MAILBAG: Why Is Everyone Suddenly Hating On The Rock?

SEScoops Mailbag for July 8th

(submit YOUR questions to [email protected])

Q: I have been a wrestling fan for over a decade now and have always been fascinated by WWE and the great talents they had in the early 2000’s. I always thought WWE was the only show around. Later, I found out about TNA and [thought to myself,] “cool, more wrestling! I’m not gonna complain.” So I watched a couple of episodes and realized it was garbage compared to what I would watch with WWE. People criticize WWE a lot and complain about bad decisions [Vince] McMahon makes, but when I read everything about TNA, it sounds like an awful show. Please tell me why would anyone watch TNA? – Jake E.

A: I am far from the biggest TNA fan in the world. Reports on their treatment of talent, especially the Knockouts, are appalling. Their television show is, quite often, tough to follow and at times infuriating to watch. And they continue to employ Vince Russo through some blind allegiance that even I cannot explain. Having said ALL of that, you ask why would anyone watch TNA? Because they love wrestling. Because they want an alternative to the WWE product. Because they believe, in their heart of hearts, that things will turn around. You mention that you “read” a lot of horrible things about Impact, which I take to mean that you rarely if ever have bothered to watch the show. That’s like saying I heard such and such a book really sucks and has a boring ending, yet never actually reading the book to form your own opinion. I’ve been guilty of this myself in the past and it’s an easy trap to fall into. Having watched the show last night from start to finish for the first time in a while, I came away from it feeling that, in spite of all the storyline BS, I saw some really great wrestling. Of course, that may change once the Destination X event has come and gone, but I came away satisfied. Frankly, I think the bi-polar nature of their TV show is what frustrates people the most.

Q: What are your thoughts on who is better, the Divas or the Knockouts? Which has the better wrestlers and put on the better matches? Who gets more TV time? – Tyler

A: There was a time when the TNA Knockouts division was far and away the better of the two. Sadly, once Awesome Kong and Gail Kim left, they haven’t really been the same. TNA has veterans in Mickie James and Tara, but WWE counters with Beth Phoenix and Natalya, though they don’t use them nearly enough. I’d say both divisions are mostly on par with each other in terms of talent and TV time. Knockouts matches are likely, on average, slightly longer than a typical WWE divas match, but neither group of ladies get nearly as much TV time as they deserve. In particular, those 30-second diva matches on Raw every week are completely pointless and insulting to the women who routinely put together 4-5 minute matches that are cut down right before they go through the curtain.

Q: Keeping the rumors of his backstage politics aside, how do you rate Triple H as a performer? Through his epic feuds with guys like Austin, Rock and Shawn Michaels, would you rate him as one of the best heels in the company? Also, I have seen JR constantly refer to him as the “Cerebral Assassin”, the most prepared superstar for any match, the most calculated wrestler who knows everything [there is to know] about the ring. Do you agree or is that just a gimmick? – Jeff Thomas

A: I think Triple H is one of the greatest heels in the history of the company. Did he wield his influence to keep himself on top at the expense of other people’s pushes? Absolutely, I believe those stories to be true in most cases. What would have happened had WWE not squashed the love triangle storyline with Hunter, Stephanie and Kurt Angle so abruptly? Or if Rob Van Dam had actually defeated HHH for the World Heavyweight title at Unforgiven 2002, as was originally planned? We will never know, but one thing you cannot doubt is the man’s ability as a performer, especially before all of his injuries caught up with him. He is a very cerebral performer in that he’s been around the business for 20 years and has a pretty good sense of what works and what doesn’t. He’s come to Vince McMahon with several ideas, one of which was famously to resurrect the War Games concept, to which Vince shot him down thinking it was too old school. This is why I am optimistic about his taking over the company at some point. The fact is, he paid his dues working his way up (let us not forget the Curtain Call incident) and has had some fantastic matches over the years.

Q: When Shawn Michaels broke his back during the casket match against Undertaker, did WWE ever refer to that for older fans to [get them] more excited or [add some] reasoning to Shawn wanting to end Taker’s streak? – Dallas

A: They may have mentioned it briefly, but no, they really didn’t take advantage of that back story at all. It still amazes me that they waited as long as they did when Shawn returned in 2002 to put the two of them together, and amazes me even more than once they did, they ignored such an obvious, effective plot point. Shawn tells Taker that he’s never forgotten the fact that he took away 4½ years of his career (very lucrative years, I might add) and is out for revenge on the dead man. Instead, we got the two of them as the final two men in the 2007 Royal Rumble match and Jerry Lawler or JBL (I can’t remember which) on commentary saying wow, here’s a match we’ve never seen before. It really illustrates how idiotic they think we must be not to remember that the two of them had several PPV matches together, one of which was the VERY FIRST Hell in a Cell match, an all-time classic encounter.

Q: Why does WWE not book Zack Ryder for anything but Superstars? His wrestling ability is much better then guys like John Cena (who can do 2 moves, 3 on his best day) and he has a huge online fan community from his web series. It’s entertaining and he actually cares about his fans. – Jesse

A: His wrestling ability is much better than John Cena? That’s not saying much, but let’s not make Ryder out to be the next Karl Gotch here. I have taken a liking to his videos like everyone else and respect the way that he’s trying to get himself over, but don’t kid yourself, not a single person singing the praises of Zack Ryder and asking for WWE to push him on TV are doing so because they like his wrestling ability. They see him as an entertaining character being held down by the suits in the ivory tower and that’s why they’ve rallied behind him. Most of what he does in those YouTube videos are more entertaining that all of the skits in a given episode of Raw combined. He deserves a shot, but it’s not because he’s such a great wrestler.

Q: Why hasn’t WWE awarded Trish Stratus with the now defunct Women’s Championship? She has had the most reigns and, in my opinion, done the most for the Divas division. They gave Mick Foley (and some say Edge) the Hardcore Championship as a sign of respect and thanks for doing so much for the business, so why not Trish? It’s not like they plan on reviving the Women’s title. Please shed some light on this because it seems unfair. – Kyle

A: Why should they? The Hardcore title was retired, whereas the Womens title was unified with the Divas title to make for one, uniform championship for the ladies. They showed Trish plenty of respect by letting her go over Lita and win the Womens title in her hometown for her final match at Unforgiven 2006. This year, she got a WrestleMania payoff and was a trainer on Tough Enough. The next logical step is entry into the Hall of Fame.

Q: In an [recent radio] interview, Randy Orton said that he wasn’t buying Rock’s speech about returning to WWE and never leaving again. Orton said Johnson called management and claimed he slammed him and Triple H in the interview and that Rock only mentioned Triple H to get WWE’s attention, even though he didn’t criticize “The Game” in the interview. I remember Orton really slammed Hunter in that interview. Did Rock really play up the drama? Looks like he may have many enemies backstage in the locker room. – Simon B.

A: I have no reason to believe Orton would invent a story like that out of thin air. Perhaps Rock did call WWE to complain and should have come to Orton personally if he had an issue. That said, jealousy is a funny thing. When Rock is backstage, nobody seems to have a bad word to say about him and they talk about how down to earth and accessible he is with everyone. Now it seems like everyone in the world is against the man, as though he is somehow shaming the business because he went on to a successful career in Hollywood. What they don’t realize is that Rock has done more for them than they will ever know in terms of the doors he has opened up for them. The other thing they seem to forget was how much business picked up pre-WrestleMania when he came back. Raw had a string of about 7 or 8 straight sellouts, ratings were way up and Mania broke 1 million buys, which in the end, meant more money in their paychecks. He is in the main event next year because he is still a draw and Vince is, after all, a businessman.

Q: Do you think we will ever see TNA or WWE use the internet to circumvent the TV ratings system? ECW famously aired content that was overtly violent and sexual. Neither big wrestling company could air content like that, even on PPV. However, they could put content like that online and, let’s say, promote it like, “And fans, check our official Twitter for the link to tonight’s bra-and-panties match. It’s too much for TV, so we’re broadcasting it online.” Technically, they could broadcast ANYTHING like that. The idea isn’t just about the shock value but, rather, targeted content that would enhance storylines. What do you think? – Bill R.

A: No, I don’t. There’s no need for TNA to do this because they’re already pushing a more adult product on their TV show, most of which Spike does not seem to have a problem with. On the flip side, WWE does not half-ass their approach to PG. Yes, a promo like the one CM Punk cut last week will sometimes sneak through that pushes the envelope a bit (even so, there was nothing terribly un-PG about it), but the entire reason PG exists is to bring in more sponsors and appease Mattel. Contrary to popular belief, there are far fewer kids watching WWE today than there were during the Attitude Era. You cannot then have WWE turning around and pushing more mature content on their website. This was a hot topic when they re-launched the ECW brand and people thought that the brand would have more of an edge to it than Raw or Smackdown had. The reality is, they feel they have to pick one direction and stick with it.

Q: What’s up with Earl Hebner? It seems like every time I watch a WWE DVD and they show a match from back in the day, he’s the referee every single time. Did they have only one ref back then or something? – Redneckman

A: Simple answer, there are two Earl Hebners. One of them just happens to be called Dave.

Keep those questions coming to [email protected] and remember to include your name!