Ring Architect 4.14.14: Gold from Left Field
Posted by Obi Justice on 04.14.2014
Last week on Raw, Paige came out of nowhere to take the Divas' Championship. Could she have had a better start than that? Obi Justice thinks so, because gold isn't the only thing that matters.
"Ring Architect" is a format I've come up with to break down wrestling topics. The 20' x 20' is the main idea that I'll be talking about in the column. Red Corner/Blue Corner are two opposing takes on it that I see. Of course, it'll just be my thoughts on it, so I'll leave it to you guys in the comments to see how valid they are. And the last bit, the Main Strands, are three key pieces of information that I think should be kept in mind when considering the topic. Spare Parts is just a quick summary. The format'll definitely help me sort out my thoughts and hopefully it makes things easy for you guys to read.
The whole deal, the main idea.
All things, good and bad, come to an end. AJ Lee's reign as Divas Champion has been a bit of both coming from a hero/villain standpoint. She's been the darling of the fans and people backstage and she's been utterly reviled by all of them. Quite an accomplishment for a diva these days and it's probably why she kept the title for so long. It's tough to tell where she's stood these last weeks but there's one thing that's certain: Vickie Guerrero hates her. She put AJ in the worst possible situation at WrestleMania XXX, intending to get the title off her once and for all. Every other diva in the company battled her (and each other) for the title. Yet she still came out on top.
Then along came Paige.
In a flash, AJ had lost that title. The crowd went wild. Paige, the Anti-Diva from NXT who was just making her debut in the company, now held its biggest women's prize. It raises a lot of questions about where they can go from here. Surely, AJ is going to want her title back, but Naomi's also been gunning for the belt. Where does Vickie stand on having a free agent like Paige taking a belt away from her? And about the in-ring product, with Paige's wrestling ability, can we expect some uptick in quality divas' matches? All good questions. For me, the main question is, was the flash upset a good idea?
When Paige came down the ramp on Raw, I assumed there would be some sort of confrontation, even a match. I was looking forward to seeing a strong debut. In "realistic" terms, a quick win is just about as strong a debut you can have. But for a wrestler, I think it's important to show what you've got, and a quick match doesn't give a new wrestler the chance to display that. More than that, though, they're just not as gripping. Now instead of having seen a match with Paige that I enjoyed, I've got an initial disappointment and a hope that the next time, they won't pull the rug out.
There have been plenty of quick upsets, or just quick and unexpected title changes, in wrestling history. Daniel Bryan losing in 18 seconds to Sheamus at WrestleMania XXVIII is a standout recent example. They did go on to have an amazing match at Extreme Rules the next month, but I definitely wanted to see it happen on the big stage at Mania. Instead, 18 seconds. The crowd went nuts, no mistake about that. It gave Bryan something to run with for a while, something to drive him crazy, which definitely let him express better on TV. It's just a shame to have missed that opportunity. Even when it's not on a stage like WrestleMania, it's disappointing to have a bait-and-switch like that when the substitute isn't really that good.
Red corner is pro. Blue corner is con.
RED CORNER: In a jaded environment like ours, it's one of the only ways you can get a genuine reaction. If you want to know about jaded, you should talk to indy wrestling fans. The big brother indy Ring of Honor is a great example of how the actual booked stuff doesn't fly so much these days. At Best in the World 2012: Hostage Crisis, Kevin Steen -- who was very over despite portraying a despicable heel -- gave a vicious rant to the NYC crowd. In general, I feel like any person should be able to squeeze heat out of any crowd. There's gotta be some nerve you can hit. Not in New York, apparently, or not for Steen. They wouldn't buy that anything he was saying was real, and undoubtedly some part of it had to be, because the majority of wrestlers who are good talkers bring a lot of it from the heart. Steen squeezed like a motherfucker and he got nothing.
On the other hand, you have the title wins of guys like Tyler Black and Davey Richards compared to that of Eddie Edwards. Both of those guys were fairly over (Richards in his Cena-ish way) with the titles, but when they won them, they didn't really boost up their stock a huge amount. Eddie Edwards went into his title challenge against Roderick Strong at Manhattan Mayhem IV as an extreme underdog, not in skill but in timing. Roddy seemed to be coasting along, but more than that, Eddie didn't look like he was in a position to get the title. He won on a roll-up and the crowd exploded. He was popular before but he surged up with his win. Now, it's not exactly the same rapid surprise as the WWE ones, but I think that's mostly because you really couldn't get away with that in ROH if you wanted to leave an in tact building behind you. The concept's the same, though. Fans kind of understand it's all an act now, but when someone who isn't quite supposed to win does, it's a reason to get excited.
BLUE CORNER: Short matches really detract from the impact that a big moment is supposed to have. WWE has done quite a few finishes changing major titles in under two minutes. Hogan beat the Shiek in rapid style with the big boot and the leg drop. Diesel wiped Bob Backlund out on a house show for the WWF Championship. The Ultimate Warrior, who has just left us in the rocket ship, defeated the Honky Tonk Man in the blink of an eye for the Intercontinental strap. In all of these occasions, though, the match itself became a footnote on their career. Hogan's title win over the Shiek is notable, in my opinion, because it's Hogan, not because the event itself was particularly memorable. Diesel had a much less interesting reign and, therefore, the circumstances of his win (very much like Hogan's, except that Diesel wasn't making his return) aren't that memorable. Warrior had the benefit of it being Warrior and the Honky Tonk Man having his own legendary Intercontinental reign. In all those cases, it's really more about who was involved than the match itself.
How many main events ending big shows have gone split second quick? Jeff Hardy vs. Sting is the last one I remember and that was a horrorshow. Major moments in wrestling, to me, need to have substance. Put in the ring, that means a match. Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin had a classic at WrestleMania 13. It wasn't just a part of their story, it wasn't just a moment in Austin's career, that stood on its own and added materially to him. There's no way it would have meant as much if it had simply been a flash roll-up 30 seconds in. A look at the indys, or even performances like Cesaro in the Elimination Chamber, show what a big breakout performance can do for someone's stock. Just winning the match isn't enough, to me. If a match is really supposed to launch someone, making it a quick surprise just builds up expectations without satisfying any of them. On a win like Sheamus's 18 seconds at WrestleMania, I can feel happy that Sheamus won, but I can't really connect to it because nothing was shown. He didn't really fight for it or show how deep his resolve was to win it. It's just "Oh, what's next?"
Important lines of thought.
TOP ROPE: Surprise wins put a lot of eyes quickly on a new face. WWE has a phenomenal production department and they have been guilty of leaning on them a little too much. Guys like Alberto Del Rio, Brodus Clay and, recently, Alexander Rusev have spent week after week giving promos and appearing in viginettes. By the time they debut, I tend to get tired of the constant waiting. Just bringing someone in cold at a "normal" position doesn't necessarily make people perk up, either. A surprise debut win in a big match like this definitely makes people sit up, and with a new act like Paige, that's a great outcome. Even in cases like Hogan or Warrior, the division suddenly looks a lot different when some challenger can simply walk in and dominate their way to the title. Played right, it could be a huge force for change.
MIDDLE ROPE: Upset title changes can lead to new, more interesting storylines. Wrestling doesn't end, and that's something I always keep in mind when thinking about what could happen from one point to the next. A surprise win doesn't mean the end of a storyline. In Paige's case, having a crazy loose cannon like AJ mad at her could bring a lot of fire back to AJ's character and the Divas' division. Paige's beefs with Summer Rae and others from NXT could certainly bleed over into interactions with AJ, Naomi, and the rest. With a sudden new player in the mix, a lot of new possibilities open up.
BOTTOM ROPE: A quick, easy title change could make the championship or division look weak. Short matches don't really inspire strong emotions, as I've said. Not to say that matches need to be very long, but if you only have 5 minutes to work with, there's not a lot of story that can be told. Not only that, if it's so easy to beat the champ, then maybe everyone else isn't as good as previously thought, either. This sort of thing tends to get corrected in the weeks afterward with rematches and tougher challengers. Still, if a title isn't well regarded in the first place, a quick title change won't do much good for its image. The WWF championship had a long way to fall and a long history. The Divas' title isn't particularly highly regarded as a competitive belt, and a non-competitive match just plays into that.
Whatever's left to say.
More than any championship or accolade in wrestling are great moments. A perfect example is the Undertaker's Streak. That wasn't something that anybody constructed. If D'Lo Brown had somehow managed to go 10 Manias without a loss, do you think that would be regarded as anything more than a fluke? But the Streak was still important, maybe moreso than any title. A moment comes out of real emotional involvement and that can't happen in a flash. Quick, out-of-nowhere wins are fun from time to time. For Paige, though, I think she might have been better served with an actual match to start out with.