Did you hear the one about John Cena getting suplexed 16 times? The Internet Wrestling Community sure did, and it's celebrating like it's Comic Con.
@ThisIsNasty Loved that butt kickin Lesnar dropped on Cena. Yelled Suplex him again!— Starsky & Jefferson (@JMKIII58) August 18, 2014
While John Cena’s in-ring legacy may have suffered to the naked eye, his legacy grew to those who follow professional wrestling closely (read: reasonably).
Cena’s one-sided loss is being widely considered the most dominant victory in WWE Championship match history. That's because because few, if any, top stars would willingly agree to such booking even if it made sense for storyline purposes.
To be an elite wrestler means to have a sizable ego. Nobody will achieve sustained success in Vince McMahon’s world of cutthroat backstage politics without first believing nobody else is better. Every top star, from Hulk Hogan to Stone Cold Steve Austin, has had an ego, and that includes Cena.
This makes Cena’s ability to compromise said ego for the betterment of a storyline more impressive. Winning and losing tends to be a touchy subject for bigger stars.
Shawn Michaels’ disdain for losing was apparent during his infamous SummerSlam 2005 match against Hulk Hogan. During the main event, Michaels took animated bumps to the point of sarcasm in a battle of egos that was just as intriguing as the match itself. Michaels went on to cut a controversial promo the following night. James Caldwell of PWTorch noted the promo was done to “get his heat back” after being booked to lose.
PWTorch's Caldwell also reported on Austin’s refusal to lose to Lesnar on Raw, which led to his abrupt departure from the promotion in 2002.
Hogan is widely considered a wizard of backstage politicking to protect his character. Per Jason Powell of Prowrestling.net, he even has creative control over his character, a modern-day rarity. The story of top stars politicking to protect their brands could be told in multiple volumes of a WWE almanac.
Cena taking such a loss basically makes him the pro wrestling Ghandi.
Paul Heyman referred to Cena’s loss to Lesnar as martyrdom during his post-match promo on Raw. But Cena wasn’t just being a martyr for his storyline credo of hustle, loyalty and respect as Heyman’s promo suggested. In real life, he was being a martyr for something much grander: the business of professional wrestling.
Seth Rollins’ Money in the Bank might as well be in a safe deposit box somewhere next to the old WWE logo as long as Lesnar is champion. According to F4WOnline, via WrestlingInc.com, if Triple H gets his way, all signs point to Lesnar holding on to the championship until WrestleMania before a showdown with Reigns.
For storyline purposes, and in the name of common sense, Rollins would be wise to wait until somebody other than a seemingly invincible beast is holding the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
For now, the Money in the Bank briefcase is doing its job by grooming a potential top star. Rollins has until July of next year. No rush.
Rollins’ long feud with Ambrose has been a success thus far by all accounts. By the end of their rivalry, Rollins will have had a feud-of-the-year candidate to build on and will feel more comfortable in a main event setting.
Should the Reigns experiment go as planned, there’s a built-in storyline for Rollins to cash in against his former Shield ally come next year.
@ThisIsNasty in a way I bet WWE is hoping Bryan doesn't return till after Mania— Hashton Kusher (@2reel4you) August 19, 2014
As mean-spirited as that sounds, and as heartless as that would be if it were the case, there may be some truth to that school of thought.
Following a serious neck injury, Daniel Bryan dropped the WWE World Heavyweight Championship under controversial circumstances for the third time in three reigns. As much as WrestleMania XXX seemed like his happy ending, his impending comeback from neck surgery will begin a brand-new underdog journey.
This is bad news for Roman Reigns. More importantly, it’s bad news for WWE, which is currently investing significantly in Reigns to be its next top star.
Sure, fans are behind Reigns now that he’s climbing the ladder to his first major championship. But the more colors his riot gear adds—it has blue piping now—the more mainstream Reigns will become. With Bryan’s return looming, going mainstream puts Reigns in danger of becoming this year’s Batista.
A lack of universal support for company-approved babyfaces has become a staple of the Reality Era. Fan disillusion has even trickled down to NXT.
Last week during NXT, sneering heel Bull Dempsey received loud chants of “thank you, Bull!” as he laid waste to neon-wearing, happy-go-lucky babyface Mojo Rawley.
Reigns’ steady rotation of leaping clotheslines, running dropkicks, Superman Punches and Spears has already (and unfairly) been deemed the four moves of doom by some. This is the same brand of criticism Cena receives on a nightly basis, and fan resentment will only get worse as Reigns’ push grows stronger.
The return of Bryan will only heighten “fanimosity” toward Reigns. WWE may find itself in a situation identical to WrestleMania XXX, where Bryan is being held down in favor of a more prototypical babyface. WWE will be in a tough spot if reports begin to come out that Bryan should be healed by the Royal Rumble, an event which Reigns is almost surely penciled in to win.
If and when fans begin turning on Reigns the way they did Batista, clamoring for Bryan to finally get a proper run with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, will WWE buckle yet again?