Hey everyone. In lieu of writing a typical wrestling post, I’d like to take some time to share my thoughts from last night’s edition of Monday Night Raw. In my opinion, it was ridiculously good show and WWE is clearly on the right track to building up the key matches for Wrestlemania 28. There were a ton of great things about the show, so let’s get into it:
- The opening promo battle between Chris Jericho and C.M. Punk was epic. It was the moment that fans have been anticipating ever since Jericho’s return to the company. We all knew from day one that they were building to a confrontation amongst these two extremely talented performers, but it seemed as if they struggled to get there. Jericho won a battle royal last week to officially get the shot against Punk, but it was their promo from last night that really put things into overdrive. There is nothing better in wrestling than to see two guys go back and forth over a heated issue and they both came with a full deck on hand. There have been a ton of good promos on Raw lately (HHH/Undertaker/Shawn Michaels and John Cena/Rock), but these two proved, beyond the shadow of a doubt, why they are among the top talkers in all of professional wrestling today.
- I also enjoyed another champion vs. champion match between Punk and Daniel Bryan. They are two of the best all-around wrestlers on the planet and this was actually the third match they’ve had against each other on television this year. Even though it was a backdrop for the Teddy Long/ John Laurinaitis feud, the match was still very good.
- Jericho’s post-match attack on Punk was masterfully orchestrated. Jericho displayed a vicious nature that he’s lacked since coming back and it appeared to get over with the crowd in a major way.
- I must admit I’m very intrigued by the change in Eve Torres’ character. Her altercation with Cena last week was brilliant and she really seems to be shining in the role of a manipulative vixen. She’s displaying the best acting and promo abilities of her career thus far.
- This Long/Laurinaitis feud has been extremely entertaining. I think a big reason for that is because Laurinaitis is so good in his role as an arrogant boss. I’ve never cared much for Long and I really would like it if Laurinaitis were to become the G.M. of both Raw and Smackdown. Plus it gives the guys like David Otunga and Santino Marella something to do over the next few weeks.
- That three-way tag match of Primo/Epico vs. Kofi Kingston/R. Truth vs. Jack Swagger/Dolph Ziggler was tremendous while it lasted. All three teams had great chemistry with each other and there were a ton of cool spots in the match. Kingston was the standout, yet Ziggler continued to prove why he’s among the top performers in the business. I was actually expecting a title change, but Epico and Primo squeaked out the victory. The only thing I didn’t like was how Kane interfered afterwards, thus rendering all of their hard work and momentum as useless.
- The final segment with Rock and Cena was everything it was supposed to be. Rock can do no wrong when he’s in front of the crowd and they hung on his every word as usual. He did a great job of cranking up the seriousness, but also got plenty of catchphrases and crowd chants going. He did address what Cena mentioned last week about him promising the fans he’d never leave again and how he was going to beat Rock for all the boys in the back who bust their butts every night for the company.
Cena’s arrival midway through certainly upped the ante and created a genuinely electrifying atmosphere. When these two are in the ring together you can see how much of a different level they are on compared to anyone else in wrestling today. This feud is being played up as though there is legitimate beef between the two (there are some very real feelings involved). Cena did a good job of one-upping the Rock while saying some pretty clever lines, but Rock, even on his worst day, is still among the most charismatic guys in history and it’s impossible to ever surpass him on the mic. This was a strong ending that made you even hungrier to see where they will continue with this.
This past week on Monday Night Raw, John Cena delivered what was easily among of the best promos (interview) of his career.
The subject matter was really no different than things we’ve heard from him in the past regarding his Wrestlemania 28 opponent Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. You know the drill– he discussed how Rock promised he’d never leave the WWE and how he only comes back in time to promote a new movie and not because he really cares about the fans. The big difference in his promo from Monday was that he spoke with a conviction and genuine passion that you rarely see from him nowadays. There wasn’t any of the typical B-level humor and cheesy lines we’ve come to expect. For the first time in ages it seemed that Cena was dead serious about getting his message across. In many ways it was as if Cena was delivering a genuine shoot (unscripted interview) as opposed to a typical WWE-style interview.
The unique irony to all of this is that Rock does legitimately care about the wrestling business and his millions of fans. He may be a full-time actor who is only able to make a few WWE appearances per year, but to somehow insinuate that he is faking his love for the business that made him a star in the first place is foolish thinking at best.
And this is where the real question I wish to address comes into play. Should current fans and WWE performers feel resentment towards Rock for becoming a success in Hollywood and returning to headline this year’s Wrestlemania?
On the surface I would say no, yet I can understand both arguments.
There is a definitely an underlying tension amongst many in the WWE locker room towards the Rock. Last year, both C.M. Punk and Randy Orton went public about their animosity. Earlier this week, Wrestlezone, a wrestling news site, reported a story about a WWE star who anonymously tweeted the following comments about the Rock/Cena feud:
“[The Rock] comes in to use WWE to get back the audience he lost doing Disney movies, which is fine but he’s been back over a year and name one person he helped make a bigger star since then? No one. He’s here for himself, he keeps to himself, and he keeps someone who’s actually touring here all year from making a bigger payday at the bigger shows. It’s all about making this the “biggest” Mania of all time. OK, then what do we do the rest of the year? Who’s been made? You think he took ANY blame for Survivor [Series] not drawing? Of course not, but how do you feud with a guy on the Titantron? Cena nailed the guy dead on tonight. Say anything about HHH, Taker, etc. still being in the top spot but if they were needed to work the road, they would and they would still work their asses off as much as they needed to. Rock is out for Rock and the idea he’s here to better anything but his own wallet is the biggest work of 2012.”
Wow. Someone is obviously a bit salty! However, in my opinion, those feelings are a huge positive for the progression of the Rock/Cena feud. Cena’s promo was apparently representative of a prevalent mindset amongst those on the current roster and there is no better thing in today’s business than to inject real emotion into a wrestling storyline.
On the flipside, nearly everyone will admit that having Rock and Cena in the main event will possibly make this the highest-grossing Wrestlemania in history. It’s a genuine dream match, the likes of which WWE hasn’t been capable of producing in quite some time. Last year’s show with Rock serving as guest host did the second-biggest PPV numbers of any wrestling show in history. It doesn’t take a genius to predict this year’s show should easily topple that. The revenue generated from having Rock wrestle will guarantee everyone on the show will come out with a significantly larger paycheck.
I believe there is an inherent jealousy factor to all of this. It must be a huge morale killer to all the top guys on the current roster to realize that no matter how hard they try and successful they become, they will never be able to draw the type of money and attract the mainstream attention of Rock. The painful truth is that it took a less than part-time guy to come back and make wrestling seem relevant again to the masses. Ouch!
And is the Rock to blame for this? No. It isn’t his fault that WWE has failed to make more transcendent stars like himself and Steve Austin over the last decade. Cena is their biggest star, yet will likely never attain the level of success and track record as a genuine drawing card that Rock has.
In fact, Rock is unlike any wrestler in history. He debuted with WWE in 1996 and was a bonafide household name by 1998. Of course, professional wrestling as a whole was in a boom period in America during that time and nearly everyone who became some type of a big star in the WWE or WCW became an enduring star to a generation of fans. But make no mistake about it, Rock and Austin were the biggest.
It was only natural that his charisma would translate into success on the silver screen. For decades, wrestlers had dabbled in acting, yet Rock became the first, and only, to become a legitimate breakout star and has starred in many of Hollywood’s biggest box office hits for the last several years.
If I had the option between being body slammed every night or attending red carpet premieres around the world, I wonder what my choice would be? I think I’d take my chances with acting.
The simple truth of the matter is that Rock has nothing left to prove in wrestling. He’d simply done all there was to do. He achieved a level of fame, respect and global recognition that has really only been achieved by three other wrestlers of the modern era (Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan and Austin). Are we to crucify him for deciding to move on and reach new plateaus?
Writer’s note: This story also appeared as a guest post on the Wrestling Observer/Figure Four Weekly website at http://www.f4wonline.com/more/more-top-stories/96-wwe/24408-guest-post-should-fans-resent-rocks-success
The road to Wrestlemania 28 got a little clearer after last Sunday’s Royal Rumble. The annual January spectacular is the second biggest event of the WWE calendar and serves as a preview of what lies ahead for the next two months leading up to Wrestlemania. This year’s 30-man Royal Rumble match was won by Sheamus.
Personally, I was rooting for Chris Jericho to win, but wasn’t disappointed at all with Sheamus emerging victorious. On the surface, it does appear that Sheamus has a heck of a lot more upside than Jericho. While Jericho is one of the best performers to ever step foot in a ring, he’s largely accomplished all there is to do in wrestling and clearly has nothing to prove to anyone. Looking back, it almost made perfect sense for Sheamus to go down to the wire with him. Jericho is an unselfish headliner who always does his best to elevate new talent. And the final few minutes of the Rumble match wouldn’t have been nearly as memorable had Sheamus finished with someone other than Jericho.
Sheamus is a young buff who the company is really getting behind to carry the future. He’s been the recipient of a notable push over the last several months and is often protected as far as his wins and losses are concerned. He’s a very good big-man type of worker and his unnaturally pale skin does allow him to stand out as something unique in the current WWE landscape.
There are still two months to go until Wrestlemania and things are always subject to change, but it’s pretty safe to say that Sheamus will be challenging for the world heavyweight title in one of the main matches at the biggest stage of the year. Hopefully, he will win the title since the winners of the last four Royal Rumble matches were unsuccessful in capturing their respective brand’s title at Wrestlemania (thus rendering the Rumble as kind of useless).
Apparently, there are big plans in store for Sheamus and I’m happy for him. I’m always thrilled to see new blood rise to the top. Last year was the year that C.M. Punk finally broke through into the upper echelon and it appears that Sheamus will join him at that level in 2012.