WWE: CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Kane and AJ: Perfect Professional Wrestling Formula?
How often is it WWE manages to screw up a feud despite having a talented roster?
Well, for once they have struck gold with the ongoing WWE Championship feud. The pieces simply fit together perfectly.
This slideshow will look at how those pieces come together and why they work so effectively.
1. Daniel Bryan
Darling of the Internet, former Ring of Honor man Daniel Bryan is in many ways the opposite of what WWE normally looks for in a wrestler. Perhaps this is why climbing the ranks of WWE has been so tough for Bryan. He's finally getting over with mainstream audiences without the WWE even telling them to cheer for him.
Bryan exemplifies what Ring of Honor is all about—a straightforward, no-nonsense character with a simple but effective gimmick (the "Yes" chant) and outstanding technical wrestling abilities.
Seeing a man like Daniel Bryan in the World Title scene of the WWE is a fresh sight. For many WWE fans, such technical prowess will not be something they are used to seeing.
Ring of Honor fans, too, are in for a treat. These fans are seeing one of their heroes perform while surrounded by the things that come with the WWE's high production values—impressive entrances, huge audiences, excellently edited promo packages, etc.
In short, Daniel Bryan puts the "sports" in "sports entertainment."
2. AJ Lee
On the other side of the coin from Daniel Bryan is AJ Lee, providing a foil for him.
Don't get me wrong, I am not stating that AJ cannot wrestle here, but what she really brings to the table, where her star really shines, is as an entertainer.
The personality she is developing is utterly unique in pro wrestling and exciting to behold. She is gorgeous. She is a fresh face on the scene, having only been on the main WWE roster since May 2011 (though time in FCW and NXT mean she has had the time to hone her skills). Heck, just having a Diva at the upper end of the card is something of a novelty these days.
Her mic skills are not as hot as CM Punk's, but her character is so unique that she actually makes for promos as compelling as his.
Kane is here to represent the past. His somewhat over-the-top, fire-and-brimstone gimmick remains a throwback to the ridiculous gimmicks of the 1980s. Even in the Attitude Era, when Kane first arrived in WWE, these sorts of gimmick were seen as increasingly old hat. And yet Kane has made it work.
Likewise, his huge size contrasts to the other three people involved in this storyline and is another throwback to a different era in the business's history.
Kane is one of the more skillful big men WWE has hired over the years (Khali, I'm looking at you!), making him a more rounded figure than the athletic Daniel Bryan and entertaining AJ Lee.
Kane has never quite broken into the main event on a permanent basis, but that suits this feud perfectly, as Punk, Bryan and Lee are still trying to reach that status themselves.
Traditionally, the role of veteran main eventers in wrestling has been to put over upcoming talent. However, the few veterans still with WWE (the major five are The Rock, John Cena, The Undertaker, Brock Lesnar and Triple H) have been booked so powerfully over the years that it is hard to believe new stars could defeat them. An intermediate opponent such as Kane can help get these young talents to the level where they can have those feuds.
4. CM Punk
Rounding off this group is WWE Champion CM Punk.
CM Punk has ring abilities close to those of Bryan, is one of the best in the world on the mic and has more experience in the big leagues of wrestling (the WWE) than either, despite not being a veteran with as many matches under his belt as Kane.
You could say that Punk is the ideal wrestler for WWE in 2012 as it moves forward, combining each of these elements.
His character had been becoming slightly stale of late, which makes Kane and Lee so vital to this feud. Kane only recently put back on his mask—and has yet to have a decent feud since he donned it again. And Lee is a fresh face for the upper card. They have shaken things up enough to elevate this feud.
Likewise, Punk benefits from working with Daniel Bryan; they gel excellently in the ring, with Bryan pushing Punk to have his greatest matches.
5. The WWE Championship
Remember that point earlier about the balance between sports and entertainment being vital? This is where the WWE Championship comes into play.
The WWE Championship is the most coveted title in all of professional wrestling (don't argue with me, TNA fans, there is only one real world title in wrestling). It reminds us what wrestling is all about: being the best in a competitive business.
This grounds the feud, keeps it from getting too ridiculous, which allows the love quadrangle to continue. Three men fighting over the affections of one psychotic girl? This storyline sounds like something straight out of WCW in many ways, but having the WWE Title involved justifies the three men's feud, with AJ Lee simply providing an added bonus to it.
6. It Is Not the Main Event
"The WWE Championship match should be the main event every night. Not having it in the main event takes away the prestige of the title!"
How many times have writers written this?
While it is a perfectly valid point, keeping this storyline out of the main-event scene means avoiding the baggage that comes with being a part of the main event: John Cena, a load of old men and too much talking. Let us look at these three points one by one:
First, if John Cena is in your storyline, fans will simply be watching in anticipation of Cena's likely emergence as victor at the end. Cena is a very talented man, but over-exposure has made him a less exciting man to watch.
He is also responsible for maintaining WWE's children's audience. While he does this very well, it means he is not an ideal candidate for a more interesting and complex storyline such as this one. With other child-favourite Rey Mysterio still out of action, Cena has had to perform this role more than usual.
Secondly, old men? Yes, WWE is full of them at main event level.
John Cena is no spring chicken, but compare him to the men currently involved in the main storyline on Raw: Paul Heyman, Triple H, John Laurinaitis and Brock Lesnar. Vince McMahon recently came back to Raw, and many fans theorise that Shawn Michaels' upcoming appearances will also be used to incorporate him into this storyline.
Lastly, too much talking. WWE's main storylines always involve a lot of lengthy promos. This is why old men like Vince can still be involved, and it detracts from the actual wrestling.
By being a sub-main event storyline, Kane, Daniel Bryan, AJ Lee and CM Punk can avoid all this and just get on with business. Additionally, as many of WWE's elite only show up on Raw, this storyline has been allowed more time to build on SmackDown!.
I hope you enjoyed this slideshow.
As mentioned earlier, it is the role of veterans to put over younger talent. With Kane moving on to the Money in the Bank Ladder Match at the upcoming Money in the Bank pay-per-view, it appears he is leaving the three young SuperStars to finish off this feud without getting in their way. As it should be.
I thought I would close with a photo from Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage at WrestleMania III—a match that acts as a reminder that wrestlers do not have to be in the main event to create legends.
Any comments are welcome!