How much the WWE has changed

If anyone were to ask me who I thought was going to win between CM Punk and The Rock, I would have said CM Punk every time.  It’s no secret that The Rock is a part-time wrestler, and there would be absolutely no point in giving the WWE World Title to a part-time wrestler who is only biding his time until his next movie role begins filming.  So color me surprised that the WWE went ahead and put the World Title on The Rock at the Royal Rumble.

Obviously, this makes things pretty crystal clear of what is going to transpire over the next three months of WWE programming; with John Cena being the winner of the Royal Rumble and can choose which championship he wants to go for, there’s no question he’s going after The Rock, and at the same time, hope to avenge his loss at last year’s Wrestlemania, as well as win the World Title.  Cena will win this year, as The Rock will no doubt have some movie obligation to do by April.  This subsequently sets up an instant Punk/Cena feud, where Punk can cite that Cena has never beaten him for the title, and that he wants it back.

But what the point of writing about wrestling today isn’t so much current events as much as it is just musing about how much the WWE has changed in recent times.  I used to believe, and justifiably, by these rules when it came to watching WWE programming:

  • Part-time wrestlers never beat full-time wrestlers
  • You never win in your hometown
  • The business always comes out on top

It’s occurred to me that just about all of these are hardly the case anymore, and that more or less the company has done a complete 180 in regards to how these things are handled.  I can’t necessarily say I agree with the choices the WWE makes, but seeing as how they’re as strong as ever and are the ever-adapting entertainment machine it really doesn’t matter in the end.

In regards to part-time wrestlers, it really is pointed at guys like The Rock, who show up sporadically and get involved from time to time.  It could also apply to Mick Foley, and even last year when Brock Lesnar returned to WWE programming.  Everyone with half a brain knows that these guys are only around for spurts and blips on the radar of the bigger picture, so it should make sense that none of the guys should really enjoy any major successes in their temporary stays.

Since 2011, the Rock has partook in three matches: Teamed with John Cena versus Miz/K-Kwik, versus John Cena, and versus CM Punk.  He has won all three of them.  When Brock Lesnar came back in the spring of 2012, he had two official matches; although he did lose to John Cena, he beat the king of the roost in HHH, before ducking out and leaving the WWE again.

The point is that there was once a time when The Rock used to come back in his in-between movie cameos, and do what good part-time wrestlers needed to do: job to the current talent, and give them a boost.  The picture above is when The Rock came back for a spell, and picked a fight with The Hurricane; although it took a distraction from Steve Austin, the Hurricane got a clean pinfall victory over The Rock.  Years ago, The Rock and Mick Foley had a one-night only reunion tag team match against the Evolution trio of Ric Flair, Randy Orton and Batista.  Rightfully so, The Rock and Sock lost by pinfall to Orton and Batista, and vanished without a trace afterward.

More or less, this rule has kind of vanished, and the WWE seems to be content with using part-timers are transitional story bridges in some fashion.

There used to be a time in the WWE, where storylines always seemed to culminate at shows that took place at a participant’s hometown, or region.  I’m pretty sure Bret Hart became the unfortunate pariah to the rule when he flat refused to lose the world title in Canada, before it was unceremoniously taken from him in a most humiliating fashion.  But after that, it got to a point where so very seldom did anyone win in their hometowns.  The Hardy Boyz had a shot at the tag team titles in Raleigh, Greensboro and Fayetteville, North Carolina, all reasonably close to their home in Sanford.  They failed to win the titles in all three of them.  The WWE rarely went to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and on a night where Chris Benoit could have beaten Steve Austin for the World Title in his hometown, nope, he jobbed.

Nowadays, off the top of my head, I’m remembering CM Punk repeatedly winning or defending the World Title in his hometown of Chicago, Katelyn recently winning the Divas belt in Houston, and when The Rock beat John Cena in Miami at last year’s Wrestlemania.  I’m not sure when it really started happening, but the old rule has pretty much dissolved outright.  At this one, I can kind of agree with, because when a guy actually wins in his/her hometown, the fans typically go bonkers, the occasion has some meaning, and it really means a lot to the performers themselves.  And if the past were any indication, when the Hardys won the tag team titles finally, in like Bumfuck, Middle America, nobody really cared anymore, so I guess there’s really no place like home to strike while the iron may be the hottest.

Mick Foley said it the best that in the end, that no matter what happens, “the business,” meaning the wrestling industry should always come out on top.  That there is little point to guys heading into retirement to go out with a win in a meaningful match, because it does nothing for the other participant, which stifles where they could go in the business.  This notion, I agree with wholeheartedly, and is probably the one that I feel the most negative to be defied.  Mick Foley has had more retirement/last match ever/one night onlys than Michael Jordan, and has just about lost every single one of them.  But in doing such, he has given guys like HHH, Randy Orton, Batista and Edge that much more momentum into their future storylines and character direction, which only benefits the longevity of the business.

When the WWE let Brock Lesnar run rampant on John Cena and HHH, two of the biggest stars in the company, and then turn and vanish, I was puzzled.  How does the business come out on top of this scenario?  Basically it just made MMA look that much stronger and hardcore than professional wrestling.  An MMA fighter defeating the king of the federation just essentially implied that MMA is the real deal and wrestling is that fake crap after all.  If Lesnar really wanted that money so badly, I hire him back for what he wants, but then I’m having him job to Santino, Tensai and Jinder Mahal every single show during the length of his tenure.  Bury Lesnar, bury the idea of MMA being so awesome, and ensure that the wrestling industry is the only thing looking strong in the end.

Which is why I’m in disagreement with the WWE letting The Rock beat CM Punk.  The Rock is likely going to skip defending the World Title at whatever Pay-Per-View in February and probably do the clichéd “team with your enemy” and team up with John Cena versus Dolph Ziggler and Junior on Steroids, while I’m betting that Punk is going to #21 to the Undertaker who will conveniently make himself seen again for his annual match.  But I’d bet money that The Rock doesn’t show up on television for all eight remaining weeks prior to Wrestlemania, meaning that World Title isn’t going to be on television at some times, and that can’t possibly be good for the business.

Ultimately, what would be even worse for the company is if The Rock actually is allowed to successfully defend the title against Cena.  I know it’s pre-scripted and there’s a general idea already in the works, but Vince McMahon and the business are no strangers to changing on the fly based on the most sporadic of factors, including simply just fan reaction.  But The Rock being allowed to represent the company on a part-time basis would be abysmal for the company, no matter how much the most casual, fairweather wrestling bandwagon fans like it.  It does absolutely shit for the business as a whole when The Rock vanishes for another six months to go film another movie that no one without kids would see.

The bottom line is that despite these being my opinions, the WWE machine is a well-oiled machine that has demonstrated the ability to adapt to just about anything.  I’ll err on the side that this kind of discrepancies are all probably known within the company just as well, but I hope things will work out for the best as time moves forward.  I’ll likely still be watching.

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