Battle Royale: 20 Over the Top (Rope) Ideas for a Better Monday Night
Do you see what I did there with the title? You don't have to be, but I'm proud of it. Perhaps it's the kind of pride that comes when your child eats a crayon instead of an entire jar of paste, but regardless...
As you all are well aware, Monday nights contain the flagship shows of World Wrestling Entertainment and Total Nonstop Action. Some people call it a "war"—and some believe that we, the viewers, have a long way to go before we can look to the current products of both companies and forget that magical, bygone era of the late '90s.
Indeed, this isn't WWF Attitude versus WCW and Ted Turner's billions. The big stars of yesteryear are starting—or continuing—to gray while the younger, future stars of tomorrow are a bit less than entrenched in the minds of those who watch football or that hilarious show on CBS with Neil Patrick Harris.
While one can also look at the ratings and say this isn't a competition—it's more of a massacre, really—both WWE and TNA are offering rather different products right now.
And there's no telling what wrestling fans might choose a year or two down the road.
Most wrestling fans would agree that while WWE has a very comfortable lead on TNA, both companies' Monday night shows are in need of some improvements. With that in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to put together a list of my own perceived flaws with one or both companies. Hey, you never know who's reading, right?
20. Both: I am a Real American
Is it just me or is music in wrestling not nearly as good as it was several years ago? Sure, HHH still has his Motorhead music, but it's old now. I mean, I still enjoy Pearl Jam's first album, but that doesn't mean I freak out every time Even Flow comes on like I did 17 years ago, ya know?
When the coolest new theme song on Raw is Jack Swagger's Rage Against the Machine ripoff music, you know you have a problem. (Seriously, why hasn't Zack De La Rocha sued this wannabe group? They took one letter off of Rage's name and blatantly stole their sound.)
Oh, and Nickelback as Raw's theme song, Vince? Really?
No, TNA doesn't escape this rant, either—not by a long shot. While I'll admit that one of my biggest guilty pleasures is Jeff Jarrett's theme song My World —Yes, it's in my iPod, and yes, I listen to it—most of TNA's theme music is on the level of early '90s-caliber ring entrance garbage.
Desmond Wolfe and Mick Foley are among the most tolerable in this regard, but that's like saying epic diarrhea is more tolerable than dysentery. Other stars are reduced to mock versions of their previous company's music, while others seem to end up with Guitar Rock Riff No. 31 .
I remember when WWE had the nu-metal scene dead to rights—and every star seemed to get some level of enjoyable music.
I'm not saying nu-metal isn't still cool by any means, but there's good rock music out there—and in this age of YouTube and bands floating around everywhere, it would be easy to find something that's better than Rock Song No. 18 by employee No. 45. Yes, I know they have departments for music, etc., but you get my point.
Oh, and WWE? We get that Randy Orton hears voices in his head, and they talk to him, etc. We get that John Cena's time is now. We get that Edge, on this day, sees clearly—and for the love of God, we get that Chris Jericho breaks the wall down...yada, yada, yada.
My God, some of these entrance themes are at least five years old—if not longer. So yeah, both sides, shape up and give us something better to listen to while we're watching our favorite stars come to the ring.
19. TNA: Spanning the Globe…From Orlando
This is more of a Catch-22 for TNA. They want to save money and build an audience using one venue and TV, but to build their audience, they need to tour. Touring costs money—but at the same time, not touring costs potential money.
Don't get me wrong. That two-month period when I saw the same guy holding "The Pope's Congregation" sign with the 30 arrows pointed at himself was amusing every single time, but when you can start picking out people in the audience that you can recognize—well, it starts to look a little bush league.
18. TNA: Calling All Knockouts
So let me get this straight. TNA has a women's division—a rather good one, actually, but one that nonetheless has three title belts and about eight women in it? Wow, is that weak.
That's not a slam on Angelina Love (one of my favorites), Velvet Sky (one of my favorites), Daffney (one of my...you get the idea), Taylor, Sarita, Madison, or the wonderful Tara—or even the horribly gimmicked ODB.
They're all talented female competitors who are capable of putting on matches that make a Maryse vs. Alicia "battle" look like two blind toddlers clomping barefoot through molasses and mouse traps.
Or at least I'd assume...I've never actually seen that before.
With the departures of Gail Kim, Awesome Kong, Alyssa Flash, Sojurner Bolt, Roxxi and Ms. Brooks, TNA has basically lost almost half of its female competitors.
Hey, Dixie: Remember when TNA had that tournament when a bunch of women just came out of the woodwork at the same time and basically created the Knockouts Division in the span of a day? Yeah, time to have another one of those tournaments.
17. WWE: Roster Shake-up
WWE has the depth of talent in its organization to bring some of its brighter young stars from Smackdown onto Raw .
In other words, it's time for another draft—and I'm not just talking about seeing Primo go to Smackdown ("Mah gawd, it's Primo!), I'm talking about sending some big names across the lines here.
This might be more of a stopgap, but WWE is in dire need of some new feuds. I get why so many people are excited for Undertaker vs. HBK, but the fact that it's a rematch from last year's Mania somewhat cheapens the hype for me.
Don't get me wrong—they put on a great match, and I'm sure they will this year as well— but hyping a sequel to something that, at best, will probably be somewhat on par with the original almost seems to be self-defeating.
Before you comment, I'm well aware that Taker is on Smackdown . I'm simply speaking to the fact that the feuds on Raw are a bit stale at the moment and could benefit from a sizeable roster shake-up. When the only guy that appears to be worthy of batting the freakin Game on the biggest stage of them all is Sheamus, you know that's a problem.
16. WWE: Midcard Mediocrity
Outside of Evan Bourne, the midcard scene on Raw —the place where one traditionally finds the future of WWE—is looking rather bleak right now. The roster seems to be overpopulated with the same average players that it's had for some time. Chris Masters, Carlito, Mark Henry—even a lot of the more recent midcarders like Kofi, MVP, and Cody Rhodes feel a bit stale these days.
For almost a decade now, WWE has had a problem developing new stars. They've had some successes; don't get me wrong. But even Jim Ross has stated before that one of the biggest mistakes WWE made coming out of the Attitude era was not being able to develop talent that was on the level of the previous standard bearers.
15. TNA: Hoooogan!
Sorry, it's hard to sound like a vein-popping, 60-year-old Ric Flair through text. Regardless, TNA—or "TNHogan," as some have taken to calling it—has gotten a little out of control.
OK, a lot.
Right now, we're at about eight "brutherrrs" per episode—of course, by that I mean appearances. TNA really needs to hold to and enforce a strict two "brutherrr" limit on Impact .
Also, we don't need to see him at the beginning of every show. Whoever decided that having Hogan come out right off the bat—every single night and talk, and talk, and talk—would somehow whip viewers into a frothing, foaming, uncontrollable frenzy needs to be staple-gunned to a moving vehicle.
I agree that Hogan is a very helpful name to have when trying to bring legitimacy to your wrestling company, but the fact of the matter is that he can't wrestle anymore—and without that bullet in his chamber, he becomes a bit of a one-trick pony.
So while I don't mind seeing Hogan give a surprise entrance and tweak a match—maybe a vignette with Hogan and Bischoff having a confrontation over this wrestler or that wrestler—we don't need to have vignettes featuring Abyss, Bischoff, Brooke, Bubba the Love Towely (or whatever his nonsensical name is), and five other people telling Hulk he shouldn't go out there.
14. WWE: Tag Team Turmoil
I'm still not sure why Vince McMahon hates tag teams. Maybe he doesn't literally, but I think that he's always been more into building up individual stars. Unfortunately, there are those that simply can't or don't get over individually.
So a lot of times, Vince likes to do this funny thing where he just slaps two random people together and seemingly says, "you're a tag team." I like to think that he does this in his voice that's so gravely you'd think a sand castle was about to fall out of his mouth—or a large wad of spit. Whichever.
Looking at Raw and Smackdown , you basically have a few legit tag teams like Cryme Tyme and The Hart Dynasty, but then you're basically left with people like the Big Show—who, bless his ham-sized heart, just can't seem to muster a sustained level of charisma to carry him in an individual feud and make me care about it.
MVP, Mark Henry, Rhodes, Dibiase, and R Truth all seem to fall in to this category. Morrison is in the tag scene right now, but for the life of me, I can't imagine why or who he angered to get buried with the likes of these has-beens and never-was characters.
13. TNA: "Oh, My God, It’s…”
One of TNA's biggest issues right now seems to be a roster that's in complete and utter flux. I get that the company is trying to expand, but it honestly seems like there's someone leaving the company or arriving every other day.
One minute, Scott Steiner is out, then Jeff Hardy's in. Then Sean Morely's in. Then Bobby Lashley's out. Then Awesome Kong's out. Then Sean Morely's out and Rob Van Dam is in.
Don't get me wrong, I love it when big stars or even simply when new stars debut in either TNA or WWE. But with TNA, this is a sword that they tend to live and die by and because of that, their roster has a very fluid feel to it.
I love fluidity in a wrestling match; when guys like Kurt Angle and A.J. Styles are absolutely taking it to the limit and the crowd is chanting "this is awsome" nonstop. But fluidity in the actual roster? I can't say that I'm a fan.
12. TNA: Where Is Destination X?
Well, I'm more specifically referring to the division here. It was nice to see Eric Bischoff refer to the painfully light X Division on last Monday's Impact . But adding Shannon Moore to a list that includes Kaz, Daniels, Red, Brian Kendrick, and Doug Williams does not make for a thrilling return to one of TNA's biggest attractions.
Without a doubt, Christopher Daniels should be the champion, leading this division with every ounce of charisma he can muster. But who follows? Well, the aforementioned players, along with Consequences Creed, Jay Lethal, Eric Young, Syxx, and Brutus Magnus—and if I were the TNA brass, I'd be looking at adding more wrestlers of various sizes who can help put this division on the map again.
11. WWE: You Have a Women’s Division, Too?
Oh, how I long for the days of Lita and Ivory and the women of this company who could do more than girly clotheslines, pull hair, and steal finishing moves from A.J. Styles (Michelle McCool? More like Michelle Mc...OK, I won't go there).
Maryse, your snotty French gimmick is fantastic. Know what would make it even better? About 20 pounds, preferably of muscle, and the ability to wrestle your way out of a paper cup—one that is preferably filled with Weight Gainer 5000 or Goobers. I don't know— something that'll make you appear less skeletal or emaciated.
That goes for basically every other woman in the company not named Beth Phoenix or Micki James. It's ironic that the two best female wrestlers in the company are the two that look the least like Vince McMahon's stick-thin, talentless view of what a "diva" should be.
10. WWE: “Five-Knuckle Shuffle”
Is anyone else sick to death of the same old spots in the WWE? This is something they absolutely have to fix. If I were Vince McMahon, I'd tell every single wrestler—from the guys who just showed up to the Undertaker and HBK—that they have to use at least five moves that they've never performed in the ring before.
WWE has the burden of being the only real player in town for the last 10 years. As such, many of the wrestlers who have been on TV for most or all of that time have fallen into patterns. Sure, Triple H's flying knee gets a pop from the crowd—but does anyone care about it as much as they did three or four years ago?
9. TNA: Main Event Who?
If WWE has a problem with its midcarders, then most would agree that a far bigger problem might involve having issues with the world title scene.
With the departures of Booker T, Christian, Bobby Lashley—was he ever really even "in" TNA? —and Scott Steiner, the title around A.J. Flair's waist is looking a little shabby right now.
Samoa Joe is seemingly trapped in the basement of a Bolivian hacienda, being tortured for the launch codes and the secret to Ric Flair's ability to bleed his entire body's worth of blood out and not die.
The Pope is pimpin’—or so the TNA crowd tells me. True though that may be, he's not a main event talent yet—even by TNA standards. He's on his way, don't get me wrong, but without any other main event feuds on his resume, a title win looks both early and unlikely for Mr. Dinero.
Kurt Angle continues to battle midcard agitator Ken Anderson in a "don't-spit-on-the-troops" angle that shows Kurt can be a baby face, but he's still a much better heel.
Sting—who decided to show up after presumably clobbering his inner demons and large roaches in TNA's attic with his trusty black bat for the last three months—is busy using RVD as BP, so who else is able to step up and bring legitimate A-list ability and charisma to a main event title feud?
Anyone? Raise your hand. No, Velvet, it can't be you. No, I know you're gorgeous, but if you beat A.J., that would just look silly. Now go sit down again, but do that awesome thing with shaking and the almost kiss…Nice.
8. WWE: Swaggle! Swaggle! Swaggle!
This guy. OK, by himself, he's not something that's "wrong" with WWE. But much like the cutoff feuds in TNA, WWE has issues that are symptoms of bigger problems.
I'm talking about creative malaise.
I'm talking about events that happen on Raw seemingly every week. I'm talking about John Cena babooning to the ring and screaming for someone to come out.
I'm talking about Santino and WWE's apparent fetish for making this guy act like a horse’s ass. This is just the way of things. He will mispronounce something—and huge belly laughs will be had by all.
Then, of course, Hornswaggle will come out and do something, well, Hornswaggly. Why they basically brought a small person on—just so they can make him do things that are borderline animal-like—is beyond me. But somehow, someway, a human being has basically managed to become a "mascot" for Raw .
If you haven't figured out what I've been saying so far, I'll put it more plainly: When you have segments on your show that are basically the same week after week, you are in what I can only refer to as a creative rut.
7. TNA: Surprise!
Dixie's company likes to build up to big surprises. Who's going to jump ship from WWE to TNA? Who is TNA going to sign? Who attacked A.J. Styles? Who kidnapped Samoa Joe? I'm all in favor of keeping an environment where you never know what's going to happen next, but there's a fine line between chaos and disorder.
I say that because TNA seems to be living and dying by the surprise right now. Every new face that comes in to the company seems to get either a title shot or a main event push—and it simply makes TNA look small and amateur.
Don't get me wrong; some absolutely deserve that push. Desmond Wolfe is a prime example. But why Shannon Moore has a title shot at a pay-per-view before ever wrestling a match is beyond me. You can't keep surprising people every week. After a while, the writing has to take over and carry the show.
In other words, you can only jump out and say "Boo!" so many times before it's not scary any more.
6. WWE: “Oh, my God, It’s…That Guy!”
Race car drivers, douchey magicians, and other C-list celebrities, lend me your ear. Please stop coming on Raw and boring me with your incessant you-ness.
Why do you force me to sit through someone I couldn't care less about—who's completely unrelated to wrestling and wouldn't get spotted by someone who knows them in their own house—talking about something I care even less about? Why would God or Vince McMahon force this upon me without giving me the ability to suck my ears into my skull and swallow my own eyes?
I'd say more, but when my wrestling show is forcing me to care about Jewel and Rusty McButternut or whoever corn-fed racecar driver No. 8 was, I think that's all the digging we need to do in order to get to the bottom of that grave.
5. TNA: Square Pegs
Yes, I just made a reference to that show with Sarah Jessica Parker. You know—the one before the one when she was a high-heel obsessed shrew from the East Coast that had three other middle-aged hags? No? Oh well, fair enough.
My issue here is, again, writing-related. But this comes from the fact that TNA keeps trying to stick square pegs in round holes. For starters, they have A.J. Styles—a guy who’s known by fans as being happily married, a guy who loves playing Call of Duty and other video games.
Now, all of a sudden, we're supposed to buy that he's this Ric Flair clone? Isn't this sort of implying that his personality is so bad, so cardboard, so oatmeal, so driftwood that they have to perform this neosurgical personality transplant? Now, instead of getting ready to fly, we have to watch poor A.J. strut around like a 60-year-old man and pretend he's the guy who walks around arm in arm with four women at a time?
Anyone else buying that? No? Good. It's not just me, then. This was a role made for a real heel. Someone who has bleached-blond hair and the fans despise. Let me think—who could that be?
Then you have A.J.'s opponent at Destination X: Abyss. As the picture of this article would suggest, Abyss is also in a bad angle. They're taking the Monster—the guy with moves called the Black Hole Slam and the Shock Treatment—and not only making him a giggling simpleton, but now they're having him fawn over Hulk Hogan's Hall of Fame ring like it has magical powers to raise the dead, cure cancer, and yes, rule them all.
You know what would be a great angle for Abyss? How about the one when he wears black and kicks the crap out of people? I kinda liked that Abyss.
Or how about Jeff Jarrett? The King of the Mountain? The leader of Planet Jarrett? What infant-brained chucklehead thought that the best use of one of the best stars in the company would be having him flip burgers and lose to a departing Sean Morely in a Bathroom Brawl or Pooper Match—or whatever you want to call it?
Other examples of misusing stars would be Joe and the kidnapping angle (way to have one of your top wrestlers at the biggest show of the year), Kurt Angle as a good guy in general, Sting as a bad guy, Rob Van Dam as a baseball for Sting's bat, Jeff Hardy's on-again, off-again appearances, and the myriad of stars who are criminally underused such as Daniels, Beer Money, Amazing Red, MCMG, Generation Me—the list goes on.
4. WWE: Generally Speaking
This goes along with the C-List general manager idea, but to me, Raw feels like it's very directionless these days. Yes, they have their feuds and what not, but with Vince McMahon spending all of his time trying to shoo the crickets out of his pant legs on his way to the ring so that he can humiliate Bret Hart, or do do his fantastic electrocuted zombie impression on his way to the ring so that he can humiliate John Cena, having Cheech and Chong as the fulcrum of an episode, doesn't really do it for me.
People might hate Hogan and Bischoff for the amount of face time they get on TV—and I do, too—but the fact of the matter is that with TNA, you know who's steering the ship. From week to week, you know who has the power and who's going to use it. Oddly enough—for me, at least— that adds a type of continuity to TNA that Raw simply doesn't have at the moment.
My choice for Raw 's permanent GM? That's easy: Bret Hart. He's in the perfect angle for it, too. He can have an incredibly long feud with Vince, all the while being the plot device—that catalyst for several other things that happen on the show.
I'm not saying that he has to be omnipresent like Hogan and Bischoff are, but seeing the same face in charge each week would go a lot further than having Dusty Rhodes one week, followed by Al Sharpton and that guy that's on that one show.
It would be nice to have that person who can come out either at the beginning or after the first match or two and kind of set the stage for the night. Then maybe throw in a tweak to a match, restart a match, or add a stipulation or provide one or two little surprises, (Hogan are you taking notes? This person should be in small doses!)
I think that this type of person could do a lot for Raw.
Plus, there's the added benefit of not having to see the parade of losers who come out to plug their wares each week—and really, who doesn't love a nice bonus?
3. Both: Clean Your House
Unlike a quality steak, you don't keep fat on a wrestling roster to improve the overall flavor of the show. Like a steak, you trim the fat so that you're left with the best parts.
From TNA: The Nasty Boys, Dr. Stevie, Jesse Neal, Shark Boy, Kiyoshi, Orlando Jordan, and Lacey Von Erich. There are others that some might want to add to the list—The Band, Tomko, Rhino, ODB, Raven, Creed, Magnus, etc. But the first six or seven for me are almost universally pointless in terms of the spots they take up on the roster.
From WWE: Hornswaggle, Santino, Chavo, Primo, Cody Rhodes, Jillian, Sheamus, Mark Henry, and Kozlov are the ones that immediately jump out at me from Raw . You might disagree. You might want to add John Cena to this list, as well. I'm not saying these people have to be fired, but they need to leave Raw for a good, long...ever.
2. WWE: Can I Get My Wrestling With a Little Less Violence?
Oh, WWE fans hate this complaint. They hate the idea that their favorite show could possibly be less than what it was because they don't show blood, they don't cuss, and they don't do about 70 percent of what they got away with in the Attitude era.
Huh...when you put it like that...
No, I'm not going to sit here and say that WWE would be better if it were crucifying Stone Cold or showing Mae Young giving birth to a hand, but there is something to be said for creative freedom. Like it or not, a lot of what people liked in the Attitude era simply couldn't be shown on a PG program. A pimp? A guy drinking what looks like blood? Probably not. A guy pulling a casket with his truck? I doubt it. Middle fingers all over the place, handprint bras, a The Kat vs. Terri in a thong stink face match, etc., etc.?
No, none of that was Shakespeare, but it all pushed the envelope. It got people to take notice—and it gave WWE a feeling of "anything can happen." That wasn't just a slogan back then—it was the truth. Now? Not so much.
1. TNA: Continuity Now!
OK, that's a slight Seinfeld reference—which is odd, because I've never like that show. I know... whaaat is the deeeal with that? Shut up. Really. Cram it with walnuts. As far as they'll go.
I'm kidding. You're aces in my book—and you know it.
If WWE's burden is trying to stay fresh without competition, then TNA's burden is trying to cram everything they have into a single, two-hour show per week. The downside of this is rather predictable, but nonetheless debilitating for Orlando's (hopefully) favorite wrestling company.
In the process of throwing everything at the viewer but the kitchen sink—trying to include as many wrestlers and tell as many stories as possible—TNA has developed a very bad habit of stunting feuds, ending them early with little explanation or simply contradicting something that happened a week or two ago.
Remember when the Nasty Boys and 3D were in this battle for a locker room or who could eat the most banana pudding or whatever the reason was for their searing hatred? Yeah, me neither. It was about three weeks and one unfortunate pay-per-view—and then it was done.
While that might not seem like a bad thing, it's one of many symptoms of a greater problem with TNA. Most notably, a writing team that simply can't keep its characters and stories on a long track.
Well, that's about it! What did you think? I'm sure you'll disagree about some—if not, a lot of what I said here, whether you're a WWE fan or a TNA fan. I hope that you at least enjoyed some of it and that I, in my own small way, helped you waste five to 10 good minutes while at work or waiting for your roommate to be done in the bathroom.
I'm begging you, though, to please not turn this in to a "whose-pants-pouch-is-bigger" argument between WWE fans and TNA fans. I don't care which company is currently better. As a wrestling fan, I'm always hoping that both will improve—hence the inspiration for writing this unbelievably long article.
Regardless, thank you for reading!
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