It feels like more than any other year, we’ve seen a whole hell of a lot of major returns recently, and most of them shake up the Road to Wrestlemania. I’d like to go over a few of the men who’ve returned to the WWE, and prognosticate what would be best for them in the upcoming months.
Jericho adds a sense of legitimacy to whatever angle he’s involved in. While there’s no lack of depth to the entire WWE roster, there is a severe lack of credible threats to anyone. Jericho is such a valuable asset to WWE as he can involved in any situation. Punk gets injured tomorrow thanks to a botched Miz suplex, and Jericho can fit into the main event this weekend against the Rock. Rock gets injured, Jericho vs Cena would be as good a replacement as they can get without involving Brock, Taker or Punk. Someone on the verge of breaking out like Dolph Ziggler is still on a level playing field with the future Hall of Famer. Wherever WWE needs him, he can fit. That’s no easy task.
The absences are to his benefit, and truly scream for WWE to implement these breaks for all their stars. He went from WWE Title challenger when he returned in 2012, to losing his career to Dolph after SummerSlam. Months later, and he can fit back into any title picture. And WWE knows his worth in the ring, as evidenced by his back-to-back Match of the Night performances against Punk and Daniel Bryan on the last 2 Raws.
So where does he go from here? While I would see sense in giving him a bigger spotlight on the biggest show of the year, he’ll most likely be in a filler position, putting over someone like Dolph Ziggler. Will this be a bad thing? Not at all. In fact, they have the potential to steal the show. My problem will be a similar one for all the recent returns, and that’s how I don’t think a loss this early into this run is a great idea. The reason Jericho could get slotted into a title match at Mania is because of the momentum of his return. A loss is most often a momentum killer in the realm of WWE. After Wrestlemania, WWE will most likely need to use Jericho again at Extreme Rules and onward in other angles. What value will be have if he loses at the years biggest show to a guy who isn’t exactly riding the largest wave of success in his career. Ziggler will be a World Champion at some point, but at this time, in the world of “what have you done for me lately” he’s not done a thing of interest yet in 2013. Sure, he retired Jericho after SummerSlam, and then had a great run through Survivor Series as the sole survivor of that match and then defeating Cena on Pay Per View. And in the long run, the late 2012 portion of Dolph’s career will be a fond one to look back on with those PPV moments. But we are still too fresh off seeing him destroyed by Cena at every opportunity since TLC. His stock isn’t too high, so he could use a win over Jericho.
But what would that do for Y2J? While Jericho is absolutely right when he said something along the lines of “you can lose and not be hurt, it all depends on how you lose,” a loss to Punk last year at Mania relegated him to a lower spot on the card following the angle. It’s common sense. What would Jericho do of note that is even only slightly lower on the card than Dolph Ziggler? Wade Barrett? Antonio Cesaro? While I’m sure those would be entertaining, I don’t have any real desire to see Jericho be dropped to that level.
So, here’s my wild hope and suggestion: Jericho beats Ziggler until and at Wrestlemania.
And before anyone gets their panties in a knot, I ask you to rewind back to 2008. Ric Flair retired, and Jericho turned heel, and lost to Shawn Michaels for most of the summer. Then, he won the World Title. And when it came to determine a new challenger, Shawn Michaels fit in perfectly. It was most likely my favorite feud of 2008, because not only was it great wrestling, great sports entertainment, but both men came out looking great. Neither Shawn or Chris ended up being lower on the card after the rivalry.
This is my hope for Dolph and Jericho. Sure, Dolph rid the WWE of Chris in August, but Jericho won at Summerslam. I wouldn’t mind seeing Jericho eliminate him from the Chamber, leading to a singles match at Wrestlemania, which is won by the returning Manitoban.
Yes, this puts Dolph on an even longer losing streak. But the best way to fix a losing streak is to get the big win in the end over the guy you’ve been losing to. That’s what cemented Jericho as a solid World champ in 2008. He won the title by cheap fashion, and the fans felt like he was going to drop it to Shawn once HBK arrived with the ladder to set up the title fight. Instead, Jericho erased the losses from everyone’s memory by earning a true victory when it counted the most. That’s the premise that could work here. Yes, in this scenario Dolph is losing to Jericho after losing to Cena. And while we can’t fix the Cena wrong just yet, Dolph cashing in the Money in the Bank contract to win the World title, and then defend against Chris Jericho after Wrestlemania at some point would erase most of the losses that would be haunting the “show off.”
At this point, Jericho wouldn’t be as worthless, and definitely not as quickly. Everyone wins. Just like in 2008.
The return of Brock Lesnar last year has been hit or miss with me. His match with John Cena deserved “Match of the Year” much more than Taker vs HHH did, and he created some decent TV along the way (except when involving HHH). My problem isn’t what he has brought to the table, but everything he’s not around for. I get that he’s signed to a truly part time deal, and I don’t expect WWE to force anything more. But it makes his appearances hard to get into. You get the shock of his return every couple of months, and then he’s gone.
I hope the rumors are true about another year being signed for Brock. If this is true, I want WWE to alter their method of using him. I understand that they used a lot of his appearances early on to keep the ratings up, and to reacquaint him with the modern WWE Universe. It had been 8 years since we had seen him. But if he’s book for the same amount of dates, get more wrestling out of those dates. With Paul Heyman around to be the mouthpiece, we’ve seen that Brock doesn’t need to be there every week to make an impact and push the angles along. Make it simple, and have Paul do all the work for the match build up. In fact, with Brad Maddox, the Shield, and CM Punk also under Heyman’s employ, there are lots of ways to get Brock’s message across. CM Punk is most likely not going to be as front and center in 2013 as he was in 2012, so having him be Brock cohort could be a tremendous place for him. It could build up with tag matches, or enforcer style appearances for each of them for the other. And, it would make the possible Punk vs Brock match all the more interesting if they have some history.
Meanwhile, Brock is attacking Vince, which is most likely leading to HHH avenging the SummerSlam loss. I didn’t like the first match, nor most of the angle that led up to it, so I hope this time it is as painless as possible.
Where does Brock go after Wrestlemania if he is to be around for another year? With him working Cena and HHH already, it’s a sign that they are going to keep him in only truly spotlight angles. That could include Undertaker, possibly at this year’s Wrestlemania, or maybe next years. I wouldn’t mind it for this year in a swerve from what we are expecting with HHH, but that’s the only way I could logically accept it. Undertaker is running out of options as well as time. On a priority scale, Taker vs Lesnar is lower than vs Cena, or vs Punk. UFC has been all the rage recently with talks of Super Fights. I think WWE would be wise to follow suit, and it doesn’t always need to be part time legend wrestlers. You want to make Alberto Del Rio a true superstar? Del Rio vs Brock. There’s absolutely no need for guys like HHH, Undertaker, The Rock and Brock to only have matches with the most intricate storylines with each other. It doesn’t help the future generation whatsoever this way.
Imagine the shock and anticipation for a Title match for a champion like CM Punk, Del Rio, Ziggler, Sheamus, or even The Rock, with Brock chasing after you for the championship? I won’t pretend that it would be as big of a money maker as Brock vs HHH or Cena, but what options are left? And what a giant win it would be for someone to take the WWE or World Title off Brock, or successfully defend against him? The same could be said about the Rock, were it not John Cena who’s poised to do it.
WWE has a tough conundrum to deal with when dealing with these part time megastars. The Rock vs Antonio Cesaro isn’t smart for obvious reasons. And it’s easy to think of only money when arranging Rock vs Cena II. You bring in someone like the Rock or Brock to draw for these big events, but you don’t keep as many eyes on the screen afterwards. There has to be a way to draw the eyes to WWE in 2013 with someone like Brock, and keep some of them for the following night. This can be done by involving Brock (or Rock, HHH, Undertaker…etc.) with the guys who will be there the next night.
Choosing who belongs to be facing these legends, like Brock, is not an easy task. John Cena is too obvious a choice, and other than Undertaker, it’s been done to death enough. So, who’s next? Punk, Orton, Sheamus, Del Rio, Jericho and Ziggler are in my opinion the only 5 who belong in this discussion currently. I’m not even convinced of Del Rio, but he’s the World Heavyweight Champion and WWE is obviously high on him. Also, honorable mention goes to Daniel Bryan, but it would take some sort of movement into the singles division again to truly be someone worth considering.
Brock vs Punk is likely, but barring a Brock face turn, won’t be happening for a while. I think Sheamus is the (next) best choice. Brock vs Sheamus is the type of match up that would help sell a PPV other than the big 3 as the co-main event. It could also be something similar to what I mentioned with Dolph and Jericho, where Sheamus could take the loss in the spring, win the WWE Title, and then have Brock challenge for the title at SummerSlam where the match could headline. Sheamus gets the big win, and helps solidify him. And let’s be fair: if anyone can hang with Brock in a potato fest, Sheamus seems to be the best stiff worker in WWE today.
But that’s just one option. Of many. The point is that 2013 can bring us much more Brock in the ring, and be much more interesting than feeding HHH’s in-ring ego. Let’s hope.
After over 15 years, WWE seemed to get it right with Mark Henry. Truth be told, he took some time to improve, and there wasn’t always a place for him in the main event. He still wouldn’t be a great option to headline a card or be involved with the WWE title where it seems to contested among only true top draws, but he’s a tremendous asset on Smackdown with the new line of stars. I wouldn’t expect too many classic matches with him, but matches with Mark Henry would be valuable to Del Rio as he gets established as one of Vince’s top guys.
In fact, I believe this is what to expect coming out of Elimination Chamber. I think Mark Henry wins the match, and goes on to face Alberto Del Rio at Wrestlemania. And Del Rio gets his big Wrestlemania win (followed by the first ever Money in the Bank cash-in at a Wrestlemania, but that’s for another discussion). Use Henry monster return and have him put over Del Rio. I don’t love the idea, as I really have yet to get behind Alberto, but if WWE is serious about moving in that direction, there’s no better option right now to give the Mexican aristocrat the much needed boost.
And yes, this means Henry would have lost very quickly after returning. This would make him a very angry World’s Strongest Man. I’m hoping he would be angry enough to join forces with the World’s Largest Athlete and dominate the tag division.
Yes, I still have my hard-on for a dominant giant/powerhouse heel tag team, and Henry/Big show fits that bill. It would be the perfect transition for both of these specimens to move away from the main event, but still keep credibility. Team Hell No vs Team Large and Strong? If we aren’t going to get Brodus and Tensai as a heel bruiser team, then have them play the face underdogs to the only team that would outsize them. Rey/Cara vs Show/Henry? C’mon, that’s gold.
Keep the team going for a few months, until there’s a face team the WWE Universe is dying to overcome the giant odds, and then you can split the team up and do whatever you need with them. Both men would be able to slide into a main event title shot after being Tag Champions for any period longer than 4 months. It’s win/win.
There aren’t too many superstars on the roster who have as much untapped potential as Jack Swagger. While it’s obvious that Barrett, Cesaro, Ziggler, Bryan, Rhodes, and Titus O’Neil are all on the McMahon radar to be future stars, I truly feel Swagger has something over each and every one of them in terms of true credibility. He wrestles a more legitimate style, and that does translate on the screen. When he is manhandling someone like Kofi Kingston as he did on Smackdown recently, he looks to be above the midcard. We know he can wrestle a solid match (maybe not true main event caliber, but better than most of the next generation), and with his new mouthpiece, he can have his promo weakness covered up.
While I might have switched him up to be more of a silent assassin type wrestler (similar to Brock Lesnar has been, just legit ass-kicking), I’m looking forward to this new incarnation of Jack Swagger.
Concerning the controversy surrounding this gimmick and how it makes people uncomfortable, I posted this on LOPforums:
“Uncomfortable doesn't always mean heat. People didn't boo Zeb last week, because they were confused, as well as unsure how to act.
I didn't dislike it, I don't expect to be offended, and I don't think this will end too badly for WWE. The secret is to keep Swagger in the midcard. If Stone Cold were to come out and do this promo, the exact same one, with his redneck accent and history, it would be huge international news. Nearly unknown Uncle Zeb... no big deal. Let Swagger get heat facing lower level guys, and then once he's established his heat, transfer it into something closer to standard heel stuff. Have him take on Yoshi Tatsu, Sin Cara, Justin Gabriel...etc. Let him be a zealot and a xenophobe when it won't be as noticeable. This way, if someone in the media makes it a hot button issue, it's easy to veer right away without any collateral damage. Once it builds into something against Del Rio over a World Title for example, you don't need Zeb/Swagger to say anything new. The fans will know the tension is there, making it easy to book the angle without causing any riots.
Besides, would what Zeb say against Del Rio be all that much more offensive than what Big Show has been saying?”
I stand by this. While it could go wrong, it’ll be very easy for WWE not to sabotage this, and the key is patience. I know, not usually something you’d associate with WWE, but times have changed. It’s been a while since any jaded Internet writer could use the term “hot-shot” in terms of WWE. The only recent example is how they crowned Del Rio World Champion after this recent face turn. But it’s not like he was thrust into a new position on the card. He had been WWE Champion already, and had been involved with the World Title and Big Show on previous occasions. He just happened to be face while doing it this time.
WWE won’t have a hard time holding Jack back from launching too early, because honestly they don’t have the place for it. WWE is in no way struggling to find heel midcarders ready for their shot at super stardom. Jack will have to wait his turn, most likely behind Ziggler, Barrett and even Cesaro. Jack’s true potential may only be reached once Kurt Angle returns to WWE (is there any doubt it’ll happen, barring a career ending injury?) where they would undoubtedly combine or collide. Either way, this re-invention of Jack Swagger is something to get excited over, even if the trigger isn’t pulled just yet.
Elimination Chamber Thoughts
I also forgot about this event. I’m not sure how to feel about that.
Honestly, my interest in the event is strained. I expect some decent action, but the night is really shaped on developing the Wrestlemania card. I must admit that makes it hard to find any real interest in tonight’s card. It’ll be more of a sports entertainment evening than a wrestling event. Not a bad thing, but it means a mixed bag for something WWE is expecting people to purchase. That’s not a good sign with an event with 4 matches that could earn top billing.
While the WWE Title rematch is the real draw of the event, all I can think of is how will the result lead into Mania 29. I expect Rock vs Cena II, so I don’t expect Punk to win, but there needs to be a hint into the direction he will take into the biggest event of the year after being WWE Champion for as long as he was. The Rumble match was good, but not great, so I can’t expect much from here. Meh.
Del Rio vs Big Show has been okay as an angle, but we still have the obvious issue of Del Rio’s pure blandness to deal with, while Big Show has no chance of winning here, making the match rather uninteresting. Meh.
The Shield vs Cena/Ryback/Sheamus is a main event of yesteryear, when non-Wrestlemania PPV cards were headlined by tag matches involving the biggest stars. Former main page writer Mizfan terrifically put it when he stated that the rare wrestling appearances of the Shield make their matches a PPV draw. And the TLC match was a phenomenal debut, so you can’t help but be invested into where it will go when they face 3 of the top stars. This should be a good one, and it’s unpredictable. While Cena is moving on to the WWE Title in a month, it’s all up in the air for the other 5 in the match, so anything could happen. This is the true main event in my opinion, as it will deliver a great match, while also be sports entertainment. Awesome.
The Elimination Chamber match to determine the #1 contender to the World Title is a lackluster line up compared to recent years. While I’ve been pushing for the event to hold only a single Chamber match for a long time, and making it for the #1 contendership for whichever title the Rumble winner is not challenging for, with so many top names involved in other matches, the 6 men in this match leave a lot to be desired. Jericho and Orton definitely create interest, but there’s a lot of filler here. The tag champs and Swagger have no chance in winning this, and Mark Henry is not someone I look forward to seeing in a match like this (though I have no problem being proved wrong. Jericho and Orton are tremendous workers, and will pull out all the stops in this match. But it still comes down to who will move on to face the World Champion in a months time. I do predict it to be Mark Henry, but there are a lot of questions of questions that can be asked about how Orton and Team Hell No will fit into the remainder of the Road to Wrestlemania. I don’t expect the Chamber to give me the answers, but that’s always possible. This will be a solid match, but it’s still not much to invest myself to the TV for 3 hours.
I will watch the show, but as you can tell, I’m much more excited about the chips and homemade dip I’ll be having.
And on that note, peace out.
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