Undercard Overhaul 4: Still 5 More Angles to Improve WWE TV
This industry thrives on spectacle and people have millions (if not billions) of entertainment alternatives if WWE and its performers fail to deliver a compelling, memorable product.
With that in mind, let's take a look at five more angles that can turn WWE's struggling undercard from brackish to bad ass.
5. John Cena Moves to Smackdown
John Cena is such an irresistible force that huge portions of each Raw are dedicated to him, and justly so, but the man's programs are always so interview- and vignette-heavy that there's little room to showcase anything else.
Ratings are higher when Cena's on TV, so that explains quantity, and the majority of Cena's fan-base are women and children who are less interested in actual wrestling than they are soap operas and storylines, which explains all the talking.
Without diving too deep in meta-narrative, however, WWE needs to realize that lower ratings are part of an ongoing initiative to build new stars (having put all their eggs in one basket with Cena and Randy Orton while everyone else was made to look weak) and move John Cena to Smackdown so younger talent can establish notoriety and market share of their own.
This "Five Year Plan," accepting lower ratings to build bigger stars, would test a couple of my theories: one, the ratings will suffer at first but remain relatively high and eventually grow because new stars will emerge (and Raw is live); and two, Cena's fans aren't affected by spoilers because they're not the kind to read dirt sheets, thus Smackdown would experience a considerable bump while Raw went into rebuilding mode.
(Not to mention, Smackdown's earlier Friday night time slot allows Cena's younger fans to stay up late and watch the whole show, whereas they have school in the morning on Monday nights. I know I'd prefer that schedule for my boy, who has to go to bed at 9:00 during the week.)
What about Smackdown's undercard, you ask?
Almost completely unharmed.
How is that possible?
Raw being live, there's a metric ton of dead air in Cena's promo-heavy feuds and Smackdown's tape delay allows for judicious editing.
For example, take Raw a couple of weeks ago, wherein Zack Ryder was unable to change a flat tire while being pursued by Kane. The main Kane/Cena storyline and this peripheral extension of it consumed almost half the show, excluding commercials.
I think the cutting room would've thrown most of it in the trash, streamlining and polishing the product, if only these developments had aired on Smackdown instead. (Kane's entrance alone is five minutes...every time he comes out!)
Cena takes up 40 minutes of Raw. He'd only take up 20 minutes of Smackdown. Fans are getting the most bang for their buck, the dead air's gone, and the undercard benefits from more exposure and longer matches.
Not to say Cena wouldn't appear on Raw, it's a "SuperShow" after all, but he'd only appear in the capacity that Randy Orton does: to promote his story-lines on Smackdown by wrestling a match, which I'm okay with since these promotional bouts are usually only tag matches and Cena's partners could use the rub.
4. The African Embassy
Epico and Primo, having beaten Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne for the WWE Tag Team Championships, try to end Kofi's career (and make sure he never challenges for the titles ever again) by attacking him while his partner is on the shelf.
Weeks of being harassed and out-numbered take their toll on Kofi. He comes down to the ring, intent on announcing his retirement, when he's again attacked by the Tag Team Champions. This time, however, Justin Gabriel makes the save and the African Embassy is bourne (sic).
(Kofi is announced from Ghana and Gabriel is from Cape Town.)
The two teams continue to butt heads until Evan Bourne returns (if he doesn't get fired) and turns on Kofi, sickened that he could so easily be replaced by someone like Justin Gabriel, who just a couple of years ago was stomping them into the ground as part of Nexus.
Kingston tries to explain it to him, that they needed each other to survive while Evan was gone, but Bourne won't listen and the hard feelings escalate into a two-on-two rivalry between the African Embassy and Evan and his new best friend, Trent Barreta.
(Trent enters the picture as someone who sympathizes with Evan, having been left in the dust several times himself, and serves as a sounding board while Bourne gossips and complains.)
The angle eventually grows to include Epico and Primo and the whole thing explodes in a triple threat Tables, Ladders and Chairs match at WWE's TLC pay-per-view.
3. Stereotypical Struggle
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Alberto Del Rio has had a lot of time to sit at home during his injury and he's studied a lot of tape on his 100-inch LCD TV. He thought he'd come back to fight CM Punk for the WWE Championship, but there's one thing that's more important to ADR than gold: his Mexican heritage.
Del Rio demands an audience with Hunico, who rolls down to the ring on a low-rider bicycle with former FCW star Donny Marlow (son of legendary wrestler Haku, now wrestling as Camacho).
Del Rio calls Hunico a disgrace. Not only did he lose his mask and name to Sin Cara but he looks like some low-life thug that crawled out from under a rock in the barrio looking for a hand-out. ADR gives Hunico an ultimatum: either pull up his pants and stop disrespecting the Mexican tradition or leave WWE forever.
Hunico fires back, calling Del Rio a hypocrite.
He says, "You don't care about Mexico. You don't care about your people. If you'd spend half the money helping people as you do on your stupid cars, there wouldn't be people like me, people who have to get hard or die. You're worse than garbage!"
...At which point Camacho would flatten ADR with a clothesline and hit Ricardo Rodriguez with his finisher, the Tongan Death Grip. Hunico continues to talk smack in Spanish as Del Rio rolls out of the ring, vowing to make Hunico pay.
(The contrast between rich and poor parallels nicely with ongoing social unrest in the form of "the 99 vs. 1%" and Occupy Wall Street.)
Del Rio works a pay-per-view against Hunico, who beats him via undetected interference, and it becomes clear that ADR can't overcome superior numbers. He needs something to level the playing field.
"Ricardo," he says,"I'm going to teach you how to fight."
Anyone familiar with Ricardo Rodriguez knows that he can already wrestle (and is currently doing so at a high level down in FCW) but he's always been a clumsy know-nothing during his tenure in WWE.
Del Rio needing someone he can trust, however, means a slew of entertaining training vignettes as Ricardo prepares for a tag team bout against Hunico and Camacho at the next pay-per-view.
"Be fierce!" Del Rio says, encouraging Ricardo to lift some heavy weights. "Become a creature from legend, a mythical beast! Become the Chimaera!"
(Chimaera is, of course, the name Rodriguez wrestled under on the Independent circuit.)
The feud carries across several pay-per-views, culminating in an elimination tables match with $100,000 of Del Rio's money on the line against Hunico's career. Ricardo is eliminated early, leaving Del Rio to suffer a two-on-one situation (again).
Hunico and Camacho go over, leading to a new story on Smackdown where they adjust to life as "wealthy entrepreneurs" (like Bayou Billionaires on CMT).
Del Rio blames Rodriguez for losing the match and costing him so much money (and respect) and the two spend a few more tenuous weeks together before Ricardo gets fed up with ADR's constant criticism and slaps his mentor. They go on to feud mano-y-mano.
2. Johnny Curtis, Ultimate Hero
photo from WWE
Let me preface this by saying: I don't know who owns the Ultimate Warrior in terms of intellectual property.
(Never thought I'd put "Warrior" and "intellectual" in the same sentence.)
I'm not fully aware of what the Constitution says about fair use and parody, nor do I know if WWE owns the Warrior's likeness despite owning footage from both WWF and WCW and releasing a fairly controversial DVD examining his career back in 2005.
My gut tells me, if concepts like Gillberg and the Renegade exist, so too can Johnny Curtis make his mark on WWE TV by absorbing energy from the stars and becoming the Ultimate Hero.
Complete with color-coordinated face-paint (because face-paint in wrestling is a lost art) and an Ultimate Hero baseball cap, echoing that weird moment when Warrior confronted Jerry Lawler and "the King" broke a painting over his back, Johnny Curtis would be the wildest, most energetic jobber in WWE history. Fans would love him for it the way they loved Shane Helms as the Hurricane.
The Hero would cut the same kind of outlandish (but incredibly memorable) promos that Warrior cut, clearly forgetting the previous week's losing effort, only to struggle with the Press Slam and get hit with a finisher again and again.
Brooklyn Brawlers are necessary in wrestling and someone has to fill the role. Though he wouldn't be winning, Johnny Curtis would be entertaining the fans. Job well done, One Hero Nation!
Imagine the potential in Ultimate Hero versus Ted DiBiase Jr., recreating a classic feud, or Ultimate Hero versus "Showster" (Big Show as Hogan) at WrestleMania, where the match ends in a disqualification after "Black Machismo" Jay Lethal interferes and drops a Big Elbow.
Everything old is new again, indeed!
1. Perry Saturn Enters the Royal Rumble
It's that time of year again, when everybody starts speculating about mystery entrants in the Royal Rumble, and of all the possible surprises, perhaps the one I'd like to see the most, is Perry Saturn.
Saturn's been on a long and lonely road since leaving WWE in 2002, battling drug addiction, depression and homelessness. He's since gotten married, turned his life around and had a return match against C.W. Anderson in 2011.
Saturn has to be on good terms with his former employer because he was backstage at Bragging Rights in 2010. He was also trained by "Killer" Kowalski who, if you'll remember, also trained Triple H.
The dream scenario is this: Saturn's former partner, WWE agent and surprise entrant Dean Malenko is alone in the ring fighting Epico and Primo, tag team champions, in a two-on-one beat-down. The Rumble timer counts down again and out comes Saturn to the rescue.
The two clean house, eliminating the tag champs before Kane, the next entrant, eliminates them both to claim an empty ring.
Welcome back to wrestling, Perry!