WWE

WWE Weekly Recap: Why John Cena needs to be protected

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Just when it looked like we were headed for another week of ho-hum WWE programming, a bit of history was made on Tuesday night when Dean Ambrose pinned John Cena clean in the middle of the ring.

It marked the first time in 11 years that John Cena had been defeated on SmackDown. The last time Cena looked up at the bright lights for a three count was the night the Doctor of Thuganomics dropped the U.S. title to Orlando Jordan.

Some will read the paragraph above and think: “Well he rarely appeared on SmackDown after he was drafted to Raw in 2005.” So for those people, here’s another stat to sip on; It was the first time in seven years that he was pinned clean on television (HHH did the honors on the Sept. 19th 2009 edition of Raw).

At first, Ambrose’s win over Cena seemed like no big deal to me. With the triple threat coming up at No Mercy between Styles-Cena-Ambrose, it makes sense for creative to make Deano feel like he’s at the same level with Cena by beating him.

But then I continued the thought and realized that the shock value of Cena eating a clean pin wasn’t nearly the same as it usually is. I wondered why that was and then it hit me, AJ Styles just beat Cena at SummerSlam without any nefarious means.

In less than a month, the WWE’s most protected superstar of the last decade has been pinned clean twice. I’m sure there are many “Cena sucks” people out there who are thrilled with the result on Tuesday night, but here’s the problem with booking Cena like this:

If John Cena becomes a part-timer that puts guys over more frequently than he has in the past, the WWE will lose one of their two chips that can be played to boost guys to a superstar level. The other chip is this crazy guy:

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Cena’s status as the face of the WWE brand won’t take a hit if he gets continues to lose at this rate, because the company doesn’t value wins and losses, which means the fans shouldn’t care when a fresh face on the rise beats him clean in the middle of the ring.

It’s a gigantic flaw in logic that I’ll explore at a later date because I don’t want to get too sidetracked.

A triumph over Cena without outside help should signal the elevation of a character from the upper mid-card to the main event. In the case of Ambrose this past Tuesday, it might help him gain some of the momentum he lost during his title run, but I get the sense that the crowd started to turn on Ambrose due to the quality of his in-ring performances. They severely dipped after he won the title in June.

Back to Cena. As frustrating as it is for people who are sick of #SuperCena’s reign as the face of the company, he’s vital to boosting this “new era” of talent. The only way that’s going to happen is if the aura of beating John Cena still exists when it’s time to bump Baron Corbin up to the top of the card, or when guys like Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura and Bobby Roode make their way up to the main roster from NXT,

Cena will be away from WWE from mid-October until mid-December (he’s filming the second season of American Grit), which means he ain’t winning the title at No Mercy, but it also means the SmackDown main event scene is going to be a combination of Styles, Ambrose, Orton, Wyatt (hahaha just kidding, dude is destined to cut aimless promos on the upper mid-card forever).

Orton-Styles for the WWE world title at Survivor Series should be a fine match, but after that, SmackDown’s matches for SS don’t exactly look appealing. Baron Corbin vs. Ambrose? Ambrose vs. Miz for the IC title? American Alpha vs. Slyno? Ambrose vs. Wyatt (ugh, again). Jack Swagger vs. a microphone? Curt Hawkins vs. a fact checker?

SmackDown has been much better (this is a drastic understatement) than Raw lately due to the superior writing, but it’s only a matter of time before the lack of depth dominates the conversation about WWE’s Tuesday night show.

The only way for this problem to be remedied is good writing, strong booking and protecting John Cena, so he can help everyone else on the roster.

The WWE is such a warped world man.

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Cruising for a problem

The cruiserweight division made its debut on Monday night and well, it was lackluster to say the least. I didn’t have a problem with Mick Foley’s introductions, even if he did hop on a struggle bus during his rendition of a Mark Twain quote.

The match itself between Gran Metalik, Brian Kendrick, Rich Swann and Cedric Alexander was very good, even though it did feel like a choreographed spot fest at times. The action was stiff and different than the other matches we saw on Monday night.

Last positive note here: I liked the effort to change the graphics and colors on the stage to make the division feel like it was separate from the rest of the show. Going forward the cruiserweights shouldn’t interact with anyone else on the show, unless they’re in the same weight class.

OK, now let’s get the negative stuff out of the way.

Where the hell was T.J. Perkins? Why didn’t creative have TJP come out after Kendrick won the match? He didn’t even have to cut a promo! Just have a good ol’ fashion stare down.

Why did this segment air in the middle of the third hour? The enthusiasm of the live crowd usually dies somewhere between the end of the second hour and the beginning of the third hour (can be earlier depending on how bad the show is), so why not open the show with the Fatal Four Way? The crowd would have been so much more into the match and it would have made the division feel more important.

But nooooo, we had to have another talking segment between Roman Reigns, Stephanie, Foley and Kevin Owens.

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Where were the handshakes and cool individual profile pieces? Two aspects of the Cruiserweight Classic that made the show feel drastically different were the handshakes prior to the match and the profile style video packages. Instead of showing in-ring highlights, run the damn video packages again so people can actually get a little backstory on these guys.

I know it’s a Fatal Four Way, but you can still do the handshake bit. Maybe Kendrick doesn’t want to shake anyone’s hand, which makes him an instant heel. There are potential programs that could have been set up with this device.

There’s plenty of tweaking that needs to be done to the presentation of the division, so I won’t totally bury it, but man this was really disappointing considering how great the CWC was.

Was Raw finally better than SmackDown?

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Time to “Go Home”

– The SmackDown tag team division has been ripped by quite a few people, but the pathetic tag division on Raw was exposed big time on Monday night. The New Day, Gallows and Anderson, The Shining Stars and Enzo & Cass were all in the ring for a segment and it hit me that this is the entire tag division on Raw.

– Can Raw please trade Gallows and Anderson to SmackDown for the Usos. If you think about it, the Usos heel turn could have easily been done on Raw. Just replace American Alpha with Enzo and Cass.

– Gallows and Anderson would be such a better fit on SmackDown. #TheClub4Life

– Same goes for the women’s division. Give me SmackDown’s six over the six women on Raw. Which seems ridiculous considering Bayley-Sasha-Charlotte are all on Raw, but not so ridiculous when you consider how (profanity deleted) terrible the writing has been on WWE’s flagship show.

– Cage matches are supposed to keep interference out, but I wish Rusev and Rollins would have interrupted the main event on Monday, but hey, wins and losses don’t matter, so why should I care that the Universal champion lost?

– Stephanie’s performance in the backstage segment with Rollins was porn star level bad.

– Remind me again why Apollo Crews was brought up from NXT.

– Orton vs. Rowan literally put me to sleep.

– So the WWE is considering a “shooters” style stable for SmackDown. Ziggler, Swagger and Shelton Benjamin would be in the group. I’ll believe it when I see it.

– I hope The Miz holds onto the IC title for the rest of the year, guy is on a roll right now.

– Will Stephanie turn on Foley before Owens turns on Jericho?

– WHAT DID RIKISHI TELL DAVID OTUNGA?

– THAT HE’S AWFUL ON COMMENTARY?

Follow me on Twitter: @ScottDargis

WWE’s Kairi Sane wants to make women feel strong

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Kairi Sane became the inaugural Mae Young Classic winner after defeating Shayna Baszler in the final match of the tournament last night in Las Vegas.

I had the chance to speak with her about winning the tournament, her world famous elbow drop, and the differences between working in front of a Japanese crowd versus and American crowd.

Note: The interview was done through a translator

Me: What went through your mind as you stood in the ring as the first-ever winner of the Mae Young Classic?

Kairi: “I was very proud of myself to be there as one of the finalists. It was surprising that I made it so far. I felt nervous, but it was such a happy day for me.”

What made you want to peruse a career in professional wrestling?

“To help become a professional athlete, what’s been very important for me is my audience. They are there for me, watching me perform and I want to give them courage, challenge and then my vitality if possible, especially in this tournament.

My female fans, they touch my heart all of the time and I want to give them the message that women are strong.”

Your elbow drop has become world famous, how did you come up with such a unique variation of a move that’s been around forever?

“I’ve been doing this for about six years now and at first the diving elbow drop did not work. I got injured and it wasn’t my finisher at first, but the move was important to me. I wanted to win using my elbow, so now it has become my form. It’s my favorite thing to do when I perform.”

What are some differences between working in front of an American audience as opposed to a Japanese audience?

“I have to say American fans make me happier. I love their reactions. It’s very exciting and fun. It’s as if they’re fighting together with me.”

How has the world of acting helped you in the world of wrestling?

“It’s relevant because when I perform as a professional athlete, it’s very important to me that I encourage my audience and fans by giving them the vitality I have. I believe that’s my role. For example, my facial expressions will show if I’m happy and having fun or if I’m disappointed. I want to make sure that my audience sees those expressions.”

Twitter: @ScottDargis 

Six kids get once in a lifetime experience by transforming into WWE superstars

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If you’ve watched WWE programming in September you likely noticed numerous superstars wearing Connor’s Cure T-shirts and pins:

 

 

Once again WWE is teaming up with The V Foundation through Connor’s Cure to raise funds for pediatric cancer research.

Six children at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh had the opportunity to live out a dream by creating their own character and making an entrance in front of a live crowd. Lance “The Tumornator” even called out The Miz!

I know before I go any further that some will think that this is just an #ad for the company and it’s not. I could have passed on writing this, but seeing these kids light up by becoming WWE superstars while hanging out with the likes of Stephanie McMahon, Finn Balor, Alexa Bliss and The Miz and Maryse is heartwarming and will bring a smile to your face.

Here’s some more information:

To assist fund raising efforts for Connor’s Cure, WWE produced a limited-edition Connor’s Cure Collection featuring t-shirts, pins and the original Connor’s Cure bracelet. The Connor’s Cure t-shirts were created in partnership with apparel company Represent and will be available for purchase through WWEShop.com. 100 percent of net proceeds from sales of Connor’s Cure merchandise will directly benefit pediatric cancer research through The V Foundation’s grant-making process.”