Rock! Cena! Punk! Heyman! The Shield! Sheamus! Ryback! What! The! [Explicit]! Happened?! WWE Championship!
Here I am, Cagesiders, hours removed from the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view (PPV) that went down last night (Feb. 17). I sit in stunned silence, struggling to find the words I need to write. I keep replaying the night's actions over and over in my head. My thoughts are unable to organize themselves in any logical manner. I check the live blog, close the tab, and then check it again, wondering if the results will be different this time.
There is no way The Shield won. There's no way John Cena lost on his way to WrestleMania 29 (April 7). There is no way The Rock didn't retain the WWE Championship cleanly.
There is no freaking way CM Punk got screwed out of the title. Again.
I repeat the statements of disbelief, but the fact remains that these things happened. Roman Reigns delivered a spear to Ryback, and Seth Rollins fell in place to pickup the pinfall. The babyfaces -- a trio that I had guaranteed would walk out of New Orleans victorious -- had failed to stop Heyman's mercenaries. Cena now heads into the main event of the biggest pay-per-view (PPV) of the year on a losing streak.
And I am completely stunned.
The Rock's title defense was more predictable in outcome. Rocky stuck Punk with a Rock Bottom square in the middle of the ring. He got the 1-2-3, claimed his championship title, and pointed to the WrestleMania 29 sign that will hang in every arena from now to April 7. It was pretty much exactly how we all thought the night would end.
It's the execution that still confounds me.
After a "deliberate" match -- read: painfully slow -- we witnessed a ref bump that left Punk alone while covering Rocky for a fifteen count. Second ref comes running down. Rocky hits the People's Elbow, but only good for a near fall. The second ref gets rolled up on and slides out of the ring. Punk is able to grab the championship belt -- his championship belt -- and goes to whack The Rock in the dome. He misses, of course, hits Paul Heyman instead, and Rock takes the match home.
It was certainly a good match for what it was. At the very least an enjoyable main event. But as a person who tries to figure out not just what happened but why it happened, I'm stuck on this small point.
Was that supposed to be an Attitude-era overbooked mess, or are we looking at a real continuation of this story?
Punk will come out tonight and claimed he got screwed. In some ways he did. He'll say that his unofficial title reign now stands at 456 days, point at The Rock's championship title and claim that it is still his. He's not completely wrong. A clean finish would have put an end to all of Punk's complaints, would have left The Rock free to face his next opponent with no strings attached.
So why didn't we get one?
Lets not forget the other side of the equation. John Cena stands tall. John Cena never gives up. John Cena always wins, because that is who he is and what he does. The whole point of losing at WrestleMania 28 (April 1, 2012) was to get his win back this year. He won the Royal Rumble Match (Jan. 27), he was going to win at WrestleMania 29, and winning at Elimination Chamber was just the natural progression.
So what the [explicit] just happened?
If these men were anyone else, I would say that the championship picture would stay the same for the next month and change. It's obvious these two wrestlers have unfinished business, and it only makes sense for them to continue to the next PPV.
Then I would write that the group of babyfaces would have a rematch against the invading heels. Maybe extra members would be added, perhaps a defection or two, extra stipulations out the wazoo, etc. Faces win, heels lose, that's just how pro wrestling works. Sometimes it takes longer than expected, but the end is always the same. That's just how it's supposed to be.
But these aren't just any wrestlers. And the next show is not just any PPV. This is much, much bigger than your average pro wrestling story.
The assumption going forward has to be The Rock and John Cena will be meeting at WrestleMania 29 for the WWE Championship. Hell, Elimination Chamber closed on a graphic promoting the match. It's going to happen no matter what.
So how is WWE going to pivot on these angles?
Rock and Punk have to finish this feud. Cena needs to deal with his loss against The Shield. Pro wrestling only works when there are conclusions. The reason I wanted Rock and Cena to stand tall is because it would be the easiest way to transition them together.
That obviously did not happen.
WWE has chosen a far more complicated direction to travel. This is not a bad thing if handled correctly. If CM Punk and The Shield end up joining forces. If Paul Heyman leads his troops, not as separate entities, but as a single unit. If The Rock and John Cena find a way to be both foes and allies. If these storylines merge together as a single angle. If everything is handled with discretion and subtlety, and all performers are allowed to look strong moving forward.
It's those ifs, though, that scares the crap out of me.
My biggest fear is that the events of Elimination Chamber are simply ignored. That the Dusty finish and straight up loss are pushed aside because it will be too hard to deal with it. That it is all pushed aside and our collective intelligence is insulted for becoming invested in the product over the past few months.
It's something I wouldn't put past WWE.
This is where we stand, Cagesiders. Seven weeks separate us from now to the biggest event on the pro wrestling calendar. Seven Monday Night Raws, seven Main Events, and seven SmackDowns. Maybe WWE will surprise me. It's happened before, and will happen again. Maybe I have underestimated its ability to tell such a complex story.
I'm going to hold out hope that this will end in a satisfactory way. But no matter how much I want to believe, the doubts will always linger. Because too often WWE has failed to properly follow through.
Everything Else! Bullet Points!
I'll talk about this more on Friday's (Feb. 22) SmackDown Precap, but Alberto Del Rio vs. Jack Swagger is going to be an amazing storyline. There's probably a lot of complaints about why this shouldn't happen. Racist fans will confuse who the heel is. Swagger can never draw. WWE already did this with Eddie Guerrero vs. John "Bradshaw" Layfield. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. If you don't like the performers, I can accept that as valid. But if you are hating on the angle for anything that takes place outside of the ring, you're missing out on something that should be very entertaining.
It looks like Antonio Cesaro and The Miz will continue their feud moving forward, and it was actually done in a really smart way. The Miz was injured in their first match at Royal Rumble. The Miz lost. He was then injured going into Elimination Chamber. It looked like he was getting the upper hand, but a misplaced knee to Cesaro's "Swiss Sensations" earned him a DQ. This sets up for Miz to be fully healthy going into WrestleMania and finally win the United States Championship. It's not a bad way to tell the story. But I've been wrong every step of the way on this, so I'll try to stop making these grand predictions.
Dolph Ziggler continues to be forgotten about and pushed to the back burner. I can't even be upset by it anymore. It is what it is.
Hopefully, this has prepared you for the night's festivities. Leave a comment below about what you are looking forward to, and please join the entire CSS Monday night gang in the live blog TONIGHT!