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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: The Hell in a Cell Report (Part 1: The Preview - It's All About Ryback)
By The Doc
Oct 24, 2012 - 8:18:27 PM

Forget what should happen - what do you WANT to happen: Punk to retain or Ryback to win the belt?

It’s all about Ryback.

On Sunday, he’ll join Daniel Bryan and Wade Barrett as the third headliner to emerge from the original NXT cast. I applaud the WWE for taking a chance on him and I’ve been enjoying the opportunity to see him embrace the challenge. It’s a big challenge – make no mistake about that. He’s going from a solid six months worth of squash matches, with an exception or four, to main-eventing what has historically been one of the better theme PPVs of the year. Hell in a Cell will give him the chance to cement his status, at best, or give the higher-ups some things to think about for the future, at worst.

This is his audition. The storyline is there for the PPV to sell pretty well on the merits of Punk being the awesomely smarmy champion in need of a little comeuppance and Ryback being the perfect guy to give it to him. Now, he just has to deliver. We often go back and forth in the IWC about how important workrate is to the people whose opinions matter most. Some fans overemphasize the in-ring product, citing it as the be-all, end all; it’s a classic smark hallmark. There are others that think it doesn’t matter how good or bad a wrestler is, as long as he has the right amount of supporters at the top of the food chain. The reality, as it is with most things in life, is that workrate falls somewhere in the middle on the importance scale. You can’t absolutely suck and expect to maintain a consistent presence in the main-event. People nowadays are too hip to the game to allow a horrible match to go unpunished.

We don’t know much about Ryback. It’s tough to state whether or not he sucks because we’ve not seen anything substantial from him in the ring. What we do know is that he has got some impressive strength and some good looking power moves. Punk’s job will be to orchestrate how to use those moves at the right times and right places. In that regard, Ryback’s job will be simple – he just has to listen and react accordingly. Reviews of their house show matches have been positive, especially the ones from last weekend. I don’t know what to think about the match quality, personally, but it’s always a focus for me in terms of making decisions on ordering PPVs. I’m on the fence.

I’d like to see Ryback succeed. He’s been at it for a while, now. I remember him from the Tough Enough season that produced the Miz and Daniel Puder in 2004. It’s his time, perhaps. Just a few months ago, I did a collaborative (Sports Entertainment 360) column with my friend, The Stinger, and he suggested that Ryback topple the Streak next April. I had a hard time imagining, back then, Ryback having a headlining match against anyone at Wrestlemania, much less the Deadman. Yet, he is in the position to take the shackles off and ascend to impressive heights. It would seem very logical for him to the win the WWE Championship on Sunday, would it not? He’s a dominant force and, as Chris Jericho stated earlier in the week, he needs to keep winning. A winning streak should not end the first time the streaking wrestler meets adversity. That takes everything that he’d done in the previous several months and renders it relatively irrelevant. He has to win for his star to continue to rise. Losing makes him “just another superstar.”

In American college football, the West Virginia Mountaineers burst onto the scene this year as a so-called national championship contender. They had a flashy offense capable of a knockout blow at any stage of the game just as Ryback has aesthetically pleasing presence and move set. Unfortunately for WVU fans, their team met some serious adversity and wilted under the pressure. They’ve faded to the back pages in a matter of two weeks. I think if Punk retains the title, then Ryback will have a far more difficult time building his momentum back to its current point. In all likelihood, based on a couple of decades of pro-wrestling studies, Ryback will struggle to recover if he loses. Thus, to maximize the potential of this entire angle, Ryback should win. I just hope that he can do so in a blaze of glory and not after a bumpy ride of a match that sees him fail to live up to the expectations that an 8-year veteran finally getting his big break should have to meet. Endure, Ryback…endure.

At the same time, I don’t really want Punk to lose the title. I think that the best in the business should be the champion, especially when the best in the business is still in the process of proving that he’s the best in the business. I think that Punk should hold that championship until January or beyond. He’s been the most entertaining character on the roster since his latest heel turn and his run of excellent matches on PPV since being given the ball in the summer of 2011 has solidified him as the best in-ring performer. To take the title off of him, now, weakens a potential match with The Rock and weakens a potential match with Stone Cold Steve Austin. The bigger Punk can be in the eyes of the fans that uniquely tune in for the major shows in early 2013, then the better off the company will be in the long-term. The WWE does not have a strong recent track record of unquestionably stamping a new guy as a main-event player for life, ala John Cena.

I’m all for creating new stars like Ryback, but should it come at the expense of Punk? I don’t think that’s Punk’s role, yet. Triple H needed consistent victories over top stars to become the heel of the 2000s and then he shifted gears toward being the guy that made others. It’s Cena’s job, not Punk’s, to put people over to get them to that next level. Punk still needs to be the one going over people. At the end of the day, I look at a guy like Punk and see a WWE Champion that has not reached that point where people are itching to see him lose the title and not until that point should he, in my opinion, drop the strap. It would be one thing if Ryback was a proven, established talent, but he’s not. I personally like seeing guys that get to the main-event and win the title be the guys that have definitively earned that position. I’m not a fan of the trend that sees guys with no headlining track record being “experimented with” as main-event players. You shouldn’t be a main-event player unless all the experimentation is virtually over. Working your way up to success is the way it should be, if you ask me.

So, there are two good arguments – one for each side. I’m going to predict that Punk retains because I think the WWE is thinking ahead for a change and looking at the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania, game planning for what they need to do to ensure that their cash cow hits them another financial home run.

One thing helping Ryback vs. Punk’s cause for the pay per viewing audience will be Jim Ross on commentary. The product has benefitted quite a bit from having Ross in the fold. Nobody can sell the product like he can. Because of his experience, JR just knows what to say to get you interested in a match and that’s something that Michael Cole has never been able to consistently add to his fairly limited commentating repertoire. Ross will help tell the story of Ryback’s leap to the main-event, the importance of Punk’s lengthy title reign, and will validate whatever decision is made on the winner.

Onward to other discussion points...

Sheamus being vulnerable is a good thing. I’m a big fan of the Celtic Warrior and I want to see him succeed with this title reign in an area outside of the ring (where he’s done a great job as champ). To do that, he needed to show some vulnerability. Part of what doesn’t work for Cena is that you simply know he’s going to win most of the time and that’s not good for a babyface character. There’s not been much of a sympathetic arc to the story of Sheamus in the last year. Big Show, sadly, is who they’ve chosen to make him look vulnerable. Has it worked? Yes, I think it certainly has on the surface. The problem is that it’s Big Show. I have never cared less about Show than I do right now. I think Show is doing a fine job, but I’m so disinterested in him that it clouds my judgment toward his work. What I would like to see is if Sheamus vs. Show can steal the show. The door is wide open for a Showstealer without Cena vs. Punk on the card. Remember last year’s late October PPV? Show pulled a rabbit out of his hat with one of the top matches of the year against Mark Henry. I’d love to see Sheamus vs. Show do the same. I think they can do it. I’ll be curious to see if Dolph Ziggler comes through with his guarantee to win the title after this match. I want to see them hold off. Ideally, for my tastes, Dolph walks into Wrestlemania as World Champion.

I’m torn on the rest of the card. On one hand, I think they’ve utilized their mid-card better for this PPV than they’ve done in a really long time. The tag team title match has gotten sufficient hype by way of the tournament. I love tournaments – such an effective way of showcasing multiple teams. I think Sin Cara benefits from tagging with Rey Mysterio. He has looked as crisp as he ever has since joining the WWE last year. The Primetime Players are still a fun act to watch and I think they’ll benefit from more of a slow push to the top of the division. Team Rhodes Scholars are an entertaining duo that could rival Kane and Daniel Bryan in the department of who deserves the most airtime. I’m still not all that high on the Kane-Bryan pairing, but at least it gives them something to do.

The WWE has utilized their new TV show quite well and the Kofi Kingston IC title win and upcoming title defense has benefited quite a bit from it. Kudos – that’s something they need to keep up long past the point that its freshness wears off. It’d be a shame to see that show be a forgotten afterthought ala the other TV shows they’ve produced outside of Raw (and Smackdown). I think they’ve done a solid job with the Alberto Del Rio vs. Randy Orton feud, too. That should be a 3-star, good addition to the PPV. Every match on the card has a story and is not just thrown on the PPV to fill time. I dig that. More of that, please.

On the other hand, I’m not that invested in many of the matches. We’ve had a lot going on lately at the Doc household, so that may be (and likely is) a big part of my general indifference to everything outside of the main-event, but not much on this card is clicking for me. I feel like I’m basing my entire decision for this PPV on CM Punk vs. Ryback. I’m not sure if I’m going to order or not.

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