and they produce a live television product—something that is highly sought after in this era of time shifting and digital media. According to Variety, 90% of the Raw and Smackdown viewers watch the show live or same day, making them very valuable.
"The value of live content has gone from becoming important to essential," says George Barrios, WWE's chief strategy and financial officer. "As a network, if you don't have live must-see content your existence comes into question."
Quote courtesy of the linked Variety exclusive.
The other reason is their entertainment reach. They have women on E! and have increased the network's ratings by 166%, they have kept the USA Network at #1 in the cable rankings for years, and they're about to launch a digital platform that could be a great partner to a network media deal.
2014 could be a big year in the world of pro wrestling, and it could actually happen on the business side. Normally we encourage fans to ignore the business side of wrestling, but this is the exception. This will help the next 10-14 years of the every aspect of the company
So AJ Styles makes a public statement on his departure from TNA, discussing how he's a free agent for the first time in eleven years. Meanwhile, there are reports that he's actually negotiating for his return to TNA at the very same time.
IWC comments? Basically, the audience will hate him for lying to them.
You know, just like they hated Chris Jericho every time he did it!
It only takes one episode of Monday Night Raw for the IWC to lose its mind with an excitement that will inevitably be crushed. This week, fans are going crazy on the interwebs because some fine tag matches took place. Fans and pundits alike were gushing over the fact that tag team wrestling was back in the WWE, for reals this time! Everyone knows Triple H loves tag team wrestling, this week's episode is just the beginning! Its back, we tell you!!! Well, I gotta tell you...
Stop. Just stop.
If you have been a fan of the WWE for less than a year, you get a pass. For those of you who have been following the product for longer? You know better. Over the past five plus years the tag titles have fallen into a very distinct pattern that gives rise to the idea that the tag champs and tag teams will be a big deal. Yet the pattern tells a different story. To help pull this out let's look at the list of WWE tag team champions over the past five years and I think you will see my point:
Curt Hawkins & Zack Ryder
Carlito & Primo Colon
Edge & Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho & Big Show
The Miz & Big Show
The Hart Dynasty
Drew McIntyre & "Dashing" Cody Rhodes
John Cena & David Otunga
Justin Gabriel & Heath Slater
Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov
Justin Gabriel & Heath Slater
John Cena & The Miz
Justin Gabriel & Heath Slater
Big Show & Kane
David Otunga & Michael McGillicutty
Kofi Kingston & Evan Bourne
Primo & Epico
Kofi Kingston & R-Truth
Team Hell No
Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns
Cody Rhodes & Goldust
What I have found over the course of the last five years (some would argue even longer than that) is simple. The tag team titles sit on a team no one really cares about. Eventually two top tier guys will be thrust into a tag title match and win the belts. The super team will be dominant for a period. Usually the super team then begins to feud with each other, which causes the team to lose to an inferior opponent. The former champs then build their singles feud and the belts begin a rapid decline to the lower-mid card, where the cycle begins anew. In some instances the titles will enjoy a somewhat longer run with more prominent names. DX for example lost to a strongly booked team of the Big Show and The Miz. Thank goodness The Hart Dynasty was there to pick up the pieces.
In end, the tag titles and tag teams always seem to fade out of prominence. Why? Well, there are a lot of reasons.
Tag Teams Do Not Get Angles
Seriously. Name the last time two tag teams really feuded. And not in the "we want a shot at the titles and you two have them" sort of way. Even Cody and Goldust won the belts in a feud with the McMahons and not necessarily the Shield, although the story was a good one. Once upon a time in a wrestling land far away tag teams used to feud for reasons other than a tag team title opportunity or because the general manager said so.
There was a time when teams fought because they had a beef with one another. The Von Erichs hated the Freebirds, The Midnight Express was always fighting the Rock and Roll Express, The Hart Foundation and the British Bulldogs tore the house down weekly in the WWF. Arguably the best WWE tag team feud in recent memory is over ten years old. Can you believe it's been that long since we've seen Edge and Christian, The Dudleys, and the Hardys were tearing it up at Wrestlemania? Why should fans invest themselves in a division that the WWE does not fully push?
The Tag teams That Are Pushed Are Rarely Long Sustained Tag Teams
This point connects to the first one when we look at how the belts are used. When tag team wrestling is prominent in the WWE it is often due to a super team being together that then implodes or is destined to not remain together. Look at the teams that were featured on Raw. You had The Big Show and Rey Mysterio. You had Mark Henry and Big E Langston. The Real Americans got a win. Which looks to go against my point until you recognize that Tons of Funk broke up which led to their victory, so even "permanent"" teams don't stick together.
And let's not forget the current tag champs who have been rumored to break up before they even got together. Everyone is just waiting for one Rhodes boy to turn on the other. Other tag teams that reek of being temporary include Curtis Axel & Ryback and maybe R-Truth & Xavier Woods (although that one is likely to stick for a bit). When the pushed tag teams are ones that are clearly temporary, it makes a tag division unsustainable. You need the permanent teams to be prominent which brings me to the last point...
The Established Tag Teams In WWE Are Not Booked To Build A Tag Team Division
There are two aspects to this point. First, the truly compelling tag teams are generally not booked in tag feuds (see point #1). Second, most of the established teams are fun distractions or flat out goofy. In regards to the first point, the top two tag teams not randomly put together are The Shield and The Wyatt Family. Even when they were tag champs, Rollins and Reigns seemed to defend the titles as an aside. They had a stop and start feud with the Usos that resulted in nothing. They then lost the belts to Goldust and Cody Rhodes in matches to further the Rhodes family versus the McMahons. The Wyatts have feuded with Kane and Daniel Bryan. Bray clearly answers to a power that gives two shits about a tag division.
Running through the rest of the roster, there are two teams that I think are serious tag teams in the Usos and the Real Americans. After that, there is a lot of talent and a lot of fun but not many teams that are presented as much more than comic relief. Teams like Los Matadores, 3MB, The Prime time Players, and Tons of Funk while fun are hard to take seriously. The Matadores have a goddamn dwarf dressed up in a bull costume as a mascot for Christ's sake. Where does that leave the Usos and Americans? Feuding with each other and occasionally beating the goofy teams.
All three of these points tell me that while this one episode of Raw highlighted some great tag team wrestling, the WWE is not going to bring the division back to the days of Demolition, L.O.D., Money Inc., and the like. It's a tease of what to those of us wax nostalgic for the days when Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson would main event or at the very least semi-main event a show against the Rock and Roll Express. The WWE's history over the past five to ten years paints a different picture. Don't be surprised when Rey and the Big Show win the belts and reign for a few months before imploding and lose the belts to the Real Americans who will in turn defend the belts until they are "upset" by Los Matadores when El Torito somehow factors into the pin...in the second match on Raw.
Patrick O'Dowd is the long-time cohost of the Greg DeMarco Show, heard each Sunday night at www.VOCNation.com.
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Each week, I look at various newsbites from the week. I'll rate them using the propriety Believability Meter (patent pending), and might poke a little fun at them.
Okay, I'll poke a lot of fun!
AJ Lee Continues Winning Ways Despite Having Heat Upon Her
The Wrestling Observer reported the issues between AJ Lee and Michelle Beadle, which were immediately either downplayed or completely rejected. Meltzer fought back, swearing his story was the right one—despite every other fact pointing elsewhere.
Then at WWE TLC, AJ Lee goes over clean in the Divas title match. Meltzer said the WWE elected not to change plans as to not draw attention to the "altercation." Then she goes over clean on Raw. Still think AJ Lee is in trouble?
Believability Meter: Grade A Horse Shit here. The Meltz was caught in a lie, and started some big time back pedaling. I'd recommend we stop reporting his speculation here at the ‘Mania if I didn't think it could drive us out of business.
Maybe not. Stacy Keibler does have an Instagram account, right?
Gabe Sapolsky and Davey Richards Swap Spit Backstage at CZW
The two lovers filmed a "Face Off" interview for RF Video, which I assume is a subculture internet wanker pleasing porn or something. Later, Richards interrupted Gabe's "Book It Cam."
Believability Meter: Hold up—Davey interrupted the Book It Cam? That motherfucker! There are two things you NEVER do in pro wrestling. You do not interrupt Gabe Sapolsky's Book It Cam, and you DO NOT doubt El Dandy.
Seriously, though…nah, you don't care what I think about this.
Okay, maybe you do, since you clicked on the column!
My take: These two high school girls are meant for each other.
What? Should I have gone with toddlers? Dammit, I should've gone with toddlers!
Many calling Mickie James vs. Ivelisse Velez a MOTY Candidate
Mickie James and Ivelisse fought in an amazing match at TNA's One Night Only pay-per-view. In the video, Ivelisse is a member of Aces & Eights, so there were some obvious dropped plans (or someone remembered they were still paying Brooke Tessmacher).
Believability Meter: Oh, I believe it. I believe it because I watched it, and you can, too!
Randy Orton to carry both belts
Despite the early repots (read: speculation), Randy Orton—the "champion of champions," will carry both the WWE and World Heavyweight Championship belts.
Believability Meter: I've written it here, and I've said it on radio: whoever the undisputed champion is (we now know it's Randy Orton) will carry both titles until WrestleMania XX, where they're introduced as WWE Champion and walk out with the belt The Rock debuted last year. Enjoy Big Goldie while you can!
Wrestling Cares announces, then rescinds, Adam Pearce's Retirement Match
It was revealed earlier in the week that "Scrap Iron" Adam Pearce would be retiring from pro wrestling on January 18, after a match against rising independent star Adam Page.
Except no one told Pearce that he was retiring!
Pearce emailed PWInsider, who originally reported the retirement, to indicate he's not retiring at all. Being the good radio host that I am, I reached out to Pearce (the only 4-time Greg DeMarco Show guest) about appearing on the show to promote his last match, which was met with quite the reaction.
Wrestling Cares has since clarified their statement, citing a "misprint." Much like the Pearce-coined Greg DeMarco Show soundbite, "nice try though!"
Believability Meter: I obviously believe Pearce here. He posted to his own Twitter and told me directly that this was false information. And in true Adam Pearce fashion, he turned it around and created a marketing opportunity for his new webshow.
Which...by the way...you can watch here!
Richie Steamboat Released
It was reported earlier in the week, thanks to Chris Hero, that Richie Steamboat was released from his WWE contract. As it would later be revealed, he was released months ago, just quietly.
Believability Meter: See—we don't always know the news! In fact, we rarely do! Steamboat's release will likely be a story of "what could have been," a potentially magical career that was cut short by injury. Here's hoping he gets through the injury and ends up back in a WWE ring.
What news jumped out at you this week?
In wrestling today, there is no show quite like Raw. Giving us moments and memories that we will cherish forever, and some we'd rather not ever recall again. This space is the chance to look back in time, each week, to a Raw memory.
This week's memory actually comes from this week!
Monday's Raw was main evented by Daniel Bryan vs. WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton in a non-title match. The match ended with a low-blow to Bryan by Orton, with the champ saving himself through the disqualification. Enter John Cena, who took umbrage to Orton's actions. Cena would eventually eat an RKO for his troubles, and be left lying.
This was the perfect way to book a newly crowned heel champion. Daniel Bryan looks like gold coming out of the match. Randy Orton looks like the smart heel champion. John Cena took the most damage, but is also the most well build character in the entire company. He can deflect that damage with no problems.
Leave your suggestions in the comments below!
Our DeMarcette of the Week is yet another favorite of Greg DeMarco Show listeners worldwide, as she's the prototypical beautiful girl next door—and she's sure to get you into the Christmas spirit—Allie Parker!
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Listen to our latest Greg DeMarco Show, with our live TLC reaction, plus special guests DeMarcette Cherry Bomb and M. 450!
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This week's guest? Listener requested Crazy Mary Dobson!
Before we depart, enjoy these two gifts:
Adam Pearce's debut edition of The Scrapyard!
Darin Corbin's latest W.R.E.S.T.L.I.N.G. Reflections!
Follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, drop a line in the comments, and until next time...