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How WWE Booked Roman Reigns In The Royal Rumble Was Genius

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WWE Roman Reigns SummerSlam 2018

You know the drill. It’s the Royal Rumble, the buzzer sounds off, Roman Reigns comes out and the crowd boos in absolute disgust. Since 2015, Roman Reigns has been able to elicit such a strong reaction from the live WWE crowd and the fans at home. That’s because whenever Reigns enters a rumble, everyone’s mind jumps back to the horrid finish of Royal Rumble 2015 wherein Reigns continued to stumble through his mega push straight to the main event of WrestleMania 31.

However, in recent years WWE wised up to fan criticism in a few ways and Reigns has not won another rumble since then. Granted, WWE still found a way to insert him into the WrestleMania main event year in and year out, but let’s focus on the dynamics of the Royal Rumble for now.

Fan Response

Often the favorite annual event of many hardcore fans, the Royal Rumble presents immense opportunity, unpredictability (sometimes) and plenty of nostalgic surprise returns. Because it’s a fan favorite though, the crowd often makes their opinions very well known. For a mark such as myself though, this outspoken crowd is a beautiful thing.

This crowd makes it so that every year Roman Reigns enters the rumble, he’s essentially booed out of the building. It’s difficult to get the taste of WWE pushing him down our throats out of the way, so we naturally let management know how we feel about that. Previously, this came as a detriment to WWE, but they’ve perfected a strategy for it as of late to make the Royal Rumble much more enjoyable.

Turning Negatives to Positives

In Royal Rumble 2018 and 2017, WWE made a point to utilize Reigns to his fullest potential based on the inevitable disapproval of the crowd. Each year Reigns came out at the tail end of the rumble and each year he’s been a runner up. Why? Because it makes the end of the match all that much sweeter.

In 2017 Randy Orton won the Royal Rumble in order to progress a story between himself and Bray Wyatt, the man he would go on to face at WrestleMania. Thinking that Orton winning would ruffle a lot of feathers among the WWE fans, i.e. “Ugh Orton, again?” and “Why don’t you push younger guys?,” WWE placed Roman in the #30 spot to get fans into an “Anyone but Reigns” mentality. After sending out Reigns, the crowd got extremely concerned that they would see a repeat of 2015, but the universe went home happy after seeing Orton eliminate Reigns.

Fast forward to the 2018 Royal Rumble in Philadelphia, the same city that Reigns won the 2015 rumble in. Reigns was yet again the runner up, this time to the fan favorite Shinsuke Nakamura. Seeing Reigns and Nakamura as the final two really brought concern upon the audience as Reigns may not only win the rumble again, but he may stop Shinsuke Nakamura vs. AJ Styles from happening in New Orleans. Again, when Shinsuke eliminated Reigns, the WWE universe exploded in happiness, showing that Reigns losing made for an even sweeter payoff for the fans.

The Invaluable Tool

WWE successfully used Reigns as a tool to amp up the Royal Rumble finish for the past few years and also prevent rapid crowd disapproval.  It seems like WWE knows the power that Reigns has to completely alter the reception of any match these days, especially one as significant as the Royal Rumble.

When Roman Reigns is the runner up, it makes the winner look all that much better in the eyes of the WWE universe. By defeating Reigns, the rumble winner not only gives us a good match finish, but they give us genuine happiness that Reigns is not in that spot yet again.

Of course, Reigns is primed to headline WrestleMania again in 2018, but at least the road to WrestleMania was able to kick off with a bang rather than a sigh because of WWE’s smart booking at the Royal Rumble. This also makes me wonder how WWE will continue to leverage Roman Reigns in future rumbles, but we’ll just have to wait until 2019 to see if he’s involved in the rumble or if he’s the reigning universal champion at the time.


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Too Soon For Ricochet To Take The Title

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Up until the go home episode of NXT Adam Cole vs Ricochet had the least build of all the matches on the Takeover Brooklyn 4 card.

However, on NXT this week there was a very well-produced video package that has increased my excitement for the match. One thing that stood out is they mentioned this is the first time Cole is defending the North American Championship on a Takeover. Before this I could have seen Ricochet walking away with the title but the more I think about it Cole needs to retain.

Despite consistently defending the title on the live events and even defending at the UK Championship Tournament and in Evolve, Cole has had very few defences on NXT TV. The only one I can think of is his defence against Oney Lorcan. If Cole just walks into Takeover and loses the title after barely defending it, just proves that he’s everything Ricochet says he is. Which in my opinion, would make him look pretty weak and seem like an undeserving champion.

If Cole does retain I don’t think it will be clean. I can see Cole having the feet on the ropes or grabbing the tights to get the win. This gives Ricochet a legitimate claim to a rematch where he will finally take the title. I think Undisputed Era need something coming out of this show, since I don’t see Strong and O’Reilly walking out with the tag titles.

This also allows NXT to avoid a troop that they have been guilty of in the past which is the Indy star who comes in and just takes a championship way to early. This nothing against the wrestlers themselves but they come in and have some good matches they get very little in the way of storylines. It happened with Drew McIntyre, Shinsuke Nakamura and I don’t want it to happen to Ricochet.

The heelish nature of how Cole would win wouldn’t hurt Ricochet and would give him a story for the fans to invest in. He mentioned in the video package how close he came to winning the title in New Orleans before Cole pushed him off the ladder. This would be another part of that and make Ricochet the underdog.

Ricochet has already lost on NXT, being pinned before Chicago by Lars Sullivan. That loss didn’t hurt him because it was part of the story they were telling. Ricochet only lost because Dream turned on him setting up their match and it gave Sullivan a big win to justify challenging Black for the NXT Title. This is similar to what I think should happen because the loss would just be on chapter of an ongoing story.

Ricochet said himself in a recent interview that one of the things he wants to do in NXT is to be part of a story rather than just being put in dream matches like he was when he was on the indies. So if they went the way I think they should I think Ricochet would be up for that.


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Things I’d Like To See Happen at SummerSlam (But Probably Won’t)

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The biggest event of the Summer goes down this Sunday. We all have things we’d love to see happen at WWE SummerSlam. If you’re anything like me, you’ve noticed that most of the things you’d like to see happen end up not happening. A lot of times, things end up working out for the best. At least that’s what people tell me anyway.

I find its important to keep my expectations limited. Here are some events I’d like to see happen at SummerSlam that I know probably won’t.

Daniel Bryan defeats the Miz

When Bryan returned to the ring, this is the match I wanted to see. Many of you were probably fantasizing about all sorts of dream matches, or matches with IWC favorites. Me, I wanted to see a match that had been built for years. I wanted to see one of wrestling’s best current rivalries back in the ring. Forget all the riff-raff, this is why Daniel Bryan needed to come back.

As a Bryan fan, I always root for the guy to win. I’ll definitely be rooting for him against The Miz, a guy that I’ve always found more enjoyable to root against. The thing is, I’m somewhere around 90% sure that Miz is winning. It makes the most sense to continue the rivalry. It’s the smart choice. But when you’re a fan, you don’t care about the smart choice.

AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe will be a 5 star match

Given the reputations that Styles & Joe have built up with us over the years, expectations will be high surrounding their first WWE PPV matchup. Not as high as they were for Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, but people will still be expecting a 5 star classic. That’s not going to happen. The Styles vs. Joe build has been very personal, with Styles being whipped up into a rage by Joe talking about his family.

Don’t expect a scientific, cosmetically pleasing match here. It shouldn’t be one based on the build. Styles should come out like a raving lunatic, much like he did in the Saudi Arabia match with Nakamura. It’ll be more of a good ol’ fashioned street fight, which I love, but part of me yearns for a five star classic like they have in Japan.

Peyton Royce does something significant

You knew I had to work this in somehow. Peyton took offense to something Dave Meltzer said on a podcast this week in relation to her look now versus her look in NXT. Most of the WWE roster & other people in the business that have had issues with the DIRT SHEETS over the years joined her in running the bus back & forth over Meltzer’s carcass. It was an interesting thing to see everybody that had an axe to grind and people that wanted brownie points with those folks jump in on the guy.

Those who have listened to Dave talk at some point know that he’s poor at articulating his points via the spoken word. A lot of writers are, and that’s why they write. Dave’s reference to Peyton being lighter in NXT was in reference to the breast augmentation she underwent before hitting the main roster. He was trying to be sly about it because some people are sensitive when it comes to fake breasts, but when the alternative was people thinking he meant she was fat, he should have just said it was the boobs. Hey, if you’re going to take unwarranted shots at peoples’ looks, make sure it’s obvious what you’re going for.

The best way for Peyton to silence Dave & the critics would be to do something. Anything. She & Billie Kay haven’t accomplished a whole lot since their arrival to the main roster. Hopefully they get a chance soon. WWE loves to stick it to the sheets, so hopefully this will encourage them to do something.

The crowd won’t be the most interesting part of Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns

Like many of you, I suffer from Lesnar vs. Reigns fatigue. Other Chairshot writers will jump up & down & scream about how they’ve had the same number of matches as other feuds that people actually like & we’re not being fair to Roman’s continual failed attempts to win the Universal Championship. The number doesn’t matter. If the match isn’t interesting, I don’t want to see it. Sorry.

Maybe Brock & Roman surprise us and do something other than suplex-suplex-suplex-punch-punch-suplex. Probably not, but stranger things have happened. Unfortunately, or fortunately if you’re into this kind of thing, the most interesting aspect of the match will be the Brooklyn crowd’s reaction to it. Will they boo both men out of the building? Will they spend the match chanting things having nothing to do with the match? Or will they be too tired to have much of a reaction to anything?

Hopefully we can move past this trend where crowd reaction is the only thing anybody talks about after a major event. It won’t be this month, as the Brooklyn hipsters will be sure to take their spot as part of the show.

There is one idea I can think of that might not make this a thing…

Braun Strowman Cashes In…At The Beginning Of The Match.

This would require a couple of things to happen. First, Braun would have to beat Kevin Owens in short order. This would make some people angry, but not me. I like KO, but he doesn’t need to be winning the briefcase right now. Braun should be the next champion, and cashing in at SummerSlam would be interesting. However, he’s not the kind of guy that should be cashing in during the middle of a hard-fought match, or after one. Doing that would make him look weak, or as weak as a man of his size could. If he’s going to interrupt a match, it should be before it happens.

Nobody would accuse Braun of being weak if he had to go through Lesnar & Reigns to get the title. His winning is something that the Brooklyn crowd wouldn’t crap all over. At least I think they wouldn’t. Smart fans still like Braun, right?

The show will end before 11 PM Eastern.

As somebody that has a job that also writes about these PPV events, I love shows that end early. Money in the Bank got a positive review from me mainly because it didn’t overstay its welcome. At this point in my life, I’d rather be in bed than struggling to stay up through a Roman Reigns match at 11:30.

There will be no such luck with this show. Thirteen matches, an Elias concert & who knows what else WWE has in store for us? Midnight is a safer bet. On the bright side, I’ve already told my other bosses about my Fantasy Football draft delaying my SummerSlam recap, so this doesn’t matter as much to me as it would have otherwise.


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Edge Of A Wrestling Revolution: Why Wrestling Is Seeing A Resurgence

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In the past, definitely 8 years and arguably the last decade, wrestling outside of the media magnet known as the WWE has been pretty much dead or dying. The last major competitor and the last remaining promotion from the territory system World Championship Wrestling folded in March of 2001, some seven months before I was born. This leads to a roughly 13-year drought of no promotions on anywhere close of a scale to WWE.

This all ends when AJ Styles’ contract with TNA Wrestling (then considered the number two largest promotion in the US) expired and he chose not to renew. In January 2014 Styles made his return to Ring of Honor and with it, he quickly helped build a partnership with Japan’s largest promotion, New Japan Pro Wrestling. This partnership has expanded greatly even since AJ Styles left in 2016. Most recently a Supercard put on by the two companies sold out Madison Square Garden in New York City. The last wrestling event that sold out MSG was a Monday Night Raw telecast in November 2009.

Similar to this is Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks partnering up to create arguably the wrestling weekend of the year beating out WrestleMania by far in my opinion, All In. A non-WWE or WCW show to sell more than 10,000 tickets hadn’t happened since 1994, if you exclude Lucha Libre shows and only count shows marketed towards English speaking fans that date goes all the way back to 1986. 32 years without an independent show selling 10,000 tickets and All In sells out 29 minutes and 36 seconds without a single match being announced.

There’s more wrestling on TV nationally than ever. In addition to WWE’s seven hours of original content every week you get promotions like Ring of Honor, Impact Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling, Lucha Underground, Major League Wrestling, and most recently Ring Warriors who I discussed in my last article, all being signed to contracts to provide at least an hour of content each week to a major tv network available in at least 50% of American homes. Never before has more than 3 major companies be available in the majority of homes every week, now we sit at twice this number.

Those numbers don’t begin to include smaller independent companies in the US and abroad such as House of Hardcore and Rocky Mountain Pro which use streaming sites such as Twitch to stream their content. This is a constantly growing medium that is attractive to smaller promotions because it is free to broadcast and popular with fans because it is free to view. Twitch has 15 million daily users and this number is constantly growing since their buyout by Amazon in August of 2014.

Live events have been popping up more frequently as well. In the state of Oklahoma, where I am located, the majority of the companies I work for are there and account for 9 shows. When I first was around independent wrestling there was an average of 2-3 shows a month. This pop in indy wrestling has also been heavy in Texas I can think of at least 10 promotions that have been founded within the past 5 or so years. More independent promotions means more local fans coming to shows, if a casual fan who comes to an independent show gets hooked and starts using these streaming services and sites, attending local shows, and watching the nationally available product as many hardcore fans do it only helps strengthen the wrestling community and help it grow so new content can be developed and produced.

Over the recent years wrestling fans have called out saying “We want a different product.” for so many years we had one option and we got tired of it. That’s when we saw the rise of Ring of Honor which really started the small promotion revolution and really they influx of international companies to the US with New Japan, now even promotions such as What Culture Pro, Defiant Wrestling, and the Wide World of Sports causing a stir in the US from across the pond. There is an independent company with some sort of streaming service or delivery service for every taste from southern rasslin’ such as AML out of Winston-Salem, North Carolina to House of Hardcore and Combat Zone Wrestling bringing hardcore and deathmatches back to wrestling. It’s almost hard to be a hater on today’s wrestling scene because there is so much good content. Promote the good things that you like and ignore the things you don’t and the whole wrestling business gets better.

So hopefully this article makes you want to go out and watch more wrestling live, on cable, online, it doesn’t matter but go and enjoy and spend your money on independent wrestling it keeps guys like myself and my fellow Chairshot writer “Sly” Jordan Fox going to see the fans funding us, funding a business we all share a mutual love for, and having a good time with people who enjoy the same crazy things we do. Keep the love of wrestling alive.

 

  • Wrestling with the Revolution from the Desk of James Southard


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