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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: May 21, 2012 - Change vs. The Status Quo
By The Doc
Dec 26, 2011 - 8:52:08 AM

May 21, 2012

It has been seven weeks since Wrestlemania, but the WWE was still in transition heading into last night’s pay-per-view event. The pressure was split between two men to complete the conversion and the WWE made the call to bookend Judgment Day with each ever-important performance. “They” say it is all about the follow-up, but at least we learned a night ago that there is a commitment to change and the higher ups are fully on-board with taking the business in a new direction.

Leading the charge are CM Punk and John Cena. For the first time in his career, CM Punk is not just being asked, but he is expected to carry the company as the face of a re-branded product. The WWE is banking on his bravado not ringing false, for all the borderline arrogance over the years coupled with a failure to back up his considerably egotistical discourse would be fuel for Vince McMahon to spitefully bury him for the remainder of his contract should he fail to succeed. Make no mistake about it, Punk must continue to succeed. He has what he wanted. Punk clamored for change and changes have been made, but the monetary numbers across the board need to hold strong. Numerous excuses were offered in years past as to why creative never made changes to the Cena character and included among them were Cena’s merchandise sales and his clean image that appealed to the younger demographic. Punk is doing very well in selling memorabilia, but he has his work cut out for him to draw back the teen-to-middle-aged male that is his target market.

Of course, the WWE has to put him in position to reach his potential. Last month was awkward, almost calling into question the WWE’s change of course set forth at Wrestlemania. Yet, the month of May has been more focused and culminated in last night’s main-event between Punk and The Miz. Rather than set up a standard, paint-by-the-numbers rematch, the story over the last three weeks has centered on Miz being the leader of the movement trying to prevent change. Perhaps it has worked so well because Mike Mizanin truly believes in the words of his alter ego. Indeed, he likely does think that the status quo is what is best for the WWE, as it has – after all – given him two consecutive headlining matches at Wrestlemania. Miz has been outspoken in interviews dating back to last year that he feels fortunate to have become a main-eventer during the “PG” era. There is a line of thinking that he will have to dramatically adapt his persona to avoid getting lost in the shuffle amidst the fresh landscape. So, it is not a wonder that his resistance is translating so well into his interviews in recent weeks. At the same time, nothing fuels the fire that burns inside CM Punk more than a man incapable of seeing the need for new direction. The Voice of the Voiceless is suddenly inspiring the vocal minority to become majority leaders at each WWE event. Subsequently, the heat for last night’s two-out-of-three falls match was excellent.

Unpredictability is key in creating drama during the course of a wrestling match. To this writer, the television product in the WWE is little more than an avenue to build anticipation for a match that the fans have to pay to see. Part of Vince McMahon’s goal in recreating his product has got to be re-establishing that what happens on PPV is must-see because of the payoffs to the stories being told on TV. So, reflect for a moment, back to the last three weeks. Miz and Punk never once got into a physical altercation. Their words spoke loudly on Raw and Smackdown, so that people would pay to see their actions last night. Whether it was on commentary or in the middle of the ring with a live microphone, the focus was on an issue that led to throwing blows at the scheduled, announced, and proper time. It was no surprise, then, that with each near fall leading up to Miz pinning Punk with a Skull Crushing Finale off the second rope, the decibel level in the arena rose. When Miz made the cover, you could see the emotion seeping through the challenger’s pores. It was clear that he wanted not just the WWE title back and not just the responsibility that comes with being the face of the company as the champion back – Miz was representing an ideal that the status quo had been just fine and that the change that Punk so desperately sought was not in the best interest of the company.

To the decidedly pro-Punk fans in attendance, Miz getting the first fall actually meant something. It was not just a rehash of what we’d been given for free two weeks earlier and it was not a rematch of a headlining bout at Wrestlemania. Instead, this was one step closer to change not happening. I could feel the anxiety through my TV screen. Miz going up 1-0 made it one more three-count from the WWE “not getting it” with Punk and the revolution that he represented. On the flip side, Punk tying it up with a submission was satisfying on a higher level than most tap outs. It was a fist-pumping moment usually reserved for sports without a pre-determined winner. You see, the internet has created a legion of fans very knowledgeable of history and blood thirsty to witness it. For every guy like me that has seen so many iconic moments, there is a fan that wants nothing more than to say that they were watching live when the WWE turned the corner. Subsequently, Punk’s reversal of Miz’s literal and figurative Finale into the Anaconda Vice elicited one of the loudest pops I’ve ever heard. It didn’t just emanate from the Charlotte crowd…it came from down under in Australia; it came from the United Kingdom; it came from Hawaii; it came from Mexico; it came from the east coast, west coast, Midwest, northeast, and deep south.

What happened next made me want to shake the hand of whichever road agent helped put this match together. Out of the woodwork came a man that Punk had once labeled as the embodiment of what was wrong with the WWE: Johnny Ace. The former interim Raw GM came down to the ring and attempted to help sway the momentum back in the Miz’s direction. The crowd reacted with hushed silence, not because of a lack of interest, but for fear of what was happening. Miz was going to win. Johnny Ace was there to ensure it. Punk refused to let it happen, though. With one thunderous chair shot that reverberated around the globe, Punk flattened Ace square across the forehead. It brought an infectious, ear-to-ear smile to the new face of the WWE. It was an exhausting emotional experience but, in the end, it came down to Punk putting the Miz to sleep and placing a fairly unpopular era in the rearview mirror. The three count leading to Punk’s title retention was met, oddly enough, with more of a gigantic sigh of relief than with thunderous applause.

It has been a fascinating year already. We’re not yet halfway through 2012 and we’ve witnessed several historical milestones. After last night, it is clear that CM Punk will carry the WWE as their leading man. John Cena now finds himself in the unfamiliar role of antagonist. Central to the company’s renovation, of sorts, remains the WWE’s long-time poster child for the apparently concluded era. So, in an interesting twist, we rewind back from the main-event to the opening match, where the responsibility of ensuring that Cena’s heel turn – finally, his heel turn – rested on the slight shoulders of Daniel Bryan.

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