Is the WWE working its fans? In a word… “Yes”.
With the Royal Rumble last week, we’re now well on the Road To WrestleMania and the WWE machine is in high gear. There have been several major developments in the WWE since the Royal Rumble, a show which many fans didn’t like. I wrote a piece defending the Rumble, and with so much going on it’s time for another post.
I’m going to attempt to look at each of these large developments separately but as you’ll see by the time I’m done here, I think they’re all part of the same thing. The WWE is working its fans… and they’re doing it better than they ever have.
To steal a phrase from one of my all time favs Stone Cold Steve Austin, “The bottom line” is this… Vince McMahon is a genius. He knows the wrestling business is changing and as such he knows his promotional tactics need to change as well. He realizes that his audience has changed in the 30 years since the first WrestleMania and while he’s nearing the age of 70 he knows that just as his audience has changed the way they’re consuming his product, he needs to change the way he tells his long term stories.
CM Punk Walks Out Of The WWE
I was at RAW on Monday night and the first thing I said when I walked out of the arena was, “Where was CM Punk?” Later than night, I got my answer… apparently CM Punk had a meeting with Vince McMahon earlier in the day and is upset with the direction of the company.
Do some Googling and you can find a slew of articles about what happened. Nearly all of them will paint a picture of a pissed off Punk who is unhappy with the prospect of working with HHH in a match at WrestleMania (A match I predicted and would really enjoy seeing).
What you WON’T see is any statements from the parties involved. I’ve not run across one “official” statement from the WWE, Triple H or Vince McMahon other than the fact that CM Punk has been removed from upcoming house shows, etc. He’s still listed on the WWE website in their Superstars section. That doesn’t shock me much at all honestly because I’m not sure they WOULD say much. What does raise my eyebrow is the fact that you’ll find no mention of Punk running his mouth off. I can’t find one reference to an interview that Punk’s given. I can’t find one story that says, “Punk said this.” Hell, even Punk’s Twitter account has been strangely silent since the night of the Rumble.
Thanks for all the support. Keep being you guys, it's pretty cool.
— Coach (@CMPunk) January 27, 2014
Whether you love or hate the self described “Best In The World” you know he’s outspoken. It was the “Pipe Bomb Heard Round The World” that started the Summer Of Punk a couple of years ago. And even if you don’t think he’s the best in the ring, I’ve never heard one person say he’s a stupid guy. Would he REALLY walk out of the WWE mere weeks before the biggest payday of the year at WrestleMania? I highly doubt it.
Daniel Bryan Was Left Out Of The Rumble
The WWE didn’t become a billion dollar entity by ignoring its fans. This one has been going on for far too long to not be part the story in my humble opinion. Daniel Bryan is absolutely on FIRE right now and the WWE brass knows it. They’ve got to be deaf to not know it. Every single house and TV show for the last 6 months has had crowds going bonkers for this guy. And while I’m not personally a fan of the “Yes, Yes, Yes!” chants, I can’t deny that Bryan is the guy to take the WWE into the future. HHH knows this. Vince knows this. They’re not stupid. They look at their roster and they know that guys like The Undertaker, HHH himself, John Cena, CM Punk, etc. aren’t going to be around for much longer. A guy like Daniel Bryan is the kind of guy that can take over the mantle as the face of the WWE when Cena steps back.
The WWE got a TON of heat when Bryan wasn’t in the Rumble. Hell, once the event got to about #20 or so, the crowd was chanting “YES” and “DANIEL BRYAN” every time there was a countdown. If it WASN’T a part of a bigger story, don’t you think the WWE would have pulled an audible and put him in the match? He wouldn’t have to win… and you wouldn’t really need to change anything. Have him go out at #30, take Rey Mysterio’s spot, let the crowd go wild and STILL have Batista win the Rumble. Simple.
Nope, the fact that they DIDN’T do that tells me it’s all part of a bigger story. One that’s very much being orchestrated by Vince and HHH himself. Think about it… now we’ve got an extra 2 months to build Daniel Bryan as the underdog that’s getting screwed by the Authority. By the time Mania hits the fans are going to be going ape shit for this guy. Vince wants something HUGE for WrestleMania 30 and since Rock vs. Cena III doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, this is the best thing going.
And then there’s the outpouring from current and former WWE stars such as Mick Foley. Foley went on his Twitter account during the Rumble and dropped this nugget:
— Mick Foley (@realmickfoley) January 27, 2014
He followed it up a few minutes later with this blast:
Does @WWE actually hate their own audience? I've never been so disgusted with a PPV.
— Mick Foley (@realmickfoley) January 27, 2014
Many people are pointing to these two tweets as conclusive proof that Punk walking out of the WWE is “for real”. Conversely, I point these same two tweets and proof that it’s all part of the story. When’s the last time you ever heard Mick Foley say anything bad about the WWE? Hell, even when he went to TNA I can’t recall him saying anything like that. He knows where his paycheck now and (more importantly) for the rest of his career will come from. He’s not a dumb guy either. Why bite the hand that feeds you like this? Plain and simple… he wouldn’t. Want more proof? Check out Mick’s profile on Twitter @realmickfoley
Not to mention the fact the Foley continues to promote WWE events, is writing blog posts, talking about the Rumble, talking about Elimination Chamber, etc. etc. etc. This is all part of the work.
Batista Wins The Rumble Pissing Off… Everyone
Once you understand that these other two things are a work, this makes much more sense. Daniel Bryan couldn’t win the Rumble cause he wasn’t in it. CM Punk couldn’t win the Rumble cause he was going to be taking a couple of weeks off after being pissed off about the creative direction his character was taking. Who else does that leave? Roman Reigns is the clear answer here but the bottom line is Reigns isn’t ready. Remember, winning the Rumble puts you in the main event at Mania. And honestly, he didn’t NEED to win. The fact that he broke Kane’s record for most eliminations accomplished what is set out to do… it made Reigns a super star. There’s plenty of time for Reigns to get to the main event at a WrestleMania… I’m guessing next year. In the meantime, he’ll have a program with the Wyatt boys and eventually with Rollins and Ambrose when The Shield breaks up.
But back to Batista. See, this all plays into the Punk / Bryan work too. Batista is buddies with HHH. Punk, when he returns, will talk about how he’s unhappy that a “part-timer” such as Batista gets to main event WrestleMania. And while this is a work, like all the best works, there’s some truth to the statement. I’m sure Punk IS pissed that yet again someone is returning from Hollywood to take HIS top spot at the Granddaddy Of Em All. But he’s not so pissed that he’ll miss a Mania payday.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Honestly, I’m not quite sure how this is going to play out but I’m guessing we’re going to see Daniel Bryan in the main event at WrestleMania going for the title. He’s too hot right now not to put him in the spotlight. I’m also guessing we’re going to see Punk go against HHH with some legit heat. That’s two money matches. Throw in an Undertaker match, John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt, The Shield vs. The Wyatt Goons, Cody vs. Goldust, a Divas match that no one cares about, Brock Lesnar vs. The Big Show in a rematch from the Rumble, appearances by Piper, Warrior and Hogan and low and behold you’ve got a card that people will be talking about for years to come. And that’s what it’s all about. WrestleMania 30 is the biggest wrestling show ever. And in all likelihood it’ll be one of Vince’s last as the true head of the company.
To build the biggest and best show, you’ve got to have the biggest and best build up. And what’s better than getting everyone talking? What’s better, in the Internet age, than the Internet buzzing about your product two months before it happens? What’s better than on the eve of launching the WWE Network, folks are clamoring to find out the “real” story why one of your biggest stars left the company and why the other one is getting buried?
Make no mistake… this is all part of the show.
Or maybe I’m just a long time wrestling geek grasping at straws. Either way, I can’t wait to see how the next few weeks unfold.