Welcome to Canton's Corner. I have a lot of things to talk about in this column from some extended thoughts on how WWE books its champions, photos from the WWE live event I was at last week, some brief thoughts on Smackdown and my thoughts on WWE's recent "Greatest Crowd Reactions" video too. Let's get to it.
How Can WWE Book Their Titles Better?
When I wrote about WWE Night of Champions on Monday, I mentioned that part of the reason it was the worst WWE PPV of the year was because some of the titles don't seem like a big deal to the fans. That's not a new opinion or revelation on my part. We know that from watching the product. Things can get better, of course.
I was asked by my buddy Andy Staed on Facebook about WWE booking champions better. Here's what he asked:
"People say certain wrestlers are above a title (like Ziggler competing for US Title). But then they turn around and say that the titles need to be booked better, and the person makes the title, not the title making the person. So how exactly are they supposed to book the titles better and give them more meaning, if they can't put them on people that mean something?"
Here's my answer I came up with using three points.
1. Lose less non-title matches that make the champion look like a loser. The losses don't help. If Wrestler A loses 5 non-title matches before losing the actual title then I don't care that Wrestler B beat A because I know A was not a credible champion due to all the losses. Nobody wants to pay to see losers. We want to see winners. If a champion is a loser so much when his title isn't on the line then why should we be surprised if that person loses their title match?
2. Create stories based on a title. For example debut Sami Zayn and have him cut a promo saying he dreams of being IC champ because Bret vs. Perfect at SummerSlam 91 is his favorite match ever. I'm not saying that's true, but it's the idea that matters. Before he gets a shot at the IC Champion he has to beat others to prove he's worthy (have him beat former IC Champs like Barrett & Kingston along the way). Then after this buildup and all those wins suddenly his title match/win means something.
3. Let title holders have more promo time. They barely talk. They should talk about why their title means something to them. Watch The Rock's IC Title feud with Triple H from the summer of 1998. Great booking that got BOTH guys over as legit stars. That's how you develop talent while using a title as a tool to make both guys look like bigger stars.
Those are just three points. I could list others, but I think the common theme would be that WWE needs to do a better job of putting in the effort to make fans think these titles are a big deal. Here's a quick look at all the current titles with some brief thoughts on how they are booked.
WWE Title - Obviously the centerpiece of the company. Currently the title is vacated. It's booked well and is the biggest prize in the professional wrestling business. No major complaints with how it is booked.
World Heavyweight Title - Not as important as it once was, but when Dolph Ziggler cashed in to win it against Alberto Del Rio on the day after WrestleMania 29 it was a big deal. Fans want to care about it. These days it feels as if it's like the IC Title in the 1990s, which is to say it's not even close to the same level as WWE Title even though from 2002 to 2009 it was presented that way. Some memorable feuds would help.
Intercontinental Title - Curtis Axel holds the title, yet he's had no memorable feuds. His match with Kofi Kingston at Night of Champions was thrown together without any build. I can't remember the last time there was a memorable IC Title feud. Give me a rivalry that lasts three or four months, that has a gimmick match at the end of it and makes me think the IC Title is a big deal.
United States Title - Same as above. I don't have a problem with Dean Ambrose as US Champion. I think the title suits him and where he's at in his career. It hasn't been a great title reign at all, though. That's not the fault of Ambrose. It's the way the title is presented.
Tag Team Titles - The tag division is getting better because there are some legit teams going after The Shield as the tag champs. When you look at the roster to see The Usos, The Prime Time Players, Real Americans and to a lesser extent Tons of Funk & 3MB you can see there's depth. Throw in the "new" team of Los Matadores into the mix and you have seven teams right there. That's solid. I'm digging all of the matches between The Shield and The Usos too. I hope they get 15 minutes at the Battleground PPV on the main show rather than the pre-show.
Divas Title - A strong champion helps any title and I think AJ Lee is the best choice for Divas Champion. I've written before that I hope her title reign lasts all the way until WrestleMania although I have no idea if that will happen. It looks like they're going forward with a feud between AJ and Natalya, which is certainly fine with me.
In wrapping up this subject, all I can really say is I hope that WWE realizes that their midcard titles can be considered a big deal if they are presented as such. If you don't make the fans believe in the championships or the people holding them then why even have all those titles? I don't think WWE should take away any titles or add any others into the mix. What they have can work. All it takes is a little bit of time, planning and effort to tell the audience that the championships being competed for are a big deal.
WWE Live Event in Ten Photos
Last Saturday I attended a WWE Live Event in my hometown of London, Ontario with my buddy Steve Melo, who you may know as the guy that makes my wonderful Raw Deal banners as well as other graphics. It was "B" level live event meaning none of the truly top guys were there because there was a show in Saginaw, Michigan that night too. I didn't mind, though. We sat row one dead center (I got free tickets from a friend in WWE), so we didn't care about who was or wasn't on the show. We had a great time. Here are ten of our pics (not counting the one above) from ringside taken with Steve's camera. I'll add in some comments underneath each picture.
That's a shot of the battle royal that opened the show. The winner of the match received a World Title shot against Alberto Del Rio in the main event. Yes that's JTG in the match. He didn't win. I was surprised that Hunico made it to the final three since he's never on WWE TV anymore. He's a solid in-ring performer, though.
That's Ziggler and Sandow in the final two. Sandow was the most fun to interact with because we were pretty sarcastic in dealing with him. At one point I told him that I'm a smarter person than him and he responded with a "you're welcome" to me. That was great. Ziggler ended up winning the battle royal. A battle royal is a good choice for an opener at a house show.
The Divas match saw the Funkadactyls defeat AJ Lee & Layla. We have some good shots of AJ's butt, so I figured I would share one of them here. She was fun to interact with too. They did a vote before the show about whether it would be a dance off or a tag match. It started off as a dance contest with Layla doing comedy heel dancing for her team. It ended up turning into a match with Naomi working 95% of it for her team and she got the win with a cross body block. I was impressed with the match. The heels did an awesome job of interacting with us too.
Action shot of Justin Gabriel about to hit the 450 Splash on Hunico as part of a triple threat match for the NXT Title that also included Bo Dallas. There was a guy behind us yelling at Dallas all night long by telling him that his brother (Bray Wyatt) was better than him. It's true, so it was funny. I don't mind Bo, though. Gabriel hit the 450, then Dallas threw him out of the ring and covered Hunico to win. The crowd didn't care about Dallas and Hunico much although Gabriel received a positive reaction.
I love this shot because Luke Harper's facial expressions are awesome. He never broke character. He just stared off in the distance looking crazy. Erick Rowan wore the mask for about a minute in the middle of the ring before the match started. It was the Wyatt Family against The Usos & Kofi Kingston in six man tag action with the Wyatts getting the win. The Usos & Kingston make a great team. Fun match.
Awesome action shot of Bray Wyatt doing his pose right in front of us. He received a big reaction all night.
After a 15 minute intermission, The Great Khali defeated JTG. Not pictured: JTG. Steve: "I'm not wasting my battery with pics of JTG." I'm not sure if he really said that, but I assume he thought it because there are no pics of JTG from that match. I ended up posting a pic of Great Khali selling during the match on my Twitter account if you really care.
Here's Damien Sandow right in front of us. Before his match he tried to convince us that Big E Langston is a babyface now. It was pretty random to see Langston working as a face considering he's only a heel on TV. I'm familiar with his face work on NXT, but the average fan isn't going to be aware of that. Sandow tried hard to get the idea over, though. We kept yelling "silence" when people were trying to boo him. Since he was so close to us, we suggested he hang out for a while. He decided he'd rather lose to Big E Langston.
Good shot of Ziggler posing before his match against Alberto Del Rio for the World Title. We got to see Ziggler work twice, which is never a bad thing since he's one of the best in-ring performers in WWE. They did a fun bit before the match with Del Rio ripping up a fan's sign in the front row. The girl was legitimately sad and nearly in tears. Ziggler ended up giving her his t-shirt, so it all worked out. I'm pretty sure Del Rio does that at all the house shows because I've seen him do it in the past when Ricardo Rodriguez was managing him too. Speaking of that, there was an awesome moment when Del Rio asked a fan to introduce him in Spanish and this guy in the front row did a great job of doing it. He didn't look like a plant to me. He just happened to be a guy sitting there that could speak Spanish.
They came out for the match at around 9:30pm, so they had about 30 minutes of time to have their match. Of course they stalled a lot including this handshake spot at the start of the match. Once they got going they delivered a very good match that was better than Del Rio vs. RVD at Night of Champions on Sunday. Their chemistry was really good. They hit all their big spots. The finish saw Del Rio get disqualified when he shoved the referee after a disagreement. Immediately after he did that, he put Ziggler in the Cross Armbreaker and thought he won via submission. Instead it was a DQ loss for the World Champion meaning Del Rio got to keep the World Title (of course). Post match, Ziggler hit the Zig Zag to send everybody home happy.
After the show was over, Ziggler greeted all the fans around ringside and then went up the aisle to meet with more fans. I've been to many shows where the last babyface did this. The fans really like it, so it's a smart way to end the night.
Those were all the matches. It was not the greatest house show I've ever been to, but like I said we had a lot of fun interacting with all of the wrestlers because of how close we sat. If I was sitting twenty rows deep I doubt I would have had as much fun. That's my recommendation for house shows. Spend the extra money (if you can afford it) so that you can sit closer to the ring. That way you can interact with the superstars more and it will make your experience that much more enjoyable.
The full gallery is on my Facebook page (you don't need Facebook to view it), so check it out if you're interested in seeing more.
Three Quick Thoughts from Smackdown
1. The Smackdown main event of Daniel Bryan & The Usos vs. The Shield was nearly 20 minutes of awesome tag team wrestling. I'm so glad that The Usos are in a bigger role too because they absolutely deserve it. The Shield guys were great like usual. Loved Rollins' dive over the top. What a pop when Bryan got the hot tag! Everything he does gets a huge reaction and I love it.
2. Randy Orton's promo was basically about him saying "I'm going to be a sadistic asshole again." Fine by me. I like heel Orton a lot. Last Monday's attack on Miz during Raw showed that he's going to be more aggressive. It seems like the more natural role for him. I'm looking forward to heel Orton because he's a better performer than when he was a heel four years ago.
3. Smackdown has been a better show since SummerSlam because now the top guys like Orton & Bryan are on it every week. When Cena was WWE Champion he wasn't on Smackdown. When Punk was WWE Champion he wasn't on Smackdown. At least now the WWE Title is a focus on Smackdown even though it's currently vacant.
Be sure to read Andrew Johnson's Smacking of Smackdown column on TJRWrestling for more about WWE's weekly Friday night show.
Awesome Video of the Week - My Reaction to WWE's Top 20 Crowd Reactions
Two weeks ago in Canton's Corner I shared the WWE video about the top 20 Crowd Reactions. That featured ten reactions in part one. Last week they posted part two. Here are both videos with my thoughts on the top 20 crowd reactions ever in WWE's opinion.
20. Hulk Hogan pins Andre the Giant at WrestleMania 3 - Only #20? Weird. I think it deserves to be in the top three and maybe at number one. A huge moment with a monstrous reaction by WWE's biggest crowd ever.
19. RVD beats John Cena for the WWE Title at ECW One Night Stand 2006 - A very memorable match that always makes me smile when I watch it. I'm not a Cena hater. I just thought that crowd was special that night.
18. Bob Backlund celebrates with fans - Not sure if it warrants a spot in an all-time top 20, but it's a cool ending with fans swarming the ring to celebrate with Backlund.
17. Chris Jericho's fast count win over Triple on Raw April 2000 - Classic moment that was overturned when Triple H got the decision reversed due to the fast count. Deserves a spot in the top 20 for sure.
16. Hulk Hogan getting a big reaction during his WWE return in 2002 - There were a lot of big ovations for him when he came back to WWE that year. Surprised his match with Rock at WM18 isn't on here at all.
15. Shawn Michaels in Montreal teasing fans about Bret Hart - This was in the build up to Shawn's match with Hogan at SummerSlam 2005 when Shawn was in more of a heel role.
14. Steve Austin on Raw facing off with Eric Bischoff - Not sure of the exact date, but I had forgotten about this one. His in-ring moments are what I remember most instead of when he was the co-GM or sheriff of Raw. That's a really loud reaction obviously.
13. Shawn Michaels wins the World Title at Survivor Series 2002 - It was his second match back after a four year layoff. Big moment in MSG. I marked out huge for my favorite wrestler winning a major title again.
12. John Cena returns at Royal Rumble 2008 - We didn't expect to see him back this early after his injury in late 2007, but there he was. One of the biggest reactions of his career. Also in MSG.
11. The Rock beats Triple for the WWE Title at Backlash 2000 - I'm not sure why they chose to leave out the parts when Austin destroyed everybody with chairshots before the pin, but that was part of the reason why the reaction was so big.
10. CM Punk at Money in the Bank 2011 - Huge moment. Never forget that. Definitely one of the loudest ovations ever in his hometown of Chicago.
9. The Rock returns to WWE in 2011 - I loved this. We hadn't seen him in so long, so no surprise that he would receive such a thunderous ovation.
8. Triple H returns from injury January 2002 - This was extra special because it was in MSG. Probably the biggest ovation of HHH's career.
7. Undertaker cleans house at Judgment Day 2000 - It was during the Rock/HHH Ironman match main event. Hunter's buddies were helping him, so Undertaker returned after a long layoff to take care of things. I forgot how big that ovation was.
6. John Cena gets drafted to Raw in 2005 - It wasn't that much of a surprise despite JR's reaction. Most fans figured he'd be the face of Raw after winning the WWE Title from JBL at WrestleMania 21.
5. British Bulldog beats Bret Hart at SummerSlam 1992 - I wish they showed more of it. Huge reaction to Bulldog winning the IC Title in his home country. One of the best matches in WWE history.
4. Chris Jericho debuts in WWE in August 1999 - One of my personal favorite moments in WWE history. It was a big deal then and still is today.
3. Dolph Ziggler wins World Title on Raw April 2013 - The night after WrestleMania 29 this year. Very memorable moment. Not sure if it should be top three all-time though.
2. Brock Lesnar returns to WWE on Raw April 2012 - This was the night after WrestleMania 28 last year. Most online fans knew Lesnar was in Miami, but we didn't know when we'd see him. That reaction was huge. Second best all-time? Not sure about that.
1. Mick Foley wins WWE Title thanks to Steve Austin on Raw January 1999 - It was actually taped in the last week of December in 1998, but it aired in early January. It's famous for WCW announcer Tony Schiavone's "yeah that'll put butts in the seats" line that Eric Bischoff told him to say on Nitro. Watching it back now, that pop is ridiculously loud and arguably the biggest ever. I love Vince McMahon's reaction too.
With a list like this it's hard to get everybody to agree. I don't have a problem with what WWE put at #1. I just think Hogan slamming Andre should be at the top and I don't even like Hogan much at all. They had it at #20, which was just weird to me. I think they featured two recent things in the top three as a way to say "our product today is as good as ever" or something along those lines. To me, there are some Austin moments that aren't even on here that are as loud as anything in the history of wrestling.
That's all for Canton's Corner this week. It was over 3,000 words, so hopefully that holds you over this weekend.
If you're a NFL fan, check out my weekly NFL picks column on TJRSports.com. Go Rams. Get that win.
I think I wrote over 15,000 words in writing six times in six days this week. I'll see ya again on Tuesday with the Raw Deal.
Until next time, thanks for reading.
John Canton - firstname.lastname@example.org