Hello, Common Denomi-Nation! Once again, relatively on time for three weeks running. Yay!
Okay, so there’s nothing wrong with Plan B. In fact, having a Plan B is at least showing the foresight to realize that Plan A might not work out or to have the resources to formulate a Plan B when it becomes apparent that Plan A is in jeopardy.
I might be giving WWE Creative a little too much credit, but having Ryback establish his presence in the upper card and engaging in a little peripheral interaction with CM Punk in the event that things don’t work out for Cena at Hell in a Cell is a good call. Yes, they could be doing it with an already established upper-to-mid-carder, like the Miz or R-Truth maybe, but if the side-effect, intentional or not, is that they get a new top guy in the process, then double kudos to them.
Now, I actually expect Cena to make it to Hell in a Cell, even though part of me is actually hoping he can’t go, just to see what they’ve got planned. But it’s hard to count Cena out, and you can’t overlook his desire to compete and entertain, and he’s already shown tremendous aptitude for coming back early from injury – best exemplified by his surprise return at the 2010 Royal Rumble. So, we’ll probably get Punk-Cena again, which is fine and all, but they could really use a break from each other.
But what if they do go with Plan B? That’s not always a bad thing. In 1993, WCW was building to a massive Starrcade showdown between two of the hottest properties in the business at the time, WCW World Heavyweight Champion and all-around badass monster Big Van Vader and my homeboy the self-proclaimed Master and Ruler of the World, Sid Vicious. Both were heels with massive fan followings and each had been put up as unstoppable forces. Vader had spent most of the past year dismantling the company’s top babyface, Sting, and Sid had been dismantling pretty much everyone else. Both used the at-the-time innovative and surefire finisher the power-bomb and fans were looking forward to the match. Reliable sources say Sid was tentatively booked to win the battle of the power bombs and take the title.
However, an overseas hotel fight between Sid and Arn Anderson that involved scissors and has become somewhat legendary over the years resulted in Sid being pulled from the match.
Plan B? Well, it’s a pretty good problem to have when your back-up is the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. Flair, pretty much the quintessential heel and all-around bad guy, was put into the Starrcade main event. It turns out fans welcomed the opportunity to cheer Flair and the match turned into a David vs. Goliath storyline. The one place I think WCW faltered in the planning was to make it a Title vs. Career match. I don’t think too many smart fans bought into the idea that Flair was going to hang up his boots, and indeed, Flair took an ass-whooping but managed to take down Vader and win the title, making him (I think) 10-time champion at the time.
It’s certainly not the first time a high-profile Plan B has been put into place in wrestling. Probably the most famous of these is when Bret Hart refused to drop the WWF title to Shawn Michaels on his way out the door to WCW, we got the Montreal Screw-Job. That one decision proved to be the impetus for the evil Mr. McMahon character, which of course, when paired with the meteoric rise of Steve Austin, led to completely reinventing the business. I’m not saying Vince and Company couldn’t have gotten to that scenario in some other way, but the realism surrounding the incident was certainly more organic than say Vince just spontaneously interjecting himself into main event angles a few weeks down the road or something.
Another Plan A that went awry that I’ve heard about over the years centers on the lead-up to Wrestlemania X. I’m not especially up to snuff on the specifics, but it goes something along these lines: Ludvig Borga, a Finnish wrestler doing an anti-American gimmick, was slated to win the WWF title. I can’t recall if the exact plan was for Borga to win the title and then drop it to the “New Hulk Hogan” Lex Luger, who was doing the “All-American American” gimmick, at Wrestlemania, or if Luger was supposed to win the belt from Yokozuna and then lose it to Borga at ‘Mania, but either way, Borga broke his foot pretty badly in a match against Rick Steiner (so, thanks Rick) and those plans had to be scrapped.
Plan B? One of the best things in wrestling at that time. Luger and Bret Hart “co-won” the Royal Rumble, leading to both men getting title shots at Wrestlemania. Luger would get first shot at champ Yokozuna, while Hart would face his brother Owen. This was the start of the emergence of Owen in the upper card/main event scene in the WWF and kicked off a great run by “The Rocket.”
In a move that one might label “Plan C,” here, Luger was allegedly booked to win the title from Yokozuna and then (again, not entirely sure) either drop it to Hart or beat Bret. But Lex apparently went and developed diarrhea of the mouth and leaked word that he was winning the belt right before ‘Mania, so Vince pulled a dick-move and had Lex get disqualified in his title match. The result was that an obviously-not-made-to-wrestle-twice-in-one-day Yokozuna had to do just that. But the silver lining was that Hart won the belt, pretty much establishing once and for all that smaller guys could be credible WWF champ and in the main event. Also, we got an extended Hart-Hart feud, and Lex never got his hands on the WWF title (I never liked Luger, so that might just be a plus for me).
Brutus Beefcake might have a Plan B Curse or something. He never did get an Intercontinental title run, despite at least twice being tentatively booked to win in. Of course, the best known case being the emergence of the Ultimate Warrior to answer the Honkytonk Man’s open challenge at SummerSlam that saw Warrior end HTM’s record 18-month reign.
Of course, there’s the untimely death Plan B, including Kerry Von Erich getting a brief NWA title reign in tribute to and in place of brother David. Eddy Guerrerro was being penciled in for another title run at the time of his death, and of course, Chris Benoit was booked to win the ECW title on the eve of his tragic end. That gave us John Morrison, by the way, which is good or bad depending on your personal preferences.
Wrestlers leaving the company has always been a source of Plan B booking. When Flair walked out on the NWA in 1991, taking the Big Gold Belt with him, Luger, who was apparently finally going to get the best of Flair after four freaking years of trying, was turned heel, paired with manager Harley Race, and given the title in a thrown-together match with Barry Windham. They really shanked this one, too, but touting Luger’s opponent as a “6-foot-8 former world champion,” making a lot of fans think Hulk Hogan was coming to WCW. Of course, Hogan would eventually get there in 1994, and of course, it was Flair Hogan got to win the belt from (Flair obviously came back).
Stan Hansen pulled a similar deal on the AWA, taking the belt to Japan with him. In that case, veteran Nick Bockwinkle was brought out to put over face-turned-heel Curt Hennig as the new champ, which was cool and Curt was nice enough to drop the AWA belt to Jerry Lawler on his way to the WWF.
And then there’s ECW. When Shane Douglas won a tournament for the newly-revived NWA World Title, Eastern Championship Wrestling owner Paul Heyman launched a Plan B of the sneakiest sort, having Douglas renounce the NWA title, rechristen ECW as Extreme Championship Wrestling and practically smother the NWA in its crib. The NWA went with a Plan B of their own and held another event that saw Chris Candido become NWA champion, but the revival was pretty much snakebit from that point forward.
And if anyone thinks the Montreal Screw-Job was the first time Vince took matters into his own hands with some uppity employee who refused to play ball, I offer this:
Wendi Richter was (pretty much) never seen or heard from again…
Anyway, we’ll see where this goes with Punk, Cena and Ryback. It probably didn’t help that Ryback botched his finisher Monday night with Tensai, but who knows. I don’t think they’d put the belt on Ryback at this juncture, but I guess stranger things have happened.
Thanks for reading.