Carl’s Unprotected Takes: House Shows are Legit

So AJ Styles won the US Championship at a house show at Madison Square Garden this past Friday. That’s a thing that happened, and everyone collectively lost their minds.

What does this actually mean? Well, to start, house shows just got a massive credibility boost. While it’s unlikely that any other titles will change in any upcoming shows in Corpus Christi or Waco, any house shows in major cities (say Chicago, Los Angeles, or Boston. Let’s assume top 10 population cities) are absolutely worth your time now because there might be a surprise title change. House shows are usually a fun place to see matches that you won’t see on TV for whatever reason, but now they might be home to a shock or two.

But a less fun theory about the shocking title change, why did the title change hands when the match was advertised for a PPV? Is it possible that KO is injured? Definitely. That’s honestly the only reason I can think of that would cause this kind of dramatic change, because I can’t imagine they would have done it for the laughs. It really just depends if we see KO on TV this Tuesday, or if they do retcon the change on an upcoming house show before the next Smackdown episode.

Even if the reasoning for the title change is because of an injury to KO, I appreciate how the WWE booked this change. This became a wonderful moment for fans who attended the show in NYC who likely didn’t expect anything of weight to occur. House shows will likely be much better attended for a while in the hopes that fans will get to witness a shocking title change. Is it completely random and against the booking? Absolutely, there’s no story line reason that KO and Styles should have fought at a house show, but I’m willing to overlook any faults in the storytelling for a wonderful gift to the fans who attended that show. It was unexpected, it was shocking, and it adds a plot twist to the future story of the US Championship that will be fun to watch in the coming weeks.

Update 7/11/17: AJ Styles is going into Smackdown Live still holding the belt.

Carl’s Unprotected Takes: Carmella and the story that WWE wants to tell

So Carmella won the second ever women’s Money in the Bank ladder match,after the first MITB was retconned on the very next episode of Smackdown. Fan backlash over James Ellsworth basically winning the first match caused WWE to take it back and redo the entire thing, but with Carmella winning clean as a whistle.

This is something I’ve noticed during my brief time watching wrestling: should the WWE be the ones telling the story, or should the fans be telling the WWE the story they want to be told? The answer is complicated. Shall we?

Let the WWE tell you a story

Example: Carmella and MITB

Carmella’s MITB victory is clearly a story that the WWE wants to tell the fans. I doubt that the WWE wanted to retcon the victory originally, and allow her to claim the MITB briefcase. But some fans (myself included) weren’t happy about a man winning the first women’s MITB.

Note: I didn’t enjoy WWE retconning the victory. Don’t go back on your decision, stand with it. Even Eric Bishoff said that taking back the victory was a bad move, and he would know a thing or two about bad booking.

Her clean win on Smackdown Live is a giant middle finger to any fans who wasn’t about Carmella winning in general. The WWE clearly has big plans that they want to see happen, and I’m very curious to see how the whole thing plays out. How the story has already played out has piqued my interested in how the rest of the story will be told, in a time when the whole Women’s Revolution is (lets be honest) petering out and the division is being shown marginally less and less respect every week, with all the women crammed into one segment, and nobody gets to explore their own character. I digress.

The fans tell the WWE the story they want to see

Example: Daniel Bryan

The WWE screwed over Daniel Bryan for far too long before realizing that the fans would soundly reject any story that didn’t involve Daniel Bryan coming out on top. Hell, Rey Mysterio got booed as the 30th entrant to the Royal Rumble when he came out in the 2014 Royal Rumble. The fans then took over the 2015 Royal Rumble when Bryan was eliminated, hijacking the match with chants and boos for everyone else.

When Mysterio got heat for being the last entrant in the 2014 Rumble, the WWE should have taken note that it was Bryan’s time. No other wrestler has been over the way he was in the modern era, sure, but there was no way to bring Bryan back down the card without completely ruining the main event. The fans were irreversibly in Bryan’s corner, and nothing that the WWE did could change that.

So what could the WWE really do? Continue with whatever plans they wanted to do and let the fans boo the building to the ground? Not really. But why is this a good example, if the WWE had their hands tied? Because when WWE finally told the story the fans wanted to hear, it became one of the best moments in WrestleMania history.

Where does that leave us?

The WWE story vs. the fan story will always depend on the situation. The right guy at the right time is absolutely worth the WWE telling the story the fans want to hear. However, if the story and those involved with these stories aren’t particularly over (sorry Carmella/women’s division), the let the WWE tell you the story. There’s nothing right now on the card that the fans are super hot to see (except Big Cass, and it seems the fans and the WWE are on the same page there), so stop complaining.

Carl’s Unprotected Takes: Golden Truth Buildup

Despite the fact that we’ve seen pretty much the video packages week in and week out, the buildup for Goldust vs R-Truth has been one of the best things on RAW.

It’s different than the rest of the show, similar to the Fashion Files (don’t get me wrong, the Fashion Files are far superior). It’s refreshing to see that the WWE telling a story outside the ring, rather than consistent physical encounters. It makes the build seem that much more…natural. When Goldust or R-Truth is on the screen, it feels like we’re exploring the character that’s on the screen, not just talking smack to each other.

The more you look at the booking, the better it becomes. The two have been trading movie quotes for weeks, and the first action between the two was in Los Angeles, the city of Hollywood. In fact, I think Goldy walking to the ring and beating up Truth was a misstep in the story. I would have rather seen them trade quotes once more while Goldust tells us how he needs to reclaim the spotlight for himself.

Truth is a bit less interesting because he’s simply out for revenge, but he’s become a much more serious character. Truth has been pretty much a comedy act since I started watching a few years ago, but I’ve sensed that he can be a ruthless character if pushed in the right direction. I’m about to show how green I am when it comes to watching wrestling, but I’ve been watching since the WWE Network launched. I didn’t see Truth as the US Champion in 2010, or the Tag Champ with Kofi in 2012. I missed most of Goldust’s career, straight up.

As a generally new fan, it’s been nice to be re-introduced to these characters in a different way. Almost in the way that Mankind was introduced before his ring debut in the WWE. I honestly can’t remember any characters who have been explored in the same way. Obviously, it’s not overly in depth, but if the WWE wants to explore any other characters, I’d love to see more of this. Maybe it’s the advantage of having two experienced wrestlers who know what they’re doing, but the booking between these two has been a great change of pace.