Canton's Corner: The Wrestling Week in Review for July 30
Canton’s Corner: The Wrestling Week in Review for July 30
By John Canton
Follow me on Twitter at @johnreport
“I wish everybody would just sit back, shut up, and watch it unfold. I’m telling stories, and since about 2005, that’s all I’ve said, I’m a storyteller. I think we’re doing a great job so far. You can pick it apart and be an armchair booker and say what would be better and this and that, but until the tell-all book comes out, trust me, I’m dodging bullets and doing a very good job.” – CM Punk on Bill Simmons podcast this week.
Those are wise words, CM Punk, but I feel the need to write. That’s what I do. Welcome to the second edition of Canton’s Corner. It’s time to look back at the week at was in wrestling TV by highlighting what I liked and disliked on Raw, Smackdown & Impact. In the opening slot every week we’ll run the Poll of the Week feature. Before we can move on to this week’s poll let’s take a look at last week.
The question from 7/23: Who is the better overall performer – John Cena or Randy Orton?
The result: Orton 53% – Cena 47%
There were just over 2,000 votes in the poll and it was a close race between WWE’s two alpha males. As you can see, Orton won by 6% or 131 votes. My pick? Orton by a hair. I gave him the wrestler of the year award in the 2010 Johnny Awards and I think his feud with Christian this year has made him better. He’s found his comfort zone as a babyface now. His matches are better. Sure, Cena had the match of the year with CM Punk at Money in the Bank, but a lot of his matches this year have been letdowns. I think he was a better worker a few years back. In terms of promos Cena should be better, but they dumb him down so much that it’s bad at times when it doesn’t need to be. I am not anti-Cena. I praise him a lot. However, I just think for the past year or so Orton’s been the better performer of the two. If you asked me from 2005-2009 I likely would have said Cena. When Cena turns heel, possibly within the next year, he’ll likely be the better of the two because his character has become stale. It’s very close and obviously a lot of you feel the same way, which is why the voting process was so tight.
Poll of the Week: Did WWE bring back CM Punk too early?
When CM Punk returned to Raw on Monday as a surprise there was a mixed reaction among the Internet Wrestling Community. Some people were happy to see him back (count me in that group) while others thought it would have been better to keep him out for a little while longer. Their thinking was perhaps he could show up at indy shows or events like Comic-Con with the WWE Title in his hands. Maybe he could show up at the end of Summerslam (after a match like Cena vs. Mysterio or Cena vs. Del Rio) to do what he did on Raw. I’m making this a yes/no choice. My take is no. They need him now. They need him for Summerslam. As you’ll see later, my buddy Steve Melo has a slightly different opinion on the matter. What do you think? Happy voting.
It’s time for the Like/Dislike feature where I’ll cover WWE Raw, WWE Smackdown and TNA Impact Wrestling.
As always I already covered the full show in the Raw Deal, so I’ll only hit on two “Likes” from the show because I gave it a 7.5 and nothing was important enough that I needed to put on as a “Dislike” in this column.
LIKE – Jim Ross returns to Raw
How many times have I complained about the commentary in WWE this year? Most Raw’s and pretty much every PPV. It’s been poor. By simply adding Jim Ross to the Raw team on a permanent basis (feels so good typing that!) it makes the show better. While I still think babyface Jerry Lawler is really boring and heel Michael Cole is annoying, Ross can make them better. His chemistry with Lawler is still strong as evidenced by the great job they did calling the Mysterio/Cena match. It was a competitive face vs. face match and they put over how even it was the entire time. There wasn’t Cole’s voice there to ruin it. I understand why Vince McMahon wants to keep Cole in the heel announcer role. He can be good at it, but it needs to be toned down at times. He talks over others too much to the point that it’s annoying. Maybe now that he isn’t in the play by play chair on Raw they can have him go to a straight heel role instead of trying to put over the matches in a play by play manner. Welcome back, Jim Ross. We missed you.
LIKE – CM Punk is back…officially
I assumed he’d be back soon, but I didn’t know when. I’m glad it’s now. Like I wrote in the Raw Deal, I think Cena vs. Punk is the best match they could possibly do to headline a major PPV like Summerslam. He revealed on Bill Simmons’ podcast this week that he reached a long term agreement with WWE on July 17th, the same day as the Money in the Bank PPV. In storyline, Triple H revealed on Smackdown that he’s signed Punk long-term. The fans cheered him on Raw. They cheered his name on Smackdown. This week on Raw we’ll hear from him and I’d expect him to be in full babyface mode again as they announce Punk vs. Cena at Summerslam. This angle makes Raw exciting. Credit Vince McMahon for green lighting it too, but Punk’s the one out there performing and he’s doing a phenomenal job at it.
By the way, it’s been amazing to see how Cult of Personality by Living Colour, Punk’s “new” theme song that he also used in ROH, has reached a whole new generation of fans. I remember it as a kid in the late ’80s. This week I’ve had a lot of people ask me if it was new. It made me feel old a bit, but I think it’s great to use as a theme song.
On a final Raw note, if you’re looking for Punk’s new shirt it’s available at WWEShop.com and you can use the link at the upper right of thejohnreport.net to order it. It’s the same price, but if you use that link I’d get a percentage of that sale. You’d be getting a shirt, plus you’d be helping me out. A lot of people did it this week. I thank you so much for that. Not a bad deal right? I shill because I care.
LIKE – Triple H’s opening promo
It was better than what he said on Raw. When he opened up Smackdown he talked about Raw’s WWE Title situation and he mentioned re-signing CM Punk. He also said he’d have some kind of announcement on Monday. It’s a good way to keep the story going without spending too much time on it. Then he interacted with Christian. It felt fresh because I can’t remember the last time those two have ever done a promo together. I also liked the point he made about how he didn’t like meetings, which led to Michael Cole questioning him. It’s a good thing for Hunter to say early on because if he goes heel the fans can boo him for making such rash decisions without thinking. Well played, WWE.
DISLIKE – John Morrison returns from injury to Smackdown and he loses
Why why why? Stupid booking. What’s the point of airing video packages when he’s gone, bringing him back on Raw, making him look strong as he attacked Truth and then he showed up on Smackdown to…lose? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for matches like Morrison vs. Christian. However, this was not the time or place. He should be back winning matches. They should give him momentum upon his return. What good does it do long term to have him lose after coming back from injury? This is somebody that should be elevated in the near future. Instead he appears to be in the same spot he was before.
LIKE – A potential Daniel Bryan vs. Wade Barrett feud
Barrett walked out to the ring and he cut a promo complaining about Daniel Bryan winning the Money in the Bank briefcase. Moments later, Bryan walked out to defend himself. They touched on their history as the two favorites in the first season of NXT (back when that show was tolerable) and Bryan confidently bragged about how he was now going to get a World Title shot at WrestleMania. I think they could have a very good feud if they don’t rush it. Bryan works great against bigger opponents (or any opponents) while Barrett is certainly skilled enough to have a good match with Bryan. I think Barrett struggles against bigger opponents. When he’s working against a smaller guy he thrives. I’m intrigued about this feud. It could be sneaky good.
DISLIKE – RKO’s on the announce table
Randy Orton, I’m a big fan of yours, but those tables don’t break when you do the RKO. He did two to Christian at Money in the Bank and it didn’t break. He did two more to R-Truth on Smackdown and it didn’t break. It looks silly when you do a move on a table only for it to not break. It’s time to think of something else for him to do to put over his craziness because otherwise people are going to start laughing at this kind of “brutality.”
LIKE – Zack Ryder on Smackdown
Hey why not? His new role is to be Teddy Long’s assistant. Obviously the idea here is that they want to try to get his personality over as a goofball, comedy type of babyface. I think it’s a role that he can do well. I hope that they don’t ignore his in-ring career too much, though. If they don’t have time on Raw then they might as well move him to Smackdown where he’ll have a chance to develop his character a bit. He’s popular on the internet. Can it translate to TV? Time to find out. With that said that, this is related to my next point a bit.
DISLIKE – The brand extension is completely ignored
Smackdown featured a bunch of Raw guys. They didn’t even try to explain why they were there. The problem is that Raw’s roster is bigger than Smackdown. If you look at the listing on WWE.com, Raw has 53 people while Smackdown has 40. Eight of the 40 on the Smackdown list are announcers or non-wrestlers, so that thins out the roster even more. The result is that when an injury or suspension happens (hey Sin Cara) there’s a void that is tough to fill. On Raw if something happens they have others in place to fill in. Why not do something to add people to Smackdown permanently? Instead of pretending like there’s a brand extension, why not actually make it mean something? Of course the other thing is to abolish it all together although that’s unlikely because the house show circuit is based on the separate brands. It’s not something that is in the cards for now. Clarity is good, though, because otherwise you’re confusing the fans too much.
Two quick points:
– The video package on Justin Gabriel returning home to South Africa was excellent. He’ll be a babyface going forward. That works for me.
– I mentioned Sheamus as a face last week. He took another step in that direction this week by standing up to Mark Henry. The crowd cheered him. They admired him for his toughness. It’s the simple story of a guy standing up to a bully. I think he has a bright future as a babyface.
For a full recap of the show check out Christian Michael’s consistently great recaps at TJR right here.
LIKE – Hulk Hogan’s promo with Kurt Angle…most of it
It opened the show. They both showed a lot of fire. The ongoing storyline with Hogan is everybody on the roster keeps talking about how great he was and how the guy he is now wouldn’t like what he used to be. Essentially they are turning him babyface in a very slow way. In Hulk’s mind this is a huge money drawing angle. Of course it isn’t, but he’s the booker of the show now, so they’ll do what he wants. I did like the back and forth with Kurt, though. Angle talked about how he was driven to be the best in the world and he questioned whether Hogan knew what that was like. Hulk fired back saying he was in that spot for many years, so of course he knew what he meant. They even teased a fight. It was well done. The worst part of the promo was when Hogan was talking about being the man in 1984 back when Angle was a baby, essentially. I understand that he was trying to say that he paved the way for guys like Kurt, but it doesn’t work when you consider Angle was 16 years old at that time. Like with anything Hogan says, take it with a grain of salt. There’s always questionable material coming out of his mouth.
DISLIKE – Too many promos
This is the biggest problem with Impact Wrestling. They have too many people on the show every week and too many segments backstage or in the ring where people are talking. We don’t need to hear from everybody every show. You can let the action do the talking. The promos are a mixed back because sometimes they are longwinded while other times they are really short. The result is that the show is tough to follow because all you ever see are people talking. For example, a few weeks ago Velvet Sky beat ODB & Jackie in a handicapped match. That should have ended that feud. Instead, ODB & Jackie came back. Yes, they still don’t “work” for TNA yet they are on the show more than about 20 people on the roster that actually work there. What an angle. Anyway, Velvet basically cut the same promo she has done for the past two months. We get it. It was a waste of time. The X-Division promo with Aries, Shelley and Kendrick was alright because it set up a PPV match. Most of the ones backstage, though, are poorly acted sketches that are time wasters. I can’t imagine how painful it must be to attend an Impact taping because you’re barely watching matches.
LIKE – The antics of crazy Sting
For whatever reason I liked “Joker” Sting this week. Some weeks it annoys me. Maybe it was the crow that he left in Bischoff’s office towards the end of the show. I guess I had this hope that the crow would attack Bischoff. That would have been the most entertaining segment in the history of Impact. Yes, I dislike the Eric Bischoff character that much.
DISLIKE – Overbooked finishes in main events
Can we get a clean main event once? Last week Angle helped Sting win the World Title. This week, they booked an Anderson vs. Angle cage match with lumberjacks outside of the ring. There was still interference as Bully Ray avoided the Fortune guys at ringside. Instead of helping Anderson, he cost him the match. That’s right, folks. After less than a month as part of that awful Immortal group, they’re already teasing dissention with Anderson. The guy has turned heel and face enough times already. Now he looks like an idiot because he can’t have a title reign longer than a month while also having problems with this group. I realize that you have to do angles on TV to build to the PPVs that only 8,000 people are paying for, but you can do the antics after a match. Constantly booking run-ins during TV main events turns people off from the show because they know the matches on TV don’t matter. It’s not like they book PPV main events much better.
Two quick points:
– Last week they did a five minute ladder match. This week? A five minute Ultimate X match that saw Brian Kendrick beat Abyss. Are they trying to kill every good gimmick match? These shouldn’t be on TV unless they are going 10-15 minutes.
– I think Eric Young is being wasted in his comedy role. I loved heel Eric Young in the World Elite days. He did some of the best promos in the business when they let him. Comedy is fine once in a while, but now I’m rolling my eyes at it. It’s become boring.
Random Clip of the Week
Ten years ago Steve Austin was the top heel in WWE as the WCW/ECW Invasion storyline was in full swing. Austin wasn’t always vicious, though. He was hilarious. Often times Kurt Angle was at his side too. In the following video you can watch a compilation of some of their funniest moments as they sing to Vince McMahon in a number of backstage segments. Enjoy.
“Jimmy Crack Corn and I don’t care – I’ve got Olympic Gold! I’ve got Olympic Gold!” Classic.
I decided to ditch the retro column feature. This column is long enough already.
Each week in this space I’m going to give my banner making friend Steve Melo the opportunity to write about whatever he wants wrestling related in the closing comments of this column. Think of it like the back page of a magazine. Here’s Steve.
Melo Out with Steve Melo
“John Cena, who became champion in a tournament that made no goddamn sense, only to have Punk reemerge making the past two weeks completely worthless” – Andrew Johnson
I was contemplating how I should start off in regards to the return of CM Punk, but I only felt it appropriate to quote a fellow TJR writer since that above quote took the words right out of my mouth. Some fans are ecstatic that he is back. Others feel that it was too rushed. Where do I stand on the subject? As a wrestling fan and a critic, you have to look at it from different perspectives.
From a business standpoint, the return of CM Punk at the conclusion of RAW means more money for WWE. Look, I get it. At the end of the day they are a business and they are going to do what they can to ensure that they make the most profit on one of their big four PPV events. CM Punk is as hot as he has ever been so it would be foolish for him to take too much time off instead of being on RAW because fans want to see him more than anything right now. However from a storyline perspective, you cannot deny that it was rushed. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that he is back on television for my weekly amusement as a fan, but as a critic, I can’t help but analyze all of this. Remember when Cena was fired last year in that horrible Nexus angle but still showed up on RAW? Is there really much difference here? Punk only missed one episode of RAW. Why should I buy into any storyline down the road where someone gets fired or says they are leaving? I think that there is so much hype surrounding CM Punk right now that people seem to be ignoring that important fact. The main difference is Punk has been so damn good both in the ring and on that microphone that we, as fans, are entertained. At the end of the day, isn’t that what counts?
Speaking on RAW, WWE.com was hyping this past week’s episode as “a new era” now that Triple H was in charge. I don’t know about you, but nothing about it felt new to me other than Punk’s new theme song and the return of Jim Ross, even though technically neither of them are new. But both were great. The commentating this year has been so awful that having Ross come back is a huge relief to say the least. But other than that, it was the same Nickelback theme song and the same set on a show that had the same lame sketches involving the Divas and Michael Cole. Even the Triple H/R-Truth confrontation ran too long. I won’t even get into the WWE Championship situation because John Canton did a fine job reviewing it in The RAW Deal and I have to agree with him. Smackdown only further proved that the brand extension is basically non-existent.
I think many of us wrestling fans from time to time have the tendency to have certain expectations of what WWE should do and in the process we set ourselves up for disappointment. I’m not trying to sound too critical here because I can confidently say that for the first time in a long time that WWE is on the right path and are improving. How long will that improvement take? Time will tell. Perhaps I myself just need “Melo Out” in the meantime and enjoy the show.
I’ll be back live on Monday night for a live edition of the Raw Deal on thejohnreport.net and on Wednesday August 3rd I’ll be doing the second edition of TJR Radio with my pals The Ace, Jakey and Frank The Clown plus a special guest is likely. Details will be up at TJR in the coming days. You can call in, use Skype or just listen to the show live as well as at your own leisure after it’s over.
Have a great weekend.
John Canton – firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit my 10+ year column archive at the Wrestling Oratory right HERE.