By Jeffrey Lutz
I can't remember the last time I missed an episode of Monday Night Raw, but I might have to skip tonight's show.
I won't, of course. I have to see the follow-up to the SummerSlam-ending angle that had Randy Orton cashing in his Money in the Bank contract and winning the WWE title from newly crowned champion Daniel Bryan. I have to know what happens next with Triple H, now an advocate for a heel Randy Orton. I have to witness the beginning of Daniel Bryan's first real chase for the WWE Championship, and I have to see if John Cena continues to make an impact while facing the possibility of elbow surgery.
I won't miss all of those things, but while the next few weeks will probably produce great television involving those four characters, I don't see how it could be any better than what we saw Sunday night after an outstanding Cena-Bryan match in front of an enthusiastic crowd. None of those four performers have ever been as interesting to me as when the pay-per-view went off the air Sunday night. It will be a challenge to write television to ensure that we haven't already seen the peak of this story.
I've been as harsh of a critic against Triple H as anybody, frustrated over his insistence on inserting himself into many of WWE's top angles even though he's no longer a full-time wrestler. His new role as the corporate support for Orton, though, breathes life into a character that hasn't had much flexibility lately and provides a unique spin to the stale on-air authority figure role that WWE has essentially run into the ground. Triple H is the first such character that can, at worst, hold his own against wrestlers -- since he is one, after all. An evil corporate boss who can beat people up -- we've never seen that before.
WWE seems to finally be turning the page on Orton's two wellness policy violations and suspensions that will get him terminated if he receives one more. Orton seems to be basically out of the woods from a bad-behavior standpoint, and while a heel turn might not change his character too much since he works as a villain even when he's a babyface, it should motivate him to continue to produce in the ring and to possibly ramp up his evil tendencies.
We haven't heard a meaningful promo from Orton in a while, and it's been even longer since he's given one as WWE Champion. I'm eager to hear what he has to say tonight on Raw, and in coming weeks as he cements his status as a full-fledged heel for whom fans will probably still have an affinity.
Bryan may never have the opportunity to win the WWE Championship for the first time again, but the chase against Orton should only increase his popularity. It may not seem like Bryan can get any more popular than he was during and after Sunday's match against Cena, in front of a wild crowd ready to celebrate his championship victory, but as the deck gets stacked against him by Triple H and (most likely) Vince McMahon in Raw's story lines, Bryan will probably have even more fan support. Who knew that Bryan would turn into this generation's Stone Cold Steve Austin, the protagonist in a story involving a boss who doesn't believe his look is corporate enough.
The next chapters those three participants in Sunday's match will be interesting, but I may be most intrigued by what happens next with Cena. From where I sit, Cena has never had a better week than the one he just finished. His promo on Raw struck all the notes many fans have been hoping he'd hit during the build to meaningful matches -- serious, intense, and with a clear message of taking his opponent seriously. His match with Bryan was yet another instance of Cena delivering in a main-event setting.
As much as his charity work and merchandise sales, WWE has to be keeping Cena at the top because they know he'll produce in big matches. He knows how to work the crowd, and Bryan's frentic in-ring pace didn't throw Cena off his game. Cena wrestled a completely unselfish match, casting himself as the heel for many spots and working hard to make Bryan look good. Bryan didn't need the help, but the fact that Cena spent most of the match selling means, to me, that he took the job of helping develop Bryan's star status seriously.
I want to see more of that. I want to see if Cena continues his one-week evolution process or if he goes back to being the happy-go-lucky guy who knows his spot at the top of the card is secure no matter his opponent. Unfortunately, just as Cena looks to be finally becoming somewhat fresh, he'll probably have to miss time due to his elbow injury. I do expect him to have a promo tonight on Raw, however, and his mission should be to make fans anticipate his return. Any layoff will continue to freshen up his character, and hopefully he comes back with the edge many have pleaded with him to develop in recent years.
Before the build to SummerSlam, Triple H, Orton and Cena were stagnant characters getting by on their previous accomplishments and popularity with the fans. Now they're all exciting on some level or another. They all have the opportunity to mark uncharted territory as characters and performers, and with Bryan also in the mix, WWE can offer a new take on the babyface-versus-corporate story that it has told in the past. I'll be watching Raw tonight, hoping that it can get better than what went down at SummerSlam, but I won't believe it until I see it.
Jeff Lutz has written for the Wichita Eagle newspaper in Kansas for over a decade and debuted with Prowrestling.net on November 4, 2012. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Lutz's Blog: The SummerSlam finish involving Triple H, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan and John Cena makes for reluctant must-see television
Aug 19, 2013 - 11:00 AM
Aug 19, 2013 - 11:00 AM
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