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‘Wrestling with my thoughts’ – Stephen Gutteridge debuts his new column

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Thursday is a big day with the latest WWE Network numbers being made available, and I can’t see the result being anything other than another hugely disappointing number for the company. When looking at the WWE’s current television model they are actually pushing an impossible proposition for the vast majority of their regular audience while at the same time making it improbable for new viewers to get involved.

The albatross that is the three-hour Raw is not going away any time soon, WWE desperately needs the extra cash that additional hour brings them in ad revenue. Add the two hours of Smackdown and you have five hours of first run programming on a weekly basis. Asking people to consume that much product and then asking them to pay extra for the pay per view events, which largely contain combinations of matches that people have already seen for free is difficult. Add into that the two hugely unsatisfying finishes at Night of Champions and Hell in a Cell and you’re making the network and those pay per view events very skippable and thus the network itself. The back catalogue, however excellent, will only ever appeal to a diehard group of fans because people have a limited amount of time they can spend watching pro wrestling.

Moving forward into 2015 and creative in WWE is not exactly on fire. After the high point of Cena vs Lesnar at SummerSlam, WWE rightly booked the rematch at Night of Champions but without any change in the Cena character or approach they had an even match in September where Cena was cheated out of the win. That really made no sense at all and is such poor storytelling, it would have been so simple to show some vignettes of Cena training with large MMA type fighters or anything to make him competitive in that match but in the month where the WrestleMania network subscribers were up for renewal, the WWE told an awful story with a dreadful finish. Lesnar vs Cena seemingly is being repeated again at the Royal Rumble which is one match too far I believe, Lesnar should have been used taking on and beating other challengers decisively before eventually losing the title, perhaps at WrestleMania 31, but only if the right challenger is in place.

As for WrestleMania 31, I constantly hear and read in various Pro-wrestling publications and podcasts talk of saving big matches for WrestleMania 32 in Dallas, Texas in order to try and sell out the 100,000 seats at Cowboys Stadium. If Steve Austin ever does return for one more match it does certainly seem to make sense to hold off for that event. It is dangerous territory, however, for WWE to be overlooking the event they have coming up in the San Francisco area in March ’15. The likely main event, of Lesnar defending against Reigns is a tricky one because Reigns is a long way away from being ready either on the mic or in ring to be in that spot, even more so if Daniel Bryan is back (however unlikely that is now looking) and the fans continue to grow in their support for Dean Ambrose.

Regarding Ambrose, I was very much in the camp of hating the finish at Hell in a Cell – Bray Wyatt was hurt a lot by not ‘winning’ the feud with John Cena and in latter times his promos have become repetitive and monotonous. Something is not quite clicking for him in ring either, his presentation is great but he needs to take things a little bit back to basics.

 

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I recently went to an excellent indy show promoted by the British Company Revolution Pro Wrestling. The show featured an excellent match involving New Japan sensation and former IWGP World Champion Kazuchika Okada and the former NXT star Joel Redmond, a fine effort between Marty Scurll (of TNA British Bootcamp 1) and Martin Stone (another former NXT star) plus a superb encounter between Matt Sydal and Will Ospreay. Ospreay’s double revolution moonsault, which missed Sydal and lead to the finish, was undoubtedly one of the, if not most, impressive moves I have ever seen either on tape or live in person. It was my first show back at the famous York Hall in East London for ten years and I’m already booked up to see AJ Styles make his return next February. I would recommend to everyone checking out their local independent group as and when they can, it was at that same venue back in the early 2000s that I first saw CM Punk, Samoa Joe, Styles, Colt Cabana and more and it could be your chance to see the next big wrestling star years before they make it on a national stage.

Near 30 year fan of Professional wrestling, I grew up watching World of Sport in the UK before getting into the WWF in 1990. Favourite performers of all time are Ric Flair, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Randy Savage & Steve Austin. Highlights as a fan were being there live for Rock vs Austin at WrestleMania X-Seven, Hogan vs Rock at WrestleMania X8 & CM Punk vs the Rock at Royal Rumble '13.

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