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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: The Summerslam Report (Preview, Review, and Aftermath)
By The Doc
Aug 21, 2012 - 11:34:29 PM

QUESTION OF THE DAY: If you could plot the WWE's course to its next boom period, what do you think that you'd do?

Preview Should be a Good Show Worthy of the Name
Review The Summerslam Report
Aftermath CM Punk vs. John Cena Hopefully Renews the Winds of Change

The Aftermath CM Punk vs. John Cena Hopefully Renews the Winds of Change

CM Punk, somewhere along the way, became a watered down version of the pipe bombster that quietly made a lot of people that had stopped being interested in wrestling last summer decide to tune in with a renewed sense of fandom. I was full of hyperbole when I suggested that his infamous shoot promo could change the industry, but I felt justified in making such a claim because it was the single most uniquely engaging talking segment that I’d seen in several years. Laced with reality and the type of talk that stimulates so much conversation in other professional sports, the Punk promo suggested that the total eradication of kayfabe could be the new wave. What better way, I surmised, could an entertainment entity that everyone knows is merely a conglomeration of fake fights find a new avenue to create conflict that would invest people than to simply embrace its predetermined nature and become more like reality television?

I don’t think much of reality TV in the traditional sense, since most people think of the Kardashians, the Real Housewives, the Real World, and Survivor type shows when they think of that brand of broadcasting. Yet, I do quite enjoy the sports variety of reality TV, what with all the interviews and press conferences and verbal jockeying for positions. In the sports world, there is a presentation of good guys and bad guys, but it comes about more naturally - more authentically. You will not convince me that the same authenticity could not work for wrestling. No sport in the history of television is better at promotion than professional wrestling’s most popular worldwide entity, the WWE, so you would be hard-pressed to make me think that they could not take the things that work best on ESPN and other sports networks and apply them to sports entertainment/professional wrestling.

What’s one of the most common criticisms of the modern wrestling product? Number one of my list is that a lot of things just feel so forced. Take Sheamus, for instance. I am a big fan of the Celtic Warrior’s natural abilities and hard work, but his face run is not something that happened organically. One day, he just turned into a good guy after 18 months as a damn good evil guy. Which is Sheamus in real life? Does he veer more toward the light or the dark? Why not just let him be whichever he is. In the NBA, Lebron James was a hero…until he became a villain by accident. He made a “decision” and people hated it. Nobody forced it. He was himself and people reacted accordingly.

CM Punk’s promo was natural. “John Cena’s not the best, Vince McMahon is dead, Triple H is a doofus, and Stephanie McMahon is an idiot.” All of those comments were Punk’s true feelings. Fitting that he had a “Stone Cold” t-shirt on, for it was the Rattlesnake before he became the legendary figure that spouted off similar sentiments while in ECW way back in 1995. Punk’s work was the very definition of “RAW.” It wasn’t forced and neither was the reaction that it garnered. ESPN radio hosts that abhor wrestling talked about it. Why? Because it was authentic. And, ladies and gentlemen, what wrestling has often lacked, even when expressing vials per week of ATTITUDE, is A-U-T-H-E-N-T-I-C-I-T-Y.

Let’s face it – there are but a handful of character actors in the WWE that are any good. Rivalries can be created through or enhanced by guys like that. Yet, the WWE treats them all like that's what they should be. Jericho vs. Michaels worked so well a few years ago based on both being characters with broad ranges of emotional connectivity. It’s why both are still so good and, especially, why Michaels is brought back every so often to enrich a storyline. Guys like that are few and far between, though. Since we're well past the days where you could make a guy an Elvis impersonator or an Ultimate Warrior or a big trucker or a ripoff of Scarface and people really get into it, the presentation of most of the wrestlers has to change. That’s why CM Punk’s pipe bomb signaled the winds of change, to me. For once, a wrestler made people care – more like riveted – because he said something very, very personal and real. We’re not accustomed to that. It’s a very P.C. society. Punk’s words were anything but. That’s why it worked and that’s why people started to cheer like crazy. Lebron’s “Decision” invoked the opposite reaction even though it was for the same reason. Tim Tebow makes “the speech” and people either love him or hate him for it, but they aren’t basing that love/hate on something that Tebow was told to say. Things that come from the heart win in the end. When things like that happen, it polarizes people and, in sports, that’s a good thing.

That CM Punk is making a comeback. The one that led to some of the most compelling WWE Raws in recent memory is back in business. He’ll be all the better for what happened in the last 10 months, too, because it’ll give him a lot of fuel to throw on the fire that he’s about to set. He gathered some sticks in recent weeks by taking out The Rock and acting a bit more heelish and he doused the sticks with lighter fluid on the 8/20 Raw by bad mouthing Cena and kicking Jerry Lawler, but the match hasn’t been lit, yet. That’s coming. It won’t be just CM Punk lighting it, though; John Cena will be right there lighting his own. Cena is without a doubt one of the best all-around performers in the WWE’s storied history when he has something motivating to sink his teeth into. He needs to be challenged. Since he is the status quo and the WWE’s crutch, it takes someone pulling him out of his cocoon to get him to showcase his full potential. Punk has done that in the past and will do that again.

They’re the perfect foils for one another…and it’s a fresh dynamic. There’s no two wrestlers, historically, to compare to these guys when they face each other. Cena is everything that you could want in a WWE superstar. He looks the part. He dresses the part. He would be the ideal face of any franchise. CM Punk is none of those things. He is that guy that you get pissed at in high school who writes “Drunk ass” on your Camaro just because you did some underage drinking with your buddies at a friend’s house. He is an entitled, pompous dick wad. Yet, despite all of that, he’s so good at what he does that you can’t help but respect him. Plus, he actually can be a decent guy when he isn’t on his high horse. Rock and Austin weren’t different like that. Bret and Shawn weren’t either. Ditto for Hogan and Savage, Flair and Rhodes, etc. All were certainly dissimilar, but in a different way. That’s part of the allure of Cena vs. Punk is that it is not something we’ve really seen before. They’re more Bird vs. Magic – one was almost genetically conceived to be an athlete and the other just somehow stumbled upon it, as if lightning got caught in the wrong bottle.

A few months ago, I wrote a creative piece about Cena as Superman and Punk as Batman. It was the easiest thing I’ve ever written because everything about those guys just comes so naturally. It’s such a perfect opposition. Last night, Punk and Cena started a new chapter in their rivalry. Everything that Cena said was true about Punk. Everything that Punk said was true about Cena. That’s the beauty of it. This isn’t about right vs. wrong or good vs. evil. It’s just about two legitimate perspectives about which everyone can pick a side. It’s simply about what “is.” We could use a lot more of that across the board.

I look at Cena vs. Punk and I see the hope for an overhaul of the product, geared more toward the full potential of sports mixed with entertainment. (Doc's note - Here comes a rant). In that world, the Santinos of the world can be the goofy side-kick announcer that presents a weekly sketch segment ala Kenny Mayne instead of wasting time masquerading as a serious athlete. I cannot stand that character, no more than I can stomach the abomination that is the women’s division. Divas can add something to the product, but not in their current form. Zach Ryder is a very good athlete, but he’ll never get anywhere with that character. I’m serious, bro. Brodus Clay’s persona needs to become extinct. He’s no athlete. The Big Show isn’t either, anymore. Kane is still an athlete. The Deadman, too. Get the tubby guys out of the ring. The fascination with size cannot be over soon enough; not unless the guys with size are capable of learning the craft and performing at a high level that isn’t potentially injurious to the other guys. There’s a reason for an offensive lineman to be a mammoth, but Peyton Manning doesn’t have to hoist them onto his shoulders. John Cena does, though, and his body – TRUST ME – is breaking down because of it (see Hulk Hogan’s bionic lower body). Stop pretending that there aren’t cameras backstage, while you’re at it. Get a commentator that knows the sport he’s covering. Is there not a single person on this earth that can break down a wrestling match and sell what’s happening in the ring? Michael Cole single-handedly ruined, for me, the HBK vs. Taker 2 match with his miscall of the Michaels counter to the Last Ride and inability to admit that he was wrong about it. The NFL’s ratings drop when the commentators suck. Does the WWE have any inclination to poll the viewers as to whether or not Cole’s God-awful, tune-out-it’s-so-bad play-by-play is causing people to change the channel?

Replace every bit of the above with more press conference-style interviews where questions that people want legitimately answered get asked. These interviews that we all watch on LOP and that get millions of YouTube hits? Put these on television. Have Jim Ross tutor a successor. Get the guys that are good character actors to do the elaborate storylines and let the rest of the guys be themselves, allowing the people to decide who they want to like and dislike. Don’t bother with guys that aren’t legitimate athletes, as they won’t pan out in modern times, but by all means bother scouting former athletes in other sports that have a combination of size, agility, speed, and charisma – preferably all four but leave out any that don’t have at least three. Name me one drawing superstar in history that didn’t have at least three. For those that have one really good quality of the aforementioned list, put them in positions where they can be successful. You don’t put the funny, skinny, water boy into the football game nor the really smart, fat guy on the basketball court. Yet, they do make great equipment managers and coaches, bringing things to the table off the field/court. Perhaps the WWE’s similarly one or two dimensional personalities can find other roles away from the ring, as well. Oh, and please follow the example of Daniel Bryan more often and let guys that are just really, really good at their craft have the spotlight. Arian Foster rushes for 1,600 yards, showing he can play, and he gets to be a star. If a guy has a bunch of good matches, find a way for that guy to be a star, too. (Doc's note - end of rant).

You want to know why Wrestlemania XXVIII will end up going down in history as a critically successful show once the internet hero losing in 18-seconds thing wears off? It’ll be because it’s top three matches were an excellent blend of sport and entertainment. CM Punk is very real; Chris Jericho is a very good personality. Triple H, Undertaker, and HBK combined to tell an awesome, character-driven story. The Rock vs. John Cena was like the Miami Heat playing the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. The WWE would be well served to use that home run hitting formula and totally revamp their entire product to fit that model. Raw needs to become a mixture of Sportscenter, Outside the Lines, Sunday Night Baseball, E60, and Monday Night Football instead of The Day of Our Lives, Saturday Night Live, Baywatch, The Young and the Restless, and School of Rock.

CM Punk vs. John Cena started that line of thinking, for me. They can personally see to the laying of that foundation. Thus, I will sit back and be locked into everything that they do in the coming months as they reengage each other in the squared circle and on the microphone. I know it’ll be authentic and I know that it’ll be, as such, quite compelling. I will continue to fast-forward through all of the poop covered in rainbow glitter, but I will at least have something to look forward to every Monday night for the foreseeable future. The authenticity of Punk-Cena will hopefully spark the WWE to see it as the mixture of competition, drama, and reality that it is and then, as they're getting their yearly reaming at the hands of the NFL, they'll note that what makes the NFL so popular is those exact same qualities.

The Review The Summerslam Report

Match 1: Chris Jericho defeated Dolph Ziggler in 13-minutes (***1/4) (This was a good way to start off the show. The opener has become even more important, as of late, because they are often putting a match in that spot featuring some of the best non-main-events. Since there is so little focus on the mid-card most of the time, it becomes even more important to start the show off with wrestlers that people care about and hope that those wrestlers deliver as Ziggler and Jericho did. It was a little sloppy, continuing the puzzling trend with Dolph’s matches as of late, but it recovered well and had a really good final few minutes. The one thing you can say for Jericho winning is that it takes away some of the predictability for future final PPV matches prior to a wrestler taking a hiatus. We’re so used to seeing that scenario end in a loss for the going away star. I had hoped it would be better, but the combination of the awkward timing on some of the early stuff and the lack of time given to it seemed to knock it down a peg. Still a good performance to be proud of, but not a show stealer)

Match 2: Daniel Bryan beat Kane in 8-minutes (**1/2) (Bryan continued his streak of really good or better PPV performances with this match against Kane. I liked seeing him get the win. Beating Kane isn’t a huge deal here in 2012, but any win on a major PPV is a good thing for Bryan. I’d like to see them come up with a big mid-card storyline for him until whatever happens between CM Punk and John Cena has concluded. At that point, I’d like to see Bryan have an extended program with Cena. If I have a fear for Bryan, it’s that he’ll get lost in the shuffle and de-pushed if they can’t come up with something of substance for him between now and his next top level feud. Everyone at the top is currently occupied in rivalries that have legs, with the exception of Randy Orton. Thus, I’d like to see something develop between Bryan and Orton)

Match 3: The Miz defeated Rey Mysterio in 9-minutes (***) (I thought this was the sleeper match of the night. I had expected that they’d do well, but I was not expecting them to contend for the best match. I thoroughly enjoyed what I saw from these two. The Miz apparently worked on his in-ring game during his time away because he’s looked razor sharp since his return. That’s always been the missing piece for him. We know he can talk. The question remained as to whether or not he could consistently bring it against a variety of opponents in the ring. He went a little further toward definitively answering it last night. It reminded me of the Jericho-Mysterio matches from a few years ago, although obviously not on that level. Jericho had been the only guy in recent memory to pull off the fireman carry backbreaker on Rey, so I was impressed that Miz could do it. That, to me, has always looked like a complicated spot. Destined to be underrated would be my overall impression of this match)

Match 4: Sheamus retained the World Heavyweight Championship in 12-minutes (**3/4) (I swear, if they would ever let these two go all out in a twenty-minute match, they might steal the show. I’ve been saying this for a few months, but this rivalry has worked for me. They’ve done a good job of making Del Rio out to be a threat, concentrating on his aggression instead of his verbal arrogance. The story is there and the talent is there for these two to have a great match, but they keep booking the matches short and with the apparent mindset of a lengthier match down the road. I want to see that lengthier match one of these days. I’m ready for it. When it does happen, I think you’ll all be surprised at the quality – well, those of you that dislike all things Del Rio. They’ve got to be careful with finishes like that, though. The foot on the rope left a bad taste in people’s mouths last year at Summerslam, ending a perfectly good rematch between Cena and Punk on a sour note. They did it again and it got a bad reaction that did nothing for Sheamus as a babyface. Rather than being a whiner, Del Rio came off as sympathetic. Rather than a likeable champion, Sheamus came across as happy to have essentially earned a tainted win. Hopefully this will add some much needed character depth to the Sheamus persona, though, so I’ll hold off on complete judgment until the follow-up)

Match 5: The Tag Team match (*1/2) (I just cannot get into these tag team matches. I’ve lost interest in the division after so many false starts in recent years. Kofi Kingston could be doing more and I’d rather the Prime Time Players get the tag belts, but I’d like to see a team legitimately earn those belts. It does nothing for the division for the flavor of the half year squad to get the straps and, ultimately, it doesn’t do anything for the flavor of the half year guys to get them either. Nothing ever comes of the division, so it’s basically purgatory. Kofi could be the RVD of this generation if they wanted him to be, but I guess they’re content with what he’s doing)

Match 6: CM Punk retained the WWE Championship in 12-minutes (**1/2) (How much of a douche is John Cena to think that he can jump in on Punk’s much better executed submission to help make Big Show tap out and then expect that he’d be awarded the victory? It makes you wonder what the booking squad was thinking – did they do that on purpose? If so, then they wanted the face of the company to look like a jackass. Big Show controlling the majority of the match would’ve worked better for me if this were a 20-minute match, but as an 11-minute match with a 30-second restart, I didn’t like it. The loss should knock Show out of contention and maybe make him go away for awhile to refresh, leaving us with the feud that hopefully will spark something in both Punk and Cena. I feel like Punk shifted to third gear in taking out The Rock, but then promptly shifted back down to second gear. I want to see the fourth gear, quite frankly. Anyhow, right before this match, I thought to myself, “If this match and the main-event deliver, then this will be remembered as a really good Summerslam.” Part one didn’t pan out…

Match 7: Brock Lesnar made Triple H tap out in 18-minutes (***1/2) (This was difficult to rate, much like Brock’s last match. I think this will be a polarizing match for all fans. On the one hand, you had the intrigue of seeing who would win, which I thought was hugely successful in making this match much better than it might’ve been with a predictable finish. When Trips hit the Pedigree, I could legitimately have seen the match ending right there. So, I was quite into the kick out. I figured that Trips would kick out of the F5, but that was nonetheless a nice false finish, as well. The kicker was the tap out. I had four people plus me watching Summerslam at the house and three of us were for Brock. I wanted Trips to tap out and I was happy that he did it. Brock Lesnar looks better for it. On the other hand, I can see that the repetitive use of the Kimura lock did not sit well with people who had hoped for more of a fight. That’s a legitimate gripe. It was not a fight in the manner that most wrestling fans would want to see a fight. Though it was a fight in the sense that both appeared to be really trying to beat the other one. Personally, I liked the match. I am captivated by Lesnar’s raw power and skill and always have been. It’s easy for me to get sucked into the story he’s telling. The storytelling is what made last night’s match, since it wasn’t your traditional pro-wrestling bout. That aspect I feel was undisputable. In the storytelling department, they did their jobs very well. I did think it would be better and more exciting, though. I liken it to Triple H vs. Randy Orton at Mania 25, only this time the right man won. Triple H haters will undoubtedly state that he agreed to lose just so the story could be all about him “retiring” instead of focusing on Lesnar. We’ll see how it plays out, but that is another legit gripe. The haters might take it a step further, trying to insinuate that Trips helped book the show that no other match on the card would have a chance to steal the show from him. The old Trips hater in me came up with that one. Bottom line: I liked the match, but it could’ve been better.

Doc’s Note – Using the old PPV scale that I’ve since determined is obsolete under the new way of booking WWE PPVs, this show would’ve rated at a **3/4. That would make it good for a watch, but not really something that you’d clamor to see again anytime soon. I think that pretty much nails it. I am glad that I watched Summerslam ’12, but I won’t be seeking out any of these matches again. Lesnar vs. Trips was the best match, followed by Jericho vs. Ziggler and a host of above average matches, namely Mysterio vs. Miz and Del Rio vs. Sheamus. I spent $11 on the event – I got my money’s worth. I think Summerslam ’12 reminds me most of Summerslam ’06 – a bunch of solid matches, one good match, and one really good match. So, for those of you wanting to know where I’d rank this year’s event, historically, then I’d say it would be in the bottom half of the middle of the pack. I’d put in the vicinity of 2003, 1991, and 1995.

The Preview Should be a Good Show Worthy of the Name

Well, for the second straight year after a two year hiatus, I can honestly state that I’m excited about Summerslam. I won’t say that the WWE has done a stellar job of building up their annual summer event, but I do think that they’ve done an adequate job of creating a solid enough card that the rich history of the “Blockbuster” takes over and makes it a no-brainer to watch on Sunday. Looking at the year, as a whole, I would rate Summerslam’s build-up third behind Wrestlemania and Extreme Rules. I would imagine that this year’s buyrate will reflect the effort that they’ve put in, allowing the ’12 version to top ’11’s. The most significant changes have been the offering of a marquee dream match for the first time at Summerslam in quite awhile and actually announcing several matches. The last Summerslam to feature such a combination was 2008.

Last month, I wrote that I was going to watch Money in the Bank based more on its reputation for being a really good PPV than the actual build-up. There is still some of that going on with Summerslam, for me. On paper, this certainly looks like it will be a show that delivers in quality. It all starts for me with Brock vs. Trips. I wrote a column about it earlier in the summer noting that it was truly “10 years in the making.” We all realize this. WWE understands it and wrote a dotcom article about it. Casual fans are intrigued by it. Sac, Mattberg, and two guys without nicknames – my four wrestling watching pals - all want to see it and one of them abhors Brock Lesnar. I told Sac that Summerslam was Sunday and that he should come over and watch it. At first he sounded indifferent, but when I said “Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar,” that changed his tune. The WWE has not felt the need until this week to ramp up the hype machine for that match because it pretty much sells itself. I liked the somewhat cheesy, yet still very effective segment of Brock abducting HBK and breaking his arm. It gave him the upper hand. Trips is using HBK a lot this year to build further interest in his feuds, isn’t he? HBK’s presence was a major factor in take two of Taker-Trips for Mania. He just knows how to add to a storyline, even if the WWE doesn’t give him much to work with. He was afraid of Brock, as most people should be. It makes sense for Trips not to be (at least not on the surface), given his long history of ego, but I’m glad a Hall of Famer with a sterling reputation like Shawn stepped up and gave Brock the respect he deserves as a character by being intimidated. That will help with the atmosphere come Sunday.

Who will win? That’s the big question. I think that Brock should win, but you just get the impression that Trips will find a way, don’t you? I’d say it’s the most unpredictable match on the card.

If Brock-Trips is the alpha match on the card, then Dolph Ziggler vs. Chris Jericho is the beta for me. I wouldn’t be that excited for this event if it weren’t for Ziggler-Y2J. It’s about time that a Money in the Bank winner was involved in a main-event level feud BEFORE cashing in. The common tradition in recent years has been to have the MITB winners do nothing but lose and be stuck in the mid-card before winning the World title. It never made any sense, neither in the short-term nor the long-term and the victors suffered because of it. Dolph seems well positioned to make something of his main-event opportunity based on a push that precedes his presumed World title reign. He and Jericho should have a great match if given the chance. Dolph has been a tad shaky in recent weeks, so I hope that he is confident enough to shed the botches and take advantage of his chance to shine with Y2J. Their feud has been rock solid, escalating to two, high profile talk shows and the closing segment of the go-home Smackdown. Personally, I think Ziggler needs to win. Y2J gains nothing from winning on his way out of the WWE. He’s got a good head on his shoulders for what’s best for the industry, so I imagine he’ll suggest a Dolph victory even if the WWE tries to book it otherwise – which, by the booking done to this point, they probably will.

The third match on my list is actually Sheamus vs. Alberto Del Rio. I know the IWC doesn’t like Del Rio, but the fact of the matter is that he doesn’t have to have boatloads of natural charisma to take advantage of his main-event gimmick. He’s a good wrestler and has everything set in place to continue to be a top level heel until someone jumps up and takes his spot. With Booker stripping away Del Rio’s title shot, it was a nice moment for the Celtic Warrior to come out during the Booker-Del Rio follow-up and demand that, despite what Del Rio had done the previous week, the championship match be allowed at Summerslam. I thought it would've played out better on TV, but the execution left me a bit jaded about what I’d otherwise thought was a really nice secondary feud. I had hoped their Money in the Bank match would be a little better, so I’m hoping that they live up to their potential in-ring quality at Summerslam. I think this will quietly challenge for MOTN or at the very least boost the overall profile of this PPV in the historical context.

As for the other title match, I had been hoping for CM Punk vs. John Cena, one-on-one. Big Show’s inclusion does nothing for me. I’m beyond tired of Big Show. He’s usually the type to have a short stint in the main-event before going back to the mid-card for awhile, but since coming back last year to rekindle his feud with Mark Henry (which I loved), he’s overstayed his welcome. I know that Kevin Nash’s old adage that “you wouldn’t stop standing in front of an ATM if it was spitting out $20s” applies, here, but Show - and Kane, for that matter - are old and boring and I’m ready for the WWE to move on from both of them. I don’t mean that to be offensive to either of them, but Big Show has been around pretty consistently (minus hiatus) since 1995 and Kane since 1997. New monsters need to emerge and replace those guys. For me, it comes down to whether or not I’m entertained by their characters…and I’m not entertained by either character.

I think we’re about to get the next chapter in Cena vs. Punk, but I guess they’ll wait until after Sunday. Punk’s heel turn has sort of fallen flat, to this point, and I partly blame that on the presence of Big Show in this WWE title feud. Show’s Raw-ending knockout fest a few weeks ago took away from the intrigue created by Punk’s change of tune, so we haven’t really seen Punk unleashed. I hope that we do. It would be a shame for Punk to follow the trend of so many other main-event talents of the modern era. The basic premise of any great wrestling character is that a guy is himself on camera “with the volume turned up,” as Jim Cornette once said. Well, nowadays, guys that are themselves with the volume turned up get crazy over and earn their “main-event card,” but as soon as they get it, their characters get turned back down to normal and they just become a part of the modern WWE machine of robots. I guess it makes sense, to a degree. Every era in the WWE is a reflection of society and, right now, our society is like a bunch of zombies. Look at politics – a bunch of people doing some of the least logical things in history; a collection of drones, essentially, maintaining a very lousy status quo. If you’ve got a dynamic personality, it gets squashed if placed in the political machine for long enough. That’s the WWE to a “T.” Punk has become a robot. His pipe bombs have become sparklers; sure, they bring some color to the table, but they aren’t blowing up the sport by any means.

I’d like to see Punk retain by pinning Big Show and then unleash a series of promos that tear Cena and the establishment a new butthole. All politics needs is a guy that has charisma AND talent along with the ability to push logical changes that are good for the country. What wrestling needs to boom is a guy that forces change…and that could be Punk. It still could be. The WWE would be smart to put their eggs in the Punk basket and see if it can spark business. Cena isn’t going anywhere and doesn’t need to, but for Punk to emerge as the guy that faces Rock at Wrestlemania – which I doubt is the plan – would be a big step toward taking a calculated risk. You put Cena against Rock next April and it’s cool, but if you put Punk against Rock, then you put someone well known for innovation up against a current star itching for the chance to innovate. That’s thinking a little further ahead. Cena vs. Punk will probably be an excellent rivalry renewal, but I hope something really good comes of it for Punk.

The rest of the card is a nice collection of mid-card matches. Mysterio challenging Miz for the IC title should be good. I like Miz’s new look. He still has a chance to be a major player again, I think. He could be the modern day Jericho (circa 2000-2005) that occasionally main-evented but often spent much of his time in the mid-card boosting its profile. I’m ready for Rey to retire, too. We’ve got a good match on our hands in Kane vs. Daniel Bryan, I would hope. I expect that this will be one of those matches that we all talk about at year’s end for helping add to the quality of the event. Bryan is the most entertaining character on TV right now; it’s actually a shame that they couldn’t come up with something more compelling for him to do on this show. The tag title match should be good, too. Those involved have benefitted from the extra hour of Raw, I think (but not much). I’ll be curious to see how the pre-show match involving Antonio Cesaro works out. I think Cesaro is a very intriguing wrestler. At only 31, I see no reason why he cannot succeed. He’s got a unique look, a unique style, and the pedigree to succeed with the recent years development of European talent. I hope he wins the title.

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