WWE Bragging Rights: 14 Superstars, One Year Later
Last year’s WWE Bragging Rights event was the first of its kind, and despite what critics will believe (including myself), the concept of the seven-on-seven main event tag match is a pretty deep one.
With a chance to showcase their individual skills, 14 WWE superstars are put to the ultimate test of collaborative skills and cognitive abilities.
While seven are left lying down, seven others are given the supreme victory and “Bragging Rights” for the coming year.
But does victory really make that big a difference?
Let’s take a look at each team from last year and see just how far they’ve come in one year. Perhaps this will provide some clear omens for the upcoming event, featuring several familiar faces in different places.
Triple H, Team RAW
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
It only makes sense to start with the losing team. Triple H and longtime best friend Shawn Michaels were the co-captains of Team RAW for last year's rumble. And while they were unsuccessful in their attempts to win the glory, they found even less success as the year rolled over.
Triple H lost a lot of his singles competition glory, failing to win the WWE Title at the Survivor Series. By the end of the year, he and HBK kept together as a unit and claimed the Unified Tag Team Titles. But things would continue to go downhill for The Game as 2010 came around.
He was eliminated by Shawn Michaels in the Royal Rumble, then he entered a major feud with Sheamus that resulted in an indefinite time off. While one has to assume that The Game will return with a penchant for revenge on the Celtic Warrior, his title prospects are low, and he's not getting any younger.
Shawn Michaels, Team RAW
Much like his co-captain, Michaels didn't really see great success after Bragging Rights. Though he was a tag team champion, HBK had bigger fish to fry and a date with destiny at WrestleMania.
Michaels behaved like a man possessed, doing everything in his power to secure a rematch with the Undertaker at WrestleMania XXVI. When the time was right, Michaels struck down Taker and cost him the World Heavyweight Championship.
But that was only the beginning.
HBK had a glorious encounter with the Deadman that rivaled their encounter at WrestleMania XXV, yet he came up short and was forced into retirement after an illustrious career spanning more than two decades.
In an ironic twist, this year's RAW Bragging Rights team returns neither of its captains from the previous year. In fact, neither has been active for the past six months.
Chris Jericho, Team SmackDown!
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Chris Jericho has spent the past two years of professional wrestling as the self-proclaimed "very best in the business." And with good reason. Jericho has been riding high as one of the top performers in the WWE.
Last year, Jericho co-captained the Blue Brand to victory, but it wasn't without great assistance from his then-tag team partner, The Big Show. Though he and Big Show disbanded less than two months later, it has not adversely affected Jericho's career.
The co-captain launched himself back to prominence by claiming the World Heavyweight Championship at Elimination Chamber, then successfully defending it at WrestleMania XXVI. In fact, Jericho only lost the title because of the Money in the Bank ladder match winner, Jack Swagger.
Jericho bounced back to RAW midway through the year, a move that led to great contests against Evan Bourne and another shot at the big belt. But as he departs for a rock tour, Jericho serves as the third member of last year's match who has disappeared completely.
Kane, Team SmackDown!
Breaking away from the norm, Kane undoubtedly has been the most successful captain from either team coming out of Bragging Rights. The Big Red Machine took a little bit of time after the event to begin gaining momentum, but it wasn't long before he was unstoppable once more.
He went mostly unnoticed until July, when he began a one-man crusade to find out who put his brother The Undertaker on the shelf. Kane thrusted himself into the forefront of SmackDown! programming after the Money in the Bank pay-per-view, where he not only won a MITB ladder match but cashed in the very same night on his friend, Rey Mysterio.
Claiming his first World Heavyweight Championship, Kane has stayed on top ever since, and is at the most important place in his career he has ever been. He even exorcised his past demons by finally claiming victory over the Undertaker not once, but twice.
Though it seems a foregone conclusion that Kane will fall sooner or later to the Deadman (read: Sunday night), one has to believe he'll maintain a strong amount of momentum in 2011.
Big Show, Team RAW
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Perhaps the biggest story out of last year's Bragging Rights was the Big Show's total defection from Team RAW to Team SmackDown! This was key to the blue team's rise to victory. Now, within a year, Show has gone from one of the most hated men on Monday Nights to one of the most beloved on Fridays.
Big Show managed to reestablish his gentle giant nature, manifesting itself in great feuds with C.M. Punk and Jack Swagger. While Show has worked with the younger talents in an attempt to get them over, he has been more or less even par as the days went by.
With his extremely limited release of Knucklehead, Big Show is solidifying his place as a monstrous face for the WWE and SmackDown! This year, he captains the team looking to go 2-0 at the event, but another turn in the opposite direction is completely out of the question.
In other words, he'll stay loyal this time around.
Jack Swagger, Team RAW
In what has been a whirlwind year for the All-American American, Jack Swagger finds himself in virtually the same spot at Bragging Rights, only now he's competing for Team SmackDown!
Swagger was invisible from November to March this past year, until he surprisingly won the Money in the Bank ladder match. Then, within a week, he was World Heavyweight Champion. Such a meteoric rise may have seemed undeserved, but Swagger was evolving into quite the young gun with decent outings in the ring and a solid build around him.
Of course, Swagger would lose the title as prematurely as he won it, and he hasn't been close to recapturing the gold ever since. I would hate to think that Swagger's ship has already sailed. I'd like to believe that the WWE is looking to make him a sustainable commodity in the same way it made Randy Orton his first few years after his first title.
R-Truth, Team SmackDown!
Observing the year R-Truth has had with the WWE since 2009's Bragging Rights, you have to wonder if the WWE has any long-term plans for him in the future. After all, Truth was one of the most prominent figures in the company, if only briefly and negligibly.
Truth floated through obscurity after Bragging Rights. This despite what should have been a huge shot in the arm after he eliminated Mark Henry and the Big Show simultaneously from Royal Rumble. How many times was it mentioned that HBK had a superhuman effort in taking out Vader and Yokozuna in 1996? Several thousand more than it was for Truth, rest assured.
In fact, Truth would go through the motions until making an all important move to RAW this past year, where he feuded with both the Miz and Ted DiBiase on his way up. He had his signature theme song and the U.S. Title, but as we approach Bragging Rights in 2010, he has neither.
After showing promise in his approach with Nexus's John Cena, Truth's previous criminal record only served to hurt him in his absence from the go-home show this past Monday.
Kofi Kingston, Team RAW
Another brand swap later, and Kofi Kingston is the definition of par for the course. But his story has a bittersweet finish.
Kofi Kingston became a major player within the company during last year's pay-per-view, but not because of his involvement in the tag team match. Rather, Kofi would launch his biggest feud with Randy Orton after Orton solely blamed him for losing the WWE Title Iron Man match. What followed was a major slate of matches in which Kofi, for the most part, got the better.
Kofi even had a memorable victory at the Survivor Series, pinning both Orton and C.M. Punk in less than 10 seconds. Yes, it appeared as though he was destined to become the World Champion in the near future. But instead of rising to the occasion, Kofi fizzled miserably.
He failed at the Royal Rumble, Elimination Chamber, and in two Money in the Bank ladder matches. It wasn't long before he was relegated back to mid-card duty, fighting again for the Intercontinental Title. Now, he's on Team SmackDown!, easily the fifth or sixth most important man on the team.
Matt Hardy, Team SmackDown!
Wow. Just wow.
The rise and fall of Matt Hardy has become one of the most interesting backstage stories in an otherwise quiet fall quarter for the WWE. How did Hardy fall so hard so fast?
Let's look back to his post Bragging Rights affairs. Coming off a big victory at Bragging Rights, Hardy did absolutely nothing for about three months. He became the mentor of Justin Gabriel, and he started a high profile feud on SmackDown! with up and comer Drew McIntyre. The battles between the two drew genuine interest, and it seemed as if WWE could cash in nicely.
After all, Hardy was, at the time, still of great name value. Just mentioning him elicited great reactions.
Unfortunately, WWE creative lost interest in both men and the rivalry was resolved quietly and without much fanfare. As the year went on, Hardy was used less and less until he inevitably was sent home during a European tour in September. What followed was a bizarre odyssey of seeming drug-induced viral videos describing his side of the story.
Hardy basically turned full-on heel via YouTube and Twitter, asking for his release so he could go to TNA and be with his even more deeply troubled brother Jeff. Amazingly, nobody cared.
Hardy was released, through his own celebration, and approximately 13 teenage girls who once loved Team Xtreme were thrilled to know that they could reunite sometime soon.
Stock: About as high as any on October 29, 1929
Cody Rhodes, Team RAW
I'm sorry, but Cody Rhodes has become singularly one of the best things about Friday Night SmackDown! Rhodes looked to be on the way up as he and Ted DiBiase built their Legacy into the stratosphere after Bragging Rights.
But Rhodes bit the dust in a big way after a concussion at WrestleMania. When he returned, Cody was a changed man. He debuted his gimmick of "Dashing" Cody Rhodes, a narcissist obsessed with always looking his best. Yet, he also took time out of his day to educate the masses on how they, too, could become simply dashing.
What followed was a series of wacky vignettes that showed the big reason this gimmick was working: Rhodes embraced it full throttle. The only flaw, of course, is that Rhodes has been accused of overdoing it, thus leading to a halt in his push. As one-half of the tag team champions currently with Drew McIntyre, you'd be hard-pressed to claim that he isn't the star of the tandem.
Mark Henry, Team RAW
Just look at this picture. This literally sums up the year for Mark Henry, who was a lovable fan favorite in his return to the RAW roster. He's done pretty much nothing of note over the past 365 days, save for coaching Lucky Cannon and teaming with MVP or Evan Bourne.
But for a man who was once asked to have a love affair with Mae Young, can you really ask for more?
Finlay, Team SmackDown!
If three is a hat trick (Jericho, Triple H, HBK), then we're up to a bowling four-bagger. Fit Finlay competed for the winning team at Bragging Rights, but his slot on the roster disappeared just a few months later.
His last notable appearance in the ring was an epic showdown at Survivor Series against Sheamus (and subsequent rematch the night after). Sheamus gave him a Brogue Kick, and Finlay was quickly pinned.
This also marks Finlay's second retirement from active competition, making one wonder if the 52-year old has a few more surprises left up his sleeves.
The Hart Dynasty, Team SmackDown!
Tyson Kidd and DH Smith had been floundering for almost a year before they got their big break on Team SmackDown! The two were impressive and soon found a new home on Monday Night RAW. Now backed by Bret Hart, nothing could stop the Hart Dynasty from tag team glory.
Sure enough, they soon became the Unified Tag Team Champions and appeared to be bringing back WWE's tag team division. Then, of course, WWE took the titles away from them and began the split.
If you can honestly tell me who is the face and who is the heel here, I'd be impressed. Neither is looking like they'll be welcomed back for 2011.
Stock: Dropping. Fast.