With WWE’s Night Of Champions only days away, we the WWE Universe find ourselves looking at a one-match card. Yes I know there are thrilling bouts like Kane and Daniel Bryan vs. Kofi and R-Truth (I’d rather see a real tag team in here, but its better than nothing I guess) and “Captain Bland” Sheamus vs. “Senor Repetition” Alberto Del Rio, but seriously, there is one match and one angle alone that has been built to the point where I would be willing to shell out my hard earned cash to see, and that’s WWE Champion CM Punk defending his championship against John Cena.
Since Raw 1000, the WWE has taken the WWE Universe on CM Punk’s quest for respect, thus slowly but surely turning him into the villain that he plays so very well. Like any angle, this one came with its good moments and its bad ones. The good has sure as hell sold me on watching this Sunday’s PPV while the bad, despite not completely souring this angle, has resulted in it’s narrative not at all living up to the parameters of a complete story.
This week I will point the good and the bad from the Main Event angle for this Sunday’s Night Of Champions PPV, while suggesting alterations that would have made the entire narrative more complete. Enough wasting time, Let’s Do This!
~ Punk’s Descent to Villainy
CM Punk’s descent into villainy is easily one of the best things about this angle. Not only is he delivering great heel promos, and acting like an entitled asshole, but we also understand the genesis for the change. He feels that being the WWE Champion for over 300 Days should have earned him more respect from his peers and his superiors. He feels that because he claims to be the best in the world, and is the holder of the WWE’s most cherished prize, that he should unquestionably be in the Main Event on a regular basis. He feels like he’s been overlooked and underappreciated and he isn’t standing for it anymore. He’s waited for the spotlight to naturally gravitate his way, but it hasn’t, so now he’s taking it by any means necessary. Whether or not you agree with his stance, or the measure he is taking to right the injustice he feels he has suffered, we as viewers understand him, which is important and quite frankly refreshing to see in the WWE.
What’s also great is he hasn’t relied on the cheap heat by simply insulting the fans until they boo him. The majority boos he is receiving, he is earning for how he is treating his peers, while also using deceitful and underhanded tactics. The heat does not derive from how he treats us as viewers. The hubris CM Punk has been displaying while he’s been breaking bad is ironically very similar to that of “Breaking Bad” character Walter White. He is doing these things for very valid reasons, but his pride and unbridled desire to be “The Best” has him slipping deeper and deeper into darkness. Any time I can truly compare a WWE Character to that of the great Walter White expertly portrayed by Bryan Cranston, the WWE is doing something incredibly right, and I have to give their Writers and CM Punk credit.
~ The Promos
The verbal back and forth between John Cena and CM Punk during the duration of this angle has been nothing short of phenomenal. CM Punk has raised his game (which seems unbelievable) and John Cena has proved that when he isn’t making poop jokes or terribly dated references, he can deliver a promo that makes you watch with bated breath.
Other than the picture perfect delivery of each and every promo by these two men during this rivalry, the content has truly been spot on. Both have made great points about one another that sting and more importantly ring true. CM Punk and John Cena seem as though they have one another pegged, taking shots at the veiled insecurities they each have, and rattling one another’s psyche. Going into Sunday, it is clear that we have two guys that know each other well and will leave everything they have in the ring to emerge from Night of Champions as the WWE Champion. They are evenly matched and anything can happen, and the revelation that Paul Heyman is aligned with Punk only makes Sunday more unpredictable, which absolutely makes the match a must see.
~ The WWE Championship Astonishingly Means Even Less
I know what you’re thinking, “how can the WWE Title mean less when it is the centerpiece of the hottest feud heading into a PPV?” Allow me to answer with a question of my own; is the WWE Championship really the centerpiece of this rivalry?
Think about it, during the course of the angle, the challenger John Cena and Jerry Lawler as the catalyst for CM Punk’s villainous exploits have done nothing but devalue what it means to be WWE Champion. CM Punk simply asked Jerry to show respect and declare that he is the Best In The World. When Jerry refused, Punk took exception and proceeded to try to beat the respect out of The King. While this was an effective tool in getting Punk over as a heel, it devalued the WWE Championship, along with John Cena looking CM Punk in the face and claiming that he, the potential challenger for the WWE Championship is the best in the world as far as he is concerned.
I wish Punk had followed his request by asking Jerry, if not Punk, who is the best in the world? Then have Punk demonstrate that the logic is simple to follow. Here’s a short illustration of how I’d imagine it would go down:
CM Punk asks Jerry “What is the best wrestling organization in the world?”
“The WWE” answers Jerry.
“And what is the most prestigious and illustrious prize in the best wrestling company in the world, the WWE?” Punk further inquires.
“The WWE Championship” responds The King
“Then Jerry, logic would dictate that by virtue of my possession of the most prestigious and illustrious prize in the best wrestling company in the world, the WWE, that I am unquestionably and undeniably the Best In The World!”
Jerry attempts to refute Punk’s claim to which Punk retorts “Then the WWE Championship is utterly worthless and has no meaning or place in the WWE?”
This feud shouldn’t only serve to turn CM Punk heel, it should have been adding value to the WWE Championship. Last year Vince McMahon and John Cena were petrified that Punk would win the WWE Title and walk out of the company with the grandest prize of them all, rendering any Champion after him second rate, and now John effectively thinks he’s better than the Championship. If John Cena thinks he’s the best without the title in his possession, why in the blue hell does he even want a shot at it? By saying what he said he devalued the prize that every superstar supposedly wants and the fact of the matter is CM Punk asked neither Lawler nor Cena whom they thought was the best in the world, but rather who IS the best in the world. The Championship around Punk’s waste above all else points to him being the best, and if it doesn’t, then why would anyone want it? This feud has only showed me that having that title has little to no value if possession of it (especially for over 300 days) doesn’t mean you’re the best.
~ Uneven Stakes
CM Punk without question has a lot riding on this match. During the build up to Sunday’s one on one encounter with John Cena, CM Punk has raised the stakes time and time again, putting nearly unparalleled pressure on himself. Punk doesn’t just want to win on Sunday; he needs to win at Night of Champions. He needs to win to save face because he’s been talking a big game, he needs to win to prove that he is better than Cena once and for all, and more importantly he needs to win to validate his entire Championship run and leave no question as to who really is the “Best In The World”. A loss Sunday negates everything that CM Punk is, and that has me very invested in this match from his perspective.
Meanwhile, Cena needs to win because… he would like to be WWE Champion because WWE Superstars are supposed to want to have that title. That’s literally the best I can do, because in every way I look at this match and this angle, John Cena has nothing riding on this match. While CM Punk’s entire existence rides on their bout at Night of Champions, Cena has nothing to lose and will come out smelling like roses regardless of the finish. This disparity in what is at stake for both combatants is a pretty big issue going into Sunday (at least for someone who studies and understands story structure).
This issue encompasses what the biggest problem with John Cena is, at least in my opinion. It isn’t that we know that he will overcome any obstacles that are put in his way, or that the character is too childish and has grown stale. The problem is that there is never anything at stake for his character. He claimed that his match with The Rock at Wrestlemania 28 was the biggest and most important match of his career, and upon coming up short he proceeded to be exactly the same. Losing the single most important bout of your career would probably have some effect on a person, but not John Cena, because he simply keeps chugging along because nothing ever fazes him. A loss to John Laurinaitis didn’t affect him, being brutalized by Brock Lesnar didn’t matter, and being the first man to cash in Money In The Bank and not emerge with the WWE title didn’t faze him in the slightest. John Cena is Teflon, the man that brushes every misstep in his career off without a second thought. His character is never in any real peril, because there is rarely if ever anything for him to lose going into any of his matches.
FINAL GRADE: B+
I would love to give this angle an A+, because the promos have been phenomenal, and the performers have me excited to see the match on Sunday. That being said, the writing staff dropped the ball by not completing the narrative. The story is heavily one-sided, with all the stakes and emotional investment coming from CM Punk the villain. Furthermore, whether it was unintentional or not, the writers have further devalued what is supposed to be the centerpiece and ultimate motivator of the entire universe they have created and present to us on a weekly basis. I simply cannot give this angle any grade higher than a B+.
There you have it, but what do you think? Do you also think that Cena has nothing at stake in this rivalry? Are you tired of Cena never being fazed by any of his “big” losses? How great has the promo work between Punk and Cena been these past few weeks? And what would you grade the angle?
Until next time, I’m Matty J. Douglas hoping for the best for Jerry “The King” Lawler. I’ve heard his voice weekly for over half of my life, and never thought in my wildest nightmares that what happened Monday Night would ever happen. #PrayForJerry