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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: The Hell in a Cell Review & Aftermath - WWE Booking Needs An Oversight Committee
By The Doc
Oct 30, 2012 - 8:16:18 PM

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QUESTION OF THE DAY: What do you think of Ryback's long-term prospects coming out of Sunday's PPV and Monday's Raw?

There is not much I wish to comment on from Sunday’s Hell in a Cell PPV, but if I “may beg your indulgence,” I would like to focus my review on the World Heavyweight Championship match and the aftermath on the WWE Championship.

I made it a point to catch the Sheamus vs. Big Show match. In my preview last week, I stated the following: “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.”

Well, they certainly did it. Because it involved the story of the larger athlete dominating a significant portion of the match, it is a bout that is destined to be underrated by the workrate-loving internet crowd, but make no mistake about the quality of Sheamus vs. Show. Those two guys worked their tails off and it paid off in spades with a dramatic, back and forth contest that exceeded just about everyone’s expectations.

Show is not overly popular right now, especially not with me. He is a character that I’m ready to see retire after seventeen, going on eighteen years, but he can get it done in the ring when the right opponent allows him to open up his offense, sell a bit more, and unleash a few exhilarating false finishes. My colleague suggested that the kick outs were not necessary, but I disagree. There is a trend for Show to dominate and then lose. It’s a hallmark of his career. Since he’s big, they book him to control most of the match, but it has been rare that he’s come out the victor. Therefore, crowds are conditioned to assume that the dominated opponent will come out with the win, leaving the door open for an excellent near fall when the presumed finisher taken by the Big Show doesn’t actually lead to the end of the match. Show kicking out of the Brogue Kick was a perfect way to ensure that this turned out to be as dramatic as possible.

Sheamus is basically the ideal opponent for Show. He’s just big enough and perceived as just tough enough that he won’t get his rear end handed to him for 10-20 minutes, boring the audience to tears in the process. Sheamus can legitimately hang in there. In contrast, John Cena is used to playing the face-in-peril no matter if he’s facing a giant or a wet toad stool. Show-Cena matches are, therefore, historically snoozefests. Sheamus is cut more from the Mark Henry mold. It’s all about perception, in that case. Henry and Sheamus are guys that one could conceivably see being capable of going blow for blow with Show.

So, I was hopeful of Sheamus and Show having a great match and they did. It is difficult to fathom them topping such a performance, but I will look forward to seeing them try.

The Celtic Warrior’s title reign coming to an end was not what I expected, but I think it’ll be a good thing. He’s just missing something in the character department and has for virtually his entire run as a hero. He forces his promos to no end, coming across as trying too hard to be likeable almost like Randy Orton did once upon a time before he smartly shut the hell up and just facial expressioned his way through being a good guy. I think Sheamus did a great job, performance-wise, as a World Champion (and contender), but he needs to find a way to be more genuine as a babyface.

There’s no question that he can work in the ring as a good guy. In 2012, he stole the show at the Royal Rumble (w/ Jericho), had a great match in April against Daniel Bryan, did well in a 4-way in May, had a nice string of matches with Ziggler in June, worked well with Del Rio from July-September, and capped it off with last Sunday’s bout that may have been second only to the D-Bryan match on his 2K12 list. It’s going to come down to character. Edge never figured out how to be a truly remarkable babyface and Randy Orton hasn’t either, mainly because they were each such natural television heels. Sheamus did much better character development as a heel, too. Can he translate his ability to cut an engaging heel promo into the ability to do the same as the protagonist? That’s the biggest question I have moving forward and, perhaps, chasing the title will help him figure it out.

I do not wish to see Big Show hold the title for long, so hopefully Sheamus figures it out quickly and earns back the title; otherwise, let’s get the next guy in there and get Show out of the main-event.

As for the WWE Championship match between CM Punk and Ryback, I did not enjoy how it was handled. In fact, I appreciated the manner in which they chose to book that match so little that I have decided to go against my usual thought process of abstaining from the “Vince McMahon and creative are out of touch with the audience” argument and give them a piece of my mind.

By and large, I feel that the WWE know what they’re doing far more often than we give them credit. In 52 weeks of television, there are going to be some misses. Television shows that only get 20-24 episodes per year don’t even get through entire seasons without a few boring shows. The WWE has to do roughly four times that many, so I give them more credit, I think, than most. Once upon a time, I even tried to write a weekly show for a fantasy booking project on another site. It was well-received, for the most part, but when you write out that many shows, you can tell when one to ten of them are pretty bland to downright awful. I use that example only to state that it’s just not easy to write great stuff all of the time and to expect anyone to do so is just not realistic.

However, there are some instances where you really have to wonder what the heck Vince and the writers are doing – glaringly obvious mistakes that even people like myself that don’t work in television can clearly point out as an oversight at best and a creative failure on all accounts at worst. The little things matter in life, so they can seem like much bigger things sometimes. Ryback is a big deal. His booking required handling with care to ensure that he didn’t fizzle out; so that he did not become the umpteenth guy in the last five years to flame out as a main-eventer before he ever really made it to a consistent place at the top of the card, largely due to inept booking decisions.

A week ago, Ryback was a force that had the wrestling world talking. Now, he’s halfway back to being nobody. It wasn’t just the way that they booked the main-event at Hell in a Cell. Frankly, my attitude toward his losing so cheaply and his subsequent actions on top of the Cell was, “Let’s just see how it plays out on Raw.” Before I go further with that, though, you have to feel for the people of Atlanta. That’s a great wrestling town with a lot of history, yet think of the last two PPV main-events that they’ve received. At Wrestlemania 27, they went with a terrible finish to the main-event match between John Cena and Miz – a poor decision that had no excuse considering that the restart finish is one of the most unpopular in the history of wrestling. Then, on Sunday, they were given a half-assed, farce of a HIAC match that historically has produced predominantly good to great work. That’s two crap finishes to the last main-events held in the ATL. If I were an Atlanta area fan, I’d think twice about the next time the WWE came to town.

The ending to Punk vs. Ryback would’ve been a fine finish for a television main-event, but not for PPV. People that spend $45-$55 on PPVs don’t deserve such half-hearted booking. I’ve read things like “the WWE booked themselves into a corner.” Well, OK, but these are people that write wrestling television for a living. There were better and more creative routes to take than a screwy ref finish. By going the route taken at Hell in a Cell, they antagonized the purchaser. If I went to a steakhouse and ordered a $45-$55 piece of beef, then I’d damn sure I expect that I get what I paid for. Any chef daring enough to proceed to bring me out a $6 steak from Wal-Mart better be prepared for the backlash. Twenty years of watching WWE PPVs have given me a little spider sense, if you will, about main-events that seem sketchy, in terms of what they might offer me. I had a feeling that Ryback-Punk would be a colossal disappointment, so I just didn’t order. I feel bad for those of you that did, though…you got ripped off.

The sad thing is that they know that they ripped off the purchaser, who by and large ordered based on Ryback vs. Punk, and they know that they failed to deliver in the city of Atlanta. Someone in that creative meeting knows that they, collectively, dropped the ball. It baffles me that there isn’t someone on the staff that can say, with enough authority for the ill-advised decision to be vetoed before officially made, “Hey, we just did this to paying customers in this same city a year and a half ago, so we might want to consider giving them something more competitive and try a different finish. Plus, the people ordering the PPV are expecting more, so we need to affirm their purchase.”

Personally, I thought that the best way to go with the ending to the Hell in a Cell match was a no contest. They couldn’t afford for CM Punk to lose, but they couldn’t afford for Ryback to lose either. Going with a DQ would’ve gone against the principles of the gimmick, so that was out. That left only one option – come up with a creative way to do a no-contest. Two quick ideas that come to mind: make it a bloody brawl (it’s been so long since we’ve seen a legitimate, double crimson mask match that it would’ve worked) or have them go through the announce tables off the side of the Cell ala HBK in 1997 (more dangerous actions take place in TLC matches every year).

So, back to Raw. To make sure Ryback moved forward, they needed to do something that returned his heat to the levels of the previous weeks. (Doctor’s note - they’re the creative team – they can come up with how to do so). Instead, they have Ryback squash a nobody until making an appearance at the end of the show. AND GET THIS….how do they do it? They make everyone assume that Mick Foley, one of the all-time greatest in the industry and one of the most popular wrestlers of all-time, is about to make his long-awaited return to the ring in an angle that actually matters against the WWE Champion who has essentially targeted the other of the Attitude era’s top dogs. After teasing it throughout the night and one last time before “Team Foley’s” final member is announced, they yank the rug out from under everyone and announce that Foley won’t actually be wrestling at Survivor Series. INSTEAD, Ryback will be the final team member. Rather than Ryback coming across as the big-time, unstoppable threat to CM Punk, the crowd starts to boo because they were thinking Foley was coming back to wrestle Punk. Instead of everyone being jacked to see Ryback give CM Punk his comeuppance next month, they were disappointed that Foley was not going to help him.

What an ASININE way to handle that situation.

Again, I ask, why wasn’t there someone with a brain back there saying, “This is going to get booed. People are excited to see Foley wrestle. If they think Foley is going to fight Punk and then we replace him with Ryback, then our new top star is going to get booed and this will fall flat” ???

You tell me…

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