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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: Raw 1K - Good night for old stars, Bad night for one new star, and Great night for CM Punk
By The Doc
Jul 24, 2012 - 6:53:23 PM

Question of the Day: What do you think will come of a CM Punk heel turn, long-term headed toward Royal Rumble '13 and Wrestlemania XXIX?

Raw 1,000 came and went, with two things standing out to me more than anything. I’ll get to those two things momentarily, but I want to point out that the show did end up accomplishing one thing that I had hoped it would when I wrote my preview of it last weekend. Through all the nostalgia, which was fun, it was not the past superstars that came out of Raw as the major talking points. Well done, on that front, WWE. Ratings reflect the success of the event, drawing the strongest Nielsen in over three years. I hope it’s a launching pad to something consistently different. There was a time about a year ago when it seemed like we might be seeing a transition away from the unfocused, discombobulated television that has become so commonplace in an era where it seems more important to “Tout” Twitter or Facebook than it does to present a logical storyline progression. We got good stuff for a few months and then, out of the blue (and, perhaps, coincidentally or not, starting with Johnny Ace’s run as GM), it ended. I hope Raw1K restarts a positive trend toward shows that make you want to see the next one and make you want to pay money for the PPVs every month (or, at the very least, want to see them).

The first thing I want to discuss is actually something that didn’t happen. I’ve made it clear that I’ve identified a few favorites of this new generation of stars to get emotionally invested in for the future – Sheamus, Cody Rhodes, and Dolph Ziggler. I think it’s important to have a rooting interest in a wrestler or two that goes beyond the surface level. It’s a key element of sport that carries well into sports entertainment. Anyhow, one of these men quietly got left off the show (Rhodes) and it was something that stood out like a sore thumb to me. There was a blog written by Jim Ross earlier in the year in which he mentioned that Rhodes and Ziggler would be World Champions in 2012. Well, that may be true for one of them, but being left off such a huge WWE event does not speak highly of the other. When you consider Cody’s creativity as a character and how he has managed to stay relevant as a mid-carder in the last couple of years, it seemed like a no-brainer that he would be increasingly viable as a threat at the top of the card this year. As it stands, that now seems highly unlikely.

The shame of it is that Cody could do very good things as an upper mid-card or main-event player right now. We often see in reports that the WWE has a “roster depth” problem, but a guy like Rhodes sits around doing little of importance. For my tastes, there is not a more engaging character in the WWE amongst the crop of young guns that haven’t made it, yet. I had hopes that he might be one of the wrestlers being talked about after Monday’s show. He will likely bounce back and hopefully will get a fourth consecutive Wrestlemania singles match in the mid-card (which, in this day and age, is a pretty important statistic because it means he isn’t just thrown into random cluster matches and has stories built around his involvement). I think it just says a lot about what the WWE higher ups think of him for his face not to even be shown in a backstage segment for the two million extra viewers.

Second, and most important, on the list of discussion topics is the real star of the 1,000th Raw: CM Punk. Only time will tell if what Punk did on Monday amounts to a heel turn and whether or not it will be deemed successful, historically, but there is one thing that we can say without hesitation, question, or speculation and that’s the fact that Punk was the major talking point coming out of the show. On a night where all but one key player from Degeneration X’s two versions were in the same ring for the first time together, when The Rock came back to the WWE to announce a Royal Rumble title shot (huge in that it’s the first time that the Rumble will have been given any kind of advance hype since arguably ’09 but assuredly ’08), and countless other legendary figures from the WWE’s past showed up to give us a trip down memory lane, it was the Chicago Made Punk that ended the show as the reason to watch next week.

I will also give credit to Daniel Bryan for making a lasting impact, but CM Punk was the star. He was the star in the segment that involved Bryan and Rock; he stood right up to Rock and definitively stated that he was going to be champion for another six months to give himself the longest WWE Championship reign in over twenty years and, in doing so, got the reaction of a guy who belongs in the same ring with arguably the greatest WWE Superstar of all-time (yes, seriously – look at Rock’s resume). He was the star of the WWE Championship match; he furthered what he started last year when he did the little things that people don’t do against the WWE’s Golden Boy, John Cena, countering some of his hokiest moves with logical reversals that made the face of the company look silly and dominating much of the match before it broke down with Big Show’s involvement.

On any other episode of Raw and perhaps with any other opponent for Cena, we would not have much to talk about from a title match that ended in interference and disqualification. The people would have skipped over discussing Show sticking his sizeable nose where it doesn’t belong. They might talk of how the match should not have ended in DQ. I suppose The Rock getting the best of Big Show and having more interaction with Cena could have been the most major thing to come of it all. Yet, because it was CM Punk and because of how Punk expressed himself throughout the climactic stages of the match, we have numerous paths down which our discussion for the next few days can travel until we get some answers next week.

Punk’s apathy toward Rock from earlier in the evening turned out to be significant, just as his playing up to the fans during the title bout against Cena meant a lot more after what transpired to close the show. The manner in which Punk sat there and watched Big Show do what he did to Cena and then, torn, tried to decide whether or not to capitalize on it was the most dramatic piece of WWE TV since the Brock Lesnar-John Cena brawl a few months ago. Thank God one of these wrestlers finally decided to do something interesting and out of the ordinary. A babyface champion of eight months and counting suddenly deciding to go back to his heelish roots and try to win a match by any means necessary, even if they weren’t the means that little kids on a PG program might like him to use? Yeah, I’m locked into that. 100%. I’m equally as intrigued by his actions toward The Rock, which had verbally earned him jeers in the second hour and set the tone for his physical attack that prompted the audience to turn on him and Jerry Lawler to insinuate that it was Punk that did the turning after the third hour.

Subsequently, I’m wanting to discuss what’s happening RIGHT NOW and how it plays into the future. It’s been a few months since I’ve been up for that. Johnny Ace wrestling in the main-event of a PPV sucked away my interest in the current product, but Punk’s actions just sucked me right back in. I want to know if he just turned heel. If he did, I think that opens the door for a truckload of pipe bombs on the topic of Cena overshadowing him during his title reign and Rock stealing his thunder throughout the build up to and during Wrestlemania weekend. Naturally, those verbal tirades will lead to fascinating matches between Punk and both Cena AND Rock. While I don’t see that it will lead to Punk being in the actual main-event of Wrestlemania, I do think it puts him in position to be in one of the top three matches again and builds his reputation to one day be a guy who can go on last multiple times at the biggest show of the year. I do think it’ll mean he leaps Trips vs. Brock and lands the Summerslam main-event and several thereafter. I want to know whether or not the Austin match could be in play with a heel Punk or perhaps another match against Triple H or something else all together. Bottom line: I’m interested.

So, we’ll see how it goes. We’ve been here before with the WWE. The last several inconsistent years have shown that the WWE has its good months and bad months without pattern outside of Wrestlemania season – and, even then, that may be more general fan euphoria due to the glorious history of Mania rather than the WWE actually doing something that good. Hopefully, Raw 1,000, particularly CM Punk’s character, is the sign of an upswing. I’m hopeful that upswing translates to consistently good shows for more than just a couple of months. To show unique viewers that Raw is worth investing (or re-investing) in, they have to show some sustainability. I, for one, thought Raw 1,000’s ending was a good sign of that potential.

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