RAW Deal: The 2016 Christmas wrestling wishlist
The year’s finally winding down, we (or most of us) are finally home with our families, and we’re about to celebrate everything we’ve worked so hard all year for.
If you’ve been following wrestling at all in 2016, then you know that it’s been a good year for our sport. Companies like WWE, New Japan Pro Wrestling, and Ring of Honor have stocked their rosters with enough big-name talent that there is a lot (and I mean a lot) of good wrestling to go around. In fact, there’s too much of it that it’s so hard to keep up with the wrestling week now unless you dedicate your days to watching.
But all the good wrestling this year doesn’t mean that we still can’t ask for things this Christmas. The abundance of the sport now just does a slightly better job of hiding its flaws, but there are still flaws. So on that note, let me present to you my top 10 wishes for pro wrestling this Christmas:
10. Another season of the Edge and Christian Show (That Totally Reeks Of Awesomeness)
They say we’re getting it, but I want it now. Nothing on WWE programming has been as subversive as Edge and Christian’s comedy show, and I want them to improve on their shaky first season.
9. A Southeast Asia championship tournament on the WWE Network
I’m sure you’ve all heard of the new WWE United Kingdom Championship tournament happening on the WWE Network next month. That’s amazing for people in the UK and Ireland, and now that we know that the company is willing to put together localized content—which may or may not be part of the main WWE canon, but still under the WWE banner—we want this to happen for Southeast Asia.
Many of you may not know this, but SEA is a burgeoning wrestling territory. And while it’s not as experienced as the rest of the world (just see how Hong Kong’s Ho Ho Lun compared against the rest of the Cruiserweight Classic), it’s something the region can still be proud of.
You’ve got PWR and, if they can get their act together, the Manila Wrestling Federation over here (trained by some wrestlers with more professional pedigrees), Singapore Pro Wrestling, Malaysia Pro Wrestling, the Hong Kong Wrestling Federation (from which Lun and fellow CWC competitor Jason Lee hail), New Vietnam Pro Wrestling headed by former WWE wrestler Dick Togo (which may or may not still be alive, but still), and Gatoh Move Pro Wrestling based in Thailand. There may not be a lot, but there will be enough to go around. Let’s make this happen.
8. Shinsuke Nakamura on SmackDown
Because no one should ever come to RAW from NXT anymore. Just ask guys like Neville and Bayley.
7. The Women’s Revolution on RAW to mean something more than just Sasha Banks and Charlotte
For months now, ever since the brand split, RAW’s women’s division has solely focused on two people: Charlotte and Sasha Banks. They’re padding Charlotte’s title history and writing Banks as a contender who could always win the title on any given night, but could never hold on to it for long. Now they’ve finally put it to rest at Roadblock, but because the spotlight has shone on the two women for the whole second half of 2016, they have a lot to do to build the others up to at least Banks’s level.
6. Cody Rhodes as a main event player in New Japan Pro Wrestling
I went into some detail last week about Cody Rhodes’s newfound ubiquity around the pro wrestling world outside WWE, capped off by his joining the Bullet Club. I want him to be more than that—I want him to become a fixture in the NJPW main event scene as Kenny Omega is now, and as AJ Styles once was, whether he’s holding the IWGP Heavyweight or Intercontinental Championship. Even though NJPW doesn’t really keep gaijin (foreigner) wrestlers in their main event scene for too long, I want them to take a chance on him. That’ll draw more eyes to the top Japanese promotion.
5. Make Monday Night RAW two hours again
I’ll be honest with you—Roadblock notwithstanding, RAW has been a lot better this December, the best it’s been since the brand split. But like I’ve been saying over and over, despite how stacked the roster is and how much it stole in the WWE Draft last July, 3 grueling hours of Monday Night RAW is totally not sustainable, storywise. You can pepper it with solid moments, like Neville’s heel turn, but if you’re trying to hold up a PPV-length show every Monday, something has to give every week.
Rumors say that Vince McMahon himself doesn’t like having to write 3 hours of television every Monday, and that it’s actually the USA Network who wants to keep RAW at 3 hours. If that’s the case, he’s got to fight harder to go back to the old system. It’s really for everyone’s own good.
4. Keep SmackDown Live the way it is
WWE SmackDown Live, on the other hand, is so good because it understands now more than ever how to get the most out of its two hours. There will be episodes where the card is stacked, and there will be other weeks where its big players will be given some room to breathe while midcarders get their shine. That way, no one ends up being oversaturated, and you get a relatively fresh product every Tuesday (Wednesday morning Manila time).
It’s not as star-powered as RAW is, but at this point, I think I can speak for most people when I say we’d rather have a consistently solid wrestling show than, uh, Roman Reigns.
3. An extra 30 minutes for NXT
I want the show to get an extra half-hour every week, if only so we can stop cramming a bunch of three to 5-minute matches in their single hour. Yes, it’ll mean they’ll have to restructure the way the show is taped in Full Sail University but it should result in better match quality in every episode. I also hope they start really taping full episodes, and not just important matches, in other venues regularly, not just when they’re tagging along in the Big Four PPVs.
2. A midcard championship for NXT
If you watch an NXT Takeover—any Takeover show—you’ll notice that there’s always that one match that seems like it’s getting by on the strength of its in-ring action alone. While there isn’t anything wrong with that, it’s indicative of a strange vacuum in NXT’s midcard, where people, especially new big names to the brand fight for seemingly nothing. It’s something easily fixed by instating a second-level title so that upper-midcarders can play for something; my personal suggestion is bringing back the FCW 15 championship, but it could really be anything. Maybe an Internet Championship, since the show is mainly broadcast on the Network. Anything works, just give them something to chase.
1. A legit reboot for the Cruiserweight division
Now one would think that the establishment of 205 Live is the WWE pretty much rebooting the Cruiserweights after their botched first couple of months exclusively on RAW. But the truth is it’s just further become an island now that they’ve got their own show—now more than ever, outside of Baron Corbin’s interference back in Survivor Series, the Cruiserweights have no reason to ever play in the heavyweights’ world, and vice versa. It’s a disconnect fans are aware of, even on a subliminal level, which is why the division hasn’t taken off the way it should after the Cruiserweight Classic.
The way to fix it is simple, too: get rid of the overt purple branding and make them feel more like they’re actually part of the show, and not just a special attraction that somehow made it to RAW or the Network. Introduce the notion, like they did with Corbin and Kalisto, that while the Cruiserweights have their own division (like the women and tag teams) they’re not restricted from interacting with the heavyweights. And then you can move on to the Cruiserweights possibly transcending the same way other weight classes do in the UFC, and maybe main eventing an episode of RAW.
Those things have already happened, too, just without the restrictive “Cruiserweight” branding—remember when Daniel Bryan won the world title at the main event of WrestleMania? He was essentially a Cruiserweight wrestling like a heavyweight and winning a literal heavyweight championship, so you can’t tell me or the fans that Cruiserweights don’t have what it takes to break through. WWE has an entire untapped market here, and they shouldn’t be pigeonholed as merely a lighter weight class. It’s a tall order for 2017, but with Triple H around I remain hopeful.
Do you listen to podcasts? Would you want to listen to a local podcast about pro wrestling? If the answers to those questions – especially that last one – are yes, then you should check out the cleverly-named Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast, featuring Mellow 94.7 DJ and PWR General Manager Stan Sy, wrestling writer and Wrestling God Romeo Moran, and all-around multimedia person and former voice of PWR Raf Camus! This week, the boys count down the top 10 new wrestling themes to debut this year in the third annual SGP Podcast Theme Song Awards! – Rappler.com