How I Would Book… AJ Styles’ Road To Wrestlemania 32

After years of speculation, the “Phenomenal One” AJ Styles has signed a WWE contract and is now a part of the WWE universe. After more than a decade as the face of TNA and years of experience in Japan, we finally get to see AJ Styles throw down in the WWE. However, with his arrival comes many questions. This is someone that has made a name for himself in the independent scene, who is now in unfamiliar territory. This was one of the worries Vince Russo had, when he heard AJ was starting up in WWE. How do you treat him? Well, we’ll see if we can make things comfortable for the newcomer. Here’s How I Would Book… AJ Styles’ Road To Wrestlemania 32.

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To say that this is AJ’s first rodeo with WWE would actually be untrue. AJ was actually in the developmental territory for the WWF as he was starting out in wrestling. His initial run is highlighted by a WWF Metal appearance, when he wrestled the Hurricane. Now though, he enters the company as an established wrestling superstar. His reaction at the 2016 Royal Rumble tells you just how much of a hot commodity he is. People want to see AJ Styles and WWE have pulled quite a coup with the signature of AJ Styles.

Signing these top stars is all well in good, but it means nothing he is not booked accordingly. AJ’s actually coming in during an exciting period for the company. He’s too big enough star to be lost in the shuffle for Wrestlemania period. In fact, he helps WWE tackle their issue of having the stars at their disposal. AJ will probably be getting a big match at Wrestlemania.

However, which match is right for AJ? Which match will firmly establish him as a future main-eventer in the company. Well, let’s take a look at the options.

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As hinted by the elimination of AJ at the Royal Rumble and based off reports from Wrestling Observer, it appears that WWE has some kind of plan with AJ and Kevin Owens. That would actually be a good feud going into Wrestlemania for Kevin, after losing his feud to Dean Ambrose. Going up against AJ, who has already got instant overness, will benefit Kevin and maintain his own overness. It makes sure that he doesn’t get lost in the shuffle and has direction, keeping his momentum up at the same time. However, is this the best thing for AJ too? Well, let’s take a look at the other options.

On Monday Night RAW, AJ beat Chris Jericho. This was followed by a resistant handshake by Jericho, who seemed confident that he was going to beat AJ. If this were to lead to a Wrestlemania match, I think this would be a great Wrestlemania debut match for AJ to really shine. Their match on RAW was pretty good and I think it’s just a matter of getting used to each other. Since they’ve already competed on television, there’s no harm in putting it on during the house shows leading into their big match. Then again it would take away from their big Wrestlemania match, if they fought several times before that. Surely AJ’s big Wrestlemania match should be a special one right?

When looking at the active roster at the moment, it would seem that our options for AJ are limited in terms of true star power. However, there are other mouth-watering prospects for AJ at Wrestlemania. Wouldn’t it be truly fantastic to see a triple threat match with fellow high-flyers Kalisto and Neville? You could put the United States Championship on the line if you wanted, but it’s really debatable about if AJ’s first title win should be the US Championship. Alternatively, he could challenge the former US Champion Alberto Del Rio. That would be an unique mix of styles… no pun intended. Dolph Ziggler could be a great opponent for him, as Ziggler would be capable of keeping up with the speed of AJ. Sometimes, Dolph has a tendency of working too quick for a lot of wrestlers. Thankfully, AJ has worked in environments that features a lot of fast-paced action and is very quick himself… even at 38 years old.

When looking at all of those options, it’s a tough call which ever way you slice it. However, I believe the right man to face AJ… is Dean Ambrose.

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This is the perfect way for AJ’s status as an upper midcard/main eventer to be cemented early on. Dean’s just coming off being in the final two of the Royal Rumble and has a lot of momentum at the moment. My scenario would have AJ challenge Dean for the Intercontinental Championship at Wrestlemania… and win the belt.

Here’s what’ll happen.

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Dean’s match at Fastlane is already set. He will face Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar in a triple threat match with the winner going up against Triple H for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania. He’s taken care off until then. For AJ, it’s a lot more tricky.

AJ Styles’ only just debuted, so no major feud is already in place. This interests me. We’ve got a great opportunity to throw AJ in with a number of upper midcarders right off the bat. My idea would be for Kevin Owens to start off Monday Night RAW, complaining that he is not in the picture for any championship. He demands a shot at something when Alberto Del Rio comes out. He does the same and demands a rematch for the US Championship. Chris Jericho comes out and throws his name into the hat for a title shot. This results in Stephanie McMahon making two matches for that episode of RAW, claiming that she’ll be watching. It’s Chris Jericho vs Kevin Owens and Alberto Del Rio… vs AJ Styles.

Owens and Jericho fight to a double DQ and AJ beats Del Rio. This leads to Stephanie claiming that she’ll need one more match to decide who is truly worthy of an opportunity. Jericho, Del Rio and Owens are booked in a triple threat match, which is won by Owens. Stephanie decides to give all these men an opportunity to earn a title match of their choosing at Wrestlemania (except the WWE World Heavyweight Championship of course). If the winner selects the Intercontinental Championship, he will challenge for the title on the night after Wrestlemania if Dean wins at Fastlane. I’m pretty sure that covers that aspect of the storyline. We want to make Stephanie seem that she’s got everything figured out. If Dean ends up winning, she’s got a back-up plan. Whether’s it’s stripping Dean off the title after Fastlane or scheduling the title match for RAW, we want to keep the Intercontinental title in the mix.

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At Fastlane, it’ll be a fatal four way match. It’ll be Chris Jericho vs Alberto Del Rio vs Kevin Owens… vs AJ Styles. At Fastlane, AJ picks up the win. On RAW, we get an all-champions tag team match. It’s United States Champion Kalisto and Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose vs the WWE Tag Team Champions the New Day. The New Day cause a DQ and do a three-on-two beatdown, when AJ comes down to the ring to even things up. When the New Day flee, AJ decks Dean with the Pele. He holds up the Intercontinental Championship and declares that he will challenge for that title.

In the weeks leading up to the event, AJ talks about how he’s no rookie when it comes to professional wrestling. He’s been wrestling for nearly two decades and has been successful everywhere he’s been. He’s says WWE will be no different. AJ talks about hearing “stories” and “myths” of how those that love professional wrestling are treated like dirt in WWE. AJ says that he doesn’t care about those stories and the “backstage politics” won’t stop him from being the best in the world. He vows to win the Intercontinental Championship and surpass the title reigns of every other great that’s ever held the belt.

It’s not a heel turn but it’s AJ showing ambition. AJ’s letting off some of the cockiness and arrogance in him without becoming a full-blown heel. AJ will also NOT hit the Styles Clash on anyone during this road to Wrestlemania. He can win matches by heel locks or corkscrew splashes, but he’ll never win with the Styles Clash. He’ll never use it. The anticipation builds to Wrestlemania, where AJ and Dean meet. The people are starting to think “will this be the day he hits it?”

NOTE: On this week’s edition of SmackDown!, AJ Styles actually did hit the Styles Clash on Curtis Axel. This does annoy me because you had a great opportunity to really put over the move. It should be a move which you should build anticipation for, like when Hideo Itami kept teasing the GTS on NXT. Make the fans wait and wait. Make them wonder whether WWE are not allowing AJ actually hit the move because of how dangerous it can be if something goes wrong. WWE spent the entire Royal Rumble having AJ try to hit the Styles Clash, only to be stopped by someone in the match. Why not continue that until at least Wrestlemania? Why throw it away for an episode of SmackDown!, which does not have an audience like RAW or Wrestlemania? 

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If we’re lucky, these two are given 20 minutes to wrestle on that show. AJ and Dean give each other anything but they both keep kicking out. AJ goes for the Pele on Dean but Dean moves out of the way. AJ ends up hitting the ref somehow. Dean hits Dirty Deeds on AJ but the ref is down. As Dean wakes up the ref, AJ low blows Dean. The ref is still not up and Dean gets back up slightly from the low blow. AJ goes to the outside, picks up the title and hits Dean with it. The referee finally wakes up and makes the count but Dean kicks out. AJ brings up Dean and yells in his face, which leads to Dean spitting at AJ. AJ gets mad and finally hits the Styles Clash to pick up the win and win the championship.

That is how I’d do it. I feel the Intercontinental Championship is the right belt for AJ to have and I feel he should have it sooner rather than later. After he’s done with Dean, it actually sets up a nice little feud with one of NXT’s top stars. Someone that is reportedly on his way to the main roster soon. That man… is Samoa Joe.

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That about does it for this edition of “How I Would Book.” I’m pretty sure a lot of people would have wanted somebody other Dean. A lot of people probably want AJ to go up against a true star like Brock Lesnar or Triple H. Others might want to have AJ go up against someone like Daniel Bryan or Kevin Owens. I’m sure there’s TNA fans that would want to see AJ going up against a debuting Samoa Joe AT Wrestlemania. I’m positive that NJPW fans will want to see AJ in some incarnation of the Bullet Club. However, I feel this is the right way to throw AJ into WWE as a serious player. Dean Ambrose is currently a main-eventer in WWE, which makes the timing perfect for AJ and Dean to tear the house down in Dallas. Whether WWE does it my way or a different way, I just hope that the road to Wrestlemania for AJ Styles is a phenomenal one.

Have any suggestions for a How I Would Book? Simply tweet me at either @ArmbarExpress or @TomRobinson5199 on Twitter with your suggestions. Do also check out the rest of the content on my blog. I do a lot of other cool fantasy booking blog posts with my playthroughs of fantasy booking game Extreme Warfare Revenge. And there’s all sorts of other wrestling content as well. You never know, you might just like what you see!

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Why Reports Of NJPW Signings Will Help WWE

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Reports of the signings of New Japan Pro Wrestling stars AJ Styles, Shinesuke Nakamura, Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson really did shock the wrestling world. Despite the WWE’s best attempts at keeping the signings a secret, the news was eventually broken. Plans were reportedly in place for the likes of AJ Styles to actually compete in the 2016 Royal Rumble match. However, I fear that those plans may now be changed, considering that the cat is now out of the bag. WWE may want to go out of their way to shock us but I say continue with Plan A.

WWE’s been very short on long-term planning in the last few years, with the likes of the Undertaker’s streak ending being decided four hours before the event. In some cases I totally disagree with it, but in some cases it’s not always a bad thing. With the likes of Seth Rollins and John Cena suffering long term injuries, you can’t really afford to make long term plans if things go wrong.

Changing plans because of injuries is fine, as these things are just something you can’t prepare for. Changing plans because storylines were leaked however aren’t the appropriate measures to take. It’s certainly not appropriate to go out of your way to swerve the audience, when you’ve got something great in place for them already. Whether the news of AJ Styles came out or not, him entering the Royal Rumble would have gotten an incredible pop. If anything, I would argue that it would actually help the pop for AJ if the news had gotten out.

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I want to just state before I go on that wrestling fans are not idiots. A lot of them have the internet and a lot of them are well aware about other wrestling promotions. It’s possible that AJ would get a strong reaction if he showed up unannounced but I’m highly doubtful that it would get an extremely big reaction without the news. The Royal Rumble is one of the WWE’s biggest events. There could be a lot of casual viewers tuning into the Royal Rumble and I’m sure I’m right when I say that these viewers would have no idea who AJ Styles is.

Without that leak, there was always going to be a portion of the crowd that is sat there silently thinking “Who is AJ Styles?” If AJ wasn’t announced beforehand, those fans wouldn’t have had a clue. With the news though, it actually aids WWE in their bid to build anticipation for the likes of Styles, Nakamura, Gallows and Anderson. Those casual fans now have the time to do a bit of digging about who these people are. That builds anticipation a lot more than if WWE would have tried to make this a surprise.

 

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I also mean no disrespect when I say that AJ Styles is no Sting. When Sting signed for WWE, the WWE already had the WCW content on the WWE Network and other means for their younger WWE fans to find out just who he is. It’s not like WWE can just grab some TNA footage of AJ and shot it on the network. WWE have hardly ever hinted or mentioned TNA in any form of media, and it’s not like they’re willing to go out of their way to discuss wrestlers that aren’t even with the company.

That’s not on WWE as that’s not their job. Their job is to promote the talent that they’ve got. To say that they’ve completely neglected other wrestling companies would be an out-right lie. They’ve worked with other wrestling promotions in the past and have mentioned independent wrestlers like AJ and Samoa Joe in articles about Ring of Honor before they signed. The point is, you can’t expect casual and young wrestling fans to automatically figure out who these men are before they enter the WWE ring for the first time. That’s what vignettes are for. That’s what WWE.com is for. That’s what WWE games are for. Sting was announced for WWE 2K15 a few months before he debuted on WWE television.

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Wrestling fans must be aware that WWE are trying to appeal to the majority of THEIR fan base. In order to make these fans aware about who these men are, the leaks have played to their advantage. They can know take control of the narrative and build anticipation for the eventual arrival of these men. What have they been having Finn Balor and John Cena do on Twitter and Instagram? They posted a number of Bullet Club/AJ Styles related messages which get people excited. Finn had an interview with WWE.com, talking about the rumours. The hardcore wrestling fans, that know who the Bullet Club is, will go nuts. The casual wrestling fans, that don’t know who they are, can find out and get excited. It works so well for WWE.

If they were to change their plans just because word got out about their arrival, that would be detrimental. Some times, it works for the best if we know ahead of time that something’s going to happen. If WWE keep building up and building up these signings only for nothing to happen at the Royal Rumble, the fans that have gotten so excited are going to feel let down.

It was like at Extreme Rules 2012, when Kharma was supposed to come back and win the Divas title. Word got out and they decided against it. They went with the returning Layla to come back and win the title, and the crowd just didn’t care in the slightest. Remember when Matt Hardy turned on Jeff Hardy in 2009 and revealed himself as the mastermind behind his attacks from the last few months? Originally, the plan was for the returning Christian to reveal himself as the mastermind. When word got out what WWE were planning to do, WWE changed their minds.

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WWE going out of their way to shock us sometimes isn’t the best way to go, especially if you don’t have a good enough back-up plan. I enjoy unpredictability as much as the next guy but I’d prefer the best storyline WWE can give me. If they’ve got a plan for AJ, Shinsuke, Doc and Karl, I would much rather they stick with it. I want a storyline that truly is too sweet.

SPOILER ALERT – Title Change To Take Place On SmackDown!

NOTE: The following post features major spoilers from this week’s episode of SmackDown! If you do not wish to be spoiled, click away now.

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When I heard that Kalisto had beaten Alberto Del Rio for the United States Championship on RAW, I was all for it. I’ve talked in the past about how Kalisto can become a top star in WWE if pushed right and this was the biggest win of his career. Not even a year into his time on the main roster and he’s already a champion. Not even a year into his time on the main roster and he’s already won a title that was held by John Cena only a few months ago. This was a huge moment for Kalisto and I thought this was the start of something special. A day later though, it seems that this optimism has all been wasted.

What happened on the Tuesday tapings of SmackDown? How did WWE follow up on Kalisto’s big win? Well I can reveal that what happened was that Alberto Del Rio won back the United States Championship in a rematch. That moment on Monday Night RAW and all of that momentum built by Kalisto beforehand seemingly halted as his moment of glory lasted a grand total of 24 hours.

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I was actually planning an article for Kalisto after finding out he won the US title and this was going to be a pretty positive article until I found out what happened on SmackDown! One of the points I was going to make is that WWE should have been careful about when they were to have Kalisto drop the title. It had to be against the right person and he should have something to do afterwards that made him still relevant in the company.

What WWE did was have the title reign last ONE day (three if you’re starting the reign from the date the title change airs) and it was to the same guy that he had beaten before. Therefore, it makes Kalisto look like a fluke champion. What does that do for Kalisto going forward, unless he wins it back at the Royal Rumble?

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Even if the title does change hands again, that’d still be detrimental to the prestige of the title. The US title has been a title that’s rarely been hot-shotted really since Santino Marrella won the belt back in early 2012. He had a surprisingly long title reign. Cesaro had a long title reign. Dean Ambrose had a REALLY long title reign. Sheamus had a long title reign. Rusev had a long title reign. John Cena had a long title reign. That’s what made it stand out as a belt.

Since John Cena dropped the belt to Seth Rollins at Summerslam though, each title reign is making the belt seem less prestigious. OK, I understand that the US title change at Summerslam was really done to give Seth a strong bragging right and really make him seem like the top guy in the company. I understand that John Cena had to win it back in order to continue with his John Cena US Open Challenge to keep elevating the title. I understand the decision to have Cena drop the belt at Hell in a Cell as he was getting time off and what’s more, they put it on the right guy in Del Rio.

With these last two title changes, now we’re back to the title meaning less and less with every title change. Alberto Del Rio is nowhere near as over as he was when he first won the title. Kalisto himself is not even an established star yet. He could have been… but only if you had made his first title reign mean something.

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That first title reign is so important because it has to have mean for those that hold it. You could even claim that Christian’s two day World Heavyweight Championship reign had meaning as it was the catalyst of the biggest program of his life. That gives a character some value. What does Kalisto’s day long title reign accomplish?

It’s not like Kalisto is a 18 year long veteran that’s just won his first world title. This is an exciting new luchador that’s burst onto the scene big time and won his FIRST title in the company (not including his NXT Tag Title run). All the title loss does is make Kalisto out to be a one hit wonder. Christian will not go down as a one-hit wonder as he has a substantial career to his name. Kalisto doesn’t have that.

I feel that WWE’s thinking with these title changes was to make the TV viewers believe that anything can happen. After all, Roman Reigns winning the WWE World title on RAW a few weeks ago pulled one of the best RAW viewership numbers in the year. I would be OK with it if they didn’t do the two title changes in the same week. This is like when the WCW World title would change hands every week in 2000 leaving the viewers confused about who the top guy is.

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If anything, these tactics can prove to be detrimental for the TV ratings. The WCW ratings were at their worst when they were doing that. The viewership for this week’s RAW actually went down from last week, which tells you that the idea of frequent title changes didn’t really do much for them. Maybe the SmackDown! numbers will be up though as WWE have already announced the title change on WWE.com and more people might tune in to see it.

I think WWE will need to have a plan in place to justify these title changes. If not, then the future doesn’t look great for Kalisto.

John Cena Requires Shoulder Surgery, May Miss Wrestlemania 32

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How’s it going everybody? This week has been a huge week for wrestling as 2016 has started off with some heavy news. There’s been reports of wrestlers from New Japan Pro Wrestling signing with the WWE, the Royal Rumble match will now be for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and the WWE’s plans for Wrestlemania are set to change yet again as they’ve been struck with another huge blow.

John Cena has confirmed via Twitter that he will be undergoing shoulder surgery in Birmingham, Alabama and according to PWInsider, he could be sidelined with a rotator cuff injury which may see him out for 6-9 months.

It really is a huge blow for WWE going into Wrestlemania season and their plans for the event. I’ve talked a few times before about how there was no real indication about what the card was going to look like but I think it was pretty clear that Cena was going to be a big part of it so again, I bet things are getting nutty within WWE’s creative team.

When Seth Rollins went down with his injury last year, it forced WWE to change their plans for the next few months as Seth was obviously the champion and probably set for a big match himself at Mania. I think it was more of a concern with that incident as Seth was the champion and nobody was really ready to take the title from him.

Reports suggest that there were plans for Roman Reigns to beat Seth Rollins at Survivor Series anyway for the belt but Roman was still not over to the level of his push at the time. Now though, things are going much better for Reigns and he really is becoming a top star in his own right.

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However, I still think with Cena’s injury that all hands are on deck for the writers. The reason I say this is because if Roman Reigns goes down, who do they have to be the top babyface on the main roster after Wrestlemania season?

Think about it. How many wrestlers can you think of? Dean Ambrose would be one of those guys that they would get behind but only because they have no other choice. When they’ve pushed Ambrose in the past, it’s been more of a reluctant push for him. They’d put him in the main event scene but not a lot was done to protect him while he was there. Therefore when he got out of those title feuds, he was right back down the card.

Now let’s think about the other babyfaces. Dolph Ziggler? Neville? They could give the ball to them but it was not like either of them were protected this week on RAW. Ziggler lost to HEATH SLATER (albeit with interference) and Neville lost clean to Kevin Owens. Who could possibly take these two seriously as main eventers? In fact, the only babyfaces that won on Monday night were Roman Reigns, Becky Lynch and Titus O’Neil. It’s not like they’re going to give Titus a really big push towards the title either (even though I’d personally love to see that!) so as it stands, nobody is close to being over to a top level.

I think it’s probably accurate to say that while the roster is the most talented one probably in the history of the company, it could also be said that this could be the most underdeveloped roster of all time leading into a Wrestlemania in terms of star power. Wrestlemania 2000 was a bad one as Stone Cold Steve Austin and Undertaker were both out due to injuries but at least wrestling was hot around that time and they had The Rock becoming the top star while Austin was out. This time around, they’ve got no-one near to the level of overness that The Rock was on.

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It’s a sad state of affairs for WWE in terms of their roster and John Cena does not help with his injury. It’s a blow to WWE’s future plans. John Cena was advertised for the Royal Rumble event and was even on the poster for the show. The chances are that he was going to have a big part of it. I suspect that their plans for Cena would be for him to go up against Roman Reigns for the belt in the main event of Wrestlemania.

I know they did that tease after RAW a week or two ago but there were also reports of Cena going up against Undertaker. To be honest, I didn’t see WWE having anyone else on the main roster to go up against Roman so that’s why I thought it was going to be Cena. They need an active wrestler coming out of Wrestlemania as champion so I just dismissed the Taker rumours and thought that this was the year where Cena was either going to set up his match with Roman as the challenger or was going to get his 16th title reign and his third Rumble win to tie with Stone Cold Steve Austin for most Rumble wins.

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It’s very interesting from a business perspective about how much impact Cena will have. There’s no real precedent for Cena being out for an extremely long period of time. Cena’s rehab has been superhuman at times and he really has pulled off some insane injury recoveries in the past! I wouldn’t want to rush Cena back but WWE would probably want him back sooner if the pay-per-view buys, merchandise and TV numbers don’t do so well.

I think from a merchandise perspective, it’s going to be a hard few months. John Cena is obviously their top guy in terms of t-shirt sales and other merchandise. If he’s not around though, it’s not like they’ll be releasing more t-shirts for the foreseeable future as he won’t be around to wear them. I feel that they are going to take a huge hit in that department. John Cena could take on an non-wrestling/authority figure role while he’s injured I guess, in order to keep up his merchandise.

I don’t think there’s any real correlation between pay-per-view buys/WWE Network subscriptions and Cena’s effect on them because again, he’s not really been out for a really long period of time. I remember that John Cena was not booked for the TLC 2011 event at all and the buy-rates went up from the year before but again, that’s very hard to go off because that happened years ago. It’s very hard to say how big of an impact his absence will have.

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As far as TV ratings is concerned, it’s not like the ratings are plummeting right now. There was a time after Cena took his break last year that the ratings did drop to their lowest in nearly 20 years but the ratings have rose up in the past month or so, largely due to how well Reigns is getting over.

It’s all really up in the air about what’ll happen from a business stand-point. All I know is that the odds of Roman Reigns winning the Royal Rumble this year have really went up in my estimation. Roman’s doing so well and I think the company will be behind Roman more than ever now that Cena’s out. I think that’s a great thing but there’s not a lot of challengers out there that could really be considered as legitimate main event talent unless you were to dip into the part-timer pool.

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Even that is limited though. Undertaker seems very close to calling it a day and his health is really unpredictable at this point. We don’t know how well Sting is physically. It seems that Daniel Bryan will never be cleared to compete by the WWE doctores. The Rock is a movie star that probably wouldn’t have the time to be the champion again. The only one I can think off that would make sense is Brock Lesnar but I don’t think they’d be willing to pay him more often.

I think Roman vs. Brock for the title is really the way to go for Wrestlemania. Brock does have more of a proven track-record for pay-per-view buys and TV ratings than anyone on the main roster but again, it’s going to be a costly endeavour.

For those of you wondering, this will be the first Wrestlemania John Cena will miss since he debuted on the main roster in 2002. That’s incredible if you think about it because again, there’s no real precedent set for Cena’s effect on the buy-rates for Wrestlemania.

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It’ll be interesting to see how WWE reacts to this to say the least. Maybe they won’t need to panic depending on Roman but losing a top star is always a bad deal. When you lose a star like John Cena, it could end up being a catastrophic deal for them.

Tweet to @ArmbarExpress to share your thoughts or leave a comment to tell me what you think about this news and what do you think the Wrestlemania 32 card will look like with John Cena out of commission.

Wrestling Flashback – January 4th 1999: RAW IS WAR vs Nitro

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To say that this was the day that the wrestling world turned upside down would be an understatement. The Monday Night Wars, that had been going back and forth for years, had its winner seemingly decided on this day as both the WWF and WCW put on two huge shows together in an effort to win the ratings battle.

In one corner, we had the WWF. Mankind had been feuding with the “Corporate Champion” The Rock and this lead to a no disqualification title match taking place in the main event of Monday Night RAW after Mankind threatened to break Vince’s son Shane’s arm. This was a taped show but the anticipation was building.

In the other corner, we had WCW. Kevin Nash shocked the world at Starrcade by ending the undefeated streak of Goldberg and winning the WCW World title. Eight days later, the Wolfpack leader would defend the title against Goldberg in a rematch at Goldberg’s hometown in Atlanta. These two would collide LIVE on WCW Monday Nitro. Indeed, history would be made tonight.

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January 4th 1999 would see RAW and Nitro go head to head once again as WCW looked to regain the lead as the top dogs of professional wrestling. Eric Bischoff pulled out all of the big guns. Nitro was live and up against a pre-taped RAW. He knew the results and he knew he had to counter-book. He had to bring it tonight and he thought he had the perfect main event with a huge development in the long storyline between the two nWos and Goldberg. With what he was about to put on, there was no way he could lose to something like Mick Foley fighting for the championship right?

Mick Foley actually was a former WCW wrestler but was never really the top man in the company. Why would he? He made his name as a sucker for pain. He took risks that no man should ever take, including getting launched off the top of the “Hell in a Cell.” There was no chance in hell of this guy being a ratings draw right?

He went over the plan for the night with everyone. A number of top stars were notorious for backstage politicking, and the finish to this match showed the type of pull one Hollywood Hogan had as WCW’s top star.

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Bischoff let WCW announcer Tony Schiavone know what happened on Monday Night RAW. It’d become a new feature on Nitro for Tony to reveal the results of these pre-tapings for RAW which would theoretically make sure that the viewers wouldn’t change the channel to find out what happened on RAW.

Bischoff thought this would turn the tide. He thought that this whole night could get Nitro back on form as they went back to basics and to the one force that made wrestling fans tune in…

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On Nitro, Goldberg’s title rematch was in jeopardy as he was arrested by the Atlanta police. This was a rematch from Starrcade of all events and it looks like those plans were changing. Kevin Nash suspected that nWo Hollywood leader Hollywood Hogan was responsible.

This lead to the main event of the WCW World Title match being changed to Kevin Nash defending the WCW Title againsy Hollywood Hogan. Meanwhile on RAW, they are setting up the Mankind/Rock main event.

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Before the main events happened, Tony Schiavone was ready to reveal the results for that night’s edition for RAW IS WAR and who walked out of that WWF title match as the champion. Tony said:

“Fans, if you’re even thinking about changing the channel to our competition, fans, do not. We understand that Mick Foley, who wrestled here one time as Cactus Jack, is going to win their world title. Ha! That’s gonna put some butts in the seats.”

Don’t worry folks. We got you covered. You don’t need to watch that old taped show now. You don’t need to watch Mick Foley win the WWF title. Stick around for WCW Monday Nitro as we’ve got a WCW title match later tonight LIVE.

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Bischoff truly believed that this was HIS night. Then all of a sudden, Bischoff got very quiet on commentary. After Tony revealed what was going to happen on the other show, 600,000+ people changed the channels from the live edition of Nitro to this pre-taped edition of RAW.

The WCW fans couldn’t believe what they had heard. Is this true? Did Mick Foley really win the WWF title? I have to go watch RAW to see.

Rather than stick around for Kevin Nash’s WCW title defense, these fans tuned into RAW as the stage was set for Mankind vs The Rock.

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Mankind had in fact won the title in what will forever go down as one of the most important title changes in WWF/E history. Vince McMahon looked devasted in this segment. He watched on as Mankind had beaten his handpicked champion in this angle that was taped a few days before. Wherever Vince was watching this on the day it aired, there’s no doubt that he was watching the ratings come in with a huge smile on his face.

The same can’t be said for Eric Bischoff. He must have been dejected as he heard about what happened. However, the show must go on as the fans would no doubt come back for the WCW World title match.

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For those that did, they watched on as this Atlanta crowd was ready for a fight. It didn’t feature Goldberg but it did feature Nash and Hogan. This confrontation had been building for months. Nash pushed Hogan to hype up the Hulkster. Hogan was ready to go. He was about to throw a punch when suddenly, he stopped. The clenched fist turned into a pointing motion. He fingerpoked Kevin Nash who fell down in a comical fashion. Hogan made the cover and a new champion was crowned.

It was all a ruse! The Wolfpack and nWo Hollywood were working together! What a shocker! Goldberg got screwed! The fans were irate. The nWo, the stable which had led WCW to the top of the wrestling world, was back in full swing.

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Sadly, the ratings didn’t result in the return to status quo for WCW. Up until Tony’s announcement, WCW had managed to take the lead in that week’s battle with RAW. At the end of the night though, RAW won by 5.7 to 5.0.

Never again would Nitro beat RAW in the ratings. It was not the end of the Monday Night Wars but WCW should have prayed that it was. Not only were they only able to crack a 5.0 rating just a few times afterwards, RAW’s audience began to DOUBLE Nitro’s during the year 2000.

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When I think of WCW, I think of a company that had the potential to blitz the WWF with the backing of Ted Turner. Sadly, this night only proved the theory that the key to WCW’s failures came from within.

Reports Of WWE Raiding NJPW Talent – Thoughts and Reactions

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Some huge news has come out in the wrestling world. The WWE’s interest in independent talent has certainly increased in the last few years with the rise of NXT. With a number of NXT’s top talent being promoted or soon to be promoted up to the main roster, the pressure is on WWE to sign up new top talent to maintain the star power of the territory. Apparently, the WWE have got some top stars in mind. New Japan Pro Wrestling is reportedly in store for a huge raid of stars from the WWE which includes some members of the “Bullet Club” and Shinsuke Nakamura possibly making the jump.

According to Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer, WWE have been going after four big names in particular. The Bullet Club members include Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows, who have really shined in Japan. Doc Gallows joining WWE once again is very interesting as Doc has certainly changed a lot since his departure in 2010. I’m guessing the WWE will hold Doc in higher regard when booking him this time around and it’ll be interesting to see how Gallows and Anderson would be treated on the shows.

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Shinsuke Nakamura is a HUGE name to be linked to WWE. Nakamura has been a tremendous star in Japan and someone that huge from that nation coming over to WWE would be an amazing coup for WWE. When KENTA (Hideo Itami) signed last year, there was a huge deal made about it. Due to his injury though, KENTA has not been able to make the big impact that that the WWE were hoping. I think they were banking on KENTA to really be the top Japanese draw for them and it would have probably worked had he not went down. With Nakamura though, WWE would have a legitimate International superstar on their pay-roll that’s really going to help maintain that audience in Asia.

The last name reported is AJ Styles. AJ has been linked to WWE over and over again since he left TNA but as of now, he’s apparently not under contract to NJPW or anyone major right now. AJ does have a number of independent bookings to fulfil, including the dream match between him and Rey Mysterio at an event in Sheffield this month. I think Gallows, Anderson and Nakamura will want to honour their ROH dates as well but as Alberto Del Rio proved, WWE might get in the way of these dates from being honoured. Del Rio was supposed to drop the AAA title after Hell in a Cell but reportedly, he told AAA that WWE wouldn’t let him drop the belt at an AAA event. With ROH, I don’t know.

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Nakamura is not expected to leave NJPW right away, but it appears nothing is stopping AJ. He’s not under contract and he’s also followed Triple H on Twitter. Accuse me of reading too much into this, but Samoa Joe also followed Triple H on Twitter just before he signed last year. It might not mean anything and it could be just AJ keeping us guessing, but AJ does seem to be in the best contractual position to join WWE.

I’ve heard that Vince McMahon was very upset about the news getting out as he was planning a surprise of some sort for the Royal Rumble. Whether it’s a special Bullet Club deal with AJ, Doc, Gallows and possibly Finn Balor (who was in the group as Prince Devitt before he joined WWE) or not is up for question but if they had a plan, I hope they follow through with it regardless of the leak.

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I actually think the leak would have helped the moment a bit more. If AJ Styles had shown up as a mystery entrant or something, I think it would have gotten a big reaction that night but I still think there’s a huge part of the WWE fan base that wouldn’t know who AJ is. I think with the leak, those fans would be more likely to go “Who is AJ Styles?” and search him on YouTube or whatever. I think that would help it if anything.

I know Vince likes to keep the fans guessing but this is a rare time where the reports would actually aid AJ’s success if he shows up on the main roster first.

It’s a whole different debate about whether these four would be on the main roster first or if they would start in NXT first. I’m sure someone like AJ should start on the main roster first but there’s a chance that WWE want to “test the waters” with him on NXT first before throwing him into the deep end. I think they could get away with having Doc show up on the main roster first as he was previously a WWE superstar. It’s interesting all of this if it turns out to be true.