LaBar: Six questions about WWE programming
A six-pack of questions regarding WWE:
1. Why is everyone in such a rush for Samoa Joe to be on RAW and SmackDown?
Samoa Joe is a solid talent. I'm happy he's getting paid well and is a face of what's arguably the hottest wrestling show in the world, NXT. Constant questions come from fans about should he be on RAW or SmackDown. I'm not expecting the 36-year-old to be pushed to the top for a world title run, and that's going to disappoint his fan club.
The NXT environment and audience is where he's worth the most. The landscape of the roster and image of the brand is perfect for him to offer his veteran credibility. The NXT fans are the fans who know the most about him and his career. Don't change something that's working.
2. Is Kevin Owens the most entertaining WWE talent on social media?
This is a big, fat yes. Owens acknowledging the ridiculous tweets he gets has become a daily enjoyment of mine. His comebacks and motivation to get the final verbal shot in before blocking someone is better comedy than anything on WWE programming.
So, make it WWE programming. I'd take a 10-minute weekly WWE Network special that shows him logging onto Twitter and sees his face reading things out loud before responding. Call it “Block Owens Block.”
3. Will wrestling fans chant “This is awesome” for anything?
Sure seems like it. AJ Styles and Chris Jericho did the most basic beginning of a match Monday with a collar and elbow tie-up. As soon as they did, the fans began a “This is awesome” chant. I understand that was meant to be a verbal tribute to finally seeing Styles on RAW and in a match with a fresh opponent for his career in Jericho. But doing the chant right off the bat kills the relevance of the chant.
I watched fan video online of Austin Aries making his first appearance on NXT, and I'm hearing fans in the highest pitched voice chanting about the greatness of the moment. Really? He came out in a suit and later got attacked by Baron Corbin. I think some fans just want to see a fish out of water. If they see anybody who was previously wrestling somewhere else show up, it's deemed a big deal to them. It's their money, they can chant whatever, but they've diminished the power of what an arena full of people saying that use to have.
4. Did AJ Styles make the right move signing with WWE?
I'm convinced he did. He had an electric reaction when he made his first appearance at the Royal Rumble. He's getting paid a lot of money, reportedly over $500,000 a year. The biggest accomplishment is he was able to retain his name and likeness he had established prior to WWE. To me, this was always an important issue as it related to him coming to WWE.
Styles worked so hard for so long around the world, he's built great worth around his name and finisher, the “Styles Clash.” It would be a shame to have him sign with WWE, where they then own him, and call him something generic while making subtle references to his past — something like Adam John Clash.
5. Is the new show “Ride Along” on WWE Network an interesting concept?
Personally, I think it's a bit of a stretch in the pitch room for programming. However, I will admit, I watched the first episode featuring cameras filming wrestlers on their long, middle-of-the-night drives from town to town. It does appeal to a common rule: Fans love seeing anything behind the scenes. They like to see what they aren't supposed to see. It brings me back to they want to see a “fish out of water” situation.
I was engaged for the first few minutes watching, but then my mind started to wander thinking about stars from past generations doing this show. I started to imagine what it would be like if TMZ existed in 1998, and the WWE Ride Along show was a thing then. Think about that potential for ridiculousness, and you'll realize how easy it is to occupy yourself with that hypothetical.
6. Do The Rock's appearances on RAW highlight what WWE doesn't have?
No, I don't look at it that way. Whenever The Rock returns to WWE programming for one of his epic segments of shenanigans, people say it highlights how WWE doesn't have talent who knows how to talk like it used to.
I look at The Rock's appearances as a showing of what direction WWE needs to go in with select talents. The Rock is on a real long leash when he shows up. Actually, there's no leash. There's not even an invisible fence. He can say whatever he wants, even words or references that would get other talent in serious trouble. He can go as long as he wants to go.
Yes, he's The Rock, and he's earned that immunity. Yes, not every performer has the ability to have that freedom and keep it entertaining. But I do think there are guys and girls in WWE that, if given fewer restrictions, would showcase a new level of entertainment than we have seen previously from them. Timing is the biggest thing. You can't have talents abusing time cues. I do think elements of The Rock, such as backstage creativity and enthusiasm to try different things, could go a long way in the growth of the current rising stars.
Justin LaBar is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7949 or firstname.lastname@example.org.