Niche Please: WWE’s Limited Marketing Hurts (Part 1: The Cruiserweight Division)

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Niche Please: WWE’s Limited Marketing Hurts

Part 1: The Cruiserweight Division

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Over the years WWE has clearly done something right in terms of marketing and brand expansion. They’re often seen as the number one wrestling program (excuse me, sports entertainment) sheerly for their dominance over professional wrestling in the entertainment world. WWE breeds star power, with forces such as Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Dave ‘The Animal’ Batista, and now John ‘U Can’t C Me’ Cena. Are there other, very successful wrestling programs? Of course, but for today we’ll focus on WWE programming. More specifically, how formulaic their shows can be, and how that hinders them; while competitors seem to flourish without said formula.

It seems silly to decree how an entertainment titan such as WWE should run their show. Yet one can’t help but to notice that WWE seems to dig themselves into a hole with supposedly good intentions ,yet at the same time buries all of their talent alive in it. This refers to the Cruiserweight Division. What started as an incredible tournament on the WWE Network has now led to a subpar division with usually mediocre segments on Monday Night Raw.

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Now why might that be? Why would some of the contenders from such a widely well received tournament be stuck in this rut on WWE television? One would assume that their matches and segments would be pure fire, given the level of talent these wrestlers have garnered while on the independent circuit. Yet it seems that whenever such segments air live on the show, they’re met with silence, or the occasional beach ball party. So how does something that was once so incredibly popular which had viewers foaming at the mouth, become the new designated restroom break?

Quite simply, WWE places their performers in these little niches and keeps them there, without any possibility of escape. With the induction of the specialized division and a championship belt, one thought that meant we were going to see the new signees go toe to toe with some of the main event staples of Monday Night Raw. In contrast, what we saw was complete isolation. By being a cruiserweight, that meant that you didn’t interact with anyone outside of the division, save for the short-term stint of Alicia Fox as a manager to Cedric Alexander, then Noam Dar. It’s as though the division has a deadly plague, and having them interact with other superstars would leave to the complete decimation of the show. It’s a very odd tactic to do, to isolate the cruiserweight division from everyone and keep them completely self-involved; especially when that wasn’t always the case.

Sure, one could see this as WWE trying to make things fair and equal: guys going against similar weight classes so as not to provide an unfair advantage. Yet doesn’t WWE thrive on such feuds built upon this? It’s a classic David and Goliath scenario, one that does well for the likes of people like Braun Strowman and Sami Zayn: yet somehow can’t be used for the cruiserweight division. In addition to that, they’re doing this to competitors who have never been relegated to competing against only one type of opponent before stepping into WWE. Take for example: Kalisto and Neville. Even before this division, such competitors were competing amongst everyone else in WWE. Much like their independent circuit friends, there was no weight limit that classified who they could and could not wrestle against. Size was just an element of the story, meant to play up the hero’s hopeful triumph or heartbreaking downfall.  It did not indicate their skill level or capability to defeat a large opponent.

It never stopped people like Rey Mysterio.

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Yet WWE continues to have the cruiserweight division in this niche. Story evolution is at a halt, for they show two, maybe four competitors per week on Monday Night Raw. Of course, there’s 205 live, but for the casual fan that’s not willing to, or doesn’t have, the Network: they’re at a complete loss. Usually it’s just a throwaway match for them to hit the concessions or evacuate their bowels.

If you’re going to have a division isolated by itself with a generous amount of athletes (see also: Women’s Division); then you may as well go all the way with it. Why not add a secondary belt? Something for the other, forgotten members to fight for seeing as how all anything has ever been about is the chase for the purple belt. Wrestlers that were esteemed and revered for their talent now look like complete and utter jokes (sorry, TJP). Almost as though someone doesn’t want them to be seen as a top tier talent that can take away from the big guys.

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After all, if we look at this from a more cynical level: it’s pretty disheartening. Signing the cruiserweight could be seen as a money trap where all the favor goes to Vince McMahon. These wrestlers being signed means that they’re not wrestling for any other promotion; likely drawing their fans to watch WWE instead. That of course, means more viewers, which usually means more money in some capacity, no? It also keeps from the program’s competitors from making their shows as entertaining as possible. Losing some talent can be a big blow to suffer, and it’s a way for McMahon to keep the control and the eyes on his product. Why worry about other promotions when you’re snatching up and signing all the best that there are out there? These performers weren’t cruiserweight outside of WWE, they were just incredible and talented.

Yet now they’re brushed off to the side. They’re signed, they’re not out there performing incredible stunts and drawing attention away from the WWE with their highly publicized and talked about matches. They’re no longer a threat; not only to the company as a whole, but to those that Vince has deemed to be top tier talent as well. Having the cruiserweight in this niche that they cannot escape only hurts them as performers, and makes it all the more likely that the division could fall from sheer lack of morale, hope, and intentional neglect.

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Payback: Highlights (5/1/16)

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Holy crap, it’s May. Isn’t that insane? Feels like just yesterday it was WrestleMania and Brock Lesnar half-assed what could have been match of the year.

Ah, sweet memories.

Anywho… the buildup has been a little odd, hasn’t it? Shane has been running the program even though he lost to the Undertaker, so that’s peculiar and makes no sense, but okay! Ryback and Kalisto haven’t had much of a buildup at all, Bret Hart will be in Natalya’s corner tonight but he doesn’t want to be there. Man, is that a horrible start to May or a great start?

Kickoff Match

Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler

Bet you thought Kalisto and Ryback were going to be on the pre-show, right? Ha! Loser…

No it’s fine, me too. They changed it up on me last second and I write these things 5 minutes in advance. It’s really throwing me for a loop having to write it on the spot. Honestly, I feel frazzled. Regardless, Dolph’s kind of showing some desperation lately with his matches. He’s getting a little too anxious, losing his cool when he goes against Baron, signs of a man being fearful of loss rather than a man willing to do any and everything. Baron’s keeping his cool. As a lone wolf he doesn’t stress out–not until things go absolutely wrong at the end and he has to punish someone for his own wrongdoings. Ah, I love people.

Winner: Dolph Ziggler

Kalisto vs. Ryback

United States Championship

David versus Goliath part two, at least for these two. Was there ever a canon sequel for that story? If not, consider this now canon and part of the biblical universe. Why they’re fighting again, I’m not sure but perhaps there’s one viewer that actually knows this very well. Kalisto might get destroyed for real this time considering the giant sour cream and onion chip on Ryback’s shoulder. But….that little guy is feisty! Who knows what insane, death defying stunt he’ll pull.Plus, Ryback’s on the pre-show again. Maybe the rage will give him extra strength.

Winner:  Kalisto retains the championship, and surprisingly has good in-ring chemistry with Ryback.

Payback

Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. The Vaudevillains

#1 Contendership for the WWE Tag Team Titles

This is….this is absolutely magical. Smacktalker Skywalker and his own personal Chewbacca are going to take on the carnival rejects from that one, really, really grumpy town out in the middle of nowhere. This surely would have been a great match.

Unfortunately, Enzo hit the mad incredibly hard while attempting to slide out of the ring, and the match ended. As of this writing, Enzo has been diagnosed with a concussion and other tests have come out negative. Here’s hoping to a speedy and healthy recovery.

 Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn

Best friends turned bitter rivals. Ah, I love the smell of two former friends beating the crap out of each other. It smells like personal, vengeance, and probably a bit of blood. Kevin Owens plays the perpetual victim, and everyone’s cheering for our precious Sami Zayn to knock some sense into him.

Winner: Kevin Owens kicks Sami Zayn into a new galaxy

The Miz vs. Cesaro

Intercontinental Championship

The Miz has really stepped his game in recent weeks, but you know what they say. Behind every man is a great, wonderful, powerful woman that’s really the one to make sure you get what you deserve and or want. Can Cesaro, the man that’s probably going to be cast for a WWE style Transporter knock off movie, take the belt from him? Well, one can certainly hope so!

Winner: The Miz retains both the title and a great relationship with his wife.

Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho

Do it for the potted plant, Ambrose.

It’s about time Ambrose got some revenge on Chris Jericho for screwing up his match with Roman against the Wyatt Family all those eons ago. C’mon, baby, it’s only right! Someone has to stop Jericho and his mad streak of terrorizing superstars. He’s already wearing scarves to highlight his madness, how far is Jericho going to go?!

Winner: Dean Ambrose! Now Jericho can sit in the corner shedding tears of blood.

Natalya vs. Charlotte

WWE Women’s Championship

Well this will be fun. Ric Flair is under investigation for possibly being drunk at an airport, and Bret Hart really doesn’t want to be there. So, the two men that aren’t even in the match are clearly having the time of their lives. As for the women, well, Charlotte’s been reigning supreme for quite some time. Yet this time around, perhaps it’s time for the real Queen Natalya’s reign to begin.

Winner: Charlotte retains after WWE recreates the Montreal Screwjob. Its successor will now be called the Chicago Screwjob.

#RAWDecision

You know who doesn’t care? The live audience in the arena. Then again, they don’t care about anything, they like hijacking the show.

The takeaway here is that Shane and Stephanie are both in charge of RAW.

Okay maybe another important takeaway here is that Vince said he wants blood to be shed. Okay, where’s his father of the year award? Time for Titus to pass it down to Vince.

Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles

WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

On this day in WWE history, smarks cried at the possibility of Roman Reigns beating AJ Styles. Why? No one knows. There’s one theory out there about wrestling fans becoming hipsters that go out of their way to detest home-grown wrestlers….but that individual harbors too much common sense to deal with said people. Said people don’t realize that even booing him still help. Any reaction is better than no reaction, that’s for sure.

As for AJ, the fans are going to be behind him for the most part. However, they may be so focused on hating Roman that they’ll forget to chant for AJ. Let’s not forget Anderson, Gallows, and the Usos who have clearly taken sides in this showdown. Will Styles’ old buddies return to help him, or are they secretly plotting against him?

Winner: AJ Styles wins by count out, BUT Roman Reigns retains the title.

Bonus Surprise: Shane McMahon has some words to say. Match restarts with no count outs.

Winner again: AJ Styles, because apparently a low-blow happened….but Reigns is still champion!

Bonus Surprise 2: Stephanie McMahon now has some words. The match restarts, no count out and now no disqualifications. Oh dear, that one upsmanship will get these two killed.

Winner for the 3rd time: Roman Reigns retains his championship.

My what a night full of incredible matches. All that’s left is the fallout to be encountered on RAW. The rematches that will take place, the set ups for Extreme Rules, and how Stephanie and Shane can possibly run the show together.

WrestleMania 32 Kickoff: Highlights (4/3/16)

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It is finally upon us! WrestleMania 32, where every single person in the world is watching for free at home. So, you better have a stress ball with you because you won’t be able to watch a clear stream of the event until the following day.

That being said, let’s enjoy the kick off show.

Kalisto vs. Ryback

For the United States Championship

Yet another case of David vs. Goliath. Except Kalisto is the endearing cinnamon roll that could and Ryback is the big bully that for no reason decided he wanted to eat the cinnamon roll in one bite. Not in that way, you dirty perverts. Ryback simply wants to crush him and eat a lot of food, because that’s his thing, I think. Kalisto on the other hand worked too damn hard to get his belt back. He will do everything he can to retain it, including death-defying tricks that we really hope don’t actually end in death or any sort of injury.

Winner: Kalisto retains the title

Brie Bella, Natalya, Alicia Fox, Paige, Eva Marie vs. Naomi, Tamina, Lana, Summer Rae, Emma 

I know what you must be thinking going into this. Wow, this is so strange! What a random match up! The cast of Total Divas going against former cast members or those that made guest appearances! What could possibly have brought this up? Fear not, for I have no idea and neither does anyone else. The important thing to remember is that these women are actually getting a match at WrestleMania, and that’s better than nothing.

Winners: Brie Bella takes the win for her team with a ‘yes lock’

The Usos vs. The Dudley Boyz

Clearly this match comes out of residual angst against Rikishi. Bubba Ray and Devon are no longer in a playful, joyous mood. Tables will not be used tonight, apparently. They’re over this whole ‘table’ trend that they’ve long been associated with. As for the Usos, well, we all know what they’re going to do. Dance battle just a little bit, fly around, and smash their butts into the faces of the Dudley Boyz. They might booty clap them all the way back to D-D-D-Dudleyville.

Winners: The Usos

After their win they get to put the Dudley Boyz through their own tables at the same exact time. Wonderful.

 

That’s the end of the kick off show. Next post will be the main card, the big kahuna, the creme de la creme, WrestleMania.

 

 

SmackDown: The Tale of Broken Brothers (5/7/15)

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The night starts with Jerry Lawler discussing the recent King of the Ring tournament. Naturally this means that the new king, King Barrett needs to make an entrance, and also be hailed by the former King as his ego finds it necessary. Really, this man has no manners! He’s so utterly rude and arrogant and–..huh, he’s actually the perfect King.

Before Barrett can deliver the bull hammer to Lawler for not wanting to praise him, Dolph intercepts and thus leads to our first match.

Dolph Ziggler vs. Bad News Barrett

Dolph wins by disqualification when Sheamus interrupts the match to brutally beat him.

Well the intentions were noble! Dolph wished to teach Barrett a lesson in manners–rightfully so, as ideally a king should be kind and not an arrogant turd. Sadly, Barrett lives up to the reputation of being an awful and brutal king. So much so that his celtic warrior buddy interferes and together they gang up on Dolph until Neville can arrive to lend a helping hand.

Dolph Ziggler, Neville vs. Sheamus, Bad News Barrett

Dolph and Neville take the win for this match after Dolph pins BNB for the win.

Round two, with added competitors! Sheamus seems especially sour about not being the King and letting these wrestlers that he has deemed to be little and unmanly beat him. See that children? Brutallity does not always win.

Promo:Renee with Dean Ambrose

How does he feel about the odds of the one in four chance of walking out as the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion? Not bad actually, better odds than he had before. But, he’s excited for the chaos which will be the contract signing!

Luke Harper vs. Fandango

Luke Harper pins Fandango for the win.

Well this is an odd match up. Although, one has to appreciate the either confused or disturbed stare from Luke to Fandango. That’s quite an accomplishment if you make Luke stare at you like you’re the crazy one.

Well, something even crazier happens.

After Luke pins Fandango for the win, Erick Rowan makes an entrance. We all remember Erick and Roman being brotherly as a part of the Wyatt family. So as good brothers do, Rowan assaults the already down and defeated Fandango as though he’s trying to appeal to his brother.

Well right on then guys! Two Wyatts are always more terrifying than one.

In Ring Promo:Lana

As Lana suggests that the audience do not cheer for her because it angers Rusev, said Bulgarian Brute decides to charge the ring and berate her.

After Rusev sends Lana away, Rusev goes on to insult Cena as he usually does. He issues a challenge to meet face to face on Raw, and then goes on to vow that he will make him say ‘I Quit’.

Honestly Rusev, I’m more concerned about your relationship with Lana.

PRomo:Renee and Roman Reigns.

In regards to any conflicting emotions going into Payback…Roman has none. He trusts Dean, hates Randy and Seth…nothing out of the norm here! But even though Dean is his brother, Roman’s still going to bring the biggest fight he can to Payback and get that belt.

New Day vs. Tyson Kidd, Cesaro, Ryback

New Day wins the match after Kofi pins Tyson by holding the tights.

Well if you’re going to have someone on your team to utterly destroy the men that stole your championship, may as well be Ryback, right? These two fact droppers seem to love working with Ryback. You’ve got Tyson and Cesaro flying around while Ryback and Cesaro are performing standing suplexes as though they’re as simple as breathing. New Day was having none of it, even complaining to the announce team. Well, ya can’t have it all guys.

But they can have the win! Just Bray Wyatt’s short entrance playing was enough to throw Ryback off and allow New Day to capitalize.

Promo:Renee and Randy Orton

How does Randy feel about having three competitors now? Especially facing three former members of the Shield? He doesn’t care, he’s going to take them all out on his own and get the belt at Payback.

Emma vs. Naomi

Naomi wins after pinning Emma.

Well clearly Naomi was intent on making Emma her bitch to send a message to the rest of the Divas. With Tamina on the sidelines and in her corner, that makes Naomi all the more intimidating. Really, Tamina is the ever so threatening enforcer that no one ever wants to cross. Although, it probably was worse then Tamina entered the ring after the match and helped to beat up Emma.

Promo:Renee and Seth Rollins…and J&J Security

How does he feel heading into the contract signing?

Ah, more gloating and self-worship on how he won the belt at WrestleMania and how he’s so glorious and the belt is all his. Oh, and he makes sure to point out that he has a brain, and Kane does not.

Well, I hope you enjoyed breathing Seth, because Kane is going to make sure that at some point you never breathe again.

Los Matadores vs. Lucha Dragons

Lucha Dragons take the win after Sin Cara pins…one of the Matadores!

New Day better watch out, as two more tag teams are going at it in the hopes of getting the opportunity to take the championship belts. I doubt the Lucha Dragons have forgotten their loss, and right now they’re just building up to the day where they can eliminate New Day.

Los Matadores are so heartbroken that they can’t even stand Torito, hurling the little bull half way across the ring with one hand. Well, that’s just not nice.

Contract Signing for Payback Fatal 4-Way Match

Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Dean Ambrose

Oh look, Kane is in charge of the signing that has to be good.

…Especially good considering three of these men wish to kill Seth with their bare hands, one can’t blame him for not wanting to go to the ring. All three men sign the contract and are foaming at the mouth for Seth to join them.

Seth’s plan was for Kane to sign it for him, but after insulting Kane…well that wasn’t going to happen. So Justin Bieber Seth heads to the ring and makes Joey physically enter and get it for him.

Seth tries to drive a wedge between Roman and Dean by saying the two men would insult each other behind their backs. Roman couldn’t wrestle his way out of a wet paper bag, Dean was a low-rent Roddy Piper…and both men said Randy was a spoiled brat only in the WWE because of his father.

Well Seth, a fine tactic in stirring up a fight, and quite a fight he stirs up.

Ambrose knows how contract signings end, so he wastes no time in setting the ring up for a brawl while Seth and Kane are bickering.

The last man left standing is the WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins after he manages to turn every single person in the ring against each other.Yes, for the Shield fans out there, this includes a shoving match between Dean and Roman that ends in Dean taking an RKO which Roman had no intention of saving him from.

Alright well, Payback is going to be interesting. What started as a belief that the two would take out Randy just to get to Seth has turned into every man for himself–which is usually what one would expect. I can’t wait to see what happens on RAW, something tells me Seth will be cuddling with his belt and cackling in delight. All the while Dean and Roman will fight as brothers do and try to put the other in the hospital.