I seriously worried about WWE not too long ago. I feared its direction, and with ratings plummeting, I began to wonder whether WCW Mark II could occur.
I was once optimistic about TNA. I felt Hogan had nothing to lose and that he had put his ego to one side.
The Motor City Machine Guns vs. Beer Money was arguably one of the best feuds in the past decade, with some of the wrestling being of the highest quality.
How times change.
As we approach 2011, and almost a decade since the collapse of WCW, what follows are 10 points that I feel characterize wrestling in the two major organizations.
As I have written elsewhere, I have never understood the appeal of Orton.
I also did not like Cena, either.
However in recent times, Cena's character has been developed and he has won me over, simply because he has worked hard.
- His promo last week with Roddy Piper, together with his "farewell" speech, were some of the best promos in recent years.
- His matches especially with Dave Batista helped challenge the notion of weak matches in the PG era.
- He has almost single-handedly sold the Nexus to WWE.
- Outside the ring, he is an ambassador.
In contrast, Randy Orton has still not had a series of matches of quality. He has had some moments, but I still can not name one PPV where he has been the figurehead. Although still young, he has still not had a Wrestlemania moment and time is beginning to tick.
- Orton given so much at a young age, has become complacent.
- His face turn is an attempt to tap in Austin's popularity but it looks visibly awkward.
- His mic skills may be methodical but it hides his lack of charisma.
If Orton is to reach the heights many are predicting, he needs to add to his character and deliver. He needs to justify his lofty position, because as the next slide will attest, there are many now after him.
The success of the old WCW, in my opinion, was that there was quality throughout its ranks. The NWO and Goldberg were big successes, but there is no way anyone would have watched had the three hours been filled with promos and squash matches.
It will anger WCW fans to name the list of the so called "vanilla midgets" put down by the Nash/Hogan led old guard: Jericho, Malenko, Mysterio, DDP, Benoit, Guerrero to name a few.
And yet the success of the show was founded on the quality of matches being put on during the first few hours of Nitro. The big guns were still producing at the top of the card, but so often, the likes of Jericho and DDP were stealing the show.
In WWE today, the mid-card has been given a monumental push in recent months. The likes of Danielson, Barrett, Miz, Ziggler, Gabriel, Morrison, McIntyre, Sheamus and even recently Ted DiBiase are showing considerable promise.
As one B/R reporter suggested this week, Danielson stole the show at the Survivor Series. Ironically, as the main-event standard has suffered as a result of retirements and injuries, WWE has taken the opportunity to bolster its ranks with younger stars.
And at present, it is working. By contrast, TNA looks like a retirement village with the likes of Hogan, Bischoff and Flair stealing the thunder of the newcomers.
He was wrestling. Even those who have never watched a single match, know of Hulk Hogan. And yet since his hey days almost 20 years ago, Hogan has still managed to continue to dominate our screens.
The reinvention of his character as part of the NWO was a stroke of genius, but it was an angle that lacked direction after its initial year, and the collapse of WCW in part is down to Hogan and Nash's booking.
The sight of Hogan today is a weak one. In his attempt to market himself as some Vince McMahon II, Hogan is now the boss. But rather than take a step back and reinvent himself for the third time, Hogan is playing out past glories. The Immortals is a sad reflection of a once-mighty NWO.
It is clear that neither he nor Bischoff have anything in terms of originality—the angles that have been used thus far have been considerably hit and miss, with the latter occurring more often.
TNA has a lot going for it but it needs a change at the top. Hogan does not bring anything to the ring anymore, and I would seriously worry about him competing again, given his physical condition.
Anyone else get goosebumps listening to the words of Roddy Piper to John Cena two weeks ago?
It's clear that while he may now be retired, the Hot Rod can still cut a great promo.
It takes me back to his WCW days as the Commissioner, Chairman of the Board, the Boss.
One of the recurring themes of wrestling today is a lack of mic skills. In many cases, it is overlooked but the failure of some superstars to get past the IC/US title stage is testament to their lack of vocal power.
The legends should be able to provide coaching or actually speak for their superstars.
It should be used sparingly, but the legends reminds us of days gone by, and the sight of them can add something to today's wrestling world.
They must not wrestle, however, and the sight of legends well beyond their prime in TNA is a sad case of affairs for the newcomers in that company.
It seems the case that the Undertaker is now unable to go a few months without injury. I will not say he should retire, because he is a legend and even on his worst day, he remains a big box office draw. But there comes a time, when for the sake of the company and his legacy, a superstar hangs up the boots.
The return of Triple H is something that many expect will bring some energy to WWE. And yet I can't help but wonder, what the Game has left, especially without Shawn or indeed any member of the Kliq left.
The Connecticut blueblood is going it alone, and while he will provide some good storylines, I wonder if he has anything original left to offer.
The recent rise of the mid-card as seen in slide No. 2 has come because the current legends have been injured. And yet at present, WWE is fresher than ever. The legends should be looking to put over the next generation, just as they were once given their chance.
Undertaker will continue to excite until his retirement, but with constant injury breaks, the issue of legacy begins to creep into the discussion, as to when that date might be.
It creates cash supposedly and yet Bischoff's mantra, is seriously flawed. Yes we want wrestling to be innovative, but also want realism.
The sight of Orlando Jordan and Eric Young is just bad TV. The so called imagination of a secret woman who taunts Angelina Love is just weird.
The Matt Morgan-concussion angle is just insensitive and cuts too close to the bone. And the use of excessive blood is at times disgusting.
But what TNA has failed to realize is that at the heart of its programming, it needs wrestling. It showed the world via the Tag Team division just what it can do. It blew WWE out of the water in terms of tag team wrestling so much so that WWE has seemingly surrendered on that front.
The abandonment of the X-Division is a massive mistake, and Hogan should realize that this is another area to entice WWE fans over to their programming. The Monday Night War is over, so there is no reason why TNA cannot share the wrestling world with WWE.
The KnockOut Division easily beats the Divas for wrestling and for talent, but I wonder whether with Natalya's victory and the return of the Glamazon, whether WWE is seeking to reinvest in this area. TNA, though, is leading here.
TNA has a lot going for it, it just needs consistency and for their storylines to run smoothly. Too often their plots are disjointed and poorly explained—exactly who kidnapped Joe? Nothing has ever been mentioned. Why did Hardy side with Hogan? Why did Hogan side with Abyss against Dixie?
Just too much is poorly scripted. Keep it simple and more people will be enticed. Try too hard, and it becomes unrealistic and fans will turn off.
Certainly the reaction of some to the Miz's victory will suggest that the title has lost its lustre. But I think that in every era, there are some champions who can be deemed to be unworthy.
There needs to be new blood injected into the title picture and while we may not always agree, it's up to the champion to sell themselves as either heel or face.
Personally, the Miz can generate some heat, and if there are those in the audience who genuinely hate him, then his eventual defeat to either Cena or Orton will get a massive reaction.
The huge amount of events, PPVs and house shows means that titles are defended considerably more times than they once were. And the need to keep things fresh mean that the title changes hands more times than before.
The days of a year-long reign are over.
The question remains whether WWE and TNA can continue to keep the belts relevant in this commercially- driven era. I for one do not want to see Orton with more titles than Flair before he reaches 40. And yet it seems that this is a distinct possibility.
The whole Cena-Nexus angle shows that the belt can be preserved whilst still being able to sell a good storyline. Keeping the belt relevant ensures that when it is won and lost, it is a big story in itself.
I promise this won't turn into a rant as to why we need JR back. We do—but they just won't listen.
In his absence, we just have to do without. But yet as with this week's Raw, I found that CM Punk's insight offered a great deal. His off-the-cuff remarks, especially about Alex Riley, were both humorous and unpredictable.
Working alongside Cole and King, the new trio, could be a sound strategy for Raw's commentary team. Cross over to Smackdown, and questions might come up as to who might replace Cole as the third man.
I have always argued for someone like Bret Hart, although the legal department might worry about his continual use of the term "WWF."
Ex-wrestlers can make for good commentators and while some might argue its not needed, I think Smackdown can be given a boost if it adds a new face, or new voice, to its commentary team.
Or failing that, annoy them to the extent that they jeer. From last week's Raw, I was impressed by the ability of Wade Barrett to anger the crowd in his speech on Cena. He played the crowd perfectly and the chants and jeering, put the Nexus over as a heel group.
We sometimes argue that WWE and TNA do not listen to us, and while that has some legitimacy, we as fans must also recognise that sometimes, things need to occur to create long term angles.
There is a fine line though in terms of annoying the fans. Frustrate them too much and they will leave, especially those who follow Raw who will switch to football.
But as long as the federations know where the line is, then they can push fans to the point of sheer frustration, only to bring them back, with a popular move.
I cannot help but feel that Bischoff does not realise the mistakes he made in WCW. It seems that TNA is one move away from bringing back David Arquette or the Ultimate Warrior.
As with the case of the Nasty Boys, fans who are genuinely annoyed will not return, which in turn creates a lack of momentum.
WWE at present is on a roll, and while some might not agree with current moves, it is an interesting time as we move into the Rumble- to-Mania period.
It is soon the most important period of the year in the wrestling world. The year is nearly at an end and the Rumble is in sight. Perhaps my favourite event of the year, after Wrestlemania, it creates momentum.
The WWE through tradition alone, does well in this period and with the return of HHH on the horizon, it is an interesting time.
The mid-card is being heavily pushed and with the Miz as champion, a lot is happening. We will know more after the Rumble is won and lost but what is clear is that TNA to be relevant needs some solid shows.
Failure to do this will see the Hogan-Bischoff platform collapse. They have used their names for momentum but they need to deliver new ideas and new initiatives. The arrival of Matt Hardy will bring something but only if used correctly.
TNA is going to find it difficult to compete, but arguably, they do not have to. All they need to do is produce sound programming, that both complements and differs from that of WWE.