The WWE has officially reached its busy season, and if the past week is any indication of how wild things will become moving forward, it promises to be an entertaining few months. The Royal Rumble is now just two weeks away and the WWE has kicked things into overdrive as far as the build goes.
The biggest news of the week comes courtesy of Alberto Del Rio, as he scored a huge win at the SmackDown taping in Miami that could change the course of the blue brand moving forward. Del Rio's newfound success is impressive when you consider the fact that he only turned face about a month ago.
Also, The Rock made his highly-anticipated return to WWE programming, as he and WWE Champion CM Punk closed out Raw. Punk had a lot to say after successfully retaining his title against Ryback, but The Rock is never at a loss for words either, and it led to one of the more entertaining WWE segments in recent memory.
If that isn't enough, a WWE legend has taken issues with Punk's promo, rumors are running rampant with regards to potential returns for next week's 20th anniversary Raw and the WWE has also reportedly signed a top independent star to a developmental contract.
Read about all of that and more as I break down the latest news and rumors surrounding the WWE this week.
Be advised that there is a SmackDown spoiler included, so if you don't want to know what happened, then don't read on any further.
Many wrestling fans were taken aback on Tuesday night when WWE.com reported that Alberto Del Rio had defeated Big Show for the World Heavyweight Championship at the SmackDown taping in Miami. It had become fairly clear that Del Rio would be challenging Big Show for the title at the Royal Rumble, but the creative team decided to pull the trigger ahead of time by giving Del Rio the big gold belt.
The sudden change certainly seems odd on the surface because Del Rio was a floundering heel just over a month ago. An excruciatingly-long feud with Sheamus over the World Heavyweight Championship during the summer hurt Del Rio's credibility, as he lost to The Great White on numerous occasions. Now that Del Rio is a fan favorite, however, things are obviously looking up.
Del Rio's staleness over the past year or more has caused a lot of fans to protest his world title win. There is no question that Del Rio had overstayed his welcome as a heel and was in desperate need of a change, but now that he has altered his persona, it's time to essentially view him as a different person. Del Rio's face turn was just as sudden as his title win, and it didn't make a big impact at first. But his interactions with Big Show over the past couple of weeks have been great, as he has defended Ricardo Rodriguez.
Rather than being a boring and entitled heel, Del Rio now comes off as a cool and confident hero. I was unsure how well he could pull off the transition, but I should have known better. Del Rio primarily played a face in Mexico as Dos Caras, Jr., and while it's obviously a different animal to excel in that role in WWE, he has done so thus far. If nothing else, this can serve as a trial run for Del Rio to see how he works as a top face. Also, it makes Dolph Ziggler cashing in his Money in the Bank contract more plausible since Del Rio is now a face. Things are simply going to be more exciting with Del Rio as champion rather than Big Show.
WWE fans have waited for The Rock's return to television ever since Raw 1,000, but the wait finally came to an end on Monday as he appeared in the closing segment of Raw to address WWE Champion CM Punk. The reigning titleholder had retained his prize against Ryback a bit earlier in the night in a TLC match thanks to help from The Shield. Punk decided to gloat and berate the fans, but The People's Champion had no interest in allowing that to continue.
The Rock stormed to the ring in typical fashion and went head-to-head with Punk on the mic. Punk played his role as a heel well and The Rock did the same as a face. The Rock's signature brand of humor was present, but he also got serious when necessary. Punk was stone-faced throughout and delivered some great lines in his own right. It was the perfect first encounter to get the fans excited for their enormous match at the Royal Rumble.
I haven't been this excited for a segment on Raw in quite some time and neither The Rock nor Punk disappointed. I already prefer this feud to The Rock vs. John Cena for several reasons, but the biggest is the fact that both Rock and Punk have defined roles. Things were far from black and white when it came to The Rock and Cena, as they were both technically faces and the fans didn't necessarily know who to cheer and who to boo. There is no such quandary in this current rivalry, however.
The WWE made sure to pound it into the fans' heads that Punk hates them and The Rock loves them. It doesn't get any simpler than that, but it's a tried-and-true method. Despite that, the Internet crowd remains largely in Punk's corner. There was plenty of talk about Punk destroying The Rock on the mic on Monday, but I didn't see it that way. Punk did what he does best while The Rock did what he does best. They both executed perfectly and are on equal footing as their feud continues to heat up.
CM Punk had plenty to say during his long, winding promo on Monday night, and one of his main points was that he is a greater champion than anyone from the past. He mentioned several names including Bruno Sammartino. Punk went on to say that he had it much tougher than Sammartino since Bruno only had to wrestle at Madison Square Garden once a month. It was a great way to get Punk over even more as a heel, but some took exception to it.
Most notably, WWE Hall of Famer "Superstar" Billy Graham posted a rambling anti-Punk message on his Facebook page, according to WrestlingNewsWorld.com. Graham bashed Punk for putting down Sammartino and said that he lost all respect for Punk for not refusing to mention Sammartino. He also went on to say that Punk has never sold out a show at Madison Square Garden and that he no longer wants to be associated with the Hall of Fame.
I'd like to preface this by saying that I respect "Superstar" Billy Graham for everything he accomplished in professional wrestling. He served as an inspiration to many, including Hulk Hogan, and was one of the first wrestlers to truly focus on cutting a promo. Also, I'm glad that he seems to be in better health after some major liver issues. With that said, Graham is way out of line in this instance. He knows as well as anyone that professional wrestling is a show and the goal is to get over by any means necessary.
It isn't as if this is the first time that Punk has said that he's better than the past greats. Punk constantly puts down legendary wrestlers, but the Sammartino jab obviously resonated with Graham, as the two of them had many battles. I highly doubt that Punk has any problems with Sammartino in reality, and he was simply saying something that he knew would generate heat. Graham just needs to settle down and let the current stars do their thing rather than getting worked up about something so insignificant.
Although it hasn't been hyped as much as the 1,000th episode of Raw, the WWE's flagship show will celebrate its 20th anniversary on Monday. Rumors have run rampant regarding possible guests including the likes of Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, but one thing that really has fans talking is the potential reunion of one of the greatest and most successful stables in WWE and professional wrestling history.
According to WrestlingInc.com, the WWE has discussed bringing back Evolution for one night only. Triple H, Randy Orton and Ric Flair are all scheduled to be in attendance, so the only stumbling block is the participation of Batista. The Animal is quite busy these days with his acting and MMA careers, but perhaps Vince McMahon can convince him to return for this very special occasion.
There have been plenty of stable reunions over the years including D-Generation X on the 1,000th episode of Raw, but one that has never gotten back together is Evolution. Triple H, Orton, Flair and Batista were incredibly dominant and ran roughshod over the WWE from 2003 through 2005. All of them are Hall-of-Fame-caliber performers and their partnership allowed the careers of Orton and Batista to take off.
Everything about Evolution was cool and they managed to gain a huge following despite being heels. I'm not a fan of Orton or Batista, but this is something that I would love to see. I'm not sure how willing Batista would be to come back, especially since he claimed that he didn't enjoy the product anymore when he left. He is still apparently on good terms with the company, though, and Triple H is a guy who really helped elevate him to the next level, so maybe he would be willing to make an exception. It would be a great piece of nostalgia for the fans and it could be made even better by something like The Shield attempting to attack them.
It has yet to be officially confirmed, but according to WrestlingNewsWorld.com, the WWE has signed ROH star El Generico to a developmental contract. Generico is one of the biggest and most-popular stars on the independent circuit, and he has apparently been on the WWE's radar for quite some time. El Generico is a former ROH Television and Tag Team Champion and he recently received a shot at Kevin Steen's ROH World Heavyweight Championship.
Generico, who is actually a Canadian posing as a luchador, has been an independent star since 2004 and has gained great notoriety in promotions such as ROH, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, Chikara and Dragon Gate USA. He is well known for his high-impact, high-flying moveset as well as his over-the-top character. It will certainly be interesting to track his progress in NXT Wrestling.
There is no doubt that this signing, if true, is a major coup for the WWE. Generico already has a great fan following and he has the experience necessary to succeed. The main concern stems from how he will be used by the WWE. One thing that fans hate is when the WWE signs an indy talent and proceeds to change his name and gimmick. I'm not entirely sure who owns the El Generico name, so he could very well be forced to change that, but it would be a big mistake for the WWE to remove the mask since it's a huge part of his gimmick.
Since it is all he has ever known, I'm fairly confident that the WWE will keep the El Generico character intact. Many like to blame the WWE for ruining indy guys, but a quick look at the WWE roster should tell you that the WWE now knows how to utilize them. The likes of CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Antonio Cesaro, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and others are in high-profile spots on the card. If El Generico continues to do his thing in NXT Wrestling, he'll instantly get over with the fans and should be a success in the WWE.