The date of March 3, 2014 may as well have been doomsday internally for WWE.
Since CM Punk's unplanned exit (via TMZ) back in January, savvy wrestling fans quickly circled that date on their calendars. Given the recent pattern of fans taking over shows, an art form now officially known as hijacking, Raw in Punk's hometown of Chicago was a surefire candidate for an organized riot.
If the Allstate Arena were a Boeing 747, the WWE fans/CM Punk apologists who purchased a ticket were going to be D.B. Cooper.
Unfortunately for them, WWE was ready for their every trick, and by night's end, Chicago didn't stand a chance.
Despite Punk being persona non grata in the weeks leading up to Raw: Chicago, the show kicked off with Paul Heyman openly acknowledging CM Punk, even walking out to his theme music.
Heyman brilliantly spun CM Punk's conspicuous absence forward. He mentioned their (Heyman and Punk) inability to beat the Undertaker at WrestleMania XXIX. Heyman then touted his pet beast Brock Lesnar, who cut a rare promo of his own.
By the end of the first hour, the hijack-minded crowd began to show signs of fatigue. They were too busy being distracted by a hot-shot tag team title switch and an entertaining Shield-Wyatt match, to even think about trolling.
Most of the ensuing CM Punk chants played right into the show's theme of The Authority refusing to give the fans what they wanted. Residual anger at Punk's absence led to intense heat for Triple H and Stephanie McMahon during their confrontation with Daniel Bryan.
This only enhanced the Bryan-Triple H feud.
Fans were even tricked into cheering for Raw guest star Aaron Paul, who drove out with Internet darling Dolph Ziggler in a Shelby Mustang.
But WWE's masterful manipulation didn't stop there.
During the aforementioned confrontation, the promotion condoned a hostile environment by booking Daniel Bryan to say, "Let's hijack Raw!" The term "hijack Raw" would later trend on Twitter.
At face value, this was an antihero inviting anarchy. In reality, it was shrewd reverse psychology akin to a father convincing his underage son to stop drinking by making him drink an entire case of Old Milwaukee.
This was, as Grantland's David Shoemaker tweeted, WWE-sponsored counterculture. Chicago hadn't been dominated this badly since the last time the Packers were in town.
The most telling stat of the night? Not a single "JBL" chant.
Once WWE surprisingly made mention of CM Punk's very real absence on camera, it became part of the show. There was nothing to hijack.
Fans were supposed to chant for CM Punk. They were supposed to hold out hope for his unlikely arrival. All the while, WWE was able to tell its own stories without being derailed.
In essence, WWE hijacked the hijack.
Simply put, the strategical booking of the March 3 Raw served as more ammunition against those who feel there's no way Randy Orton and Batista can compete for the WWE World Heavyweight championship due to pro wrestling zealots.
A handful of dates still remain with rowdy crowds in Memphis and Brooklyn to test their controversial WrestleMania feud in front of a live audience. Like the WWE Network using WWE Main Event to test its live stream, thus far, WWE has passed with flying colors.
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