Sunday 1 January 2012

End of the Beginning

What exactly will begin on RAW tomorrow night?

For weeks WWE have been airing videos of kids hanging around in a mostly unfurnished classroom and an abandoned playground with voiceovers (provided by sinister sounding children) inform us that “he” is returning. The first video cropped up on YouTube after a link appeared during one of WWE’s countless Twitter plugging sessions. That was followed by more videos appearing during TV shows, with the announce team purportedly unaware of the breaks in transmission.

To my mind there are four potential returnees for tomorrow’s RAW, only two of whom wouldn’t be a massive letdown. The first name is Brodus Clay. His re-debut has been an on and off storyline for a couple of months now, with John Laurinaitis finding reasons to push it back on an almost weekly basis.

Are the 'It Begins' videos just an elaborate way of bringing Brodus Clay back to TV?

It’s a similar situation for Skip Sheffield. He hasn’t been seen on WWE programming since August 2010. He suffered an ankle injury during a house show match in Hawaii and has been forced to undergo numerous surgeries in order to return to action. A possible hint that he may be the man behind the ‘It Begins’ hype is the fact that WWE recently registered Ryback, Sheffield’s former ring name, as a trademark.

Either of these men could be a big part of WWE’s plans for WrestleMania XXVIII and or 2012, with the video package treatment being the company’s way of ensuring their returns are seen as big deals. Both men possess qualities that would allow them to fill important roles on the roster but the implication has been that a big name is returning and neither man’s name has enough cache to provide a satisfactory climax to months of hype.

The most popular prediction seems to be Chris Jericho. I can understand why. ‘Y2J’ is 41-years-old and has a career as a rock star waiting for him outside of wrestling. WWE is desperate for established main event acts and it’s likely been accepted that Jericho will be unable or unwilling to return full-time if he stays off TV much longer. The company needs to act soon if it wants to secure his services as a regular performer again. ‘It Begins’ may signal the start of Jericho’s final run at the top.

I’ve thought since the videos began that they were signalling the return of the Undertaker. ‘The Dead Man’, who last appeared on television at WrestleMania XXVII, is expected to work a match at this year’s ‘Mania. While he could easily stay off TV for a while longer (perhaps even until the event itself if the hype for his match is strong enough) the ‘It Begins’ campaign has had the feeling of several Undertaker return videos of the past.

I’m going to stick with my original feeling and say the Undertaker will be returning on RAW. Partly because I think he will, partly because it seems realistic, and partly because I’m tired of all the Chris Jericho talk.

In all likelihood it will be ‘The Highlight of the Night’ who’s back on screens tomorrow night. Perhaps WWE could give us a twist by having Skip Sheffield or Brodus Clay credited as being the big name, running in on the main event as the final ‘It Begins’ video plays, before having Jericho run-in to make the save. That would allow two guys to benefit from one set of videos and start a feud that could run through the Royal Rumble and culminate at Elimination Chamber (or ‘Mania if it catches on with fans).

Hopefully the obvious will be resisted and we’ll get something more creative than Jericho coming out to give a generic “I’m back to change the company” speech. As good as he is it’s time for some fresh blood and fresh ideas.

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