On Sunday, December 18th, 2011 World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) held their "Tables, Ladders & Chairs" (TLC) Pay-Per-View (PPV). At the conclusion of that evening, at the 11 o'clock hour, both C.M. Punk & Daniel Bryan were the respective World Champions in the largest professional wrestling promotion in the world.
I could not care less.
Today, Monday the 19th, that does not seem to be the popular opinion while browsing various wrestling related websites and message forums. So I feel I should explain my thought process. First off, yes, I did watch both C.M. Punk and American Dragon well before they showed up in WWE. I watched them in Ring of Honor, like a lot of other hardcore wrestling fans did. So I have the same correlation as a fan that so many other "smarks" seem to cling to as a talking point for this being a big moment. I have, on more than one instance already, seen various people liken this moment to when both Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit were world champions at the same time. It's not that I dislike C.M. Punk or Daniel Bryan. I always thought Punk would excel in WWE although I'm not a big fan of his as a babyface. Daniel Bryan is different. I didn't think he had a shot in WWE at all and thought he thrived in Ring of Honor (and the Indy scene as a whole). So it was a pretty surreal moment. Maybe I should feel like it is a bigger deal, as a fan, but I just can not bring myself to care and I think the reasoning is because of how complacent and paint-by-the-numbers that WWE feels.
C.M. Punk going into the night was already WWE Champion. He defended his title to retain in a Tables, Ladders & Chairs match against both The Miz & Alberto Del Rio. The highlight of the match was a bump that Ricardo Rodriguez, a manager, took. Off of a ladder, to the floor, through a table, that he almost overshot. The Miz is about as nonthreatening and un-credible as a top level heel has ever been. He is a joke in every sense of the word. He is boring and bland. So is his character and his promos. He has improved his physique and even his ring work to be completely fair but when I look at him, I just don't see a star. Alberto Del Rio, on the other hand, I used to think had huge potential with a really bright future. Now when I look at him, he seems like damaged goods. It took less than a year for WWE to make him "just another guy." A guy that is constantly outshined by his manager. When Alberto Burrito talks, I can't understand him at all and I really think it hinders his character. I just think back to the classic Vince McMahon one-liner to "spic it up" and have to wonder if "Chico" (as the great Jesse Ventura would say) is over-exaggerating his accent. If so, I really think he needs to stop. Winning the Royal Rumble in January was huge for Del Rio. Then he lost in the curtain jerk of Wrestlemania to Edge & I don't feel like he has ever recovered. WWE have just made both ADR and Miz chickenshit heels that can't actually DO anything. Neither man seems like a legitimate threat to C.M. Punk at all. Not that they should, mind you, but it made the match feel boring and drawn out to me. Anti-climatic and inevitable. Even watching the match itself, the journey to the end wasn't enjoyable because Miz and Del Rio move like molasses. It was like paying $45 to watch sap run down a tree. Maybe that's just any match involving a ladder at all to be fair but I am totally off the bandwagon for both heels if I ever was on either to begin with.
Mark Henry is the best booked wrestler that WWE have had in years. YEARS! A monster heel that was booked as a legitimate threat. He beat Randy Orton, clean, multiple times. He injured and put out multiple wrestlers that were perceived as legitimate threats, such as Kane and The Big Show. He was working better, talking better and even for the first time that I can remember, had some merchandise. Today, reading around, it seems as if Mark Henry was legitimately injured, so I guess that sort of validates the title drop to The Big Show but it still left a bad taste in my mouth. Mark Henry was this big, unstoppable monster not scared of anything. Then he just drops the World Title after all of that in about six minutes to a punch in a Chairs match. If Daniel Bryan was going to cash-in the Money in the Bank anyway, why not have Mark Henry beat Big Show first and then have Bryan, the babyface, pin Henry, the heel for his "big moment?" Especially since Daniel Bryan and Mark Henry have history in the past several weeks. Including a cage match main event on a live Smackdown.
To be completely honest, Daniel Bryan has been treated as a fuckin' jobber pretty much during his entire WWE tenure. Yet because he had that shitty briefcase, we were supposed to never "count him out" I guess? Sure, he would tap out some scruds in matches that didn't matter. Maybe dilly-dally around in the midcard over some non-credible titles (I guess you could argue no belt is credible). But to me, the Money in the Bank briefcase is like a damn death knell at this point. It was summed up best by Cox in the Comments thread:
The thing about Money in the Bank is that, twice a year, it turns the World titles into the Hardcore title.
It feels like a very heelish move to me to cash-in the Money in the Bank briefcase to "seize the opportunity" to win the World Title over a beaten down babyface by a babyface. Maybe Daniel Bryan is going to turn heel? Maybe The Big Show is going to turn heel? I don't know and I don't really care. I just know that up to this point, Henry was a heel and had a big history with babyface Bryan. Michael Cole is a (terrible) heel and has...whatever the fuck that is supposed to be with Bryan as well. So logically it would just make so much more sense for babyface Bryan to beat monster heel Henry. No turns needed, makes sense and has continuity. Whatever. I just didn't like how everything went down up to Bryan having the World Title.
The rest of the PPV, I feel because of those title holders, is also being championed. However, what I saw was different than apparently what other people saw. I watched Kevin Nash and Triple H shit up the ring and even blow their finish as Nash can hardly walk. I watched the PPV have an unadvertised match featuring the 5-star ring general that is Kelly Kelly. I saw the greener than goose shit Zack Ryder win a title because he's popular on the internet. Barrett/Orton was boring. Sheamus/Swagger was boring. Booker/Cody was delayed twice for no reason and then just a straight forward paint-by-the-numbers match that didn't accomplish anything. To me, I think the highlight of the show was that John Cena was nowhere to be found.
I am honestly flabbergasted by the overall positivity coming out of this show. I feel like I am out of touch. If this is the best that I can ever hope for from WWE, I don't want it. I want the show to feel different. It all feels the same. C.M. Punk was different because he was saying things we all thought. Now he's the top babyface that overcomes all odds and tells poop jokes, just like John Cena was. Spitting one-liners and catchphrases while showing off his latest WWE Shopzone merchandise. When The Rock comes back, even if it's just one show at a time, he is so much farther ahead of anyone it's unbelievable. No one in WWE feels like a star to me. Maybe it's because of the even-stevens booking. Maybe it's because of the writing, the booking, the wrestling itself...I don't know. Mark Henry felt different just because he was a bad guy that didn't always run away. Then after having a great run, he just jobs out in a clunker match and I guess we give it a pass because he was legitimately hurt? It just feels like the WWE as a whole needs some sort of life breathed into it. A new set, new entrance theme (instead of awful-ass Nickelback), something, ANYTHING.
Instead, we get a "smark darling" getting a feel good moment and we're supposed to shit our pants over it and act like everything is A-OK? Why? Daniel Bryan has been awful in WWE. Not his fault as to why, mind you. He's lucky if he even makes TV most of the time. He's "feuding" with a non-wrestling play-by-play announcer. Then he just gets hotshot into a title reign and all across the internet there are smiles and "I can't believe it, oh my God!" comments. The only skepticism I see is people anticipating the worst for the future...but how we got here wasn't good either, it was terrible honestly, and instead it's like everyone completely forgot all that happened before that moment. Well I didn't, and so I thought this show was a disappointment.
If that makes me the bad guy, if that puts me in the minority, if that leaves me out on the limb all by my lonesome, then I'm happy to chill there in solitude. I might be overly bitter, but the solution is not to "stop watching" or "take a break" or "not take it so seriously" or any of those other bullshit clichés that WWE apologists spew forth. The answer is for the show to not fucking suck and for people to stop having such low expectations that just an average show seems incredible to them. It's like eating dirt for a month straight then being giving a bologna sandwich and treating that son-of-a-bitch like it's a 5-star cuisine. Everything is so unbelievably micro-managed that it all comes off as unnatural as Rob Terry's physique. OAK EXPRESS. How fuckin' surreal was it to hear "Rowdy" Roddy Piper refer to fans as the "WWE Universe." UGH.