Here we are just a few days removed from the 2011 Royal Rumble. This puts us firmly on the Road to WrestleMania (even though we still have have one more PPV scheduled to take place before the "grand daddy of them all").
WrestleMania isn't "just" a PPV. It's a monstrosity. It's an event like no other. Glamour glitz, and excitement often mark this once a year, PPV extravaganza. It has gone from being a one-day wrestling affair to an all weekend cash cow of epic proportions.
The WrestleMania Axxess event has certainly evolved/expanded since it's early days as well. At one time, it was a mere one-day Wrestling Rage Party back in 1999 (with a specific goal at the time, which was to celebrate the last WrestleMania of the millennium).
Here in 2011, it's grown into a multi-day event that includes the Hall of Fame ceremony and induction as well as fan meet and greet sessions with their favourite superstars. And finally, to top it all offm you have the biggest sports entertainment event of the year itself, WrestleMania, to close out the weekend. For the hardcore wrasslin fan, it's a virtual wet dream.
But before we move too far ahead, let's spend a bit of time dissecting what happened at the Royal Rumble 2011, won by Mexico's own Alberto Del Rio. But of course you, you already knew that. Because you probably bought the PPV (you definitely did not find it anywhere online and watch it illegally, in the process breaking various copyright laws and a lot of other junk).
I can't be the only one to say that the outcome didn't surprise me. It was a logical choice. Alberto has been on a rise to stardom ever since that little online "boo boo" occurred. If you recall, a WWE web content flunky accidentally posted Del Rio's "biography" online prematurely, with an embedded comment of his own (http://i103.photobucket.com/albums/m122/badbomb/2m7f2c5jpg.png).
For those who can't zoom or who may be reading on a handheld, the first line notes "Are you ok with this for Del Rio's bio? Just asking because I know he's supposed to be a big deal fairly quickly"
Del Rio's push was strategic by WWE. Just prior to bringing Alberto onboard, there were some contract issues going on with Rey Mysterio. Another factor that made the boss consider (and subsequently sign Del Rio) was the ratings.
They continued to state loud and clear that there was a populous country to the south of America with a fervent wrestling following. So not only did they decide to bring someone else into the fold with some foreign DNA, they decided to bet a small part of the farm on him.
And so began the ascent of Alberto Del Rio. The former Dos Caras Jr has been doing an incredible job creeping his way up the food chain. Initially, he was receiving praise for his in-ring work, but behind the scenes was another story. Reports suggested that he was developing a bit of a big head, and a lot of his peers were not high on this attitude.
As of late however, the reports on this have declined. If you assume the reports to be true either he decided to change his attitude, or as sometimes happens with the boys in the back, it may well have resolved itself.
His in-ring ability is pretty solid. He's able to have good matches with virtually anyone which is a fantastic skill. His finisher is nothing exciting, seemingly MMA-inspired. But it is effective, and is the type of hold that can finish off the smallest foe to the largest of giants.
He generates instant heat before he even appears on the screen. The shrill honking of his mystery car of the day brings vomit to the base of my uvula. Once he makes it to the ring, his brash arrogance and his ability to secure wins over more beloved or popular WWE roster members makes him a solid heel that the entire crowd can get behind in their loathing.
One of the biggest areas that sports entertainers often struggle is behind the microphone. While they may display in-ring technical talent, you ultimately have to keep them away from the stick, or supplement them with a manager.
Fortunately that does not seem to pose a problem for Alberto. In my honest opinion, his promos right now are among the absolute best in the business. He ranks up there with Edge and Punk in terms of how crisp he delivers his material [Note to Punk trolls – He's good, deal with it].
There are few who can really command the attention and of the crowd in the way that the greats do. Bare in mind, I don't suggest he is great yet, but he's starting off on the right foot, and has the promise to perhaps develop a fine body of work over time.
I was glad that on RAW he chose to pursue Edge for his World Heavyweight Championship belt as opposed to the WWE Championship that is currently held by the Miz. I think pairing him with a credible main event star who has already solidified his position long ago is clearly a more strategic move than to put Del Rio up against a still under the microscope Miz.
While the youth movement does appear to be in full force at the WWE, it's a wise decision not to have two talents currently in the process of getting established vying for the same belt. That would be a risky venture indeed. Promoting that kind of match may not translate into very many buys (depending on the rest of the card). I'm not sure you want to put that much at stake on your biggest show of the year.
But with one more PPV between now and WrestleMania (Elimination Chamber), we have a real possibility that we could have a different World Heavyweight Champion or WWE Champion come WrestleMania.
That line of reasoning seems to be on the table with The Miz. It appears as if the seeds are being planted to allow for some shift in champion should creative come up with some new idea to run with.
And I suggest this because while 50 percent of the wrestling community are lauding Miz for his work both in and out of the ring, the other half can't seem to accept that a Real World reality television star is holding one of the two belts in the WWE.
I have even heard on one occasion that his reign is being compared to that of David Arquette in WCW. While I have nothing against David Arquette, let's be "real" for a second. The Miz is a far more credible champion than Arquette ever was. Arquette's "run" was another weak attempt at cross promotion between showbiz and wrestling. The Miz has trained and gone through the minor leagues before reaching the main roster. No comparison whatsoever.
For those who forget, back in 2000 David Arquette was married to a certain Courtenay Cox Arquette 2000. He appeared in the movie Ready to Rumble, a picture about wrestling. Shortly after the movie's release, he was placed into an angle which saw him become the WCW Heavyweight Champion of the world. The whole premise was ridiculous and did nothing really to improve the ratings of either the movie or the wrestling program. The reign was short lived however, and he would soon disappear back into Hollywood to continue the implosion of his marriage.
The Miz, however, was a reality star long before he made his foray into wrestling. And his current run with the belt is certainly not coming at the expense of a roster of talented individuals who are clearly superior in skills.
The Miz has slowly earned his place among his peers, make no mistake about it. He's not a reality star in wrestling anymore. He is a sports entertainer just like the rest of the locker room. And he can certainly get a reaction from the crowd…
Which is exactly what a former WWE performer did after his return to the ring as entrant No. 32 at the 2011 Royal Rumble. A man many thought they would never see again in a WWE ring heard his familiar music play. And out from behind the curtain, strutted Kevin Nash, most notably remembered in the organization as a member of the famous "Clique" (with Shawn Michaels, X-Pac, and Scott Hall).
And oddly enough, when he hit the ramp, you know what happened? Boston popped like I have not heard them pop in a long time. I would dare say that the response was as loud if not moreso than for any other performer the entire night.
He took his time getting to the ring, clearly understanding his role in the event (which of course was to add some level of surprise to the Rumble). That's always been one of the hallmarks of the better Rumbles, a few surprise entrants. His job was to take a moderate beating before being eliminated. And he did just that.
The Internet had run rampant talking about Booker T and Kevin Nash having arrived at Logan International earlier in the day. But there was still a large part of me that did not believe I would ultimately see him step foot in the ring. But much to my surprise, there he was.
No longer sporting the old grey beard. He had visually taken 15 years off of his life perhaps using that grey out dye product that Keith Hernandez and some other guy pimp out in commercials during sports event programming.
There were a couple of signs that something like this could have been in the works, but with so much information and dis-information in the world, it's really hard to know what to believe and what not to. And until it happens, plans can always change. Kevin had tweeted a few weeks back (after Shawn's HOF announcement) that he would definitely be there to see Shawn get inducted. In itself, nothing really to get excited about.
There was the rumour that he was inches away from re-signing with TNA, and that someone had leaked the news from the organization which had infuriated Nash.
Now it's pure speculation as to whether he was mad that someone inside TNA had effectively negated any surprise factor, or because he was simultaneously negotiating with WWE, and thus thought the news would impact any deal they were working on (forcing people to question whether he wasn't trying to play both against each other). But I guess we know who he ultimately decided to sign with.
And after seven years away from WWE (his last in-ring competition coming at SummerSlam back in 2003), he was greeted to a chorus of cheers the likes of which he had not heard for some time. I was really surprised to hear the reception. For years now he has taken little shots at WWE creative in terms of some of the talent that was being pushed, the supposed youth movement, etc. And next thing you know he is sharing the ring with them.
I guess things have changed. Kevin Nash appears ready to take his paycheque and to lay low. For those who saw the Rumble, he didn't do much of anything in the ring. He got in a standard Nash/Diesel offense shuffle of his four standard moves (punch, kick, elbow, knee) and then ate a lot of offense from the rest of the pack.
Rey Mysterio got to 619 him and Wade Barrett tossed him to the floor to end his run. In fact, I'm guessing in an effort to make sure he did not look too strong, he didn't even attempt to do his patented stepping over the top rope as he entered. I believe guys like Great Khali and Big Show do it now, so can't show up the loyal guys.
And good for McMahon on that. He could have bowed to some heat from Shawn or Hunter and put him over some of the existing roster. Either no one made that ask (which is certainly possible) or McMahon ran his show his way and said "take it or leave it."
In all fairness, Nash laid on the ropes, and sold for everyone. Even as the chants were growing louder. Rey put his finisher on, and not too long after he had arrived, he was on the floor. As he knelt on the floor outside the ring, the crowd still cheered his name. And in what may have been some on the fly booking, one of the referee's appeared to lean down to talk with Nash.
Coincidentally just a minute later, on his way from the ring, he had a brief stare down with the Big Show. They both stopped on the ramp meeting eye to eye. And the fan in us all wondered if we have just saw what they tried to accomplish with Lesnar/Taker recently (planting the seeds of a possible confrontation between the two).
So what exactly caused Nash to get the reaction he did? Many of the current fans are very vocal when talking about the older guys and how they need to go away and let the youth movement take over. But yet the reaction for Nash seemed genuine and made it sound as if there was real interest in him again. So it begs the question, why the pop?
The most logical answer is simply this. My generation (35ish crowd) grew up with the Monday Night Wars. We knew Nash when he was bad (meaning entertaining to watch). He's never had any extravagant moveset. I am not ever sure he would argue that with you. But he was fun to watch. He had some hilarious moments with Scott Hall during the nWo days and in terms of garnering heat from the crowd, he was very good at eliciting the response from the throngs of fans.
His nickname "Big Daddy Cool" just seemed to fit. He swaggered, he swayed, he had a way about it him that just reeked of "pffft, whatever…". He was a big mean ass kicking machine who was holding the book and making millions of bucks. We all thought that he had the life, both in the ring and likely out of it.
So most of this has a lot to do with nostalgia. We are all grown up now and we have wives, and kids and mortgages. And we have all the responsibility and maturity we can handle. But in Kevin Nash we are able to step back to his arrogant brash tough guy days either as Diesel (hanging with The Clique) or as Kevin Nash, member of the nWo and reflect.
In the same way that everyone "clicked" with Steve Austin (because he was flipping people off, and didn't care about anything, and drank, and all the things the target demographic blue collar guys all wanted to be and do), guys "click" with Nash.
We picture him as just strolling about through life, making a boatload of cash and living it up. We picture him taking no shit from anyone, having all these fans. He's a "guy's guy." And there is a certain appeal to that. And it has not gone away. You can flip him from heel to face or have him play right down the middle. And his supporters are effectively the same.
Remember too that Boston is a Cena town. And I've seen the tape a few times now, and I would be willing to suggest that the pop for Nash was as big if not bigger than that for Cena. In fact, there were multiple chants, both while he was in the ring, and when he got tossed. He played good little soldier, and it worked.
WWE is not managed by some clown. Vince McMahon is as smart a guy in this business as you will find. As has just been revealed, Kevin Nash has been signed to a Legends deal. So anyone who had began to wonder whether he would start hogging the spotlight and stop the youth movement can rest easy. The tease with Big Show for Mania isn't out of the question, though. If I recall correctly, Show hasn't had anything memorable to do in some time now.
So if someone told me that they would give the two of them a small bit of TV time to work an angle leading to Mania (maybe relating to Show being pissed about his treatment when Nash was running the book at WCW), I could see that being worth watching. Heck, it's as good as watching a Ted DiBiase Jr. match with anyone…
Once that's over, let him stick to his legends deal where he would sign some autographs now and than. Putting him and Show in Mania is safe. They're not going to go out and steal the show, but in WrestleMania fashion, a little throw back for us Generation X folks never hurt anyone. Our kids are watching the shows, but we're buying the tickets.