Wrestling With Ideas

Can the WWE right the ship for 2019?

Brock Lesnar (right) has been hit and miss. Photo by WWE.com

Born with a comic book in one hand and a remote control in the other, Cory DLG is the talent of Conroe's very own Nerd Thug Radio and the sister show Ball Control. Check out the podcast replay of the FM radio shows at www.nerdthugradio.com or www.facebook.com/nerdthugradio!"

So 2018 is over and 2019 is rolling in and for the WWE the new year came with a promise from the McMahon power structure of new year and new theme.

How's it shaping up? Not good so far. The problems they have were created by the guys who right now are promising new ideas and opportunities. To be fair, let's highlight the efforts before we address the problems: getting rid of mandatory rematches, doing an extra round of "call ups" from NXT, and the McMahons are back onscreen after taking the bulk of the year off from that particular role.

How are these working out? Well, the mandatory rematches were a mixed bag, in the middle of a good rivalry it was a great tool, but when something had come to its conclusion or was starting to drag on, then yeah, it was a bad idea. The call-ups haven't hit yet so there's not a lot to judge them on but honestly the NXT guys haven't had a lot of luck coming up to the big times as of yet, and I have a theory why. It goes like this: NXT fans are the guys actively seeking wrestling, so the gimmicks matter less because these fans have seen it all and are watching for the wrestling, but the gimmick is what sells in the big leagues and honestly most of the gimmicks have been awful. As far as the McMahons coming back, I don't really remember anyone asking for that, so this isn't the solution to the problem.

What is the problem? Too many great wrestlers, too few matches, dumb programs that go on way too long and the writing has gotten stale. Between the young guys they have grown into young superstars, the NXT roster they want to give screen time and the amazing women's division that deserves all the screen time they can get, they won't stop bringing in old guys and guys who aren't committed to the show full time. Between the recent return of Brock Lesnar, Undertaker, Kane, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, John Cena, Kurt Angle, Rey Mysterio, Jeff Hardy and Matt Hardy - who all fought in matches in 2018 PPV events - guys like Bray Wyatt, Miz, Daniel Bryan, AJ Styles, Rusev, Elias, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Cien Almas and The New Day and others are forced to mid-card and worse. Add in the fact that recent big acquisitions have fallen flat (guys like Gallows and Anderson are terrible personas). Samoa Joe, Shinske Nakamura just aren't entertaining as heels and Randy Orton has NO PURPOSE and you start to wonder about how screen time is being assigned.

When the women's division does get it's B-plots focused on, it's clear they Are being written by the same guys who wrote the 90's pillow fight matches. They just ran a bit where the beautiful Mandy Rose is texting illicit photos to Naomi's husband, because they can't think of another reason two great athletes would want to compete. How is it that the men's division can have five matches a show without ever mentioning each other's personal lives but Naomi (former champion trying to get another title shot) needs to defend her territory, because women are petty? Got it.

So where's the fix? Well stop booking the old guys, that's step one, if they need to be in the Saudi Arabia PPV to finance that deal, fine then book those matches, but don't give it screen time in the States. Make those dark matches and let your two hour advertisement sell the new guys.

The mixed tag team matches are working. They are a great idea and I think there's a future there for that just like it's pretty obvious that the women's division is ready for tag team titles. Also, work on the tag titles on both brands. Right now they are worthless, the divisions are a mess and none of the contenders other than the Usos and New Day move the needle with any consistency. Finally, get rid of Brock Lesnar. It's time when everyone on screen and off screen comments and jokes ON AIR how the universal champ doesn't come to the flagship show. That's a problem.

The times are changing and WWE better stay on the right side of this. If not the young upstarts are circling the water. The Elite, led by spurned former WWE talent, just announced a new wrestling promotion working with a rebel billionaire intent on creating an entertainment brand of its own. Does no one remember the 90's and a little something called WCW?

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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