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The Statistical Dominance (and Statistical
Failures) of John Cena... plus Other News 
August 23, 2007

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Among wrestling fans who enjoy a bit of historical footnotery, John Cena's current WWE Title reign started generating interest last month. You see, Cena surpassed JBL's 10-month reign, and now stands just a few weeks shy of becoming the first man to hold a World Title in WWF/E for one whole calendar year since the 1980s.

If you ask me, these wrestling fans are missing the point.

The real story here is not John Cena's current reign and how it stands as the longest of the past 20 years. The real story starts back in April 2005, when Cena won the first of his three WWE Titles at WrestleMania 21.

Forget "one whole calendar year." That's child's play. In the 28 months (over two years) since winning the belt, John Cena has controlled it

for 103 of 120 weeks. Let me repeat that: John Cena has been OUR WWE Champion for 103 of the past 120 weeks.

That makes the exactly-one-year long runs by Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan (WM4 to WM5 and WM5 to WM6, respectively) in the late 80s look like a cup of coffee. What this REALLY harkens back to is the early- and mid-80s, when Hulk Hogan held the WWF Title for four straight years.

It's been that long since any single man has dominated the WWF/E main event scene as Cena has over a period of 2 years or longer. And though nobody's presented the numbers behind Cena's title domination (till now), there's more than a bit of prickly anxiety among some fans, who -- without numbers and just by subconscious instinct -- are growing more and more sick of Cena's relatively predictable and unsatisfying reign. It's even gotten to the point where some usually-well-meaning fans are so frustrated that they'd rather see Randy Orton as WWE Champ than Cena.

OO is none of these fans. OO recognizes that Randall the Mantard is still less than six months removed from his latest suspension for being a phenomenally immature douche in real life, and that Randall the Mantard is never more than 7 days removed from mangling a line or throwing a chinlock on-screen. OO, therefore, believes that anybody who actually thinks Orton is a deserving champ is probably also the sort of keen possessor of good judgment who thinks that joining a fraternity is a good idea because they really love the easy access to roofies and stupid girls. Not to mention being surrounded by the perpetual stink of Axe Brand Bodyspray and Jagermeister. And the latently homosexual overtones and rituals. Oh, all the delicious latent homosexuality. Then again: WWE may very well join you in believing this, frattards! Afterall, they are the only publicly traded company that tacitly endorses Soap Rapings In The Shower By JBL as a "character building experience." But I digress.

Anyway: another opinion voiced by a certain subset of fans in the last month or so is that "Cena's getting to be almost as bad as Triple H." Meaning that: HHH never had one massively long run as champion, but over certain stretches of time, would dominate the WWE or World Title (he has held each title 5 times; well, one of them was the "Unified Title" that I think morphed back into the "WWE Title" around the time HHH held it) to the annoyance of fans and the detriment of the on-screen product. He did this, goes the theory, because he had the power to demand it. Banging the boss' daughter has its perks. Besides the sex, I mean.

But the shocking truth is: unless these people are just looking, retroactively, for a way to HHHate on Triple H while he's out rehabbing an injury, the Cena/HHH comparisons are silly. Because EVEN AT HIS WORST, HHH WAS NOWHERE NEAR AS DOMINANT A CHAMP AS CENA.

That's right. No matter what cognitive dysfunction or personal grudge against HHH you may have, you simply canNOT make the case that Cena is "almost as bad" as Trips. Not when the math shows, quite clearly, that's he's infinitely worse.

[NOTE: in this context, "worse" may be used interchangeably with "dominant." Though a case can be made for appropriate use of a long-reigning champ, it does seem as though this discussion is being framed (by most fans, and to an extent, by me) as "dominant champs can get boring and may be bad." Also: "infinitely" may be used interchangeably with "finitely, but significantly," if I happen to get lazy and let my Inner Tony Schiavone out for some hyperbolizing.]

Let us start by looking at John Cena's past two-and-a-half year run as WWE's most-pushed signature star:

28 Months: April 2005 though SummerSlam 2007
Cena Title Wins -- 3 (all the WWE/Spinner Belt)
Total Title Changes -- 6 (all involving Cena; 3 wins, 2 losses, 1 "non-win" in a 3-way match; 100%)
Other Men to Hold Title -- 2 (Edge, RVD)
Time With Belt -- 103 Weeks out of 120 (currently holds)
Days per Reign -- 240 days (34 weeks, and rising)
Percent of Time as Champ -- 85.8% (and rising)

Not only is Cena's 86% Championship Rate just plain gaudy, but some of the other numbers listed show that at NO POINT -- not in nearly two-and-a-half years -- has Cena spent one single moment outside of the WWE Title picture. Even in the measly 17 weeks in which he was not the reigning champ, Cena was ubiquitous, competing in every single match in which the title changed hands (even in the three-way where Edge took the belt from Rob Van Dam).

That, my friends, is the sort of omnipresent domination that honestly can get old and boring to some fans. For the past 28 months, it has literally been impossible to watch RAW without having John Cena shoved down your throat as the absolute top star. These numbers: they don't lie.

And now, by contrast, let's look at Evil Triple H's political hijacking of the WWF and World Titles. We'll even break it down a few different ways, just to see if we can't make him more evil by cooking the numbers. First, a look at the past 8 years, as this weekend's SummerSlam marks the exact 8 Year Anniversary of HHH's first WWF Title win, and the start of his reign of terror:

96 Months: SummerSlam 1999 to SummerSlam 2007
HHH Title Wins -- 10 (4 WWF, 1 Unified, 5 World)
Total Title Changes (only counting changes of title for which HHH was eligible at the time) -- 31 (21 WWF/WWE/"Unified" Title changes, 10 World Title changes)
Total Title Changes Involving HHH -- 20 out of 31 (64.5% of possible title changes involved HHH) 
Time With Belt -- 117 Weeks Out of 416 (last held April 2005)
Time With Serious Injuries -- 76 Weeks Out of 416
Days per Reign -- 84 days (12 weeks)
Percent of Time as Champ -- 28.1% (34.4% if adjusted to only include HHH's "active" 340 weeks)

Looking at the numbers, Triple H seems downright benign compared to Cena. Only his 10 title wins really trumps Cena's accomplishments in the field of Title Holdery.

Other than that? Well, just look at "time with belt." HHH's 117 weeks is only marginally more than Cena's 103. It's just that it took HHH three times longer to get there than it's taken Homey The Clown, so far. HHH's "days per reign" and "percent as champ" numbers are also WAAAAYYYY lower than Cena's. Even adjusting for HHH's two major injury "vacations," the worst you could say about him over the past 8 years is that he's held the title about one-third of the time. As opposed to almost nine-tenths of the time, like Cena.

Would things have been different if HHH hadn't been injured? Maybe, that's tough to say. Certainly HHH's second quad injury came at a time when he was the likely candidate to face Cena at WM23 (where he probably would have dethrone Cena). But it's impossible to say for sure. Instead of acting like HHH's injuries are the reason why he hasn't dominated more, it's better to turn it around and say that Cena's remarkable LACK of injuries over the past 2-plus years is a huge reason why he's been able to stay entrenched on top. Durability hath almost as many privileges as banging the boss' daughter, it seems.

"But Rick," I hear the more petulant among you starting to whine, "While you're making all sort of masterfully crafted call backs to HHH having sex with Stephanie, you're ignoring the fact that you're measuring 8 years of HHH versus 2 years of Cena. Of course, over 8 years, things will even out. I bet that if you did Cena's stats again at WrestleMania 29, they won't be nearly as bad. And I bet if you only measured HHH's worst periods, instead of when he was screwing around with DX and stuff like that, he'd be every bit as bad as Cena is now."

Well, true enough: I can't forecast what Cena's Championship Stats will look like in 5 or 6 more years. But as far as HHH's "worst periods" go? BZZZT. Wrong again.

I thought of that, too, as goodly portions of HHH's last 8 years have, in fact, been spent injured or ineffective (such as a full year spent enjoying himself as a side-show act in DX). Over such a long span of time, of course you're gonna have stuff like that happen. So I decided to see just how bad HHH was when he was "at his worst." 

What becomes rapidly apparent is that there are basically two dominant phases of "Triple H Concentrate" during the past 8 years.

There is a 22-month-long phase starting with Hunter's first WWF Title win at SummerSlam '99, and ending with his quad injury in May 2001. In this time, he held 4 WWF Titles.

Then there's a 15-month-long interim phase (June 2001 through August 2002) that covered HHH's lengthy recovery from quad injury, and also a forgettable one-month run as Unified Champ.

Then, for 32 months starting in September 2002, we get HHH's Second Domination Phase. He was handed the newly-created "World Title" belt, and held it a total of 5 times through April of 2005.

In the 28 months since April 2005 -- which corresponds EXACTLY with the beginning of Cena's Domination Phase -- HHH has held zero titles and spent some more time on the sidelines with a quad injury.

So, HHHaters, how shall we slice and dice the numbers so that the math tells the Most Evil Story Possible? Well, I'll be nice, and we'll try it three different ways: we'll break out the data from just HHH's first dominant phase, then just the data from his second dominant phase, and then we'll add those two phases up (excluding HHH's non-championship phases) to see just how bad things were while Hunter was doing his thing.

Here goes:

22 Months: SummerSlam 1999 through May 2001
HHH Title Wins -- 4 (WWF/E Title)
Total Title Changes -- 11 (8 Involving HHH; 4 wins, 4 losses; 72.8%)
Other Men to Hold Title -- 5 (Vince, Big Show, Rock, Angle, Austin)
Time With Belt -- 29 weeks out of 92
Days per Reign -- 51 days (7 weeks)
Percent of Time as Champ -- 31.5%

32 Months: September 2002 through April 2005
HHH Title Wins -- 5
Total Title Changes -- 11 (10 Involving HHH; 5 wins, 4 losses, 1 stripped; 91.9%)
Other Men to Hold Title -- 5 (Michaels, Goldberg, Benoit, Orton, Batista)
Time With Belt -- 84 Weeks out of 139 
Days per Reign -- 118 days (17 weeks)
Percent of Time as Champ -- 60.4%

54 Months: Phase 1 and Phase 2 Combined 
HHH Title Wins -- 9
Total Title Changes -- 22 (18 Involving HHH; 81.8%)
Other Men to Hold Title -- 10
Time With Belt -- 113 weeks out of 231 
Days per Reign -- 90 days (13 weeks)
Percent of Time as Champ -- 48.9%

What do you see, folks?
Well, for one, HHH's first phase of Domination wasn't really all THAT dominant. An average length of less than 2 months for his reigns, and only holding the belt about 30% of the time in that 2 year span? Not exactly tearing things up, even though this is when HHH started getting his reputation for being a backstage power broker and as an over-pushed stiff who got titles and main events because of who he was tight with, not because of talent/merit.

[NOTE: You can look back to my 1999 archives (if only they were available online; HA HA SUCKERS!), and I'd be one of the most vocal critics of HHH's initial title win. But to his credit, he immediately upped his game, and within 2-3 months, he'd stolen Stephanie and established himself as a deserving and marketable champ. By the following spring, he'd also been the beneficiary of the Most Successful of Mick Foley's Selfless Acts -- a series of awesome brawls and in which Mick allowed himself to be retired at HHH's hands -- and there was no doubt that HHH had the stink of Main Event Bad Ass on him. Which I was more than happy to admit to once he'd proven me wrong. As is my M.O., unlike certain other Internet Jackoffs.]

Then there's the second Domination Phase for HHH.... it's considerably more remarkable than the first. Not only is it 10 months longer, but during that nearly-three-year period, HHH's reigns averaged over 4 months each, and he held the title over 60% of the time. NOW we're starting to get somewhere if you want to talk about a guy morphing from a dominant champion into an anvil.

And yet: even here in Phase 2, a period roughly equal in length of Cena's current domination, there were more title changes, and HHH was only installed on top roughly two-thirds as "permanently" as Cena. It's still not even close. Just about the only way in which HHH is Cena's equal in evil is that (throughout both his periods of domination, but especially in the second) HHH was also involved in the title picture even when he wasn't holding the belt. In Phase 2, there may have been 11 title changes, but HHH was a participant in 10 of them, making him damned similar to Cena when it comes to omnipresence.

HHH's Phase 2 is, in fact, the only case of a single wrestler holding the belt more than 60% of the time during a period of 2 years other than Cena since the Hogan 4-year domination. [Batista comes closest, holding the World Title twice for a total of 62 weeks (59.6%) between WM21 and WM23. Also, Bret Hart had two reigns for 56 weeks in the 2 years starting October 1992. Excluding year-long reigns by the likes of Savage, Hogan, and Diesel (who actually came up one week short of a one-year reign), nobody else has topped 50% in a two year span since the start of the Hogan Era. Austin, often thought of as the architect of the Attitude Era, had the belt for 46 weeks out of 104, once, which was his best. And the Rock? Hoo boy, the Rock is a 7-time WWF Champ, but if you add up ALL those reigns, they only total 42 weeks! He wasn't anywhere NEAR bogarting the title during his time as a top star.]

And yet, as notable as HHH's Phase 2 is, it's still only second best in the past 20 years. Or second worst. I hope it becomes clear that what we're getting with John Cena today isn't "almost as bad" as HHH at his worst... it is, in fact, significantly worse than HHH at his worst.

But here's where we need to pause and jump tracks to pursue a different philosophical tack. Because at some level, you can't have this just be about the numbers. You have to consider the context.

This is where things get really interesting. And maybe a little bit fun, too, depending on how you want to interpret certain situations.

As noted above, it's not necessarily a stone cold fact that long title reigns and dominant champions are bad. In fact, there may be very good, very valid reasons for riding a particular champion for as long as possible.

You can let a heel run long with the title to create a sense of anticipation for when a popular babyface will finally end his chase and win the belt from the evil villain.

You can let a fan favorite run long with the title in an attempt to create a signature megastar, just constantly feeding him disposable heel challengers as kids and the simple-minded lap it all up and buy tons of merchandise.

You can let a wrestler of either orientation run long during periods where business is slow or uncertain, and you just want to make sure your most trustworthy and bankable guy is on top while you try to sort out the mess underneath.

I think each of the three Domination Phases we've looked at fits into one of these categories. Think about it: HHH's first period of domination came at the exact same time as the WWF's best two years of business ever. Money was pouring in, the on-screen product was clicking, and the Fed had mega-stars galore like Austin, the Rock, Undertaker, and Mick Foley who could INSTANTLY capture fans' attentions and get them off their seats and cheering. You use those bankable fan favorites to create a villain who can be their equal. Then, the fans will stand in line to fork over money to see their heroes vanquish the evil-doers. With probably the strongest roster of mega-popular babyfaces ever, the Golden Era WWF (from 1999 to 2001) was well within their rights to push Triple H as the capable foil to all those good guys. Kurt Angle was a beneficiary of the exact same thing, to an only slightly lesser extent.

So: HHH's first period of domination makes some logical sense, and he certainly took the ball and ran with it. For your edification and to spur debate, I provide you with the following data:

August 23, 1999 to May 14, 2001
RAW Overall Average -- 5.86
RAW with HHH as Champ -- 6.71
RAW with Somebody Else as Champ -- 5.17

What's that tell us? During HHH's first domination phase -- a time when business was booming -- more people tuned in to watch him as champ than anyone else as champ. Can you argue with those results? I don't really think so.

Then: HHH's second domination phase. He came back from an injury to find the company in a state of disarray. Vince royally fucked up the inVasion angle, and HHH returned to a show with TV ratings nearly 20% lower than when he left. He promptly flopped as a babyface, to the surprise of many top WWF officials. Then, even as they puzzled through the HHH Problem, the company went ahead with a name change AND a "Brand Extension," which further diluted the product and resulted in still lower ratings.

By the fall of 2002, when HHH's second domination phase started, the newly-renamed WWE was in a state of barely contained panic. Business was atrocious, experiments with guys like Goldberg and Scott Steiner would be attempted out of sheer desperation, the Rock and Steve Austin could no longer be counted on as regular on-screen performers, and at the end of the day, everybody felt just a little bit more secure if somebody proven, like HHH, on top. While WWE spent a couple of years flailing around, trying to figure out the next step for the company, HHH was there, driving the ship through some pretty dark and stormy seas. They'd attempt to create that magical atmosphere for somebody chasing down HHH's title, but with one exception, HHH was proven to be a more solid draw than any of this challengers during this tumultuous era.

Again: you can kind of see the logic behind what happened there. And furthermore: you also have to credit HHH for doing the best he could under the circumstances. Want proof? Here's more data:

September 6, 2002 to April 3, 2005
RAW Overall Average -- 3.73
RAW with HHH as Champ -- 3.76
RAW with Somebody Else as Champ -- 3.67
  -  Michaels - 3.45 
  -  Goldberg - 3.60
  -  Benoit - 3.80
  -  Orton - 3.50
  -  VACANT -- 3.65

This time, it came during a bust phase as far as WWE's business goes, but HHH *still* out-performed the average when he was champ. During this period, only Chris Benoit bested HHH in terms of ratings, and even then: it wasn't by much.

NOTES: Shawn Michaels very brief title reign not only came at the very nadir of WWE's late 2002 brand-extension/Katie-Vick/etc. woes, but also includes some poorly rated shows during the traditionally bad ratings month of December. Randy Orton's 3.5 rating is more mind-bendingly awful, in context, as it came on the heels of Benoit doing a solid job as champ and when RAW had been performing a bit more consistently. It also makes me chuckle that VACANT was, by the numbers, a better champ than either Goldberg or Orton.

And now, we move onto the Man of the Hour, too Phony to be Sour, with Mad Rhymes of Power.... John Cena. Into which contextual setting does his 2-plus years of utter domination fit? Well: appropriately enough, it's the Hogan-esque "feed him disposable heel after disposable heel and hope he becomes a signature star" context. Cena's controlling the main event scene like nobody since Hogan, so it only makes sense that it's for the same reason as Hogan.

But unlike the contexts of HHH's periods of domination, we can ask some VERY serious questions about how wise this approach really is. The world has moved on since the mid-80s. Non-threatening, flaccid, pandering caricatures aren't going to appeal to a slightly more savvy and jaded audience. Most people today like their heroes a little grittier and more real. They want Batman more than Superman, if that helps a certain percentage of you smell what the Rick is cooking. 
[And an appropriate enough analogy it is, as everybody seems to hate Cena's lame Superman Comebacks, while a crafty bastard like HHH seems like the kind of wealthy cerebral type who might hang out in a Bat Cave plotting his next mission. And really, who's cooler: the weird alien who likes to wear gay-looking, bright-colored costumes and hangs out in a creepy Fortress of Solitude, or the regular human who has all kinds of expensive Bond-esque gadgets and a well-equipped cave underneath his giant mansion?]

I know some folks argue that Cena's starting to overcome this problem, and that if it is a problem, it's not his fault. Meh. I'm sorry: I don't care whose fault it is, but John Cena, the On Screen Persona, has no real character of his own. He's pretended to be a black guy. He's pretended to be a Marine. He's tried to co-opt Steve Austin. He's blatantly channeled The Rock. Some folks (one of them is even Jim Ross) argue that these are unfair criticisms, often citing how long it's been since Cena has rapped or worn fatigues or whatever. But I'm sorry: once you put a big ol' hunk of Stereotype or Phoniness into the Fondue Pot of Character, it's impossible to get it out. It melts together with everything else, and can't be extracted. It's in there for good, flavoring (tainting?) our perception of John Cena forever. All you can do is try to keep adding other flavors until you finally balance things out and have a tasty blend. 

And aye, there's the rub: because WWE's got all the thoughtfulness and culinary sense as a coked-up Ellen Jamesian. For those who don't get the reference: the short version is "Ellen Jamesians cut out their own tongues." The long version is "I'm not telling, because you really just need to read more books, dum dum." 

John Cena is the character equivalent of caramel-covered crabcakes served with a delicious horseradish/blueberry compote and a warm glass of gin and pickle juice. Not his fault? Maybe. But it's still a problem that Cena is an amalgam of random affectations, instead of a real guy we feel like we know and we "get" and can care about. [NOTE: by "we," I refer to the highly prized 18-34 young adult demographic. And *not* to teenage fangirls who can't help but notice that JonJon is such a hawtie that they'd TOTALLY go to second base with, or pubescent boys with no personality of their own who once were the primary fanbase for -- and primary emulators of -- currently-irrelevant Former Flavor of the Month, Eminem.]

Twenty years ago, a foundation of big muscles, a succulent glaze of hip patter and slang, a double shot of patriotism, and a dessert course of Setting A Good Example For The Kids was a successful cocktail for Hulk Hogan. But that brand of mixology doesn't fly today, and it shows in the way Cena is treated by a significant percentage of fans. It took Hogan over a decade before his act wore thin enough that fans started to boo him audibly. It took Cena less than six months after ascending to the top before some fans started booing, and it's a problem that isn't exactly going away with time.

All that considered: is going the Hogan Route with Cena the right thing for WWE to be doing? Before you answer, one last set of data for you to enjoy:

Since June 6, 2005 (Cena Drafted to RAW That Night)
RAW Overall Average -= 3.89
RAW with Cena as Champ -- 3.86
RAW with Somebody Else as Champ -- 4.11
  -  Edge #1 -- 4.37
  -  RVD -- 4.23
  -  Edge #2 -- 3.97

Uh oh. Unlike Triple H (and in direct opposition to Hulk Hogan's unquestioned box office mastery of the 80s), John Cena UNDERperforms the average TV ratings for RAW when he's on top. In fact, you can state with Utter Factual Certitude that "John Cena is the least-watched WWE Champion of the past 2 years."

Granted, the sample sizes for Edge's first and RVD's only title reigns are very small (3 weeks, each). But the size of the deviation (over a half-point between Edge's first reign and Cena's average rating; almost as large for RVD's reign) points to a likely repeatable or sustainable trend in which fans are a little bit more jazzed or fired up for something fresh and interesting. Even Edge's second reign (a monsterous ELEVEN WEEKS in length) was noticeably stronger than Cena's average, and would have been rated even more highly (by at least 0.1) if not for the Labor Day holiday and one week where RAW was shifted to the Sci-Fi Network for US Open Tennis.

Again, this is a spot where differing viewpoints might result in the data being interpreted differently. I mean: (1) Are ratings higher for the other guys because that's when people get excited and tune in to see their beloved hero John Cena rebound from defeat to smite the jerks? Or (2) Are people just sick of Cena and showing up to watch the other champs because they're more entertaining?

That's a reasonable argument to have, but I think at the end of the day the fundamental truth is this: John Cena as the dominant, Hogan-esque champ is not working. You can debate whether it's an internal flaw in Cena's (lack of) character, or a problem with uninspired challengers and even less inspired writing by the creative team, or whatever else... but either way, the numbers seem to suggest that RAW would be better served with somebody other than Cena constantly headlining the show and doing his undefeatable Superman routine.

Does this disqualify Cena from being the top challenger to said New Champ? Not necessarily. But if the already-depressed ratings don't improve with a new champ, my first move wouldn't be to put the title back on Cena again; it'd be to try at least one fresh challenger and see what happens, then.

And perhaps the most important question as we head into SummerSlam, WWE's second biggest show of the year: does any of this discussion of Cena's various shortcomings as an ultra-dominant champ justify making Randy Orton the WWE Champion? This question, at least, is an easy one, and answerable with an emphatic "NO!".

[FACT: Orton as champ caused an immediate and significant ratings drop in August 2004, as RAW went from a 3.8 average under Benoit to a 3.5 average under Orton. BONUS FACT: Orton doesn't even have to be the champ to cause the ratings to tank, as SmackDown! ratings dropped from a 2.9 average when Kurt Angle was the champ and Mysterio the Rumble-winning #1 contender to a 2.5 average rating for the remaining stretch run to WM22 after Orton was shoehorned in as the new #1 contender in February 2006. EXTRA SPECIAL OBSERVATION ABOUT A STILL-DEVELOPING SITUATION: we've talked about RAW's ratings being in a severe state of atrophy the past 6-7 weeks. Is that due to bad publicity from the Benoit mess? Or is it because it coincides EXACTLY with Orton's return to being RAW's top heel? SYNTHESIS: For these, and countless other, reasons, you have to be clinically retarded to want to build your company around Randy Orton at this point in time.]

Of course, the fact that I've picked here and now to bring this issue to the forefront and write up a bit feature about it means that now is when the monkeys at WWE will -- in another one of their patented spastic fits of randomness and poor judgment -- decide it's time to cool it with Cena being all unbeatable. 

Christ: Orton's gonna win, and this is all gonna be my fault, isn't it?


  • Though the preceding 5000 words of thought-provoking awesomeness should be more than enough gOOdness for you to digest, there are a few other items we need to touch on this week...
    As referenced above, this weekend is SummerSlam, and WWE's heading into the show without a whole lot of momentum, if you ask me.
    Ratings-wise, both last weekend's SD! and this past Monday's RAW lost a few ticks (and as we've discussed with frequency, it's not like RAW's been tearing it up to begin with, so the drop back down to a 3.7 on Monday is especially depressing).
    Quality-wise: SD! is what it is, and is trying to do the best they can with a depleted roster that desperately needs Edge, Taker, and Rey  back. Khali and Mark Henry stinking up the joint, and Finlay being the only bankable weekly highlight are problems that are more matters of circumstance than of incompetence. RAW, on the other hand, put on an almost soul-crushingly inept display on Monday with their last show before a big PPV. There may have been some decent stuff in the middle (Carlito/Umaga/Kennedy, maybe), but when you open a show with Randy Orton holding a microphone and end it with Gene Snitsky wrestling in the main event, you had better have a crack habit to admit to. Otherwise: inexcusable.
    The second biggest show of the year, and this is the line-up...
    Cena vs. Orton (WWE Title) -- As outlined above, this is a guy who mildly annoys me but who has shown a propensity for stepping up and brawling his ass off in big matches versus a guy who outright bores me (or at best, sometimes he makes me chuckle at his cosmic worthlessness) and can count his good matches on one hand and have fingers left over. Why do I fear that Orton goes over so that HHH can re-try his fantasy of beating Orton in a WM main event? Wrong move, WWE. Wrong move.
    Khali vs. Batista (World Title) -- I couldn't care less. If Batista wins, there are zero interesting heel challengers until Edge gets back in January. As bad as Khali sucks, I figure if he wins, then he's just keeping the belt warm for Undertaker (who returns next month, and could take the title shortly after dispatching Mark Henry). Then full speed ahead to Taker vs. Edge at WM24, which would be dandy with me.
    Triple H vs. King Booker -- Probably my #1 reason for checking out the show. Booker's been nothing short of gold the past year, and has taken it up another level still since coming over to RAW. And for Sheer Smark Street Cred, you have to watch this match so you can babble incessantly about how fat/broken down/lazy Triple H has gotten during his injury layoff. Or you can be like me, and just be curious to see how the guy does in his first match back against a worthy opponent who should have the fans really into the match.
    Rey Mysterio vs. Chavo Guerrero -- SD!'s answer to the HHH/Booker match, as Rey makes his return to TV to face a worthy opponent of his own. Will probably have a lot less sizzle than HHH/Booker, but if Rey's healthy, you'll be looking at the fastest paced action of the night right here.
    Johnny "Nitro" Morrison vs. CM Punk (ECW Title) -- Well, last month was Punk's "last ECW Title shot," and I thought that was the way to write Punk out for a bit to give the remade Johnny Nitro a chance to establish himself and his new persona. Instead: here we are again, and if Punk doesn't win the title, his credibility is DOA. Yet: if Nitro loses, his new character loses all credibility. It's a lose/lose situation, baby! On the upside: WWE can take comfort in the fact that nobody will care, either way.
    Umaga vs. Carlito vs. Kennedy (IC Title) -- Carlito's the pure heel here, with fans mostly taking to Umaga and Kennedy as "Tweeners Tilting Babyface." With that ambiguity, you do keep the door open for brief alliances and all the usual bits of Three-Way Psychology. Should be interesting enough, and this is the one match where I honestly have no idea who'll win, and that's fine, because there are good possibilities with all three guys going forward as IC Champ. My gut feeling: Kennedy wins the belt (Umaga is a "division killer" which isn't as effective now that he's a fan favorite) and moves into the McMahon storyline, while Umaga and Carlito pair up for a more traditional one-on-one feud to solidify Umaga as a top babyface.
    Diva Battle Royale -- All the girls from all three brands, except for Candice Michelle. Why? Because Candice is still (for reasons unfathomable) the Women's Champ, and this is a #1 Contender's Battle Royale. If Mickie James doesn't win, this had better, by christ, be an excuse to bring somebody ring-capable to the RAW roster.
    Another SD! or ECW match may be added, though the odds of it being anything particularly compelling are slim to none. Something like Kane vs. Chris Masters would probably be the leading candidate. Oy.
  • If you're wondering why MVP and his US Title aren't featured at SummerSlam (and why MVP hasn't actually wrestled at all in the past 3-4 weeks, instead bringing in the likes of Evander Holyfield to sub for him on Saturday Night's Main Event), it's because he's currently being treated for a rare heart problem.
    The disorder, which can cause sudden arrhythmia with possibly fatal results, was found during a WWE-sanctioned physical last month. It goes without saying that -- despite the possibly dire consequences for MVP -- WWE went off and touted MVP's serious heart defect as The Greatest Thing Ever Since It So TOTALLY Proves That The Wellness Program Is Working.
    The thought is that the problem can be monitored and treated to allow MVP to safely resume an in-ring career (which is why he's not dropped the US Title yet), but the diagnosis and treatment options are still being explored at this point, pending examinations by additional cardiac specialists and whatnot.
    Though I'm still not quite as big a fan of the guy as many out there, I am of the opinion that MVP could be following a JBL-like path to retroactively establishing gravitas and credibility something like six months after his initial over-push. At that rate, he's probably about four months away from being a compelling on-screen presence and believable US Champ. It'd suck if his slow roll towards eventual relevance was sidetracked. So get well and be safe, Morbidly Voluptuous Porter (or NAMBLA, for short)!
  • While WWE was bringing in Evander Holyfield for a relatively harmless (if utterly predictable) cameo appearance, TNA is still trying to figure out exactly what they got when they signed disgraced football player Adam Pacman Jones to a contract.
    Pacman has been allowed to appear on TNA shows (their PPV two weeks ago, and the following TV tapings) under a last second agreement in which Jones "cannot touch or be touched." There's a bit more verbiage to it than that, but that sums it up. Thus, TNA's been left to play it cute. They can't show Pacman being beaten up, or administering a beating, so at the PPV, they showed Pacman getting in a debate, and then cut away later to show him on the ground, having already been beaten. Clever? Eh, not so much. But until they can figure out some loophole or re-negotiate things with the Tennessee Titans, it'll have to do.
    Pacman is now booked into an angle where he'll be tag partners with Ron Killings. If he can't, legally, do anything physical, the obvious "out" would be to have Jones refuse to tag into matches, or tag in and do nothing, and basically force Killings to do all the work. Problem is: that runs counter to Jones' stated desire to use TNA and a tag team setting to regain the trust of fans by being a dependable partner and a fan favorite. He's trying wrestling to rehab his image as a total assclown; you can't do that by being a chickenshit heel.
  • Jones' signing by TNA has also rankled a goodly percentage of the TNA locker room, where morale was already low enough as it was. First, many of the long term TNA regulars have seen their pushes (and in some cases their jobs) lost to WWE cast-offs coming into the company. Now, they see Pacman being signed to a huge money contract to do what may very well turn out to be Nothing.
    In the last two weeks, TNA has released a bunch of wrestlers, including Matt "Michael Shane" Bentley (nephew of Shawn Michaels) and the Basham Brothers. Additionally, Jerry Lynn had had enough, and quit the company. Bentley has been on WWE's radar at least once in recent years (due to his famous uncle), and might have a chip to cash in there. And Jerry Lynn? Well, even though he can still go with the best of them in the ring, his almost comical lack of on-screen personality might make him best suited to join Dean Malenko among the ranks of WWE's road agents (a job he was also doing for TNA). The Bashams? Let's just say I have no fucking idea why WWE broke them up to begin with, but that together, they've got at least as much value as the Major Brothers on SD!....
    Other TNA penny-pinching initiatives include limiting the number of performers they fly in for PPV/TV tapings. The old method usually involved having the full roster there, and available to work. Effective two weeks ago, they're trying to write far enough ahead of time so that they only fly in the people they are going to use. Sensible enough, though it's only going to lead to further prickly heat with certain performers who get paid per appearance, while WWE alumni like Test get guaranteed contracts.
  • There are weak rumors that another reason TNA is going into "money saving mode" is because they are in talks with Brock Lesnar. With TNA likely to expand to 2 hours per week in October, they're interested in making a big splash. Kurt Angle broached the subject of Lesnar, and has brokered at least one meeting between Lesnar and TNA.
    Now, the problems here are two-fold: I'm still not entirely clear on what (if any) roadblacks exist in terms of Lesnar's no-compete status with WWE (which was relaxed in terms of Brock's overseas work, but which could still be enforceable till 2010, domestically). And secondly: Brock's work in Japan has been mostly panned by critics, who believe Lesnar's been getting by on reputation, rather than on his (rather copious) talents.
    Is TNA just floating pointless rumors, even though they know they can't legally sign Lesnar? If TNA can sign Lesnar, do they want to if all they're going to be getting is a lazy, unmotivated, over-priced WWE alumnus who makes three-quarters of the locker room very pissy?
    Plenty of questions there, but no solid answers at this point... though I'd be a shitty Internet Rumor Monger if I didn't at least mention the fact that (much like they did with Kurt Angle) SpikeTV would get all hot and bothered if they heard TNA was talking to Brock, since they'd start envisioning ill-advised TNA/UFC cross-overs with Lesnar. Hell, for all I know, Lesnar might be willing to talk to TNA just so *he* can get all hot and bothered about a possible UFC cross-over for himself. 
  • To those writing in and asking: yes, Diva Search Ashley is going to be on the new season of "Survivor."
    Now, since I answered your question, you answer mine: Why in the blue fuck do you possibly care?
  • Speaking of that: Matt Anoia (you remember his as "Rosey" or the "Superhero in Training") worked dark matches at WWE tapings this week. This is almost certainly as a result of Matt being a participant on one of those "let's parade fat people around" reality TV shows, with WWE keeping ties with the guy in case he wins. Or does whatever it is people do on the Fat People Reality Shows. Then, they can always bring him back.
    My idea: paint him up, braid his hair, and call him Super Umaga. We've reached the limits of what dressing midgets up like current wrestlers can teach us. We must go back in time (or down to Mexico) to a time and place where we dress up an even bigger, fatter, and scarier guy in the the same outfit as a current star and see what happens!
  • Also of note (and more exciting to me): D'Lo Brown worked dark matches LAST week at WWE TV tapings. Reportedly, this was mostly just a favor called in by Ron Simmons, but D'Lo's surprisingly young and a much more engaging performer than just about anybody the WWE developmentals have churned out in the past 4 years who isn't named Carlito or Kennedy.
  • Wrapping up, it's Wrestling Death Zone Happy Fun Time Corner! Everybody's favorite part of the wrestling newz~!
    First, it's a few updates on the Benoit family situation.
    Chris Benoit's shady personal doctor, Phil Astin, is on the newswire again this week, as his equally slimy lawyer is issuing all kinds of statements meant to start clearing Astin's (not so) good name. Tactic the first: "Even though it's quite relevant and very damning, all that evidence they collected about patients other than Benoit was gotten illegally, so please, just ignore it and pretend it never happened." Tactic the second: "All those prescriptions to Benoit were totally legitimate and the result of a hormonal disorder he had. Even if the disorder was caused by other drugs I gave him, I was only giving him testosterone in order to correct that problem." Yippee.
    Perhaps I'm just too judgmental, but slime is slime, and I don't care so much about all the equivocation and red tape: Astin got busted, and might as well just slink away into the woodwork and take his medicine like a man, instead of trying to weasel out of his culpability.
    The other (and even MORE depressing) development is that last week, the family of Nancy Benoit requested further investigations by Georgia authorities to prove -- beyond a shadow of a doubt -- the order of death. Though the initial investigation indicated Benoit killed Nancy first, and then son Daniel a day later, the family wants proof of that before moving on. Why? Because, if Benoit killed Daniel first, then Nancy would have instantly become the major beneficiary of Benoit's estate, and when he killed her later, the inheritance would have been passed onto Nancy's family. As it stands now, Benoit's children by another marriage stand to inherit much of the estate, with a probate court deciding the rest. 
    There's nothing quite so uplifting to the spirit as watching people greedily staking claim to a dead guy's money, is there?
  • And finally: two wrestling deaths to report from the past week.
    One is in no way shocking, as Dewey Robinson (best known as the Missing Link) passed away at age 68 following a battle with cancer. I have no really solid memories of the Missing Link, other than knowing he feuded with George "the Animal" Steele very briefly at the very start of my wrestling fandom. He had kind of a similar gimmick to Steele, and I guess in a day and age where the different territories meant that for every "Rock 'n' Roll Express" there was a "Rockers" (and so on and so forth for every imaginable niche character or racial stereotype), the Missing Link was to the Central States what George Steele was to the Northeast. And then, in the mid-80s WWF, Link got one brief taste of national fame when Steele turned babyface, and needed his doppleganger to come in and be his heel foil for a little bit.
    Jim Ross remembered Robinson as a phenomenal athlete and underrated in-ring performer who simply never had the gift for speaking, which is why he only found his niche late in his career with the Missing Link gimmick. I'll take his word for it.
    The other death? A bit more of a surprise.
    Bryan Adams -- who wrestled most famously as "Crush" in the 90s WWF -- was found dead in his apartment last week. He was 43.
    An initial autopsy revealed nothing suspicious, but of course, more detailed tests and toxicology results won't be finalized for weeks. And it goes without saying that 43 year old men don't usually expire for no reason.
    Complicating matters -- and turning Adams' passing into fodder for face-punchable TV pundits like Nancy Grace and her ilk -- is the fact that Adams doesn't exactly have a squeaky clean past. One hiatus from the WWF was the result of drug and firearms charges; in fact, it was his prison time that WWE used as an excuse for transforming his character from the neon-wearing "Kona Crush" to the denim and leather-wearing "Biker Crush."
    On top of that, various media outlets are now reporting that in later years, Adams became a customer of one of the many underground "Wellness Purveyors" (mostly internet-fronted companies that provided access to illicit pharmaceuticals) that got busted in that multi-agency sting last spring. And oh irony of ironies: Chris Benoit was a customer of the same one.
    So of course: Adams death was heaped onto the pile with Benoit's, and has been made the subject of much discussion by "experts" so "expert" that they spoke as if Adams was a current WWE wrestler. Needless to say, that sort of thing sticks in my craw.
    WWE has, obviously, refrained from any sort of public tribute to or eulogy of Adams, despite the fact that he was a fairly vital performer for them over the span of a few years. From a brief reign as a tag champ as part of Demolition to a semi-main eventing run against Randy Savage, Crush was involved in a lot of major storylines between 1991 and 1994. His second WWF run (as the leader of the "Disciples of Apocalypse") was less remarkable, and it wasn't until teaming up with Brian Clarke as "Kronik" in WCW in the late 90s that Adams regained a bit of credibility. Then again: when Kronik got WWF contracts in 2001 (mostly as a favor called in by Adams' buddy, the Undertaker), Kronik totally blew it in their phenomenally awful first major TV match, and were fired and forgotten almost instantly.
    It was certainly a roller coaster ride of a career for Adams. And as tends to be the case with far too many wrestlers, it's a ride that has seemingly ended too soon.
  • That's it for today, kids. You've got plenty to chew on with all the Cena/HHH/Stats crap above. So digest it all and this is one of those times when I'm especially interested in your responses, whether of the agreeable kind or not. So hit me up with some e-mail or discuss in the forums, or whatever.
    Other than that: I'll see you again with SummerSlam results and other pertinent news next week. Try to enjoy your weekends; if you're like me, you probably won't, because you'll be too busy taking precautionary measures to ensure that your balls stay firmly affixed to your torso, instead of literally sweating off. When evening lows are around 80, all the schools have cancelled classes for the next two days, and humidity is perpetually at 120 percent, you really can't even muster up the desire to even leave the house if there's not a really damned good reason why.
    Later on, folks....

SMACKDOWN RECAP: Bonding Exercises
RAW RECAP: The New Guy Blows It
PPV RECAP: WWE Night of Champions 2012
RAW RECAP: The Show Must Go On
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Boot Gets the Boot
RAW RECAP: Heyman Lands an Expansion Franchise
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Losing is the new Winning
RAW RECAP: Say My Name
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Deja Vu All Over Again
RAW RECAP: Dignity Before Gold?
PPV RECAP: SummerSlam 2012
RAW RECAP: Bigger IS Better
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Hitting with Two Strikes
RAW RECAP: Heel, or Tweener?
RAW RECAP: CM Punk is Not a Fan of Dwayne
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Returnening
RAW RECAP: Countdown to 1000
PPV RECAP: WWE Money in the Bank 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Friday Night ZackDown
RAW RECAP: Closure's a Bitch
RAW RECAP: Crazy Gets What Crazy Wants
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Five Surprising MitB Deposits
RAW RECAP: Weeeellll, It's a Big MitB
RAW RECAP: Johnny B. Gone
PPV RECAP: WWE No Way Out 2012
RAW RECAP: Crazy Go Nuts
RAW RECAP: Be a Star, My Ass
RAW RECAP: You Can't See Him
RAW RECAP: Big Johnny Still in Charge
PPV RECAP: WWE Over the Limit 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: One Gullible Fella
RAW RECAP: Anvil, or Red Herring?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Everybody Hates Berto
RAW RECAP: Look Who's Back
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Care to go Best of Five?
RAW RECAP: An Ace Up His Sleeve
PPV RECAP: WWE Extreme Rules 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Sh-Sh-Sheamus and the nOObs
RAW RECAP: Edge, the Motivational Speaker?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: AJ is Angry, Jilted
RAW RECAP: Maybe Cena DOES Suck?
RAW RECAP: Brock's a Jerk
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Back with a Bang
RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28



Rick Scaia is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.