Will CM Punk retain his WWE Championship, or will he drop the ball?
Here's a question; is there anyone on earth who would list Over the Limit as their favorite WWE pay-per view?
On one hand, the WWE has millions of fans; surely at least a few of them enjoy Over the Limit more than any other event. Perhaps it is the only pay-per-view that some fans have ever attended, and because of this, they have formed a lifelong attachment to it.
Then again, Over the Limit has only been in existence since 2010. It hasn't been around long enough tor anyone to really fall in love with it. Plus, the cards for it haven't exactly been comparable to WrestleMania.
Actually, they have been comparable, but only in the same way that a tricycle and a Ferrari are comparable. You can probably guess which vehicle Over the Limit represents in that analogy.
This is all to say that Over the Limit isn't exactly a marquee event on the WWE schedule. Still, that doesn't mean that there aren't reasons to be excited about it. So on that note, here are some things to look forward to, and not to look forward to, for WWE Over the Limit 2012.
What Not to Be Excited About:
Zack Ryder vs. Kane (Pre-show):
So the good news about this match is that you don't have to pay for it. It will be streaming live online at 7:30 p.m., half an hour before the actual show starts.
But just because you don't have to pay to watch this match doesn't mean that it's free. The opportunity cost of watching this match instead of doing something more enjoyable and/or productive must be taken into account.
It's probably unfair to criticize a pre-show match because the match doesn't have much of a story behind it, because by its nature, a pre-show match isn't supposed to be the conclusion to a long, complex storyline. Its only purpose is to entertain the fans before the main show starts.
The point is, this is not a match that WWE intends anyone to be particularly excited about. Which is good, because I'm having trouble thinking of any reasons to be excited for it.
Again, even though Ryder and Kane have feuded recently (to the extent that Ryder was a key player in the Kane/Cena feud from December through February), there hasn't been much recent interaction between the two; theoretically, both should have (and seemed like they already have) moved on from each other by now.
But this match isn't intriguing for reasons beyond the fact that it's random. At this point, how many people are particularly fond of either Kane and Ryder as wrestlers?
Kane has been around since 1997 (referring to the character), and he's been doing more or less the same thing for his entire run; acting like a big, angry monster. I don't know, maybe there are some people out there who love it, but I feel like it's worn thin.
As for Ryder: Taste is subjective, and I would never say that any wrestler is flat-out boring and unlikable, because there are surely people who disagree.
If You Could Have One Piece of Zack Ryder Merchandise, What Would it Be?
And there are clearly people out there who like Zack Ryder as a wrestler, based on crowd reactions that still seem to be positive and the fact that he has a lot of merchandise in his name that probably wouldn't be produced if no one ever bought any of it.
(Although some of the stuff on Ryder's WWEShop page (via WWE.com) is just absurd and I can't imagine more than fifteen or twenty people own it. Seriously, a growth chart? I cannot think of a single logical reason to pay $30 for that. Just take a regular growth chart and tape a picture of Ryder over it. It will be just as ridiculous and a lot cheaper).
Anyway, my point is that some people like Zack Ryder and enjoy watching his matches. I'm not one of them.
The fist-pumping "broski" gimmick doesn't entertain me even ironically; maybe I'm just not cool enough to understand the entertainment appeal of asking everyone if "they're serious bro". Also, his finisher doesn't look like it should hurt even a little.
So, what we have here is two wrestlers who aren't particularly exciting to watch in a match with no real story behind it. Remember when I talked about the opportunity cost of watching this match earlier? It seems that it's pretty steep.
So, here is my two cents; don't watch this match. Bake some cookies, read a book to an orphan, have a staring contest with an action figure, whatever makes you happy.
Because you may not have to spend money to watch this match, but you do have to spend time, and that is time you'll never get back.
WWE Tag Team Champions Kofi Kingston and R-Truth vs. Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler (WWE Tag Team Championship Match)
So this match is pretty much like every other tag-title match over the past few years, in that there's been basically zero build-up to this match, and the teams aren't "teams" so much as they're "individuals killing time until a better opportunity comes along."
Fortunately, it looks like the WWE seems to be showing more of a commitment to the tag team division as of late.
Titus O'Neill and Darren Young recently made their debut as a team on Smackdown with a win. Pairing Primo and Epico up with Abraham Washington ("AW") seems to bode well for their future as a team. Granted, it's not that much, but it's progress.
Still, even with these signs of life, the tag-team division is currently, to put it politely, not in the best shape, and this probably shouldn't be the case.
There are plenty of guys on the roster right now who aren't doing very much: Alex Riley, Ezekiel Jackson, Heath Slater, Jinder Mahal, Mason Ryan (although he looks like he'll be a prominent part of AW's stable), the Great Khali, Ted DiBiase, and Yoshi Tatsu.], among others. Hunico and Camacho are already affiliated with each other, but haven't worked as a tag team all that much.
Would it be that hard to throw some of these guys into teams, give them matching tights and a double-team finisher, and see where it goes? Maybe it is, but I can't imagine why it would be.
Would You Like to See the WWE Make More of a Committment to Tag Team Wrestling?
Theoretically, it would be a good way to get more guys time on television and rebuild the tag team division. Those are good outcomes. There not really doing anything else; why not try it?
Granted, all of this is harder in practice than in theory. It's not guaranteed that any possible combination of the wrestlers above form a great tag team, or even a good one.
Also, one could argue that the WWE doesn't need to focus on the tag team division. Which is fine; everyone is entitled to their opinion.
But right now, the division is just taking up space without contributing anything. Which leaves two options; either eliminate tag team wrestling entirely, or make the division better.
I'm in favor of keeping the division intact and working to improve it. When done right, tag team wrestling is an enjoyable and entertaining change of pace from singles matches.
The most popular American sports are team sports,which implies that there is something inherently enjoyable about watching a team work towards a collective goal, which is what tag team wrestling is all about.
I've rambled too long about this; so here's the bottom line. There are plenty of guys floating around not doing anything important. The tag team division is lifeless right now; tag matches aren't portrayed as important, and the titles are being held by a unit that is a "team" only by definition.
Tag team wrestling has the potential to be a valuable and important part of the show, and hopefully the WWE makes a concerted effort to help the division realize its potential soon.
By the way, I realize that what I've written is about the tag division in general and not about the championship match at Over the Limit.
This reveals a couple of things; I'm easily distracted from the topic I'm supposed to be focusing on, and that WWE really hasn't given viewers much of a reason to care about this match.
John Cena vs. John Laurinaitis
Quick note: By this point, everyone seems to know that John Cena is going through divorce proceedings. If you didn't, now you do. You can read a little more about the situation here. (via the Miami Herald).
The reason I'm bringing this up is just to note that there are other important things going on in John Cena's life outside of professional wrestling. I can't speak for everyone, but I know that occasionally I can lose sight of the fact that wrestlers have lives outside of wrestling.
So in the interest of keeping perspective on things, let me just say that I hope this divorce that Cena is going through doesn't turn out to be as nasty as seemingly everyone is predicting it's going to be.
All that said, let's move back to wrestling. As recently as last week, I thought that Cena feuding with Laurinaitis had the potential to reignite Cena's career. However, the events of Raw last night (May 14th) have caused me to view Big Johnny vs. John Cena in an entirely different light.
Here are the two main reasons:
1) One of the things that had made John Laurinaitis an effective heel authority figure up to this point is that he actually had authority. As General Manager of Smackdown and Raw, he makes all the matches.
It's unclear whether it's his position as general manager of both shows or as Executive Vice President of Talent Relations that qualifies him to fire wrestlers, but the point, is Big Johnny had a lot of power.
Now, with the various stipulations added to this match by the "Board of Directors"—Laurinaitis is fired if he loses, any wrestler who interferes in the match will be fired, the match can only be won by pinfall or submission—it's clear that Laurinaitis doesn't have as much authority as he appeared to (referring to his on-screen character).
This is a problem.
If his decisions are constantly being undermined by the Board of Directors or some other source, than Laurinaitis can't be an effective heel GM.
Again, heel authority figures only work when they have authority. Why should Cena, or any wrestler for that matter, be worried about Laurinaitis if his decisions are subject to change?
I can't think of a reason why they would be worried, which turns this match from "John Cena vs. Super-Powerful Authority Figure John Laurinaitis" to "John Cena Beats Up Middle-Aged Man."
Cena is an underdog in the first scenario, while he is the clear favorite in the latter. A large portion of the WWE audience does not enjoy John Cena as a favorite; why do they keep portraying him as one?
I don't, maybe I'm crazy, but I just can't see how anything positive can come from taking away Big Johnny's authority.
2) Um, so, John Cena's promo from Raw last Monday. Has everyone seen it? If you haven't, here it is. (via WWEFanNation).
Let me make the assumption that the WWE wants fans to dislike John Laurinaitis and to like John Cena. John Laurinaitis calls the fans losers and made Big Show cry, neither of which are nice things to do.
John Cena talks about rising above hate and salutes his fans during his entrances, both of which are nice things to do.
Unfortunately, a pretty good chunk of Cena's promo was cut out of the clip I linked to above, but suffice to say, he doesn't come off as particularly likable in it.
Take how he screamed "loser!" at Laurinaitis whenever Big Johnny tried to talk. That's not funny, nor is it original. It's obnoxious and annoying. If you saw someone doing the same thing in your own life, you would hate them.
I get that many of John Cena's attempts at humor are probably being directed towards a younger crowd and not towards adult males. I'm fine with that. But here, he seems to cross the line from making forced jokes to acting like a jerk, which seems to be a problem when he's supposed to be a good guy.
So what are we left with now? The Powerful Authority Figure vs. The Underdog Wrestler, except the authority figure doesn't really have much power? The Arrogant Jerk vs. John Cena, Good Citizen, except Cena is acting like kind of a jerk?
I don't know, maybe I'm just not perceptive enough, but I'm not sure what exactly there is to look forward to in all of this.
What to Look Be Excited About:
WWE Divas Champion Layla vs. Beth Phoenix (WWE Divas Championship Match)
I feel like if I don't grade Divas matches on a relative curve, they'll never be something worth looking forward to. There just isn't enough on-screen time invested for women's wrestling in the WWE for the matches to be particularly good and the stories behind them to be particularly meaningful.
So I'm going to say that this match is worth getting excited about because Layla has been relatively dominant in the ring since coming back, and therefore should be a challenge for the Glamazon.
If Kharma and Brodus Clay Conceived A Dinosaur Together, What Kind Would It Be?
There's also the nice, built-in story regarding Beth losing the title after being injured, Layla getting an arguably undeserved title shot upon her return, and Beth being on the warpath to regain the championship she only lost because she was hurt.
But anyway, regarding the women's division, we're all just waiting for Kharma to come back and beat everyone into the ground. Kind of like how in January we were all waiting for Brodus Clay to return and beat everyone into the ground. Hmmm...
For anyone who has issues reading between the lines, what I am saying is that Kharma should totally come back as another Funkasaurus who dances with Alex Riley and Darren Young before every match and then mates with Brodus.
Then I want her to give birth to an actual dinosaur and there is literally nothing anyone can say to convince me this isn't the greatest idea ever.
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus vs. Alberto Del Rio vs. Chris Jericho vs. Randy Orton (WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match)
I think this match is worth looking forward to solely because it will be entertaining. All four of the wrestlers involved are, in my opinion, very good at what they do, and the Fatal 4-Way format should lead to a match filled with frenetic, bell to bell action.
Here's my issue with this match (and also, for what it's with, my issue with the Daniel Bryan/CM Punk match)—we don't really know why these guys are fighting.
Well, that's not entirely true; we know that Sheamus is fighting because he wants to retain his championship, and that the other guys are fighting Sheamus because they want to win the title.
Besides that, though, what's the story here? Is there even a story? If there is, I'm having trouble recognizing it.
Sheamus kicked Orton in the head, Orton RKO'd him in return, and now the two have issues with each other. Besides that, there don't appear to be any personal problems between the competitors
This isn't a good thing.
The title being on the line is great, but it's not enough to make the match compelling. This match has been built to primarily on the basis of matches between the competitors; the wrestlers involved haven't been given any time to actually explain how this match is significant or important beyond the fact that it's for the title.
Put it this way; everyone in this match besides Sheamus could be replaced and the story behind the match would make just as much sense.
To use an obvious example of a match where this wouldn't be the case, The Rock's match at this past year's WrestleMania wouldn't have been compelling if John Cena was replaced by, say, Randy Orton at the last minute, because Rock had spent the entire past year mocking Cena.
Jericho and Del Rio don't have personal issues with Sheamus, they just want to win the title.
Orton kind of has personal issues with Sheamus, but they haven't been developed to a significant degree. Again, they could all be replaced in this match without really taking from the story of the match, which says something about this match was built up to.
Let me emphasize that I do think that this will be an enjoyable match to watch, but the lack of a story behind it is tempering much of my excitement. I could go on about this...actually, I will go on about this because the next match I want to discuss suffers from the same problem.
WWE Champion CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan (WWE Championship Match)
Depending on how much time is allowed for this match, it very well may end up being regarded as one of the best matches of the year.
Punk and Bryan are among the best wrestlers in the world in the opinion of many (including mine), and their previous experience working against each other on the independent circuit can only help the quality of this match.
That said, this match suffers from the same problem as the World Heavyweight Championship match, which is that there's no story or significance to this match beyond the fact that it's for the WWE Championship.
I'm sure writing for the WWE is difficult, and obviously I'm not involved in the writing process either (and therefore unaware of specific restrictions or obstacles writers have to deal with), and for those reasons, I don't want to criticize the creative team; doing that would be unfair.
But does the lead-up to both the WHC match and the WWE Championship matches reek of laziness to anyone else?
As with the WHC Match, the Punk/Bryan match has been built up to largely through tag team and handicap matches. Neither Punk nor Bryan have been given significant time to explain the significance of the feud beyond the title, which is also reminiscent of the build-up to the WHC match.
I don't think it's necessarily a problem that both matches are significant only in that they're for a championship.
The problem is the significance of the title is being treated as something that's self-evident. None of the competitors in either match have really discussed how much the title means to them, how much they want to win it, and so on.
No one would care about the Super Bowl if NFL players weren't always talking about how much they want to win it, and I think the same idea applies to championship matches.
Now, some people may only care about seeing quality wrestling, which is completely understandable.
The people will probably be happy with the WHC match and the Punk/Bryan match, because both of them should be good wrestling matches.
Personally, I think there's a direct relationship between how compelling a match is and the quality of the story behind it.
Without a compelling story, wrestling matches are just two guys rolling on a mat for no reason. Only when there is something important on the line can matches be significant and can viewers be expected to believe that the men (or women) in the ring actually want to hurt each other.
Getting back to my point about the laziness in the build-up to both matches; what I'm trying to understand is why there wasn't a more clearly defined story behind either of them? Is it just laziness?
Does the WWE creative team really think that a "big belt" being on the line is enough incentive to drive a match without further explanation? Who knows?
The only thing I'm sure of is that both "big" title matches should be fun to watch, but won't reach their ceiling based on, for the 30th time, the lack of a story behind them.
And this, more than anything else, may prevent Over the Limit from being a great pay-per-view, one that's worthy of being anyone's favorite.