From Cult of Personality to Stuck in Mass Banality...
So when we left last time, the Authority had switched from Vince to Hunter and Cena had managed to stay on TV after a pretty ordinary segment that I took far too long decoding.
But we still had Punk waiting to pounce on the sidelines and who knows how long they could-
Oh, eight days? Eight days?! Did Creative have a lot of coffee that morning?
And yes, Summerslam was closing in and they no doubt wanted to do Punk/Cena 2, but as a result they flipped the bird to this guy.
On the 25th July Rey Mysterio pinned the Miz to win the WWE Championship tournament. It should have been a great moment for him and for the crowd- the ultimate feel good story. He had only won 2 World Titles in his tenure with the company up to that point (and one was ended the same night when Kane cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase) and, though nobody in their right mind thought this was anything but a transitional reign, it was nice to think that he would go home and celebrate it with his family.
Aaaaaannd then Triple H comes out and announces that Rey Rey will have to defend his title on the same night against John Cena. Who wasn't even in the damn tournament. Who apparently couldn't wait a fucking week.
Oh, and Rey apparently thought this was a good idea, according to Triple H. Sure, he just won the championship less than an hour ago and was probably not as fresh as Cena, but he was cool with the idea of potentially losing the thing he had worked a career for on a whim of Triple H's.
In fact, the more you think about the booking of the show on the 25th of July, the more it doesn't make sense. Triple H has re-signed CM Punk because he claims it's best for business. He allows him to parade around with his WWE Championship...and, in the full knowledge that he has the WWE Champion back on the roster, books not one, but TWO WWE Championship matches on that Raw. The only reason they got away with it was because we were so happy to have CM Punk back...but by doing his return this way the WWE had to basically start a game of hot potato with the most prestigious prize in the company- a factor that continued to happen over the subsequent couple of months...
But at least we were able to get back to what we wanted to see- John Cena vs CM Punk for the big prize-
Except why do we have to have the Rock sticking his nose in this program?!
I think most people would agree Phillip Jack Brooks doesn't need help to make a point; all it did was remind people that while this match was important there was a much bigger match happening at Wrestlemania next year. And I don't blame the Rock for this- my guess is that they had this footage taped of Dwayne shooting his mouth off (I must admit the bit where he imitates Cena's theme song is pretty damn funny) and had to think of place to splice it in. And they probably didn't think that Summerslam would have a scalding hot main event and thought this would add a bit of spice.
And it makes you feel sorry for CM Punk- because not only does he have to surmount the logic of how he got his hands on Dwayne's recording, but he now has to attempt to get the topic back to where it should be- Summerslam.
And again, nobody can fault the match- it was fantastic. Not as good as Money in the Bank, but close.
I can sorta understand the justification for most of my gripes that I have made above, even though I don't think they were correct. But I would really like to know who in their right mind thought
"Hey at Night of Champions, why not move Punk on from his feud with John Cena by having him work with Kevin Nash?"
Put it this way: Nash was 52 by the time that their match would have occurred at Night of Champions. In other words, he was older than the Undertaker is now and even Nash's most charitable supporters would say that Nash wasn't in the same league of in-ring worker as the Deadman.
And so Nash powerbombed Punk after his victory over Cena at Summerslam leading to Del Rio cashing in- an instruction apparently coming from the phone of Triple H.
There are two general reasons I can think of why Punk was placed in the ring with Big Sexy.
1) They thought that Nash had some name recognition with his time in the nWo and so thought he would be a great sort of person to essentially call Punk a 'vanilla midget' who didn't deserve the title and therefore could legitimise Punk as a result.
OR, and this is actually the more dispiriting
2) Triple H was eyeing a program with his friend (which happened at TLC) and thought for that to happen someone had to go out there and make Nash look good by having a good match with him. And that job fell to CM Punk.
The problem with 1) is that it requires the audience to know a bit of history of the Kliq, the nWo and WCW as well as Nash's own views on wrestling. And the problem with 2) is that, well Nash has to wrestle and cut promos against CM Punk.
Not that Kevin Nash isn't a good promo. In fact, in the right circumstances Nash is a very accomplished talker. But what he does best is use his naturally intelligence and...jerky demeanour to antagonise the audience. It's one of the reasons in so many WCW videos that have Nash promos it's him talking to the audience rather than anyone else. Furthermore, while Nash would often love to claim that he made wrestling more realistic and 'edgy' with the nWo, there was no doubt that he was facing off against a tired, hokey company. CM Punk can be described as many things, but 'tired' and 'hokey' are not two of them.
And when you watch the two of the them duel promos...it becomes painfully clear that Nash is being thrown off his game by a guy who cuts close to the bone. Even the way he tries to defend himself comes off as weird- drawing events back from 15 years ago and talking about "guaranteed contracts" as if the crowd is supposed to go "Hey that's right, Mr Nash was a real friend of the working man".
Luckily Nash didn't get cleared for competition and so we needed a new foil for CM Punk at Night of Champions.
Y'see, apparently Nash had texted himself using the Game's phone! But by that stage Punk and Triple H needed to have a fight to sort out their differences after Punk had insulted Hunter and his wife. This was even after Nash was fired from the company.
The problem was is that it was actually difficult to really get a handle on the alignments of the feud. CM Punk had insulted Stephanie and Triple H, so surely we should be cheering for the Game. And yet, Triple H arguably didn't respect Punk or what he had achieved, so maybe we should've been cheering him. And the fact that Nash was working/not working/friends with/fired by Triple H only muddied the waters further.
And then Creative raised the stakes by saying that if Punk won, Triple H would have to resign as COO. Because, um...Punk didn't think Hunter was doing a great job? It couldn't be because he had instructed Kevin Nash- he fired him. And he did allow Punk to come back with the championship. And he did re-sign Punk (at least in kayfabe).
So...we essentially had a match between a face authority figure (because that's what he was) and a rebellious face in order to find out if there was a better person to run the WWE- taking note the last authority change happened all of one and half months ago.
Triple H during this period of his career was in a strange sort of area between on-screen and off-screen. I have no doubt that Hunter is now comfortable enough with his legacy- particularly with NXT- within the ring to take the three second tan on occasions to guys like Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns.
However 2011's Triple H was sort of a...face for the sake of it kind of worker. . He didn't have the angles of D-X to keep him...well, not hip but interesting to a bunch of the WWE audience. He wasn't a face of the franchise like Cena, nor did he have something people wanted to see like Punk. If anything, Hunter tried to position himself into the same category as his good friends Undertaker and HBK- kind of 'elder statesmen' of the business who would be respected.
The trouble is that HBK (for his second tenure) and Undertaker have been for the most part of their careers willing to move beyond the title picture. That's why Taker has 7 world titles and HBK 4. Triple H, on the other hand, has won 14. HBK and Undertaker were willing to elevate guys in feuds that were high profile but not for championships while Triple H- as a worker who seemed for a long time to be always there about- had become perceived (admittedly partly truthfully) by a need to hold onto his spot. It's why facing Undertaker at Mania was considered an honour despite the fact you'd probably lose. Because facing him or HBK was a note of arrival that facing Triple H in 2011 wasn't.
The match starts out perfectly fine (although it seems weird that Punk attacks Triple H early and not the other way around- Punk insulting his wife and all). But about 10-15 minutes you notice that...it's not a match that spends a lot of time in the actual ring. In some ways I can understand this- Punk and Cena had two amazing matches and it would be a near impossible order for this to follow that. But at the same time, some action that everyone could see would be nice...
It also means you get one of my pet hates- workers staggering back slowly, selling being groggy towards the ring aaaalllllllll the way from the entrance ramp.
When they do get back to the ring it actually becomes a fun brawl to watch- complete with chairs and elbows through tables.
And then Miz and R-Truth come out to beat both the Game and the Second City Saint up before dragging Punk onto Hunter to for the pin only for Hunter to kick out.
It should be noted that R-Truth and the Miz had formed the Awesome Truth claiming there was a conspiracy to keep them out of the main event picture. I assume that's why they wanted Hunter out of the COO position. What mystifies me about this segment is when they give Punk and Triple H the Lie Detector and the Skull Crushing Finale respectively and drag Punk onto Triple H for the pin and the Game kicks out...why they don't just beat up Triple H some more instead of complaining about a slow count? That would be the smart thing to do. Plus it would spare the crowd the excruciating couple of minutes where Miz and Truth confront referee Scott Armstrong which sucks most of the life out of this crowd.
So Armstrong is beaten up by the Awesome Truth (who have now beaten up their boss as well as a referee- nice job at halting the conspiracy, guys...) only to get thrown over the ropes by the recovered Triple H and CM Punk.
But it gets better...
Punk then turns and gets hit with a Pedigree. Hunter covers but there's no referee. John
Laryngitis Lauranitis and another ref come down, but Johnny Ace seems to want the other ref to check on Armstrong...until Triple H asks to get a ref in and walks straight into a GTS. Johnny Ace promptly sends a ref in and Punk has the cover...only to pulled off by R-Truth.
You know, the same R-Truth who wanted Triple H pinned about five minutes ago.
"What are we witnessing here!" King cries. What indeed, Jerry, what indeed...
King further claims that it's "No DQ so anything goes". True, but a level of sense to the proceedings would be nice...
But then CM Punk tries for a flying elbow, only to be hit with a pedigree...which he kicks out of. The crowd are up again, they want to see a hot finish.
And then Kevin Nash comes out and everything slows down to a quiet snail's pace. He takes both Punk and Hunter off their feet with rights, then sets up Triple H for the powerbomb, only for Punk to make the save. Nash then powerbombs Punk and goes outside to do the same to the Game...only to get a sledgehammer to the skull. Triple H then goes into the ring and pedigrees Punk to get the three count and the win.
There's a moment after the pin where Triple H looks...not unsettled but definitely conflicted. Like he knows that he may not have got the win if Punk had just stood by and let Trips take the powerbomb. It was if he was thinking "Shit, I may not like the guy, but he did me a solid and I probably should show some gesture of respect".
Like I said though, it only lasts a moment before he gives Punk the crotch chop gesture.
And that's the difference between Triple H and say, Rock, Undertaker or HBK (the second time). When Undertaker fought Heidenreich (Heidenreich!!) the first time at Survivor Series and won, he sold the ending beautifully. Like he felt he had gotten away with one and he was worried about how close it was. When Rock fought Benoit for the WCW Championship he won the match but then sold like a bastard, putting Benoit over in the process.
We all know what the crotch chop means and it's not in anyway a gesture of goodwill or respect.
So at the end of all of this. CM Punk had lost to Triple H, had been distracted by Kevin Nash and was jumped by Awesome Truth, who didn't seem to be able to decide whether to put him over or not at the PPV. Oh, and the next night on Raw decided to accuse Johnny Ace of being part of a conspiracy to take over Triple H's spot as COO by using Hunter and Punk against each other!
In that past paragraph (and indeed, for most of the article) you will notice the words "WWE Championship" and "John Cena" are nowhere to be seen. They had gone away to do their own thing, leaving Punk to drown in this boggy morass.
Because it should have been a story about Punk taking control and not giving an inch. Demanding change from those who wouldn't give it. And yet because we had a face authority figure it soon became muddy and compromised as every Tom, Dick and Harry had to get their two cents in the ring.
CM Punk may have been the Voice of the Voiceless but Night of Champions left him in danger of being drowned out.
And that's part 2! Next time we examine the finish of this trainwreck while also giving a brief synopsis of how it could have been saved! See you then!
Article One: Shane has a surprise for Daddy
Article Two: Booker T vs Buff Bagwell and the Temple of Boos
Article Three: Daddy's little Girl Gets in on the Action
Article Four: "WHY AUSTIN DAMMIT?! WHY?