Putting together a feud between John Cena and Dolph Ziggler was an inspired move by WWE’s creative team, as these two individuals have the ability to help refocus each others careers and can put on a great story while doing so.
What Ziggler gains from this tussle is obvious, as any win over the 10-time WWE champion is going to help cement his position as a legitimate main-eventer. There is no hiding the fact that Ziggler—despite gaining huge amounts of praise for his in-ring performances—has failed to pick up the necessary wins over the last year, and this is starting to tarnish his reputation.
Taking a final decisive win from Cena would dispel any doubters with the sound of the referee’s hand hitting the canvas for the third time, and it would release Ziggler into a championship feud in the near future.
It may seem inconceivable that Cena needs to change anything about his career considering how successful he has been, but the opportunity to work with Ziggler allows him to show detractors how good he really is in the ring.
This is important for Cena—and WWE fans— because he really is one of the top wrestlers in the company, producing exciting matches every week. The predictability that plagued his performances several years ago has not been existent for some time. No one on the WWE roster can get this point across better than Ziggler, whose selling of moves is unparalleled at this point.
Everything indicated that this was going to be one of those feuds where everyone involved would come out the other side improved.
Unfortunately, the stipulations revealed by Vince McMahon and Vickie Guerrero concerning the match between the two men at Tables, Ladders & Chairs has really undermined the good that the feud was producing.
Firstly, adding the ladder stipulation to the match takes away any chance of Ziggler having a final triumphant moment over Cena. He may recapture his Money in the Bank briefcase, but this will have nowhere near the impact that a pinfall or submission victory would have had for the Showoff’s career.
There is something in wrestling fans’ psyche that innately attributes more importance to the traditional methods of winning, even though it is—technically speaking—more difficult to knock someone out for long enough to claim the item at the top of the ladder.
Ziggler has already fallen foul of this thought process once, as his last Money In The Bank defense against Chris Jericho—which saw Jericho leave the WWE for a third time— did not give him the boost in prestige that was expected. The pinfall loss at SummerSlam to Jericho—the night before—is better remembered by many.
This negativity may be down to the idea that these novelty matches can be won through the use of weaponry or simple dumb luck. Whatever the reason, it threatens to take away the value of Ziggler defeating Cena, and that means he will have to find another route to the main event.
Putting Cena into another gimmick match does not help improve the perception of his wrestling ability either. He has already had great gimmick matches in the past—including a tables, ladders and chairs victory over Edge which was possibly his greatest match ever—so fans already know he can perform in these situations.
In fact, another novelty match may even perpetuate the false idea that Cena needs a gimmick to make his matches special. Certainly the focus will be taken away from how well he and Ziggler gel in the ring.
Underlining these problems is the one-sided stipulation which sees Cena getting the chance to win the Money in the Bank briefcase without putting anything on the line himself. This gives Cena everything to win and nothing to lose. In many circumstances this could add excitement by motivating an extreme underdog to go beyond his limits to win a match, but Cena is already the favorite.
Through this decision, the WWE has now given detractors further evidence of preferential treatment towards Cena, reinforcing the stereotype that has been built around him.
The stipulation also does very little for Ziggler. Lose and his identity as Mr. Money in the Bank disappears completely, meaning a rebranding and more time in the midcard. A victory maintains his role but does not advance his stock in any way. The benefit of defeating Cena is lost, as no one has lost or gained anything from the last couple of months of fighting.
Everything that the feud could have done for both men’s image is lost to one bad booking decision.
All this may now be pulled apart anyway, as the CM Punk knee injury may mean a reshuffle of the entire WWE booking program into WrestleMania—if the injury is severe enough—let alone Tables, Ladders & Chairs.
Such a change-up may be a blessing in disguise for this feud, as the good work that has been done so far will be untarnished and both men will be released to feud with others.
Hopefully the WWE has a plan to rectify this match so the concentration is refocused on the wrestling at hand, or it has plans to continue the feud on to the Royal Rumble where all this good work can be brought through to fruition. Otherwise a feud that could have been so productive will end up being one of the year’s biggest missed opportunities.