In May 1998, the WWF signed one of the toughest men in the wrestling world at the behest of Jim Ross. Prior to the upcoming Brawl for All tournament the WWF signed "Dr. Death" Steve Williams to compete in the tournament. Williams had debuted in wresting in 1982 for "Cowboy" Bill Watts in Mid-South Wrestling. Prior to training to wrestle, "Doc" played Football both in college at Oklahoma University and for the New Jersey Generals in the USFL. Williams was actually the teammate of NFL Hall of Famer Herschel Walker.
It didn't take "Doc" long to develop a reputation in wrestling as a tough guy and a legitimate athlete. From the very beginning Bill Watts presented Williams as a local hero in Oklahoma which wasn't hard remember how much people love their college football. Williams would carve out a solid career in Mid South and later UWF, but would also start touring in All Japan Pro-Wrestling where he would team with Terry Gordy. In Japan, Williams would become not only a main event star, but in some cases a legend on the same level of his Miracle Violence Connection tag partner Gordy.
However, as everyone knows it doesn't matter what you do outside WWE it matter what you can accomplish inside WWE. Even with his reputation and seemingly being someone who fit perfectly in "Attitude Era" WWE, but we'd be wrong. It seems that for the most part a poorly timed injury and never really being able to regain his momentum was the culprit in this case. The main reason "Doc" was booked so differently in Japan to WWE is in my book the miles on his body caught up to him and couldn't be the tough guy anymore.
Overall had "Doc" come to WWE right after Universal Wrestling was sold to Crockett then he would've still been in his prime instead of in decline when he was on the big stage. I don't doubt that "Doc" could've still fought hard when he was in WWE, but I also think he had lost a step or two by the time he found his way into Vince's playground. It is fun to think though about what could've happened had somethings change a little bit.
The biggest takeaway from Elimination Chamber is that main roster newbie Shayna Baszler saw herself take the spotlight in the closing moments of the PPV. Baszler is now the #1 contender to fight Becky Lynch at Wrestlemania for Raw Women's Championship. Baszler had debuted about a month or so ago and from the very beginning has had her eyes on Becky Lynch, and now they are on a collision course. Baszler was once the leader of NXT and even though very few talent have succeed on the main roster, but it seems like it's so far so good for the Queen of Spades.
Another slick surprise was the ending of the handicap match between Sami, Nakamura, Cesaro, and Strowman. To this point Sami Zayn has never held championship gold on the main roster, but in a surprise Zayn was the one to score the pin on Braun to capture the championship. After all this time it is rewarding to finally see Sami win gold in WWE. Let's hope they let him have a decent run with the former workhorse championship.
The last takeaway would be the Smackdown Elimination Chamber match for the tag team gold. I always question when the tag team champions retain the titles in a match like this, because they defeated every team in the division. Even though Miz and Morrison may not have defeated everyone in the match it seems more likely that Ziggler/Roode and Heavy Machinery will have a match at Wrestlemania then Miz & Morrison through the ongoing feud the teams have developing. The only thing I see happening is Miz and Morrison being added to the feud and setting up a Triple Threat Tag Team Match for the Smackdown Tag Titles at Mania to include the champions in the ongoing rivalry and the reward for whoever wins the match.
None of us know what the future holds or when Vince will finally be able to step back and let someone else take the reigns of WWE, even on a trail run. I know that George Barrios and Michelle Wilson leaving was a big story on the business side, but it didn't effect the wrestling side of things. Barrios and Wilson were both well respected executives, and them leaving was a shock. In my opinion, saying that WWE doesn't have a plan once Vince steps back would be true to a point, but not completely true.
As I mentioned in Part 2 the WWE has plenty of people within the four walls to handle the wrestling portion of the promotion when the time comes. I believe that Stephanie can remain in her position and Shane takes control leaving Triple H in the position he already has in talent development. I know that Wall Street may have an issue with Shane, Stephanie, or Triple H taking power when Vince steps away, but they have the proven track record in the wrestling industry and that's the part that should matter not having a background in business.
I know that it might not make a ton of sense, but the wrestling business isn't like most other industries and having a background in business might help in the board room, handle stock holders, and business agreements, but it doesn't teach you how to run a wrestling company. The only way to do that is to be in wrestling and learn from your mistakes, and having been able to learn from some of the greatest minds in history gives said person a great starting point. This is the opportunity that was afforded to Shane, Stephanie and Triple H as they've been able to learn from Vince, Pat Patterson, Dusty Rhodes, Paul Heyman, Jim Ross, and various others.
Overall the best choice for WWE is to keep with what has worked in the past and that Vince passing the company down to the next generation and continuing the McMahon legacy, because they can handle it. Triple H, Shane, and Stephanie deserve a chance to prove the critics wrong and their supporters right by taking control of WWE and making all the more successful. The best decision is to move them up and allow them to surround themselves with business minded people that would help handle the non wrestling part of the business to allow the McMahon's to focus on the wrestling side of things. Seems simple in my mind, but the only that is clear is that any change will not be taking place until Vince McMahon decides it's time to step back and be a mentor or retire.
I know there has been a bit of time between this part and part 1 (which can be found here), but it's time to continue down this road that was brought up in articles after George Barrios & Michelle Wilson were let go from WWE. Specifically the articles stated that with those departures official WWE now had no plan in place for after Vince retires or passes away. Let's keep dissecting this idea:
At one point, I'm sure everyone expected that the time would come when Shane and Stephanie would take control of WWE. But that all changed in 2007 when Shane left WWE and attempted to strike out on his own to make a name for himself. From what I remember it was actually one right after the other as Shane left first and then Linda would walk away from the company soon after. Shane would disappear from WWE for nine years returning in February 2016 shocking the wrestling world at the time as nobody really expected him to return at the time.
In February 2014, WWE made another change to programming after four years the NXT television show would be canceled and NXT would then become the developmental territory. In all honesty nobody could've expected that NXT would've reached the level that they have at this point. Even more surprising Triple H aka Paul Levesque would assume control of talent develop and NXT officially entering the corporate world of WWE. This opens the door for two viable choices to take control of at least the wrestling portion of WWE once Vince wasn't around to control things anymore. At the time it was hard to take him seriously as an executive, but over the years Triple H has earned his place in management and proven his critics wrong.
The main question is really do Stephanie, Triple H, and Shane want the responsibility of operating WWE and having to answer to the stockholders like Vince does or would they rather freedom to make a legacy outside of WWE. Well that is something that will be dissected in Part 3 and as we wrap up Part 2 I want to make the point that in my opinion, it isn't the wrestling side that is the issue it's the business that makes wall street wary. Stay tuned!!
Two weeks ago in a shocking turn of events it was reported that Michele Wilson and George Barrios have been removed from their positions as Chief Marketing & Revenue officer and Chief Financial Officer respectively. Both Barrios and Wilson had been within the ranks of WWE for over a decade and have had stable presence on WWE Board of Directors, but for whatever reason a corporate restructuring was chosen and now news outlets are reporting that WWE doesn't have a plan in place for when Vince either retires or dies. Well how did we get this point?
On October 19, 1999, WWE officially went public and changed the future of the company as now there would be shareholders that needed to be heard and kept in the loop. Previously, Vince had been able to run his company the way he saw fit without interference from anyone outside the walls of the headquarters in Stamford. I know that over the years to the knowledge of fans we haven't seen much interference from shareholders that would make this out to be a bad idea. For the most part WWE going public gave the company a bit more credibility then it had before.
As Vince has been getting older and nature is taking it's course questions have been arising for the last few years about who will take over after Vince is gone. Famously, Punk even referenced this question during his legendary "pipebomb" promo on June 27, 2011 offering his opinion on the situation. In that time a lot has changed within the ranks of WWE namely seeing Triple H move up the ranks of the WWE corporate ladder and taking control of talent development specifically with NXT. Background is always important when covering something like this especially now we move forward and explore if WWE really doesn't have plan for the era after Vince McMahon.
In talking about this years Royal Rumble there is one thing that I couldn't forget to talk about and that is the continuation of Otis and Many Rose's story line. For the last few months Otis has been lusting after Mandy Rose on Smackdown and in some cases this love story has been better then Lana/Rusev/Lashley triangle. In my opinion, the main reason the Smackdown attempt is better then Raw is because it's a bit more believable and plays on more emotions as a lot of guys have chased after girl who is a bit out of there league. At this point I think that the company is going to stretch things out as they should, but it is unclear which direction they will go and how much it would effect other parties. Check out the video below of how Otis saved Mandy from elimination during the match.
One underrated performance from the Women's Rumble match was from Bianca Belair who lasted over thirty minutes and was the iron woman of the match lasting the longest out of anyone. Bianca recently won a battle royal for the right to challenge Rhea Ripley at NXT Takeover: Portland in February. In a lot of ways Bianca has been flying under the radar due to talent like Shayna Baszler, Rhea Ripley, Toni Storm, and others taking most of the spotlight. Bianca got on a lot of people's radar last year after her standout performance against Baszler during Royal Rumble weekend. Not only was this her Royal Rumble debut where she lasted over a half hour she also eliminated eight participants from the match which put her in a tie with Shayna Baszler for most eliminations in the Royal Rumble. It is insane to see how much her stock has risen in the last twelve months and she has earned every bit of it working her but off to get to where she is. In the future not only will Shayna Bazler move to the main roster, but with this performance Bianca Belair showed a move to Raw or Smackdown will be in her future.
Sunday night was the Royal Rumble match and it was full of those moments that always make the Rumble feel special and unique. One moment that we were unsure about was what exactly happened to AJ Styles during the Royal Rumble match as it seemed like he got injured off camera during Baron Corbin's entrance. As of this writing it seems like AJ may have separated his shoulder during the match and according to Ryan Satin at Pro-Wrestling Sheet the severity of the injury is unclear at this time.
Speaking of injuries Beth Phoenix left it all in the ring last night after accidentally hitting the back of her head on the ring post and cutting her head wide open. In a freak accident basically Beth reacted to a punch and in reacting she smacked the back of her head on the ring post almost immediately the blood started flowing. There isn't a lot to say about the accident last night other than the fascination of seeing Beth Phoenix and her bloody Ric Flair style hair kicking some ass for over 20 minutes during the ladies Royal Rumble. One note I would make is that one person I spoke to said that after seeing her performance one fan said WWE should've called an audible and let Beth Phoenix get the Rumble win on Sunday night.
Now with the Road to Wrestlemania officially underway the only question there really is to ask at this point is if WWE could build some momentum and capitalize on the reputation of Wrestlemania. Recently, WWE has had struggles with ratings, but after the creative change which saw Paul Heyman and Bruce Prichard named as creative directors of Raw and Smackdown respectively. The one thing that fans need to understand is that it will take time to repair both brands, and if WWE play there cards right they could set a direction now when the most people are willing to give them a chance and take there best shot at keeping fans around after Wrestlemania.
Royal Rumble Card
Men's Royal Rumble
Women's Royal Rumble
(c) “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt vs. Daniel Bryan (Universal Championship strap match)
(c) Bayley vs. Lacey Evans (SmackDown Women's Championship)
Roman Reigns vs. King Corbin (Falls Count Anywhere)
(c) Becky Lynch vs. Asuka (Raw Women's Championship)
Sheamus vs. Shorty G
(c) Andrade vs. Humberto Carrillo (U.S. Championship)
Shorty G vs Sheamus
At this point there is no official matches announced for the Pre-Show so I just picked one of the matches that have been announced already to move to the pre-show. In my opinion, this match would benefit being on the pre-show this way they can maximize the time for the match.
Falls Count Anywhere:
King Corbin vs Roman Reigns
This feud has been going on since both Roman and Corbin were drafted to Smackdown in October and even though some fans haven't enjoyed the feud it has been something fresh. I do believe that this will be the blow-off of the feud to allow Roman to begin setting his focus on a big Wrestlemania match for the upcoming event. With that being said Roman Reigns will get the victory.
Raw Women's Championship:
(c) Becky Lynch vs Asuka
For once WWE has been booking Asuka quite well during her feud with Becky Lynch to the point that Asuka is a believable challenger for the long reigning Women's Champion. At this point Becky has held the Women's Championship for the last 293 days and it might be time for something different even if it's for a short period of time. Asuka gets the win and will hold two women's championship.
WWE United States Championship:
(c) Andrade w/ Zelina Vega vs Humberto Carrillo
One of the best parts of Paul Heyman's Raw is that he has been giving the spotlight to fresh faces and some have broken through while others have been struggling to find their footing. It doesn't matter though, because the only way Paul will give up on Humberto is if he told to move on and find someone else. There is no doubting though that Andrade has finally found himself and has a ton of potential to keep growing as a star and move to the main event in 2020. Keeping that in mind I do think it'd be a little soon to make the title switch so I see Carrillo being screwed and Andrade keeping the gold tonight and continuing the feud past Royal Rumble.
Smackdown Women's Championship:
(c) Bayley vs Lacey Evans
This is the push that they should've done from the start with Lacey Evans as she has depth to her character and her earned her place in the division. Bayley has become more like any other member of the roster and less like the best as the company leaned to much on her heel turn and the shock that came with and didn't add enough to it early on like they should have. I do think that Bayley will get one over on Lacey and keep her title tonight.
WWE Universal Championship:
(c) "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt vs Daniel Bryan
Bryan and Bray Wyatt have always been the perfect match for each other having great chemistry in the ring together. Outside of the one misstep after the Hell in a Cell things have never been better for Bray Wyatt in his WWE career. It is clear though at this point that Bray will hold onto his World Title for the foreseeable future as it's time for WWE to keep holding onto a hot hand. Daniel has his moment and still needs to find his ground footing as a good guy again.
WWE Women's Royal Rumble:
One of my favorite parts of the year is the Royal Rumble and it is always interesting to see how WWE will fill up this years Royal Rumble. After how the Survivor Series match went this past year with the NXT Women winning the match it is possible that they give the win to a women as a way to call up a new star. I would like to see Sonya Deville or Mandy Rose get a chance to shine in the Rumble and maybe Toni Storm or Dakota Kai get that same opportunity. Shayna Baszler would be my ideal choice as an NXT performer that could win the Royal Rumble after dropping her women's championship to Rhea Ripley. I could see Ronda Rousey returning to win the Royal Rumble or Charlotte getting the win to add another layer to her ever present hall of fame worthy career.
WWE Men's Royal Rumble:
Not going to lie having Brock Lesnar start this year's match at entry one adds a very interesting dynamic to the match. Hopefully they will have it set up that whoever eliminates Brock Lesnar will then gain a title opportunity or at least a match with the WWE Champion. With only 26 entrants announced for the match it is pretty clear that there will be four surprises in the match tonight. After seeing Keith Lee win the North American title I don't think he will be one of them as he still has some time left in NXT, but Edge could be one of them. I think that Buddy Murphy and Ricochet will be given the chance to have a stand out performance in the match based on their rising stocks on Raw. It is always tough to select the winner of the Royal Rumble and that is fun part as it is the only unpredictable point of the WWE's year. The final four will be Drew McIntyre, Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, and Big E in my opinion. Kevin Owens will win the Royal Rumble based on the idea of them trying to elevate him as a top face on Raw and in WWE.
As a viewer of wrestling you want to know that what your watching means something other wise you may feel like your wasting your time. This lends to my favorite go to of long term booking, because having a long term plan makes it easier to make sure matches on programming has meaning. It is important that gimmick matches have meaning, because some matches like a battle royal can be use to plan for the future. In my opinion, a battle royal can be a great tool to plan for the future and add a little more depth to rivalries.
Since Takeover War Games back in November a slowly developing rivalry between former partners Dakota Kai and Tegan Nox has fans talking. The amount of aggression we have seen from Dakota since her heel turn has been adding layer after layer to her character development. Turning heel by injuring Tegan and attacking her bad knee as she knows as good as anyone Tegan's injury history. Starting the feud that way also kicks off the characteristics for each combatant with Tegan taken on a sympathetic role and Dakota taking on the aggressive role respectively. With Tegan Nox being taken out of the match after Dakota Kai pulled her off the top rope.
One of the main differences between NXT and WWE is they have always done better with keeping talent busy then they did on the main roster. Now with Shayna Baszler out of the title picture for the time being she needs something to keep her on television and after this battle royal she has unfinished business with Shotzi Blackhart and after the new comer surprised the former champion with an elimination. It is also possible that Shotzi starts with Deonna Purrazzo after Purrazzo attacked Blackhart during the match leaving some tension on the table. In the forthcoming weeks it is possible that we can see a resolution of unfinished business as WWE starts setting the stage for Takeover: Tampa the night before Wrestlemania.
As everyone knows by now earlier in the year WWE named new executive directors to handle the creative direction of Raw and Smackdown. At first Eric Bischoff and Paul Heyman were given the positions of power to operate Raw and Smackdown to take some pressure off Vince McMahon and shake things up. For obvious reasons though Bischoff was sent home as the match didn't fit and was replaced by Bruce Prichard. However, Heyman has stayed on Raw and things have begun to change and we have started to see the finger prints of an evil genius.
In recent months Heyman has attempted to push some talent like McIntyre, Alexander, Ricochet, Andrade, and various others. Even though things have seemingly fallen off for Cedric likely due to his promo skills lacking a little bit. I think that things have really hit the ground running for some guys as the fans have taken to Ricochet, Humberto Carillio, and McIntyre as they have been featured in a more prominent role on the show. Ever since the October draft WWE has had to spend time rebuilding Raw and using AJ Styles, Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio and Seth Rollins they have planted the ground work to do exactly that. One name I was surprised to his status elevate was Rey Mysterio, but I'm glad they gave him one more push on the top of the company with Brock Lesnar.
One thing that Paul has been trying to make a focus again is finishing matches with the wrestlers finishing moves instead of using them as a false finish and using jobber matches to allow certain talent to build momentum. The latter point has been a big part of the developing Aleister Black and Buddy Murphy rivalry allowing the up and coming stars to have a one ups man-ship rivalry. Another focus of Paul has been a former calling card of his which was intertwining feuds seen in ECW through the Tommy Dreamer/Raven rivalry. With Rollins feuding with Owens, then planting seeds in a feud with Mysterio which brings Styles or Orton into the rivalry as well. It will be interesting to see where the rebuild of Raw goes in 2020 with a full year of Heyman being able to build the brand to his likeness with some input from Vince McMahon. Either way 2020 will be an interesting year for Raw, WWE and Paul Heyman.
Sharing my thoughts, opinion, and historical facts on everything WWE both past and present