Six Inconvenient Truths About WWE and Indy Wrestling

I don’t like to editorialize about the WWE, and I don’t like to go negative in this space. That said, after hearing the air get sucked out of the building at the end of the Money in the Bank match, it’s time we face some inconvenient truths.

Inconvenient Truth #1: The WWE doesn’t want to push your favorite indy stars. Over the last several years they WWE has snatched up a dream roster of independent wrestling stars, but it’s becoming clear none of these signees are ever going to be “the guy.” Styles, Owens, and Rollins have done well carrying the top belts for long periods of time, but when push comes to shove, the WWE will always favor their own.

Inconvenient Truth #2: The WWE wants the next top guy(s) to be their guys. Never mind that independent wrestlers bring not only an established fan base but experience and ring saavy to the table. The WWE still believes it can manufacture stars from scratch at its Performance Center and push them over the independents. Get used to seeing Sami Zayn staring up in frustration at the latest home grown wrestler on top of the Money in the Bank ladder. This is your new reality in the WWE.

So why does the WWE continue to mine the independents?

Inconvenient Truth #3: The WWE is spending money on independent wrestlers to bleed the indies dry of their top stars. It’s not about enhancing the roster. It’s about hurting the competition by taking away their marquee stars and using those highly paid signees to put over their chosen elect.

So what does all this mean?

Inconvenient Truth #4: Any independent star who has a WWE contract needs to consider more than just the money. That’s a hard, hard thing to do when you’re looking at going from $25 a night to the top of the business, but is the WWE really going to give you your dream shot? The roster is overcrowded. Guys who were on top all around the world are forced to job to pre-fabbed stars. Dalton Castle, Kenny Omega, and the Young Bucks have made the right call, staying where they are instead of taking the money for a one way ticket to obscurity. (Remember how excited we all were when Anderson and Gallows got signed?)

Of course it’s easy for the guys who are being paid well to stay put, but what about the guys struggling to make it?

Here comes the most inconvenient truth of all.

Inconvenient Truth #5: Fans who are sick of it need to seriously consider where they spend their money. If you keep paying for a product you hate and refuse to spend a dime on ROH, NJPW, High Spots, CHIKARA, CZW, or any number of alternatives. Am I suggesting you cancel your Network subscription? Not necessarily. I am saying you should stop spending all that fat cash on T-shirts and Pops and Booty-O’s Cereal and spend a little more on a wrestling product you can care about!

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: one ticket to a WWE show costs the same amount as six tickets to an independent show; or two tickets and two T-shirts; or a six month subscription to the alternative wrestling network of your choice. The money you spend there goes into the pockets of real men and women who need and appreciate it far more than a faceless corporation that long ago decided it knows better than you what you want to see.

Inconvenient Truth #6: The WWE is not about to change its ways any time soon. Indy stars will continue to take the WWE money, and Inconvenient Truths 1-3 will continue to play out.

Knowing this to be true, you have a choice. You can continue watching a product you hate and griping about it online, or you can make a choice to spend your time and hard-earned money on a wrestling show you do love.

Life’s too short to spend on these Internet rants. I’m going to find something I enjoy.

Sorry, Mom, Kevin Owens Did the Right Thing

My kids are seven and nine. They are not allowed to watch wrestling, but because of their dad, they’ve met three major wrestling personalities from the 80s. All three of them were heels in their day; they could not have been nicer to my children. They shook hands, asked their names, took time to listen to them, gave autographs when asked, and share some stories. They were incredibly kind to my kids.

All three of these encounters happened away from the ring. Far away. Had they happened at ring side, my kids know these nice gentlemen would not have been nice at all. The men who smiled and took the time to get to know my kids would have insulted them in every way possible. They would have scowled at them, scared them, and made my kids hate them. Why? Because that’s their job.

The world needs more Kevin Owens. We need more wrestlers who don’t care about people’s feelings, even kids. We need fewer independent wrestlers playing the heel and then selling T-shirts and smiling for pictures. (Props to Aaron Williams, who I saw forego his usual gimmick table at a recent even where he was working heel.) We need more of the old Dutch Mantell “Don’t buy my photo and rip it up in front of me,” like the time the Lovely Lylah sold a bunch of cake pops for charity by saying, “Don’t buy these just to throw them at me during my match!” We need men and women willing to live the heel life in the ring, in the arena, and yes, even on social media.

We don’t need Triple H comforting kids at ringside after playing the heel. We need more Kevin Owens.

Breaking News: Cena to make shocking return at Mania!

It’s two days until the biggest event of the year in sports entertainment, and a well-placed source in the WWE has just confirmed, John Cena will return at Wrestlemania!

That’s right, Cenation, Superman is back, and he’s coming to make himself a hero to those dreading the inevitable rise of the Roman Empire.

Or is he?

Cena will be inserted into the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match against Triple H and Roman Reigns, but he will not be doing so as a babyface! The long-awaited heel turn will happen Sunday night, and after Shane McMahon expels Triple H from Monday Night Raw, Cena will be the guy paired with the man Vince McMahon still hopes to make into the next Cena!

But wait, how in the world will the WWE get the fans to cheer Reigns over Cena, especially heel Cena? Cena was the most hated man in Louisville when he was at OVW. He was exceptionally good at working the mic when he was a heel, and it’s not too far-fetched to think that a “smark” Wrestlemania and post-Mania Raw audience will fall in love with heel Cena. To make sure that the fans boo Cena like never before, the WWE has paired Cena up with an advocate, a blast from the past, an ace in the hole sure to make him the biggest heel since the Iron Sheik!

bolin1

You are not dreaming, wrestling fans. John Cena will be paired up with his former manager, the man who helped launch him to superstardom, Kenny “Starmaker” Bolin. Under Bolin’s tutelage, Cena became hands down the most hated man in Louisville when he was at OVW. Now that he has reunited with his old protege, Bolin will not only turn fans pro-Reigns and anti-Cena, he will make Cena the top heel for years to come, extending his career in a way not seen since Hulk Hogan became “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan.

Doubt me if you will, wrestling fans, but some Sunday night, April 3, in front of the largest audience ever assembled for a live wrestling event, John Cena will steal the spotlight and the title from Roman Reigns, and Bolin Services will finally begin its long overdue WWE run at the Showcase of the Immortals!

Kenny will still be at The Nerdy Planet on Saturday from 3-5 PM, selling books and signing autographs with me and Little Jimmy LeBeaux. We had originally planned on an evening event, starting around 6 PM, but just before we announced the event on Facebook, Kenny called and asked me to move it up earlier in the day. If you’re not buying it, join us Saturday and ask Kenny for yourself. He’ll be happy to neither confirm nor deny what’s about to go down at Wrestlemania 32.

Finding New Wrestling Friends with Pavlov

I work in the front office. My friend Frankie works in will call. The two of us talk wrestling almost every day. We talk about the pay-per-views, Raw, NXT (when I can get him to watch), and rumors in the Internet. I keep talking to him about indy wrestling, and one of these days, I will get him to break down and check it out. Frankie and I have talked so much wrestling the last few years that the UPS guy Nick, a former Memphis wrestling/Tojo Yamamoto fan, has started watching again.

It’s nice having co-workers who share your obsession, but when you’re new to a job, a school, or even a new church, it can be hard to figure out who’s a fan. That is, unless you know Pavlov.

Pavlov was not a wrestler. He was a Russian physiologist best known for his work in classical conditioning and a series of experiments he did with dogs. Pavlov rang a bell every time he fed the dogs. After a while, the dogs would begin to salivate at the mere sound of a bell in anticipation of their meal, much like wrestling fans when they hear certain sounds.

The WWE understands Pavlov. Think about your favorite wrestlers and their entrance themes. The drum roll off on Seth Rollins’s theme. The opening power chord from Motorhead’s rendition of “The Game.” The Rock’s “IF YOU SMELLLLLLLL…” introduction. The WWE uses stingers at the start of every major star’s theme to induce a Pavlovian response, and if you are clever, you can use the same strategy to sniff out the wrestling fans in your office, school, or place of worship.

One way to trigger this Pavlovian response is to change the text alert sound on your phone to the sound of glass breaking from the opening of Stone Cold Steve Austin’s entrance theme. No wrestler elicits a response like Austin, and no wrestling fan can help but look up when he or she heads that unmistakable crash.

Another sound guaranteed to cause a reaction is the New Age Outlaws’ theme. If you’re in a cubicle village, this may work better than the Stone Cold crash because it elicits a verbal response. When a diehard hears the opening guitar riff, “Dum-duh-dah-dum,” just listen for the call back, “Oh you didn’t know??” If there’s a fan nearby, the response will be automatic.

But what if you’re in a situation that calls for phones to be on silent? Consider dropping signature phrases into your day to day conversations, the kind your favorite superstars use to get a reaction. Let’s say you’re at church, and the subject of world hunger comes up. Perhaps you speak up and say, “As believers, we can’t sit back and do nothing. We need to do something for the millions–”
Pause. Did someone answer back: “And millions!”

It’s automatic. We’ve all been programmed, and if you’re clever enough, you can use that to your advantage.

Granted all of these examples involve Attitude Era stars and not the stars of today’s PG era, but the same principle should apply to any wrestling sound, song, or catchphrase from any era. Set your ringtone to Roman Reigns’s theme song, and when your Mom calls to tell you about Dad’s last doctor’s appointment, follow the sound of incessant booing. You’ve just found your new best friend.

Could Roman Reigns have been a Bolin guy?

bolin1A decade ago a Louisville, Kentucky institution was churning out WWE Superstars left and right. The institution went by the name Bolin Services, and in the course of a decade, BS sent more than sixty men and women to the WWE main roster, including the most recent face of the company, John Cena.

Given the struggles Roman Reigns is having becoming the new face of the company, I got in touch with Kenny Bolin and son Chris to ask if Bolin Services might have been able to do anything for him.

“He would not have been the main guy,” says Chris Bolin. “He would never have been in Cena, Rico, or Carlito’s spot. He would have been one of the background guys like Sean O’Haire. Except O’Haire could cut a decent promo.”

Truth be told, no one was pushed as the main guy or the face of the company because in Bolin Services, Kenny Bolin was the face. Everyone had a role, and everyone worked together. “Sometimes I had the spotlight,” says Kenny. “Sometimes it was Cena. Sometimes it was Rico or someone else. There was no ego because everyone understood their role.”

Even the great John Cena had no trouble filling a supporting role when asked. “He was a team player. He was always on, but he never upstaged anyone. He understood when one of us looks good, we all look good.”

Bolin’s system was forged out of necessity caused by the WWE developmental machine. There was no way of telling when someone would get called up to the main roster, and you never knew who was next to go. Kenny remained front and center as the guys around him, one by one, left for the big time. “Guys would leave, new guys would come in. It didn’t matter who they gave me, they all got called up. That’s why they called me the Starmaker.”

Truth be told, neither Kenny nor Chris see Reigns as a fit for Bolin Services. Had Roman Reigns been sent to Ohio Valley Wrestling, Chris Bolin believes that he would have been one of the Disciples of Synn, a rival faction led by Jim Cornette’s now wife Stacy. “He would have fit in better there, like Batista when he was Leviathan. Bolin Services liked guys who could banter with my Dad. Rico, Cena, these guys could hold their own. Reigns just isn’t a BS guy. He doesn’t have the personality for it.”

That’s not necessarily bad news for Roman Reigns. Batista went on to become a four time World Heavyweight Champion and a two time WWE Champion.

But Batista was never the face of the company.

For more on Kenny Bolin, Bolin Services, and the WWE developmental era at OVW, read Bluegrass Brawlers: The Story of Professional Wrestling in Louisville and I Probably Screwed You Too: The Mostly True Stories of Kenny “Starker” Bolin. 

Why You Better Not Skip Survivor Series

Sunday is a can’t miss pay-per-view for many reasons.

For one, you’re going to see a new champion crowned. Someone who has never held the belt will walk out of Survivor series as world champion. It could be Kevin Owens. It could be Dean Ambrose. It could be Roman Reigns.

Reigns is the odds on favorite, but if he’s not your man, that’s no reason to skip this Sunday! The same people booing Roman are the ones who have been chanting, “Anyone but Cena,” for years. If those fans don’t turn up this Sunday, you know what to expect come Royal Rumble time.

The WWE will be watching the numbers very carefully this weekend. If the numbers are good, you will see more of Reigns, but you will also see more of Owens, Ambrose, Cesaro, Neville, the Wyatts, the New Day, and the rising stars of the WWE.

And if you’re one of those who have been chanting, “We want Sasha,” show up early for the pre-show and watch her. WWE watches those numbers too.

History will be made this weekend. Tune in and show you’re ready for what comes next.

The Door Opens a Little Wider

https://youtu.be/qB-qEKI37eY

Seth Rollins is out 6-9 months.

The WWE title is vacant.

Rollins will be back in less than a year, and when he returns, he’ll likely get a huge babyface pop. He will be bigger than ever.

Question is, who will step up and take the top spot?

Orton is out for months, also injured.

Cena’s gone until late December.

Brock will be back in January.

Vince is about to push Roman Reigns to the moon… but who will garner the fans’ support?

Cesaro? Owens? Ambrose? Ziggler? Ryback?

Dare I say it… Sasha Banks?

Pick your favorite and tune in. A star is going to be born out of this.

Anybody but Cena? Prove it!

John Cena is out for two months. Every time he’s out, the ratings drop. This in spite of all the “Cena sucks” and “Anybody but Cena” mantras of the Internet wrestling fans.

If you’re ready to “move on” from John Cena, it’s time to prove it.

Do not miss Raw and Smackdown. Watch them again on Hulu and DVR.

Do not miss the pay-per-views that air while he is gone.

Above all, show support for your next guy. You don’t like Roman Reigns? Fine. Buy a shirt to support KO, Ambrose, Ryback, Cesaro, Rollins, Ziggler. Whomever your guy is, put your money where your mouth is. That’s really how the WWE pays attention to whom they need to push.

Reality is, Cena’s a once in a generation star. There are some very talented guys waiting in the wings to take his spot right now, but I’m not sure there’s any one guy yet ready to fill his shoes. The time is coming he won’t want to lace them up as often, but if the ratings plunge like normal, you can expect another major Cena push all the way through Wrestlemania!