Ziggler held a long segment concentrating on the high-profile defeats that Cena has suffered throughout last year, and he exposed the peculiarity that is the WWE Universe still voting Cena as the Superstar of the Year.
Cena countered this by admitting his relative failure in the ring compared to his previous years of unrivaled triumph, but went on the offense against Ziggler by pointing out that the Show Off had been with the WWE for seven years without achieving anywhere near Cena’s level of success.
This honesty created a genuine level of excitement among the audience and lifted the intensity nicely between the two men. This pair are bound to have a rematch at Raw’s 20th-year celebration or the Royal Rumble.
Closing the show by dropping manure on Ziggler and AJ will be seen as a little unfortunate by some, as such a trick appears to be unbecoming of a face character like Cena. However, there is an equally fair counterargument that Stone Cold did similar stunts and was praised, and it did add humor to the end of a festive show.
All in all, the final exchange of Raw has to be considered a really positive way to conclude WWE television in 2012, as it has made fans excited about 2013.
Yet a series of anomalies in what these Superstars were saying—and how the words were interpreted by the audience—and what actions were taken by the wrestlers, showed that the WWE is still failing to fully address some of the finer details.
Firstly, Ziggler and Cena were both passionately talking about how they were going to claim gold in the new year, but despite how it sounded, they were actually talking about different titles. Ziggler’s Money in the Bank contract stipulates that he can compete for the World Heavyweight title at any time, while John Cena clearly stated that he was hunting for the WWE belt.
This is a small detail that many would not have noticed and others may simply not care about, but this kind of disconnection in booking effectively means that both men will be in a title hunt after this feud whether they are successful or not.
The tension around this feud would be higher if both men were after the same belt, and if the audience knew that a dominating performance by either man would likely make that wrestler the No. 1 contender for the title.
Another oddity was when Cena said that Ziggler blamed the administration and claimed that the Show Off said that he “only needed a push.”
This could be a deliberate decision to break the fourth wall and suggest to viewers that Ziggler is a bigger factor in own his failure to become a star than some might think, but equally it could be an unfortunate choice of words implying real-world circumstances in a storyline that has—thus far—been purely based in the realm of WWE.
Choosing to evoke backstage politics at this point is a real shame, as the feud—which has developed organically for several weeks—was really showcasing how the WWE does not need to rely on references to the world outside the company’s remit in order to create a compelling storyline.
Mistakenly using the term ‘push’ instead of referencing the situation as real life is equally disappointing, as it has started off inquiry among fans which takes concentration away from the tale taking place.
Finally Cena spoke passionately—and emotionally—about upholding the idea of hustle, loyalty and respect. This was a great way to re-motivate his fanbase—some of whom may have felt slightly demoralized by his candor about his poor 2012—and the speech put Ziggler in his place after the Show Off’s attack on him and those very fans.
Yet, the WWE chose to follow this up with Cena dropping manure on Ziggler and AJ in a gesture that could not be any more disrespectful.
This would have been fine if Ziggler or AJ had said or done something that undermined the idea that they should be respected, or if Cena had come out and said that their previous actions meant that he had lost respect for them.
In fact, the opposite happened, as Cena openly admitted to the world that Ziggler had a point, and he was going to show the world that he could right such issues in 2013.
Cena’s failure to uphold the words that he had so passionately stated to the world just minutes earlier undermines his whole image, and that opens his character up to justifiable criticism. This is a real shame, considering how much Cena has been able to do to win back crowd support since the boos of WrestleMania 28.
Despite these poor points, 2012’s final segment of Raw must still be considered a success. Any time the WWE can bring more interest to a feud is great, and making fans excited while going into WrestleMania season is even more important.
The WWE have shown their ever-improving skill in getting the feel of the show right, and finding combinations of wrestlers that piques the audience’s interest. WWE also seem to have rediscovered the value of valets and love interests in adding extra feeling toward a feud, which makes non-title engagements all the more intriguing.
Still, the company needs to work on making sure the details are not ignored, as an accumulation of small errors can have the effect of taking fans out of the moment and so spoil their viewing pleasure. However, getting the overall feel of the product right is a great achievement that should bring the WWE much prosperity as the new year matures.