NXT’s Appeal: Keep Perspective

Date: October 8, 2015
By: DURT

On the day after NXT TakeOver: Respect aired on the WWE Network, I find myself a bit confused on how I feel about the show, the brand itself and the fans that can’t get enough of it.

I thought it was a good wrestling show – not the best NXT show I’ve seen, but more entertaining than most wrestling shows. A better version of a Monday Night Raw, as I had texted Pencil Podcast host Renny D during the show.

Chad Gable, Baron Corbin and the main event between Sasha Banks and Bayley were the highlights in my mind. The women’s championship match was great storytelling by two great workers, and two characters that the audience is fully invested in. But, was the finish good enough for you? It wasn’t for me. If that main evented Wrestlemania would we be okay with the way Sasha tapped out with two seconds remaining? Or would we complain about every finish and every show like we do at the main roster level?

I know many people will blame creative, or Vince McMahon, or whatever they can find to excuse the lack of storytelling continuity on the main roster compared to NXT. But, was the booking that much better on Wednesday? Four wrestlers who recently decided to become a tag team for a few weeks won semifinal matches of a historic tag team event over two longtime tag teams. Tyler Breeze lost again. At what point does it become unimportant for him to put someone over? What does Apollo Crews get out of beating someone who never wins?

Just because it’s on an NXT show does not make it free of criticism. They parade out the entire roster at the end of a show to give flowers to two women who have helped make it the brand it has become. But why is NXT the only place we can have that?

It’s simple. The big time, the WWE, the place everyone wants to be, is a business. It’s not as much a wrestling company as the fans want it to be. I think we’ve gotten to a place where it is hard to be a fan of both NXT and the WWE product.

It’s similar to a basketball fans’ comparisons of the college level to the NBA. That flower ceremony for Banks and Bayley was their ‘One Shining Moment’.

Full disclosure, I loved college basketball until about 5 years ago, and now I’m more of an NBA fan, but I’ll happily watch either. College basketball has the smaller venues, the more raucous crowds and environments, the ‘love of the game’ is more on display during the NCAA Tournament than you see at the professional level. The college players are on the big stage for a few games each regular season and three or four (at best) tournament games where everyone gets to see them. The NBA season is almost three times as long and the postseason alone runs for three months.

Sound familiar?

Don’t get me wrong, Finn Balor, Banks, Corbin, Sami Zayn and Gable (I hope) all have futures on the main roster. Much like Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens before them. But, when we see Banks put on 4 an 5 star matches twice a week, every week, will we become numb to it (See Rollins, Seth)?

Will it turn into the narrative of “Oh I loved (insert NBA star name here) when he played at (insert college here)..but the NBA sucks, so I don’t watch anymore.”

Until the NXT (pardon the pun) Sasha shows up at Full Sail University to steal your heart. Or until you get sick of watching the same matches on Monday and Thursdays..leading to the same matches one Sunday a month on the Network. The WWE (and NBA) have their audience. And NXT (NCAA) have theirs.

I know I can watch a Wrestlemania in front of 70,000 fans on a Sunday, and a packed 400 person Full Sail on a Wednesday and find the good in both. I’m just not sure all wrestling fans can find the happy medium. Actually, I’m sure they can’t.

The WWE vs. The NFL – Editorial

Date: 9/11/2015

By: Renny D & Travis “Durty” Mester

1.) What does WWE need to do to compete with the NFL on Monday Nights?

Renny D: Honestly WWE cannot compete with the NFL. We can sit here and toss out hypotheticals but it’s just not possible. The NFL is the most popular sport in America. The season opener of the NFL went against WWE’s second fiddle SmackDown! and it wasn’t even close. Forbes just published an article on how WWE can maintain during the NFL season. It’s hard but their ratings will consistently be in the 2.7-2.8 range…down from what they are used too (normally 3.0+).

If anything the WWE needs to step up their game as far as their programming goes. Much of Monday Night Raw is dominated by talking, infomercials, and non-sense. I know you cannot take a NXT approach as that is not the audience they are trying to reach with their Monday and Thursday programming but they need provocative storylines. It hurts to say this but the most cutting edge storyline on WWE TV right now is Dolph/Lana vs. Rusev/Summer Rae. The Divas Revolution has fallen flat (although Sasha Banks vs. Bailey will main event the next NXT Take Over event). I don’t think Sting is enough to tip the scales either.

Promote events a week in advanced and give us a preview of WHY we should tune-in over the NFL. If we don’t know why most likely we will just DVR Raw/SmackDown! and replay at our convenience. If we do not watch within three days then WWE doesn’t get that credited 3+ rating points that they’d like.

So my long-winded answer is this: promote the next week of programming when you have the chance. Give us a reason to tune-in.

Mester: As mentioned on a recent episode of Pencil Podcast, WWE advertising needs to put out the main event angle, etc. of Raw prior to the show more often. A la John Cena v CM Punk at Raw 1,000. Surprises are great, but are only effective if eyes are on the product. Also, they need to have one of their special attractions (Brock Lesnar) wrestle a match on free TV in the next few months leading up to Royal Rumble.

2.) Who is the Tom Brady of the WWE?

Renny D: Tom Brady. Peyton Manning is a close second but it is Tom Brady. He is the poster-child. Especially now after winning deflate-gate. He can do no wrong. John Cena can do no wrong. They both are draws. They are both winners. They are both awesome.

Mester: It’s John Cena. And I don’t think it’s debatable. He’s the face of the company. He’s the most important cog. And he’s the easiest to hate. And Cena supporters, like Brady lovers, are loud and proud.

3.) You are starting your own wrestling promotion, who is your first pick from the WWE?

Renny D: JC – John Cena. I am a businessman at heart. I want to make money. John Cena is the biggest draw still to this day in pro wrestling. The Undertaker is a special attraction. Dolph is popular. Brock is a beast but at the end-of-the-day John Cena brings in more dollars and cents than anyone else.

Mester: Brock Lesnar. He’s the most must-see thing WWE has had since his return in 2012. And everything creative has thrown at him, he has knocked out of the park. He can work Undertaker, Seth Rollins, John Cena, Roman Reigns or the Big Show and make me want to watch. Not many other names can do that. And I believe signing him as my #1 pick would indirectly get me Paul Heyman, which is a big bonus. I could see the argument for some of the younger guys, but I don’t think it can be argued: If Lesnar is your main attraction, it doesn’t matter what else is on the card, people will watch. You can’t commit that statement to anyone else outside of Cena.

4.) What current NFL player could you see develop a career in the WWE?

Renny D: I love size and skills but I also love stick guys. The best stick guy in the NFL is Richard Sherman. Not to mention he is educated. He could pick up pro wrestling rather quickly I would think. The promo he cut on Michael Crabtree after the NFC Championship game two years ago was awesome. That’s the kind of passion we need on the mic in the WWE. There are plenty of large athletes in WWE but none that can talk on a mic like Mr. Sherman. With that being said I hate you Mr. Sherman. I hate you. (49er fan here).

Mester: Rob Gronkowski. He’s got the looks, the charisma, the fan appeal and the legitimate size to be believable. And the female contingency in the crowd would love them some Gronk. That part shouldn’t be forgotten when fans think of WWE making stars. Guys love wrestling and are going to watch because they’re lifelong fans. Women love guys. Good looking ones.

5.) What current WWE superstar could you see develop a career in the NFL?

Renny D: Braun Stroman. This dude is a giant. I know Brock Lesnar couldn’t pick up the NFL…and Braun may not be able too either but I feel like he could block someone from getting to a quarterback. Braun Stroman. Say it with me.

Mester: I’m going to say Dolph Ziggler. Stick him in the slot receiver position with Manning or Brady at QB and watch him turn into Julian Edelman/Wes Welker type.

6.) What are the main differences between the WWE and the NFL?

Renny D: The perception between real and fake. I know pro wrestling fans understand that the sport is pre-determined but they are nerds who love it (I say nerds in a good way). The NFL generates a ton of money in merchandise, ticket sales (although these are declining as it is as good to watch a game at home), TV rights, and sports betting. The WWE has very similar revenue generating streams but they venture more into licensing (action figures). But no one thinks the WWE is real. That’s why there is not a world around betting WWE. I think they are both sports. I think they both draw. One other big difference is a WWE show is a must-see in person. The NFL is an event people don’t mind watching from home…but when WWE comes to town most of us WANT and NEED to be there. Oh not to mention WWE doesn’t take an “offseason.” WWE > NFL

Mester: Fantasy Football and the at-home experience of watching the product. How many friends of yours do you know who haven’t played fantasy football before? Exactly. It’s the biggest group orgy of sports awesomeness aside from the NCAA tournament brackets. In my league, there are 65-year old men, 30-year old women and 25-year old boys. No one is left out of the fun, and the NFL reaches demographics that other sports could only dream of. The Red Zone channel and HD television have taken the NFL at-home experience to a place that is unmatched by any other entertainment or sports medium. You can watch 15 games every Sunday, only watch the touchdowns, see your favorite team or follow your fantasy team from your couch. Nothing the WWE Network could do would be able to touch what the NFL has with cable, Direct TV and online services.

And, the NFL dominates the TV screen about 25 days a year with live content. WWE has a tougher job to sell year round with new content.

Booking Through Hell in a Cell

Maybe Kane being involved in MITB isn’t as bad as I thought
By: Mester, Dirt
June 5, 2015

Let me preface this post: I have been anything but a Kane supporter on the past 44 episodes of The Pencil. I think his character has left a lot to be desired, his storylines are left unfinished (even when they’re interesting. Example: Bray Wyatt kidnapped him once..remember?) and his involvement in the main event scene has been unnecessary for months.

This week on Smackdown, it was announced that he will be one of the participants in the Money in the Bank ladder match in a few weeks for the right to win a briefcase to challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship. Randy Orton, Sheamus, Neville, Kofi Kingston, Roman Reigns and Dolph Ziggler will be his opponents. I was not excited when I read the info regarding Kane entering himself into the match, but I’ve softened on that view.

Here’s why: it makes sense in the storyline of the Authority for them to have someone in the match. Why wouldn’t they? If Reigns isn’t turning heel, then Kane needed to be in the match to give us the doubt that, even if Rollins loses, the Authority is still looming over the title picture. I think The Authority angle is a bit dull at this point, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be reenergized.

So, I’m allowing myself to delve into a creative mindset for my idea on what could get my mind engaged over the next few months. Here is the upcoming Pay-Per-View schedule:

  • Money in the Bank: June 14
  • Battleground: July 19
  • Summerslam: August 23
  • Night of Champions: September 20
  • Hell in a Cell: October 25
  • Survivor Series: November 22


Any pundit you find will agree that Roman Reigns is the next big thing in the WWE. He is on the fast track to being the face of the company and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him take the briefcase throughout the summer months. But, I think Reigns is a guy who can benefit from being screwed out of his title shot – similar to the positive reaction he got from NOT winning the belt at Wrestlemania.

So, my proposal is this: Have Kane win the thing.
Have it be a dirty finish that makes Reigns look like he got royally screwed. Something as ridiculous as Kane walking around backstage with that briefcase is sure to enrage Reigns to heights we have yet to see.

At that point, whether Rollins or Ambrose wins the title bout, Kane’s looming presence in a suit with a contract for said belt in hand will be an interesting dynamic week in and week out. The animosity between Rollins and Kane would ignite a Kane ‘face-turn’ at some point and the inevitable match between them actually meaning something (without the belt, their interaction is quite dull to me).

If Ambrose has his reign begin next week at MITB, Kane’s music hitting to cash in will be a certainty in the coming weeks.

Either way, cue Brock Lesnar.

That’s how you bring back The Beast. Kane never wins the belt, his contract is wasted as Lesnar interferes and decimates him, possibly to retirement. Lesnar gives the belt back to Rollins (most likely) or Ambrose as a warning that he is back and he is coming for it. This sets up a Lesnar steamroll ass kicking of someone at Battleground..probably ending in a match stoppage and disqualification against the champion. Then, a clean title victory over either Rollins or Ambrose at Summerslam.

Lesnar has the belt on his shoulder the Raw after Summerslam, leading to Reigns stepping into the ring to let him know that they have some unfinished business regarding that belt after last years Wrestlemania. Night of Champions has Lesnar versus Reigns in a title match that Lesnar wins (something dirty with the finish leads to a rematch at Hell in a Cell).

Reigns goes over on Lesnar inside Hell in a Cell to make him a made man and place the strap around his waist for the first time going into Survivor Series. All the while, Ambrose and Rollins are mulling around the title picture without having a title match, and Lesnar is off the belt.

Lesnar off the belt gives us the option for a Stone Cold Steve Austin return and mega-match between the two at Wrestlemania XXXII without impacting the WWE Championship. It also leads to a Reigns title reign running through Royal Rumble time, allowing for a possible Shield triple threat match at the Showcase next April in Dallas.

All of this starts with Kane winning the briefcase at Money in the Bank, and him not having to be involved in much of the storyline thereafter. That’s a win-win. Mostly for Reigns, even after a loss.

Paws up, playas,

@TravisMester

Dear Chicago…


Dear Chicago-

It has been a long time since I have been inside of you. The date was April 2, 2006. There was 17,000 plus people on-hand to witness WrestleMania 22. I have missed you. I am looking forward to reuniting with you this weekend. I hope you have not lost any of your edge.

I look back at my last PPV weekend in Chicago with fond memories. It was my first WrestleMania. It was my first WWE Hall of Fame. I finally got to see my hero, Bret Hart, for the first time. I remember hanging out in the hot tub with Homicide from ROH at that time. I had been in the wrestling business just under three years. I was in heaven.

Chicago, you were great. The wrestling fans are unbelievable. I remember it like it was yesterday. We packed that Allstate Arena. We were vocal. We were loud. We were appreciative. To this day Chicago has generated an ‘A’ rating from the WWE as a city to host wrestling events. Chicago, let’s live up to this rating this Sunday.

This past Monday in Albany the crowd sat on their hands during an overall well produced go-home Raw. Chicago, we have the opportunity to set a new trend. Why is #RawAfterMania the only show of the year, for the most part, where the crowd seems to really enjoy themselves? Chicago, we fucking love wrestling. Chicago, we fucking love wrestling. Chicago, WE FUCKING LOVE WRESTLING. This Sunday at WWE Extreme Rules let’s prove to the whole world, watching on the WWE Network, that we have a say. I love wrestling. I love WWE. I love the indies. I love it all. This Sunday let’s showcase how amazing of a crowd we actually are.

I started wrestling professionally at the age of 16 to perform in front of an audience as rowdy and crazy as a #RawAfterMania crowd. Let’s do one better. Let’s make the #RawAfterMania crowd look like a bunch of pussies. Let’s make Albany feel like they NEVER deserve a WWE event again. Chicago, are you ready? Chicago, are you ready to tear the roof off of the Allstate Arena this weekend? Chicago….let’s do this.

Sincerely,

Renny D


Dear Chicago,

The Pencil Podcast is coming to you live and in color this weekend. Flying in Friday night and leaving late Monday afternoon will allow for plenty of time to make some memories. But before we embark on your windy skyline, I have a few things to request of my fellow WWE fans I’ll be joining at the All State Arena for the Extreme Rules Pay Per View on Sunday night:

First, let’s let Cesaro and Kidd know how much we appreciate them. I don’t know one wrestling fan that doesn’t think Cesaro is underutilized and Tyson Kidd is a solid hand that deserves the mini-push he’s gotten over the last six months as part of the tag team champions. They are on the pre-show against The New Day in a title match. A hot start will only energize the building – and the guys in the back – to give us a show to remember.

Second, let our voices be heard, but don’t cheer for ‘us’. We are there for the show and to be entertained. I know CM Punk chants are going to happen and I understand why. But, choose wisely. During dead times or between matches is one thing, but don’t spoil a US title match or even the main event by chanting for a guy who’s been gone for more than a year.

Don’t bury Reigns if the match sucks. He and the Big Show are probably going to leave a lot to be desired because, well, Paul White ain’t Brock Lesnar. And Reigns still hasn’t won most of us over. If it sucks, it’s worth it for the greater good and blow our gasket if something unexpected happens to let us know where Reigns is headed next.

“John Cena Sucks” chant to his music needs to happen. Because it’s awesome. And I want to be a part of it. I don’t even hate Cena, but it’s a cool chant. Do it.

I want Ambrose in a meaningful feud in the near future. If you do too, he and Harper’s match needs to be hot and entertaining. If they take care of their part (which I believe they will, because neither of them have given me reason to believe they won’t deliever), let’s do ours in getting Ambrose over BIG TIME!

Orton and Rollins are going to put on a show in the main event. Don’t let Kane ruin it. This is more of me asking creative not to give us a reason to focus on Kane being the guardian of the gate, because that’s unnecessary in my mind. But Orton is a babyface with a lot of potential and a world-class worker, while Rollins is one of the best heels in recent memory. I’m thinking pre-match chants of “LET’S GO ORTON – FUCK YOU ROLLINS” at the top of our lungs is what we need to get that match off and running! Those two performers will eat it up and repay us for it..I trust that.

Sidenote: We are all sports fans right? It’s the NBA Playoffs and NHL Playoffs and the Bulls and Blackhawks are both pursuing championships. Somebody on the card will be coming out with a jersey or make reference to the sports in the town being in the thick of it right now. Let’s get some pro-Chicago sports chants rolling through the crowd when that happens and let whichever ‘face’ comes out for the cause know that we appreciate their support of our hometown teams.

Most importantly, make me go home believing what I’ve heard about Chicago crowds: it’s one of, if not the top, wrestling crowd in the world. Let’s prove it.

I need some memories, Chi-town wrestling fans. I’ll put forth the effort to get them..this much I promise. I just hope you’re in a giving mood.


Love,

Travis

The Renny D Show: Is WWE Losing It’s Curbside Appeal?


April 20, 2015
By Renny D


This Sunday marks the 7th anniversary of the first WWE Extreme Rules pay-per-view. Extreme Rules debuted in 2009 in New Orleans. The WWE then and now is a completely different product.

The term “Extreme Rules” would make one think that the show is all about blood and guts; a no holds barred wrestling show. The show itself features matches like a Russian Chain Match and Last Man Standing match. I will admit that the Russian Chain Match is going to be awesome or at least it could be awesome. However the WWE has ventured away from extreme and has distanced itself from it as far as it possibly can.

The WWE is so far removed from extreme that today it decided to ban Seth Rollin’s finisher, the curb stomp. Why? Per Justin LaBar it is because of the increasing transparency into the world of head injuries. The curb stomp, much like Randy Orton’s punt, both put the superstars at risk of a serious head injury. So this Sunday at Extreme Rules we will not be seeing either, nor the RKO.

That begs a big question, what move is actually safe in wrestling? The answer: NONE. Being in the ring for 11 years I know a thing or two about moves, both giving and receiving. I suffered one concussion, which I know of, in my career and it wasn’t fun. However, I wouldn’t ask the move that caused the concussion to be banned. The move: a kick in the face. Should we ban kicks? No.

Here’s the thing, the curb stomp is a move that you take the pressure on the back of your neck. Not once will you see Seth step on a guys head. The control is with the wrestler on bottom to take the bump. Seth just jumps up, uses gravity to control the foot to the back and then the wrestler on the receiving end dictates their own bump. Apparently WWE doesn’t trust their own wrestlers to dictate their own bumps anymore.

Listen, I hate the extreme wrestling matches. CZW death matches I think serve zero purpose in pro wrestling. However, certain “extreme” moves and some color once in awhile doesn’t hurt. Look at Lesnar, when he gets busted open people find him even more of a bad ass. Why? Because he is.

The biggest thing about the banning of this move that pisses me off is there are other moves a whole lot worse that are allowed. Here’s the one move that can lead to concussions more often than not: taking a bump off the turnbuckle. You have your opponent up for a superplex. You crawl up. You brawl. He/she pushes you off. You take your back bump. Your head snaps back and hits the mat. BOOM. Concussion. C’mon WWE. This is a physical sport with entertainment. If you are truly an entertainment company even movies, which are faker than pro wrestling, allow certain things to happen that your company will not…and I am talking PG movies!

Why have a PPV entitled “Extreme Rules” if you are the furthest thing from it? Why? On Sunday when I am in attendance live you are depriving the Chicago crowd of good wrestling by banning certain moves and taking away the creative freedom of the superstar who broke into this business for their love of PRO WRESTLING. It shouldn’t be entitled, “Extreme Rules,” it should be entitled, “Our Rules.”

The one thing that will go above and beyond this will be seeing Undertaker hit the tombstone pile driver at WrestleMania 32. I suppose it’s safer for a 55+ wrestler to do a move that can paralyze someone if gone wrong than someone who does crossfit 5x a week and doesn’t even dictate the bump. WWE, put your hands back in your pockets and let these guys work. For the love of Edward Norton Jr…let them work!

Dirt Sheets: If I Was Booking The Showcase WrestleMania 31


3/11/2015
By: Mester, Travis

As of this writing, we are 18 days away from Wrestlemania 31.

We have nine likely matches that will be on the card for this year’s Showcase. There’s a chance a few others (Miz vs Mizdow, an NXT match maybe, etc.) could be added in the next two weeks, but that’s the unknown. I’m here to break down and not only predict winners, but tell you why we can make the best out of what we’ve been given going forward. I don’t agree with how we’ve gotten to this point with some of these feuds, and I’ll explain that in detail below. But there are some intriguing ways we could see the dominos fall in the next three weeks to make San Francisco a site for some memorable moments.

Let’s get to it.

Andre The Giant Battle Royal

Is there any real way to build to this thing? It seems like a tossed in event to make sure everyone gets on the card. Ryback will win it. Somehow. It will be a clusterfuck of a match and The Big Guy will toss out Kane and Big Show to give him a sweet victory, a la Cesaro last year. Let’s hope he doesn’t get tossed to the wolves by creative (like Cesaro did after last year’s Wrestlemania) and they actually have a plan for him.

Intercontinental championship ladder match: Bad News Barrett ©, R-Truth, Dolph Ziggler, Luke Harper, Stardust, Dean Ambrose, Daniel Bryan

This has been a fun, albeit awkward, way to solidify the IC belt as something that superstars actually want to win. They’ve got Ziggler, Bryan and Ambrose in one match…that has to be a good thing. They’re three of the most over stars on the roster and have all had moments in ladder matches in the past that lead me to believe this will be a show stealing part of WMXXXI. I’ve got Daniel Bryan winning the match, leading the YES! chants in San Francisco and carrying the title onto Raw the next night, to be greeted by a returning heel Sheamus to begin a feud between two former World Champions for the IC strap, further solidifying it as something to care about.

Divas tag team: Paige/AJ Lee vs Brie and Nikki Bella ©

If I were booking this match, I’d have Nikki Bella put the Divas title on the line and if the Bellas lost, whomever claims the pinfall/submission victory became the champion. That would add some sort of intrigue to the Paige/AJ situation if it mattered which one of them won and almost became a triple threat sort of match, in a way. Especially if Brie Bella was the one to lose the match, thus costing Nikki her title. That’d be some pro booking right there. Do it, WWE. Otherwise, we’re looking at a Smackdown/Raw type of Divas match. And that doesn’t excite this guy one bit.

Tag team title: Cesaro/Tyson Kidd © vs The New Day

I assume this will become a four corners tag team title match including the Usos and Los Matedores. If that’s the case, it doesn’t change the fact that WWE really has zero tag teams that I love watching right now. Cesaro and Kidd are the most entertaining of the bunch, but I still feel like the Natalya/Naomi dynamic and Total Divas in general, has had too much influx into this division as a whole. If I were booking it, The New Day will have some sort of falling out and get them disjointed (that needs to happen bad to give Big E something else to start doing before his career is lost in the shuffle) and Cesaro/Kidd will retain in an entertaining match that hopefully sees Cesaro toss people around like the beast that he is.

Randy Orton vs Seth Rollins

When Orton returned, he shouldn’t have played us all like dummies and acted like he was in the Authority. That made no sense and the ‘slow burn’ was ineffective in my eyes. T his past Monday saw The Viper strike on Rollins. Now, we’ll see a build of two the company’s best characters, as well as in-ring workers, to a 1-on-1 match that shouldn’t disappoint. There should be a stipulation added (last man standing, street fight rules, etc) added to the contest in the next few weeks to ensure that it’s a blowoff of their feud. J&J Security will be involved in the finish, which will have a sweet spot by Rollins to take out Orton somewhere in the arena. Rollins wins early in the night, and maybe again later in the evening?

US Title: Rusev © vs John Cena

This feud isn’t ending at Wrestlemania if I have the pencil in my hand. Cena passed out at Fastlane. Rusev passed out last week on Raw. Now, Lana is out of the picture and we’ve got the face that runs the place against the undefeated Russian superathlete for the US Title. I don’t have Rusev lose, and I think this one goes onto Extreme Rules before the payoff for Cena. I’m booking a disqualification finish that sees Cena beaten and broken down again after a long, entertaining match that shows off Rusev’s right to be in the main event scene moving forward. Cena is announced the victor, but Rusev keeps the strap and the Russian flag drops down from the rafters. Leading to a blowoff for this feud in Chicago in April at Extreme Rules, at which Cena will take the US Title and Rusev’s undefeated streak will end.

Sting vs Triple H

This feud should have been so simple to write. And they messed it up. Sting wrestled for WCW 15 years ago. That company closed and he went to different wrestling organizations other than WWE and has wrestled the past decade without joining WWE. He’s one of the few, and the only superduperstar, that has never wrestled for WWE. Now, creative is treading Sting as if he is a guy who hasn’t wrestling for 15 years and he’s here because he’s made that Triple H had a hand in closing the doors of WCW? That doesn’t do it for me. THE STORY SHOULD HAVE BEEN THIS: Sting is old school. He was the face of WCW until it went under and he has been everywhere and anywhere since then (TNA, etc.) making his name, his brand, bigger than any one company ever could. He is the best professional wrestler in history. And he is tired of turning on his TV and having the shit that WWE spews out being thought of as ‘wrestling’. He wants everyone that turns on Raw every week to finally see what the business should be. And Triple H is the face of everything Sting despises. It’s Sting vs. Triple H. The best professional wrestler any company or brand has ever seen versus the sports entertainment juggernaut that spits in the face of everything Sting believes used to be right with the business. Triple H is going to be the guy that deals with the wrath of Sting, but it’s the way the business has changed in the past three decades that is The Icon’s real opponent. The story they’ve used to lead us to it has been subpar at best, but the end result will be Sting strapping on the scorpion death lock and getting him ready for the Undertaker at WMXXXII in Dallas.

Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt

I like that the Undertaker will not be seen until his music hits in San Francisco on March 29. And Bray Wyatt has done well to carry this feud on his own to this point. The dynamic of The Dead Man vs the new face of fear is a good one, and a welcomed change to the recent run of Undertaker opponents at Wrestlemania. The Undertaker is winning this match, and ultimately will be facing Sting in a retirement match in Dallas next year, but what it does for Wyatt will be the thing that will impact WWE TV over the next year. I’m booking a deranged Wyatt coming back a few weeks after Wrestlemania and becoming the leader of another faction similar to the Wyatt Family. He’ll be the voice of some new up and comers from NXT over next summer.

World Heavyweight Championship: Brock Lesnar © vs Roman Reigns

If Lesnar can work out a deal to remain with WWE after Wrestlemania, he should be walking out of San Francisco with the strap around his waist. If he is going to UFC, or anywhere else, he still should be walking out of San Francisco with the strap around his waist. I see a long, lumbering match between two huge men ending with a couple F5s from Lesnar. Then, a Rollins cash-in attempt that is staved off by The Beast as he gets his belt and escapes the stadium with his title in tact. Reigns looks strong, just not quite strong enough to beat The Beast…yet. And Rollins loses his briefcase. Rollins and Reigns have a feud to decide who the true #1 contender is (maybe Orton gets entered into this somehow as well) for Lesnar’s belt. The Beast, who will likely take his belt and go home after Raw the following night when he and Heyman state that this company has nothing for him, reigns on as champion into the summer months before returning against whomever has solidified himself as his closest competitor at SummerSlam at the Barclays Center.

I maintain the right to change any and all of my picks above over the next two weeks. My official predictions will be on the episode of The Pencil prior to Wrestlemania XXXI. Until then, this is the booking in my eyes. Believe that.

Play on, playas. Hit me @PencilPodcast or @TravisMester with your disagreements.

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Wrestling With Success – The NWA Story


March 4, 2015
By: Renny D

If you have ever taken a business course in your life you have probably heard the story of Kodak. Kodak was a camera and film company that dominated the photography space for many years. They had some of the best cameras and made 35mm film that fit those. Essentially if you wanted photos developed by a local photo shop you would use a Kodak camera to “burn” the image on Kodak film and bring that film into the store to get your prints. Kodak’s business model was strong and untouchable…until new technology came into the picture.

Now days we all have cell phones that take photos. Digital photography was a technology that Kodak did not adopt. As a result Kodak lost its market leader position to the likes of Cannon and Nikkon. Kodak today remains in business but when you ask photographers what brand do they prefer they will list off several before they mention Kodak.

The National Wrestling Alliance is Kodak. They had a strong business model that worked well “back in the day.” Failure to adopt new business trends and marketing avenues the NWA was passed by the Cannons and the Nikkons of the world (Ring of Honor, Pro Wrestling Syndicate, Dragon Gate USA, etc). Now the NWA finds itself tryihg to regain dominance in the space saturated with all different genres of professional wrestling.

The NWA once owned the professional wrestling business. Once upon a time in professional wrestling there was only one World’s Heavyweight Champion, and that was the NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Former NWA champions include Harley Race, Terry Funk, the original nature boy Buddy Rodgers, the new nature boy Ric Flair, Lou Thesz, Jack Brisco, Dusty Rhodes, Ricky Steamboat and Sting. Those are all first ballet hall of famers in anyone’s eyes. At some point in the road the NWA World’s Heavyweight Championship lost it’s luster.

Some people point to 1994 when the NWA started its downward spiral. Shane Douglas, the current NWA champion at that time, went on ECW television and disrespected the NWA title by tossing it on the ground. This obviously led to the vacancy of the world title. NWA World Champions after that were virtually not in the same league as Ric Flair with the exception of a few.

NWA tried for years to regain dominance in professional wrestling. An alliance with the Jarrett family and TNA Wrestling took place in 2002. Can you remember those days? NWA-TNA wrestling was the hot new upstart that was bound to take down the Galiath of WWE. SPOILER: That never happened.

The affiliation with TNA and national television exposure started to bring the NWA back to the forefront of professional wrestling. Their talent roster included guys like Jeff Jarrett, Ron Killings (R-Truth), AJ Styles, Somoa Joe, Sting, Rhino, Christian, Abyss, and Raven. This roster was solid and with good reason it brought the NWA back to the forefront.

In 2007 the affiliation with TNA wrestling ended. Jarrett sold TNA to the Carter family and the partnership dissolved. The NWA no longer had national TV exposure. They basically had to start from ground zero again.

A lot of trials and tribulations lead to the NWA brass putting the company up for sale in 2011/2012. A man who was highly involved with the NWA, Bruce Tharpe, showed interest in the fledgling company. In 2012 Bruch bought the National Wrestling Alliance with the intention of returning it to dominance again one day.

When Bruce bought the company the current NWA World’s Heavyweight Champion was either Colt Cabana or Adam Pearce. Both of these gentlemen had a big following on the independent level throughout the states and the world. The NWA had buzz. Colt had his Art of Wrestling podcast that he could utilize to market not only himself but the NWA World Title. Adam was just so damn good people wanted to see him.

Their feud became so large they developed a series of matches out of it and so became Seven Levels of Hate. The theory behind this was to travel the world doing a series of seven matches, or a best of seven, but as you can expect in professional wrestling you knew it was going to go all seven. This generated a ton of social media buzz. People wanted to see these matches. Their series of matches were distributed across the world on iPPV for several NWA affiliated and even some non-NWA affiliated promotions.

I had the honor of working a show that featured one of these matches. It was for Steel Domain Wrestling in Hopkins, MN. Adam and Colt were going to wrestle in an “I Quit” match for the NWA World’s Heavyweight Championship. The finish was awesome. Adam choked out Colt with the top rope but Colt never quit. In the end Colt walked away victorious putting the series at 3-0 Colt (I believe this was the count).

This match generated more buzz for Colt, Adam, and the NWA. They were making towns having hellacious matches and stealing the show wherever they went. The dirt sheet websites were picking up on this series. More and more wrestling fans were beginning to take notice. The NWA was in a good spot. Then for whatever reason they killed it.

The NWA decided that they didn’t want Colt Cabana as their world’s champion. Why? I still have no idea. The match was a cage match in the land down under of Australia. Colt Cabana won the match. Adam Pearce gave Colt the title but then shades of Shane Douglas took place as Colt said he didn’t want the title because the “leaders” of the NWA didn’t appreciate him and what he was doing. Adam Pearce also agreed with this. The video went viral.

The dirt sheets picked up on this story and it shed a bad light on the NWA. This is not what Bruce intended for, wanted, or needed. After our interview this past week with Bruce he made it apparent that it was not the right decision and he should have had a more hands-on role in this decision. This decision put the NWA back to square one.

Since that infamous moment the NWA has been on an uphill battle to get back to where it wants to be. They face many challenges in the years ahead. The wrestling business is saturated. There are a lot of good promotions and there are a lot of bad ones. The NWA needs to be different to succeed. They need something that they haven’t had in a long time. They need a special attraction.

Companies like Ring of Honor, Pro Wrestling Syndicate, and Dragon Gate USA are using nationally known talent because of either their in-ring skills or the marketability they have with them. Guys like Colt Cabana, Ricochet, AJ Styles, Somoa Joe, Even Bourne, Drew Galloway, etc. These are guys the fans want to pay to see. The NWA doesn’t have many of these worldly known talents. They need that.

Their NWA champion was Rob Conway. Rob Conway is a good worker. Great wrestler. With no disrespect at all, Mr. Conway is no Ric Flair. The NWA needs a champion that can bring back those three letters into dominance. They need someone that is marketable. They need someone, most importantly, that fans want to pay money to see. Their new champion is Hiroyshi Tenzan, a great talent. To the American audience he is virtually unknown. To the international audience he has more buzz. So they need to decide what they want. Do they want to be known more internationally or domestically or both? Bruce told me he wants to grow both channels. You can continue to build your own stars, but to do so it’s important to bring in other people to help build them.

My suggestion to the NWA is to continue to work hard. Look outside of the NWA for talents. Look domestically to grab hot names on the scene that can utilize their avenues to help promote your brand. Look at guys like The Young Bucks who are arguably the best tag team in the world. Look at guys like Drew Galloway, a former WWE talent with a lot of buzz. Expand your roster to feature guys that people want to pay money to see. Build a program around the world title that people want to invest in. The program starts with your main title. Make sure you have a storyline in place that is intriguing, interesting, but most importantly put asses in the seat.

I trust that Bruce has good intentions for the NWA. He is passionate about it. That is something you cannot teach. The skills he doesn’t have in certain areas, whether it be marketing or sales (although he is a lawyer so sales should be easy) is something he can surround himself with. I want the NWA to do well. I want it to become extremely popular again.

The more good wrestling there is the better it is for the business as a whole. Bruce is working on a TV deal, content to be delivered online, and an app similar to WWE network. I have offered to help in anyway I can as well. I love a good comeback story. Since Kodak screwed theirs up, maybe the NWA can be that success story. I will continue to pull for Bruce and the National Wrestling Alliance.