Welcome to this week’s edition of FATP. Thanks for all the amazing feedback I got about last week’s column where I looked back at the participants involved at last year’s TLC PPV and where they are now. I’ll even throw out a thank you to the guy who e-mailed me with nothing else to say except “you missed such and such”. Yes I did, but I wrote over 6,000 words, so gimme a break! Haha..
OK, so last week I mentioned that I’d be doing a one-off mailbag because it’s the end of the year. I got what felt like hundreds of questions sent to me via Twitter and e-mail! I’ve picked the most interesting ones to answer here. If I didn’t get to your question this time, I might do something similar every month or so. We’ll see what happens. Anyway, let’s get down to it.
@simkintom: “Are you pleased with the year 2012 in WWE and TNA, and do you think WWE re-establishing the brand split would help quality again?”
Great question. If I had to sum up 2012 in WWE, it’d be up and down. We’ve had some great matches, like Punk/Bryan, HHH/Taker, Cena/Lesnar, Bryan/Sheamus, Sheamus/Show and countless others, but some of the storylines have been brutal to watch. It’s not a co-incidence that the worst storylines have surrounded the GM’s of Raw. I don’t think any of us needed to see John Laurinaitis wrestle John Cena, especially as a PPV main-event. Then we come to the AJ/Cena/Vickie/Dolph scenario. I’m pleased that we’re getting Cena vs Ziggler out of it, but the blatant storyline rip-off of TNA (AJ/Dixie/Claire Lynch) is beyond the joke. You know it’s bad when TNA mention it on live TV! So am I happy with the year in WWE? There’s been more good than bad, so I’d have to say yes.
In terms of TNA, I think they’ve had a fantastic 2012. Replacing Vince Russo with Dave Lagana seems to have worked out well and their product has been much better than WWE over the last 6-8 months. Have they got some things wrong? Of course, nobody’s perfect, but I’m not qualified to sit here and tell TNA how, or how not, to produce 2 hours of TV each week. The thing that TNA do better than WWE right now is they put on a complete PPV card. With a few exceptions, there’s never usually any filler matches and they invest time in developing their on-screen talent, which gives you a reason to invest in the match. Let’s be clear, nobody should be expecting TNA to compete with WWE. They’re a relatively young company and don’t have the resources or mainstream appeal… yet. I reckon they should keep working hard at making a good TV product, make sure they actually have an end goal to storylines (like Aces & 8’s) and strike while the iron’s hot. Consistency is the key for TNA in 2013.
As far as the brand split goes, it’s pretty much pointless now. Unless WWE are willing to put time and effort into building the midcard, and developing characters, the brand split will never be what it was. Do I think it’d help? Yes, but WWE have to be patient and have a plan. They’ve got more than enough talent on the roster to do it, but I just don’t think it’ll happen any time soon, if at all.
@kwAskTheHeel: “Where do you see the WWE Divas division going and what is your take on the difference between them and the TNA Knockouts?”
In one sentence? Nowhere fast. I’m one of those fans who keeps harping on about “developing the midcard” and the Divas are as much a part of that as the Tag-Team/IC/US title scenes. When the WWE women’s division was at its peak, they had eye candy, but they were mixed with girls who could actually wrestle. That way, the less experienced workers could learn from the likes of Lita, Molly Holly and Victoria. Right now, there are only two women in the WWE who could help to develop the other girls: Natalya and Sara del Rey, but Natalya’s making eyes at Khali and del Rey is a trainer in FCW. I think that over the next few years, WWE will try to reintroduce women who can work alongside the eye candy, but short-term, I don’t see it getting any better. Sorry, just my opinion.
The difference between the WWE Divas and the TNA Knockouts is simple. TNA have a better all-round mix of talent. They have the likes of Gail Kim, Mickie James and Tara to work with your Madison Rayne’s and Miss Tessmacher’s. The most important thing that TNA do with the Knockouts is they give them a decent amount of TV time and background to their feuds. Too often, WWE just throw out a Divas match with no reasoning behind it. TNA give us a reason to care about the Knockouts, whereas the Divas feel like an afterthought with WWE.
@sportsmama32: “Is there any other candidate to mount the big return of 1-3-13 that TNA is currently running other than Sting?”
The only other names I can think of are Abyss, Jeff Jarrett and Eric Bischoff. If I’m right, I think that the first Impact of 2012 is going to be on 3rd January, so I’d expect that, regardless of who’s behind it, the vignette has something to do with Aces & 8’s. I just hope that we’re finally going to get a reveal. With the best will in the world, I’m slowly losing interest in Aces & 8’s because it’s dragged on for too long. I would’ve had the BIG reveal at Bound for Glory and built towards the end of Aces & 8’s run at Lockdown. If it’s not Sting returning to get revenge on Aces & 8’s, I figure it has to be Abyss, Jeff Jarrett or Eric Bischoff. I can’t see it being anyone else to be honest.
@MichaelBrown_91: “Has Hulk Hogan over the past few months proven exactly who’s to blame once and for all for the downfall of WCW, brother!”
Haha! Wondered how long it’d be before I got a Hogan question. My answer might surprise you. I don’t think Hogan was solely to blame for the downfall of WCW. I think the lack of any sort of management structure, combined with the creative power that guys like Hogan, Hall and Nash (among others) had is what killed WCW. In saying that, I do think Hogan has far too much presence on Impact. I understand that he’s probably the most recognisable wrestler of all-time, but that doesn’t mean that he’s got anything to offer as a full-time on-air TV character. These days, his promo work is getting Warrior-esque and it’s sad to see him taking a week and a half to walk to the ring. If I were in charge of TNA, I’d use Hogan as a promotional tool. Get him on TV/radio doing interviews promoting the company and the Impact brand, but as a full-time performer, he’s doing nothing but hurt the product in my opinion. Maybe the recent dip in the quality of the TNA product is proof that these days, Hogan doesn’t know best!
@mrdavies2012: “Although unlikely to happen at Wrestlemania, what would you make of a CM Punk – Brock Lesnar feud? In my opinion it sort of writes itself. You could either have The Shield working for Punk & Heyman and Lesnar could come in and just want to kick everyone’s ass, or Lesnar could play the “Heyman is my exclusive manager” card leading to a feud with Heyman in the middle?”
Of the two options you’ve given me, I’d say the second role is more likely, where Lesnar and Punk feud over Heyman’s services, but I don’t think it’ll happen because they’re both top heels. If one of them were to turn before WrestleMania (which is highly unlikely at this point), then I could see a feud somewhere down the line. The problem is that WWE have promoted Lesnar as an outsider, so how can someone like that play the babyface role? It’d have to be Punk, and for me, Punk is more natural as a jerk. It’d be interesting to watch though because if you looked at it on paper, Lesnar should annihilate Punk. He’s bigger and physically stronger, but Punk’s speed and agility would cause Lesnar problems. Like I said, it’d be interesting to watch, but I just don’t see them feuding with things the way they are. If things stay the same, we’re more likely to see an alliance between Punk and Lesnar than a feud.
Karl, wrestling fan: “John Cena is 35-years-old. Realistically, how much longer does he have as WWE’s top guy?”
Ah, a John Cena question! The honest answer is this. John Cena will be WWE’s top guy for as long as he wants to be. If he can go, then he’ll be the number 1 guy. If he starts to pick up injuries left, right and centre, then I can see him starting to tail off a bit, but until that happens, he’ll be on top. Think about it. He’s been on top for pretty much 9 years so far, so I’d think that he’ll have another 5 at least, maybe more. That decision will come down to one man and it won’t be me. It’ll be John Cena.
Luke, wrestling fan: “Regarding The Shield, do you think they will still be together in a year & who do you personally think has the biggest upside to them? Personally I think Reigns has the size, Ambrose has the mic skills & Rollins has the in ring ability. That’s not to say they don’t all have that, but together they do seem to be the perfect faction.”
Another great question. It really depends on what you mean by “upside”. In terms of all-round potential, I’d go for Dean Ambrose. I’d seen some of his stuff in the indys before he signed with WWE and I’ve seen bits and pieces of him in developmental, and this dude has everything. The best way to describe him would be “natural heel”. Everything about him, from his in-ring work, to his promos to his facial expressions, make you want to see him get his ass kicked. He’s fantastic.
From what I’ve seen of him, I think Rollins will be used more as a babyface once The Shield have run their course. That’s mainly based on the stuff he’d done in NXT before debuting at Survivor Series. I’ve not seen enough of his indy work to judge how he would do as a heel. Roman Reigns is like a cross between The Rock and Batista in terms of his look and the way he works, and I think he’ll be able to hold his own on the main roster.
Of the three, I think Reigns is most likely to get a main-event run first, purely because of his size. The other two might have to scratch and claw for their opportunites, but they’re more than capable of delivering from what I’ve seen.
Do I think they’ll still be together in a year? It depends how the whole thing works out. If WWE have a long-term plan for The Shield, then yeah I can see them being together at this time next year. For as long as the fans are in to what The Shield are doing, they’ll be together. That’s what I think anyway.
@MikeMike365: “Do you see Ziggler going for the World title or WWE title? That was some main event showing at TLC!”
If you mean will Ziggler win the World Title or WWE Title first, I’d go with the World Title, since that’s the title that his briefcase gives him a shot at. For me, Ziggler’s been main-event ready for the last year, maybe more. His matches are consistently good, if not great, regardless of who he’s wrestling and I think a long run with one of the main titles is long overdue. Once again, he proved on Sunday just how good he is and I think you could hear that with the way the crowd reacted to him at TLC. It was the same on Raw when Cena attacked him before he could cash in his briefcase. The guy is gonna be a huge star, it’s just a matter of time. I don’t think he’ll cash in his briefcase before WrestleMania, because he’ll just get lost in the shuffle when the part-timers like Rock, HHH, Brock and Undertaker come back early next year. He might do it at Mania, but not before.
Luke D, wrestling fan: “Who do you think we’ll see as surprise entrants at the Royal Rumble and who is your prediction to win it?”
Surprise entrants are always tough to predict. I’d say there’s a fair chance of seeing someone like Hacksaw Jim Duggan and now that they have backstage roles in the company, we’re more than likely to see Road Dogg and Billy Gunn at some point, which isn’t a bad thing. The problem is that WWE already have so many guys on the roster that if they bring back too many legends, there’s a chance their full-timers will get pissed off, so I’d say those 3 and one more.
As for the winner, I can see it being one of three: Rock, Cena or Ryback. If Rock wins the belt at the Rumble, Cena wins the Rumble. If Rock loses his title match, I can see him entering and getting a main-event shot at Mania; while Cena would go on to win the title at the Chamber. Ryback’s in there because of the push he’s been getting lately. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Ryback win it, but I think it’s too early for that. They’re the 3 that stand out to me.
Darrin, wrestling fan: “What would make a better feud, Dolph Ziggler vs CM Punk or Dolph Ziggler vs Daniel Bryan? From a build-up stand point, I’d say Ziggler/Punk because of their collective mic skills and the match would be great too. Purely from a match perspective, I’d say Ziggler/Bryan. The build-up wouldn’t be that hot because they’re not at Punk’s level on the mic, but Ziggler and Bryan’s wrestling styles match perfectly.”
If I’m being honest, there’s not much to split them. You’d be guaranteed quality matches with both pairings, but I’d say Ziggler vs Punk for this reason. CM Punk is now firmly established as a marquee name. He’s reached “that” level, so any potential Ziggler/Punk feud would elevate Dolph further. There’s no doubt that Bryan and Ziggler would have fantastic chemistry together, but because Bryan’s not seen as “the guy” or one of them, then it wouldn’t get the focus it deserved to. Bryan’s well on his way to being one of the top guys in WWE and he’s had a great year, but Ziggler/Punk would just shade it for me.
@bigdan02: Except Sting, who is the biggest wrestling star never to have wrestled for WWE?
That’s probably the toughest question I’ve ever been asked. There have been stars from the past who have never wrestled for Vince McMahon, like Stu Hart, Frank Gotch and Fritz von Erich, right up to the likes of Davey Richards and Austin Aries today. The thing is that pretty much all the big stars have worked for Vince, other than Sting. He’s a true legend and an icon in this business. There are other wrestlers in Japan and Mexico who haven’t worked for Vince, but I don’t know enough about them to talk about it.
I feel stupid for even saying his name, not cos the guy isn’t good in his own right, but because I don’t know about his perceived “star” power with casual fans. I guess that I’d have to say Abyss. Every other wrestler I can think of, like AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, Nigel McGuinness and Samoa Joe have all worked at least one match for WWE, whether they were jobbing or not. For whatever reason, Abyss is one of the most well-known names to have never worked for WWE in any way, shape or form, so other than Sting, I’d have to say him.
Wow! Those were some tremendous questions. I just hope my answers were good enough for those who sent them in! Haha… Like I said, if I missed your question this time around, I’m sorry. I just felt that those questions were the most interesting ones to answer. Depending on what you thought, I might do another one in the New Year. Thanks to everyone for their support over the last year. Whether you’ve agreed or disagreed with me, cheers for reading! I’ll be back at some point over Xmas/New Year, so keep your eyes peeled to the site for that!
Happy holidays everybody!