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Cheap Shots: South Beach Checkup



In a rather awesome bit of fortune, my Extra-Terrestrial captors have FINALLY released me! Not just anywhere, too. I was set free to land along the coordinates of The Bermuda Triangle, in Miami. Vinnie took his talents to South Beach last night. Like most everywhere else though, he was stepping in someone else’s footprints. This time they belong to Eddie Graham. Why should fans of the art form revere that sir name? Three reasons: Sam Steamboat, Dusty Rhodes, And The Champ, David Von Erich! While I pick up the mic, allow me to explain.

While running the Florida Territory in the Mid 60s, a performer from The Hawaiian Islands (shoot), would come to Florida and dominate the territory as a baby face partner of Graham. Richard Blood is from New York. Thanks to his connections with Verne Gagne; and a striking resemblance, Blood acquired a Kayfabe Uncle and a new name before his run in Mid-Atlantic. Without Eddie Graham, there is no Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat!

Flash forward to 1977, Dusty Rhodes was arguably the biggest wrestling star in The Southeast at the time. So big in fact, a certain promoter in New York wanted in on the action because fans there had already heard of Dusty Rhodes. How does this happen? Eddie Graham and Vince McMahon Sr. pulled together a 3-Match Showdown between “Superstar” Billy Graham and The “American Dream Dusty Rhodes at Madison Square Garden. All this did was awaken the modern art form. “I came to New York to kick your ass!”

Conventional wisdom was: if you wanted to test yourself, alter your gimmick, or get ready for a Championship run: The NWA would send you to Florida and Eddie Graham to find out if you had the chops. The Patriarch; Fritz Von Erich had a dynasty to cement, and David got the call at just 22 years of age. David had just started his legacy in Texas. Even so, those who saw him in Florida swear he was ready to take Flair or Race out. A wrestling community still wonders: “What if?” Following a fateful trip to The Rising Sun. Tragically, Eddie Graham would meet a similar end in 1985, after Rhodes bought him out and sold Florida to Crockett.

With that epic backdrop and history, the latest Monday Night Raw from South Beach opens with a shot we haven’t seen in months. Brock Lesnar is in the building. Did anyone else think this was weird the whole night? Get him out of the hallway. Anyway, no surprise when Roman Reigns calls him out, only to get Paul Heyman instead. Heyman says Lesnar has fulfilled his contractual obligations for the night and will only get in the ring if he feels like it. One problem with that logic, Mr. Walrus. This is scripted, and Vince has already shown him. We know they are going to use him. WWE struggles with manufactured heat. This was no different. Felt like I was waiting on a dentist’s appointment all night.

First, Heyman says Brock is headed back to UFC with Universal Gold. This is part of the reason scripted promos make no sense. Brock is still serving a USADA suspension for six months. He CAN’T compete there until January at minimum. Why would WWE undermine their Main Event at one of The Big Five like this? Eventually, Roman tells Paul to shut up. “Brock Lesnar will go back to UFC…as Roman Reigns Bitch!” Does anybody believe that? This is why Roman is not capable of being John Cena. Did someone say scripted promos were stupid?

Heyman struggled to get his client to do anything all night. At one point Brock said he doesn’t watch the show, GASP! Somebody please explain to me why this man is a wrestling draw the second time around? Later, Paul was sulking as only he can when RAW GM Kurt Angle interrupted him, dropping a typical ultimatum of the art form in his lap. Unless Lesnar got in the ring last night, the advocate would be fired. Stop this nonsense! Vince isn’t gonna fire one of a handful of guys who can get authentic heat. By the end of the night though, Heyman was on his way to being terminated in another way. For only the second time I can recall, Brock Lesnar actually put his hands on Heyman with bad intentions. “We are not friends, Paul. You work for me. Go out there and do your job.” Who remembered that Brock can talk? At this late stage, Roman Reigns had been escorted from the building on orders of Stephanie McMahon. He wasn’t gonna interfere. Though nobody bought it. Kurt Angle; accompanied by Constable Corbin, called Heyman to the ring. He did The Brock Intro with no emotion, in fear of the outcome. Upon coming through the cables, his stress level escalated as he turned into his whiny self, Kurt Angle got the words “you’re fired” out with Heyman groveling at his feet, only to have The Beast’s music hit. I hate wrestling logic sometimes. Brock got in the ring with a mic and a simple question for both. “Do you have a problem with me?” Angle took an F5 for nothing and The Walrus got his face squeezed, forcing him to the mat. Interesting TV finish at the dentist’s office.

Can we talk about the art form now that that the aliens have let me go? Am I the only one noticing that PPV matches don’t matter anymore? Finn Balor defeats Baron Corbin at Extreme Rules, then has The Constable beat him up for the next month? Don’t get me wrong, matches between these two are always decent. Finn Balor could wrestle a chair and make it interesting, despite his move set being a bit predictable. Corbin went over with an End of Days. The only practical reason to continue force-feeding this down our throats is to have The Demon make a SummerSlam appearance since we haven’t seen him in a while. As long as this moves The 8-Pack Irishman forward, I’m alright with it.
Recess kicked off this week as cameras cut to the back and we saw Shark Bait. Ronda Rousey is back! Geography should’ve told us that Miami was next, although Buffalo got lucky. The Next Rowdy One was here to back up Nattie in a singles match against the resident weirdo of The Raw Women’s Division, Alicia Fox with Alexa Bliss in her corner. Solid contest, although wrestling physics got involved when The Queen of Hearts did not get out of a modified Abdominal Stretch by hitting the mat for the pin, as Fox was behind her. Alicia went over after shenanigans from Little Miss Math Class. This made Ronda furious as she went after The Champ outside the ring. Bliss squirmed away, which left Fox to take her non-submission finish that looks like a separated shoulder if the person taking it is not careful. This left Ronda exposed for Alexa to sneak in and attack her; and it was as vulnerable as Rousey has looked to this point. Though, the “danger” with bringing Rousey in is simple. Experienced watchers know there is no way for Alexa Bliss to kick Ronda Rousey’s ass. It will still lead to something fun next week. Ronda’s first televised match on Monday Night Raw!

Our other recess segment involved the newly “friended” Sasha Banks and Bailey taking on the Riott Squad. Maybe it’s because I’m one of the biggest practical Sasha marks out there. I noticed my girl wasn’t wearing her typical jewelry to the ring? In a twinnish wardrobe, the “besties” looked very good once again, dismantling Logan & Morgan. For everyone losing their minds over why this is happening, RELAX, we’ve got three months to figure this out. As for Evolution itself, I will have more to say down the road.

Sadly, a couple of nondescript moments this week. First, is Jinder Mahal finally finding his place as a glorified jobber? I can only hope. The Indian Brooklyn Brawler was placed in a match with Brawn Strowman. He actually won by count out because Kevin Owens is a great instigator, and Stephanie McMahon is reading my stuff! Quoting Mr. Stevens: YOU’RE WELCOME! As we all know, Steph hates baby faces. Why not put Strowman and Owens in a match for the Money in The Bank Briefcase at SummerSlam? I’m taking full credit for this. Steph, where’s my cut? Something I cannot take credit for? Apollo Crews Beating Akam of The Authors of Pain because we have nothing else for these guys to do. My sincere apologies.

Two promos to set up other matches at The Biggest Party of The Summer. First, Elias was talking up his “album” while executing his tweener promo to perfection. Of course, Miami sets up for a Rock shout out. The Guitar Man made one mistake, mentioning Bobby Lashley. The Army Veteran came down to confront him. After a root canal of a segment that saw Lashley try to sing; not a work, he took a guitar shot to the back. Why not have a program between these guys? Elias is getting more mileage out of this then some initially thought, and he’s getting better. Next, we go to the locker room where Mojo Rawley is running down the carpenters. Easy jock, you’ve beaten two of them in a month. In a very 3 o’clock High moment, Robert Roode walks up. “Wanna say that to me?” fists start flying. The Canadian deserves more. This is better than nothing.

Can someone PLEASE explain the fascination with The B-Team? Comedy doesn’t sell. Painful is unwatchable. These guys have legacies that should get them passed The Three Stooges “What the Hell are we doing?” phase. Sheep hate everything, and these guys are over like it’s 1988? Dallas & Axel are better than clowns in the ring, right Charles? Anyway, Tag Champs are cutting a typical gee whiz promo when they are interrupted twice. The Deleters of Worlds come to run them down again, while The Revival follow suit with the former champions. This leads to a tag match between both contending teams with The B-Team on commentary. Stop the presses! The Revival win clean with A Shatter Machine! Guessing this sets up a Triple-Threat at SummerSlam for RAW Tag-Team Gold?

Final televised athletic competition of the night found Seth Rollins taking on Drew Galloway. Dolph Ziggler would involve himself as usual. This was a fantastic match, faster than normal because the boys got squeezed for Lesnar. Galloway is a physical freak, and Rollins can push anybody at this point. Speaking of which, he hit The Curb Stomp and Ziggles jumped in before he could complete the clean pin. Seth Rollins got the win by DQ. He later got jumped backstage while cutting a promo. Ambrose is healthy. Maybe next week? Hang in there Brickyard! For WWE, South Beach got a very good show. Florida itself has am awesome Territorial History. This time, Vinnie added another solid night to a proud legacy.


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Dear Smarks: WWE Does Listen To Fans



Stephanie McMahon WWE

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.

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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. 

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