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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: Thank You, Chicago and Mark Henry...I'm back
By The Doc
Jun 18, 2013 - 8:06:00 AM

Question of the Day: If you had to rate the WWE's efforts from the last two nights, overall, on a 1-10 scale, what score would you give?

Thank you, Chicago. Your crowd at the All State Arena made me decide to end my hiatus. There's nothing like an enthusiastic audience to enhance the WWE product and, subsequently, my attitude toward it. I will admit that it was not exactly fun being downtrodden about Raw, but I felt it was necessary. As arguably the most positive wrestling columnist on the entire internet, I felt that if Raw had become bland enough and filled with enough simple mistakes to boil me over to a hiatus, then pointing out many of the reasons that led to the spill was in order. However, I kept my eye on the critical response to Payback last night during halftime of the NBA Finals Game 5. The excitement prompted me to order and record the PPV. Throughout Monday, I caught bits and pieces of the show and found my enthusiasm rejuvenated. My issue was never with the PPVs, but a great PPV has always been able to get my excitement level up a few notches about the WWE product, in general.

I will not go into a full-fledged review, but I will quickly share my thoughts. If you want to know the entirety of my take, listen to my radio show (The Doc Says...) tomorrow at 3PM. The opener was relatively inspired and it was nice to see Curtis Axel get some extended time in the ring against guys that make him look really strong. The match's thrown-together aura never lifted, but it was a fun outing in which each participant excelled (**3/4). The US title match felt like a TV match to me, though a good TV match. Most of Kane's work in the last few years has come across as if he's going through the motions. Since his 2010 World title run, only his bouts with Randy Orton last April really made me feel like he was trying (in the ring; character is a different story). Just (**) for Kane-Ambrose.

What honestly got me really into the PPV was the already heralded Diva's title match between AJ and Kaitlyn. I enjoyed their segment from last week's Raw (watched it on YouTube). I concur with Hustle's assessment that it was the best women's match since James vs. Stratus seven years ago in the same building. The crowd's investment in AJ, particularly, was evident; the WWE's decision to give her so much TV time last year has clearly paid off. It has been a long time since a women's match told that good of a story (***). AJ had a great night, working a wonderful match and then acting her part brilliantly in Dolph Ziggler's failed attempt to retain his World title. The Ziggler vs. Del Rio match was story-heavy and very intriguing. A week ago during my radio duo with Super Chrisss, I posed the question as to whether or not the WWE missed the boat in not going forward with Ziggler's face turn when he came back. Well, the very difficult double-turn was executed at Payback. Only Chicago can make that happen. I look forward to seeing where that scenario goes. Ziggler may now actually get to develop into a big-time star. I thought the match was very good (***).

The follow-up on Raw was mainly about Del Rio exclamating his return to the dark side (and he did a very nice job), but I'm hoping that Ziggler will break out and crush his babyface turn. I have invested more in the rise of Dolph Ziggler to superstar, consistent headlining status than I have anyone since Edge nearly a decade ago. I want this guy to succeed like many of you wanted Punk and Bryan to succeed. I also believe that Ziggler has more potential to be John Cena's eventual replacement as the #1 star/babyface on the roster than anyone else - not necessarily in a long-term way, but in a Bret Hart/Shawn Michaels "for a couple of years until the next HUGE star comes along" way.

CM Punk's return match was what really made me order the PPV. When anyone has the critical gumption to claim a match as a candidate for best of the year, I pay close attention. I watched the match with immense anticipation and was not disappointed. The key for Punk and Jericho was to overcome their relative lack of a story, but the crowd pretty much negated that potential knock (crowd heat is usually the first thing to suffer from a meh storyline). Chicago treated Punk to a hero's welcome. Because the bout did not feature the same caliber storyline as did their previous matches, I did not think that it was that 4.5 star caliber action that we saw in 2012, but I do think that it was one of the best matches of the year, so far (****).

As expected, Punk has returned to the babyface role. His look seems to favor the change, as he discarded the lip ring for the first time that I can recall and his hair cut to make himself look quite a bit like Hugh Jackman in his Wolverine character. It works for me. I think it makes him look more like a hero. The issue has been started with Paul Heyman. The feud has been ignited with Brock Lesnar. I said this in my radio show a few weeks ago and I'll state it again, now: I need to see Lesnar do something more to build this presumable Summerslam feud with Punk than physically maul him and then let Heyman speak for him. I need to see something more in-depth this time around, as it will otherwise be a feud between Heyman and Punk predominantly, as it seemed to almost be a feud between Heyman and Triple H during the 2013 portion of the HHH-Brock storyline. I challenge Brock to do more in the build-up than he did last night, though I liked what I saw to start things off.

The summer storylines, in general, seem to be taking shape and identifying some direction. The McMahon drama seems to have Summerslam written all over it. I don't care a thing about that, but the logical conclusion could be Triple H taking over as the on-air authority figure for years to come. I am OK with that. Vince wore out his welcome with me long ago. I got the impression that Daniel Bryan's quest to become WWE Champion will also culminate in a Summerslam match. Based on the events to be discussed momentarily, his loss to Randy Orton hopefully will lead to a singles match between them at Money in the Bank. They could go the route of having Bryan win the briefcase again, but it is not a situation that I favor. From a critical perspective, Bryan vs. Orton could be a fantastic PPV match, the victory from which could give Bryan a ton of momentum heading into a potential WWE title bout with Cena at the Summer Classic.

What a phenomenal piece of television from Mark Henry...

I watched him debut at Mind Games '96 (the same PPV that gave us HBK vs. Mankind). That was seventeen years ago that I made said version of In Your House the first PPV that I ever purchased with my own money. It was from that experience that Henry was able to pull on my heartstrings and bring some legitimate emotion out of me as he poured his heart and soul into what seemed to be a retirement promo. Mark Henry did a masterful job in making everyone in the audience and most people watching at home buy into his speech. The tears pouring down his face as he spoke of his career and the raw emotion that he showed when talking about his family getting less than half of his time each year, only for him to turn on John Cena and flip the switch from one extreme (sadness) to the other (anger)...that was one of the single best segments in Raw's 20 year history.

If it is possible for a man to rewrite his legacy by erasing fifteen years of suck with two years of excellence, then Mark Henry is proving it. For me, it has and always will be about the payoff match, so Henry needs to step up and deliver the goods in the ring next month, but I am quite confident that the important element of crowd investment will be their come Cena vs. Henry at Money in the Bank from Philadelphia.

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Tune into LOP radio tomorrow at 3PM for "The Doc Says..."

Tomorrow's topics include a full review of WWE Payback, how the WWE should incorporate the entertainment aspects of team sports, and The Most Compelling Reason You've Ever Heard to Turn John Cena Heel.


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