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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

CM Punk "Turn" Needs Teeth

Is CM Punk a "good guy," a "bad guy," or a "tweener"? For the entire week following his historic attack of The Rock on the 1,000th Episode of Raw, I think most WWE fans just assumed the logical answer was #2. Not me. After all, wasn’t John Cena, himself, delivering his finisher to "The Great One" just a few months ago?

Maybe I missed the entire point of what Punk was saying throughout last night’s follow-up Raw, but to me he just came off more as a bitter fan favorite than anything. It was as if he had a sudden epiphany that he’d been disrespected by the WWE matchmakers, who continually failed to put him in a single pay-per-view main event since winning the title in his current run. Look it up. He has yet to close a PPV since winning the title at last year's Survivor Series.

More importantly, in spite of all his anger and all his jealousy directed at his WWE peers, there is one all-important group to which Punk has stayed loyal … and I think they’ll respect him even more for it.
He has yet to turn on the fans.

Over the past week, I’ve had a lot of people tell me that this angle - Punk "turning" – is the 2012 version of WWE’s big summertime angle, in the vein of Nexus, Mr. McMahon’s limo explosion, the "pipe bomb," and Hornswoggle’s revelation as a McMahon. I don’t see it.

Yes, CM Punk attacked The Rock on July 23, and followed that up with an assault on both Cena and Show this week. Can you really blame him? Is anything that he said untrue about Rock coming in for the occasional payday and taking the spotlight off of Punk and so many other guys who no doubt deserve more attention than they get? And if it were Cena sitting at commentary and Punk thrown through him, does anyone really envision Cena just getting up, straightening his cap, and continuing to stay out the match he was just thrust into?

Here’s what I do see. I see a very successful WWE champion. I see a man who has, in many ways, surpassed John Cena in terms of notoriety among his peers and fans alike. It’s like CM Punk has been trying so hard for so long to be that Cena main-event alternative that WWE fans have been craving for so long … and he’s just now realizing there is a ceiling to his ability to ever really be that alternative.

I don’t like this year’s Punk "turn," if it even is one. Ironically, though, it’s not because my anger is directed at him. Rather, WWE’s corporate machine is the villain who has painted Punk as a bad guy just for continuing to do what he has for nearly all of his career - good, bad, or otherwise - and stand up strongly for all that he believes. Last year, CM Punk was a "good guy" with a chip on his shoulder, taking on stars such as John Cena, Triple-H, and Alberto Del Rio. Now I’m supposed to think that same chip that made him the most popular wrestler in the company has transformed him into a heinous baddie, when many of his opponents are still the same? This turn doesn’t have any teeth, because Punk SHOULD be - and I suspect really is - a sympathetic figure.

And without any teeth, all WWE can do is continue feeding us mush.



Brady Hicks
PWI Contributing Writer

Monday, July 30, 2012

It’s All Over But The Touting…

Sure you’ve heard of it. How could one not hear about it, right? Once WWE decided that Tout is the next big thing in the evolution of fan-based social interaction, wrestling fans have been subjected to an unrelenting promotional blitz that portrays the service as – to borrow one memorable Simpsons line  – better than 10 Super Bowls.

That’s the company line this week, anyway. After all, things change fast, both in the tech world and in the world of professional wrestling.

Let’s back it off a quarter of a turn, though. For those of you who don’t know what the heck Tout is, I’ll share a quick overview. Incidentally, I consider myself quite tech-savvy, especially considering that I am a proud member of the last generation that uses a typewriter for something other than the purposes of whimsical interior decorating. Still, I know my way around the 'Net and a quick Google search tells me that Tout is a relatively new social networking service that allows users to post video messages in which they discuss earth-shattering news of indisputable social relevance, 15 senses-shattering seconds at a time. Something like that. So it’s a video microblogging service, really. It’s like what would happen if YouTube and Twitter had a baby and that baby quickly matured and tried to incrementally usurp their respective livelihoods. There’s more to it than that, but at least we’re all on the same page now. Onward…

So WWE is all about Tout now. Hey, who can blame them? After all, they've got skin in the game having invested heavily in Tout earlier this month. Besides, for years WWE was effectively (and probably accurately) seen as a lumbering dinosaur that was either suspicious or ignorant of popular culture and social trends. But now they get it. Boy howdy, do they get it. And, moreover, they’ve determined that we’re going to get it whether we want to or not.

WWE is definitely all about integrating “fan interaction” (you'll get the reason for the quotes soon enough) into the entire WWE experience. But when is too much too much? That’s easy enough to answer with just a little common sense: Too much is too much when it becomes an obsession; when tooting one’s own horn becomes an utter distraction that draws attention away from an already diluted and inconsistently executed product.

Quite simply, where Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have proven their value time and again in the context of fan interaction and marketing, WWE’s Tout onslaught brings little – if anything – to the table for the company and for its customers. There is, perhaps, something to be said for the overall innovation and vision behind the Tout enterprise, as somewhere around 75 million touts have been created since the inception of the service itself. But it’s entirely possible that with respect to wrestling fans, a steady flow of overly enthusiastic rants (“CM Punk is the bomb-diggety-dang!”) peppered with a handful of scripted and/or formulaic responses from WWE talent (“I agree with [Tout user x] that [pay-per-view event y] will be exciting, especially when I get my hands on [opponent z]”) will prove to be underwhelming, at best…and extremely annoying, at worst.

Social media is here to stay, for sure. One day, we might even see Harry Burkett include WWE’s week-to-week social media score and related subjects in “The Business Page," which appears in every issue of PWI. Assuming, then, that WWE’s use of social media such as Tout is indeed a business venture that is expected to yield a long-term gain for the company, WWE fans need more incentive to participate than the very slim possibility that an intentionally over-the-top posting may earn them somewhere around 2.3 seconds of time on next week’s Monday Night Raw. As for those of us who have yet to Tout, we need a good reason to not change the channel (or to refrain from pressing fast forward on the DVR) when the Tout packages roll during our favorite WWE shows.

Mike Bessler
PWI Contributing Writer
@OfficialPWI Contributor

Friday, July 27, 2012

Moon-Struck



It wasn’t CM Punk’s heel turn, the return of The Rock, or the reunion of the Brothers of Destruction that made me pop the loudest while watching the historic 100th edition of Raw last Monday. It was the brief appearance of a middle-aged backstage interviewer: Sean Mooney.

For fans like me, who grew up watching wrestling in the 1980s and '90s, Mooney was an integral part of the WWE experience. Eyebrows furrowed, Mooney intensely plugged upcoming house shows in the event center going into most commercial breaks during the WWF’s weekly television programs. Mooney also hosted many of the WWE’s regular Coliseum Video releases in the early-1990s, including the memorable “Supertape” series. In those VHS releases, Mooney showed his comedic chops in various skits, and also did play-by-play for many Coliseum exclusive matches alongside Lord Alfred Hayes.

It’s true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and maybe Mooney was never in the league with Gordon Solie or Gene Okerlund as an all-time great wrestling broadcaster, but this much is true: He was capable and professional.

That may not seem like the highest of praise, but even such apparently minimal qualifications are, too often, absent from WWE’s broadcasting effort these days. That much was apparent when, on the very same 1,000th edition of Raw Monday, I was left a bit non-plussed after Punk apparently turned his back on fans at the end of the show. The segment could have used a Jim Ross, or dare I say, even a Sean Mooney to drive home the significance of what had just occurred.

There were some rumblings around a year ago that WWE was interested in re-hiring Mooney, who left the company in 1993. But, alas, he just recently took a job as a news anchor for Tuscon, Arizona, NBC affiliate KVOA. Click here for his bio. He looks great.

If that’s the last we ever see of Sean Mooney on WWE television, I’d personally like to thank him for making my wrestling viewing experience that much more entertaining as a kid. If I had anything to do with it, I’d bring him back to WWE immediately.

But then again, I’d also release a new Supertape: The Blu-ray Edition.

Al Castle
PWI Senior Writer

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Rock: Good For WWE? Good For Wrestling?

As talented and successful as The Rock may be, I  just can't get behind the idea of WWE having him so involved at the top of the Raw card for such a long stretch of time. I acknowledge the fact that The Rock is a gifted entertainer and a proven draw who is wildly popular with tons of fans. And, yes, his presence will probably translate to some extra pay-per-view buys for The Royal Rumble and WrestleMania 29. However, Dusty Rhodes and Hulk Hogan are proven WWE draws, too. Should WWE throw them in the main-event mix at two critical pay-per-view events, as well?

My problem with The Rock's role isn't so much about him occupying spots that could be used to build futures for wrestlers like Dolph Ziggler or Cody Rhodes. My concern is that by having a former wrestler so solidly in the spotlight, WWE perpetuates a damaging, industry-wide trend. The wrestling business is steeped in tradition, and that rich history shouldn't be ignored, but I believe wrestling's future is better served when promotions try to discover or create wrestling's "Next Big Thing."

(Incidentally, I don't hold independent promotions to the same standard. In many cases, the survival of an indy promotion depends on its ability to occasionally showcase "big-name" veteran wrestlers.)


Little over a year ago, WWE made the bold decision to hand CM Punk a microphone and give him the creative freedom to let loose on Raw. Punk instantly became the hottest thing in wrestling, and remains so to this day. That, it would seem, is a better way to build for the future health of the sport than reviving nostalgia acts, which many times fail to pan out for a variety of reasons. Attempting to recreate special moments in time, not only in pro wrestling, is a hit-or-miss endeavor. Mostly miss.

One of the major reasons pro wrestling appears to be mired in a "down cycle," in my opinion, is the tendency by so many industry leaders to look to the past, rather than the future, for success. Indeed, walking down memory lane may offer some short-term benefits, but what happens when the immediate effect wears off?

Frank Krewda
Editor-in-Chief


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

1,000th Raw A Big Winner, But ...

The Raw 1000th episode was, quite simply, superb. The integration of legends and current talent, old storylines and new, the production values and video montages, the surprises, the build for future Raws and pay-per-views. Everything.

Well, not everything. I think WWE came up short at the finish line. As CM Punk walked slowly away from the ring after taking advantage of a kayoed John Cena and laying out The Rock, the fans in St. Louis should have been booing him unmercifully. Their silence should have sent a loud message to WWE that the fans just don't want to hate this man.

For the life of me, I don't understand why WWE doesn't get that yet. While I also don't fully understand why so many fans despise Cena, facts are facts. If the fans want to hate on him for a while, just let it be. It's unnatural to set up Punk to be the bad guy when so many fans love him so much.

My hope is that WWE allows Punk to stay true to his character as the questions about his actions and inactions are answered. Punk appeared to be a conflicted man as he pondered whether or not it was ethical to try to pin Cena after he had been assaulted by The Big Show. I'd like to see WWE allow Punk to show his depth and not go about this turn in the way it's been done so many times in this sport's history.

For sure, I'll be watching 1,001st to see how this develops.

Stu Saks
Publisher