Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Interview with Gabe Sapolsky - Dragon Gate USA

May has been a busy month for Jim and I and as such, we haven't had the chance to post contributions here at Two Spot Monkeys as much as we would like. That changes today, as I recently had the chance to interview Gabe Sapolsky of Dragon Gate USA and EVOLVE. DG USA has a series of shows scheduled this weekend and I appreciate Gabe's willingness and openness in discussing these upcoming shows and DG USA in general. Don't forget, 2 of the shows this weekend (6/3 and 6/5) will be on WWNLive.com and iPPV. You can order those right here: http://www.wwnlive.com/signup.php?id=219

Now, onto the interview transcript:

1. Have you been able to see the vision you had for DG USA from 7/24/10's "Enter The Dragon - 1st Anniversary Celebration" to now play out as you hoped? Is the 1st year to 2nd year growth what you hoped for?

Gabe: Excellent question. We sat down after our Phoenix shows and began formulating a plan to try to develop a roster of DGUSA "homegrown" stars, instead of going with nationally known, already established names. The plan really went into effect at the 1st Anniversary Celebration show with the match between Johnny Gargano and CIMA and the Freestyle that got a lot of buzz with Ricochet, Chuck Taylor, Arik Cannon and Adam Cole. Brodie Lee also had a big presence and that show also saw the debut of Rich Swann. I will always remember sitting at the merch table with the Dragon Gate office at the CHIKARA show the next day, and we had a long talk about how we had the right talent and now it was time to really push them on an equal level as the Japanese and form one unified roster. This isn't something that can be done overnight. If you move too quickly it comes off as desperate and the fans reject stuff when its shoved down their throat. Instead, we took our time and developed the roster. Now almost one year later I believe a lot of fans see this as one unified roster. None of the "homegrown" guys seem out of place when in a match listing with Dragon Gate wrestlers now. For instance, for Long Island on June 4th we have YAMATO vs. CIMA vs. Masato Yoshino vs. Johnny Gargano. A year ago people wouldn't have bought Gargano in that match, now we don't hear one word of doubt and he seems natural in that match. You see that in matches up and down the DGUSA cards on June 3rd in Boston, June 4th in Long Island and June 5th in New York. So I do believe that means the vision has paid off. We have today's hottest new wrestlers, the top stars from Japan and they are together on one unified roster. I think the fans attending our shows in June or watching June 3rd and 5th on live iPPV at WWNLive.com will see what I'm talking about.

2. What do you consider to be your biggest challenge since beginning DG USA?

Gabe: Really, it's been two major things that have nothing to do with wrestling. The economy and pirating. People just don't have the money to spend like they used to and pirating has really dealt us a huge hit. These are both challenging things we have to overcome. We've tried to do this by giving people great value for their dollar, whether it is by spending extra money on packaging of our DVDs so they feel more collectible, or even having a collectible ticket to our events instead of just a normal ticket everyone throws away. The best way to combat these things is to do your best to earn people's leisure dollar and we will continue to strive to do this.

3. What approach do you take to booking talent with WWE or other aspirations (Jon Moxley/Jimmy Jacobs come to mind). Does that limit your vision or outlook for those wrestlers in DG USA?

Gabe: I have booked with this approach since 2003 or so, and that is to always have the next generation ready. Losing talent is a positive. It opens up new doors. There's only one main event, there's only so many spots on a show. If the same people are in those spots things can get stale. There is plenty of great talent out there, guys that are ready and hungry for the opportunity. It is hard to throw them into the spotlight overnight, but with the right build you can have them waiting in the wings. You look at Jon Moxley. We had a great 18 month or so run with him. Sure, we could have done more, but we had him for a long time. Now that he's moved on that opens up the door for D.U.F. of Sami Callihan and Arik Cannon. Now in June Callihan and Cannon have a program with Mochizuki, which will play out over the course of the whole weekend. This gives all three shows fresh matches that can be tied together with a story. If we hadn't lost Moxley and had to shift directions from Kamikaze USA, there would be no D.U.F., which is becoming a hot act for us. It is all about preparation.

4. What do you consider to be your biggest success since beginning DG USA?

Gabe: I think there are two that are tied. First, making a comeback and pulling off the first show. I thought I was dead after ROH. Then with the help of Dragon Gate and of course all the tremendous support from everyone out there we were able to sellout the Arena. In ROH I really just had to worry about the booking, but on that show I had a lot more responsibilities. In the end, it was probably the most satisfying show I have ever been a part of.

Second is just surviving and creating a unique, exciting brand in this day and age. This is a hard time for pro wrestling. There are fewer fans than ever. Money is tight with everyone. This is not an easy time for any business, nevermind something as niche as independent wrestling. The fact we were able to make the needed business adjustments is something I'm proud of. Taking live iPPV in house with www.WWNLive.com is a huge success. Actually, now that I think about it, that would be it.

5. With the recent addition of WWNLive.com and an in-house iPPV model, how does that influence or affect the product - in terms of growth, positives and negatives?

Gabe: So far there have been nothing but positives. We have gotten excellent reviews on the stream, it has added revenue that helped replace the shrinking DVD market, it let's everyone see your product live as it happens instead of having to wait. You can create immediate buzz. It has been all positive and one day everyone will have internet in their TV and we are at the forefront of that technology. Booking wise it creates a lot of new things you can do since you are live worldwide and people watching don't know spoilers, as they frequently do if they are getting a DVD. Everything with WWNLive.com is positive.

6. Walk me through a typical week before a triple shot or double shot? What are your main focuses set on?

Gabe: There is a lot to do, thankfully I have a great partner in Sal Hamaoui who really excels in my areas of weakness. My main focuses are making sure we get a great week of promotion, particularly with iPPVs to produce now, make sure everything we talked about leading into the show from promotion to setting up the actual show is followed through on. A huge thing is also preparing everyone for the show and making sure we are all on the same page, plus I feel having last minute booking ideas and fine tuning the shows is very important. I could keep talking about this for a while, there is just so much. Usually you have to do your first draft of the following set of shows so you can finalize details on the shows at hand. This is very time consuming.

7. Walk me through a typical day of a show? Are there any unique routines or dare I say superstitions that you keep?

Gabe: I'm not big into superstitions and routines vary just because one day you are traveling in, one day you might already be in a town, one day you might have to drive 5 hours or so. I like to get to the building in early afternoon and just walk through everything that was discussed with everyone leading into the show. Then things get hectic when the doors open just making sure everything is taken care of. It goes from calm to hectic very quickly.

8. BxB Hulk and Dragon Kid were noticeably absent from the Atlanta shows and aren't booked on these shows as well. Do you forsee them coming back to DGUSA yet in 2011?

Gabe: Yes, they will definitely be back. There's just so much awesome talent from Dragon Gate that we like to switch things up. For instance, in June we have Masaaki Mochizuki back for the first time in a year and Susumu Yokosuka on the East coast for the first time since the very first card. Those are two of Dragon Gate's most respected and greatest wrestlers and we haven't had them in for that long, so sometimes you just have to switch things up. PAC has also joined us and I really believe he has developed into so much more than a high-flyer, he is an elite all around wrestler now.

9. Do have a city or venue you favor over others, not due to fans or the ability for DG USA to draw well there, but for personal reasons like site seeing, food or taking in a baseball game or other sporting event when the shows have ended?

Gabe: I like that question, those little things always add to the fun of doing shows. I love BB King's in Times Square for the food and just being in Times Square. I'm hoping to catch the Phillies vs. Brewers when we are in Milwaukee on September 11th. I always love going to new places too, just to see what they are like.

10. If any, what do you consider your sleeper match of the weekend?

Gabe: Keep an eye on Pinkie Sanchez vs. AR Fox on June 5th in Manhattan. These two have been on fire in recently. I think it is hard to call something a "sleeper" match because on paper all the matches look awesome. I was going to say one of Ricochet's matches, but how do you call him vs. Yokosuka or him in a three-way with Chuck Taylor and PAC or him vs. Yoshino a sleeper match?

11. What match(es) on paper are you most looking forward to seeing in the ring?

Gabe: Hahaha, all of them? If I had to pick one, Id have to say it's a tie between the two Championship Challenge Matches. On June 3rd we have YAMATO & Akira Tozawa vs. PAC & Masato Yoshino for the DGUSA Tag Team Titles and on June 5th we have PAC vs. YAMATO. I think both of these can be really epic.

Coincidently, they will be main eventing the two live iPPVs at WWNLive.com. YAMATO is on such a roll as DGUSA Champion. Both his matches in Atlanta are match of the year candidates. PAC is just awesome, I mean I would pay to see him wrestle right now. Anything with these guys is going to be incredible and unlike anything you'll see in any other promotion.

12. With DG USA having a "Birthday Bash Karaoke Party" will you also be singing and what is your "go to" Karaoke song?

Gabe: I only sing Hank Williams' songs and I haven't done that since college. I think we'll have plenty of other great singers so I will stay retired. I know Austin Aries and CIMA are both really looking forward to some Karaoke.

13. Is there anything you want fans to know heading into the triple-shot and 2nd Anniversary Celebration - Closing thoughts?

Gabe: I feel we've come a long way in the past two years. I know our talent gets better every month. The roster we have aren't tomorrow's stars anymore. They have arrived. If you haven't seen DGUSA this year, give it another shot. You can check us out on live iPPV on June 3rd and June 5th at WWNLive.com or get one of our DVDs at www.DGUSA.tv. Our DVDs play and ship anywhere in the world. We greatly appreciate and need your support and we will do our best to earn it. Thank you for reading.

Again, I thank Gabe for his time and openness. If you are not on the East Coast, check these shows out on iPPV. If you are on the East Coast, get to the shows this weekend!!!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Future Endeavored...

Often fans see the blanket statement released from the WWE. "We wish (insert wrestler here) wish me the best of luck in my future endeavors”. The reasons behind firing are numerous. Many times it seems because creative doesn't have anything for the worker at the moment. Which also brings up the question, shouldn't the creative team be fired for not coming up with anything? I wont get into that discussion right now.

This is why when I see guys in the WWE on the verge of breaking through the glass ceiling constantly getting stopped or ignored by creative, well it just simply annoys me. Doesn't the WWE want them to suceed and make money for the company? My focus today is on one person from each WWE brand that I feel creative is dropping the ball with.

After nearly twenty years in the business the man finally won one the big titles, The World Heavyweight Championship, at the Extreme Rules PPV. He then dropped the belt to Randy Orton on Smackdown a few days later, in a really good TV match.

Sure it could be part of bigger storyline. Christian may turn heel, he may stay face and battle the new poster boy of Smackdown in Orton. There are many ways the story could evolve. Perhaps even leading to a Chris Jericho return. But more than likely Christian will NEVER be as hot as he was after the PPV when the guy finally obtained his dream of becoming a WWE Champion.

Christain is all around good guy to have the roster. The man can work in the ring. He can talk. Why not give him a couple months and see what happens instead of cutting his legs off before given a chance.

Zack Ryder
This guy has taken a mediocre character and transformed into the most entertaining worker you never see on TV. He took it upon himself to try and get noticed by make a YouTube show, Z!, True Long Island Story
, which gets a tremendous amount of hits. It's usually five minutes of pure gold. Yet he cannot get put in a storyline or even a match on RAW. He seems to have the support of his co-workers. And many fans are clammering to see this guy on TV. They want him. Now.

Zack could be a great mid card act. But he is being ignored by creative. A sad affair.

Fans have voiced their opinions via Twitter, Facebook, and other outlets getting behind these workers. The writers should pay attention to social media. It's a vital part of today's society, especially with the all important 18-35 male demographics.

Give the fans want they want.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Ten top tag teams you've never heard of

Tag Team Wrestling has been in decline for years. In the WWE the Tag Team titles are seen as after thoughts and are often used just to do something with big names who they have no real plans for. As for TNA, despite having 2 great teams in Beer Money and the Motor City Machine Guns the division is stagnant and lacks depth. To find good tag teams and strong tag divisions you need to look to independent promotions like RoH or PWG.

In this article, that Tom and Jim have kindly let me write, I want to highlight 10 top tag teams that you've probably never heard of. These will be teams from Europe and Japan, covering a range of styles and skills. I don't claim that these are the 10 best, but rather that they are all worth having a look at.

1. Aibou - Ikuto Hidaka & Munenori Sawa (Zero-1)

Munenori Sawa has been a bit of a tag team specialist the last couple of years. He has had 3 teams that might have been worth putting on this list. His team with Sanshiro Takagi had a fantastic tag title reign in DDT, defending the belt everywhere, from Malls to Parks. His most recent team with fellow shoot style wrestler Hikaru Sato is a nice, shoot style Jr. tag team. However, it is his team with Ikuto Hidaka, the Zero 1 Jr. ace, that sees him on this list.

Aibou dominated the Jr. tag division in Zero-1 and have put on some good matches in the Heavyweight Tag division as well. They are an entertaining Jr. team mixing Hidaka's skills with Sawa's mix of striking, submissions and oddness. A good example of their hard hitting style is their match against renowned hard strikers Masato Tanaka & Masaaki Mochizuki.

2. The All Stars – Mikey Whiplash & Robbie Dynamite (IPW:UK)

The guys on the list who best embody the classic heel tag team in the Midnight Express mould: Hate-able heels who have great tag team psychology who can also go in the ring. Whiplash has a sharp tongue and will rip into any hecklers with some choice replies and a love of the word troglodyte, as well as bringing a load of cockiness. Dynamite is the more accomplished in the ring and has a good technical style but he uses it to help work over faces and bring the tension to help the match. They have had a good year or so in IPW:UK and work both as a good under-card team for people to boo and as cocky tag team champions. Their 3 encounters with the LDRS have been great and all 3 have been very different. Their third clash was one of the best mat and technical focussed tag matches that I have seen for a long time.

3. Apollo 55 – Prince Devitt & Ryusuke Taguchi (New Japan)

Prince Devitt is the current focus of New Japan's Jr. division. He is the current IWGP Jr. Champion. With Ryusuke Taguchi he forms part of one of the best tag teams out there, Apollo 55 (pronounced Apollo Go Go). They are a mainstay of New Japan's Jr tag matches, firm fan favourites and a team who can put on very good Jr tag matches without going too far into overkill territory (something that many on the Dragon Gate roster are prone to). They have had a good mini feud with the Golden Lovers and they even had a good run in the 2010 G1 Tag League before losing to Bad Intentions in the final. I have included their match against the Golden Lovers from this year.

IWGP Jr Tag Titles: Golden Lovers (c ) vs. Apollo 55 – New Japan, 1/23/2011


4. Bad Intentions – Giant Bernard & Karl Anderson (New Japan)

Take a former WWE heavyweight remembered mostly for his hairy back. Add a PWG guy who some saw as a little bland. Marinade in tours of New Japan and what do you get? Probably the best big man little man tag team around right now. Bernard, formerly known as Albert and A-Train, has evolved into a great heavyweight capable of having good singles matches He is the kind of complete package big man that the WWE should be falling over themselves to sign. He has had multiple tag team partners in New Japan. First it was Tyson Tomko. Then it was Rick Fuller. However, his team with Karl Anderson is arguably his best.

Cocky tweeners capable of going heel or face depending on their opponents, the duo show great charisma as guys who talk trash and back it up in the ring. They also hold their end up in the ring, with Bernard as the unstoppable powerhouse and Anderson as the wily, high flying and fast paced smaller guy. Anderson is on his way to becoming very good, and he should break out big in the next couple of years if he gets the chance.

G1 Tag League: Bad Intentions (c ) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura & Daniel Puder – New Japan, 10/30/2010


5. Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi (Big Japan)

Big Japan's “Strong BJ” matches have been one of the biggest hidden gems in wrestling for the last 3 years or so. Its a blend of great hard hitting 4 and 6 man tag matches mixed with emotion, passion, power and the best understanding of the underdog story in wrestling today. Sekimoto is not an underdog. The biggest non death match name in Japan's premier death match company, he has dominated the Tag team division for years, having held the titles with various partners for a combination of over 1500 days. He is the hard hitting German suplex machine, master of the dead-lift German suplex. I could have put his tag team with Yoshihito Sasaki up here but instead I chose his team with his student and protege Yuji Okabayashi, who debuted in 2009.

Yuji is a big unit (well, for a Japanese wrestler). Him and Daisuke are built like Brick outhouses, despite being under 6 foot and are the only pure powerhouse team on the lift. Yuji will clubber you. He will throw you around, and he can get ridiculous height on his diving top rope splash. Him and Daisuke are a very accomplished tandem who know how to build a match and raise the tension. This was shown by them walking into All Japan and putting on some of the best tag matches that company had seen in years with the team of Manabu Soya & Seiya Sanada.

Manabu Soya & Seiya Sanada vs. Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi – All Japan, 2/6/2011


6. Golden Lovers – Kota Ibushi & Kenny Omega (DDT)

These two guys are a perfect match for each other. They have a mix of fast paced, high flying offence and a little bit of an odd streak. DDT is a perfect fit for Kenny Omega's style of wrestling and he and Ibushi have great chemistry. They are an established force, not just in DDT but also in New Japan where their match against Apollo 55 at Destruction 2010 saw them win the prestigious Tokyo Sports Match of the Year award. They have a good set of double teams, including the amazing Golden Shower: Stereo 450 splashes off the same turn-buckle

7. Go Shiozaki & Shuhei Taniguchi (Pro Wrestling NOAH)

This team pits NOAH's youngest heavyweights together, with the desire to show that they are a force to be reckoned with. Shiozaki had a strong tag team run with Mitsuharu Misawa before his untimely passing but this time he is the veteran of his team. Taniguchi is very good with suplexes and power slams and he has even improved his strikes, which used to be his obvious weak point. This is a typical Japanese heavyweight team, relying on striking, power and fighting spirit to succeed, and they have had a strong run in the recent NOAH Tag Tournament.

8. The LDRS of the New School – Zack Sabre Jr & Marty Scurll (IPW:UK/WxW)

A friend of mine who saw these two wrestle in CZW described them as a team you could build a tag team division around. IPW:UK did just that. Zack and Marty are 2 young lads in their early 20's who first noticed each other by using the same classic British wrestling move on the same show. Both guys have classic British influences, but while Zack tempers his with a kicks and arm-bar focussed Japanese Jr style Marty has a more of a DG influence. They have fantastic chemistry in the ring and act and look like a team. Zack bring more fire and technical chops while Marty uses his charisma and character to enhance their matches.

These guys have a host of innovative double teams including the See Ya Later Drop-kick/Michinoku driver combination. On top of that they work fast tags, are fantastic fan favourite baby faces and, a shown in their match against PAC and Mark Haskins in IPW:UK, they can be great dicks when they need to be. Almost every time they wrestle on a show, they steal it. Whether it's matches against UK team like the All Stars or the Thrillers, or encounters with the likes of Adam Cole & Kyle O'Reilly, you know that you'll get a great match. Speaking of Cole and O'Reilly, their match with the LDRS at WxW's 16 Karat Tournament 2011 was a fantastic match similar to the Motor City Machine Guns vs. Briscoes from RoH's Good Times Great Memories.

9. Yoshihito Sasaki & Shinya Ishikawa (Big Japan)

Daisuke Sekimoto's other main tag team partner is Yoshihito Sasaki. Sasaki is a lariat throwing ball of rage, at his best when he is snapping and trying to destroy his opponents. He probably works hate into matches better than most these days, as his frequent exchanges with the likes of Takashi Sasaki and Shinobu shows. Like Sasaki, he has also been successful with a younger, less experienced partner. Shinya Ishikawa debuted in 2008. His team with Sasaki, formed in 2009, got of to a great start when they proved to be plucky underdogs. Sasaki had returned from injury and Ishikawa wanted to prove himself. Ishikawa is a good underdog and, like most Big Japan students, he has very sound basics and knows how to work the story and build a crowd for hot finishing sequences. He also has a great forearm and one of the most viscous drop-kicks you will ever see. This mixes nicely with the very passionate Sasaki and I look forward to the reformation of their team which has started this year.

10. Zetsurins – Don Fujii & Masaaki Mochizuki (Dragon Gate)

This was my hardest pick. I wanted a Dragon Gate team who weren't part of the usual suspect that are seen at DGUSA shows. I was torn for a long time between these guys and the long term team of Genki Horiguchi and Ryo Saito. In the end I chose Zetsurins as they are something different to most teams on the list and in Dragon Gate itself.

Zetsurins are a veteran team, made up of current Dream Gate Champion Masaaki Mochizuki and another Dragon Gate mainstay, Don Fujii (a man who once stole an invisible dog). This duo often act as a breath of fresh air from the usual Dragon Gate style, which can often venture into the territories of overkill and lacking in substance in my opinion. These two are basically grizzled veterans who will hit hard and take what they get in return. They also have a much better grasp of psychology and a very engaging deliberate style. I would recommend their match on Infinity 208, which can be found at www.openthedragongate.com , a great encounter between them and Horiguchi & Saito.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Re-Launching Smackdown – Post-Draft

This is about 15 hours later than I hoped to have this posted. If you don’t know much about Smackdown Spoilers from this week, then this entry will still honor that and my opinions still, despite WWE’s moves.

Christian as World Heavyweight Champion

The validation of Christian as a singles wrestler and now a World Champion was provided on Sunday night, May 1st. Clearly the wrench of Edge’s unexpected retirement and vacating of the title paved the path to this. Yet, even before all of that transpired, there were rumblings that Christian might be ready to turn on Edge and give us a Summer-time feud for the title. People were clearly ready to see Christian in this picture.

Now he has the title and a variety of new opponents that could make for great match-ups. Randy Orton, Sheamus, Cody Rhodes and Wade Barrett come to mind most. It is now in WWE’s hands to make feuds and matches that entertain fans. More so than that, it should be a big goal to create ratings driven and pay-per-view driven efforts above all.

A Re-coiled Viper

Randy Orton comes to Smackdown the biggest superstar not named The Undertaker. Clearly he will be the full-time, top level guy from now through his time in WWE or Smackdown comes to an end. My opinion is that Orton is so head and shoulders above many on Smackdown that it will take some really intentional effort on behalf of those who write and produce Smackdown to get others to the same level as The King of the RKO.

Depending on the direction Orton goes (face or heel), there is potential for good matches/feuds. The most interesting option for me is an Orton-Cody Rhodes extended feud. Whether they acknowledge or not the history of the two with The Legacy, this could be a potential feud of the year on paper. Especially, if Rhodes added another element to his mask. Imagine if the mask neutralized Orton’s Punt Kick, that creates a totally new approach and would allow for a new, untapped psychological element.

Simply Sin Cara

Sin Cara, (the former Mistico) who not only is a tremendous talent, but made tremendous amounts of money in Mexico now gets his WWE opportunity. WWE seems to be behind him from the beginning and will provide the “extras” for him to stand out in the WWE Universe.

I see Sin Cara working through the similar-styled wrestlers like Chavo Guerrero, Tyson Kidd and Trent Baretta to put on action-filled matches. Eventually, he will need to go on and have extended feuds with perceived “top guys.” I could see matches/feuds with Sheamus, Daniel Bryan and Wade Barrett as good opportunities for mutual elevation.

Break On Through…To The Other Side

Smackdown now features many wrestlers who have just tasted a bit a push and still have a ton to give.

Sheamus, as a former World Champion, first comes to mind. His WWE run has been filled with peaks and valleys over the last 18 months and Smackdown might be able to provide the level ground necessary for his career/push to stabilize.

Wade Barrett, who came in as the Leader of The Nexus and was part of a big feud with John Cena, now leads The Corre. Whether Corre is long for WWE or not, Barrett has potential battles against those within (Heath Slater, Justin Gabriel and Ezekiel Jackson) and now new talents, specifically Daniel Bryan, with their NXT and Nexus history.

Daniel Bryan, another former champion and for those who are familiar with him as “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson know, can have some of, if not the best matches. Die-hard fans probably will clamor for a Bryan-Regal feud and if WWE did pull the trigger on that, it would likely be a nice swan song for the final days of Sir William’s career.

Alex Riley, who really did well as the lackey of The Miz and now can show what he may be able to do on his own. Riley looks the part of an athlete to me and if Smackdown chose to re-brand him in that direction, I could see similarities between Riley and a 2006-2008 era, Montel Vontavious Porter (MVP).

Just like RAW, Smackdown has a fresh playing field and much of their short- and long-term success will hinge on the direction they choose to go.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Re-Launching RAW – Post Draft

With the Annual WWE Draft and last night’s Extreme Rules Pay-Per-View behind us, the WWE Universe has shows/brands in RAW and Smackdown set to re-launch and re-sculpt the landscapes that have been familiar for the better parts of the last year. Today I will take a quick look at RAW with a handful of feuds I see as opportunties in the coming months.

John Cena vs. CM Punk & The Nexus

This was an issue that I was extremely interested in seeing develop earlier this year more than it actually did. I believe that with the WrestleMania build that had to occur, WWE pressed “pause” on this and went with an Orton-Punk feud instead.

Despite rumors that CM Punk may choose to leave WWE instead of re-signing a new contract in the near future does not take away that he is an absolutely tremendous heel and can get people to care about him (read: hate him), no matter what.

With Cena re-capturing a WWE Title again last night, he needs another new challenger that he be at his level from the start. Instead of rushing into what I think will be a huge feud for RAW (Cena vs. Del Rio), this feud would give someone that could play fantastically off of Cena and also have terrific matches. It would be a fitting way to have Cena dispatch The Nexus (allowing those talents to go in new directions) and send CM Punk out memorably (if that is the case), while giving a good 2-3 month feud that would produce entertaining TV and good matches, and ultimately letting Cena shine in the end.

Rey Mysterio vs. Alberto Del Rio

Once again, a feud that still has mileage left from the parts of it that were featured on Smackdown. With Del Rio being foiled now on two, back-to-back occasions from becoming a champion, I could see him crank up the intensity here and look to end Rey’s career.

Rey is one of, if not the best superstar on RAW to continue to elevate Del Rio and get him primed for the future Cena-Del Rio feud. Again, this could make for great TV and excellent matches on PPV.

John Morrison & Kofi Kingston vs. The Miz & R-Truth

I list this is a tag team format, though I think there are many parallels that can be draw and match-ups created from any combination of these four.

Of course, The Miz will want to be at the top of the heap and again gun for John Cena and his title, but revenge on John Morrison and also a chance to take Kofi’s title as well.

R-Truth has been quickly rising since snapping and destroying John Morrison a few weeks ago. Not only is there unresolved matches against Morrison, but I think Truth vs. Kofi for the United States Title also could be really good.

Kharma vs. The WWE Divas/Beth Phoenix

Kharma made a big debut last night at Extreme Rules and put the Diva locker room on notice. I see her running throw the “fancy” Divas until finally meeting her challenge in Beth Phoenix. For me, this is the most anticipated women’s feud/match that WWE has had in years.

Miscellaneous Talent

There are also some great “young guns” on the RAW roster that can add a lot to the brand. Many of them being heels makes me think that someone will need to turn and be “re-branded” themselves, but Jack Swagger, Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre and Ted DiBiase all have a ceiling that hasn’t come close to being reached. Add Evan Bourne to the mix and it is easy to say the mid-card level should be chalk full of good match-ups if nothing else…with the hope coming from this fan that they choose to do more and permanently elevate some to main event status.

Check back tomorrow where I will do this same thing, looking at Smackdown post-draft and what I see on the horizon for that show/brand.