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Is WWE Low Key Pushing Sonya Deville?

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When Paige made her triumphant return to WWE Raw in late 2017, she was shockingly joined by Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville, in a group named Absolution. The next night, Ruby Riott showed up on Smackdown with Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan in tow as The Riott Squad. Many dismissed the debuts, other than Paige, as fodder for a then-yet-to-be-announced Women’s Royal Rumble, with the assumption that the ladies would be back to NXT (or the independent scene) after the historic Rumble. However, the results have exceeded nearly every expectation.

And the one woman standing out above the rest? Sonya Deville.

WWE Sonya Deville

Is Sonya Deville getting pushed right under our noses?

Like most of the recent call-ups, Sonya Deville has an uninspiring run through NXT. She spent some time associated with Iconic, but that program fizzled out, victims of the company’s over-pushing of Asuka at the expense of the rest of the division. It wasn’t until after her Raw debut that things picked up for Deville, defeating Ruby Riot(t) en route to a shot at Ember Moon’s NXT women’s Champoinship. Although unsuccessful, Deville was showing early signs of a promising WWE career ahead.

Much like Alexa Bliss before her, Deville has had more success on the main roster than in NXT. The early association with Paige definitely helped, but of the five new call-ups, Deville has been protected the most.

WWE Sonya Deville Push

Sonya Deville imposes her will on Ember Moon on WWE NXT.

Need proof? She has yet to eat a fall on television since her debut! Her only losses have come via disqualification, followed by a tag team loss where Mandy Rose tapped out to Sasha Banks’ Bank Statement. That last part is quite important to this hypothesis.

Since their December debut, Absolution has seen tremendous success over the more established members of the women’s roster, but their biggest win came during Monday’s Raw. Who achieved this singles win?

You guessed it: Sonya Deville!

Sonya didn’t just get Absolution’s first (non-Paige) singles win, she won clean. And who did she beat? The woman who made Mandy Rose tap out last week on Raw–Sasha Banks.

From Monday’s WWE Raw Report, courtesy of Steven Mitchell:

“Sasha throws hands, then forearms, runs and into a tilt-o-whirl headscissors. She dropkicks Sonya down, Sonya ends up in a corner. Sasha runs in with double knees and then again, she climbs up but Sonya is ready to roundhouse her out of the sky! Cover, Sonya WINS! The Gladiator shocks The Boss, can she and Absolution shock the world at the Rumble?”

Sasha Banks boasts five WWE title runs to her credit: four Raw Women’s Champonship reigns with another Women’s Championship in NXT. For Sonya Deville, still relatively unknown to the casual WWE Universe, to get this big win on Raw, speaks to the credibility the WWE is giving her quite early into her run. While this she may be doing this as a replacement for Paige, she’s proving to be ready.

Deville is also positioned very well for the WWE in many areas. First off, she can serve as an opponent for Ronda Rousey down the line. While not nearly as decorated as Rousey, Sonya Deville does hold a 2-1 MMA record, with her lone loss coming via decision and her two victories coming via stoppage and submission.

Deville is also the first openly lesbian member of WWE’s main roster, which can garner mainstream media attention from many corners, something WWE covets.

It’s easy to say that Sonya Deville is lucky, being that she likely got called up to populate the roster for the 30-woman Royal Rumble, and then got more chances due to the injury to Paige. But the old saying claims that luck happens when opportunity meets preparation.

It seems obvious to me that Sonya Deville is getting that opportunity, and she is more than prepared.

You want a BOLD Prediction? Sonya Deville will hold a main roster women’s championship before the end of 2018.


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Opinion

Top 5: Wrestlers Birthdays In May

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The Rock May 2nd

Sometimes the good people running TheChairshot.com don’t mind if I get a little self-indulgent with these columns. My birthday is coming up this Sunday. I’ll be way too old to be writing wrestling columns, yet younger than most of the people I associate with that do. Figure that one out.

Like most people, I’m interested in who was born around the same time as me. As it turns out, pro wrestling is full of spectacular personalities that were born in May. Seriously, take a look at the list sometime. There are so many talented & famous wrestlers celebrating their birthday this month that there’s no way I could ever include all of them. Some I chose not to include because they’ve been in other Top 5s. William Regal was in last week’s. Brian Pillman & Ron Simmons were football players. (There’s one football player that I had no choice but to include.) Some I chose not to include because they killed people. We’ve got two of those this month.

These are the Top 5 Wrestlers With May Birthdays.

5. Jake “The Snake” Roberts (May 30)

Little-Known Fact: Jake was my very first favorite wrestler. I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned that here before. I don’t think it was some cosmic connection due to us being born in the same month, but I suppose it can’t be ruled out. Roberts has celebrated many more birthdays than anyone would have predicted.

4. Vader (May 14)

Unfortunately, this man might not be celebrating too many more. Vader has had some heart issues over the past several years, which can happen with a man of his size. In his prime, Big Van Vader was one of the biggest badasses in the history of wrestling. The first time I noticed WCW was when I saw Vader on the cover of WCW Magazine. Again, I don’t think it was some kind of cosmic connection.

3. Owen Hart (May 9)

We just passed the 19th anniversary of Owen’s tragic death in Kansas City, Missouri. It was the first time I remember not caring at all what happened during the main event of a PPV, as I was shaken by the news of Owen’s passing. Not caring what happens during the main event of a PPV is now a monthly occurrence for me. I don’t think I’ve looked at wrestling or mortality the same way since. Owen, from all accounts from people not named Stone Cold Steve Austin, was one of the best men to ever work a match.

2. Daniel Bryan (May 22)

As Jeremy Lambert points out in the next edition of the Arc of Wrestling, coming this Sunday to The Chairshot Radio Network, one of the main reasons CM Punk was so easily dismissed by fans after his departure was because WWE pushed Bryan into his spot. As somebody that followed both men in their Ring of Honor days, I was always partial to Bryan anyway. He’s one of the few people in wrestling or in entertainment in general that comes off as genuine. He can be a great heel, and maybe he’ll go down that road again, but it seems like a waste.

Honorable Mention: Traci Brooks (May 22)

Traci was the first friend I made that was on televised wrestling. One of the drawbacks of my gaining maturity at the same time that the world decided that being a pervert wasn’t cool is that it’s tougher for me to make friends in the wrestling business now. I’m not constantly complimenting attractive people for being attractive these days. I’d go back to it, but I think Greg DeMarco’s beat me to the punch. Anyway, Traci’s a great girl.

Honorable Mention: Eric Bischoff (May 27)

Bischoff celebrates on the same day that I do, so good for him. Also good for him is the fact that he’s doing a podcast with Conrad Thompson now. Once you start doing a podcast with Conrad, everything you say turns into Gospel. It’s the darndest thing. Natalya also celebrates on May 27, but I couldn’t think of anything funny to say about her.

Honorable Mention: Roman Reigns (May 25)

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh you thought he was getting the top spot, didn’t you? I’m gonna get some heat here, but the Big Dog will have to settle for being the most attractive man in the honorable mentions.

1. The Rock (May 2)

If there’s one thing that matters to The Rock, it’s when his birthday is. Remember when WWE held Raw in Miami on his birthday & actually threw him a party that didn’t end with his face full of cake? When a wrestler can pull that off, they’re something special.


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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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