As a columnist, I often use hyperbole and slight exaggerations for added effect and to put extra emphasis behind what I'm saying. It's natural. Every columnist does it, whether they're writing on a message board or whether they're on a site like ESPN.com and being seen by millions of people. However, I have to say something, and although it might seem like hyperbole, I assure you that it isn't.
I can't recall a single stretch of 30 days that were as important to World Wrestling Entertainment as the stretch we're about to enter. Technically, it began last night, at Money In The Bank, and it runs until August 20th, which is the day after SummerSlam. Technically, that's 37 days, but shut up.. just work with me here.
It's no secret that more and more wrestling fans are becoming disgruntled with the WWE product these days. Poor booking decisions, a serious lack of depth on the Raw and Smackdown rosters, zero focus on anything beyond a single storyline on both shows, the continued insistence that certain people should be pushed despite the fact that those people don't receive crowd reactions befitting of their push.. the list goes on and on. Admittedly, some of the WWE's current problems are out of their hands, as they've seen a few top names go down due to injuries or Wellness Policy violations, but for the most part, if you have any sort of problem with WWE, it's with something they're doing to themselves.
What we have right now is a "slow" period for WWE's opposition. The summer months see the NBA and the NFL in their offseasons, which means there are no sporting juggernauts taking viewers away. The summer months also see a lot of the bigger television shows go on hiatus, ending their seasons and building anticipation for the next seasons to begin during the fall. Each and every year, this is a period of time that WWE looks forward to, because, in theory, they should have more eyeballs on their product. This is when the company likes to deliver a huge storyline of some sort, in an attempt to hook those new fans and to try and keep them around once the summer is over. We've seen a little bit of that already this summer. We've seen Brock Lesnar and Triple H placed in a storyline with each other, and none other than Paul Heyman returning to be by Brock's side. We've seen the "love square" storyline involving AJ, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and KAAAAANNNNNEEEEE that has dominated WWE programming for weeks now. We've seen the non-stop promotion for the 1000th episode of Raw, which will see The Rock make his return, as well as another DX reunion, amongst other things. While we still haven't seen a mega summer storyline along the lines of a John Cena heel turn, a TNA "invasion", etc, there's still time for that to happen.
As I mentioned, this is when the sporting world isn't interfering with pro wrestling on a regular basis. The NFL is, without a doubt, the "king" of sports in this country, and their ratings on Monday nights can really put a nice-sized dent in Raw's numbers when two good teams are playing. The NFL machine is so big and so powerful that it doesn't matter what WWE does.. Jesus Christ himself could appear in the middle of the ring.. and they'd still lose to Monday Night Football by a considerable margin. It's WWE's job to make their product as watchable as possible, appealing to as many different demographics as possible, to prevent that margin from being too big. The NFL preseason begins in a few weeks, but the regular season doesn't kick off until September 5th, with the first Monday night games happening on September 10th with a doubleheader.
As dumb as the WWE writers and management seem at times, they aren't stupid. They just aren't. They realize how important this time of year is, and they realize that they need to get their act together or a bigger-than-ever NFL is going to eat them alive. Oh, and the NBA isn't too far away from starting their next season, with Halloween usually being the date of opening night. People like Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon and Triple H are certainly aware of these things, and that's why they're putting so much time and effort into promoting these upcoming events.
Will it be enough, though?
Will they actually be able to deliver with some of the buzz?
Like I said, the company hasn't delivered anything that can really get people talking. A John Cena heel turn? Whether you like the idea or not, that's something that can help propel the company and give them momentum for at least the next few months. A TNA "invasion"? Obviously, it's far fetched and more along the lines of fantasy booking, but it's still something that would get people talking for more than a week or two.
What else is there? How about thinking outside the box? How about having something involving The Undertaker? Taker always has all eyes on him when he makes his appearances, so why not take advantage of that? Taker is rumored to be making an appearance at the 1000th episode of Raw, but I'm looking more towards his appearance at an FCW event on August 1st. That could be a perfect opportunity to make a brand new "made man", if you ask me. That "made man", looking at the FCW roster and all of the hype that we've seen in the last several months, is Dean Ambrose. Just humor me for a bit..
I don't know about any of you, but my mind was blown when I first read that WWE was sending The Undertaker to make any sort of appearance at FCW. It's not unheard of for WWE to send some of their top names down to developmental through the years, both to sign autographs for the fans and to meet with the developmental workers to give them advice, words of encouragement, and to answer their questions, etc. That's fine. That's actually a really good idea, allowing the younger talent to meet someone that is already established in the business, and it gives them a nice opportunity to "sit underneath the learning tree", as the saying goes. It also benefits the fans, who get to meet these big names in a more intimate setting, instead of at an event with 20,000 people in attendance. If this were someone like CM Punk, Randy Orton, John Cena, Big Show, Sheamus, Daniel Bryan, Rey Mysterio, The Miz, Chris Jericho, etc, I wouldn't even think twice about it.
The Undertaker, though? I thought twice.
Then I thought again.
Then I thought a few more times.
It was still tripping me out.
Keep in mind, Vince McMahon has made sure to go out of his way to protect the "aura".. and kayfabe.. around The Undertaker. Taker doesn't make random autograph signings at a KMart or outside of an auto dealership in Topeka. He doesn't stay and talk to the crowd in post-show "dark" segments like, say, John Cena or "Stone Cold" Steve Austin have become famous for doing through the years. Hell, he doesn't even sit in the crowd with the rest of the roster during the WWE Hall Of Fame ceremonies, and everyone breaks kayfabe there, with heels and faces sitting together, and guys who play unstoppable monsters sit in their seats with nice suits on and applaud all of the inductees. The company bends over backwards to make sure that Taker isn't in the same situations as the rest of the roster through the years. Even Triple H has made appearances in recent years, and he's looked at as being on the same level as Taker in the world of wrestling, at least with what WWE wants people to think.
The first thing that came to my mind when I was thinking about this entire situation was that Taker really is coming to the end of his career. Not that I thought he had another decade or so left in him, but if WWE is sending him out for live appearances now, letting him give back, you have to assume he's at the end, otherwise why not let him do this last year? The year before that? Five years ago? Ten years ago? So on and so on. That makes the FCW roster on August 1st arguably the luckiest batch of developmental talent that WWE has ever employed, and I hope every single one of them takes advantage of the opportunity they've been given. Let's take things a step further, though..
WWE is always looking to set up big storylines during the summer, right?
The Undertaker will be making an appearance at the FCW show, right?
WWE is looking for the proper storyline to have Dean Ambrose debut with, right?
Put all of those things together.
At the event, Taker is scheduled for an autograph signing, with no word on whether or not he'll make an actual appearance during the show itself. For this scenario, it doesn't really matter. In this scenario, Taker can be signing autographs for the lucky fans in Tampa that night, when, out of nowhere, he is attacked by Dean Ambrose. Sneak attack. Give him a chair, for added effect. Just have him wear Taker out like boots and shades. Absolutely destroy him, taking advantage of the sneak attack and the weapon.
The official WWE Twitter account has almost 1.4 million followers as of this very second. That number is sure to go up between now and the night of August 1st, and that's not even counting all of the other official WWE-related accounts. All it takes is for one tweet.. one single, solitary tweet.. to get the ball rolling for a huge Dean Ambrose debut. All the account would need to do is mention some breaking news out of Tampa, and say that FCW roster member Dean Ambrose has attacked The Undertaker. Make it extra dramatic, if need be. Say that Taker had to be taken to the hospital. Something. Anything. Make this Ambrose character sound like a billion bucks for those that have never seen him. Then Ambrose himself can tweet about it. Say something about how he was sick and tired of sitting back and waiting for his opportunity to shine, so he went out and did something about it. The internet would completely blow up about the incident, with every social media site, message board, etc talking about what happened between The Undertaker and Dean Ambrose at FCW. Have bits and pieces of the attack footage on WWE.com, with the promise of the full attack to be aired on Raw on August 6th.
Early word is that Taker will be wrestling at Survivor Series this year. If that's the case, we all know he won't be making regular appearances on television between now and then. This scenario will take care of that. Ambrose would get to go to the main roster, and would have momentum on his side, with Taker returning from his "injuries" for the push to Survivor Series in November, and you have yourself a big match at the pay-per-view.
See? It isn't that difficult to put things together. Would Dean Ambrose attacking The Undertaker at an FCW event solve all of WWE's problems? Of course not. The company's biggest problems aren't things that one single match or storyline can solve. They still need to add more depth to each show, and they still need to pay some sort of attention to their midcard. They need to determine whether or not they care about their tag division and their Divas division, and not give a half-assed push to each one, only to stop the push out of nowhere as quickly as it began. However, it is another piece of the puzzle. It is another brick in the wall.
As of right now, WWE really seems to have all of their eggs in the #Raw1000 basket. Coming out of Money In The Bank, the following seems to be what people are expecting to see on that night in regards to the WWE Title picture..
- The Rock returns at the beginning of the show at some point and points out that he wants to become WWE Champion again
- CM Punk comes out and says that Rock doesn't have to wait, and that they can face each other in the main event that night
- After a hard-fought battle, Rock pins Punk to become the brand new WWE Champion
- John Cena runs out, cashes in his Money In The Bank briefcase, pins Rock, and he becomes the brand new WWE Champion
Now, keep in mind.. I'm seeing a lot of people predicting that scenario, but it seems split down the middle as far as whether these people would be happy about it or not. That would put the WWE Title back in the possession of John Cena, which is almost weird to say, because he hasn't had the title since dropping it to Alberto Del Rrrrrio at Hell In A Cell on October 2nd of last year. For those keeping track, that would mark the second longest stretch of time not caused by an injury that Cena has gone without being WWE or World Champion since he first won the WWE Title back at WrestleMania 21 in April 2005. Again, for those keeping track, his longest stretch was in 2008, when he made his return to the company at the Royal Rumble on January 27th, but wouldn't hold either of the top titles in the company until defeating Chris Jericho for the World Title on November 23rd at Survivor Series. Just a little something to keep in mind for those who have been complaining about Cena always being champion, etc.
Would I like to see that scenario involving Punk, Rock and Cena? Yes and no, depending on other factors. First things first, if you've been reading my columns, you'd know that I hate when companies play "hot potato" with their title belts. Having three men hold the WWE Title in a single three-hour period is ridiculous, and doesn't do much of anything for me. It would be Rock's tenth total reign as WWE/WCW Champion, and it would be Cena's 13th total reign. Neither man really needs his numbers inflated at this point, I'd say. Then where do we go for SummerSlam? Is The Rock sticking around to try and get the title back? He probably has 179 movies that he needs to film between now and the end of 2012, so he probably won't be wrestling much, if at all. Do we go with Cena VS Punk again? If so, that doesn't need all of the extra rigmarole of The Rock being involved. After all, that's already the match being set up in the world of kayfabe. Punk is the WWE Champion. Cena is, for all intents and purposes, the #1 Contender for the WWE Title. Cena's character, of course, doesn't fit with cashing in on an already beaten champion. Instead, his character fits in with going the Rob Van Dam route (ironically, against Cena, if you'll remember), announcing the date that he'll be cashing in ahead of time, giving us Punk VS Cena for the WWE Title at SummerSlam. Unless.. of course.. Cena actually does turn heel in cashing his briefcase in. That would certainly provide the big summer storyline that the company is always looking for, and would actually adjust the entire landscape of the company. If the company was really smart (I know, I know), they'd announce this year's Draft for some point before the NFL returns, in an attempt to really shake things up again, trying to be as fresh as possible for the fall months.
Back to my original point, though.. these next few weeks are incredibly important for Vince McMahon and his "baby". On top of everything else, TNA is starting to build momentum, and they're in the stretch run towards Bound For Glory, which is their own version of WrestleMania, so things should be getting better for TNA in the next few months. WWE needs to do any and everything they can to make some drastic changes in their overall product, and the way people look at it, in these next few weeks. Things could get really ugly if things aren't done and done soon. If TNA continues to gain that precious momentum by putting out an entertaining product.. when the NFL returns.. when the NBA returns.. if they don't get their shit together.. they aren't exactly built for the future. There could be an early-1990s type of slump for the company coming up if they don't play their cards correctly in the next month or so.