Greetings, everyone. Last week we discussed how we could revitalize some of the underused talent in the WWE and create a whole bunch of new stars and feuds. Today we tackle the thorny issue of how to reintegrate superstars returning from injury. It is a tough subject because things continue to move forward when people are out for injury and you can’t just plug returning guys back in without knowing what to do with the wrestlers in those spots currently. I will focus on four of the biggest stars who should be returning to action relatively soon – John Cena, Neville, Randy Orton, and Seth Rollins.
Let’s start with Cena. It would be tempting to re-insert Super-Cena into the main event picture. Hell, I am sure some in the WWE are thinking that putting Cena against Reigns would finally get everyone cheering for him again. But I just don’t think that is the way to go. In fact, I think putting Cena back at the top of the card would be a regression.
I think we can all agree that the most interesting anyone has seen Cena in recent years was during his United States Championship Open Challenge. While it can be argued that maybe Cena should have lost that challenge before he did, it was still fresh and exciting. And, like it or not, Cena put in some solid efforts in the ring during those defenses. I say when Cena can come back full time, have him go after that US belt again. Here’s how I see it going down.
Ryback eventually beats down Kalisto enough where he captures the US title. He then uses the belt to bully smaller wrestlers and begins to act like a major ass. He proclaims himself the epitome of a champion. Even more than that, he begins saying how he holds the belt because he is the greatest thing America has ever produced. He makes Lilian Garcia introduce him as “The Greatest American of All-Time.” He belittles the fans, talking about how they should be in shape like him and how they are disappointments to him. And if they are disappointments to him, they are disappointments to America. Heck, they could even pull Zeb Coulter out of mothballs to get even more heat on Ryback.
Then, one Raw when Ryback is running down the crowd, the roster, the announcers, the referees, everyone he can think of, Cena’s awful music hits and he charges down to the ring. Instead of grabbing a mic, Cena tackles Ryback and starts beating on him until he retreats up the ramp. The next week’s Raw would start with Cena coming to the ring and explaining that he has had enough of Ryback. He is back to defend America’s honor or something like that. And he will challenge Ryback for the United States title.
To add some intrigue, Cena can state that the doctors told him he shouldn’t be wrestling yet, that his injury is not completely healed. But he just couldn’t take it any more and had to come back to take the title off of Ryback. With that, this feud could extend over two PPVs, with Ryback winning the first match by taking advantage of Cena’s injury. Cena then could come back strong and win the title at the following PPV.
Once the belt was off of Ryback, Cena could start the Open Challenge again, giving a spot on every Raw for some mid-carders to get some time to shine. He can state that the open challenge is what America is all about, opportunity for all. As for how long he would keep the belt, I am not sure, but at this point, I think it is the best spot for Cena to be. He would still be front and center for the WWE hype machine. It allows Cena a chance to give back to the sport and help build some new stars for the future. It helps establish Ryback as a force going forward. It also gives importance to the US title where it probably won’t be a pre-show match at next year’s WrestleMania. It also keep Cena away from the main event scene, which will allow the WWE to evolve into their next era.
Where will Neville fit back in the WWE landscape when he returns from his injury? This is honestly the hardest one for me. Part of it is that I am just not the biggest fan of Neville and his flippy offense. Plus, the WWE has pushed him as a sorta superhero, in a way that Ring of Honor is pushing ACH. The difference is that I find ACH a much more interesting wrestler.
However, the fans seem to like Neville and it doesn’t seem that his push will end any time soon. He’s a walking action figure or video game character. The kids in the audience buy his merchandise, chant his name, and want to see him succeed.
Since I have John Cena going after the United States championship, I considered having Neville going after the Intercontinental title. However, given that I hope Cesaro or someone else grabs that belt soon, I decided to go a different route. Here’s how I see Neville’s return going.
After The Miz loses the Intercontinental title to Cesaro at Payback, he and Maryse spend the next couple weeks whining on his MizTV segments. One week, in the middle of The Miz’s bitchfest, Neville’s music hits and he comes out to his full entrance and dressed to wrestle. The Miz and Maryse are going crazy in the ring, demanding to know why Neville has interrupted them. Neville rears back and unloads on Miz to the excitement of the crowd. Miz backs off and cowers behind Maryse. Neville gets slapped by Maryse and teases slapping her back, but instead takes a few steps back. Then he charges and jumps OVER Maryse and Miz, landing on the turnbuckle. From there, he nails Miz with some flippy kick and Miz and Maryse bail.
The next week Miz will call out Neville. Neville will come out and Miz will just run him down on the mic. Finally Neville will attack again without saying a word. Miz will roll out of the ring and Maryse will appear at the top of the ramp. She will then announce Neville’s opponent, and Miz’s next co-star, The Big Show. Big Show will stroll down to the ring and basically squash Neville. However, as he goes for a chokeslam, Neville hits him with an enziguri and the Red Arrow. As he goes for the pin, Miz attacks and he and Big Show beat down Neville.
The next few weeks see Big Show and Miz (with Maryse) working together to make Neville’s life hell. If the WWE feels a need to put a reason on this feud, other than Neville just getting tired of Miz’s antics, they can manufacture something about Miz stealing an acting part Neville was up for when he was injured or something. Or get Stephen Amell in to work an angle again. But I still think it can work with Neville just being an extension of the fans’ hatred of The Miz. In fact, Neville can start putting up polls on WWE.com to have the fans vote for how he should beat up or humiliate Miz next.
Neville can also bring in someone to help him counter The Big Show and Maryse. Maybe Mojo Rawley or someone else from NXT. Or maybe someone jumping from TNA. Actually, this could be a good way to bring in Eric Young and his particular brand of crazy. This feud could go on for a little while until one or both parties moves up the card a bit to take another shot at the Intercontinental title.
This would give solid screen time to Neville while allowing him to play off one of the most over heels in the company. It would also provide Miz time to focus on a new aspect of his character, going up against the fans indirectly through Neville. If they are able to get Stephen Amell to show up for a few weeks, it will also provide some more mainstream press, which the WWE loves. The Miz has been putting on some good matches lately, so aside from Big Show, we could see some pretty interesting matches. Even some gimmick matches could be exciting between those two.
Ah, Randy Orton. Whatever have we done without you? How did we ever get to sleep at night without watching your boring matches? In fact, I am so sleep deprived that I am tempted to just say Orton should return as a face and feud with the League of Nations. We’ve seen Orton versus Sheamus too many times to count, but Orton versus Del Rio or Orton versus Rusev would also be coma-inducing. In fact, Orton as a face is just flat out boring.
So I would suggest Orton return as a heel. He seems to like playing a heel anyway. And, personally, I think he is much better at it. Here is how I see it happening.
Randy Orton returns to the cheers of the fans as he makes his way down to the ring at the beginning of Raw. He steps into the ring and thanks the crowd for the welcome. But as he continues to talk, he mentions that it is a different landscape from when he was last here. There are a lot of new faces in the locker room. All of this gets cheers from the crowd. Then Orton launches into a tirade about how no one is going to take his spot. How no one is going to bump him out of the spotlight. About how none of these new wrestlers on the scene have a chance against someone as talented as he. Hopefully this will turn the crowd against him, but just in case…
One of those new guys in the back will come out and interrupt Orton. Let’s say Apollo Crews. Crews will come out and be respectful to Orton, but Orton will laugh in his face. As Orton turns to leave, Crews will grab his arm and turn him back around and get in his face. Crews will then yell that Orton’s time is done and it is time for youth to take over. Crews will then walk out of the ring leaving Orton seething.
Later in the show, Orton will surprise Crews and hit an RKO in the backstage area. He will then line Crews up for his concussion punt, but Sami Zayn will come in to stop him. As Orton backs off and Zayn goes to check on Crews, Orton will jump Zayn and beat him down as well. This can set up several matches in the coming weeks and PPVs between Orton and any of the NXT call-ups.
We’ve already seen Randy Orton as the Legend Killer. This iteration of the character would be more of a Career Killer. Someone who wants to destroy anyone coming in at the beginning of their career. Either because he can not stand not being on top or because he holds onto some old school territory mentality, but he just can not stand the newbies in the WWE. After “winning” his feuds against Crews and Zayn, AJ Styles could challenge him and finally bring him down a few pegs.
This would allow Orton to be in prime Viper positioning. It would give him chances to attack at will and hit RKOs out of thin air. He could pump up his psycho killer attitude and be seen as a massive threat even without wrestling too much. He would probably start to be cheered at some point along this path, but another face newcomer could always be thrown into the mix to have Orton re-establish himself as a heel. Orton could also spend a little time on a “mission” to NXT to try to destroy anyone he sees as a potential challenger in the future. This could keep Orton scary and a top heel while giving some of the newer wrestlers a chance to have the crowds behind them.
Here is the most intriguing one of the bunch to me. Rollins was World Champion when he was hurt. He established himself as the company’s top heel. He had co-opted the Pedigree from Triple H as his finishing move. He put on excellent matches with almost everyone he entered the ring. There was unfinished business with Brock Lesnar and still bad blood between him and his old Shield running mates. He even helped turn Jon Stewart heel.
And as good as Rollins was at being a heel (both on the mic and in the ring) and as good of a champion he was (always able to tease a potential title change while still walking out looking like he was the best), I think the best role for him coming back is as a face. But his return should be directly into the main event scene.
Let’s assume that the Roman Reigns disaster continues for a while. After Styles and a couple other people are sacrificed to the World Champion, Reigns will come out during Raw and do his dumb little “I’m not a good guy. I’m not a bad guy. I’m just THE guy” catchphrase. As the crowd rains down boos on him (ha. See what I did there? Rains. Reigns.) the lights go out. A single spotlight shines down at the top of the ramp and Rollins music begins to play. Rollins steps into the spotlight, raises his head and stretches out his arms as the crowd shifts from booing to a mixture of cheers and boos.
Rollins walks down to the ring and climbs in while Reigns looks on puzzled. Rollins gets a microphone and starts by congratulating Reigns on being the champion. Immediately after that, Rollins starts saying the he knows the pressure Reigns is under. He understands the demands of being the champ. He knows that Reigns has all sorts of people in his ear while still having to look out for himself. The crowd begins to boo louder now, thinking that Rollins has come out to make nice with his old Shield buddy and put Reigns over as champion.
But as soon as Rollins gets the crowd thinking he is putting Reigns over, he turns and says that because he knows those things, he knows Reigns can’t handle them. He knows Reigns is not man enough to be WWE champion. He talks about how he was champion and no one could take him down, because HE was the man, not Reigns. He would get right into Reigns’ face and say, “I’m back, Roman. And I’m going to take back MY title. And there is nothing you can do about it.”
Reigns would get mad and lose his cool and attack Rollins. Rollins would duck a clothesline and send Reigns out of the ring. Then Rollins would grab the championship belt in the ring, hold it high and climb the turnbuckle. Reigns would be being held back by officials outside the ring and then Rollins would leap from the turnbuckle onto Reigns, slamming the belt into his head. He would then drop the belt on Reigns’ injured body and walk backstage.
Rollins would go on to tell everyone that he was going to rescue the WWE championship from Roman Reigns’ grip. The crowd would get behind him as he kept interrupting Reigns’ promos and distract him during his matches.
In order to truly establish himself as a face, the Authority could return and try to be supporters of Rollins. Rollins could blow them off, saying that they couldn’t even keep Reigns away from the title when NO ONE wants him as champion. Rollins says that he will do this all by himself and wants the Authority to stay away from him. The Authority will back off, allowing the possibility that they are in cahoots, trying to set up Reigns. However, they never do get involved with Rollins’ quest again, as Rollins proves himself as the smartest and the best wrestler in WWE.
Rollins will beat Reigns at a PPV and Reigns will use his rematch clause at the next PPV. Rollins will walk away the winner in this feud and reclaim the title. Once on top again, his first feud will be against Chris Jericho and then Kevin Owens. Rollins will bring solid wrestling back to the top of the card as everyone else tries to climb the ladder to his level.
Eventually, he could turn heel again if needed. All that would be needed is for Rollins to harp on his superior intelligence. Wrestling fans hate that.
By having Rollins return as a face who will conquer the disliked champion will cement a Roman Reigns’ heel turn and put a very good wrestler on top. It will raise the level of in-ring competition and provide someone the new group of NXT call-ups someone solid to work with. Imagine Seth Rollins versus Finn Balor. Or Seth Rollins versus AJ Styles. Or Seth Rollins versus Samoa Joe. Or Seth Rollins versus Shinsuke Nakamura. Now add the fact that all of those matches could be main events for the WWE World Championship. That is where bringing Seth Rollins back as a top face could lead.
So what do you think? Would any of these returns work better than others? Where would you position these guys when they come back? Let me know in the comments. Until next week, thanks for reading…
Tags: apollo crews, John Cena, Maryse, Neville, Randy Orton, Roman Reigns, ryback, sami zayn, seth rollins, The Miz