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5.25.2008

Shades Of Gray #10

In this week’s column, I’ll discuss the pros and cons of the “ECW” roster traveling with the “Raw” roster. How will the change affect all 3 brands? I’ll also discuss Samoa Joe’s reign as TNA Heavyweight Champion thus far. What’s gone wrong and what should have been done instead? Will grey-haired, 87 year-old Kevin Nash be able to fulfill his end in a main event feud?

The “Links of the Week” will allow you to catch up on the major TV happenings you may have missed, such as William Regal’s kayfabe firing, as well as another Abyss return video. “Extras” take a look at the classic brother versus brother feud, Bret Hart versus Owen Hart, and remind you of some more hokey gimmicks you tried to forget.

“ECW” traveling with “Raw” Roster

According to various wrestling news sites, after a tour of Australia in June, the “ECW” roster will no longer travel with the “SmackDown!” boys, but will instead travel with the “Raw” crew. The Sci-Fi show will then be taped before “Raw” goes live at 9, so “Heat” (which has been regulated to an online show that is also shown in some international markets) will be cancelled.

How does the move affect “Raw?” Well, the first thing that came to my mind when I read this story was: this is just another example of “Raw” being considered the No. 1 brand - “Raw” calls shotgun, while “SmackDown!” takes the back seat. This story goes hand-in-hand with another internet report that says even more interbrand matches will occur on “Raw” in the future. “Raw” has always been the focus of WWE programming, and it appears as if this will continue to be the case.

Perhaps this also means that C.M. Punk will be cashing in his briefcase on Monday nights. I don’t want to read too much into the story, but it would make sense. Although, Punk could just as easily move to “SmackDown!” because the Friday night roster will be decimated by this move. “ECW” Superstars such as Chavo Guerrero, Kane, Bam Neely, Miz, and John Morrison, are regulars on Friday nights, and Punk, Elijah Burke, Kofi Kingston and Shelton Benjamin make occasional appearances too.

“SmackDown!” house shows will be affected as well. Part of the appeal of going to “SmackDown!” brand show is knowing that “ECW” performers will be there too. According to reports, though, the “SmackDown!” brand will stand alone for TV and house shows. Tha O Show routinely criticizes the Friday night show for its lack of main event AND mid-card talent. Now there’ll be even less talent to help out younger, uglier sibling of WWE programming.

One of the main motivations behind moving the “ECW” roster to the “Raw” side is to increase interest in the Tuesday night show. Ratings have hovered around the 1.1 range for months, so perhaps the fed is making a pre-emptive move in order to increase viewership before the current deal with Sci-Fi expires. The logic here, I guess, is that the “ECW” Superstars will get a “rub” from having workers from “Raw” appear on their show. But I doubt there’ll be that great of an impact - I can’t see anyone saying, “Yah! Paul Burchill’s on ‘ECW’ this week. Let’s watch!” But, of course, having an extra day to edit Mike Adamle is always a good thing.

Other implications? I believe this must indicate that a Draft is upcoming. “SmackDown!” simply can’t stand alone with the roster it currently has. Guys like Umaga, Lance Cade and Carlito would be a help if they were moved over, along with having Miz and Morrison, for example, become permanent members of the “SmackDown!” brand. Maybe FCW guys like Ted Dibiase Jr. or Nick Nemeth will be called up to fill the void too. Overall, at most, “Raw” and “ECW” will receive minimal positive benefits because of the change, whereas “SmackDown!” is once again overlooked.

Samoa Joe as TNA Champion

So, we’ve had a couple months to digest the “Age of Joe.” The verdict? Meh. A certain lull is expected once someone like Joe, who was built-up for over a year as the fan’s choice as champion, finally wins the strap. It leaves the creative “powers that be” to answer the all-important question: where do we go from here? Considering the ineptitude of TNA’s creative staff, we should have known they would drop the ball.

Right off a great match at Lockdown with Kurt Angle, it was decided that Joe would face Big Poppa Pump at Sacrifice. Steiner was technically the No. 1 contender, having received the briefcase during the “Feast or Fired?” gimmick. But instead of a one-on-one match, Angle was thrown into the mix because TNA officials feared that Steiner would bomb in a singles main event match - except Angle got hurt overseas, and was eventually replaced by Kaz, after the X-Division star won the TerrorDome match in the same night. But if TNA didn’t feel Steiner was up for a main event spot, he should have never been given the briefcase to begin with. Lack of long-term planning, I’d say. Or just really bad long-term planning.

So now Joe’s positioned to defend the TNA Heavyweight title in yet another gimmicky match (King of the Mountain) at Slammiversary against Robert Roode, Booker T, and the winners of Christian Cage vs. Tomko and James Storm vs. Rhino. Maybe this will lead to a feud with a newer face to the main event scene, such as Roode or Storm (which should have been done all along), but all signs point to an eventual match with Joe’s “best friend,” Kevin Nash.

As good a worker as many claim Joe to be, there’s no way he could pull out a decent match with Nash, let alone a main event-quality one. I can’t deny that Nash can cut a hell of a promo (he should give some lessons to Joe), and he might even be able to create some interest in the match, but when it comes time to go in the ring, the near 7-footer will come up short.

Even worse, it appears as if some of the fans are turning on Joe, in favour of Nash. During the in-ring promo between the two on Thursday night (there’s a link later), the “iMPACT!” Zone crowd boo’ed Joe after saying he’s a “real world champion.” Obviously, it’s not a good sign that the face of the company isn’t garnering the proper response (insert John Cena joke here).

Ratings for “iMPACT!” on Spike are worse than they’ve ever been since the move to primetime, and I’m sure this fact is providing ammunition for some (i.e., Angle) backstage that Joe needs to drop the belt. But I’m not going to blame the latest lack of interest in TNA squarely on the shoulders of Samoa Joe. Sure, he has to take some of the blame, but so too do the people that put him against past-their-prime guys like Steiner and Nash.

Links of the Week

1. The match that got King William Regal fired (Kennedy was super-over, by the way)
2. Batista earns the right to face Shawn Michaels at One Night Stand (Part 1; Part 2)
3. Shelton Benjamin picks up his first win over Kofi Kingston
4. Part 2 of Abyss’s return videos
5. Eric Young’s search for Elvis
6. Nash upset that he’s not part of the King of the Mountain Match

Extras

7. Build-up to Owen and Bret’s match at WrestleMania X
8. Their opening match at Madison Square Garden - Owen’s theme music was awesome by the way . . . Wooooooooo! (Part 1; Part 2; Part 3)
9. Is there anyone worse to train someone on the fundamentals of pro wrestling than Ultimate Warrior?
10. One word: RoboCop
11. The audio’s a little screwy, but you’ll forgive it for the best backstage vignette ever


2 comments: on "Shades Of Gray #10"

Chris said...

You make a good point about ECW hurting the Smackdown roster, I would have only thought that the move would be good for ECW.
It's too bad they're moving so fast with Joe, I'd have like to seen a couple months of just good matches. No real angles, just some damn decent matches. I wonder if the crowd will continue to push Nash to babyface and possibly Joe to heel. That might not be so bad.
#11, just think all that was needed to destroy Hulkamania was a crappy TV reality show, an affair with his daughters friend and a taped conversation in prison?

Andrew Gray said...

Finally, Vince announced that there'd be a Draft Lottery last night. So hopefully SmackDown! gets a little help from the Draft, although history has shown it's always been Raw that benefits, whereas SmackDown! suffers. Would anyone really be shocked if MVP, Big Show, and Matt Hardy all ended up on Raw?

As for Joe, I think the negative reaction to him in Orlando may be a result of dissatisfaction of the product overall, but still, some of it was definitely for Joe. As champ, he's taking the hit - the crowd had been waiting forever for him to finally reach the top, and his reign has been more than a little disappointing thus far.

I think you're right - Hulkamania's dead. Those taped conversations are fascinating. We've known for a long time that Hogan's all about the money, but it's clear that same sentiment has rubbed off on his son. And not only that, it's clear that the Hogans don't care about the critcally injured John Graziano.