A most interesting question was posted this morning on WWE’s Facebook page: “Who is the most underrated Superstar or Diva on the roster?”
Seeing this question made me wonder if they are planning to push some new faces into a more prominent position on the pecking order. With that being said, I’d like to take a look at some of the performers I feel are most underutilized in WWE today:
5. Naomi Knight
They say a picture is worth a thousand words so here goes…
Final verdict: With her being on the upcoming E! reality series Total Divas, maybe WWE will give her a chance to shine as a singles performer.
4. Justin Gabriel and Tyson Kidd
I chose to group them since they were once a tag team. Both have a high-risk style that conjures up memories of the WCW Cruiserweight division or Rey Mysterio when he first arrived in WWE. Simply put, they can do things with their bodies that most of the roster cannot. They never fail to impress me on the rare occasion they are given the time to have competitive matches on Raw and Smackdown. Gabriel is a regular on Main Event, where he is truly allowed to work his style. Kidd is currently nursing an injury, but it is my hope that WWE will find a meaningful way to utilize his vast talents upon his return.
Final verdict: They would make great tag team champions. Just imagine the level of matches they would have against the Colons and Team Rhodes Scholar. At the very least, each should be a featured part of the midcard.
3. Kofi Kingston
Kofi has been around having great matches for so long that some people take him for granted. He has been one of WWE’s most consistent workers since day one and was involved in the two best matches of last week (with Antonio Cesaro and Dolph Ziggler). More than that, he’s a great babyface that appears to have a genuine connection with the fans.
Final verdict: He should either win the Money in the Bank briefcase or world heavyweight championship by year’s end. He certainly deserves it.
2. Antonio Cesaro
Having been on the main roster for less than a full year, Cesaro has already made a name for himself as one of the very best workers in the company. His match with Kofi Kingston on last week’s Main Event was considered a classic. Cesaro is that rare breed of performer WWE doesn’t tend to get many of. He is a big, believable and athletic guy capable of working with anyone on the roster.
Final verdict: Similar to Kofi, he needs to have the Money in the Bank briefcase or world heavyweight championship in his hands sooner than later. I could even see him winning the Royal Rumble.
1. Daniel Bryan
I know what some of you may be thinking. After all, he is a former world heavyweight champion. However, his title reign served as little more than a placeholder for Sheamus, who beat him for the belt in a mere 18 seconds at last year’s WrestleMania.
Even though he is a prominently featured upper midcarder, with several televised main events to his credit (plus some excellent major PPV bouts from last year), he is still not booked as a true main eventer. He rarely has anything less than very good to great matches. His clash against Ryback from last week’s Smackdown was widely praised as Ryback’s best singles performance yet. Plus Bryan is massively over with the fans. Whatever city he is in, they cannot help but to enthusiastically chant yes whenever his music hits.
Final verdcit: He should be headlining right now.
WrestleMania 29 is in the books and while it will surely go down as the highest grossing event in wrestling history, the show itself fell short of being among the all-time great WrestleManias inside the ring.
By no means would I label it a bad show. Any PPV with the Undertaker vs. C.M. Punk match should not be considered bad under any circumstances, and while John Cena vs. Rock as the main event wasn’t at the level of their previous clash, it was still a good match between the two biggest stars in the business. The workrate and storytelling in HHH vs. Brock Lesnar was superb, but they were hurt yet again by a dead crowd. You would really have to go back in time to find a major feud with such underwhelming PPV matches. They worked their butts off and deserved better from the audience.
The crowd reactions may have been the biggest story to emerge in the wake of WrestleMania. Even if the matches weren’t technically excellent, I at least expected it to be among the most vocal crowds in WWE history. We got that the following night on Raw, but not at the big show of the year. From numerous live accounts I read there were thousands of fans at MetLife Stadium that had difficulty seeing the ring. In fact, WWE was flooded with complaints from fans whose view of the ring was obstructed by the four huge columns surrounding the ring. Last year’s show in Miami had a similar structure, but there weren’t any major complaints best I recall.
Another contributing factor to the less than ecstatic atmosphere was Mother Nature itself. Every WrestleMania since 2007 has been in a domed stadium. While the location gives the event a major league presentation, it does hurt crowd reactions. Several wrestlers, most notably Chris Jericho, have publicly stated their dissatisfaction with the recent stadium shows. Sound travels much slower and wrestlers often become nervous because they feel their matches aren’t getting over with the audience. Even though his match against Edge was one of the best at WrestleMania 26, Jericho felt the match was awful as it happened live.
This year’s show had the unfortunate pleasure of being in an outdoor stadium in New Jersey without a retractable roof. Naturally most fans will not be at their most vocal when stuck outside in cold weather for an entire evening.
From a production standpoint it may have been the best PPV the company ever produced. The pyro and special effects were top-notch. Fandango’s entrance was particularly stunning.
While a lot of fans were disappointed with the quality of the show, I really couldn’t find too much fault. Since 2009, WrestleMania has always focused on two to three major matches with the rest of the card coming off as filler. Time management plagues every WrestleMania and this year was no exception. Most of the undercard matches were terribly rushed and, as I expected, more screen time was given to celebrity cameos and video packages than to the wrestlers that work hard all year for a spot on the show. But I can’t even be upset because that is what WrestleMania has morphed into over the years.
I never watch a WrestleMania expecting to see four hours of consistently great wrestling. If that were the case then I’d be better off watching one of the many iPPV offerings from ROH, Dragon Gate or New Japan Pro Wrestling over the weekend.
However, I do watch WrestleMania to witness a grand spectacle unlike any other. When I look at things from that perspective I’m never too disappointed.
Have you ever experienced a moment when all your preconceived notions on a particular subject were shattered?
I found myself in that exact situation Wednesday evening as I walked into class for a feature writing/blogging course I’m taking at a local community college. I figure it would be a good way to sharpen my skills since I do a lot of feature writing at my job and blog on a consistent basis. Little did I know this course would include some of the most powerful and practical writing advice I’ve heard in my life. My brian must’ve resembled a sponge for the 2.5 hours I was present because I soaked up everything.
I own numerous writing books and constantly surf the web for articles on how to improve my writing, but a lack of discipline and extreme case of laziness have prevented me from reaching the level I know I’m capable of as a writer. I feel this course will help me get back into the zone.
The course was more than I could’ve bargained for. For only $70 (registration fee) it felt like I received a one-on-one tutorial from the Gotham Writers’ Workshop. Our professor runs a freelance writing consultancy and is an author of three books and over 130 articles. She gave us three writing exercises that were each geared toward gauging our writing aptitude and comprehensive reading ability.
That alone would’ve made it worthwhile, but the real meat came in the lecture on feature writing. Even though I’ve written features in various publications since 2007, I was stunned to discover the amount of preparation that goes into crafting a quality piece. I learned how important organization and prewriting is to the success of the finished product. The majority of blogs I post mainly consist of my thoughts as they come to me at any particular moment. From here on I will try to conduct more sufficient planning for everything I post.
One of our assignments questioned our level of dedication to writing. It asked did we like to write, love to write, or live to write. I responded that I like writing, but want to get to the point where I love it and am able to make it a major part of my professional life.
There are many things I wish to do with my writing and for the first time in awhile I feel that I’m in a good place to begin chipping away at these dreams.
Last night’s Raw from the Verizon Center in Washington, DC was a phenomenal go-home show. It seemed as if everyone was on their game when it came to putting the finishing touches on the big programs. Rock vs. John Cena and Brock Lesnar vs. HHH are clearly the two biggest matches. They’ve had the most consistent build from week to week and it feels like everything has been done as good as possible to garner interest.
I’m a bit more skeptical of Undertaker vs. C.M. Punk. The last few weeks of their build was lackluster to say the least, but they got it back on track with an excellent show- closing angle that did wonders in making Punk seem like a legitimate threat to end the 20-0 streak. However, I have little doubt they will produce a great match. Undertaker has been in the best match at every WrestleMania of the last five years and Punk always delivers on the big stage.
Of the undercard matches, I’m looking most forward to Chris Jericho vs. Fandango. Fandango is one of the more unique characters to be brought up to the main roster and I really like his cocky effeminate gimmick. The fans genuinely despise him and it’s a major feat for a new wrestler to get the fans to care about them that much. Jericho is the perfect opponent and has been great at putting Fandango over in key angles for the last couple of weeks. There must be big plans underway for Fandango because it’s not every year that a newcomer works their first major match at WrestleMania against an opponent of Jericho’s caliber.
Jack Swagger vs. Alberto Del Rio for world championship is a bit trickier. It’s universally acknowledged that Del Rio is a bust in his current role as a babyface. He’s just not the type of guy fans are willing to get behind. A large part of the blame must go to the writers who script him to deliver the lamest babyface lines I’ve heard in years. WWE has high hopes of him becoming next Eddie Guerrero/Rey Mysterio- level hero for the Hispanic audience, but it doesn’t appear to be working. At this point it may never happen.. Many feel the Swagger/Del Rio feud hasn’t reached the level where it should be at for a WrestleMania championship match, and Del Rio is completely at fault. If you replaced Del Rio with Mysterio then it would be one of the hottest feuds heading into WrestleMania. Del Rio’s lack of charisma has hurt every facet of this program and it’s my hope that a hostile crowd (as NY/NJ is sure to be) will be the impetus for WWE to drastically revamp his character.
The Shield vs. Big Show, Randy Orton, and Sheamus has the potential to be great. The Shield have been impressive in every PPV outing they’ve had and I have no doubt they will be at their best come Sunday. A big part of the intrigue to this match is the possibility of seeing the much anticipated heel turn of Orton. Whether he’s revealed to be The Shield’s leader or transitions into a feud with Sheamus, he needs to turn quickly.
That leaves Dolph Ziggler and Big E. Langston vs. Kane and Daniel Bryan for the tag titles as the final big undercard match. I think it’s the right time for Kane and Daniel Bryan to lose the belts. Ziggler and Bryan are two of the best workers in the company and I expect them go all out for however much time they are given. The match will also hold the distinction of being Langston’s first televised match since becoming part of the main roster. I like Langston and hope he has a strong outing. He was heavily cheered last night when he did a post-match beatdown following Ziggler’s match with Bryan.
The remainder of the show will consist of Mark Henry vs. Ryback; Brodus Clay, Tensai, Campell, and Naomi vs. Team Rhodes Scholar and the Bellas Twins, and AJ Lee vs. Kaitlyn for the Divas championship. Last night, it was announced that Miz vs. Wade Barrett for the U.S. championship will be on the 6 p.m. preshow.
As with every WrestleMania, there will be a segment where the new Hall of Fame inductees are introduced to the crowd. I expect the fans to go crazy for Bruno Sammartino and Mick Foley. Aside from that, we’re guaranteed to see some celebrity cameos and about a million repetitive video packages. They should seriously consider cutting out these unnecessary videos so they can give more time to the matches. The wrestlers work hard all year just to get a spot on the card and it’s not fair to have their big matches for another Lesnar vs. HHH or Rock vs. Cena recap.
Overall, I have a feeling this will go down as one of the better WrestleManias of all time. My gut feeling tells me everything has peaked at just the right time. Aside from the individual performances and the time allotted for every match, the crowd will be most responsible for putting the show over the top. There is no more perfect location to host a WrestleMania than in the NY/NJ market. No other market on earth is as intelligent and vocal when it comes to going against the grain. For that reason alone I fully expect it to be the most hostile environment Cena has ever competed in front of. I also expect Rock, Jericho, Ziggler, Bryan, Punk, Paul Heyman, Rhodes Scholars, Mark Henry and even Swagger to be heavily cheered in their matches. It may be the one night of the year where more heels are cheered than faces.
This is the time of the year that wrestling fans live for and I’m confident this year’s show will not disappoint. Now hurry up and get here Sunday!
Happy Friday! This past week has been an interesting one for my alma mater and current place of employment, North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University. The men’s basketball team made history on last Saturday by winning the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship, thus securing their first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 1995. On top of that, they defeated Liberty University in a thrilling buzzer beater on Tuesday to advance to the next round of play.
For the last four days there has been an aura of excitement on the campus unlike any I’ve experienced. Students, faculty, staff, alumni and the Greensboro community were thrilled at the mere fact A&T secured a tournament spot. However, there was an explosion of elation following the Liberty win. Even though the Aggies next opponent would be the No. 1 seeded Louisville Cardinals, you couldn’t crush their optimism. For two days straight there was major coverage of the Aggies in our local newspaper and in major mainstream outlets as Fox Sports Network and USA Today.
Even though A&T lost to Louisville by a significant margin they still have much to be proud of. They went from a 15-16 regular season to winning the conference championship and first round game of the NCAA tournament. Sounds like a success story to me.
Head coach Cy Alexander deserves a boatload of credit. In his first year as coach he took the men’s basketball program farther than anyone imagined possible. At the end of the day the program has an added boost of credibility and a new championship banner to hang in the Corbett Sports Center (where their home games are played). Winning games and improving the overall reputation should be the goal of any collegiate athletics program. Alexander and his players accomplished both within the last week.
I would also like to make a special mention of Southern University. Last night, the Southwestern Athletic Conference champions made history in their own right when they nearly upset top-seeded Gonzaga University. I didn’t watch the game, but read a report on ESPN.com shortly after its conclusion and was stunned to discover the final score was 64-58. Had Gonzaga lost they would’ve became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed. Wow!
The story of the NCAA tournament is to always expect the unexpected. In that sense, Southern and A&T did not disappoint.
I have no particular topic of interest to discuss today. I just felt like I needed to write something to keep the creative juices flowing. In a sense, I kind of feel like a rapper. In between their major studio albums, rappers will often flood the market with mixtapes to keep their fans satisfied. That’s exactly what I feel like I’m doing today.
I hope everyone is having an enjoyable Tuesday. Mine has been going pretty well. Thankfully the temperature in the office is much warmer than it was on yesterday. At times it’s freezing!
As far as future posts go, I’m trying to focus more heavily on music and anime-related topics. There will still be ample wrestling content, but I’m attempting to switch things up a tad.
On last Friday, I was very happy to see a story about rapper J. Cole on the front page of the Fayetteville Observer. It wasn’t so much that I’m his biggest fan (though he is good), but more so because one of my college classmates wrote the piece. The writer, Mike McCray, and I actually worked together on the student newspaper staff. He was way more committed to the pursuit of journalism than I was. He’s made quite the name for himself in the world of print and online media since graduation.
I thought it was cool how Mike, a Fayetteville native, was able to write about Cole, himself a Fayetteville native, and his efforts in giving back to the youth of the city. I was so inspired by the story that I printed a copy for a coworker of mine, also from Fayetteville. She loved it. I’m sure a good friend of mine, also from Fayetteville, would love the story as well.
Is the point of all this to show my affection for the lovely city of Fayetteville? Not quite.
It’s always a good feeling to see the people I know accomplish big things in their careers. Another of my former newspaper colleagues currently works for the Wall Street Journal. Do I wish I was at that level of success? Yes, but then again, I never really had much of a passion for news . That is likely the biggest reason why I never seriously pursued a career in the newspaper industry. Do I dream of being world renowned for my writing? Of course I do. In the meantime, I’m very happy to see my peers succeeding at their wildest dreams.
It gives me more hope that I’ll still wind up as the next Ernest Hemmingway, minus the suicidal ending!
After watching last week’s C.M. Punk /John Cena classic on Raw, I was inspired to present a list of my favorite matches involving Cena. While Cena will never be remembered as the smoothest in-ring performer of his generation, it’s impossible to deny the fact he’s been involved in many of the best matches of the last decade in WWE. The man knows who to deliver the goods in a big match situation.
Like any great wrestler, he perfected his craft by working with some of the best in the business. The matches on this list are just as much of a testament to the opponents who helped him to produce such classics. Speaking of the word classic, it’s a term I don’t throw around lightly when it comes to wrestling and every match included is a bonafide classic in my opinion.
While Cena has been involved in many memorable bouts I decided to narrow it down to five. Why five you ask? Simply because there are enough top ten, fifteen, and twenty lists saturating the world wide web as we know it, so I wanted to try something different and really narrow down the five matches that best defined the essence of what Cena is all about. So without further ado enjoy!
5. Vs. Edge, Last Man Standing Match, Backlash 2009
What better way to start things off than with an Edge match. These two wrestled one another on numerous occasions during their on and off again feud from 2006-2009. A strong argument can be made that Edge was Cena’s best opponent and vice versa. Cena has publicly stated that he learned more from working with Edge than anyone else. I consider that to be high praise of Edge’s abilities since Cena has worked with every major name in the company over the last decade.
I’m typically not a fan of the last man standing stipulation because I find it too predictable. However, they used every trick in their arsenal to make it an entertaining spectacle from start to finish. The story of the match is that it was their last major encounter. Edge was at the peak of his heel persona at that point in time and Cena had his usual never give up mentality.
The first half of the match was heavily wrestling oriented before they began using every means at their disposal to kill each other. It featured one death-defying spot after another and was the very definition of two men leaving everything they had inside (and outside) of the ring. Both took inhuman amounts of punishment and the ending is as good as you will ever see for a match of its kind.
4. Vs. Shawn Michaels, Raw 2007
Cena had a lot to prove in early 2007. Although he was clearly established as the top guy in WWE, many critics questioned his lack of actual wrestling ability. It was on this night that Cena silenced everyone by putting on a 45-minute clinic against Michaels.
Fresh off their stellar main event at WrestleMania 23, they treated fans to an even better match. There aren’t too many instances where a WrestleMania rematch on free television eclipses the original. It was the definitive WWE match of 2007.
3. Vs. Brock Lesnar, Extreme Rules Match, Extreme Rules 2012
My personal pick as the best match of 2012 was as close to a shoot-style match as you will ever see in WWE. Lesnar, the former king of UFC, had returned to take out the leader of the Cenation and the result was nothing short of a brutal masterpiece. In addition to taking unheard of punishment, Cena also delivered the best pure babyface performance of this career. By the time it was over the Chicago crowd (a traditional anti-Cena market) was ecstatic that he overcame his most dangerous threat yet.
2. Vs. CM Punk, Raw 2013
There may be a kneejerk reaction on my part to placing this at such a high position, but it deserves the spot for being so darn good. You had the two biggest full-time stars in WWE today fighting for a shot at the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 29. While I expected a good match, I did not expect it to wind up as the frontrunner for the best WWE match of the year. It was one of the truly great matches in the 20-year history of Raw. Unfortunately WWE removed the full length match off their You Tube channel, but this clip of the finish gives you a feel for the intensity of the match. Please seek out the full match if you have not done so. You won’t regret it.
1. Vs. CM Punk, Money in the Bank 2011
The match that established Punk as the #2 guy next to Cena was one of the great matches in wrestling history. It was a rare occasion where the right guy won the right way on the right night in front of the right audience against the perfect opponent. It ranks alongside seminal WWE classics as Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin and the first Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon ladder match.
Though the buildup to the encounter was brief, it was among the best and most believable storylines the company produced in many years. Punk’s contract was set to expire on the day of the show and he vowed to leave the company with the championship. It also helped that Punk delivered some of the most off the cuff promos to ever air on WWE television in the weeks leading up to the event.
It had the drama, intrigue and on the edge of your seat suspense that few matches ever have and fans were guessing to the very end as to who would emerge victorious. Did I mention it was in Punk’s hometown of Chicago? To both their credit, they lived up to a match that was worthy of the hype and the consensus best match held anywhere in 2011.