All I ever heard during the Monday Night Wars was how awful Raw was in its early days. It was garbage, they said, a joke show with squash matches and ridiculous gimmicks. From the clowns to the magicians, you couldn’t take anything seriously. When Eric Bischoff brought Nitro to the air in September 1995, the old format changed forever. Instead of Razor Ramon vs. Mike Bell we got Hulk Hogan against Big Bubba or Brian Pillman taking on Jushin Liger. The collective wrestling populace rejoiced that we would no longer be subjected to one sided squash matches where the outcome was all but assured.
Might I point out that there was a reason squash matches were prevalent in wrestling for so long? Just like the concept of a manager to promote a client, the squash match was a necessity that matchmakers HAD to use. I’m sure promoters knew that Yokozuna vs. Glen Ruth wasn’t going to set the world on fire but they had to put that match on TV to show you that Yokozuna could crush people. Look at the matches they put on Raw these days, it’s “name” versus “name”. The only problem is that nobody gets ahead and everyone looks like s***. Remember a few years ago when Dolph Ziggler and Kofi Kingston battled in what I can only assume was a Best Out of 14,357 series? Michael Cole called it a rivalry, I call it 50-50 booking where no one can build any momentum. If you’re attempting to get one of these guys over, shouldn’t they win more than 2 matches in a row? They have approximately twelve million hours of television a week, surely they could find a spot for it.
I’m not trying to talk down to anyone reading this, I know you know that wrestling needs more matches like these to establish characters. In fact, that’s not even the focus of this piece, I’m writing this because I can’t stand how much moves are being devalued on a regular basis.
A few months ago Dolph Ziggler was put into a punishment match against Luke Harper for the Intercontinental Title. Ziggler got his ass kicked before the match and by the time the bell was rung he was on spaghetti legs (copyright Dusty Rhodes, circa whenever). Harper immediately hits Dolph with high impact moves like a big boot and an elevated power bomb. The moves look great, probably because Dolph graduated from the Shawn Michaels School of Making My Body Look Like Jello During Comebacks, but none of them are enough to pin the champ. It’s not until a few hope spots later and Harper’s clothesline finisher that Ziggler finally succumbs. Look, I get it, they were trying to tell the story that Ziggler was valiant and had a never say die attitude in the face of adversity. That’s great, but couldn’t that have still been accomplished with the pin happening off the powerbomb? Is anybody in the audience going to say “F*** that guy. He sucks because he couldn’t kick out of a powerbomb.” Especially after he’d already been beaten up by three dudes, one of which smashed a metal briefcase in his face!
What’s the problem with all this? Why does it matter if Ziggler is pinned on the powerbomb as opposed to the finisher? It matters because it kills suspense in future matches. In the same way squash matches got over talent, they also got over moves. Razor Ramon pinned people after a f***ing fall away slam on Raw. When that move had enough gravitas and Razor used it against people like Bret Hart on pay-per-views it was a big goddamn deal when Bret kicked out. I don’t know how many times I watch a Dolph Ziggler, BNB or Luke Harper match and the Famouser/Winds of Change/Wasteland/Powerbomb/Big Boot/Superkick is hit and Cole has a freakin’ heart attack acting like a pinfall is going to happen. It’s not going to happen. It never happens, when was the last time any of these transitional moves ended a match? I’m waiting for the Zig Zag, Bullhammer or Clothesline and MAYBE if they’re feeling adventurous, we will get a false finish out of that. Somehow the audience still kind of “One…Two…OH!!!”’s for those moves but I can guarantee you that response will diminish over time.
Remember when Shawn Michaels used the superkick? Remember how awesome it was? Remember when he kicked Shelton Benjamin’s head off on Raw during the Gold Rush Tournament? Everyone lost their minds. The superkick was established as a “game over” move, now 60% of the roster uses it. The Usos use the superkick 12 times per match, Ziggler uses it, Harper uses it, Tyler Breeze uses it, EVERYONE uses it. It gets a pop occasionally, mostly because everyone loves the thigh slap sound you do with it, but it also holds no weight as a major move anymore. The fact that everyone just casually stands up after being kicked in the face after one doesn’t help either.
Don’t get me wrong, I love that WWE has transitioned to a more ROH style in terms of fast-paced action that never lets up. But I hate that WWE has transitioned to a more ROH style in terms of none of these moves mean a damn thing. Curate these matches guys, they have road agents for a reason. Instead of going up to people and telling them to make their opponents look strong they should probably say “Hey, maybe don’t kick that guy in the mouth 20 times in a row and then pin him with your weak sauce splash”.
I swear this column was not written by Jim Cornette.