411 Fact or Fiction 02.13.14: Punk at WrestleMania, MVP Without a Contract, Orton a Weak Champion, More
Posted by Larry Csonka on 02.13.2014
Will CM Punk be back in time for WrestleMania? Is TNA making a mistake by putting MVP in a big angle without a contract? Has Randy Orton’s title run been weakened by back-to-back losses on Raw? 411's Mike Hammerlock and Nick Marsico debate these topics and more!
Welcome back to the latest edition of 411 Fact or Fiction, Wrestling Edition! Stuff happened, people loved/hated it and let everyone else know. I pick through the interesting/not so interesting tidbits and then make 411 staff members discuss them for your pleasure. Battling this week: First, he is a man that contributes when time allows and is a swell guy, he is Mr. Nick Marsico! His opponent is the man behind the Wrestling 8-Ball, he is Mr. Mike Hammerlock! Lets get to work…
Questions were sent out Monday.
Participants were told to expect wrestling-related questions, possible statements on quantum physics and hydroponics.
1. WWE is damaging Randy Orton's WWE title run by having him lose clean on consecutive editions of Monday Night Raw.
Nick Marsico:FICTION - Orton's title run has been damaged since nearly the beginning. It would have been just fine if Orton would have actually brought out the Viper the first time he said he was going to, but for some reason they keep deciding that they have to recycle, month after month, that Orton has gone soft and needs to become heartless and vicious again. Yet he never actually gets there. He's also constantly being treated like a failure by everybody except himself and John Cena. He has somehow managed to be a lame duck transitional champion even though he has for all intents and purposes been the champ for 6 months. It's almost life imitating art imitating life, really. The storyline called for Orton to be the face of the company until The Authority lost faith in him. Then the crowd stopped buying it and decided that they wanted Bryan to be the face of the company. Ever since then the angle has been about whether or not Orton is actually worthy to be THE guy, when in reality we're also questioning whether or not Orton has the ability to be a true main focus of the company. Orton is Triple H's proxy champion. Triple H is the actual champ but he is physically manifested through Randy Orton; Randy is just the part of Triple H that has always been a disappointment to himself, hence the on again-off again relationship between Orton and The Authority. Lately it has been almost solely animosity between the two sides, and eventually Triple H is going to consume Orton and re-assimilate that part of himself to become whole again. Then the physical Orton will muddle around somewhere while Triple H takes his spot. Or they have no clue what to do and haven't had any end game to follow up on Orton cashing in the briefcase. In short, no, losing to Bryan and Cena on two consecutive episodes of RAW does not damage or devalue his reign. It had been plenty pitiful on its own before February began.
Mike Hammerlock:FICTION - If the champ fights a good match and loses clean to a top guy, that doesn't damage him. It just sends the message that it's tough to be WWE champ. What damages a champ is being a chickenshit or relying on a cast of thousands to win him a match. If you want to see the "how not to" in terms of making your champ look strong, head over to TNA and check out the pathetic job they're doing with Magnus. He looks incapable of beating the ghost of Frankie Williams. In Orton's case, he amply demonstrated at TLC and the Royal Rumble that he can step up when the belt is on the line. Whatever damage he's carrying at the moment is residue from his program against Daniel Bryan where he was booked as little more than a prop.
The larger problems with Orton are how little they've given him to do as champ and how predictable the current matches against his Elimination Chamber opponents have been. He's spent too much time whining about meta stuff and too little time messing with people. He hasn't carried himself like he's the biggest deal in the business. It's not the occasional loss, it's that he's not getting more mileage out of his wins. Also, didn't we all know Daniel Bryan and John Cena would get those wins? It would have been a whole lot more interesting if Orton had beaten Bryan. The only good news about the Cena win is it was billed as the dust off between these two, which means Cena likely won't be winning the Elimination Chamber match.
2. Vince Russo possibly returning to TNA creative is not a good idea.
Nick Marsico:FACT - I don't think anything more than "duh" is needed as an explanation for deeming this a fact, but Larry would probably be annoyed by having a one word answer, obvious as it may be. To expound, then, on how Russo returning to TNA would be a bad idea: they're already creatively bankrupt. Russo's big fallback idea is "evil authority figure" and right now they already have a terrible evil authority figure (although Rockstar Spud is a spectacular lackey) AND a saving grace good guy authority figure. What else would Russo add? Dixie and MVP would end up falling for each other and become madly in love. The focus of every episode of Impact would be how the two of them could keep their love from crumbling while being the leaders of the two warring nations.
Mike Hammerlock:FICTION - I'm picking fiction not because I disagree with the statement, but because "not a good idea" understates it by an absurd degree. If Vince Russo is given the creative reins at TNA again, I would be shocked if it did not lead to the company going out of business. Impact during the past six months frequently has been Nitro-bad. We've seen a steady stream of terrible matches, pointless storylines and bad actors being fed way too many lines. The current Samoa Joe push and the Abyss-Eric Young hardcore matches have been nice touches in recent weeks. The American Wolves showing up is cause for some excitement. Yet if they start piling on Russo-grade garbage we might see TNA put out a product worse than it did in 2013. If that happens, fans will flee and there will be no way to revive the promotion.
3. You expect CM Punk to be back with the WWE for WrestleMania 30.
Nick Marsico:FICTION - This is a tough one, but I don't think he will be back until the summer. We can start the rumor mill right now: Payback on June 1st will be in Chicago, and that is where Punk will return! He can do the Triple H match on that show. There's no chance he will be back for WrestleMania XXX. He doesn't want Triple H for that show (so the reports say) and he doesn't fit into the WWEWHC picture either. There isn't any other big match he could have at the show. If he comes back (be it on June 1st or otherwise) he will do it with a guaranteed big match/main event at WrestleMania 31. No matter how it goes, I believe Punk is done as a full-time member of the roster.
Mike Hammerlock:FICTION - I really don't know what to expect with Punk. He's not there and all we're hearing is rumors. Maybe he hit his limit on the direction of the booking. Batista winning the Rumble is looking like an increasingly terrible idea and what exactly was Punk doing teaming with John Cena late last year without an ounce of tension between them? That was nonsensical given their history. Then again, maybe this is a deep work to set up Punk-HHH at WrestleMania. Or maybe it's a real thing that gets spun as part of the build for Punk-HHH at WrestleMania. Right now I'm rolling with the punches on this and not expecting anything. I'll say this, if Punk returns for WrestleMania he almost has to face Trips. And if they do fight Punk has to win it with a Pepsi Plunge. That's the sort of Hallmark moment that you want for the biggest show of the year.
4. Cody Rhodes and Kurt Angle doing top of the cage moonsaults should be saved for big time PPV events, and not done on regular TV.
Nick Marsico:FICTION - I'd be inclined to go with fact, but there's no stopping Kurt from doing anything and everything he wants and for Cody, a big memorable spot on an episode of RAW is more meaningful than doing the same at any PPV that isn't WrestleMania. On top of that, WWE's big revenue source is TV and with the WWE Network offering all of the PPV events included that mindset is clearly not set to change. On top of that, more people will see it if it happens on TV. That means more eyes on the move, which means more potential mouths telling more potential ears about it, which can lead to even more eyes on the TV show which could then lead to more Network subscriptions and higher TV ratings, which then leads to WWE having more leverage to ask for more money for cable networks to air their shows. Also, Kurt is just as likely to hurt himself taking an Irish whip into the corner as he is back flipping off of a cage from 15 feet in the air. Dude's a quadriplegic waiting to happen and his mindset makes him a lost cause.
Mike Hammerlock:FICTION - Man, I am all about fiction picks this week. I disagree with this one on a number of fronts. First, millions more people watch Raw than the standard WWE pay-per-view. The WWE supposedly wants to get one of those fat TV deals like pro sports leagues that don't even draw the kind of numbers WWE does. Well, if you want that, then you need to treat every weekly episode like it's a major show. That means stuff like Cody Rhodes doing top-of-cage moonsaults must be part of our regular diet. On top of that, the whole dynamic of weekly episode vs. PPV is changing with the advent of the WWE Network. Maximum viewership at every opportunity is going to become the name of the game. Also, if you're Cody Rhodes what exact big PPV match are you saving that move for? Cody's trying to climb out of the mid-card. In order to do that, he needs to be throwing crazy moonsaults whenever he's got a few million eyeballs on him.
As for Angle, about a million more people saw his moonsault than they would have if TNA had tried to convince folks to pay a premium for it. TNA barely has PPVs anymore. And once you can get the WWE Network for $9.95 a month, why would anyone pay four times that to watch a TNA event? For a few months there, Angle-Roode was the only thing worth watching in the entire TNA promotion. Good on them for giving the fans who stuck with it a payoff. The real question is, since the latest news on Angle is that he's getting around in a wheelchair, should he have done that spot at all? Probably not, but I fear the Kurt Angle story won't have a happy ending. He's always going to be able to find a promotion that lets him break off his remaining bits and pieces.
5. Pairing up the Miz and Dolph Ziggler into an "angry guys" tag team is an idea you can get behind
Mike Hammerlock:FICTION - I can get behind it from the Dolph Ziggler standpoint. His recent Smackdown promo on the WWE App was stellar. A return to his heel roots in the quest to claim the respect he rightfully deserves is exactly what the doctor ordered for him. Just keep him far away from Miz. I don't know what they're doing with Miz. I actually ought to give Mr. Mizanin the 8-Ball treatment in the near future. Main thing here is he's the wrong pairing for Dolph. I don't think they complement each other. What would they call themselves? Redundancy? Bitter Dregs? If they want to push Dolph to the tag ranks (and I'm for that if he's going to be little more than an enhanced jobber in the singles division), then pair him with someone surprising like Kofi Kingston, who's never previously demonstrated a heel bone in his body. Or maybe put Ziggler with a big guy like Titus O'Neill, Ryback or Alexander Rusev. They could go a dozen different ways with Ziggler in a tag team and I could get behind it, but, please, don't slap him together with Miz.
Nick Marsico:FICTION - Ziggler needs to be the exact guy he is right now, just with a push. It couldn't be any more simple. It's what the crowd wants and it has fantastic potential. Have him win the US Title and build him and Big E up as competitive faces that think their title is the best. In a few months have them unify the belts and retire the US Title. Ziggler can make the IC Title a high profile secondary singles belt while they build him back up for a while until the crowd physically shit themselves begging for him to get a WWE Title shot. I don't know what the hell they can do with Miz, but right now saddling a (somehow) still over Ziggler with a guy the audience can barely muster up apathy for would be detrimental to both guys. Put Miz and Barrett together. The BNB character is funny but has zero potential for anything more. Putting that gimmick as one half of a tag team with Miz going back to being the snarky douchebag that led him to the WWE Title would be money. Or at least I'd like it.
6. You would be happy if wrestling got away from the overuse of the Authority Figure.
Mike Hammerlock:FACT - Finally I land in fact territory. I hate business storylines. Nothing bores me more. Partially it's because as a white collar fan what attracts me to wrestling is the directness and action of the product. It's completely different than what I do all day long. It provides me with a little escapism. It's also partially because wrestling grasps the business world about as well as porn. Lance Hardwood, sex architect (tapping on a keyboard): "Here are the plans for the new International Sex Building." Maybe cardboard white collar figureheads and stories appeal more to blue collar fans, but I expect that portion of the fanbase is mostly annoyed with those angles too. HHH and Steph do smarmy corporate jerks about as well as you can and they need to be used far more judiciously. MVP secretly investing in Dixie's company without her knowing about it? That's ridiculous. Two segments to set up a fake business meeting at the end of Impact. That's tedious. If they want to do business storylines have that play out largely off the air in the online world, like in sports.
Nick Marsico:FACT - I keep thinking it's going to happen and then it doesn't. If we still are under the mindset that there is a "Big 3" in the United States, then ROH would probably be number 3, and their authority figure has been a face for a while and has never been an overwhelming force on any show. I thought TNA was going to step away from any kind of authority figure once Hogan left, but Dixie stepped in without a beat. "The" Authority had some potential to be a good EAF for an extended story arc with a beginning, middle and conclusion but has instead become unfocused and directionless, leading to them being a weird, ineffective and generally boring shell of a generic evil boss. Nigel McGuinness as a face, but also mostly fair and impartial, is a good authority figure to have around. He's the matchmaker and has some executive power but isn't the be-all, end-all leader of company decisions who wields his power wildly. If we're going to have long term generic authority figures, they should be like him. Or, for an even better example, Teddy Long as SmackDown GM. He stayed out of the way and let the wrestlers come to him when they wanted something that needed to be approved. And he made impromptu TAG TEAM MATCHES, PLAYA~! I wonder if he would be excited or disappointed to have so many real tag teams in place right now.
7. If what he says is true, TNA is making a huge mistake by allowing MVP to be part of a major angle on a "handshake" deal.
Mike Hammerlock:FICTION - As much as I dislike business storylines, I do like MVP. He's well-spoken and he can go in the ring. He popped up out of nowhere in the TNA landscape, so if he suddenly leaves because they can't work out a deal they can chalk the whole thing up to Dixie pulling some strings behind the scenes. Basically, whatever they can milk out of MVP probably helps TNA. While some people grouse about TNA using former WWE mid-card players, I think it's generally worked out well for TNA. Christian, Jeff Hardy, Bully Ray and Mr. Anderson all gave TNA a healthy bump. I also figure, given the tenuous finances of TNA, it needs to be telling short duration stories. Give MVP a story that more or less concludes at the end of each taping session and who cares how long his deal extends.
Nick Marsico:FICTION - It doesn't matter. I'm not saying that TNA doesn't matter when I make that statement. MVP, while I have always been a fan, doesn't matter. He's not a big star. If there's nothing in writing then TNA is only out whatever money they are paying him per appearance if he doesn't stick around. I am a few weeks behind on TNA (I think I finished the second week of Genesis which I believe is the week before the MVP reveal) so I haven't seen any of the angle, but one would assume that if MVP changes his mind or gets lured away by WWE it wouldn't be devastating. They can write him out by saying the Wolves kicked his ass and took him out because they felt like he was acting too much like the people they oppose and didn't want that to develop into a problem. MVP isn't going to be TNA's saving grace from a storyline nor a ratings/revenue perspective, so having him around without a binding contract isn't a mistake in any aspect. It's a bad habit they have, but it also gives them the chance to drop him without having to spend extra money on him if they don't follow through with the angle.
8. Lita is deserving of a WWE Hall of Fame induction.
Mike Hammerlock:FACT - Next to Trish Stratus, Lita is the best female wrestler the WWE has had in the company since Moolah (all due respect to Victoria an Mickie James, and AJ might eclipse them all if she ever gets some competition). Lita gets remembered for the controversy of the Lita-Edge-Matt Hardy love triangle, but she was a stellar performer. She instantly eclipsed Essa Rios and she put over the Hardy Boyz. Her return from cracked vertebrae in 2003 actually was a fairly big deal too. We forget now because the weekly shows have become so formulaic, but Lita on occasion used to main event Raw. As much as audiences tried to slut shame her, Lita was no bimbo. The women's division was never better than when Lita was in it. Great to see her get this recognition.
Nick Marsico:FACT - Indeed I have always been a very outspoken critic of Lita, but it was generally only in response to people lauding her as the best female wrestler ever. She wasn't even the best female wrestler of her time. Hell, I'd peg her as at best fifth, behind Trish Stratus, Victoria, Jazz and Molly Holly (in no particular order) when it comes to in-ring ability. As an influential/important female wrestler in WWE history she is easily next in line right behind Trish, and the only modern female wrestler to have made enough legitimate impact on the big stage to be considered to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Lita is 100% absolutely deserving. She was completely different from any other woman both in style and personality. She was also a big component in the popularity of the Hardyz after their initial burst on the scene with the Edge & Christian feud and she was a big part of the three-way tag team feud with E&C and the Dudleyz. With the right opponent (Trish, generally) she could have a damn good match and the one with Trish on December 6, 2004 was the first and only time a Women's Title match ever closed an episode of RAW. That's a pretty big deal.
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Larry Csonka is a Pisces and enjoys rolling at jiu jitsu class with Hotty McBrownbelt, cooking, long walks on the beach, Slingo and the occasional trip to Jack in the Box. He is married to a soulless ginger and has two beautiful daughters who are thankfully not soulless gingers; and is legally allowed to marry people in 35 states. He has been a wrestling fan since 1982 and has been writing for 411 since May 24th, 2004; contributing over 3,000 columns, TV reports and video reviews to the site.