The curious case of Daniel Bryan

danielbryanDaniel Bryan teases Triple H – Source: World Wrestling Entertainment

The Curious Case of Daniel Bryan

Since his debut on NXT in a match with Chris Jericho (one of my dream matches, and one that I hope will be revisited at some point between Jericho’s turns as a rock God), Daniel Bryan has continued to defy my expectations in WWE. I’ll be the first to say it: When Bryan first started working for WWE, I didn’t for a second believe that Bryan would win the WWE Championship and the World Heavyweight Championship within the first three years of his career, let alone become a cornerstone of the main event scene. Given WWE’s track record with stars made by other companies, I don’t think this is an unfair position to have taken.

Not only was Bryan a truly legendary wrestler from the independent wrestling scene, he’s also not what we’d assume WWE would want from someone they’re going to make a top guy out of and that’s putting it kindly. Just to clarify here: I don’t care what size or how a wrestler looks. I’m talking about the company here.

For Bryan Danielson I assumed that WWE would just exploit his amazing wrestling ability to get other people over in the eyes of fans. At best I was hoping that he’d get the Chris Jericho treatment, that he would rise to a position where he can flit between the main event and mid card at a moments notice, and that he’d maybe get a sympathy World Heavyweight Championship reign.

Bryan has blown those expectations out of the water. Not only did he win the Money in the Bank match (to date my biggest mark out moment), he went on to successfully cash in, and go on to win the World Heavyweight Championship, before going on a tear of amazing matches and moments as part of Team Hell No (still should have been called Team Friendship). Bryan managed to not only get himself over as a character, but he became the biggest deal on the show. He became the fan’s choice, the People’s Champion. In my honest opinion, over the last three or four years Daniel Bryan has achieved enough in WWE to be called a sure fire WWE Hall of Famer.

But the last few months of WWE have confused me slightly and caused me to second guess myself. For months on he garnered the best and loudest reactions that I’ve heard since the 1990’s, John Cena included. We’ve seen Bryan win not one, but two WWE Championships. If ever there was a chance for WWE to truly create a new mega-star, the main event of SummerSlam 2013 was it. Daniel Bryan won the WWE Championship at SummerSlam, but he didn’t walk out Champion. Bryan won the title again, but he’s not Champion right now. He’s not even in the main event anymore.

On this blog I’ve often alluded to my opinion that in the 21st Century WWE (and obviously I’m talking about one man here, Vinnie Mac) doesn’t know how to handle something when it’s hot. Look at the Summer of Punk, which quickly devolved from a simple but riveting tale of rebellion by one man, into a confusing mess of mysterious texts and Money in the Bank cash-ins. Look at The Rock’s return in 2011, which started as a major worldwide talking point into a two year popularity contest between two grown men. Look at Brock Lesnar’s return. In 2011, if you’d told me that Brock Lesnar would return to WWE, I would have laughed you out of the room. But he came back in 2012, only to lose to John Cena. Then he lost to Triple H. Twice.

What I’m trying to say here is that WWE can create amazing moments that look like they change everything, but then the booking doesn’t back it up, particularly when the angle in question is the main event. This is exactly what is happening with Daniel Bryan at the moment. For some unknown reason, WWE seems to have taken the ball from him. He’s not challenging for the WWE Championship anymore, he’s in an alliance with CM Punk against the Wyatt Family.

Who has benefited the most from Daniel Bryan’s monster push? Sadly the answer is Triple H and Randy Orton. Bryan’s popularity has allowed The Authority to get over as a legitimately hate-able entity. What has it done for Bryan? While I’m sure his bank account is groaning from the extra zeroes, right now Bryan is in the same place he was before his push: he’s one half of a tag team.

Maybe WWE are biding their time again and this article will look like the ramblings of a paranoid maniac in a couple of months. Maybe they’ve got big plans. I’m sure that when it comes to WrestleMania season that Bryan will go on a tear and I’ll be as happy as Larry again; as I was between SummerSlam and Hell In A Cell. But honestly I’m just confused by what’s going on with Bryan at the moment. This should be his glory time. He should be rubbing the fact that he’s Champion in The Authority’s face. Instead he and Punk are going to be used to give the Wyatt Family relevancy.

Thanks for reading.

Steven Forrester

The Wrestling Review Corner: The Wrestling Road Diaries [DOC]

zkn5_wrestling_diaries_crop_exactNo credit for Sal – Source: World Wrestling Entertainment

The Wrestling Road Diaries is the loveable tale of three independent pro-wrestlers touring the United States, taking in shows, seminars and thrift stores. It follows Bryan Danielson (of WWE fame), Colt Cobana and Sal Rinauro. The timing of the film coincides with Bryan’s signing with WWE. He has joined two close friends to take part in his last tour of the independents, mostly working shows for Ring of Honor. He went on to turn vegan shortly after the making of this film, in order to battle health issues which seem to present a possible roadblock to his joining the big leagues.

This movie initially made me wow because of the sheer list of legends of the big time and of the independent scene that pass through it. Off the top of my head, you get to see Jim Cornette, Bret Hart, Austin Aries, Kenny King, Chris Hero, and most notably Antonio Cesaro. The Swiss Supremo regularly shows up sporting some awesome glasses and cracking wise. A lot of the wrestling side of it revolves around Ring of Honor, the company these guys loved and helped build. The film really makes it seem like a fun, cool environment, and you get to see some really amazing spots from some of the great matches that were happening there.

The movie is nearly three hours long, so you get a really in-depth look at life on the road. This makes it easy to build up a really tangible connection with these guys. You get to see all of the sleeping on sofas, trying to work the satellite navigation, pranks and ribbing and getting lost. In that way, it reminded me a lot of the movie that me and my two buddies made on tour earlier this year. It’s about music, not wrestling, but you should check it out. There are a lot of similarities, only this one is a million times better than ours.

There are a lot of poignant, touching moments in this film. The smaller shows they were working reminded me of the ones I go to in my local area. The tearful goodbyes after each one, leading up to Bryan’s final match for the company in New York, were really moving. You get such an insight into the behind-the-scenes nature of the business, from producers to booking agents. Ring of Honor looks like a good team to be on. It also shows the connection that independent wrestlers have with each other, inside and outside of respective companies. That reminded me of the hardcore punk scene I was a part of as a teenager. There is nothing more special than seeing people coming together and making their own movement, for themselves, helping each other. It really does away with the old school don’t-trust-anybody mentality of the past.

The boys dropped in on a few wrestling seminars between dates along the way. They were a revelation, let me tell you. I wish I could have watched another three hour movie, with just Daniel Bryan teaching wrestling moves. If he isn’t the Head Trainer at WWE Developmental immediately after he retires, the business will miss out. He also showed in this film that he can sneeze with his eyes open, something I don’t think anybody ever thought possible. I guess this guy has just always been about making history.

This film isn’t propaganda, but it just naturally puts over Ring of Honor, and naturally makes you adore these guys. That makes Bryan’s emotional farewell at the historic Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City all the more emotional. He had an iconic main event match with a man also competing in his final match, Nigel McGuiness. This was both emotional and inspirational, despite the Brit looking pretty damn banged up come the end of it.

As for the other two guys, they are a joy to watch. Bryan mentions choosing to ride with those guys because they have the rare quality of being people you wouldn’t mind driving for eight hours with. I can see why. They just seem to be a barrel of laughs throughout, really taking the edge off when Bryan might be worrying about his health situation. Colt Cobana comes off as such a good guy and a good worker too. You get to see a lot of him and Bryan in the ring through the film, and he just seems like a good, not-hateable Santino. That’s not an insult. I didn’t get to analyse Sal much, and he was the guy that I was unaware of going in. He did get whooped in a watermelon eating contest by Colt though.

10/10

This movie makes you smile, it makes you love these dudes, and it makes you really want to be a wrestler. It’s essential viewing for any Daniel Bryan fan. I’ve reviewed a fair few wrestling documentaries on here now, but I don’t think I’ve ever given a perfect score. This was a perfect movie. For a low budget, no thrills film about a trio of indie wrestlers, it has everything you could want in a documentary. It’s not just a good wrestling film, it’s just a plain good film about three guys on the road living their dream. Check it out!

Thanks for reading,

Craig [Editor]

FAWF (Pt. 5): Kitchen Madness

Thanks for checking out my thoughts on the triumphant return of the Figure Action Wrestling Federation. It’s been a while, but today I can treat you to some photographs which illustrate the physicality of the latest pay-per-view: Kitchen Madness. With a new theme, seemingly straight from the mind of Vince Russo, things were always going to be interesting. There is also a new member of the roster: Big Show. He was in a very strange match indeed. Let’s take a look!

Big Show v Sin Cara (Kitchen Madness)Big Show v Sin Cara
The Giant attempts to throw Sin Cara outside the pan, and into the water.

John Cena Handicap Toaster

John Cena v Triple H & CM Punk
Cena dunks these two legends into the toaster with ease.

Kofi Kingston v Randy Orton (Kitchen Madness)

Randy Orton v Kofi Kingston
They’ve had many a match together, but never a Refrigerator Match.

So that’s all from the FAWF this time. There is sure to be more to come very soon. Thanks for checking out The Real Mid Card. If you’re a weirdo, you may have found this entertaining. See you again soon!

Craig [Editor]

My email conversation with Jim Cornette

cornettedonWith his famous tennis racket – Source: World Wrestling Entertainment

I recently sent an email to Jim Cornette, on the off chance that he would reply, as I mentioned in my recent editorial post. I wasn’t expecting a swift reply as he seems a busy man. To my delight, he was getting back to me within a day. He is too busy for a phone interview at the moment, having already committed to doing that for a few other people, but there is a possibility to do that in the future. For now, he did fire over some written responses to my questions. Check them out. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did. As soon as I get a chance to do a recorded phone interview, it will be on this site!

Q. What are your thoughts on The Shield?

“Truthfully I haven’t seen them in the WWE, I haven’t watched 5 complete WWE TV shows in the last 5 years and nothing at all from 2013, but I was a huge fan of Tyler Black in ROH (great look, talent, promo, and dedicated athlete with amazing skills for his size) I’m all for the younger guys getting a chance to get over and the right push to make it happen.”

Q. What do you make of Darren Young coming out?

“It was clearly staged for publicity (not that he is not really gay) but anyone who thinks he would just “happen” to come out to TMZ cameras at the airport baggage claim is crazy. It shouldn’t make any difference to anyone in or out of the sport as far as their personal feelings about him, and maybe the added publicity will help him. Now that the WWE has made the decision to have him do this, at least the one thing they can’t do is beat him relentlessly and make him look ineffective like they do with many of the other young guys or it will backfire.”

Q. Do you think there could be hope for TNA yet?

“Not to be any bigger than they are right now, and certainly not with heel Dixie :) They’ve long ago lost their chance to make a first impression. Russo’s creative doomed them in the first several years, they are always going to be perceived the way they are now, and since they’ve replaced pretty much everyone except Dixie over the years, that gives a clue as to where the real problem lays.”

Q. Who would you say is the best emerging star of the independent scene?

I haven’t followed any wrestling over the last year, but in my time with ROH I would say the best, smartest and most well-rounded talents out there not signed by WWE or TNA are Adam Cole and Mike Bennett, and the best tag team in wrestling is the Briscoes.”

Q. Why do you think Eric Bischoff refuses to respect wrestling fans?

“He’s not one, never been one, doesn’t understand why anyone would be one, and looks at the business only as to how it can help him – plus he’s a naturally arrogant prick.”

Thanks for reading, and hit ‘Follow’ for plenty more from the world of professional wrestling. I hope to be uploading a link to a recorded telephone or Skype interview with Mr. Cornette next time, but for now, I’ll see ya.

Craig [Editor]

The Weekly Editorial: Why I love Jim Cornette

jimcornetteThe big ol’ smile of The Louisville Lip – Source: World Wrestling Entertainment

I’ve always known about Jim Cornette, but I never really knew what he was about. I’d remember having seen him here or there on WWF during the Attitude Era, but he was gone shortly after I got into wrestling. I’ve heard his name mentioned on documentaries and figured he was another one of those booker names you always hear (Russo, Bischoff, Pritchard, etc) but I never fully understood who he was.

A few months ago, I started getting very addicted to watching shoot videos on YouTube, and as you can imagine, Cornette was popping up on a regular basis. I fell in love with his confrontational, opinionated and most of all emotional commentaries on the state of the business. Many out there don’t agree with his views, or they complain of his shortcomings as a booker or creative mind. I can’t say I know too much about that, so I won’t argue with it at all.

What I can say is that the guy is passionate about real pro wrestling and he speaks his mind. I’ll go one further. Most of the time I totally agree with what he has to say, and I have a sneaky suspicion that I’m not the only one. The guy seems to have a noteworthy cult fanbase on the internet consisting of hardcore wrestling fans, who want their voices heard. He seems to have taken on the role of the unofficial voice of the voiceless.

Sometimes I think his ramblings are wide of the mark, but I always respect what he has to say because he always articulates himself so well. I know he’s been pivotally involved in some of the great smaller organisations on the independent/territory scene, and has helped develop some of the truly great talents of the modern era (e.g. John Cena, Batista, Randy Orton, etc) – Smoky Mountain Wrestling, Ohio Valley Wrestling and Ring of Honor are all success stories that he has worked closely with, or even fully controlled. He was also a part of TNA, but let’s not mention all that Russo drama.

As far as my research has taken me, the man is a great in the business. He was one of the best managers of all time, a very solid booker, an entertaining announcer and now he is a legend. His straight-shooting talks on the decline of mainstream tag team wrestling, the lack of successful managers and the general decay of old school logic in the modern industry strike a chord and ring true in my mind. I’m not a doom merchant though. I love current WWE, but a lot of the problems it does have could be solved by his input, in my humble opinion.

I emailed the guy recently because I’d love to get some direct responses from him on the current state of affairs in the business. I expected him or his people to completely ignore it, but the man himself replied within a day. I’m sending him some questions over, and he will be sending written responses, which I’ll post on here, so hit ‘Follow’ to make sure you don’t miss the interview. I’m hoping this can lead to a telephone or Skype interview, which would also be posted on here.

The guy is opinionated and sometimes vicious. He is also bang on correct most of the time, in my view. I’m excited to see his responses. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Do you love the guy, or do you hate him?

Thanks for reading,

Craig [Editor]

ROH/WWE – Antonio Cesaro: Very European

cesaroswing

Cesaro and the GIANT swing – Source: World Wrestling Entertainment

Antonio Cesaro:
Very European

The “Real American” Antonio Cesaro is one of the most impressive wrestlers ever seen. He has an incredible physique, he looks like one of the statues of Hercules and Leonidas seen in the temples of Ancient Greece. To back this up he has one of the most unique and entertaining wrestling styles seen. Make no mistake, he is no mere dumb brute. He’s a classical psychologist, using his size to dominate opponents and wear them down. He is capable of insane feats of strength, as seen when he suplexed Christian (I think, I can’t really remember who it was) from the outside of the ring solely with his own leg and arm strength. Need someone to vertical suplex The Great Khali? Cesaro’s your man.

Although he is yet to show his full potential in WWE, he has a long and storied career throughout the world of independent wrestling. Cesaro travelled to many countries to hone his craft, following in the footsteps of greats like Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero. Japan, Mexico, Canada, the United States and European countries like England and Germany.

Cesaro wrestled under his real name during this time, Claudio Castagnoli. He wrestled for most of most famous promotions throughout the world such as Ring of Honor, Pro Wrestling Guerilla, Combat Zone Wrestling, CHIKARA and NOAH. Much of his time on the indies was spent as part of one tag team or another, the most memorable being Bruderschaft des Kreuzes with Ares and Tursas, and the Kings of Wrestling with Chris Hero (now Antonio Cesaro).

But so far in WWE he seems rather direction-less. He’s somehow gotten mixed up with Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger. When he won the United States Championship it seemed like the start of something special, but then WWE did their usual trick of deciding to put a mid-card or tag team title on a hot guy and then hilariously just never book them on shows to actually defend that title outside of house shows and heaven forbid a championship other than the WWE Championship look prestigious. I guess the truth is that the World Heavyweight Championship is the real mid-card title these days. Outside of a few special spots throughout various matches Cesaro hasn’t been given time to shine.

But the treatment Cesaro has received since arriving in the big leagues is really confusing. He’s such a good fit for WWE. It would be like if Barcelona had signed David Silva from Manchester City, it’d just make so much sense. Cesaro’s style can mesh with so many others. His physique is world beating. Vince must have creamed his pants when he first saw him.

One thing gives me hope that this is simply because they don’t really have a firm idea of what to do with him yet and are simply biding time because they don’t want to ruin him. And to be fair he’s been having great matches on NXT with Sami Zayn (formerly El Generico).

A Rivalry Rekindled

Ah El Generico. Cesaro and he have had some of my personal favourite matches that I’ve ever seen. They’ve just got that special chemistry, like Stone Cold and The Rock (or HBK and The Undertaker/Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuiness/Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero) had that can take any match to a next level and make it something special. The matches these two had in PWG simply have to be seen to be believed.

Another thing that gives me hope is WWE’s recent track record with former independent stars. Both CM Punk and Daniel Bryan have become two huge stars, cornerstones of the entire show. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins are both in great spots in the SHIELD, getting plenty of TV time as the sharp end of the New Corporation. Hopefully Antonio will eventually gain a similar spot.

I personally think the solution is obvious and he’s waiting down in NXT. Kassius Ohno should debut and the Kings of Wrestling should be reformed. They should win the titles and have the great matches we all know they can have with the Shield, the Prime Time Players and the Uso’s. And down the road their split up could be on the same level as when The Rockers split up. It’s a potential high mid-card/sub main event feud that would lead to great matches all around.

Just to sum up, Antonio Cesaro is a great wrestler. He has amazing matches with anyone you put in front of him. He should be an easy fit in WWE. He had one of the best careers on the independents and is ready and waiting to step up to the next level.

Steven Forrester

The Wrestling Review Corner: Best in the World

punkmaniaPunk before having the match of the night at Wrestlemania 29 – Source: WWE

So this is a new feature I’m going to be doing every week here on The Real Mid Card, to freshen things up a bit. There is nothing I love more than wrestling documentaries, books and pay-per-views. I’ve already reviewed a few classic PPVs, but now I want to take a look at some other stuff. I’d say watching the cutting edge documentaries that are out these days is probably my favourite thing to do as far as wrestling goes, as bad as that is. WWE in particular have done a great job putting out some slick, in-depth movies on superstars and promotions over the last few years. I always love to get that insider perspective and see the guys shoot and tell the facts. There are also a lot of great independent filmmakers out there putting a lens on the business, and they do a great job too.

I’ll be looking at some books and shows in the future, but for today I’d like to open up The Wrestling Review Corner with a few words on Best in the World, the WWE made documentary about the career of CM Punk. I, like many of you I’m sure, am a huge mark for Punk. I’ve loved his whole run in WWE, and since the legendary promo in 2011, he has always remained in the top three for me. I’ve learned a lot about his journey to the top, and all the shit he had to go through to get there, but what I thought I knew, wasn’t the half of it. Watching this movie opened my eyes to a lot of stuff I had no idea about. Similarly to For All Mankind, the Mick Foley movie, it’s an excellent summary of a great career.

The movie is candid and truthful, yet not bitter or too dark. It shows the highs and the lows, but most importantly it’s gives us the hard hitting, real opinions of Punk himself (if we hadn’t heard them all already on Raw every week) – The man makes the open, kayfabe breaking character we know and love seem like a question ducking US president. He shoots on being held back, the moronic ignorance of many of the top executive decision makers in the business, and serves up a refreshing dose of reality to anyone who thinks that the WWE is a place where people are fairly judged and pushed on their talent and commitment. He also heaps praise where it’s due, on people who helped influence and encourage his career (especially one Paul Heyman)

I’ve since come to know that Punk actually had a lot of creative control over the production of the film, something which isn’t afforded to many people with these films. No doubt that has had a great impact on it’s content, delivery and all round end product entertainment value. It looks at his time in backyard wrestling, working his ass off through the independents and climbing the steep and slippery mountain that is the WWE. It paints a picture of a worker who dedicated his life to owning and developing his craft, refused to pander to top brass fans of the generic model wrestler, and cut his own path, both as a performer and a human being.

We get an insight into the man’s personal life, his core values and beliefs (the straight edge movement in particular), and his hardships. We learn about his upbringing and family, and see just how closely they blurred the lines with the whole Chris Jericho feud. It touches on great matches with guys all across the country and even the world, and leaves you feeling emotionally invested in the character and the human being portraying him. The DVD is also jam-packed with excellent bouts, but I’d like to just focus on the documentary side of things.

I recommend it highly. It’s essential viewing for any true CM Punk fan, and especially anyone who was with him on his journey from companies like IWA Mid South and Ring of Honor to the WWE. For those people (which I am not one of) it must be an even better thrill ride. Check it out!

Craig