Well, that sucked.
Hello again, my Common Denomi-Nation! I am, in case you were wondering, I’m referring to the latest WWE offerings vis-à-vis Hell in a Cell and the follow-up edition of Raw, where it seems that once again, the ‘E has taken the opportunity to do something fresh, exciting and entertaining and crushed it under their collective heel like Mickie James in a fetish video.
While I did advocate (though not necessarily support) putting the WWE title on Ryback, I’m actually okay with keeping the belt on CM Punk. The “evil referee,” while somewhat cliché at this point, hasn’t been done to death, and hasn’t been done in a while. Nick Patrick during the NOW angle, the evil Hebner “plastic surgery” angle that ended Hulk Hogan’s initial run with the WWF title, Danny Davis costing the British Bulldogs and Tito Santana their titles back in the day were all successful executions of the idea (Hogan and Patrick playing politics for the Starrcade 1997 main event notwithstanding), so I don’t really have a problem with it (did TNA do one of these, I forget?).
Now, on Raw the next night, having Punk completely duck the issue and basically make it an afterthought just reeks of poor writing. Do they have a plan for the angle, or are we just supposed to forget about it now? I don’t get it. If there are no plans to go anywhere with this, why not just have the guy come out and celebrate with Punk and Heyman and have Ryback just completely destroy the guy?
But, instead, we’re off and running toward Survivor Series. I’ll be honest, SurSer was always my least favorite of the “Big Four,” back when that was a thing. I usually like elimination matches, but I didn’t like the lack of title matches and the one time they did something cool and had all the winners come back for a final “sole survivor” match, it ended up with Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior (and Tito Santana thrown in for a laugh) plowing through the bulk of the heel roster in one match all by themselves. So, the gradual transition to a more conventional ppv with a traditional Survivor Series-type match or two was fine with me.
So this year, it seems like the traditional Survivor Series match announced on Raw this week is serving a few purposes. One, by not having Punk defend the title, it guarantees he will reach the one-year mark on his current title reign. Two, Ryback could theoretically get his win back over Punk without it a title change. Three, it keeps them from having to find a new challenger or gives Cena a chance to heal up, or whatever it is they want to do with him. None of that is necessarily a bad thing.
Now on Raw, it appeared as though they were building toward a Team Foley vs. Team Punk match, with Foley actually participating in the match. That turned out to not be the case, with Foley only being at ringside, which again isn’t necessarily bad (another example of WWE bait-and-switch, but oh well). The problem is, and I don’t think I’m alone in this regard, as each team member was rolled out, I became less and less enthused about the match.
My sons and I began to speculate on who the participants would be. I mean, it’s a 10-man tag-team match, so basically anyone could be involved. I mean, if you can’t tag in and do a couple of spots in a match like that, you probably can’t walk, right? Plus it’s never too soon to begin the slow build toward whatever they’ve got planned for Wrestlemania. So, as the night went on and the final segment grew nearer, we started putting our teams together. We decided that in our dream world, we’d get CM Punk, Brock Lesnar, Dolph Ziggler, Daniel Bryan and Kane (or Team Rhodes Scholars instead of Team Friendship) vs. Mick Foley, John Cena, Ryback, HHH and the Rock.
Yeah, we were disappointed.
Now, obviously we were setting our sights pretty high, in an “aim for the stars and you’ll land on a cloud” kind of way, but to say the ultimate reveal was disappointing is a massive understatement.
First of all, the line-up we got effectively means no Intercontinental, Tag-team or WWE Championship title matches. Yes, we’ll probably get a Sheamus-Big Show WHC re-match and Anonio Cesaro can still defend the U.S. title, but still, nearly all of the major feuds are wrapped up in the main event. And honestly, as much theoretical star power the 10-man match has, that line-up really only served to show me just how thin the WWE talent roster is these days. And then they took the one hook that offered something new, namely Foley getting a chance to go all hardcore on the smarmy Punk, was yanked out from under the fans’ feet right at the last minute. Maybe if this leads to a Punk-Foley singles match somewhere down the road, it’ll be worth it, but man, they sure missed the boat at Hell in a Cell by not having that match instead of Punk-Ryback. They could have had Ryback come to Foley’s rescue after being slaughtered in the cell and then done the Survivor Series match with Ryback getting a win over Punk in a non-title situation.
I’m not saying that the WWE is doomed, but it sure seems like there’s going to be a lot of treading water all the way to ‘Mania, or at least until the Royal Rumble, and Survivor Series seems like total filler at this point.
On a more positive note, I went and picked up WWE ’13 for the boys Tuesday afternoon, and they immediately immersed themselves in the storyline mode, which promises to recreate the Attitude Era, something they didn’t actually experience firsthand. They first really started paying attention around 2003 or so, long after the Monday Night Wars and the end of WCW and the real ECW. No full blown review here, but just from what I’ve seen the graphics are awesome, the game seems to play well, and I’m impressed with the detail they put into the storyline, what little I’ve seen of it at this point.
Plus, and this is telling of what even the younger fans want, the first match they played was a Hell in a Cell between CM Punk and Mankind. Of course, the second match was Brodus Clay vs. The Miz, so what do they know?
But the game did get me to thinking. I’ll be 40 next August, and I’ve been watching wrestling since I was 5 years old. My boys were probably 8 and 6 by the time they were following it, but then they got out of watching and then back into it by the time they were 12 and 14. Now they grew up never getting to appreciate the illusion that it was all “real.” Since no one was really going out of their way to practice kayfabe, and since they grew up in the age of “reality” televison, they’re perception of and attachment to pro wrestling is very different from mine.
As a kid, I thought wrestling was real, and by “real” I mean that those two guys in the ring really hated each other and each was trying to injure the other enough to force their shoulders to the mat for a three-count. I held onto that belief as long as my mind would let me. By the time I was 12 or 13, I pretty much had to accept that it was maybe-probably-but-not-completely-fake, and by my young adulthood, I was able to accept that it was scripted. It didn’t help that I had a friend that lived in Orlando and would call me and tell me months’ worth of storylines pre-taped by WCW for the TV shows back when someone thought that was a good idea.
But I’ve still watched, being able to simply enjoy wrestling from an entertainment, dramatic, athletic and theatrical standpoint. And now thanks to the Internet, I can talk about and read about the backstage and real-world aspects of the business with all the other “smart marks” that follow it. This next generation of fans is very different. Long gone are the little old ladies that would stab “Dirty” Dutch Mantell with the point of their umbrellas for cheating against Jerry “The King” Lawler and the crowds that would cry when Kerry Von Erich would take a pounding at the hands of the Freebirds. That suspension of disbelief is gone for me now, and I’m not sure that the crowd that has grown up watching the 21st century version of pro wrestling will ever have that magic.
I’m not saying we need this (go to the 18-minute mark for the good stuff)…
Or even this…
(Oh, hey look it’s an old veteran helping to build up and put over a younger guy, and Mick Foley is involved, and hey, the fans care!) But, I was on the third row in 1987 at the Mid-South Coliseum when Tommy Rich, Austin Idol and Paul Heyman (as Paul E. Dangerously) cheated to not only give Lawler his only loss in a hair match but also bilk the fans out of a guarantee of their money back if Idol lost. And let me tell you, I wasn’t sure we were getting out of there alive.
Anyway, thanks for reading.