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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

10 Reasons To Make Cena vs. Hogan At WM 30

I can't believe I'm about to write this, but here goes:

Hulk Hogan should wrestle John Cena in the main event of WrestleMania 30.

I'll give you moment to stop laughing and throwing tomatoes at your computer monitor.
I know, it sounds preposterous. John Cena is the star in all of wrestling, and, at 36, is still at his physical prime. Hulk Hogan is a very beaten up 60, and has struggled in recent years just to walk to the ring, much less work an actual match.

But, if the match is at all possible, there are several reasons why WWE should do it this year in New Orleans. Here are some:

1. It is one of the last few "dream matches": With WWE having all but monopolized the pro wrestling business in the United States--there are few, if any, big matches that fans haven't seen yet. Even more so than they did with Rock vs. Cena, WWE can bill this as a truly exclusive, once in a lifetime match, pitting the two biggest stars of their respective generations against each other. Short of, maybe, Cena vs. Steve Austin, what match could possibly be bigger?

2. It may be now or never: Whether it was Austin vs. Hogan, Flair vs. Hogan at WrestleMania 8, or a well-booked WCW invasion angle, WWE's history is filled with missed opportunities that fans, and Vince McMahon alike, would love to have a chance to make right. Sure, you can argue that the window to make this match already closed several years ago. But, even if it's open a small crack, that's more than it will be next year, when both Hogan and Cena will be a year older. Besides that, who knows where Hogan will be a year from now? He could re-sign with TNA or have some other business or personal commitment that would preclude him from participating in future WrestleManias. Hogan is available now and has made it clear he wants to do business with WWE. The stars may never align like this again.

3. If just for one night, Hogan can still be Hogan: Don't count on seeing Hogan drop the big leg, or even run the ropes. But even in his physical condition, Hogan could still transform the SuperDome into a time machine headed for 1987. Whether it's feverishly pointing to the ring as he walks down the aisle (slowly) to "Real American," or "Hulking Up" at just the right moment, Hogan has enough tricks up his sleeve to give fans their money's worth in 2014. At the very least, Hogan still largely looks like the "Hulkster" WWE fans remember from years ago, and that can go a long way.

4. There's a heck of a story to be told: For guidance on how to properly book this match, I'd hand WWE writers a DVD of Rocky Balboa, the 2006 film that told the story of a 60ish "Italian Stallion" getting one last shot at the heavyweight championship, if only for nostalgia's sake. Cena might be reluctant to wrestle Hogan, out of concern of hurting the old-imer. He can even "take it easy" on him in the match's opening minutes. But, as the bout progresses, Cena begins to realize that he underestimated Hogan, whose determination and strength are more than Cena bargained for. The decision on who wins the match is less important than the story they tell.

5. Hogan would be at his best: I was in the building a couple years ago for Hogan's last real singles match, against Sting at TNA Bound For Glory 2011. The bout was hardly a masterpiece, but it did vastly exceed my expectations, thanks in part to TNA wisely incorporating a lot of outside interference and gimmickry to limit what Hogan was expected to do. (That said, Hogan took at least three back bumps). Granted, Hogan is three years older, but he'll also be more driven than he has been in years to bring his A-game on the biggest of all stages, WrestleMania. If the fans' cheers aren't enough motivation for Hogan, the paycheck he's sure to earn, as well as the possibility of more WWE paydays, should be, given Hogan's reported financial problems. For his part, Cena would likely welcome the challenge of carrying Hogan to a watchable performance, and nobody knows how to work the WWE main-event style better than Cena. What's more, WWE is sure to call upon the absolute master of wrestling smoke and mirrors, Pat Patterson, to layout an entertaining spectacle. WWE also has the resources to help get Hogan in the best possible physical shape in time for the big show.

6. Cena doesn't have any other obvious WrestleMania opponents: If booking Cena vs. Hogan at WrestleMania 30 came at the expense of another surefire WrestleMania main-event-worthy match, then my reservations would be even greater. But, in truth, there is no other obvious money match for Cena this year. Heck, as of a couple of weeks ago, WWE was even considering pairing Cena with Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania, according to reports. This is not to say that WWE couldn't come up with a suitable main-event level opponent for Cena, including CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Brock Lesnar, Triple-H, or even The Undertaker. But, with the exception of 'Taker, none of those feel exactly fresh, nor worthy of WrestleMania 30 main-event status. Coming off of back-to-back matches with The Rock, Cena demands a truly big-name opponent for WrestleMania. And they don't come any bigger than Hulk Hogan.

7. It would create other interesting match possibilities: Pairing Cena with Hogan would open up the possibility of several other key matches at WrestleMania--including a true "main event." Instead of wrestling Cena in what would likely be the other big-money 'Mania match WWE could put together, The Undertaker could instead take on Brock Lesnar in a long-talked about showdown. Triple-H--also rumored to be a likely WrestleMania opponent for Cena--could instead take on Daniel Bryan. Whatever the case, if Hogan and Cena wrestled each other in a featured match somewhere in the mid-card, that would allow two other, deserving talents to shine in the final match of the night.

8. Fans would go nuts: To this day, I've never heard a louder crowd than that inside the Toronto SkyDome at WrestleMania 18 a dozen years ago when Hogan took on The Rock. I expect that many of the same ingredients that made that match so special in the eyes of fans would be replicated in Hogan vs. Cena. Not only would the pairing drive WWE's existing fans to a frenzy, but it is also likely to lure in many more fans from Hogan's era who would be curious to see Hogan in one more WrestleMania main event. Incidentally, many of those fans would likely be inclined to subscribe to the nostalgia-heavy WWE Network.

9. It's WrestleMania 30: Even if they don't do it this year, it's all together possible that WWE could book Cena vs. Hogan at WrestleMania 31, or even later. Yes, Hogan will be a year older, but he'd also have more time to heal his body and get in shape. That said, WrestleMania 30 is a truly historic milestone for WWE, and it's worthy of a truly match. Seeing as how Hogan had a big hand in the success of the early WrestleManias, it's fitting that he would headline the 30th installment.

10. WWE has nothing to lose: It comes down to this: Why not? Sure, there is every chance that Hogan vs. Cena, even under the best of circumstances, would be bowling shoe ugly, as JR would say. But, the fact is, fans will have already spent their money by then. That may sound particularly cynical, but it's how the fight game works. Whether it's boxing, mixed martial arts, or wrestling, big events are made or broken before the fighters get into the ring. It's why the hype for WrestleMania 24 centered on The Big Show vs. Floyd Mayweather, and not The Undertaker vs. Edge. As it did with Show-Mayweather, WWE could choose to put Hogan-Cena somewhere in the middle of the event, and close the show with another top match. But if WWE's goal is to get as many pay-per-view buys, or new subscribers to its network, then no other marquee match carries the must-see, freak show marketability of Hogan vs. Cena. Whether you think it's a good idea, or a terrible one, you know you'll want to see it.

Al Castle
PWI Senior Writer



Monday, January 6, 2014

A Wrestling “Wish List” for 2014

Because I spend so much time on social media these days—for personal stuff as well as handling Twitter-related matters for @OfficialPWI—I think I have a decent feel for how fans feel about 2013. Generally speaking, the consensus seems to be that it wasn’t one of pro wrestling’s better years. In fact, many fans appear to think there was more bad than good going on in the squared circle in 2013. There was plenty of good, to be sure. For my money, Bully Ray was one of the most enjoyable workers in TNA and he made the promotion fun to watch. Then there’s Daniel Bryan, who had a banner year, as evidenced by the fact that PWI readers voted him “Wrestler of the Year” in our new issue (which, incidentally is on sale now at pwi-online.com).

But 2014 could certainly be better than 2013, that much is for certain. Hey, I’ve said it before: When it comes to wrestling, I can be pretty easy to please. I suppose that’s why I’m content to watch and re-watch the same old grainy footage of Kareem Mohammed tearing up Jay Youngblood’s headdress  from their feud in the early-1980s; I like the stuff that’s compelling and attention-getting without having to think or worry too much about what’s going on backstage. There are a few things that I’d really like to see in the coming year. Some of them are relatively “mainstream,” but I have a few offbeat druthers as well. All in all, what I’m hoping for isn’t exactly on par with the imaginations of Tolstoy or Melville, but it’s a little outside of the box, and that might be what we need to bounce back from a rather lackluster year. Here’s a sampling of my personal wish list ...

A “double-turn” from Daniel Bryan: I can’t claim this idea as my own, because I saw it being discussed in a chat room during this week’s Monday Night Raw, but I have to say it’d be way cool if Bryan’s turn to the “dark side” somehow resulted in him turning The Wyatt Family into an anti-Authority rebellion. It would be complex and perhaps difficult to pull off (kind of like “The Switch” episode of Seinfeld) but if everything fell into place, it would be well worth the long, strange trip. Whatever actually happens, it has to be better than the time CM Punk joined The New Breed. Or that time that John Cena joined Nexus. Prognosis: Possible, but not probable.

Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania: No doubt about it, if "Hulkster" came back at The Royal Rumble, it would turn the wrestling world on its ear. Everyone from Jimmy Hart to your typical fanboy in his shrunken, old-school PWI T-shirt wants to see this happen. It’s a sure thing that a 'Mania match that pits Hogan against any big name from today’s roster could easily make that show one of the biggest shindigs in wrestling history. Prognosis: All signs point to maybe.

Days gone by: Toby Keith
visits the Impact Zone
A new and serious contender in the wrestling industry: The hot rumor at the moment is that Jeff Jarrett and Toby Keith are set to announce a new project—something along the lines of a brand new wrestling promotion—in the very near future. To make things a bit more scintillating, Jim Ross is allegedly in the fold in some capacity or another. Details are sketchy, but some insiders, like wrestling vet turned podcaster Konnan, are saying that it’s really and truly in the works. It sounds almost too good to be true, really. I’m a lifelong fan of the southern style rasslin’ and that’s why Memphis-area brawler Phil Hickerson will always rank in my list of all-time favorites. So I can totally get on board with this idea in principle. But if the whole “Billy Corgan is buying TNA” affair from weeks past has taught us anything, it’s that we shouldn’t get too excited until the key players get behind a microphone or in front of a camera and tell us that the ink is dry on a contract or two. Nevertheless, a collaboration between an innovator like Jarrett and a deep-pocketed enthusiast like Keith brings about the kind of potential that is the stuff of dreams for wrestling fans. And Ol’ J.R. would be the icing on that cake, too. Prognosis: With a little less talk and a lot more action, we just might have something to believe in.

A higher grade of women’s wrestling from TNA and WWE: I definitely miss some of the Knockouts who are no longer with TNA, but ODB’s recent rise to prominence as well as Madison Rayne’s return to the squared circle are encouraging signs of things to come. I’d hope that WWE might spend less time grooming their Divas for roles on a reality show, but it sure looks like WWE has hit upon a recipe for short-term success with the hype and ratings surrounding of Total Divas. Prognosis: Thank goodness for SHIMMER.

Better times for TNA: I’m not the least bit ashamed to say that I love watching the TNA product. But at the same time, a lot of the company's recent moves have been pretty hard to get behind. They’re losing big names left and right, and at some level, with so many rumors flying, one would have to logically conclude that they’re going through a rough patch. But they enjoy a spot on prime time television and a dedicated following in the U.S. and abroad. They have a talented locker room, even without the big names who left in 2013. I agree with PWI’s Al Castle that one can hardly call TNA a distant second to WWE at this point but I also believe that folks who really want TNA to collapse or be assimilated into WWE are, at the very least, terribly misguided. TNA’s demise, at this point in the game, would leave a tremendous void in the business, and if you don’t like what you’re seeing from WWE right now, I’ve got sour news for you, Jack: An absence of TNA will mean more of the same from WWE for a long, long time. Still, TNA has some major problems to fix, and for things to drastically improve, they need to make some far-reaching, yet common sense changes, soon. Prognosis: Crossing my fingers, but not holding my breath.
PWI, December '95

Some good TV time for R-Truth
: Okay, I know this is probably not on anyone else’s radar, but I really see some potential for Truth to be a breakout star if the right people get behind him. His in-ring work has improved and he’s gold on the mike, especially when he’s “Crazy R-Truth.” I don’t care if he’s “good guy crazy” or “bad guy crazy,” this guy can really work. His current work with Xavier Woods and their rivalry with Brodus Clay give R-Truth the chance to get out there and make people take notice once again. Fort my part, I’d love to see him get to the top someday. Prognosis: Stranger things have happened ... like the time that Diesel and Mabel made the cover of PWI.

A decent sampling of indy wrestling on television: Indy stuff is all over the 'net, but there’s still nothing like firing up some wrestling on the ol’ boob tube. More and more these days, smaller satellite channels seem to be playing around with offering indy promotions time slots on their networks. Sometimes these promotions are getting regional coverage, and others, like Arkansas-based TCW, are inking deals that bring their action into homes all around the country. Sure, the time slots aren’t always great, but in the age of the DVR, it’s pretty easy to set your timer and watch something new and different whenever you want. In that respect, it’s a good time to be a wrestling fan. Prognosis: Take this one to the bank, brother.

Let's face it: The Attitude Era is a thing of the past and the original ECW isn't coming back. But there's still a lot to enjoy when it comes to wrestling, both with respect to what's already here and what could be right around the corner.

Mike Bessler
PWI Contributing Writer
@officialPWI Contributor