For as long as I can remember, people have been telling me that Ring of Honor would never make it on a major scale. Many of the same people have been telling me that New Japan Pro Wrestling would never gain a viable audience in the United States.
The main reason they presented that I agreed with was, the fact that neither ROH or NJPW was particularly great when it came to character development. NJPW had the language barrier while ROH lacked a consistent roster & name recognition. Each promotion typically draws crowds based on the workrate. While fans like us love fantastic wrestling matches & moves whether there’s a story involved or not, the casual fan needs a stronger connection. They need a story. They need characters that they care about. Without either of those, any wrestling promotion is going to have a tough time competing for the American wrestling fan’s dollar.
It seems the tide is turning. ROH is drawing more fans than they ever have in their sixteen-year history that’s produced some of WWE’s biggest stars. New Japan just drew over 4,000 fans in Long Beach, California, and hope to draw even more than that when they run the Cow Palace in the Bay Area in July. I would bet Greg DeMarco’s house that they will.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that WWE is in trouble anytime soon. I am saying that both ROH & NJPW are stronger than they’ve ever been, and stronger than most people thought they ever would be. From where I sit, there is one person to credit for it. It’s not Okada. It isn’t Omega. It’s not even Dalton Castle, as much as I love that man & his Boys.
It’s the American Nightmare.
That suggestion, of course, is kryptonite to many. My colleagues on multiple websites would vigorously disagree with this assessment. My best friend of multiple decades isn’t particularly high on his in-ring work. Everybody will line up to tell me that Cody isn’t the greatest wrestler of all time. He doesn’t do the most flips. He doesn’t do the most submission moves. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him throw a lariat. I can tell you one thing he does better than anybody else I see in professional wrestling right now. He can make people hate him.
My main criticism of Bullet Club ever since it debuted is the fact that they want to be cool heels so they can sell t-shirts & make money. I understand why, as professional wrestling is a business. It just makes for a less enjoyable product from my point of view. I like my heels to have no redeemable values. I want them to be complete assholes that you really can’t get behind unless you’re just an evil person. Heels will always have some crowd support. It’s the ones that can even manage to piss off those fans that really stand out.
Everybody that gets released from WWE will soon after talk about how the handcuffs are taken off. They’ll claim that WWE held them back from achieving their full potential. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but many of these people prove to be liars. I also think that fans tend to misinterpret what wrestlers mean when they say the handcuffs are taken off. Even the wrestlers themselves fail to fully take advantage when those proverbial handcuffs are removed.
To be fair to those gentlemen, they don’t know the business as well as Cody does. Their father wasn’t one of the greatest characters & bookers in the history of professional wrestling. When Cody got out of WWE, it wasn’t to have longer matches and do cooler moves & win more championships. The main reason Cody left was because he was held back creatively. He knew that WWE saw him in a certain light, and he was never going to reach his full potential unless he got out. He wasn’t going to break out on his own & become a legendary figure like his father was as long as he was under the WWE umbrella.
Ever since leaving WWE, Cody has embraced the darker side of his personality. There was a period of time where he had to be a good guy because indy fans will cheer ex-WWE guys right out of the box no matter what. After that passed, he became a total freaking asshole. Outside of his wife Brandi, he hasn’t been able to foster too many long-term friendships.
Cody’s cool. Cody’s a heel. Cody isn’t a cool heel.
The peak of Cody’s assholishness has been the breaking up of Bullet Club. Everything was fine with Kenny Omega as leader. The problems started when they took Cody into the group. He isn’t at the point where he wants to take a back seat to anybody. The whole point of leaving WWE was the fact that he didn’t want to be a background player. If he was going to join a stable, he was going to be the leader.
Which was fine, except for the fact that people preferred Omega in the role. Cody’s managed to get the other members of the Elite on his side, but the split between Kenny & Cody has extended to dissension between the rest of the Club as well. For their part, the Guerrillas of Destiny don’t seem interested in taking either side.
The drama between Cody, Kenny, Kota Ibushi, the Young Bucks & other people crossing their paths has made for some dramatic television & YouTube videos. Go check out the Being The Elite YouTube channel if you haven’t already. The knock against New Japan all these years has been lack of storylines, but I’d put this up against anything WWE’s presenting right now. That’s not me taking a shot against WWE, they’ve got some pretty good storylines going on. I just don’t think they’re as dramatic as this one. Cody’s ability to be a tremendous asshole takes it to another level, and takes the companies he works for to another level.
Ring of Honor has had some quality bad guys on top of their cards. Men like Christopher Daniels, Bryan Danielson & Nigel McGuinness could all get some good heat. CM Punk was a master at getting fans to hate him. ROH fans, who by & large cared about workrate more than any other attribute a wrestler possessed, still respected these men at the end of the day.
New Japan has had a bevy of talented top stars. Okada & Tanahashi’s feud will go down in the history books forever. The problem Japanese stars face with American audiences is that it’s tough for them to get heat without playing the stereotypical Japanese heel role. Even doing that, there’s only so much heat that can draw. Taijiri was a great heel but he was never a main eventer. Yokozuna didn’t exactly set box office records. Great Muta was in WCW so he was probably screwed either way.
Casual fans are inclined not to care about wrestlers that don’t speak English. Hardcore fans typically love Japanese wrestlers regardless of face/heel alignment. Put those two factors together, and you see how it’s tough for New Japan to make a dent in this market.
Unless, of course, they find themselves an American Nightmare.
Cody might not have the best matches on the card. Dave Meltzer might not be giving him six snowflakes anytime soon. He’s better than anybody else in New Japan or ROH at making the people care about his match or anything else he’s involved in. If you want to include WWE, there’s only one person in the business that gets a better heel response than Cody, and that’s Roman Reigns.
The worse Cody gets, the better he is.
Kevin: “Firefly Fun House” Bray Wyatt Is The Best Bray Wyatt
“He must differentiate himself from the old Bray Wyatt in some capacity, or else the character will be doomed to fail.” Do you agree?
Bray Wyatt is back in WWE in a whole new way, and Kevin is on board to see this continue over the old obsessive Bray Wyatt.
There’s a familiar sinister force permeating the walls of the WWE. Bray Wyatt is back, and this time around he’s a…children’s TV show host? Yeah, you’ve read that correctly. Bray Wyatt’s newest gimmick is that of the host of the “Firefly Fun House,” featuring a doll, a buzzard, and the man himself.
After weeks of creepy vignettes showing the buzzard and the doll, we finally got a taste of Bray Wyatt in his new role on Monday night. Wyatt introduced us to his new friends, atoned for years of being a bad man, and symbolically ended his former demonic self with a chainsaw.
All that is a lot to take in. It was wacky, it was bizarre, and it was downright goofy. And BRILLIANT.
I ate this segment up, and took to Twitter to pronounce its brilliance immediately after I finished watching it. I know it took the majority of people a couple re-watches to come around on it, but I was on board with this version of Bray Wyatt from the jump.
There’s something delightfully creepy about Bray Wyatt the children’s show host. He straddles that line between playing it straight and going off the rails perfectly, and while you know that something isn’t right, the character is still drastically different than “The Eater of Worlds.”
Let’s face it, Wyatt was in desperate need of a fresh look and character, and boy, did he get it. Before disappearing from WWE television last year, Wyatt had been treading deep water being stuck with Matt Hardy, and frankly, he had been in trouble dating back to the WrestleMania 33 loss of his WWE Championship to Randy Orton in a subpar showing.
That was back in 2017. Now, in the year 2019, we’re finally getting to see something new out of Wyatt, and it couldn’t come at a better time. Now, the question remains: where will he go? We’ve just had a Superstar Shake-Up, what seemed like an appropriate time to sort out Wyatt’s return, but that ship has sailed.
Is the host of the Firefly Fun House headed back to RAW, where he was before disappearing? Or is a return to Smackdown in order for Wyatt, where he ascended to the ranks of world champion back in 2017?
It’s difficult, because we still don’t really know what Wyatt is supposed to be. Is he still a bad guy,or is he some kind of demented wannabe hero? I think a character like this would thrive on RAW, but if Wyatt’s still going to be performing as a heel, then he might do better on Smackdown, a show that needs another heel or two.
Personally, I don’t see Wyatt as a heel in this character. He’s more psychopath than ever before, but I still don’t see him as a bad guy, but rather as a crazed man trying to make amends for his past wrongdoings. He could instantly become the most interesting character on WWE TV, and in my mind, he’s already there with one segment. Imagine how hot he’ll be with a few more vignettes?
But the thing that intrigues me most is what he’s going to look like in the ring? Is he going to wrestle in his khaki slacks and his Mr. Rogers sweater? Is he still going to use the End of Days as his finisher? What new wrinkles is he going to add to his entrance, to his moveset, to his overall character?
HE MUST differentiate himself from the old Bray Wyatt in some capacity, or else the character will be doomed to fail. People had gotten tired of the same old shtick for five years, and were yearning for something different.
Well, now different is here. But it will all be for naught if Wyatt still acts the same and wrestles the same, we need to see some change desperately. I expect to see more of this new, nutjob Bray Wyatt on RAW next week, and I can’t wait for it. This could be a real game-changer.
Tiffany’s Takes: WWE NXT (4/24/19)
NXT was loaded with action this week–how did it land for you?
Tiffany takes her Takes to Full Sail University and WWE NXT today, featuring Johnny Gargano vs Roderick Strong and more!
So, time for OG NXT and Johnny Gargano will face Roderick Strong, but will Undisputed Era stand together or will a jealous Cole wreak havoc?
Johnny Gargano vs Roderick Strong/Undisputed Era
I think we all figured when Gargano chose Roderick Strong as his UE opponent that Cole wasn’t going to be happy, and we’ve all seen definite signs of dissent in the Undisputed Era ranks, but I was honestly surprised by how this match ended. Cole vs Riddle promises to be great. I can’t stand Matt Riddle, but him pointing out that Cole was jealous was perfect.
Gargano vs Strong was every bit as great as it promised. Strong’s a great athlete and letting him show that off in this match was a great move. Having Cole accidentally cost Strong the match and having Riddle come in to help Gargano was the perfect amount of chaos to end the match while protecting everyone involved.
I don’t know what next week will hold for Undisputed Era, but Strong basically telling UE to f**k off after the loss isn’t a good tiding.
Jaxson Ryker vs Humberto Carrillo
I have a question: Is Jaxson Ryker the only competitor in Forgotten Sons? Seriously, when is the last time Blake and Cutler had matches? Don’t get me wrong, Ryker is a great, albeit psychopathic, competitor, but I’m a little tired of him being the only member of Forgotten Sons competing.
The match with Carrillo was fantastic, even if Carrillo had a little trouble getting started. The Double Countout was a smart move to protect both guys, but I loved thorough line of having Oney Lorcan, now on 205 Live with Humberto Carrillo, and Danny Burch come to Carrillo’s rescue and keep Forgotten Sons from completely destroying him. This should be a fun feud.
Aliyah and Vanessa Borne vs Candice LeRae and Kacy Catanzaro
So it seems like Candice LeRae is being groomed to take the belt off of Shayna Baszler if this match was anything to go by. I love Aliyah and Vanessa Borne, but I was disappointed by this match because it became clear very quickly that the whole point of the match was to make Candice look stronger when she got a pretty easy pin on Vanessa Borne. It’s nothing against Candice, but I hated seeing Borne Bougie getting sacrificed like that.
Women’s Division vs Shayna Baszler
I’m not sure what WWE is thinking, but if you want to keep Shayna Baszler looking like a badass, DON’T have her constantly getting cheap shots on anyone she deems a threat, whether they are or not. She doesn’t look like an unstoppable badass, she looks like a punk, which is a disservice to her. Plus having Shafir and Duke being her lackeys hurts them too.
I APPLAUDED Mia Yim’s promo, especially her calling out Biance Belair’s constant insistence that she was still undefeated, even though she’s lost to Baszler twice, for the nonsense that it is. I’m totally behind Yim getting another shot at Baszler, especially since Belair didn’t have to earn her second chance while Yim hasn’t gotten another one.
William Regal had a hell of a career but, in my opinion, he’s at his best as an authority figure and I’m glad he’s loosened up from his days as the strait-laced Commissioner of WWF in 2001. I love Ohno demanding his…right to try out the shiny new NXT toys and I have a feeling he’ll regret demanding a shot at KUSHIDA, which is probably why Regal gave it to him. Sounds fun.
Street Profits vs War/Viking Raiders/Experience
I’m still puzzled as to why Street Profits got a shot at the NXT Tag Champions, whatever they’re called this week, but the match was fantastic. Dawkins and Ford did the smart thing by getting the jump on Rowe/Erik and Hanson/Ivar (I honestly am not sure which Viking name goes with whom, I’m just guessing), but it was for naught because the Nordic dudes got themselves together and absolutely thrashed the Profits, but the Profits definitely proved that they belong in the Tag Title picture.
Great episode of NXT! Much like NXT UK, the matches and segments all had a purpose and were pretty good.
The disintegration of Undisputed Era seems to be moving much faster than the first ending of the Shield and I’m a little confused as to why. Undisputed Era hasn’t been called up to RAW or SmackDown, so I’m not sure why there seems to be a rush on breaking them up. Granted, having Cole ‘accidentally’ costing Strong the match and his clear jealousy of Strong getting the first shot at Gargano could be leading to Strong breaking off and feuding with Cole, but it’s not clear where Fish and O’Reilly will end up in this.
Well, that is it for Tiffany’s Takes for this week! Next week, we’ll be looking Week 2 out of the 2019 Superstar Shake Up and see how RAW and SmackDown will deal with the fallout of this week!
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