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.

2012

2011 was an interesting year for the wrestling industry. Like all other years, there were highs and lows, great moments and ridiculous ones. 2012 comes to us, as all new years do, with the potential for either great moments that will reinvigorate interest in wrestling or, as tended to happen last year, push more fans away from their televisions. In 2011, WWE saw a shift in their ratings and began falling under the 3.0 mark consistently. Whether or not this slide continues is contingent upon what form and manner of entertainment they provide us with. Let’s take a look at what looms on the horizon for the early months of 2012.

For weeks, fans were inundated with video packages announcing the arrival of / return of a mysterious figure. The videos featured a boy in a class room, alongside a girl, who spoke of returning to “claim what is his.” The videos were as cryptic visually as they were verbally and this caused a great deal of debate. Early on it seemed evident, to many, that these videos signified the return of Chris Jericho. The potential was high, many seeking to witness Jericho returning to initiate a feud with CM Punk. Possibly a Wrestlemania match will take place between the two.

On the January 2nd edition of RAW, Jericho did indeed return, but not in the way many thought he would. Would he return as the smug, suit wearing heel we’d come to see in the last year of his previous run? Would he stride back in as the once beloved Y2J or would he present himself in an entirely need way? The answer is.. all three. Jericho returned and appeared to be his Y2J persona but it quickly became apparent that this was not the fan loving, face Y2J that we’d seen before. He stood in the ring amid cheers and praise, ran around slapping hands with the fans, picked up the microphone and then left. No words spoken about his return, no promo of his intentions. So many fans were left confused, including this columnist, but upon reflection it seems to clear.

Jericho did not return to be a fan favorite, and he didn’t return to be the multi-syllabic insult hurling heel. He returned to mock everything that the fans wanted him to be. He came back to give us what we wanted, or at least a glimmer of it, before standing back bemused at how easy it is to play the crowd and how simple it is to sucker the fans. He stood in that ring with a look of fascinated entertainment at the fans who went crazy to see him and then, as the cheers of the crowd became peppered with boos, he grinned and strode backstage. This is not a Jericho we have seen before and where he goes with this, no one can be sure. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if we saw this same thing repeated several times over before someone, perhaps CM Punk, chooses to stand up and say “enough.”

Speaking of Punk, he’s currently embroiled in a war of words with Johnny Ace. It seems clear that WWE is hoping to relive the glory of Stone Cold and Mr. McMahon. The tension is building and it is apparent that Punk will inevitably strike out physically against the Senior Vice President of Talent Relations and Interim General Manager of Raw. The problem with it, which is glaringly obvious, is that we’ve seen this before. The difference is that when Stone Cold and Vince went at it, it was new and fresh and exciting. This is simply derivative of something we’ve already experienced and cannot live up to what it is attempting to surpass.

Punk is simply too talented to find himself in this rehashed version of a moment whose excitement was so high because it was unexpected. When Stone Cold stunned McMahon no one saw it coming. Who doesn’t see this one coming? Hopefully they will manifest some way to add a new twist to the same old story. Frankly, in 2012, I’d be happy if we could get rid of the General Manager idea all together.

The biggest thing WWE has going for it, or at least what is supposed to be the biggest thing, is John Cena vs the Rock. As much as this has been built up over the past ten months it certainly feels lacking at the moment. Cena is battling a refurbished Kane, and though I love the evil, masked Kane, the storyline doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. While Cena is supposed to be in a war of words with the Rock, in a war of words that is grounded in reality, he’s simultaneously battling the “supernatural” Kane who is attempting to drag people into fiery pits.

The Rock, distinguished by his absence, provides excitement whenever he return to WWE but this entire storyline has been handled poorly. It’s been like the swinging of a pendulum but with less excitement each time a new sway initiates. The Rock hasn’t laid the verbal smackdown on Cena since the Survivor Series, and even then it wasn’t that great. Cena continues to note that the Rock is never there even though we know he won’t be there. I’m not sure what the point of it is. The Rock is bound to receive a massive pop when he walks out to the ring at Wrestlemania in his home town. Cena continues to receive mixed fan reaction and, more than likely, will receive the majority of the boos when they face each other. To what end does this go? It’s hard to say, and if inside sources can be trusted, even WWE doesn’t seem too sure of where they are going but that is indicative of WWE over the past few years.

There are many more things going on within the world of the WWE. However, the aforementioned angles and incidents are those which garner the most interest here at the beginning of the new year. There is hope that this year will provide us with something more entertaining and that the tide can once again be swayed but the last half of 2011 doesn’t instill faith in their creative direction. Either way, 2012 is upon and win, lose or draw, this could be one of the biggest years in Wrestling in a long time. It remains to be seen.

No Selling

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Wrestling was never Shakespeare but at least it made sense once upon a time. Storylines had identifiable beginnings and endings. You knew when you were watching a match that it was going to begin a feud or end one. The wrestlers built up to things, to Pay Per Views, to blow offs, to matches that mattered. The wrestlers themselves sold it. Would anyone have believed that Bob Backlund was a threat to Bret Hart unless Bret made it clear, through promos, that he was? Would anyone have cared about a ladder match for the Intercontinental title at Wrestlemania X if the title changed hands as much as it does these days? Would the Undertaker be perceived as the deadman, as a real threat, if guys like Yokozuna and Shawn Michaels didn’t act like they were nervous to face him? Hell no. Unfortunately, these days, we don’t get any of the great little things which used to make the matches mean something.

Titles change hands at the drop of a dime. Bret Hart was a five time WWE champion and that was an accomplishment back then. How many times has Cena held the title now, twelve? The title doesn’t mean a whole lot when it is won and lost at every Pay Per View or two. The prestige of all of the titles have been in jeopardy for years now. They want the fans to care when a title is defended, and they want you to believe that title could change hands at every moment, but you’d think they’d also want the title to mean a little more than it currently does. Holding the title means about as much as an empty net goal in hockey; sure it counts towards your total but no one ever puts it on a highlight real.

As for building each other up.. WWE has completely lost its way in that department. CM Punk, whom many of the fans love, comes out there and tells everyone that Alberto Del Rio is boring, that people are fast forwarding past him on their DVRs and that they should be. Punk holds a lot of sway, so many people love what this guy is saying and when he tells you that the former (then current) champion is boring and not worth watching.. why would you bother watching? That doesn’t build him up. Also, when did someone being boring or not boring have anything to do with an opponents ability to kick your ass?

Punk didn’t say Del Rio was weak so he’d beat him. He didn’t say he was stupid or skilless. He said he was boring. I never faced a tough fight in a bar or in the school yard where I thought for a moment that I could win because my enemy was boring. Everyone wants to “shoot” so badly and WWE wants so desperately to pull in people that they’re willing to sacrifice the quality of their product. It doesn’t seem to make any sense. Punk talks about how boring Raw is and how he wants to make it cool again. Imagine if your favorite football team’s Quarterback did pregame interviews where he said “Well, we’re boring and we’re not very good and people fast forward through our games but you should watch anyway.” To quote the Miz: Really? Really, WWE?

This brings us to the man who is most responsible for this kind of irrational, counterproductive behavior; John Cena. John Cena and the Rock are going to face one another at Wrestlemania. They teamed up at Survivor Series and at the end of the show the Rock left Cena laid out from a Rock bottom. Does Cena say it hurt, does Cena say he’s mad, does Cena say anything to build up heat? No. The guy walks out to the ring with a smirk on his face and says that people do things in the heat of the moment. So his method by which to build heat is to forgive his opponent for attacking him. Seriously? What the hell is going on here? Cena basically says it is ok that the Rock laid him out, that he isn’t bothered by it, and worse yet, he understands and forgives it. Oh yeah, now I really can’t wait to see these two rip each other apart. Imagine if in the film “The Matrix” that Keanu Reeves’ character, Neo, had said “We shouldn’t dislike the Agents, they’re just doing their job and I can understand that. I mean, we’ll fight them anyway, but let’s not have hard feelings about it.” Sounds like a blockbuster to me.

This isn’t just a WWE problem, though recent weeks of their television have made it clear that they show no signs of changing. Is this the future of wrestling? There is no future this way. You cannot castrate your product and expect it to produce in the years ahead. Some argue that Vince McMahon is losing it as he ages but the problem runs deeper than that. Stephanie is there and she should know better as well. Triple H should definitely know better but during that whole “walk out” storyline he implied that him wrestling a mop was more entertaining than watching the WWE Superstars perform. There are ways to build up your product, to make your opponents and roster look strong without losing your credibility as a more reality oriented, shooting promotion. WWE doesn’t seem to understand that and, as a result, they’re stuck with basically the same ratings week in and week out. Maybe, just maybe, if you made it seem like your matches mattered, your champions were credible and your show wasn’t “boring” than people would actually watch. This isn’t a solution to all of their problems, but it is a place to start. I love wrestling and they’re even beginning to convince me that it isn’t worth my time.

 

CenaNuff

“The famous Hollywood icon only shows up three times a year.  And I know that some of you are filming this and I know that he’s going to see this and be pissed of and the famous Hollywood icon will be there Monday and at Survivor Series… because I am no famous Hollywood icon I get to stand here and see all of you because this what I do.”  – John Cena, November 8th, 2011 – RAW House Show.
Ever seen the shock and surprise of the Rock’s return to Monday Night Raw in Anaheim, California back in February, there has been a war of words between John Cena and the Rock.  Rock came out swinging and although Cena has stepped up to the plate it seems obvious that he has struck out more often than he has hit homeruns.  This can’t be something completely held against Cena as it is difficult for anyone to step into the ring and go word for word with the Rock.  This has all been to set up the clash between these two which will take place at Wrestlemania in Miami.  The question on some people’s minds, though, is whether or not WWE has managed to botch this angle.  If you feel that they have then you may also be wondering whether or not that botch was an accident, a result of poor booking or purposeful.
Some people have said it wouldn’t make sense for it to be done on purpose but Vince McMahon has reputation for wanting to prove to individuals that one man is not bigger than the whole of the WWE and that no matter where you go and what you do you’ll never be as important as you were when you worked for him.  We saw it with Hulk Hogan, remember his stint on Smackdown as “Mr. America?”  That wasn’t done for an angle or for excitement.  It was done to humble a man who believed he was bigger than the company.  It is not as if Vince isn’t known for holding a grudge and one thing he takes as an insult more than anything else is if you leave his company.  What makes it worse in the Rock’s case is that not only did he leave but he became even bigger than Vince had made him.
WWE, or Vince McMahon specifically, don’t seem to understand the basic simplicity of this situation.  The WWE needs the Rock.  The Rock does not need the WWE.  I can’t speculate about the details of his return, the whys or hows, but coming back to the WWE to setup an angle certainly wasn’t done in order to advance his own career.  WWE has been struggling, they’re executing things poorly, they’re losing ratings.  The Rock is a blockbuster return which can draw more eyes.  This is clearly evidenced through the large Wrestlemania buyrate from last year and the Survivor Series selling out in ninety minutes.
Cena is always talking about how he is there every night, how he is there for all the fans, how he cares more than the Rock who doesn’t show up very much.  Thing is, who is the crowd cheering for?  They’re not thanking Cena for being there and they’re not cheering because he always shows up.  Half of the time a large portion of the crowd seems to resent the fact that Cena is there in the first place.  Cena is always talking about how the Rock chose to leave and doesn’t care about the fans.  Maybe Rock cares more about the fans and that’s why he left.  Maybe he knew they’d get tired of always seeing the same guy on top, seeing the same guy win, seeing the same guy do the same old stuff night in and night out.  Although, if Rock had stayed, he’d have been more versatile than Cena without even trying but things would begin to wear.  The Rock stepped aside and Cena is who he is because Rock left.
No one knows how much of what they say is worked or a shoot.  I’d imagine that some degree of it is as these two do seem to have some level of distaste for one another.  I’m sure the Rock knows that a lot of what Cena says is from McMahon’s lips to Cena’s ears.  The Rock isn’t a stupid man, and if he ever truly chose to let loose on Cena he’d be more than capable of completely destroying him verbally.  It’s interesting to wonder what would happen if one day, during one promo, Cena said something that actually made the Rock mad.  Doubtful, though, as the Rock doesn’t seem to care much what Cena has to say either way.
So where does this all leave us?  It leaves us with a superCena who has already shown on several occasions that he doesn’t need the Rock in order to take out both R-Truth and the Miz.  Hell, he can even lose to them and laugh about it afterward.  Then again, when does Cena ever seem to care about whether he wins or loses?  This guy drops the title and comes out the next night making poopy jokes.  The Rock, though, is someone we care to see and someone we’ve been looking forward to seeing.  It is someone that we can take seriously and when he speaks we believe he means what he is saying.  In Madison Square Garden, in the heart of New York City, the crowd is almost guaranteed to be behind the Rock and against Cena.
There has been speculation that after all of this time and after all of these years that John Cena will finally turn heel at Survivor Series by turning his back on the Rock or helping Miz and Truth to beat him down.  There is some consideration that perhaps Cena is the power that is influencing John Laurenitis, or at least, the power alongside McMahon who is doing the influencing.  If this is the case than this could be one of the most exciting moments in WWE history.  If this doesn’t happen then I have no choice but to wonder if Vince McMahon has truly lost his touch when it comes to booking big angles.  Time will tell, and all I can say is this; they’ve got my money for Survivor Series because I need to see what happens next.

Plot Holes

Storylines have always played an important role in the wrestling business.  It is the story that drives the matches.  The hook, the angle, whatever you want to call it, is what makes you want to see these two people go at it in the ring.  WWE was one great at developing storylines and stringing them out over long period of time.  They let things develop, they allowed heat to build.  They’d get you to the point where you absolutely had to see this match happen.  These days, however, WWE doesn’t seem to be able (or willing) to keep track of the details.  Things are slipping through the cracks, in some cases, and in others they are blatantly ignored.  Whether it’s Vince McMahon, Kevin Dunn or another major player behind the scenes, they seem to have lost their patience and their ability to allow things to play out.  Everything is being forced, and as a result, logic is behind left behind.  There are some plot holes large enough to drive a beer truck through.

One item which is a great example of WWE’s recent tendency to simply dismiss storylines in mid-swing is the anonymous Raw General Manager.  For months we went through the agonizing annoyance of watching matches and angles get directed through the use of a laptop with the most annoying sound effects.  We had to listen to Michael Cole blather on and on as he read the emails which almost always caused some nonsense to occur.  Chris Jericho, when exiting WWE, made it his mission to discover who the anonymous GM was.  Edge once argued with the laptop and then smashed it out of anger.

The anonymous GM ordered the result of the Jerry Lawler vs Michael Cole match reversed, he even made the WWE title match at Wrestlemania continue after both men were counted out.  This was a mystery that, love it or hate it, people were invested in.  People wanted to know who the anonymous person was behind the keyboard.  Speculation ran wild and now it appears as though it doesn’t matter.  Maybe it never mattered, maybe they never knew where they were going.  No matter what their original intention it seems glaringly obvious that they just lost faith, interest or care for this storyline.

Recently we’ve had the misfortune of living through the poorly executed Triple H / Johnny Laurenitis / Vince McMahon / Walkout angle.  I will try to break this one down but I can’t promise I won’t lose my mind somewhere in the middle of it.  Vince McMahon was relieved of his duties because he was making poor decisions including but not limited to the CM Punk walkout and the plan to fire John Cena when he lost at Money in the Bank.  Triple H came in to tell him he was relieved of his duties and that Triple H, as COO of the company, would be taking over day to day operations.  He brings back Jim Ross, which makes the fans happy, and makes some other changes like making Raw a Supershow.  John Laurenitis as Senior Vice President of Talent Relations was then working with Triple H, although it seemed apparent to everyone watching, that John was completely working against Triple H.

Triple H bumbled stupidly through many situations and was blindly unaware of the Laurenitis conspiracy against him.  He fought CM Punk because of the whole Kevin Nash debacle which seemed less and less important with each passing day.  He fined R-Truth and the Miz only to fire them later in the show.  They weren’t fired for attacking him or for beating up referees but because they posted a video where they claimed to be proud of what they were doing.  Apparently those fines were never paid.  R-Truth and the Miz came back to beat down Cena, Punk and Del Rio.  The entire lockeroom came out to stop them but couldn’t and eventually they were arrested.  Somehow this resulted in the lockeroom saying that WWE was no longer a safe working environment.  I wasn’t aware that it ever had been.

So, Triple H was then relieved of his duties by none other than Vince McMahon.  So Vince was fired, but then he was selected to tell Triple H he was fired.  No, no no, he wasn’t fired as COO.  He was fired from being the Raw General Manager.  Was anyone aware that Triple H was the Raw General Manager?  I wasn’t.  The board of directors, apparently even more blind than Triple H, then appointed John Laurenitis as interim GM.  Everyone knows John has been up to no good.. except them apparently.  Now, when he takes this position, all of the faces and heels that come walking in are surprisingly more willing to work for him than to work for Triple H.  Apparently they too are blind and stupid.

Laurenitis then fires Jim Ross because he walked out on the company.  I suppose this somewhat makes sense since he is a heel and his actions are supposed to be unjustified but it’s a little weird that no one, including Jerry Lawler, stood up and reminded John that everyone walked out.  However, if Triple H is still COO then why couldn’t he just overrule John’s decision and have Jim Ross not be fired?  Also, when the hell was Triple H the General Manager of Raw?  He was always the COO so he was apparently removed from a false position.  Didn’t we also get a beat down at the end of Raw where R-Truth and the Miz kept attacking Punk until Triple H came out to save him?  Just curious how John Laurenitis being in charge has somehow made the WWE lockeroom feel safer.

There are other details you could look at.  Why did Nash text himself?  Why did Stephanie McMahon show up for two segments only to disappear again?  Is Vince McMahon back with some kind of power now or did the board of directors just think it’d be funny for him to fire Triple H?  If you can figure any of this out I would love to hear what you have to say.  Frankly, WWE isn’t making much sense to me these days and unless they can get back on track and go back to a logical, direct, intelligent style of booking and storyline development I simply don’t see them pulling themselves out of this rut.  Maybe when the Rock comes back it will get better.  At least we know that he actually cares enough to make sure his storyline goes somewhere.

Buried Alive

WWE is creeping steadily toward overwhelming mediocrity.  Some would argue that they actually arrived there months, or even years ago.  If you’re a frequent viewer it is hard to argue against the fact that the quality of their shows has been in a state of decline for some time now.  Ratings have been plummeting faster than Mick Foley off the top of the cell.  However, in this instance, if WWE is planning on landing on a table it probably isn’t gimmicked enough to break the fall.  Just ask Jerry Lawler about that.  A large chunk of WWE’s viewing audience has been gradually turning away from product over the past few years and, unfortunately, WWE’s approach to correcting this issue seems to be to continue doing the same old things with some hotshots here and there.

Some have made the argument that WWE’s aim toward a PG environment has led to nothing but trouble for the company.  In light of Linda McMahon’s aim for senate and several contracts with youth oriented merchandise, much to the chagrin of older viewers, it doesn’t seem likely that the WWE will change course on that anytime soon.  The idea with PG was presented as an idea to “hook them while they’re young” and follow them as they age.  To grab the kids and get them to stick with the product as they get older.  The problem is, however, that viewers in the upper teens are losing interest.

It seems irrational to believe that a product aimed at thirteen-year-olds could keep the interest of nineteen-year-olds.  Often times the concept of what is “cool” or interesting to a thirteen-year-old is based more around what the older kids are into.  By aiming low you’re cutting off the top, whereas, if you aimed to entertain the older kids you’d probably hold onto some of the younger kids.  This isn’t to say that WWE needs to make a return to sleazy, sex driven angles with blood spilling all over the place.  Lord knows that hasn’t work very well for TNA in recent years.  Perhaps, though, it isn’t the fault of the age range at all.  Maybe it is WWE’s dedication to maintaining the status quo.

John Cena has been a figure of controversy over the years.  He has become the target for most older viewers that wish to hurl their disapproval at the company.  At the end of the day it seems clear that one fact is becoming evident:  people are getting tired of John Cena being on top of the world.  Much like in the late 80s with Hulk Hogan, fans today have grown weary of what they’ve come to call “SuperCena.”  Anyone who has watched for a while is aware that when John Cena isn’t completely burying some rising talent (Wade Barrett a few weeks ago, for example) than he is making corny jokes about poop or simply pointing out the fact that he still wears jorts.

Let’s face it, Cena has definitely begun coming down from the pinnacle of his time in WWE.  A lot of people are calling for a Cena heel turn and there is a slim possibility that we’re in the early stages of it.  Many analysts and wrestling critics see what they believe to be hints towards it.  John Cena being spotted with Stephanie at SummerSlam, his distance from the current angle involving the conspiracy, the fact that it seems almost set in stone that Survivor Series will see Cena, Rock and a few others teaming up against a new heel faction which will more than likely include the Miz, R-Truth, Kevin Nash and possibly some others.  There has been speculation that we’re about to see a rebirth for the nWo and if WWE is really stuck in the past it would make sense for the biggest face in the company to turn on the WWE and join forces with them.  Of course, this could all just be baseless speculation that never leads anywhere.  It wouldn’t be the first time a John Cena heel turn was believed to be in the works.

The problem is:  what would this really fix?  If John Cena turns heel and the nWo makes a return that is actually good, would that fix the horrid booking, terrible burials and overwhelming failure to push new stars?  Sure we’ve gotten a few people up there, or at least sitting on the backburner, like Sheamus.  However, how many times are we going to see John Morrison get squashed like he did this past Monday, how long will we see the same old names sitting on top?  Randy Orton, John Cena, Triple H.  How often over the past few years have these three been involved in some way, shape or form with the main events of the PPVs?  A lot more than anyone else.

WWE makes the argument that young stars need to “get themselves” over before WWE sees them as marketable, but this could easily be a fallacy, a catch 22, so to speak.  Taking John Cena, for example, is he so over because he gets himself over or does he remain over because he has the entire WWE marketing crew keeping him afloat?  Even with all of his support, backlash is coming swiftly.  If you’ve ever watched anyone in the wrestling business discuss the fall of WCW, one of the major factors they’ve always spoken of is the company’s failure to make new stars.  WWE has time to turn this around but they really have sat on their laurels these past few years.  It appears they believed the John Cena wave would carry them longer than it appears that it will.

There are so many factors which feed into the ratings, the interest level and the success of WWE.  If nothing else, it appears obvious that some changes are plausible and others are necessary.  The shear fact of the matter is they cannot and will not fix their current situation by staying the course and continuing to deliver us the same, freeze dried, reheated, recycled storylines.  Also, just because they throw us a five star match once in a while doesn’t make their creative direction any different than it currently is.  Who thought this whole CM Punk thing would turn to garbage so quickly?  They say the definition of insanity is performing the same actions but expecting different outcomes.  Well, Mr. McMahon, you might have to actually make some changes if you want to see things change.  This isn’t a complicated concept.  Maybe, though, some people just have difficulty letting go.

SummerSlam Reaction

Last night the epic clash of SummerSlam took place live on PPV.  We entered this show with many questions swirling around out there in the ether.  Would we witness the return of the WWE Divas title to a woman who has the skill to carry it?  Would Christian’s surprise insurance policy help or hinder his no holds barred title match against Randy Orton?  When dual WWE Champions clash in the ring for the first time in WWE history who would walk out as the undisputed Champion and would the special referee play a pivotal role in that finish?  All of these questions were answered but in at least one circumstance we find ourselves with new questions we’d not even considered prior to the show.Mysterio, Morrison & Kofi vs Miz, R-Truth and Del Rio:

The non-title matches here were entertaining if somewhat less than stellar.  The show opened with an unnanounced six man tag match with the team of Rey Mysterio, John Morrison and Kofi Kingston squaring off against The Miz, R-Truth and Alberto Del Rio.  The basic drive of this match was to put some known names into the show (names that should have been there in the first place) and to kick things off with an exciting, crowd pleasing match.  Nothing special here, team Mysterio takes the victory.Sheamus vs Mark Henry:
The Celtic Warrior Sheamus next clashed with Mark Henry.  This match could have been a total disaster but turned out to be pretty decent, perhaps thanks to an excellent spot which saw Mark Henry driving Sheamus through the ringside barricade.  Ultimately Sheamus could not make it to the ring in order to beat the ten count and Henry won via countout.  I’m not personally a massive fan of countouts in wrestling but this one was done right and provided a finish to the match which damaged neither competitor.  Mark Henry is still a human wrecking ball who has yet to be stopped and Sheamus continues down the path of his face turn by showing his fighting spirit and gaining the sympathy and respect of the crowd as he desperately tried to make it back to the ring but was unable to do so.  I do not think we’ve seen the last of Mark Henry and Sheamus coming together but hopefully we won’t be subjected to anything resembling a long bout between the two.


Daniel Bryan vs Wade Barrett:
Daniel Brian was up against Wade Barrett in what could only be described as a grudge match.  It is interesting to recall that at last years SummerSlam it was Bryan who returned to assist team WWE in a losing effort against the invading team Nexus.  In a turn which I don’t think most people expected, Barrett who was a major heel at this time last year has fallen down the ladder several rungs to the point that it is now Daniel Bryan who holds the Money in the Bank briefcase.  If asked at this time last year I think more people would have put their money on Barrett being the man with a gaurenteed title shot.  Either way these two put on an excellent, though short, match against one another.
I had predicted this match to go to Bryan and have to admit some level of surprise to see Barrett go over.  Bryan should be being built toward his briefcase cash in at Wrestlemania next year, not buried by someone who is, at best, currently trapped within the mid-card.  I also don’t feel that they played up the angle of these two having a colored past together and frankly the only interest I had in this match was my interest in seeing Bryan wrestle.  Either way I don’t think the outcome of this match means much of anything in the grand scheme of things and perhaps now that we’re over the SummerSlam hump we’ll see Bryan start getting built up.
Beth Phoenix vs Kelly Kelly (Divas Title):


When I imagined this Divas title match I thought of several things.  First of all I thought of the massive weight on the shoulders of Beth Phoenix to carry this match and make it something worth watching.  Secondly I feared seeing someone with the poor abilities of Kelly Kelly attempting to look like she could successfully deliver offense and thirdly I hoped beyond hope to see Beth Phoenix capture the divas title and restore credibility to a division which is floundering at best.  Kelly surprised me in the sense that she performed more than her typical three or four moves, Beth sold for her in a mostly believable way although watching a stick figure battle an athletically sculpted woman always tests ones ability to accept it.  In the end, Beth took over and absolutely dominated and while setting Kelly up for the Glam Slam found herself caught in a roll-up which led to Kelly winning and retaining the title

Yes it was a good match, and yes I absolutely believe their will be a rematch in which Beth is going to take the title off of Kelly but I think the storyline could have worked better with Beth as the champion defending on the next PPV.  Perhaps they wanted to give us a feel good moment and stretch this feud out, and if handled properly they can avoid doing any damage to the credibility of the Glamazon.  Also, just as an added note, the idea was that Beth and Natalya are saying that the days of the pretty model-looking divas are over so perhaps someone can answer for me why Beth came out in what appeared to be a cocktail dress?  She looked gorgeous, as did Natalya at ringside, but I think her other ring gear probably would have worked a little better.  Especially considering that Kelly Kelly came out dressed as a candycane.  Either way, K2 is still your Divas Champion.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see the title change hands sooner than the next PPV, however.

 Randy Orton vs Christian – No Holds Barred (WHC Title):

The World Heavyweight Championship match between Randy Orton and champion Christian was to be no holds barred.  A lot of times when it comes to matches like this there is a certain level of groaning that can be heard worldwide when they announce a stipulation like that in what is known as the PG era.  Not helping the matter was that this was yet another Orton / Christian match which we’ve been experiencing a whole hell of a lot lately.  Christian had an insurance policy, which everyone knew was going to be Edge, but surprisingly Edge turned on Christian before the match and cut an excellent promo on him leaving Christian screaming in anger moments before Orton made his entrance with a big grin.
I had supreme confidence in these two to pull off an excellent match and, that being said, they exceeded my expectations.  This was a masterfully planned, excellently executed (sorry Bret) match which did exactly what it needed to do:  it delivered.  Christian was in command in the early part with Orton fighting back here and there only to capture control towards the end.  We got to see some spots involving the Spanish announce table, kendo sticks, trash cans and two tables (including a superplex onto a table which was not set up but laying flat on the mat.)  Ultimately the final spot was Randy Orton catching Christian, who was leaping from the top rope, in an RKO on a the steel steps for the win.
This was a great match, and definitely in the top two that have taken place between these two guys.  The final spot involving the flying RKO on the steps not only looked amazing but painful.  Orton held the back of his head following that move for a few moments before making the cover and hopefully didn’t give himself another concussion.  That was one hell of a spot and definitely got the crowd to pop.  The RKO is a fun move to watch because you never know where it is coming from and though we’ve seen it done reversing top rope manuevers before we had not seen that in conjunction with the steps.  I saw a lot of angry twittering following this match as people wanted Christian to win but I really don’t know what there is to complain about.  Orton was winning this match, it was inevitable.  Smackdown is built around him and this feud needed to end, and when it did the title had to be on the guy who is going to carry the show.  Orton will now move on to feud with, probably, Mark Henry while Christian will remain the top heel of Smackdown and will work to build others, Sheamus for instance.  Keep your eyes open for the possibility of a Sheamus and Randy Orton vs Henry and Christian tag match in the future. John Cena vs CM Punk w/ Triple H (WWE Title):

Finally we’ve come to it, the match that SummerSlam had been almost entirely built around.  Triple H as the guest referee while WWE Champion CM Punk butted heads with WWE Champion John Cena.  This match was fun to watch though it was a notch below their previous clash at Money in the Bank but that is hard to live up to either way.  It was good back and forth, reversals, submissions and some great spots.  I can’t say there was ever a point at which one guy was completely in control for more than a minute or two.  The crowd began as somewhat divided, lots of booing for Cena when he entered followed by the battling “Let’s go Cena / Cena Sucks” chants.  However, the longer the match progressed, the more it seemed the crowd was getting firmly behind CM Punk.  At one point, Punk performed Randy Savage’s flying elbow which resulted in a large “Randy Savage” chant.  The divide of the match occurred when Punk landed a suicide dive outside the ring and both he and Cena lay in danger of a countout.  Triple H threw both men back into the ring where Cena landed an AA, Punk kicked out.  Cena got the STF on, Punk made it to the ropes and following a succession of GTS hits, Punk finally got the cover and the win.  This, however, is where the controversy began.

First of all, John Cena had his foot on the bottom rope.  Triple H either chose to ignore this or did not see it which immediately taints Punks title win and ignores the idea that we’d have an “undisputed” champion.  Following the match, Punk shook hands with Triple H who then headed up the ramp only to turn and witness Kevin Nash flying through the crowd, entering the ring and laying Punk flat on his back with the jacknife powerbomb.  Triple H looked shocked and made his way to the barricade to see where Nash was going while simultaneously Alberto Del Rio ran out with a referee, cashed in, delivered one kick to Punk’s head and won the WWE title in less than ten seconds.  Oddly they seemed to ignore their usual stipulation of making sure the defending champion is actually on his feet before the bell is rung.  So Del Rio leaves as Champion while Triple H is arguing with the referee.  So did this answer questions?  I suppose but now we have to wonder:  Was Triple H in on this?  Did he purposefully screw Cena and allow Punk to get crushed?  Who is Kevin Nash working for?  Who has a rematch clause?  I dread the possibility of a three way title match at next months PPV involving Punk, Cena and Del Rio.  No matter what, though, WWE successfully delivered an exciting, surprising and buzzworthy PPV which will have a lot of eyeballs focusing in on RAW tonight to see just what the hell is going on here.

In conclusion, SummerSlam was a worth while PPV to purchase and definitely paid out better than it charged.  The Punk / Cena / Triple H / ADR / Kevin Nash finale was done tastefully and leaves an opportunity for a really strong storyline to develop.  I think Kevin Nash, if used properly, can be a major asset here.  I can’t imagine being let down by this PPV and most of the negative talk I’ve personally witnessed has been as a result of fanboys or girls who don’t understand the concepts that were laid out for us tonight and just wanted to see their favorites win.  Hopefully they’ll be rewarded tonight on Raw and Friday on Smackdown.  I give this PPV a big thumbs up and highly recommend catching a replay.

SummerSlam 2011 Notes:  Jim Ross, though advertised, was in fact not on commentary and was replaced by Booker T who did an absolutely dreadful job.  Stephanie McMahon made her on screen return last night, seen talking to CM Punk as well as exiting Cena’s lockeroom and talking to her husband, Triple H.  Whether or not this is permanent or just a one shot deal remains to be seen.  The Anonymous GM podium was set up at ringside though never acknolwedged.  Mouth of the South Jimmy Hart took part in a funny promo with R-Truth.  Edge returned to cut a promo before walking back out, the crowd seemed happy to see him there.  Kevin Nash made his first on screen appearance for the WWE since his entry into the Royal Rumble seven months ago.  
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