Monday, May 14, 2012

The WWE in 2012 So Far

I normally like to break down the WWE into three different parts of the year. The first part is January-April. That's the Wrestlemania build period and then the leftover month has rematches at Extreme Rules. May-August starts with the early summer lull that gets better when Money in the Bank comes around and the build to SummerSlam begins. After August you get the September-December period, where the WWE has to compete with football and try to keep their fans interest leading into the new year and Wrestlemania time. Since we've come to the end of the first trimester of the WWE year, then I think it is only right to look back and evaluate what has been right and wrong, and what lies ahead for the WWE in 2012.

I think the first four months of 2012 have been very up and down. It has given us some great surprise moments and some good PPVs, but the WWE has struggled to book a solid build for most matches on those PPVs. While the PPV buys for Wrestlemania were up, the buys for the Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber were both down. I think a lot of that has to do with the bad build up those PPVs have gotten. We've had some surprise returns and good wrestling matches, but those don't help the PPV buys. Solid build-ups do. The WWE needs to work on that.

So with that said, lets give out some awards for the first four months of 2012:

Wrestler of the Trimester: C.M. Punk
I don't think there is anyone else that can come close to touching C.M. Punk in this category. Punk has been WWE Champion since Survivor Series and I don't think there have been too many boring moments along the way. Punk constantly puts on ***+ matches on every single PPV. While his match with Dolph Ziggler at the Royal Rumble may have been slightly disappointing, I think his Elimination Chamber match was very good and both of his PPV matches with Chris Jericho were ****1/2 star matches. Punk also had two good TV matches with Daniel Bryan and Mark Henry. Punk's in ring work has not lost a step.

Some of his character, however, has taken a step back. If you ask me, Punk has lost a bit of the edge he had on his character back when he was ripping on Triple H and John Laurinaitis. As what normally happens with WWE faces, they turn face with a big shock moment or something different. But after a month or two, they turn into a regular bland WWE babyface. They lose any of their edge they once had. I can see it starting with Sheamus already. While C.M. Punk is still entertaining to watch, he can't completely lose the edge he had with his character.

Breakout Star of the Trimester: Daniel Bryan
A whole lot of us Internet folk hoped that one day Daniel Bryan would be a top star in the WWE. We thought it was on the horizon when he won the World Title. Then Bryan went and lost the World Title in 18 seconds at Wrestlemania. But who would have thought that losing in 18 seconds would have ended up helping Daniel Bryan's career more than hurting it. Bryan turned into a bigger star than he once was before Wrestlemania. His "YES" chant has turned into the most popular chant the WWE has had in quite some time. If it is going to take the place of "WHAT" for the time being, then I am all for it.

But now that Daniel Bryan is out of the World Title picture on Smackdown, I hope the WWE doesn't drop the ball on Bryan from here on out. They already put him in a WWE Title program with C.M. Punk, which may have been the best thing the WWE could have done at this point. There was nothing else for Bryan to do on Smackdown. You know Bryan and Punk will put on a good match. I still think something is going to happen between him and A.J. Whether A.J. gets a guy to fight for her or something else, the fact that it is still being brought up on TV is a good thing. I think a Bryan program with John Cena would be fun, as well as a proper program with Randy Orton. The future should still be bright for Bryan, so long as the WWE doesn't go ahead and screw it up.

Disappointment of the Trimester: Dolph Ziggler
Dolph started off the year in a WWE Title feud heading into the Royal Rumble. Despite the fact that Dolph played second fiddle to the Punk/Laurinaitis storyline, it still seemed like a good start for him. But what has Dolph done since the Royal Rumble? If you answered: job constantly and not had a program worth talking about since then you would be correct. For some reason yet again, the WWE has decided to pull the plug on the push of a young and up and coming star. Dolph can definitely work in the ring, and he has the character and charisma to stay at the top. But Dolph is the perfect example of the WWE's hot and cold booking when it comes to their mid-card stars.

The sad part is that I don't see Dolph going anywhere anytime soon. He is now in a feud over the Tag Titles with Jack Swagger against R-Truth and Kofi Kingston. Unless the WWE decides to change something in the next few months, I don't see Dolph going back up the card anytime soon. Cody Rhodes is already passed Dolph, and Wade Barrett was before he was injured. I don't think Dolph will get down to the level that Miz is at right now. There's still some potential for him. But as I say numerous times, time is running out before people just completely give up on Dolph as a main eventer completely.

Match of the Trimester: C.M. Punk vs Chris Jericho- Chicago Street Fight at Extreme Rules
I liked both of Punk/Jericho matches that were on PPV this year. I gave both ****1/2 star ratings because I thought they both were standout matches from beginning to end. Both Punk and Jericho know how to tell a story in the ring and they know how to keep an audience captivated the whole time. I am giving the nod to their Extreme Rules match because of a number of small factors. First was the Chicago crowd. They made Money in the Bank last year one of the most memorable non-Wrestlemania events ever. And the crowd at Extreme Rules helped make that PPV a bit better too. Second, the build and backstory heading into the Punk/Jericho program made you think that these two actually wanted to beat the hell out of each other. Jericho had been running down Punk's family for weeks, and the build up to the match was great. It is the one program that the WWE actually got right this year.

Feud of the Trimester: C.M. Punk vs Chris Jericho
I really thought when I wrote this piece that The Rock vs John Cena would be going here. But the build to that program sorely disappointed. Sure it had a couple of good Rock vignettes and Cena promos, but I just never bought into it. Yes, I know they wanted Cena to look like he belonged on the level of Rock, but in the process they watered down what could have been a very heated program.

Instead, the very heated and personal program ended up being Chris Jericho vs C.M. Punk. The feud was exactly what the Rock/Cena program should have been. Chris Jericho got personal by ripping apart C.M. Punk and his family. Now I'm not saying Rock or Cena should have been tearing apart each other's families, but it could have gotten on the personal side when it came to the "business" of wrestling. Jericho continuously mocked Punk's family until Punk finally snapped and was ready to beat the living hell out of Jericho. I feel the main goal of any wrestling feud should be to make the viewer believe that these two guys hate each other and want to beat the hell out of each other. Punk and Jericho did that.

Surprise of the Trimester: Brock Lesnar Returns
I don't think there is any real explanation here. When Brock announced his retirement from UFC there was talk of a possible return to the WWE. Nothing really backed that up until he was spotted at a Florida airport during Wrestlemania week. Brock debuted on RAW the night after Wrestlemania to one of the biggest pops I've heard in quite some time. Brock's return has been pretty good so far. He had a good match with Cena at Extreme Rules, and every time he is out there you actually think he is ready to beat the hell out of someone. Brock looks the part of an ass kicker. I'm glad Paul Heyman is back and I'm looking forward to Triple H/Lesnar at SummerSlam.

Worst Feud of The Trimester: John Cena vs Kane
I was somewhat excited to have Kane return with his mask. I thought maybe something would be different with his character this time around. I thought Kane would be a good mini feud for Cena before he shifted his focus to The Rock and Wrestlemania. But no. It was the same Kane character that we have had the last few years. This time, Kane was trying to get Cena to "Embrace the Hate." That is something Cena has never done his entire career.

The feud was just a big train wreck from the start. Kane trying to get the Chicago crowd to chant "Cena Sucks" and failing was pretty funny. Then there was the constant humiliation of Zack Ryder. He was almost dragged through a whole in the ring, then couldn't change a flat tire, then was pushed off a ramp in a wheelchair and had his girl Eve stolen from him. If anything, the person who benefited the most from this feud was Eve. She now has some good heat as a heel character.

5 Bold Predictions for the Rest of 2012
1. C.M. Punk will hold the WWE Title for a year and face Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series
The main theory I am using to back up my statement is this: Who do you honestly see taking the WWE Title off C.M. Punk this summer. Lord Tensai is not getting over like the WWE has hoped. There are no other heels on the roster that I can see doing it this summer. They could put it back on John Cena, but Cena/Punk was already done last summer. I think C.M. Punk holding the WWE Title for a whole year would solidify him as the top guy in the WWE, and would give him enough star power to face Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series. What else would they do with Lesnar at Survivor Series? I think it would either be Randy Orton or C.M. Punk, and Punk wins out for me.

2. Wade Barrett will return and win a Money in the Bank Briefcase
Wade Barrett was on his way to winning the Money in the Bank briefcase at Wrestlemania before his untimely elbow injury. I think Barrett was in line to be the next guy to get his rightful push to the main event scene. Barrett is a good talker and can work well in the ring. Whether they do just one or two at the Money in the Bank PPV, Barrett is walking away with a briefcase and winning either the WWE or World Title with it. I think he's the next main event star in the WWE.

3. Daniel Bryan will face John Cena at SummerSlam
Think about it. If Brock Lesnar is going to face Triple H at SummerSlam, and they don't do Punk/Cena again at SummerSlam, what is the next best option? I really think Lord Tensai is going to flame out by the end of the summer. We have already seen Cena/Del Rio. I don't think Jericho will be around come summer time. So who is the next best option? It has to be Daniel Bryan. Bryan/Cena hasn't been done before, and you could always give Bryan the World Title back and have him face Cena for that. Yeah, brand split blah blah blah. There is one GM for both shows now, does anyone care about it? I think a Bryan/Cena program would be a good semi-main event match at the second biggest show of the year.

4. The Miz and Rey Mysterio won't be employed in the WWE by the end of 2012
The WWE hasn't had any really surprising releases in a while, but I could see a couple happening in 2012. Lets start with Rey Mysterio. Rey is currently under a 60 day suspension for his second failed drug test. Apparently, there are a lot of higher-ups in the WWE that aren't happy with Rey because of his failed drug test. The WWE also has Sin Cara who is almost ready to return from injury. Rey is old and has two bad knees and most people don't think he has much left in him. He sells a lot of merchandise but Sin Cara could do that too. Rey may come back but I don't know if he lasts the whole year.

Then we have The Miz, who has done nothing of note since Survivor Series. For some reason, Miz was given a lot of the blame for the poor Survivor Series buyrate, which makes zero sense. When you book the heel challengers like shit, nobody is going to believe they have a shot of winning. But Miz has not hand any feud to speak of. He was a victim of Brodus Clay a couple of weeks ago. Miz has fallen so far in one year that it has almost become sad. But Miz has changed nothing to his character and his act has become stale and old. I always thought a face turn might help him, but I don't think it will at this point. If the WWE doesn't come up with something for him by the summer, he could be a fall release.

5. The WWE Network will debut and be an early success
The Network was suppose to debut during Wrestlemania weekend, but thankfully the WWE pushed it back because it would have been a train wreck to start. But the WWE has allowed some time to put together a proper network and set up some deals with various cable providers. The WWE has a done of footage in their library and had some decent ideas for original TV shows. I think if the Network launches in the fall as planned, enough people will buy it and watch it for at least the first few months. After that? Well the WWE needs to keep people interested and make them pay however much a month the Network will cost. If their first run programming is terrible, people will quickly dump the Network.

Projected Top Matches
SummerSlam 2012
Brock Lesnar vs Triple H: No Holds Barred
C.M. Punk vs Christian: WWE Championship
Alberto del Rio vs Sin Cara: World Title
Daniel Bryan vs John Cena
Randy Orton vs Sheamus

Survivor Series 2012
C.M. Punk vs Brock Lesnar: WWE Championship
Alberto del Rio vs Randy Orton: World Title
John Cena vs Triple H: Just a wild guess

Well there you have it. I would be surprised if any of this was right. I'm normally bad at stuff like this, but it is fun to speculate!

Until Next Time,
Justin C
Follow Me On Twitter @JCWonka

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