Thursday 6 October 2011

Elevation Game

Triple H running WWE as the Chief Operating Officer has been the promotion’s lead storyline for a few months now. It’s been inventive, well executed, and easy to follow but there’s something about it that still feels wrong.

It’s not that it’s obvious where the story’s headed. It seems pretty clear that John ‘Johnny Ace’ Laurinaitis is leading (I can’t bring myself to say “masterminding”) a conspiracy to topple ‘The Game’ from power in the hopes that he’ll be next in line for the job, and that’s fine. It’s new enough to be worth doing. Even the possibility of Vince McMahon being revealed as the true power behind Laurinaitis wouldn’t be disastrous.

The problem lies in the lack of talent elevated by the story. So far the only people who have received a raised profile from this story are John Laurinaitis, Kevin Nash, The Miz, R-Truth, CM Punk and Triple H himself.

Did Laurinaitis and ‘Big Sexy’ really need a television presence in 2011? No. Laurinaitis is being prepared for the role of lead on-screen authority figure, but there’s no reason a young heel talker could have been introduced as a WWE executive and been booked in exactly the same way (beyond the fact that WWE no longer has any non-wrestling personalities in its developmental system, heel or otherwise).

Nash was brought in primarily to establish the situation as “real” (and as any attempt to cast doubt in the minds of internet fans) and did that well enough. If he’s not used again then there will be no harm done but there are still rumours of him facing CM Punk at some point: not something that’s going to help elevate any new talent. Or Punk come to that.

Miz and Truth were already at the top of the card when they were selected for the firing angle. That’s part of the reason they were given the role in the first place, the angle needed established stars with enough savvy to know how to make what transpired seem real. Had Tyler Reks and Primo been used instead no one would have cared.

But The Awesome Truth haven’t been elevated by the faux firing: they were as high on the card as they were going to get any time soon when they were “fired”. They can’t be considered beneficiaries of the Triple H COO storyline either.

Has CM Punk benefitted from Triple H’s increased on-screen presence? While he got to wrestle ‘The Game’ on pay-per-view the answer still has to be no. That match was rushed into, didn’t make a bigger star of either man, and made a lie of Punk’s newly adopted ‘Best in the World’ moniker.

Unfortunately the way Punk’s been booked since he returned two weeks after Money in the Bank has harmed his growing popularity. He’s still very over and one of the biggest success stories WWE’s had in years, but he was booked to cut far too money promos throughout August and September.

Punk should have talked one week and wrestled the next in order to protect him from overexposure. Having ‘The Voice of the Voiceless’ show no interest in regaining his WWE title for over a month whilst talking about how wins, losses and championships should matter more was an odd booking decision. And having him state that WWE’s television product hasn’t changed since Triple H “took over” when there have been significant changes (not all of which the Punk TV character can acknowledge I admit) was an odd choice too.

Monday’s RAW was the perfect example of no new talent being elevated. It was a great opportunity to have someone get the rub from Triple H with minimal effort.

Having given a vote of no confidence in ‘The Cerebral Assassin’ the WWE roster filed backstage in groups getting boos from the crowd. Top stars such as Orton, Punk, Cena and Kelly Kelly (yes, she’s protected to the same extent as John Cena on occasion) were excused the voting duty, apparently because the booking team suspected that the crowd would boo anyone walking out on the COO. So if they suspected that reaction why didn’t they select one guy to stand loyally beside Triple H? Had a young guy entered the ring, shaken hands with Tripper and stayed as everyone else left that guy would been elevated in the eyes of fans.

What’s frustrating is that after the show went off the air Zack Ryder went back out to the ring and got a big pop for doing so. Ryder staying behind on TV wouldn’t have been out of character as he owes his increased television time to Triple H and it would have made the guy even more popular. WWE threw away a golden opportunity with one poor decision.

As I said above the storyline is far from over and there are going to be plenty of chances over the next few weeks to elevate guys using this storyline. Survivor Series could be a good time to push some guys up the card by having Triple H endorse or pick a team of five guys to face a heel team picked by Laurinaitis or comprised of men involved in the lawsuit against him.

At this moment in time WWE has squandered a lot of chances with Triple H’s new on-screen position. If they get him putting guys over in promos and sharing screen time with lower card guys they can still turn it around. Hopefully they do just that.

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