It would be very understandable if anyone watching Raw over the last few weeks felt more than a little confused by the muddled creative direction.
Let's have a rundown.
It was announced last week on WWE's flagship show that WWE Champion CM Punk would captain a team at Survivor Series—later revealed to consist of Alberto Del Rio, The Miz and Team Rhodes. Per the angle, they would go up against a group led by arch-rival Mick Foley (babyface stars Ryback, Randy Orton, Team Hell No and Kofi Kingston made up the members).
Sounds simple enough, right?
However, cut to this week's Raw, and everything was suddenly changed: To begin the evening, The Miz announced that he was dropping out due to his lack of faith in Punk as a leader (he was replaced with Wade Barrett later on in the night).
Not that this mattered much: Punk was later removed from the match at Survivor Series so that he could defend his WWE Championship against John Cena and Ryback (who was also pulled from the 10-man bout and is yet to be replaced) in a triple threat. And it's now Team Ziggler (Vickie Guerrero announced Dolph was added to the bout on Raw) versus Team Foley at the show.
Wow. Just try and take that all in. That's WCW levels of erratic booking right there.
So, what on Earth is going on?
Well, in this week's (subscribers-only) Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Dave Meltzer gives an update on just why there was such a drastic turnabout in the storylines:
There were a number of reasons given for the change in plans. Among them were complaints quietly that the Team Punk vs. Team Foley main event in a traditional Survivor Series elimination match would probably not do well on PPV.
Meltzer also goes on to note that owner Vince McMahon was encouraged by some good early numbers from last month's Hell in a Cell pay-per-view which featured up-and-coming star Ryback in the main event against CM Punk:
In addition, it was said that Vince McMahon got the DirecTV numbers for Hell in a Cell and they were “surprisingly strong,” according to one source...Apparently, McMahon privately credited Ryback for what they expect to be a significant increase over last year and felt putting him in a ten-man, even though he’d likely win the match, did nothing for him. It was felt they needed to capitalize on his momentum and McMahon felt that they needed Ryback challenging for the title in the main event
McMahon and company may not be wrong to feel like they have to strike while the iron is hot on Ryback, easily WWE's top breakout star this year. However, pulling the rug out from under everyone, like they did here, as well the company's erratic approach to booking in general, doesn't help anyone.
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