December 23, 2006
It's report card time
By "Hotshot" JOHNNY DEVINE - SLAM! Wrestling
'Tis the season! The season for giving, receiving, and for all-out complaining. Heh. So in the spirit of Christmas, it's report card time folks.
Let's start with the "E." The flagship show of Raw has been hit and miss all year. Triple H and Shawn Michaels remain the two top stars and in truth need to be because they are the two best performers week in and week out. Carrying storylines and a company like the WWE is not easy and these guys have done a remarkable job with very little help from the creative team at WWE.
John Cena made his acting debut in The Marine and wasn't exactly Rock worthy in the praise he received. Can you diss the guy for it? Sure, but in all I think he did remarkable well for a guy with no real training in acting and handled himself and the company well in all media appearances, which in the WWE's eyes is the main thing.
To me the two MVPs of Raw thought have been a toned down backstage Randy Orton and the amazingly talented Edge! These guys have really turned it on as the premier heels in the company and deserve the credit for a lot of what was considered Raw's best moments this year. Edge in particular has really come into his heel persona and in my opinion deserves a long and successful title run to solidify his place as WWE's top heel.
On the underside of the Raw roster great strides have been made by guys like Carlito and Johnny Nitro in becoming the "next" stars of the show. Umaga has been a well-handled monster and Armando Alejandro Estrada does a very good job as an unlikable manager with a monster to protect him -- shades of Jim Cornette and Yokozuna. I really hoped for more for my buddies, The Highlanders, but at least they are working and having a great time.
Creative, in my opinion though, gets the joke of the year award for dropping the ball with what I believe to be the easiest booked star the company could have right now in Harry Smith, the son of the British Bulldog and grandson of Stu Hart. At 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds of pure wrestling entertainment, how can you not find a spot for this kid to fit into??? I am dumbfounded. So overall the talent in WWE's Raw gets a big A for development and placement. But the writers get a big F for failing to give the audience two major things: 1) a new champ that can mix things up a bit (Edge); and 2) Harry Smith. Give your heads a shake guys.
Smackdown hasn't had the best of years but some notable exceptions must be mentioned. Rey Mysterio has definitely been the highlight of the roster and was great as the underdog champ. I wish him a speedy and full recovery on his knee surgery and hope to see him grace my TV again soon as he is missed. Booker, or should I say King Booker, did quite well as the top heel trying to carry the company through some tough injuries and hard times and deserves a pat on the back for his efforts. Hopefully he drops the King moniker soon and gets a newer role, as I believe the King thing has been a bit overdone for many years. He has the potential for more. I also wish him the best of luck with his school and new promotion in Texas PWA.
Fit Finlay and William Regal have also been bright spots of the Smackdown team, giving fans a taste of wrestling at its finest and what I see the business coming back to -- a more realistic, rugged style. As for Benoit, well what can you say about Chris? Any time he's on the TV, you know you are going to be entertained. As far as newer talent goes, other than Mister Kennedy, who has a very bright future, the less said the better. Overall I will give Smackdown a C+. Some good story lines and developments but not enough to get the higher marks.
ECW. Wow. Um, what a way to destroy a vision. I was really hoping Vince McMahon and company would give the ball to Paul Heyman and Tommy Dreamer and let them run with it. But instead we got Zombies and Kelly Kelly. Huh?? Two first names? Wow. CM Punk has done very well for himself and continues to be the bright spot as far as new talent in ECW go. I see him getting the call up to Raw this year, or Smackdown depending on how badly they need a new good guy to carry the mid card. I had hoped for an extended Sabu title run but alas, that was not to be. And RVD doesn't seem to be as "into it" as he once was. Wonder why? Overall, ECW has left a terrible taste in my mouth and with the release of Paul Heyman, I don't see a light at the end of the tunnel. Grade: D.
TNA. It has been quite a year for TNA. A move to prime time. The signing of Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle. Their first road PPV in Bound For Glory from Detroit. A huge change in creative in the re-hiring of Vince Russo and the hiatus of one of its top stars in Jeff Jarrett. That's a lot for any company. Talent wise they have done great things developing new stars in Samoa Joe, AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels. LAX has been a true stroke of genius and one of the best storylines of any company. All their top talent has done an admirable job of doing what was needed when asked of them. As far as the X Division goes, well disappointment doesn't cover it. The Jackass stunts were terrible but required as a movie tie-in and the talent not as well developed as previous years. Bright spots have been the meteoric rise of Eric Young as one of the company's top mid-card babyfaces and the continual top level performance of Christian Cage. Overall I will give the company a B+. There's room for improvement but it was a really good year overall.
The wrestling business faces some stiff competition in 2007 from MMA and UFC in particular. Its going to be a long year if the offices can't get more people watching again. Already MMA kicks wrestling's ass in most PPV markets and trends point to a continuation of the same. But for those if us who love wrestling for its showmanship and extras like promos and stories, we'll always tune in to see what's happening. Let try to make some new die-hard fans this year.
As always you feedback, questions or concerns can be sent to email@example.com or to myspace at http://www.myspace.com/canadiandevine. Booking inquiries for myself or Serotonin can be sent to the same.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, etc, etc.
In the mean time and in between time, that's it. Another edition of Devine Intervention.
EDITOR'S NOTE: "Hotshot" Johnny Devine's column will run on Saturdays (or whenever he delivers) on SLAM! Wrestling. Be sure to visit each week!
For more on Devine's career, see his biography in our Canadian Hall of Fame.