Wrestlemania: Orlando 2017

Like many of you, I have mixed feelings about Wrestlemania. I had some high expectations for WWE’s biggest show of the year due to recently following Wrestling Rumors on Facebook. I realize that predictions posted on Wrestling Rumors are just speculation, and it would have been very difficult for them to meet all of my expectations. However, I wanted all of the rumors to be true so badly. The origin of WWE rumors remains unclear. At times, it seems that fan sites latch onto niblets of a looming WWE storyline. They follow other wrestling companies’ story lines, habits of former and current superstars, they use context from WWE history, and they over-analyze diction and syntax. Maybe they even have someone in the WWE leaking information. Other times, I think WWE searches fan sites, like Wrestling Rumors, looking for an idea of what the people want to see happen. To my delight, some of those rumors came to fruition.

The Hardy Boyz return made my heart stop. The New Day’s announcement that a fourth tag team would enter the ladder match for the Raw tag team titles was beautiful. I love how WWE knows the rumors that are spinning, and caters to them (occasionally). The New Day so clearly knew that fans were on the edge of their seats, expecting, or at least hoping for, the Hardy Boyz. I’m not sure if this is a quality of the New Day themselves (they’ve done it on numerous occasions, including recently addressing Xavier’s sex tape), or WWE script writers, but the group always seems to address reality, breaking the fourth wall that can sometimes feel like a thick, impenetrable barrier between the WWE and the WWE Universe. The New Day’s delivery of the announcement left us suspended for a few moments. They teased us. Dressed in their wrestling gear, doubt seeped into the minds of the people that were so sure that the Hardys would return in the match that they’re most famous for. It was a terrifying few moments as we wondered, “WWE knows what we want. Would they really not give it to us?”  Thankfully, I think the New Day knows that we’ve seen enough of them for now.

John Cena proposed to Nikki Bella last night at Wrestlemania, even though he said he never would. Even though I’m a romantic, I’m not satisfied with this turn in events. It feels like a lie to me. The lie isn’t that John Cena is pretend-marrying Nikki Bella. I’m sure that they’re getting married for real, and they’re in love, and they’ll live a happy life together. The lie is that John Cena swore to us, countless times over the last few years, that he did not want to ever get married again. He was adamant. If there was one thing we knew about John Cena, it was that he was not the marrying type. Now, all of a sudden, he is? What changed? The other thing that bothers me is that there was no reasoning behind this change of heart. He stated that he knew he wanted to marry Nikki a year ago when she went into surgery for her injured neck. He apparently asked her to marry him when she was drugged up. That story does not ring true to me. Why would he ask her to marry him when she was loopy? He knew she would say yes. She has made her intentions more than clear – unless her feelings about marriage are a total lie, too. I’m sure that they will get more into this on the next season of Total Bellas, but they should not have had this segment unless they were going to do it right. You cannot un-do what he’s said for the last two years (?) in like ten minutes. I understand that there was a time constraint (don’t know how – the show was like 7 hours), but if they didn’t have time to do it the way they should have done it, with John Cena explaining why he changed his mind about marriage and declaring his love for Nikki, they shouldn’t have done it at all. Some people are claiming that he actually proposed to her months ago, and they’ve just kept it under wraps, which I can understand and respect, but they needed to have some respect for the WWE Universe, too. They owe us more than what they gave us.

Now onto my disappointments. Finn was nowhere to be found. He has been performing at house shows over the last few weeks, so I was sure he was going to be at Wrestlemania. I didn’t care if he didn’t compete, I just wanted him to make an appearance, to announce his intentions for his future.

The Smackdown Live’s women’s championship match did not have any returns. It was speculated that Kelly Kelly, Maria, or Lita would enter the match for the women’s title. This rumor felt increasingly hopeful when the night was nearly over, as WWE usually places their best content at the end of the show. Also, the way that the match stipulation was worded. “All available women on the Smackdown Live roster,” were scheduled to compete. It would have been too easy to have one of the above-mentioned women come out at the very end of the entrances, and say, “I’m now part of the Smackdown Live roster,” and then join the match and win the belt.

While I did face some disappointments last night, according to gossip, some surprises are in store for us the week after Wrestlemania. I can only hope that this will mean more returns, and some call-ups from NXT.

 

What did you all think of Wrestlemania? What was your favorite match? What are your storyline predictions?

Pay-per-views in 2017

I read somewhere that there will be fewer WWE pay-per-views in 2017. While pay-per-views are exciting – due to superstars putting on their best performances, and the possibility of superstar returns – I think this decision is in the company’s best interest. Since the 2016 draft, where the brands were split, and each show was given its own pay-per-views, there has been a pay-per-view event about every 2-4 weeks. Just take a look at the pay-per-view schedule over the past few months:

 

September 11, 2016 Backlash

September 25, 2016 Clash of Champions

October 9, 2016 No Mercy

October 30, 2016 Hell in a Cell

November 20, 2016 Survivor Series

December 4, 2016 TLC

 

Now, just two weeks after TLC, Roadblock will be held (on December 18th). Typically, fans would think “the more pay-per-views the better!” and “at least I’m getting my money’s worth from the WWE Network,” but are more pay-per-views really better? Since there is a very short time frame between pay-per-views, there is not enough time to create new rivalries. Therefore, pay-per-view matches are oftentimes basically the same for two or more events. For example, Charlotte and Sasha have been rivals since July, and they have faced each other at almost every pay-per-view since then.

Just looking back since August, Sasha and Charlotte competed against each other at Summerslam, Clash of Champions (triple threat with Bayley), and Hell in a Cell. That’s three pay-per-views. This rivalry has lasted for five months.

Since the amount of time between pay-per-views is short, matches feel repetitive and old. Dean Ambrose and AJ Styles have been facing each other (with John Cena in the mix at one point) practically since the brand split. WWE needs to limit rivalries to two to three months max. Especially with a three hour show, it is easy for viewers to lose interest.

In my opinion, there aren’t enough superstars on the roster to have such frequent pay-per-views. If they had more superstars, they would be able to show different combinations of matches at pay-per-views. They would be able to have shorter, more diverse story-lines. They should consider hiring back old superstars, AND making the most of the rosters they have now. WWE, you do not need to use every superstar you have on every episode of Raw. Surprise the audience when a superstar appears on Raw for the first time in a few weeks – the way NXT does – in order to up the excitement and give the show an element of surprise. Then nourish a rivalry between them and another superstar for a few weeks. When that fizzles out, repeat with another superstar.

WWE Live

A few weeks ago, on Halloween, I went to Monday Night Raw. This was my second time attending Raw. The first time was six months prior, at the age of 22. We had fantastic seats, in the third row near the superstar entrance/exit curtain. At the end of the show, as the commentators were leaving, we yelled out Byron and Corey’s names, they heard us and waved. It wasn’t ringside, but that’s how close we were.

As a fan, there is no experience that can compare to seeing a WWE event live. It was truly magical. They put on such a great show. There is so much that you don’t see on your television that goes into producing the show. Even sitting there, you don’t see half the effort taking place backstage. Everyone works so hard – in such a short amount of time in between segments – to make everything perfect. For example, the Cruiserweight matches. Half a dozen people cover the ropes in purple tape during the commercial break. They have to be done with this task in about three or four minutes. At the end of the match, they have another three to four minutes to remove the tape.

When you attend a live show, every match is a good match. You don’t want to miss a second of it. Every competition basically has you on the edge of your seat. You cheer and chant for people you don’t even like. You physically feel the excitement, the crowd, the energy, and the movements of the wrestlers. You feel them get knocked down, you feel their momentum. All of your senses are involved.

A noticeable difference between attending a live event and watching one on TV, is the commentary. You cannot hear the commentators at live events. This may seem obvious for some people, but it came as a surprise to me. Commentary is such a huge part of the experience, and I wish that they could somehow incorporate that into live shows.

Attending a WWE event on Halloween night made it extra special. Enzo and Cass faced The Club in a Halloween Street Fight. Pumpkins, skeletons, and other Halloween decorations were placed around the ring for use. The New Day had a Halloween promo video, but didn’t actually show up to the event.

This episode of Raw was also special because members of the Survivor Series teams were announced. This was also Goldberg’s second WWE appearance in the last twelve years, and we got to see him spear Paul Heyman.

Other notable events: as we were leaving the arena, on our way to catch our bus, a few famous faces drove by us. Michael Cole was in one car, Sasha Banks was in another, and Titus O’Neill was in the third. Michael Cole and Titus O’Neill waved back to us. Sasha looked pissed (this was the night after she lost the WWE Raw Women’s Championship at Hell in a Cell, and also, she didn’t get any air time on this episode).

Below are some pictures of my boyfriend, his brother, and myself, that I captured from Hulu footage of the event the next day. I’m in the middle, in between the two guys with unicorn horns (my boyfriend and his brother). In the first picture, I’m the one with the blonde hair, with my phone in front of my face, recording Charlotte’s entrance.

Women’s Championship Match as RAW Main Event

The WWE has come a long way in its treatment of its female superstars. Women wrestlers are no longer called Divas, commentators don’t yell “puppies!” whenever a woman walks down the ramp, and their wrestling gear is much less revealing.

The 2016 WWE Draft was majorly significant for the women’s division. The most exciting part of the draft for most people was the integration of the NXT talent. Both Raw and Smackdown acquired female superstars from NXT, including: Nia Jax, Carmella, and Alexa Bliss. That means that half of the NXT acquisitions were women (only six picks came from NXT). It does not get more equal than 50/50.

Charlotte, the WWE Women’s Champion at the time, was chosen in the first round, as Raw’s third overall draft pick. However you feel about Charlotte, this fact is impressive and boundary-breaking. However, I think it says more about the WWE’s changing attitude towards women than about Charlotte herself, although she is very talented. A few months later, Bayley joined the Raw roster. In recent weeks, there have commonly been two women’s matches per episode, even in NXT’s one-hour segment.

Most recently, last night on Monday Night Raw (10/3/2016), Charlotte faced Sasha Banks for the WWE Women’s Championship in the MAIN EVENT. While NXT has had women’s matches as the main event, I’m pretty sure this was a first for the flagship show. While I personally believe that despite her loss Charlotte had a better performance last night, this match was career-changing for both women, and industry-changing for the WWE.

 

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-2-11-23-pm

On another note, the Champ needs to do something about that hairline.

 

WWE Commentators’ Scripts

Most of us are aware that WWE matches are scripted. However, I have been wondering recently if WWE Commentators also follow a script, or whether their reactions and comments are genuine and spontaneous.

The moment that brought this question to my mind was a match during Monday Night Raw, on September 26, 2016. In this match, the New Day faced The Club, in a Clash of Champions rematch for the WWE World Tag Team Championships. At the end of the match, there is a moment of confusion. There is blood in the ring. Outside the ring, Luke Gallows’ hands and gloves are drenched in blood, but he does not appear to be in pain. The camera zooms out. You have to squint. Where is the source of the blood? The camera zooms in to the men in the ring, the New Day. Kofi Kingston is bleeding profusely from his forehead. Xavier Woods presses a towel to Kofi’s head. You ask yourself, when did Kofi obtain this cut that caused such a massive amount of bleeding? Was it when he was slammed into the steel steps?

Then you wonder why you have to wonder this at all. Shouldn’t the commentators comment on when the injury was received? But instead, they say nothing about the blood, the bleeding, still going on in the ring. They do not say a word. This appears strange to me. Obviously, they were not prepared for this injury. It was not in the script. But even if it wasn’t supposed to happen, shouldn’t they acknowledge it anyway? It’s a big deal when someone bleeds. It’s an even bigger deal when it’s not supposed to happen.

I did a little research on whether or not WWE Commentators follow a script, and found out that they do. However, some commentators are known to forfeit knowledge of the endings of the matches in order to better commentate and react honestly. One website, deadspin.com even released a WWE Raw script, which contains certain points they must hit during certain matches. The script even includes wrestlers’ speeches and promos. It’s pretty interesting. Here’s the link:

http://deadspin.com/this-is-what-a-wwe-raw-script-looks-like-1570327862

A nine page script of dos and don’ts for WWE Commentators was posted on a website called SEScoops (http://www.sescoops.com/photos-full-nine-page-wwe-raw-announcer-script-leaks-online/). One of the rules is “don’t call blood,” which might answer my question. However, the rules are in place to make the commentators sound natural and honest. The natural response to seeing blood is surprise, even in wrestling. The way the commentators ignore the blood achieves the opposite effect; it makes their response (or lack of one) seem illegitimate.