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Tiffany’s Take: Wrestling Drama and Problematic Superstars

Tiffany Takes a look at the recent developments regarding Tessa Blanchard, and wrestling’s willingness to employ and push “problematic” superstars in the past.

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Tessa Blanchard Chairshot Edit

Tiffany Takes a look at the recent developments regarding Tessa Blanchard, and wrestling’s willingness to employ and push “problematic” superstars in the past.

Well, this is NOT the article I intended to write this week, I’m gonna be honest. I actually had one partially typed out about the differences in response to the COVID-19 pandemic by WWE and AEW, but all the drama going on in the wrestling world made that tough.

We’ve all heard about the accusations coming from the Speaking Out movement and the stories of horrific abuse and exploitation in the wrestling business. I’m not here to talk about that situation or the accusations. I will say that it’s clear that Professional Wrestling has a HUGE cultural problem that needs to be addressed, NOW, or it will kill the business off once and for all, and WWE will get swept up with it.

Also this week, WWE’s practice of only temp checking and asking a few questions from a questionnaire, which is basically the same thing I have to do every day at my job as a bakery clerk in a grocery store, and NOT running actual COVID-19 tests, which AEW has been doing since the start of the pandemic, bit it, and AEW, in the ass. Turns out, at least 18 WWE talent and employees, and who knows how many before the testing started, have COVID-19, one of them being Renee Young, WWE interviewer and spouse of AEW Champion, Jon Moxley, causing Moxley to pull out of 6-23’s Dynamite/Dark taping to care for his wife, and protect the AEW roster. Also affected was AEW’s QT Marshall of the Natural Nightmares, though his exposure came through someone who is not in the wrestling business.

Then came the biggest shock, at least so far, Tessa Blanchard, third generation superstar, and the first woman to hold a World Heavyweight Championship, was unceremoniously fired from Impact Wrestling, and stripped of the World Heavyweight Championship. According to sources in Impact, Blanchard refused to send in promo videos from Mexico, where she’s been residing, and there are claims she was holding the title hostage. Speculation has been rife as to where she’d end up next and if any wrestling promotion in the US would want to sign her.

If you aren’t up to speed on the whirl of drama that surrounds Tessa Blanchard, let’s take a look. The first controversy I really heard about was the accusations of racism and bullying that came out just before Blanchard won the Impact World Championship. Blanchard denied the charges and a couple of people came to her defense, namely Moose and Scorpio Sky, but they were about the only ones. It was also rumored that she gave Dave Meltzer spoiler results of the first Mae Young Classic. It’s also been pointed out that she’s had several tryouts with WWE and a formal offer had never been made, allegedly because of her poor attitude. With all that, would anyone hire her? Well, yeah, they would; or, at the very least, it would be given serious consideration.

It should be pointed out that when Tessa tried out for WWE, she was an amazing talent in a field full of amazing talents, a poor attitude may have played a role, but that was probably not the only reason. Now, things have changed. Tessa is an 18 time Women’s Champion across several promotions, she’s a proven talent who can have great matches with anyone, and was a draw in a major promotion. She is also the first, and only, woman to hold a World Heavyweight Championship in a major US promotion, and successfully defended it against in both intergender, and in the Knockouts Division. On that alone, she’s a very attractive signee for any promotion.

The downside is all the baggage. Even if you don’t believe the numerous claims of racism and bullying, it’s clear from the Impact situation, that Tessa Blanchard is, to put it nicely, a person who can be difficult to work with, and has a streak of immaturity and arrogance that’s going to cause problems. That doesn’t mean she won’t be signed, and she won’t be the first problematic person to be signed to WWE or AEW. It should also be pointed out that the rumor that Impact wants her to sign a non-disparagement agreement in her release contract, puts a sinister slant on the framing of the situation between Tessa and Impact as Tessa being difficult.

Let me put this a little bluntly: If wrestling promoters, or any business person, turned their noses up at every prospect that was the least bit problematic, there would be no business. Professional Wrestling has long been a home for oddballs, weirdos, and assholes, alongside and including, the great wrestling talents. Just off the top of my head, the people that were known to be problematic* or were discovered to be problematic, and were able to keep getting hired by wrestling promotions are: Johnny Valentine, CM Punk, Austin Aries, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Kerry Von Erich, The Iron Sheik, Bruiser Brody, The Fabulous Freebirds, Jim Cornette, Shawn Michaels, Hulk Hogan, Jeff Hardy, X-Pac, Scott Hall, Kurt Angle, Sid Vicious, Lars Sullivan, Sunny, Paige, Lex Lugar, Roddy Piper, Fabulous Moolah, and Ultimate Warrior, and this list doesn’t include the outsiders that crossed over with wrestling such as Mike Tyson, Billy Martin, Floyd Mayweather, and Muhammed Ali.

*- I’m defining problematic here as people who were known to have issues outside of the business, were difficult to work with, or held and voiced controversial opinions before, during, or after their career and were brought back for various reasons.

I can hear you asking ‘What the fuck does that have to do with Tessa Blanchard and her messiness?’, well, all these people were draws in some form or fashion in the promotions they worked for, and their issues were known about, by and large, and promoters brought them back because they were talented and drew money, or had knowledge and skill in the business that made them valuable assets. If WWE or AEW think they can make money off of Tessa Blanchard, they’ll sign her, even in this current climate, and do their best to mitigate the damage all her baggage could do. AEW is seriously in  need of a big name STAR to build their Women’s Division around going forward, Tessa could fill that role, even in the short term.

Is that the right thing to do? Personally, no. As I said above, it’s clear that Tessa Blanchard isn’t an easy person to work with, and she has issues that don’t make her an attractive addition to anyone’s locker room. However, what she could bring to the table in terms of her talent and now proven drawing power is probably going to be enough to get her a new gig at either WWE or AEW. I’m not saying it’ll be long-term unless Tessa does a lot of maturing, but don’t be surprised if she shows up in either promotion in the future.


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Cook’s Top 5: Royal Rumble Diesel Pushes

The Royal Rumble is right around the corner, and someone’s Diesel Push might be on the way! Steve Cook looks back at the Top 5, including Diesel himself!

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Shayna Baszler WWE Royal Rumble 2020

The Royal Rumble is right around the corner, and someone’s Diesel Push might be on the way! Steve Cook looks back at the Top 5 such pushes, including the man himself, Diesel!

You guys might have heard about this. The Royal Rumble is coming up on January 31! Thirty men & thirty women will compete in battle royals to determine who will get a title shot at WrestleMania. The winners will certainly receive a boost in attention and esteem, but there are other ways to stand out in a Rumble match.

One way: Eliminate a bunch of people!

It’s known by us geeks as the Diesel push. One individual, typically a large one, runs over the competition in a short amount of time and helps get rid of some of the deadwood in the ring. An important part of any Royal Rumble.

Here are the top 5 recipients of the Diesel Push! (There are six listed)

5. Great Khali (2007)

Khali always got things done in short order. This is why it doesn’t surprise me that 7 eliminations in 3:45 is the craziest stat in Royal Rumble history. The man knew what his job was, and he didn’t waste any time. He was also self-aware enough to know that his stamina wasn’t the best, he had a good number at 28, so if he threw everybody out as quickly as possible, he had a pretty good chance.

The downfall in Khali’s strategy? Undertaker was number 30. Tough break, kid. It probably looked really good to Khali when Miz pre-teaming with John Morrison came out at 29, and hopefully 30 would be somebody in that same category, but nah, it was Undertaker.

4. CM Punk (2011)

We all know that CM Punk’s push in WWE became bigger during 2011. We don’t know if that was originally intended or not, but things seemed to be picking up for him at the Rumble. At the time, Punk had taken control of The Nexus from Wade Barrett, so he had plenty of backup to support him during matches like thus one. Which he needed, since he drew #1. Fortunately, many of his Nexus minions also drew low numbers, so he was able to last thirty-five minutes and eliminate seven people.

The difference between this & most Diesel pushes: Punk was already a bit of a star at this point. He became a bigger one later in the year. The Rumble probably didn’t have much to do with it, but it didn’t hurt either.

3. Shayna Baszler & Bianca Belair (2020)

The 2020 Women’s Royal Rumble saw a pair of dominant women. Shayna Baszler was rewarded a little earlier. She got a Raw Women’s Championship match against Becky Lynch at WrestleMania. The less said other than that sentence, the better.

Bianca Belair eliminated the same number of women that Baszler did, which was eight if you’re scoring at home, or even if you’re alone. It took some time, but as I write this here & now, Belair is finally getting to show her skills on main roster TV. Completely outclassed Bayley on an obstacle course, proving to be a superior athlete. Doesn’t always translate to pro wrestling, but I won’t deny Bianca’s athletic ability.

Two Diesel pushes in one match is a bit much, but I see what they were going for here.

2. Roman Reigns (2014)

The Shield had been picking up momentum throughout 2013, and it seemed like they were on the verge of big things. Maybe a face turn, maybe the group splitting up, probably both because that’s usually what happens when members of a group start getting over. The 2014 Royal Rumble provided a good opportunity to make the Shield members into stars on their own. Seth Rollins entered second & lasted over forty-eight minutes. Dean Ambrose had a solid showing at over thirty-three minutes.

However, it was the Big Dog that stood out from the pack. Roman Reigns entered fifteenth and was the last person eliminated by the winner, Batista. Prior to that, he set a Royal Rumble record, eliminating twelve people. Including Rollins & Ambrose! The record lasted until the Greatest Royal Rumble match, where Braun Strowman eliminated thirteen people. There were fifty people in that match though, so it wasn’t quite as dominant.

Reigns’ performance was somewhat overshadowed by the lack of Daniel Bryan and the match ending up being CM Punk’s last, but it was still an important part of his push to the main event.

1. Diesel (1994)

It’s a tough call between the original recipient of the Diesel Push and the Big Dog. Why do we go with Diesel? For me, it’s where both men started from. Reigns was already seen as a viable future star in the eyes of many fans. We tend to forget it now since the fans turned on Reigns once he got the push, but the man got over pretty well with the smart fans as a Shield member, even with the other two members having more indy cred. You could tell Roman was going places.

Diesel? Well, he was tall and had good hair. He was barely even a wrestler though! Diesel came into the WWF as Shawn Michaels’ bodyguard, and spent most of his time prior to the 1994 Rumble backing up the Boy Toy. To be honest, most of us that had seen Diesel’s run in WCW as Vinnie Vegas were happier to see him in the bodyguard role than as a wrestler. He wasn’t seen as a future main eventer or world champion or anything like that, until the Rumble match.

After the Diesel push, Kevin Nash was ready to shine.


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Opinion

Rob: Has Pro Wrestling Become Too Soft?

The Undertaker took the online wrestling community by storm with his comments on the current product, and Rob offers some perspective!

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The Undertaker WWE WrestleMania Boneyard Match

The Undertaker took the online wrestling community by storm with his comments on the current product, and Rob offers some perspective!

So……the Undertaker had some things to say about how the kids today just aren’t doing it the way they did back in his day, and that it’s hurting the product.  In short he said it was harder to watch now because it was soft, and the guys weren’t real enough men – they spend too much time trying to look good and do things like play video games instead of packing heat.  Uhh………yeah………ok, Mr Callaway.

Now look, we can talk about the ring work – I for one think that there are way too many matches that look more like a gymnastics floor routine than what’s supposed to be a fight, from the indies all the way up to the WWE.  If he wants to stick to that than I think he’s worth listening to.  But that’s not what he focused on.  No, he spoke about how guys used to carry guns and knives in their bags, and that guys ‘handled stuff’ back in the day, and weren’t so occupied with grooming or playing video games with each other.  And that the changed behavior over the last few years has made the overall wrestling product harder to enjoy.  Help me out here but I don’t see how playing video games with each other and paying more attention to how you look, smell, etc makes for a worse wrestling product.  The ring action, sure.  The promos, which I didn’t see mentioned in the quotes I saw, sure.  Whether or not you do your hair…..really?  Does he not remember the many male wrestlers of days gone by who were sold to women fans as good looking men they’d want to go home with?  The Von Erich boys, the Rock on Roll Express, Ravishing Rick Rude, the Fantastics, Magnum TA?  Does he not remember commentary damn near yelling out loud ‘HEY LADIES, AREN”T THESE DUDES HOT?’ when those guys and many others were in the ring?  Does he not remember guys like ‘Gorgeous’ Jimmy Garvin, who was a proverbial man’s man but also had his valet (his real life wife Precious) spraying his hair while he was cutting promos?

But I got another question:

What kind of locker room does he think should exist? 

One where guys are dropping dead before the age of 50 or are concussed into oblivion?  Or one where they can work longer and not look pathetic if they so chose, or move on early if they want?

One where guys like Darren Young and Jake Atlas have to stay in the closet or where they can be out and accepted, where a guy like Randy Orton with his own checkered history will come up to them and say ‘if anyone gives you any crap, let me know?’

One where guys mostly keep each other out of trouble by doing things like……playing video games together or one where they’re out closing down the bar every night, getting into it with the police, etc.?

One where the men engage in all kinds of trifling behavior towards the women on the roster or one where they get along well enough for there to be genuine friendships where people look out for each other and even form some lasting romantic relationships?

And lastly in regards to guys carrying knives and guns instead of video games, do you want a locker room where guys work things out in a more civilized manner or one like where Bruiser Brody was stabbed to death?

Now he’s not the only one who says this kind of stuff.  A lot of guys from his generation have offered similar sentiments and there are a lot of podcasters who pine for the days when things felt more real and what not.  Well if we’re gonna keep it 100 a lot of those gave off more gravitas and sounded more real because they were legit living hard, messed up lives.  Drug problems.  Alcoholism.  Multiple marriages and divorces.  Bad relationships with their children.  Broken homes and childhoods that they were still traumatized over.  Failed careers in other professions.  I don’t know about you but I think it’s a plus that more of the guys seem to be living and working in such a way that they’re able to avoid those things.  I’ll take hearing Kofi and Xavier talk about their kids on the New Day Pod than a bunch of stories about how they were out boozing and cheating on their spouses in between shows.  The latter can be romanticized by guys who tell good stories and all, but the reality is a lot more grim (for good reference take a look at the ESPN documentary on Ric Flair).

And this goes beyond pro wrestling.  A lot of those old guys in our lives who say the same kind of things have suffered the same fates as their counterparts in the wrestling business.  It’s not healthy, full stop.  Just because you can’t relate with the guys who aren’t living and playing like you did 10, 20 years ago doesn’t mean that they’re doing it wrong.  As for the guys being ‘too pretty’ now…..it’s a lot easier to get opportunities to do things outside of wrestling if you look good, are well groomed, etc.  Acting gigs, TV gigs, magazine covers….you think Xavier Woods would have gotten a hosting job on the relaunched G4 network if he looked and groomed himself like Abdullah the Butcher?  Do you honestly think New Day would be more popular if they looked and acted more like what you consider to be real men?  I don’t see it.  And in an entertainment industry where women have to look damn near perfect just to get an interview I don’t think that men choosing to look as good as they possibly can is a negative.  And let’s not pretend that any of New Day can’t put their ring work alongside any guys from any era.  The video games, the gear colors and everything else don’t mean a damn thing as far as their abilities go.

Look man, time stops for no one.  Things change, and in this case I think they’ve changed for the better.  That he can’t see a trail several miles long of broken families, broken bodies, and premature death behind the ‘right way’ that he speaks of is kinda sad.


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