411 Fact or Fiction 4.10.14: Post WrestleMania 30 Edition
Posted by Larry Csonka on 04.10.2014
Was Brock Lesnar the right man to end the Streak? Do we want to see a Shield vs. Evolution feud? Are we more excited about WWE following WrestleMania 30? 411's Mike Chin, Sean Walker and Jack Stevenson 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 writes the Magnificent 7 every Sunday, he is Mr. Mike Chin! His first opponent writes the 4R of Raw every week, he is Mr. Jack Stevenson! And for the post WrestleMania week edition, the special third man is 411 Music Ten Deep Writer Sean Walker!
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. Brock Lesnar was the right man to end the Undertaker's WrestleMania streak.
Mike Chin :FICTION - This is a tougher call than it might seem at first blush because, ultimately, who am I to question the judgment of 'Taker himself about how The Streak should end and who should end it. By all accounts, he was on board with the plan, if not actively advocating for it. That said, I've always felt that if The Streak were to end (and I leaned toward the school of thought that it shouldn't), then it should be surprising, happen at the hands of someone formidable, and happen at the hands of someone who could build a career off of the accomplishment. Brock Lesnar more than meets the first two criteria, but comes up way short for the third. He has already made his name by winning WWE Championships and UFC gold, and thus was already one of the top five biggest names currently active today. On top of that, he's an a well-experienced, now part-time talent. So how does Lesnar really benefit from beating The Streak, aside from a short-term affirmation of his main event credentials? Again, I can't really argue with The Undertaker's own judgment, but if I were to pick the person to end The Streak, then Roman Reigns, Bray Wyatt, Cesaro, and Daniel Bryan would top my list--and, heck, I'd even throw John Cena on that list for the sake of adding one more meaningful accolade to the resume of the biggest star of this generation.
Sean Walker :FICTION - I think I can speak for everyone when I say that Brock Lesnar was the last person who I expected to end the streak. Barring the events that happened in January, CM Punk would've been a better choice to end the streak. Hell, full-time wrestler would have been a better option. Everything about this just seems wrong. No one cared about the match heading into the show, and thought it was a throwaway Taker match that would appease the fans for another year. All signs pointed to Undertaker winning yet another match at the granddaddy of them all. Brock Lesnar winning left a sour taste in my mouth, and for good reason. Yes, you just created the biggest mega heel on your roster, but was it really worth breaking a legendary streak for a part-timer? All of that momentum he gained would just be blown away as he's sitting on the sideline for months until at the very least Summerslam. Also, if he were to face Daniel Bryan for the title at Extreme Rules, what a fucking waste it would be to have Brock lose. It's just a big mess that would forever be remembered as such.
Jack Stevenson:FACT - The thing I really like about Lesnar ending the streak is that it was genuinely astonishing, possibly the biggest shock victory in wrestling history. Listen to the crowd reaction again when the referee inexplicably counts three to end it; there's no cheering, no booing, just one collective "AAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH" of horror and befuddlement, the anguished wail of 75,000 people who've just found out that everything they believe in is a lie. Any wrestling match that can achieve that response has a lot of merit, and if the demise of Taker's streak had been forecast by an epic three month build and a feud with John Cena, it wouldn't have received such a genuine, unmanufactured reaction. Plus, it's not like the retirement of Ric Flair where we need, as Scott Slimmer excellently put it in the Instant Analysis column, to be "emotionally prepared." The Streak is something that comes up only once a year, it's not going to be a visible hole in weekly programming like a retired wrestler is. It would be difficult to cope if Flair had lost his retirement match to Ken Kennedy at No Way 2008 and suddenly he's gone forever and we didn't get a chance to say goodbye. The loss of an intangible concept is easier to deal with.
So, on the whole, I think it was a good decision to end the streak at Wrestlemania, especially with rumours circulating that it was the Undertaker's decision because he feels his body physically can't do another match (something painfully obvious to anyone who saw the match itself, which was timid and cautious and utterly terrified of breaking the Undertaker.) The only question is, was Brock Lesnar the absolute best person to end the streak in the circumstances? I think he was. Certainly, Bray Wyatt would have benefitted more from the win, and Daniel Bryan would have got a better match out of him, and John Cena winning would have had a poetry about it that cemented Cena's place on pro wrestling's Mount Rushmore, but none of these people would have had that element of staggering surprise that Lesnar had. I can't think of anyone who would have been more shocking but also in the least bit worthy, for a bigger upset you'd have to start looking at Kofi Kingston or The Miz or something and if you're upset it was Brock Lesnar that took it, think how traumatised you'd be to see the fucking Miz telling us how he's now the most must-see superstar in WWE history for ending the streak. Lesnar's a huge star and this win makes him the most feared force on the WWE roster, so it works well enough. It's also done huge things for Paul Heyman, I think now we can actually have a debate about who the best manager of all time is, whereas prior to this everyone would just say "Bobby Heenan" and no one could possibly argue. There's a lot of upset regarding this decision, and trust me, I share in it, I've been feeling quite emotional ever since that third F-5 proved to be so momentous. One of the few remaining constants in my life is gone! Like, growing up, the five things that I could be sure of in life were "Mum exists, Dad exists, my brother exists, Sir Alex Ferguson is the Manchester United manager, and the Undertaker wins at Wrestlemania." 2 out of those 5 are gone. The loss of the Undertaker's streak has awoken the little voice in the back of my head that likes to occasionally remind me of the approaching demise of everyone I love. I still think it was the right decision. Of course I'm not being melodramatic why would you say that :(
2. Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan was the best match at WrestleMania 30.
Mike Chin :FACT - I'm torn about this statement, too. Objectively, this was the best wrestling match on the 'Mania card, but as good as it was, it didn't give me quite as many believable close calls or quite as satisfying of a finish as the main event, which is the bout I suspect I'll re-watch more than any other from WrestleMania 30. That said, in a vacuum and as a match rather than a story, it's hard to vote for anything other than the opener as the best match of the show.
Sean Walker :FACT - You have the renowned technical master Daniel Bryan, and Triple H, who knows how to more than carry his side of the weight. Of course you're going to have one a hell of a match that's bound to steal the show. You add the fact that you have story has been running for 8 months that's still pulling on every fans heartstrings even after all of the screw jobs, and you have a TON of heat. This match had more invested into it than all of the others and it wasn't even close. These two men met expectations and more when they tore the house down.
Jack Stevenson:FICTION - I thought it was good, but not as good as most other people seem to think. It was a tense and emotional contest with some nice technical wrestling at the start and a cathartic ending as Bryan flattened his nemesis with the flying knee, but it also had some flaws. I thought for an opening contest, and a grudge match at that, it was a little too slow and cold, and Daniel Bryan's performance was surprisingly patchy; he sold the injured shoulder well enough when he wasn't on offence, but then he was pulling out German suplexes and Sunset Flip powerbombs with relative ease on his much heavier opponent. If Bryan's going to eschew selling his injuries in favour of getting his spots in, he might as well be Davey Richards, and nobody wants that. The main event was even more emotional and had some great drama and near falls, so that took match of the night for me, and I felt John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt was totally fascinating, less a conventional match than a prolonged Wyatt experiment with Cena as the helpless guinea pig about to get some horrific illness injected into his eyes. Bryan-HHH was still a decent way to start the show, but it wasn't as good as it could have been.
3. Bryan Wyatt shouldn't have lost to John Cena.
Mike Chin :FACT - Given the end of The Streak, I don't blame WWE for playing it safer and more mark-friendly with the finish to this match, and I do feel Bray Wyatt came off well in defeat. All that said, I feel like beating John Cena at WrestleMania could have really elevated Wyatt to a new level and really established him as a challenger to Daniel Bryan's championship. Sure, Wyatt already has a reasonable case for a title shot after beating Bryan pretty cleanly at the Royal Rumble and there's a fair chance he'll still emerge from this Cena feud smelling like a rose, but nothing quite compares to a huge win at WrestleMania, and I feel WWE missed that opportunity.
Sean Walker :FACT - This match was brilliantly performed by both wrestlers, and I had no problem with it, until the finish. There was great storytelling involved, and I love the emotion and energy John and Bray brought into it. However, losing the match immediately had me fear Bray's future as a credible main eventer. It's beyond the point where we can say losing to John Cena in an admirable fashion will help your career. It's not. Having CM Punk win at MITB and Summerslam legitimized him. Having Daniel Bryan pin Cena legitimized him. Having up and comers like Damien Sandow and Dolph Ziggler lose to Cena when they needed the win the most critically damaged them. Look where they both are now. Bray Wyatt losing at WrestleMania not only destroyed the mystique for me, it left me uninterested for the remainder of the feud. He didn't win in arguably the climax of what could have been a career changing, LEGACY changing match for both men. Imagine the possibilities there should've/could've/would've been if John Cena lost with his legacy at stake. That would have been powerful storytelling that would have probably refreshed Cena's main event career, and set Bray into the stars. Now, all we have is a run-of-the-mill "I didn't give up", cena-by-the-numbers storyline that will only hurt the man across the ring.
Jack Stevenson:FACT - It's a tricky one to answer, because there are good reasons why both wrestlers should have won on Sunday. Clearly for the more hardcore fan a Wyatt victory would have been significantly more interesting, it would have solidified Bray as the main event player he deserves to be and jolted John Cena into some actual character progression, something he hasn't experienced in nearly a decade. The match seemed to be leading to a Bray victory as well, so much so that it was a bit jarring and disjointed to have it end with Cena just hitting his finisher out of nowhere and getting the win. Wyatt performed such a brilliant match, prodding at and playing with his opponent, flitting between attacking him and just doing weird shit to get under his skin, a flurry of punches here, a freaky upside down walk there. It was delightfully weird and deserved a delightfully weird ending, so it's a shame it didn't get it. I was really annoyed after the bell, for about five seconds, and then Cena rushed to ringside and grasped a young CeNation member in a grateful hug, a moment of pure Hulk Hogan, and suddenly I'd have let Cena win any match in the world, I'd have let him interfere in the main event and throw Daniel Bryan into a ravine. I think when a wrestler has such an obvious emotional connection with such an important part of the fanbase, and more specifically a part of the fanbase that's interested in instant gratification, not intricate psychological storytelling, you have to understand why he wins so often, and why he remains impervious to any kind of long lasting emotional trauma. Having said all that, I don't think one loss to Bray Wyatt, leading to a brief bout of self-doubt and maybe a little madness would have killed John Cena's drawing power and brought about the collapse of WWE. It would have been much more interesting than the perennial Champ ambling about and cracking dreadful jokes in silly voices, so I'll say fact, tentatively.
4. Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin and The Rock opening the show at WrestleMania 30 was a great moment.
Mike Chin :FACT - Great might be a little strong but the stars were big enough and the moment was short enough to make this segment a very fun, entirely worthwhile way to open the thirtieth 'Mania. I sort of wish the segment had given way to something of consequence for the overall narrative of the night, or that they'd have interacted with someone on the current roster to give him the rub, to firmly entrench the segment in "great" territory, but the just the same, seeing these three guys together in a WWE ring in 2014 was pretty special.
Sean Walker :FACT - I enjoyed it. You have three Icons of the WrestleMania era in the ring at the same time and all three of them are still more than capable of putting on a great promo. It energized the arena and created a moment that will go down in WM history.
Jack Stevenson:FACT - It was Hulk Hogan Steve Austin and the Rock in the same ring at the same time! Of course it was a great moment! The only way it could have been better if Roddy Piper was involved as well. Hulk Hogan was incoherent but enthusiastic, The Rock was relatively funny, Steve Austin's just a likeable guy, the Silverdome/Superdome stuff made me laugh, and it was a well-placed nod to history on a show that otherwise seemed on hurling itself into the unknown.
5. Before, during and after the match - Paul Heyman was the star of the Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker feud.
Jack Stevenson:FACT - If not for Paul Heyman, the build to the feud would have just been The Undertaker stalking around in the dark while Brock Lesnar shrieked with rage. He was the sole reason why there was even the merest particle of doubt in my mind about whether the Streak was in jeopardy (there's a very smug particle of doubt buzzing celebratorily around my head at the moment.) He laid out the reasons why he was certain Lesnar would win in a convincing, clear manner, while also being his usual brilliantly unbearable self. Add into the discussion his magnificent promo from Raw, and it's clear he wasn't just the star of it, he tied the whole thing together, he strung a hugely watchable feud out of some half-hearted mind games and a sluggish WrestleMania match. What a man Paul is.
Mike Chin :FICTION - Don't get me wrong--Heyman is awesome, and was a huge part of the success of all aspects of the 'Taker-Lesnar program. But with that said, Brock Lesnar is too much of a monster and The Undertaker has too much of an aura for either man to be given such short shrift as to call Heyman the star. In the end, I'd gladly give Heyman equal credit to the two wrestlers--no small feat for a manager interacting with stars of this caliber, in this significant of a story.
Sean Walker :FACT - Heyman tried. He really did. He did everything he could to make this feud mean something, but he failed. His promos were damn good, and he really did his best to make us care about Undertaker and Brock Lesnar fighting. His reaction to Brock winning was pure gold. Even so, it's a damn shame that the only bright spot about a legendary streak losing is seeing a manager's reaction, and his subsequent promo on the final show. I get that Paul is promo skills are great, but if the only thing we're going to remember years from now about the streak losing is a man who wasn't even wrestling reaction, the whole ordeal is shitty.
6. You want to see a Shield vs. Evolution feud.
Jack Stevenson:FACT - There aren't that many viable trios for a team as wonderful as the Shield to feud with in WWE; as tempting as the idea of pitting them against the Wyatts every single day until the end of time sounds, it would surely get boring eventually, after about 5,000 years. They've got to be fed fresh meat else they will contract severe food poisoning and possibly die. Triple H, Batista and Randy Orton are fresh and dangerous opponents for them, and will know how to mesh with them for great matches. I'm already looking forward to Dean Ambrose and Randy Orton driving each other increasingly insane while Batista and Roman Reigns exchange achingly cool smirks. I don't think it will work as a long term rivalry because the ‘cool rebels vs. the mean old authority' has been done to death and has its corpse exhumed and paraded distastefully around for all to see far too many times, but as a stop gap while everyone looks for other things to do it will work well enough.
Mike Chin :FACT - I'm a sucker for reunions and dream matches, particularly when they seem likely to help elevate young talent. Excluding the unlikely scenario that they get totally buried, The Shield would almost certainly benefit from warring with Evolution. As much as much I'm not wild about Triple H, Batista, or Orton as singles stars, each man is still capable of holding up his end of the bargain in a big match scenario (look no further than the WrestleMania 30 main event), and going head to head with Ambrose, Reigns, and Rollins would provide fresh match ups for all three of them. As a side note, The Shield vs. Evolution would also carry the potential of Ric Flair getting back on my TV to manage his old stablemates, and I'd be more than happy to see The Nature Boy back in action. WOOOOO!
Sean Walker :FICTION - Triple H, Randy Orton, and Batista are equally and respectively boring when they are paired together. They have such similar wrestling styles and personalities that you couldn't help but not be entertained when they are in the ring together. Also, what year is this again? The Shield's dynamic is too unorthodox and exhilarating for all of those damn rest holds and knee drops Evolution is known for.
7. Considering WrestleMania was part of the package, WWE should be concerned that they only have 667,287 subscribers for the WWE Network.
Jack Stevenson:FACT - I think WWE should definitely be concerned because there is almost literally nothing more they could possibly do to get people interested in the WWE Network. It's every WWE, WCW and ECW PPV ever, plus countless hours of original programming, a healthy selection of classic wrestling TV, and all the current pay-per-views, live, for $10 a month. What wrestling fan looks at that and thinks "hmmm no that doesn't appeal to me I'd rather pay $60 a month for three hours of entertainment than $10 for years worth?" If there was something that WWE could clearly and easily do to bump up the subscriber figures then it would be fine, but if the wrestling audience isn't interested in one of the most mind-bogglingly great deals in the history of everything ever then we're living in uncertain and depressing times.
Mike Chin :FICTION - There are different gradations of fans. Casual fans who might stop on WWE if they happen to come across it whilst channel surfing and who just might buy WrestleMania. More serious fans who watch Raw most weeks and buy pay-per-view events with some regularity. And then there are the hardcore fans who watch wrestling every week, visit wrestling news sites, buy WWE DVDs, and who were positively salivating at the chance to subscribe to the WWE Network. I think WWE did a fantastic job of assembling material and setting a price point that would grab just about everyone from that last category, and a bunch of folks from the middle category. I feel that the casual fan, however, is more likely to catch WrestleMania at a buddy's house, visit a Hooters, or even pay full freight for the pay per view broadcast than commit to a WWE subscription service (even though it makes sense in terms of dollars and cents). The Network should continue to grow if WWE stays the course, and I'd wager subscription numbers will see a bump over the years as more and more young fans come of age and move out of the house and get their own subscriptions. I don't know the facts and figures well enough to project if WWE will get its one million subscribers by the end of the year, but I think they've got a shot (particularly if they offer gift subscriptions and Black Friday specials just in time to fill out their numbers).
Sean Walker :FICTION - Seeing as the WWE Network was only available in the US, I see no reason why they should be concerned. Once the network launches worldwide, I can see this number growing exponentially.
8. Following the events of WrestleMania and Raw the night after, you are more excited for the WWE product than you have been in a long time.
Jack Stevenson:FICTION - The post Wrestlemania Raw is not an accurate indicator of the quality of the WWE product. It is supported by the energy generated by Wrestlemania and the necessity to start new feuds and promote new talent. The remaining 51 Raws will have to stand on their own two feet, and some of them will manage to, and many of them won't. Unless wholesale changes are made to the creative process and to the type of person hired to the creative team, I really don't see the WWE product improving significantly and consistently. Remember that brief post Wrestlemania period in 2007 where WWE went wrasslin' crazy and there were 30 minute Edge-Orton matches and 60 minute Cena-Michaels matches and stories were progressing in a logical and intriguing manner? By the summer Vince McMahon was searching for his bastard son, who turned out to be Hornswoggle, and The Great Khali was world champion. Remember that great post Wrestlemania Raw in 2008 with the hyper emotional Flair retirement ceremony and new guys being put into new programs and a hint of a revamped tag division? That didn't go anywhere. Or 2012 with the white hot crowd, the genesis of the Yes Movement and Brock Lesnar returning? It took two years for Daniel Bryan to accidentally become WWE Champion, and Lesnar lost to John Cena right out the gate. Just because WWE got it right on the easiest night of the year to get it right, doesn't mean they'll be able to do it in October when everyone's tired and there's no meaningful PPV to build to. I didn't even think it was the best post Wrestlemania Raw we've ever had- don't get me wrong, there was a lot of really fun and exciting stuff, but there was also a fair amount of filler, Daniel Bryan getting beaten up by the bad guys yet again until the Shield had to come and rescue him, and NXT bad-ass Paige looking like a total geek, nervously fawning over AJ Lee and then fluking a title win off her.
That's not to say that the future's bleak, because it most certainly isn't. The roster right now is stronger than it ever has been, there is almost no one in WWE that is incapable of putting on a great match, and they get more opportunities than ever to do so. Every Raw seems to have at least one quality, lengthy bout, and that's without factoring in Smackdown and Main Event which are even more wrestling focused on the whole. Flash back to even two years ago and, PPVs excluded, you got a handful of tremendous matches a year; now, if we're lucky, we get a handful of great matches a week. The WWE outstrips every notable promotion in North America in terms of pure in ring quality, and who could have foreseen that five years ago? Out of the ring, things look bright in some areas as well; the developmental program is positively shimmering, no-one is getting exposed in magazines for illegal drug use, no-one's casually smashing steel chairs around their heads, superstars are even being trained in financial planning! The WWE has come a long, long way, it's almost unrecognisable from the unpleasant organisation it was a few years back, and it deserves great credit for that. Creatively though, I don't think we should delude ourselves into thinking we're on a cusp of a great renaissance; there'll be a lot of great moments this year, but no more than there were last time out.
Mike Chin :FACT - I'm giving this one a cautious fact. WrestleMania was better than I expected and featured the Daniel Bryan title win I felt WWE needed to deliver on. From there, it was pretty encouraging to see so many fresh faces have big nights on Raw from what I can only imagine will be the first of many Alexander Rusev squashes, to Paige's surprising title win, to promo videos for Bo Dallas and Adam Rose. Add onto all of that the in-ring returns of Wade Barrett and RVD, the re-invention of Cesaro, and the re-focusing of The Shield, and the roster looks remarkably fresh compared to where it stood pre-'Mania. It's anybody's guess where WWE will go from here, and how the new faces will last over the long haul, but for now, I am, indeed, excited.
Sean Walker :FICTION - Before I answer this question, I would like to pass my condolences to the family of the Ultimate Warrior. In my last appearance on FoF, I was asked if he should belong in the Hall of Fame, and I emphatically gave a hell yeah. I still stand by that statement as I wasam a huge fan. Now onto the question. I think it's time for me to stop watching WWE for a while. This isn't me being a troll or someone who hates on WWE just because it's fun to do so. This is coming from a burned out fan who needs a break before he gets too negative on everything about the product. While Raw and WM were great shows (especially the debut of Paige), I can't help but feel that this iteration of WWE can't keep that momentum for too long without somehow screwing it up. WWE seems to head into autopilot after Extreme Rules, and sits on their ass until the next WM, which is just frustrating to watch as a longtime fan. So that's exactly what I'll do. I'll watch until Extreme Rules, and take a break until WM XXXI.
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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.