Tuesday Morning Backlash: CM Punk’s WWE Monday Night Raw and the Lesson for Alex Riley and Sin Cara

Earning your heat with Sin Cara and Alex Riley, CM Punk r-truth.

Okay, so tonight was going to be a Raw review, but the show was remarkably uneventful and, well, there isn’t really much to say about filler (yes, I know there is a really obvious exception – we’ll get there). Instead, I thought I’d discuss the idea of earning your heat using Alex Riley and Sin Cara as examples.

Alex Riley appears to be a major face for WWE. He’s quite over with his Miz feud and has been allowed to look great. Adding in some killer theme music, Riley might end up WWE’s next big star. Of course, he’s done nothing to earn this except be the one WWE finally pulled the trigger on this push with.

For years, WWE has had minor heels paired with major ones, whether as lackeys serving the major star or the evil manager. In either case, the tease for the turn on this person in power has threatened to create a new major face stars. Dolph Ziggler (for almost turning on Vickie), David Otunga (for almost turning on Wade Barrett), and even, with the Kelly Kelly storyline, Drew McIntyre – all of these talents had a turn on a major heel teased. All got ridiculous crowd responses in response only to never have the trigger pulled. Want one more example? Ted Dibiase during Legacy. Watch this video with the volume up:

As “bland” as Dibiase is considered, he is no worse in that category than Riley. Had Dibiase here turned and destroyed Orton the way Riley was allowed to destroy Miz (seriously, listen to the reaction after that shove!) and then get a PPV win, well, Dibiase could easily have ended up the next big thing.

But then, maybe not, as the lesson of Sin Cara is showing us. Cara debuted as a huge deal, a flashy wrestler who is constantly given wins over top talent. Yet still, the crowd won’t really get behind him. He hasn’t earned it. He’s a masked star with flashy offense, but his offense isn’t flashier than Evan Bourne, or, really, that much more than stuff Rey Mysterio was doing years ago. His matches have been solid, but they’re all spotfests and he offers no reason to offer an emotional connection to him. WWE is trying to find the next Rey by shoving Cara down our throat, but they are failing by not knowing that rey got over not by going over everyone with flashy offense, but by having consistently great matches for years before he rose to the top and being involved in storylines that made fans rally around him as a person. Cara doesn’t have that and all the flashy lighting in the world won’t change it.

All of this brings us to the perfect cautionary tale about this kind of booking. CM Punk was pushed heavily by Paul Heyman upon reaching WWE and was over largely due to debuting in the Hammerstein Ballroom where fans knew him from ROH.

Besides some moves, though, this Punk had nothing in common with the one who is now the best in the world. He was a generic, bland babyface and despite a big push, the fans got bored of him and the pops grew smaller and smaller. He was still an upper card talent, but gone, seemingly, was that potential of the first pop.

Of course, that wouldn’t be good enough for Punk. Starting with his stellar heel turn on Jeff Hardy and subsequent amazing Straight Edge promos. This continued for years, as the character we were given a reason to care about began having stellar matches and memorable storylines with talent like Rey Mysterio. Now, he’s become the indisputable best in the world, the only wrestler with a sense of history, both his own and that of the company:

In the end, it isn’t about how cool your music is, how heavy your debut push, or the big initial moment. It’s how you sustain these things, developing a character through promos and matches that makes fans care. CM Punk has done that and with the above promo made WWE Money in the Bank 2011 must-buy.

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