When we left the airport in Charlotte, the name at the top of the manifest evoked respect and curiosity from The Captains Seat. Today, The State of Texas is arguably the most important centralized location for The Independent Art Form. More than 30 million people can make a place feel like its own country. A number of those under The Lone Star have felt like that for decades. Who can blame the wrestling fans who share that sentiment? How many state flags could support three promotions in prime territory days? I can think of only one. God Bless Texas.
Most smarks my age or younger pride themselves on basking in the glow of the newest old recollections of these places in time. Twitter has made it easier for us to find scholars of The Big Tops. Texas has been fertile ground for them as well. A quick glance taken seriously, and it’s obvious. Funks in Amarillo, three generations of Blanchard started in San Antonio before Shawn Michaels was even a thought. A Global following rivaled only by Saint Richard himself can trace roots back to Dallas and The Von Erichs. But there is one huge name and city thus far omitted from this short roll call of wrestling royalty. The name at the top of the flight plan is Paul Boesch. Our destination this week is Houston.
Luv Ya Blue fans went through some drastic changes in their final 15 years hosting the art form. One of the men who would later sit on Vince McMahon’s shoulder was there as a figurative baby for all of it. A quick and dirty thumbnail goes like this. When Bruce Prichard was selling posters for a literal dime as a teen, he saw both the AWA Champion, Nick Bockwinkel & The NWA Champion, Harley Race come to The Summit (Arena) regularly.
I can think of only Sam Muchnick in St. Louis who pulled this off in a similar vein.
In fact, Boesch thought so highly of Bockwinkel that he would later offer him a stake in the organization. Harley Race was not so lucky. As NWA Champ, he missed three shows there. Not a good look. In the early eighties, Gino Hernandez, who also did stellar heel work in Dallas, was consistently featured in a prime spot for Boesch.
To this day, there are rumors Hernandez was Paul’s illegitimate son. Around Gino’s time in town. Bill Watts was brought in from Mid-South to fix a lagging territory. Hot-shotting provided a short-term band-aid. This was impossible to follow. Cue The Evil Empire in the throws of national expansion. Vince McMahon himself took over operations in August of 1987.
Thirty plus years in charge and this is the best you can do? I hope I wasn’t the only one who felt like he could’ve taken a 3-hour nap? Show opens with Elias in the ring. The Guitar Man runs down the city and his opponent in two weeks. I always wonder how long the “do nothing” portion of these opening segments will last?
Translation? How long is Vince gonna let somebody talk before moving the show forward? In my head, the average time for this is around fifteen minutes. Yes, I need therapy.
Surprisingly, this particular segment was shorter. Seth Rollins’ music hits just after five minutes to respond. His gait and tempo are slower than usual. He is doing a nice job selling injuries Elias inflicted last week. Seth doesn’t wanna be at the same disadvantage and grabs a steel chair from under the ring. A standoff ensues as Elias has his instrument in hand. One well-timed whack with the chair and The Guitar Man loses his weapon. This leaves him exposed until Jinder Mahal runs down for the double team on Rollins. The numbers continue to be painted as Roman Reigns comes down to help his brother, and we have a tag match.
I can say only two things about this encounter. First, Sunil Singh is a rat and Mahal can do nothing without him. Second, baby faces are stupid. Hey Roman, you don’t wait ten seconds to break a rat’s neck. Hey Seth, you don’t bring a steel chair in the ring and drop it so your opponent can use it to beat you. Elias got the win with a DDT on the chair followed by a Drift Away. The outcome was fine, execution was horrible. PS: Later in the night, Production did something interesting. Reigns and Mahal did dueling promos in different places backstage. They could hear each other and answer each other in real time. This led to Mahal getting beaten and officials breaking things up. This was a unique path. Rarely does WWE do something different anymore. Nice to see Creative can actually think for themselves.
Sadly, they would only exhibit this characteristic one other time Monday Night. I am about to contradict myself slightly. Someone in the desert should pay attention. Sometimes, heels cannot be organic. Performers need help to get there. In that case, how can a wrestling organization do this correctly? Ask Baron Corbin. After years of struggling with him, someone in Stamford got it right in one night. How do you give somebody a pulse and HELP the crowd react the way you want? Give them something INTERESTING to do BEFORE strapping the rocket to them simply out of want. Vinnie, I know you despise marks. We are still here, and the feeling is mutual.
We were introduced to Constable Corbin through Curt Hawkins of all people. Did anyone know Hawkins was still on the roster? Did anyone know or care that he has allegedly lost 200 consecutive matches? My thoughts exactly. Hawkins was cutting a promo telling us that his losing streak was ending last night. Upon his victory, everyone in the building was promised a taco. Except, there weren’t 15,000 tacos on display. #WrestlingMath
So, a carpenter was destroying another carpenter when Corbin walked down to cost the fans free taco night, DAMMIT! The Lone Wolf got to a confused Kurt Angle backstage and gave him a hand-written note proclaiming Corbin Stephanie’s Enforcer, (all apologies to Arn Anderson). Finally, TALENT put in a unique position as opposed to The Blonde Blogger. At least this is practical.
Recess was a clusterf*** again this week, and I’m bummed as a result. I’m gonna moonwalk to explain it. First, manufactured heat is cheap. In what world does Alexa Bliss team with Ember Moon and Sasha Banks? She doesn’t, unless Vince is too lazy to put authentic heat on Bayley. Vince McMahon, lazy? WHAT? The babyfaces and the misfit took on The Riott Squad in a six-person tag. Shocker, Little Miss Math Class backed out in less than five minutes with a “hamstring injury.” This left the two phenomenal athletes at a disadvantage.
Lady Banks was taking serious heat when Riott’s Crew went around the ring to yank Moon off the apron. Suddenly, a fresh Elmo runs down for the tag! After which, The Hugger gave Sarah Logan A Bayley to Belly for the win!
Except, now WWE cares about “rules” with Constable Corbin running around. Camera cuts back to Corbin & Angle discussing the match. The Lone Wolf says this is unfair because Bayley just decided to enter the tag match. Has he not watched the art form in 30 years? He says the decision must be reversed. A nuttless Kurt Angle finds the victorious team and informs them of the required change. Vinnie, if you wanna put heat on Bayley, PUT HER IN THE MATCH! No ladies, this is not on Elmo, blame Vince.
Otherwise, Nattie “hurts” herself in a contest with Nia Jax. Ronda Rousey is mad and confused because wrestling. Ronda, The Champ did not hurt your friend. In fact, nobody touched her when she went down. After the injury, The Raw Women’s Champion got the win with A Samoan Drop. The rest of this spliced segment was painful. I don’t like painful. PS: I wouldn’t put Ronda on commentary for quite a while. Awful, she needs work.
A promo from The Deleters of Worlds was next up. Love these two as a team. Matt Hardy actually asked Renee Young if she was Woken. She said yes, cool! The interview preceded a pointless Tag Team Battle Royal to find their opponents for Money in The Bank. Pointless for two reasons: 1. The Monday Night Raw Tag Division SUCKS! 2. Only two teams had a legit shot to win this farce. Either Galloway & Zigler or The B-Team. Dolph was eliminated early, which meant both members were out. The path was cleared for the spastic Dallas & Axel to head to Chicago. Confirmation occurred when Ryno was knocked from the apron because WWE.
Ladders made two in-ring appearances last night. First Braun Strowman had a quick encounter with Robert Roode. The Glorious One cut a pre-match promo admitting he must be resourceful to come up with the win. The Canadian gets points for creativity. I hope he is given a better showing at Money in The Bank. He is certainly capable of one. Last night, he got squashed very quickly though. Roode placed a ladder between the apron and the barricade; attempting to intercept Braun’s nightly laps around the ring. EPIC FAIL! Yes, the ladder was gimmicked, I don’t care. Braun Strowman broke a ladder in half using just his hands! Shortly after impersonating Paul Bunyan AGAIN, Strowman pushed his opposition into the ring and gave him a Powerslam for the win.
Final ladder involvement took place in The Main Event. Kevin Owens challenged Finn Balor for the first time in New York. It was a decent match, even though there was no clean outcome. KO wouldn’t break clean before a five-count in the corner. He was disqualified. Who does that anymore? He had a tantrum and grabbed a ladder from under the ring. How can a performer be in a ladder match and be afraid of heights? The Chubby Canadian tried to jump off twice and failed. Something tells me he’s going to break a table in the namesake match in two weeks. Balor shook the climbing apparatus. Owens fell to the mat at squirmed into position to take A Coups de Gras from 20 feet in the air. Last image of the night was The 8-Pack Irishman climbing the ladder to retrieve the briefcase.
He’s not winning in The Windy City. In my opinion, Vince has not put a solid episode of Monday Night Raw on television in at least a month. We may have to wait until the second shot in Chicago. Next week will be The Give MITB Away For Free Episode of Monday Night Raw.
Dear Smarks: WWE Does Listen To Fans
Either last week or earlier this week (my days are running together so I don’t remember), Stephanie McMahon was at a summit called ‘Game Changer’ and she made the following comment: ‘We’re successful for one reason only – we listen to our fans.’
The internet smarks ROASTED Stephanie over this comment, mocking her for claiming that WWE listens to their fans when, in their minds, that is clearly not the case. Why? Because Roman Reigns, not Braun Strowman is champion, among other things. Clearly, any company that makes Roman Reigns champion over Braun Strowman isn’t listening to their fans, or at least, their REAL fans. You know, the all-knowing, smark community who know how to run a multi-billion dollar business better than the people who work there do.
I’ve tackled this ‘Real fan’ nonsense in the past and I’m really not in the mood to do it now and the issue of Braun Strowman being champion is an article unto itself. However, let’s be clear here: WWE DOES listen to their fans and the fans they listen to are the fans that buy stuff.
WWE first, last, always, and forever, is a business. They need money to survive and being a publicly traded company, they need money to keep the shareholders happy, that means they have to know who and what makes the money to keep the shareholders happy and keep the company afloat and who is making them the most money is Roman Reigns.
Don’t give me that look. Don’t roll your eyes at me and grumble about him being over pushed and/or shoved down your throat. I can name several people in WWE not named Roman Reigns that are over pushed. The bottom line is that Reigns moves merchandise, his stuff sells and sells really well. Having been to a few WWE TV/PPV tapings, I can tell you that Reigns’ stuff can get a little tough to find and is usually the most requested item.
Now before any of you make snide comments about Reigns having more stuff to sell, I checked WWE’s shop are and compared the number of Roman Reigns shirts to the number of shirts for AJ Styles, in terms of shirts including: T-shirts, tank tops, hoodies and what’s available for both genders, Roman Reigns had thirteen shirts available while Styles had twenty. Thirteen different shirt designs to twenty and that doesn’t include hats, gloves, or the non-wearable stuff available.
Oh, Reigns’ stuff is bought by women and kids, so it shouldn’t count? Here’s my question: So what? It’s still money that SOMEONE is spending on merchandise. If WWE didn’t want women and kids to buy their stuff, they wouldn’t be marketing stuff for women and kids. Why? Because women and kids are FANS!
For those of you still grumbling, here’s some food for your thoughts: Why should WWE listen to their ‘real’ fans? No, I’m serious. Why should they listen to fans who cheer something one week, boo it the next, demand that indy darlings get pushed despite getting mediocre pops from Main Roster audiences, and pay more attention to beach balls and time clocks than the matches? Why should they listen to people who BRAG about spending a lot of money on tickets just to boo one person they don’t like?
WWE is like any company, they listen with their bottom line, and what they’re hearing from fans is that the fans like Reign because that’s the stuff that sells the best. And before you say one thing about about Reigns’ stuff being more available at TV tapings and Live Events, I’ve been to a RAW taping, a RAW PPV, and a SmackDown/205 taping and while Reigns stuff was at SmackDown, there was also a lot of Styles and Cena stuff available at RAW events and I’m not hearing any complaining about that.
Maybe the problem isn’t that WWE isn’t listening, it’s just that your views aren’t the what the majority paying fans think or want. WWE is catering to what most of their fans want, not just the small minority that can’t seem to make up their minds about what they want.
Cheap Shots: Should Finn Balor Quit WWE?
Why Finn Balor should “Quit” The WWE
After seeing KO burst into tears on Monday night RAW two weeks ago and “quit” there were a slew of videos about why KO “quit”. The biggest one was to revitalize his character. So in playing the devils advocate why not have the first Universal Champion quit? Here’s why!
After Balor won and “lost” the title after 2016 SummerSlam he’s had and up and down career in the main roster. The once longest reigning NXT champion was a phenomenon when he joined the NXT, but once he hit the main roster, while fan support is still there it is fleeting. He had a brief reunion with Gallows and Anderson which might’ve singled a heel turn to fans, a feud with Rollins for the IC title and has had back to back to back matches against Baron Corbin. None of which have done anything for the superstars character. A heel turn might have helped a few months ago, but the repetitive booking has kind of killed that momentum.
With Finn away from the scene for a while it might help the WWE reevaluate the talent that is Finn Balor, it might also give Finn time to figure himself out too. With a WIN to his name against Elias, it seems like the co-founder of the Bullet Club may either turn to his alter ego The Demon, or perhaps a superstar shakeup is in order and he should be in place to get Balor back in the limelight. Right now, Raw seems packed full of main card talent that is either starting a faction of sorts I.E. Braun, Drew and Dolph or is turning on The Shield.
Listen, while SmackDown Live is producing the better show, it is not like the talent on there is being utilized any better. Nakamura is in limbo with the U.S. title, Aj and Joe are having a great feud in terms of promos, but not in the squared circle. The only thing that brings SmackDown Live as the A show is really their tag division and the Charlotte Flair/Becky Lynch feud.
So maybe a frustrated Finn goes away, and comes back as The Demon on SmackDown Live and interjects himself in the feud between AJ and Joe, maybe he causes friction between The Club and AJ and they “screw over” AJ during a title match, the possibilities are endless moving Balor to team blue, but what this boils down to is WWE needs to make this move while Balor is still a fan favourite and what I mean by that is that he will always have the crowd behind him, but even the loyalist fans can get bored.