This past monday on Raw, the stage was set perfectly. The WWE was in Chicago. Dirtsheets were rife with rumors. A certain twitter account promised the show would get hijacked if there wasn’t change. So, of course, as soon as the lights came up, you hear the screech of a mic drop followed by the opening riff of “Cult of Personality”, and out comes the best in the world… Paul Heyman.
My first thought was that it was strange to hear the WWE inviting “CM Punk” chants, just weeks after the announcers were mocking them before Raw went on the air. My second thought was maybe the WWE gave up on getting CM Punk back, and this was their way of getting all the chants out of the crowd early, however, if you listen to Heyman’s “pipebomb”, you’ll hear that he only talks up Punk. All the while, sitting criss cross applesauce in the ring, he lays the blame for Punk’s absence on each and every one of us in the WWE Universe (and simultaneously adding heat to Brock Lesnar’s match with the Undertaker at Wrestlemania). All this because Paul Heyman is the CM Punk The WWE Universe deserves, but not the CM Punk it needs right now.
The WWE Universe has taken a few things for granted recently. For example, a lot of people thought it was a foregone conclusion that Daniel Bryan would enter the Royal Rumble at #30 and miraculously come back after his defeat at the hands of Bray Wyatt. Even Rey Misterio felt the heat from that. The breakup and subsequent match between Cody Rhodes and Goldust at Wrestlemania had also been seemingly set in stone by fans the day they won the tag titles. CM Punk’s pending return Monday night also falls into this category. After all, HHH and the authority are always claiming to do “what’s best for business”, so giving your fans what they want must be what’s best, right?
They know, based on crowd reaction and social media, that Daniel Bryan will be putting butts in the seats long after Batista’s Guardians of the Galaxy promotional tours, so from their perspective, why rush a perfectly good underdog story anyway? How long did NWA fans have to wait to see Dusty Rhodes finally take the belt away from Ric Flair? What about Tommy Dreamer in ECW? Bryan is the same type of character. He’ll have his moment, and it will be all the better for having it delayed. In WWE’s mind anyway.
That’s all well and good, but the Rhodes’ Bros. match is a different story though. The iron is hot now for Cody & Goldust to do it up in the showcase of the immortals. However, Cody blames “the Internet” for that match not happening. Cody doesn’t explain himself, but the implication is that the Internet “ruined the surprise” of the match, and so WWE thinks it can’t build up to a match that everyone knows is going to happen anyway. This is ironic when taken in the context of dirtsheets knowing Wrestlemania cards months in advance. Plus, this story of brother vs brother pretty much writes itself.
“The Internet” was watching Raw on Monday not just to see if Punk would return, but also because there were threats all over twitter that the fans live in attendance would, if vague criteria weren’t met, hijack the show by chanting “CM Punk” all night and literally turning their backs on the in ring product. Not surprisingly, a lot of (probably most) other fans looked down on this type of behavior, however, did they actually do anything so out of line to deserve the scorn they’ve been getting since Monday? Yes, they chanted the name of a guy not in the WWE right now and made disrespectful chants during a Sheamus match, but how is that different from any other Raw since the Rumble? It’s not, and I would argue that the WWE listened to very threat of this and gave us the best Raw of the year so far (and this will probably be in the top 3 Raws this year), with new tag champs, the Shield vs. the Wyatts II and Daniel Bryan in yet another main event.
So, given all this, it is obvious that the WWE listens to its fans. What’s frustrating is that WWE feels the need to be in control of every little detail, that their product is ruined if any leak comes out. It’s 2014. Leaks will happen. They’ve still shown they are perfectly able to put on great shows, but only when they feel threatened. If this means someone has to threaten to #hijackraw every week, then that’s ok with me.
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NJPW had a pretty good show last night at their 42nd anniversary card, however, it’s about to get real next week with the beginning of its New Japan Cup, when 16 of the promotions top wrestlers in the annual tournament, with the winner and runner up both getting title shots. The day 1 card looks very nice. Expect a great match From Ishii & Naito, as well as a great rematch from last year between Shinsuke Nakamura and Davey Boy Smith, Jr. Smith upset the king of strong style last year. Can he do it again?
I’ll leave you with a clip of Adam Rose’s debut on NXT this week. It was amazing.