For me, this feels like the official first day of 2014. Everyone’s back to work and it’s business as usual. I have to stop eating nachos for every meal, under the guise of it being festive, but I do get to start counting down to the Royal Rumble! It’s taking place in Pittsburgh (a feasible drive), so we are making the pilgrimage! To make things even more exciting, we are meeting up with Andrew Johnson and Jacob Lindsay (current and former TJR writers) for the occasion. It's going to be Brock Lesnar CAAAAW-worthy! Most years, the Rumble is my favorite PPV, at least in terms of anticipation. I love the structure of the match, the opportunity for surprise, and the notion that it kicks off the road to WrestleMania. This is the giddy portion of the road. The jaded part comes mid-March when they’ve only booked 3 matches and one of them involves Hulk Hogan.

Let’s see what happened over the weekend!

This Happened

NoDQ posted photos of Daniel Bryan from a live event on Saturday night. On one hand, I appreciate that he was dressed as a member of the Wyatt Family. It is consistent with the storyline, and heaven knows consistency is a term used loosely in WWE. What a treat for fans in Hampton, Virginia. On the other hand, I feel a bit disappointed that “the big reveal” happened this way, and not on Raw. In my opinion, it’s a big deal, and had a lot of potential to be a relatively iconic moment. I hope they still position it as such, and don’t just pull a “Look at Daniel Wyatt now, King!” while yukking it up about The New Age Outlaws in the previous segment. (I try to appreciate the good parts of Old School Raw, but it’s usually so much wasted potential.)

Fans are already complaining that his new gear is too janitorial, and should be more Daniel Bryany (or at least a cooler iteration of Wyatt Wear). Let’s see if anything changes for Raw, but also let’s think about the story: they have to tear him down before they can build him into the Family Member that they need him to be. That doesn’t mean browsing through Erick Rowan’s armoire to see which color goes best with DBry’s complexion; it means grabbing some shit that’s in keeping with dirty work, the more demeaning the better. If you find yourself thinking, “That looks stupid”, then it’s a step in the right direction.

Another step in the right direction: at this live event, Bryan was introduced as “Daniel Wyatt”, and let Bray beat him down in a cage match (WrestlingInc). This preserves Daniel as not-quite-a-heel and contributes to his character development. Rock n’ roll, boys.

 

This is Happening

I pay almost no attention to WWE’s online polls, but this one stood out. After asking fans if they think there is a weak link in The Shield, 50% of the 6000 voters thought that Dean Ambrose is the weak link, and 23% feel that there is no weak link. (WWE

The results of this poll stood out to me because they prove WWE is doing their job with The Shield storyline right now. Even though Dean Ambrose is by far the dominant man on the microphone, and hasn’t done anything to deliberately look weak in the ring, he is PERCEIVED to be the weak link because Reigns in particular (and Rollins to a lesser extent) has been booked to look so strong. Dean’s the understood leader, but Reigns has been giving him the stink eye. And since Reigns has been positioned as the more heroic figure, we choose his perspective as the lens through which we look at Ambrose.

The second part of the results also speak volumes, because a fair number of voters perceive that there is NO weak link in The Shield, which is also part of WWE’s plan to break them up. The rarely-used twitter accounts of The Shield have even been put to task in an effort to present a unified front. For every bit of evidence that there is a crack in the armor, they patch it up with a bit of tape. Because they’ve built up so much credibility as a strong faction, people WANT to believe in The Shield. But at the same time, they can’t ignore those cracks, and right now the only cracks they’re seeing have Dean’s name on them.

Or the survey results could be completely fabricated. I am reminded of the crazy polls at Night of Champions, which makes me wonder why one of the options for weak links in The Shield wasn’t somebody random like Mick Foley because he once talked smack about Dean Ambrose.    

 

This Should Happen

WWE has formed a partnership with some money management and media training companies in an effort to educate their talent (WrestlingInc). 

In addition to preparing their developmental/main roster for life as a Superstar (with courses on social media and publicity), WWE is also preparing them for life after wrestling. Wrestlers will learn how to manage their finances, control debt, and do tax planning. Equally laudable is the initiative that’s teaching wrestlers about injury prevention and healthy lifestyles. I can’t think of anything snarky to say about this, because for all we can criticize Vince for being hard on his talent, this is at least a handshakey attempt at proactive support for a crew of wrestlers that get no off-season or union protection. It’s a dog-eat-dog-faced gremlin world, and I appreciate this gesture on the company’s part to equip their staff with tools for sustaining their careers and lives. Is it a token gesture? I'm sure CM Punk will let us know on twitter.

 

“It’s a Happening Alright”

After a live event in Chicago on Boxing Day, CM Punk took to the microphone. He apologized to the home town crowd for being absent the previous Boxing Day in Chicago, because he was out with a knee injury. Apparently a small group of fans booed him for it, inciting a miniature rant from Punk. He said that their opinions didn’t matter to him (um, retaliating proves the opposite) and then he asked if they’d rather have seen Randy Orton vs. John Cena. (WrestlingInc

My proverbial record just scratched to a halt, because I’m a fan of wrestlers’ true feelings bubbling to the surface at inopportune times, and Punk is the best/worst at containing his true feelings. I'm guessing he's filed Orton and Cena under "So Very Establishment", not to mention being pretty thrifty with his praise for WWE main eventers. But it’s the spontaneous moments like this one in Chicago, and like the Fabulous Ascension Ceremony, where we get to see the glossy facades shatter. I’m not saying this is another Pipe Bomb, but this certainly hints at Punk being disgruntled. I’ll be curious to see if he is rewarded or punished for it, if he cannot contain his disgruntlement.

 

Oh God, Please Don’t Let It Happen

I am not a fan of spoilers; one of the reasons why I enjoy wrestling is the surprise factor. Since I started doing the Monday News Update a few months ago, it has been challenging for me to avoid spoilers and rumors. I usually don’t report on them, unless the omission of said rumor would be a glaring hole in our News column, or if I think the rumor is more than idle chatter. But apparently there’s a third, rare reason for me to print a rumor: if it makes me craaaaaazy.

They’re saying that CM Punk vs. Triple H is a “lock” for WrestleMania XXX (WrestlingInc). That sentence is enough to get me worked into a lather. Don't even joke about this, dirt sheet people! I don’t want to see Triple H wrestle ever again, let alone steal someone’s spot at WrestleMania, let alone waste CM Punk when Punk could get into a much more interesting feud with someone else. I also think it would be a boring-ass match. I haven't seen Triple H do anything that wasn't a color-by-numbers Triple H match in years. God, what if he wants to make it the big retirement match that will give him the big, last hurrah he so craves? If you can guaran-damn-tee me that it will be his last match, and it doesn’t get more than 15 minutes, and it turns Punk heel in the process, FINE. But I say that with a great deal of skepticism and with my original opinion that I don’t want it to happen anyway. I’m okay with being wrong about a match sucking. I’m also very okay with being surprised. But I won't be, will I?

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Have a great Monday; I look forward to everyone’s tweets during Old School Raw tonight. You can see mine @kickyhick.