What do you get when you water down whiskey?
Well, it’s still whiskey, but it’s just not quite the same. You notice you’re not as drunk as you would normally be after a few. You notice the drink is a bit smoother, a bit more…well, watery. It doesn’t give you that lovely burn down the back of your throat in quite the same way or with as much impact.
On UK TV listings, when you take a quick look at the information about the TNA shows on Challenge, you get the disclaimer at the bottom. No, it doesn’t warn you about the product or anything like that, it warns you that the programme is “not for the faint hearted”.
I kind of like that. I think it conjurs up images of people wincing or averting their eyes to something horrendous happening on the screens in front of them. It tells you the programme is a straight dram of whiskey with no water. And what I kind of like about that is that I think that’s a little bit of how I want to feel when I’m watching wrestling.
It’s also why what Triple H did to Roman Reigns this week on Raw was awesome, because it was wince-worthy. It wasn’t something you see every show and it reminded me of how I felt when Seth Rollins dealt out the vicious kerb stomp onto the WWE’s home-made ringside kerb all those months ago. It looked like it hurt. It was sold like it hurt.
It had impact. There was no water anywhere near that dram of wrestling.
I want wrestling to sting the back of my throat, make me wince and make me believe that I’ve just had a visual shot of the hard stuff, not a lime and soda.
And this is where I start to struggle with my analogy.
I wrote an article last week saying how Roman Reigns wasn’t quite as ready as Seth and Dean to match up to Jericho, one of my favourites, who it has to be said doesn’t wrestle like a lick of the hard stuff. Jericho is more like a session beer – you settle in, experience something effortlessly entertaining, perhaps with the odd chaser of the harder stuff. And I love that. But you do need that chaser, that extra gear
I’ve also written before about how I prefer not necessarily the power moves in wrestling, but I think a wrestling match should portray consequences. On a basic level it’s something we all understand – when you hit someone you hit them back because they’ve hurt you want you want to hurt in turn. It’s why the ‘punch’ is still one of the most effective wrestling moves you’ll see. But for all its effectiveness, it’s not impactful. It’s served with water and ice and everyone’s drinking it in their matches these days, too many for it to have the same resonance with the fans it once did.
As a bathroom break in my article here, let’s acknowledge that the WWE does a great job of putting on great matches. The PPVs are full of them and each Raw has at least one match that’s really worth watching and that hasn’t always been the case, but as Matty J Douglas pointed out this week, a great match isn’t enough. It has to, for me, have impact for it to be considered better than good. Otherwise just throw two workers in a ring every week with no story and you’ll get a ‘great’ match. It’s about more than that.
And I think one of the things that makes a wrestling match more is when it looks like it hurts. Brock Lesnar looks like he hurts. Not just in the ring, to be honest it sometimes feels like just standing next to Brock Lesnar would hurt because he has that much impact. You try and add water to Brock Lesnar as the WWE has tried to do recently, but instead of a smoother experience, Brock just breaks the glass over your head instead.
He has that impact not just because he’s well used, but because of the impact he has, or seems to have, on his opponents in the ring.
Brock throws German suplexes around like Roman throws punches, but it doesn’t feel as repetitive because German suplexes look impressive, we know they take some effort to carry out and they look like they hurt the guy he’s doing it to. When Roman throws a series of punches, you get the impression that’s all he knows how to do. Brock throwing Germans looks like a calculating machine dismantling its opponent.
So, you may all ask, am I saying that Roman Reigns’ matches need more impact?
I think so, and this tells you why it’s about more than a wrestler’s move set. It’s how you put it all together in the context of what you have. It’s hard to say why Roman’s matches lack impact. The superman punch, whilst looking a bit juvenile, is no more foolish than Big Show’s knockout punch and the spear is a high impact move utilised by many of wrestling’s biggest hitters.
Roman Reigns has all the impact a wrestler needs. But as I wrote last week, he’s not a session beer with a chaser. He’s all chaser and that’s how I think he should be booked.
If you have Roman come down to the ring and destroy someone in 10 minutes like Goldberg destroyed The Rock in 2003 (damn, was it that long ago?) – in fact, don’t let any of his matches go beyond 10 minutes, just have him be a wrecking ball of impact moves, then I think you have a Roman Reigns on your hands that’s not only marketable, but will have the impact as a character that his move set has. Roman can’t go toe to toe with Cesaro for 20 minutes without Cesaro having to carry that match. You could say it’s nice that Cesaro or any other smaller guy is getting a mini push when they come close to winning those matches, but there’s a part of me saying that actually they need to look like they are *this* close to winning the match because Roman can’t carry the match.
But in 5-10 minutes of devastating power wrestling, taking out at least 50% of the punching, and I think Reigns has the impact you want in one nice little short.
Not every match needs to be a session – there’s nothing wrong with going to a bar and pounding out a few as quick as you can from time to time.
The exact same scenario would apply to Ryback, only more so given he’s going to be a heel.
I’m a big fan of what Ryback could be. I think he’s the perfect heel wrestler in the making. I know he didn’t do a great job last time out, and has generally been better as a face, but in many ways the shot of whiskey treatment works better with The Big Guy as it completely fits. Ryback needs to be fed more, he’s always telling us this, so feed people to him, applying the Roman Reigns booking format rather than the Wade Barrett booking format and then try and tell me that someone who loses so many matches is really a massive threat, deep down.
I don’t even mind which of them the WWE gave the shot treatment to – and that’s the saddest part of this article. They’ve just turned Ryback heel and they’re pushing Roman Reigns to be the top face of the company…and really at this point I don’t care. I’m looking out for who AJ Styles, Jericho and Kevin Owens are going to face at ‘Mania.
And I’m looking for Dean vs. Brock. That match has sold Wrestlemania to me, because Brock is the one true shot of the hard stuff with a glass in the face chaser the WWE is giving me. Maybe they don’t want to make another while they have Brock…but to that I’d say there’s more than one brand of whiskey. You can have a smooth bourbon destroyer or you can have an in your face scotch, or a blended mix of the two – there’s plenty of room for three destroyers on one roster, each destroying in their own way.
And imagine the height of build you could reach when one faces off against the other. That would be an impact.