WWE has been riddled with injuries to its established main-event stars. Triple H is taking time off, Randy Orton is working injured, and Rey Mysterio had to reschedule his vacation after he broke Undertaker's orbital bone. Combined with Edge being at less than 100% and Batista having just left the company to attempt an acting career, WWE is finally realizing that they may be forced to create some new stars.
The first genuine new star the WWE created was Sheamus, who is somehow a legitimate top heel despite the absolute burial he received from Triple H at WrestleMania 26 just a couple of months ago. On the SmackDown side, Money in the Bank winner Jack Swagger managed to effectively cash in his title shot and is the current World Heavyweight Champion for that brand.
Last week, WWE made the high-flying Evan Bourne look like a million bucks, teaming with WWE Champion John Cena in the main event and scoring the pinfall victory for his team with his "Air Bourne" Shooting Star Press finisher.
After having largely dropped the ball during the first "season" of their new program, NXT, WWE somehow put their faith in eight brand-new wrestlers during last night's RAW, and the end result was one of the most exciting and fresh angles on WWE television since the days of The Rock and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
The main event of last night's "Fan Choice" episode of RAW featured Cena wrestling his fan-selected opponent, CM Punk. About five minutes into the match, NXT Season 1 winner Wade Barrett appeared at the top of the entrance ramp, sporting a black armband with a large "N" on it. Cena was distracted, and suddenly the other seven NXT Season 1 rookies (Daniel Bryan, David Otunga, Justin Gabriel, Skip Sheffield, Heath Slater, Darren Young, and Michael Tarver, in order of who matters) came out of the crowd and surrounded the ring. They laid out CM Punk and his Straight Edge Society, then entered the ring and knocked out the ref before surrounding Cena. Cena threw the first punch, but the eight members of NXT (all wearing armbands) summarily beat down Cena. Tarver and Otunga hit their finishers (such as they are) on Cena, and then all of them set about dismantling the ring and ringside area, pulling down the ropes, ripping off the ring apron, pulling the mat apart, tearing down the barricades, and flipping over chairs and ringside padding. They then turned their attention to the ringside personnel, laying out commentators Matt Striker and Jerry Lawler while Michael Cole (a huge antagonist on the actual NXT program) ran for the hills. The NXT rookies also beat up the timekeeper, a security guy, I believe a cameraman, and ring announcer Justin Roberts, whom they then stripped and Daniel Bryan choked out with his own tie.
Once the ring and ringside area was demolished, the rookies went back in the ring were they continued to maul Cena. CM Punk even attempted to get in the ring and fight them off, but to no avail. Slater and Sheffield hit Cena with huge clotheslines while Bryan screamed that Cena will never be as good as he is before spitting in his face and hitting a big execution-style kick to the head. Barrett then dumped him hard with his finisher before Justin Gabriel (showing a bunch more potential with his mannerisms as a heel than he ever did as a bland babyface on the NXT program) finished things with a 450 splash. All of this was enhanced by the complete lack of commentary.
The NXT rookies then made their way off-camera before some officials came and carted Cena off on a stretcher, while Cena gave a thumbs-up to the fans as RAW went off the air. All in all, it was extremely compelling television and the most fresh the WWE has felt in a long, long time.
This all depends on how WWE follows up with this next week. If they keep the NXT contingent strong, the sky is the limit for the kind of business and entertaining television they can do. The WWE's track record from the last few years of sticking with an idea and giving it the proper time and dedication does not bode well.
That being said, it will definitely be interesting to see how things play out on tonight's episode of NXT, where the Season Two rookies will be introduced.