Total Divas Season One Review – The Main Cast

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Total Divas debuted in 2013 on E!, capitalising on a more realistic age for WWE in terms of social relevance and mainstream media. This was their take on reality television, featuring the top divas from WWE. Your favourites divas from the Bellas to Natalya had their personal lives brought to our television screens.

There were a fair amount of wrestling fans (including wrestlers like Dolph Ziggler) who were against the reality show with the show focusing a lot more on the entertainment than the sports in sports entertainment. It was soap opera storylines that never seemed to sit right with hardcore wrestling fans.

For female viewers however, it was completely new territory. Coming after the Kardashians on E!, they could seize an opportunity to attract casual viewers on E! to their main WWE product. Whether it worked is still up for debate, considering RAW ratings are at their all-time lowest. And no, I’m not blaming Total Divas for the reasons RAW ratings have went down!

I’m just saying that the chances of many E! viewers suddenly becoming interested in RAW and SmackDown! after watching this are extremely unlikely when looking at the numbers.

With that being said, the show is still on the air as of 2017 and even a Total Bellas spin-off has been premiered. So it seems E! are happy with the ratings of this show!

Reality shows aren’t really something I’d ever watch and I’d been hugely disappointed by the reality shows I’ve seen before this. However, could this female-tailored reality show about the women of wrestling turn me around?

I’ve finished watching the full first season of this show and will provide a follow-up in-depth review of the season after this article. In the mean time, I wanted to produce a blog post basically looking at the characters of the show.

There were seven divas cast as the leads for this series – Nikki Bella, Brie Bella, Natalya, Naomi, Cameron, Eva Marie and JoJo. One by one, we will break down each female’s involvement on the show, their likeability factor and whether they are actually good television characters for this show. SPOILERS for season 1 of Total Divas are to be expected…

Nikki Bella

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The “star” of the show as well as the then-boyfriend to John Cena. Most of Nikki’s storylines revolve around John Cena as well as certain episodes where she fights with Brie and, to an extent, Eva Marie. Nikki is the centre of the majority of episodes, with the Bella hoping to take things with John to the next level. It’s very easy for me to see how a character like this would be interesting to a female viewer, with typical soap-opera storylines about love and marriage. Everyone has a storyline like this on the show but Nikki’s relationship with John is the biggest.

I, as a man, personally do not connect with Nikki’s storyline. It comes off as an extreme negative with Nikki’s almost dead-pan delivery of subjects that your average dude is not going to be interested in. Visually, she comes off appealing to men which I guess is a fine way to garner some interest from that audience. The issue overall with Nikki is the superficial nature of her character that makes her seem just like any other E! reality show lead like Kim Kardashian. I could see why an E! viewer may find that attractive but from a narrative standpoint, it puts her in a tough writer’s block with her character. Are we just going to keep to doing the same storyline with her and Cena going into the 2018 episodes where Cena actually proposes?

 

Brie Bella 

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I personally really like Brie Bella. Maybe it’s down to Daniel Bryan’s affect on her or how bad Nikki looks in comparison but this is the type of girl that, if I met in real life, I could see myself having a positive conversation with her. Brie is one of the more mature women on the show, even in her “Brie Mode” state. In one particular episode, she has a heart-to-heart with Natalya when they’re all drinking in Vegas and Brie comes off extremely composed.

In the rare times that she comes off unlikable, it mostly feels extremely forced like with Natalya (which I’ll get to later) and therefore, doesn’t strike me as real. I’d like to think that Brie on this show is exactly like Brie would be in real life. Maybe that’s me giving the show the benefit of the doubt but whatever… as long as I have characters that I can find likeable!

 

Natalya

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I mentioned that some of the unlikablity factors on this show feels extremely forced upon. Natalya is the biggest victim of this. Natalya never struck me as an unlikable person whenever I’ve seen her on RAW, SmackDown! or in any other setting, prior to watching this show. Watching this show however, Natalya strikes me as having more “bitchy” storylines than anyone else.

She constantly complains about other women taking her spot on television, not getting enough attention for her husband TJ Wilson (Tyson Kidd) and the work of other women in general. She comes off as irrational in a lot of cases, like when she sees TJ working with Eva Marie and then decides to feel up Fandango to get TJ jealous. TJ and Eva act all professional just training while Natalya overreacts.

Again, it’s hard to believe that Natalya is actually this awful in real life which is an issue. In this show, Natalya is the “veteran” out of everyone and you’d think would be the voice of wisdom to the younger talent. Instead, she outright complains about them. We hardly get to she her in an advisory role which would make for better storylines, particularly for the newbies.

 

Trinity (Naomi) 

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Naomi doesn’t particular strike me as interesting character but at least she comes off somewhat as a fun character. Naomi basically buckles down and works hard, trying to work her way onto television the old fashion way. She is a witness to her partner’s shenanigans on the road while in a relationship with Jonathan Fatu (Jimmy Uso).

Naomi’s specific storylines however are pretty hard to enjoy especially when it’s regarding her relationship with Jon. Naomi has to put up with a demanding boyfriend in Jon, who himself is irrational in a lot of different scenarios. He’s upset that Naomi is not wearing her engagement ring, upset when Naomi allows her dad to stay with them for a little bit and upset that Naomi is set to be in a romantic angle on television. Naomi having to put up with this nonsense rubs off badly on her storylines as you mostly want her in a background role more than having her own storylines with Jon. I guess her stuff with Cameron is somewhat tolerable but there’s not too many storylines of the Funkadactyls actually working together.

 

Ariane (Cameron)

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The Cameron character on Total Divas is a very much welcome part of season one of Total Divas. Why’s that? Well Cameron is the only character on the show who actually strikes me as unique. In professional wrestling itself, you need a wide variety of characters that make people stand out and be recognised. On television, this is even more important. All the other girls are almost interchangeable and similar in terms of their storylines which really kills interest in them.

While Cameron does have similar storylines, her mannerisms on the show are a one-on-a-kind. It’s a person that you’d never believe would actually exist in the real world and that’s what reality television shows should be about. Her casual drops of catchphrases like “thebomb.com” and “girl bye” as well as the outlandish ideas she has for the likes of her boyfriend Vinny just makes her “must-see” TV. She’s so crazy that it’s a change in pace from everyone else and she’s one of those people that you look at and would honestly want to hang out with for a day to see the world from their eyes. She’s tremendous!

 

Eva Marie

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The most hated woman on this show for many viewers but NOT as unlikable as you’d think. In fact, there’s actually not a lot wrong that Eva does. Her most “unlikable” traits are just being stupid… that’s it. I don’t know if Eva is actually like this in real life and I’d like to think that she isn’t but her unlikeness comes from just the plain ignorance and laziness she portrays on this show.

Things like pretending to be an experienced dancer so she can be on television and not being able to pronounce future WWE World Champion Jinder Mahal’s name (she, in fact, called him “Ginger Mahal”) doesn’t strike me as things I want to see but I guess, as a rookie, Eva needs to do these things from a narrative standpoint. A “learn from your mistakes” character if you will. Other than that, she actually doesn’t do anything wrong to other people. She does brag a lot about several opportunities but it mostly leads to characters like JoJo getting all jealous and it’s really not Eva’s fault that they get jealous of it. If you consider being an idiot the same as being unlikable, then Eva probably wouldn’t sit well. Otherwise, not TOO much wrong with Eva at this point.

 

JoJo Offerman

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JoJo was clearly a character they gave up on in the middle of the season or possibly early on during the production of the series. JoJo wasn’t particular an interesting character and her particular storyline is mostly an extension’s of Eva’s. They’re both the rookies so either JoJo is watching Eva during these shenanigans or she becomes jealous of Eva’s success. JoJo’s deadpan reactions to Eva’s success with the likes of Maxim does not make JoJo come off well. In fact, she comes off WORSE than Eva in a lot of these episodes.

JoJo seems like a girl that treats these issues by stropping around like a teenager (which she technically is during this season… she was 19) and not being mature enough around the adults. JoJo is essentially every young girl that wanted to hang out with her older sister’s friends but was told she wasn’t old enough. Even during the Vegas episode, she clearly just seemed more of a burden to Eva in particular while being unable to drink. With all this in mind, it’s pretty clear why she would be dropped from the main cast in the next season.

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Overall, the casting of women for the show is somewhat disappointing. There’s nothing particularly wrong with these women but there’s not lot of interest for the actual character’s unless you’re REALLY into the Nikki Bella storyline with John Cena for example. If you are, more power to you. These girls don’t really stand out as fun and interesting, giving you hardly any interest in them in the sense that you’re not going to bend over backwards to find out what happens to them next. Cameron is the only character so unique and out-of-this-world that gives you that feeling.

The show’s attempt to make the girls bicker constantly about petty things don’t really strike me as massive selling points for the show, which makes one refuse to rally behind a character like Natalya as she complains about the work of the other women. The Bellas seem the most INTO the show in terms of their “performances” but Nikki’s constant troubles over John Cena and Brie being witness to this isn’t a particular healthy relationship from a narrative storyline. Why should I care about Brie if the show is just to be centred around her sister? Brie’s engagement to Daniel Bryan was suddenly into an arc in the season finale where Nikki wants Cena to marry her.

Then there’s the newbies, who are a little hit and miss in a lot of ways. Eva, I guess, is the closest to Cameron in terms of having a unique character… not a likeable one, but still unique. JoJo, on the other hand, became more of a burden on the show in terms of scrambling to put together storylines for her. This, of course, leads to her removal from the show all together. Nice try JoJo, but it didn’t seem to work.

If you’re watching this show, I guess it’s mostly not for the individual character’s themselves. The writers’ biggest issue is making each of these women stand out in their own right. Each of them have similar storylines with their men, their work in the ring and with each other as spats spill out between the girls. I guess each of them provide at least something to meet all three of those things but it’s gonna take a lot more for me to personal be invested into the storylines of them individually.

Stay tuned to the Armbar Express as a I give you the full review of season one of Total Divas.

Cody Rhodes/Stardust Asks For His WWE Release

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How’s it going everybody? Thomas Robinson here with the Armbar Express. I’m here to discuss the Twitter announcement from Cody Rhodes a.k.a. Stardust, who revealed that he has asked for his release from WWE. Coming off the recent releases and MANY rumours of futures departures from the company, this one is quite a big one.

Cody tweeted the news yesterday on his personal account.

Just like Wade Barrett and Damien Sandow, Cody Rhodes had the potential to become a true main-event star. He’s got the blood of a wrestling legend in Dusty Rhodes. He was one of the best workers in the roster, being able to use an old-school in-ring style and adapt it to a vastly different and high-paced style. He has charisma and was dedicated to getting the most out of himself and his character, no matter how badly he had it. He’s got the look of a marketable pretty boy and to my knowledge, had been anything but a pain backstage. I’ve rarely seen stories about backstage heat on Cody Rhodes or any issues he’s had with fellow wrestlers. He’s the ultimate workhorse, even with the last name of Rhodes.

You know, it’s very easy to look at a guy and say: “he deserved to be champion.” We’ve said that about Mr Perfect. We’ve said that about William Regal. We’ve said that about a lot of people. I Googled the term deserve and the definition I got was: “do something or have or show qualities worthy of (a reaction which rewards or punishes as appropriate).” Every one of the qualities I mentioned above describes Cody Rhodes and his actions certainly were more deserving of rewards rather than punishment. Even so, I don’t even think Cody Rhodes has even been given a single world championship program in his entire WWE career.

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Now he’s been in pretty big storylines while with WWE. He was a member of Legacy, with Legacy’s leader Randy Orton being the biggest part of WWE storylines in 2009. He was the one that re-introduced the classic Intercontinental Championship as part of a great run as Intercontinental Champion from August 2011 until WrestleMania 28. He was a key part in a tremendous program with the Rhodes Family taking on the Shield, leading to a classic tag team match at Battlerground 2013. He had the “Stardust” gimmick and still did his very best to make the most out of his character. Even so, he was never considered for a big main event push. After nearly a decade of blood, sweat and tears, Cody Rhodes was never given the main event opportunity.

Being deserving of something and being entitled to something are two completely different things. I may go on Twitter or write something, suggesting that “this guy deserves a push.” There are so many guys that have been lost in the shuffle for many years now, which is detrimental to the product. I don’t want those guys to be wasted, as those guys have qualities that is worthy of a reward. That’s being deserving. I will, however, never say that someone is entitled to anything. Nobody has the right to have x amount of title runs. Nobody has the right to be in x amount of WrestleMania main events. Despite that, Cody Rhodes was as close as a wrestler can be to being entitled to much more than he was getting. What more could Cody do to be “given the ball?”

Cody has the genetics of a champion. Cody has the charisma of the champion. Cody has the wrestling ability of a champion. What more was there for Cody to have in order for WWE to give him a championship run or even a title shot? I don’t understand.

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I’m sure there’s a lot of people already speculating that this is a grand work but I highly doubt that. I know there’s been examples of wrestlers that have tweeted their departure on Facebook or Twitter, only for it to have been a big swerve. A memorable example to me was when Devon tweeted that he was quitting TNA but was back for the 2012 Bound For Glory pay-per-view. However, I don’t think so. I mentioned this during my post about the initial WWE releases. There was just more to come from this and unfortunately, this is it. Brooklyn Brawler’s release was announced shortly after this, with a few more being speculated as well. Cody’s deal is just one of them and he chose to tweet it first himself.

There have been several more tweets of support for Cody. There’s been tweets from Arrow star Stephen Amell and Cody’s wife Brandi Rhodes a.k.a. Eden both tweeted.

It’s a shame because of what I mentioned before. Of course, Cody could easily come back some time down the road. I don’t think that relations between WWE and Cody are terrible or anything, so of course the possibility is there for a return.

Have any favourite memories or thoughts about the release of Cody Rhodes/Stardust? Tweet me @TomRobinson5199 and @ArmbarExpress and give us your thoughts, or leave a comment.

Wrestling Flashback – The Aces And Eights

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“When you ride with Aces and Eights, you never walk alone!”

Many groups have came and gone in TNA but none of them were as consistently utilised and pushed for than the group of motorcyclists known as the Aces And Eights.

The group first made their way to TNA when they attacked Sting on Impact following his match with Bobby Roode at Slammiversary 2012. This was their way of asserting themselves in TNA by taking out the biggest dog in the yard and putting the rest of TNA on notice.

These attacks would continue on TNA talent as the TNA World Champion Austin Aries and General Manager Hulk Hogan were also targeted in these attacks. The big question was who was behind the attacks from these thugs and the first suspect that was mentioned was James Storm. The Aces and Eights started a pattern of attacking every member of the TNA locker room with one notable exception. Storm denied his involvement with the group and the group basically confirmed Storm’s innocence by attacking him on Impact.

Aries’ arm was attacked by the group and Aries wanted revenge. After taking an Aces and Eights member hostage (Yeah, this actually happened) Aries and Hogan tortured the poor fella for answers about who was running the deal. A deal was eventually made with TNA and Aces And Eights agreeing to a fight at No Surrender between Austin Aries and the “Arm Breaker” of Aces and Eights. Aries won the fight but the group made their mark that night by taking out Jeff Hardy. This led to Hogan locking out the Aces and Eights to prevent these attacks once and for all.

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However, this didn’t stop the group of bikers. They captured Joseph Park and eventually Hogan and Sting too, bringing them to their clubhouse. The leader of the group then began negotiations with Hogan and Sting for Joseph Park. The leader proposed a two on two match at Bound For Glory with two Aces and Eights members going up against Sting and a partner of his choosing. If the Aces and Eights won, they earned access to the Impact Zone. If they lost, they’d be gone for good. After the match, Park would be let go. Hogan agreed to the stipulation and the match was set.

What’s funny about this segment is that the leader’s voice was messed with by an audio mixer to prevent his identity from being revealed to the viewers. However, someone on YouTube actually messed with the audio of the segment to work out who was actually playing the leader in that segment. In this audio clip, it appeared that Eric Bischoff was actually playing the leader in this segment. However, a segment just a few months later would “reveal” Devon as the one that was taking to Hogan and Sting. It’s funny. Were TNA considering revealing Bischoff as the leader? I believe he was still signed to the company at the plan and it would have made sense because Hulk Hogan and Sting were the reasons why Bischoff was away from TNA in the storyline. I guess we’ll never know.

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Bully Ray volunteered himself to be Sting’s partner at Bound for Glory but Hogan was very sceptical. He didn’t trust Bully but Sting was all for Bully taking part. Hogan agreed to have Bully team with Sting, telling him that he was fighting for TNA. The tag team match saw Park break free and fight the Aces and Eights alongside Bully and Sting. Another member of the group put Bully through a table, giving the group the important win. An angry Hogan helped Sting and Bully take down and unmask the member that took out Bully. However, it was quite the shocker. The man was revealed to be Bully’s long time former tag team partner Devon.

It was a genuine shocker as Devon “revealed” on Twitter that he had left the company and he even vacated the TNA Television title. To see Devon was quite a stunner but it was a interesting plot twist considering Bully’s involvement in the fight against the group.

With full access, the group fought with the Impact roster more frequently and more members would soon be unmasked. D.O.C. (a.k.a. Luke Gallows) was the second man unmasked from Aces and Eights and took out Sting with a hammer to save his position within the club. Knux (a.k.a. Knux) was also revealed when Sting returned following the attack from D.O.C. Mr Anderson was also recruited to the club after they pointed out TNA’s negligence towards Anderson when the group took him out. Tazz was revealed as a member of the group during Bully Ray and Brooke Hogan’s wedding. Wes Brisco and Garrett Bischoff, two men that had been mentored by Kurt Angle, were also revealed to be associated with the group when they took out Kurt in a steel cage. The vice president of the Aces and Eights was revealed to be D-Lo Brown after he kicked Kurt Angle in the nuts. This left one member of the Aces and Eights still unmasked and one question left unanswered… just who was the leader? At Lockdown 2013, we got an answer.

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During Bully Ray’s TNA World title match against the champion Jeff Hardy, Aces and Eights found their way into the steel cage. Devon was armed with a hammer which he simply tossed to Bully. When Jeff’s back was turned, Bully smacked Jeff in the head with it. Bully pinned Jeff to become the TNA World Heavyweight Champion and he revealed himself as the president of Aces and Eights.

This was the culmination of a nine-month plan by Bully to become the TNA World Champion and it was actually one of the rare instances where TNA followed through with their long term planning. The reveals of each member was clearly well thought of by the writers with the big end game being Bully Ray winning the TNA World title. They had a plan and they stuck with it. A lot of the Aces and Eights stuff leading up to Lockdown was hard to deal with, I must admit. However, there weren’t a lot of plot holes with the story. Bully Ray addressed a lot of the plot holes fans might have pointed out over the course of the storyline in a great segment on Impact a few weeks later, when Bully revealed the whole plan.

One of the biggest plot holes I can remember up until Lockdown was Kurt unmasking the vice president in a backstage segment (in a camera angle where the viewers couldn’t see who Kurt unmasked) and not saying a word about it until the next week when he did his segment with D-Lo. Right, because Kurt just kept this important information to himself for a week? It could have possibly been covered up with Kurt giving D-Lo a chance to reveal himself but this was never mentioned by any of the commentators.

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The Aces and Eights were riding high with Bully being the TNA World champion, Devon being the TV champion again and the rest of the group working their way through the roster. Bully ended up retaining against Jeff in a Full Metal Mayhem match and a No Holds Barred match with Sting, with the latter never getting another TNA title shot if he lost. D-Lo was also kicked out of the group during this time for losing a I Quit match to Kurt and a number of other botches which cost the group as well.

There was more dissension within the group as D.O.C. and Mr Anderson argued over who should replace D-Lo as the Vice President. This led to an all Aces and Eights battle royal which saw D.O.C. refuse to go over the top rope and let Mr Anderson win. Anderson was also elected Vice President but the storyline was never really followed up on, as D.O.C. was eventually released from the company.

Bully feuded with Chris Sabin, who had cashed in his X-Division title for a shot at the TNA World title. Sabin beat Bully for the TNA World title at Destination X but would drop the belt back to Bully in a cage match due to interference from the newest member of the group… Tito Ortiz.

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Yes, the MMA legend Tito Ortiz became a member of the group as part of TNA’s working relationship with Bellator MMA. It was really a cheap version of Mike Tyson joining DX which really put a sour taste in a lot of TNA fans’ mouths. Miss Tessmacher also became a member of the group as Bully’s new squeeze. These two new additions to the group was questioned by Anderson, but Bully just told Anderson off for doing so. In order to cause further dissension in the group, Hulk Hogan claimed that one of the members of Aces and Eights would get the title shot. Anderson was revealed as the number one contender and effectively left the group by costing Bully a match with Sting. However, Anderson was unable to capture the gold and Bully rolled onto Bound For Glory and a title defence against AJ Styles.

In case you were wondering, the whole Tito Ortiz/Aces and Eights deal came to close in just a few weeks when Bellator told TNA that they didn’t want MMA fighters appearing in TNA segments any more. Wes was also kicked out of the group by Bully Ray for losing a match and Devon was exiled from TNA after getting pinned in a five on five tag team match against the Main Event Mafia. It seemed that with a lot of the members leaving, the group was going to be finished real soon.

After Bully lost the title, Anderson returned for revenge on Bully for taking him out. Anderson also tried to cause further dissension from within the group but the group stayed united. In the end, Anderson beat Bully on November 21st 2013 to officially put an end to the group and this storyline.

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Overall, the Aces and Eights storyline was not a bad storyline. It was at least a storyline that the TNA writers stuck with and some of the long term planning paid off after Bully Ray was revealed as the president of the club. It seemed that it all the months of planning and swerves eventually came together. Like a lot of past stables in wrestling history, the biggest issue was the last few months for the group. It just seemed that there wasn’t any particular long term plans for the finish of the program, which really hurt it in the end. The suggestion that this was one of the worst stables in wrestling history is just absurd. There were far worse stables like the Corre and the New Blood that were treat far worse than these group of bikers. In the end it made Bully Ray a main event star, featured as much of the TNA roster as possible and did put TNA on the right track in terms of its storylines after the whole deal with Immortal. Here’s to you Aces and Eights. May you ride your mopeds to the shores of Valhalla…

Do Triple H And Stephanie McMahon As Heels Make Sense?

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I love a good old heel dictatorship being in charge. It gives the heroes an authority to rebel against. For every ying, there’s a yang. For every hero, there’s a villain. Stacking the deck against the good guys is supposed to help the careers of those put against the bad guys. Every win for the good guy is meaningful and every win is a win for the fans. However, does the Authority truly make sense as a heel faction and have they actually hindered the rise of babyfaces more than it’s helped?

The whole dynamic of Triple H and Stephanie as heels is very confusing in itself. Sometimes, this leads to the Authority being more balanced in it’s decisions therefore damaging the image of them as a evil dictatorship. When Randy Orton and Seth Rollins were both the hand-picked champions of the Authority, little was done to actually help them remain champion. The only time Triple H ever got physically involved to try and help Randy was at Wrestlemania 30 and he failed. Triple H and Stephanie never did anything to help Seth Rollins, even when he was against Sting who they clearly didn’t want as champion… or did they?

That’s the whole issue. On the night after Summerslam when Sting returned to WWE to challenge Rollins, Triple H was very angry over it. He was so mad that he gave Sting a WWE World title shot. As amazing as it sounds, that’s not the big thing as this could be passed off as Triple H making the decision in the heat of the moment. However, Hunter and Steph don’t seem to lift a finger to help Seth in his fight against Sting. In fact, they actually helped the good guy Sting at Night of Champions by putting their chosen champion Seth in a second match that night with somebody else!

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The Seth Rollins stuff is sort of passable if you want to go with the storyline that Triple H was just testing Seth the whole time. However, look at Seth’s opponents when he was champion. Randy Orton betrayed the Authority’s trust and attacked their golden child Seth several times. Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns have been constant enemies of the Authority since they attacked Triple H on the night after Wrestlemania 30. Brock Lesnar defied the Authority several times and violated Stephanie’s orders when he attacked EVERYONE on the night after Wrestlemania 31. John Cena helped to get the Authority out of power! Sting played a pivotal role in getting the Authority out of power as well and has feuded with Triple H. Kane was trying to work the Authority and Seth Rollins with the split personality deal. Everyone of these men would give the Authority reasons to help Seth, but neither Triple H or Stephanie made any effort to do so. It just creates a lot of plot-holes as the Authority shouldn’t want any of these men to be champion.

The reason for that is Triple H and Stephanie are trying to portray a two-faced authority figure that plays a corporate good guy but are heels deep down. That balancing act is detrimental to their character and the product itself. For example, on RAW the Authority teased a WWE World title match. They swerved the paying crowd by saying they’re going to get that match, but not that night. Lance Storm made a great point on Wrestling Observer when he pointed out that when the Authority teases the crowd for not getting more than they paid for, they go home disappointed. It’s almost like a giant middle finger to the paying audience that made the effort to come to your television show and it’s telling them to save up their money and go to bigger shows in the future where they might get more then they paid for. That’s detrimental to your live television show ticket sales as it turns a live audience off from ever coming back.

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A lot of you might be thinking “But Tom, they only say that to get some heat from the audience.” However, Triple H and Stephanie are both very active in making public appearances. They have to go to schools, conferences and sporting events and these promotional events are important in keeping up the image of the company. They are on the RAW segments talking about Susan G. Komen and talking about inspirational fans which is also confusing. Alright, I understand that there are certain times when the fans are supposed to tell the difference between kayfabe and reality. However, if these fans that you’ve told no to in kayfabe are the same people you have to encourage to donate to charity, it’s just going to send off the wrong message.

In the public eye, Triple H and Stephanie are well received and have a good reputation. On RAW, they are both going out of their way in segments to convince wrestling fans that they are assholes. However, in order to portray the two-faced gimmick mentioned earlier they still stack the deck against the heels. All of this makes their characters very difficult to understand. One week, they are mocking the fans and their favourites like Daniel Bryan. The next week, they are putting heels like Seth Rollins in tough situations. It’s almost like a guessing game every week over whether they’re faces or heels, which is not what they should be doing.

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That’s not even the worst part of Triple H and Stephanie acting as “heel” authority figures. The reason Vince McMahon worked so well as the foil for Stone Cold Steve Austin is because in the end, you knew Stone Cold was going to win. He was the ultimate hero that rebelled against the tyrant Vince McMahon and Austin would always win. The fans knew that either Austin was going to get his hands on or outsmart the evil boss that everyone hates.

On the other hand, the Authority doesn’t work as strongly as Vince did because they rarely actually lose. When the Authority has been in a feud, how many times have they won the war? Who has actually flat out won a feud with the Authority? Daniel Bryan? Sure, he beat the Authority at Wrestlemania 30 to win the WWE World title. However at the end of the day, Daniel got hurt and the Authority got what they wanted. Dolph Ziggler and the rest of Team Cena at Survivor Series? Nope. A month later, the Authority was brought back into power making those victories seem meaningless. He who laughs last laugh the loudest.

It’s detrimental as you’ll struggle to make stars out of these babyfaces because you’re sending the message out to the fans that these good guys will never beat the Authority. You wonder why the WWE’s top three babyfaces right now are Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Kane? You wonder why the top three babyfaces are two men that have never won a world championship and a 20 year veteran? You wonder why it’s three babyfaces that have already lost feuds with the Authority? Because the good guys hardly ever win against the bad guys. Good promoters shouldn’t be beating the good guys that are making money for them through merchandise.

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What’s weird about all of this is that this whole issue could be easily dealt with if they were babyfaces. That way, Triple H and Stephanie can be promoted as strong as they are and it wouldn’t hurt the product as they are making the popular decisions for the fans. It’d make it easier for Triple H and Stephanie to cut these promos on how great Be A Star and Susan G. Koeman are as they’re the good guys. They can give fans more than they bargained for and it’d make sense. They can stack the deck against the heel champions and it’d make sense. I’d prefer Triple H and Stephanie McMahon as heels I believe they are better in that role, but it’d make a lot more sense if they are babyfaces considering how obsessive WWE are at maintaining their image. It’s just interesting when you look at it.

The Problem With Alberto Del Rio vs Jack Swagger In 2015

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I was very excited when I saw Alberto Del Rio return to WWE. In a past article for SLTD Wrestling, I mentioned that he’d be much better continuing on with Lucha Underground and AAA rather than continuing on with WWE. However, I’m still think it’s great that he’s with WWE and so far, he’s been booked well. He beat John Cena clean on his first night and is the WWE United States Champion. However, there are a few parts of his booking which I have a problem with. The partnership with Del Rio and Zeb Colter is one thing but it’s the possibility of Del Rio’s first challenger being Jack Swagger.

Here’s the deal. Alberto Del Rio won the WWE United States Championship by beating John Cena of all people, clean. That’s huge. The idea that the United States Champion and AAA Mega Champion goes from John Cena to Jack Swagger in the space of a few weeks seems a bit absurd and it’s all to do with how Jack Swagger has been treated since the start of the year, when he lost a feud against Rusev. Ironically enough, that feud was over the United States Championship.

What has Jack Swagger done since then? How many pay-per-views has Jack Swagger been a part of in 2015? Two. That’s right… two. Both of these matches were battle royal matches, the Royal Rumble and the Andre The Giant battle royal. He was part of multi-man matches and basically used to fill up the numbers. He’s rarely appeared on RAW and all of a sudden, Swagger is back on RAW television. It’s not a slow build for Swagger no. He’s been entered into a feud with the United States Champion Alberto Del Rio.

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What has Jack Swagger done to earn a United States Championship match? Has he won a number one contendership match? No. Did he win a tournament? No, he’s just started having trouble with Del Rio which will most likely lead to a US title match at Survivor Series. That alone is not going to make Swagger a legitimate challenge to Del Rio. Actually let’s talk about Del Rio. Alberto Del Rio has actually appeared on less PPVs this year then Swagger (obviously, Del Rio only returned recently) and yet somehow, Swagger looks like nothing compared to him. Why? Because Del Rio beat the best upon his arrival and has legitimate WWE credentials. He’s a three time world champion in WWE, won Money In The Bank and won the only 40 man rumble in history. WWE wouldn’t recognise this but he is still currently a world champion in his own right, being the AAA Mega Champion. It’s not like he’s not wrestled at all since he was fired last year. He’s got an MMA background. Getting him back and noticed wasn’t exactly hard. For Swagger, it’s difficult because WWE have allowed it to be difficult.

If WWE knew that Jack Swagger was going to compete for the United States Championship soon, surely Swagger be put on RAW a lot more frequently. The Del Rio signing was a bit sudden so it’s not like WWE have been planning this. However, if you’re building up a contender it helps to build him up a little. Nobody is going to care that Jack Swagger is winning on house shows or Main Event or SmackDown! RAW is the flagship show for a reason. He needs wins on RAW and he needs to look credible and not just be among the crowd, especially if you’re first feud in a year for him is him going up against a man that just beat John Cena.

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What’s disappointing about the negative aspect of this feud is that on paper, it’s actually a decent feud. These two have feuded before with Alberto Del Rio beating Swagger for the World title at Wrestlemania 29 and again a month later. Swagger’s never gotten a big win over Del Rio and must prove it to himself that he cane beat the man. That on paper is great and is all you really need to get this feud running. You don’t really need Zeb Colter at all, although his involvement does add a bit to it. The point is that it’s got the ingredients for a great feud. All you need is for Jack to look credible enough to validate him going up against Del Rio. With that along with the storyline mentioned earlier, people can get behind Swagger and you can get him over. You don’t need Michael Cole to sit there on commentary and say “Man, these two have had quite the rivalry in the past few years,” or “Man, this rivalry has gotten personal” or anything like that.

Give Swagger a lot more motivation to go up against Del Rio over rather than having Zeb Colter being the focal point. Del Rio and Swagger have actually had good matches in the past so you can actually have a decent feud with Swagger proving himself being the focal point instead. It takes away people’s interest in Swagger if you make the match about Colter.

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If all of this business with Del Rio and Swagger is filler until John Cena returns, fine. Whatever. However, you can still make Swagger and Del Rio good coming out of it except Swagger’s not looked good going into it. There’s no real reason for the audience to believe that a man that’s not done anything note worthy in the last year despite being active is going to be on par with a man that holds the second most important title in the company and has beaten the best to win it.

EXTREME WARFARE REVENGE: TNA 2010 PART 8 – BOUND FOR GLORY

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Many great promotions have came and went. Promotions that have been innovative with their products. Promotions that put on the matches that we didn’t think was possible. Promotions that have helped mould professional wrestling into what it is today. In the midst of all these promotions lay a company formed in Nashville, Tennessee by Jeff and Jerry Jarrett.

This promotion had the talent but lacked the funds to really take themselves to the next level. In stepped Dixie Carter, who became the company’s president. Dixie had her own ideas on how to truly take this promotion to the next level and she thought that there was only one person that could have helped. That person was Hulk Hogan.

In 2010, a completely new-look promotion emerged. Talents from old promotions started to take the places of the stars that had built the promotion from the ground up. However, these stars couldn’t help TNA to that next level. If anything, they helped it sink further into oblivion.

That does ask the question, what could have been changed that year to help TNA for the better? This year, I decided to try may hand at booking this company with a booking simulator called Extreme Warfare Revenge.

Now though, this particular series is back. Having taken a back seat to other series’ on this blog included the WCW EWR series, TNA is now going to step back into the spotlight. Welcome to TNA EWR!

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Previously on TNA EWR…

AJ Styles was our reigning TNA World Heavyweight Champion with Christopher Daniels stepping up to take down his friend. Daniels is being given one last chance in the main event of Bound For Glory. Can the Fallen Angel rise to stardom at TNA’s biggest show of the year? Sting and Jeff Hardy will finally settle their score in a Last Man Standing match as part of a major show for the return of TNA EWR.

Let’s get to it!

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Pre-Show – TAKA Michinoku (c) wins a 10 man X-Division battle royal to retain the TNA X-Division Championship

Entrants: Taka Michinoku, El Generico, Tyler Black, Austin Aries, Sean Waltman, Kaz, Homicide, Brian Kendrick,
Ultimo Dragon and Stevie Richards

I really wasn’t sure what to do with the pre-show so I just shot in the most over X-Division stars into a battle royal for the X-Division title and TAKA ended up going over. TAKA’s the most over man in this match so he should still be champion. I was expecting a higher grade but it is a battle royal, which struggles to do good ratings on this game.

Match 1 – “Motor City Machine Guns” Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley def. Jerry Lynn and Brother Devon in a tables match

Very thrilled with the 93% rating for this feud-ending match. I’m surprised with all of the clashing styles that this feud succeeded as well as it did. Devon and Lynn are able to work well with the fast-paced Sabin and Shelley which is a positive. If a lot of these old stars that we’ve still got are working well with the younglings and are helping to get them over, then they’ve got a lot of value. The WCW old stars are the same in the WCW series. For TNA it seems to work well.

Match 2 – Matt Morgan def. Samoa Joe

Think about this for a minute. Matt Morgan vs Samoa Joe got a 88% rating! That’s pretty darn incredible considering one of the men in this match is Matt Morgan. Actually, I probably shouldn’t be surprised. Morgan has actually gotten really over since I started pushing him, which was the main reason for why he won again at Bound For Glory. It just goes to show you guys, you don’t have to be a great worker to get good ratings!

Match 3 – “Deadly Sin” Raven (c) and Rhino (c) def. Jeff Jarrett and Jay Lethal to retain the TNA World Tag Team Championship

To be perfectly honest, there wasn’t really a strong possibility of Lethal and Jarrett ever winning the belts. The whole thing about this feud was really to keep pushing Jay Lethal in that tag team scenario with Jeff and the Deadly Sin. It worked great as it scored a 93% rating but it just wouldn’t have worked for Lethal. As a match, it did score high and nobody lost overness so it was a fine outcome with a great rating.

Match 4 – Kurt Angle def. Mr Anderson

Kurt gets the victory here after Anderson won at No Surrender. Another rating in the 90s. An incredible first half to the show (minus the pre-show) and the good ratings don’t stop there…

Match 5 – Bobby Lashley and Abyss def. Bobby Roode and James Storm in a hardcore tag team match

It was very hard to pick a winning team for this. Beer Money really should get the win but I still see a lot of success with Lashley and Abyss. They get the win here in a 92% rated match.

Match 6 – Jeff Hardy def. Sting in a Last Man Standing

This was the lowest rated match in the main show but by no means a failure. Sting lost overness from the match but 85% is a good rating. Sting has just become a non-wrestler in my game, meaning he’s limited to how much he can wrestle. Therefore, I think it works for the best that Jeff won the feud. Sting might not be on the show for a great deal now as it’s about pushing the main roster but I’m going to try and find a way to work him into the storyline as a non-wrestler. Maybe he could become a heel authority figure, I don’t know. We’ll see.

Match 7 – AJ Styles (c) def. Christopher Daniels in a Falls Count Anywhere Match to retain the TNA World Heavyweight Championship

I feel kind of bad for building up Daniels for this big feud only to beat him at Bound For Glory. However, I felt AJ had to remain champion for now. However, these two gave us a stunner of a match. With a 98% overall, Daniels didn’t lose a great deal from this feud. Maybe they’ll be a time for Daniels to reign as champion but I feel it was important for AJ to retain. AJ wins after Kaz does a botched interference. It also works well for his next feud. Speaking of….

Segment 1 – Post-Match Angle

AJ Styles is celebrating in the ring after beating Daniels. Daniels and Kaz are arguing to the back as AJ is alone in the ring. But then the lights go out. A spotlight suddenly hits the top of the ramp as AJ seems confused. The words “My Time Is Now” appear on the titantron as the newest signing to TNA appears on the entrance ramp…

…. AND HIS NAME IS JOHN CENA!

By the way…. that’s no joke.

John Cena appears in the Impact Zone to confront the TNA World Heavyweight Champion AJ. AJ shoves the belt in Cena’s face but Cena hits the FU and holds up the title himself.

Trust me. I didn’t mess with the game in the file editor or anything! I was legitimately able to sign John Cena from WWE. Well technically it wasn’t from WWE. What happened was that Cena’s contract was running out and I guess WWE just let it expire. It appears that this happened because Cena suddenly appeared on the free agents list. I seized the moment and signed him up to a two year contract. Money well spent!

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So John Cena was the newest signing which I was referring to on Twitter a few days ago. He’s no doubt going to be a huge part of the show in the next few months and I can’t wait to see where this goes. It’s been great to bring back this series. It’s awesome that with my first TNA PPV back, I was able to beat my own personal best for highest rated show! I’m pretty sure that’s the highest rating I’ve ever gotten in EWR! I don’t recall WCW ever getting a higher rating! We got a 93% which was incredible as we had a 71% pre-show match! Cena’s segment being 99% and Styles vs Daniels being 98% both did help but there was a lot of great matches on the show as well. I can’t wait to see where this series goes and I’ll be sure to see you soon with Turning Point!

Wrestling Flashback – Rufus “Pancake” Patterson

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Today on the Wrestling Flashback is the Prime Time Players. This is actually due to an appearance the Prime Time Players made on Chris Jericho’s podcast. On the podcast, they talked about coming up with the idea of Rufus “Pancake” Patterson as an alter-ego for Titus O’Neil.

Why did they call him pancake?

Because he flattens fools!

This gimmick ended up being a one time thing which they did on WWE television. They did film a couple of segments for the WWE App but it only ever appeared ONCE on WWE Television. What’s interesting though is that they appeared at one of the top time slots for a WWE show… they showed up at the start of the show during a segment with John Cena.

John Cena was talking about how he was ready to face The Rock for the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania 29. This kicked off RAW, so they were kicking off RAW to promote the main event of Wrestlemania 29 with Cena. This was interrupted by the Prime Time Players. They start to cut this promo and Cena cuts them off. He was about to introduce them but Titus cuts him off to proclaim himself as “Titus’ nephew”. His name was actually Rufus “Pancake” Patterson.

I always thought the debut of this gimmick as part of the program including John Cena and The Rock was very interesting. On Jericho’s podcast, Titus and Darren talked about the pressure of opening the show and I don’t blame them for being nervous.

This was a gimmick that was really hit or miss experiment. For me, it was either you loved it or you hated it. For me, it was a hit. Titus always had a great sense of humour and I think if this was given a few months, this gimmick could have gotten really over. Probably not to the status of an alter-ego gimmick like Dude Love or Mankind. However, Titus and Darren just had great chemistry that I think would of worked out for the best. If Titus was the manager of Darren (like he was during Young’s match with Cena after the above segment I was talking about) it could have helped both Darren and Titus. Titus would have been able to get over just by his mannerisms and mic work. Darren could have built up a good record in the ring and could have been elevated as a singles star.

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Let’s be honest, the original split of the Prime Time Players didn’t go as planned. However, I think the opportunity to have both them stand out as individuals first while still being a tag team could have been a success. When they split up, Darren and Titus weren’t able to create a unique identity for themselves before doing so. If they were to have this gimmick run on for a while on television, Titus and Darren can get over as themselves so the split means they didn’t have to rely on each other to get over.

I really wish we saw a bit more of Rufus “Pancake” Patterson. With enough screen time, I truly believe he could have been worth Millions of Dollars…