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Top 5: Things For Wrestling Fans To Be Thankful For

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It’s the one week of the year where everybody takes stock of what they’re thankful for. Writers write about it so they can get done early in the week & go eat turkey. That’s why we’re here, I ain’t gonna lie.

Here are the top 5 things that pro wrestling fans are thankful for in 2017.

5. Social Media

@stevecook84

How did we watch wrestling without Twitter? As much as we make mockery of WWE for making everything about hashtags, the social media is a godsend during these television shows. The life of a wrestling fan could be lonely back in the day. It still can be if you live with people that don’t share your obsession. Now, all you have to do to find people to talk with during wrestling events is turn on your smartphone.

Sure, there are plenty of evils with social media. Our political process has been pretty much ruined by Twitter. People spend way too much time in other people’s business. But the positive of having a collective wrestlegasm a couple of times a week makes the other stuff worthwhile.

4. Liking Wrestling Has Rarely Been Less of a Stigma

I was a happy kid in elementary school. I had no cares in the world. Everybody seemed to like me. Then middle school came and I met new people that didn’t like me at all. One of the main reasons was the fact I was a professional wrestling fan in 1995–96. I was made fun of and ignored for the entirety of my 6th grade year. In years afterward I gained a certain level of acceptance among my peers. There were even a couple of years there where the same people that made fun of me then got all excited about Stone Cold & the NWO. I never forgot how everyone tossed me aside that first year out of my comfort zone. I’ve never been the same happy trusting soul that I was in elementary school. It’s still inexplicably hard for me to get to know people & make lasting friendships.

Obviously, this is still a problem in our schools. Kids are ostracized & made to feel unwelcome, curtailing their development & ability to function within the norms of society. The good news for people whose weirdest attribute is watching wrestling is that sports entertainment has been accepted as part of nerd culture. Being a nerd isn’t the faux pas that it was twenty years ago. Wrestling fans are now known to be in on the joke. Whether it’s “fake” or whatever, it’s a television show just like anything else. The stigma is no longer there. You can wear your wrestling t-shirts out in public. It helps that the t-shirts are wider in variety & you can find ones that look cool.

3. Variety Is Back

There was a period of time where WWE was the only real outlet for wrestlers & wrestling fans. WWE was the only place for wrestlers to make money. WWE was the only wrestling that the majority of Internet wrestling fans wanted to talk about. I remember when Larry Csonka & I were the only two people on 411mania that wanted to talk about something other than WWE. Then Ari Berenstein became the only person on 411 that wanted to talk about Ring of Honor. Readers would complain because they only wanted to hear about the almighty WWE & HLA & the never-ending Triple H title run & all the wonderful things that were going on back then.

Now we have plenty of choices for our wrestling dollar. New Japan is making waves over here, along with their business partner Ring of Honor. Guys are making money there & on the indies. T-shirt sales are through the roof. Lucha Underground is pretty cool when it’s around and has increased exposure of key talent. And Impact Wrestling is still alive somehow.

Not to mention how WWE has convinced a lot of people that NXT is a different company.

2. Women’s Wrestling Is Legit

Back when I first started watching pro wrestling, it was easy to forget that women even competed. Sure, there were managers like Sensational Sherri & Madusa, but young me had no idea that they started out as accomplished wrestlers & got into managing simply because there weren’t opportunities for women in the ring in the main North American promotions. Once the Attitude Era came around, women were allowed to wrestle because it was hot. Sable wasn’t exactly a top-notch competitor, but she was popular with WWF crowds because of her assets.

WWE still pushed that aspect of women’s wrestling for a long time. I did it myself in my writing. It was what the people wanted at the time. Fortunately, women’s wrestling has evolved. It’s not a T & A sideshow. Sure, cosmetics still plays a role, but it always will to some degree. It plays a role with the men too. The main focus is on competition. As somebody that’s pushed women’s wrestling for years, I’m thankful that now when I do it people aren’t rolling their eyes at me.

1. Streaming Services

I can sit here all day and tell you about how much better pro wrestling was back in the day. Back when we had blood & guts. When we had guys that could call it in the ring. When we had bookers instead of writers, bullet points instead of scripted promos & crowds full of fans that believed & gave a damn about the wrestlers winning & losing instead of fans trying to get themselves over at the expense of the show.

You know what wasn’t better back then? Access. We had video tapes. We could trade them if we wanted more wrestling from a far-off location. We could go to Blockbuster & rent major releases for a few days. We had satellite dishes & VCRs. It had its charms, but wrestling addicts only got their fix a couple days a week. Now, we can get it whenever we want it. WWE Network has a pretty good percentage of WWE’s library. New Japan has a service. Impact Wrestling has a service. ROH has their thing. Smart Mark Video has one. Pretty much any wrestling company you can think of has some service that will let you watch whatever you want whenever you want.

We’re spoiled. I, for one, am thankful that these companies figured out that their fans will fork out money to watch an excessive amount of wrestling. Can you believe that promoters used to tape over their old shows to save money? No wonder they all went out of business.


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Opinion

Character Alignment In WWE

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Shinsuke Nakamura Character

Hell of a week in wrestling, eh?

Well, given all of the news items involving professional wrestling right now, most notably the MASSIVE amounts of money that WWE is receiving for their TV rights, I want to talk about something more nuanced.  I want to talk about something that fans criticize often but seem to not truly understand. Today ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to talk about character alignment.

Roman Reigns recently was interviewed by the Daily Express in the United Kingdom.  They asked him about him possibly turning heel, and his response was “It’s a weird question cause, aren’t I already a heel? If I garnered that reaction, what’s the point? If it’s already happening, if I’m already being booed, why try and get booed?”  When this article was published and it got to the internet, needless to say the IWC lost their minds. Some people, like me, tried to show people that clearly he understands that he’s already an antagonist in some form. Others, like a heavy majority of fans I interacted with this past week, tried to argue that he’s completely wrong and he’s trying to save face by saying something that couldn’t possibly be true.  So that created a question in my mind. Is Roman Reigns a face or a heel? More importantly, if Roman is a face, what does he do that constitutes being a face?

The answer to that question is simple, yet ends up getting very complicated.  Roman exhibits both heel and face tactics, often depending on the feud or who he’s pitted against.  When he’s heelish, he’s brutal to his opponents, arrogant in promos and around other talent, attacks other wrestlers unprovoked, and known to hold a vendetta and go out of his way to eliminate his opponent.  On the other hand, Reigns has shown to be loyal to those he considers his family (The Shield and the Usos), has moments where he’s pandered to the crowd, and stands up for himself often in the face of adversity.  So, the logical answer is that Roman is a tweener. Yet, some fans refuse to accept that, stating that not giving him a traditional alignment is a cop out. So, how do we figure out what Roman really is?

First, we have to realize that characters are no longer simply linear.  While there are characters that still fall in that realm, wrestling characters are, as characters in general often are, non-linear and deal with more shades of grey.  Characters have evolved into fully fleshed out characters, with motivations that serve multiple purposes. Wrestling has followed suit. Some of our greatest characters have been either a tweener or an anti-hero.  Long gone is the classic battle of good and evil between the “white meat” babyface versus the evil heel; it still exists in some forms, but wrestling and entertainment largely have moved on from this. So then, how do we figure out where a character stands when it comes to alignment?

In 1974, Dungeons and Dragons was created and introduced to the world.  The creators of that game introduced an alignment chart in which most characters in entertainment are judged by.  With society being more broad than simply good and evil, the creators found a way to classify characters taking into account their moral and ethical perspectives and motivations.  They concluded that there are 9 alignments that a character could be, all mixing the thought process of law VS chaos and good VS evil. The chart is below.

This chart gives deeper thought to character motivations and explains who a character is in a much deeper way than simply good or evil, or in wrestling terms, face or heel.  So, I’m going to explain what each alignment is and who I think associates with that alignment the most.

The first alignment on the character axis is the Lawful Good alignment.  Characters that align with this believe in truth, law, and doing good.  They often have a personal code of conduct that they stick to through everything.  The most clear character like this in the WWE is John Cena.  He stands by his code of Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect, and always tries to do the right thing.

On the other end of the spectrum, Lawful Evil characters are similar to Lawful Good characters in that they believe in law and order, but their purpose for such is to adhere to their ways and wishes.  These characters often use the law and manipulate it to get what they want, usually at the detriment of good characters. Nobody in wrestling represents this better than Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.  The Authority technically believes in the laws; they make them.  They often use their laws, however, to hold who they want down and push who they want to prominence.

Neutral characters are the most important characters in this character axis, because the represent the shades of grey more than any other.  Lawful Neutral characters represent that perfectly, as they believe in law and order and what’s right, but follow their moral compass.  This differs from Lawful Good in that while both believe in law and order, Lawful Neutral characters don’t necessarily believe in right and wrong.  They just believe in their code. This was the hardest for me to match to a WWE star, but the closest I can think of is Aleister Black in NXT.  Aleister has talked often about being in the grey space between good and evil, and his character follows its own motivations.  He doesn’t try to be a hero, he doesn’t try to be a bad guy. He believes in his own moral compass, but only his moral compass.

Chaotic Good characters differ from both other good characters in that they try to do what’s right, but they believe in their conscience more than the laws maintained.  These characters are often free spirits or rebels that do what they want, but always in the name of good. I’d relate this alignment to guys like AJ Styles or Seth Rollins.  Both men have shown that they try their best to do right and stand up for what they believe in, but they’ve both shown that they’re willing to do whatever they have to in order to achieve that.  Both men have had very brutal feuds with authority figures, and both men have also been the bad guys in the story, but through it all, they try to do the right thing according to their own conscience.

Chaotic Evil characters live by the old Joker adage; they just want to see the world burn.  Characters like this do what they want, when they want, how they want without any care who or what it hurts.  They don’t really believe in anything but their own impulses. Since his heel turn at WrestleMania, Shinsuke Nakamura has represented this perfectly.  He’s attacked and stalked AJ Styles at every chance simply because he wants what AJ has; the WWE Championship.  On top of his excessive and unnecessary violence, his speech and mannerisms have changed and become very neurotic and unconventional, even more than usual.

Chaotic Neutral characters are the Han Solo’s of the world.  They do what they want, and are often considered crazy.  They’re rebellious just for the sake of being rebellious.  Good or bad, their concern is their freedom and ability to do what they want.  I’m sure you’ve figured out that this is Dean Ambrose.  Ambrose is considered a lunatic, somebody who does what they wants and often doesn’t make sense in doing it.  Ambrose has stuck up for his brothers but has also turned on his brothers when it’s been advantageous to him. And more than anything, his concern is his ability to be unabashedly himself.

The alignment of Neutral Good is similar to Lawful Good in that characters believe in law and order, but will stand up against it if they feel that it’s wrong or corrupt.  They try to always do the right thing, but are willing to go against what somebody else believes is the right thing if necessary. This describes Daniel Bryan perfectly.  Bryan had a very storied rivalry with The Authority where he was attacked and mistreated for months, but also became the authority figure later on in his career.  He’s been on both sides of the law, but always does what he believes is right.

Neutral Evil characters have been called the “assholes”.  They are just plain bad. They take advantage of any situation, go after their own interests, and they even align with other characters if it helps them in their goals and endeavors.  Doesn’t this sound like The Miz to you?  Miz has had numerous henchmen and partners; he turned on them all.  Miz is always scheming to find a way to get what he wants. He’s also cowardly and conniving, taking advantage of every opportunity.  You could also equate this to Kevin Owens.

I know you’ve all been waiting to see where I’d put Roman Reigns in this algorithm.  Well, we’ve finally gotten to the alignment I feel he fits best – the True Neutral character.  I know that differs from the perception that he’s a face, so let me explain.  True Neutral characters aren’t selfless enough to be good, but their don’t do enough bad to be considered evil.  They don’t follow the rules enough to be lawful, but they aren’t wild or rebellious to be considered chaotic. True Neutral characters simply exist in the middle.  They do everything, just not enough. Doesn’t that describe Roman? He’ll attack a man viciously in the backstage area from behind one week, and the next, he’ll stick up for his brother.  He’ll pander to the crowd in a promo one week, and the next, he’ll brag about how much better he is than everybody. Roman does what he wants with no bearing on anything else but his one goal.  He’s a wild card, and that’s the true nature of the character.

Now, obviously, these are just my interpretations of these character alignments.  I can understand if you disagree with any of these, I can even understand if you think using an alignment axis created for a Role Playing Game is even relevant to wrestling.  But my point is this – wrestling characters are no longer as simple as good or evil. There is more nuance in characters than ever before. Most of them aren’t beholden to heel or face, they’re more beholden to their character and it’s motivations.  And, as I’ve explained here, often times it can serve many different purposes. So the next time you find yourself in the argument of whether Roman Reigns is a heel or not, try to think about it differently. You might be surprised what you think if you do.

FIN


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Opinion

We Need Darth Reigns, Not the Prequel Ani Version of Him

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Roman Reigns WWE Championship

RAW WARS – Episode I

“The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.”                                                                 (Obi-Wan Kenobi, Episode IV – A New Hope)

In the world of entertainment, everything is tied together. There is no cultural phenomenon that does not refer to the works that came before or that cannot be linked to the works that came after. Such is the force of culture. This includes the world of sports entertainment. So, follow me on my weekly journey on RAW WARS, when I search for the binds that tie RAW and the universe of popular culture together.

We Need Darth Reigns, Not the Prequel Ani Version of Him

With Solo – A Star Wars Story hitting theatres, I have been reminiscing about the previous Star Wars movies in recent weeks. I was not born when the films of the original trilogy were released, but I do remember going to the cinema as a teen to see the prequel trilogy. I remember even more vividly the backlash that the movies, especially Episode II, caused. Much of this criticism focussed Hayden Christensen’s portrayal of Anakin Skywalker. Hailed as the chosen one throughout the prequels, Anakin Skywalker never lived up to the high expectations fans had because of the quasi mythical performance of Darth Vader in the original trilogies. Instead of being the charismatic and enigmatic badass that we loved from Episodes IV – VI, Anakin Skywalker presents himself to us as a whiny, pouty teenager. He holds awful monologues on the irritating coarseness of sand and on haunting kisses, while being upstaged by the more charismatic characters who are played by the veteran actors. In the moments when he does decide to act, he is not applauded for badassery, but criticised for ridiculous displays of strength and his mindless savagery, making the audience sympathise with his opponents.

Sounds familiar?

The WWE has been booking Roman Reigns in the exact same fashion for years now and just like with Anakin’s portrayal in the prequels, most of the fans do not like it one bit. Yet if the latest episode of Raw on 21 May is anything to go by, the WWE either does not listen to the chorus of boos every week or chooses to ignore the fans’ rejection of the gimmick and taunts us instead. I argue that the WWE executives in charge of Roman’s booking need to (re)watch the Star Wars trilogies to see why they are wrong in casting Roman in the prequel Anakin role and that they need to put Vader’s mask and cloak on the Big Dog asap.

Everything started so promising. As the enigmatic powerhouse of The Shield, Roman Reigns let actions speak for himself. His no nonsense attitude put him over with the fans, especially as indy veterans Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins were able to hide his weaknesses. Even after the June 2014 version of the ‘chair shot heard around the world’, fans were still invested in him. They wanted to see Roman confront Seth and vanquish the turncoat. And then Roman’s own version of Anakin’s sand monologue happened: the Sufferin’ Succotash debacle. Fans did not fully turn on Roman then, but this promo did nothing to endear him to the audience. Neither did the many promos that followed this one. But Roman was still a badass, so the relationship between the chosen one and the fans was still amicable.

Until Roman stopped being a badass and became a distorted version of a superhero. Remember that scene from Episode II when Anakin jumps from his floating vehicle on Coruscant to follow the assassin? Or when he effortlessly beats Count Dooku in Episode III, which he could not do prior? I ranted about Anakin being portrayed as some kind of Superman, overcoming all odds. Braun Strowman survived several finishers and signatures moves during the 2018 Elimination Chamber main event, but then suddenly fell victim to a few Superman punches and spears by Reigns. Roman also kicked out of five (!) F5s at Wrestlemania 34, when in the months prior no one even kicked out of a single F5. I can only suspend my disbelief so much. In his current feud with the Modern Day Maharaja, his attacks are too brutal and unjustified (and ultimately pointless), so that the audience grows sympathetic towards Jinder Mahal.

Well, at least he lost the match against Lesnar then, right? And his clean loss was awarded with another title shot at Greatest Royal Rumble, which he also lost (he really did as one foot remained entangled in the apron cover). But, to improve his mood, he was awarded a spot in the main event match at Backlash, despite several titles being on the line on that PPV. He won that, admittedly, but he lost the respect of the fans even further, who could not wait to get home as soon as Roman had successfully pinned Samoa Joe. He then lost the qualifying match for the Money in the Bank ladder match, which leads us the recent RAW episode. Roman came out to confront Stephanie McMahon on how management did not want him anywhere near the Universal title. At that point I got a horrible flashback from Episode II, when Anakin throws a cup against the wall, claiming that Obi-Wan Kenobi is holding him back. This did not endear Anakin to the fans, nor will Roman whining about management help getting him over. This segment on Raw only accomplished one thing for me: it made me resent Roman.

I usually like Roman. A lot. He is one of my top 5 wrestlers, but with each passing week of this awful booking I have to ask myself: how can I justify giving him this spot in my personal favourite list? Which leads me to ask the WWE how Roman is still perceived as the top babyface in the company? Hayden Christensen had the misfortune of having to perform with more seasoned actors who upstaged him quite a bit. Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi for instance. Watching the prequels, I became less and less interested with Anakin’s story, as I grew more attached to Obi-Wan’s story. Roman is currently upstaged by at least two babyfaces on the RAW roster. No matter whether you pick the Monster Among Men Braun Strowman or Red-Hot Seth Rollins, who burns it down every week, you cannot go wrong with either of these men as your pick for top babyface of the company. Alas, the way that booking presents itself, Roman is still the WWE’s chosen one. Braun and Seth do not have multi-facetted storylines, quite the contrary: for the most part Braun is stuck in tag team matches and Seth was even used as a sidekick to advance Roman’s feud on RAW last Monday.

The Solution is Simple

This means: we are stuck with Roman as the top guy of WWE, just as we were stuck with whiny, pouting Anakin during the prequels. Yet, if Star Wars has taught us something, then that there is always hope. Between the most insufferable moments of Anakin in Episode II and his tear-jerking death in Episode VI, something profound happens. Anakin Skywalker turns heel. The chosen one who is supposed to bring the force into balance and fight as a Jedi allies himself with the Emperor and becomes known as Darth Vader. Roman needs to do the same, or the WWE risks angering their fans to the point they stop caring for the entire product. It also would solve so many issues that RAW currently suffers from. Roman Reigns could be the top-level heel that the company so desperately needs and his feuds against the top babyfaces, especially Seth Rollins, would make for some compelling story telling. Roman’s position on the roster would finally match the reactions he gets. Imagine him embracing all that hate! I cannot wait to see that. And as we know from watching Episode VI, it would make his eventual face turn all the more powerful and fans would be likely to embrace Roman as a top babyface in the far future. Anakin Skywalker is at his best during Episode V, which is widely received as the best of all Star Wars episodes. If the WWE finally stops booking Roman in the prequel Anakin Skywalker role and turns him heel, RAW is indeed destined for greatness. Then and only then, I would cheer for him again and enjoy watching how the Roman Empire strikes back.

What do you think? Leave a comment below or message me on Twitter @KirstinHerzog1.


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Opinion

Three Stars of The Night: WWE Raw (5/21) & Smackdown (5/22)

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The B Team WWE Raw

An abbreviated look at the Three Stars for this week’s edition of WWE Raw and Smackdown Live.


In hockey, a game’s “three stars” represent the top three performers of the night. For more clarification, I defer to this Pittsburgh Gazette explanation:

“The tradition dates to the 1936-37 season, when Imperial Oil became the principal sponsor of Hockey Night in Canada radio broadcasts and was seeking a way to promote one of its products, Three Star gasoline. The idea of doing so by selecting the top three performers in a particular game purportedly came from a Canadian advertising agency.

Many clubs do recognize the player with the most three-star selections with an award or trophy, usually in conjunction with a corporate sponsorship, at the end of the season (or sometimes, each month). All six Canadian franchises, for example, have an affiliation with a well-known brewery.

The NHL keeps track of its own three-stars-of-the-night selections, but that is done on a league-wide basis. The league employs a system that awards 30 points to a first star, 20 to a second star and 10 to a third – a running total can be found on the league’s website – but it does not present an award based on them.”

In hockey tradition, the first star represents the best of the three, but all three are considered to be receiving a high honor.


Without further ado, here are the three stars of WWE Monday Night Raw, May 21, 2018

The Third Star:
Sarah Logan & Liv Morgan

I know what you’re saying: “WUT?”

But sometimes it’s the little things, and these two did an amazing, yet little, thing. In a fatal four-way, Logan and Morgan were finally in the ring alone, the ultimate “every women for herself” situation, with a spot in the Women’s Money In The Bank Ladder Match on the line.

And of course they fought it out like partners always do, right? RIGHT?!?

Nope.

The laughed and went after their opponents. Because they are partners. They chose The Riott Squad over individual success. That deserves some recognition.

The Second Star:
The “B” Team of Curtis Axe & Bo Dallas

Tell me this act ain’t straight fire. Go on, tell me!

You can’t, because they are. Fans are making their own B Team t-shirts. Before WWE could make them! WWE should market a white t-shirt and Sharpie combo pack at Raw broadcasts moving forward. Money like the FOX deal!

These guys are organic, but they’re also amazing. This has a real shot.

And now…a distinction usually reserved for the top performer of the night…the first star!

The First Star:
Jinder Mahal

After getting his ass handed to him last week, Jinder had a good week of retribution. He didn’t shy away, instead doing what heels do and interjecting himself back into that no good MAN Roman Reigns’ business.

Then Jinder, despite being on the losing tag team with Kevin Owens, got the best of both Reigns and Seth Rollins, courtesy of a chair.

HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLL. And I love it.


And now, here are the three stars of WWE Smackdown Live, May 22, 2018..

The Third Star:
The Miz

This man is already the new King of Smackdown.

The Miz did an amazing job selling the Money In The Bank PPV. Most of this show did. But Miz drove home the story involving The New Day, continued to position himself, and then delivered big in the ring, with Big E.

Big E is a main eventer in waiting, and working with The Miz can only accelerate that process for him.

The Second Star:
The Club of Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson

I’m not this huge fan of The Club like many others. But I want to see an entertaining tag team division. They can help provide that.

So yes, their victory over The Usos (you know, the greatest tag team of this generation?) means something. Can they follow it up with a win at Money In The Bank over the Bludgeon Brothers?

Probably not, but that’s a different Three Stars article!

And now…a distinction usually reserved for the top performer of the night…the first star!

The First Star:
Daniel Bryan

This is exactly where Daniel Bryan needs to be: victorious over a secondary champion (that’s what Top Guys do), headed for a legendary showdown with Samoa Joe (that’s who top guys face).

Both guys can make a case for needing to enter Money In The Bank, adding the extra element of intrigue to next week’s showdown. You can’t go wrong here, and Daniel Bryan is the catalyst for it with his win over United States Champion Jeff Hardy this week.


Who are your three stars of the night? Comment on social media @ChairshotGreg, @theCHAIRSHOTcom, and use the hashtag #UseYourHead!


Always Use Your Head and visit the official Pro Wrestling Tees store for The Chairshot All t-shirt proceeds help support the advancement of your favorite hard-hitting wrestling website, The Chairshot!


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