Did you hear the one about Alberto Del Rio getting fired? Mexico's greatest import picked a bad time to get released from his contract, because SummerSlam looks like it will do significant business. Let's start with Del Rio.
@ThisIsNasty any thoughts/ satire on the Del Rio dismissal?— Jordan Smith (@JSmith_FOX6) August 8, 2014
The Alberto Del Rio drama continues to grow legs as a Dirt Sheet story, but WWE has already moved on.
Despite WWE's official Twitter account acknowledging Del Rio's alleged unprofessional conduct, WWE made no mention of the former WWE and world heavyweight champion on Raw. There weren't even any smart-aleck Del Rio chants from fans. He was out of sight, out of mind.
Considering CM Punk—who also had a messy departure—still receives loud chants, it's amazing how much Del Rio's stock fell both with fans and officials en route to his exit. Had Randy Orton imploded like that, would he even receive a timeout?
I used to do a weekly column entitled "The Best that Never Were," where I profiled wrestlers who never quite lived up to their grand potential. If Del Rio has wrestled his last match in WWE, despite his successes, he would easily qualify for that distinction.
Del Rio is an immensely talented wrestler. Even his recent throwaway matches against the likes of Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler and Roman Reigns were pay-per-view quality, and the scary thing is he may have been mailing those in. But Del Rio's failure to reinvent himself once his act became stale reduced him to the dreaded "good hand" role.
Had Del Rio successfully fine-tuned his character, similar to The Miz upon his return from filming The Marine 3: Homefront, he would have almost immediately returned to the main event. He was that good.
With the story of Del Rio's exit, however, WWE has returned to receiving claims of alleged racism. According to F4WOnline (h//t WrestlingInc), Del Rio was punished for slapping an employee after he made a snide comment about Del Rio cleaning his plate. The joke could be perceived as racist to Hispanic people, which speaks to a disturbing backstage culture if these sentiments trickle down to obscure social media managers.
Just last month, WWE's race problem was a topic of discussion after Dion Beary of The Atlantic criticized the promotion for its treatment of black wrestlers, among other races. The promotion appeared to respond by booking a militant black stable—which featured featuring Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods and Big E—formed on Raw just days after the article was posted.
With racial tensions subsided, the stable has seldom been seen or heard from on Raw since.
Not just yes. Heck yes. The pay-per-view will be held in my backyard of Los Angeles, and I bought my ticket the second after WWE aired its first vignette looking at the rivalry between Lesnar and Cena.
I have gone on record in saying that this has been the best-booked feud of the modern era. Now that time has passed, I still refuse to back off that statement. Prior to the well-produced special that aired on the WWE Network following Raw, there should have been a disclaimer that read: based on real-life events.
WWE has brilliantly mixed reality with storyline so as not to confuse casual fans but rather explain the true motivations of each wrestler. Both Lesnar and Cena, while still booked as broad archetypes designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator, have values, purpose and depth.
Will Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena live up to the hype?
With the exception of a few hyperbolic Paul Heyman promos, very little has been sensationalized about Cena or Lesnar in the buildup to this match. In fact, there's no need for kayfabe when telling these stories. That's what makes this such a dynamic main event.
During Monday's Cena vs. Lesnar special, Lesnar, Heyman and Cena spoke as candidly as they would if they were panelists on Anderson Cooper 360. Cena is a proud WWE Superstar who shows up for work every week. Lesnar is a conqueror who quit WWE in order to seek his next challenge. Paul Heyman is a deceitful, silver-tongued promoter. This does create a conflict between two major box-office draws, and I can't wait to see the payoff.
Say hi if you see me, just not during the main event. I'll be the one marking out if Lesnar wins.
@ThisIsNasty What are your thoughts on rumors of Intercontinental and U.S. titles unification match? Should the titles remain separate?— Kyle Bubb (@kylebubb) August 8, 2014
It seems like a title-unification match has been rumored ahead of every pay-per-view since the brand split ended. Last month, Sheamus tweeted the following:
Sheamus (@WWESheamus) July 9, 2014
This clearly didn't happen since Sheamus failed to capture the intercontinental during the Battleground Battle Royal. Sheamus' involvement in the Intercontinental Championship picture has since been halted.
The value of the Intercontinental Championship has suddenly spiked by virtue of a serious feud between Ziggler and a resurgent Miz. The championship has remained on the pace it was during Wade Barrett's promising run.
Sheamus, however, has done the United States Championship no favors due to recent absences from Raw. SummerSlam is currently without an announced U.S. Championship match, which tells you everything you need to know about that title.
If WWE Championships were hospital patients, the U.S. Championship would be hooked to a defibrillator. The title is rarely defended on Raw or at pay-per-views, and when it is defended it usually changes hands. The U.S. title is in need of a long-term feud and/or champion to buoy its value.
In hindsight, the Rusev-Jack Swagger feud could have done wonders for the U.S. Championship as the centerpiece event. Fans would cringe at the idea of the evil Russian empire possessing a championship created in honor of the USA. The Rusev-Swagger feud could make the U.S. Championship a meaningful, patriotic title.
But until it has any meaning, talk of a unification match is rendered meaningless.