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2011 was an interesting year for the wrestling industry. Like all other years, there were highs and lows, great moments and ridiculous ones. 2012 comes to us, as all new years do, with the potential for either great moments that will reinvigorate interest in wrestling or, as tended to happen last year, push more fans away from their televisions. In 2011, WWE saw a shift in their ratings and began falling under the 3.0 mark consistently. Whether or not this slide continues is contingent upon what form and manner of entertainment they provide us with. Let’s take a look at what looms on the horizon for the early months of 2012.
For weeks, fans were inundated with video packages announcing the arrival of / return of a mysterious figure. The videos featured a boy in a class room, alongside a girl, who spoke of returning to “claim what is his.” The videos were as cryptic visually as they were verbally and this caused a great deal of debate. Early on it seemed evident, to many, that these videos signified the return of Chris Jericho. The potential was high, many seeking to witness Jericho returning to initiate a feud with CM Punk. Possibly a Wrestlemania match will take place between the two.
On the January 2nd edition of RAW, Jericho did indeed return, but not in the way many thought he would. Would he return as the smug, suit wearing heel we’d come to see in the last year of his previous run? Would he stride back in as the once beloved Y2J or would he present himself in an entirely need way? The answer is.. all three. Jericho returned and appeared to be his Y2J persona but it quickly became apparent that this was not the fan loving, face Y2J that we’d seen before. He stood in the ring amid cheers and praise, ran around slapping hands with the fans, picked up the microphone and then left. No words spoken about his return, no promo of his intentions. So many fans were left confused, including this columnist, but upon reflection it seems to clear.
Jericho did not return to be a fan favorite, and he didn’t return to be the multi-syllabic insult hurling heel. He returned to mock everything that the fans wanted him to be. He came back to give us what we wanted, or at least a glimmer of it, before standing back bemused at how easy it is to play the crowd and how simple it is to sucker the fans. He stood in that ring with a look of fascinated entertainment at the fans who went crazy to see him and then, as the cheers of the crowd became peppered with boos, he grinned and strode backstage. This is not a Jericho we have seen before and where he goes with this, no one can be sure. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if we saw this same thing repeated several times over before someone, perhaps CM Punk, chooses to stand up and say “enough.”
Speaking of Punk, he’s currently embroiled in a war of words with Johnny Ace. It seems clear that WWE is hoping to relive the glory of Stone Cold and Mr. McMahon. The tension is building and it is apparent that Punk will inevitably strike out physically against the Senior Vice President of Talent Relations and Interim General Manager of Raw. The problem with it, which is glaringly obvious, is that we’ve seen this before. The difference is that when Stone Cold and Vince went at it, it was new and fresh and exciting. This is simply derivative of something we’ve already experienced and cannot live up to what it is attempting to surpass.
Punk is simply too talented to find himself in this rehashed version of a moment whose excitement was so high because it was unexpected. When Stone Cold stunned McMahon no one saw it coming. Who doesn’t see this one coming? Hopefully they will manifest some way to add a new twist to the same old story. Frankly, in 2012, I’d be happy if we could get rid of the General Manager idea all together.
The biggest thing WWE has going for it, or at least what is supposed to be the biggest thing, is John Cena vs the Rock. As much as this has been built up over the past ten months it certainly feels lacking at the moment. Cena is battling a refurbished Kane, and though I love the evil, masked Kane, the storyline doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. While Cena is supposed to be in a war of words with the Rock, in a war of words that is grounded in reality, he’s simultaneously battling the “supernatural” Kane who is attempting to drag people into fiery pits.
The Rock, distinguished by his absence, provides excitement whenever he return to WWE but this entire storyline has been handled poorly. It’s been like the swinging of a pendulum but with less excitement each time a new sway initiates. The Rock hasn’t laid the verbal smackdown on Cena since the Survivor Series, and even then it wasn’t that great. Cena continues to note that the Rock is never there even though we know he won’t be there. I’m not sure what the point of it is. The Rock is bound to receive a massive pop when he walks out to the ring at Wrestlemania in his home town. Cena continues to receive mixed fan reaction and, more than likely, will receive the majority of the boos when they face each other. To what end does this go? It’s hard to say, and if inside sources can be trusted, even WWE doesn’t seem too sure of where they are going but that is indicative of WWE over the past few years.
There are many more things going on within the world of the WWE. However, the aforementioned angles and incidents are those which garner the most interest here at the beginning of the new year. There is hope that this year will provide us with something more entertaining and that the tide can once again be swayed but the last half of 2011 doesn’t instill faith in their creative direction. Either way, 2012 is upon and win, lose or draw, this could be one of the biggest years in Wrestling in a long time. It remains to be seen.