Jay looks at the Current Landscape of Pro Wrestling!!
January 26, 2014. The Royal Rumble. We all knew it was the beginning of the Road to WrestleMania, but little did we know it was also the end of The Best in the World. As any wrestling fan knows, I am talking about none other than CM Punk and his decision to walk away from the WWE. But why?
Why would one of the most popular stars in professional wrestling decide to quit seemingly out of thin air? The main reason being given is that his heart was not in it anymore. It has also been said that he was disappointed in the direction of the company and with the Creative department. And with the atrocious Battleground pay-per-view stuck in our recent memory, we can easily see how bad Creative is ourselves.
As a wrestling fan growing up during the days of the Attitude Era, I can wholeheartedly agree with Punk and his decision to walk away. Do I wish he wrestled one true epic "last match" before leaving? Of course, but sometimes the best way to make your sentiments well known is with a drastic action. And in the world of professional wrestling, there is no act of defiance bigger or more drastic than giving the middle finger to Vince McMahon and walking out on your contract.
We also should have seen this coming. The very person to drop the infamous “pipe bomb” would certainly go out on his own terms. Punk wasn't laying down for anybody nor would he go out and perform if his heart wasn't in it. Ultimately, I do believe the fact that drove Punk out of the WWE has been the horrible direction (or lack thereof) of the Creative team. From main-eventer storylines to midcarders, Creative has consistently flopped in recent times.
Sure, there have been some amazing moments, but the lackluster storylines overall have been weak. As I just mentioned a moment ago, Battleground was atrocious. Why? Well, to break it down real quick, the preshow showed us again why the matches on there are throw-aways and a waste of time. Instead of a nonsensical match between two mid-card nobodys (Adam Rose and Fandango) that does nothing for any relevant storylines or a match between two Divas that should have done something for a decent storyline (but was just executed poorly), we could have actually decent entertaining matches with good wrestlers that are never used for reasons unknown. Then we get to the main card and The Usos vs. The Wyatts is a decent match, but storyline wise it’s just the same old stuff we have been seeing for weeks now with the same result. AJ Lee retained in a forgetful match. Rusev defeated Jack Swagger due to some horrible vision of the Creative team. Just when you thought they were going in the right direction with that story. Seth Rollins never even fought Dean Ambrose. This is probably the dumbest move of the night; having arguably the most hyped match of the evening called off due to some corny Creative reasoning. Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt was a solid match, but nothing spectacular. Another monumentally idiotic move (other than to use yet another current WWE star to hype an unrelated movie) saw The Miz win the Battle Royal for the Intercontinental Championship after we all though Dolph Ziggler actually won. How did he do it? By hiding outside the ring the whole time. To quote Miz: Really? … Really? And finally in the predictable main event with the usual suspects, John Cena, of course, retained his title. Overall, that most current PPV pretty much demonstrated just how bad things have gotten. I certainly can’t think of a worse PPV in recent memory.
But to carry on to the weekly content analysis, let's start by looking at some of the midcarders. Big E debuted a while back for reasons unknown as Dolph Ziggler's bodyguard and with a last name of Langston, the two split, and Big E went on to win the Intercontinental Championship. It seemed like Big E was elevating himself, that is until a certain newcomer by the name of Alexander Rusev, my apologies, I mean Rusev, defeated Big E on consecutive pay-per-views, err I mean "special events" and tossed him down to the ranks of virtual obscurity making him now Kofi Kingston's bodyguard or big brother or whatever you want to call it. Oh and that's not all Creative had in store for Big E, they decided it would be cool if he talked like a riveting preacher in-uh his-uh promos-uh! If you read that in Big E's voice you know what I'm talking about.
Now let's backtrack a little here, speaking of poor direction, we have Kofi Kingston. I don't think there is a more stale midcarder than Kingston. What's his gimmick? A Jamaican from Ghana who's big catchphrase is "Boom?" Yup, exciting stuff. Kofi desperately needs a character change or heel turn. Oh and remember when he was absent recently and all the dirt sheets said Kofi was coming back with a change? Finally, I thought! Kofi comes back...and he wears wrestling pants now instead of wrestling trunks. Calm down. Hopefully this stable with Big E, Kofi, and Xavier Woods turns out to be something worthwhile, but I have my doubts.
Now backtracking a little more, the recipient of Big E's body-guarding, Dolph Ziggler, seems to be the most underutilized wrestler on the roster. Talk about someone needing a push! Sure, you can say he had his shot after he cashed in his Money in the Bank Briefcase to win the World Heavyweight Championship, but that reign was cut short because of a concussion. Since he dropped the belt, he has been in many irrelevant matches, completely amazing, show-stealing matches if you will, but what does a man have to do to get another legitimate push, a decent feud where he prevails, and potentially elevate his status to main-even level?
And don't tell me that he isn't a main event talent. Listen to the fans every time his music hits, the people love him. I still think one of the biggest pops I have ever heard was when Ziggler cashed in and won the World Heavyweight Championship. Why wouldn't WWE want that again? And so help me God if I see another Ziggler vs. Alberto Del Rio match.
Moving on, you have Damien Sandow, the Intellectual Savior of the Masses, someone I see as having one of the most natural heel personas in the WWE currently. He was in a great tag team with Cody Rhodes, The Rhodes Scholars, and they were never given the Tag Team Championships (which they definitely deserved). He then went on to win the Money in the Bank briefcase, cashed it in on a certain John Cena, had a phenomenal match and then, of course, Cena defied the odds and prevailed!
Since then he has been reduced to playing an array of characters from Magneto to Davy Crockett to Vince McMahon-dow and most recently, a Sonic employee. And for what? What direction is there other than you're wasting a great talent to get a few giggles.
The Miz recently came back, he’s still The Miz but at least now he has a gimmick other than "he's awesome." He's a movie star. Not sure if starring in WWE produced movies qualifies, Miz, but hey, I guess protect that moneymaker. And before I leave the dull and boring Miz, why did WWE decide of all people to have Ric Flair bestow the Figure Four upon him? Let's reserve that honor for, I don't know, a relevant wrestler.
Then every other mid-carder that they have no idea what to do with Creative just throws in a poorly named tag team. Ryback was a monster when he debuted, had main event written all over him, and now he is stagnant in the tag division with his buddy Curtis Axel, they go by Rybaxel, clever right?
Goldust came back and had a great tag run with his brother Cody Rhodes, then transformed him to Stardust. Excellent work by Creative here, but I don't know, let's have them wrestle once in a while instead of doing promos.
Jack Swagger, The Real American, was in a great tag team with Cesaro, but like the Rhodes Scholars, was never given the tag team belts despite deserving a run. And just when you thought Creative got smart with Swagger’s feud with Rusev, it took a wrong turn at Battleground and I am not sure that ship can be righted.
Another pointless feud, R-Truth and Xavier Woods vs. Brodus Clay and Tensai (formerly a Lord). What was the point of that feud? To turn Clay heel apparently. Now where is he? Future endeavored. Not with the company anymore for those of you who didn't know. And that is despite his new heel persona insisting he was a "Main Event Playa!" Great direction there. And as for Tensai, he was doing some commentary last I saw, who knows, who cares, right? If you were wondering, R-Truth and Woods then went on to big things, Rusev to be more specific, where they were squashed.
As for some of the legitimate tag teams, to start with, The Prime Time Players, Titus O'Neil and Darren Young, another mediocre tag team was seemingly going places when Titus had a heel turn which went absolutely nowhere. As for Mr. No Days Off, Young has been injured and has had many days off.
Los Matadores debuted and they were fun...for a RAW. Yes, a single RAW. Then they got boring. You can't take a team seriously with a little man running around in a bull costume.
Heath Slater, went from a One Man Band to 3MB, then Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal got future endeavored and now he is back to 1MB (no I don't count Hornswoggle, that "feud" with El Torito was horrible.)
That leaves The Wyatt Family, Rowan and Harper, and The Usos. They are probably the only two currently cohesive tag teams and, rightfully so, Creative has had them aligned in a lengthy and decent feud. However, I am getting tiresome of watching The Usos do the same thing every match with the same outcome.
And for those wondering Zack Ryder and David Otunga are still signed to WWE. Ryder I believe was last spotted Woo-Wooing down at Seaside Heights with The Situation (right before Battleground I believe) and Otunga I think I saw on Judge Mathis the other day. Please WWE, give Ryder some decent time. If Adam Rose can get PPV matches, why can’t Ryder get a match here or there? I think Ryder trumps several stars in persona, charisma, ability and overall likability. As for Otunga, I guess he is the new JTG.
With the mid-carders off my chest, let's move on to the Divas. WWE started the Total Divas show and everything deteriorated afterwards in my opinion. A scripted reality show being intertwined with the actual "matches" makes the matches quite pointless and boring. There only seems to be a couple actual threats to AJ Lee's Divas Championship, but with Total Divas matches usually taking priority, I fear it may get worse before it gets better in that division.
Finally, in the main event scene (upper midcarders included), we have Bray Wyatt, John Cena, the former members of The Shield, Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, Bad News Barrett, Daniel Bryan, Cesaro, Kane, Jericho, and Randy Orton.
I have no idea why Del Rio is consistently in big matches, the guy is a great technical wrestler, but he is just so dull. Bad News Barrett reinvented himself and he got hurt. Sheamus is another one that WWE loves shoving down our throats. He is basically an Irish Cena. Personally, I hate when he screams "Fella!" It just makes me cringe every time I hear it. And how many times has he lost cleanly? It's like he either always wins or loses by some sort of controversy.
Cesaro, who also lost his first name, has been recently getting a push, but to what avail? He went from United States Champion to The Real Americans to a Heyman guy and now he just wears a robe and is stacking losses up against the likes of Kingston and Big E and getting tossed out of the Battle Royal by Heath F’ing Slater. Why build up his character and then have him lose pointlessly? Not to mention his theme music is horrible. That siren needs to stop. This failure with Cesaro shows Creative will once again be failing to take advantage of the elevation of one of its best wrestlers.
Kane is at the tail end of his career, yet Creative feels the need to shove him in countless WWE World Heavyweight Championship feuds. Oh, and calling him “the demon Kane” without him doing anything really demonic doesn't do anything for his character. I suppose the PG Era doesn't play to demonic activities.
Jericho is back, and I love it. Jericho is a veteran who isn't afraid of putting someone over and having a great match in the meantime. In this occurrence Creative is lucky that he wants to work with Bray Wyatt because Bray is definitely a main event player for years to come and I think where there were shortcomings in his feud with Cena, Jericho will elevate Bray to a new level.
Now let me move onto a topic that I think Creative totally blundered, and that was the breakup of The Shield. So you're telling me one of the greatest factions in WWE history broke up and there is no real storyline after that? Sure, the bit where Seth Rollins turned on Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns was quite surprising and a great move by Creative, but the aftermath of that was horrendous.
So you're telling me that after they apparently disband, Ambrose and Reigns don't even so much as say "nice working with ya?" Ambrose, rightfully so, has it out for Rollins, and that feud is shaping up to be great, but what is Reigns doing? He is more concerned with the WWE title. It's as if he doesn't even care that Rollins betrayed him.
And why did Rollins and Ambrose change their ring attire and entrance music, but Reigns is seemingly living in the past like he is still in The Shield? He's wearing the same stuff, comes down the same way, and comes out to the same music. Just extremely poor development with that story.
Moving on to the actual contenders, as of late, for the WWE title, you have John Cena, Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton, in addition to the aforementioned Reigns. Bryan, was on a roller-coaster journey engineered by Creative and while it ended in great fashion and Bryan having his monumental WrestleMania moment, it was almost like the whole storyline and progression was just extremely dragged out. He had too many matches, in my opinion, with Orton. While Orton is a good wrestler and a big draw, I feel he is another one along the lines of a Sheamus or Cena that WWE just keeps forcing down our throats in the main-event scene.
Now, of course, the biggest draw and the biggest offender for being shoved down our throats, John Cena, has got to learn how to just put people over at this point in his career. I don't know if it is him or Creative ultimately, but there is a certain lack of prestige in being a 15-time champion. That also means he lost the belt 14 times and yet WWE keeps going back to their moneymaker. The walking souvenir stand.
Sure, some of the title reigns were deserved and he has had great matches despite his limited move set, but Cena, your time is not now. Your time was then. The same can be said for Orton. How many championships are you going to give the guy that seemingly can't keep it together outside the ring?
And now Reigns is stepping up into the WWE title picture, where I believe he deserves to be...eventually. But I fear Creative is fast-tracking him to be the new Cena. Someone that is going to be shoved into every main event match for the foreseeable future. Like Cena, Reigns has a very limited moveset (let's get the guy a REAL finisher please), however, where they are different is in their promo work. Cena, while extremely corny, is very fluid and natural talking. Reigns has a long way to go before he even gets to that level. I just hope Creative takes the time to develop Reigns a little as a singles competitor, but I doubt they will be capable of that based off of their track record.
With this breakdown of most of the current roster and the few successes and plethora of downfalls of Creative, let me just dig into the major problems. Problems that CM Punk probably also saw, which ultimately led to him walking out.
Part-timers. WWE is notorious for picking up the phone book and calling in part-timers when they should be developing the full-time talent that they have that is capable of being in the main event. What is the sense in Punk holding the WWE title for over a year, something unheard of in this day and age, only to drop it to The Rock, who then disappeared for weeks on end with the title being nowhere to be seen on WWE TV? Oh, that's right, it's because setting up The Rock vs. Cena would get more PPV buys.
Now don't get me wrong, money is obviously important in keeping a business going, but don't do things at the expense of the fans. Of course there are millions of Cena and Rock fans, but there are also millions of Punk fans that got screwed over in that debacle.
Other part-timers that usually steal the show from full-timers? How about Batista or Bootista or Bluetista? Triple H's buddy who comes back in the same Royal Rumble that Punk ended his career just so happens to win that match and after being away filming mediocre movies is now propelled to the main event of WrestleMania.
Brock Lesnar is a popular part-timer, and for good reason, he brings a certain intensity and beastlike nature that no one else possesses. He is someone that WWE should negotiate more of a full-time schedule with. Of course Lesnar was involved in probably the greatest recent achievement of Creative (or maybe Vince or Taker himself should get the credit) when he battled The Undertaker and The Streak. We all still remember the shock of Lesnar ending The Streak, but since then Creative has done nothing with Lesnar.
And of course, Triple H still tapes up his hands every now and then. But what do all these part-timers do in the big picture? They hold back full-time talent and while occasional matches are great, they shouldn't be thrown into title matches out of nowhere. My sentiment of being against this and being poor booking was probably also shared by Punk in his decision to leave.
Now going back to the Attitude Era which I mentioned earlier, I feel that certain aspects of that time which are not in this current PG Era also hold back the talent. Back then when WWE (F) was competing with WCW, talents actually had to fight for air time; they had to put more real emotion into their promos and work. There was legitimate competition.
Right now there is none, TNA fans, I'm sorry, but you just aren't a threat to WWE. Therefore, the show is strictly run based off of crappy, poorly thought out storylines by Creative. The talents aren't pouring their heart and soul into it anymore. A few that do are, Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose, and the now-retired Punk. But everyone else feels like they are just reading off a poorly-written script.
Compare anything Cena or Orton have done to old school Rock or Steve Austin promos. There is no comparison. We need the authenticity of emotion brought back into the mix. We need great storylines to get invested in. We need a change of scenery every once in a while.
Let's make Extreme Rules actually "extreme." Maybe bring in a First Blood Match or actual hardcore match every now and again just to pay homage to the days of old. The fans don't scream "ECW" for no reason.
Let's put championships on someone new. Enough with the Cenas and Ortons and Sheamuses, build up some new talent, give people like Cesaro or Bray Wyatt or Daniel Bryan (when he returns) good runs with titles. NXT wrestlers are always coming up too so the future is always being built, Creative just needs to know what to do with it.
I don't want to see the same champions time after time. I don't want to see Ziggler in a pointless feud with Fandango. I don't want to see Sandow serving Sonic fast food in promos with the God-awful Adam Rose character.
When CM Punk walked out, he did it for the greater good, to try to make a statement that the current product has no direction or passion. And if the company he worked for did not have it, how could he? He has higher standards for himself and his craft than to strut out to the ring for clobberin' time and put on a show he potentially didn't have his heart in.
Sadly, the last clobberin' time we did see happened nearly six months ago. And as that clock rolled into the 49th minute of the Rumble, the landscape of the WWE was put on notice through an act that has proven to have some deeper symbolism. A relic of the Attitude Era, Kane, reaching up and grabbing one of the biggest stars of the current era, only to rip him down from his height and bury him through the good ol' Spanish announcers' table now stands a symbol of how times of WWE past stands tall over the product that the WWE is now today.
And on that day nearly six months ago, Punk chose to put his foot down and say enough is enough. We need new direction in the WWE. We need change.
Maybe then we will be treated to hearing the Cult of Personality blaring from the speakers again. And if not, if Punk is truly done, then at least the product and the WWE will have changed for the better so future stars don't lose their passion or their spark for entertaining us.