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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: The Straw that Broke the Camel's Back (and Heeding My Own Advice)
By The Doc
May 21, 2013 - 8:26:10 PM

I think this is a good time to take a break...

I teach my patients that their health does not fail them overnight. Though ailments often seem to come out of nowhere, they usually develop over a period of several years. As we here in the States have been taught to ignore the warning signs that alert us to the underlying problems, by way of consuming medications that treat only the symptoms, the health condition(s) continues to develop as we figuratively fall further down the ladder. Then, it is usually something small that is the "straw that breaks the camel's back"; our threshold for maintaining shatters and we have to play catch up. If we learn to listen to our bodies and stop ignoring them, we'd all be much better off.

Well, last night, I watched as an exciting announcement was delivered that Paul Heyman had taken on a new star in the form of Mr. Perfect's son. As the rechristening took place before our eyes of the former Michael McGillicutty into Curtis Axel, a tribute to his father and grandfather's names, I sat excited that a new star was being born. Then, Triple H humbled the kid with scathing words and a slap across the face. "Alright," I thought. "Not how I would've handled the re-debut of a wrestler with quite the pedigree, but we'll see how the match between Axel and Trips goes." Then, Triple H, despite a concussion that ultimately will put him out of action via major storyline write-off, owned the newcomer. Despite public endorsements by The Rock for Axel's in-ring ability, we were privy to no such hints and, instead, were "treated" to Triple H making his in-ring return to Raw for the first time in 3 years so that he could take the focus completely away from Axel's debut and make the storyline about a concussion.

And that was it for me. In my mind, I snapped.

Several months down the line, in hindsight, I'm sure that last night's handling of Axel will be no big deal. Yet, after the uninspiring general direction of the wrestling product for the last year, during which time I've been legitimately entertained for roughly 30-minutes per broadcast (that's only 16% of the show), it feels to me like a huge deal. Last night could have been about Curtis Axel, but it was about Triple H at Curtis Axel's expense. Why debut Axel only for him to be in the background by night's end? Axel was not necessary for the Trips storyline to take place. I have zero issue with the storyline itself, yet I have an issue with Axel's involvement in it. What does Axel gain from it? His partnership with Heyman is likely to be fruitful for him, but last night was not a good start. He spent the majority of his debut on his rear end.

The above came on the heels of Dolph Ziggler being so poorly booked in his first few weeks as World Champion to the point where I called a potentially career-altering concussion a potential "Blessing in disguise." I would have thought that Ziggler's run as champion and subsequent elevation to legitimate top-tier player (finally) would have kept my interest up to the Summerslam build-up, but that sure as hell has not happened. Cody Rhodes, meanwhile, jobbed to Miz on a pre-show and didn't have a match at Wrestlemania. Personally, I think Rhodes is one of the most creative personalities in the business today. Why is he sitting on the sidelines? Antonio Cesaro, the most unique in-ring performer in the WWE right now, is a joke. Those are just a few examples.

Frankly, I'm having to fight to be interested in what they're doing. One thing Wrestlemania had going for it was that the uninspired booking involved all-time greats that could take that boring direction and make something of it. The Rock, CM Punk, John Cena, Undertaker, Triple H, and Paul Heyman/Brock Lesnar MADE it interesting to me. As of next week's show, only two of those guys will be on TV. I've said for weeks that the new characters, sans for Ryback, were running in place (including The Shield, who haven't progressed as characters since their debut). I'm doing a lot of complaining...

I had my "straw that broke the camel's back" moment for WWE's Raw last night. I nearly had that moment two years ago, but CM Punk dropped the "Pipe Bomb," I had to read about it on the internet and missed it live, and felt compelled to stick around to see what he'd do. (Doc's note - I wonder if I'd still feel compelled to take a break if he were still around).

I have frequently told the naysayers, particularly during Wrestlemania season this year, that if you don't enjoy the product, then your best bet is just simply to find something else to do with your time on Monday nights. I am going to heed my own advice. I've got some other things that I can do. So, I'm going to take a leave of absence until Payback is in the books. I'll tune back in the night after and see how things look.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column that suggested that it might be prudent to take a different approach to watching the WWE's product. The general thought process was that if the WWE was going to put out an uninspired TV product but still deliver good PPVs, then perhaps we should just watch the PPVs and skip the shows that don't often hype them very well. I gave that some more thought. I realized, last night particularly, that I'm watching Raw more out of habit right now than anything. For years, I tuned into PPVs to see the wrestling matches (without all the commercials and incessant promotion of movies and sponsors that we see on TV) and the weekly TV shows to see the promos (with the exception of the Smackdown program circa 2002-2003 booked by Paul Heyman). However, the promos now are so damn cookie cutter that I feel like I should be firing up the oven to 350F at 8PM every Monday. So, maybe it's time to give the idea of PPVs w/o Raw/SD a chance.

It doesn't help that the next chapter of the Cena-Ryback rivalry that I was enjoying will be continued via Ambulance match. In the feedback section to my Extreme Rules review, a reader commented that an Ambulance match would be a fitting. We then each proceeded to state how much we disliked that gimmick. Low and behold, the guy was right on the money. I have not watched the June PPV since 2006, so leading off with a gimmick match that has not exactly set the modern wrestling world on fire was not a good start to earning my interest.

Let us set aside for a moment that the Ambulance match has produced two above average at best Kane matches in the last ten years and, to my 26+ year fan memory bank, has not otherwise happened on a mainstream wrestling event. The bigger issue, to me, is that Ryback - a bonafide main-event player - has managed to hit the big time and yet completely avoid a standard, straight-up, one-on-one, feature length singles match. This was bound to happen in the era of themed PPVs, but it is a little disturbing to an old school fan of so many years to watch a guy come up through the ranks without having to wrestle a normal match on PPV. WWE Payback will put him back into a gimmicked environment. In his one regular match on PPV since being elevated to main-event status in October, he flopped in a boring match at Wrestlemania; so, I suppose that it is a good way to protect his limitations to keep his matches gimmicked, but I had always presumed that in order to have a sustainable headlining future, he was going to have to prove himself in standard affairs.

Here, again, I find myself nitpicking and griping.

It's time to take a break.

I'll be around on Facebook (DocLOP) and on Twitter (@thedoclop) if you want to discuss the NBA Playoffs, College Football season (100 days away!), or wrestling (I'll read about it, so I'll be able to do second hand discussions).

See you on the 17th, WWE Raw.

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