David Stephens reviews WWE RAW 5/20/13

Dave’s RAW Thoughts
May 21, 2013
By: David Stephens of Wrestleview.com

Ryback was solid on the microphone for the first time tonight since his debut as the Ryback character. Maybe it was the jeans, maybe it was standing on top of an ambulance, but either way he had a sense of confidence that propelled his delivery far beyond what the audience has experienced in the past. It seems that someone has finally heard our pleas and pulled Ryback aside for some delivery assistance.

Sheamus may have won his match tonight, but Titus was the clear standout. He displayed his size and strength in a way that has been missing from his tag bouts. It’s been long rumored that Vince is high on Titus and wants to give him a singles push so maybe this was the beginning. I’d find it hard to complain because Titus is the “Michaels” of that group. Plus no offense to Darren Young but staring into his black Cena face really creeps me out.

Curtis Axel. Where to even start with this one? I was one of the harshest critics of the Michael McGillicutty character. Not because I have an axe to grind but because he was simply one of the most boring and unimpressive talents on the roster. That being said, I’m not going to hold his past failures against his current potential. That would not be fair to the work that he has put in to make a comeback over the past several years. HHH has long been a fan as has The Rock. Curtis trained with The Rock to prepare for his Wrestlemania match against Cena. Curtis has the pedigree, he has the connections and he has one of the best managers in the history of the business. If he does not succeed it will be of no fault but his own. I’m choosing to be optimistic and wait this one out.

Also for those that are convinced that HHH is burying Axel you clearly do not understand the way professional wrestling operates. This is a weekly show; you can’t expect full plot development every week. That would be like going in the opposite direction of Lost’s constant unresolved storyline approach. Be patient wrestling fans. HHH handpicked this talent so he was not burying him last night. How someone can be given two different segments including the main event against one of the biggest stars in the business and be considered buried is beyond. No he didn’t pin Triple H in the ring but he still picked up the victory due to HHH being unable to compete. Not a bad start to a character’s career.

Langston picked up the victory over Alberto after a cheap poke to the eye. This was designed not to make Langston look strong but rather to carry the torch for Dolph until he can return from his concussion. Langston still cracks me up when he wrestlers. His body type would suggest that he is a fierce monster but he has such a baby face and awkwardness about him. Watch his facial expressions during a match, it’s hilarious.

AJ is my Diva of the week thanks to her decision making process to institute a finisher that requires other Dias to slap her ass to tap out. I see what you did there.

Zack Ryder manages to show up on television each week, so more power to him. I will mention that he has been more impressive in recent weeks which I will partially source to JBL’s commentary. I have not taken as much notice to Ryder’s size until JBL worked to sell it over the past few weeks. Ryder is a pretty big guy.

The Shield continues their undefeated streak in Six Man Tag. Daniel Bryan was the standout star in this match. He has a raw sense of passion and power that is going to make him a dynamo in his next singles run. Hell No had a longer run than most expected and they managed to rarely get tired or old. Bryan’s singles success is about to be catapulted farther than it even was during his Title reign. It’s going to be a beauty to watch.

Maybe we’ll see Bryan v. Ambrose for the United States Title. Bryan may feel like Kane is the weak link in their tag team so he will have to resort to singles success in order to dethrone one of The Shield’s Championships.

The concussion storyline with HHH is a unique approach. I do fear that it is going to become too grandiose and include the McMahon family at some point. The WWE recently donated over a million dollars to a head trauma research charity so this coincides nicely with that contribution.

The company seems to be keeping JBL at commentary as much as he is available and I’m fully behind that decision. His style is very complimentary to the dynamic that Lawler & Cole had developed. JBL is starting to fill the void left after Michael Cole’s natural turn following Lawler’s heart attack. I dare say that this is certainly one of the silver linings to emerge in the wake of that scare.

Sonic Product Placement was a bit forced tonight. I have no problem with the spot; it was just more awkward than in the past. When Subway is delivered to the booth or other such products it feels more natural. Now, it still feels planted and forced, but more natural than tonight. Everyone sipping on their milkshakes spent the entire camera shot awkwardly looking at each other as if to ask when they could stop sipping and get back to texting and tweeting or whatever it is WWE fans do during the shows.

Not sure if Wade Barrett got new theme music or I just don’t pay any attention when he walks out. Either way I like it.

After the match Jericho insisted on goading Fandango’s dancer, Summer Rae. It was a fun moment that kept the feud alive. There was something clutch in the moment as Jericho put his hand up and laughed. Summer gets kudos for her facial expressions during the bit because she even pulled out a lip bite during the seduction. That’ll get me every time.

Has anyone else noticed that the Ryback Rules T-shirt uses a similar font to the word “still” on the old Hulk Still Rules T-shirts?

I came to the realization last night that there is a simple answer to the question of why so many part timers have been brought in recently. Triple H.

HHH had a lengthy run in the business. He worked the full schedule and was a legitimate money draw for a decade. But, Hunter has aged. His body can’t physically compete 300 nights a year anymore. It is this self-realization that has changed the culture of the WWE. HHH has seen firsthand through examples like The Undertaker and The Rock, as well as his own, that more money can be drawn from big events by hiring money guaranteed earning names for a handful of the company’s yearly shows. There are many talented performers who can still put on great matches, but only on so many occasions in a given year. Triple H has the kind of understanding of this value that only comes with experience.

I’m not dismissing the fact that self-ambition also played a part in this culture change. I would, however, argue that even if a decision is made for sometimes “selfish” reasons, that does not mean its proof of concept success is any less profitable.

Right now the strategy is working. Wrestlemania brought in historic revenue and the company is thriving. Let us not forget that at the end of the day this is a television show and an entertainment company. While it is fine and dandy to spend hours debating back and forth about the prestige of the Title and the sanctimony of the sport – it really comes down to the bottom-line. How apropos that Steve Austin used that phrase as his war cry.

A common complaint is that these returning stars are taking up roster spots that hungry young rookies should have a shot at obtaining. That is a rather narrow-minded observation. While yes, a slot on an elite PPV may go to a part time star, there is more to this philosophy than a single show.

A fan of the WWE not only tunes in to weekly programming, they also financially invest in the company. The economy has been rough in the United States as well as globally in the world of the Millennial Generation. Yet, the WWE has consistently been breaking revenue records over the past few years. The WWE is so confident in their Universe that they can rent and then sell out some of the largest stadiums in the country. Let’s go a step farther – they have such a loyal fanbase that WWE has made it common practice for Wrestlemania ticket prices to be designed to break, no shatter, stadium gates.

At $12.3 million, Wrestlemania 29 topped the MetLife Stadium entertainment gate record by nearly three and a half million dollars, which was held by U2 at $8.9 million.

The issue of younger talents is more complicated than at face value. Triple H has ambitiously focused his attention upon the developmental system. Some of his earlier acquisitions received mixed reactions. Sin Cara was highly anticipated but had a fair share of issues. His name is nearly impossible to mention without the word “botch” being mentioned at some point. Ah and see, I just became a guilty party. Tensai was not well received but that one could be marked as a scratch because he has finally found a character that will allow him to show off his ability. He has even managed to at least equal Brodus Clay in crowd reaction.

Hunter adjusted after those mixed bags and made monumental changes to the developmental system. It’s a lengthy list but new facilities, trainers and associations have breathed life into a system previously mocked as purgatory.

I stress the financial commitment made by fans as it stands to reason that a fan willing to invest a fair chunk of change to either watch or attend a major event is likely to also watch the television product and potentially attended local house shows. This is where the younger talents are given a chance to test the waters and make their mark. The WWE has even begun touring with certain NXT talent to gear them up for their RAW debuts. This great experience not only helps the wrestler, but it also gives less known wrestlers a chance to shine on the card. New talents are being groomed and carefully introduced in order to get the most bang for the buck. I continue to stress patience because as more new stars are introduced HHH is adjusting his model and really making strides to build the stars of tomorrow.

David Stephens


The Teacher’s Lounge (Saturday)

“The Teacher’s Lounge” is a weekly podcast archived every Saturday on the Wrestleview Radio Network featuring hosts David Stephens and “Mr. V” Anthony Valvo. The show reviews all of the news from the week, tosses out Gold Stars and Detentions, PPV previews and special guests. Past Interviews include: Colt Cabana, Hernandez, Sara Del Rey, CZW Owner DJ Hyde, Shane Douglas & more!

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