Pruett's Pause: WWE Raw - The apathy greeting John Cena and Randy Orton is symptomatic of WWE's larger problem with true character development, Daniel Bryan is kidnapped, Punk panders, and more!
By Will Pruett
John Cena and Randy Orton are set to wrestle in the main event of a pay-per-view for the first time since 2009. This should be a major deal. John Cena has been the public face of the company for years. Randy Orton has never been far from the top of the card. These two men were each other's key rivals from 2007 until the end of 2009. Their legacies are permanently connected. John Cena vs. Randy Orton, for the first time in four years, should really matter.
Sadly, it doesn't. The crowd at the end of Raw greeted the setup between Orton and Cena with absolute apathy. It's was not cheering, booing, or even rebelling. The crowd didn't care enough to chant for a commentator or to sing some theme music. They just sat in their seats and watched as Orton was forced to pretend some people might actually care.
This apathy from the crowd is not unjustified. WWE has given us no reason to care about either man. When they met for the first time in 2007, Cena was the established top star and Orton was a talent finally beginning to reach his potential. It was an exciting moment when their feud began and, for the first time in over a year, John Cena had a true challenge for his top spot. Cena vs. Orton felt like the next big thing in wrestling.
In 2009 when this feud was run into the ground, Cena and Orton had run their course. John Cena had overcome every challenge Orton, and his goons, could throw at him. Randy Orton had used every diabolical trick, including literally trying to blow Cena up with pyrotechnics. This feud needed to end.
Since the end of their feud in 2009, has anything changed about the characters of John Cena and Randy Orton? John Cena has met his new great rival (C.M. Punk) and had a legendary series with one of the top stars of all time (The Rock). In this time, John Cena did not adapt and overcome he simply overcame. He never had to change. Even when faced with a challenge, Cena was just himself. His character didn't develop at all.
What about Randy Orton? His path since 2009 has been very different. After a momentarily electrifying feud with Kofi Kingston, Orton somehow magically morphed in a babyface, left his goons behind, and allowed fans to cheer him for three years. When he turned back into a bad guy, he stopped being the wrestler willing to blow someone up DDT someone's wife, or concuss anyone with a punt kick. Now, he is the wrestler fighting for the very wife he DDTed, not as a ruthless and vile human being, but as a pawn with a fancy belt.
John Cena is the exact same as he was in 2009 and Randy Orton means less than he did then. Why should they have a big showdown now? There has been no true character development for either man. They are the exact same people (or less) they were in 2009. If WWE had taken the time to develop and change these characters over the last four years, as people develop and change over four years, they might have a true showdown match on their hands.
This issue shows more than just the staleness of John Cena and Randy Orton. It shows how bad WWE has been at developing characters in this era. No one changes. They are who they are. Why watch if WWE isn't going to reward your emotional investment? I've never been more discouraged about wrestling. This upcoming possible unification match between Cena and Orton is between two characters in the exact same places they were in four years ago. Why invest in it?
This crowd responded with apathy. It's probably the most positive thing I can feel about WWE right now.
And now for some random thoughts...
- WWE opened Raw on a classy note, with a tribute to Mad Dog Vachon. It's nice to see them acknowledge when a talent passes instead of hoping the media won't ask questions. One vast improvement in wrestling over the last five years has been the lack of major talent deaths. I couldn't be more thankful for it.
- Randy Orton was downright boring during his opening promo.
- Triple H and Stephanie didn't do much to make Orton more interesting. I'm not even sure who's side their on or why they don't attend acting classes regularly. I praised their character work months ago, but at this point, it is really weak.
- John Cena and Randy Orton are both champions, so they'll have a TLC match to determine who is more champion-ish and possibly who can hold both belts. What's weird is how they'll both most likely switch titles. It'll be called historic. It'll be a bad title TLC match. I'm not excited about this program at all.
- The Shield had a very good tag team match with The Rhodes Brothers and Rey Mysterio. The chemistry isn't surprising at this point, but I have to mention just how much The Shield has enhanced the WWE product in the past year.
- Roman Reigns doesn't love much, but he loves spearing people.
- Michael Strahan was not entertaining on a Raw, but I don't blame him. I blame the idiots who wrote this segment for him. Parts of this Raw felt like a bad 2009 episode of Raw, only with the wrestlers who have moved to TNA crossed out. Basically, it was bad. Quite bad.
- Big E Langston and Mark Henry could be a very fun and very dominant tag team. Henry seems to have slowed down a step or two. Langston could move around for him in the ring and benefit from the partnership rub.
- I didn't watch the Divas Survivor Series rematch. I have no regrets.
- Damien Sandow and Dolph Ziggler seem to be engaged in an epic battle of location-based hardcore garbage matches. While this isn't good for either character, it is oddly entertaining. I'd love to see them keep it going somehow. It doesn't need to be good, it just needs to happen.
- I'd probably keep The Wyatt Family out of comedy vignettes backstage, but I normally want wrestling to be good, so I'm not like those in power in WWE.
- Oh look, C.M. Punk can make insider references on Raw! Good for him! I know I should get excited about knowing all the ways Punk mentioned Colt Cabana, but I don't care. It wasn't a good promo and it is a part of a subpar story. Punk can do better.
- Daniel Bryan and Punk vs. The Wyatt Family was pretty entertaining. The two teams work well together for sure.
- This show was a double whammy of bad news for Daniel Bryan. Not only was he kidnapped by The Wyatts, but his fiancé was asking Michael Strahan for his autograph instead of worrying about him or looking for him. This was a sad oversight from WWE.
- The Kosher Butcher? Does WWE not vet these people at all?
- Did WWE just decide to transfer Brodus Clay's gimmick to Xavier Woods? This is good for no one. Woods looks ridiculous imitating an overweight man. Clay is out of sight. The audience is smarter than this and deserves to be respected.
- The tag team main event was almost as boring as the two individual matches it was constructed from. I can't imagine being less interested in Big Show, John Cena, Alberto Del Rio, and Randy Orton.
It is hard to be inspired by anything in WWE right now. This is one of the most depressing periods I've been through as a fan. The sadness comes not just from the bad product, but from how good things looked like they could be in July and August. Ever since, WWE has made puzzling choice after puzzling choice. This is a sad time to be a wrestling fan.
So, what did you think of the show? Agree? Disagree? Either way, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to follow me and interact on twitter at twitter.com/itswilltime.
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