Hello everyone. Welcome, you've landed on Planet Kayfabe. I hope you're doing well as we inch closer to summer. The weather is getting warmer. The birds are chirping. The bees are buzzing. The squirrels are getting hit by mini-vans. The rabbits are f***ing. Yeah. What a time of year.
There's been quite a bit of news this past week, so in this column I'm just going to give my quick thoughts on a few things. One being WWE's recent soaring stock prices and their new TV deals which includes Smackdown moving to the FOX network in the fall of 2019. John Cena and Nikki Bella are reportedly back together and do I think it was all a work or more accurately a publicity stunt? I'll get to that. Bobby Lashley returned at the Raw after Wrestlemania this year and is his run already dead? I'll give my thoughts on that. Also, I want to touch on Eric Bischoff's latest podcast with Conrad Thompson called '83 Weeks' (because Nitro once beat Raw in the ratings for 83 straight weeks) and... that's what I'm going to get into first.
** 83 WEEKS WITH ERIC BISCHOFF THOUGHTS **
This past month I've enjoyed yet another wrestling podcast. As a wrestling fan I think I've stopped recognizing days by their names and just look at my calendar based on what podcast is dropping on that given day. 83 Weeks dropped every Monday and as of this post, this Monday will be episode 5.
So far the topics they've covered is the nWo (of course, that was episode 1) The infamous 'Fingerpoke of Doom', Bret Hart in WCW and most recently Bash at the Beach 2000. I've followed Bischoff's other podcasts and this one is already by-far my favorite. I enjoyed his others to a degree, but Conrad is good at holding his co-hosts to an answer. On his own Bischoff could conveintly "not recall" certain events that make him look bad or simply pass the buck to some faceless Time Warner executive that we're never going to hear about again just to fan some of the heat off himself... I mean... he still does that shit, but at least now there's someone to call him out for it and not just have one of his buddies nodding and agreeing with everything he says.
What I like about Bischoff is that there is no mistaking his opinions. He is clear as day. When he is passionate about something he tells you like it is. Yeah, he can double-talk sometimes and cover his ass a lot but when it comes to his opinions he gives you 100% and I like that when I'm listening to a podcast or reading a column. It's also what I try and do for you, the readers. You're not going to get wishy-washy takes and fence sitting and flip flopping. You're going to get unfiltered opinions and takes on various topics. That's topics about wrestling and only wrestling on '83 Weeks' a concern of people (or just more left leaning people) was that Eric would ramble on about politics and NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR THAT. Yeah, again it's not that they don't want to hear politics, they just don't want to hear politics they disagree with. I doubt these same people bitch to Jim Cornette when he goes off on his political opinions... but I digress. 83 Weeks, like Conrad's other shows, have no political discussions. So, if you're a fan of Eric's or an old WCW fan and don't want to hear him talk about things that aren't wrestling related, this is for you.
Also... yes he does defend the Fingerpoke. That may be a minor spoiler, but you should still listen. I guess it doesn't matter that by every measurable figure both objectively and subjectively that show was a failure and spearheaded a year of money losses for WCW and even more fans turning out to the hotter WWF, but hey. He stands by his shit. I guess you can admire that to an extent. Anyway, I recommend it, so fit it in your podcast schedule somewhere.
** WWE STOCK SOARING / USA & FOX TV DEAL THOUGHTS **
With all the buzz around WWE's new TV deals that go into effect int he fall of 2019 WWE stock soared to record highs trading over $50 for the first time in their history. That's great news for the company. What does it mean for the workers and us fans? I'm not sure, but I'm not that optimistic. I don't want to sound like the sky is falling, but like I've said many times in this virtual monopoly era the company has all the leverage over the talent and over the fans as well. Sure, you can stop watching. You can cancel the WWE Network. You can dislike anyone the company tells you to like and it doesn't really matter. The company is going to continue making money and mainly due to USA Network, FOX and Saudi prices apparently.
If I wanted to be optimistic I'd say this may be good news for Smackdown. I don't care if it's the 'A' show or the 'B' show or the treat both shows like A-Shows. Going on a new network, once again Smackdown is on network television and perhaps exposed to a potential new audience so maybe the shows will be pretty hot for the early going. The bottom line though this just means the company has even less financial incentive to listen to the fans and can continue to remain complacent and pretty much do what they want.
This deal kind of reminded me as a sports fan, say your team sucks and the season ends and you're waiting for the head coach to get shit canned. Instead you wake up one day, go online and see that the coach is no only sticking around but he was given a 5 year extension and they tripled his salary. As much as I like analyzing shows and even discussing fantasy booking (sometimes...) with other fans it does pretty much take the fun out of it when you know there is absolutely no booking decision they can make that is going to move the needle one way or another. They're perfectly fine coasting by on brand recognition. They can put the belt on Jinder Mahal and attendance can go down and... doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if you reject Roman Reigns as your hero. It doesn't matter who the fans organically get behind. Stock at all time highs. They aren't booking for the consumer anymore. They're catering to the networks, sponsors and Wall Street.
All that being said, this company has a problem with generating new fans. Stock is up because of how the networks are valuing WWE's primary programs. It's not exactly a hot product with the current culture. I mean, look in that crowd. Do you see a lot of kids and families at your typical WWE shows? Do you see teens and college students? Hell no. You see old Attitude Era leftovers. Hardcore fans. Single 30-somethings with no kids with money to spend and older middle-aged fans who are just always going to be into wrestling. It doesn't help that they've pretty much priced families and casual fans out of the arenas by raising prices every year either. The brand can keep them a healthy base for the foreseeable future, but they can't rely on the hardcore fans staying hardcore fans forever always willing to pay any price to see a damn show. Yeah, another pitfall of the monopoly era. They can charge whatever the f*** they want for admission since they control the market. Not that anyone's forced to pay it but like I said the prices aren't casual fan or family friendly and neither is having a 3 hour show casual fan friendly. Combine both those and they've pretty much whittled down their audience to the hardcore fans to the point where every crowd comes off as a "smart town" because those are the only fans willing to stick around. Once the older fans either move on from WWE or just stop going to shows and watching on a weekly basis what are they left with? Without a breakout star to capture a new generation like Hogan did for his generation. Like Austin did for his. Like Cena did to a lesser extent they aren't going to grow in terms of mainstream relevance with current society. The branding can carry them so far. They may be over with the networks but they aren't going to get over with a new generation by shilling the brand and nostalgia and ignoring the trends of the audience and telling them who to like and who not to like. Even if they'll all sleep easy at nigh knowing WWE's doors will still be open for a long time to come.
Even before all this the company was never in danger of going out of business. I would always hear every half wit YouTuber sit in front of a webcam and talk about how WWE could be going out of business soon. I'd like to know how considering they never lose money. Whatever bait gets the clicks I guess. Whatever. On one hand I'm happy for WWE's success. On the other it just means if they didn't hold the cards already after the death of WCW they sure do now and unless you're top exec at USA or FOX it doesn't really matter what you say. Fan or worker. Like CM Punk said, the wheel is going to keep turning.
** BOBBY LASHLEY -- IS THE RUN ALREADY OVER??? **
A little over a month ago Bobby Lashley made his return to WWE after being away from the company for a decade. He returned to a warm welcome from a hot post-Wrestlemania crowd who all knew he was going to be there. Since then they've done very little with him. So, what was their bright idea? Show some of his personality. Not a bad move. They did it in the form of a sit-down interview with Renee Young which you older fans can compare to some of the sit-down interviews Jim Ross would do with guys like Mick Foley, Goldust and Triple H. So... The subject matter? Bobby Lashley wasn't in WWE that long. Maybe he's going to say he has some unfinished business in WWE and wants to define his career by taking a run at the world title.
Wrong. The whole interview was a hokey story about his three sisters and his life growing up with them. I get they were trying to add dimensions to Lashley who since returning has just been some jacked up old guy from the mid-2000's wearing a headband. However this totally missed the mark. On Raw last week they dove in head first with a segment so bad it didn't even meet the fans' already very low expectations for it. Sami Zayn had 3 guys come out in drag to portray Bobby's sisters. Bobby came out smiling and giggling before a brawl ensued which ended with Bobby standing tall at the end of the segment. It was the type of segment that makes you embarrassed to be a wrestling fan. The kind of segment that makes what few teens who watch this shit look at each other red in the face and go "uhh... yeah let's check out the NBA playoffs."
Who the hell is going to cheer Bobby Lashley now? I said it when it happened and Jeff Meacham on the latest NoDQ review felt the same way without us even talking about it, but this came off like Goldberg wearing Goldust's wig. If Bobby Lashley's return to WWE is marked as a failure you can point to this, his first actual angle, is a joke and many fans consider it one of the worst Raw segments in recent memory. You may say "UHGHH COME ON HAVE PATIENCE IT WAS JUST ONE SEGMENT STOP BEING A FUGGIN SMARK!" and while it's your right to be fool, it's foolish to think that way. All it takes in one segment like this to kill someone dead. Especially when you're a guy like Bobby Lashley who people never really loved to begin with.
Don't get me wrong. People don't dislike Bobby, but they don't really care about him either. The TNA loyalists can sing his praises of his TNA run but most of these fans didn't watch it. People got on my ass about it before. Whenever the Lashley return rumors happened people would say OMG HE NEEDS TO FACE BROCK! DREAM MATCH! BOOK IT! and I would say no one would care because Lashley really wasn't and isn't a star. Unlike Brock who was also in WWE for a short time prior to leaving in 2004, Brock actually became a big name outside of WWE. His personal value rose in his absence after becoming UFC's biggest draw. Bobby Lashley to most fans is a guy who came in very green. Left. Then came back and we're supposed to just care because he's a guy we remember from 12 years ago? He's just not that level of a star and if they want to do something with him he can't afford to be in shit angles like this because the fans aren't going to be as forgiving as they would be to someone else with more star power and nostalgic appeal. Even Batista who was a much bigger star and higher up on the card and had a longer run with WWE lost the fans very quickly due to in part the organic rise of Daniel Bryan and how he was pushed aside for one of Paul Levesque's friends from the past and also in part due to poor planning. Like bringing him back as a babyface when Batista insisted he had to be a heel.
Its hard to say now but it already feels like the bloom is off the rose for Lashley. Maybe they could salvage his run with a heel turn to cleanse the fans of the memory of his sisters. I don't know. I just feel that there's no way fans get behind him now. Hokey shitastic segments and making big jacked up men to be smiling geeks doesn't get them over as a babyface especially in this era. So, if I'm wrong, fine, but I think Lashley's run is already done unless they eventually turn him and maybe salvage his run somehow. Who knows. I still fall back on him not being a big star to begin with. Not everyone you're nostalgic for can come back and be a huge deal. Regardless if you loved his TNA run, it doesn't matter. The problem is only you loved it. 95% of fans of WWE didn't see it. No one booking or writing for WWE saw it. Having a good run during the declining years of TNA doesn't mean anything whether that's fair or not so they pretty much have to try and make him a star all over again and good f***ing luck after this shit.
** JOHN CENA AND NIKKI BELLA ARE BACK TOGETHER! OMGGGZ **
Well... Look's like all is right in the universe. Finally the couple who had to sign a 70-something page document to live together and record their phony moments together are back together after less than 2 months apart. Is it all a work or a publicity stunt? I guess no one knows for sure but the perception is that it was all fake and that's really all the matters. They broke up around Wrestlemania, about a month before their wedding date on May 5 and after laying low for a couple weeks John, Nikki and her sister Brie all made the media rounds to talk about their relationship on the Today Show.
John Cena sat there next to Kathie Lee Gifford and some other old hen meaning for the first time in a while he was the least stale personality on my TV screen at a given time. He talked about how he still loved Nicole and wanted to marry her and have her children. Pretty much he cut a babyface promo whole the two hosts sat there aww'ing at the well-spoken, suit wearing, clean-cut overgrown frat douche John Cena. After that Nikki and Brie went on the same show. Suddenly Nikki talked about having cold feet without getting into specifics because... at the end the twins pretty much said "you can see it all play out on Total Bellas".
I guess that's what its all about. They could have really already been together by the point they made these TV appearances. They could have never even broken up. The only facts we know is that they were indeed supposed to get married on May 5 and that day has come and gone. Pretty much 2 weeks after their cancelled wedding date they are reportedly back together. Whatever. I guess the stunt didn't work out because the season premier ratings were down from last year.
It's pretty piss poor cheap if this is what John Cena's post wrestling career is supposed to be. Some tabloid play boy with his arm candy parading their plastic relationship bullshit just to pander to the lowest common denominator that really buys into all of this. We don't know what's real. We don't know if they really broke up. However there are a lot of people who don't know that Total Bellas/Divas is a total work. They think its all real and nothing is scripted or played up for the cameras. Whatever brings in the cash, I guess. If they want to be the next painted on smiling Hollywood power couple milking their joint fame until the public and press stops caring to which they can really break up and move on to the next phase of their careers, so be it. If they end up really married and really want to have a family and really are in love and want to spend their lives together then good for them. I mean, they both have a lot of money and have been together for 6 years so I'm not sure what the hold up is if that's suddenly important to both of them.
Assuming it was all a stunt it doesn't seem to have worked based on ratings and fans of theirs are pretty much rolling their eyes after being thrown threw all this hoopla surrounding their break up and talking about it on the Today Show and then days later they're back together right as the new season premiered. However there will always be their hardcore adoring fans that will buy everything they sell and believe they'd never fabricate a false story line just to make a buck off them.
Yeah, I've written a whole column about their split and now I'm writing about it again and even though I write about pro-wrestling I feel like this is the fakest shit I ever covered. Let's close this.
There's my thoughts on some recent happenings in the world of wrestling. Thanks again for reading. Please follow me over on Twitter @PlanetKayfabe
Leave a comment below with some of your thoughts and feel free to hit me up on Twitter as well. That's all for now. Enjoy your weekend. For NoDQ, I'm K.C., this is Planet Kayfabe and I'll catch you here next time.