HLR: Hustle. Loyalty. Reigns.

Whether you like him or not, there’s no question that Roman Reigns’ current position and bright future as a top-flight singles competitor was inevitable from his early days with The Shield. He has it all – a powerful physique, good looks, wrestling in his blood, and a unique and marketable look. However, as the weeks of being an individual have strolled by, more and more cracks are starting to show in the ‘Juggernaut’, leading to some fans slowly turning against him.

John Cena’s evolution from rap thug to corny hero.

John Cena, WWE’s most polarising – not controversial (I hate when Cole and King say that) – star never used to be in this love-hate relationship with the WWE Universe. After his ‘Prototype’ gimmick, Cena quickly became a fan favourite as the ‘Dr of Thuganomics’, and this bad-ass rap persona was quite a stark contrast to the Cena we’re used to seeing today. He was still a poor wrestler, but had much more diversity and was increasingly experimental with the manoeuvres he performed. If this didn’t win fans over, his unique and entertaining character certainly did. WWE saw this and pushed Cena further, all the way up to the point where fans started to boo him due to his constant dominance. Cena gradually evolved into WWE’s poster boy, and so followed suit with a squeaky-clean Captain America-like persona. He kissed babies, posed for photographs, and did everything that was required of a gold-standard WWE mascot. He was dubbed as the modern Hulk Hogan. However, Cena brought in the dough via merchandise sales from children, and this has been a prime factor as to why he has been kept in this position despite his in-ring work becoming lazy, unimaginative, and repetitive. The rest is history.

As for Roman Reigns, his fans are beginning to worry that he’ll suffer the same fate. Like Cena, Reigns’ official WWE beginning started with a bad-ass gimmick – being a ‘hound’ in The Shield. We got to see glimpses of his ability, and these glimpses worked perfectly as we weren’t spoiled with too much. Being part of a faction allowed Roman to shine where he best could, leaving the rest to Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins. We were always left wanting more of all three individuals, both on the mic and in the ring. It was perfect. Forward to the fourth quarter of The Shield’s reign (no pun intended), it was clear who WWE were going with as their next breakout star. Reigns became the centre of attention of the ‘Hounds of Justice’, but we still had Ambrose and Rollins to keep his push from going stale.

Reigns’ ‘Superman Punch’ is becoming overused and overpowered.

It was only right for The Shield to split ways after their rivalry with Evolution. Many were waiting for this moment, and it couldn’t have come at a more idyllic time. The WWE Universe were anxious to see how each individual would cope as a singles competitor, and were soon enlightened. It was evident that Ambrose and Rollins could hold their own as singles stars, due to their confidence on the mic and excellent in-ring work. As for Reigns, it’s a two-sided story. Some would argue that Reigns is better than ever, whereas others would say that he can’t hack it on his own. He’s definitely improved on the mic – you can see his confidence growing week by week. However, the content of his promos are quite unimaginative and boring in general. His in-ring ability is where fans are starting to draw comparisons with John Cena. Reigns is dominant in the ring but, like Cena, abuses four to five moves. He’s being pushed exactly how Cena was – coming out on top on nearly every occasion, and having bursts of ‘overpowered’ signature moves. I believe his look and heritage are the only factors that’s keeping him likeable by some of the more critical fans. Cena and Reigns’ cross of paths in recent times has really made these comparisons clear.

Initially, many thought that Reigns would be the ‘Batman’ of the superhero metaphor that is WWE’s poster boys. However, it’s becoming evermore apparent that Reigns and Cena are more alike than one would think. Their recent exchanges and segments have led fans to draw comparisons of Captain America meeting Superman. Reigns’ opportunity to be the dark knight is rapidly diminishing. If he continues down this route of being over-pushed and overpowered, he’ll lose his cool as the anti-hero fans so desperately wanted, and instead end up as another corny protagonist. All Roman needs now is a brightly coloured t-shirt and a cringe-worthy catchphrase.

It would be a shame if Roman Reigns ends up as a second-fiddle John Cena. Although he has much to learn and improve on, he undoubtedly has a lot going for him. Given Daniel Bryan’s absence, WWE need a face that the majority of fans genuinely give a damn about. If WWE manages to keep Reigns appetising enough to satisfy the Universe’s constant hunger for something refreshing, he could fill the anti-hero spot that CM Punk left collecting dust, and potentially more. It’s all ifs and buts, however this is certainly a growing issue that is becoming progressively prominent as the weeks roll on.

Reigns2

Do you agree? Is Reigns becoming stale, or are critics being too harsh too soon? Voice your opinion below, and don’t forget to share!

Please note that these images are each owned by their respective owners, I do not own any of them. No copyright infringement is intended. 

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Kane: WWE’s most undervalued Superstar?

Kane has been a hot topic in today’s WWE, but not for the greatest of reasons. Once a ruthless, fearless, and fearsome competitor, Kane has been on the receiving end of the WWE Universe’s constant stick. But why? Let’s delve hell-deep into the career of ‘The Big Red Machine’.

Kane debuts and monstrously rips off the door of the cell to approach his brother.

Glenn Jacobs made his debut as Kane in the WWE in 1997 (he had portrayed several other gimmicks before). His arrival was foretold by Paul Bearer, who warned The Undertaker that his half-brother was coming to challenge him. Bearer was right, as Kane interrupted the very first ‘Hell in a Cell’ match to date, involving the ‘Heartbreak Kid’ Shawn Michaels, and Taker himself at the ‘Badd Blood: In Your House’ pay-per-view. Kane cost The Undertaker the match by delivering a Tombstone Piledriver to him, sending shock-waves throughout the live audience and those watching around the world.

A new look, the first of many to come.

At this point, Kane had everything going for him. He was a huge physical specimen, and had an incredible back-story, as revealed by Paul Bearer and The Undertaker in the weeks prior to the pay-per-view. What’s more, Kane eliminated one of the WWE’s most dominating competitors, and truly let his actions speak louder than any words could. In fact, for much of Kane’s early career, he was a mute – voiceless. To top it all off, Kane’s attire consisted of one of the most legendary wrestling costumes to date. He wore a red and black outfit that covered most of his body, had long, streaky hair, and wore a mask that concealed his face. To top this monstrous look off, he had a white contact lens in one eye, truly making him look like a menacing freak of nature. This complied with Kane’s back-story, as this attire was worn to cover his scars from the fire of his burnt-down home, as well as his identity. So yes, Kane was voiceless, AND faceless. This added to Kane’s mysterious persona – nobody knew what he looked like or was thinking. How many wrestlers, both voiceless and faceless, can you think of who have made such an impact in pro wrestling? Year by year, his attire continued to evolve, from removing one full sleeve to reveal a beast of an arm, to inverting his colours, making him look slick as well as deadly.

Kane continued to assert his dominance and relevance by continuing to feud with The Undertaker, and helped create some of WWE’s most memorable moments. These include putting The Undertaker into a casket and setting it on fire, as well as the epic Inferno match between the two. ‘The Big Red Machine’ quickly made his way to the top-tier, and even defeated Stone Cold Steve Austin for the WWE Championship at the ‘King of the Ring’ pay-per-view in 1998 (although he lost it back to him the next night on RAW). However, his success wasn’t short-lived, as he and Mankind formed a partnership and won the Tag-Team Championships twice.

Kane finally speaks, just about…

It wasn’t long before we got to hear Kane speak, well, kind of. After teaming with X-Pac and even acquiring Tori as his girlfriend, Kane used an electrolarynx to aid him with his speech. In fact, his first spoken words on WWE television were “suck it”, a catchphrase made famous by D-Generation X. Kane evolved further, and started speaking unassisted. It could be argued that this took a lot away from Kane’s mysterious and dark nature, however, it finally gave us more depth into the character of WWE’s monster. It also made for some entertaining and comedic moments, as Kane would often surprise the locker-room as well as the audience (see here). Even if Kane’s character was slightly uplifted, his dominance and destruction in the ring continued. He became the record-holder of the Royal Rumble by eliminating a total of 11 men, only to be runner-up as he was then eliminated by Stone Cold Steve Austin. His record has only just been beaten by Roman Reigns, who eliminated 12 men at this year’s Royal Rumble.

A few years later, Kane’s inner-demon became evermore apparent. Kane fought a match against Triple H where the stipulation had him remove his mask if he lost. Thanks to the Evolution members, Kane lost the match and removed his mask for the first time on WWE television. It was a moment that every wrestling fan was waiting for for years. It disappointed some, but like him talking for the first time, allowed a lot more room for his character to expand and evolve. His unmasking caused him to become emotionally unstable, and he displayed these acts by attacking Jim Ross in an interview, and even set him on fire. He then went one step further and attacked Linda McMahon that same night.

After his unmasking, Kane was involved in several story-lines, some involving championships and some not. His most notable story-lines of this era was versing a returning Undertaker at WrestleMania XX (whom Kane helped Vince McMahon bury previously at Survivor Series), and impregnating Lita. However, Kane would not win another title until 2005 where he and The Big Show acquired the World Tag Team Championships. This was soon lost, and Kane began to lose several matches after this reign. Before Kane’s relevance and fear-factor could be distinguished, his next most relevant story-line helped rekindle his dark side. It was about the date May 19th, where Kane heard voices about this eerie day on a weekly basis. It was soon revealed that this was the day that Kane’s mother and adopted family were killed in a fire. The man behind the voice was an imposter Kane, which the real Kane eventually disposed of.

Kane continued his WWE career by losing more matches, and eventually got drafted to SmackDown where he reunited with The Undertaker, reforming The Brothers of Destruction. Kane’s dominance seemed to have been reignited, and his next most significant career highlight came at WrestleMania XXIV, where he won a battle royal to earn a chance to win the ECW Championship against Chavo Guerrero, which he did. As predicted, this reign did not last long.

Forward several years, and Kane did not see much luck for a while. He was involved in pointless, sporadic matches, and did not succeed in many championship or Money in the Bank ventures. However, he eventually became the World Heavyweight Champion after finally winning a Money in the Bank ladder match (this was his fourth participation) and cashing-in the contract on Rey Mysterio that same night. Kane held onto the title for a while, and successfully defended it against Rey Mysterio and The Undertaker on several occasions and stipulations. At long last, we got to see how Kane should have been booked – dominant, and actually winning and holding onto championships. It was a good era for wrestling fans who knew how under-utilised Kane was. Eventually, Kane lost the title to Edge, but his first healthy reign as champion was long overdue, and we were happy we received it.

Several years down the line, Kane again became lost in pointless match-ups and story-lines that did not effectively deem him the monster he was for so many years. Kane needed to be revived, and this came in late 2011 where Kane returned from an injury, wearing a mask as he previously did for the majority of his wrestling career. The mask was different, but still gave him a menacing look he lost for so many years. He also wore a metallic mask which was inspired by a post-mortem human body after an autopsy, giving the fans the idea that Kane was truly resurrected. Unfortunately, this was short-lived, as even though Kane performed some disastrous acts – such as severely attacking Zack Ryder – he ultimately lost in both his main feuds with John Cena and Randy Orton.

Kane…beat-boxing…

What took place in the later months was either loved or hated by the WWE Universe. Following his defeat to Daniel Bryan at SummerSlam, Kane and Bryan were enrolled into anger management classes. While some of the segments were considered quite entertaining, Kane’s devilish days were well and truly over. The pair were a comedic duo, and even took part in events such as a ‘Hug it Out’ match. However, Kane and Bryan became the new Tag-Team Champions, and they became known as ‘Team Hell No’ thanks to a Twitter poll. Their reign as champions lasted for 245 days, a considerably long time – especially for the career of Kane.

kane 8Kane returned after a two-month hiatus from being attacked by The Wyatt Family, but under a new character we had never seen him exhibit before. Kane pledged his allegiance to The Authority, and handed-in his mask. Unlike his Corporation days, Kane underwent a character change and was now the ‘Director of Operations’. He wore a suit and tie on a weekly basis, and it was safe to say that if Team Hell No didn’t end Kane’s reputation as a fierce and frightening competitor, this certainly did. Thankfully, Kane soon wore his mask again as Stephanie McMahon told Kane to become the devil that he always was, due to his defeat against The Shield at WrestleMania XXX. However (as predicted), Kane lost his first title match against Daniel Bryan at Extreme Rules.

Funnily enough, this article commenced before the events of Kane brutally assaulting Daniel Bryan on the following episode of RAW. After these events, I began wondering whether everything I wanted to talk about had just been disproved/rectified. Flashbacks of Kane from his early days resulted from these disastrous actions. However, the years of WWE belittling Kane should have taught me otherwise, as Kane went back to being a simple pawn for a higher entity (The Authority). Yes, he’s recently been involved in main event matches, but not for his own gain. Hell, he recently ensured Seth Rollins’ victory in the first Money in the Bank ladder match of the evening, and then dedicated his participation in the second ladder match by being devoted to Randy Orton – even though he could have had the gold to himself! His purpose is to serve, and to make matters worse, he’s been a jobber for several years now. Yes, having younger talent going ‘over’ legends makes sense for the push, however this doesn’t work with Kane. Chris Jericho is a great example. You could say that he’s a jobber (his segments with CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler indicate this), yet him losing to the opposition does two things. It majorly pushes the winning man, yet it doesn’t take away Y2J’s status as a veteran and worthy competitor. Why? Because Jericho hasn’t been under-utilised/undervalued for the majority of his career, none at all if any. Kane has, meaning that any chance of him becoming a fierce entity again is at best, slim. His persona as a monstrous force to be feared has become dampened by the various roles he’s been degraded in.

All in all, it can be said that although the memory of the character Kane will remain in fans’ hearts for eternity, we can agree that he could have been so much more. Yes he’s held several titles. Yes he’s been a dominant force in his own rights. And yes, there have been sources stating that Kane is very humble and often likes to put other people over. But for a character of his stature and status, he has only ever had one relevant reign as champion, and he’s been used as a pawn/bodyguard for most of his career. WWE’s recent usage of Kane has hindered his appeal – he doesn’t seem all that threatening after his entrance and pyrotechnics igniting the ring-posts. WWE became lazy with him, ultimately leading to his under-utilised character, and it’s a shame that it’s too late to turn things around. You could even go as far to say that if he wasn’t portrayed as The Undertaker’s ‘brother’, his overall success may have been further minimised. Nevertheless, his Attitude Era days will never be forgotten, and Glenn Jacobs has been an underrated credit to the world of professional wrestling.

The evolution of ‘The Big Red Machine’.

What do you think? Are you happy with how Kane’s career has unfolded, or do you agree that he should’ve become more? Have your say by leaving a comment!

Please note that these images are each owned by their respective owners, I do not own any of them. No copyright infringement is intended. 

Ushering in a new era: WWE’s game-changing week

What a week it’s been for the ‘WWE Universe’. It’s been an emotional seven days, with ups and downs all round. However, despite all the momentous events, the take-away message for this week has been difficult for some fans, and promising for others; the WWE seem to be transitioning into the newest era of its professional wrestling existence.

WrestleMania XXX

Many of you may disagree here, but this was one of the best WrestleManias to date (just beaten by WrestleMania XVII). It had all the ingredients for a successful show, but most importantly, it also signified the slow but sure ending of previous eras that we’ve all clung onto.

The opening

The show kicked-off with Hulk Hogan, introducing the show and welcoming everyone to the Silverdome (ha). He was only to be screen-shot-2014-04-06-at-6-34-01-pminterrupted by ‘Mr Attitude Era’ himself, Stone Cold Steve Austin. After some classic Austin talk, out came The Rock! It was an awesome segment, and long-time WWE fans have waited for years to see ‘The Rattlesnake’ and ‘The Brahma Bull’ in the same ring at the same time. We only got to see a glimpse of this at WrestleMania XXVII. It was probably the best WrestleMania opening we’ve seen to date, and quite frankly, it’s uncertain as to whether we’ll ever get another opening as epic as this one. Can you imagine any bigger legends of the industry opening the show in that fashion? It’s hard to imagine how the WWE would top this in future ‘Manias (unless they lazily brought the same three back in future years to come), and this opening was just one of the reasons to suggest WWE’s closing of one era and opening into another.

The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

20140406_WM30_LIGHT_HP_CesarAndreCup1Many people predicted The Big Show to win this match, as it was only right for a legendary giant to be the first man to win such an accolade. However, while it did make sense to have The Big Show come out on top, WWE prioritised their future here, and gave Cesaro the nod to pick up the win. Having the ‘King of Swing’ be the first man to win this prestigious award should now persuade the people who weren’t already convinced that Cesaro is a fully-fledged competitor of the future. This is another indication of WWE shifting its way into a new era, as often relying on stars from the past to carry the company forward is definitely the incorrect move.

The Streak…is over…

What a shocker this was. The reaction from the live crowd (and probably everyone watching around the world) was immense. The end to this match was like Marmite, you either loved it or you hated it (I personally loved the chaos and buzz it caused). However, no matter what anyone’s opinion of this outcome is, it can’t be denied that this result is a major indication of the WWE’s era transition. We now have no ‘Streak’ to look forward to, and whether this be Taker’s last match or not, every future WrestleMania will never be the same again. Hey, maybe they’ll start a ‘Streak’ with someone else? Highly doubtful, but you never know. ‘The Deadman’s’ spot on the ‘Mania card will probably now be taken by a current/future star, once again highlighting the point of the WWE prioritising its future. Oh yeah, and Brock Lesnar was the guy who won, by the way.10150695_1424505227806276_7106890449998293072_n

The ‘YES’ movement flourishes…

An obvious indication of the future rising here; Daniel Bryan not only beat Triple H, but then went onto defeat Randy Orton AND Batista in the same night to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. WWE’s hottest acquisition beat three future Hall of Famers in one night, and to top it all off, he did it on the grandest stage of them all. If evolution ever came to an end, it would be now.WrestleMania-Daniel-Bryan

The Hounds claw their way forward

Not much to be said here. The result of The Shield vs The New Age Outlaws and Kane was another obvious indication of the WWE promoting its current echelon of stars so that the company can continue to gracefully exist in its new era.

But…what about The Wyatt Family?

Bray Wyatt’s loss to John Cena should not be looked upon as a contradiction this theory. Firstly, it would’ve been too soon for Bray to win against WWE’s poster boy. Secondly, The Wyatts have been given a huge push already, and there’s no doubt that by next year’s ‘Mania, they’ll be even bigger than they are now. Last of all, John Cena may not be a ‘new guy’, but he’s certainly far from done. He’ll be like the Taker of the next generation – a living legend that up and coming Superstars will strive to beat to get themselves noticed. The Wyatts will most-definitly be part of the future. All in good time.

RAW after ‘Mania

paigeWithout going into too much detail here, it’s safe to say that this RAW really made it clear that the future of the WWE is near, and that a new era is beginning. Alexander Rusev made his long-awaited in-ring RAW debut, and annoying Adam Rose and corny Bo Dallas vignettes were scattered throughout the show. The biggest story of the show, however, was twenty-one-year-old NXT Diva, Paige, who interrupted AJ Lee and nabbed the Diva’s Championship off of her. While many can agree that she shouldn’t have won the gold just yet, you can be sure that WWE has its future in sight. Let’s not forget about Cesaro becoming a ‘Paul Heyman guy’ as well, joining the likes of CM Punk and his 434-day title-reign, and Brock Lesnar’s defeating of ‘The Streak’. Before you say it, let’s leave Curtis Axel out of this one, shall we?

The late great Ultimate Warrior also said his final words in the public-eye, which mentioned the current-future WWE locker room: “In the back I see many potential legends. Some of them with warrior spirits. And you will do the same for them. You will decide if they lived with the passion and intensity. So much so that you will tell your stories and you will make them legends, as well.” Don’t be surprised if next year’s WrestleMania contains less matches with legends and more with the current roster.

To conclude, many of this week’s events in the WWE have indicated a potential shifting of era. Stars of the past have ended their reigns, current stars are further securing their spots, and new stars are gradually making their way-in and stealing the show. It seems as if we’re currently experiencing the transition into a new era. It certainly has been a game-changing week for the WWE, and is definitely an exciting time to be a fan.

May I also take this opportunity to wish Warrior’s (James Hellwig’s) family and friends all the very best. Rest in peace Ultimate Warrior, we appreciate what you have done for this business. tafkagadotcom-rip-ultimate-warrior

Do you agree? Can you sense the transition? Let’s hear your thoughts below!

Please note that these images are each owned by their respective owners, I do not own any of them. No copyright infringement is intended.