How CM Punk, John Cena and Randy Orton Will Pave the Way for the Next Generation

Dolla Bil FacciponteContributor IIIJanuary 4, 2012

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 15:  CM Punk wrestles Shelton Benjamin during WWE Smackdown at Acer Arena on June 15, 2008 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Gaye Gerard/Getty Images)
Gaye Gerard/Getty Images

Since what has been only described as an "epic promo" from CM Punk in the summer of 2011, the WWE audience knew that the foundation of the company would change. At that moment, several theories began circulating, such as the return of the "Attitude Era" or perhaps the formation of the "Reality Era."

However, what we mostly saw was the status quo WWE has always provided, with the inclusion of several storylines that had the chance to be mind-blowing but died without a second thought (although I'm sure most of us can agree, the Anonymous Raw GM gimmick was ridiculous).

The end of the year, however, started showing signs of change.

At the end of 2011, the two major champions in the WWE were "a couple of indy schmucks" in CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. The Intercontinental and U.S. champions are Cody Rhodes and Internet sensation Zack Ryder, respectively.

Yes, the women's and tag-team divisions are lacking, but their respective champions in Beth Phoenix and Air Boom are indeed the best. To top it all off, two of the biggest things that mid-carders were hoping for happened: Randy Orton will be out of the picture for some time, and John Cena may not be the top face in the company.

Cena is currently going through his angle with Kane, which I'm enjoying. I like how the Big Red Machine is using his classic mind games to get into Cena's head.

For years, the crowd has always been on the fence about the former champion, but over the course of 2011, the boos have started to outweigh the cheers, and it seems to be getting to Cena. I won't get into a whole "Cena needs a heel turn" rant, but it may come.

Either way, with the WWE acknowledging that a large portion of its audience is not a fan of Cena, it's only a matter of time before the WWE stops relying on him as the top face.

An injury to anybody is never something to celebrate, but with Orton's injury not appearing to be life- or career-threatening, this is the chance for the mid-card to step up. Superstars like Dolph Ziggler, Cody Rhodes, The Miz, Wade Barrett and Sheamus now have an excellent opportunity to join the main scene while the Viper is on hiatus.

The WWE lacks great superstars. It has some of the best talent in the world under its roof, yet due to being underutilized, lacking a gimmick or breathing the wrong way, we, the fans, don't get to see them used to their full potential.

With Orton being out and Cena seemingly not the top guy anymore, this is a huge opportunity for not only the upper mid-card, but the lower mid-card stars to have a chance to get off of NXT or Superstars and be featured on Raw and SmackDown.

Guys like Tyson Kidd, Alex Riely, Justin Gabriel, Drew McIntyre and Ted DiBiase seem to have fallen into obscurity. Yes the "DiBiase Posse" has garnered him some fans, but he's currently in a program with Jinder Mahal, who should go back to FCW.

These wrestlers could easily step up to upper mid-card status based on talent alone.

CM Punk rumbled the foundation of the WWE with one of the greatest promos in pro wrestling history. He opened every window for every wrestler who has not been given a chance. Now, it's time for them to start reaching for brass rings.