WWE Network’s roundtable opinion show Bring It To The Table continues to find its footing. It’s fifth episode, and fourth with the line-up of Peter Rosenberg, JBL and Cory Graves, debuted last night (June 12) and is probably it’s strongest yet... but it’s still a weird worked shoot version of a “hot take” program, where the fact it’s a WWE-owned and produced affair colors everything you see and hear.
Still, it’s interesting to get the biggest wrestling company in history’s spin on the topics which fans and insiders argue about on Twitter and in comment sections. And in Rosenberg, Graves and JBL, they’ve assembled three believable voices to put forth differing viewpoints.
Take Bring It To The Table’s handling of the Rip Rogers/Randy Orton ...DIVE controversy. After establishing he wouldn’t comment on the beef between his friends Orton and Bully Ray that debate included, the SmackDown color commentator kicked off the discussion. Here’s a transcript:
JBL: Guys do dives because they don’t know how to work. Guys do flips because they don’t know how to work. I watch these guys do tryouts every single week at WWE, I sit out there at the announcer desk and watch these guys come in. You have so few guys who even know how to lock up, how to put a headlock on properly. All they do is get a headlock because they want to go on to the next move - they want to do some silly, stupid dive. The want to get the crowd chanting “Holy $#!+!” You want to talk about matches that matter? Randy Orton can go out there, John Cena can go out there, AJ Styles can go out there and put together matches that matter and don’t have to silly dives because they don’t know how to work.
Rosenberg: Don’t you think it’s ironic, though... and believe me, I’m the last person who wants to have a problem with Randy Orton backstage, who I don’t know at all... but Randy is one guy who some people, even Triple H has sort of alluded to, doesn’t necessarily leave it all in the ring every single time. And don’t you think it’s a little bit unfair to paint all those guys, the only reason they dive, is to get a cheap pop. There are guys who work AND dive, aren’t there?
Graves: There absolutely are, and this is one of the rare cases where I’ll say, “John, you’re wrong.” The business has evolved. I understand, you and I have talked at great length about the history of the business and some of the...
JBL: You and I were talking about the Buddy Rogers/Pat O’Connor match, 1963, which I thought was great and you thought was...
Graves: Incredibly boring. I understand the contribution these guys made, but just like in any form of entertainment, things evolve. The audience’s attention span has changed. You need to do more high impact things. Do I think you need 30 dives and 30 superkicks a match? Absolutely not. But for everyone to be kind of dismissive of guys who work that high-flying style, that are the daredevils, the cruiserweights... I think 205 Live would be the best show on television if all these guys got to do what they are able to do all the time. It’s not a matter of not being able to work. Maybe sometimes guys don’t have the great physiques, or they’re undersized. But you want to get the world talking about what you’re doing. Last year sometime, there was a couple guys named Will Ospreay and Ricochet who over in Japan had this match and it set the internet on fire, and you had a very similar discussion. A lot of the “old-timers” saying this isn’t wrestling, this sucks, this isn’t whatever whatever. The fact is, those guys want to get noticed. They want to get their name out on a grand stage. And it worked. Do I think that match would work in WWE? Not necessarily. But those are two incredibly talented guys who deserve to be recognized for what they can do. And I think the business is evolving, it’s changing. John Cena goes to the top rope. Does he have to dive? No. But guess who does? Roman Reigns dives from time to time. I’ve seen Undertaker do it. That doesn’t mean they can’t work. They’re the greatest of all-time. It’s a situational thing. Sometimes it’s over done, but you look at baseball. What’s the big argument with baseball right now?
Rosenberg: Tossing the bat...
Graves:It’s too slow. It’s been around for generations, and now current day fans can’t dedicate three hours to watch...
Rosenberg: Right, that’s why they want to see players hit a home run and toss their bat and celebrate a little bit
JBL: But you can watch a three hour NFL game, you can watch a three hour NBA game - you can’t watch three hours of highlights, okay? And this Will Ospreay? Look, that match was fantastic. Can they put a hundred thousand people in Cowboys Stadium? Can they put two million people, or approaching two million people on the WWE Network? I’m not sure they can. And most of these indie guys, I’m not making fun of guys working hard. I’m making fun of guys for working stupid. Because I think they’re doing stuff like that to compensate for the fact they have not had the ability to learn how to work. And I think it hurts the business. You watch these matches. I watch these matches every night sitting at ringside. You watch some of these guys - on our roster - who do flip after flip after flip, dive after dive after dive. There’s nothing there! You let somebody get out there and put a masterpiece together like Cena and AJ Styles does? The place is rocking.
It’s a pretty good encapsulation of the larger discussion - and, hey, Ospreay and Ricochet shout-outs on the Network! It’s still obviously designed to put over WWE as the end-all-be-all of sports entertainment, right down to closing with JBL echoing Orton’s drawing power arguments.
Still, there is definite meta appeal in wondering who Bradshaw is talking about when he criticizes the roster, or if Corey is speaking for anyone with backstage pull when he criticizes 205 Live for not letting the cruiserweights cut loose.
And this wasn’t the only topic where “work or shoot?” was a game worth playing. Other segments where I found myself asking those questions included: Is Lana the new Eva Marie, and are there legit concerns about whether she can work a decent match on Sunday at Extreme Rules? Do folks inside the company consider Dean Ambrose’s Intercontinental title run a bust? Are there doubts about Bayley, at least in her current gimmick, working on the main roster?
We’ll likely never get definitive answers to those questions, but that’s part of the fun of being a wrestling fan. And Bring It To The Table seems to be figuring out how to be a part of that fun.
Who else watched the show? What did you think, on the ...DIVE debate, any of the other topics or in general?