After the most-hyped 24 hours of wrestling we’ll see this month, I can’t help but take a look back at what could have made stories like the World Title picture and Ambrose’s return stronger, for the benefit of us, the viewing (and paying) audience.
This is as constructive as it gets.
The Titty Master was, easily, one of the focal points of RAW, as he opened, closed and was involved in backstage segments in-between.
Ambrose is clearly one of the crowd’s own, having endeared himself to the fans with no help from WWE’s Force-Feed Machine.
His facial expressions, mannerisms, promos and storylines have all been different enough to separate him from anything within the current WWE mold.
As pundits like resident Anti-Christ Vince Russo frequently mention, we now seem to have only 2 character types: babyfaces, who react one way, and heels, who react another way.
With Ambrose, WWE has a great chance to create a character that reacts in his own unique way. He’s crazy, he’s unbelievably determined and still manages a sense of humor rarely seen in WWE.
So, in that vein, after Cena interjects into his Rollins feud, would it not make sense to – in Austin-esque fashion – put the boots to Cena?
It would further establish his character, assert his relevance as a big-time player, and it would definitely get a pop… and set up a compelling dynamic for the coming weeks.
While repeating matches is an inevitability, our lack of interest in them doesn’t have to be.
In fact, there are ways to circumvent the lukewarm feeling we get from the typical match lineup.
From bringing in local enhancement talent to keep actual superstars from jobbing (how many times can Ryder put Rusev over?) to using promos and the announcers to set up a new twist to a match being repeated, there are a lot of possible avenues to keep a lineup interesting, even in the face of repetition.
With WWE putting out so much content on a weekly basis, it’s critical for them to not become (more) repetitious, as repetition equals predictability, and predictability co-leases an apartment with “gonna start watching something else“.
Locking Dean Ambrose in a room made sense. And Stephanie’s “Have you ever thrown someone out that didn’t come back?” line only made it make more sense.
But, if you’re gonna set up and justify the simple action of locking the guy in a room, you can do the same to set up his escape, especially when the concept of the locked room is to make you think:
By simply having Ambrose teleport himself from a locked storage room backstage to under a surprise package near the announcers table, the audience is short-changed, when a number of explanations could have been offered.
Why not show how crazy and resourceful Ambrose is by showing him escape, just in time to save the day?
THAT is compelling TV that enhances your talent.
While I’d argue the IC Title is further along than the US Title in its developing quest for relevance, it’s good to see some effort being directed at the titles that once provided springboard for such talents as Curt Hennig, Bret Hart and Steve Austin.
Now, we need more. By building the relevancy of a title, you also build the importance of any match where it’s up for grabs.
There are matches and there are World Series matches. There are fights and there are UFC Title fights.
WWE has such a deep talent pool that having active feuds for all the midcard titles isn’t a stretch, by any means. In fact, it’s something they need.
With Brock Lesnar reigning supreme for the foreseeable future and the “deletion” of the Big Gold belt, the midcard titles have a renewed chance to be brought back to prominence.
Miz vs. Ziggler can be just the beginning.
A year from now, the Intercontinental Title match can be a consistent co-main event match, with almost if not the same stakes as the World Title match. It wouldn’t be unprecedented.
For that to happen, it must be clear that guys are wrestling TO GET TO THE TITLE. Not “just because”. They’re fighting because they want the prestige of holding it and have it come by beating a man they’ve grown to dislike since the genesis of their rivalry.
If you put a title over, it’ll put you over as well.
(Finally, a nod to AJ and Paige, who have been kicking ass for the Divas Title)
To start us off with a comparison, there is a big difference between pairing Cena with Sandow and pairing Cena with Ryder.
By having Sandow cash in on Cena, who temporarily elevate Sandow to Cena’s level, by pitting them toe-to-toe and giving Sandow exposure it wouldn’t receive otherwise.
When pairing Ryder with Cena, it’s a whole other ballgame. 50 years ago, when Ryder was organically getting over, he was put next to Cena, quickly becoming the punching bag for Kane (Cena’s rival) and kissing bag for Eve (who was digging for Cena’s gold, while friend-zoning the living sh** out of Ryder).
So, in my heel opinion, it makes total sense to pair Cena with Rollins. In fact, the timing couldn’t be better, if they decide to go that way.
Rollins is an upper midcarder on the rise, with very decent heat and skills more than above reproach. Standing across from Cena is just what the doctor ordered to sustain his climb, regardless of who goes over in the end.
Finally, it would resolve the void left by Reigns’s injury and hit “Pause” on Brock vs. Cena, thus avoiding another overbooked finish to protect both men in an eventual rematch.
Now… should you pair, even if temporarily, Ambrose with Cena as a quasi-team, all kinds of alarms go off in my head – picture a whole street of cars with alarms blaring.
For guys like Ryder and Ambrose, it’s all about sustaining their organic push. The people have already chosen them, so it’s all about protecting and sustaining the interest we already have in their characters.
They’re cool. Just keep them cool.
Now, let me ask you think: how cool will they be if they partner up with Cena, the guy who split the audience in half?
Cena is one of WWE’s biggest assets, but he has never been booked as a springboard for midcard babyfaces. And for good reason. He isn’t one.
By aliging Ryder with Cena and making him play second-fiddle, Ryder slowly stopped being such a crowd favorite.
By hanging out with Cena and by consistently taking the brunt of his rival’s offense, he started losing the goodwill he had, especially with the older fans. You know, the ones that chant “Cena Sucks”.
Ryder’s angle was never one to resonate ()primarily) with the younger audience. The older fans were the ones in on the joke. The joke that ended when Ryder became Luigi to Cena’s Mario.
Considering Ambrose’s following is equally organic in nature, I can only hope WWE isn’t once again glueing Cena to the Lunatic Fringe. I’m probably looking to far ahead here.
But, if anything, considering Ambrose’s character, I hope they not only don’t go the Ryder-way, but that they book them as adversaries.
As Cena was getting the upperhand on the ever-dominant champion Lesnar, Seth Rollins interjects, causing a DQ in the World Title match and main event of the Night of Champions PPV.
If any match should have a conclusive ending, it’s the headlining and final match of your monthly big event.
People are paying to see it (either via PPV or Network subscription), are invested in it, and it only makes sense to reward them with a worthwhile finish.
To be clear, when I use terms like “worthwhile finish” and “conclusive ending”, I don’t necessarily mean we need one guy to go over on the other, clean as a whistle.
Sure, that’s an option. But what those terms mean, in short, is that it’s important to come up with an ending that doesn’t make the audience feel like they didn’t get their money’s worth.
It’s like watching War Of The Worlds.
You’re there for 2 hours watching the aliens do to Earth what Brock did to Cena at Summerslam and, then, all of a sudden, the aliens start dying, because they caught a virus or bateria they weren’t prepared for. Like an RKO… out of nowhere.
Sure, it’s an ending, as it’s clear the humans win when all of the aliens’ machines drop like flies.
But in a movie where the “match” is Humans vs. Aliens, you really need the Humans – the heroes – to take the initiative and be the ones that defeat the aliens, not some didn’t-know-it-was-even-there external force that has nothing to do with the movie.
Lesnar vs. Cena III was built, supposedly, as a rubber match, with the hanging question of “Can Cena do better than he did at Summerslam?”. There were no definite answers, as Rollins became the nasty bacteria.
In all fairness, Rollins is the Money In The Bank guy, which means he has the pretext to show up at any time.
However, in the end, his interference only robbed us of the answers to the questions the company itself had put out there.
“Can Cena do better?”… Well, it was looking like it. But still, with no clean finish, there was still room for an impactful wrap-up to the PPV.
Think Judgement Day 1998. Austin is refereeing Taker vs. Kane for the World Title. If he got out of line, he’d be fired by arch-rival and company owner Vince McMahon.
The match doesn’t have a clean finish, as Austin takes out both men. But… in a “Wow” moment, he’s fired on the spot. That’s about as impactful as it gets, right?
Rollins could have cashed in (yes, I know Brock is the guy until Mania, it’s just an idea to make the match more meaningful than it was), the match could have been ordered to continue…
Or… if you really wanted to protect both guys, just have Heyman run interference for Brock. Cena loses but keeps his aura and, at least, the heat stays on Team Lesnar, not a third party.
After a 2013 riddled with overbooked finishes – think any Orton vs. Bryan PPV main event – it is critical that WWE hustles to make their PPV endings more meaningful than this one.
Big finishes are why we keep coming back and tell all our buddies what happened the next day. Don’t cheapen or put less effort into them, as they’re the biggest calling card for any match or event.
When someone asks who won and how, we want to be able to say “this” guy won, in the coolest of ways. And next time, you will be still be watching, and you just got your friend to watch as well.
For your money, what could have been done better, my heel friend?