WWE Creative Changes Mean New Possible Matchups

Randy OrtonProbably 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.

WWE Extreme Rules 2013 Rundown


wwe-extreme-rules-2013
Although the build was terrible heading into ‘Extreme Rules,’ WWE put together an entertaining three-hours last night. While no match was an instant classic, the intensity throughout the last hour of the Pay Per View plus a few stand-out performances created a solid pro wrestling event.

The Good:

Chris Jericho def. Fandango: This rivalry was decent, and took a turn at Wrestlemania with Fandango’s surprising victory. The back-and-forth in this match was exciting. Chris Jericho does more to put over young superstars than anybody else in the WWE, but I’m happy to see him win here. Plus, his Codebraker from the top rope looked sweet.

Dean Ambrose def. Kofi Kingston for the U.S. Title: Really liked that Ambrose sent his “hounds of justice” away so he could win this one on his own. These guys put on a fun, fast-paced match, and the crowd was solidly behind Kofi. No doubt this is good for Ambrose.

Sheamus def. Mark Henry in a Strap Match: While this match slowed down the pace of the PPV, I liked the placement on the card (after two exciting matches), and thought Henry and Sheamus used the gimmick surprisingly well. Going around the outside of the ring was creative, as was Henry picking Sheamus up (and having Sheamus tag the corners without Henry knowing). Overall, while I always hate seeing ‘the world’s strongest man’ lose, I’m glad they ended it the match in a direct fashion – Sheamus brogue-kicking Henry and tagging the last turnbuckle gave the fans something to cheer about.

The Shield: After languishing as main-event filler for the last few weeks (months?), it’s good to see them with forward momentum again. This felt like a logical next-step for this unstoppable team, and I think it opens up a world of possibilities as far as title-defenses and new matchups are concerned. Let’s just hope this turns out better than The Nexus…or Nexus 2.0… or The Corre…

Randy Orton def. The Big Show: Started off a little slow, but really picked up towards the end. Had a good, attitude-era “hardcore” feel to it. I liked seeing Big Show break two different Kendo sticks to really emphasise his power, and was happy to see the return of Randy Orton’s punt (even if it is a heel move). He really played to his hometown crowd here, and the fans went nuts with the win. I would be happy to see him step up into the main-event picture.

John Cena vs Ryback ends in no-contest: I was happy to see a little more offense from Ryback, even though it was mostly more power slam variations. He seems a lot more confident in the ring, and his presence is growing. I still argue he isn’t ready for this heel persona being pushed down our throats, but he and Cena turned a lackluster build into a fun match. This is the kind of brawl these two thrive in.

Now, about that finish – I really liked the visual of seeing them plow through the stage, and the surprise of it all. However, doesn’t this (yet again) completely undermine the gimmick? I’m pretty sure I saw Ryback walk away, so shouldn’t he win? On the positive side, I guess it keeps Ryback looking strong without moving the championship. But, when Cena comes out tomorrow night and delivers his preacher-man speech, and eventually pins Ryback next month at Payback, this will all be for naught.

Brock Lesnar def. HHH in a Steel-Cage Match: Let me get this out of the way: I love the new steel cage. The previous one looked outdated, and compared to the size of TNA’s, looked really small. This one looks major league.

Triple H surprising Brock Lesnar from behind was a fun way to start the match, and I thought both of these guys brought an intensity that’s hard to find in WWE these days. Brock Lesnar sold an early knee injury, and it allowed them to tell an interesting story in the ring. Really liked the hidden sledgehammer. And although Paul Heyman interfering undermines the gimmick, it made for a great moment in the match with the pedigree. Glad to see Lesnar get the win via pinfall, and feel like this was a great way to end the feud.

While I’m not normally a fan of WWE Championship matches coming before a different main event, I think this match deserved to go on last. It had the best build, the best intensity, and truly felt like the final chapter in a 10-month long feud.

The Bad:

The Miz def. Cody Rhodes: This isn’t here because of the quality of the match (which, because of the technical issues, I can’t comment on). Instead, the fact that Cody Rhodes and The Miz have been delegated to what is essentially “Superstars” duty drives me crazy. Two years ago, these guys both had major wins at Wrestlemania 27 – and now WWE can’t give them a real storyline, much less get them on a minor PPV card? Groan.

Alberto Del Rio def. Jack Swagger to become Number One Contender: This match really wasn’t that bad – however, it came in the middle of the card, and seemed to lack that intensity all the other matches had. It felt kind of slow, and put the crowd to sleep. I think the “I Quit” gimmick hurt it, because the ref intervening every little bit really slowed down the pace. And while I liked the Coulter swerve of throwing in Del Rios towel, I think it was better played for laughs than as a legitimate means of ending the match, After all, isn’t saying “I Quit” the whole point of the match? I would have enjoyed this match a lot more on Raw or Smackdown.

The Shield def. Team Hell No for the Tag Team Championship: This is not about the OUTCOME (see above) as much as is it the match itself. I’m never crazy about a Tornado match, because it evokes the same chaos of bad triple-threat for fatal-four-way matches. Also, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns botched their finisher. This one felt hard to follow, and took me out of the moment.

The Use of Instant-Replay: I know this was included to capitalize on the recent baseball controversy, but it sets a bad precedent for WWE. Not that I expect them to follow up with this again, but for fans who watched the match, we now know WWE monitors everything. Why would they EVER let somebody cheat again? Seems false in a business where lying, cheating, and stealing are the norm.

Mid-card Title Situation: Both titles have changed hands TWICE since the Wrestlemania pre-show. It made sense to have two titles when there were two brands, but now they feel even cheaper than TV championships. Where’s the prestige?

The Ugly:

Jack Swagger on the Mic: Imagine you’re a professional wrestler, whose job it is to speak intensely and sell matches, and you’re given a manager because you fumble around on the mic and people don’t find you interesting. Now, imagine the only thing you’re ever allowed to say is, “We, the people.” Welcome to Jack Swagger’s world.

Kaitlyn’s Secret Admirer: It’s probably The Great Khali or Hornswaggle. Painful either way.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think! Follow me on Twitter @therealwiseman