Friday, September 19, 2014

NXT After Party

This is replacing hanging on the moon for a few weeks as myself and Josh Lopez give you a podcast that talks about NXT but also everything else going on in the wrestling world.

We have a podcast double header later tonight Chris Walder drops by as we do a preview of Night of Champions and see what else there is to talk about in the world of wrestling this week. So tune in late tonight for the second half of our podcast double header!

If your unable to listen to our podcast via the website head over to Podomatic and listen there to the show.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Is NXT Better?

The jokes have started about NXT being the superior brand to WWE on social media. You would never hear something like this said about the NBDL the developmental league of the NBA. Lebron James is better than anybody they have in the NBDL and that is fact. 

Could we say the same about John Cena and NXT? Is John Cena a better in-ring worker than Kenta, Kevin Steen, Sami Zayn, Prince Devitt and Adrian Neville? He isn’t really is he? John Cena does have experience of working on a much larger stage for almost a decade. You can love him or hate him but that is a fact.

NXT while it is suppose to be a view into the future it also is a glimpse into the past. Just an hour of weekly television and four major events in a year is how NXT works and how the WWF use to be. Could NXT be as compelling and great a show if they had to provide a 3-hour show and 9-10 hours of content overall in a week? The answer is probably not.

Triple H has talked about building NXT into its own brand and they have been relatively successful to this point. This is something that Paul Levesque has been hands on with and has totally changed the direction of the developmental of this company. This company suffered a major gap in finding and developing between when Jim Ross was in charge of talent relations and Triple H. That gap was when John Laurinaitis who did the company a huge disservice for its future. Seems Johnny legacy was hiring a lot of hot women that can’t wrestle. Jim Ross has a legacy of getting guys like Foley, Austin, The Rock and even Paul himself as part of the WWE Roster. The list of talent Paul Levesque is bringing to table is impressive as well. When we look back on it will see if it is as successful as the one J.R compiled but it is clearly better than the one Johnny Ace came up with in his time.

In a fantasy world, would it be cool to see a show with NXT vs. WWE? Absolutely, if you are expecting NXT guys to go over in such a situation though that probably is not going to happen.   You could have some great matches though. Let’s fantasy book a little below:

Sami Zayn vs. Seth Rollins
Tyler Breeze vs. Dolph Ziggler
Adrian Neville vs. Dean Ambrose
Kevin Steen vs. Bray Wyatt
Kenta vs. Daniel Bryan
Prince Devitt vs. John Cena
Ascension vs. Usos
Tyson Kidd vs. Cesaro

That is a card I would watch, as I am sure many would. NXT has had three huge names in Kenta, Steen and Devitt, you add them to the existing Zayn and Neville, and you have the NXT 5. This might be the term we use for these guys for years to come.  A Sami Zayn tweet led to doing a sit-down interview with all five that was truly a great read. Seeing names like Adam Cole, The Young Bucks and John Gargano on that site kind of nuts. If you don’t know those names, you just do not have any clue of independent wrestling. Steen, Cole and the Bucks made Mount Rushmore in PWG. I hope to see them all in the WWE in 2015 they are all deserving.

WWE has really created their own super-independent show with WWE’s money and production values. At the same time, they are training staff in all aspects of a broadcast with their partnership with Full Sail University. They have given hardcore fans an option under the WWE umbrella to see the stars they have watched in outside promotions like ROH, NJPW and other places under their system on their WWE Network. Paul Levesque smartly is not ruling anything out in terms of NXT’s future.

WWE since they ended WCW in 2001 has been searching for competition. They attempted to create their own with the brand split but that never really worked in my opinion. Now in 2014 they may have found their competition in NXT. A group of hungry wrestlers that most of whom already have long resumes looking to bust open the doors to the main roster. If that doesn’t light a fire under the butt of people on the main roster, nothing will. I remember the first NXT Takeover that was their second special event. That week the NXT show had more buzz than the Payback show coming up on the Sunday. As expected, the NXT show delivered but it took a “B” level pay-per-view and lit a fire under some of the people on that card to make it one of the more unexpected great shows of the year.

The tag line for NXT being: The Future is Now. People are buying in even more than they are the WWE with the hardcore audience of wrestling in general and the WWE.

So for a certain type of fan NXT already is and to some extent always will be better than WWE. Ultimately, though NXT is about creating stars on that next level and so far, it has which is ultimately the job it is meant to serve. Having it become a popular and even more popular with some brand may not have been part of the plan but now it is. WWE can make money off NXT just as easily and they will still cash the checks.

NXT has become something greater than what one could have imagined as its goofy reality show origins.  It is now a brand that sports a roster than can compete with any company in the world. Even the one that owns it at times could be included in that. 

Next time you go to say something bad about Triple H remember that Paul Levesque created all of this that you love and can’t enough of in NXT. So maybe he is not the idiot or interested in burying people, as the internet would have you believe.

He is taking pictures with all of these guys and truly reveling in their success as he would his own maybe more so. Ultimately, their success is his success as is true for NXT as a brand and the Performance Center they train those NXT stars. It is all about the game and growing it for the next generation. This according to Sami Zayn already has the future of the WWE in 5 years ready to roll.

He makes a good case that is hard to argue as he has some talented friends to play with currently.

Adam Cole Should Never Have Lost The ROH Title

When it happened I questioned if it was the right move and looking back on it 3 months of so later it seems even clearer. Adam Cole should still be the Ring of Honor Champion. Ring of Honor wanted that feel good moment at the end of their first live pay-per-view. It makes sense with hopefully some new people watching the product. In theory, Michael Elgin was the right choice to be that guy as well.

In reality Adam Cole outside of his ‘heel character” he is an engaging and great guy to put out there to promote your product. Far more so than Michael Elgin or Jay Briscoe could be in that regard. Adam Cole is a guy that clearly has some gifts that make you see him as a next level guy with the WWE someday. If you’re a company like ROH, why not take advantage of every single day you have this guy under contract.

The company also was aware their overall top draw Kevin Steen was leaving for WWE developmental as well. So if you can’t draw people with your biggest babyface than why not go with the top heel that fans want to see get his butt kicked?

No one could have seen the issues Elgin would have with working in the United States. There seems to be some debate on if ROH knew this fact before they decided to change the title. ROH after having a successful 6 months to start 2014 things seemed to lose momentum after Elgin winning the title on pay-per-view. The follow-up overall by the company after the debut on pay-per-view was disappointing. Elgin himself did not gain any momentum even with having a number of title defences in short succession. Sometimes in wrestling, fans are more invested in the chase to get a championship and this seems to be one of those cases.

After setting some attendance highs in various markets, it seems like attendance dropped since Elgin became Champion and after Kevin Steen’s tour leaving the company. It’s not all doom and gloom as Sinclair the owner of the company has stuck a syndication to get ROH television in 2.4 million homes in Atlanta. A sign that we could see Ring of Honor make moves to get into several major markets they are not.

Given everything why not have Adam Cole hold the title until December and have him drop it at Final Battle as his contract with the company will be coming due. Adam Cole is still putting on great matches as he showed with his recent contest with A.J Styles in Toronto. It was a better match than the stunning title match in which Jay Briscoe won the title from Michael Elgin.

Adam Cole has also been working with Michael Bennett, Maria Kanellis and occasionally Matt Hardy in the “Kingdom” which has given him a new dynamic to use. Only a few people that book ROH know the answer but I feel if they had it to do all over again, Adam Cole would still be ROH Champion I believe.  That ship has sailed though and Cole is likely going to be out of the title picture for the remainder of his contract in ROH. This is a shame as he was really coming into his own as the heel Champion of Ring of Honor.It was never going to be forever as Cole's heel character was suggesting near the end of his reign but it should have been longer.

What's done is done and ROH has to make the best of the situation with Jay Briscoe as champion.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Raw Has Issues After Another Terrible Effort

Once is an accident, twice is a trend and four times is one of the worst builds to a special event/pay-per-view I can recall. This was a pretty embarrassing effort going into Night of Champions. It is hard to imagine that a card once thought of as vital to the success of the WWE Network has become such an after thought. It really is amazing how little this show means coming up on Sunday. It is pretty much a one-match show with the re-match of Lesnar and Cena as the only match drawing any real interest and even that could have been done better.

I am not sure where to begin with all of this. I guess the start would be the WWE admitting that people would rather watch Monday Night Football than Raw. The constant referencing of halftime in which they timed out to have the pay off to the John Cena and Paul Heyman opening segment to halftime of the football game. This is not like when the WWE made up a one-match show between The Rock and Mankind to go on during the halftime of the Super Bowl. This is week two of the NFL not the Super Bowl and this is clearly nothing close to the "Attitude Era."

After Heyman, pulling out a great promo from John Cena last week it was too much to expect him to do it two weeks in a row. It was back to campy unrealistic John Cena whom Paul Heyman talked circles around tonight.  I wonder how I would feel about this whole angle if I did not believe and know that John Cena is never going to turn. The idea of John Cena as a “Paul Heyman Guy” would be unbelievable television. Vince McMahon is never going to allow that to happen though.

Think of all the money spent of the building of Cena in having him face guys like The Rock and Brock Lesnar. It is rumored that with this re-working of Lesnar’s contract is going to cost up to 5 million dollars. This is a time keep in mind when the company is losing money and no longer attempting to be a pay-per-view company. This was why Lesnar was brought in initially to help draw some pay-per-view buys. If the WWE drops the ball with getting over someone else with this Brock title run, the company is flushing 5 million down the toilet.

The first match on this show was Jericho vs. Kane that was never a great feud back in 2000 or 2001. Why I am seeing it on possibly the last Raw with Jericho in this run is to say the least disappointing. In fact, this entire run for Chris Jericho has been fairly underwhelming. It wraps up with a match on Sunday with Randy Orton that has no real story attached too it. Orton beat up Jericho for the hell of it because it was the “Season Premiere” of Raw.

Bray Wyatt meanwhile seems lost in the woods and seems to be heading to a program of some sort with the Big Show. The Jericho feud really did not rehabilitate Wyatt after a feud with John Cena that did not really end in a way that helped keep Wyatt as a top tier talent. After this feud with Jericho, Wyatt seems to be taking a few back steps as a result.  The one thing he still has his entrance that is over while his promos have lost a lot of steam.

Total Divas is back and it is invading Monday Night Raw at the same time Raw has been horrible is not just coincidence. Cameron on Total Divas talked about going back to NXT and last night on Raw validated why she should after trying to pin Naomi while she was laid out on her stomach. Seriously, how is this girl employed and taking up time on you major show in a week of wrestling programming? She is clueless and terrible and I do not have any sympathy for people like her and Eva Marie who clearly have no talent at all in terms of wrestling. Trish Stratus was a beautiful woman and still is, she learned the craft of wrestling something that clearly seems beyond a number of the cast members of Total Divas. Keep your show and make the girls managers on Raw, whatever you have to do.  Having them go in a ring is insulting to fans, makes them a laughing stock, and serves no purpose.

This leads nicely into the Bella’s feud that is another pointless project with the Divas. While I will say, the Bella Twins have learned how to wrestle to the point they are not a complete embarrassment.  On the microphone that is not the case where there is a clear difference in the Bella Twins that does not involve having breast enhancement. Nikki is not only is packing the bigger boobs, but also is better on the microphone. The material has been pretty awfully though. This week the Bella feud hit the ring as part of a tag-team match and at least they didn’t give this classic one on one match away. Something they might have wanted to do with Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns but will get there eventually.

Adding the Paige and A.J feud to the mix of all of this has only added to the mess that this has all become. I would think Brie gets involved and screws her sister from winning the title. That is the logical answer so they will probably go the opposite and have Brie help Nikki so she can take the title away from her. The obvious babyface move to do. Sadly, this feud marches on with no end in sight.

Seth Rollins wins the most questionable promo of the night award. He compared Roman Reigns to an ape which he acted out which was something that many will view as racist. It might well be that but I will leave that debate for others to have. What it was is a ridiculous promo that does Seth Rollins no favors in getting over. In addition, why is this match even happening at all with both booked to face each other on Night of Champions?

Dean Ambrose as I wrote yesterday (for Between the Ropes) has been the big winner by being written off the show during this terrible stretch. He has not been tied to all of the terrible stuff that has been going on during Raw for the last month.

The Miz and Ziggler having stunt doubles thing is so dumb it is insulting. Some may find it hilarious that R-Truth is the double of Dolph, but I find it was stupid and insulting. In any case, this feud while not horrible in the ring the story elements attached to it have sucked.

Usos and the Combo of Gold and Stardust feud is what it is. I am not sure why we needed to keep Cody as Stardust let alone turn this team heel. They are certainly booking this in a way I could see Uso’s dropping the titles. This is not to say that I want to see the Dust Brothers as champions.

How or why exactly we ended the show with Mark Henry and Rusev makes no sense at all. This is and has been presented as a mid-card angle and suddenly is rocketed to the main event spot? That makes little sense at all for what has been a decently booked campy mid-card angle.

When we come off a week in which NXT had a special event and it was booked fairly well it makes you wonder if the answer to all of the problems is simple. Vince McMahon has no say in NXT and leaves it completely in the hands of Paul Lévesque while Vince continues to be the final word on Raw and he clearly is not doing a good job of late. Perhaps the most shocking was the basic admission with in the script that fans watching Raw would likely bail out and watch the NFL. Never in my life would I have expected Vince McMahon to allow such a statement to be made even if it was just implied and not a direct one.

The WWE is not looking good these days and while people remain very optimistic about the future you have to wonder what kind of a future it will be at some point. The decline in people invested in the product has become fairly clear. Once people are gone, there is no guarantee you will get them back in the fold. The numbers keep shrinking and as good as the future might be who will have the faith and patience to be here for it. The answer is only the very hardcore base of the WWE audience that is usually the ones that are treated the worst by this company in terms of what they want to see as opposed to what they get.

There really is the reason to be concerned at the lack of quality in the product right now even if the ratings have yet to see a dropping off a cliff moment you can sense one coming if they product remains so poor. The other issue is obviously the focus and attention being paid to The WWE Network that has been taken off the core product and it shows.  When Vince Russo is sounding like a voice of reason in the wrestling landscape that speaks volumes to where we have gone.

Bottom line if the build to Hell in a Cell is anything like the one to Night of Champions it will be time to ring the alarm or press the panic button whatever needs to be done.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Raw Preview: Brock Is Back On Raw

Can the WWE do anything at all to convince us John Cena is not going to get his ass kicked as he did  last time is the biggest question going into the final show before Night of Champions. I really remain unconvinced and think the build for this re-match has been done wrong 100% from the start and should have focused around Cena never quitting. If this were, being built as an “I Quit Match” this Sunday far more people would have mixed feelings about the result of the match. As it stands and with news of Lesnar re-working his contract it is a foregone conclusion he will win. An "I Quit Match," would have been fantastic just as it was with Mick Foley and The Rock back in the day. The reason was that no one believed anyone could make Mick Foley quit not even The Rock. It is likely true of Superman John Cena in terms of even his detractors admitting he has never quit in a match. So, it would have been compelling.

This idea of John Cena embracing the dark side has been done to death. Even with the greatness of Paul Heyman delivering the message, no one believes Cena will ever turn heel. Vince McMahon is said to be heavily involved in the booking of Cena means it is not happening at all. It is an old tired angle that we have seen far too many times and with Cena being so public about never turning heel, it takes away from any belief that he will.

The Bella’s train wreck feud continues full steam ahead despite the two not being in a match at night of Champions as of yet. Nikki currently is in a triple threat with Paige and A.J Lee with Brie on the sidelines for this match. Safe bet if she remains there after tonight she will still be involved in the match and likely cost her sister the Diva’s Championship or worse help her win it as some form of trying to bring them back together.

You have to wonder seriously if these girls were not dating two of the top stars in the company would they be where they are now. Maybe based on the success of Total Divas that is underway for its third season, but that said it all just does not seem right with Nikki and Brie being involved in a semi-main event angle. It feels flat out wrong to be honest. Trish and Lita at one time earned the way to main event status and you felt happy for them. In this case it seems like something that was handed to them on a silver platter.

As for the rest of the night of Champions card we have the Rusev and Henry feud heating up off Smackdown where Lana through powder in the face of Henry during the dreaded arm wrestling segment. So expect Mark to be looking for some payback heading into Sunday. Dolph and The Miz continue their feud with extras and all for the I-C Title.

Really for all the talk of Night of Champions having to be this big show to help secure renewals for the WWE Network it has really come off as just another boring WWE special event that is lacking any real sizzle. Rollin vs. Reigns will be on this card likely. It was confirmed that Randy Orton and Jericho would have a match on Sunday prior to Jericho going back to be a rock star with Fozzy.

It just is not a compelling card in the slightest and the WWE really seems to be heading down a terrible path right now. Nothing seems to be capturing the attention of the audience at all right now.

The one WWE Superstar that seems to be gaining the most from all of this is Dean Ambrose as he is disconnected from the product while off shooting a movie for WWE Films. When he comes back I expect there will be a monstrous response for him. Right now he seems to have even gained some steam with fans by being away for this time period. Guess John Cena is wrong you really do not have to be there every single week at least not to get over with fans.

I do feel we need to see John Cena get some licks in on Brock Lesnar prior to Sunday for any of us believe that he will have a snowball’s chance of winning. Will see how it all goes down tonight during Monday Night Raw.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

When Did South Park Become More Edgy Than The WWE?

We have all heard for years now how the WWE can’t be what it was back in the attitude era. WWE has become too corporate and concerned about their sponsors and business partners.  It all sounds somewhat logical and makes sense to a rational thinking person. However, is that really the case or just an excuse to go the safe route?

I give you South Park the Comedy Central show that has pushed the limits of a politically correct society. They have made fun of everyone and everything including the WWE in an episode back is season 13 of the popular cartoon series. They are on a network that is owned by Viacom which few would not argue is just as big a corporate company as the WWE.

So can someone explain to me how South Park has been able to survive with what that show does? They are able to get advertisers, seem to have little issue merchandizing their product and all the while pushing the limits. At some point WWE who was always willing to push the limits and see how far they could go, even going as far as having D-X read an actual letter sent to them complaining about the gimmick of the group and making fun of it. What was the result from USA? The network? They loved the segment and D-X continued with their antics for years to come on WWE  television on the network.

Some might argue times have changed and the reaction might be far different now. Really well than explain shows like South Park, Family Guy and host of other shows that all push the limits more than WWE does now. Anytime an angle even borders on being controversial, the WWE seems to run & hide and kill the angle for the most part. If not kill, really take the teeth out of it and make it far more generic in nature.

I give you three recent examples of this from the last few years. Let us start with the Real American Jack Swagger and Zeb Coulter. At first, this was an angle that was clearly representing a radical faction of the Republican Party that had strong opinions on immigration and American values. This was represented in the character of Zeb Coulter. So much so it got people tied to that wing of the Republican Party to notice it like Glen Beck. The WWE responded by making an infamous video that Zeb and Jack break the fourth wall, step out of a promo, and act as themselves. Acknowledging the obvious that they are playing roles and this is just a storyline in a show.

After that though the ranting and raving of Zeb became less and less controversial and to the point that he is now a babyface character spouting American values that are much easier for everyone to support.

The official face turn came when Jack Swagger and Zeb from out of the blue came out to challenge Rusev and Lana. This angle had been slowly changed from a Bulgarian sympathizer with the blond Russian to both being billed from Russia. It was a very old school angle that at first came of as very corny and a modernized version of Rocky 4. It ended up becoming a very edgy angle based on the real life drama that started to unfold in the Ukraine. Things reached a boiling point when Lana indirectly referenced a tragedy in which a passenger airline was downed in the Ukraine that she referenced only as ‘current events” involving Russia. There was a major backlash despite it being very different from having an Iraqi sympathizer during a war with the country and the United States. The WWE backed off pushing Rusev for a week and would bring him back but the whole gimmick has been really toned down in its ties to current events and reality.

My third and final example started with the WWE being criticized for their lack of pushing black athletes and having black people as part of the company in general. In typical old WWE fashion a week or two later they responded with a group of Xavier Woods, Big E and Kofi Kingston. They were presented like a second coming of perhaps the Nation of Domination. The WWE in the past created a group under similar circumstances when a parent’s council was angry with the WWE for their product not being fit for children. The WWE response was to create the group the “Right to Censor” that made a mockery of that group and their concerns. In 2014, WWE the new group of disgruntled black wrestlers’ angle was dropped the next week. The three continue to work on house shows but it is assumed the angle is being re-worked.

Some where and some how Vince McMahon lost his grapefruits. You may only look to the week it has been for the NFL as they have been the focus of the national media spotlight for their handling of the Ray Rice situation. Causing an uproar over domestic violence and the NFL has become society’s pinata. Worse for the NFL former M.V.P Adrian Peterson later in the week was charged with child endangerment. It has been a horrible week for the NFL the likes we have never seen.

So perhaps society would not take to the attitude era at all. Maybe the fact the South Park and other cartoon based shows are the only ones that can get away with pushing the limits these days. Involve real people in a world where reality and fiction are always at the best times hard to get people to understand in wrestling it doesn't work. 

In any case, society has changed to a point that it makes it hard for wrestling to push the boundaries. Wrestling still has the same stigmas that it has always faced. The recent death of Shawn O’Haire was an example of yet another performer dying far too young that the average person sees as the norm in wrestling. It has improved a tremendous amount in the last 10 years and heart warming stories about Jake Roberts and Scott Hall being pulled back from destroying their lives have happened in the past couple years. WWE and Wrestling in general will never get past some clichés about the business to the average person. 

Wrestling is at a low point and everyone thinks they have an answer how to fix it. Society has changed a lot and the idea of simply turning back the clock might not be the answer. To say the WWE is afraid to take chances is not really the answer either. They have taken perhaps the biggest gamble they ever have with the WWE Network. The issue is though they need the product to put on that network that people feel they can’t live without. This is hard to do in this world not just for the WWE but all sports and all entertainment.

Still a change in direction clearly needs to take place. The numbers on the WWE Network are evidence of the need for that change.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Condo on the Moon Podcast #28

Myself and Walder back for another week. We talk about are experience at ROH show last Saturday and go in depth on NXT and talk about some of Monday Night Raw. All that and more in this episode that is not even 99 cents let alone 9.99.

Thanks for listening and help spread the word if you like what you hear. If you have feedback love to hear it. Aside from how I pronounce John Cena that has been covered actually by Walder in a previous podcast.

If you have issue accessing the podcast through our site we invite you to go directly to out podcast host's Podomatic and Listen there