Last year’s Money in the Bank had one of the most explosive crowds in wrestling history.
Fans in Chicago were going ballistic over what their hometown boy CM Punk was going to do against heated rival John Cena.
In the end Punk won. It also turned out to be one of the best matches of the year.
As good as Punk's winning was, though, something wasn’t quite right. The revolution that fans had been craving never happened. Instead of some pipe bombs, we got some cheap fire crackers.
What went wrong?
To set things up, a few weeks earlier, Punk had delivered perhaps the most famous promo of this generation. It was a worked/shoot promo, in which he vowed to leave the WWE—win or lose—after his title match at Money in the Bank.
In the process he ran down Stephanie and Triple H and complained about his lack of a push. It appeared that he broke down the fourth wall and spoke directly to insider fans. People went nuts wondering what was real and what wasn’t.
Even ESPN picked up on the story.
CM Punk’s popularity was at an all-time high. Some proclaimed it was a new era in wrestling, shortly dubbed “the reality era.”
Fans were eager for change. The possibilities seemed endless: more mature story lines, less bad comedy, new stars rising to the top.
Best yet, our guy CM Punk was going to take us there.
Did the WWE drop the ball on Punk's return last year?
A year later as we look back, the reality is that we’re watching more of the same.
Yes, CM Punk has done nicely for himself: He’s the No. 2 face in the company. He’s come a long way from his time in ECW.
He should be applauded for that.
What he didn’t do, though, was lead us into a boom period.
You can’t solely blame him, but some fans couldn’t help but feel disappointed. It almost felt as though he lied to us. He didn’t disappear as he said he would, so we didn’t have a chance to miss him and to anticipate his return.
What happened was that Punk came back to participate in more mediocre WWE stories.
After his hot feud with Cena, Punk was involved in a convoluted angle with Kevin Nash and Triple H. Remember Nash texting himself on Hunter’s phone so he could take out Punk? Remember the WWE title tournament, with Mysterio's winning, and then losing it in the same night so they could put it back on Cena?
This wasn’t real. This was bad.
Punk spent most of the year as the champion, but he still was rarely featured as the main attraction. Just look to his lack of pay-per-view main events to see what the WWE really thinks of him.
We're a year out, and it’s still business as usual in the WWE. John Cena is still the top star, Michael Cole is still inexplicably an annoying heel announcer and Hornswoggle is still running around ruining big story lines.
Of course other guys have benefited fromm the past year. Daniel Bryan’s stock in the WWE is at an all-time high, Sheamus has gone from a Money in the Bank competitor to heavyweight champion, and newer acts like Damian Sandow and the underdog Tyson Kidd are wrestling on the show.
Yet others, like Cody Rhodes and Sin Cara, seem to be treading water, stuck in the exact same spots as last year.
Worse yet, even more have fallen from their spots on the 2011 show: Justin Gabriel, Christian, Alex Riley, Kofi Kingston, R-Truth, Jack Swagger and Evan Bourne all mean less to the company than they did a year ago.
In the end the company is fine; they're doing about as good of business as they were a year ago. The stocks and the PPVs are down a little, but it's nothing to worry about.
Money in the Bank will still probably still be a pretty good show. The match the show is named after seems always to deliver.
But something is missing this year.
Instead of the anticipation and mystery of whether CM Punk will win and what WWE will do with him, we have the mystery of what will AJ do.
It’s fine, but it’s no revolution.