Last Mondayâ<80><99>s â<80><9c>Rawâ<80> was a home run for a myriad of reasons.
Kevin Kelly has already has already broken down the details of why the show was so good (with the exception of Michael Cole being good on play-by-play. He sucks, Kevin. Trust me. Anyone sounds passable sitting next to Jerry Lawler.) I was impressed that the WWE took a chance. Any chance.
First, just a couple of facts: In 2008, the WWE has presented seven pay-per-views. For purposes of analysis, lets consider the top two matches from each event. So, not being a math major, Iâ<80><99>m guessing that translates into roughly 14 matches. In those fourteen matches (which included one 5-man elimination chamber cluster at No Way Out), we saw eleven wrestlers. We only saw Chris Jericho, Shawn Michaels & Umaga once each and that was in the Elimination Chamber. My point? Eight guys have been pushed to the moon since December 2007 and have helped make the WWE stale. Not that HHH (39), John Cena (31), Edge (34), Batista (39), The Undertaker (43), JBL (41), Jeff Hardy (30) and Randy Orton (believe it or not, only 28) did anything wrong. The matches were, for the most part, entertaining and the work was, at times, jaw dropping. The problem lies in the morass that was the creative powers-that-be in Stamford. Call it politics, call it not working well under pressure, call it the Michael Hayes Syndrome – something was causing the WWE to drag itself right into the ground.
In business school you are taught that realizing you have a problem with your business model is easy. Doing something about it (i.e. implementing and managing change) is at the other end of the difficulty spectrum. Managing change may be the hardest thing to do (just ask the guys that came up with New Coke in 1984).
But the WWE changed during the eight days between June 23 and June 30. What changed?:
– 28 pieces of talent switched brands including 2 divas and 2 announcers. That, in and of itself, is enough to show real change – but the WWE was not done.
– â<80><9c>Smackdownâ<80> became the flagship of the overall WWE brand. They have most of the name and (*ahem*) veteran talent and they have the voice of the brand in Jim Ross. This is all in preparation for the October 2008 re-launch of the show on MyNetworkTV.
– The death roll began for the ECW brand. Joey Styles out and Adamle in on the stick, a flood of talent out and a trickle of talent in, stagnant ratings. Much like Amy Winehouse, ECW is done – it just doesnâ<80><99>t know it yet.
– Seriously, sit back and take a deep breath. Ready? Read this sentence: Cody Rhodes (23) and Ted Dibiase, Jr. (25) are the World Tag Team Champions, Kofi Kingston (26) is the Intercontinental Champion and C. M. Punk (29) is the World Heavyweight Champion. Five years ago, Ted Dibiase, Jr. was a wide receiver at Mississippi College, Cody Rhodes was refereeing matches for Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling, Kofi Kingston was working in the corporate world putting his Boston College degree to good use and C. M. Punk was barely getting a cup of coffee in TNA.
That is change you can believe in. (Yeah, it is hard to believe that C. M. Punk is older than Randy Orton.)
The New Kids are not being pushed merely because they are young. They are being pushed for two distinct reasons: 1) they are ready and 2) the WWE needs new characters to be the face of the company. It is really telling to hear Cody Rhodes say he was fan of HHH when he was â<80><9c>growing up.â<80> As a 43 year old man, nothing pains me more than to make old jokes about people my own age and younger, for Godâ<80><99>s sakes. But, then again, I am not trying to appeal to an 18-34 demographic by busting my ass on international, live television in wrestling trunks (man, talk about a low-rated segment.)
So, here is a huge thumbs up the WWE for remembering, for a brief shining week at least, that wrestling is an upside business and not a nepotistic jobs program. Letâ<80><99>s hope it lasts.
Oh, who in the hell did Trevor Murdoch piss off?
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