Hello all, and welcome to my fourth “Wrestling Wremix.” This must be some kind of record… for free time that I have. I am James Sawyer, and feel free to follow me (or more likely, don’t) at @todaysjimsawyer. Seriously, though, twitter is neat and free.
Apparently over in TNA, they’re doing a storyline where AJ Styles has quit the company as champion, and the organization is holding a tournament to hold a new one. Hmmmm… where, where could I have heard this before? And only within the past two years? Oh yeah, one of the biggest summer-time storyarcs in wrestling, and in my humble opinion one of the biggest dropped balls of the WWE. Not counting when they fired Mahoney. (Yes! Late-90s ECW joke!)
I think we’ve all seen this. I know I’ve personally linked to it at least twice, and watched it so many times I’ve got the damn thing memorized. Summer 2011 was a weird time for me, don’t judge.
It seemingly came out of nowhere. Sure, there were backstage rumors that Punk was burnt-out and unhappy, and choosing to take an extended break, which is becoming refreshingly common. At least for everyone but Cena. Morrison, Beth Phoenix, and others have sometimes chosen to walk away and collect their thoughts, and good for them. Still, it had to come as a shock when the WWE made his disgruntlement to an on-air storyline, which actually started with this-
I think based on that promo (and not knowing that Money In The Bank would be in Chicago), what would likely have happened is that Punk loses to Cena, “quits” like so many others, and then comes back to stop-and-start pushes like his experiments with the SES and Nexus. I don’t think anyone could have predicted that Punk would beat Cena (as close to cleanly as they would allow), leave with the WWE title to a huge homecrowd reaction, and become their biggest face.
So where did they take that? Well as history teaches us, they had a tournament for a vacant replacement title, Cena beat Mysterio after Mysterio beat Miz earlier in the night (as a true champion would), only for Punk to come back and face Cena at Summerslam, again victorious, but then cashed in against by Alberto Del Rio and later mired in an Austin 2.0 storyarc where his main feuds seemed to be with a 52-year-old with bad knees who couldn’t wrestle and John Laryngitis. Oh, and a good deal of this was predicted by a six-year old.
Now, where would I have taken that? Well, for one, I would’ve had Vince McMahon have an interview on “Good Morning America” or “The Today Show” or whatever hot garbage CBS has. It would be another worked shoot where it’s revealed that they have CM Punk on satellite, where he taunts Vince with having the belt and tons of free time. Vince then leaves in a huff. This, ideally, gets some mainstream eyeballs and curious viewers to tune in to RAW or at least head online and see what’s going on. Hopefully some lapsed fans, too.
Then on RAW, there’s a near-mutiny as almost the entire locker room comes out and demands to know what’s going to happen. After all, the big one is why they’re all there. Whether they want it for selfish “heel” reasons like an increase in pay and spotlight, or altruistic “face” reasons like wanting to be the best or prove themselves, they need the chance to win the WWE championship. Vince tells them all that Punk letting his contract expire makes his championship void, that there will be a new belt, and a new tournament, and to go in the back and prepare. Slightly acquiesced but still disgruntled, the locker room leaves. Vince calls out John Cena, threatens the firing, only to have Triple H come out and fire Vince and announce his role as the new COO/CEO/whatever. The show proceeds, and the episode ends with Triple H in the back telling some off-camera people that he wants the belt back. Along the way, Punk still interrupts WWE at Comic-Con.
Now, this sets up a tournament for the new WWE championship at Summerslam, thus giving a focus for the next four RAWs, as well as giving a showcase for the whole locker room, not just the usual John Cenas and Big Shows, but gives the opportunity to have some less-seen guys get some exposure and dip their toe into having some awesome matches to the hopeful new fans checking in.
Meanwhile, at the next ROH show, CM Punk comes out at the top of the show and cuts a promo about how good it is to be back home. (I have no idea what ROH was doing at this point, so this can be their show on HDNet if it was still going on, or an internet PPV, or house show to be released on DVD, whatever) Shortly into his promo on how awesome he is, he can do what he wants, WWE sucks, he’s jumped by Rey Mysterio. After being pulled apart by refs, Punk agrees to defend the title that night, and the main event is an awesome thirty-minute classic between the two resulting in a clean win by Punk and another escape through the crowd.
What’s in it for the WWE? Imagine the buzz, both amongst the “IWC” and more mainstream outlets that there’s a rogue WWE champion walking around and defending the title outside of the company. This is like Superman making a sudden appearance in a Captain America comic (for non-nerds, Superman is DC and Cap is Marvel). WWE hopefully gets the eyeballs of all the indie fans that normally disregard their stuff, and maybe a cut or percentage of the ticket sales or DVDPPV sales of that particular show.
Meanwhile on next week’s RAW, Rey returns and participates in the tournament. Triple H deals with an increasingly belligerent locker room.
Then, Punk makes an appearance in New Japan Pro Wrestling. After cutting another promo (possibly backstage, I’ve not seen a foreign wrestling show so I have no idea if English-speaking wrestlers cut promos) based on how much he loves Japan and being in a company that values wrestlers over sports entertainers, he’s jumped by Dolph Ziggler or John Morrison, leading to another excellent match narrowly won by Punk, who again quickly absconds with the belt. Punk then tweets a pic of a ticket to Summerslam, leading to speculation that he’ll appear.
On the RAWs leading up to Summerslam, matches are made with the tournament finals for the new WWE championship being Cena versus Mysterio or Cena versus Mysterio versus Big Show or Sheamus or something. Not important. The important thing is at the end when Punk shows up and stares down the victorious Cena, recreating what was his actual return just two weeks after “quitting” on RAW.
Granted, this isn’t as surefire a Summerslam main event as Cena vs. Punk II, but hopefully the turmoil on RAW, novelty of Triple H as the onscreen authority and increased buyrate of the next PPV makes up for it- the WWE unification Championship match of Cena vs. Punk. As before, Nash can jump Punk after his victory and Del Rio can cash in the briefcase.
We scrap the Triple H vs. Punk match that happened for no reason, and that Hunter won for no reason. Instead, we go right into Cena vs. Punk vs. Del Rio at Hell In A Cell, Punk vs. Del Rio at Survivor Series, and Punk vs. Del Rio vs. Miz at TLC, the latter two being very good matches. Eventually, you can reveal that Triple H was the one who made the call for Nash to jump Punk out of spite, instead of what was ultimately revealed… which was Nash texting himself? From Hunter’s phone? Which made a Nash vs. Hunter match? I don’t know, my head started hurting around that point. Then you can turn Triple H as a heel guy a lot quicker, which also works perfectly well with him coming back at Wrestlemania 28 to try to break Undertaker’s streak. I’m not gonna fantasy book the next two years because… c’mon, but already I think this spins things off into more interesting new directions. How?
1- It teases out the “Punk as a rogue champ” storyarc longer than the two weeks it initially lasted. This not only gives Punk more time off (something which he actually did want and didn’t get to have until this year) but also more mainstream curiosity as we saw from people like Jimmy Kimmel, GQ Magazine, Bill Simmons and Michelle Beadle. Having it last longer also suspends disbelief more and, hopefully, leads to more buzz and ratings.
2- It jettisons some of the things that, in retrospect, didn’t work like the aborted Punk-Nash match, setting things up as “Austin Era 2.0,” and the like. Setting Punk up almost immediately on his return as a babyface against the mean old Johnny Ace was a little too quick of a character change and smelled too much like an old, staid organization seeking to be cool (like co-opting the Fandango meme). Let Punk stay a tweener and be the “underground” choice while Cena remains the corporate golden boy. And for God’s sake don’t have them tag. It’s not like Punk got amnesia and all the issues he had were magically resolved.
3- A new direction for the locker room, and show in general, can be spun off. For one, it reminds viewers that technically the WWE is a league, with athletes that may have personal issues with each other, but still are normal people competing for titles. While the normal Cenas and Mizes or whoever can advance through the tournament, you can also shine a spotlight on some of the lesser-seen superstars and gauge who the crowd might like to see more of. For the new ROH-indie fans that previously might have sworn off the show that are now maybe checking it out, you can lure them in with matches featuring Kofi Kingston, Alberto Del Rio, Ziggler, Morrison.
4- A new revamp for some characters. You can set Punk up as an inspirational figure to some, turning them heel or face depending on how you go about it. Whether it’s Evan Bourne and a debuting Antonio Cesaro working with Punk as fellow ROH grads or just a background storyarc where pure wrestlers take on corporate-backed superstars, you can shake some things up and experiment.
Finally, this can all be fit in organically. You can still have Daniel Bryan’s rise to the top of epic heelery with AJ Lee on Smackdown, you can still have Jericho come back to face Punk at Wrestlemania, the elimination of the brand split (which you can retroactively say is Triple H inviting Smackdown guys to overthrow Punk and make it more than the “eh, why not?” that it was) all of that fits. Worst case scenario, the ratings aren’t gonna get any lower than what they were/are. You’re at least doing things in a more interesting way. Best case scenario? More and more fans, both lapsed and new, begin turning in to the increasingly unpredictable and exciting shows and PPVs and you get a new peak after the Rock N Wrestling and Attitude Era highs. You also make the belt important again, and the focus of the company.
I dunno, this is just one guy’s half-remembered daydream like teardrops in the rain. What say you, dear readers?
Tags: aj lee, alberto del rio, chris jericho, cm punk, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, john cena, John Morrison, Johnny Ace, kevin nash, Kofi Kingston, monday night raw, money in the bank, new japan, njpw, rey mysterio, ROH, sheamus, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Summerslam, the big show, The Miz, the undertaker, triple h, vince mcmahon, WWE