WWE: Where They Went, Where They’re Headed

Posted: January 6, 2012 in Blood On The Canvas, events, TV, wrestling, writing

Greetings from the office of a roving writer who apparently doesn’t know what it means to keep up a consistent blog. I know that I haven’t posted in some time – the last entry having been in August – so I think it’s appropriate to take a look back at 2011, now that we’re nearly a week into 2012.

This first post – there should be two today – will focus on all the big happenings in the WWE this past year. Yes, I’m a wrestling mark, you already knew that, but I thought I’d sorta resurrect my old “Blood On The Canvas” column and highlight the biggest headlines of 2011, while looking ahead to the new year.

February 14 – The Rock returns to the WWE.

The People’s Champ had been on the company’s TV shows twice in the past four years, but they were pre-taped segments and he had not appeared live and in person inside a WWE ring since 2004. That changed when at the end of Monday Night Raw, the lights went out in the arena, the audience started getting antsy, and a loooooong pause built the anticipation to see who would be the special guest host of WrestleMania 27. It was The Rock, who seemed genuinely happy to be back ‘home’ and proceeded to cut a 20+ minute promo in a segment that would go down as possibly the best superstar return ever in professional wrestling.

April 3 – The Undertaker and Triple H tear the house down at WrestleMania.

People had their doubts over how good this match would be, but the two longest-serving veterans of the WWE produced an instant classic of a battle at WrestleMania 27. Triple H had not competed in nearly a full year, and many questioned the health of The Undertaker, who had only been gone since late October with a shoulder injury and returned in February. However, with a great story told in and outside the ring, their No Holds Barred match was a half-hour war as announce tables, ring stairs, steel chairs and even Michael Cole’s ridiculous ‘Cole Mine’ sanctuary became victims of the onslaught. Nearing the conclusion, Triple H tried everything in his power to put the Dead Man away, including three Pedigrees, a barrage of chair shots to the body and even a crack in the head, which raised many eyebrows since blows to the head are a big no-no, per the WWE’s Wellness Policy. Taker would not stay down, and even grabbed HHH by the throat in a weak attempt to rally back. The Game was not to be stopped, and even hit Taker with his own Tombstone piledriver. Now I’ll admit, THAT made me think for three quarters of a second that the Streak was over. Taker kicked out, and when a shell-shocked Triple H grabbed his trusty sledgehammer as a last resort, the Phenom snatched him down to the mat and locked in the Hell’s Gate submission. The Game squirmed and struggled, but his strength was sapped from his body and he tapped out. And although he’d lost the match, Hunter was at least able to walk out of the arena on his own two feet, while Taker collapsed at ringside and had to be stretchered out. The Dead Man hasn’t been seen on WWE TV since.

April 11 – Edge is forced to retire from the WWE.

Edge, real name Adam Copeland, debuted in the company in the summer of 1998 and enjoyed an impressive rise up the proverbial ladder of the wrestling world, capturing everything from the Tag Team Titles (14 times) to the Intercontinental Title, and after becoming a main event talent going on to win the WWE Championship and World Heavyweight Title a combined 11 times. In between all the title wins, he also made history as the only WWE superstar to win the King of the Ring, Money in the Bank contract, and the Royal Rumble. But the life of being a pro wrestler caught up to him, and on the April 11 edition of Monday Night Raw, he walked to the ring, still holding the World Heavyweight Title that he retained at WrestleMania 27 only eight days earlier, and announced that he had to call it a career in order to avoid risking paralysis or worse while performing, citing lost feeling in his arms relating to his past neck problems. This being wrestling, some fans thought it was a work of some sort, but it was all too real for fans of the Canadian superstar and Edge himself, who thankfully got to retire in good health and even as the World Heavyweight Champion.

May 20 – Randy Savage tragically dies after a heart attack & car crash.

Unfortunately, we as wrestling fans are all too familiar with loading up an industry news website and seeing headlines about some indie guy, or a past or present star’s untimely death. Nobody saw the death of the “Macho Man” Randy Savage coming, and it was a hard kick to the nuts of millions of fans around the world who grew up idolizing The Savage One, me included. He was driving in Florida on May 20 when he suffered a heart attack, which caused the vehicle to smash into a tree. Randy was 58. The news really shook up the wrestling world, and even made mainstream news since Savage was second only to Hulk Hogan as a globally known superstar responsible for the WWF/E’s rise to prominence in the ’80s. The WWE acknowledged his passing at their PPV that weekend, and then aired a very well-done tribute piece on Raw and Smackdown the following week. CM Punk even wore pink Savage-style tights during a match on TV and has since adopted Randy’s flying elbow drop as a signature move. And although all signs point to the Macho Man finally getting inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame this year, lifelong fans such as myself hold it against Vince McMahon that Savage wasn’t inducted years ago. He should’ve been alive to accept the honor.

June 27 – CM Punk cuts a work-shoot promo on the WWE.

Though he’s had some big success in the WWE since arriving in 2006, CM Punk was never really given the ball and allowed to run with it. Yeah, he’d been World Heavyweight Champion three times and had feuds with talents like John Morrison, Jeff Hardy, The Undertaker, Rey Mysterio and Randy Orton, but he always believed he could be that #1 top dog in the company like John Cena. On the June 27 Raw, he sat on the stage near the end of the show and in the biggest controversy of the year cut a promo that blurred the lines between fiction and reality, lambasting the company for dropping the ball with him and targeting figureheads like Vince McMahon and Triple H. He mentioned names that under the routine policy are strictly avoided, like Paul Heyman, and gave a shout-out to good friend Colt Cabana. He even said he likes to think that the WWE will be run better once McMahon is dead, and seconds later his mic was abruptly cut off. Whatever fans thought of the promo, whether it was an elaborate work or Punk venting real frustration, the end result was that it was a blend of the two, as Punk ended up winning the WWE Championship at the Money in the Bank PPV in July in the best match of 2011.

July 17 – Money In The Bank is WWE’s best PPV of 2011.

Even though WrestleMania is the company’s biggest PPV of the year, the end result has been iffy the last few years, and a bland and uninspired main event of The Miz vs John Cena sure didn’t end Mania 27 on a high note. Enter July’s Money In The Bank PPV, which wound up being the most enjoyable and downright best show of the year. Taking place in Chicago, the fans on that night made it seem like a Madison Square Garden atmosphere as they were loud, energetic and very invested in the show. CM Punk, the hometown hero was to battle WWE Champion, John Cena in the main event, but that wasn’t the only thing that raised eyebrows and made history as in the opening match, which was Smackdown’s MITB Ladder match, Daniel Bryan won after an awesome contest, giving the indie sensation a huge boost of credibility and paving the way for his World Title victory in December. Of course, the main event of Punk vs Cena was amazing and fantastic storytelling, as the match reached over half an hour in length and both men pulled out all the stops. Punk’s eventual victory blew the roof off the arena and set the stage for the Straight Edge Superstar’s permanent place in the main event picture.

November 20 – The Rock returns to action at Survivor Series.

The Rock returned to the WWE, but he hadn’t returned to the ring just yet. His upcoming match at WrestleMania 28 against John Cena still set in stone, The Rock ended up joining forces with Cena in Madison Square Garden at the Survivor Series, taking on the team of The Miz and R-Truth. If anyone had doubts about his abilities after nearly eight years outside the ring, Rock shut them up as he hadn’t seemed to lose a step and looked great mixing it up with Miz and Truth. It remains to be seen whether or not he gets in the ring one more time before Mania, as the Royal Rumble is only a few weeks away. Elsewhere on the card, CM Punk won the WWE Title again, this time from Alberto Del Rio in a very good match. Punk even had legendary announcer Howard Finkel introduce him prior to and after the bout.

December 12 – Kane returns under a new mask.

The Big Red Machine originally shed his mask in June 2003 and had been the bald monster ever since, but following an injury from Mark Henry on Smackdown in July, he came back on Raw in December, interrupting a match between Henry and John Cena. At first wearing some kind of outer metal mask, almost something the Predator would wear, he stalked to the ring and, instead of targeting Henry, chokeslammed Cena before taking off the metallic piece, revealing a newly designed face mask. He even has long black hair, although most of it must be a wig piece attached to the mask. Nevertheless, Kane seems more conditioned and monster-like than he has in years. It probably doesn’t hurt that the company can now market Kane masks again for the first time in over eight years. Ka-ching!

January 2 – Chris Jericho returns as the one behind the ‘It Begins’ videos.

Fuck it, I’m including it here, even if it was 48 hours into the new year. Jericho hadn’t been seen on WWE TV since September 2010, when he was written out of programming after Randy Orton punted him in the skull. In reality, his three-year contract was up and Chris just wanted a rest from the ring and a chance to further his other professional loves, like his rock bank Fozzy and grabbing some other showbiz gigs like Dancing With The Stars. In November, the WWE started airing viral video clips that spoke of a dark and cryptic nature, signaling of the end of the world and that ‘it begins’. The videos stated ‘he’ would come on the second day of 2012, which of course fell on the first Monday Night Raw of the new year. It turned out to be Jericho, who wore an electronic sparkling jacket and soaked up the adulation of the welcoming crowd. Perplexing about his return was that it was basically the same one as his 2007 return, and was hardly any sort of dark or apocalyptic event that the videos made it seem. But as Jericho seemed to milk the crowd and ham it up so much that it became creepy, with a disturbed and out-of-it smile across his face, it became clear that this was not the Y2J of old. He didn’t say a word, and exited the arena to half-boos from the crowd. The Internet exploded with half outrage and half praise for Jericho’s return, but clearly there is a much more serious story to be told as the weeks and months roll on.

As far as 2011 in the WWE goes, as well as the first big moment of 2012, that’s about it in a nutshell as far as history goes. Sure, there were really good moments and feuds, as well as some excellent matches on TV and PPV, but these were the biggest stories in the last twelve months. I can’t say for sure where 2012 will take the WWE, but with a confirmed WrestleMania main event of The Rock vs John Cena, as well as other speculated matches, it’s safe to say TV will be memorable as the biggest show of the year shapes up.

However, on the flip side of that coin is the interest to see if the company can create new stars before, at, and then after Mania to ensure that people stay tuned into the product following the biggest show and match of the year. It’s always awesome to see guys from the old guard stepping back into the ring (Rock, HHH, Taker, a future final match from Austin) but the company can’t rely on those guys forever, and they need to push this current crop of guys to the moon, and quit with the go-stop-go-stop-reset philosophy on pushing others (Alberto Del Rio being the prime example). They either need to be confident in someone to draw money and interest, or don’t be.

Should've been a Christmas card.

But it’s not all negative at the moment, and the WWE has actually taken great strides in the last half of 2011 to develop the new breed of main event superstars and tomorrow’s future legends. The current crop of title holders, consisting of WWE Champion, CM Punk; World Heavyweight Champion, Daniel Bryan; Intercontinental Champion, Cody Rhodes; United States Champion, Zack Ryder; Divas Champion, Beth Phoenix; and the Tag Team Champions, Kofi Kingston & Evan Bourne, are a potent mix of experienced indie veterans who’ve finally hit it big on the biggest stage (Punk and Bryan) and those that have the ability to break through the proverbial glass ceiling (Rhodes and Ryder). There’s a great photo floating around the Web of this class of champions, and when I look at it, I get the sense that the WWE is on a really good path so far and they’re making some decent strides towards filling their talent pool deeper. I definitely look forward to seeing where these champions, as well as other guys like Wade Barrett, Dolph Ziggler, The Miz and Sheamus stand when 2012 comes to an end.

Hopefully, in the case of Barrett, the WWE and its Smackdown brand makes its way to Saskatoon again, so I can make my simple, yet witty sign that says “Pade 2 C Wade”. Time will tell.

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