Let Them Eat Raw

The news is all over every site already. WWE has announced that beginning with it’s 1000th episode of Monday Night Raw, airing on July 23rd, Monday Night Raw will permanently switch to a three hour format. Yes, Gilligan, a three hour format.

You’ve got to hand it to Vince McMahon. When demand for his show is slowly sinking, and ratings are mirroring an arythmic heart, he has found the solution: More is more! For all that 12-17 demographic whose attention they can’t hold with a two hour show, add in another hour. If there’s anything people love, it’s three hour television shows.

Facietiousness aside, this could end up being one of the best or one of the worst decisions WWE has made in recent years. Of course there is the argument that moving to three hours was one of the major factors that led to the downfall of WCW, but WCW seriously lacked the ability to support a three hour show and showed no backstage organization in preparation for it. Though we often hear about WWE changing plans the day of the show, it’s rare that Raw looks chaotic and confused like Nitro used to. Ultimately, three hours of Nitro was a drop in the bucket of what was a flooding disaster.

What good could come out of this, you might ask? Well, for one thing, maybe WWE can finally manifest Divas matches that last more than a minute on Raw. Doubtful, as they seem to care as much about the Diva division as I care about Hornswoggle. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Divas matches get an entire two minutes in the future! Wouldn’t that be something. Eight moves instead of four… seriously, though, giving more time to the divas is one thing on a long list of things they should be able to do.

In addition to increasing time for the women, perhaps we could get more wrestling over promos. These seems like a longshot, as there is a fear they’ll want to get people watching so we’ll get promo heavy moments at the beginning and end of each hour, as we typically do. Remember when wrestling shows used to open and close with wrestling matches? Wild idea.

More wrestling, more divas, what more could you want? More talent, perhaps. I’m not talking bringing back guys like Kevin Nash (sorry Kev,) but new, young, rising talent. Something fresh for the WWE. I wouldn’t be opposed to them bringing in some established guys from TNA either, though I consider that doubtful (outside of Matt Morgan, at the moment.)

Granting themselves another hour could give WWE the time and space to make good choices and build a better show. Unfortunately, their track record has shown that three hour Raws are usually total disasters where the first hour is essentially useless. This doesn’t mean it will be like that every week. Hopefully, they’ve got something better in mind.

An interesting thing to consider is the overall effect on the ratings. It seems likely that the first hour of the show will be the lowest, as it typically is during three hour Raws. That being the case, it’s possible that the low rating for hour one could drag down the overall rating for the whole show, which won’t look good for the WWE either.

Ultimately, I find it hard to wrap my head around this one. With attention faltering, ratings wavering and interest depleting, why make this move? Usually you supply a demand, you stock up when you’re selling out. You don’t fill your stock room with more and more of a product that less and less people are buying. Even Nitro went to three hours when they were commanding a massive audience, not when the people started turning away.

This is the same audience that swelled post-Wrestlemania with the entrance of Brock Lesnar, but returned to normal within a few weeks. WWE has the ability to pull those people back on occasions like this, they just can’t seem to keep them. So.. three hours then?

I’d like to see this succeed and I’d like to see a lot of amazing things come out of this. New talent, more matches, a better quality show and an increased probability of success in WWE’s future. Unfortunately, I’m not a look at the bright side type of person, especially when it pertains to WWE who have time and again show the prominent ability to take what is prophesied as great and turn it into total garbage.

So, it remains to be seen. In the end, it comes down to you, the fans, the people who are invested in this business and want to see it improve. Whether or not three hours of Raw keeps you wanting more, or pushes you away. At this point, the ratings remaining the same as they have been would be a success for an additional hour every week. If ratings begin to decrease, however, will WWE stick with it or pull the plug? Figuring that out is figuring out the mind of Vince McMahon and that takes much longer than three hours.

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Extreme Boredom

People have been wondering where I’ve been. I’ve been getting emails, tweets and messages on Facebook asking me what I’ve thought about the post-Wrestlemania / Brock Lesnar era taking place on WWE television these days.

I haven’t been answering. I haven’t been saying much. I haven’t been too interested in what’s going on. Frankly, I’ve been finding it hard to watch anything WWE lately. I haven’t been caring.

I’m well aware that Brock Lesnar has come back, and yes I’ve tuned in enough to see him F5ing Cena, cutting his pretaped promo and doing that awful contract signing segment. I saw Edge return to tell Cena that he needs to be the Cena he used to be (which I’m fairly certain is the same Cena we’re still watching.) Ultimately, I haven’t been pulled in.

There is some argument that could be made saying I’ve fallen victim to the infamous Wrestlemania hangover. I can’t argue against that, but to say I think that is only a small fraction of why I am not enthralled by current WWE programming.

I consider it more logical to chalc it up to several factors. After watching WWE for years, and seeing the past few where it has been, debatably, bouncing from good to dreadful, it can be difficult to replenish that interest which caused me to tune in in the first place.

Sure, I like Brock Lesnar and I popped just as loud as most people did when he arrived and wiped the floor with John Cena. Internally, I can’t help but wonder if this is half because of my interest in Lesnar and half because of my hatred for Cena. I watched Jericho smash a bottle of Punk’s head with as much interest as the next guy, and laughed just as hard when Jericho slipped in the fake liquor. Still, something is missing here for me as well.

So, what’s the problem? I’ll tell you. First and foremost, I just sat through an entire year of John Cena being the main event focus while not in the title chase and I’m simply not interested in watching it happen again. I don’t care how many times he makes his boo-boo face and puts a ridiculous looking chain around his neck. I’m tired of Cena and I thought, I hoped, I wished, I pleaded, that after Wrestlemania we’d get to see just a little less of this guy. Well, we’re seeing more. I can’t take it. I can’t take this guy.

I love the Rock, but wasn’t too into the angle because it involved Cena. I think Brock is awesome, but I’d rather watch him feud with Santino than John Cena. Cena has the magical ability to disrupt any sense of realism (I know, it’s fake, but you want suspended disbelief) that could exist without his BS. I can’t torture myself to watch this guy.

The Jericho / Punk thing was certainly interesting. I thought it was a little unnecessary to involve family members, but I did think it was funny because Jericho is a promo master and he sold it like gold. I thought Jericho breaking the bottle over Punk’s head was great. Then they had to do that angle with Punk coming out of the Pub which I found to be stupid. I thought they couldn’t get much stupider until I saw the retarded sobriety test angle. I changed channels back to the NHL Playoffs faster than it became clear Punk was only pretending.

These are two talented wrestlers, great promo men and interesting personalities who are trying to sell a match by acting like total goofball morons. It’s a sad state of affairs when the best way to sell what could be a fantastic match is to have them acting like children. Jericho comes off like he’s too stupid to see what’s happening, which is fine if you do it after the buildup, and Punk looks like a fool for playing along with it. Remember when he was all about pipebombs?

The rest of it, I’ll just run through quickly. If a Bella is Diva’s champion than Kharma better be coming back.. oh it didn’t matter, WWE could care less about the title so why should I? Orton vs Kane.. again.. really.. don’t do this to me. The Miz is challenging for the US title against the great champion of…. Santino. Right. Usually Santino is telling jokes, but here the joke is on us. I could go on, but why bother?

So, I’m trying WWE. I am. I’m trying to watch and I’m trying to care and I’m trying to fight through this, but they’re certainly not making it easy on me. Maybe I’m alone, and maybe you guys are loving this right now. I’m glad for you if you are, but I’m certainly struggling to keep my television tuned in. Maybe it will get better.

Miami Heat


Wrestlemania is almost impossible to put into words. There is so much to take in. The spectacle, the matches, the crowd, the atmosphere. Ultimately, it is WWE hitting the reset button and initiating a new year of programming.

Wrestlemania 27 was not nearly as good as it was made out to be. There were a lot of fans feeling let down after last years event. It all felt so half-assed, thrown together and poorly executed minus the Triple H vs Undertaker Match.

Wrestlemania 28 was a thousand percent better.

This isn’t to say that Wrestlemania 28 didn’t have its down times. Many people are upset about Daniel Bryan and Sheamus. Despite my sincerest efforts, I simply cannot muster up and explanation. Hopefully, desperately hopefully, WWE has something in mind and this wasn’t just Vince McMahon giving a giant middle finger to the IWC.

However, I would say, Wrestlemania 28 had greater peaks than it had darker valleys. Jericho and Punk definitely put on a show. This match was not the five star classic some had come to expect, but their performance was by no means a letdown. It was entertaining, back and forth and the closing five minutes of reversals and tapout teases was extraordinarily executed. I’d have gone with a different finish, had Punk lose and then have him walk into his hometown of Chicago as the challenger next month.

Triple H, Undertaker and Shawn Michaels reminded us that wrestling can be one hell of thing when it is done correctly. A nearly flawless match that absolutely lived up to whatever hype was drummed up in the past few weeks. That match has a series of moments (Triple H jumping back when Undertaker sat up, Shawn Michaels pleading with both men, the Superkick / Pedigree combination, blood, spit and eats) that should, and will, live on in the legacy of Wrestlemania. What this match did leave us with though, is three important questions: Was this the Undertakers last match? Is Triple H down for good? Was this the last gasp of the attitude era?

There were so many questions, doubts, backstage rumors, on screen bombs and chaotic experiences leading up to John Cena vs the Rock. Did this match payoff? Absolutely. Understandably there are some upset John Cena fans, but as someone who dislikes John Cena (his character, not the Make-A-Wish champion) I think this is the absolute best thing that could happen to him. This will force Cena to go to new places, assuming that he sells this loss and doesn’t come out giggling tonight like he often does after a big loss. If this is handled properly, John Cena could come out of this shinning. Also, no one should associate the Rock winning to the Rock not giving John Cena some amazing shine and Legendary rub.

The Rock proved he could still go. John Cena proved he could hold his own against the greatest superstar of all time. This is absolutely a win win situation that WWE can make into something even more amazing. Remember, folks, there’s always the possibility that this is a best of three series. I certainly hope not, I’d rather this was a one time thing.

Wrestlemania 28 was definitely a great show worth watching and paying attention to. The challenge for WWE coming out of this, which could be a fantastic thing, is to build new stars so that next years roster is full of young talent rather than returning names and old stalwarts. It’s time for a changing of the guard, but don’t be surprised if they wait until Wrestlemania 30 to make the switch. Next year they may want to cash in on that New Jersey, New York attitude with some old names. We know the Rock will be there, speculation points to Brock Lesnar and don’t forget a beer drinking, ass kicking, mudhole stomping guy from Texas with some gas left in the tank who might want to make a last impression.

Wrestlemania 28, as a whole, did what it was supposed to do. It reinvigorated, and for the most part, it paid off what it has been hyping. I rate the event an eight out of a possible ten. The eighteen second world title match kept this away from being a nine. Oh, and did I forget to mention, Good ol’ Jim Ross showed why he is, was , and always will be, the best announcer in the business.

Monday Night Raw has all the potential to be absolutely amazing tonight. Maybe WWE will show us that they don’t just pull out all of the stops for Wrestlemania.

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Heartbroken: John Cena

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And I’m here to remind you Rocky of the mess you left when you went away
It’s not fair to deny me of the cross I bear that you gave to me
You, you, you oughta know…
‘Cause the joke that you laid on the bed that was me
And I’m not gonna fade as soon as you close your eyes, and you know it
And every time I scratch my nails down someone else’s back
I hope you feel it…well can you feel it?

Last night, as I watched Monday Night Raw with my laptop open to twitter, it finally dawned on me. All of this rage toward the Rock that John Cena has bottled up inside of him comes from a familiar place. A dark place. A black place that grows inside of you over time, threatening to consume everything that makes you who you are until you have no choice but to explode, let it out, scream to the sky and rain hell down upon whoever is in your path at that moment. It is a place so many of us have been, and will return to someday. It’s abandonment, it’s loss, it’s heartbreak. John Cena is… heartbroken.

I used to love that chant. It’s tough for me to even call him ‘The Rock’ anymore because I used to love the Rock just like you guys.. and then he morphed into Dwayne.” – John Cena.

This statement by John Cena rings true of so many statements which have been made in the aftermath of a breakup. It sounds a little like “I used to love you, but you’ve changed.” John Cena is clearly having difficulty with the fact that the Rock became a different person (although, more accurately, he was always Dwayne Johnson.. “The Rock” was a fictional character) and he’s struggling to come to terms with the nature of his reality. Things are different now, and despite all of the love that existed in the past, things can never be the same as they used to be.

He is a Champion with people. He has an entourage of his little goons. He has Brian, you saw his picture on the tonight show, the guy who writes all of his jokes…. he’s got a crackpot staff of rentacops to make sure nobody messes up that million dollar smile.” – John Cena.

Here, we see, Cena has moved on to the next stage of accepting the deterioration of the relationship. Here, Cena is attempting to find someone else to blame. It’s that “Well, I didn’t do anything wrong, it can’t be me” state of mind that, ultimately, leads Cena to laying blame elsewhere. All of these people have gotten between them, they used to be close, there used to be a connection but now, no matter how hard he tries, Cena just cannot get through to the Rock anymore. (Needless to say, Cena has an entire WWE creative team writing for him and, last I checked, there is security to stop people from jumping in the ring to mess up Cena’s fifty thousand dollar smile.)

The thing I’m most proud of, the thing that makes me sleep at night, through all that B.S. I always showed up and I never left. And when it comes down to Dwayne, the first time that he got a taste of the bright lights of Hollywood, he was out of her faster than I could say ‘Rocky don’t go.’” – John Cena.

Typical jilted lover behavior here: “I didn’t change, I didn’t leave. You left me, you gave up on us.” John Cena is hurting. The Rock left him, the Rock decided that after a decade of physical pain, a grueling schedule, difficult situations and countless complications, he had to move on somewhere better, somewhere he could be happy. John Cena hasn’t yet come to accept that, Cena hasn’t yet reached a place where he wants The Rock to be happy. He’s still in that scorned lover ‘I hope you get caught in a car fire for breaking my heart’ state of mind.

Finally, The Rock has come home, and he’s never leaving again… and then he left. Again.” – John Cena.

I imagine that, most nights, when the lights have shut off and the arena has grown quiet, Cena prepares to drive away from the building after he steps out of that ring. He slumps at the shoulders, drops his bag into the trunk, slides into his driver seat and has a good cry as he rolls out of the parking lot singing Alicia Keys: “You wore the crown, you made my body feel heaven bound. Why don’t you hold me, need me? You told me you’d never leave me.”

April 9th, the Monday after, when I’m at Monday Night Raw and Dwayne’s on a movie set sipping a Mai Tai, laughing at his stunt double… I promise, Rocky, as entertaining as you’re gonna be, as much as you’re gonna try to bring it, as many boots as you want to put to as many asses, you don’t got the club in the bag, son. I’m here, I’ve been here, I’ll always be here.” – John Cena

Finally that emotional volcano has erupted. John Cena is finally living true to that broken heart. He isn’t going to lay around at night smelling Rock’s pillow and crying over him anymore. He’s going to take a long, hot shower, brush his hair, put on one of his ten thousand “Hustle. Loyalty. Respect.” shirts and go out there to show that the Rock hasn’t broken him. No matter the pain, no matter the consequences, John Cena is not going to be afraid to love again.

John Cena marches toward Wrestlemania 28, where the true challenge will be. He has to try and show that, not only does he not still hurt, but he’s better than he was when Rock broke his heart. It’s like that awkward moment when you bump into your ex. She’s slimmed down, gotten in shape, wearing that short skirt with those long legs. She’s waiting in line, checking out some candles, cooking supplies and hanging on her arm is the guy she’s bringing home with her that night. He’s clean cut, muscular, nicely dressed and offers so much more than you could. So you just try to avoid eye contact, ring up their items, take the money and bag the merchandise.

When the dust settles, maybe Rock’s got the better life, but John’s still got the right to love again. Well, that and his fancy shirts and camoflouge shorts. After Wrestlemania, when John Cena takes the elevator up to his hotel room and his body is sore and aching from that clash between he and the one who broke his heart, he’ll crawl beneath the covers, look up at the dark ceiling and whisper to himself “I’ll never let another man break my heart.”

Elimination Lamer

WWE’s Elimination Chamber usually provides fans with two exciting, brutal matches where top stars from each brand step up and challenge for the WWE and World Heavyweight Titles. They are matches full of exciting spots where the superstars pull out all the stops. It’s rare that a chamber match fails to entertain, or at least, make the pay-per-view worth watching.

Last year’s Elimination Chamber matches saw Wade Barrett, Big Show, Drew McIntyre, Kane, Rey Mysterio and Edge from Smackdown and R-Truth, Randy Orton, Sheamus, John Morrison, CM Punk and John Cena from Raw. Pretty big names and fairly exciting matches, certainly entertaining and worth putting fifty dollars down.

2012 proves to be much less promising. The Raw chamber match will involve WWE Champion CM Punk defending against Chris Jericho, The Miz, R-Truth, Dolph Ziggler and Kofi Kingston. This isn’t a bad lineup, although it is lacking somewhat in star power. Punk and Jericho are the two big names. The Miz, despite his previous run with the WWE title has been relegated to little more than a midcard jobber, for the time being. Dolph Ziggler was in the midst of a hot run when he lost to CM Punk at the Royal Rumble in a burial and then came into the Royal Rumble match to get his ass handed to him by Kharma, he hasn’t been the same since. R-Truth is clearly a mid-card comedy act. Sure, Truth has skill in the ring and can probably make it look good, but he certainly isn’t treated that way. Kofi, well Kofi has been branded a midcarder ever since his potential feud with Randy Orton was put on the back burner, Kofi has never full rebounded.

This match could be great and exciting, but does anyone truly believe that anyone other than Punk or Jericho has any chance of winning this match? If you’re constructing a match where the point is supposed to be that anyone could win, you might want to either fill the chamber with people the fans could believe might actually win, or actually push some of your participants so they feel like more of a threat! (I know, WWE, pushing is a sin for young talent.)

The match will probably still be great, but a lot of the fun is wondering who could walk out with the title. There’s always one or two people you know won’t win, but usually the chamber has three or four guys you think could take it. This match lacks that probability of a surprise finish.

So, the Raw chamber is looking all right and shows some potential. Turning our attention the Smackdown Chamber, it doesn’t take long before the head shaking begins. The Smackdown chamber consists of: World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan, Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, Big Show, Great Khali and Santino. That’s right, Santino. Daniel Bryan has been booked as the run-away, scared heel who wins through nefarious means. Wade Barrett was receiving a nice push, but Randy Orton pretty much put an end to that. Big Show is.. well who knows what is going on with him from week to week? He went from feuding with Daniel Bryan to performing in random matches. Great Khali and Santino. A giant joke and a normal sized joke. Putting these two in the match immediately eliminates two participants as being likely to win. More on this later. Cody Rhodes has been extremely impressive in his Intercontinental Title run, but it seems incredibly unlikely that he gets the belt. Ultimately we’re left with a high probability that Bryan retains, and the rest of the guys just bounce around. There isn’t even anyone in there who is known for showing the flash and flare that comes along with Chamber matches. Is the Smackdown roster truly this shallow?

Khali and Santino. Here are two guys who haven’t been taken seriously in years and have been relegated to being jokes, literally jokes. These guys being in the Chamber match is not only an insult to people who are going to put their hard earned money down to buy this PPV, but also to other people on the roster who don’t get the opportunity to step up in their place. I can’t, for the life of me, understand the logic behind this. I could, however, see this being a curveball where something reminiscent of Edge occurs with a different wrestler (A returning Alberto Del Rio or Christian, maybe Mark Henry) assaults one of these guys on his way to the ring and takes his place. That, I could buy.

Either way, this years Elimination Chamber seems to be lacking something that they have had in previous years. Aside from the chamber matches, we’ve got John Cena feuding with Kane in an Ambulance match. As much as I enjoy Kane, this storyline has been so silly and full of so much overacting that it’s hard to take it seriously. Simultaneously, it’s hard to imagine Cena losing on his way into his Wrestlemania match with the Rock. Ultimately, does anyone really care what happens in this match?

There is a Diva’s title match on this show with Beth Phoenix defending the title against Tamina Snuka. This could really be an entertaining match, assuming WWE is willing to give it more than five minutes of time. This seems unlikely, but a guy can hope.

So that’s Elimination Chamber, 2012. It really speaks volumes about the current state of WWE. Nothing feels as special or important as it should, nothing feels like it is must-see TV. Nothing feels like it is at a place where it will blow your mind. The Royal Fumble started the year off on a slow step and if Elimination Chamber fails to deliver, the Road to Wrestlemania could be a detour.

Winning Predictions: RAW Chamber: Chris Jericho. Smackdown Chamber: Daniel Bryan. Cena vs Kane: Cena. Beth Phoenix vs Tamina: Beth Phoenix.

The Royal Fumble

The road to Wrestlemania has begun. The most exciting time to be a fan of the WWE is finally underway. This is the time when wrestlers become superstars and superstars become legends. The best storylines, the most hype, the best matches, the most excitement… so why doesn’t it feel that way? Why does it feel like this particular road to Wrestlemania is littered with potholes and speed bumps?

The Royal Rumble is a key in the road to Wrestlemania. It is the first spark that begins burning down the fuse to an explosive, exciting and WWE Universe altering experience on the grandest stage of them all. This year, however, the Royal Rumble was more, or less, a Royal Fumble. It was a sub-par pay-per-view with a few highlights, but overall nothing worth writing home about. The entire show didn’t seem to kick into any sort of higher gear until the last few moments of the Rumble match itself when Jericho went head to head with Sheamus.

The opening match for the World Heavyweight Title was nine minutes of little activity. Understandably, Mark Henry was injured and incapable of doing much. Big Show isn’t known for his ability to create movement. Daniel Bryan is a spectacular athlete and fantastic wrestler being thrown into a match with two people who are not, on most days, capable of performing the same style that is conducive to an excellent performance with Bryan.

The next match was an eight Diva tag match which was treated with the same respect, dignity and appreciation by WWE management as a dead raccoon in the middle of the road. I cannot, for the life of me, begin to comprehend the logic (or lack thereof) which goes into the planning of this division. If any planning goes in at all, that is. It seems more likely that Vince McMahon throws darts at a copy of WWE magazine and whatever divas he hits get to wrestle in a five minute match. Unless, of course, we’re talking television in which they get half of that time.

Cena and Kane have an interesting storyline going, but no one believes this is going anywhere other than giving Cena a top tier storyline while they wait for the Rock to be around more often. I love Kane, I always have, but I could care less about this right now. I’d rather see Kane working with someone who has a capacity for selling and a capability to make what is happening seem important. Between Cena’s lack of selling and his half-hearted, half-comedy, all-bullshit faces that he makes, I can hardly keep my eyes focused on the screen. How am I supposed to take this guy seriously when it appears quite obvious he is phoning it in and doesn’t take himself seriously?

Oh, and I’m supposed to care that he’s facing the Rock at Wrestlemania? I care, in the sense that I want to see the Rock again. I’d be just as hyped if the Rock was coming back to wrestle Zack Ryder. The only thing about Cena that keeps me interested in this match is hoping to see the Rock beat the ever-loving hell out of him. Please, please, Dwayne, throw a few potatoes.

Brodus Clay went up against Drew McIntyre. Wow. Enough said.

Finally, we got to see CM Punk defending the WWE Title against Dolph Ziggler with Johnny Ace as a special outsider referee. What a cluster this match was. First of all, I think Punk is an amazing talent and Ziggler is really on the rise. That being said, this match was incredibly below the standard that should, and is, expected of two athletes of this caliber. It is hard to tell if this match was a victim of Punk and Ziggler or of the horrendous angle which was involved with it. Following this match, Ziggler hasn’t continued getting his push so it raises a few eyebrows. Out of a possible five star rating, I gave this match a solid 2.5 Not good enough, and it really should be much better.

Now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the Royal Rumble match itself. Royal may be an overstatement. This was more of a mid-card, nostalgia Rumble from numbers 1-20. It was filler, it was half-assed and it was reminiscent of Stone Cold Steve Austin’s first Rumble victory in 97 when half of the entrants were borrowed talent from Mexico. This speaks volumes, not only about WWE’s lack of roster depth, but of their failure to build new stars. What the hell is happening here? No wonder they went down from 40 to 30. They couldn’t find enough worthwhile names to fill the roster.

Everyone and their mother believed Chris Jericho was winning the Rumble. Aside from his statement on Raw when he said that, at the Rumble, “The world as you know it is coming to an end.” They seem to have forgotten that when they gave Sheamus the nod. Rumor has it that the outcome was changed shortly before the PPV which, if true, is eerily similar to previous short term decisions made by McMahon and his team based less upon what is best for the company and more upon swerving the so-called “smart marks” and “internet fans.” Seriously?

I like Sheamus, but they really left Jericho dangling out there. He had to come out on Raw the next night and basically explain what his comments had meant. The angle between he and Punk could certainly be a hot one, and I am hoping it is, but right now my confidence in WWE’s ability to build is severely shaken. I have confidence in Punk and Jericho, I have little confidence in the creative team behind them.

So the Royal Rumble has passed, but we’re coming out of the gate with more of a limp than a quick stride on this road to Wrestlemania. There is still time to correct it, there is still time to build this into something remarkable. Don’t ever count them out when you’re approaching Wrestlemania, but right now, I want to see a lot less hype and a lot more substance before I’m willing to commit to believing in this being the biggest Wrestlemania ever.

The 2012 Royal Rumble

The Royal Rumble was once my favorite WWE PPV of the year. I always loved the Royal Rumble match. There is so much anticipation and excitement to see who is coming in, when, who will be eliminated and how, and of course, who will win. Each year the winner goes on to challenge for the title in the main event at Wrestlemania. For a long time, I really enjoyed going back and watching the 1994 Royal Rumble. I thought the angle of having dual winners was pretty exciting, plus, it hadn’t been done before. These days, I go back and watch a lot of the older Rumbles. Mostly for nostalgic value, but also because they seemed more important back then.

The Rumble is still an exciting match to watch, if for no reason other than to see people clashing in the ring that you never see against each other. It’s always fun to see tag team partners going after each other, two faces locking up in front of a divided crowd. The Rumble also provides moments for people to stand out, to do things that make their time in that ring memorable, even if they don’t go on to win it. I think back to Diesel eliminating a ton of people, CM Punk preaching to the crowd, Beth Phoenix taking a GTS. How about those surprise entrants? It’s always cool to see an old name or a surprising return.

A few things have happened which has made the Royal Rumble fall a few notches in my book, however. First of all, they keep trying to inject a lot of comedy in there. Maybe they’ve done this back in the day as well, but if so, they did it better. Watching someone like Santino get in there and jump around like a fool or Hornswoggle spending so much time bouncing around and emulating various wrestlers. It makes the match seem less important, then again, WWE has spent a lot of time making a lot of things feel less important than they used to be.

Another thing that has negatively impacted the importance of the Royal Rumble is the Elimination Chamber PPV. Whereas, in the past, the winner of the Rumble would challenge for the title and that match would be built up from the Rumble until Wrestlemania, now we have this extra PPV thrown in where the titles can (and have) changed. You lose several weeks of build up and while you could have a Rumble winner matching up against someone you really want to see him face, come February the title changes hands and you don’t get it. Also, which I’ve not really understood, the point of winning the Rumble is to get that title shot but, even if you don’t win, there’s a chance you’ll be one of the handful of people in the Elimination Chamber to challenge for it the next month anyway. I enjoy Elimination Chamber, but I’d move it further in the year. Replace one of those half-assed PPVs that nobody orders with the Chamber. There are several moments throughout the year where there is nothing that has a “big time” feel to it. You could easily shift Elimination Chamber to one of those times.

Finally, and this is highly specific to this year, the winner of the Royal Rumble is NOT going to challenge for the title in the Main Event, unless the Rock wins the Royal Rumble and John Cena is the champion. Hasn’t WWE made it clear that their Wrestlemania main event is going to be Cena vs the Rock? Didn’t we also get Shawn Michaels vs the Undertaker Part 2 as the main event over the title match that year, as well? It may just be a matter of semantics, but just change the language and remove “in the main event” from the promotion. “The Winner of the Rumble goes on to challenge for the title at Wrestlemania.” Sounds fine to me, but if you’re going to tell me it is the main event, and then it isn’t, I feel slighted.

Last year the Royal Rumble was 40 competitors. This year, we’re back to 30. I’m not sure why that is, and I don’t really have a big problem with this, but it’d be nice to have been given some sort of an explanation. It seemed as though last year’s Rumble worked out very well, I know I enjoyed it. Why the shift back to 30? Also, what the hell does it mean that “this year, every superstar is eligible?” Weren’t they always?

This year, it’s as up in the air as it always is. 30 competitors, but really only a handful of people who are probable to win. It seems likely that some names to be considered for victory this year have to be some of the old standbys; Randy Orton and Chris Jericho, for instance. Then again, there has been some speculation about people like Sheamus or the Miz. Will we see the return of some previously injured people, or people who haven’t been on television lately? Sometimes WWE likes to have a big return and give the victory to that person, see John Cena and Edge, for example. Honestly, this year, I have not yet decided on who I am putting my money on. This is partially due to the possibilities and partially due to WWE’s failure to make any one person stand out. It all seems arbitrary sometimes.

Either way, I know that this Sunday I will be sitting in front of my television watching the 2012 Royal Rumble. I can’t resist it, it will always be one of my favorite PPVs. It kicks off the Road to Wrestlemania, it plants the seeds for Wrestlemania, it is the first PPV of the year and it can often show us how the entire year is going to trend. Let’s hope this year is the best one yet.

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