Welcome to the High Spot, Place to Be Nation’s weekly pro wrestling update. Steve Wille (@SteveWille34) will take you through the biggest story of the week in the world of wrestling, adding in a unique view to help put the story in perspective. Glenn Butler (@Glenniebun) then takes a quick look at other important stories of the week. If you have any tips or story ideas, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
In a year filled with too many wrestling-related business stories, yet another leads off the High Spot this week. Amongst such luminaries as Joan Rivers, Kim Kardashian and Those People Who Host the News Show on E!, NBC Universal and WWE announced on Thursday that they would be renewing their television licensing contract (And, no, I will not be tagging those names). At press time, the final numbers of the deal have not been announced but are expected to range anywhere from an average of 200 to 320 million dollars a year. As of right now, the flagship Raw show would remain on USA Network, Smackdown on Syfy, and Total Divas on E! Network. There have been some rumblings about Smackdown moving to a Tuesday evening live timeslot, but nothing has been finalized on that end. In their statement, NBC discussed their commitment to the “DVR-proof” live programming of the WWE. It will be interesting to see how NBC Universal’s networks can work in synergy with the WWE Network and their brand (Full Disclosure: I only offered to write this in order to use the words “synergy” and “brand” in a sentence).
An interesting Twitter conversation (Oxymoron alert?) between our friends at Pro Wrestling Only started yesterday which I (Steve) wholeheartedly agree with. It feels that wrestling fans have been spending a lot of time analyzing the business end of wrestling lately, often at the cost of discussion of the actual matches, which is far more entertaining. Although I do admit, reading wrestling analysts without financial background trying to make heads or tails out of stock prices is enjoyable, akin to watching a cat run into a glass door.
I realize that, in true hypocritical fashion, I’m adding to this wrestling business discussion. There is a market for this type of conversation, but it is best left to the experts in the field, such as Chris Harrington, whose Wrestlenomics podcast can be heard RIGHT HERE, on the Place to Be Network. But let’s not pretend most of us know one iota of what we’re talking about when it comes to these financial deals, or Spike TV’s feelings on Impact Wrestling, or pretend that we care about the subscription numbers of the Network. Let’s be real wrestling fans and moan about the writing.
- All is Lost: Doom has struck. Fell deeds have awaken us to a dawn most dire. Daniel Bryan, conquering hero, savior of us all, has been felled by an injured neck and made to submit to the surgeon’s knife. Sources indicate that Bryan underwent a successful operation on Thursday: he does indeed, once again, have a neck. It may not be as serious as the procedures required for John Cena, Steve Austin, Edge, Kurt Angle, or Lita; we do not yet know how long Bryan will be off of television, nor whether he will be stripped of the championship he just won at WrestleMania. All we know right now is that it is not a serious enough injury to pry Bryan free of his current storyline with Kane, and that whenever he does come back he will enjoy a long and illustrious career filled with references by Michael Cole to his surgically-repaired neck.
- Honorably Discharged?: As discussed on the Kevin Kelly Show, Ring of Honor is currently in a two-month stretch of huge shows. Last weekend, they partnered with New Japan Pro Wrestling to present “Global Wars,” with a card featuring each company offering a few matches in their signature style. On May 17th, they meet up again, only this time, most of the ten matches will feature interpromotional battles. There will be five title bouts, including Adam Cole taking on the legendary Jushin Liger for the ROH World Title and Michael Elgin battling AJ Styles for the third time this year, but now, the IWGP title will be on the line.
Elgin has been rather forthcoming about his desires to compete regularly in Japan, and, after the co-promoted shows and the upcoming June pay-per-view, this author wonders how the roster might change in the near future. AJ Styles will definitely be competing for New Japan for several tours this year, and is not advertised for any future show. Chris Hero, used several times earlier in 2014, has been competing around the world, including Pro Wrestling NOAH, and, thus far, is also not booked. After going through a tryout this spring, rumors are swirling that long-time talent and zoo enthusiast Kevin Steen may be headed to the WWE. These rumors have intensified after Steen gave an emotional speech after his loss to Cole last Saturday. If Elgin books a few tours of Japan, and the other aforementioned talents go elsewhere, it could be regarded as a considerable loss for the roster.
If athletes move on, spaces open for others to fill. Kevin Kelly has noted that they plan on utilizing their ROH camps and Future of Honor shows to develop talent for the main roster. PTBN favorites Hanson and Rowe could continue their rise, as well as one of this writer’s favorite veterans, Caprice Coleman. There is a strong indication that PTBN alum Christopher Daniels and his Bad Influence compatriot Kazarian will be heading into Ring of Honor soon, at least as a part-time attraction, and as the relationship with NJPW grows, who knows how many stars from Japan will make appearances going forward? We may be seeing a roster in flux, but that’s not necessarily a negative.
- Announce Me, Baby: Global Force Wrestling, the worldwide leader in announcements of announcements about future announcements, has announced that Jeff Jarrett and Scott D’Amore will be holding a talent search and seminar this June in Windsor, Ontario. Sources are ambiguous regarding how similar this talent search will be to the Diva Search. If you’re in or near Windsor and have talent, hit them up! It can’t hurt!
- Stop Me if You’ve Heard This Before: Vince Russo has started a new website that aims to carry his views on & memories of wrestling, branching off into articles by various writers on sports, music, and other areas of pop culture. Hey, do you think they could use a weekly link roundup?
- Don’t Pump Up the Bass: Nick Hogan is apparently a DJ now. Okay. It’s certainly a more pleasant way for Nick Hogan to get into the news than the time he inflicted a grievous brain injury on a person while driving drunk.
- More Time to Play Madden, I Guess: It seems likely that the next WWE video game will be pushed back from its usual fall release date into the early part of 2015. In terms of marketing this would effectively switch out the Black Friday/holiday buying season for the Road to WrestleMania XXXI, which should serve as another effective time for game hype. One hopes that the extra time would give 2K an opportunity to refine the game further and move away from the air of blandness that’s settled on the franchise. Meanwhile, your humble author just recently got a creaky old PlayStation 2 set up again for the single purpose of diving back into SmackDown vs. Raw 2007’s General Manager mode with a new set of created wrestlers. Currently set for Backlash is a tag team showdown between The Boogeyman & Little Boogeyman and their hated rivals, Kane & Satan, as well as Arn Anderson vs. Finlay and much more.
Prepare yourself for a deep, penetrating dive into the plasma pool. As it’s been a bit of a slow news week (or two weeks), gather ‘round for an installment of Glenn’s SmackDown vs. Raw 2007 General Manager Mode Stories. Previously, alongside the news of Viscera’s death, I recalled the glory that is humping a guy off of the cell. This time: “I’m coming with Lashley!”
First, some general context. General Manager Mode in SmackDown vs. Raw 2007 is structured as a two-player game, with each player controlling his or her own brand — I happen to run Raw while my brother, Scott, has SmackDown. As GM you make rivalries and book events with the nominal goal of attracting more fans and winning the ratings war by the time WrestleMania comes around, but we quickly gave up caring about the ratings in favor of pursuing whatever seems fun. This has lead to many stables and storylines that may be considered whacked by the ever-elusive “normal people” (perhaps someday I’ll regale you with the history of BookLash, or The Ballad of the Big Fat Guys). We also quickly found that one of the most fun things to do when a pay-per-view comes around is to book a six-man Hell in a Cell match and spend as much of it as possible throwing people down to the arena floor. Our preferred method is the ultimate control chokeslam, which you can use to grab someone anywhere on top of the cell, hoist them up in the air, and walk right over to the edge. We proceeded to add this move to the repertoire of nearly everyone on both of our shows. The visual of a competitor falling is fun, it usually pumps up your power meter enough for a finisher, and having six people in the match ensures that there will always be someone climbing the cage soon to take that finisher — all the better if it’s a superkick or something else that will send that wrestler careening down off of the cage too. You can go pin one of these terribly injured people, or, if you don’t care about the precise outcome of the match, keep throwing people off of the cage and let the CPU players sort it out on the floor. (We’ve tried to play more recent games, but General Manager mode is gone or irreparably deformed, and the last one we tried even removed grapples & dives off of the cell. It’s a shanda. As much as I may salivate at doing all of this in a game with a more advanced graphics engine and current roster — Big Swing off the cage! — it seems ‘tis not to be.)
Sometimes, while we’re playing one of these matches, one of us will suddenly get caught in a pinning predicament on the floor and cry out, “Dude! Eddie Guerrero is pinning me!” The other will quickly come to the closest side of the cage, yell “I’m coming!” and drop an elbow or some such to break up the pin and keep the match going. The diving strike fails more often than not, leaving the visual of one of us falling on his neck as the three-count is made final, but that’s the idea. On one blessed occasion Scott got caught by someone on the floor just as I, playing as The Undertaker, was picking up Bobby Lashley high above. Without time to get out of the grapple, I yelled “I’m coming…with Lashley!” and chokeslammed the hard-hitting soft-spoken superstar down to break up the pin for me…and it totally worked! Lashley crashed down onto the person pinning Scott, breaking up the pin, Scott got up amid a mass of simulated humanity, and the match continued. It was a singular, stunning combination of timing and game mechanics that has become legendary in this household.