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Posted in: The PEN15 Mightier
The PEN15 Mightier [Aug 19-23] Blog:PWI 500 and Why Punk will be #1 in 2014 (+Dolph/post SSlam thoughts)
By PEN15
Aug 23, 2013 - 3:26:09 PM

Aug 22 - PWI 500

Aug 21 - Dolph Ziggler

Aug 19 - Where does WWE go after SummerSlam?

Blog : PWI 500 (Why CM Punk Will be #1 Next Year)

I find it so hilarious how people react to other opinions differing from their own.

The Pro Wrestling Illustrated 500 isn't about anything but "who made the bigger impression during this period of time?" Wins, skills, whatever you care about, this is a round-up of opinion from people at a single publication. That's it. Just look at the 10 writers on the main page of LOP, and you’ll see a variety of preferences, opinions, and perspectives.

With that in mind, take a look at the top 25 of this list:

1 - John Cena
2 - CM Punk
3 - Hiroshi Tanahashi
4 - Bully Ray
5 - Kazuchika Okada
6 - Sheamus
7 - Jeff Hardy
8 - Alberto Del Rio
9 - Dolph Ziggler
10 - Kevin Steen
11 - Daniel Bryan
12 - Austin Aries
13 - Ryback
14 - The Big Show
15 - Randy Orton
16 - Kane
17 - Suwama
18 - Antonio Cesaro
19 - James Storm
20 - Kofi Kingston
21 - Wade Barrett
22 - KENTA
23 - Kurt Angle
24 - Bobby Roode
25 - Chris Jericho

I’ll start out by saying I haven’t followed anything but WWE for the last year. Last ROH show I watched might have been 2009, Japan I stopped following maybe 2 years ago, and TNA just doesn’t hold up for me. But I catch all the WWE action weekly.

That being said, I don't find too much wrong with this. Maybe Kofi is a bit high for my liking at 20, but so be it. It also made me realize how desperate WWE is to make Cena their top guy. I am not trying to start another debate, but he is the best wrestler in the world today by these standards (and my own). However, I feel that if the same freedom, time, and treatment were given to a few of the other WWE roster members, they'd put up quite the fight.

CM Punk's weakness in the ring, to me, has always been his lack of good matches with a variety of talent. Sure, he can perform with Daniel Bryan, Chris Jericho, and John Cena, but he hasn't been able to succeed with bigger guys like Ryback, Big Show or Tensai. This goes back to his ECW Championship days against Big Daddy V. That's usually where Cena proves his worth, having better matches with a larger variety of opponents than the other top wrestlers. Both Punk and Cena worked with Rock twice over a 1 year period, and I think Cena's matches were much better.

Thankfully, the match vs Brock Lesnar changed a lot for Punk. I have to assume that if I had doubts in his abilities as a worker against larger opponents, someone in WWE had the same concerns. SummerSlam erased all that. He worked a much different style of match than he did against the other hosses he’s faced in his WWE career. I think a big reason for that was working as a face for the first time (except Big Daddy V in 3-5 minute matches) and allowing himself to be the face in peril. Not since Shawn Michaels have I seen someone so sympathetic in their beatdown from a superior foe in terms of size and strength. In fact, I would wage a bet that HBK’s ability to take a pummeling was a huge reason he was pushed into a main event position. Consider how his 1996 WWF Title run was booked against: Bret Hart (to show he’s technical and more athletic), and then pretty much nothing but larger challengers in Davey Boy, Vader, Sid, and then the wild Mankind. Shawn developed his midcard career working mostly matches against similar styled opponents with a technical, but high flying, aspect to the contest. That ended once he reached the main event. Punk needed to evolve like HBK showed he did once, and Brock brought that out for us to see.

It’s a sympathy we don’t see much in WWE today, because most of the programs are John Cena playing the undersized underdog… every year since 2004 when he overcame The Big Show for the US TItle. We’ve seen Cena end up on top of the mountain against so many giants that even the best have lost the lustre. Barring the Undertaker in a streak match at Wrestlemania, how many opponents are legitimate threats to Cena at this point? Yet, somehow, WWE tries to convince us that the odds are stacked against him. In an era where top faces are hard to come by, there’s no wonder we haven’t felt like this for anyone until recently.

Yet, as soon as I wrote my title for this blog, I knew there’d be an outcry for another name that is low on this list: Daniel Bryan. Being as he’s about to embark on a journey into the main event that should last for the rest of his career, how could put all my eggs in the CM Punk basket?

It’s simple really. Daniel Bryan might be getting the push of a lifetime in the absence of John Cena, but it doesn’t mean he’ll be getting booking to make the same impact. While Cena is portrayed as the underdog over and over again, Daniel Bryan is an actual underdog, and WWE books him accordingly. If he faces Orton at Night of Champions, will he win? Doubtful. In fact, I expect a losing streak to be a part of this angle, as he’s held down by the WWE establishment. He’ll deliver in the ring, maybe even more than Punk will in the next 12 months (though that’s debatable), but he won’t match the win/loss record, nor the out of ring aspect that CM Punk is much stronger at. Both will most likely find their vindication at Wrestlemania XXX in some form, and Bryan may come out on top as WWE Champion if this works out as well as we all hope, but Bryan’s first challengers post-Wrestlemania will be men who’ll make him the underdog once again: Cena and CM Punk.

Punk will win over Curtis Axel, and possibly other Paul Heyman guys, on his way to defeating Brock Lesnar. I give no credence to the recent rumor that Brock was booked to win so he’s prepped for Undertaker’s streak when Taker vs Cena makes for such a better 30th Mania. Even if plans aren’t as I predict, Punk’s too valuable a star at this point to not have him in a marquee Mania match-up. His road to Wrestlemania will include more wins, while Daniel will struggle most in kayfabe.

Now, the plan might be to book Bryan over HHH a couple of times, win the Rumble to secure a WWE Title match at Mania, and defeat Orton once and for all. That would be the best case scenario for the American Dragon, and might earn him top spot on PWI500 next year. But it really would take that best case scenario to get there. Punk has had 3 Match of the Year candidates in 2013 already (Cena on Raw, Taker at Mania, and Brock at SummerSlam). I’m not saying Bryan can’t beat that, because I think he’s a better pure wrestler than Punk, but I don’t know if he can outwork Punk in a WWE ring. Punk is more charismatic (in-ring wise, not on the microphone) and it really does help augment the match quality. In all 3 MOTY mentions, his facial reactions and body language are just a big a piece of the puzzle as the actual wrestling ability.

Don’t take this wrong, I don’t think Bryan sucks at any of these things. Punk is just a step above in that department.

It’s a tough prediction to make in the month of August, knowing there’s still 10 months to judge by. Bryan won’t make it an easy decision for Punk. But, Punk will take the #1 spot when all is said and done for the reason I mentioned.

To all who disagree, I’ll pose this for you: Punk had a great 2011 and 2012 in many ways, but did it open the doors for him to be given “the best case scenario” that it would take for Bryan to succeed? Punk was never given that #1 spot (in WWE, not PWI), no matter how much he outperformed his opposition. He persevered, and is now on route to reaching for that brass ring. Will WWE make it that easy for Bryan to do, with less charisma, smaller size, less marketable look, and other obstacles? I have my doubts. Not that he doesn’t deserve it, but that he’ll be given the platform to do so. But, with a performance like we all know he will give over the next year, it will more than open the doors for 2015.

Blog : Dolph Ziggler (or “Thanks for the room to Breathe, John”)

Win or lose, all of us Dolph fans should have been smiling during Raw this week. After defeating Big E. Langston at SummerSlam in the mixed tag match, he was booked in a 3 on 1 beatdown from The Shield. Sure, Ziggler lost, but he looked so ****ing good defending himself against the odds. That’s nothing but a good thing.

With John Cena out of action, WWE is already in high gear to get some star power developed on their programs. Big Show holding his own against the Hounds of Justice isn’t mindblowing, but for Dolph Ziggler to look damn tough in defeat is a serious effort to make sure he sticks in our minds in the next 4-6 months. He may not (yet) be directly involved in the main angle between Daniel Bryan and the establishment, but eventually Daniel Bryan is going to need some back up. Playing second fiddle to the main protagonist will do nothing but wonders for the Show-Off.

I’ll get back to Dolph, but I want to point out a few other subtle pushes that are going on while Cena is out. I read the spoilers for this week’s Smackdown,the series of TV matches between Daniel Bryan and Wade Barrett will continue on Friday night. Barrett may not be coming out on top of most of these encounters, but mixing it up with the #1 guy in the company (for the time being) is a step in the right direction for the Barrett Barrage. It’s exposure he wasn’t getting since losing the Intercontinental Championship. Here’s hoping he gets involved with an angle where his win/loss record improves along with the exposure.

Big Show and Mark Henry aren’t in need of a push to be threats on a main event level, but a new dimension will be added to their work while they aim for the Tag Titles together. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see this combination. What’s equally impressive is how well the rest of the tag division seems to be developing. The Usos garnered another victory on Raw, even if it was over 3MB. A win on Raw over 3MB is about 84 times more impressive than a victory over the same team on Superstars or Main Event.

Adding to that was the Real Americans vs Prime Time Players match. Now, I must give credit to how WWE booked this match. Every fear shared online after Darren Young’s announcement last week was how WWE would somehow make a mockery of the situation. I shared the same feelings. Thankfully, Raw proved that WWE can handle something with subtlety and class. There was no acknowledgement of anything about homosexuality. Zeb Colter worked the microphone in impressive fashion to draw heat to his team, which would lead to a decent automatic reaction for their opponents, whoever they may be. Out came the Prime Time Players to my surprise. If there was a state to work Darren Young’s personal life into a push on TV, California was the right place. And between the Real Americans’ heel heat, and the knowledge within the audience of Darren Young’s personal lifestyle, the PTP earned quite a strong reaction, considering it was the first time they wrestled as a face team on TV. No turn angle, just “here, we are to be cheered now.” On top of that, Darren got the hot tag, in what I am assuming was a brilliant decision made by the agents backstage, and the win to the approval of the live crowd. If memory serves me correctly, JBL had a great line about being proud of Darren. No need to mention why, we knew. Well done, WWE. Super serial kudos.

Much like Wrestlemania is treated as the season finale, SummerSlam is looking to be a mid-season finale of sorts, as WWE turned everything around on us. I remember the Vince McMahon quote during the Drafts of the brand extension era, “We’re Shaking Things Up!” That’s what they did on Monday. Cena is out, Orton is on top, HHH and Steph are heel, Bryan is on top, Dolph looks to be (one of) his possible partner(s), and nothing is really what it was last Monday.

I know all TV time is the time to deliver, especially for Ziggler. But no time has been more obvious to take advantage of than right now. He might not get the reactions D-Bry will, or wrestle as well, but coming out looking like he belongs next to Bryan, Punk and Cena is obviously what WWE is hoping for.

Blog : Where does WWE go after SummerSlam?

Before I get started, I need to share a story about how I watched SummerSlam last night. I ordered the show during the afternoon, and WWE.com was incredibly slow. The process must have taken 30-40 minutes, with a lot of waiting for the webpages to load. This will be somewhat important.

I have a buddy come over to watch the program, and we enjoy the first 2 hours of the actual PPV (pre show wasn’t bad either, and it helped him catch up with what was going on as he is a casual fan).

Just as the entrants to the Mixed Tag match are introduced, my entire street loses power. No weather is attributable to this fiasco, as there’s no rain or snow, or any sort of condition that would lead to electricity to be wiped out. Just a fluke outage. I’m glad I saw Punk vs Brock and that it was simply the best match I’ve seen since Brock vs Cena, because I kept my composure. Had that match been a letdown, I’d be a lot more upset that I wasn’t going to get a chance to see the other possible MOTY candidate live. Thankfully, we had some quick thinking. I plugged the battery into the laptop, and I plugged in my girlfriend’s blackberry. Using the cell phone as a wifi hotspot, I was able to use the limited battery life to get the computer going again, the cell phone out of the red, and try to load up the stream. But, once again, WWE.com is to a crawl. Thankfully, my buddy reminded me of the not as legal streams, so we watched the last half of Bryan vs Cena on the laptop from the firstrow.

I have yet to see the match in full, so I am not going to comment on the quality too much. What I will say is that it wasn’t better than Punk/Lesnar from the 15-20 minutes I did see, and seemed a bit like a letdown from my expectations. We’re talking the best wrestler in the world today, taking on the best non-WWE wrestler in the world today in a combination that showcases both of their skills. My expectations may have been too high, but they weren’t met.

I enjoyed the show overall, and am glad I paid for the event even if I didn’t watch the main event legally. Time will tell how it stands up in history, but I have a strong feeling we will look back to SummerSlam 2013 as a true turning point for the company as they move into a new era.

CM Punk

Punk did not get his retribution. Awesome. What we got was an amazing ****ing match. Honestly, I was holding back my positive outlook on the match quality throughout, because I didn’t want my Punk fandom to override my judgment. In the end, he is my favorite because of how often he delivers in every aspect of wrestling. This match may have just been the best example yet.

Brock Lesnar is such an amazing athlete, and for a part-timer who was only full time for 2 years, he has such an astounding grasp on how to perform in the WWE as a heel. I believe a lot of it is natural to him because he’s a real life asshole, and it thankfully translates tremendously on screen. His butchering of CM Punk was brutal. CM Punk has found the aspect inside of him that reminds me a lot of what made Shawn Michaels a success against larger opponents. This is something we’ve never seen before, because the only time Punk has faced giants was as a heel (barring Big Daddy V in ECW circa 2007 in 4 minute matches). The sympathy Punk drew from the live audience was a lot stronger than what Daniel Bryan has shown us over the last 3 years. I think a lot of credit is owed to the storyline, the performance of Paul Heyman, and of the former UFC Champion opponent in the ring with him, but Phil Brooks accomplished something unexpected. No matter how we might be fans of his for whatever reasons we may have, we’ve never seen him in the position of deserving sympathy. We wanted him to overcome Cena’s top spot in 2011, and Jericho’s verbal onslaughts in 2012, but that was the extent of the emotional aspect to his face run as WWE Champion. This match and angle will undoubtedly stand the test of time, and CM Punk jumped another hurdle on his way to WWE Superstardom one a show that was built to make a star of another wrestler altogether.

All that being said, where does it go from here? I know the rumors have always been Brock vs Taker or Rock at Wrestlemania XXX, but all signs point to Wrestlemania being the moment where the heroes finally vanquish their demons. I just wish I had the faith in WWE to give us long term booking until April 2013. My hope is that Punk battles Heyman and his goons for a while. I don’t know if I can see Brock vs Punk part 2 taking place at Mania 30, but it seems bound to happen. Whether Heyman brings up some NXT rookies to be thorns in Punk’s side, or elevates Curtis Axel into a threat to the Straight Edge Superstar, it will all simply be a distraction until Brock is read to come back. At that point, Punk wins, and returns to the mix of the WWE Championship.

Christian vs Alberto Del Rio

These guys delivered an awesome match as expected. Also as expected, Del Rio kept the title.

Christian is no doubt looking to end his career soon. I know every fan of his is pulling for not just “One More Match” but one more title reign. As much as I’d love to see it, I don’t see the need for it. Christian (and his most devoted fans) have to understand that as talented and dependable as he is, that shouldn’t be rewarded with championships all the time. Wrestling is a business, and there’s not a lot of smart business reasons to have Christian be a top star. You and I both know he can contribute on so many ways, but there’s no denying that he isn’t qualified to be “the guy.” Does that mean he can’t be given a short pity reign (and that’s exactly what it would be)? Sure, but what’s the point? He is on his way out, and should do the right thing and go out on his back. The problem is that where he is right now isn’t worth all too much to put someone else over. So, give him the championship and then let him retire? Perhaps. But it has to be done in a fashion that matters. That’s the problem I’m sure every one of my readers can deliver a good storyline. The problem isn’t the idea, but rather the fact that it must be something WWE would be willing to put effort into. There’s a lot going on right now in WWE, and it doesn’t leave creative a lot of room and time to get Christian over to a point where he can put over someone strong while the title is on the line.

I’d be all for it. I just don’t want to get my hopes up that WWE would have the patience to achieve it. They won’t.

My hope is that Christian makes another run in the area that got him over in the first place: tag team wrestling. Let him partner up with a Kofi Kingston, a Cody Rhodes, maybe a Zack Ryder, or draft a new partner up from NXT. In the end, that would be the best way to use the Christian we know and love today, and still open the doors for the future.

As for Del Rio, I hate to admit it but he’s catching on as a heel. It has definitely helped that he’s been working with stellar face talent in Ziggler and Christian. Even if I don’t care about Alberto, I care about his opponents, and it then translates to ADR getting attention I wouldn’t normally consider giving him. As exciting as the WWE Title picture is looking (I will get to that), the World Title is actually just as interesting due to the amount of options. Right now with Del Rio as champ, it might seem like a limited division. However, consider the amount of heel talent ready to break out if given the chance: Barrett, Sandow, Ryback, Cesaro, Langston, Fandango, Wyatt, and The Shield. And that’s ignoring the possibilities of RVD, Rhodes, The Miz, or Ziggler. I see Ziggler moving back into the picture next. From there... who knows?

Daniel Bryan/Cena/Orton/HHH/McMahons

Save the best for last? Sort of. I think SummerSlam threw everything up in the air. Orton walked out as champion as many predicted (such as yours truly), and with the help of a heel turn from HHH as many predicted (I can’t say I thought of this option too much). I have been looking forward to the Orton heel run for a long time, and I’ll never complain about dominant heel factions as we may be getting.

My problems with this scenario are many. Before I get too carried away, I want to make clear that I thought SummerSlam was pulled off brilliantly. As much as I was not a fan of the idea of of a quick Bryan reign of only a few minutes, credit is due to how it was pulled off. The problem with giving us that glory moment of Daniel Bryan as champion and taking it away is how often it’s been done recently. Whether it was McMahon granting Batista a match against John Cena after an Elimination Chamber match in 2010, or Daniel Bryan cashing-in his contract against Big Show at TLC 2011, we had seen it several times. It just felt unlikely that it could or should be done in a convincing fashion.

Yet, they proved me wrong. Even if I knew something was going to happen as they extended the celebration, and saw the exact events happen in my head mere seconds before they occurred, it was great entertainment. Bryan was made to be a big deal. That was something I never considered. The fireworks, confetti, the handshake, the clean pin from a strike finish... That was all out of left field. So even though the HHH Pedigree and Orton cash-in became easy to see coming as the night was winding down, it worked. Kudos to WWE.

As predictable as some of last night ended up being, that seems to be the end of the prognostication. Right now, HHH, Vickie, Brad Maddox and Vince McMahon are all villain authority figures, with only Stephanie and perhaps Booker T to be heroic. Some are calling for a Vince face turn. It seems like the best option, but it doesn’t resonate with me. We’ll see.

As for the wrestlers, this is all very compelling. Cena is rumored to be out for a while due to this elbow injury. Whether or not this is true, his purpose should be to stand behind Daniel Bryan. Leave the door open for a rematch down the line, but right now Daniel Bryan needs that rub from Cena if he’s not walking around as champion on Raw tonight.

I sense Orton holding the Championship for a long time. Let him hold it going into Wrestlemania XXX as WWE Champion and taking on Daniel Bryan once and for all, maybe with a gimmick like an Iron Man match, because I suspect we’ll get that match a few times between now and then.

But, I would much rather see Orton avoid Bryan as much as he can. Maybe a Triple Threat at Night of Champions with Cena (if healthy) with the Viper sneaking out with the title again. This should lead to Daniel Bryan taking on... HHH.

HHH has made a lot of strides in improving his fanbase in the IWC, whether that was his goal or not. But the one thing holding him back from that ultimate respect is putting someone over. He’s not exactly retired, but he’s still somehow avoided giving that major rub as his star fades. He should have done it to Punk, but there is a chance to do it now with Bryan. This doesn’t mean Bryan should go over HHH clean 3 PPVs straight, but at some point it should happen at least once.

It’s all very much up in the air, and in a good way.

And on that note, Peace out

Feel free to email me a comment (Email PEN15). One of the best parts of writing is the discussions that come out of it. My hope is that your response could be used in a column to publicly discuss your comments.
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