Writer's Note: For the second time in three days, today's column will not be "normal". Don't expect your typical RAW review but rather a collection of my thoughts after watching the show. In fact, this will probably resemble a rant more than anything else - you've been warned.
You know what was great about last night's RAW? The surprisingly lengthy match between WWE Champion CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. Since it was a TV match (which are ALWAYS interrupted by commercials), it wasn't as epic as their Over The Limit battle two Sundays ago, but it was on par with their champion vs. champion matches prior to Wrestlemania 28. Even better, we got a decisive victor this time, as Psycho Aj accidentally cost Punk the match. I'm sure many people were sour about Kane running down and getting his revenge on Bryan post-match, but if it ends up being a triple threat between Punk, Bryan, and Kane at No Way Out, I'm okay with that. The inclusion of Kane allows Punk/Bryan to continue, and the chances of the two facing off in an IronMan match sometime soon get bigger and bigger.
You know what else was good about RAW? Dolph Ziggler appears to be back on the path to singles superstardom. After Ziggler and Swagger lost another tag team title shot, Ziggler left the ring on his own and said he was "better than this", and I think 99% of the IWC would agree with him. Swagger and Ziggler have offered a veteran presence to the tag team division, but it's time for upcoming teams like Young & O'Neil and Reks & Hawkins feud with the tag champs, while Ziggler goes back up the card. Unfortunately, it looks like Ziggler is dropping Swagger, but not Vickie, as she was backstage watching Randy Orton RKO The Miz alongside Ziggler. I think Ziggler out-grew Vickie months ago, but splitting up his team with Swagger is a step in the right direction. I for one can't wait to see what Ziggler does next.
Oh, and one more 'good' thing - I really liked Christian's match with The Miz. They had good chemistry in the finals of The People Power Battle Royal at Over The Limit, and last night, they had an entertaining match as well. I was a bit sad Miz lost another match, but he looked strong in defeat. I would LOVE to see a Christian vs. Miz feud for the Intercontinental Title after Christian's done feuding with Cody Rhodes, it would definitely benefit the IC title if it's being contested by two former world champions. As for Orton's RKO to The Miz afterwards, I'll come back to that in a bit.
I wish I had other nice things to say about the show, but I don't. If it weren't for those three things, last night's show would have got an F, and that would be generous. Last week I complained about RAW being the John Cena show, but last night, Cena didn't even make an appearance, yet the show was still all about him! Don't believe me?
-RAW begins with a Memorial Day tribute, which is followed by a replay of what happened between Cena, Big Show, and Big Johnny at Over The Limit, as well as what transpired on last Monday's RAW. Because we as fans obviously forgot about it.
-After the video package, Big Show comes out and cuts a loooooong promo to further his feud with Cena. I'll give the devil his due, his promo was five times better than the lullaby he sung us on SmackDown (blaming Brodus, Kofi, and Truth for not caring about him was a nice, logical touch), but it was too much, and killed a lot of the crowd's energy.
-What was the main-event? Brodus Clay vs. Big Show. NOT the Match of the Night between the WWE Champion CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, but a segment to put Show over three of RAW's top faces and continue the angle with Cena. After all, how dare RAW end with a wrestling match, or a match featuring the brand's top champion?
CM Punk has been WWE Champion for over six months now, yet his awesome run (filled with great matches and feuds) has been constantly over-looked by John Cena's "meh" feuds. Cena vs. The Rock at Wrestlemania and Cena vs. Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules were the only times when Cena's match deserved to go on last, or be the focal point of the show. Cena vs. Kane at Elimination Chamber, Cena vs. Johnny at Over The Limit, and now Cena vs. Big Show at No Way Out have no business going on AFTER the WWE Champion's match. Why? Because Kane, Laurinaitis and Kane are NOT on the same level as Lesnar or Rock. No matter how well they book the angle, Cena vs. Big Show is not a dream match, and should play second-fiddle to the WWE Championship, not the other way around. At this rate, the world heavyweight title is being booked better than RAW's world title.
Speaking of the world heavyweight championship, can someone explain to me why United States Champion Santino Marella jobbed to Alberto Del Rio in less than a minute? I know WWE want to present Del Rio as a threat to Sheamus's title at No Way Out, but champion vs. champion matches are supposed to be hard-fought battles, yet Santino lost to the number one contender rather easily. Way to bury one of your top faces AND the U.S. title, WWE.
By the way, both Del Rio and Sheamus wrestled singles match on last night's show, yet they didn't cross paths once? Are you serious? The majority of the IWC (and I'm guessing wrestling fans in general, considering Del Rio's crowd reactions) don't give a shit about their feud, and instead of trying to change their minds, you'd think Del Rio was feuding with Santino and Sheamus with Big Johnny/David Otunga. No post-match assault, no interview, nothing? Way to use the "SuperShow" to build angles on both shows.
We can also thank the "SuperShow" for abolishing the majority of the midcard. Months ago, I was worried that an end to the brand split would result in significantly less TV time for the majority of WWE's midcard. Well, here we are, with Smackdown stars regularly appearing on Monday nights and reports of John Cena, CM Punk, and others scheduled for upcoming SmackDown tapings, and my fears have been confirmed. Apart from Santino being squashed, Truth & Kofi vs. Swagger & Ziggler, and Christian vs. Miz, the midcard was non-existent last night. Instead, we got SmackDown stars taking up spots, with Del Rio beating Santino, Bryan facing Punk, Christian battling Miz, who then gets RKOed by Orton, and Sheamus vs. Otunga. With the exception of Bryan/Punk and Christian/Miz, RAW's midcarders were used to put over SmackDown talent who don't need the rub. Even the "main-event" with Brodus vs. Show didn't get anyone over but Show, and the tag team champions were sacrificed as well.
I know I'm repeating myself, so I think I'll stop here. My main point is the emphasis on the brand split has changed WWE for the worse. RAW and SmackDown is used to promote the upcoming Pay-Per-Views, and with every PPV being open to both brands, it results in the same stars being pushed and built up, over and over. Guys like Sheamus, Del Rio, Big Show, and others get so much emphasis because they're the ones who will be competing on the card, while others like Santino, Truth, and Kofi are lucky to have a match at the PPV, and are therefore used to put the bigger, headlining stars over. Is it stupid? Incredibly so. Yet WWE seems to think this formula is the way to success. Since their writers are not capable of making the midcard look important or relevant, they simply keep them on the back-burner. For those of you that have been asking, that's one of the reasons why Zack Ryder hasn't been on RAW in over a month - they are not capable of pushing too many midcarders at the same time. With Santino, Truth, and Kofi all champions, there's no room for another face like Ryder. Well, there is, but creative doesn't know it.
The solution is simple: either reinforce the brand split or perform a major shake-up on the creative team. Or both. WWE have proven they are incapable of creating storylines or pushing a large roster at once, and there's a problem somewhere. If WWE are worried about SmackDown drawing, then end the brand split, but do something with the midcard! Back in the 90s, WWE had a huge roster, but at least the non-main-eventers were relevant, unlike today. Because the way things stand, RAW is heading downhill, and are letting their talent go to waste. PG is not to blame, Cena is not to blame, the writers are.
What do you think? Do you agree that WWE programming is pretty much terrible at the moment? If so, what solutions do you propose? Keep the rosters split? Hire new writers? Get rid of Big Johnny as the head of both shows? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this frustrating matter. How WWE goes from an awesome episode of SmackDown to an awful episode of RAW in under a week is beyond my comprehension. Something has to change...
2. Day 2
What do these six men have in common? As of today's post, May 31 2012, they are all inactive superstars. Two of them have been suspended (Orton, Jericho) while the others are sidelined with injuries, with no definite time-table for their return to the ring. Now, I'm NOT going to take the time to call Randy Orton an idiot or irresponsible for failing his second wellness test. Am I disappointed he slipped up? Definitely, but no one knows what personal demons The Viper is fighting. I don't know, and you probably don't as well. Therefore, neither of us have the right to mock Orton for "fucking up".
Instead, I want to discuss what happens now. With the exception of Bourne (who is an exciting midcarder in his own right), WWE is moving forward without five of their top superstars. Not only did they lose the services of their number two/number three face in the company, but another one of their stop stars in Chris Jericho is gone as well. They will return, but not in the immediate future. This leaves WWE with a lot of spots to fill, both on RAW and on SmackDown.
First things first, WWE is no substantial danger. Their TV product may not be the best one we've seen in years, but from a financial standpoint, they're pretty much secure, unless you take their stock into consideration (but I'm no financial expert, so I'll let Mr. Tito worry about that). Basically, even without a large crop of main-eventers, WWE is far from a sinking ship. John Cena is still there. CM Punk is still there. Sheamus is still there. Daniel Bryan is still there. Even Triple H, The Rock, and Brock Lesnar are still there (just once in a blue moon). WWE still have plenty of top guys, just not as many.
While there's a part of me that hopes Orton and Jericho's untimely suspensions will force the company to push other guys in their absence (names like Cody Rhodes, Dolph Ziggler, and Zack Ryder all come to mind), I have a bad feeling that would be expecting too much. Prior to Orton's suspension last night, WWE had already planned on bringing top RAW stars to SmackDown tapings to help the brand 'draw'. But with Orton, SmackDown's number one guy (sorry, Sheamus) out of the picture for two months, you can count on Cena and Punk being focal points of the show in the meantime, and maybe even once Orton returns. The good news? More Punk on television. The bad news? Possibly having to endure Big Show vs. Cena on RAW AND SmackDown (shudders).
But I'm going out on a limb here and predicting that won't happen. Will we see "the usual suspects" get a strong amount of TV time? There's no doubt about that. However, WWE will eventually realize that they can't have both shows focus almost exclusively around a handful of guys. It might take a few weeks, but WWE will have to put others in the spotlight, especially with Money in the Bank coming up in a couple of months. On Tuesday I talked about the death of WWE's midcard division, but you can't have two eight-man ladder matches take place on PPV which consists of three-four "nobodies" competing for a world title shot. With Money in the Bank on the horizon and with all the suspensions/injuries, I predict June will be the month we finally see the midcard regain some of it's prominence on television.
You know who else stands to benefit from Orton & Jericho's suspensions? Randy Orton himself. As I mentioned at the start of today's column, no one knows WHY Orton decided to break his clean streak from the last few years and "return to the darkside". Maybe he was getting frustrated with being on the road so often. Maybe he enjoyed spending time with his family while recovering from injuries earlier this year and wanted a few more months. Either way, this 60-day Suspension will allow Orton to relax and refresh his mind. He better not mess up again, because three strikes, and he's out. I doubt it will ever happen, but if Orton's not careful, and Vince is serious about the Wellness Policy, we could one day see Orton appearing for TNA. THAT could be a potential game-changer, ladies and gentlemen.
What do you think? Is WWE (or SmackDown, more specifically) in trouble because of Orton's suspension? Will the move improve the product over the coming weeks? Will this be the wake-up call Orton needs, or is the final straw for The Viper?
3. Day 3
The worldwide web is a funny thing. At times, it can be a reliable source of information. 99% of the people reading this column have used Google and/or Wikipedia at lest once to assist them with their school work or find out the "truth" about something they heard about on the radio, on TV, whatever. Whether Wikipedia is a reliable source of information tends to be ignored - people have been using the online encyclopaedia for years and will continue to do so. For many, the internet is a very helpful tool.
However, the issue at hand is that websites like Wikipedia are NOT 100% trust-worthy. Since the website allows any one capable of pressing the 'edit' button to post information about anything and everything, you probably should double-check your findings with other sources of information. As in, quotes, proven statistics, or printed material. Those are all reliable, hard-to-debate sources.
Unfortunately, the majority of dirt sheets (including wrestling ones, believe it or not) are NOT reliable sources of information - hence the name 'dirt sheets'. How many times have you logged on to LOP and saw a headline that read, "Backstage talk on CM Punk" (just an example). Chances are, the article probably was a summation of random people who viewed punk in a negative light. Now, there's a good chance that article didn't contain any quotes. Furthermore, I doubt any names were dropped. This leads me to conclude that Camera Man X and Mid-Carder Y share a mutual feeling that Punk is not liked backstage, and somehow word got out on the internet.
Folks, I love being a card-carrying member of the Internet Wrestling Community, but I don't believe most of what I read on the internet and neither should you. While many people complain that websites like LOP get most of their "news" by following every superstar, diva, and company employee on Twitter, I'm okay with it. I would much rather learn about RAW going three hours permanently starting July 23 because John Cena posted the news on Twitter than read an article titled, "RAW Possibly Becoming A Three-Hour Show?" You can call it 'lazy reporting', but at least I'm getting hit with facts, not gossip.
At the same time, opinions should never be mistaken for facts. Today, former WWE Creative Team member Seth Mates wrote on Twitter that Triple H did indeed bury wrestlers throughout his career and Mates shared his theory with his followers. Now, the whole 'Triple H holding back other guys' debate is a complicated one that I won't get into today, but as someone else noted, the headline was poorly worded. The article was titled, "Former WWE Creative Writer Explains Why Triple H Buries Top-Level Wrestlers". Right off the bat, that's an unfair title. For years, people have speculated on the issue, but there has never been any proof. A former WWE employee is not means of proof. Seth Mates gave his opinion, he didn't tweet about receiving text messages from Vince McMahon telling him to bury in the storylines, or book poorly. Mates gave his two cents, and many websites are falsely reporting it as news.
If anything, the article should have been named, "Former WWE Creative Writer Weighs In On Triple H's Past" or "Former WWE Creative Writer Claims Triple H Buries Top-Level Wrestlers", because honestly, that's what the article was about - a man sharing his opinion. When Jim Ross says on Twitter or in a blog that CM Punk is the best pure wrestler in the world today, that is J.R. giving his perspective on Punk, it doesn't make it a fact. When Kelly Kelly goes shopping. buys herself a boob job and posts a picture online, well, that's a fact, even though I wouldn't go as far as to call it 'news'.
The point of today's column is to show there's a difference between fact and opinion. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and maybe there's some truth in it. When you look outside your window and see that it's cloudy, you might assume it's going to rain - that's your opinion. But until the first raindrop falls on your head, you're wrong, and that's okay. Everyone is entitled to freedom of speech, but problems arise when people begin mixing opinion with truth. Websites like LOP are so addictive because wrestling fans like me and you get a kick out of gossiping about the sport we love. It's so much fun to discuss rumours and weigh in with our thoughts.
The fun ends when you start taking rumours seriously. If you read lots of rumours about Stone Cold Steve Austin returning to face CM Punk at Wrestlemania 28, then you were probably disappointed. Not once did Austin say, "I'll be at WM28 to wrestle Punk - see you there!". It was nothing but rumours being spread like wildfire, and many people believed it.
Anyone can provide a Wikipedia biography for Martin Luther King, and anyone can start "backstage rumours" about wrestling. So use the internet. Enjoy it. Have fun! Just don't believe everything you read...