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The Top 10 Missed Opportunities in WWE History

Rey Ca$h returns with help from friend and frequent collaborator Clive to break down 10 of the biggest missed opportunities in WWE history

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Rey: Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, chickens, ducks, scamps, scalliwags, and yes…Jim Cornette fans…I’m back!  I know you guys here my oh so un-radio-esque voice once a week on the Outsider’s Edge, but yes, I was originally and still am a columnist!  Right here…on The Chairshot!  (Insert cheap pop).  But no, I’m not alone.  As has become standard, I’ve started a bit of a collaboration with one of my best friends, Familia member, and Scotland’s most dangerous man…from Social Suplex’s The Ricky and Clive Show…Clive!

Clive: That little caveat right at the end there severely hampered my danger credentials. Especially when Ricky is clearly the heel of the outfit. Nevertheless, thanks for the grand introduction, Reymond. 

Rey: Ricky is the face and I’ll hear nothing else to the contrary!  Still, I have you with me, not Rick, and you’re the accomplished writer among the two of us.  So, let’s say we get down with the gettin’ down, eh?

Clive: Please, let’s. With time on both of our sides, it’s not an OPPORTUNITY we want to MISS…..

Rey: It’s gonna be one of THOSE columns, huh…

 

THE TOP 10 MISSED OPPORTUNITIES IN WWE HISTORY

 

Rey:  So let me explain the premise of this here piece of art that me and my brother Clivert are writing.  When we speak about missed opportunities, we’re talking about moments where WWE dropped the ball on something that could’ve been massive.  It could be a storyline, a match, or quite simply a wrestler’s gimmick.  And we’re trying to keep it current, so miss me with your “Roddy Piper should’ve been world champion” messages.  That may be true, but still.

Clive: This idea was your brainchild, Rance. Birthed from a specific example. But there is one more recent than that. One that, probably through recency anti-bias (is that even a term?), sticks in my craw the most. So, if it’s alright with you, good sir, I’d like to get stuck in while the frustration is fresh in my mind. 

 

Enzo and Cass

 

Rey: So, I know it’s not the most popular thing to talk about these two in the current day and age, but revisionist history aside, you can’t ignore how MASSIVELY huge that these two were in their day.  Enzo and Cass were legitimately one of the biggest acts in the business, and they NEVER won.  A very impressive feat, no doubt.  But the frenetic energy of Enzo, the size and strength of Big Cass, and the catchphrases…my God the catchphrases.  What happened here?

Clive: I think we know the answer to that one. Vince saw Big Cass. Looked him up and down, and said “Goddamit, pal!! Look at you!” Probably something Vince has said when looking at the bigger of a tandem throughout history. 

Rey: So I think about this team, and I think about the most successful tag team in the Attitude Era.  No, not Edge and Christian…not The Hardyz, and not the Dudleys.  The New Age Outlaws.  They were created directly from that template.  And they drew money and ratings.  They sold a TON of merchandise, they got good quarter hour numbers, but Enzo lived the gimmick a BIT too much.  That coupled with Big Cass’s oncoming breakdown and mental health and addiction issues, and they became a never was instead of a legendary act.  Damn shame too.  I still laugh at the “Zero Dimes” line from time to time.

Clive: And what did we get out of it? A severely lackluster heel push for Cass (with awful music to boot), and a Cruiserweight Championship run for Enzo which, if people don’t know by now, was not an enjoyable time for Mr 205 Clive. It’s crazy that their exits from the company happened close to each other, but less than eighteen months after seemingly being at the peak of their infallibility. 

 

Braun Strowman at No Mercy 2017

 

Clive: While we’re on the subject of big guys, let me ask you a question. The kind that marks a milestone in life. The wrestling equivalent of “Where were you when JFK was shot?” Or “What were you doing when you found out Princess Diana died?” Rance, I ask you, what were you doing when Vincent Kennedy McMahon shat the bed and did not strike while the iron was red hot by having Braun Strowman beat Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal Championship at No Mercy 2017?

Rey: Probably writing Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose fan-fic.  But seriously man, you make Braun losing sound like a national conspiracy or something.  Like he lost because of the Illuminati.  All jokes aside, it may not be as memorable as Princess Di or JFK, but it was still pretty damn egregious.  Braun was as sure of a sure thing that comes around to the Fed, and Vince was like “Nah son, I disagree.”

Clive: I just felt that, after that epic display of brutality at Summerslam, all the momentum in the world was on Braun’s side. Bear in mind this was in the heat of my “Fook Brock” face, and I was being worked silly. But by God did I NEED Braun to win that title.

Rey: I was more insulted with Samoa Joe’s loss, but that’s because I felt that Joe deserved it.  But there’s a huge difference between deserve and need, and Braun absolutely NEEDED to win it.  Yes, Brock was in a bit of a rut.  He was still having good matches, but he was in the heat of his Eat, Farm, Squash, Repeat pattern, and unfortunately Braun had to face the biggest loss of that time.  But hey!  We still got WrestleMania 36, right?!

 

Bray Wyatt VS Triple H

 

Rey: The road to WrestleMania 32 may be the most unfortunate, underutilized, misdirected build in Mania history.  Everybody was injured.  Roman Reigns, who finally won the title to cheers in Philadelphia no less, lost the title in the Royal Rumble match to Triple H.  Dean Ambrose, who’ll be talked about later, was at the peak of his popularity and got a shot at Hunter’s WWE Championship.  Bray Wyatt, with Wyatt Family in tow (sans Luke Harper, who was also injured) had beef with Brock Lesnar.  And then, that one fateful episode of Raw, everything pretty much all changed with one staredown.

Clive: I’m going to throw a spanner in the works here, sir. Undoubtedly, this is another instance of something in WWE being teased without any payoff whatsoever. On this occasion, however, I just don’t think it would have worked if there was a program between the two. I appreciate Bray’s penchant for storytelling, I do. But the story he tells just never floats my boat. It would have been a clash of styles, personally. It would have been a face turn of an entire stable, not something you want to handle just for the sake of a Mania program. I know this is supposed to be a collaborative piece, but I didn’t want the readers to leave reading this without a little dissension within the ranks!

Rey: Only 3 missed opportunities in, and you’re already turning on me. For shame, sir! Nonetheless, you make good points. The prospect of the Wyatts as faces would’ve been dicey, and Bray’s stories do end up being too elaborate often, but it still would’ve been an amazing spectacle. The preeminent cult leader preaching down with the machine versus the heir apparent who has the full power of the machine behind him. At least it would’ve been better than Ambrose VS Lesnar.

Clive: It’s just a personal preference with Wyatt, or lack thereof. Personally, there are a finite amount of wrestlers or outfits who could merge well with a reality bending entity like him. And I don’t think Authority Paul is one of them, I’m afraid. Plus, HHH had beef with Mr Reigns dating way back, so that would have muddied the waters. 

 

Dean Ambrose’s 2016

 

Clive: So, one of my favourite Royal Rumbles is 2016’s. So many moments in that much that it could birth a column in itself. But the icing on the cake would have been the potential shock but very welcome win for Dean Ambrose. It was right there, begging to be done. He was on top of the world. He was lost in a swarm of fans after winning the IC Title a month prior. Earlier that night, he was in Last Man Standing match with Kevin Owens that’s still talked about today. Momentum was all up on Ambrose’s shoulders. Evidently, it wasn’t meant to be, due to other Brock Lesnar shaped plans in mind for the Lunatic Fringe. And…well…..sigh….

Rey: So, I have to say that he really made himself relevant during that time, because he went from having no plans to being last eliminated in the Rumble, a banger of a match with Triple H for the title, and the Lesnar match at Mania. Before we acknowledge the bad, we have to acknowledge the good. Lesnar was slated to face Wyatt. Hunter was gonna have tunnel vision towards Roman. By sheer force of will and audience participation, he changed the entire Road to WrestleMania.

Clive: The title match with HHH has to get a special mention. For purists, that might be the best WWE title match in 2016. It’s certainly up there. It’s just the whole Brock thing. It was one of a good few examples where the story has been told that Lesnar is going to be in for the fight of his life, and we get nothing of the sorts. A hugely anticlimactic end to what was a great build. Ambrose was lucky to keep relevant through spring and into the summer when he won the WWE Title. But then along came what was supposed to be a casual shoot the breeze conversation between two antiheroes.

Rey: That’s the irony of the situation.  If we’re looking on paper, Ambrose had a HUGELY successful 2016.  The aforementioned Lesnar and Triple H matches, and then winning MITB, winning the Shield triple threat, and holding the WWE Championship going into the summer and fall.  And no offense is meant here Clive, but sticking to our fickle nature as fans, we see the entire year almost as a bust because of two really sour spots – the Lesnar match and aftermath and his appearance on the Stone Cold Podcast.  Even the Jericho feud gave us Mitch the plant, and the death of the light up jacket.

Clive: You are spot on. It’s weird that people, myself included, thought Ambrose had a WEIRD 2016 when, by all official metrics, it was a career defining year. I guess it all sort of fizzled out towards the end. And as 2017 rolled on, with him falling down the pecking card, that recency bias doesn’t really pain the year prior in a good light. But still. That f”*”**g Lesnar match. *smashes fist off train window*.

 

Booker T VS Triple H at WrestleMania 19

 

Rey: If we’re talking about disappointment…

*Sigh*

I’ve been on record saying that WrestleMania 19 is probably the best Mania WWE’s ever done.  It’s practically perfect.  5 main events, major stories on the midcard, all time memorable moments in the big matches, and it even has the workrate for the diehards.  It’s practically perfect.  Except for the fact that WWE RAN A STORYLINE WHERE A WHITE DUDE SAID THAT THE BLACK DUDE WASN’T WORLD TITLE MATERIAL BECAUSE HE WAS BLACK AND THE BLACK DUDE LOST THE TITLE MATCH.

Clive: I’m all the way there with you. Mania 19 is my favourite PPV, too. FIVE main event worthy matches? All after one other?! Shieeeeeeiit. BUT, the gutterball in what should have been a row of strikes is the booking for this match. This is another example of what’s turning into a theme of mine in this piece. That WWE told us a story for weeks, if not months, and we got a bad director’s cut that should have stayed on the cutting floor. That story was written so controversially, that surely there is only one acceptable outcome at the show of shows, when adversity is overcome a large chunk of the time. But, no, not this time. For HHH to take several seconds between Pedigree and pin attempt just adds insult to insult, in my opinion.

Rey: That’s the unforgivable sin.  I’m a mark for heels, so I love when they win against all odds.  It’s a fun change of pace for me.  So I could have convinced myself that it was ok.  But there were EIGHTEEN seconds between the Pedigree and the pin.  That’s so many seconds, I had to type out eighteen!  That’s a disrespectful amount of time to be down from a move and still not kick out.  And that was the first Pedigree of the night.  So…yeah.  Finishers should finish matches, but not at the detriment of the person taking it.  Just a deplorable set of events.

Clive: It was pretty disgusting. Listen, Booker T went on to have a wonderful WWE career. And HHH has mended some fences along the way. Not only has he given us a “developmental” brand we all know and love, but he had a black man in Adam Cole as the longest reigning champion in NXT history. That has to count for something. But, in a bubble, that Mania match was a disgrace.

 

The Nexus

 

Clive: I’ll hold my hands up here in saying I wasn’t watching wrestling when this all went down. But when I came back to it, and spent countless hours researching what I missed, this raised the eyebrows, for sure. The Summerslam match specifically was a prime example of the hubris I associate with John Cena and still to this day struggle to see past.

Rey: Kinda ironic that we’re talking about Nexus in the midst of this Retribution angle. I think a major component of these missed opportunities is expectations, right? Every one we’ve talked about has stemmed from a fantastic and mesmerizing beginning. Is there any more fantastic and mesmerizing beginning than Nexus’s debut?

Clive: None than I can think of off the top of my head. Even the Invasion angle, which I was a fan of, didn’t have as strong a first impression as that night on Raw when Nexus ripped the ringside area to shreds. But any impetus they had was cut off very quickly during that Summerslam match. And the nonsense they were dealt on subsequent PPVs too just turned what was initially white hot into a dull flame before the year was out. At least you got a solid 6 months before the ECW/WCW alliance fell to shit.

Rey: You know me pretty well man, so you know I’m not the kind of guy to think that an angle is basically over after one bad moment.  But maaaaaaaaannnnnn, Nexus was done after Cena Hogan’d them, weren’t they?  I actually think that they should’ve lost that match, but the egregious manner in which they did is borderline unforgivable, which hilariously enough is the catalyst of your John Cena hatred.  The stable was always going to be short lived because they didn’t have members with enough credibility for it to work.  Bryan was gone night one, Skip Sheffield aka Ryback destroyed his ankle in Hawaii, Michael Tarver was trash, Otunga still can’t do a wristlock, and Slater and Gabriel needed seasoning.  It just wasn’t going to work long term, but Cena made sure it wasn’t going to work at all.

Clive: Oh, my hatred for John Cena started a loooong time before this Summerslam. But that’s another conversation for another day!

 

The WWE Babyface Conundrum

 

Rey: WWE has a lot of booking issues, and we’re going to talk about two of them in these next two sections.  So let’s look at how they book babyfaces.  Faces are hard to to book in 2020 because of a myriad of issues – fickle fans, size and style differentials, promo issues, etc.  Other than Daniel Bryan, who’s maybe been the most perfectly booked babyface of all time, there have been issues with every WWE babyface this side of John Cena.  I can go down the line.  Johnny Gargano, Sami Zayn, Kofi Kingston, Roman Reigns, etc.  What do you think?

Clive: People might call me biased here, so I’ll preface by saying this person isn’t even my favourite Scottish wrestler. But I’ll be damned if Drew McIntyre isn’t being presented as the best babyface world champion in a long time. Kofi was a close second. But he was CONTINUOUSLY fighting from underneath. Drew has looked STRONG and convincing throughout his reign. Perhaps though, as you’ve just alluded to, it’s because he is being presented how a strong poster boy for the company should be. In contrast to those mentioned above, at least. I wonder if it’s a societal issue. TV shows have evolved into the preferred option over cinema. Part of that is probably down to streaming services. But a lot of it is also down to the “protagonists” of the shows having a very shaky moral compass. Despite their many flaws, we root for these people. I believe that behaviour has transferred over to wrestling; we want the bad guys to win. So, when the good guys are simply fighting the good fight, it comes across as stale. Uninteresting, maybe. We’re always waiting to see which morally compromised wrestler is next, and what they’re going to do. It’s a shame, really, because these faces aren’t necessarily doing anything wrong.

Rey: The disappointing thing is that there are so many pure babyfaces that were turned heel when they were doing great work.  Sami went from a manic ska loving fool to Che Guevera.  Bryan went from Mr. Yes to evil Captain Planet.  Gargano went from the heart of NXT to a deranged version of Mr. Rogers…wait, that’s Bray Wyatt…you get the point.  It’s a really weird thing, and I’m team Heel, so I love their heel versions MUCH better, but it’s still a troubling thing that the only babyfaces that they can effectively push are the ones like Drew.

Clive: I’d personally argue that Daniel Bryan’s Captain Planet shtick saw him in career peak form, so I’m very glad we got to see that. Sami? I don’t really think we’ll be able to articulate how to fix this issue. One of those “it is what it is” deals. I just hope Drew keeps doing what he’s doing. It won’t be long surely before we get some sort of draft. Keep things fresh for him (which they have been so far).

 

The Tag Team Division

 

Clive: Now this one is an interesting one. Until CoVid, I had my need for great tag team wrestling sated, thanks to NXT UK. So the regular gripes people have about either random singles stars put together, proper units being broken up, or too many comedy programs that admittedly litter the main roster don’t anger me as much as it does others. So I’m going to open up the floor to you on this one to spit ya fire.

Rey: Hilariously enough, I don’t have much of an issue with this topic myself.  But it’s extremely apparent that WWE doesn’t value tag team wrestling as a draw.  Now, this DOES NOT mean that WWE doesn’t value tag teams, as they clearly do.  The New Day, Usos, the Street Profits, Undisputed ERA, and most recently, Bayley and Sasha prove that.  However, they have had a storied history of choosing to break up established tag teams to make singles stars, or putting two singles guys together because they have nothing else to do with them (Hi Cesaro!).  And when you look at other companies like AEW, Impact, New Japan…actually, they’re tag division is just as shitty…never mind.  I think you get the point.

Clive: It’s certainly not exclusive to WWE, that’s for sure. I think maybe it’s more obvious just now because Raw specifically has really struggled to make its tag division seem credible, competitive etc. At least Smackdown is mostly about actual wrestling, which I appreciate. I guess…. we don’t actually have much to bleat about on this one!

Rey: Wanna trash FTR a bit?

Clive: Not at all! How dare you!

 

Who Ran Over Roman?

 

Rey: Finally, a storyline we can break down.  Last summer, Roman Reigns was in an on again/off again feud with Samoa Joe, but he started being attacked backstage.  First, somebody tried to drop some heavy lighting equipment on him (fresh with Oscar-worthy acting by Kayla Braxton), but then a week or two later, while Roman was arguing with Samoa Joe, somebody tried to run Roman down.  They hit the car that he just happened to be able to jump in, with Joe frantically worried.  It was a really nice touch, seeing as both men hated each other, but no man wants to see another literally killed.  All of this seemed to be leading up to it being Daniel Bryan, with his minion Rowan doing the dirty work.  Murphy’s random insertion, Rowan’s doppelganger, and a lot of heavy breathing later, everybody just moved on.  What the hell, Clive?

Clive: Rance, answer me this. Do you remember what you were doing when JFK was – you know what, maybe this isn’t a monumental moment in pop culture history. Nevertheless, the buzz around this whodunnit angle was off the charts, personally. When it was looking like Bryan was just a Rowan puppet, you and I wrung our hands in anticipation at the thought of this being drawn out to culminate in an epic showdown between Reigns and DBry at Mania (this must have been around Survivor Series season). The ultimate rematch. The ultimate clash between professional wrestling and sports entertainment. The story wrote itself. Except, the problem was, the story didn’t even get written. Obviously, with CoVid and Roman staying home, it may never have been anyway. But I’m concluding right now that the decision NOT to book this program created some effed up butterfly effect which actually led to that dodgy batch of bat soup around the start of the worst year in history. 

Rey: So first off, I was negative 25 years old when JFK was shot.  Secondly, it was SummerSlam season.  I remember this vividly because the story seemed to be leading to a match between the two at SummerSlam, but both men were left off the Pay-Per-View.  So not only did the story just get dropped (in fact, it was flipped to make Bryan a face again and have the fucking Bludgeon Brothers team back up), but two of the biggest stars in the company and of ALL TIME had to miss the second biggest show of the year.  Man.

Clive: Ah yes, that’s right. And on the SummerSlam pre-show Eric Rowan levelled Buddy Murphy something stinking!! Well, if there is ANY positive at all long term from this, it’s that Murphy was in a camera shot by accident. He got noticed. And now he’s a staple in a… stable. And we’ve been high on Murphy for a long time, so that’s a good thing, right?…..Right?

 

The Hacker

 

Clive: Speaking of Mr Murphy. And in particular, the Ying to his Yang. Mustafa Ali had been on the fringes of the fringes of WWE for 8 months. EIGHT. Things started to look up for him when imagery and, most importantly, the overarching message associated with him was spliced into the whole hacker routine. This went on for months. It made GTV look like child’s play in comparison. It was even paramount in the pay-off of a major angle at WrestleMania, for Allah’s sake! A rejuvenated, possibly repackaged in some form Mustafa Ali was on the horizon. And then? Once again? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Niente. 

Rey: It’s baffling that they just left it by the wayside.  And you bring up GTV, which is a great comparison because both angles affected major stories.  GTV was the catalyst of the breakup of Eddie and Chyna, and the Hacker exposed Sonya and Dolph’s collusion to keep Mandy and Otis away from each other.  So to see that it was given so much attention, then literally forgotten is massively disappointing.  They still have the possible opportunity to retcon it with this Retribution storyline though.

Clive: It’s a prime example of why I’m pretty cold on this whole Retribution thing. Sure, the visuals are awesome. Who wouldn’t pop for ring ropes being chainsawed to smithereens? But it’s the follow through, or potential lack thereof, that doesn’t see me as invested as I really should be. We’ve seen it with Nexus, which is a very similar scenario. We’ve seen it with the hacker, which fizzled away to nothing. And we’ve seen it with the greatest matchup in all the multiverse being RIPPED from our aching, vulnerable bosoms, Rance! Back on track, if Mustafa Ali was the intended hacker, then could have been really something. But it’s as if doing something which would be taboo in the eyes of law enforcement is hardly ever given an end product. It’s annoying, is what it is!

Rey: That may be the most unforgivable sin out of the whole situation.  The story, had Ali actually have been the hacker, could’ve propelled him to the main event.  And we both know that young man deserves to be there.  Still, as we’ve seen in this list and many situations like what we’re talking about, plans changed.  Brother.

I don’t know about you man, but I’m exhausted.  Talking about negativity just wipes me out in a way that very few things do.  But this had to be done.  We had to break this down, and hopefully, we can have good things again.  Once the world stops being an episode of The Walking Dead.

Clive:: Well, to be honest, I’m reading this not long after watching SummerSlam. Both women’s title matches were excellent. Drew McIntyre is storming into the conversation for having the best strong baby-face world title run since Johnny Boots ‘N’ Tights. And The Big Dog just said to Braun Strowman “I made you. You ain’t a monster unless I’m here.” Which is a major BRUH moment if there ever was one. So I’m in a good mood with WWE right now. That is, of course, until the Retribution angle shits the bed….

Rey: Well, while that may be so, I’m gonna make like the returning Big Dawg and wreck this column and leave.

 

FIN


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