The Splitting of the Atom
Not so long ago, the WWE was a pretty consistent, but certainly frustrating, place.
John Cena was an unstoppable locomotive, ploughing his way through all on-comers, and holding the WWE title for what seemed like an endless period of time. The ‘universe’, as we hate to be known, turned slowly on this PG-Happy guy, who seemed to repeat the same ‘five moves of doom’ to conquer all on-comers. Something happened, that nobody could really say since 1995: The WWE had become boring!
As the boos became louder, WWE waited and waited, but the fans had decided: ‘CENA SUCKS’. The demand for quality wrestlers and unpredictable storylines led for pushes for many superstars: Alberto Del Rio, Sheamus, Dolph Ziggler, Daniel Bryan and more. Is there anyone with a high profile missing from that list? Of course there is, the man that pushed the change into top gear: CM Punk.
In early 2011, Mr Punk entered the Cenaverse, seemingly another victim for the ‘Hustle/Loyalty/Respect’ brand. To many, it seemed like the previous years hot storyline (the Nexus), was just fizzing out and CM Punk was getting the shot he earned from a lot of hard work.
Around the same time, my wrestling ‘sabbatical’ ended. When the Rock came back and decided to ‘host’ Wrestlemania, my interest rose to the point that I considered RAW unmissable on a weekly basis, something I hadn’t done in a while. Of course, after the Rock screwed Cena, the hype machine got it’s wheels in motion. Cena and Rock set up the match of a lifetime, then The Rock left. What was left for Cena to do? Win the WWE title back. I felt like we might be in for some Cena-fatigue again. After the feud with the Miz, as mentioned earlier: enter CM Punk.
CM Punk impressed many with his great work with Cena over the coming weeks and months, but in June, the infamous pipe-bomb happened. One of the all time great promos unfolded on RAW, and the WWE ‘universe’ was forced to change at a rate they hadn’t imagined. If you’re reading this, you probably know, CM Punk beat Cena in the only 5 Star match of the decade in WWE. Punk became a huge star, and John Cena managed to keep busy for the summer, but it was apparent that we were at a crossroads.
With Cena as WWE championship picture, all is well in the world, the WWE has it’s most marketable star closing every show. Traditionally, ‘Main Event’ and ‘World championship’ go hand in hand in the Wrestling industry. This had to be put aside for the time being: there was only one goal in late 2011/early 2012: SELL THE ROCK vs JOHN CENA.
With the sporadic appearances of The Rock, Cena had to be kept busy, but not at the cost of his Main Event status! Of course not. The WWE had decided to relegate the WWE Title, in favour of Cena. This decision was made simply because of the logistics of the unusual situation:
- Cena winning the title would make no sense, since if he had the title at Wrestlemania, and dropped it to the Rock, the Rock could not commit to the schedule of a champion.
- Having Cena in the WWE title picture, but not winning the title, would kill his credibility going into the match of a lifetime with Rock. Remember – people were very unsure of who would go over at Wrestlemania. Many people perhaps thought the Rock would pass the torch to Cena.
- Relegating Cena to sub-main event status could impact negatively on the Cena-Rock box office. This match had to be built and sold at any cost, in order for the WWE to recoup the cost of recruiting the Rock to return.
I don’t blame the writers in this situation, nobody is to blame. However, between Survivor Series and Wrestlelmania – unless the Rock was on Raw – then it made for some questionable viewing. The Kane/Cena angle in particular was quite suspect, and executed poorly. In terms of a main event, this didn’t make the cut. CM Punk was given limited time to build his contests, however, his matches as champion were of a very high quality.But no matter how much Cena won a title shot was not forthcoming…
Of course it wasn’t. You see, during this period – Cena existed in his own ‘Cenaverse’. The WWE had manufactured something that ALL of their audience could enjoy, but not necessarily love as a package. Since the PG era, the WWE fan-base is split into:
- Kids: who fund the WWE (effectively), with merchandise purchases
- Grown up Fans (The Internet Posse): These people know how wrestling operates, they know its a show, they know its fake, but they love it nonetheless. However, these grown ups have lots of resources at their disposal. They can read online about backstage politics, and make their own ruling on who should be the #1 guy in the company. The Internet has become a powerful enemy for the WWE.
The big pushes of guys like CM Punk and Daniel Bryan serve as a nod to the Internet posse. WWE are saying ‘we hear you, we respect you, and here’s what you want’. Alternatively, they are unwilling to upset the cash-cow that is the loyal Kids, who funnily enough, support John Cena.
Do you see where we’re going here?
What the Cenaverse has done is build the Rock and Cena match, at all costs. The main cost has been the downgrading of the WWE title. Even More baffling than this, is the decision to put The Rock over on Cena at Wrestlemania. So now – not only do the WWE title contenders look a tier below Cena and the Rock, but, The Rock, a guy who will make a couple of appearances a year, is better than Cena.
Enter Brock Lesnar.
Brock Lesnar was the next big mainstream star to fill the void left by the Rock in the Cenaverse. OK, I admit, I was excited by this, but it turned out to be a mere procrastination technique. Brock destroyed Cena, yet Cena pulled out the win. Credibility restored? Kind of.
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