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The Authority returns: Reasons to be Excited and Afraid

There were a couple of big pieces of news generated by the final Raw of 2014.  YES, we'll get to the other in due time, but let's tackle the one with more immediate ramifications for WWE storylines.

Mr. Money in the Bank blackmailed John Cena into using the sports entertainment macguffin that Vince McMahon gave him at Survivor Series by threatening to paralyze Edge with a curb stomp if he didn't reinstate Triple H and Stephanie McMahon to kayfabe power over Raw and Smackdown.

I'm going to try to focus on the bigger picture and not get too bogged down in the segment itself (which I thought was okay...Rollins played his part well and even though it irked me a little that the man he was threatening was someone Cena himself would have willingly crippled in the past, John is supposed to be a hero and this was a hero's dilemma).  Let's suss it out.

On the one hand:

1) Seth Rollins' is a nasty little bastard, and I love it.

You can debate whether last night's main event was his finest performance.  As I said, he was at his weakest when the segment was dragging, which wasn't his fault - and I love his blend of suck-up fanboy and arrogant future star when dealing with vets like Edge & Christian.

Rollins has made the most of his month as the undisputed top heel in WWE, though.  And despite some dubious booking that saw him lose a lot in the last thirty days, he now has a massive feather in his cap as the person who outmaneuvered Cena and "won" by getting his patrons back.

Given the way WWE traditionally treats heels and the sheer number of babyfaces they're trying to establish right now, the Architect isn't going to earn a ton of clean victories on the road to WrestleMania 31.  Having Hunter and Steph back provides him some cover, both in terms of having backers who can place him in favorable situations and scapegoats who can take some blame when he falls.

Overall, this was a nice building block set in the foundation they're building for Seth to be the company's top heel for a while after Brock Lesnar presumably leaves in April.

2) The roster is too thin right now to not feature talented performers like Triple H & Stephanie.

They've been operating with split rosters a lot since the European tour earlier this month, but even with all hands on deck like at TLC, it's clear that WWE is lacking in acts that the fans truly care about right now.

Much of that is their own fault.  Volumes have been written on how the over-reliance on Cena as an ubermensch during the last decade has hurt the development of new heels and faces that would make for a more well rounded roster.  Regardless of why, or where the blame belongs, the fact remains that Vince McMahon and company can't afford to leave skilled folks that know how to get a reaction from the crowd sitting on the bench.

The Game and his bride wore out their welcome for some during the last year or so, but it's hard to deny that the shows since their exit after Thanksgiving have been lacking.  Together or separate, the couple are good for at least one good villainous promo per week, and they provide an episode-to-episode focus that makes each show a more satisfying chunk of the larger story than a celebrity or returning legend can.

In a perfect world, we'd be on to the next big thing.  But today's WWE isn't a perfect world, and it's better with The Billion Dollar Princess and her hubby on our screens.

3) All due respect to Dolph Ziggler, but he's fourth or fifth on the list of people who should have been responsible for ousting The Authority.

The Authority's kayfabe story came to an end at the November pay-per-view (PPV), but it didn't seem like the end.

Daniel Bryan, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose or Randy Orton were all significantly bigger protagonists in the conflict with the Levesque-McMahons than Dolph Ziggler or John Cena.  It could be argued that for as much meddling as The Authority did in their lives, the Show Off and the Face Who Runs the Place actually prospered in the past year, winning titles and remaining prominent while others were stripped of their belts, stabbed in the back and maliciously kayfabe injuried by the group.

Having them in the mix as villains opens up other fronts beyond just the Rumble winner vs. whoever emerges from that show with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.  Since 'Mania isn't a one match show (even when it is), that's not just a good thing, but a necessary one.

On the other hand:

1) All of WWE Creative's shortcomings in one angle.

Leaning on old acts instead of creating new ones.  Distorting history and characters to serve the immediate situation rather than building from established backstory and motivations.  The appearance of hotshotting angles in response to poor ratings.

It's all here in this one.  As such, even fans of the move or the players it means will return to the show on a regular basis get a nagging feeling of "same old, same old" and "here we go again" from last night's show-ending segment.

The biggest one, for me at least, is continuing to build around an evil power structure.  Not only is it a trope that wresting in general and WWE in particular have gone to frequently in history and near constantly since the late 1990s, but it's also one that provides an excuse for not focusing on building up the mid-card, or the tag scene, or the Divas.

I'm ready for something new, or at least a different cliche.

2) Was that The Authority on stage at the end, or the NWO circa 1999?

A sure fire sign that a stable has run its course or jumped the shark is membership bloat.  And I'm pretty sure that the best indicator that a faction has too many members is when Big Show is one of them.

The inclusion of Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar as even semi-official members is intriguing and sets the stage for what should be some cool conflicts between The Beast and especially the briefcase-wielding Rollins down the line.  But this angle has already reinforced that WWE has a poor track record when it comes to paying those types of conflicts off in a satisfying way, so why should I bank on a meaningful Seth vs. Brock program anymore than a decent explanation for Show's latest heel turn?

Tossing every other bad guy onto the team also ensures that the focus will remain on The Authority, most likely instead of on building Bray Wyatt or anyone else into a compelling, main event caliber heel.

3) Sting's WWE debut (if you still remember it given how little attention has been paid to it in kayfabe) now accomplished even less.

My negativity on this score is well documented, and isn't helped by the fact that this most likely moves us toward Haitch vs. Sting at WM 31 - a match for which I have very little enthusiasm.

But shouldn't Sting's finally arriving in WWE felt bigger and meant more?  The one thing we could point to that it achieved (something that Creative never established a motivation for him to do beyond calling him "the vigilante") has been erased within five weeks.

And if we add him to the list of people that have beef with The Authority, it probably means someone with a logical storyline reason to want revenge against Trips and his minions will be left out.  And it again leaves little time or light left for any story outside of an Authority-centric one to develop.

Final Analysis:  While I feel like the product will be better in the short-term for having them back, their return leaves me more pessimistic than ever that the underlying issues I have with the product will change any time soon.  The Authority's reinstatement leaves me 50% Excited and 50% Afraid.

How are you feeling about this development, Cagesiders?

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