411 Fact or Fiction 6.26.14: MITB, Cena, Lashley, More
Posted by Larry Csonka on 06.26.2014
Will John Cena win the WWE World Title at Money in the Bank? Was Bobby Lashley the right choice to win the TNA World Title? Should Roman Reigns win the World Title yet? 411's Jack Bramma 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 up is the one and only Jack Bramma, taking on the OTHER one and only Jack Stevenson!
Questions were sent out Monday.
Participants were told to expect wrestling-related questions, possible statements on quantum physics and hydroponics.
1. Monday's edition of Raw was an effective go home show for Sunday's Money in the Bank PPV.
Jack Bramma:FACT - Effective is a good word to describe it. It wasn't the best go-home ever. The WWE only has four matches announced even though Rusev/Big E and Rybaxel/Goldust and Stardust are right there as obvious choices to fill out the card, so it's a failing they didn't clarify the rest of the card. Still, though, they had lots of fresh interactions and promos – Reigns/Sheamus, Cesaro/ADR, Rollins/RVD, Ziggler/BNB, etc. – to give MITB intriguing dimensions and possible feuds going forward. Also, while the handicap 4-on-3 main event may have been a Smackdown rematch and carbon copy for the most part, it had a molten finish that the WWE has perfected with everyone hitting their finishers out of nowhere and even making Kane appear like a legitimate threat to take home the belt (though I think he has no chance).
Jack Stevenson:FACT - It's hard to do a bad job of selling the Money in the Bank PPV, it's probably the second most attractive behind Wrestlemania. Just stick six to eight stars in a ladder match and periodically remind people that it is happening and people will fall from terrifying distances and you've got yourself buys. I think considering much the show was taken up with bullying Vickie Guerrero you couldn't call this week's episode of Raw a runaway success in it's own right or anything, but there was a decent angle with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose and a fun tag match with a minor surprise tacked on the end to conclude things, so I think in terms of promoting the key matches everything was pretty on message
2. Bobby Lashley winning the TNA World Title was a good move by TNA.
Jack Bramma:FACT - Good move is strong, but it certainly isn't a bad move – more of a lateral move. How much of TNA's problems really have anything to do with who is holding the belt? Even if we ignore all of the economic, bottom line issues with TNA and limit ourselves just to booking, the world title is still a small part of the picture. There is entirely too much focus on heel factions and heel authority figures. Someone at TNA must love the n.W.o, Four Horsemen, and Corporations of the world because they seemingly haven't gone 6 months in the last decade without a heel stable on top dominating the entire show. The roster is thinning out with some of their best stars and hands leaving. There's just too much going on with the promotion to pin their hopes to one guy holding the belt. They could bring in Daniel Bryan or John Cena or CM Punk tomorrow and strap the rocket to them and give them the belt, and it wouldn't make much of a difference at this point.
Over the past few years, TNA has tried throwing the belt on homegrown guys (EY, Magnus, Storm), ex-WWE guys (Kennedy, RVD, Hardy, Angle, Lashley), X-Division high flyers (Aries, Sabin), and guys who reinvented themselves with heel turns and gimmick changes (Bully, Roode), and none have really lit a fire under the ratings or live gates or merchandise sales. It's going to take more than a new guy with the belt.
To me, putting the belt on Lashley seems to indicate they probably wanted to put the belt on MVP at Slammiversary, but with the injury, they scrambled to change the main event and send the fans home happy and save the hotshot to free TV. I'm fine with that and Lashley as champ. While far from homegrown, he doesn't have the same ex-WWE castoff vibe to him that others have. He's a decent worker, has a good look, and has some name value. He's no better or worse a choice than most of their roster.
Jack Stevenson:FICTION - TNA don't really make good decisions, do they? They only make 'blatantly bad decisions' and 'decisions that don't initially appear to be bad, but later it becomes apparent that they were indeed bad after all.' I think Lashley's title win falls more into the former category than the latter- the transformation of Eric Young from intermittently funny comedy wrestler to legitimate, respectable company figurehead was hardly a seamless one, but at least Young's a loyal and talented wrestler that TNA fans could potentially make an emotional investment in. Bobby Lashley, in contrast, is an indifferent journeyman who stands out from all the other indifferent journeymen because he has an impressive physique and briefly looked like he might be the next big thing in WWE after being the in ring manifestation of Donald Trump at Wrestlemania 23 and having a decent match dragged out of him by John Cena three months later. If he still were with WWE he'd now be comfortably the worst regular wrestler on the roster. The longest stint he's managed with a pro wrestling or MMA company is just over 3 years- don't expect him to stick around till Slammiversary 2015. I was trying to think of a witty metaphor to demonstrate his total lack of personality, but Lashley is just so uninspiring the best one I could think of is "Bobby Lashley's got the personality of Bobby Lashley." In short, he has no characteristics a modern wrestling company should look for in their champion, and it's a good job barely anything that occurs in TNA is of any importance or else this would be really annoying.
3. Seth Rollins needs to win the MITB Briefcase to make his heel turn worthwhile.
Jack Bramma:FACT - I'm a bit on the fence here, but I'll plant my flag in the fact camp. I don't think he has to have the win, but it'll go a helluva lot further toward cementing Rollins's status as a player than losing will. Looking at the slate of participants in the MITB briefcase match, you've got a bunch of also-rans, Barrett, Ambrose, and Rollins. As of my writing, Barrett has surfaced a separated shoulder and is still in the match, but given that the match is a spotfest, I feel that significantly lowers his chances of taking home the briefcase. That leaves Rollins and Ambrose as likely winners, and while everyone in the Shield has juice since the break-up, Rollins is the one most in need of justification for his heel-turn push. His promo a few weeks ago was well-delivered but severely lacking in substance. His heel turn needs more than Evolution's catchphrase of "adapt or perish" to give it a lasting presence. Whatever happened to I did it for the money, I did it for title shots, I did it because I've been carrying these bums, I did it for the Rock, I did it because you spilled coffee on me, I did it because you got a shampoo commercial I wanted, I did it because you stole my initial T, I did it because you killed my dog and fed him to me, etc. I'm not saying I buy the story that Vince panicked due to ratings and broke up The Shield with no plans, but Rollins's generic new music and gear and not having him join Evolution is the laziest presentation possible. Having Rollins win the briefcase and possibly even cash in on Cena or Reigns at the end of the night after they win the belt would definitely show the WWE is serious about pushing him and give some more justification for breaking up The Shield.
Jack Stevenson:FACT - Certainly considering the weakness of the field, I'd be surprised if Seth Rollins didn't win. I don't think anyone else really has much of a chance- Dean Ambrose would normally be a dark horse but the whole reason he's in the thing is to be sacrificed for his former partner, while Bad News Barrett might not make it due to injury, thus robbing us for now at least of the wonderful moment where he informs the WWE World Champion, who is tired after a long title defence, that he has some bad news for him. Who else has a chance? Kofi Kingston? Jack Swagger? Rob Van Dam? Nope, as Dean Ambrose would say were he writing this article, which he is, I am Dean Ambrose, Jack Stevenson is just my pen name. However, does beating Dean Ambrose (me, I am Dean Ambrose), who he would have beaten at this point anyway, and also a horde of directionless midcarders really mean anything significant for Seth's heel turn? What aspect of Seth's transformation requires him to win a Ladder match? If he grabs the briefcase on Sunday, do we all go "wow! All the gaping plot holes in this storyline have now been unexpectedly filled in!" If Seth loses the MITB Match to anyone other than Ambrose I think you can say his heel turn is not being treated as seriously as it should be, and thus is definitely not worth breaking up the greatest mainstream wrestling stable in 20 years, so I guess I'll say fact for this, but it's a shame that it has to be the case, because when the Shield finally dissolved the success of their solo careers shouldn't have been so dependent on the result of an undercard ladder matches, their success as a team should have spoke for itself. The fact that Seth needs to win on Sunday to distract us from the laziness of the writers and the inconsistencies of the feud is evidence of how badly WWE have handled this turn.
4. John Cena will win the WWE World Title at the MITB PPV and go on to headline Summerslam against Brock Lesnar.
Jack Bramma:FICTION - I'm going with Bray Wyatt to win MITB because Cena seems too obvious as the inevitable Lesnar-Face match at SS has been penciled in for months though with no movement in that direction, other than a possibly legit, leaked poster of Cena-Brock. In fact, Cena may go on to headline SS against Lesnar, but I don't think he'll win this match. Even if we're still headed towards Brock-megaface, Reigns could win or Bray could win and would drop the title to Cena next month at Battleground. Reigns isn't the guy for a few reasons and appears headed for a date with destiny and Triple H at SS. Instead, I don't think the Fed is quite done with Cena-Bray as they are stuck in a rematch-mania quagmire where each feud continues into perpetuity until someone turns heel or face or gets hurt. I'm taking Bray to pull down the belts.
Jack Stevenson:FACT - Assuming that Daniel Bryan doesn't make a miraculous recovery, and the remnants of the Shield don't get distracted from fighting against or alongside Triple H and Randy Orton, and Randy Savage's death isn't revealed as a cruel hoax, thus freeing him up for a controversial but much talked about WWE Championship match, the only obvious opponent for Brock Lesnar is John Cena, and vice versa. And very exciting it would be too! They had a jaw-dropping, one night war two years ago and have had little or no interaction since then, so a rematch seems like a very fresh and appealing idea to me. I'd be really excited to see it happen, especially with Paul Heyman added to the mix from last time to stir things up a bit more.
5. While he is popular right now, it is the wrong time for Roman Reigns to win the WWE World Title.
Jack Stevenson:FACT - I think WWE know they have to be careful with Roman Reigns, since bursting onto the scene in late 2012 he's seemed almost destined to win his first WWE Championship in a glorious Wrestlemania moment, and although he is unquestionably the coolest human alive right now, he's also looked limited in almost every singles match he's had so far in WWE. Throwing him in at the deep end right now when there are plenty of other stars with very safe hands who could take the WWE Championship and have a really great fight with Brock Lesnar over it at Summerslam would be a strangely panicky move. Reigns has unfinished business with Orton, HHH and Rollins, and can lose an eight man Money in the Bank match without exactly being damaged (figuratively, and fingers crossed not literally either) as an unflappable bad ass and luscious haired superman. There's no reason to put the title on him now.
Jack Bramma:FACT - I think Reigns is over enough and talented enough to be given the ball right now, but there are two major strikes against it: 1. Timing 2. It's a multi-man, gimmick match. If Reigns gets the belt right now, he gets caught in the booking clusterfrick between guys getting fantasy-booked to drop the belt to Brock or back to Dragon when he returns. Whether heel or face, whoever wins the belt at MITB seems destined to be a transition champ. A heel can recover, if not capitalize on being a transition champ, but a franchise face – what they hope Reigns can be – will possibly never get off the ground to mature into the franchise face he could become.
Also, marquee faces always win their first titles in singles matches, or at the very least by pinfall or submission. Hogan beat Sheik, Warrior beat Hogan, Austin beat HBK, Goldberg beat Hogan, Rock beat Trips, Cena beat JBL, Batista beat Trips, DB beat Cena, etc. You can probably name on one hand the number of HOF faces who won world championships for the first time as faces in gimmick matches, matches with more with than one guy, matches where he won by something other than pinfall or submission.
That's why I'm banking on either an uneventful Cena win, a surprising Bray Wyatt win, or a Seth Rollins cash-in at the end of the show no matter who wins.
6. If you are ROH or TNA, Evan Bourne is the most desirable former WWE talent to pick up, due to the fact that he has been off the radar for so long.
Jack Stevenson:FICTION - I agree that, of the recent WWE releases, Evan Bourne is the most exciting pick-up for ROH or TNA, but I don't think it's because of his prolonged absence. Sometimes, absence does make the heart grow fonder, but in Evan Bourne's case the absence went on for so long that the heart got old and confused and struggled to remember he even existed in the first place. I can barely believe Evan Bourne was a wrestler he's been gone so long, let alone one that briefly flirted with the main event scene. I'm still semi-convinced we all just collectively hallucinated Evan Bourne. He's the most exciting pick-up because he's an entertaining high flyer who has had some very good matches in his career, and also because there was no particular stand-out talent that was culled in the last round of releases. Bourne is the most exciting potential signing by default- maybe if he'd spent the last two years bouncing around on TV and having outstanding matches with all the exciting new wrestlers WWE promoted in his absence, he'd be the most exciting potential signing on sheer merit.
Jack Bramma:FACT - It's a fact because he's arguably the most talented guy recently released by WWE, not because he's been off the radar for so long. If anything, being off the radar for so long would make him less desirable, not more desirable. To me, Bourne, along with Justin Gabriel, will always be the guy who helped bring top-rope moonsaults, 450's, and SSP's back in vogue in WWE. After the rash of neck injuries and Brock Lesnar damn near killing himself at WMXIX, the Fed seemed to outlaw almost all high-flying, acrobatic moves (if your name wasn't Jeff Hardy). Jamie Noble was grounded, Billy Kidman was on his way out, and London and Kendrick never seemed to reach their full high-flyer potential in the WWE. It wasn't until Evan Bourne got on TV in 2008 that a new guy got to consistently perform a flipping, top rope move. He was given that role because of their confidence in him and their confidence in his abilities. Of course, injuries and pot busts turned all of that around. But if I were running a promotion and I had my choice of the recently released WWE guys, I'd want the most talented guy or the most talented guy most recently on TV and that's either Evan Bourne or Drew McIntyre.
7. WWE is getting into a bad habit of repeating matches on their shows.
Jack Stevenson:FACT - Never mind 'getting into,' they've been in this habit for a fair while. I guess it is a bad thing. The roster is rich and diverse enough to come up with a near endless array of intriguing encounters, and it really doesn't help those difficult, long Raws when they're filled with matches that we've already seen several times before in some form. Having said that, when you're booking seven hours of fresh TV a week I think the temptation to recycle the odd bout is understandable, and most of the guys on the current roster are so talented it's hardly a chore to watch a couple of rematches. I'd take a 77th consecutive Sheamus-Bad News Barrett match in 2014 over pretty much any Raw match from about 2009-2012. So, yeah, ideally we'd get more unique matches every week, but I don't think it's a huge issue. A very nonchalant fact from me.
Jack Bramma:FACT - I've thought for a long time that WWE has changed the storytelling model now to where PPVs are the new TV shows and TV shows are the new house shows. Sometime in the 90s with the advent of monthly PPVs, Crash TV, the Monday Night Wars, feuds and angles were sped up and moved at break-neck pace in an effort to beat the competition to the punch. Just to take a common example, if a traditional wrestling story had four story points, give or take – guy turns on friend, bad guy wins first match, good guy wins second match, and good guy wins rubber match. In the 80s and before, that entire angle might take a year or more to unfold, but in the 90s and even in the 2000s in TNA, that storyline would/could be much shorter.
In recent years, however, WWE seems determined to reverse this trend and slow things back down (like UFC). With megastars and draws like Rock, Brock, Taker, and Triple H only working a few dates per year, the Fed has been booking plenty of their money matches months, if not full years, out. Taker had a dramatic 4 year arc with Triple H and HBK that barely had any interaction with either guy for the majority of a year. Rock/Cena had two matches that took 2 years.
As far as I'm concerned though, the extension and implication of this change is that the WWE has implicitly acknowledged that for months of the year, some big names won't appear, much less wrestle on TV or PPV. If you want to see a big star, don't go to house shows or watch RAW or watch minor PPV's; instead, watch Mania, Summerslam, and maybe the Royal Rumble.
Another implication of this is that RAW and Smackdown are now the testing grounds for gimmicks and potential feuds and the proving grounds for midcarders. For a guy to get over and get experience, he doesn't need house show reps; he needs RAW and Smackdown reps. Whereas in the 80s, Hogan would work Perfect or Orndorff or Bundy for weeks on end in house shows, now guys like Rusev, Los Matadores, Bo Dallas, and Adam Rose work the same basic group of opponents for weeks on-end on TV because the TV show is arguably in neutral (not quite non-canon, but something like it), while the minor PPVs are where the story advances incrementally, and the big four PPVs are where the top guys show up and their stories advance.
8. While working relationships with AAA and New Japan sound great, it is hard to care about Jeff Jarrett's Global Force Wrestling when they have yet to announce a TV deal.
Jack Stevenson:FICTION - If Global Force sign great wrestlers and put on great wrestling, I couldn't care less how I have to watch it. I'd watch it on their Youtube, or by buying DVDs, or by purchasing weekly $10 iPPVs if I thought I'd be rewarded for it. It's interesting that New Japan are mentioned in the actual statement, because they're an obvious example of a promotion that has earned global critical acclaim without a global TV deal- they've built up a cult following outside of their homeland from people who loyally purchase their Ustream events and eagerly track down any great matches they'd otherwise have missed on Youtube or Dailymotion or whatever. A TV deal won't instantly legitimise them for me, demonstrating that they'll learn from TNA's mistakes and have a sound business model and something genuinely different and worthwhile to contribute to the modern pro wrestling landscape will. Besides, I am told that nobody watches TV any more, it's all smart phones and tablets and broadband. Perhaps Global Force should release their first show as a Kindle book.
Jack Bramma:FACT - The lack of a TV deal is significant, but neither Chikara nor PWG nor NJPW have a TV deal and yet I still care about them. The biggest problem is that they don't have a talent roster as of yet. Maybe they'll use Carlito or Evan Bourne or Rob Conway or Matt Morgan or Teddy Hart or Chris Hero, but who knows? Give them 6-12 months and we'll know a lot more.
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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.