My Two Centsss - How To Book Champions & Challengers 101
By Super Chrisss
Apr 16, 2013 - 7:40:23 PM
(Credit: Tom Jenner @ImageBlownOut)
Well, we're about twenty-four hours removed from what most people would call a disappointing follow-up to the fantastic post-Wrestlemania edition of RAW. Pretty much everything WWE - and the crowd - did right last week, we got the complete opposite last night. Obviously, the Greensboro crowd was not going to top the New York/New Jersey/International crowd from the week before, and it would have been foolish to assume they would. But Jesus Christ, most of those people didn't even try. Apart from Daniel Bryan's usual overness, the CM Punk chants, and the closing segment with Cena, Ryback, and The Shield, you would have thought the crowd had been threatened earlier to remain silent or something. What a letdown.
But RAW's biggest flaw wasn't the crowd or the matches or the filler, which have all become staples of three-hour RAWs - rather, it was the piss-poor treatment of any champion other than the WWE titleholder. In the past eight days, we've seen a total of four title changes take place on WWE television. Of those four, only one of them took place on the actual Wrestlemania Pay-Per-View (Cena's victory over The Rock). The other three occurred either on the Mania pre-show or a random episode of RAW. I'm not taking anything away from Dolph Ziggler's Money in the Bank cash-in, as it truly was a star-making moment, but how can people take a champion seriously when he or she is losing matches left and right? That's one of the reasons why CM Punk remains over to this day - he may have won most of his title matches in controversial fashion, but at least he actually won his matches. Whether you were a fan of his title reign or not, Punk's stranglehold of the WWE Championship gave him an aura of invincibility, and certainly helped put him over as a top guy.
I saw someone bring up an interesting point on Twitter about why so many title-holders were jobbed out on RAW last night. The gentleman argued that if the champions won all their matches, how could number one contenders be built up, especially if they were to go up against an unbeatable Intercontinental Champion? While I see the logic in that argument, it's more of a glass half-full perspective. Being a champion means you're the absolute best in your division; you're not supposed to lose. Contenders are created by going over the competition, not the champion. Let's say a newcomer like Kassus Ohno or someone like Christian returns on next week's RAW. He shouldn't be given a non-title match against Wade Barrett out of the blue. He should work his way up the ladder by going over all other potential challengers (R-Truth, The Miz, etc.). When he has gained some momentum and been built up as a threat to the champ, THAT'S when he gets a title or non-title shot.
Unfortunately, we got none of that on RAW. We had Kofi Kingston, who randomly pinned Antonio Cesaro last week on SmackDown after spending most of 2013 jobbing, become the new United States Champion by defeating a man who was basically thrown aside during Wrestlemania season, despite being U.S. Champion since last year's SummerSlam. Cesaro was nearly 250 days into his title reign, and unlike Punk, he surrendered his title with nothing more than a whimper. I don't know who Cesaro pissed off backstage these last few weeks, but his entertaining and underrated title reign deserved better than what he got.
WWE just doesn't seem to care about any title other than the WWE Championship nowadays. Maybe it's the Creative Team that's to blame, maybe it's the surplus of title belts (the end of the brand split has watered down every other championship, including the world heavyweight title), I'm not sure what it is. But having your champions - especially newly crowned ones like Ziggler and Barrett - job out to random wrestler A is NOT the way you create challengers. Hold Battle Royals to determine number one contenders like they're doing on Main Event this week, create a ranking system, unify the titles, make some of them exclusive to RAW or SmackDown - just do something!!! At this point, almost all of WWE's title belts have become worthless and it's time for Vince & Co. to realize that.
Also on RAW, we saw Brock Lesnar make his return and decimate 3MB, who just can't seem to catch a break lately. I got flashbacks to Lesnar's WWE debut over ten years ago, which was a great RAW moment itself. Unfortunately, we went from Heath Slater selling consecutive F5s on a guardrail to Lesnar/Paul Heyman challenging Triple H to another freaking match at Extreme Rules. I don't get it. Their first encounter at SummerSlam was mediocre. From what I've heard, their rematch at Wrestlemania wasn't much of an improvement. So who in the world is clamoring for a rubber match? This stinks of WWE pushing their feud down our throats and telling us what we want to see.
Speaking of shoving things down people's throats, did Fandango flop last night or what? I got a lot of backlash last week when I said that Fandango wasn't over (only his music was) and that it was a one-night-only thing. I hate to say I told you so, but with the exception of a few groups of people dancing in a crowd of several thousands, Fandango came out to zero reaction. Up until he told us to go "Fandango ourselves" (which I admit, got a chuckle out of me), you could have heard babies burping from the nosebleeds. It was only when his music sung him out that some people cheered, showing for the hundredth time that it's the music that's over, not the actual performer.
I do feel bad for Fandango. I may not like the gimmick or the wrestler, but he had a chance at stardom with the internet making their voices heard by charting his song on iTunes. Instead, the "Fandango Revolution" is pretty much over, all because WWE rushed it. They should have let him come out by himself and just wrestle. Rather, they chose to hype up his appearance, have Jerry Lawler introduce him, and tried to force the crowd to sing and cheer for him. Major fail, WWE. Had they took their time and let his song catch on more and more, he would have been fine. But they got ahead of themselves and over-pushed Johnny Curtis. There's a good chance the UK fans will mark for the theme next week, but after that, I can't see it getting any bigger than it already has. Don't blame me, Fandango fans, blame WWE for jumping the gun (as usual).
I enjoyed CM Punk's speech, as it was the perfect way to write him out of the storylines for any amount of time, and the "CM Punk" chants really added to the moment (that's the difference between someone who's over and someone who's not, by the way). I could see him returning as a face, especially with Ryback officially turning heel. And yes, I did enjoy [The] Ryback's promo earlier on, and his interaction with Cena and The Shield made for compelling television. Their match at Extreme Rules might not be MOTY, but I've been surprisingly impressed with their feud thus far.
So overall, a disappointing RAW that wouldn't have been as bad had a) the crowd woke the fuck up and b) the champions weren't embarrassed as bad as they were. I wish WWE would have made a few changes following the reaction to last week's show, but instead we're having another Big Show/Randy Orton/Sheamus match on SmackDown this week, and Dolph Ziggler is already back to his jobbing duties - so much for that theory. With the rating in for last night's show (a 3.1, down from last week's 3.45), WWE should seriously consider revamping several elements of their product, some of which I suggested a few weeks back. Having JBL back at the RAW commentary desk is a good thing, but it will take more than just the Wrestling God's voice to keep me entertained for three long hours. WWE does have the talent to put on a good product - it's the monkeys on the creative team who need to go.
Last night's RAW wasn't a 'bad' show, but it wasn't good either. Something has to be done, and it should start at the core of the problem - Vince McMahon and his creative team. The PG era and three-hour RAWs shouldn't be this painful.
Like I said, I enjoyed the final segment of RAW with Cena being beaten down by The Shield and Ryback doing nothing to help him. As I watched that, I couldn't help wondering how much better it would have been with the roles reversed - Cena the heel, Ryback the hero. I know WWE refuses to turn Cena heel because of all the merchandise sales he brings in, but WWE needs to take a chance eventually and build up a new face to take his spot. They had that opportunity with CM Punk last year, but they took the easy way out and turned Punk instead. Now, they're taking the same path with Ryback. It's a shame that Cena's opponents have to
turn heel after building so much momentum as faces, as WWE should really take a chance one day and do something different.
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