WWE

WWE TLC: Why Roman Reigns had to snap and win the WWE Title

Barnaby Read 16/12/2015
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Reigns is the new heavyweight champion.

After a year in which the WWE attempted to give Roman Reigns a foot up, he finally seized the world heavyweight title with the full backing of the Universe.

He was given the nod of approval at TLC as he set about dismantling Triple H and finally taking devastating ownership of his feud with The Authority.

For the majority of the past 12 months, Reigns has been pushed to the fore, only for his spell in the limelight to come to a grinding halt.

– Will Sheamus ever be more than a transitional champ?
– How The Undertaker has survived so many series

– Rooney pulls off attacking performance of the season

Two ‘Money in the Bank’ winners denied him the gold at times when his standing wasn’t quite fulfilling its potential with RAW, Smackdown and PPV audiences.

His talent is undoubted but there was a certain je ne sai quoi missing from the Superstar that could validate his position as a champion of the people.

At Tables, Ladders and Chairs, however, he finally found his place and in one of the WWE’s finest pieces of booking in an otherwise disappointing year for Creative.

With Sheamus sparked out on the canvas, Reigns looked to climb the ladder to rising boos around the stadium.

It showed that Reigns was not quite ready to be welcomed as WWE champion, but all would change just half an hour later.

Sheamus – with the help of the League of Nations – went on to retain his title but Reigns came out on top after dismantling Sheamus, his stooges Rusev, King Barrett and Alberto Del Rio.

Where Reigns truly stole the show however was by finally unleashing his anger on Triple H, putting him through a table, wrapping chairs round him and spearing him outside the ring as he was being carried out the stadium.

The sudden, brutal manner in which Reigns took apart the WWE COO resonated with the Universe and 24 hours later a RAW show to remember finally took Reigns to the next level.

The big guns were out as Vince McMahon made his first appearance on the show in over a year and Reigns was finally given a heel to build momentum against, the backing of the crowd centred on his hatred for The Authority – a cause they could support.

Reigns went on to dethrone Sheamus and leave the crowd on their feet, lapping up his victory.

Finally, the WWE were rewarded for their faith in Reigns, a masterstroke capping off the year that sets the company on the Road to WrestleMania with a fully fledged champion, grudges to bear and a captive audience ready to tune back into the show.

Tis the season to be jolly for the WWE. 

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WWE TLC: Three areas that need improvement in the WWE

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Has the WWE gone backwards?

In this very column back in April, we eulogised over the WWE’s rude health and the bright future it seemed to be roaring toward.

On the back of a WrestleMania full of delight, it all seemed justifiable.

The WWE had its best roster in years and an apparent clear path for Creative to wind us down, weaving in and out of glorious matches that had the potential to paint a very pretty picture for the company.

– Will Sheamus ever be more than a transitional champ?
– How The Undertaker has survived so many series
– Rooney pulls off attacking performance of the season

On the back of it, we had John Cena vs Kevin Owens and the rise of the Divas.

There have even been two rematches between The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar but somehow the company is still on its knees, desperate to reinvigorate a Universe growing more and more disaffected with the product.

Ratings are dwindling – the New York Post said this week that Raw ratings “have fallen nearly 50 percent from their 2015 high” – and fans are being turned off by predictable storylines and a frustration over its negligible use of some of wrestling’s brightest Superstars in decades.

Here, Sport360’s WWE TLC looks at three things that have gone wrong for the company since that pivotal WrestleMania.

BAD BOOKING
Consistently over the last few months, the WWE has failed to deliver with its booking of pay-per-views, with feuds hurried to a conclusion and Superstars given next to no time to build a story both in and out of the ring.

A look at the tag-team, NXT and Divas divisions shows three factions of the company rich in talent but deprived of headlining PPVs and making runs at the gold.

It has lead to an infuriatingly stagnant production line of exciting wrestlers and the same old Superstars being put over at the top of shows.

DIVA DEVOLUTION
When Stephanie McMahon ushered in the Divas revolution, it wasn’t a gimmick, it wasn’t pandering to equality, it was recognition that  the WWE’s women were as good as they have ever been.

Paige, Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch have all shown that they are not just hugely marketable Divas, they are exceptional in the ring and some of the most innovative females in the history of sports entertainment.

However, a combination of stubbornness from the WWE to erase AJ Lee’s record-breaking feats and a lack of opportunity on main shows for the likes of Lynch and Banks has seen the revolution stall so soon after screeching off the mark.

A MUDDLE IN THE MIDDLE
With so many Superstars vying for top honours, the Universe would understand some of the best in-ring and mic specialists not having a run at the top if they were made the most of elsewhere.

Unfortunately, that is not the case and week after week we see an array of Superstars left dormant in the locker room.

The company, quite simply, has been far too afraid to break the mould despite having all the tools at its disposal to do just that and allow the middle-card wrestlers a chance to shine and take the attention away from what Triple H’s puppet is up to this week.

It’s all getting a bit too boring and if something is not done soon, people will continue to turn off their TV sets.

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WWE TLC: How The Undertaker has successfully survived so many Series

Barnaby Read 17/11/2015
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The Undertaker has been a fans' favourite for over two decades.

This Sunday marks the 25th anniversary of the first appearance of The Undertaker at the 1990 Survivor Series pay-per-view.

It is a stunning achievement from a character whose appearance has equally scared the life out of fans and delighted them over its long run.

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– WWE TLC: Three reasons why Brock Lesnar had to beat The Undertaker 

Not only that, Mark Calaway has managed to remain at the top of the WWE’s card for the large majority, if not all, of those years with chokeslams and tombstone piledrivers sending the best wrestlers in the business to their graves.

Few other WWE stars can boast such longevity, let alone the aura that accompanies ‘Taker every time his eerie music plays and the pyrotechnics shoot from the turnbuckles or lighting bolts crash from the ceiling of the arena.

Here, we look at why The Undertaker has survived for so long.

1. Mythology

He is TV’s most recognisable mythical creature; one we have all seen and believed.

From his powers being kept in an urn to question marks over whether he has a beating heart to the site of his army of druids trudging to the ring or rivals being tied to a Satanic cross, The Undertaker has always represented something greater than us mere mortals.

This has played a pivotal role in a host of feuds and is currently featuring predominantly in his latest altercation with Bray Wyatt.

2. Reinvention

Essentially, there have been two stages to ‘Taker’s evolution – the Deadman and the American Badass.

Both have been used by Creative in order to reinvent its star, neither time taking anything away from the bare basics that has made The Phenom such a popular figure for so long.

From pale-faced mortician, through end of days reaper via Harley Riding rocker and back, not once has ‘Taker failed to delight after the most subtle of changes to his makeup.

3. One for any occasion

Initially, there was no question that ‘Taker was a heel.

He was the ultimate villain, setting about wrecking the lives of your favourite wrestlers whether it be taking Stephanie McMahon hostage, burying Stone Cold Steve Austin alive or hurling Mankind from the top of the Hell in a Cell.

However, such is his popularity The Undertaker has managed to also play the role of babyface to perfection, without ever seeming false or forced – something John Cena has struggled with in recent years.

4. Ability

Whether he’s taking us to the Old School, bleeding from top to bottom or hurtling wrestlers to the canvas with huge chokeslams; ‘Taker’s repertoire knows no bounds.

His manoeuvrability is also remarkable for a man of his size (the wrestling equivalent of Peter Crouch having ‘a good touch for a Big Man’).

Combined, this is the reason he has been able to serve up classics encounters with everyone in the locker room that he has faced such is Calaway’s ability to mix it up in the ring and strike up a chemistry with his opponents.

5. He never gets old

Okay, at 50-years-old Calaway is actually getting old and does sometimes now look a little tired in the face.

But there is no denying that he can still sell spots, and in return tickets, and his legend is one that allows his more and more sporadic appearances to go somewhat unnoticed due to the mystery associated with ‘Taker.

Whether it is the 25th, 2,500th or first time you’ve seen him in action, you will never cease to be excited by the sight of the Phenom.

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