Check This Out...

5.19.2008

Shades of Gray #9

In this week’s column I’ll re-visit a topic from a previous column (CM Punk as MITB champion) to see how Punk’s career has regressed since that major victory. I’ll also discuss the “punishments” given out to Jeff Hardy for his drug suspension and Santino Marella for his DUI arrest.

Triple H and Shawn Michaels have been firmly planted at the top of the card for years, and I’ll discuss the positive and negative aspects of their never-ending main event pushes. The “Links of the Week” feature Rob Van Dam impersonating his current workout partner and “Extras” include classic footage from WCW Monday Nitro and more crazy gimmicks.

CM Punk as MITB Champion

In Shades of Gray #4, I said that as deserving as Punk was in winning the briefcase, he would more than likely come up short when cashing it in. He’s a popular Superstar, but he lacks the size that the McMahons have looked for in their heavyweight champions and he has heat with the future boss, Triple H. So, if WWE never intended on using the briefcase to elevate Punk, then why even give him the win at the biggest show of the year?

Even if you were one of the few who thought Punk would ultimately win a major title, you have to be thinking again after the events of recent weeks. Since winning at WrestleMania XXIV, Punk has lost to Chris Jericho, William Regal and Edge. Arguably, even though Punk is technically the No.1 contender to the all the heavyweight titles, those losses are excusable. However, losing to Miz on “ECW” and taking the pin from John Morrison at Judgment Day are inexcusable. He’s set up perfectly for a loss to Colin Delaney on Tuesday night.

It’s bad enough that ECW’s main attraction is jobbing out left and right, but at the same time, a gimmick that’s been popular for a few years now (MITB) is being buried too. Being the No. 1 contender doesn’t mean anything when you lose to guys that will never get a sniff at the World title. The MITB briefcase would have been better suited with someone like MVP, who could have used it to set up a Summer feud with the Undertaker.

Here’s what I think is going on: Jeff Hardy was supposed to win the MITB Ladder Match until his suspension forced a change of plans. On short notice, the decision was made to give Punk the win, and Vince almost immediately regretted the decision. Vince is mad at himself for allowing Punk to go over and is doing his darndest to make up for it.

The only silver lining here is that it’s not too late to turn this around. The average fan’s attention span is shorter than ever - so a winning streak could re-capture Punk’s momentum and set him up for the title shot he earned. But I’m not holding my breath.

The treatment of Jeff Hardy and Santino Marella

Hardy has been back from suspension for a week and already holds victories over two of the top young talents in the company: Umaga and MVP. It’s only been a few weeks since Santino’s arrest and his mini-feud with one of the biggest stars in wrestling history has led to a surprise appearance on ABC’s late-night talk show, Jimmy Kimmel Live. This is more like a slap pn the back than a slap on the wrist.

Santino’s arrest has actually been into a storyline: Piper has used the designated driver joke twice and yelled out, “Betty Ford!” on Jimmy Kimmel. Hardy made an indirect reference to his suspension on “Raw,” saying “I made a mistake and I paid for it.” Either way, none of the two are any worse off for their misdeeds. Sure, Hardy served a 60-day suspension, but he’s picking up right where he left off as a top contender for the WWE title. And Santino just received national exposure on a popular television show with a potential run as tag team champion in his future.

With that said, I believe everyone deserves a second chance (although in Harvey’s case, his second chance came about four chances ago). And though I don’t know Santino personally, I think he’s the type of guy that will learn from his mistake. Both guys are super-talented and are two of the reasons that “Raw” is considered must-see programming in the eyes of most wrestling fans. On Kimmel, the crowd popped for Santino pronouncing the host’s name as “Johnny Camel.”

But there’s no denying that WWE’s response to illegal activity leaves more to be desired. Just look at some of the names listed in the Signature Pharmacy scandal: Randy Orton, Edge, William Regal, Umaga, Mr. Kennedy, Chavo Guerrero, John Morrison, and Funaki. All currently hold prominent positions in the company. In fact, Orton was never suspended for his involvement.

Of course, Santino wasn’t caught with drugs, but his crime was arguably much worse, endangering the lives of others on the road. Santino was certainly punished by law and having his mugshot posted all over the internet was assuredly embarrassing, but I still expected some form of punishment from the fed. I certainly didn’t expect him to get pushed harder than ever before.

Triple H and Shawn Michaels on the top of the card

The original members of Degeneration-X have been a fixture in main events for nearly a decade, and part of the roster for much longer than that. There are a couple of reasons to explain their longevity: most importantly, they are two of the best workers in the company, but they also hold a lot of backstage stroke. Even before Trips was banging the boss’ daughter, the Clique (Michaels, Triple H, Nash, Hall, X-Pac) booked a lot of the storylines and finishes right alongside Vince McMahon.

Triple H and Michaels are two of the biggest stars on “Raw” right now. After retiring the greatest wrestler of all-time at WrestleMania XXIV, HBK decisively beat Batista at Backlash and last night, he beat Chris Jericho at Judgment Day. If Michaels were 20 years younger I’d say he’s being booked to main event SummerSlam in August.

But can another title run really be in Michaels’ future? Granted, Y2J and Batista are already over (and aren’t spring chickens themselves), but I’d still say the fed’s priorities are out of whack. At this stage of his career, Shawn should be doing what he does best: making others look good by doing the J-O-B.

Similarly, Triple H ended the “Age of Orton” at Backlash and pinned him a second time inside the steel cage last night. More than anyone else, Triple H has been the face of “Raw” from the year 2000 onward. But it’s time for that face to change. Orton was having an entertaining reign and establishing himself as the top player on “Raw.” It’s been said before, but Orton has improved by leaps and bounds compared to where he was even 1 year ago.

While flipping through the channels with a buddy of mine the other day (who was a fan during the Attitude era), I stopped on a promo for the steel cage match at Judgment Day. My friend’s response: “Triple H is still around?” Yes, he most certainly is, and unfortunately, for as long as he’s still wrestling, he’ll probably be in the main event.

This isn’t to say I’m not a fan of HBK and Trips or that they don’t deserve a spot on the card. They are undoubtedly two of the best of all-time. But for the WWE to move on and eventually reach even greater heights, newer stars are going to need the spotlight and the opportunity to capture the audience’s attention.

Links of the Week

1. Jeff Hardy’s surprise return to “Raw,” which included no direct reference to his drug suspension
2. Another surprise: Lance Cade turns on Trevor Murdoch after their match with Cryme Tyme
3. The Miz beats the MITB winner
4. Part 1 of Mike Tenay’s sit-down interview with Sting, which teases some heat with the Ultimate Warrior - I think this could be leading to a feud with Jeff Jarrett, though
5. Interesting footage of Abyss in a padded cell - unfortunately it looks like he’ll be talking more and be maskless . . . he’s screwed
6. Black Machismo proposes to So Cal Val - no doubt we need another wrestling wedding
7. Matt Hardy vs. Shelton Benjamin - if Hardy faces Kenny Dykstra next week we’ll know someone in WWE reads my columns
8. Santino’s punishment for his DUI: national exposure on Jimmy Kimmel
9. Rob Van Dam impersonates Warrior

Extras

10. Big Show impersonates Hulk Hogan
11. Khali’s doppelganger but with a body suit and fur
12. WWE’s Tazz beats WCW’s Mike Awesome for the ECW Heavyweight Championship
13. Arn Anderson’s retirement speech from “Nitro”
14. NWO’s parody of the speech the following week


1 comments: on "Shades of Gray #9"

Matt said...

I'm going to try to be optimistic about Punk, and say that his recent jobs are part of a long-running possible future push. Like you said, the fans have short attention spans. So, I like to think that they're puttin punk on the backburner right now, and aiming to push him later, maybe even not untill wrestlemania nextyear.

Right now, both titles are booked in solid storylines. Raw's title scene may be booked for a few months actually, if you think about all the possible contendors they've been pushing (Orton, Regal, JBL, Cena, Micheals, etc.) Also, Taker and Edge doesnt look like its ending anytime soon.

By putting Punk on the backburner, they can continue the solid fueds theyve had for each title, without the clusterfuck booking thats been going on by just adding people to the mix.

Maybe punk takes a break, or they start showing training montages or something. This builds him up for a solid streak of wins, which makes everyone forget how many jobs he did in the past. Look at how easy it was to turn Regal to a serious contender in a short period of time.

Instead of awkwardly fiting him into the main event scene, maybe they're doin a slowburn push, that leads to a solid title fued down the road. My guess is that itll be with Edge. I may be looking too far into it, but I'm just trying to find reason in all the jobs hes been doing.