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A Pro Wrestling Boom Period Is On The Way

November 17, 2011 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

CM Punk wins the WWE title at Money in the BankI’ve spent the last three months in a love and work induced haze that has left me both completely jet lagged mentally and emotionally. Obviously, you’ve not come to this article looking for some odd and detailed memoir of some random, unknown writer’s life this fall so I’ll spare you. Mostly, I point this out to really set the stage for the point at hand, with the jet lag came attempts at spurring myself back to where I once was and what was the spur in question?

The good old, hard filtered and strong hitting pro wrestling. As always in my life, when the chips are down and sh*t just seems to hit the fan I lean on the professional wrestling entertainment medium I’ve known all of my life it seems. So the last few months I’ve spent transfixed and also obsessed again with wrestling, a medium I all but swore off until this recent summer when CM Punk was dropping “pipebombs” all over the wrestling world. Which in and of itself is a key piece to the question at hand. With Ring of Honor finally hitting television, TNA wrestling rebranding and refocusing their product to a more homegrown talent emphasis it seems and WWE simply doing what WWE does best: is professional wrestling closer to a boom period than once thought?

Mid-June saw a near overnight sensationalism of pro wrestling after a now infamous promo done by CM Punk on RAW. I can recall it all too well, I was feeling rather sick after a long and hot day in the factory that I formally worked in. Pet food and heat do not mix and lead to one to go mad and sleep at strange hours of the evening, effectively missing RAW, not even that I would have watched had I been awake though. At that point I had sworn off wrestling and focused on MMA over anything. My mind, when not working or attempting to reconcile a now dead and happily so relationship I was watching the great fights going on in the UFC and otherwise. Nonetheless, I woke up the following morning to a buzz by my wrestling fan friends of old. IMs and messages on various social networks were left with a single link on YouTube. I clicked and became hooked again. There I saw, one of the few men I still respected and admired in wrestling:

CM Punk talking about things that pissed him off about professional wrestling. He talked about Johnny Ace being a piece of shit, how people claim John Cena is the best wrestler in the world and how it disgusts him. He did what everyone wanted wrestling to do for almost a decade: just be realistic. He said all of the wild and crazy things, finishing with the creedo: “I will win the WWE championship and I will leave” siting his very real contract expiry the night after the Pay-Per-View in question Money In The Bank. I was dazzled and impressed. CM Punk in one promo did what no promotion, no worker and no promoter could do in a decade: he made wrestling real again for me. That was it, I haven’t missed a show since and have even trickled my interest into other places: notably ROH and TNA.

Now, if you’re an engaged WWE watcher you’re surely reading this thinking “but they fucked up the angle with Punk down the road” with the whole SummerSlam fiasco involving Kevin Nash and Alberto Del Rio. You’re surely thinking that a month after this, after losing the WWE title abruptly and randomly he was thrown in a horribly planned and executed match with Triple H, just to then be his tag partner in a losing effort to the team of Miz and R-Truth in a very anti-climactic fashion. I’m aware of all of that and definitely don’t site that it was failure on WWE’s fault, but there’s a method to it all. With all of those booking snafus and all of the executing that is questionable,

CM Punk is the big hero of it all. Even losing to Del Rio after his Cena match at SummerSlam, he was the victim and was set to be out for revenge which we are finally seeing come to a head at Survivor Series. To me, WWE is simply booking how WWE does so, quickly and consistently. You can hate or love it but it is what it is and certainly changes are happening. Zack Ryder, a guy just a few months ago that was a relative nobody on tv that was a big internet sensation is given big matches and just had a main event slot on RAW last week.

Others such as Daniel Bryan and Wade Barrett, guys that were all but forgotten this summer are being featured the way many have been saying for a year they should be. WWE is getting better whether you like it or not and perhaps because of strategic booking of names such as CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Alberto Del Rio and other main event guys rising or risen the WWE can find itself in a much more fruitful financial standing next year and beyond.

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The number one rule to learn regarding pro wrestling is that the business is cyclical. There will be boom periods that are followed by a drought if you will, where arenas are a struggle to fill but you always have to book for the big surge. Be methodical and be ready when the boom comes. WCW is a great example of having no idea and consequently, went out of business. Vince McMahon and company have been subject to great boom periods in WWE and believe me, they know how to deal with it. You already see the piece of the booking pie spread much more evenly between big names.

Mark Henry emerged as perhaps the breakout star of 2011 despite many years of being called useless. With that, Big Show returned and is being featured yet again after many years of being squandered. The key to booking is to be prepared and it seems, debatably perhaps that WWE is doing that. After a completely confusing 2010 booking year, 2011 has been much more focused. CM Punk’s quick rise as the top guy in the company has really forced the company to book more carefully and thus, more guys are getting more over because of it.

WWE is not alone. TNA has had perhaps the most tumultuous year in wrestling history. The year started with Jeff Hardy as TNA’s World Champion and top heel running rampant through the company in a very interesting and well done way. However March rolled around and the now infamous Victory Road event saw Jeff Hardy compete horribly impaired on drugs and subsequently exited from the company. A few months later, Jeff’s brother Matt was arrested with drugs and sent to rehab himself effectively being fired from TNA and leading to a bizarre YouTube suicide saga.

Kurt Angle as well found himself in legal trouble and thus, TNA spent most of the year under disaster control. The World title has changed hands more than the stock market has fluctuated and the focus of the company has gone along with it. However, just as WWE in the summer the focus shifted over to the very effective Bound for Glory series that saw Robert Roode, a longtime midcarder and heavily over member of perhaps the most popular tag team in company history Beer Money emerge as a main event player. He was built all the way to Bound for Glory for the title which ended in a controversial screwjob finish by Angle.

The following week, Angle met his tag partner James Storm and shockingly lost the World title to him. This has now led to an angle that begun as a friendly rivalry that has evolved now, after last week’s iMPACT Wrestling into a blood feud when Roode cheated to beat Storm for the World title.

Many hate this recent angle but I love it. It’s a new and fun way to do the tag team break up angle. Both men leave with World title reigns and also, intrigue is at an all time high for their fans. Roode now can become the top heel of TNA while James Storm is the sympathetic, over babyface. I am far from saying TNA is looking to become a huge force in wrestling. A very weak as well as under utilized undercard is a big problem for the company.

Mismanagement of such stars as Samoa Joe and Rob Van Dam doesn’t help either and the over pushing of Crimson is another big yellow flag for the company. It seems that TNA is always narrow minded: when they focus on a couple of important talents everyone else suffers. Recent changes behind the scenes are a big reason to keep an eye out for TNA’s ascension going into 2012.

Ring of Honor however is the maverick of this whole discussion. Before September 24th, I would have said there was no way ROH could be a predominant force in American wrestling’s television presence. Granted, the Sinclair deal is far from earth shattering. Syndicated television is a dinosaur compared to cable and satellite distribution however for a small and grass roots product such as ROH it is a big step. Piggy bagged by very impressive outings on the growing iPPV format, Ring of Honor’s 2011 has been incredible.

The emergence of Davey Richards, their World Champion and obvious face of the company as well as rising stars such as the amazing Tomasso Ciampa and Michael Elgin have led to ROH being in my opinion the best wrestling product on television today. The biggest cause of interest for me with the company was the Best in the World iPPV and most notably the Kevin Steen promo on ROH and subsequent beatdown of Steve Corino: former mentor and his “sponsor” Jimmy Jacobs.

The way in which this angle has been executed this year has been amazing and aside from the recent, comedic melodrama of the court room skit on ROH TV it has been done in a very realistic and calculated way. Kevin Steen is becoming the rogue hero of ROH and someone that is required viewing material for any wrestling fan looking for the total package.

The television shows, albeit short have been chalked full of great wrestling and focused angles. Going forward, ROH will improve and under the guidance of Jim Cornette, one of the greatest wrestling minds of all time Ring of Honor is the little engine that can in pro wrestling going into 2012.

With all three prominent promotions all seeing relative or projected success, a boom period can be coming sooner than expected. Granted, the insane wrestling business is impossible to project at all but as a fan watching the business ebb and flow, I have a funny feeling some special things are on the horizon for myself and my fellow marks worldwide. Keep your eyes glued to the squared circle and your fingers crossed, crazier things have happened. Hell, George Bush Jr. was re-elected for god’s sake!

Follow George at – http://wrestletribune.blogspot.com & on Twitter @WrestleConsent.

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The Voice of Hardcore Pro Wrestling Fans Isn’t Too Loud These Days

October 27, 2011 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Triple H & CM Punk RAWI don’t know what percentage of pro wrestling fans make up the Internet wrestling community. Five percent? Maybe less?

Internet wrestling fans – you know, those of us who go onto websites to read spoilers, argue about booking directions, and debate about why so-and-so is getting a push – know what they enjoy and are vocal about it. They like good matches. They want to see talented wrestlers rewarded. They plead for veterans to pass the torch in meaningful ways to up-and-coming stars.

So it was no surprise that the WWE’s hardcore fans rallied around C.M. Punk over the summer after he gave “the worked shoot promo,” during which he used wrestlers’ real names, made references to the McMahon family’s business practices, and said hello to friend Colt Cabana on live TV.

Hardcore fans have been behind Punk for years, since he plied his trade in ROH. I saw Punk wrestle live years and years ago at an ROH card in some dingy rec center in Revere, MA, and I was impressed. We Internet fans like to see a guy who doesn’t fit the WWE cookie-cutter mold scratch and claw his way to the top. His WWE and World Title wins were real victories for those of us who long for great pro wrestling matches and angles, and his worked shoot interview represented what we hoped was a turning point in the WWE’s bland creative direction.

But now, almost four months later, the engine has sputtered. Two things happened:
– Somehow in the midst of all of this, C.M. Punk – who seemed in complete control of his angle in the summer – lost the steering wheel, and in the process Triple H has again pushed himself to the top at Punk’s expense
– Punk’s great interviews and attitude didn’t really make money or increase TV ratings (and demonstrated why worked shoots don’t always pan out)

Those are bitter pills to swallow for the Internet wrestling community because they expose a truth few of us want to admit: Our opinions don’t matter to the overall health of the WWE.

Instead, it’s what the general audience – the 95% of fans who can’t fathom going online to read wrestling news – likes that counts. And the ratings have proved it: The HHH saga of getting a no-confidence vote has resonated with many, many fans.

Don’t get me wrong. I realize Vince McMahon et al. have manipulated the system and altered plot lines to benefit Triple H, but that’s what family-owned wrestling promotions do. Just ask Verne Gagne or the late Fritz Von Erich.

What hurts the most is it seemed that Punk had gotten hold of the golden key that could open the doors to an edgier, more mature product. Too bad for us hardcores that the rest of the fans didn’t agree with us.

I’ve got no problem with Triple H. He’s a super-talented worker who is going to inherit the biggest wrestling company in the world. Why wouldn’t you make yourself the top star? He’s played the wrestling game very well over the years, and sure, he stepped on many people to do it. I remember when Ultimate Warrior stepped on Triple H, too, during that squash match they had at WrestleMania XII.

The change in the C.M. Punk angle, the constant mocking of Jim Ross, the shoving of Kelly Kelly down our throats – all of them in some way are designed to keep the Internet wrestling fans in check. We can bitch, we can moan, but when you watch Raw each week, you have to conclude that our voice is soft indeed in 2011.

Scott Wallask has followed wrestling for 30 years and writes about growing up watching the WWF in the 1980s on his blog the Boston Garden Balcony.

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Maybe CM Punk just isn’t “the guy” – Inside the Wheelhouse

September 28, 2011 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Triple H & CM Punk RAWIt truly pains me to write a blog about this very subject because I have been one of the biggest fans and supporters of CM Punk for quite sometime in the world of wrestling. He is one of the best wrestlers in the world right now because he is the complete package of both in-ring skills and great mic work. He is everything that a “wrestling” fan wants in a “wrestler.” He is not your modern day “sports entertainment” worker and is more of a throwback to the days of wrestling that many of us enjoyed years ago.

He’s got the attitude and the swagger to put the WWE on his very back & run with whatever ball the company will give to him. The WWE gave him his chance during the summer of 2011 or what fans are calling on the internet, “The Summer of Punk II.” He has made wrestling relevant again or at least did in the eyes of those who tuned in & might have tuned out.

But we as wrestling fans need to look at ourselves in the mirror and realize something from the “CM Punk experience” that has lasted us from his infamous promo on June 27, 2011 to right now; the “change” that we wanted CM Punk to make hasn’t happened the way we exactly thought it would when he was first handed the ball this summer.

Let’s face facts. Ratings are dropping on Monday Nights, buy rates are good but they didn’t get any major “CM Punk” spike to them and he is currently in a creative position where he appears lost at the present moment. He has been shuffled around from Kevin Nash to be shotgunned to Triple H, which isn’t his fault at all but he holds the ability to take himself out of this creative hole.

For those who compare him to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin I think you are out of your mind.

Austin is a one of a kind talent who carried the business on his back and picked the WWE out of a major hole they were in & brought them to an era of wrestling that may be its most memorable. Austin was the sole reason why ratings were so high in the late-90s and why buy rates were so good. Sure you had The Rock and Triple H but they didn’t get bigger until he went out with his injury. You had The Undertaker & Mankind but they weren’t doing what Austin was doing for the business. He sits atop the wrestling world as a game & history changer for what was to become of wrestling.

CM Punk, at least for now, has not done such.

It appears that maybe we as CM Punk supporters need to take this sad truth and realize that maybe the WWE just has lost faith in the self proclaimed “best in the world.” Maybe they don’t believe CM Punk will ever be as big as Steve Austin or as big as John Cena & Randy Orton are in the current WWE climate. Maybe this dream we all lived this past summer was exactly that, a dream.

It’s still too soon to tell whether or not CM Punk will ever be “the man” in the WWE. It certainly doesn’t appear that way with a roster headlined by John Cena or Randy Orton anytime soon. The best thing for CM Punk and possibly this business as well, was for John Cena or Randy Orton to have some sort of time off which obviously won’t happen barring any injury.

We can point fingers at the creative team or Vince McMahon himself but it wasn’t like Steve Austin had the best storylines in the WWE. At one time he was called “The Ringmaster” and had “Caribbean strap matches” with Savio Vega. When the “Texas Rattlesnake” was born he was over because the crowd enjoyed his in-ring work & his promos, despite the entire internet love, it never feels like Punk gets those “attitude era pops” on a Monday night. Most of the time you hear some boo’s and as a wrestling fan you wonder if this love for CM Punk may just be based in cyberspace.

I still believe that CM Punk can be “the man” in the WWE but I’m certainly having my doubts by what I have seen in recent months on WWE television. Hopefully the WWE doesn’t give up completely on the “CM Punk experience” as if given the correct build over a good amount of time; he can definitely begin to fill the boots of guys like Steve Austin. One thing we definitely learned from Punk’s rise is that the fans are desperate for something new & original and obviously CM Punk offers that taste for those fans out there.

Is it too soon to tell? Quite possibly. But for right now, it’s not looking to good for CM Punk.

For more on this topic join Eric Gargiulo & myself for the Thursday September 29th edition of “The Still Real to Us Show” and download the show at www.wheelhouseradio.com and can be downloaded in the “Real Guy Radio” section of the site..”

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Is A WWE Heel Turn Coming For Daniel Bryan?

September 26, 2011 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Daniel BryanBloggers all over the Internet including yours truly here have questioned about the strange booking of Daniel Bryan. Why is the WWE beating him after winning Money in the Bank? A new story on the WWE website  suggests that it may be part of a bigger angle.

WWE.com has an exclusive video interview with Daniel Bryan. Bryan is interviewed immediately after his match with Sin Cara from Friday Night SmackDown. Bryan goes off on Sin Cara in the video and questions whether they were both in on his controversial loss. The interviewer than asks Bryan if he is cursed since winning Money in the Bank where a frustrated Bryan goes off and says that the WWE hasn’t lived up to their word. He also says that he will live up to his and not cash in before WrestleMania 28.

There are a couple of things at play here. First off, I think this whole post-match interview is an idea they should bring to television. I love it. Second, while there wasn’t an outright suggestion at a heel turn this could surely be the start of one. If Bryan would cash in before WrestleMania and win, it would likely send the heel turn into full gear. However, as long as SmackDown has a heel champion I don’t see it coming unless the idea would be a double turn with Mark Henry.

One thing I like about this is the fact that the WWE is acknowledging Bryan’s streak. Maybe there really is something more at play here than just inept booking? Well, you’d like to think so but unless he turns heel and goes on a winning streak which includes the title, it is still inept booking in my opinion. I have no problem with beating someone as long as it is part of an angle. It gives them a character and if it results in “No more Mr. Nice Guy” for the American Dragon than I am all in.

The only problem I have with this is that it is angle being booked strictly on WWE.com. The interview wasn’t on television nor was it even posted to You Tube at the time of this writing. While the WWE gets sizable traffic to WWE.com, it is probably the least visible medium they have. Only a small percentage of fans will see this while the others will just continue to see Bryan as an overrated loser.

I can’t remember anyone ever winning Money in the Bank and being booked this badly going into their championship matches. As I have stated before, I almost have the feeling that this is some kind of wacky self-fulfilling prophecy from the WWE creative team. Let’s face it. There is certainly a bias when it comes to guys like Bryan, the Hardys, Zack Ryder, and CM Punk who have big followings on the Internet outside of the WWE. I certainly wouldn’t past them to beat Bryan, send him into WrestleMania, see him flop, and then come back and give us the “I told you so.”

I do think that Bryan would make an awesome heel. I think he could turn into one of those kinds of heels that just tortures or stretches babyfaces with his unique submissions, refusing to break holds, etc. I think he needs to work on the aggressive heel interview a bit, but otherwise there is some nice potential there from the former ROH champion.

I am still hoping that Bryan is wrestling in one of the main-events at WrestleMania 28. He is one of the few guys in the WWE that is guaranteed to deliver as advertised in the big spot. Unfortunately you’d never know it with the way he has been booked since July.

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Disappointing WWE SummerSlam 2011 Buyrate

September 26, 2011 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

SummerSlam 2011While the summer of Punk may have been sunny for CM Punk fans and Internet message boards, it was more of a disappointing season at the box office. The WWE SummerSlam 2011 buyrate is in and let’s just say that the numbers aren’t too kind to CM Punk as a top guy.

Perception isn’t always reality in professional wrestling and it has never been more evident than this past summer. There was more buzz following CM Punk’s RAW Roulette promo than just about anything sans The Rock returning this year. Yet those seven days of buzz was not significant of overall WWE fan interest. Now that the dust has settled, it is fairly apparent that you need a lot more than one week of shock value to sell an angle to the mass WWE audience.

Mike Johnson has the numbers over at PWInsider.com and they aren’t pretty. According to Mike, SummerSlam saw a 14% decrease in buys as compared to last year’s show. The show did 301,000 buys, 127,000 domestic, and 174,000 international. 300,000 buys wouldn’t have been bad for Money in the Bank but not for one of the big four pay per views.

Last year’s SummerSlam headlined by the great Nexus vs. WWE angle did 350,000 buys. The year before, SummerSlam 2009 headlined John Cena vs. Randy Orton, the return of Degeneration X, and Punk vs. Jeff Hardy did 369,000 buys.

To look at the angle as a whole, you have to include the Money in the Bank 2011 buyrate which was 185,000 buys, 132,000 domestic as well as declining ratings over the course of the CM Punk angle. If you combine everything and look at the big picture, you would have to conclude that as much as you may have liked the angle, it was a failure in terms of business.

Here are just five takeaways right off the top that come to mind after looking at all of the numbers from the Summer of Punk.

Inside references don’t work with the mass WWE audience. Hey, while it may have been nice to pop for Colt Cabana and Ring of Honor mentioned on RAW, the kids in the audience had no clue on what was being discussed. Even as the angle progressed, there was no real explanation by the announcers of even the WWE website as to exactly what CM Punk was talking about or who was being name dropped. To the fans, it was just Punk ranting and raving like…well a punk. I think that there will be a very short life to CM Punk’s pipe bomb.

The WWE booking is at an all time low. The booking of this angle was so easy yet the WWE blew it right at its peak. Punk returned after less than two weeks with a bogus excuse that took all of the steam out of the angle. On top of that, you book a WWE title tournament, give John Cena the belt back without even including him in the tournament, and try and pass the SummerSlam match as champion vs. champion? It was downright ridiculous.

I thought it was stupid and obviously the fans thought it was stupid. On top of that, the WWE really dropped the ball on the booking of CM Punk and his return. Was CM Punk a heel or a babyface? He was a babyface to his niche public, but to the mass audience he is just an obnoxious jerk. He insulted a man’s family, insulted their hero, and stole the title from the WWE yet he is supposed to be a babyface here? The writing here was just so all over the place that I think for the casual WWE audience watching at home, they had a hard time sinking their teeth into it.

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Take a look at last year’s Nexus vs. WWE angle. The story was clear, the heels were clearly defined, and the objective on both sides was something that both hardcore and casual fans could understand. It worked and it would work again with the right talent. Compare that booking to this mess and you would think we were talking about two different companies.

Parody is killing elevation – The parody of the WWE undercard or anyone but John Cena, Randy Orton, and Triple H is killing guys before they even get their push. There is no long term grooming of talent like the WWE used to do to get guys over. This was a problem with Jack Swagger, The Miz, Christian, Alberto Del Rio, and CM Punk.

You can’t just take a guy that you have beaten down for three years off and on and all of the sudden expect people to buy into him as a threat or even a top star. To the casual WWE audience they see Punk vs. Cena as a glorified RAW main-event. This is not the match that fans have been dying to see. That is why Nexus worked so well! They were new and didn’t have the tarnish of bad booking over the course of a year or more before they hit the main-event. The WWE needs to start identifying guys a year or even two ahead of time and protect them before they get the big push. Nobody can succeed with this kind of support.

Stipulations don’t mean a thing anymore - Congratulations WWE, you have done a great job of killing off any value that stipulations used to have in pro wrestling. Remember when you would get excited about a Hair vs. Hair match or a Loser Leaves Town Match? Why? Well because people used to actually leave town. Here you had a situation where not only one, but two stipulations weren’t lived up to before SummerSlam at Money in the Bank and I think it killed a lot of goodwill among the fans. It also doesn’t hurt that you had Punk mock that very point only to have it validated a few weeks later.

Short term planning doesn’t fly anymore - There was once a time where you could say that SummerSlam was on and people would order without even knowing who was wrestling. Those days are also over. The WWE didn’t even have half the card announced before the day of the show. People not only need to know who is wrestling, they need to have an investment in the show.

They can turn on SmackDown to watch Wade Barrett vs. Daniel Bryan but give it a few weeks build and a big match at SummerSlam and that could change. Not having Punk around for the full duration of the SummerSlam promotion hurt the show in a big way. The WWE would have been better off building the original Alberto Del Rio vs. John Cena main event for a month and then going to Cena vs. Punk with Night of Champions. Instead, they just assumed that their robot fans would buy anything and guess what, they won’t.

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Now, More Than Ever, WWE Needs to Cut Down on PPVs

September 13, 2011 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

CM Punk vs. John CenaBack when the shine was still on the CM Punk ascension, right after Money in the Bank, actually, WWE had a choice to make. They could let Punk sit out for a prolonged period of time, build him up virally and have him come back when the theoretical fan demand for him had reached a fever pitch, or they could bring him back sooner, strike while the proverbial iron was hot and have him at the top of the card for their second biggest pay-per-view of the year.

Then, they set up a match between Punk and Kevin Nash at the end of said PPV, only for that match to “fall through” for whatever reason, be it storyline or for real. This caused them reportedly to move up the Punk/Triple H match they had planned for Survivor Series to Night of Champions.

However, there was a way for the former situation to be rectified while being able to have it both ways so to speak. They could have also had more time to react to a bad situation or tell a better story in the latter situation. All they’d have to do would be cut down on the number of PPVs they were running.

The problem isn’t a new one. People have been complaining about oversaturation of pay-per-view events for years now, how they don’t have the money to shell out for 13 events a year (13!) or that the number of PPVs has really done a number on the care WWE has taken to build each individual feud on the weekly television. Rehashing that territory would be doing just that – rehashing. Still, that reasoning as to why WWE needs to cut back is reaching critical mass. Why so? It’s because a decrease is sorely needed so that new stars can have time to have their own memorable moments, and so that every one of these events is must see, especially if WWE is adamant on remaining at the current price point for each individual event.

Think about how much better of Punk would be right now if there wasn’t such a high count of PPV events. If SummerSlam was on August 28th instead of August 14th, they could have sat him out for two more weeks to do viral stuff and really whip fans of all denominations into more of a frenzy as to whether he’d come back or not.

Sure, three weeks doesn’t sound as tantalizing to some fans as three months, but it’s better than eight days, for one, and two, the reaction at Money in the Bank warranted more than a delayed return. I feel like three weeks would have been a perfect medium between “striking while the iron was hot” and “selling the angle that Punk might not come back”.

Then, what if there was only one pay-per-view event between SummerSlam and Survivor Series instead of the scheduled three? There would be a lot more time either to get Kevin Nash’s physical clearance in order or to build a better story than what’s going on now if the whole Nash-is-fired stuff is part of the angle. That way, you wouldn’t need to bump Triple H/Punk from Survivor Series all the way up to now, and you certainly wouldn’t need to hastily put in a “win or you’re fired” stipulation to try and build more suspense for the outcome.

Granted, the idea to take any PPV off the schedule, whether it’s just one event or whether it’s anywhere in upwards of five (which would give you an ideal 8 in my opinion) may not be appetizing to WWE at this point. Pay-per-view doesn’t really have a lot of overhead, and they make back a lot of money on even the low drawing installments. That being said, I have to wonder what the business logistics would be of having 13 so-so-to-good drawing events against having eight really well-built events that all do at the very least 200K buys would be.

Even if it’s a wash for them in the short term, wouldn’t attempting to build a stronger audience with the prospect of word of mouth, positive reviews and better coverage from fans in the media, from peons like myself all the way up to folks who have more of a boomstick like Bill Simmons and Michelle Beadle, be worth it in the long run? Wouldn’t it be better to have a stronger build to fewer PPVs while guys like Punk, Alberto del Rio, The Miz, R-Truth, Sheamus, Christian, Wade Barrett, Daniel Bryan, Evan Bourne, Kofi Kingston and Cody Rhodes all develop stronger personalities and gain more of a folklore and emotional equity that would not only make crowds react to them more strongly, but want to pay money to see them as much as possible?

Furthermore, wouldn’t you want to rehabilitate or enhance the images and the emotional equity of guys who are already over? No matter what anyone says, no one can’t improve as a character. John Cena brings in fans now, but what if he was part of a really memorable story that ended up becoming embedded in the WWE’s mythos? You don’t think that wouldn’t enhance business and maybe make fans who weren’t initially Cena fans reconsider and buy something with his likeness on it?

There’s no reason why every WWE PPV can’t seem like a must-see event. With thirteen PPVs on the calendar at $45-55 a pop and sometimes as little as two weeks build, that is almost impossible to do. However, even without lowering the price point, taking five events off the calendar would give more time to tell a story that’s worth shelling out that kind of scratch for and might attract larger audiences to PPV overall over time. Plus, it would enhance everyone in the company.

Staying the course would be a recipe for failure, and it would damn CM Punk and others of his ilk to a career of irrelevance. Why not do everyone a favor and slim down?

Tom Holzerman is a lifelong wrestling fan and connoisseur of all things Chikara Pro, among other feds. When he’s not writing for the Camel Clutch Blog, you can find him on his own blog, The Wrestling Blog.

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Updated – Actual WWE Money In The Bank 2011 Buyrate Is In…And The Verdict Is

August 27, 2011 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

C M Punk wins the WWE title at Money in the BankMany in the pro wrestling community have been waiting anxiously for WWE Money in the Bank 2011 buyrate numbers. WWE CEO Vince McMahon revealed the numbers today on a conference call, which while still up may not the home run CM Punk fans hoped for.

Vince McMahon participated in a conference call today discussing WWE financials with shareholders. The final Money in the Bank 2011 numbers won’t be revealed until the next report, however Vince said that Money in the Bank is up 20% from last year which is nice, but not much more than Extreme Rules.

The CM Punk angle grabbed the attention of many pro wrestling fans and stirred a lot of interest and buzz on the Internet. However, Punk critics point to the RAW ratings and argue that his appeal is dare I say, “overrated.” I could make arguments for both sides but the bottom line here is that it is really impossible to gage one way or the other whether Punk’s angle has moved the needle or sustained it in terms of RAW numbers.

Yet at the end of the day Punk’s success comes down to drawing money. Drawing a bigger rating for a week or two is nice, but pay per view is really where you make your bread and butter as a WWE superstar. There was a lot of pressure on Punk to deliver the goods here. A big number could influence a change in WWE presentation and carve out a new, edgy path for a future WWE. On the flip side, a bad number would justify the status quo and back up Punk’s critics who say that he can’t draw on top in the WWE. So what is the verdict?

I’d say a 20% increase on a SummerSlam or Royal Rumble would be a winner. A 20% increase on WrestleMania would be historic. A 20% increase off a July “B” show is good, but not the blockbuster numbers predicted by CM Punk’s fans going into Money in the Bank. I’d say he passed his first test with a B, but the final exam is yet to be determined.

Last year’s WWE Money in the Bank pay per view headlined by Sheamus vs. John Cena did 189,000 buys. Domestically the show reportedly did about 99,000 buys. That would obviously put this year’s number at around 227,000, and say about 120,000 domestic. That looks great initially but according to CM Punk fans before Money in the Bank, this buyrate was supposed to be gigantic. Sorry Punk fans but 20% is not a gigantic increase.

Editor’s Note: See the update below. After publishing this blog the actual number came out which was much different than what Vince McMahon had projected.

Let’s put this into some more perspective. The buyrate would still be down from Night of Champions 2009 headlined by Triple H vs. John Cena vs. Randy Orton in the same spot, which did 267,000 buys. Money in the Bank 2011 would still ne about 10% above than Extreme Rules 2011 a couple of months earlier. Extreme Rules did around 209,000 buys overall. MITB did do much better than Over the Limit and Capitol Punishment, so that is certainly a positive.

The Extreme Rules number 2011 really dampens Punk’s impact here in my opinion. I loved the angle as did most that read the blog, yet at the end of the day you would have expected CM Punk vs. John Cena with that storyline to do more than 11,000 or so more buys than The Miz vs. John Cena in an I Quit Match. Yet again the positive and this is huge, is that Money in the Bank did increase interest and buys from 170,000 for WWE Capitol Punishment a month earlier to 226,000, and that is with a RAW falling on July 4.

I think at the end of the day this is a great start for Punk, but it all depends upon what your expectations were for him and the Money in the Bank pay per view numbers. I think it is a huge positive to grab 56,000 fans in a month, while at the same time you would have expected MITB to crush everything including Extreme Rules which it didn’t.

So what is the verdict on CM Punk as a top draw? To be determined if you ask me, but a great start nonetheless.

Update: Apparently Vince McMahon’s numbers were a little off, well a lot off.  The official Money in the Bank 2011 buyrate was 185,000 buys, 132,000 domestic. The number is only up 13% from last year. Was Punk a flop or would the number have been even lower without the Punk angle? I guess we’ll find out when the SummerSlam 2011 buyrate comes in.

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WWE Money In The Bank 2011 DVD Review

August 24, 2011 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WWE Money in the Bank DVDFor this recap, I will be taking a look at the recent WWE DVD release for this year’s WWE Money In The Bank 2011 PPV. Now, don’t expect a whole lot here, for the simple reason that this event has been covered to death (that, and I already watched it the day it aired), both here on Camel Clutch Blog and elsewhere. This year’s event saw what we thought was the culmination of the hottest feud of the year between CM Punk and John Cena with the WWE Championship at stake. For those of you that didn’t see it, you missed what many consider (including myself) to be the best PPV that the WWE has put on in years. And for those of you that did see it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Honestly, this was probably the best PPV since One Night Stand 2006, and that’s saying something.

From top to bottom, the card was exceptional. While there were two definite “miss break” matches-that being Kelly Kelly/Brie Bella and Big Show/Mark Henry, the rest of the card was top notch, filled with plenty of suspense and drama, as well as at least 2 endings that surprised most fans.

MATCH 1-Money in the Bank ladder match for a shot at the World Championship: Daniel Bryan vs. Sin Cara vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Wade Barrett vs. Heath Slater vs. Justin Gabriel vs. Kane vs. Sheamus
This was definitely the superior of the two MITB matches on the card. Sheamus and Wade Barrett looked especially dominant during the match, including Sheamus powerbombing Sin Cara through a ladder, completely removing him from the match. Sheamus also proceeded to Brogue Kick the hell out of everyone during the match, which actually got a lot of cheers from the Chicago crowd. Honestly, I think this is the match that began planting the seeds for Sheamus’ face turn, as he was definitely over with the crowd here. Anyway, it looked like Wade Barrett was about to win the match with a Wasteland through a propped up ladder, but Daniel Bryan shocked the world when he not only fought out of the move, but managed to snag the briefcase and practically guarantee himself a World Championship.

WINNER: Daniel Bryan. Seeing Bryan win was most definitely a shocker, but a welcome one at that. No one deserved to win this match more than Bryan, and you could see genuine emotion on his face as he held onto the briefcase. That’s something that is such a rarity in wrestling today, and I for one always welcome it. Bryan busted his ass in the match, making everyone look good including himself. Vince McMahon happens to be a big fan of Daniel Bryan’s, so don’t expect him to be the first person to cash in and fail.

MATCH 2-WWE Divas Championship: WWE Divas Champion Kelly Kelly (w/Eve Torres) vs. Brie Bella (w/Nikki Bella)
Total waste of card space. We get a few minutes of a match, and Kelly expectantly wins the match with the K2.

WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: Kelly Kelly. Waste of time and energy. Kelly Kelly is only slightly less worthless than Brie Bella, but only very slightly. Eve and Nikki added absolutely nothing to the match, either.

MATCH 3: The Big Show vs. Mark Henry
The other piss break match of the show. Basic big man stuff throughout. The only good thing about this match is the fact that Henry actually completely dominated Show throughout the match and got a clean pin after after 2 World’s Strongest Slams and 2 running splashes.

WINNER: Mark Henry. After the match, Henry Pillmanized Big Show’s leg, putting him on the shelf. This would be the true beginning of Henry as a monster, as he would do the same thing to numerous opponents after this PPV and continue his annual pseudo-push. While I have no hopes for him winning the World title from Randy Orton, this is actually probably the best he’s ever been pushed in his entire 15-year career.

MATCH 4-Money in the Bank ladder match for a shot at the WWE Championship: Alberto Del Rio vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Alex Riley vs. Evan Bourne vs. The Miz vs. Jack Swagger vs. R-Truth
While this one was not as good as its RAW brethren, it was still a pretty damn good match. Miz was taken out early after a fall to the floor that led to him selling to a knee injury. In all honesty, I’m surprised he wasn’t actually hurt off the fall, as his knee looked really bad. It could have just been due to some great camera work, though. He eventually returned to the match (albeit limping) and it looked as though he was going to win MITB for the second year in a row. However, this was Del Rio’s night. After pulling off Mysterio’s mask while they fought atop a ladder, causing him to focus on hiding his face, ADR knocked Mysterio to the mat, climbed back up the ladder and grabbed the case.

WINNER: Alberto Del Rio. This match was a little predictable, as I didn’t see anyone else winning this except ADR, compared to the Smackdown match which was a total surprise. This match could have been better had it not been for the botched spots at the end with Mysterio seemingly falling to the mat from the ladder accidentally, as well as ADR falling from his ladder to do it collapsing as a result of getting beaten up. Aside from that, though, the match was great and truly began ADR’s ascent into being a full-fledged main eventer.

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MATCH 5-World Championship: World Champion Randy Orton vs. Christian
Honestly, Orton needs Christian. As it stands right now, Christian is seemingly the only guy who can continuously make Randy Orton look good. This match had a stipulation that, if Orton got himself DQ’ed, he would lose the title. Christian had this in mind and repeatedly tried to get Orton riled up and get himself in trouble. Eventually, it did work. Christian spat in Orton’s face, which got Orton pissed to the point that he blatantly low-blowed Christian right in front of the referee, leading to the disqualification win.

WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: Christian. Honestly, I was a little surprised by the end result of this match. I expected Christian to win due to them harping on the DQ rule prior to the match, but considering it was only DQ that was mentioned, I fully expected Christian to get a BS win via count-out. However, Christian did pick up the DQ win and became a 2-time champion. Unfortunately, this also led to him dropping the title right back to Orton the very next month. One funny thing of note: after the match, Orton tried to RKO Christian through the announce table, but the table refused to break after 2 tries. For the next two weeks, Orton proceeded to be defeated by the same table on episodes of Smackdown.

MATCH 6-WWE Championship: WWE Champion John Cena vs. CM Punk
This was THE match of the card, and basically the entire selling point for the PPV. While it’s no secrete (at least, to those who know me), I am no fan of John Cena whatsoever. However, I have to give the devil his due. Every time he and Punk square off, he delivers. Granted, a lot of the credit has to go to Punk who can make damn near anyone look good, but Cena most definitely carried his weight in the match. He and Punk went move for move for nearly an hour, trading counter after counter and reversing each other’s finishers regularly. The fact that this was in Punk’s hometown and the crowd was roughly 98 percent behind him just added to the overall feel and emotion of the match. When you also add in that Punk was expected to leave the WWE immediately after and the drama was amped up to its maximum. For promoters wondering, THIS is an example of perfect main event booking. Anyway, after a very long, well-fought match, it appeared Cena was going to take it as he locked in the STF. John Laurinaitis ran down to the ring in an attempt to recreate Montreal ’97, but was intercepted by Cena. This distraction led to Punk immediately scooping Cena up in the GTS as soon as he got back in the ring and the 3-count.

WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: CM Punk. Although we didn’t realize it would continue at the time, this match was the culmination of one of the hottest angles done in years, and it ended exactly the way it should have. Although Alberto Del Rio did attempt to cash in his briefcase on orders from Vince McMahon, Punk intercepted ADR with a roundhouse to the head before leaving the arena through the crowd, although not before blowing a kiss at McMahon as he held the belt up triumphantly. There are not enough good things that can be said about this match and how it was done. On top of that, I found it to be a legitimate shocker. Everyone believed that Punk was really leaving WWE, and I don’t know of too many people who would have guessed he’d walk out as champion anyway. This is one of two moments (the other being Bryan winning MITB) during this PPV where I completely marked out and yelled as I jumped off my couch. Moments like that don’t happen very often for me anymore, so when they do, you know they are truly special.

SPECIAL FEATURES
Honestly, there is barely anything here to cover. All that there is is an interview by Matt Striker with Daniel Bryan after winning the MITB match. Bryan talks about how unbelievable winning the case was and how hard he worked to get it.

While this is a pretty bare bones DVD, I can’t recommend it enough. It was just such an overall good show that it’s well worth the money to add it to your collection. Even if you’ve already seen it or read the results the day of the show, I still recommend picking it up. I still got excited reliving parts of this show as I re-watched it for this review. You probably won’t see another wrestling PPV like this for a long time (although I hope I am wrong about that), so do yourself a favor and add it to your collection, or the very least, your wish list.

As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/XDustinEFLX, and follow my personal blog at http://nerdslikeme.blogspot.com, where I have plenty of new stuff up. Oh, and if you like bodybuilding, check out my mom’s official site by clicking the banner below:

Gerri Davis Banner, NPC National Level Heavyweight and Masters Female Bodybuilder

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next week.

-Dustin

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Five Takeaways From The CM Punk Vs. John Cena Angle

August 18, 2011 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

C M Punk wins the WWE title at Money in the BankThe pro wrestling summer of 2011 will be remembered for CM Punk. Punks’ fans and supporters got excited, proclaiming Punk as the newest WWE elite superstar. Yet I don’t think any of us expected to be watching a CM Punk vs. Kevin Nash feud eight weeks later.

Eight weeks ago when Punk sat down on the RAW ramp cutting arguably the most memorable wrestling promo of the decade, he became the talk of the pro wrestling world. Fans that had not watched wrestling in years were all talking about CM Punk and his threats of taking the WWE title to Ring of Honor and beyond. While nobody knew exactly where this thing was going to go, most agreed that it would end with Punk as a WWE superstar on the level of John Cena and Randy Orton.

It only got better. The storyline was fresh, the ideas were new, and fans spent hours on blogs, podcasts, and in conversations predicting what would happen at Money in the Bank 2011. Never has a WWE “B” show in the middle of the summer had as much buzz as MITB. Surely it would turn out to be a blockbuster event solidifying Punk’s position as a top draw in the WWE right?

Well things didn’t necessarily go as planned and I think a lot of lessons can be learned here. This isn’t a blog as much about CM Punk not living up to expectations, as it is a reminder of how we got to that legendary promo to a battle of wits with Kevin Nash on Monday Night RAW.

Fans were skeptical midway through the Punk vs. Cena angle but Punk told his fans to wait until the angle played out. Well, the angle has played out so the time is now to reflect back on the highs and lows of the Summer of Punk 2.

Get your backpack ready, sharpen your pencils, and sit up straight because it is time to reflect back on the lessons learned from the CM Punk vs. John Cena angle.

1 – There was no shoot. I hate to be the one that rains on your parade but I am sorry, there was no shoot interview. Was CM Punk going off of a script when he grabbed the microphone and took a seat on the RAW Roulette stage? No, but were things planned and did the WWE know exactly what was going down? They absolutely did.

Punk’s fans all gave each other high-fives when he let loose on Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, and Triple H. The McMahons and Triple H were all off television then so of course it seemed like a shoot. Then guess what happened? Slowly some of the things Punk spoke of in his promo started developing into storylines. Was that coincidence or was this all planned out ahead of time? The same people tht told the director that was told to pan to the right shot when Punk waived at Colt Cabana knew exactly what was going down. This was no shoot and you are fooling yourself if you think differently.

2 – The WWE booking has made it impossible for guys to be elevated. It is easy for Punk’s critics to sit back and point to Punk as a failure. The RAW ratings didn’t move and his Money in the Bank buyrate wasn’t nearly what was expected. But is it really his fault or did the company set him up to fail?

The lack of long term booking is killing the WWE. To the casual WWE audience that doesn’t watch Ring of Honor or spend hours online, they saw a guy who hasn’t done anything significant in a year challenging John Cena. Why should the fans get excited about seeing the guy that just put Randy Orton over multiple times challenging for the title? Why should the fans get excited about seeing the guy who led a group of guys who turned out to be low-mid level Nexus wrestlers challenge for the title?

To you and me, it was CM Punk the guy we all knew from the independents getting his opportunity at greatness. To the fans, Punk was just another guy like R-Truth being fed to John Cena. It didn’t work with him and it won’t work with anyone else. When I was a kid I watched guys like Ken Patera and Sgt. Slaughter run through numerous opponents without losing before they challenged for the title and it worked. Now, you see guys jobbed in and out for months before they get a crack at the WWE title and what happens? Nobody takes them seriously and this is what happened to Punk.

Hey, Punk comes in with this kind of angle after a year in the WWE and I think we would have seen different results. Unfortunately, until the WWE can plan ahead a year or two in advance, nobody will be able to deliver in their new roles as top guys. Not Punk, not Christian, not Jack Swagger, and not The Miz.

3 – Don’t forget which company you are watching. It is funny because when this angle started everyone had all of these great ideas about where it would go. Heck I even wrote an entire blog on scenarios for the Money in the Bank match. Point being, you had a storyline here with a lot of great possibilities yet unfortunately, this wasn’t a storyline being booked by Paul Heyman or anyone with a real clue.

Listen, I am guilty of it too. I wrote about all of my scenarios thinking that the WWE would maybe do something different and break away from their security blanket of predictable and lazy booking. I was fooled and so were you if you thought differently. Just the idea that we are subjected to watching a Punk vs. Kevin Nash feud tells you everything you need to know about what to expect from the company in future storylines. The lesson here is to keep your hopes low and blinders on.

4 – The Internet Wrestling Community isn’t as big a factor in pro wrestling as you think. As the owner of a pro wrestling and MMA blog, this pains me to write but it is true. In the grand scheme of things, millions of people watch the WWE every week. Unfortunately for us, most of those fans are children or fans not concerned about going on the Internet and joining forums or reading blogs.

Once again, anyone who jumped on the Internet the day after RAW Roulette would tell you that there was more buzz about the Punk angle than anything in years sans The Rock’s return. Media outside of pro wrestling like sports talk shows and pop culture writers jumped into the conversation. Yet at the end of the day, those people didn’t make a darn difference in the ratings or the buyrates. I hate to say it, but the influence of the Internet in the WWE is a lot less than most of us probably would have hoped for.

5 – In the end, nobody will ever beat John Cena. Yeah it happens from time to time and in this case, Punk probably got more wins on Cena than anyone throughout this feud. But when it is all said and done, John Cena isn’t putting over anyone whether they are CM Punk, The Miz, or even The Rock. It just isn’t going to happen.

My broadcast partner Jeff Peck and I got into a big discussion about this on the new Still Real to Us podcast. Jeff asked me if this was more Cena not wanting to put guys over or a booking decision. I gave Cena the benefit of the doubt. I haven’t heard many guys who worked with Cena complain about him not wanting to put them over. I just think the WWE thinks they have Cena, Orton, and nobody else and will protect their biggest asset at all costs.

That is all well and good but something has to give at some point. No, Punk didn’t put Cena over, but the whole thing was a joke. Giving Cena a belt and booking him as a WWE champion made Punk’s win seem meaningless. No, Cena didn’t pin Punk at SummerSlam 2011 but he was pinned with his foot on the ropes. Even the original win that started the feud was due to R-Truth distracting Cena. If you expected Punk to go over Cena clean and be properly promoted to the top of the cards with Cena, you were mistaken.

So there you have it. The Summer of Punk 2 is over and if anyone believes that a feud with Kevin Nash is a sign of Punk being elevated, you are just fooling yourself once again. Unfortunately most of us did that for the past eight weeks and while fun, the reality of the situation should have foreshadowed the conclusion of this angle many weeks ago.

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The more WWE things change, the more WWE stays the same – Inside The Wheelhouse

August 09, 2011 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Triple H CM PunkWe all very well could be looking like fools yet again in the eyes of the WWE Creative Team. Vince McMahon, Triple H, Kevin Dunn and the cast of characters in the backstage area of WWE shows may all be having a good laugh at all of our expenses yet again. Were we really supposed to think that Wrestling, specifically the wrestling in the WWE, was yet again changing right before our very own eyes?

We all became believers that we were watching another edition of a Renaissance man taking the Wrestling world and bringing it into another era of wrestling that was mirror imaging the golden days of the “Attitude Era.” The comparisons of this wrestler to a past Renaissance man in Wrestling, Steve Austin, were becoming very parallel to their paths of a meteoric rise. We were all led down that path again, feeling like we were in 1997 watching wrestling fans voices become important and strong again; we as fans like we could dictate the product yet again.

Boy, were we wrong.

It appeared that the WWE finally listened to their fans outcry for a new wrestler to carry the torch in an era plagued by John Cena & Randy Orton. As time grew on those wrestlers distance themselves from the 18-34 age groups that grew up in the “Attitude Era” and beyond due to the way they were booked week after week, match after match, pay-per-view after pay-per-view. It wasn’t entirely their fault as they were simply doing their job as directed by Vince McMahon and the band of “creative” writers that wrote storylines.

That wrestler that appeared to break through that mold was CM Punk. He was the wrestling fans wrestler in the era of “sports entertainment.” He personified what was good in wrestling, gave us that nostalgic feel of what wrestling used to be pre-John Cena & Randy Orton and made us believe that once again, wrestling could be relevant and cool. CM Punk had the wrestling world in the palm of his hands and the wrestling world felt welcomed in CM Punk’s embrace.

While the knee jerk reaction of the angle and the Money in the Bank Pay-Per-View was that of excitement, the way we look at this angle now will be personified in what it does the next couple of weeks & months. Remember how “red hot” the Nexus angle was when it was happening in the summer of 2010? Remember how excited fans were for the feel of something new? Remember your hopes & dreams of that very sentiment being crushed when John Cena was “fired” for two seconds and prevailed over the entire Nexus group with one hand tied behind his back & Mr. Fugi’s sand in his eyes?

I do…I do.

I was pumped for the CM Punk angle. I was locked in and tuned in to RAW like the same exciting feel I once had from 1997 to around 2001. It was nostalga at it’s finest, wrestling was cool again. Friends of mine that tuned out of wrestling tuned back in because of how pop culture, not just wrestling fans, was reacting to what Punk was doing week after week. Wrestling was back in American pop culture!

I was marking out, you were marking out, Wrestlechat.net was marking out, every week on “The Still Real to Us” Show (available for download at wheelhouseradio.com & wrestlechat.net) we were marking out. It felt good to talk wrestling again and be excited again! Finally we were getting a breath of fresh air when all of a sudden…

“IT’s TIME TO PLAY THE GAME!”

Ok, ok. I actually like Triple H. He was a great wrestler & personality from like 1997 – 2002 and then the whole Evolution stuff I just wasn’t a fan of because he was squashing everyone in his path (Kane, Goldberg, Orton, Rob Van Dam, Booker T etc.) & making himself a monster heel while banging & marrying the boss’s daughter. It’s good to be the King…of Kings.

He wasn’t putting anyone over or making them better from 2003 to about 2005 and then realized fans hated him not because of being a heel but because of some alleged backstage politics & some easy to see programs where not one wrestler broke through the Triple H ceiling until John Cena (surprise, surprise). After 2006 to about now I was a Triple H fan and have enjoyed what he has done & given to the business. He is one of the best performers all-time whether you like him or hate him.

So Triple H returns to WWE Television as the new Chief Operations Officer/”I run shit in the WWE” now. His days in the ring as a full-time performer appear to be done and he’s back as an on camera character. I’m cool with that because it’s new and it’s fresh. Something we desired all along in wrestling, specifically the WWE.

Then I read reports of the initial script for CM Punk’s return to WWE television (which could be used for another blog) and read that the plan for Punk’s return. In the first FOUR scripts, the plan was for Triple H to pedigree CM Punk (naturally, right?) and Alberto Del Rio to cash in his “Money in the Bank” briefcase to win the WWE Championship (for the fifth or sixth time in rough draft scripts). Boy, that sure sounded like a good idea, I don’t know why the WWE didn’t pull that trigger (Author’s note: Please note the sarcasm in that last line, even the brightest “textbook” John Cena fan could figure that out)!

CM Punk is/was (depends on Summerslam) red hot in the Wrestling world. He had one of the best reactions (some might call an “Attitude Era reaction”) in his hometown of Chicago, fans were buzzing about every little thing he tweeted, posted on TMZ, an Indy wrestler he put over or did with an HD Flip camera following him around. Oh and his t-shirt from Money in the Bank was selling for $500 on eBay…can you say “over.”

Pedigring CM Punk might have led too many fans & those fans that returned because of the buzz tapping out on the product, so thank god they didn’t do that. But I’m sure the “cookie cutter” WWE crowd in Lexington, Kentucky would lose their freakin’ minds over it and pop like crazy. If Triple H did that in New York, Boston or Philadelphia the fans might literally riot like they threatened in Chicago if Punk didn’t win the gold at Money in the Bank.

So that was fine that they scrapped those plans after the fourth script was written for that RAW episode. Then I come to read that the original plans all along for the CM Punk angle was to put over freakin’ TRIPLE H in his new role on WWE television. Are you freaking kidding me right now? I’m supposed to pop like a jack in the box after Triple H pedigree’s the most talked about wrestler (CM Punk) in wrestling in quite sometime? Isn’t Triple H already over?

Hey WWE, if you want to put Triple H over, why don’t you have him do what he was supposed to do to CM Punk to oh I don’t know…JOHN CENA! You know, that guy who every time he comes out to cut a promo, or wins a match after coming back against all odds and gets BOOED by your “hardcore” fan base? If you want to put over Triple H in his new role, do it the same way The Rock caught fire yet again after making his return in the WWE, by putting over the most hated wrestler by most fans today, not the guy the fans are actually caring about (CM Punk).

If you listened to last week’s edition of “The Still Real to Us Show” (which you can still download by the way at wheelhouseradio.com & wrestlechat.net), you can hear the frustration in my voice as myself and Eric Gargiulo talked about this very subject. The WWE Creative Team continues to give wrestling fans “blue balls” every time they get excited about something new & different and then they take it away or plan for it to end with something stupid. Please WWE; don’t go down this road you are rumored to go down.

We don’t want these changes to lead us to the same old stuff we have seen the last couple of years. Make wrestling relevant, cool and entertaining once again. Give CM Punk the ball and let him run up & down the field with it.

Join Eric Gargiulo & myself for the Thursday August 11th edition of “The Still Real to Us Show” and download the show at www.wheelhouseradio.com or www.wrestlechat.net .

Jeff Peck is the producer for the “Wheelhouse Radio” program that airs every Sunday – Thursday @ 8pm ET/5pm PT at www.blogtalkradio.com/thewheelhouse and at www.errorfm.com @ 2am ET/11pm PT

Jeff also co-hosts “The Still Real to us show” with Eric Gargiulo which can be available at www.wheelhouseradio.com and can be downloaded in the “Real Guy Radio” section of the site..”

If you would like to subscribe to “The Wheelhouse” on iTunes simply subscribe for free at iTunes by typing in “Wheelhouse Radio!”

You can follow “The Champ Jeff Peck” on Twitter at www.twitter.com/therealjeffpeck you can also follow Wheelhouse Radio on twitter at www.twitter.com/thewheelhouse and you can e-mail them @

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The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly Of CM Punk Returning To The WWE Now

August 01, 2011 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

CM Punk John Cena Staredown

It has been a week and I think it is about time to come down off the ledge after seeing CM Punk walk out on the ramp on WWE RAW to confront John Cena. He is back and going to Summerslam 2011. Are the WWE out of their minds or are they actually doing the right thing here?

I’ll be honest and when I saw it I cringed. I knew it was coming, well I had a very strong feeling and predicted the identical scenario on the Still Real to Us podcast a week earlier. But still, watching this great angle come crashing down was a big reminder that this is WWE 2011 and rarely, if ever do the fans get what they want.

Yet for about four weeks we did. For about four weeks the WWE gave fans like us something to get excited about. For a whole month, WWE RAW turned into must-see television. I can’t remember feeling that way about WWE programming on a weekly basis since the Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon feud. And yet in the blink of an eye, they pulled the rug right out from under us.

It has been a week and the dust has settled a bit. I talked with some friends and tried playing devil’s advocate on the situation. Unfortunately I started convincing myself that it was actually a great idea to bring him back so soon. Would I have done it differently? Absolutely, but in the end the situation would be exactly the same and CM Punk would be back after missing only one week of television.

So let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of Punk coming back to the WWE faster than any of us had hoped for.

The Good of CM Punk Coming Back to the WWE

1 – Cash in while the angle is hot. This angle between CM Punk, John Cena, and the WWE is red hot right now. RAW ratings don’t indicate much growth but merchandise sales and preliminary Money in the Bank 2011 buyrate information says differently. The WWE is a business and they need to answer to their stockholders before fans like us. What stockholder in their right mind wouldn’t expect the WWE to get the most money for their investment now and not later? Yes this thing could be red hot in November if it was left dormant, but who knows what the landscape looks like then.

Plus, you have a Rock vs. Cena match to promote. Leaving your hottest headliner on the sidelines for more than a couple of weeks just doesn’t make business sense whether we like it or not. SummerSlam 2011 is arguably the #2 or #3 WWE event of the year and needs a big main-event. The merchandise sales alone are enough to justify bringing him back so soon.

2 – CM Punk was never supposed to get the title anyway. Let’s be frank about this. All reports indicate that Punk was not scheduled to leave Chicago with the WWE championship. Up until a few days before the show, Alberto Del Rio was supposed to leave with the title, and the angle would have ended on July 17. It may be only a month, but we got CM Punk as WWE champion, and for about two weeks we got some fun pictures and videos we never were supposed to get in the first place. The WWE may be screwing this thing up now, but at least they played the smart hand in Chicago and let us have some fun for two weeks.

This goes back to something I wrote during the outrage over Randy Orton ending Christian’s WWE world heavyweight championship reign in two days. Christian was never supposed to get the title anyway. Punk was never supposed to get the title anyway, so be happy we got a month.

3 – CM Punk REALLY dodged a bullet this past Monday according to original plans. Reports indicate that the original plan was for Triple H to pedigree Punk on RAW, and for Alberto Del Rio to beat him in the ring for the title. This whole angle would have been over just as fast as it started. Now, we at least get two more weeks of Punk fun while avoiding the inevitable squash to Triple H.

4 – No matter how you slice it CM Punk is more over than ever. I am not saying that it will last forever, but right now CM Punk is the number two babyface in the WWE. That was never supposed to happen, nor would it have ever happened if not for this angle. A few months ago Punk was being squashed in tag matches with Nexus whereas he is now an elite WWE superstar. If there is any good to come out of this in the long run, it is that CM Punk will be booked strong at least for the interim.

5 – As a pro wrestling fan, you got to witness one of the greatest moments of your lifetime. The atmosphere for the CM Punk vs. John Cena Money in the Bank main-event in Chicago is something you may never see ever again. It was a historic moment and if that is the best you get out of this angle, well I’d probably say, “thank you WWE.”

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The Bad of CM Punk Returning to the WWE

1 – It’s over! The fun pictures, the cool videos, the high of chasing Punk on Twitter to find out exactly where he will be with the WWE championship is over. Remember how fun it was when you first heard about his confrontation with Triple H at Comic Con? How great were those pictures taken at a Cubs baseball game with the WWE championship or that surprise appearance at AAW? Those days are over and from now on the only place you will see CM Punk with the WWE championship is in the WWE.

2 – CM Punk’s credibility is at around zero. I don’t care how he spins it on Monday night, in reality he is a heel. He made false promises to his fans, and in a matter of 13 days broke every single one of them. The appeal of Punk was as something of an anarchist, the anti-establishment, the first guy since Steve Austin that made you believe he was really telling Vince McMahon to shove it. 13 days later he is back in the ring, smiling like a giddy schoolboy, walking out through the ramp, in his tights, and re-signed to the WWE. So in the end, he did take the money and will give in to WWE politics. Call me crazy but the guy comes off way more like a heel at this point than babyface, and from all accounts that is not where they are planning to go with this deal.

3 – The WWE may have sacrificed relationships in the media. I don’t know what the WWE public relations team tells a producer before he or she books CM Punk, but my hunch is that anyone who talked to Punk believed everything he said. 13 days later he is a lair and the WWE are liars for telling groups like GLAAD and media contacts that Punk was leaving, etc.

Yet it amazes me that people are still believing some of this angle was a shoot. I think it is fair to say that none of this was a shoot and you are living in a dream world if you think differently.

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4 – Just when it looked like he had their respect, John Cena once again loses credibility with hardcore pro wrestling fans. Look, at the end of the day the WWE could probably care less what hardcore fans think. Yet, they are making their voices heard when booing John Cena at the arenas. Unless John Cena throws the title in a trash can, he has lost a ton of credibility and respect among fans. Cena is actually coming off like a heel here by accepting a WWE championship he knows is not credible and holding his belt up against the guy that just beat him clean in the ring 13 days earlier. The idea that someone of Cena’s “character” would ignore a defeat and continue to proclaim himself WWE champion after 13 days is great…if you are trying to get Cena over as a heel.

The Ugly of CM Punk Returning to the WWE

1 – The WWE will find it very hard to get people believing ever again. For a whole month you had fans and pro wrestling media who think they are so smart, openly questioning and even “reporting” on facets of the CM Punk storyline as if it was a shoot, specifically the CM Punk RAW Roulette promo. Quite frankly, those people should have known better, but the WWE had them. It will be a long time before anyone is convinced, no matter what is said in a promo, that what they are seeing is a shoot or work.

2 – The WWE once again shoots itself in the foot by killing a major stipulation. You sell people a pay per view on the premise that the guy challenging for the title is leaving with it, and you bring him back 13 days later? This is exactly why nobody gives a crap when someone actually does live up to their stipulation like Shawn Michaels retirement threats at WrestleMania 26. It is great to cash in now, but the long term ramifications may be worse than a quick sell here.

3 – Fans are angry! Thousands of pro wrestling fans have threatened to boycott the WWE for shooting this angle so soon. Is it a small minority or a big majority? If the early numbers for WWE Money in the Bank are an early indication, it is a bigger majority than you’d think. Granted they aren’t going to cripple the business, but it were fans like this that got behind other movements like ECW in the past, and eventually made their voices heard elsewhere. The shame of it is that if TNA Wrestling would give those fans what they wanted right now, they’d grab them. Unfortunately they have less of a chance of getting it there, than in the WWE.

4 – They left a lot of money on the table. Yes the short term reward of cashing in on the angle at SummerSlam 2011 is obvious, but what about the long term investment? How much more money would people pay to see CM Punk come back in a few months after antagonizing the WWE with videos, tweets, and pictures of him running around the world with the WWE championship? There was a lot and I mean a lot of potential here with this angle if the WWE let it play out, but unfortunately we will never know how that would have paid of thanks to the short sightedness of the current WWE brass.

What do you think? Did CM Punk come back too early? Are you angry? Let me hear about it and leave a comment.

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July 25 RAW Rating Is Another WWE Disappointment

July 27, 2011 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

CM Punk John Cena RAWOne of the more interesting stories of the CM Punk angle has been the WWE RAW ratings. Fans of the angle expected a blockbuster summer of RAW ratings, while the reality is much different. Even the first week of the Triple H era wasn’t enough to get fans running to their television sets Monday night.

The July 25 RAW ratings are in and all indications from World Wrestling Entertainment headquarters are a disappointment. The added drama of the new Triple H era of RAW along with the CM Punk angle, and two WWE championship matches couldn’t move the needle this past Monday night.

According to reports the, July 25 RAW finished with a 3.2 rating. The early reports show a slight drop from last week’s 3.22 RAW rating. The show overall finished with 4.8 million viewers, which was a drop from last week That isn’t what the WWE expected after promising a new WWE champion, in addition to coming off a big company angle.

A deeper look into the number does produce some positives. The show which started with 4.5 million viewers in the first hour, finished with 5.1 million viewers for the close of the show. To put a positive spin on this would be to say that fans were interested and stayed tuned into RAW, in addition to others tuning in due to word of mouth, buzz, channel changing, etc.

I hate making excuses for low RAW ratings, yet this show does have a good one. It is not inconceivable to think that Barack Obama’s speech in the first hour took away a big chunk of viewers. It would also be consistent with the growth in the second hour, which theoretically saw fans tune in late after the speech. Quite frankly the ratings pattern makes a lot of sense.

Some are about ready to call the CM Punk angle a ratings flop. I don’t know about that. RAW ratings annually dip in the summer due to the obvious summer viewing patterns. If I was going to play devil’s advocate to the Punk critics, who is to say that the Punk angle is actually bringing in viewers? A 3.2 isn’t terrible at this time of the year. Who is to say that it wouldn’t be a 2.8 or 2.9 without the interest of the Punk angle and Triple H storyline?

Another defense of Punk is that he wasn’t advertised for the show. I wrote about this last week when recapping the July 18 RAW rating. It is kind of hard to expect CM Punk to bring in millions of viewers when he and the WWE continued telling fans that he wasn’t going to be on the show. Maybe the bigger CM Punk fans tuned out the last two weeks with the promise that their Second City Savior wasn’t going to be there?

The real number to watch is the WWE Money in the Bank 2011 buyrate. I wouldn’t expect that number to leak out for a week or two, but that is what will make or break this angle. As fun as the last month of the WWE has been, a disappointing buyrate will give this angle a win or fail. A low buyrate could stop this storyline right in its tracks and put CM Punk back into the mid-card spot before the end of the year. Remember how hot Wade Barrett was this time a year ago? Sheamus anyone?

Like many of you, I can’t imagine anyone not being excited about the current direction of the WWE. The last few weeks of RAW has turned the show into must-see television. For me, RAW hasn’t been must-been TV in a long time. I can’t imagine anything other than Steve Austin or The Rock creating more interest to move the RAW ratings.

And the countdown to the Money in the Bank 2011 buyrate begins!

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