I had high hopes.
Really I did.
When WWE programming was sent into a proverbial tailspin following John Cena’s unfortunate (?) pectoral injury, I looked at the bright side of the situation. With Cena out of the way for at least a year, surely they’ll try something new with the main event scene and, gasp, put the WWE Title around the waist of somebody fresh and exciting. Over a year of “The Champ” overcoming the odds every blessed Monday night and on every pay-per-view made the Raw brand virtually unwatchable. To paraphrase a catchphrase of the late, great Owen Hart, enough was enough and it was time for a change. Much to my surprise, Vince didn’t disappoint. In the main event of what was, in my opinion, the best WWE pay-per-view in five years, Randy Orton bested Triple H in a Last Man Standing match for the title at No Mercy and all was finally right with the world.
Or so I naively assumed.
WWE Creative has already started reverting back to their musty, old bag of tricks. After what transpired during last two installments of Raw, I can safely say I see the writing on the wall and it consists of three stale letters.
Once upon a time, Shawn Michaels was a highly entertaining entity, probably the best thing to come out of the New Generation era. Week in and week out he’d put on five star matches and his mic work rivaled that of “The Nature Boy” himself, Ric Flair.
But that was over twelve years ago.
Bill Clinton was in the Oval Office, Drew Carey was still concentrating on standup comedy and not urinating all over Bob Barker’s legacy on The Price is Right and the wrestling world had yet to behold the intensity of CM Punk, Paul London or TNA’s X Division. While he was undeniably a showstopper in those days, he’s très passé now. Why is that so difficult for Shawn, Vince McMahon and the drunken orangutans in WWE Creative to comprehend?
It doesn’t help that Shawn is a shell of his former self personality-wise, either. Even when he couldn’t compete at one hundred percent, you could always be rest assured HBK could cut an awesome, cutting edge promo. The whole concept of Degeneration X—and Triple H’s transformation into a main event superstar, some have said—was built on his persona. Who could ever forget the infamous “chef” in-ring promo or the memorable takeoff on the Monica Lewinski scandal? However, that was the HBK of old, a.k.a. Shawn before he found Jesus. The new HBK wouldn’t even think of doing anything even half that risqué.
Instead, we’re treated to long-drawn-out, monotonous interviews about faith and, on occasion, parables from the Bible. This would be fine and dandy with me if I were watching religious programming on Sunday morning, but that’s not why I tune in to the USA Network on Monday nights. I want to watch WWE, not God TV. What’s next? A tag team grudge match at WrestleMania 24 between Degeneration X and televangelist Jack Van Impe and his wife Rexella? Actually, I wouldn’t put it past the WWE to book such a ridiculous match, especially if Shawn has as much “creative control” as rumors suggest.
Jack and Rexella Van Impe: DX's next target?
As difficult as it may be to some fans (and a few Titan Tower bigwigs, from the looks of it) to digest, it’s time for a reality check. Shawn Michaels is way past his sell-by date and needs to be taken out of in-ring angles ASAP. It’s a shame up-and-comers like Ken Kennedy, Jeff Hardy and Carlito are forced to stand around with their hands in their pockets while Michaels gets handed main event spot after main event spot, despite not even being relevant anymore.
Want more proof? Look no further than the Raw main event for Cyber Sunday. Randy Orton defends the WWE Championship against the fans’ choice between Mr. Kennedy, Jeff Hardy… and Shawn Michaels. This event is supposed to be the most unpredictable entry in the company’s PPV lineup, yet the WWE Title match is already as predictable as an episode of The Simpsons. Imagine how exciting it would’ve been if the choices consisted of Kennedy, Hardy and a returning Chris Jericho or a recuperated Edge. They’re all young, electrifying workers no matter what grouping you select. Plus, who really knows how voting would’ve turned out? With the current batch of candidates, it doesn’t take a Rhodes scholar to predict who’ll go toe-to-toe with Orton. And Vince wonders why ratings are at an all-time low?
While I still have Cyber Sunday on the brain, allow me to give you my predictions. A little earlier than intended, but hey, I doubt I’ll get any complaints…
Fans Decide the Stipulation –
Rey Mysterio vs. Finlay
Thoughts: Much like their match at No Mercy, this could be the sleeper hit of the pay-per-view. Both men are in top form and this feud has a surprising amount of heat. My own complaint with this match is the gimmick choices. A Stretcher Match or No DQ match would certainly fit the intensity of Mysterio and Finlay’s rivalry, but a Shillelagh on a Pole Match? Has Vince Russo been rehired?
My Pick: I predict it’ll be a hard-fought, grueling match, no matter what stipulation’s chosen. I see Rey coming out on top, but I hope the feud doesn’t come to an end.
Fans Decide What Kind of Match –
Matt Hardy vs. MVP
Thoughts: It’s a little disappointing that this match isn’t for the U.S. Title, but it’s bound to be enjoyable to watch nonetheless. I’m a little curious to see which way voting goes.
My Pick: In the end, I see MVP somehow weaseling out of this contest with a win, especially since the title isn’t on the line.
Fans Decide the Stipulation –
Triple H vs. Umaga
Thoughts: This feud has been surprisingly agreeable for me. I haven’t enjoyed a Triple H feud this much since he and The Rock feuded over the Intercontinental Title prior to SummerSlam ’98. I do feel this might be their rubber match, though. I’m hoping fans choose either the Steel Cage Match or a First Blood Match, as I’ve never been a fan of Street Fights, which are basically glorified No DQ matches.
My Pick: The Game will prevail and probably move on to feud with Orton leading into next month’s Survivor Series.
ECW Championship Match
Where Fans Choose the Challenger –
CM Punk (c) vs. John Morrison, Big Daddy V or The Miz
Thoughts: From what I’ve been reading, the ECW brand isn’t long for this world, so I don’t see this match being much of anything. Out of the list of challengers, the only one who could produce a watchable match with Punk is Morrison, but I have this sinking feeling he won’t be the fans’ choice. Something tells me the challenger will either be Big Daddy V or The Miz and, wait a second, I see something else in my magic bowl. Yes, yes, I see myself taking a bathroom break whilst this match is on.
My Pick: CM Punk will retain and get drafted to either Raw or Smackdown at some point before the next pay-per-view.
World Heavyweight Title Match
Where Fans Choose the Guest Referee –
Batista (c) vs. The Undertaker
Thoughts: These guys have already proven that they have great in-ring chemistry and can put on a decent match, so I’m not expecting to be disappointed here. Just for nostalgia’s sake, I hope Mick Foley gets chosen as Guest Referee. While I don’t think whoever’s picked will have any bearing on the actual match, it’d just be awesome to see Foley in the same ring with The Undertaker after all this time.
My Pick: While I’d love to see Taker regain the title, I don’t see it happening here. I see Batista retaining by the skin of his teeth and another Batista/Taker match—possibly a Hell in a Cell match—being the Smackdown main event at Survivor Series.
WWE Title Match
Where Fans Choose the Challenger –
Randy Orton (c) vs. Jeff Hardy, Mr. Kennedy or Shawn Michaels
Thoughts: As stated before, the booking of this match displeases me. We all know HBK will be the challenger. If he isn’t, I swear I will come on here and profess my undying love and devotion to Awesome Kong in the form of a moving haiku. Thankfully, I don’t see Orton losing the title so soon. They’ve invested too much in the guy and he’s working out too well as a heel champion.
My Pick: Orton cheats his way to a win.
That’s all for now, possums. Direct all praise, criticisms and death threats to my e-mail.