From JHawk’s Beak: Things I Miss
by Jared “JHawk” Hawkins
Not that I really went anywhere, but it has been a long time since I’ve written anything of substance for any sort of major website.
For those of you who don’t know me, I used to write for thesmartmarks.com between 2002-2005, doing mostly reviews of Raw and SmackDown but occasionally reviewing older shows as well. Now, you can get Raw and SmackDown reviews anywhere, but I’ll focus on infrequent opinion pieces as well as on occasionally reviewing older (or smaller and/or more obscure) shows. I am also currently one of the hosts of Pro Wrestling Weekend, available Sundays at 6pm Eastern/3pm Eastern at smartmarkradio.com.
Now, you might be wondering what finally got me off my ass (or more accurately, got my ass to my computer chair) in order to write. I’m a big fan of any and all wrestling, but there are some things that current wrestling could learn from old school wrestling. So here are some things I miss in wrestling that you either don’t see anymore, or so rarely see that you might as well call them extinct.
A legitimate tag team division
Once upon a time, tag team wrestling was king. Several promotions, notably Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, would be more likely to main event with a hot tag team match than a major singles match. Even Vince McMahon Sr.’s territory prior to the formation of the WWWF in 1963 was classified as primarily a tag team territory, mostly because they couldn’t get dates on the NWA World Heavyweight Champion.
Now in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the WWF’s tag team division was thin. Usually you would know who the next champions were going to be just because a new tag team entered the company. But eventually things changed. In the 1980s, the WWF had so many good tag teams that there was legitimate talk of having an Intercontinental Tag Team Title. You had The Hart Foundation, The British Bulldogs, Demolition, Strike Force, The Killer Bees, The Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff, The Islanders, The Rougeau Brothers, The Young Stallions…all teams getting enough of a push that they were a legitimate threat to the championship. Then over in Jim Crockett’s NWA, not only were there World and United States Tag Team Champions, you had a 24-team tournament being held once a year. Yes, 24 teams. Sure, five or six of them were teams like Nelson Royal and Denny Brown, but there were a ton of legitimate teams and a ton of legitimate contenders to win the tournament.
Fast forward to today. WWE has The Shield, The Usos, the Prime Time Players, Team Rhodes Scholars, and Tons of Funk. Only the Shield gets any TV time, and when the others do get TV time they rarely get wins and sometimes lose handicap matches to one guy. Even TNA, who five years ago sported a deep tag team division, has fallen on hard times. Right now you have four teams, and only one (Bad Influence) has been together even close to a year. Why not have a deep tag team division? Not only does this give guys on your roster something to do besides take up space, but tag team matches are relatively easy to book. One babyface gets the crap beat out of him for 10 minutes, makes the hot tag to his partner who cleans house, then you go into the finish. It’s formulaic, but it’s formulaic because it works.
Some of my all-time favorite personalities in wrestling are managers. Bobby Heenan, Jim Cornette, Paul Heyman, Fred Blassie, and others made their living by sometimes being funny, sometimes being serious, but almost always being entertaining and always helping draw money.
A manager is best when paired with someone who isn’t very good on a mic and being the mouthpiece for them. Paul Heyman is being paired with Curtis Axel for that very reason. Now look at a guy like Ryback. How awesome would it have been for Bobby Heenan or Jim Cornette to be doing the talking, describing what Ryback was going to do to John Cena in Three Stages of Hell, while Ryback stands beside him doing nothing but looking like a monster? Instead we get Ryback doing his own talking and lowering the buyrate with every word.
Not every guy needs a manager. As much as I loved the CM Punk/Paul Heyman pairing, Punk doesn’t need a mouthpiece. But a lot of guys who otherwise have all the tools to succeed could definitely benefit from having someone who can do the talking for them to drum interest up in the upcoming pay-per-view.
Secondary titles that mean something
As I watched Wade Barrett, who recently held the Intercontinental Championship for approximately 10 weeks, losing on TV every single week, it made me wonder why the hell he had that belt in the first place. Once upon a time, champions would, get this, win most of the time. And this way, when the title did finally change hands, people cared.
On June 6, 1993, Shawn Michaels won the IC Title at a house show, defeating Marty Jannetty. Prior to being stripped of the belt four months later for failing to defend the title within 30 days, Michaels won a lot more than he lost. His losses were generally by DQ or countout and absolutely never on TV. He actually won more house show matches as a heel than most heels would at that time, so the DQ rule was rarely a factor even off TV.
I’m not saying a champion should never lose on TV. But if a champion does lose on TV, it needs to be a rare occurrence, and only to build toward a rematch with the title on the line. There’s no reason for Sin Cara to pin Wade Barrett clean on TV and then never get a rematch, no matter how many injuries he suffers or moves he botches. So far Axel as IC Champion and Dean Ambrose as United States Champion has been done well enough, but hopefully they don’t drop the ball again.
And since I brought it up…
The 30 Day Rule
This is something that will only work for promotions that run frequently, but WWE and TNA especially should utilize this since they run house shows on a frequent basis. Once upon a time, a champion was expected to defend the title at least once every 30 days, and if he was unable to, he’d be stripped of the title. In the territory days, this would be an insurance policy against a guy who left the company with no notice or to keep the title from being ignored when a champion was injured.
You can make an argument from a kayfabe standpoint that an exception should be made for an in-ring injury such as Dolph Ziggler’s concussion. Honestly, once day 30 hit I would have stripped him of it, then you can have Dolph regain it three or six months later and push the fact that he never lost as part of the story. Plus the ensuing tournament gives you a month or longer of easy booking where you just book good, over workers in long matches to fill time on Raw and/or SmackDown. But there is absolutely no excuse for active champions with no injuries to hold titles without defending it.
Here’s one thing I have to take TNA to task for. Devon started 2013 as the TNA Television Champion, a championship that was designed to be defended on television every single week. His first defense in 2013 didn’t take place until April 11 and aired on TV a week later. Was Devon injured? No. Was there some sort of stipulation that Ace & Eights could defend the title whenever they wanted? Not that I can recall. The booking team simply did not have him defend the thing.
If you don’t care enough about the title to have it defended regularly (or to have the champions look worthy of having it), maybe you shouldn’t have the title in the first place.
Hyping the product
You’re probably looking at that headline and wondering what I’m talking about. Surely since WWE and TNA want to make money, they’re pushing the next pay-per-view. They even mentioned RVD is returning at Money In The Bank twice on the post-Payback Raw.
True, there is some hype for the PPV, but let’s be honest. How many of you remembered the date for Payback without going to wwe.com? How many of you have a house show coming to your area in the next 30 days and can even tell me what the main event is going to be? Hell, how many of you even knew they released a 25 Greatest Rivalries DVD and Blu Ray? But I bet you know that WWE has a smartphone app and that Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. have a new bacon burger because they have been mentioned constantly over the last few weeks.
I have no problem pushing sponsors. They’re paying for the plug. But when you do a backstage angle and all I can remember about it is Vickie Guerrero stuffing her face with a bacon cheeseburger, that’s great for the sponsor but not for the match that you set up with it. Telling me I can watch the match during the commercial if I have the app is fine. Telling me six times to download the app during the entire two minutes Zack Ryder is on screen is insulting to Ryder and to people too cheap or too poor to buy a smartphone.
Don’t think these things would help the current state of professional wrestling? Look at the declining ratings for Raw every week and tell me it’s not at least worth looking into.
By the way, did you know that there’s a War Games DVD coming out on June 25? Maybe they should put that on the app.