News of the Week: Shane McMahon and HIAC
Hell in a Cell was supposed to be the night that positioned Kevin Owens as one of the top villains in WWE.
Yet all people are talking about is the performance of Shane McMahon.
The problem dates back to WrestleMania 32, when McMahon battled The Undertaker. McMahon exhausted ‘Taker in a 30-minute “Hell in a Cell” match that saw the boss’ son jump off the top of the cage and land on a table ringside. That is, by far, the most iconic and unyielding image from WrestleMania 32.
That is a problem. WrestleMania 32 was designed specifically for Roman Reigns.
Reigns defeated Triple H in the main event for the WWE championship. He was set to be on every Raw, every house show, and the company was fully behind making him “The Guy” for the foreseeable future. After the conclusion of ‘Mania, during Reigns’ supposed coronation atop the WWE, people were instead discussing McMahon’s heroics.
Make no mistake, McMahon’s fall from atop the cage was breathtaking. And wrestling is, unquestionably, a better place when Shane McMahon is involved. But his signature move is bad for business.
The cage jump was a stunt. As a result, the focus was on McMahon, even though it was supposed to be on Roman Reigns.
The same set of circumstances took place this past Sunday at Hell in a Cell.
McMahon jumped off the top of the cell but missed his flying elbow on Kevin Owens, which was a moment that completely overshadowed Owens and the Sami Zayn heel turn.
Think of professional wrestling as a form of storytelling. The framework of the world where the story takes place needs to be set, and then a structure is created that allows the audience to believe in the story. The reason Avatar films drew millions of dollars is because it did a wonderful job constructing a realistic world where people could buy into the story of the characters, their motivations, their decisions and repercussions. Those same concepts apply in pro wrestling.
McMahon is not in the ring every week. But WWE had a non-athlete beating a prized fighter in Owens until he was rescued by Sami Zayn. The storyline does not make sense. In reality, McMahon is a legitimately tough guy. He is capable of some extraordinary feats in and out of the ring. But regardless of what he can do for real, he is presented as the boss’ son in pro wrestling.
People want to believe in the matches. WWE is presented as a high-stakes competition. But the story that was presented at Hell in a Cell was that, somehow, an authority figure/non-wrestler entered the world of high-class, dangerous competitors and competed on the same level–actually, even better–as the dangerous Kevin Owens.
That kind of story does more to hinder the product than it does to help.
After WrestleMania 32, the audience has been taught to expect a similar death-defying stunt from McMahon every time he enters the ring. If the idea was to put heat on Kevin Owens, then the perfect opportunity to accomplish that would have been Owens incapacitating McMahon to the point where he could not jump off the cage. Then, Owens would have taken away the very thing fans were clamoring to see.
WWE’s job is to sell fans a product. But who were they selling on Sunday night: Kevin Owens or Shane McMahon?
Just like back at WrestleMania 32, WWE was selling us McMahon.
This is a problem in that it directly hurts the active talent. Kevin Owens works every show, sells merchandise, draws live attendance, and generates television ratings on a weekly basis.
WWE needed to sell Owens as the main draw in this match. There is always a way to sell McMahon, but it was a shame to do so at the expense of Kevin Owens.
A match that could main-event a pay per view will take place this Saturday in Queens, New York as Matt Riddle battles Keith Lee at EVOLVE 94 in a “Last Man Standing” match for the WWN title.
“It’s going to be a test for both of us,” said the 6-3, 332-pound Lee. “But I’m willing to do whatever it takes to put away Matt Riddle.”
Riddle is a former UFC fighter and brings a very authentic style to the wrestling, while Lee, a super heavyweight who is incredibly agile in the ring, is one of the most unique wrestlers in the business.
Lee is a unique talent that brings something very different than audiences see at other shows. There are a lot of wrestlers today who wrestle in a similar style, and move the same with similar moves, but Lee has separated himself from that pack. Both Riddle and Lee are two attractions that will keep the crowd’s interest in a main event.
“Riddle is an elite-level wrestler,” said Lee. When it comes to working with such a high caliber talent, it’s more about pushing yourself past your comfort zone. It’s going to be a struggle, it’s going to be a fight, and it’s going to physical. The match will have an atmosphere, and it’s going to be amazing. The energy from that crowd in Queens is going to push us past our normal limits.
The match, available to stream on WWNLive.com, marks Lee’s first “Last Man Standing” match.
“I don’t like limiting myself,” said Lee. “But I can promise we’ll be pretty beat up when it’s over.”
In other news…
• Will Sami Zayn fare any better as a heel in WWE than he did as a babyface? The top of the SmackDown card is already loaded with heels, with WWE champion Jinder Mahal, United States champion Baron Corbin (who inexplicably somehow scored a... wait for it, clean victory over AJ Styles last night on SD), and tag team champions in the Uso’s. Zayn may be better served as Kevin Owens’ lackey until after WrestleMania 34, and he can then eventually break off with Owens to re-ignite their feud.
• WWE and Sony Pictures Networks India officially announced that WWE LIVE will return to India in December.
The shows are scheduled in New Delhi at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium on Dec. 8 and 9, and will feature a blend of Raw and SmackDown stars, including WWE Champion Jinder Mahal, the Singh Brothers, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Braun Strowman, Alexa Bliss, and Sasha Banks.
• Kalisto defeated Enzo Amore on Raw for the cruiserweight championship, and the victory was dedicated to the memory of Eddie Guerrero. WWE’s newest apparel line with Reebok highlights the late, great Guerrero, his Mexican heritage, and Lucha Libre with t-shirts and sneakers. Putting the title on Kalisto was a smart way to highlight the new product line, as well as reward a very hard-working talent.
• Paul “Triple H” Levesque is smart to bring back another nostalgic act from the NWA in the famed War Games concept that he is utilizing for NXT during Survivor Series weekend.
Levesque is working hard to keep NXT as cutting edge.
The brand is no longer the type of appointment viewing it was during the days of Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, and Shinsuke Nakamura. Re-introducing a classic like War Games is an effective way to keep interest in the major NXT shows.
• The MLW One-Shot this past Thursday in Orlando, Florida once again confirmed that Ricochet is a main event player in professional wrestling.
Ricochet dazzled in his match against Shane Strickland, who arguably gained the most from his One-Shot opportunity. The two wrestled for over 30 minutes before Strickland made the cocky Ricochet submit, which was a very well-told story.
Court Bauer, Wale, and the rest of the MLW production crew delivered an entertaining and compelling show. Their December 7 Never Say Never show is appointment viewing.
• JT Dunn calls himself the “Pro Wrestling Savior”, when, in actuality, wrestling saved him.
“Wrestling has allowed me to finally be comfortable in my own skin,” said Dunn, who is open about his battles with addiction. “I’ve been clean for five-and-a-half years now, and help is out there. Addiction is real, but so is salvation and redemption. I hit the ultimate bottom, and that’s why I wrestle so hard. I’m striving toward the top.”
The 27-year-old Dunn has been on a tear of late, wrestling memorable matches on the independent circuit against Cody Rhodes, Super Crazy, Sami Callihan, and Joey Janela.
“I love pro wrestling, I love it so much,” said Dunn. “It’s not about the fame or the money, it’s about being able to come into a room full of strangers and do what I love to do and make people react. I get goosebumps when I walk through the curtain.
“I want to wrestle the best wrestlers in the world because the best wrestlers make you better. That’s the ultimate goal, pushing pro wrestling forward.”
Dunn’s next goal is to broaden his reach in wrestling across the globe.
“My international background is minimal, but I’m ready to explore all over multiple continents,” said Dunn. “I want to be in a position where my reach is bigger. I want to develop a new platform with bigger matches and opponents, and I’m talking worldwide"
“Ultimately, I want Kenny Omega. He’s the measuring stick. I’m proving that I am the best, so I want the best.”
• Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard is back this Friday with a new podcast, which will detail No Mercy 1999.
“People remember that show for the Jeff Jarrett-Chyna match where Jarrett threatened to walk out, but there was so much else going on, too,” said Thompson. “You had the Fabulous Moolah coming out of retirement to win the women’s title, Chyna winning the Intercontinental title, as well as arguably the greatest ladder match we’d ever seen up to that point with Edge and Christian versus the Hardy Boyz. There was ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin working the main event against Triple H, which was a big deal, and the British Bulldog on a run in ’99 that seemed like it came out of nowhere, against The Rock, and there is a lot of rumor and innuendo over the Mankind match with Val Venis.”
No Mercy ‘99 took place in the throes of the “Attitude Era”, and the Mankind/Venis match was allegedly going to be full of hijinks that would not be permissible on WWE programming in 2017.
“Bruce is going to break down the whole story,” said Thompson. “He teased that there was supposed to be something to do with the Mandible claw, Val Venis, and Mr. Socko. You can use your imagination, but we’re going to get the full story this week.”
This was the first pay per view without Vince Russo, who left WWE for WCW. Russo was replaced by Tommy Blacha, who was working for Conan O’Brien, came into replace him, and was tasked with running the biggest wrestling company in the world with no experience.
“I like covering the periods of time when Vince McMahon was in crisis,” said Thompson. “Looking back, it feels silly to think about it that way, but at the time, people had so much faith and stock in Russo at WCW, and the pressure was on Vince to produce.
For readers new to Thompson’s podcast, the show does more than just cover a singular subject or pay per view. Thompson and Prichard detail the entire scene from pro wrestling in that particular period, which will be October of 1999 for this episode.
“Vince hitting the panic button here is the subplot for the whole show,” said Thompson. “We’ll look at the entire company in that month.”
• A new book to hit the wrestling section is Mad Dog: The Maurice Vachon Story, which was just released and features exclusive material, first-person interviews with family members and friends, and photographs from Vachon’s personal collection.
Co-authors Patric Laprade and Bertrand Hébert conducted extensive research in an effort for readers to meet the man behind Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon.
“Our first book, Mad Dogs, Midgets, and Screw Jobs: The Untold Story of How Montreal Shaped the World of Wrestling, was about the history of the Montreal wrestling territory, so we had already done considerable groundwork on his life and career,” said Laprade. “However, in a book like that, even if Maurice was a featured character, because of space issues we felt we could have said so much more.”
“We were very surprised to realize that Maurice spent 10 years of his career forging the character that would eventually make him famous: a baldheaded-toothless-bearded ‘Mad Dog’,” added Laprade. “We often hear people talk about paying their dues in the business. Maurice is a prime example of that. What makes him different is that instead of protecting his position once he reached the pinnacle of his profession, he did for others what was denied to him: a helping hand, a good word or a sound advice. Many former wrestlers such as Roddy Piper, Pat Patterson and Baron Von Raschke all said that without Maurice, they wouldn’t have had a career. That makes him a very unique character and a unique person in the world of professional wrestling.”
• Stat of the Week: Shane McMahon’s last three singles matches (WrestleMania 32 vs. The Undertaker, WrestleMania 33 vs. AJ Styles, and Hell in a Cell this past Sunday vs. Kevin Owens) have combined to last approximately one hour and twenty-nine minutes, an average of more than 29 minutes per match.
• Al Snow was asked to discuss whether the return of The Shield was rushed, which he detailed in his weekly advice column, Inside Al's Head.
“The Shield reuniting is interesting, because there has to be a purpose to it,” explained Snow. “And The Shield reunion is being done for two obvious reasons.”
Snow believes that WWE has finally got Roman Reigns to a position where they’ve been working toward for so long.
“Reigns is finally starting, and that’s the key, to get over,” said Snow. “Remember, the term ‘get over’ means the audience wants to live vicariously through a babyface, and that is absolutely essential. If it isn’t done, he’ll never garner heat, which is also misunderstood. ‘Heat’ is not a heel’s offense; it is a want, a need, a desire to build within the audience that builds to frustration, and even anger, but also with that belief that somewhere and somehow that the babyface, who they live vicariously through, will give them justice against the heel. The most likely case, which was two likely propositions, to reunite The Shield is one, even in a somewhat rushed manner, is to put Rollins and Ambrose with Reigns to give them the rub. I don’t think that is the case. Rollins and Ambrose are over in their own way.”
The second scenario, which Snow believes is far more likely, is that one or both of The Shield will betray Reigns.
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Rocky Romero is raising money for relief for those struggling in Puerto Rico; 100 percent of the proceeds will be donated to UNIDOS Por Puerto Rico Disaster Relief Fund for Puerto Rico.