Thursday, December 5, 2013

WWE Puts Its "Universe" in a Sleeper Hold

It is fitting that Randy Orton is half of the equation in the title unification match at Tables, Ladders and Chairs (TLC) against World Heavyweight Champion John Cena. He is most known for his plodding style filled with plenty of restholds (moves designed to slow down the match and give it more pacing), especially the classic sleeper hold. But this time it's not Orton's opponent who is being put to sleep- it's the WWE Universe.

Over the course of the last few months, the WWE has gone from a white-hot Daniel Bryan screaming "YES!" along with the whole crowd. During that time, the tag team division seemed to flourish with the Shield, Usos and Rhodes brothers all putting on exciting matches that told a story in the ring each and every week. Dolph Ziggler and Damien Sandow were poised to make "the leap" from midcard fodder to main eventers. Daniel Bryan and the rest of the young lions in the WWE seemed ready to carry the ball for the WWE.

The key word being seemed.

Last month I brought up WWE's notorious nature of short-sided booking. A lot of times you watch HHH come out and bring the new talent down to Earth with some sort of ridiculous storyline aimed to test their will. Will they snap and be put further down the card? Will they grit their teeth and stay the course in hope of future glory? All the while, I sit there like many others thinking, "Wait and see where this goes."  Trouble is, I have waited before...and it has yet to truly pay off. Vince McMahon and his team of bookers and writers always seem to go back to the well- even when it is drier than a desert. When something new and trendy comes along- whether it is the Nexus showing up in 2010, Zack Ryder and CM Punk's respective risings in 2011, or Daniel Bryan's most recent run up until Hell in a Cell- those in charge seem to prematurely end it without any actual sense of closure or logical conclusion.

Bryan was randomly kidnapped following a match with The Wyatts and CM Punk, while his onstage and real-life girlfriend Brie Bella was too busy getting Michael Strahan's autograph. It was not until afterwards in a short 15 second Tout that she showed her concern...half-hearted at best. The promising part is that Bryan is involved with Bray Wyatt- a promo artiste on the mic. Wyatt is bent on Bryan joining him to bring down the machine- so while D-Bry could easily be in the title picture, at least Wyatt makes us wonder if he can align himself alongside the Bearded One.

As for Ziggler and Sandow, the duo has been resigned to facing each other in singles competition where two gimmick style matches led to a number one contender's match. Sandow came out on top and will now be in line to face Big E Langston at TLC. (Surely a regressive step, no?) Better than Dolph- who looks to continue his wandering minstrel impression, just showing up on shows guided not by incentive, but simply a paycheck for his troubles. Which, when you think about it, is not that bad...but Ziggler like a host of others is capable of so much more.

This time of year has always been known to be the doldrums for the WWE. It's that awkward time between Summerslam and Royal Rumble, when they have been known to go by the numbers and experiment with their titleholders. Last year they had Ryback to play with, but booked him so inconsistently that even Hornswaggle could pin him these days. The difference this year is by the way they have gone about booking possible moneymakers like Bryan and Ziggler and a host of others, they have to rely on old faithful- John Cena and Randy Orton. The problem? It seemed rushed, but also as I mentioned last week- no one cares. WWE tried to make us care by mentioning all the titles won by both star throughout the careers during the show (on at least 10 different occasions), but their efforts seemed futile. In an effort to make this match seem "epic" as the announcers and even an on-screen graphic showed, WWE has ignored the other storylines and put together one of the worst RAW shows I have ever witnessed. (The fact that it was three hours did not help matters.)

The one shining star throughout these last few weeks? Mark Henry. After his incredible tear-jerking, bait-and-switch promo on John Cena back in  June, he is back and balder than ever. He came up short in the summer, when WWE was too afraid to take the belt off their cash cow, but rumors have him in the runnings for the title very soon. Even if it's a life achievement award reign, it will still be satisfying, not only for Henry- but also for fans. Why? Because it would be different. Regardless of his age, Henry can still put on a show for the fans and with Vince's famous love of big men in the ring, why not?

But here we are, only days away from TLC. A card with two belts to be unified with the top two stars in the company in a gimmick match. It's a match that doesn't need the added stipulation, but will get one anyway. It's also a card that includes Bryan and Punk in separate 3-on-1 handicap matches, because we have never seen a handicap match before. (An all-too familiar crutch these days.)

If this  supposed "big match" between the company's two biggest stars fails- instead of blaming it on the alcohol, McMahon will have no one else to blame but himself.

Like it? Love it? Hate it? Let me know @SeanNeutron.

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