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Opinion

Rey: Perspectives in Wrestling

Rey Cash looks at the current wrestling landscape & tries to make sense of things by looking at the different perspectives involved: company, fan, & wrestler.

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WWE Vince McMahon

Rey Cash looks at the current wrestling landscape and tried to make sense of things by looking at the  different perspectives involved: company, fan, and wrestler.

There has never been a more confusing time in my wrestling fandom than right now.

On paper, this should be the best time in the wrestling business since the late 90s.  We have two easily accessible, viable, thriving wrestling companies with shows spanning 4 nights a week (not counting Pay-Per-Views).  We have the best Independent scene maybe ever, only rivaled by the post WCW world with the beginning of places like Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla.  Wrestlers are more accessible than ever, with a good portion of them interacting with fans on social media and the majority willing to do more interviews than any other time in history.  We should be in a good place.

 Clearly, you know that’s not the case.  The wrestling part?  That’s pretty damn solid.  In fact, except for the controversies and criticisms of Monday Night Raw, most fans would say the wrestling is regularly excellent.  What’s gotten almost unbearable is the rhetoric surrounding wrestling, and that’s starting to affect the entire wrestling world.

 I’d like to break this down a bit, but we’re going to have to look at this with a LOT of nuance, because as we’ve learned in wrestling, nothing is tangible and everything is controversial.

 The most appropriate place to start would be with the sudden and shocking releases that the WWE has made multiple times over the past 18 months.  With WWE reporting record revenue over the past few years, the multiple billion dollar television deals, and most recently, leasing the WWE Network to Peacock for another billion dollars, the idea of WWE releasing wrestlers under the guise of “budget cuts” feels callous, unnecessary, and downright disrespectful.  And even if there is truth to that claim (which there is), it’s still a horrible thing to do to your talent in a pandemic landscape.  To make matters worse, WWE didn’t just “trim the fat” as they used to do once upon a time.  Regularly and currently used wrestlers were surprisingly released.  Top stars were released.  People in ACTIVE storylines were released.

 WWE is a business first and foremost.  They’ve never lied about that, and it’s never been more apparent than now.  And as much as we want them to be all about the wrestling, that’s not their primary goal.  Vince realized 40 years ago that wrestling alone wasn’t going to get him where he thought he and his company should be.  So, he slowly moved away from the regular tropes of “traditional” wrestling.  He called his performers “superstars”.  He called his product “sports entertainment”.  Eventually, thanks to a lawsuit from the World Wildlife Fund, he changed his company’s name directly to include the word entertainment.  He also took his company public, which greatly expanded his reach, his bank account, and his company’s scrutiny.  See, the WWE and Vince’s FIRST priority is not to the fans or even to its wrestlers and employees.  It’s to its shareholders.  As a publicly traded company, they have a fiduciary responsibility to that stock price and the people who own shares.  And this is where so much of the disconnect between company business and fan understanding begins.  We don’t control the bottom line of the WWE as much as we think, we’d like, and we do with almost every other wrestling organization.

 Now, this fact sucks from a fan perspective.  As a fan base, we’ve been taught that what we want is what matters.  We’ve been taught that our cheers or our boos have a direct line to what the company does.  The more a character is supported, the stronger he or she is pushed.  And for every other company, this may be true for the most part.  But every company isn’t the WWE and doesn’t have the structure that they have.  John Cena was the first “guinea pig” for this phenomenon.  John did record business for the WWE during his run.  Houses sold out, merchandise was sold at a ridiculous rate, ratings were strong, and Pay-Per-View numbers were really good.  But the adult fan base couldn’t stand him.  They audibly booed him and complained about him online, claiming that Vince wasn’t listening to the fans.  So, think about this conundrum.  WWE, a business, is doing fantastic business with a particular wrestler on top.  The fans, who are the consumers, aren’t happy with that certain wrestler as the main star.  Somebody must be spending that money on tickets and merchandise and Pay-Per-Views for the business markers to be what they were.  What should WWE do?  Listen to the fans or listen to the bottom line?

 I do want to be clear that I don’t believe that it is a fan’s job to care about the business dealings of a company that they support.  I do, however, think it’s their job to understand that their personal desires can and sometimes will deviate from the business dealings of that company.  For fans and those critical of WWE, that last part is imperative.  I hated that WWE released the wrestlers.  It bothers me in a very serious way and is something I’ll never forget in my fandom of theirs.  I also understand that while I don’t like the reasons, it doesn’t mean that they are any less legitimate.

 This brings me to the fan’s perspective.  I’ve touched on it a bit in my previous paragraphs, but to say that fan rhetoric these days is terrible is an understatement of massive proportions.  There has always been an anti-WWE sentiment since they bought WCW.  World Championship Wrestling was everything that the WWE (then WWF) wasn’t.  WCW came from the lineage of the NWA and was always a wrestling focused company.  Even with WCW focused on the older stars of the time, they still focused on the Cruiserweight division and those top stars were looked at as “WWE guys”.  Also, WCW was a southern staple that made it big, whereas the WWE was the fancy company in New York.  Most importantly, older fans will always harbor an abhorrence for Vince McMahon for buying his father’s company and killing the territories to create his national powerhouse.

 In the spirit of WCW, we’ve seen the rise of All Elite Wrestling.  AEW is owned by Tony Khan, a child of the Attitude Era and a wrestling die hard fan who had the capital (his father owns the Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham FC) and the passion to create the biggest wrestling company since WCW folded.  AEW has filled a place that anti WWE fans, those who felt unfulfilled with the WWE, or fans willing to follow something new were begging for.  Khan’s company is built largely off the backs of the top stars of the Independent scene, legends of the current day that had never had their name in the marquee of the WWE’s world.  That, added with some major WWE defections and Legends, started a revolution of sorts.  Most importantly, the structure of the company is one that delivers on what fans want desperately – influence.  The cheers and boos of the AEW crowd play a major part in the creative decisions of the company.  Speaking of creative, AEW offers a large sense of creative control to their wrestlers.  Performers create their own promos, pitch and portray their own characters, and structure their own matches.  There is a genuine feeling of synergy between the company and the fans.

 The interesting thing about this can be seen in the business side of the company.  AEW is privately owned, as opposed to WWE being publicly traded.  Shad Khan, the father of Tony Khan, is a multi-billionaire, but unlike the McMahons, all of their money isn’t and will never be in wrestling, which breeds a different level of risk between the companies.  In fact, Tony has mentioned that their company is currently running at a loss, with continuing to employ the wrestlers that they do and making a sizable investment in a video game division.  They’ve partnered with Warner Media and TNT for two cable TV shows and have outworked their contract deal twice to get better, more lucrative ones.  AEW is here to stay and has shown that they are a legit alternative.  Because of this, there is a good portion of the fanbase that is begging for AEW to beat and end the WWE’s reign on top of the wrestling world.  There’s also a desire of all of the talent that WWE apparently is misusing to go to AEW on their own volition, even though AEW has had clear issues using the number of wrestlers that they have contracted regularly (AEW currently has more wrestlers under contract for their one current show than WWE does on their three main shows total).

 Let’s dive into this idea of fans believing that wrestlers are being misused, and let’s use an example.  Bray Wyatt, who has been a WWE main stay and a top talent since his debut, was shockingly released this week.  Bray, who hadn’t been seen since the Monday after WrestleMania 37, was reportedly waiting for the right creative direction for him to come back as he was released.  Immediately, there was an understandable expression of support, shock, and anger.  And there was a large belief that Bray was misused.  Now Bray Wyatt is a former WWE Champion, has been a major player in the WWE, has been a part of some of the most memorable moments of the current era, and has feuded with and beaten some of the biggest names in WWE history.  He’s also been one of the most creative wrestlers possibly ever.  His characters, his promo skills, and his ability to reinvent himself will be looked at as legendary.  Have there been moments where it felt as if his character wasn’t put in the best situations?  Yes.  Has it felt at times like he could’ve and should’ve done more?  Absolutely.  However, the world misuse ignores all of the positives he gave to us.  And since WWE is unlike AEW and is extremely unilateral in their creative direction, we have to give WWE some of that credit as well.

 On this past week’s Monday Night Raw in Chicago, which is the first live show since Bray was released, there were chants of “We Want Wyatt” at times throughout the show.  Ronda Rousey, a former WWE superstar and MMA legend who’s notoriously had issues with the fan relationship in WWE, tweeted:

 This is coupled with the fact that Bray has had the unfortunate honor of winning multiple “Worst” awards on the fan voted Wrestling Observer Newsletter, and you could often find a large contingent of IWC fans vocal about their disdain for Wyatt and his characters.  So, can we say he was misused if there was a group of fans who didn’t give him a chance and didn’t enjoy him?  And does Ronda have a point, given that growing contingent of contempt for the character could’ve possibly led to Wyatt not being considered untouchable?

This leads me to the perspective of the wrestlers themselves.  Mickie James, who recently was given her own release coupled with a heartless act of sending her remaining things back to her in a trash bag, had her own thoughts on Bray’s release.  She tweeted:

It’s completely understandable for Mickie to have disdain for WWE given the way she was treated upon her exit, as well as seeing so many of her contemporaries lose their jobs.  Her tweet, however, was off base on so many ways, and that is evident in her follow up tweet, seen above

In one breath, she claims that Bray came up with a gimmick that WWE didn’t know how to book correctly and just gave it to another person, then she says that the wrestlers are artists that take what they’re given and turn it into gold.  So if Bray came up with it and WWE didn’t know how to book it right, shouldn’t some of the blame be on Bray?  And she tried to walk back her shot at Alexa, but the tweets still felt unnecessary and selfish.  This is just a small example of how vocal the wrestlers of today have become.  Whether good, bad, or indifferent, wrestlers in 2021 are more than willing to let their true thoughts be known.  It doesn’t matter if it’s about a fan, a company, or even another wrestler.  We’ve seen such movements as #TimesUp and #SpeakingOut be pushed primarily by wrestlers, as well as the growing concern of wrestler use in the companies.

 The perspective of a wrestler is the most salient.  They are, in fact, the life blood of this business.  The way that they feel and interact is the most relevant opinion in the business.  So, it’s simultaneously apropos and hilarious that wrestler opinions on the current happenings between WWE and AEW.  There are so many wrestlers disgusted and dis-enamored with WWE’s business practices and creative woes.  And there are another group, particularly Malakai (formerly Aleister) Black and Tyler Breeze who feel the opposite.  Both wrestlers were recently released from the company but look back on their time fondly and have been very vocal about how wrestlers should be more accountable for their fates with the company.  Tyler, in particular, has talked about how wrestlers know what they’re getting into with signing with the company, and how it’s their job to be ready when called upon but to not complain when they’re not used.

 Ultimately, everything is conjecture.  Wrestling is a subjective art built on the backs of deceiving fans.  Every company has one person who chooses who wins and loses, and the fan response can be looked at a million different ways.  The only concrete, factual evidence is the business returns.  Once again, it’s not the job of a fan to care about this, but it explains a lot about the ideology of the companies and in turn, the feelings and opinions of the fans and the wrestlers.  WWE may be at an all time low among IWC support, however they’re the most successful they’ve ever been.  This tells me that they’ve tapped into and doubled down on the fan bases that they know support them and have stopped caring about the fan bases that criticize their product, particularly the IWC.  TV ratings are lower now than they’ve ever been, however, Peacock subscriptions, YouTube views, and social media interactions are some of the highest in the entire entertainment industry.  This tells me that the fan base is consuming the product in a much different way than usual.  WWE has released a ridiculous amount of wrestlers in such a small amount of time, while reporting record revenue on their investor calls.  This tells me that WWE is trying to remain profitable in the eyes of their stockholders, and Nick Khan’s influence has changed how and what they value regarding their talent.

 All of these differing perspectives normally make for a beautiful convergence of wrestling viewpoints.  Unfortunately, there is so much vitriol in the air at the moment.  What used to be a fantastic hobby is turning into a cesspool of hatred, bias, and egocentricity.  There will always be bad things that happen in this business.  This is an unfortunate truth, however, this business has also shown a resilience that most mediums wish for.  If we can all get out of our own preconceptions and remember why we’re fans and what place we all play in this ecosystem, I feel like we can get back to wrestling nirvana.  As things currently are, however, we’re on the verge of wrestling hell.

FIN


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Opinion

AJ’s Thoughts: Five Potential Returns

With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?

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With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?

With everything going on with WWE, the one thing we have all been hyped about are all of these returns. Dakota Kai made her return at SummerSlam alongside Io and Bayley and now on last SmackDown, Karrion Kross and Scarlett made their returns in a big way against Drew McIntyre and showed the Hourglass to The Bloodline.

With all of that, there have been things in the pipeline saying Triple H’s foot isn’t off the pedal so these are 5 returns from either NXT, main roster or even Try-Outs that I would love to see happen with the new regime.

1. Johnny Gargano

Now this is a name that people have been saying, “Maybe Impact or MLW” but, what about a return? Gargano didn’t renew his contract, most likely to be with his family which is a valid and amazing reason, will never disrespect that. If he were to return, there would be a handful of great reasons. Maybe a singles run with the Intercontinental or United States but with Ciampa getting limelight in the main roster from RAW, what if we get a tag team reunion?

WWE is hurting for Tag Teams and what better than to scare off The Bloodline, loosen  the stranglehold of championships with some Do It Yourself action. DIY reunion could be amazing, especially with newer faces showing up to get championship aspirations like Kross and Ciampa. Want to break the hierarchy? Do It Yourself.

2. James Storm

This one is a little bit weird and off. On one hand, who doesn’t love the Tennessee Cowboy, Jimmy James Storm? On the other, he is 45 and getting some nagging injuries as of late. So why would I say Triple H should bring James Storm back and give him something for the main roster? One of the things I said for Gargano, we have a lack of something and The Usos might need to watch two things in the rearview.

Watch your Money and your Alcohol.

Beer Money showing up in WWE would be amazing in my personal opinion. The Bloodline jump Roode, someone in a hoodie or jacket comes up and jumps them to even the fight and as soon as one Uso remained in the ring, the figure goes down and the old stomping goes off and we hear “BEER…” and Roode looks around and gets hyped up and shouts, “…MONEY!”

3. Big Cass



Since his departure from WWE, he has done something I have said since they split him off from Enzo. Take him through the Kevin Nash School of How To Big Man. ROH and Impact are great examples that he actually cleaned up and worked on what he has to do to be good in the ring. He can work the microphone, he can work the ring so we got a new big boy to take on the WWE once again.

Now I could have said Enzo and Cass to rejoin but, I’m sure the antics of Enzo will get Cass in deep water along with the fact that I already made two tag team predictions, we don’t need another. Cass brings a lot to the table and was kind of unproven in WWE because he was just the big enforcer to the more charismatic Enzo. Give this man about six months in the ring and you have your next MASSIVE problem in the IC or US Championship scene or even more.

4. Bronson Reed



The big man from down under is a former NXT North American Champion. He looked to have a good push going with that championship but he got release. If you wonder where he went… he actually made a pit stop in Impact Wrestling as JONAH with the most fire theme song in recent history I swear… I will link the theme song and Trips… please. Get rights to this theme song. I will be a bigger Bronson Reed fan.

Bronson to me is the weird man in all of this but, I think with Triple H involved, he could get something going for him with a good singles champion run or a big threat to go through like a gatekeeper of sorts. Big boy with a great amount of athleticism? Can’t really hate on that considering the last time we saw athletic bigger people were Keith Lee and… what was that one guy? Sherman Tank with a Ferrari Engine…?

5. Bray Wyatt

And the last one is the obvious one in all of this. Yes… we have Judgment Day as the somewhat supernatural dark group but we know the true successor of the supernatural and that is “The Eater of Worlds”, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt. This time around, I don’t think we will get the Jekyl and Hyde, Mister Rogers gimmick. I believe this time around we get full darkness and mayhem. We get the darkness and the theory of reverting back to your prime.

To make a refresher… Miz went back to being the cocky narcissist after fighting The Fiend. Finn turned back to the Prince and much more. With guys like Edge returning, maybe we see the return of the Heel Ultimate Opportunist, maybe a Fiend fight with AJ Styles to get the TN-AJ perhaps. Possibilities are endless and with a great mind like Wyatt for character and execution, I think Hunter will pick up the phone and Let Him In.

– There are clearly others that I could say, or maybe even didn’t think about, but hey, that’s the Chairshot way of Always Using Your Head. Those are just five returns that could happen and hopefully you read this before RAW or SmackDown and who knows if I get any of these right, maybe I missed an obvious one or maybe we get a giant signing that nobody thought possible. Let me and all of Chairshot know!


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Opinion

King’s Greatest Hits Of Jeff Hardy

As he battles his demons, Chris King looks at some more positive moments in Jeff Hardy’s career!

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Jeff Hardy WWE Smackdown

I’m sure by now you’ve heard the disturbing news that former WWE superstar and recent AEW signee Jeff Hardy, was arrested again for multiple charges including a DUI.  Hardy has had a hard and tragic road of recovery throughout the years in multiple wrestling promotions.

Not too long ago, Hardy walked out on WWE after they were rumored to have offered the former world champion to go to treatment for his substance abuse issues. Hardy refused and said that he was better but, as we saw the demons are still lurking and got the best of him again.

I have seen some nasty comments and even some distasteful memes about the AEW superstar and felt compelled to go against the grain. Instead of kicking a man when he’s down, I’m going to put together a greatest hits for the “Charismatic Enigma.”

Jeff Hardy & The TLC Match

Everyone can say that Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon helped innovate the iconic ladder match and you are right, but Jeff Hardy and his death-defying stunts changed the concept of the match forever. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. Edge & Christian and their iconic TLC match should have their wing in the Hall of Fame. The risks all six superstars took for the adoration of the crowd could have ended all of their illustrious careers. In the words of Vince McMahon, It’s such good shit!

Jeff Hardy Earns The Undertaker’s Respect

On the July 1st, 2002 episode of Monday Night Raw, Hardy delivered the performance of a lifetime nearly winning the WWE Undisputed Championship from The Undertaker in an incredible ladder match. The young up-and-comer was faced with his greatest task yet, challenging for the most prestigious title in sports entertainment. Hardy showed that without a shadow of a doubt he deserved to be in the main event scene, but came within minutes of defeating Taker. At the time of the match, Hardy was still finding his footing as a singles competitor and earned the respect of the champion and legend.

Swanton Bomb From The Heavens

When I think of the daredevil Jeff Hardy, I can’t help but think of this one crazy-as-hell stunt. At WWE One Night Stand 2008, Hardy faced off against the juggernaut Umaga in a falls count anywhere match. This match was so insane as both superstars fought into the parking lot. Hardy is one of the craziest and bravest superstars, hit a Swanton Bomb off a damn stage truck onto Umaga. It’s one of the wildest things you’ll ever see.

Hardy Wins The WWE Championship 

In 2008, Hardy finally made his way to the main event title picture alongside partner Triple H. HHH was Hardy’s mentor in some sort of way which led to the daredevil achieving his lifelong dream of becoming WWE champion. At the 2008 Armageddon pay-per-view, Hardy would face HHH and longtime rival Edge in a triple-threat match for the title. In what was a great match between all three superstars, Hardy delivered a Swanton Bomb to Edge to win the illustrious championship.

Straight Edge Problems For Hardy

The following year, Hardy found himself in the way of young-up-and-comer CM Punk who is looking to make an example out of him. Punk had won the Money in the Bank briefcase for the second year in a row and took advantage of Hardy to win the world title. What started as mutual respect between both superstars changed drastically, when Punk started throwing jabs at Hardy for his drug and substance abuse real-life issues. Punk would form his infamous stable known as the Straight Edge Society. This is a very underrated feud and you should go back and watch it in its entirety. The promos are gold.

The Hardy Boyz Return To WWE

Both Matt and Jeff Hardy found success in multiple other wrestling promotions including Ring of Honor, and TNA during their time away from WWE. Both brothers were struggling with their vices and made poor life choices but straightened up their act over the years. In 2017, the Hardy Boyz would face longtime rivals The Young Bucks in ROH. The following night the adored tag team would make their incredible return to WWE at WrestleMania 33. Matt and Jeff would be named the final team in the Fatal 4-way ladder match for the Raw Tag Team Championships. The pop these two received was insane and very much deserved. They would go on to win the match and win the titles to capitalize on their momentum.

Jeffery Nero Hardy Makes AEW Debut

From 2017-to 2022 Jeff Hardy would find himself pigeonholed in the mid-card title picture. He would have feuds with a plethora of superstars including Samoa Joe, and Randy Orton. Orton and Hardy had a nasty Hell in a Cell match back in 2018. Earlier this year, Hardy was seen running around after the 24/7 Championship, which was disappointing to see. After being genuinely unhappy in WWE, Hardy would make his AEW debut on the March 9th episode of AEW Dynamite. Hardy would come to the aid of his brother and longtime partner.

This week news broke that Hardy had been arrested for multiple charges including a DUI. While it’s easy to beat a man while he’s down, how about we uplift and try to encourage him to get the help he needs.

As a longtime wrestling fan, I have the utmost respect for Hardy and wish him the best of luck in his battle with addiction.


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