Happy New Year, one and all, and welcome back to the EXCELLENCE IN COLUMN WRITING produced by yours truly, Mr. Tito, and that is exclusive to the great NoDQ.com. Thank you, once again, for having me on your weekend as I'm answering YOUR questions via Twitter, Email, or Comments below and answering them in a column format. It has been a successful stay here at NoDQ so far and I hope to continually deliver great content for you throughout 2021. And it's FREE to you, as this is a voluntary service on my end and I refuse to put my content behind a paywall.
In case you missed it late on New Year's Eve, I posted my 2021 Pro Wrestling Predictions in which I review my 2020 prior predictions and then boldly make 15 predictions about the wrestling business for 2021. It's one of my favorite columns to write each year, along with it being a fan favorite as well, so check it out.
Within that column, however, I briefly mentioned Brodie Lee (formerly Luke Harper in WWE, real life name is Jon Huber) as I wanted to save my FULL thoughts on his life and career for this column instead as well as answering a few of your questions below. This just felt like a more comfortable format to fully address a wrestling great that unfortunately passed away way too early.
It hurts me personally because he's just a little older than me... As you get older and into your 40s, mortality is a real fear for me... That's when they start looking at your prostate, when doctors advise you to eat better, and you're very careful about how you're treating your heart. It hurts even more when you consider that he had a wire and 2 sons at home. He was a proud family man, as you could see it Wednesday night from the emotions of his grieving family at the AEW tribute. On top of that, all of his fellow wrestlers spoke highly of him beyond the ring. Brodie was a GOOD GUY who commanded everyone's respect not professional but personally. He was able to find that balance of being a pro wrestler and a family man, with a successful marriage, that many other wrestlers struggle to achieve.
Just look at the outpouring of LOVE by the wrestlers and the fans for Jon Huber. Everyone spoke out how they appreciated his talents, how he was a great guy in the locker room, or how he was one of the most talented guys in the business. I LOVED the picture that Chris Jericho posted during their WWE days when Luke Harper's character didn't have a WWE licensed t-shirt. So the boys created ones themselves and distributed multiple ones throughout the locker room. And look who is proudly wearing it in the photo... Roman Reigns, Sheamus, Cesaro, Luke Harper, Primo Colon (I hope that I named the correct sibling), and of course Chris Jericho. You don't do that for just a random guy backstage. That's a brother and an inherited family member from a workplace.
Pro wrestling creates families backstage... You're on the road together for long trips and sometimes, you see your fellow pro wrestlers more than your own family. Inside the ring, you're taking physical punishment just to put on impressive athletic competition and to please paying fans in attendance or viewing at home. On top of all of that, each wrestler has to deal with ownership, promoters, and bookers and that is where many wrestlers form respect for one another if a fellow wrestler isn't being used creatively as they should. In my opinion, Jon Huber was used poorly in the WWE and many of his brothers in the business respect that he bolted to AEW to help improve opportunities for wrestlers.
If you have read my columns for the last 10 years, I've been very high on Luke Harper within the WWE and listed him often as a "potential main eventer". I was very pleased with Harper's match with Randy Orton at WWE Elimination Chamber 2017 and felt that proved Harper's potential in the WWE. You can check out my 4-Star match review right here. But what happened? Eh, WWE didn't think much of it and just moved Randy Orton onto the next opponent while sticking Harper back into a tag team with Erick Rowan known as the Bludgeon Brothers. Sorry, but I HATED this tag team, as they had a bad look with slowly walking to the ring with big hammers. It just made zero sense and when Rowan tore his bicep to be out of action, WWE didn't care to use him as a single at all.
Now, I could get into how Brodie Lee was briefly used in AEW, as I didn't like the Dark Order... BUT, I thought Brodie made the most out of that role as their leader and started making the role into his own creatively. You could just tell by body language during segments and promos, he was having fun. Say what you will, but his win over Cody Rhodes was very impressive and turned heads when it happened. That was a good put over by Cody and could have presented great opportunities for Brodie Lee for 2021. Unfortunately, Brodie got sick... I honestly don't have that many issues with how Brodie was used in AEW because AEW is still a new company that is trying to figure itself out. In my opinion, Brodie could have been a big piece of that company's future to help figure it out. He had Main Event level in-ring talent and just needed to piece together the personality to match it. As you saw from the last few months of his work, he was getting there.
What a shame. Brodie will forever be one of those "WHAT IF" kind of wrestlers... What if he survived and kept climbing the ladder as a singles wrestler in AEW. What if the WWE gave a damn about him as a singles wrestler and pushed him? What if the WWE actually let him speak and cut promos? He sounded pretty good in the WWE...
That's my two cents on Jon Huber aka Luke Harper aka Brodie Lee. I thought highly of him as a wrestler and thought that he could have been used better by promotions. From all that I've heard and could see, he was a great locker room guy and was awesome to fans. May he rest in peace. A good way to show love to his family is to simply purchase a T-Shirt from his Pro Wrestling Tees Official Shop as I believe that PWT is donating proceeds of the sales to his family. I believe other wrestlers have suggested that they'll donate their PWT sales revenue to Huber's family as well.
Look at how much love Huber is getting from his fellow co-workers... It's a good lesson to learn for your own workplace. You can embrace and support your co-workers or you can be divisive. Brodie and Luke were like family members to all of the wrestlers speaking out and you've seen genuine tears of sadness from them. Here's a great story that was revealed... When George Floyd was killed during a police incident, Big E was very upset backstage at a WWE show after that happened. Jon embraced his old friend and cried with him. THAT is a co-worker who becomes a friend who also becomes a family member to you as well.
I have more about Brodie in your questions...
Onto your questions.
ASK TITO - Your Questions, My Answers
Should the WWE have had a longer tribute to Jon Huber/Luke Harper/Brodie Lee on their recent shows?
No... I liked what WWE did, as they acknowledged his death at the start of their shows and that was it. They allowed AEW to take the spotlight to have a full blown tribute show as Jon's current employer. WWE stayed out of the way and let AEW shine for a night. I actually appreciate that.
If RAW had a 10 bell salute, it could have reduced the value of AEW's show when they did it... Ditto for having any video packages or doing any tribute matches. It put the chips onto AEW's table and let them run with hit.
I have ZERO problems with what WWE did... They announced his passing and gave their wrestlers free reign to talk about their passed friend. On top of that, there were a few WWE images in that AEW tribute video that either the WWE Legal team gave the "OK" or they won't press AEW about.
Sometimes, you do more by doing nothing or little. WWE announced his death and let their wrestlers speak freely about their passing friend who now works for another company. Meanwhile, they let AEW be the full tribute show that all of the fans wanted and you can see that by the way NXT poorly performed in viewers versus AEW on Wednesday night. It's cool.
How should the WWE have used Luke Harper?
I've already laid this out before and above... Elimination Chamber 2017 should have been the starting point of a whole new push for Luke Harper in the WWE. Instead, he was returned to the midcard and eventually placed into the Bludgeon Brothers Tag team later that year. ALL of the credit for that great Elimination Chamber 2017 match went to Randy Orton and that would justify the WWE's pushing of Orton through Wrestlemania that year.
And if you remember what happened with Randy Orton and the RAW brand during 2017, a ton of utter crap could have been prevented.
For one, the multiple Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt matches were HOT GARBAGE with Wrestlemania 33 and then the famous "House of Horrors" disaster at WWE Payback 2017. What is with Orton vs. Wyatt? Are they the ones volunteering for bad matches or is that creative? Regardless, we suffered through BAD matches between Orton and Wyatt and then Randy Orton gets to move onto Jinder Mahal.
Seriously... Jinder Mahal. That was a more marketable Main Event performer than Luke Harper? Mahal was pushed as champion to have a successful India tour and what ended up happening? They cancelled one of the India shows...
If Vince McMahon and WWE Creative didn't fall asleep during that Elimination Chamber 2017 and thought "hey, we have something here"... RAW could have done something where with Orton, Wyatt, and then a pushed Luke Harper. You could have easily ended that disappointing Wrestlemania 33 with a violent Luke Harper attack on Randy Orton and that attack would even disgust Wyatt as going "too far". And then you have a 3 way feud. Randy Orton has said that he internally tried to push for a Triple Threat at Wrestlemania 33 but WWE officials did not want Luke Harper in that match. Given what happened during 2017, it shows what they know and in 3 years, Harper would bolt towards a competitor.
Very simply... Recognize a great performance at Elimination Chamber 2017 and then push the guy. Instead, WWE has this belief that Randy Orton can do no wrong and ALL credit goes to him for good to great matches and blame goes to his opponents for his bad matches. I'm not blaming that on Orton, but I'm blaming the enabling Vince McMahon, Triple H, and WWE Creative who are enamored with him. He's a 14 time champion without creative control.
The Bludgeon Brothers idea was a terrible one and it set Harper back. Creative never took him seriously again after that bad re-teaming with Erick Rowan failed. All you have to do is watch their entrance when they both slowly walk to the ring with big hammers as if they were somebody. No, they were the former Wyatt Family whom we've seen tag up before. And then when they'd no-sell opponents. Just AWFUL. WWE Creative and Vince have zero idea why that didn't work and they blamed Harper for it.
If you could redo 2017, Luke Harper could have morphed into a Main Event star in my opinion. He was starting to show you his potential during the last few months of his AEW career before his untimely passing. He could work, had psychology, could cut promos, and he had a great look to his character (some of the tights were meh). On top of all of that, we knew that the WWE screwed him as Luke Harper and thus we, as fans ,had his back. And now we're in tears thinking about what could have been. What a freakin' shame.
What are your thoughts on Bruce Mitchell being terminated from the Pro Wrestling Torch regarding his Jon Huber/Brodie Lee comments?
In case what you missed the now former Pro Wrestling Torch longtime columnist Bruce Mitchell said, NoDQ has some of his Brodie Lee article quotes right here. Basically, what he was challenging what Brodie's family said about passing from a non-COVID lung condition. In other words, he questioned why a pro wrestler's lung health would just rapidly deteriorate in just a few months and that "Brodie Lee's family and AEW both would serve his memory best by being forthright, whatever they are, about all of the circumstances surrounding his death". In other words, what Brodie's family said in a statement about it being a "non-COVID long condition" was not good enough for Bruce Mitchell and he wanted more answers. In other words, he seemed to be questioning of Brodie contracted COVID-19. At least that is how most online read that...
And he posted this the day Brodie Lee passed away! My initial comments were "let the family and friends bury the guy first" as well as giving them time to grieve first... As time passed and more people read it on the Torch's website, things became very heated and wrestling fans got into arguments with Bruce. Bruce actually doubled down on his comments via Twitter and was debating with fans into the night and then during the following day with wrestling fans. And then many wrestlers started to chime in. Wade Keller issued a statement later in the night saying that Bruce posted it without "editorial review" and pretty much was distancing himself from that post.
And then later the next day, the Torch announced that Bruce Mitchell would be parting ways from their company. WOW...
Here's my guess... Bruce's column + him doubling down by arguing with fans to defend the column caused a ton of heat on the Pro Wrestling Torch business that it's owner, Wade Keller, had to make a business decision. There is a good chance that many of Keller's wrestler sources there threatening to "dry up" if Bruce either wouldn't calm down or be released from the company. There's probably a good chance that Torch subscribers started cancelling as well. I believe business reasons + being stubborn by Bruce did him in, with more of the latter probably upsetting Wade Keller more than anything. Even after he was fired from Torch, Bruce still tried to double down on his comments even more but he has since deleted his Twitch account.
Folks, I'm going to tell you this right now... This hits a little hard because I'm a columnist myself and I like having freedom of speech as a writer. Now, have I ever written something accusing a family or a promotion of covering up the actual health of a wrestler in the last 10 years. Of course not... In this hyper-sensitive era online, I'm a little more careful about what I post particularly about the wrestlers themselves. However, both at Lords of Pain and now at NoDQ, I have total freedom to write whatever and whenever... BUT, I would expect whenever I got "out of hand", Calvin Martin (LoP's webmaster) or Aaron Rift (NoDQ's webmaster) to police and restrain me if I wrote or did something that was contrary to their expected business model.
If I was in Bruce's position and Calvin or Aaron told me to calm things down and stop doubling down on this sensitive Brodie Lee topic, I WOULD LISTEN. As far as I know, I have not put them in that kind of position... But in my mind, I have respect their wishes as the business owners. I don't believe that after Bruce posted his column, he did not respect the wishes of Wade Keller after the fact. Posting the column is one thing, but refusing to back off even when your business owner tells you to is what finished Bruce off. He was a paid writer of the Torch, too... I'm doing this for FREE and I would have honored Calvin or Aaron's wishes to back off after a column was taken down. Bruce did not, as his stubbornness on this Brodie Lee health matter caused Wade to terminate a 30 year employee. 30 years! You would think that Wade would give leeway for 1 bad week out of many within those 30 years. It goes to show you that Bruce Mitchell would not back down and it cost him a writing job.
For me, as I have been a writer for Lords of Pain and NoDQ since October 1998, I've had 1 column taken down by a webmaster, 1 column that I had to apologize for, and 1 column that took down personally myself.
The 1 column that was taken down by a webmaster happened during the Summer or Fall of 1999... Back then, I wrote daily columns known as Mr. Tito's Phat Daily Column. I was hearing directly from a few ECW wrestlers that their checks were bouncing from the company throughout 1999. Mind you, this was before the TNN deal began and a full 2 years after their Pay Per View model began. One evening, I wrote my "ECW is Doomed" column and it was quickly shot down. Initially, I had heard that it was taken down because I was writing out of schedule from my daily columns but later, a news poster there apparently had ECW sources close to Paul Heyman and apparently my column pissed someone off at that company, as I later heard.
For the one I had to apologize, it wasn't so much that I said something wrong, but during the early 2000s, an owner of a wrestling video distribution chain got into some legal actions. I had beef with the guy, as he took shots at me on some forum and my idiotic younger self decided to pounce on the guy as he was getting arrested for something. My issue wasn't that I wrote something bad, but the website that I used to pull facts and accusations from... This is why College Professors preach using legitimate sources for your papers. Apparently, the website that I used was associated with severely right wing stuff, which I didn't notice as I was just grabbing the first articles that I could see from Google or Yahoo. Ooops... So I edited my column and apologized immediately in my next column.
The one I self-governed and took down was about a former WWE Creative Writer... He said something on a podcast about his tenure and career that pissed me off, so I wrote a quote-by-quote thrashing of him on Lords of Pain about 6-7 years ago. I probably kept the column up for about 1 hour and then thought the better of it and deleted it. At the time that I wrote this, I was thinking that I was a tad unfair to a guy no longer in the wrestling business and he's someone's dad. Apparently, he did read it before it was taken down and made some some allusion to it on his Twitter.
And certainly, I have my battles on Twitter with certain issues and sometimes with certain people. I'm constantly asking Aaron if I was in the wrong something and if I was, I would take something down or stop a certain action. My older self has worked for multiple financial Corporations now and I fully understand the idea of "public relations". You don't want to be responsible for harming the image of your company.
THAT is where Bruce Mitchell messed up compared to me. He doubled down and decided to "die on the hill" of this Brodie Lee topic. I'm more self-aware that I'm working for a business and have to abide by their expectations. When I was with Lords of Pain during the previous 10 years, I was told to not curse in my columns as the length of my columns caused many Ads to load on it... Profanity is not accepted by certain banner advertisers and I never cursed in my columns. I've carried that policy onto my NoDQ columns in case Aaron's Ad Banner companies are the same way. When the "ECW is Doomed" column was taken down, I didn't fight it and just accepted it. It was something that LoP didn't want posted and I had to honor the website's wishes. When I accidentally promoted a horrible website as a news source on a column, I had to delete it and apologize for the error. And then later in my life, I became self-aware on one column that I took too far.
Think about this, too... I've had several wrestlers call me out for my opinions and those columns actually remained. In those cases, it was the particular wrestlers (Jericho, Crash, Gowen, and others) who were upset at my criticisms of their matches or characters... BUT, I didn't say anything offensive. I just stated an opinion on a match, storyline, or character and my webmasters backed me because I didn't say anything offensive. Think about what Chris Jericho called me out on last year... He was upset that I suggested that his in-ring ability "deteriorated" but that was 1 quote that he pulled that was surrounded by strong praise about Jericho. What I was saying is that strong personalities and promo skills keep older wrestlers relevant in the business even if they aren't physically as good as they once were.
Bruce's issue is that he (a) posted a tasteless column but (b) he was too stubborn about it with regards to the business he worked for. If (b) didn't happen, he would probably still be with Pro Wrestling Torch. If he would have just owned that he had 1 bad take out of 30 freakin' years with the Torch and understood the BUSINESS's point of view, he'd still be employed. Instead, he argued with his own business owner and kept fighting upset wrestling fans about it on Twitter. He has no job on Torch and he just deleted his Twitter. For me, (a) I would have NEVER wrote a column like that in the first place, especially right after the wrestler's death, and (b) I would have honored the wishes of Calvin or Aaron as webmasters and business owners. But (c), I would have listened my longtime readers if I made a tasteless comment like that.
Bruce made the situation far worse by being stubborn as a "Corona Bro" when he should have been sensitive to the family in the first place but also respectful to the business who employed him for 30 years.
I had no beef with Bruce... So, I wish him the best and hope that he finds writing employment elsewhere soon. Just learn from your mistakes, brotha.
What should the WWE do with Big E's career moving forward?
Give him a nice, lengthy Intercontinental Title run for 2021 and then use the results from that run to consider what to do for 2022. Be patient with the guy... Let him prove that he can outgrow that midcard title.
Right now, there are calls for him to actually win the 2021 Royal Rumble and then be the man to defeat Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania 37. SLOOOOOOOW IT DOWN, guys. The ironic thing is that the very people who want Big E to defeat Roman Reigns for the WWE Universal Title are the ones who have ripped Roman for being overpushed for years! Don't let Big E get overpushed... Let's take our time developing and crafting him into a singles star. We're just 4 months from him dancing around as a tag wrestler with his fellow New Day pals.
But let's also take some time to figure things out about his character, his in-ring style and presentation during 2021. Think about his ring entrance, theme music, freedom given to him on his promos, and adding moves now that he's a singles wrestle. In my mind, he seems to still work as a Tag Wrestler because he's doing moves in spots and not putting together a complete match yet. He needs to develop more in-ring psychology to control the flow of the match as well as his energy. Maybe add a cool looking submission hold?
Big E is a great talent and always has been... But you kept him in the Tag Division for 6 freakin' years and he needs to own his craft as a singles now. That takes time... Wrestling tag matches is easier than singles because you obviously get breaks during a tag match and can rely on your partner to help make a match great.
Also, give him back his last name. Calling him "Big E" just doesn't look professional. "Big E Langston" was a cool name and that is something that you can market while always calling him "Big E" for short. Just keep the "Langston" name on your labels to sell that his is an actual human being with a more fuller name.
Just let Big E grow as a midcard champion and take it from there. I'm fine with a good showing in the 2021 Rumble Match. Just don't let him with it yet and consider 2022 instead if successful as IC Champion. Midcard titles are somehow a bad thing for the last 10 years and yet I seem to recall Macho Man, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, the Rock, Randy Orton, Triple H, and John Cena holding singles midcard titles before they obtained a World Title. In most of those cases, those wrestlers outgrew the IC or US Title to convince WWE management that they were primed to become World Champions. Simple business model to follow.
And then you ask this follow-up question...
Who should win the 2021 Royal Rumble?
And then I reply "I don't know", which hurts my argument about Big E possibly winning it.
If you'd ask me RIGHT NOW who I'd prefer in a dream situation, I would suggest the Rock or Brock Lesnar if they are available to wrestle Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania 37. Both are dynamic matches for the WWE with Roman as the heel now. For Rock, it would be about their family... For Brock, the issue is about Paul Heyman's support. Both are great storylines that just write themselves.
However, I have a feeling that the WWE cannot get Rock or Brock for Wrestlemania 37 and we'll see Bill Goldberg winning the 2021 Royal Rumble instead. Yikes... I don't like that choice, as I fear how bad Goldberg vs. Roman could be. And that's not a criticism of Roman but a criticism of a 54 year old Goldberg who has proven that he needs a ton of "smoke and mirrors" to look good inside the ring now. His matches with Undertaker and Bray Wyatt were awful when extra time was needed while his other matches with Lesnar and Owens were kept short on purpose. I LIKE what I'm seeing lately from Roman and I trust that he, along with Heyman, can craft a reasonable match with Goldberg... But Goldberg puts all of his energy into specific moves and gets blown up for the rest of the match.
As for who wrestles Drew McIntyre... Yikes. I would be perfectly OK with Edge making a comeback at the Rumble to chase the title. Yes, he's old, but people are huge fans of Edge and Edge never gets credit for being a bigtime draw of the WWE during the mid to late 2000s. I'd also consider John Cena winning it and challenging either Drew or Roman for his record breaking 17th title. We've seen Roman and Cena before, but Roman is different now as a heel. That could work... I bet that Cena and Drew could have a great match together.
In other words, I have NO FAITH in any wrestlers under the age of 40 winning this Rumble. The WWE Talent Developmental system just isn't delivering stars to the WWE and many of these guys need years of work. That's sad and not the way that I want to view WWE talents right now... But I blame the poor training and development happening in Florida right now. Triple H and Matt Bloom need some help. Sorry, but when you need to send back Keith Lee to be retrained as a wrestler despite spending 3 years in your developmental system.. Why isn't the developmental system being questioned, especially when you send different trainers to the Performance Center for Keith Lee and other big men specifically? Something is wrong there at NXT and the Performance Center but nepotism once again prevails.
So just chill... Until the next episode!
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