The WrestleMania Era: The Book of Sports Entertainment.
Doctor's Orders: CM Punk's Departure Teaches That Success is Fleeting
By The Doc
Jan 29, 2014 - 8:10:32 PM
Here are my thoughts on the CM Punk situation in verbal form. I could not yet write complete thoughts about it until I know the whole story. Pretty much my favorite guy to watch gone, though...
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As my long-time LOP pal, The Hurra Duff, aptly put it to me this afternoon: “not exactly a slow week for a wrestling columnist.”
News broke last night of CM Punk’s potential departure from the WWE. It should not surprise anyone given his history or the slew of rumors suggestive of his displeasure with WWE booking. Yet, even when you know it’s coming, it still stings. I knew Edge was wrestling on borrowed time when he came back from neck surgery in 2004 and he made it a shocking 7 more years in the ring. Still stung when he retired abruptly. Shawn Michaels coming back was one of the greatest moments of my fandom, but I was ready for him to retire. When he actually did, though, I won’t deny that I shed a tear watching him give his farewell speech. I’m a wrestling fan. Like I bleed Irish gold and blue through and through for Notre Dame football, I am a wrestling fan to the core with roots that span the globe from Death Valley to Ireland to Calgary to Hollywood, Florida to (WOOOO!) North Carolina and everywhere in between.
That is precisely why I cannot spend another second pissed off.
I am a FAN.
It’s WrestleMania season and Daniel Bryan did not win the Royal Rumble. Time to move on. CM Punk apparently quit. No doubt that losing the single most entertaining performer on the roster over the last three years is a major blow. But I’m a fan. I can’t do anything about those two things (though I talked about it on the latest “Doc Says” podcast). If the Irish lose on Saturday, Sunday is a new day with a brighter outlook. I applaud the WWE for, purposefully or not, gripping me with their Daniel Bryan treatment. The last time that I was so invested in a WWE storyline was seven years ago during WrestleMania season when HBK was challenging John Cena for the title. Three months later, my world got rocked and wrestling had not been that emotionally engaging since…until Bryan didn’t win the Rumble and Pittsburgh’s energy shot through the TV airwaves and grabbed hold me like an aggressive virus. CM Punk’s departure – true or not – was a wake-up call that snapped me back to reality. But, the internet is ripe with columnists who drop literary pipe bombs on WWE. I’m not that guy. Again, it’s WrestleMania season. It’s time to be a fan first and a critic second.
I have a renewed sense of confidence that Daniel Bryan will find his way into a top level WrestleMania match. I’ve bet Mr. Tito, accordingly. Actually, I bet him two weeks ago and he declined. Then, Bryan didn’t win the title and he brought it back to the table. I’ve accepted. The challenge is on. Terms of the bet still undecided. There are two really nice options on the table for the WWE to choose from for Bryan. Both involve him winning the title, but neither involves him winning it at WrestleMania. Let’s move past the fact that many wanted him to win it at Mania unless something crazy happens. The Royal Rumble proved that the time is now for Bryan to ascend. Bottom line. Crowd reactions like that must be capitalized on. Summerslam is too far away. It must happen in the winter or spring. And it’s going to, frankly. The WWE may have missed an opportunity at the Rumble, but they’re not going to completely whiff on this #YesMovement.
I’m going to make a suggestion to you, though, and I don’t want you to misunderstand my intentions. Remember who I am and the tone that I usually carry forward in prose before pulling out your weapons and coming at me with intent to harm. Here it goes…
I suggest that you stick around and watch this play out from now until May. Bryan is going to win the title no later than Extreme Rules in Seattle, Washington. He’s going to get a massive reaction at WrestleMania and it might very well end up being in the main-event thanks to the events of the last few days. If it is or it isn’t, Bryan is going to be at the highest point in his career. If you’re his fan, enjoy it while it lasts because the WWE is going to be on a constant search for the next guy that they really want to push and I think they’ve already found him. I noted it a few months ago in a column and the Rumble did nothing but confirm it for me. Lost amidst a lot of the talk of Bryan and Punk this week was that the guy that received a lot of the “Bryan isn’t in the Rumble, so we want anyone not named Batista to win it” energy was Roman Reigns. The Shield is about to break up and Reigns is going to rise faster than a space shuttle blasting out of Earth’s atmosphere. At this time next year, Daniel Bryan will be yesterday’s news. Roman will Reign(s) supreme. So, I’m telling you, “ENJOY this!” Bryan is the center of the wrestling world, good, bad, or ugly right now. The WWE may as well be another beautiful daughter in the McMahon family to Vincent Kennedy. He’s very picky when it comes to his daughter’s suitors. Daniel Bryan is the steel mill worker. He’s the kind of guy that the WWE will gladly have an affair with while he’s the hottest thing going. Vince may agree to allow it so that he can maintain a great relationship with his “little girl,” but he’ll be hoping against hope that she figures out what he’s known from the start – that, unfortunately, Bryan is not marriage material. Vince will never let his “daughter” become that tied down to a steel mill worker. I say that with all the admiration and respect in the world for Bryan, but that’s not who he is. So, I reiterate – ENJOY Bryan at the top while it lasts.
I may need an actual Shield after stating the above, but I believe it to be true. Indulge me, please, and read on…
This is going to be a really interesting few weeks for the WWE. I fully expect after watching Monday’s Raw and seeing news of Punk’s departure that the WWE will go all out with Bryan in the next 8 weeks. Whether it be a title win at Elimination Chamber and a successful title defense in the main-event against Batista (a scenario that is growing on me quite a bit with each passing day) or a victory over Triple H in a very satisfying double FU to the Authority for both him and his fans, Daniel Bryan is about to hit his career crescendo.
I am very curious to see how the rest of the card shapes up. I had thought that WM30 might be it for Undertaker, for instance. Yet, if they were going to start a retirement storyline for The Deadman, as I expect them to do when that time comes, then I believe that they would have hinted at his opponent at Royal Rumble. Right now, the Brock Lesnar match looks legit to me. Taker will need the entire year of 2014 to recover from that one. Brock looks like a killer right now. If you put him the ring with Taker, then both literally and figuratively, Brock is going to maul him and add another “Streak within The Streak” match to The Deadman’s growing legacy. With expectations shifting from “what Doc wants” to what the WWE is giving, I am beginning to see the value in a Taker vs. Lesnar match. Though I will state clearly that I am going to mark out so hard that my roof might come off when the WWE finally books John Cena vs. Undertaker at a future WrestleMania (presumably two years from now in Dallas) – so much so that I might just have to stop all that I’m doing and try to get front row seats at Mania that year (Tone, get on board with that, brother) – I will genuinely look forward to The Beast vs. The Phenom if they go that route for New Orleans. I almost wonder if the WWE would consider putting that match inside of a cage like Hell in a Cell. It needs to maximize the brutality because it will be the potential brutality that sells the match. It would be set up very easily by having Taker interrupt Brock’s chance at stealing Batista’s title shot at Elimination Chamber. Taker came on Brock’s turf three years ago and made a challenge to Lesnar after a UFC fight, famously stimulating the speculation that Brock would come back to the WWE. I like Taker in the role of the aggressor. He’s never beaten Brock. One last tick off the list of things to do is take him down. It works well if Taker takes the approach of being self-motivated to find new challenges rather than everyone always finding ways to challenge him.
The match heavily hinted at Royal Rumble - John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt - is going to be tough from the WWE’s perspective. Wyatt in a headlining match with “The Golden Boy” is a very big deal for such a young and relatively untested talent, but Bray proved against Bryan at the Rumble that he has all the tools. No longer can there be questions about his ability to draw interest in his feuds or deliver in the payoff. Against Bryan, he stepped up big time. I was weary of his character connecting with the masses. Not anymore. Bryan’s mid-January steel cage moment was not merely the by-product of a fanbase begging to see him succeed, but also of Bray’s pressing all of the subtle buttons necessary to bring Bryan and his fans to their psychological knees. I was skeptical of Bray’s ability in between the ropes. Not anymore. He nailed it against Bryan. Awesome performance. My question, at this point, as it pertains to a feud with Cena is simple – how does the WWE present Cena in the babyface role? What possible take on the “Cena gets beat up by the heel and overcomes the odds” story can be considered new and fresh? Or does the WWE care if it’s new and fresh? Maybe the rumor of Hogan coming back to aid Cena’s cause against the Wyatts is true. Hulkster and the other members of “The Family” being added to the equation surely solves the most glaring problem outside of the babyface-heel dynamic, which is “how do you adequately build Bray for the WrestleMania/broader audience (for the present and future) and maintain Cena’s stature as ‘The Man’?” With added parts comes the simple answer: have someone else in the Wyatt Family take the fall. However, a Cena vs. Bray match has great appeal to me from a match quality standpoint. So, I’d favor them finding a way to make that work as a singles bout. I find Bray to be fascinating. There’s something about his character that, especially now after seeing him knock one out of the park against Bryan, makes me want to see the WWE push him to the moon and beyond.
Where I remain disillusioned is with a potential Orton vs. Batista match. I suppose that a good story could be made of them fighting, but nobody wants to see Batista win the title do they? The point of a wrestling match is first to sell tickets. Only a marginal case could be made that Orton vs. Batista is going to draw. The second point of a wrestling match is to execute the caliber of work necessary to maintain interest and bring fans back for more. I can’t in my right mind say that Batista vs. Orton could do that. Live attendees would not care. So, I think that plan has to change for the sake of the title. To what? I’m not sure. There’s only so many options available. If they do the Batista-Brock match next month, then that’s out. Sheamus? I’m a Sheamus guy, so it appeals to me, but I’m not sure it would appeal to the masses or the live audience. I don’t think anyone else is realistic. That’s why I like the Bryan scenario – it gives the WWE what it wants and the fans what they want and takes advantage of an organic situation gifted to the WWE by its “Universe.” But then what does that do to Triple H and Orton? They can’t wrestle each other. Triple H is going to have one of the top matches – foregone conclusion as far as I’m concerned. I can’t believe I’m about to type this, but what about Sting vs. Triple H? There’s no better heel in the WWE right now than The Game and Sting has been heavily rumored to have signed with WWE. I’ve never quite understood the Sting vs. Taker appeal, but Sting vs. HHH? I can see that. And if you go down the “Sting to WWE” road and he does face Taker, then what happens to Brock? Lesnar vs. Sheamus is appealing. Then, Trips can save his next wrestling appearance for a show that needs his star power.
Geez….lots of possibilities…
I admitted in my last column after Raw that I’m more of a “give me the card now” kind of a fan. That’s not going to change. I loved it when matches were announced for late March, early April at the end of January, early February. Yet, I’m a fan. Right now, the WWE has opened their playbook wide and the options are seemingly endless. I have no idea what the card will look like outside of a few hints and rumors, but it’s WrestleMania season. It’s time to have fun with this. Will you join me?
QUESTION OF THE DAY: CM Punk being gone means what to you as a wrestling fan?