THE BRAINBUSTER #7 - Battleground Beef...and More!
THE BRAINBUSTER #7Edition seven, all dogs go to heaven.
* SHOW’S OVER *
Over the past month, one of the biggest stories growing out of the New Corporation angle has been the emasculation of the Big Show. With his back against the wall, Big Show has had to make some tough choices and, in every instance, he’s chosen to do “what’s best for business” by serving as the McMahon-Helmsley’s Knockout Punch against Daniel Bryan, Dusty Rhodes, and The Miz.
Some critics have suggested that this storyline is nonsensical because you have to believe that Big Show, whose never been a flashy persona like Alberto Del Rio or even Shawn Michaels, is in financial despair despite signing huge contract after huge contract for WCW and WWE. Critics have also brought up Big Show’s history with both Daniel Bryan and Cody Rhodes, and how these rivalries would lead one to believe he really shouldn’t mind knocking them out, especially if he wants to be WWE Champion himself.
These critics are missing the point.
Big Show shouldn’t matter in 2013. In fact, there have been at least a half dozen times over the past 5 years when he hasn’t. At this point, he’s held every major championship worth holding. He’s feuded with every major star worth feuding with. He’s one of a small few who has been in the ring with everyone from Ric Flair, Hogan, and Austin to Cena, Batista, and Orton. He’s held the Tag Titles with Undertaker, Kane, Chris Jericho, and The Miz. If the writers couldn’t come up with something for him in 2013, it would be completely understandable.
But his current storyline is easily the best work he’s done since his excellent ECW repackaging in 2006. Unlike in times past, the crybaby gimmick isn’t being played for laughs. What we’re watching isn’t a mockery of human emotion the way his feud with the Big Bossman was over a decade ago. This time it’s serious and personal and it is every bit as intriguing as storylines revolving around Daniel Bryan and the Rhodes family.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not been flawless. The not-so-subtle suggestions about Big Show’s libido were wholly unnecesary. He is being emasculated by the McMahons; His “balls” have been chopped off in a figurative sense. We didn’t need Stephanie McMahon to bring up literal bedroom inadequacies, even if one could argue that this is a realistic aspect of the story (issues at one’s job often do lead to issues between spouses). What made no sense was that Big Show’s wife would share this info with her husband’s chief enemy.
Still, save for a handful of questionable lines of dialogue, the majority of this angle has been executed quite well. This is genuine news because, well, it’s kind of a rarity that this is the case.
Unlike Edge’s retirement speech or HBK’s or Flair’s, this ISN’T real. Unlike the drama that came after Eddie Guerrero or Paul Bearer’s passing, the Big Show storyline is a 100% work. There is zero element of truth behind it, yet the audience is as invested in this as they were for storylines built around genuine drama like Jerry Lawler’s heart attack and the marriage of Randy Savage and Elizabeth. The fact that we are seeing such an emotional storyline being created out of thin air is almost unparalleled. Maybe Shawn Michaels losing his smile in 97’ is close? Maybe Jake Roberts having his snake crushed by Earthquake? You’ve got to dig deep to find a 100% fabricated storyline that is as emotionally heavy as the one we are getting with the Big Show today. I’m arguing that none have been this good either. You might even say the current Rhodes family angle falls into a similar category (though I give the edge to Big Show as his expressions and storytelling has been masterful).
This is why this angle may be the WWE’s hidden ace as we go into the early winter months. With Orton/Bryan cooling and the Rhodes/Shield storyline possibly ending at Battleground, only Big Show’s storyline is still on “simmer.” The beauty is that this storyline has been handled well enough that it can remain on simmer through Survivor Series, possibly leading to a Big Show/Orton title match at December’s PPV and Big Show playing a major role in the Royal Rumble. They really have given themselves a wealth of opportunities to not only have Big Show “snap,” but also to how they can handle the fallout.
Any critics of this storyline are getting it wrong or finding small flaws and overreacting to them. This angle, and by extension Big Show himself, is gold and if it keeps working the way it has been, you are looking at the most important character on the roster after Battleground.
* BATTLEGROUND BEEF *
It’s pay-per-view time and, once again, the WWE is promoting an incomplete card. Like they did for Night of Champions, the WWE is trying to sell us a car that’s only got three wheels.
Wiser analysts than I have often argued that the WWE only needs one “big” match to sell a show and, in certain instances, that’s true. SummerSlam 2010, for example, was a one match show, headlined by the red hot Nexus taking on a Cena-led Team WWE. Over a decade earlier, the In Your House: Canadian Stampede won the “Best Major Show of 1997 Award” from the Wrestling Observer based solely on the strength of its main event (the show itself actually only featured 4 other bouts, two of which were Jakked worthy at best). There are obviously other examples, including at least two WrestleManias and many Royal Rumbles.
BUT in my lone opinion, undercards DO matter. This year’s SummerSlam proved it, but I could also point to the Money In The Bank PPV series (where audiences are *guaranteed two multi-man ladder matches and, in 2011 at least, also a highly anticipated title bout), WrestleMania 8, SummerSlam 91’, King of the Ring 98’, and a whole slew of PPVs in the early 00s that featured top talent like Austin, The Rock, Triple H, and The Undertaker in the main event, with Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, and Chris Jericho quarreling in the undercard.
I’ll readily admit Battleground does have more than one great match on it. Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton for a vacant World Championship is intriguing. The Rhodes squaring off against the Shield, with their careers on the line, is a great co-main event. RVD vs. Alberto Del Rio in a Hardcore match and CM Punk vs. Ryback have both been developed adequately.
So why am I still not going to be purchasing this PPV?
Part of the reason is because of the bad taste left in my mouth after Night of Champions. Del Rio and Rob Van Dam lack chemistry and a hardcore stipulation could lead things to go from sloppy to sloppier. Bryan and Orton wrestled twice this summer and at Night of Champions, giving me the feeling that this match needed some sort of “Must Be A Winner” stip. Punk vs. Ryback is in that weird limbo area of being somewhat fresh without being “must see,” potentially due to Ryback not being on anyone’s radar over the past 3 months and the fact that the Punk/Heyman feud has been going on since July. This may not seem like a long time, but remember, it was teased prior to Money In The Bank and Sunday will mark the 3rd consecutive PPV where this rivalry is spotlighted…and you better believe it’s not ending here with Hell in a Cell just a few weeks away.
Reason #2 I’m on the “No Buy” list: the rest of the card. Dolph Ziggler and Damien Sandow are two talents who are simply too good to be wasted in matches without relevant storylines. Will their Pre-Show match be good? Most likely…but it doesn’t seem important. Curtis Axel vs. R-Truth is a Superstars match. The rumored Kofi Kingston vs. Bray Wyatt bout is a SmackDown match and, even if it is a great bout (as it may well be), the fact that it’s not even officially on the card as of Wednesday evening (the time of this writing), makes it seem exactly like what it is – an afterthought.
A third reason not to buy Battleground is the aforementioned Hell in a Cell PPV coming up in just over 3 weeks. THIS is where Punk/Heyman will likely end, with Heyman stuck in a cage with the Cookie Monster. THIS is where Orton/Bryan will probably have their final clash. THIS is where Del Rio will either have a new (more interesting) challenger or where he’ll finally vanquish Rob Van Dam to end their rivalry. Without a single match booked, Hell in a Cell has better name value and the potential to be a landscape-altering event.
With so many hours of TV at their disposal, they shouldn’t be scrambling to fill out a PPV card with matches that have been properly built-up. In fact, there are at least THREE matches that SHOULD be on the card. For starters, what the hell happened to Christian? He was beaten down by the New Corporation, but hasn’t been seen since. A match with Dean Ambrose would’ve made sense with very little additional build.
What about Big Show? Wouldn’t it have made sense for Stephanie McMahon to force her giant to squash The Miz? As Miz didn’t even come out with a neck brace two weeks ago AND his health and well being is obviously not a concern for the McMahon-Helmsley Regime, this match really books itself with Miz being forced to compete and Big Show being forced to crush him or lose his job.
Finally, there’s Fandango and Summer Rae. I’ll admit that Fandango being off the card isn’t a big deal – but Summer Rae certainly deserves a spotlight as she has quietly become one of the most popular divas on the roster. I foresee an eventual split with Fandango as he becomes jealous of her popularity (similar to the Marc Mero/Sable angle) and Battleground would’ve been a great starting point. Fandango has been given plenty of screen time over the past few weeks, but it’s been worthless because it hasn’t built to anything. As much as I disliked his feud with The Miz, I chalked that up to poor in-ring chemistry. In the right angle, particularly one revolving more around Summer Rae, Fandango could be relevant again. Instead, he’s spinning his wheels when his ticket to relevancy is dancing right in front of the writing team’s faces.
The WWE has made it too easy to pass on Battleground. Let’s hope, for the sake of fans who WANT to get excited about the product the way many of us were for SummerSlam, they don’t make the same mistakes in the build-up to Hell in a Cell and Survivor Series.
There you are, folks! Enjoy Battleground if you do order it – I’ll be reading the results Monday morning with $60 in my pocket. Thanks again for reading and supporting the ‘Buster. Second Moves to Twin!
Love what you wrote about Big Show. I'm not his biggest fan, but that moment on RAW a few weeks ago when he knocked out Dusty Rhodes and caught him as he fell, gave me all the feels. Man should look into acting whenever he has to retire from the ring. Kudos to him.
As for the card this Sunday, it doesn't not entertain me whatsoever. I will however watch it *cough* to see how The Rhodes Family saga goes and to see who becomes the WWE Champion, if anyone! I hate that the card hasn't been fully announced and I feel for the folks that will actually splash out on it, but as you say, better to wait for HiaC in a few weeks time.
The Underage Pessimist
Big Show- I think, the last angle to put this much "reality" into a kayfabe angle was Eddie/Rey in '05 over the possession of Dominic. But you're right in saying that none has been better than this. Show should definitely look into acting as his other profession, in better roles than Knucklehead obviously. Imagine him and Mark Henry in a team now. With Henry's astounding "retirement" speech and Show's excellent work thus far in this angle, they could win Emmys together!
Battleground- Yes, it is a buffer PPV. I feel it'll do even less buys than Vengeance 2011. SummerSlam was build as a major, major show but still it's preliminary buys came at such a low number. But there is some genuine interest in most of the fanbase who are enjoying the boost to the storytelling and performances. The card is complete, I guess, as of SmackDown, but it does have a lot of throwaway matches. Ah, I guess, we'll just have to do with the quality of matches.
Another great column; Tight writing and excellent insight to boot! Keep it up!
Yeah, we said this on The Right Side of the Pond this week; Battleground looks like an episode of Raw without the promo segments. I understand why they shoehorn in these nothing ppvs, because even 80,000 buys or so would make it well worth their while, but the actual quality will likely be pretty average. Luckily, this is airing for free in the UK so I'm going to watch anyhow...
Don't often comment on these Josh, but rest assured, I'm a regular reader!
Here we go again!
Big Show has really impressed me with his ability to portray a sympathetic face in the past few years. I know most don't watch Smackdown anymore, but this angle is somewhat reminiscent of his feud with Daniel Bryan in 2012. Big Show accidentally plowed over the (not yet crazy) AJ Lee at ringside, seriously injuring her, and Bryan used the incident to emotionally torture the giant for months on end. It was excellently done, and this is once again showing what Show can still bring to the table. I used to think a guy of his size should be kept a heel most of the time simply because the heel monster is a necessary and useful part of any roster, but this is a hell of a lot better than any of Big Show's recent heel work. As far as I'm concerned, he can keep it coming!
Ah, Battleground... what a waste of time, eh? As you say there's nothing especially wrong with the bigger matches on the card, except that yes there absolutely is. WWE is doing quite well at the moment but for all that my interest in the PPV is almost nil. It's just so obviously a transitional show! And amen on Ziggler and Sandow being too good to waste on the preshow, especially when McGillicutty and, of all people, R Truth get featured spots. Ridiculous! Count me in for Hell in a Cell but Battleground isn't getting my money.
One side note, I always considered Canadian Stampede an awesome show from start to finish! Godwinns vs. Blackjacks isn't worth a damn of course, but that's why it's on the pre show. I'd rate Mankind/HHH, TAKA/Sasuke, and Taker/Vader all as above average matches well worthy of a PPV spot!
But anyway, great work yet again Josh. Looking forward to next week.
King of Stats
Big Show: I will admit that i am one of those people who just don't buy Show hitting either Bryan or Rhodes. Well not actually hitting them but it was the whole he didn't want to wrestle Bryan thing that really got on my nerves and spoilt a larger part of the story for me. You stated all the names that he has faced throughout the years, which included Bryan previously, yet he wouldn't face Bryan then? I can't remember Show ever trying to pull out of a match before (however with my memory being so poor he probably has) but now he wouldn't face somebody just because he was told to by his boss.
Battleground: If you look at the matches as they written on the card without any backstory it looked like a good worthy card but when you put the last few months on top of it that is where it started to lose it's lustre. Between feuds that have already happened for months or have no backstory to it, to the rushed feel due to 3 PPV's in 6 weeks to just the general feel of what's gone down made this a PPV that was hard to get into the energised feeling I have at other times of the year
I'm with Maverick in that I'm not a regular commenter, but I am a regular reader. I actually voted you Most Missed Columnist in last year's Annual Column Awards, so it's great to have you back. THE BRAINBUSTER is a much better name for your column than KWANG THE WEEKLY was too.
WWE's October PPV schedule kind of makes sense, when you think about it. Survivor Series isn't a draw in itself, like in years previous, so WWE are reliant upon bludgeoning the "Universe" with quantity over quality in a tricky back-half of the year. A typical WWE trait, really.
The absence of Christian is illogical. How can he go from World Heavyweight title contender to somebody not worthy of a PPV slot in the space of a month? It just chumpifies him and puts him back to square one. Keeping him in the mix would have, as you said, allowed Ambrose a credible win. But now, he's just another victim of the start/stop push treatment.
You've absolutely nailed that Big Show point, my man. I'm hugely enjoying this run he's on, and him finally breaking free of the shackles on Sunday and Monday was a great, great moment. The fact that they've managed to make him relevant again is possibly a demonstration of how strong this top angle is - they've taken Show and made him really relevant again, taken Cody and made him someone who must be a blade of grass width away from the main event now, and cemented Bryan's position as a long-term top star. That's pretty bloody good stuff, isn't it?
Excellent work again, Josh!