Hell has frozen over! It’s 2018 – Shawn Michaels came out of retirement, had a match against The Undertaker again. Hulk Hogan makes his triumphant return. Brock Lesnar is back and he’s the Universal Champion again. Oh, and Shane McMahon is the best in the world. Let’s talk about why the IT FACTOR is a big part of this.
And I can already hear the ground rumbling. For everyone that’s excited about HBK’s return, there’s an equal amount of guys saying it all:
- “Hey… what about the current guys?”
- “Why do they keep going back to the veterans and nostalgia acts?”
- “Why is Brock back?! He’s a part timer!!!!”
- “Shane McMahon is the best in the world?!?!?! This doesn’t make sense! What about (anyone else)???
This is not to knock HBK’s return – that’s not to knock Brock being the Champion, that’s not to knock Shane winning the tournament. As a matter of fact, I see the logic and agree with all of it. I was actually having a hard time coming up with exactly what to focus on here, because there’s so much good stuff to choose from here.
So in this article, what do you say we do something different? What if we go through a little bit of the main arguments about Crown Jewel, and then I’ll let you behind the curtain back just a little bit and let you in on what it actually means to be a top level performer in 2018?
Shane McMahon – Best In the World?
I remember watching Shane’s big return at WrestleMania a few years back with a friend of mine. And we had this sudden realization. Shane McMahon is really good. Like… next level good. It was the first time we watched one of his matches after being involved in the business for some time, because his heyday was when we were teenage fans.
But there he is, wrestling Undertaker in Hell in a Cell, and it hit us.
He looks like a grown adult man. He sells tremendously. He takes his time. He can tell a story. He can hit all the emotional notes. He’s having a classic at Mania with Undertaker.
I looked to my friend, “Dude… I kind of feel bad for Shane McMahon.”
My friend goes, “Well, what do you mean?”
I say, “Because the fans will NEVER appreciate really how great he is, because his last name is McMahon, and it’s going to taint it for people in the average persons eyes.”
My whole point was Shane McMahon is every bit as good as any of our childhood favorites as far as being able to tell an emotional story in the ring.
There was a story somewhere that said when Shane was a child, he would wake up on a Saturday morning, go downstairs, and listen to his Dad, George Scott, and Pat Patterson book things like WrestleMania 3 and all the psychology and reasons why things were going to happen.
He got a wrestling business PHD from early childhood.
And it hit me – people are going to just discount how great he is because of the “McMahon Name.”
If he were anyone else, people would rank him right up there with one of the most iconic talents of all time. He’d be in all the Legends of Wrestling Video Games, he’s got a certain timelessness to him.
So when he won the Best in the World Tournament, part of me was like, “Good! Finally, the guy got his due a little bit!”
And the reason why I’m so adamant about how good he is is because of something we’re going to talk a lot about today. He has Raw Presence.
Brock Lesnar’s Back, So is HBK and Undertaker – What Gives?
There are absolutely people out there who wonder why they keep “holding the young guys back” and going with tried and true talent like Brock and other legends like HBK and Undertaker.
And the truth is – the legends all have what we talked about above. Raw presence. They made such an impression that people still want to see them to this day. And I think a large part of why that happens is because for as many talent that are currently stepping up, like a Braun Strowman, or a Roman Reigns in WWE’s case (among others), there are also a LOT who are still yet to develop it.
So what is “It?”
I’ve spent the past few years studying some of the top people in the business and interviewing some of the top up and coming talents who are actually finding success, as well as talent agents and scouts of various major promotions. And in all cases, it all boils down to a few key features.
And I’m going to give you the cliff notes, because this is enough to fill up an entire encyclopedia if I were to really dive in to each one. (If you’d like, you can get weekly advice where we dive into topics like this by joining the Inner Squared Circle Facebook Group and following us on Instagram, @InnerSquaredCircle)
KEYS TO THE IT FACTOR
1. Raw Presence
Whether it’s size, look, charisma, there has GOT to be an intangible that makes people magnetically drawn to you. There’s something called the Airport Test, which is if you were to walk into an airport, do people turn their heads and say, “Who is that guy, he must be something?”
2. True Confidence & Charisma and They Connect Emotionally
Not the manufactured kind. The perfect, prime example of this is The Rock. Look at him in real life. He’s calm, confident, present, radiates charisma – and none of it ever seems forced. This comes in different forms. Brock Lesnar oozes true confidence. So does an AJ Styles. There’s a certain inner certainty that can’t ever be shaken. They also elicit a strong emotional reaction – either by their mere presence, or because they’re great storytellers.
3. They Step Up and Own Themselves & Their Spot
The guys that have the It Factor aren’t the ones who hang back and wait for the opportunity. They step up and take it. Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks are a great example. They find the opportunity in any situation. They take any situation and make it work for them. They believe they deserve their spot, rather than just hoping for it to come to them.
4. They Are Massively Flexible and Constantly Evolving
Something doesn’t work – they try something else. That doesn’t work, they try something else. Or another way to put this – they’re constantly evolving. Look at the Undertaker. If he stayed the SAME Undertaker he was in 1992, he would have faded quickly. But he always did something different. He changed his hair, his makeup, his colors, or radically changed the character. He was always new. Look at Shawn Michaels. He came back with a shaved head – some of it cosmetically, I bet there was a bit of it to remind the fans he’s a different guy than he was 10 years ago. He’s evolved. The ones that constantly are flexible and constantly evolve usually are the ones who find the way to win.
5. They Take Control of Their Own Lives
You hear these stories of guys who are mega stars, and that they’re tough to work with. I don’t think it’s that they’re tough to work with in all cases. In some, sure, there might be prima donna attitudes. But when you’re successful at a very high level, you’re successful because you know what works, and most importantly, they know what works FOR THEM. They realize that they’re in charge of their own success or failure, so they take it very seriously.
They speak up for themselves not because they’re politicking, but because they realize if they’re not getting themselves over, the spots not going to be handed to them. The common trait amongst the guys on the lower ends of the card, or even struggling on the independent level, is they leave way too much up to hope, chance, and happenstance thinking that “loving wrestling” is going to be enough to get them there. When the real successful people are the ones who make their own luck.
These are the 5 things that those legends, who keep getting brought back, time and time again, have, that the rest are still developing. That’s why people will still willingly pay for those guys. That’s why fans are still in love with them. They have raw presence and they make them feel things emotionally.
By the way, if you want a full breakdown of this, I’m considering putting together a booklet about what it takes for independent wrestlers to become massively successful and what sets apart those who are successful verses those who aren’t. You can be put on the list for when it gets released by going here https://innersquaredcircle.lpages.co/book-launch-list/.
Two guys, who are athletically gifted, who do moves to each other, already exist. It’s called Olympic Wrestling. There’s a reason it’s not selling out tens of thousands of seats in stadiums. Even in MMA – the fighters with the CONNECTION and the PRESENCE are the ones that become mega stars. So in wrestling, it’s not enough to just be gifted technically.
And that’s why they keep going back to the guys who are tried and true, time and time again. They’re going with a sure thing. And in some cases, you can’t blame them.
Jared Ganem is a veteran of the pro wrestling business, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. Today he is one of the most sought after production leads, working with companies such as Ring Of Honor and events like Starrcast. Jared is also the leading advisor and developer or talent in the world of wrestling.
The Good, Bad and Ugly: WWE SmackDown (01/22/2019)
Bobby Fernandes delivers his Good, Bad, and Ugly review for WWE Smackdown on January 22, 2019–the last Smackdown before the Royal Rumble!
SmackDown before the Royal Rumble is here and now. The better of the WWE weekly television is up to bat, and ready to take us home. The actual card looks decent for the PPV especially on the SmackDown side of things. Raw did a Good job packing in a ton of relevant content and building up the excitement. Can SmackDown deliver yet again?
Opening Segment w/ The Man Becky Lynch
She is still on “fire” and the crowd cannot get enough of her. She looks fantastic, confident, and on top of her game. Lynch has done her job and took down the “Queen” and claims that she will do the same to the “Empress.” Even a badass like Lynch has an uphill battle against a foe like Asuka. Asuka is so impressive and this feud is just amazing. Charlotte Flair didn’t take a whole lot of time to get involved and was warmly “Woooed” by the crowd. Charlotte walks tall, talks the talk and is just overall unbelievable. Asuka and Lynch’s heat then boiled over at the joy of Charlotte. They got some Good shots in. This has been an enjoyable feud and it’s “finale” should deliver.
The Miz w/ Shane McMahon vs. Cesaro w/ Sheamus
So far the Miz/McMahon duo has had some subpar content, last week being the worst of it. Luckily this week, Miz and Cesaro can both do some great things in the ring, and could be Good for a decent match. Cesaro is freakishly Good and one of the most criminally underrated in the industry, even with the Tag Team Championship. Anyone watching has to love the chemistry that The Bar has weekly. They don’t always have the best matches but are a fantastic Tag Team overall. Miz was on point as well in this match. This was a Good set up for the Royal Rumble in which Cesaro gets the Win w/ a “Neutralizer” after a Sheamus interference. McMahon wasn’t having it and attacked The Bar only to be beaten the hell out of for his trouble. To add insult to injury, Shane O Mac was bombed onto the Miz, through a table. It looked fantastic, and hopefully this Tag Team Title Match Sunday will not disappoint.
Daniel Bryan/AJ Styles/Vince McMahon Promo
The fans are certainly “fickle” to the New Daniel Bryan. The crazy, nut-bag has done all he can to become a hated entity. Daniel Bryan has improved on the mic, and this heel gimmick is well suited. The less AJ talks the better. However he did well this time around, and just about when things were going overboard, the Chairman of the Board put a stop to it, and demanded Bryan get in the ring. Bryan went on to be disobedient and continue his banter, now attacking McMahon’s Generation. AJ Styles had enough and attacked Bryan until Bryan used McMahon as a shield taking out Styles and retreating. Overall, this wasn’t Bad and did its job hyping the WWE Championship Match Sunday at the Royal Rumble.
Samoa Joe vs. Mustafa Ali
Not that this is a new thing, but Samoa Joe has lost his mind. He is a savage in the ring now, and as stiff and brutal as his reputation is, he is exceeding expectations. Mustafa Ali is very impressive, his entrance, look, and of course in ring ability. Samoa Joe seems to have given himself the task of breaking in the young star. He is literally breaking him. Ali is getting viciously bounced around by the veteran. Samoa Joe controlled almost the entire match. Ali even looked shocked when hitting some solid offense. It was short lived, as Joe trapped Ali in the “Coquina Clutch” for the brutal victory.
(2 out of 3 Falls) Andrade vs Rey Mysterio
This rivalry is fantastic. It completely revived Rey Mysterio. Andrade can hang and with someone at the level of Mysterio it is Gold! No Zelina Vega is a little disappointing as she does her job very well, and is a great addition to any content. Highspots galore, the two showoffs did just that, they gave the fans their money’s worth, and put it all out there. Andrade is for sure a fan of Mysterio, probably watching all of his content as a before he was a huge success. His style is very similar, as most Lucha style is. Andrade lost his mind and hit a “sitdown powerbomb” off the top for the first fall. The timing, and landing was beautiful.
Andrade continued on hitting a few big moves but unable to get the finish. Mysterio hit the crazy “spike” type move out of nowhere and gets a counter pin fall. Andrade and Mysterio really do such unique things, always getting the correct pop at the right time. Masterfully showcasing the Lucha style, and impressing everyone during the Main Event. So much respect for the sport, and rare amounts of pride are shown in their work. Even a botched spot was forgiven by the hot crowd, because they just pressed on. Mysterio almost had Andrade beat, but Samoa Joe interferred and destroyed Mysterio and Andrade. Joe continued his vendetta to the Cruiserweights at the worst possible time. This was a Bad run in, on a Good Match. All aside the wrestling that was had between Mysterio and Andrade was quality. Then, just like that “RKO” out of nowhere. Randy Orton making his presence felt before he will appear in the Royal Rumble on Sunday.
THE BAD – N/A
Naomi vs. Mandy Rose w/ Sonya Deville
This whole feud is a bit ridiculous. If these two talents would have just been paired up to a match it would have been better. No one seems to care at all about the story here, and the content so far has been poorly executed. Naomi and Mandy Rose are very talented but it is being paraded around on this horrendous platform for seemingly no reason.
The Sonya Deville/Carmella Match that was foolishly skipped last week would have been much better, and it was a ugly shame it was left out. Naomi controlled most of the action, literally bitch slapping the blonde bombshell Mandy Rose. Mandy had very little offense in this tough to watch match. The action was poorly executed, and awkward. Mandy got the upper hand when it counts, with the help of Deville, hits Naomi off the post, and gets the quick pin. This was a horrible match, so much to hate about it, just disappointing.
- GOOD – 5
- BAD – 0
- UGLY – 1
SmackDown, unlike Raw this week, was a little light on the content. NXT almost had as much content last week and they are only an hour. That being said, it was a successful week for the “blue” brand. Royal Rumble has the makings of a Good show. WWE overall has been pretty Good lately and are very protective of their brand.
WWE took it home in a major way, now onto NXT’s version of the story to finish out before the big Takeover and Royal Rumble weekend. We could see some serious changes so close to Wrestlemania, and as usual, all we have to do is sit back and watch. Please like, comment and share! Catch you tomorrow night post NXT.
Andrew’s WWE Raw & SmackDown Live Review & Notes (1/21 &1/22)
The Royal Rumble “Go Home” shows. Did they produce entertaining content, or limp towards the finish line since most will watch Rumble purely on name value. Let’s find out!
Now given that I enjoyed Raw so much last week, I’m tempering my expectations for this week. It’s been longer than I care to try and remember, that WWE has knocked it out of the park two weeks in a row.
With the low bar set, do we see a Fosbury Flop, or well…just a flop. Let’s see!
- Finn Balor vs Braun Strowman: Balor wins via DQ after Lesnar interferes – * 1/2
- Apollo Crews vs Bobby Lashley: Lashley wins via Spear – *
- Seth Rollins vs Drew McInture: Rollins wins via Cradle – ** 1/2
- Lucha House Party vs Jinder & The Singhs: Gran Metallik wins via Backbreaker – -* (yes it’s negative)
- Elias vs Baron Corbin: Corbin wins via End of Days – N/A
- The Ascension vs Heavy Machinery: Otis wins via Caterpillar – N/A (squash)
- Raw Tag Team Titles: Bobby Roode & Chad Gable vs The Revival: Gable retains via Rollup – ***
- Bayley & Sasha Banks vs Natalya & Ronda Rousey: Banks wins via Bank Statement on Natty – ***
- We kick off things with talking…well now, new changes right? Heyman does his played out thing by now, Vince comes out and tells his own variation of a Wikipedia edited David and Goliath story. Braun shows up to try and look menacing and speak words that don’t matter. Finn walks out after like 15 minutes of bickering, to point out that this is typical. He then tells a closer to correct David and Goliath story. Vince gets the bright idea that Brock should be at ringside for the real David and Goliath bout of Finn versus Braun.
- Now before this match started, we all knew how it was gonna end. Brock at ringside, Braun is a monster so he can’t lose clean and Finn is the challenger…so he can’t lose clean. So yeah, making matches that can’t logically have a winner is a waste of time, much like this match. The action was alright, the spot where Lesnar catches a falling Balor just to Overhead Suplex him to the floor was moronic since the referee saw it and didn’t throw out the match there. Finn fights back valiantly, then right after landing the Coup de Grace, Lesnar F5’s Balor and THAT’S a DQ apparently. Must’ve gotten NFL referees for this match.
- Lashley and Lio come out, and every bit of praise I gave them the last two weeks goes out the window here. Lio is worthless saying nothing of merit, and this somehow devolves into a pose off when Apollo Crews comes out to throw his hat in the ring. The pose off did showcase a little personality from Apollo, so that was a bright spot, but come on…this is dumb. Then Lashley attacks him and a match happens regardless of any previous words or stipulations to the pose off (yay wrestling).
- Lio apparently will now be a bigger player in the matches, which is fine. But when no one cares about either wrestler, we came off roughly 20 minutes of talking into a gimmicked finish, for another match without a clean finish. Short match with no story or reason to care.
- Rollins comes out, gives a speech we’re supposed to care about, but I really don’t. He brings Roman up AGAIN, and really seems to be going through the motions almost to a disingenuous point. McIntyre comes out to save the segment before it leads to a match, cause everyone in the Rumble needs to be showcased leading to it, yeah, that sounds right, sure.
- The match is standard fair for a Rollins match. Okay work rate, slightly predictable sequencing, but since the finish was a Cradle…that’s different. I don’t know, the match was fine, but McIntyre losing just signals that now he wins the Rumble or finds a way to at the very least, cost Rollins the win.
- The Revival discuss their position with Vince in the back, say they’d like an impartial special guest referee and Curt Hawkins walks up. Vince tells him he’s the special ref and Hawkins has the best line of the night with “Well, I have seen a lot of threes lately…”, and then the Revival start buttering him up before the match.
- Lucha House…Jinder and the Singhs…WHY!? This has no business being a thing beyond they are two groups of 3. Stupid, useless, worthless, I hate the Lucha House Party. Send them back to 205 Live, deport them, I don’t know…just stop. This is not good, they have no personality, and have been damaged from that dumb House Party rule gimmick from a few weeks back. Screw this team. And who wins with a Backbreaker not named Roderick Strong?!
- Dana Brooke is talking at EC3, I say talking at cause he doesn’t respond and she just hits him with a litany of questions as Elias walks to the ring.
- Elias tries to do his thing, Corbin interrupts, a forgettable match happens and Corbin wins cause he needs to look like he’s marginally competent going into Rumble.
- Alexa Bliss’ Moment of Bliss, is a train wreck again, multiple women just walk out, declare their piece for the Rumble, Alexa even makes note of all her shows have been awful and she’s sick of it. So she announces herself in the Rumble, the only highlight was Lacey Evans finally came out and said a few things for the first time. All you Nasties are gonna learn.
- The Ascension get to be fed to Heavy Machinery! Well I guess that proves they’re staying on Raw since Raw loves job matches. Only real note from this is Otis’ Worm, is not called the Caterpillar. You know, like the company that makes heavy machinery. The writers are true wordsmiths I tell you.
- This tag match was like a highlight real of heel wrestling 101 and a referee actually being attentive. Hawkins is by far the best referee of the night (and weekend probably too), so a decent match. Nice spots, these two teams have nice chemistry and we see a reuniting of Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins at the end. So maybe that’s where The Revival go next. Only odd take away is why would you make The Revival sympathetic for the last few weeks and then ruin it completely in 2 weeks. The direction just makes no sense.
- Ronda with a passionate, yet clumsy and weird biblical promo with the hair washing feet thing. What since David and Goliath was referenced now we’re quoting the bible for promos? Ugh…no more talking Ronda please.
- Yes we all know Sasha had a wardrobe malfunction during this match. But let’s not have that take away from a decent match and the fact that Bayley and Sasha did technically give Ronda her first loss in WWE. So building up the challenger for two weeks right before the PPV seems like the obvious set up, but be honest, 99% of us have Ronda winning anyway. Sasha could’ve defeated the whole women’s division and we’d still go, “yeah but”. It was nice to see Bayley and Sasha continue to work decently as a team, but they did sow some seeds for Bayley versus Sasha since Sasha tended to move out of the way a lot and let Bayley eat moves.
Overall Score: 5/10
There really seemed to be no passion or imagination in this show except for Ronda’s odd promo. As Tony Acero so nicely put on Raw Reaction, I was just saying “okay”, through most of this show. It didn’t surprise, intrigue or go outside of the box at all. Just a basic color by numbers Raw. Mediocrity encapsulated in a show, if you will. SmackDown has to be better…
SmackDown Live Ratings:
- Mandy Rose w/Sonya Deville vs Naomi: Rose wins via pinfall – **
- Miz w/Shane vs Cesaro w/Sheamus: Cesaro wins via Gotch Neutralizer – ***
- Mustafa Ali vs Samoa Joe: Joe wins via Coquina Clutch – ** 1/2
- 2 out of 3 Falls: Rey Mysterio vs Andrade Almas: Rey wins via DQ 2-1 – *** 3/4
- So since it’s WWE we start off with talking, but this one is Becky and Asuka, and we like them. Becky does the old school heel thing of listing Asuka’s accolades but making sure to mention that Asuka didn’t BEAT her and she’s still just better than Asuka. Charlotte saunters out, let’s out a Woo and Asuka tries to get in a cheap shot on Becky, thus creating a brawl for a few minutes. Becky gets the upperhand throwing Asuka into the announce desk, before the brawl heads backstage.
- Naomi has every right to try and kill Mandy. She tried to cause problems in her marriage and Naomi had the upperhand in most of the match. A flurry of kicks and elbows from Naomi give us hope she’ll get her revenge, but Sonya’s interference becomes too much, giving Mandy the opening to show Naomi into the ring post and cover her for the pinfall.
- Miz and Shane might be my favorite thing on SmackDown story wise. I mean I love Andrade & Rey Mysterio angle, but the sheer fun and enjoyment Miz and Shane seem to be having is infectious.
- The match had a lot of good resiliency from Miz. The Miz has been looking like a better wrestling ever since the World Cup tournament. Miz tried to get an early win with the Figure Four Leglock, but Cesaro got out of it. Sheamus eventually takes out Shane so they can get in a cheap shot, which leads to a Gotch Neutralizer and a win for Cesaro. Post match beatdown sees Shane eat a Brogue Kick, as well as getting driven through Miz and effectively through the announce table. Feels like a heavy signal that Miz and Shane will win at Rumble, but who knows.
- Mustafa points out an interesting aspect of Joe beating him down last week. That being, Joe looks down on him, like he doesn’t belong there and he wants to prove himself.
- Vince basically moderates the discussion between Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles. Not much is really said except for AJ turning the FICKLE word against Bryan and it catching a little. Styles chases Daniel outside the ring, lays in a few shots, rolls him back in for the Phenomenal Forearm, Daniel uses Mr. McMahon as a shield to then lay out AJ with Knee Plus.
- Truth and Carmella are walking through the back discussing the Rumble. Truth toys with the idea of challenging Buddy Murphy for the Cruiserweight title, and when Carmella points out the weight limit, he takes it as her calling him fat and storms off a bit. Charlotte and Carmella have a few words, but nothing really noticeable here.
- Ali showed that he learned from last week and turns around some call back spots into flips and body presses. But Joe eventually proved to be too much and Ali taps out to the Coquina Clutch.
- New Day have a nice moment discussing Rumble plans, Kofi has a moment of doubt if he can’t come up with a cool spot, Kayla tries to ask the question everyone does about would they eliminate each other. After going through a list of people who asked, they say “Is Tony Chimmel gonna ask us too?”, and Chimmel shows up before they shoo him away asking if they look like Edge and to get going.
- YAY! 2 out of 3 falls match! Andrade and Rey all day! First fall comes after Andrade connects on an Avalanche Sitout Powerbomb. Rey hits a Code Red, doesn’t’ get him, but pulls out the Canadian Destroyer as a counter to what looks like a Powerbomb and evens it up at one a piece. Rey tried to get a quick win with the West Coast Pop, but Andrade kicks out. After Rey finally connects with a 619, Samoa Joe shows up to ruin the finish. In the middle of making his final decree, Randy Orton RKO’s Joe to a giant pop from the crowd.
Overall Score: 7/10
Well okay we’re back to the normal situation of SmackDown being the clearly superior show and Raw being mediocre at best. Andrade and Rey are just wonderful together, that match could’ve been something special if it were allowed to finish decisively. I look forward to a time when they get 20+ minutes on a PPV to just tear the roof down. SmackDown is such a treat coming off a Raw that left, not a sour taste in my mouth, but ashy disappointment.