It’s time for this week’s edition of “From Across the Pond”. I genuinely thought I was going to struggle to find something to write about, but that was before WWE stepped up to the plate and hand-delivered me one of the worst Monday Night Raw main-events in WWE history, so before I get started today, I need to give some people a lot of credit.
Thank you Vince McMahon, thank you Brian Gerwitz, thank you to every single member of the WWE creative team and most of all, the “star of the show”, Mr John Cena. Man, that sounded a bit like an Oscar speech! Haha… OK, so let’s get to the main topic of this week’s column, which is who’s to blame for the current problems in WWE? Let me explain what I’m talking about.
Coming off WrestleMania 28, WWE’s product was smoking hot. There was speculation about how John Cena would react to his loss to The Rock, Daniel Bryan’s “screwjob” and the return of Brock Lesnar. John Laurinaitis stood on Monday Night Raw on April 9th and said he wanted to bring “legitimacy” back to WWE, so he signed Brock Lesnar. We’re just over eight weeks removed from Big Johnny’s announcement and instead of a “legitimate” WWE, what we have is a bastardized version of a company that I used to love. It’s far from “legitimate” right now. Let’s look at why I’ve said that.
Example 1 – Brock Lesnar’s return
When Brock Lesnar returned, WWE did a tremendous job of making Brock look like a monster and Cena looked vulnerable. We get to their match at Extreme Rules from Chicago, Illinois, and Brock kicks John Cena’s for 20 minutes, or thereabouts. Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, Cena punches Brock with a chain, gives him the AA and its game over. Cena wins.
Now, in this example, I don’t blame John Cena. I blame either Vince McMahon or WWE creative. Everyone knows that Vince has a vindictive streak in him, so booking Brock to lose might have been Vince flipping the virtual bird to Dana White and the UFC. OK, that’s understandable. He wants to make his guy look strong. The problem with that is the way it was booked. WWE spent the best part of four weeks making Cena looking like, for want of a better term, a pussy, especially at the PPV. Nobody watching that can argue with the fact that Cena took one of the biggest ass-kickings in his life. However, the way that he won was complete and utter BS. A punch and an AA take out the former UFC Heavyweight Champion? Give me a break. If Cena had given as good as he’d got and won, it wouldn’t have made either man look weak.
Instead, WWE’s creative booked Cena like Superman and it made Lesnar look weak. Think about it. If I’ve seen this “unstoppable ass-kicker” lose in his first match, why should I care about anything else he does?
Culprit for Example 1 – WWE creative and Vince McMahon
Example 2 – John Laurinaitis pins John Cena at Over the Limit
This absolutely beggared belief in my opinion. The lead-up to the match was well done and I understood it. Big Johnny was pissed off that Cena had beaten his boy Brock and he wanted to make him pay. Again, I’ve got no problem with the logic; the problem lies in the way the plan was executed. I’ve said before that I’m not a wrestling expert, but I watch what happens and can see things falling into place before they happen. Whether or not that means WWE has become predictable is an argument for another time.
Under no circumstances whatsoever should this match have been on PPV, much less the main-event. I’d love someone to explain to me what the purpose was of having John Laurinaitis, effectively a retired wrestler, come out and main-event a PPV against the top-dog in WWE? They could have done this match on Raw as a throwaway match. I don’t think it was worth the $55.00 that North American and Canadian fans had to pay to see it.
Again, the booking of the match was so obvious, just using simple logic. Big Johnny fired Big Show two weeks before Over the Limit. The week before the PPV, John Cena read a fax which said that “any contracted superstar who interferes in the match will be terminated” (or words to that effect).
It should have been obvious to pretty much any fan that Big Show was going to interfere and cost Cena the match. WWE had a HUGE opportunity to propel a younger superstar to main-event level status. There were ways to get around it without using a Raw or SmackDown superstar. They could have used someone like Dean Ambrose to come in, make an immediate impact and have the announcers wondering who he was.
It makes Ambrose look like a superstar and gives someone new a chance at the main event. Instead, creative took the lazy way out, went with Big Show and now look at where we are? Ratings tanking, buyrates sinking and Cena going through someone else that he’s already beaten countless times before. Yawn!
Culprit for Example 2: WWE creative
Example 3 – John Cena belittling Big Show’s reasons for turning heel
On last week’s episode of Raw, Big Show took his time to clearly set out his reasons for turning heel. In case you missed it, basically he said that he felt betrayed by his “friend” John Cena, because instead of going to bat for him, Cena chose to do a lame Jim Carrey impression and called Big Johnny a “looooooooser” about forty times in one promo.
They replayed the Cena segment as Big Show was talking and looking back at it, Cena doesn’t come off as being funny. He comes across as being a moron and a bit of a jackass to be honest. It’d be interesting to know just how much input Cena had in that promo, so I can’t blame him entirely. This Monday on Raw, John Cena had the chance to respond to what I thought was a well-thought out explanation from the Big Show. Cena kicked off Raw this week with an in-ring interview conducted by Michael Cole.
Cole put over Big Show’s point to Cena and instead of responding to the points pertinently, Cena’s response was “he wanted the size of his wallet to match the size of his waistline”. Oh how funny you are Mr Cena. Although I wonder what the Be A Star charity would think if they knew about you making fat jokes. Wonder if that’s considered bullying? Silly me, that’s me using logic again!
Anyway, during the promo, Cole and Cena had tremendous chemistry together. Cena went through the standard diatribe that we’ve heard from him so many times over the last few years. That he’ll overcome the odds; rise above the hate, yadda yadda yadda. Cole on the other hand took a different tack, commenting that Cena was: “self-centred and wrapped up in his own ego”. He also said that: “he’s supported Cena since day one but he’s seeing things different lately. Cena isn’t interesting anymore and he’s overrated”. He also hoped that: “Big Show puts Cena out of our misery at No Way Out in the steel cage.”
Now, I agreed with a lot that Cole said this week, however, on the other side of the coin, I don’t believe that it’s all John Cena’s fault. John may have had a part to play in terms of how stale his character is, but the way he’s booked isn’t his fault, but playing devil’s advocate here, John Cena is surely in a position by now where he has enough stroke backstage to call creative, or Vince, out on something he doesn’t agree with. Cena isn’t a stupid man. If he was, he wouldn’t be in the position he’s in right now.
Cena had to know that him main-eventing a live TV show against a pasty-white announcer wouldn’t draw people in. If you’d turned on the TV towards the end of Raw and saw Cena vs Cole as a main-event, would you have kept watching? I don’t understand what the pay-off of the match was. It can’t just have been to humiliate Cole. If it was, then mission accomplished.
Culprit for example 3: WWE creative
Example 4 – PPVs don’t feel like PPVs
This has been something that’s annoyed me for a long-time. It’s the fact that I can’t remember the last time I watched a WWE PPV where it actually felt like a PPV and not an extended version of a TV show. I’ll explain it a little bit more. Next Sunday, WWE has their next PPV of the year, No Way Out. As I’m sitting writing this (on Wednesday night), WWE have announced just three matches for the PPV. That’s three. Yup, you read that properly. Three.
I genuinely feel sorry for the North American and Canadian fans in particular when it comes to things like this. I live in the UK, so once every so often, we get a free PPV. To my knowledge, there’s no such deal in America or Canada, which means that WWE’s domestic fans are paying between $650 and $700 a year to buy every PPV. How do WWE reward their fans? By announcing and building three matches (on average) before a PPV and filling the rest on the night. It just isn’t good enough in my opinion.
Right now, it feels like WWE takes their fans for granted and just churns out any old crap because they know that no matter what, fans will tune in and buy PPV’s. I’d be interested to know if WWE’s head honcho, Vince McMahon, has actually sat down and watched a recent episode of Monday Night Raw. I’m guessing that he hasn’t, but if he has, and he thinks it’s acceptable, then Vincent Kennedy McMahon, you’ve lost your damn mind.
Culprit for example 4: WWE creative and Vince McMahon
Example 5 – John Cena has NO equal
This is going to become a major problem for WWE moving forward, especially in light of Randy Orton’s STUPID suspension. Over the last few years, I can’t think of anyone who has had a more sustained push than John Cena.
I’m not blaming Cena entirely because he works his ass off every day to do some kind of work for WWE, whether he’s working live shows, TV tapings, PPV’s, filming movies, doing media appearances or charity work. Nobody promotes WWE’s product more than John Cena and he rightly deserves his place at the top of the card. However, the problem is that there’s hardly anybody from the current roster at the same level as Cena. CM Punk, Kane, Big Show, Randy Orton and Chris Jericho are probably the only exceptions to the rule. That isn’t John’s fault, its Vince’s fault for being reluctant to put the ball in someone’s hand, put a rocket up their ass and let them run with the ball.
Think about it. The Miz got the blame for the poor Survivor Series buyrates last November and he’s been buried ever since that PPV. Blaming one man for poor buyrates is a crock. Hear me out. WWE did such a shitty job at promoting the pay-per-view and they made Miz and R-Truth look weak before The Rock even returned at Survivor Series. The week before the PPV, John Cena was in a handicap match with Miz and R-Truth on Monday Night Raw. Cena beat them on his own without The Rock, so what reason did WWE give the fans to buy the PPV? Why should we have paid £20/$55 to see a tag-match when Cena already beat them on his own? It doesn’t make sense.
Last week’s Raw rating was a 2.7, which was one of the worst ratings they’ve had since 1997. That’s a 15-year low for the company and it made Vince sit up and listen. So what did he do? He sent Cena back to Raw this past week in the hope that the ratings would improve. The rating went up from 2.7 to a 2.9, which is an improvement, but I don’t think it’s what Vince was looking for.
His reaction to these ratings? He’s coming to Raw himself to try to boost the ratings. Will it work long-term? I don’t think so, not unless the overall quality of the show improves. The quality of the show won’t improve unless WWE start elevating new stars to reach the level of the names I mentioned earlier and there’s only one man who can do that. Vincent Kennedy McMahon.
Culprit for Example 5- Vince McMahon
Example 6 – Logic holes in recent WWE storylines
I talked earlier about how WWE’s booking lately has felt lazy and it’s almost like they’re taking the fans for granted and there’s no finer example of this than with two recent storylines, which both coincidentally involve John Laurinaitis.
The first example of it was when John Laurinaitis came out on Raw after Over the Limit and said that he’d signed Big Show to a contract the day before the PPV. Now, that was a huge mistake on WWE’s part. Just one week earlier, Cena read out a fax saying that “any contracted superstar who interferes in the match will be terminated”.
So if Big Show signed the contract on Saturday, by definition he would be contracted and he’d have to have been fired on Raw because of his interference. If reports are to be believed, WWE copped a lot of shit on Twitter for that mistake. Wrestling fans aren’t idiots, they’re smart and they picked up on the mistake, bombarding the official WWE Twitter account.
WWE tried to cover up the mistake by having Michael Cole gloss over it on commentary saying that the deal was verbally agreed on Saturday, but the contract wasn’t signed until early Monday morning. It’s either stupidity on their part, or they think that people aren’t paying attention to storylines. Newsflash WWE!! It looks like the fans are paying more attention to your product than you are.
The second example comes with the impending return of the evil genius, Vince McMahon to Raw this Monday to give John Laurinaitis a “job evaluation”. This one really frustrated me. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Vince ousted from power and his “day-to-day duties” were taken over by HHH, including job evaluations? If that’s the case, how can Vince just rock up on Raw and evaluate Big Johnny’s performance when it isn’t in his character’s remit? It’s baffling.
Even if you put that to one side, WWE have even given away what’s going to happen on Raw. If they’d just said that Vince was appearing next week, then there would at least be some intrigue about what’s going to happen. Instead, there are three possibilities. Big Johnny either gets fired or keeps his job, or Vince will get knocked out by Big Show. It’s too predictable and it doesn’t make me want to watch.
This particular example might just seem like nit-picking, but these plot holes are key to the progression of the storylines. If creative isn’t aware of what’s happened the week before, why should the fans?
Culprit for Example 6 – WWE creative
I think that I’ve made my point quite effectively about WWE’s problems right now. I realise that most of these examples included John Cena and it might come across like I’m blaming John, but I’m not. You’ll notice that I don’t blame John entirely for the state of WWE right now. The problems in WWE right now can be squarely placed at the desks of WWE creative staff and Vince McMahon.
The problems of WWE need to be fixed if there’s to be any improvement in their TV product as we head towards the advent of the three-hour Raw shows from 23rd July. If there’s no drastic improvement, I genuinely think that the move to three hours could be the biggest mistake in WWE history. Please sort it out Vince, the sooner the better. Well guys, this column ended up being longer than I thought it would be but I had to express how pissed off I’ve been with WWE over the last eight weeks. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Before I go for this week, I’ve just started writing for another website that you should all check out. It’s called www.wrestlingrambles.com and it’s supported by passionate wrestling fans who love to debate about all things WWE and TNA with other similar minded readers. You should check out the website and see what you think. I’ll be writing one column a week for the guys over there as well as exclusively reviewing all WWE PPV’s beginning with No Way Out this coming Sunday. Support the site in any way you can. We’d really appreciate it!
I’ll be back here again next week and hopefully I’ll have something positive to write about from across the pond! Until then, thanks for reading.