Pruett's Pause: WWE Raw - C.M. Punk is telling a story, everyone leave him alone, Daniel Bryan is a locker room leader at least according to the commentators, Randy Orton confronts Brie Bella
By Will Pruett
I've put a lot of thought into and used a whole lot of words discussing the Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H and friends angle. It's been a fascinating display of wrestling storytelling, if not always a good one. What has been consistently good has been the other number one story in WWE; C.M. Punk's quest for vengeance from Paul Heyman.
This week, we saw Punk return to Raw, in his hometown of Chicago, to rile up the hometown fans. Punk discussed a basic tenant of storytelling, the comeback. This tenant works exceptionally well, both in professional wrestling and in actual sports. It's extremely easy to write and extremely easy to set up, but it works. People love a good comeback.
Think about football. It's not very interesting (unless it's your team) when the number one seed in the NFL playoffs makes it to the Super Bowl. It's far more exciting to see a number five or six seed fight from the bottom and make their way to the promised land. You have to lose a little bit to build up momentum.
Heck, this is even true in wrestling matches. In the WWE style, the babyface has to sell for a while before finally building to their big comeback. It works because people rally behind an underdog. They rally behind a loser they believe can win. This is why people are choosing to rally behind C.M. Punk.
Punk discussed his beloved Chicago Blackhawks, who won the Stanley Cup this past year. He mentioned how they came back from being down three games to one in a series against the Red Wings (who shouldn't have been there to begin with in the mind of this Anaheim Ducks fan). He reminded us how they came back. Punk vowed to do the same.
In a way, the story Punk and Heyman are telling is extremely basic and extremely obvious. Last month, Heyman guaranteed people they would see him take a beating, and he did. This month, Punk is telling his fans to stay true to him because the comeback is coming, and it is. No one is over-complicating things. There are no authority figures stepping in to fix things. Everything about this script seems basic.
What makes this story special is the performances. Punk and Heyman are doing masterful work against each other. They are showing true emotion and real passion. Even as the feud stretches on, it doesn't feel like too much. Punk and Heyman are telling a basic sports story. This story could be told with the Green Bay Packers overcoming the Chicago Bears, the Yankees and the Red Sox, or any other combination of teams or individuals in sports.
Punk and Heyman are telling a special story by stripping away all of the baggage wrestling has felt it was necessary to add for the last fifteen years. This story is special because it is basic. What is old has become new. Leave Punk and Heyman alone, they're telling a story.
And now for some random thoughts...
- I'm glad the wrestlers on the stage were given a microphone to respond to a Triple H and Stephanie and the show began. It doesn't fix all of the issues with the angle, but it does help to see them standing up.
- Isn't spelling Triple H's name the way we do odd? Why not go with HHH, which would be easier to type, or Hunter, which is what the first H stands for? The man's first name, in WWE storytelling has become Triple. Weird, right?
- I'm still enjoying the disingenuous work from Triple H and Stephanie. It isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it is very fun to watch.
- Do heel authority figures know how to do anything but make handicap matches? Sometimes it is just too much on Raw and Smackdown. There has to be something more original than a handicap match in store.
- If you own a smartphone and don't know how to download an app, you can't be helped. How does WWE not see this?
- As good as Kofi Kingston vs. Alberto Del Rio was, I was more compelled to fast forward through it. On Raw, we know we're going to get long matches from the likes of Del Rio and Kingston and this was a basic, long match. It was well wrestled, but it is just so hard to care about what they were doing when the outcome was so obvious.
- I like The Wyatt Family act. I want to know more about them. WWE did really well with the original vignettes and their videos continue to be compelling. I wish we could learn more about the pasts of Rowan and Harper and how they came to believe in Bray. It would strengthen the entire story.
- I don't blame Big Show for punching Miz. We have all wanted to. I continue to believe there is no redemption in store for Show's character. After what he has done to so many wrestlers and legends, can the fans cheer for him, even if he does rebel?
- While I enjoyed the Rob Van Dam vs. Randy Orton match and I certainly approve of rebuilding Orton's mean streak, this didn't do a whole lot of good for RVD, who is challenging for the World Heavyweight Championship in two weeks. This is one of those situations where WWE put two guys who need wins in a match together. Orton is the more important property here, but why not do something for both in separate matches?
- Randy Orton is looking meaner by the week. I hope this shows in his in-ring style when it comes time to face Bryan. Sure, we are seeing some vicious assaults, but his actual wrestling needs to look more dangerous to his opponent.
- Los Matadores are showing up next week! This could actually be some great fun.
- Brie Bella and Randy Orton's backstage segment felt a little too scripted for my tastes, but I like where it is going. Brie being threatened by Orton and the McMahons makes sense in the long run. It could also bring a little more passion out of Bryan.
- I'm actually interested in the new Triple H DVD. I'll probably watch it whenever it hits Netflix.
- Once again, I don't understand Stephanie and Triple H's love of belittling other heels on the roster. Stephanie seems to love confrontations with A.J. Lee and Triple H can't stop mocking Paul Heyman. Why not let those heels be heels and get out of the way?
- Santino returned and won a bunch of matches to be finally defeated by Fandango. One of the biggest weaknesses in WWE over the last few years has been a lack of compelling mid-card stories. The matches feel random and with over six hours of first run television per week, there is no reason for the randomness.
- I wish C.M. Punk could have walked out the with Stanley Cup. How epic of a moment would that be?
- Ryback looks like even more of a threat to Punk. He also is more compelling than he's been in a long time paired with Heyman. I don't love the Bully Ry act, but it's fun.
- I'm all for pushing Brie Bella. Give her the the World Heavyweight Championship.
- The Shield seem like scapegoats in the Rhodes family drama. I don't mind Goldust and Cody attacking them (who didn't see the guy with a gold face and a hoodie running through the building), but it was Randy Orton and Big Show who did true damage. The Rhodes boys vs. The Shield will be a compelling tag match.
- The handicap match on Raw was not especially compelling. The fans were into it, but making The Shield the underdogs hurt the match. Shouldn't I be cheering for the team the number one babyface is on?
- I had no idea Roman Reigns had not been pinned in WWE yet. Maybe this should have been addressed before.
- The benefit of the final match wads how it made Dolph Ziggler, The Uso's, and Daniel Bryan look. It's fun to have babyfaces look like world beaters in a match, even if they do outnumber the heels.
This was a weird show, but it was certainly elevated by Chicago and C.M. Punk's storytelling. WWE has a lot of work to do with only one Raw remaining until Battleground. The top three matches look decent, but the card can use some filling out.
So, what did you think of the show? Agree? Disagree? Either way, feel free to email me at email@example.com or to follow me and interact on twitter at twitter.com/itswilltime.
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