Friday, 3 May 2013

Hulk Hogan as the TNA World Heavyweight Champion?

By Ben Woodburn (@Wrestlebox1)

(This was written before the May 2nd Edition of Impact but the unfortunate spectre of Hulk Hogan challenging for the TNA World Heavyweight Title is still looming over us).

Anyone who was tweeting along to last week’s edition of IMPACT (April 25th) will know how badly the IWC reacted to the suggestion that Hulk Hogan may be World Heavyweight Champion at some point. However there remains a fairly numerable section of wrestling fans who it seems would actually want the ‘Immortal One’ to hold the belt and it is this debate which holds my attention this month.

Now with the utmost respect for everyone’s right to an opinion it is important not to overlook the positives of having The Hulkster as the champ. One of the most obvious advantages to having someone who many call the greatest of all time as the World Heavyweight Champion is that it would bring in a lot more casual viewers who may also see other good things that TNA is doing who before may not have been tempted to tune in. Another way in which Hulk Hogan winning the title would be a positive thing is the amount of nostalgia in watching him compete, it is no secret that at one time he was the single biggest draw in professional wrestling and he still has millions of fans. I cannot be the only one who got a kick out of watching him rip his shirt off and do his signature poses. One of the biggest upsides to Hogan winning the title is the fact that a short title run, even only a month or two, would do wonders for the career of the person that took it from him. Winning the title from one of the greatest of all time, even if he is pushing 60, could add fire to Matt Morgan’s already hugely fueled return or even push the likes of Magnus to real main-event status.

There are worries about how much punishment Hogan can take
However in my opinion in this case the negatives far out-weigh the positives were Hogan to win the title. Age is a large factor here, the fact that Hogan is pushing 60, and having a sexagenarian as the man who is better than anyone else in the entire company and the man to potentially put away Aces ‘N Eights forever is utterly ridiculous. To put it into context this would mean that a 60 year old Hogan could do what Kurt Angle, Sting, Samoa Joe, Austin Aries, Jeff Hardy, Bobby Roode, Magnus and Eric Young could not do. Expanding upon that, should Hogan win the World Heavyweight Championship that would mean he is portrayed as the best wrestler in the company, better than AJ Styles, James Storm, Bobby Roode, Matt Morgan, Austin Aries, Bully Ray, Jeff Hardy and even Christopher Daniels. Furthermore Hogan hasn’t wrestled a match since his match at Bound for Glory with Sting nearly two years ago and although he claims he’s healthier now than he was then it’s still a fairly safe assumption that he isn’t in suitable ring shape. Herein lies the main problem, not being in ring shape he wouldn’t be able to defend his title or even wrestle on a regular basis which leads me to believe that him winning the title would be to feed his ego rather than what’s in the best interests of the company.

Magnus is one of those overdue for a title shot
Additionally times change, Hogan’s style of wrestling may not fit in to the modern game given that he only had about two moves in his prime anyway. People often tell me that John Cena can’t wrestle but I always say that people have done more with less and Hogan is a prime example. With the widely reported multiple surgeries movement may well be limited leading to him wrestling like an action figure of himself with karate chop action and only being able to use his arms. Furthermore with Aces ‘N Eights running riot at the moment Hogan would have to be able to take a beating or they would have to disband neither of which is really possible. Whilst the Aces ‘N Eights could disband it would have to be at the hands of a returning Jeff Jarrett or Abyss to save the rest of the roster looking totally weak. We saw last week that Aces ‘N Eights ran away from Hogan and Sting, a group of big, strong guys ran away from two senior citizens, not the best when the bookers are trying to make the Aces ‘N Eights look like a terrifying ruthless faction. Simply stated Hogan may be able to deliver enough moves to deliver a decent offense but the fact that he couldn’t realistically take any kind of offense himself really proves that putting the title on him would be a mistake.

And Finally
With John Cena’s injury looking fairly legitimate and CM Punk taking a well deserved rest WWE has a huge void to fill, largely of its own making due to their reluctance to push anyone into the Main Event scene. My top candidates to receive the big push whilst Cena is out are Sheamus, Mark Henry or Brock Lesnar if a deal for fairly regular appearances could be brokered. But knowing Cena’s injury history he may well return ahead of schedule and in time for Extreme Rules, if not however it’s a fantastic chance for WWE to rebuild the rather deflated World Heavyweight Championship and have Swagger/ADR/Ziggler as the main event.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

ADR as a Babyface: Si, Si, Si or No, No, No

ADR as a Babyface: Si, Si, Si or No, No, No

By Ben Woodburn (@WrestleBox1)

Recently Alberto Del Rio has worked his way into the position of one of the top babyfaces in the WWE, but something has been bothering me about his current role, and furthermore his involvement in the Jack Swagger/Zeb Coulter angle and it is this which occupies the main thrust of the following article. Does Del Rio work as a Babyface? Is it his best position? Can the role he fills at the moment be described as ‘the good guy’?

Cast your minds back to Del Rio’s feud with the Big Show, although the payoff was their match at the Elimination Chamber, a solid match in which for the first time Del Rio looked like he could legitimately take down the World’s Largest Athlete, there were several instances that disturbed me during the angle. Starting with their match at the Royal Rumble (Which confusingly opened the show, despite being a World Heavyweight Championship Match), Del Rio won the match by taping Shows legs to the bottom rope with the assistance of Ricardo Rodriguez, meaning that Big Show was unable to answer the 10 count and lost the match thanks to the Last Man Standing stipulation. There were two disadvantages to the decision to end the match that way in my mind. Firstly it made it seem like Del Rio could not take down the Big Show without resorting to underhand tactics, thusly making the World Heavyweight Champ look weak. Secondly, taping your opponent’s legs to the ropes in order to win a match is typically a heel tactic, and Del Rio was being presented as the Babyface to the audience. The do anything to win mentality that was employed by Del Rio in the match reminded me of Eddie Guerrero and the whole ‘If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying’ philosophy. However Del Rio is not Guerrero, not by any stretch of the imagination, furthermore to the best of my knowledge Guerrero was never painted as a straight forward Babyface, so why did Del Rio use tactics traditionally adopted by heels?

RAW_962_Photo_105Following their match at the Royal Rumble there were several segments in order to build to a second match at Elimination Chamber during which Del Rio consistently did things that would not have looked out of place had they been done by The Big Show instead. Firstly The Big Show challenged Del Rio to a rematch and said he would wait in a hotel to receive the contract for the match by courier. When the courier arrived Del Rio was waiting outside Shows hotel room and ambushed him, something that a heel would definitely do, however Big Show got the upper hand in the brawl and started to dominate Del Rio. To combat this Del Rio grabbed a fire extinguisher and sprayed it in Show’s face dazing him, during this whole segment, other than Big Show’s hilarious comments towards the courier that delivered the contracts, it would be hard to argue that Del Rio was really the Babyface of the feud. Following this Big Show parked his truck in the parking lot of the arena and had another comic exchange, this time with the valet. Later in the show Del Rio stole the tires from the truck and then waited perched atop the vehicle for Big Show to come by, when he did he poured orange paint on top of him. Putting aside the fact that the segment wasn’t really that funny and a bit juvenile, although given that WWEs target audience is children it’s understandable, again we can see that Del Rio is using heel tactics against the Big Show when he is supposed to be the face.

Moving on from his feud with the Big Show, there have been general patterns in Del Rio’s matches that he never seemed to lose from his run as a heel that are not needed at the moment. In particular his personal ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez. Good guys don’t need ring announcers, managers or enforcers to help them win their matches, yet Del Rio still continues to use Rodriguez as a distraction during his matches. If he wants to be accepted as a babyface he needs to drop Rodriguez, not matter how funny the guy is he is having Rodriguez jump on to the apron to distract either the referee or Del Rio’s opponent whenever ADR is in trouble takes away credibility and makes it seem as though Del Rio cannot win on his own. We are supposed to believe that the babyface can win on his own and he is meant to overcome impossible odds to incite a reaction from the audience when he wins. Entertaining he may be, but Rodriguez needs to go.

images 47Looking to his recent feud with Jack Swagger, who seems fairly re-invigorated since his return, is there hope for Del Rio yet? The premise of the Del Rio/Swagger feud, other than Swagger winning the Elimination Chamber Match, is that Swagger claims to be a ‘Real American’ who, along with ‘Mr Moustache’ Zeb Coulter, is opposed to immigration into the United States, and thus the Mexican Del Rio provides a target for his grievances. Swagger claims that people like Del Rio put hard working Americans out of work by taking the same jobs but for less pay, however Del Rio was previously billed as a Mexican aristocrat who used to drive a myriad of expensive cars to the ring, he is not the kind of person that Swaggers vitriol is aimed at. Sin Cara may have been a better target for Swagger, perchance WWE creative are just taking advantage of circumstances and using Swaggers views to build heat and intensity between the two but there is still something a little illogical about the whole angle. Moving on however can Del Rio become a better-rounded babyface?  As I have previously mentioned he needs to drop Rodriguez, and that should be the first priority for the WWE at the moment, but Del Rio seems to have an inherent unlikeabilty to him, he is not an accessible character to me, having been billed as a rich aristocrat I can’t connect with him on any level. The reasons that people like Steve Austin, Mick Foley and even John Cena work is because the audience can connect with them, they represent the everyman, Del Rio does not. This brings up the question of Del Rio’s best position in the WWE, there is no doubt in my mind he works far better as a bad guy, he seems to have an inbuilt arrogance and confidence from his previous character that, coupled with his in ring ability, works well, and as a face he is simply not convincing.

And Finally
Please don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a shoot on Alberto Del Rio himself, I think he is a fantastic in-ring worker and has a lot to offer the WWE at the moment, I just think he is better positioned within the company as a heel, much like Ric Flair he seems to naturally work well there.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Future of the Blueprint: Matt Morgan in TNA

The future of Matt Morgan in Impact Wrestling

By Ben Woodburn (@WrestleBox1)

Since returning to Impact screens a few months ago by kicking Al Snow’s teeth into the tenth row Matt Morgan has looked better than ever before and looks set to do great things with his new found persona and energy. It’s no secret that Matt Morgan is one of my favourite wrestlers although he does have his detractors and his critics but how willing are TNA to push him as one of their top guys? If they do push him how well will he do? Where exactly does the DNA of TNA stand?

In recent weeks Matt Morgan has vowed to ‘correct Hulk Hogan’s mistakes’ he started with the man of a 1000 facial expressions Joseph Park and his sights now look to be set on Sting after the pair's verbal exchange on the March 28th edition of Impact. This will hopefully lead to a match at Slammiversary between the two. Looking beyond that he may well be moving on to arguably Hogan’s biggest mistake the World Heavyweight Champion Bully Ray. After Slammiversary and his highly anticipated match with Jeff Hardy Bully Ray will have to face the winner of the Bound for Glory Series who could well be the Blueprint. However he may not challenge for the World Heavyweight Title at all and instead opt to join the Aces ‘N Eights and would be a brilliantly natural fit into the much maligned stable although this is unlikely in my opinion given he seems to be playing the loner at the moment. For now though I would just like to see him destroy a different member of the roster each week and get billed as a monster heel and as a ‘means to an end’ of ending the Aces ‘N Eights forever.

Whilst his wrestling ability and capacity to deliver on the microphone may have occasionally be called into question in the past in his latest his run he seems to have really picked up his game. Most wrestlers seem to deliver better promos when they are heels in my experience and Morgan seems to be no exception utilising his gruffest voice to greater effect than ever before. Looks wise Morgan has always been great, he has immense size and is also in great shape but let’s be honest that beard has taken him to a whole new level of badassery, something that doesn’t always work for everyone (hint hint Daniel Bryan). The final aspect of the Blueprint is his in ring work, which still leaves a bit to be desired although at 7 foot and 300 pounds its astonishing he moves as quickly as he does at times. Additionally he does make good use of the power game with the Chokeslam and the Hellevator and the Carbon Footprint is an effective looking finisher.

During his last run in the World Heavyweight Title scene alongside Jeff Hardy and Mr Anderson I thought he made an extremely good account of himself despite never getting his hands on the title itself. Consistent performances, the pinnacle of which was his fantastic No 1. Contenders match with Mr Anderson at the Genesis PPV of 2011, (Watch it here cemented him in my mind as a man capable of main event quality performances. Taking into account his last run in the spotlight and the recent improvements he’s made I for one am hugely looking forwards to seeing what TNA decide to do with him.

And Finally…
Huge congratulations to Dolph Ziggler on finally capturing the World Heavyweight Championship after a several months of being absolutely buried by the bookers. One only has to look at the reaction in the arena and on social media to see how appreciated Ziggsie is in the wrestling world and here’s hoping he’ll have a title reign to eclipse that of Punk’s recent epic stint. After his victory on Raw he said that “I’ve been too damn good for too damn long” I could not have said it better myself.

Friday, 15 March 2013

AJ Styles and John: Same Storyline But Done So Differently

AJ Styles and John Cena- Same storyline but done so differently

By Ben Woodburn (@WrestleReview1)

Some people may be asking what the hell I’m referring to here but trust me all will become clear over the course of this article. On a recent episode of Monday Night Raw a video package aired to promote the match between John Cena and the Rock at Wrestlemania XXIX, in it John Cena blamed many things on the Rock (Including, bizarrely his divorce). The general theme of the video was that John Cena had had a ‘terrible year’, however this statement severely lacks credibility and I’m surprised that the WWE tried to play the feud this way.

We all know that Rock vs. Cena II has been in the pipeline since last year’s Wrestlemania and the history between the two men since then is enough to build the match on alone. John Cena wants revenge and to prove to himself that he can beat the Rock, it’s the classic wrestling past meets wrestling future (a la Rock/Hogan). ‘Cena’s Retribution’ is not needed here in my opinion, especially seeing as he has had a better year than most of his fellow wrestlers, both Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler have been on losing streaks in the last year, Kofi Kingston and Cody Rhodes are continuing to be pushed into the mid card despite them arguably being good enough for at least a secondary title run. John Cena on the other hand has beaten Brock Lesnar (In a main event despite not being the WWE champion), beaten Big Show (In a PPV main event despite not being the WWE champion) won the Money in the Bank contract and won the Royal Rumble, that’s a pretty good year in my book.

Contrast that with the newly returned AJ Styles who really has had a shockingly bad year (and not by coincidence I feel) and clear differences start to show. Several losses to Daniels on PPV (including one loss to his own finishing move), the Clair Lynch saga, being frozen out of the Heavyweight title scene until Bound For Glory and generally not being able to get off the ground. AJs year has not been a total bust though he has held the Tag Team Titles with Kurt Angle don’t forget, but largely TNA has billed him as spiralling out of control. It is for this reason that if (as I hope and pray for) AJ Styles does win the World Heavyweight Championship against Bully Ray then it will mean a lot more than if Cena does the equivalent against The Rock. Hopefully AJ will join the Aces ‘N Eights and do a reverse Bully Ray, i.e. infiltrate and gain trust and power within the group and then turn out to be a plant all along leading to a confrontation at Bound For Glory. A fellow twitterphile (@WRESTLEZONEcom, he’s a cool dude follow him) has pointed out to me that a conceivable main event could well be a re-united Team 3D against a reluctant Beer Money representing TNA for control of the company. A good idea and would lead a incredibly good and greatly anticipated match (especially with TNAs new quarterly PPV schedule), but may involve either Bully Ray dropping the title or there being no Heavyweight Championship match at Bound For Glory neither of which I want to see happen (although he may and that’s his opinion which he is entitled to).

Theoretical bookings are all well and good but returning to the issue at hand both John Cena and AJ Styles are both being portrayed as having had terrible years, one a little more convincingly that the other. The payoff to both matches should be interesting to see, Rock vs. Cena doesn’t excite me anyway, it didn’t the first time and doesn’t now, but AJ, the golden boy of TNA never fails to have me on the edge of my seat and it’s for that reason that I’m pushing for him to win the title at Bound For Glory later on this year.

And Finally...
Just a quick word on the permanent enigma of wrestling Dolph Ziggler, WWE needs to sort him out and quickly, right now whilst the trio of Ziggler, AJ and Big E ‘Camel-Toe’ Langston work well together, the string of losses in recent months mean that if he does cash in at Wrestlemania then he will go into a title run looking weak, hardly ideal for a World Heavyweight Champion.  

Saturday, 16 February 2013

The WWE World Heavyweight Title Scene

The WWE World Heavyweight Title Scene

This month I will be discussing the World Heavyweight title scene and who is in line for the title shot, who will get it and who deserves to get it. Currently, the Elimination Chamber match includes Chris Jericho, Mark Henry, Randy Orton, Kane and Jack Swagger. Of these men, each one could conceivably challenge for the title at Wrestlemania 29 and produce a decent to fantastic match.

Mark Henry
Mark Henry is the man that I most want to see challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship. Since returning to action a few weeks ago, he has shown why he still has a lot to offer, even if his mic work may be lacking slightly, he’s convincingly ploughed through most superstars and looks in good shape. I would certainly prefer to see him fighting for the WHC than the Big Show, who is circulating around the title at the moment, Show looks tired, slow and incapable of producing his best stuff and there are many people who deserve a push ahead of him who are nowhere near the title at the moment (Cody Rhodes springs instantly to mind).

Chris Jericho
Much like the Rock, Jericho seems to jump in and out of the WWE, although to his credit he has wrestled more matches since his return at the Royal Rumble, Rock in comparison has wrestled precisely 0 matches since winning the title, i wonder if a comparison can be made with how many times CM Punk wrestled in between PPVs during his title reign. Jericho has looked skinnier certainly than he was during his previous stint with the company, but that is not a bad thing, he looks more in shape as a result. His cardiovascular conditioning is clearly excellent, as we saw during the Rumble, wherein he matched Dolph Ziggler pace for pace. Having said that, a part of me thinks that he should surely step aside and allow guys like Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler to challenge for the World Heavyweight Title instead.

Randy Orton
All talk of Randy Orton lately has been of a proposed heel turn, which would be welcomed, Orton is a natural heel and it is where he is best placed, as a face he is crowd pleasing but never really seems to enjoy the role. If he does turn at Elimination Chamber, or even better at Wrestlemania it could launch him onto much greater things. In terms of the likelihood of him winning the title shot at the Chamber match i can’t see it happening, he has been anonymous since his return, compared to the likes of Damien Sandow who seems to relish his current role, he is definitely not at his current best.

Kane’s inclusion seems to smack of a filler role, he is just filling a space, admittedly since re-donning his mask he has been re-invigorated, but team Hell No has too much of a good thing going to split them up now. Kane has been a vital cog in the WWE machine for several years and no-one admires his loyalty as much as me and it seems there is nothing bad to be said about him, but much like Jericho his role has to diminish to allow others to come through. 

Jack Swagger
Completely anonymous in his absence, whilst I admire Swagger’s amateur wrestling ability and want to see him do well, he just doesn’t have it, that star quality that the likes of Michaels or Austin had in abundance, I am rarely excited to see him wrestle and his teaming with Zeb Coulter is a tad too nationalistic and xenophobic for my taste. However at least he isn’t languishing as Michael Cole’s bodyguard anymore and has the chance to showcase his mat-based ability. I don’t think he will win the Chamber match, but I expect he may win at least one title this year, a feud with Antonio Cesaro may be good for his development.

And Finally...
My favourite in the WWE at the moment is the criminally under-used Dolph Ziggler, he most definitely has the it factor that Swagger lacks, alongside terrific wrestling ability his mic skills are better than most and improving. Ziggler still has the Money in the Bank briefcase and bizarrely has yet to cash it in, it is most definite that the World Heavyweight Title will be his at some point in the future and it should hopefully give him the push into the main event title picture. Although wrestling ability is no indication of that, after all The Miz has main-evented more Wrestlemania’s than CM Punk has despite having the tiniest fraction of his in ring talent.