Being without wrestling takes a lot of getting used to... to learn to live with it, well I don't want to! Welcome to the Wrath of Tito, with no doubt a Chicago influence these days. I curse a fellow co-worker for getting me hooked on them... several CDs and DVDs later, here I am. In today's edition of the Wrath of Tito, one of the most influential wrestling columns for the last 6 years, we'll talk about Monday Night RAW and the loads of wrestling news that happened this week.
-The BIG STORY OF THE WEEK is again, the WWE releasing wrestlers. What is this, Fall Cleaning? The WWE usually makes their massive cuts after Wrestlemania when business gets low, which is famous for being called "WWE Spring Cleaning". However, the likes of Billy Gunn, A-Train, Gail Kim, Rodney Mack, Jazz, Johnny Stamboli, Rico, Lamont, Test, Chuck Palumbo, and Nidia are victims of sweeping cuts by the WWE here in the Fall. Why? Why are these people losing their jobs? I have a few theories on this subject. For one, I believe the 4th Quarter results are reported sometime in the Summer. So, when the post-Wrestlemania stuff happens that drags down business, the 4th Quarter report can come out and good news can come out of it... the WWE could beat profit expectations and get a slight financial boost from it? Well, who knows... You could also argue that Vince wants to restore order in his locker room and install fear with his wrestlers to work harder or appreciate their jobs with the WWE. When Vince took a week off for health reasons, the backstage was reportedly a political mess. In response to this, Vince McMahon cuts a good chunk of wrestlers and will definitely replace them with OVW talent. That tells any veteran to shape up!
Look, I don't want any professional wrestler to lose their jobs. I don't want anybody to lose their jobs. HOWEVER, the cuts made won't be missed too badly. I already talked about Test, Billy Gunn, and A-Train. I'll LAUGH if NWA-TNA tries to reunite the "New Age Outlaws" if they sign Billy Gunn. Hello, the WWE tried to do this in 2000 and the New Age Outlaws became stale very quickly. As usual, NWA-TNA won't look at history before repeating it. But anyway, let's talk about each of the wrestlers released:
-Rodney Mack and Jazz: Both individuals are charismatic duds, to steal a coin phrase from Rush Limbaugh. Neither have brought life to the feuds there were involved with. I never saw the big buzz around Jazz's wrestling ability and you could argue that Jazz was just lost in the fold with Molly Holly and Trish Stratus the dominant heels of the Women's division. Rodney Mack's injury stalled any momentum he ever had, but he wasn't all that great to begin with.
-Gail Kim: I'm SURPRISED this cut was made. I though Kim has made a lot of progress as a women's performer since returning from injury. She performed well as the flunky for Trish and tag partner for Molly. Plus, she's a hot Asian and that turns a lot of people on.... I'll stop while I'm ahead! I thought this was a bad cut.
-Johnny Stamboli: I liked his work in WCW, but he was just lost in the fold on Smackdown.
-Chuck Palumbo: Damn injury bug keeps killing this guy! He has potential, especially with his size and devastating punches, but he never had a fighting chance in the WWE because he was a WCW product.
-Lamont: I never really saw his work, so I can't comment.
-Nidia: Lost in the fold in the Women's division. This is a real shame, though, that she was cut because Nidia has never been liked by WWE management. I know Stephanie, with a lot of irony behind it, was severely critical of Nidia's look. After several cosmetic changes, the WWE management still wasn't satisfied. Nidia had a decent run in the WWE, though. She's had more airtime than Maven, the other Tough Enough 1 winner. Her stuff with Jamie Noble was fun while it lasted, but she has never really caught on in the Women's division on RAW. Unfortunate.
-Rico: This is a damn shame, as his gimmick has kept this guy down. Well, his older age (he's into his 40's) and height also hurt him. Jim Cornette was the most high on this guy when OVW first started as a WWE developmental site, even moreso than Brock Lesnar, Shelton Benjamin, and Randy Orton! Rico would make an excellent pick up for NWA-TNA to really show his true wrestling ability... without a stupid gimmick holding him back.
When looking at these cuts, for many instances, you have to ask yourself was it the wrestlers' faults or the management's fault? In professional wrestling, you live and die by the creative team backstage. If they don't like your look, character, personality, or in-ring style, you're finished! Rico is a great example of that, as he was never given an opportunity to showcase his talents. He was always stuck with the gimmick dominating everything, including his in-ring style. When I was talking about doing my Unions column for wrestling and the WWE (which I still might do, I still have the notes I took), that was a consideration I took with professional wrestling. Wrestlers live and die based on what the creative team backstage thinks of them. That's the truth about professional wrestling.
-While the WWE was making cuts, NWA-TNA were at it again by signing veterans to appear on their Pay Per View spectacular and television shows. Looks like Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Randy Savage, and Diamond Dallas Page all signed deals with TNA. GOOD FOR THEM on finding work, as I'm sure NWA-TNA will pony up to veterans. HOWEVER, it can also backfire, as these guys are older and look at Randy Savage already... he's GONE from NWA-TNA already, citing "unsafe working environment" after his apparent confrontation with Hulk Hogan at the NWA-TNA Pay Per View. What a chickenshit. After years of calling out Hogan, he puts his tale between his legs and walks out of a company just because Hogan was visiting backstage? Wasted investment already... Kevin Nash is very injury prone at his late age. Too risky. He has great size and the look of a good performer, but injuries and his age kill him every time. Scott Hall... well, you don't know what you're getting with Scott Hall. Is Diamond Dallas Page healthy? Last I heard, he had the same neck injury that the likes of Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, and many others have had? If he's injury, that's probably the best veteran signing out of the bunch, especially after the respect he was denied in the WWE. Sting coming back is good, for I'm sure he can still go... if only he'd sign with the WWE for a change!
But my point and main criticisms with NWA-TNA constantly bringing in older stars for "starpower" on their shows is that those stars either can't draw fans or are hindering the long term growth of the company. NWA-TNA needs to push NEW stars and make their brand unique from the entire industry. Making AJ Styles a star was a great step, for outside of WCW briefly, nobody knew who he was. However, NWA-TNA showcased his talents and he's a big star in the industry. NWA-TNA needs to do more of this. Did ECW get popular by promoting older stars or by creating their own? Yeah, ECW grabbed an occasional veteran, but guys like the Sandman, Sabu, Rob Van Dam, Tommy Dreamer, Taz, and Rhyno were their own products. If you're going to bring in a wrestler from another company who is a midcarder, at least repackage them, which is what ECW did with Shane Douglas and Raven... both repackaging made those guys into big stars, compared to their past organizations. Bringing in guys like D'Lo Brown and K-Kwik were excellent signings and NWA-TNA repackaged both and they are doing quite well for themselves. Bringing in older wrestlers who can't be used for the long term growth of the company.
-Good signing by the WWE on Chilly Willy. I liked the guy when ECW had him, and it's my hope that the WWE can make something of him.
-I'm glad that Edge has written his book without a ghost writer. It will add a personal touch, just as it did with Mick Foley's book. That's one I look forward to reading.
-Speaking of books, I'm slowly reading through Jerry Lawler's book. With the demands of work, social life, among other things, I'm lacking the time to sitdown and read.
-It's time to review Game Cube's WWE: Day of Reckoning, as I've kept putting it back on the backburner. I REALLY like this game. Is it better than the Nintendo 64 games? Well, that's hard to say, given the limitations of the Nintendo 64 set up. But, just to save some time with comparisons, I'll say that Day of Reckoning is one of the very best wrestling games I've EVER played.
The gameplay is every bit as good as the AKI engine. It's easy to learn and very straightforward, in addition to having a lot of depth with the range of moves you can perform. THANK GOD for the tutorial they included within the game, for it teaches you how to play the game. Tutorials are good for people not wanting to read a book to learn how to play the game, which was the same case with Madden 2005. The system works well with the Gamecube controllers, especially with the counter system. It's not frustrating like other WWE CD games or other wrestling games (such as Legends of Wrestling!). Well done by the guys at THQ, especially in the light that everyone keeps telling them to go back to AKI.
The graphics are AWESOME. Best graphics I've seen on a post-N64 wrestling game. Wrestlers look very close to their real characters, and at the same time, it doesn't exaggerate any details, like previous games. The entrances are a thing of beauty, and the graphics in the game modes are very nice, such as the Hell in the Cell, which THQ has done nicely throughout their games.
Gaming modes are very nice... The bulk of the game is the story mode, where you pick a nobody of a wrestler and work your way up the roster. This is a pretty tough mode, especially with the special stipulations or requirements of each match. For instance, one time I was feuding with Rhyno and was then forced to tag up with him. Well, for the tag match, Rhyno HAD to get the pin. Damn, that was tough to accomplish! Story mode is great for unlocking secrets, such as wrestlers (Brutus Beefcake, Roddy Piper, Andre the Giant, Greg Valentine, and eventually Bret Hart), in addition to earning money to buy arenas or features for the create-a-wrestler. The Create-a-wrestler mode is pretty good, but not the best I've seen. NOTHING beats Wrestlemania 2000 in that department, but Day of Reckoning does a great job.
I love the selection of matches you can wrestle. The TLC match is an insane amount of fun, especially with multiple players. Bra and Panties is a big guilty pleasure of mine, and the cage matches are nicely done. Each match is very fun to wrestle and you can just play those without doing the storyline mode and have loads of fun. One problem I had is how can you have a tables match without the Dudleys included on the game?
LAST WORD on Day of Reckoning: EXCELLENT wrestling game overall, with a great variety of matches to wrestle, great multi-player fun, solid game play, fun storyline mode, and a nice selection of wrestlers to choose. I highly recommend it if you're a Gamecube owner longing for a good wrestling game. This IS it, and I prefer this game over the first Def Jam Vendetta. I'll go [ A ] for this game.
Ok, onto the RAW review!
Batista vs. Randy Orton. I expected a trainwreck, but this was a pretty solid opening match. Both wrestlers still need some seasoning before being considered the "future of the WWE", but this bout was pretty decent overall. Orton and Batista fought back and forth, with an occasional cheating by Triple H. What's good news for Randy Orton was that the crowd was hot in Austin, Texas, and that the "RKO" chants are slowly catching on. As I keep saying, this stuff with Orton takes time. It was a HUGE mistake of the WWE to push Orton to the title so early in his career. He'll become a legit main eventer in time, but not instantly. Triple H didn't become a big main eventer overnight, remember. Same with Austin... same with Rock... same with Ric Flair... same with Hulk Hogan... SAME WITH EVERYBODY but a few rare exceptions or "freaks", such as Kurt Angle and Bill Goldberg. The timing on the ending was a bit off between Orton and Batista, but both can pat themselves on the back for having a decent match, especially with the 15-20 minutes given for them to fill. Orton won with a roll up, for those seeking results.
Funny stuff with Batista trying to take on the face wrestlers backstage by himself...
Next, we had a Pay Per View hype style match between Shelton Benjamin vs. Tyson Tomko. The match wasn't good, for it was short and it featured a still-green Tyson Tomko. Why isn't Tomko still learning in Ohio Valley Wrestling? Basic PPV hype match for the Benjamin vs. Christian match we'll see at Survivor Series.
Next, it was Highlight Reel time with Chris Jericho, and his guests were Trish Stratus and Lita. Trish totally outclassed the poor Lita, and this segment was saved from goofy antics by Gene Snitsky. He had a baby doll to taunt Lita, who thought, at first, that the baby was real. Snitsky made more funny one-liners for cheap laughs and then kicked the baby doll into the crowd. This would also serve as Pay Per View hype, as Jericho and Snitsky got into a fight. Funny stuff and served good purpose in hyping two matches during one segment.
As expected, Tajiri vs. Triple H happened... well, not really. Teammate Gene Snitsky came out and destroyed Tajiri for Triple H. Triple H tries to talk sense into Snitsky to be a team player at Survivor Series and afterward, but Snitsky says he wants a title shot at Triple H once their team wins. Uh oh! Triple H was paranoid about his teammates, besides Batista, throughout the night. Good stuff.
Backstage, Edge was cutting a nice promo before Triple H interrupted with Snitsky paranoia. As I've always said, it's hard to be a top heel with Triple H around... Still, Edge is a part of HHH's team and referencing the previous segment was nice and it would set up the run-in ending of the main event...
Edge vs. Chris Benoit was your main event. I wonder if there's a difference in motivation towards a match if you know there's a run-in ending, as opposed to a clean ending? Edge vs. Benoit was pretty good, but I'm sure they'd blow the roof off the arena if this was a Pay Per View match with a real finish. Benoit slapped on the Crossface and that prompted everyone and their mother to run in.
LAST WORD: Solid RAW, making for 4 good to great shows in a row. 2 good matches with well played storylines to hype the matches. I'll go [ B ] again on RAW's grade.
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