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Monday, 3 October 2011

Can you smell a conspiracy?

After the Hell in a Cell PPV we can now be sure that the Miz/Truth/HHH conspiracy storyline is THE major storyline in the company. The mass confrontation and the strong characterisation of Miz and Truth (particularly Miz) is where the focus is, and the build is that Triple H cannot keep control of his own company. 

One hopes that they have a payoff for this. You would like to believe that there is an endgame to this storyline, and that the WWE creative team have a plan for where this whole thing is going. 

In many ways I am sceptical about that. In more ways I am not sold that the whole storyline has taken off. Well, just look at the ratings. As much as we all loved the initial CM Punk promo that started something very different for a while earlier this summer, to be honest WWE will look at buyrates and ratings, and aside from a bumped up buyrate for Money in the Bank (which could have been even higher had it not been free in the UK) there is no evidence that WWE has turned any sort of corner. 

The 3.0 mark has long been the absolute bottom limit of where a Raw rating should be, but things have dipped as low as 2.7 lately. There has only been one proven ratings grabber and buyrate-spiker in Wrestling in 2011. I'll let you have a think about who that might be for a second - I'll name him shortly.

WWE have a tendency to react in a big way when their ratings dip severely. This often involves Vince McMahon, and most are fairly confident that this conspiracy angle will involve Vince at the helm. We've been assuming it's Vince that is behind Miz & Truth, helping them into buildings, via his stooge John Laurinaitis. It's Vince that was pulling Kevin Nash's strings. Vince that has Johnny Ace still on his side. Vince that has the contacts backstage to lift up the Cell structure. All this could be true. But what if.......

........there is another layer to this. What if the conspirators have a different leader? What if they are using Vince to get at HHH? After all, several of the complaints that many protagonists have were true when Vince was in charge, not just complaints of Hunter's COO-ship. Might they be using Vince to leverage their position, then will ditch him as soon as they get a foot in the door. What if there is another leader?

Let's jump cut to Survivor Series. After another month or so of Miz, Truth & co causing havoc - a period in which Johnny Ace is fired - Triple H finally blows up and admits that he is losing control. So he signs the match - it will be his team at Survivor Series against Miz's insurgents team. If HHH's team loses, then he's gone. He'll walk. And Miz & co can help install a new COO, which we shall all assume is Vince McMahon. If Hunter's team prevail, then Miz & Truth are history. To press this home, the contract signing involves Miz & Truth agreeing that if they lose and ever attempt to comeback, they will be sued for everything they own or something. 

So you need to work the teams out. Let's have HHH convince Cena to be his guy, and that means that Rock will be on that team too. Hunter can put the boots on as well. So that's three. HHH can ask Punk to be on his team, but Punk says no. Hunter can plead for weeks, and eventually Punk agrees. Cena questions the decision - can Punk be trusted? That can be a nice hook going in. Can Punk be trusted to help HHH and the babyfaces? 

We need one more for that team, and it's sort of arbitrary who it is in this plan, since the match would be an elimination match, so we need some people to get beat. Let's make Orton the fifth guy. I was going to suggest Sheamus since it plays into his babyface push right now and would be an interesting display of Triple H uniting his troops. 'Look at Hunter, everyone believes in his cause so much that Sheamus can put aside his hatred in order to fight the good fight.' HHH, for his part, can say he chose Sheamus because he knows full well how tough Sheamus is because the Irishman put him out for so long. I'll explain why I chose Orton in a second, but Sheamus would be a decent alternative. 

So we have a team of HHH, Cena, Rock, Punk and Orton. Who do they face?

Well for a start it's Miz and Truth. We'll add Nash to that mix. He can be protected well enough in a ten-man environment and the story fits. We need two more. Most likely it would be Christian and/or Cody. They are in positions where they can do something heinous enough to get fired in the coming weeks, and things have been built that they are being allegedly sinned against. I'd quite like to see Wade Barrett be one of these guys, since he has previous for being part of an anti-establishment gimmick as Nexus leader, and he'd fit well. He'd also add a bit of size and presence to the group. 

But you know who I'd love to add to this? Chris Jericho. It's just - JUST - about possible, since the last show of Fozzy's European Tour is the day before Survivor Series in Germany. It would be tight, but he could make it. 

It's far from ideal, because my fantasy way of booking this would be to have Chris Jericho appear on Raw before Survivor Series and use his famous orartory skills to cut an awesome promo against Punk, against Cena, against Rock and especially against Triple H, explaining why he is siding with Miz. This is the main reason why I've gone, in this scenario, with Randy Orton. Orton featuring would provide the same sense of solidarity as Sheamus (Randy siding with HHH after their storied past) but would offer Jericho a perfect reason for coming back to get revenge, since Orton put him out of commission with a punt to the head. 
Jericho would be a fantastic addition to the Miz team, but I strongly doubt it would be practical. There is a great alternative, though - Batista. 

The big man, in storyline, quit in a strop because he wasn't getting his own way. He has heat with Cena. He can bitch and whine about Triple H quite easily, I'm sure. He'd be a good fit. 

I want Jericho or Batista involved to give the Miz side of the equation that extra credibility and intrigue. In storyline, no-one could really believe, could they, that Miz, Truth, Nash, Cody and Christian (for example) could beat Cena, Orton, Punk, Rock and HHH. Adding Batista and/or Jericho would add more weight to Miz & co's chances, not to mention that it would make Miz's powers of persuasion all the greater. 

In many ways, the personnel of the heel team is not the most important thing. There is one major storyline issue which we need to get to. 

It's a risky one. It might well piss off a number of people - but I would hope that it will be a big enough story that they would forgive WWE. Or at least the intrigue would draw in more people than it drove off. 

I'd need Rock to give me one Raw episode. Preferably the one before the PPV, but it can be the one before that if necessary. We go off the air on that Raw with a to-the-point Rock promo highlighting why he loves WWE, the reasons why he can stand side by side with Cena, despite their past. He can stand side by side with Punk, despite Punk's jibes. He can align with HHH, in spite of their history together. He can stand shoulder to shoulder with Orton, even though Randy ostensibly brought Rock out of retirement at Wrestlemania XX. 

The gist of Rock's speech will be that this threat to WWE by Miz is too great. He loves WWE, as he has said before, and will do whatever he has to to make sure it is in the right hands. 

The Pay Per View arrives. I'd make it a major priority to stack the undercard with high quality matches. Let's say Daniel Bryan v Cody Rhodes for the IC title (if Cody is not in the main event), Dolph Ziggler v John Morrison for the US title, Evan Bourne & Kofi Kingston v The Kings of Wrestling (I can dream, can't I?) and Sheamus v Mark Henry. I know most would say "No other Survivor Series matches?" but I'd just have one to keep the main event special. 

I'd make the main feature of the Raw shows post Vengeance the putting together of the teams, especially the babyface team. There has to be focus on how they will get along. Are the past rivalries of Cena/Orton, Punk/Cena, Punk/HHH, Orton/HHH and so on too much for them to all co-exist? Can Punk be trusted? Does HHH really have their respect?

The intro of the show itself would be all about the main event and it's consequences. Before we even go live to the arena I'd screen some 'earlier today' clips, voiced over by Jim Ross and Michael Cole, of first Triple H arriving at the building looking stressed, then quick clips of Cena and Orton getting there too. The announcers sell the magnitude of the match and the babyfaces getting along. Then we have pyro and the first match. 

After the first match, we go backstage and see the arrival of none other than The Rock. he cuts a typical Rock promo then asks where CM Punk's locker room is, since he needs to speak to him. Josh (or whomever) says he hasn't arrived yet. Rock looks concerned. 

During match two, Miz and his entire team arrive as one. It's really important they are portrayed as a unit. Josh goes to interview but they have an escort to the locker room and Josh is refused access to them. We see this on a split screen during the match in progress, to give a sense that things are happening, and not always choreographed to occur coincidentally during a break. In fact Rock's arrival earlier on could happen during match one, then the announcers say that the interview was recorded during the match. 

After match three I'd go backstage and show Punk arriving. He starts to explain that there was traffic and he was late. He is confronted by Cena who questions Punk's commitment. Punk starts to rebut and then commotion is heard. Cena, Punk and cameraman charge to the source of the noise. We see some of Miz's crew scuttle away and find Rock laid out in his dressing room. 

So the question now is whether Rock will be fit for the match. When the times comes, all individual entrances are done, with Rock's coming last. He does not emerge. We start the match 5 on 4. Because of the numerical advantage, Miz's team are able to distract and play enough games that Orton and Punk are eliminated. It's five on two. Out comes Rock, limping to ringside. 

Rejuvenated, the faces fight back. Cena eliminates Christian and then Jericho. Triple H pedigrees and pins Nash. Nash, though, returns with a sledgehammer and lays out HHH. Miz pins him. 

It's left with Rock and Cena v Miz and Truth. Miz and Truth dominate Cena, with the crowd crying out for a Rock tag. Just as Cena gets there, Rock removes his hand. 

Cena looks bemused. Rock flashes a Hollwood smile. Miz grabs Cena - Skull Crushing Finale. Truth picks Cena up and hits Paydirt. In comes Rock. He hits a Rock Bottom and a People's Elbow. Miz pins Cena. They laugh together. Rock stands toe to toe with Miz, who pokes him with one finger. Rock sells it, and allows Miz to pin him. Out come all the heels, including John Laurinaitis, and they celebrate. 

This gives Rock a prominent position on the show. You don't need him to be around all the time. Maybe just half a dozen Raws before Mania. The fact is that Rock is the single proven ratings getter that I referred to near the top of this column. His lustre will wear off eventually, but if used strategically he could be vital to getting WWE back on track. 

So the plan is revealed. Rock is the mastermind. Or is he? It's Raw, and the heels are all out at the start of the show. Rock says that he was only ever going to come back for something groundbreaking, and this is it. He looked at Raw and saw HHH conniving to get the top spot, and was sickened. He was doing this ten years ago when Rock was on the scene the first time. So Rock was sickened to see this, and had to put it right. And as for Cena? He's just as bad as Hunter. Too much power. We will now make sure things are put right. 

Laurinaitis gets the mic. But of course there was only one man who could make this right, he says. Only one man who could pull the right strings - it's Vince McMahon. Out comes Vince. He says how else could the Cell get lowered, who else could get hold of Nash and get him to 'stick Punk'? Vince is not quite reinstalled, because 'the board' won't let him run the show again, but Miz was allowed to name a COO as per the deal of the match, and he chose Rock. But Rock knows that I (Vince) am the only man capable of running this place, so he'll be directed by me. Next week we will have the second ever Vince McMahon appreciation night - and Triple H is going to join the Kiss My Ass club. 

The following week, they tell HHH he will join the Kiss My Ass club or be fired. Vince says Rock is not there, he's in Hollywood, but he's watching on. "We couldn't have done it without you Rock." Trips comes to the ring to confront them and refuses to kiss Vince's ass. Vince says anyone who helps HHH will be fired immediately. The heels jump HHH and Miz hits a SCF on HHH. From that position he lifts Trips up for the horrible deed. Vince cackles. In front of him, Johnny Ace gets a text and the camera focuses on the shock on his face. As he goes to tell Vince something, Nash boots Ace in the face. Vince looks confused. Miz low blows Vince. Out comes the Rock. "So you got my text, Johnny?" he says. He Rock Bottoms the VP (Talent Relations). 

"Vince, Johnny. You're fired." he says.

After this, in the coming weeks, the group try to court Punk to get him in their stable. Punk wavers but ultimately doesn't join. Del Rio petitions to be part of Rock's group but they rebut him and say they want his belt. If the fans went for it you could (possibly) turn ADR babyface. Punk can become a Sting like figure (in terms of mood, not specific character) who is only out for himself. 

Rock doesn't have to be there all the time, just sporadically, but he is running things, and Miz is the shining star of the group. I'd add to the group a little - Barrett would be a good addition. So would Henry. In fact Henry could be there from the start to add muscle and credibility - though I'd get the belt off him first by dubious means to give him the complaint of being sinned against too. 

I'd be tempted to get them oust Nash after a while as he represents an old guard that they don't need. So Rock, Miz, Truth, Christian, Jericho, Barrett and Henry rule the world. 

Look, I haven't got as far as the Rumble and Mania. I'll be honest, not all of the above is that palatable to even myself, because do we really need another heel faction in power? Some of it is more than a little derivative of previous ideas - a hash of Immortal, nWo, InVasion you might say. 

This is less fantasy booking and more a stream of conciousness on something that might happen. I don't honestly expect it too, and neither would I fully endorse it. But it might be a good instigator for change. Have Rock & his gang change loads of things - end the brand split, the title belts, the amount of titles, the set design, the commentary teams - anything. 

There is something about WWE which feels sanitised and clinical. I don't even mean the PG-level booking people talk about. I've said many times that I don't have a problem with PG booking. Punk's big promo and the build to MitB was within the PG boundaries. It's not about PG or non PG. It's about good TV and bad TV. 

What I don't like about WWE is how safe it all feels. How predictable it is. Not predictable angles necessarily, but predictable in that someone will go to the outside of the ring and the announcers go to a break.You know it's coming.  It's predictable that announcers will bicker, that Twitter will be overhyped for no reason, no angles will ever be analysed in depth. Nothing feels important, it's style over substance. 

The attitude era worked not only because of edginess, blood, violence and bad language. It worked because it had characters fans could get behind, or were hooked into watching. They were perhaps lucky that they struck upon Austin, Vince, Rock, Foley & DX at basically the same time, but it was the nature of larger than life characters that pushed them over the edge. 

Have a look back to the initial Hulkamania boom - Hogan, Savage, Warrior, Andre, Piper. There are others. Colourful, loud, gripping characters. Look at the mid-90s. I love Bret to death, but did he, Luger, Diesel, Razor, Sid, Shawn really have you in the same way? Of course not. And that's not huge knocks on those guys necessarily, it's just the ensemble coming together. 

The difference now is that WWE does not have an environment in which these characters can breed, or breathe. Punk happened by accident and they've stifled him. They like a safe character way more, possibly for their corporate image, or possibly because they can't bear to see someone succeed with a character that isn't really theirs. 

Let Miz and Barrett be the men to lead them on. Let them have that rub from The Rock. Let Punk with a new band of brothers (not Cena, Orton and HHH) be the ones to dethrone Miz & co eventually. 

More importantly let someone have a go at changing the look and feel of wrestling shows in the 21st century which have served major companies well, but are now stale, overplayed and predictable. 

OK, maybe I've gone too far. Expecting miracles. 

But The Rock as the heel in the swerve. Could happen. Couldn't it?


Andy Woolston said...

I love fantasy booking like this. Just thinking about where they could go with this storyline is exciting.

The possibilities are endless and I hope they come up with a compelling idea and deliver it.

I agree when you say the WWE is 'safe'. The shows are so structured, they need to take the fans away from the comfort zone.

Unfortunately, the younger fans enjoy this formula and I think they have a bigger long term business plan in place and it suits them at the moment.

Hopefully, over time, things will change.

Andy Woolston (@WoolstonOnline)

MattyD95DX said...

You need a job on the WWE Creative team, stories like this IS what WWE need and how you say WWE has become is right on the money.
As we have seen in the past sometimes anything’s possible, but I wouldn’t want to see Rock heel, I like factions and Team matches and the like but the Rock is just one of those guys you want to see perform in the ring than screw the other guys and not do much.

Paul McGowan said...

I love the idea, Rob, as usual it is inovative and well laid out. The huge Rock heel turn would be amazing, but i see one problem with it, the people would not want to boo the Rock, he is an icon, a genuine 'Superstar'. I think this could be the only fly in the ointment so to speak though.

It is a bit like Ric Flair, the fans love him so much they cheer for his although he is supposed to be a heel.

You could tweak it the other way, and instead of having the Rock as the heel, have Cena. The same story, the same beat down in the building but instead of the Rock being beaten you have Cena. Then you have a major heel all the way through to Wrestlemania.