Probably the most intriguing storyline WWE has headed into Monday Night Raw (and potentially continuing into Payback and beyond) is Randy Orton’s status with the fans. His actions on Friday Night Smackdown this week left another fan favorite, Daniel Bryan, laid out in the middle of the ring as a victim of the RKO.
But wait, weren’t they also just teasing a Daniel Bryan heel turn?
What about CM Punk, who left the night after Wrestlemania as arguably the top heel in the company, and is likely to return next Sunday with the loudest ovation of the night?
More importantly, what does all of this mean for the WWE product heading forward?
Rumors are flying that the WWE could look very different by the time we reach Summerslam. The company recently fired its head of creative, and shaking up fan allegiances could go a long way in making the company feel fresh… again. With ratings sagging and PPV Buyrates down, WWE is desperate for any spark it can find.
Randy Orton turning against the fans make sense, and opens up a world of entertaining matchups with baby faces like Daniel Bryan, Chris Jericho, and Kane. It’s also been long enough that WWE might be able to revisit the Cena-Orton playbook. Additionally, we haven’t seen Orton take on the ‘bad guy’ persona in a while, a role which he seems to prefer. And after the recent punt-kick on Big Show at Extreme Rules, and his actions on Friday Night, it would honestly feel like a disappointment if creative didn’t follow-through.
Punk returning as a fan favorite, then, seems logical. First, He’s proven during the first part of his epic title-run that he can carry carry the company as the number 2 babyface. Secondly, seeing him turn on Heyman, whom he doesn’t really need as a mouthpiece anyway, could make for great television. Punk could feud with Curtis Axel, making Axel look like a star in the process, and eventually set his sights on Brock Lesnar. A fight between these two would look great on the Summerslam card.
Looking at Daniel Bryan, he’s a complete wild card, so anything is possible. I just hope WWE capitalizes on his popularity in a positive way. The company needs to understand that Bryan needs freedom, not over-management, to realize his full potential.
These are obviously just a few of the possible booking options. WWE has a lot of in-ring talent at its disposal, and a lot of tv time to fill. And since heels seem to get over a little easier than similar face wrestlers (see: Fandango), this might be a good time for the company to change the landscape a little. Babyfaces sell merchandise, but entertaining heels sell pay-per-views.
New matchups don’t necessarily equal bigger ratings, and they do little to fix the other problems plaguing the company. But they might be enough to remind people why WWE is the number one professional wrestling company in the world. That seems like a step in the right direction to me.