Monday, August 31, 2009

ECW Progress Report: changes..or lack thereof

This is supposed to be a progress report to analyze how much ECW has changed. However, it seems as if the changes that have occurred in ECW are too similar to what already has been going on or has happened in and out of ECW. Top stars disappear, rising stars are re-focused, and nothing really benefits from it. Hmm...

The biggest piece of news I want to convey concerns Christian being champion and William Regal's contendership for said title. Quite honestly, Regal didn't really do or win any matches to secure this (except one match vs. Dreamer), but he received the title shot at SummerSlam, regardless, and lost the match in 8 seconds. He then regained another shot at the ECW title two nights after, but not before handing Christian a third straight beating courtesy of himself and his two new associates, Vladimir Kozlov and Ezekiel Jackson. The trick here was that they were initially at odds with each other for one reason or another, and then, just like that, Regal brings them together. Now, why is this big news? The word around town is that both Christian and Regal are being looked at as wrestlers who can work with anyone and have great matches with them. This is to help the new stars get over and the stars-in-the-making get further made. So, it is fitting to have them run the show as the top stars for the most part. But, this leaves two stars out in the cold when you look at it: Tommy Dreamer and Shelton Benjamin.

Dreamer had just finished proving his worth with his ultimatum. He won the ECW title and was living it up. Then, Christian beats him at Night of Champions and on an ECW show where it was an Extreme Rules match. After that, he lost a match to Regal and was literally dropped off the face of the earth. Why? Well, after he received his contract extension, he might have gotten the big singles push he would have liked, but since we all should know the WWE by now, he wasn't going to get anything. Now, he's back to square one, jobbing to others to put them over, and not even close to regaining that top spot again. Sorry, Tommy, but at least you have that well-paying job for your family. As for Shelton, where do I start? He was promoted, demoted, promoted, demoted, etc. until, he's back on ECW, looking to be a big fish in a small pond. He hasn't legitimately lost a match since the second night of his ECW return, and what does he get for his credit? He gets further criticism about his complacency, even if it might not be that evident, and doesn't receive a single push for the ECW title. Now, he's stuck in a feud with Zack Ryder where they are competing in sad singing competitions, makeshift tag matches that put them at odds with each other, or singles matches that might very well lead up to the worst for Shelton: a string of losses to Ryder as it is showing that they are looking to elevate him. That could be damaging to Shelton in the worst way.

Knowing all this, there has to be some other bright spots on ECW, right? Sheamus is involved in a feud with Goldust. That would have made sense or held my attention if I didn't remember all the failed attempts to get Goldust over. It's just like with Big Daddy V. You've seen them lose so much, so why buy into them winning now? This can only be attributed to the sparse ECW roster. There really isn't a fleshed out roster of people to go to anymore either due to makeshift factions being formed, a general lack of star power, or just a lack of quality wrestlers. Remember Yoshi Tatsu and Tyler Reks? Someone thought it would be pertinent to have them team up instead of making them stars on the singles' circuit. Kind of like killing two birds with one stone when getting these guys over. Trouble is, there are literally no teams on ECW to fight against. So, what's the point? The point is to keep these faces fresh in the minds of many while not subjecting them to matches where they would most likely lose since, sadly, they might not look the most effective in the ring against others. Lastly, the Hurricane returns to pretty much feud with Paul Burchill. Both sides have won a match against the other. Let's hope this ends soon so they can go on to better things. Or better yet, let's see more matches from them on ECW and judge for ourselves to see if its worth watching. Throw in the rather useless Bella Twins, the annoyingly replaceable interim G.M. Tiffany and that's ECW in a nutshell. Oh, I forgot. There's Abraham Washington. But, public opinion about that show has already rung true: it stinks. A change in format is needed.

There's ECW's progress on the whole. It seems that the more things have changed, the more they have stayed the same. We can only hope that things will turn around creatively for some wrestlers. On the plus side, the match quality has been much better than what we've seen on Raw. The same can be said about the show quality as well. However, as days go by, ECW is generating more clips of Raw and other shows onto its time slot. Thankfully, that's not completely the case as much, but the trends still remain. Lastly, the ratings are what they are: low and comparable to TNA, but that won't change for a while, so we have to deal with it. Let's just hope ECW can break free of this rut and rise above its mediocrity. I don't think I can stomach another singing session with Shelton Benjamin...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Shelton Benjamin's return to ECW: ain't no stoppin'!

Vince McMahon has been showing great amounts of frustration lately. As it turns out, president Bonnie Hammer of USA Networks is getting on Vince's case about the lack of new and different stars on the WWE. She not only said that Cena, HHH, and Orton are the top stars of Raw, but also suggested that Ric Flair be put on Smackdown in an attempt to increase its star-power. So, how does Vince react? He puts a celebrity in charge of Raw, be it a wrestling legend, or an actual celebrity in an attempt to appease Ms. Hammer. Now, this move has received good, ok, and even bad ratings on Raw's standards, and with more on the way, it's safe to say that it will be around for a while. Regardless, Vince is still very frustrated over the idea, as he has yet to realize that hot-shot booking will never solve a problem of this caliber. What does all of this have to do with Shelton Benjamin? Well, you see, Shelton is one of the many stars in the WWE today that has all the talent to be a top star but has never been realized as such since being here in the WWE. Vince can get mad about the lack of new stars, but he still fails to see the potential in the stars he's had for 5 years that he should have made top stars a while ago. Instead of getting angry at why there aren't any new stars, he should be looking at himself and his staff and asking why he didn't push certain stars in the first place. Shelton's reason? He gets complacent, gets lazy and doesn't make the concerted effort to become a bigger star through better character development, increased mic skills, and strengthened charisma. Now, those faults my very well be all Shelton's doing. But, who's to say that the reason behind all of that is due to the atmosphere he is wrestling in? Who's to say that the WWE has made him the way he is today? It's pretty hard to want to get over when there are too many signs around you saying that it's pointless. So, let's have a look at Shelton's run as a WWE star, in brief if possible and see the various ups and downs that may have played a key in his return to ECW.

It started sometime in late 2002 and early 2003 when Shelton Benjamin was teamed with Charlie Haas to join Kurt Angle's group, Team Angle. They represented a collection of the finest amateur wrestlers in the WWE at the time, boasting excellent wrestling records on the mat before hitting the squared circle. A little later, Haas and Benjamin branched out on their own to become "The World's Greatest Tag Team" continuing their winning ways as a unit, until the 2004 WWE Draft. It was at this event that Shelton got his first full push to single's wrestling. He became the #1 draft pick for Raw, and before the night ended, in his first Raw match and first encounter, pinned Triple H. He pinned the former World Champion a few weeks after he lost the belt at WM XX. It was the biggest win of his career. This was nothing short of impressive, right? Well, knowing that HHH doesn't just job to anyone, we learned that this was his throwing Shelton a bone at the express consent of the creative crew and other higher-ups. Shelton continued his winning ways against Hunter until he lost his first match against him sometime in the fall of 2004. After this, he was placed in an IC title match at the first Taboo Tuesday event (which was later named Cyber Sunday and is now called Bragging Rights) where he had an incredible match with Chris Jericho, that was virtually un-rehearsed. Shelton would go on to be IC champion from October of 2004 to June of 2005, losing his belt to Carlito. This is where the downturn began...

Shortly after losing the title, Shelton lost a lot of steam as well, being passed over on Raw for many other Raw stars. Then, all of a sudden, Shelton's mother appeared on television (well, his actual mom appeared years ago. This one was a comedian named Thea Vidale). She was dressed to look like your typical African American mother, straight out of something you'd see in a Tyler Perry film. All she did was pretty much embarrass Shelton, correct Shelton, and at times, help Shelton win matches. We were treated to a slew of idiotic vignettes with Shelton's mama and Viscera as well as a bunch of pathetic jokes from Jerry Lawler (how he got so corny, I'll never know). Soon enough, Shelton's mama was, in reality, taken off of television for health reasons, leaving Shelton with nothing to do, literally being forgotten from television. Sure, he popped up here and there, complaining about not getting an opportunity because he was, well, Black, but that really wasn't much.

So, what did Shelton do? Easy. He just fought his one-time partner, Charlie Haas when he returned in 2007, and lost against him. Later on, they re-teamed, with Shelton dyeing his hair blond in an attempt to freshen up his look. Since then, his hair has been blond, but the team didn't last long. Once again, the steam started to dwindle. To make matters worse, Shelton randomly debuted on ECW that year, calling himself "The Gold Standard". He wanted to show the world that he was the best wrestler in the WWE and the true standard to wrestling with his athleticism. He had some matchups, good and bad, barely received any ECW title shots, and was finding his own niche as a star. Then, he was called up to Smackdown. From there, he went on to have some stellar mid-card matches, and secured the U.S. title for a time. He even had a very impressive match against the Undertaker. However, after the recent draft, he once again found himself teaming with Haas and even Ricky Ortiz, leaving him out of singles action. Just great.

As for the latest on Shelton, well, he was involved in a 15 superstar trade that sent him right back to ECW. His highlights include a short feud with newcomer, Yoshi Tatsu, in which Shelton won, a sound victory over the current ECW champion, Christian, which should have propelled Shelton into the title picture, a short period of time where he wasn't even on ECW television, and now, a running feud with Zack Ryder which involved a rather boring segment on the Abraham Washington Show (the fans were booing it like crazy) and Shelton Benjamin singing songs. Does that sound like the top flight athlete you expect Shelton to be? It doesn't to me.

Now, you're probably wondering how this all could have been possible. Quite honestly, there was an elephant in the room that I neglected to mention during the downturn in 2005 and onward. See, the word backstage was that Shelton, as talented as he is, wasn't doing anything to get himself over. He was being complacent. He was being stagnant in his match delivery, promo delivery, and all-around performance. He got lazy, for a lack of a better term. He wasn't trying his best to make himself a standout star. Sure, anyone can dye their hair, but what does that do for you in the long run? Since this was the case, the WWE stopped pushing him. In fact, based on what I wrote and saw, and even on the match outcomes I witnessed, Shelton was getting buried by the WWE as punishment for his problem. Although this might have been well-founded, there are two ways to see it, in my view.

Ok, in all honesty, Shelton should show a concerted effort to make himself a big star on WWE television. This is the largest wrestling organization in the world today. It gets the most viewers in wrestling today, and even in history. If you're given a chance to showcase your stuff on WWE television, you have to try and hit it out of the park. From wrestlers with little talent to wrestlers with plenty of talent, everyone has a chance to make a big deal of themselves. You don't just get a spot in the WWE out of nowhere. Ok, maybe that's not always the case for any of the things I said, but if the company has enough faith in you to do great things, then you have to make due.

Now, here's the other side of the coin. The word is that Shelton is lazy and not motivated. Well, let's just take a look at what he has to deal with. There's politics backstage, mostly perpetrated by HHH, to make sure he and his friends stay on top. There's backstabbing, underhanded actions, simony and nepotism. Wrestlers can't get over sometimes because any and all creative ideas about them get shut down by Vince McMahon. The writing staff is stuck writing the same pointless drivel that we see every week, consisting of shallow, ridiculous humor that a 7 year old would find funny. This is usually the case because there's nothing but 7-year-old kids in the audience. Extremely talented wrestlers get fired for one reason or another, while the not-so-talented keep their jobs for one stupid reason or another. The reason: the talented wrestler has no creative ideas happening for them at the time, while the not-so-talented are always in the spotlight with no creative ideas whatsoever always happening for them. Throw in the fact that people are all in fear of getting fired half the time and you have a very unsafe work environment. For crying out loud, they have guest celebrities hosting Raw, that usually leads to some of the crappiest booking you can think of. Never mind the wrestlers who pitch ideas for themselves to get noticed or the young stars that you were planning to push. Let's just focus on people who not only have nothing to do with wrestling, but have no business being in a wrestling ring. You tell me if you can be motivated to do more than just "go through the motions". By the way, Shelton is not alone in this problem as Carlito has been blamed of this as well. Yet, how many of his pushes have been destroyed to push Cena, HHH or Batista, or any other wrestler? If anything, that is the main reason for Shelton's general malaise towards wrestling. It's hard to wrestle thinking you can go somewhere, when the only place you go is down and away from the main event picture. It's annoying, ridiculous, and rather unfair.

In a nutshell, Shelton's career has been mired with shortened pushes, ridiculous gimmicks, some choice title wins and his own company not having enough faith in him to do more with his career, The pundits knew he's a top flight athlete and wanted the best of him. But, according to them, he's too lazy to make something more of himself. So, he's stuck in mediocrity on ECW hoping to be a big fish in a small pond. The problem? He's still a small fish. In truth, there really is no stopping Shelton Benjamin from being more than the best. The only thing is, he already has proven that he has the goods to be the best. So, why isn't he the best? Is it the fact that he doesn't want to work to be better, or is it because no matter how hard he works, he'll never be as good as he wants to be? Maybe he's getting held down because he already figured that last part out and the pundits feared that he'd spread that message. Who really knows? All I know is that Shelton Benjamin is one of, if not, the single most talented person in the WWE and he's stuck dwindling into obscurity. That's not quite a gold standard to live by. Heck, that's not even a bronze medal....

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Stand back! There's a hurricane returning...

In 2001, Gregory Helms was assimilated into the WWE family as the last WCW Cruiserweight champion. He had a few starting matches, made some waves, and then a fateful thing happened. In a meet-up with Stone Cold Steve Austin, Austin made reference to his Green Lantern tattoo and Helms said he liked it as well as the Green Lantern. After Austin mocked him for it, Helms made a transformation from mild-mannered wrestler to wrestling's newest super hero, Hurricane Helms. He later shortened the name to The Hurricane. It's been 8 years since this debut had occurred. Now, after a few titles victories, some tag team excursions, and even a change of attitude in 2005, the Hurricane has returned, and this time to ECW. You want to know the most interesting part? The Hurricane's return could not have come at a more convenient time for Helms, ECW, the fans, or even the WWE. This is the Hurricane's moment to shine, but it wasn't always the case.

Between the years of 2001 and 2005, the Hurricane has had his moments. He won the cruiserweight title back, but not before he lost it to Jamie Noble. This was due to his feud with Jamie over Nidia's need to be a vengeful and vindictive ex-girlfriend of the Hurricane's. Before that, the Hurricane called upon Molly Holly to be his sidekick as the sprightly Mighty Molly. All he did to do this was take her away from Spike Dudley. Seems things didn't work out with her either, mostly due to the WWE draft, so the Hurricane was flying solo, attempting to maintain his cruiserweight career, with some highs and lows. Then, he set his sights on tag team wrestling, enlisting Kane as his partner and winning the WWE tag titles. Upon losing them, he was embroiled in a few minor feuds and a few major ones, including one where he scored a victory over the Rock, his biggest win yet. His next move included a wrestler named Rosey, formerly a thuggish member of the 3-minute warning, now a wrestler looking to be as super as the Hurricane. In order to become one, the Hurricane made Rosey a "Super Hero In Training" as he wore a hokey super hero training outfit and learned the ropes of super heroism. After a long journey, Rosey finally earned himself a much better superhero outfit and the right to be considered a hero next to the Hurricane. As a team, they didn't do much, until that fateful night at the Backlash PPV in April of 2005 where they finally won their first and only World Tag Team Championship in a "tag team turmoil" match. After all the laughter, the insults, and being reduced to looking like clowns, they achieved great victory and dominated as a tag team, even earning the help of Stacy Keibler, under the alias Super Stacy. This lasted for 4 months until Stacy was sent to SmackDown via a trade and the Superheroes lost the tag titles to Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch. After failing to win the belts back and after a brutal assault from Kurt Angle, the Hurricane unmasked himself and walked out on Rosey, posing a dark turn for the hero in green.

That Fall, the Hurricane was gone. We all said hello to Gregory Helms, but not the one we were used to in 2001. Gregory was sick of being a clown, wearing stupid masks, goofy colors, and being a lame superhero for anyone's enjoyment. He couldn't have made that clearer than with sound and powerful victories over Rosey, his 300+ pound sidekick, and even Jerry "the King" Lawler. Since then, he spent his time on the Raw brand establishing his mean streak, his bad boy status, and his quest to become a top star, without a mask or the laughter. As time passed, he ended up on Smackdown as part of the WWE draft, and re-captured the WWE cruiserweight title. Only this time, he would hold it for one solid year and a few months, making him the longest running cruiserweight champion in history and even the longest running champion in Smackdown history. To his credit, he had struck up some choice victories as well as some notable feuds and matches with Rey Mysterio, MVP, Batista, and Matt Hardy. As time passed, he lost his cruiserweight title in a turmoil match to Chavo Guerrero, and was sidelined with a serious spinal cord injury. He took a year to recuperate, as well as some months to clean up his act due to his use of illegal substances. He was then drafted to ECW in 2009, where he became a broadcast journalist, interviewing stars on the brand, until something strange happened.

One Tuesday night, as he interviewed Mark Henry, someone was caught in an accident backstage. Helms suddenly disappeared, only to have a mysterious figure in green and black save the person from the accident. The figure then disappeared, and Helms reappeared next to Mark Henry. As weeks passed, more accidents happened and that mysterious figure appeared to save the day, but the more he appeared, the more his identity was revealed. The Hurricane had returned, and in a more ominous and mysterious way. The green on his outfit was darker, as was his once-green hair. His face was rugged and shaggy, and he moved and acted in complete silence. It didn't take long before people took notice as Mark Henry accused Helms for being the Hurricane, as did Shelton Benjamin, and most recently, Paul Burchill, who took offense to the Hurricane's heroic exploits, among other things on ECW that bothered him like new superstars taking his spotlight or freaks who have maintained more popularity than he. He even went as far to attack Helms for snapping back at Burchill while defending his identity. Later that night, Burchill was defeated by Yoshi Tatsu via disqualification and the Hurricane appeared to make the save courtesy of a cross body splash from the top rope, followed by a flurry of moves. Yoshi thanked the Hurricane and the WWE's resident superhero had returned, and not a moment too soon.

I stated earlier that this was the Hurricane's time to shine, and I wasn't kidding. He fits the mold of what the WWE can use along many specific lines. When it comes to the content of WWE television, it is mostly rated TV-PG for television that requires a parent to guide their kids while watching. The Hurricane is possibly one of the least threatening wrestlers in the WWE content-wise. He can appeal to kids as a comic book superhero come to life. His heroic exploits can win over the youngest and brightest of fans. However, he can do more than just that. There are a slew of fans who are old enough to remember who the Hurricane is and what type of talent he brings to the table. That's more than enough to get them to watch, support, and rally behind him to succeed on ECW.

The last fact I mentioned is very helpful to ECW in the way I just mentioned. The Hurricane can make ECW a watchable commodity again by bringing together fans of all generations with this skill, charisma, and content-friendly actions. Not only that, but as a star of these talents, he gives ECW a much-needed talent boost in the major title picture. Currently, ECW is just limited to Christian as the champion, roughly one or two major title contenders, a slew of new faces, and a slew of faces that looks to re-establish themselves (I'll blog about this, if nothing comes up, on 8/30). With the Hurricane in the mix, you can add that much needed good guy to be the hero of ECW that Christian has proved to be, but is much better being the in-betweener that is not quite good, but not quite bad. Lastly, he adds depth to the ECW roster. He can be that reliable star that you can go to in order to help groom stars as well as provide entertaining matchups. This could be very helpful to ECW as a brand on the whole.

This can also help Helms in more ways than one. By becoming the Hurricane, he now fits the bill the WWE is looking for in a star. Without the Hurricane, there was a very strong chance that he would have been fired. The resurgence of the Hurricane may very well have saved his career. Heck, it might even be the move to save ECW's plummeting ratings. As for the WWE, here's how well this works out for them: the Hurricane can cash in on the success of Rey Mysterio, C.M. Punk, and Jeff Hardy as yet another wrestler who isn't very huge, but is very big with the fans. He can move merchandise, entertain crowds, and hold together a match to his wrestling credit. By electrifying younger fans who want to know him and older fans who do know him, this can be a feat that the WWE can use to make him a top star and keep their revenue stream pretty steady. Sure, he's not a new star, but for a wrestler who has never been a top star, this would be relatively new to him.

I would like to think that the WWE will make this move for the betterment of ECW, the delight of the fans, for the success of their company and for the future of Helms, especially now that they are under close watch by USA networks. Bonnie Hammer, president of USA, and possible president of NBC, wants the WWE to make some new stars as HHH, Cena, and Orton are the only ones who have made a big move on Raw. She's even going so far as to have Ric Flair placed on Smackdown. She is unhappy that there are no new stars to go around on Raw and Vince couldn't be angrier about it. What he doesn't realize is that he is the reason there are no new stars in the WWE. He's fired, repackaged, buried, and even refused to sign new stars for his established favorites that have either been worn thin, never truly got over, or are perhaps unable to help new stars become new stars. Yet, he stands around and stews in anger about the lack of new stars. He clipped the creative teams when they come up with new ideas, reprimanded anyone who steps up to the plate, and rewards all of his main cash cows like they were his little pets. Everyone else? They get the shaft, the shutdown, and the shove off to greener wrestling pastures. The Hurricane doesn't need to be a statistic. He needs to be utilized for his talents and put over on ECW as a top player. If successful, he'll be sent to a show where he will flourish, hopefully, and become the new top player, if not, a new top player.

The Hurricane may have very well saved his career with the return to the superhero days of old. He's not just saving himself and his career, but he's also saving others. He's saving the fans from evil bad guys, a shallow ECW roster, and lackluster matches. He's saving ECW from bottoming out as a show, or at least trying to. He's also trying to save the WWE from some gaping holes in the roster. He fits the bill for what the WWE can use as a star, he has the talent to be a top draw in ECW, and he can appeal to young fans and old fans. He's a great find and a perfect candidate. The only super villain that the Hurricane has to train and prepare for is a hindered and feeble creative team and a chairman willing to fire good talent to save money. But, if the world is perfect, the stars are aligned in place, and the opportunity knocks, the Hurricane might very well blow his way past the competition and change the landscape of ECW forever. There may very well be no stopping him, and the only thing you could do is, well, stand back...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tyler Reks: Breaking the mold and setting the standard

Lately, upon watching various ECW talent come and go, it seems that there's always a back-end talent that comes along with the deal. This type of talent always seems to be the lowest on the bar, the least likely to make an impact, and the last person to get over with anyone. Such examples include Braden Walker (yikes), Gavin Spears, and D.J. Gabriel. They had the opportunity to join Evan Bourne, Kofi Kingston, Jack Swagger, and the biggest success story of the ECW talent initiatives, C.M. Punk, as a star or stars on the rise, but, to no avail. It was always something that kept this from happening. The crowd wasn't behind them. The backstage staff wasn't supporting them. They looked weak in the ring. They looked bland in the ring. They lacked charisma. They couldn't talk on the microphone. The list of problems is endless. However, I believe even the lowest of talent has a chance to get over one way or another. What does this have to do with Tyler Reks? Well, upon looking at the new guys in ECW, he seems like the back end talent in the deal, even though he doesn't have to be. To me, he is or can be a combination of stars that I've seen. It's an interesting assessment to say the least. However, one has to wonder whether or not Tyler has the tools in place to succeed, or if he ever did. Let's take a look at this guy and see what we can find.

Thanks again, Wikipedia for your allowing us all to know more about Tyler. For starters, his name is Gabriel Allan "Gabe" Tuft. He debuted with Ultimate Pro Wrestling (UPW) professionally in February of 2007. One year later, he signed on to a developmental contract with the WWE, and joined Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) under his actual name, until the WWE changed it to Tyler Reks. He won the FCW tag titles with Johnny Curtis in December of 2008 and, just two months ago, won the FCW Heavyweight title from Drew McIntyre. On June 30th, he debuted for ECW, as he was challenged by Zack Ryder. When he did show up on ECW t.v., he gave us a look at his character: a surfer dude from Laguna Beach, California who's big on catching waves, rays, and just chilling out. But, don't let it fool you, as he does mean business in the ring. He lost to Ryder on WWE Superstars after suffering a knee injury prior to that. After about a month to recuperate, he wrestled on ECW and defeated Paul Burchill, only to get attacked by Burchill from behind, coercing a rematch one week later. Reks won that match as well. How did he do it? He won with a springboard dropkick off the top rope. For a guy who's 6'3" and 249 lbs, that's impressive. Well, not so much the move, but the attempt at doing it and succeeding. Lastly, a rumor had gone around courtesy of Matt Striker that Reks was actually a civil engineering graduate from college. Quite impressive to say the least.

Backstory aside, here's my assessment of Tyler Reks. I look at him and I get the distinct flavor of about three different wrestlers. He's got the physique of D.J. Gabriel, the same first name as Tyler Black of ROH, and the laid back but somewhat serious side of Rob Van Dam, even though he lacks RVD's cockiness. This might seem a little farfetched for someone like Tyler Reks as he just started and little can be said about him. But, that doesn't mean he can't channel these guys and make it work.

It's surprising that he got the call up to mainstream wrestling for the WWE with only about 2 years of experience under his belt. But, he has the physique the WWE is looking for. So did D.J. Gabriel. Both are slender yet chiseled. The muscles look natural enough to not criticize, but imposing enough to impress Vince McMahon. However, if there was anything that Gabriel had over Reks, it was definite wrestling experience, albeit just a few years more. Sadly, no one really could get behind D.J. Gabriel, no matter how much dancing he did. Sadly, since Alicia Fox is no longer with him, I'm pretty sure no one will. However, one man's loss is another man's gain as Tyler Reks can make up for that by being that physical specimen that can appeal to the crowd and get them fired up. It's too bad he comes off a little too general with his delivery, so his charisma needs work.

I only bring up Tyler Black because, well, it's always interesting to see two wrestlers with the same name in wrestling. It's even more interesting when that name is rarely used. Names like Evan, Zack, and even Cody or Braden are not common to the wrestling world like Mike, Dave, or John. If you happen to come across this, you can expect something unique or clever. Tyler Black is a very unique, clever, and athletically sound individual. He went from "doing it for her" in Wrestling Society X with Jimmy Jacobs, to bringing the "Age of the Fall" with Jimmy in Ring of Honor (ROH). As time passed, more and more people got behind Tyler for his athleticism, raw energy, and latent charisma. He began to have stellar matches against the top stars in ROH, and has come close to becoming the ROH champion on a number of occasions. It's only a matter of time before his name becomes well known in the wrestling circles of today, to the point where some purists will recommend his name to the WWE as they did C.M. Punk. Tyler Reks is no Tyler Black, by any means, but he can be the first Tyler to be a big star in wrestling if he shows us that he's ready and capable of having top-flight matches with anyone. Heck, he's the future of the WWE's heavyweight division, like Sheamus (refer to 8/2/09's ECW analysis on Sheamus' story). If anyone can get a better chance at the top, it's definitely Tyler Reks, because if there's anything the WWE likes to do, it's push big men.

As for Rob Van Dam, well, here's how it works out. We all know RVD to be that laid back, cocky, athletic, arrogant, and very cool wrestler we have all come to know and love. He called himself "Mr. Monday Night" and "Mr. Pay-per-view" because all of his matches were worth watching on live television or worth the price of a pay-per-view event. However, what drew us to him along with that aspect was his demeanor. He was just really relaxed and cool about everything. When push came to shove, he got serious. But, most of the time, he just relaxed and tooted his own horn. He made it cool to hate him and even cooler to like him because he knew he was better than most wrestlers, and he didn't mind showing it. Tyler Reks isn't RVD, but he can show he's cool and relaxed about stuff, like most surfers are. Some opponents might mistake this as him being air-headed, but that would make it all the sweeter to see Tyler outclass them with his wrestling style. That can help by and large for Tyler.

Tyler Reks has a chance to break the mold and really set a place for himself in the ring, but there are too many hurdles and troubles that he has to overcome. Right now, he's nothing more than the back-end portion of the new talent initiative. You know who else could be seen as such other than the guys I named? How about Ricky Ortiz? (I blogged about him on 1/19 of this year). Here you have a guy who was praised in the farm systems, praised by the pundits, was primed to be an up-and-coming heavyweight for the new generation, had an interesting look (even though he was another Latin American wrestler with an curly Afro...guess they didn't want to wait to see if Carlito was still going to be useful), and was a fan favorite of sorts. So, what happened? The fans didn't get behind him. He was considered boring. Wrestling fans found him one-dimensional, he couldn't produce merchandise, he started to look very sloppy in the ring, and even though he cleverly made fun of Jack Swagger's lisp, his mic skills started to falter and started to get very uninteresting. What did that all amount to? A handful of matches on ECW that were almost largely forgettable, mostly for the botched spots, and a drafting over to Smackdown that had him change his character to a pseudo-Richard Simmons style person who looked to get the crowd excited by twirling his towel, and looked to instill life lessons on people with video segments on the WWE website. How long did that last? I'd say about 2 months, and then, he was trounced by the Great Khali in 30 seconds and fired later. The pundits still put a lot of faith in him up until that point, as they saw that there was no improvement. It seemed as though he was unappealing as a heel and as a face. Sadly, this could be Tyler Reks' fate. But, he can avoid it.

If Tyler wants to survive, he has to break out and show some potential. He has to make sure his in-ring stuff is on point. He has to make sure he can deliver well on the microphone. He has to develop charisma, keep his talent intact, and make a severe impact in his matches. How can he do this? The same way many great passionate wrestlers do it: by immersing themselves in the business, but the right way. Not by becoming a mindless slave primped and preened to look like a beefcake loyal to the entertainment and not the craft (can you think of a few guys like that?), but by learning from the best. He should talk to road agents and absorb their knowledge on the history of wrestling. He should ask the legends how to work a good match as a heavyweight. Learn the art of selling. Sure, he was taught it in the farm systems, but he should be open to learn more. If he can do that, he can be the best he can be.

Tyler Reks has the talent and the ability to be more than just another big man on the tail end of a talent initiative. He can make up for the ones that didn't succeed. But, only he has to take the initiative. If the pundits are not positive on you after a few sets, then make them proud of you. Take the next step. Don't be complacent. Make the fans love you or love to hate you. It's in your hands. Then again, there are those who still do that and the WWE still passes over them. How many talented stars have been overlooked by the WWE for less talented stars? If I had a quarter for the amount of times that has happened....well, I'd probably be too rich to do this.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sheamus: Future conqueror of the ECW kingdom?

How often do you hear someone saying they want to conquer something? To fully take it over as their own? To take total and full command of an entity, a place, or an area? It's rare to hear it now because it was a term or possibility only in the days of medieval times. Knights of valor defending a kingdom from invaders. Lords and ladies looking to their king for protection. Well, in the ECW "kingdom", there is a man who plans to conquer it and make it his own. His name is Sheamus. From the valleys, hills, and dales of Ireland, he acts the part of the Celtic warrior, looking for competition to eliminate in his quest. Yet, few people realize that his conquest of ECW might actually be a precursor to something big. What if I told you that Sheamus' role in ECW might actually be a part of a specific task in his career? A bit much to consider? Well, before we go there, let's take a look at who Sheamus is.

Wikipedia, Internet masters of the scribes of useful and pointless information, has given me and now you, the reader, the skinny on Sheamus. His real name is Stephen Farrelly, an Irish pro
wrestler who was making his way through Europe as a wrestler. He was born in Cabra, Dublin, but was raised in North Great George's Street. He speaks fluent Irish having attended a Gaelscoil known as Scoil Caoimhin Primary and Secondary School. He sang in the Palestrina Choir under the age of 13, and played Gaelic football for Erin's Isle and played rugby for the National College of Ireland. He was formerly an IT technician and worked as a personal security guard for Bono from U2 and Denise van Outen.

He began his career training under the legendary Larry Sharpe in 2002, debuting 6 days after he completed his training, under the name, Sheamus O'Shaunessy. However, he injured his neck and was forced to stop wrestling for 2 years, potentially returning in 2004. In May of that year, he joined the newly opened wrestling school, Irish Whip Wrestling in Dublin, Ireland. He debuted for this promotion in July of 2004, defeating such stars as Vid Vain, Matt Striker, Xavier, and Mikey Batts. In March of 2005, he became the first International Champion of Irish Whip Wrestling, beating Darren Burridge, Vid Vain, and even a former ally in Red Vinny. Sheamus then began a feud with Burridge, which included numerous happenings like Burridge costing Sheamus the title and a grudge match where Sheamus won. After which, he reclaimed the International belt after taking part in a series of matches involving Vic Viper, Red Vinny, D'Lo Brown, and the Assassin, with a title defense against Vampiro in late 2005.

In 2006, Sheamus turned heel at the Irish Whip Wrestling Halloween event, but not before he retained his title on St. Patrick's Day of that year. After which he went on to wrestle for the All Star Wrestling promotion, unsuccessfully vying for the ASW British Heavyweight Championship. He would then leave for the Real Quality Wrestling promotion. In 2007, he debuted for the aforementioned organization defeating Stu Sanders and feuded with Drew Galloway, which included match results of a double count-out in their first match on April 20, and a no-holds-barred victory for Galloway on June 16. Sheamus left the promotion for the WWE in that year. He had a tryout match after being called up for an on-screen appearance on Raw in England. After that, he was given another tryout, and was signed to a developmental contract. He reported to Florida Championship Wrestling, the WWE's farm system promotion, to train there for his call-up to the main roster. After some key matches, some title wins, and some key feuds, he was called up to the ECW brand and has shown his dominance in three matches. He utilized his strength, power, mild agility, and an impressive finisher to secure those victories. For those wondering, his finisher is a uranage suplex into a backbreaker, which I like to call the "Celtic Sword", as a take-off from Finlay's "Celtic Cross".

But, wait, there's more. It seems that Sheamus was in the movie, "The Escapist", with fellow UK natives, Brian Cox and Joseph Fiennes. He was also in the Irish film, 3 Crosses, and acted as a Celtic Warrior Zombie in the film Bog Body with Vinnie Jones. He was also the rival of Dustin the Turkey on Dustin's show, which lead to a match between the two where Dustin won. He even joined up with Georgie McFly on the Podge and Rodge Show where they were leprechaun wrestlers.

So, that's Sheamus in a nutshell. His quest to conquer ECW is continuing to this day. But, as I said earlier, do you think it's possible that there could be more to this? In all honesty, yes. In fact, Sheamus might not know this, but his quest is very important not just to himself, or to ECW, but to the WWE, as a whole. He must prove to be successful in a sense for the WWE's future. You see, Sheamus has to win....for the sake of the WWE's most sought after and well-received form of talent: the larger-than-life wrestler, or the heavyweight, if you will. Vince has always wanted big men in his company, but now more than ever, he needs them. Sheamus is his latest find, and he has to do well for Vince's sake.

It's no secret that Vince has built his company off the backs of some of the biggest talents to ever come through wrestling. It is also no secret that the majority of that talent was at least 6'4" and about 250 pounds or more. From Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant to Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock and from Triple H and the Undertaker to John Cena and Batista, Vince has spent 20+ years building an empire with big men that have proven to be larger-than-life with their personas, their ability, their charisma, and their monstrous appeal. However, Vince has been in a bit of a bind lately. With all this talk about steroids and performance-enhancing drugs, he finds himself wearing thin of talent that is naturally big. In fact, because of this, he has come across a handful of talent that, through those means, have been physically big enough to get his attention, but unable to work a decent match. Sometimes, the converse is the case, as he gets a naturally big man who can work. The problem with the converse is this: how can you tell who's doing it naturally and who isn't? And, if you can tell, how do you decipher who can and who can't work a decent match? It has come to the point to where Vince is considering signing old stars that did or didn't catch a break in the WWE only because he knows they can work. Right now, he has a handful of stars that are naturally big that can work, but they splinter into two groups: stars that have yet to be established but aren't for many means, and stars that are established, but we have seen in the same types of matches against each other for about 5 or 6 years. How many times can we see the same combination of Triple H/Cena/Batista/Orton before we get literally "sick to death" of it? How many times can Edge, the Undertaker, the Big Show, Mark Henry, or Kane be involved in specialty matches or non-specialty matches with or without each other before we run out of attention? This is Sheamus' time to shine. He has to prove that there are naturally gifted big men out there that can work, and that he is one of them. But, he's not alone.

If there are two other big men like him that can work, or can prove they can work, they were both former ECW stars in their own right. They are Jack Swagger and Mike Knox. These two have an amazing aura about them that screams of potential. Swagger is the type of star they wanted Brock Lesnar to be, which was a big man who had the athletic prowess to outwrestle anyone bigger or smaller than him. With the proper tutelage and creativity, he can be a top star for years to come. Mike Knox continues to impress J.R. as he refers to him as a modern-day incarnation of the late Bruiser Brody, a rough and rangy, big-bearded wrestler who knew how to punish his opponents. Knox's only problem is his lack of charisma as he doesn't do much to get himself across as a potential big time player. As for Swagger, he's stuck in the midcard position only due to the fact that the pundits backstage refuse to let him get ahead as a star. We've seen that through his big loss against Cena months ago. Another star who gets honorable mention is Vladimir Kozlov. His staunch wrestling style and stoic demeanor are the stuff of legends. However, he has already exhausted his potential on both Raw and Smackdown, so he finds himself on the bottom rung in ECW for now. Sheamus can easily fit in with these guys as he also has the talent to be a very big deal in the future.

After seeing three or so of his matches, I can almost be sure that Sheamus can get it done in the ring. Sure, he's incredibly pale and has fiery red hair, but that just adds to the flavor of his character. He looks unique. He wrestles uniquely. He even speaks clearly and with a staunch Irish accent. Plus, he's a welcome switch to the last set of Irish people to come through ECW (sorry, folks, but this current iteration of Finlay doesn't do it for me, and Hornswoggle is a pain to watch or deal with). Plus, I'm really supportive of his finishing maneuver. It's painful and effective at the same time. So, what is stopping Sheamus? How about the fact that the backstage pundits can very well book him into a tough spot to recover from? I can see him either getting called up to the main shows too soon and getting lost in the shuffle. Worse yet, I can see him being set up with a group of people shared with a common factor, like, say, everyone in that group being from Europe. The WWE has to book this guy properly. Let his style flourish. Let him blossom into the star that he can be. Don't pull the trigger too soon and please, don't pull the plug, either. If it looks like he can do more, let him. I'm pretty sure he can. For someone who is supposed to be the next generation of the "big man" in the WWE, you should at least give him a fair shake. More stars to place him against in ECW would be a big help.

Sheamus, the Celtic warrior, is here in ECW, looking to conquer the brand for himself. And, with a rather small roster, it might not be that difficult. However, if he wants to fully glorify himself in his success, he must make a calculated effort to establish himself as a conqueror before making the move to Raw and/or Smackdown. If his legacy as conqueror is to be melded into the annals of WWE history in a successful manner, he must plot and plan carefully, or at least hope that those who can arrange his success plot and plan carefully. I'd keep an eye on this powerful prodigy if I were anyone of importance. Sheamus won't just be the face of ECW if all goes well. He'll be the face of the new generation of WWE powerhouses for maybe years to come...