For the record, I wasn't a fan when the tabloids merged Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes into TomKat. I was also not amused when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie transformed into Brangelina. Then CeNexus Angle hit, and I really didn't chuckle at the code name.
Now that CM Punk seems to be the "new management" that Otunga claims Nexus is now under, I will forego my desire to be a trendsetter and tell all of you...please don't dub this CePunxus? Please?
I'll keep the recap as short as possible, like always. Last night's final Live Raw of 2010 vowed to bring answers to those questioning CM Punk's motives for attacking John Cena not once but twice during last week's WWE Week on the USA Network. Sure enough, it did...to some extent.
At the top of the show, Cena addresses Punk and after a vocal exchange that saw Punk decimate the face of the company on the microphone, Punk promised that he'd call out Cena on his terms, and chase it with a huge surprise.
Cheers to Punk on pointing out the majority of the hypocrisies that Cena now represents. He claims to be all about good values and sticking to one's word, yet he bullies Vickie Guerrero for being heavy (apparently, to him, being loud and annoying means you deserve childish insults) and after getting fired, continues to appear on TV.
All the things Cena-haters can't stand about him, and all the things Cena-lovers tend to ignore.
Additional jeers, however, to Cena, as his sense of humor was simply too juvenile to let go. The Rock joked about Pie and Strudel with Divas and female ring announcers in rather teenage fashion, but somehow his fashion seemed eons more mature.
Once again, CM Punk is the one who shows us just what's been wrong with WWE all this time. Started with commentary, and now this...
At the end of the show, there's no call out, so Cena takes the initiative, only to be met by Nexus, minus Wade Barrett. Otunga is in the lead, gets in the ring with Cena, says they don't want a conflict, and since they're under "new management," offers Cena a truce.
Cena doesn't buy it, and Otunga appears to call off the confrontation. Halfway up the ramp, they run back in, hit a few signature moves, followed by a 450 by Gabriel, and end with Otunga leaving an armband in the ring.
As Nexus is leaving, CM Punk arrives, walks through all the Nexus members casually, hits the Go To Sleep, grabs a chair and appears to be attacking Cena with it.
After a few seconds, he unfolds the chair, sits, contemplates further, picks up the armband and slips it on. He then salutes Nexus and the show ends.
Whether you've enjoyed Wade Barrett's speeches or hated them, giggled whenever they tore apart a legend or not, you have to admit one thing. One of the most impactful entities to come out of WWE TV in 2010 has been the group of upstarts referred to as Nexus. Or The Nexus, whichever you prefer.
This is so for two very important reasons:
The Winds of Change are Blowing: Little children, pre-teens, and teenagers, who are likely unaware of the massive impact groups like Degeneration-X, Evolution, New World Order, and the 4 Horsemen have had on professional wrestling, ceremoniously saw their world shatter to pieces at the hands of eight new rookies, seven of whom had been eliminated on NXT Season One, and were led by its winner, Wade Barrett.
Not many of them are old enough to remember, or have the dedication to sit and objectively review the videos to see, just how important stables, groups and teams have been to wrestling. So for them to see a gang of newbies butt in and destroy the flagship show of wrestling's biggest company was undeniably important.
You can't say that WWE keeps a good guy like Cena on top solely to sell merchandise to little kids, and then ignore that Nexus' band of rulebreakers, and their equally large line of swag, has been a useless waste of time. Doesn't work that way.
Reminiscence of Days Gone By: Older fans in their 30s and above remember the days when a group of wrestlers would team up, look at each other in the ring, and say, "so, uh...what do we call this?" They would give themselves a name, it would stick, t-shirts would come out shortly after, and boom. New stable to take over.
The beauty part was that not every single stable was like the New World Order. They weren't all evil groups threatening to tear wrestling down to its knees, they weren't all sinister and deviously masterminded plots to undermine management, and they weren't groups of newbies looking to use force to gain contracts to compete.
However, one thing Nexus did show us is that a group of rookies can overcome a lack of star power (and possibly a lack of talent...Barrett, Gabriel, McGillicutty, and Harris notwithstanding) and use smart chess moves to advance, as opposed to having the spotlight follow them around anywhere they went (a la Hogan, Hall and Nash).
On June 7, 2010, the first ever Viewer's Choice edition of Monday Night Raw saw the original eight Nexus members (Barrett, Otunga, Slater, Gabriel, Sheffield, Tarver, Bryan, and Young) tear the show to pieces.
Since then, wherever these guys went on WWE programming, and any time they appeared, rumors would swirl.
Like famous rock bands that have not appeared to be hindered by constantly changing lineups, Creative has been forced to have Barrett explain away the absences of Sheffield (taking time off), Tarver (humiliated at getting beat down by Cena), and Bryan (an abundance of remorse over Tie-gate).
Fortunately, new members were brought in as others were removed to add preservatives to the leftovers and make them smell fresh. Although, as we all know, some leftovers reheat better than others.
Despite Nexus lacking a "core" group of original members that are solid and staying indefinitely due to Barrett's iron-fisted leadership over the past seven months, Nexus has taken on more of a morphing identity.
Some of you may remember the initial promotion of Nexus' original seven on WWE.com, after Bryan was lifted out due to getting "FE'd up" (or future endeavored, as we like to say) as individually representing the seven deadly sins.
While I found this extremely imaginative, I also found it a bit premature.
To me, it ensured that Nexus would be around a while, but as these guys were all relatively new to the spotlight, it didn't factor in that they might suffer injuries due to increased pressure to perform. Sure enough, Sheffield and Tarver both were out to heal, and Nexus looked weaker and weaker.
Still, every week they'd play a card, every week they'd unveil a new facet of their plans, every week they'd threaten, attack, advance or fall back, they'd add even more careful thought to their approach.
Their initial attacks, to me, were slightly reminiscent of Abyss' attacks on TNA Impact, pre-Immortal, pre-Bound For Glory, 10/10/10. The Monster would come out and say that THEY told him to take down this person or that person.
First it was Hogan, then it was Dreamer, then it was RVD. The list went on, but it ended up being a cheesy cover up to a failed surprise, at least when compared to the fact that Nexus was, in essence, a THEY themselves.
Instead of one "psychotic" man being commanded by a mysterious group of individuals (who could just as easily have been voices in the guy's head), Nexus was working towards their own ends, letting their own plans slip out on occasion and merely implying a higher power was running them behind the scenes, as opposed to out-and-out saying it.
And no, I'm not speculating that CM Punk has been the mastermind of Nexus this whole time, especially with Otunga implying he's "new management." You can't really be "new" management if you've been working behind the scenes the entire time, can you?
Although CM Punk's new involvement puts a kink into my theory that WWE was preparing a story arc similar to TNA's rehashed approach to Sting—in essence, taking a face that had effectively been turned heel by the nature and targets of his attacks, and revealing once again that the guys getting attacked were in fact the real enemies—things may work out better this way.
Considering the massive impact Nexus had only seven months ago, and considering the massive merchandise push this group has going for them, for many to think the storyline would just end after three or four months and NOT continue through Wrestlemania seems a little silly in retrospect.
Back in October (incidentally, the previously projected end date for the Nexus storyline), I wrote an article on wrestling storytelling, found here:
In it, I point out how great it is when a tale features a character who is placed into a villain position, and they end up really making sense with their arguments, as well as being able to bring the audience to their side.
The debate that ensues amongst audience members over whether the hero or villain is in the right causes the passion found on each side to strengthen.
As new developments arise, and circumstances change, members of each side of the argument are inspired to either strengthen their resolve or, in some cases, reevaluate the side they're on, causing them to occasionally change sides.
After all, The Rock didn't go from being an overly egotistical heel to the People's Champ of babyfaces overnight, nor did the New World Order start as the stable everyone desperately wanted to destroy the reputation of WCW. It took time.
One of the reasons many felt the Nexus storyline had grown stale was how similar each of their chess moves was becoming. Their latest moves, deceptively bringing Cena into the group and threatening to fire Cena if Randy Orton retained his WWE Title at Survivor Series, both failing to some extent, didn't help people get behind Nexus much.
However, one thing I had pointed out months ago is how much it would help to add even one established pro to the rookies' ranks.
One of the many genres of rumors that have swirled was just how many wrestlers were thought to be the next to wear a black armband.
By adding a pro to their membership, not only does it strengthen their numbers, but they're adding a guy who is extremely unlikely to be released, giving all the groundwork the Nexus rookies laid down some real solid foundation to build on, as well as validating the newbies' passion.
We can watch a bunch of newcomers enter and wreak all the havoc they want, but if the face of the company doesn't take them seriously, the only people who are going to get behind the newcomers are people eager to be different.
With not only an established pro, but likely the most talented wrestler and vocalist in the entirety of WWE joining together with Nexus' manpower, many more fans will follow and get behind the black and yellow.
It's like watching actors hail to fans to donate money to various causes, or listening to songs whose proceeds will go to a charity.
People we love to be entertained by are asking for our help, and we love to feel like we can interact with the pros. Go to any major sporting event, read articles on B/R's other sports areas, and see for yourself just how passionate people get when they feel like their insight helps the teams and athletes they love.
Granted, CM Punk only danced on the face/heel line for a moment during his brief stint at the commentary booth. Aside from that, he hasn't changed. He's still technically a heel. However, as we've seen recently with guys like Alberto Del Rio and Sheamus, a well spoken and charming heel can still have closet fans all over.
My first impression last night, as crazy as this sounds, was that the entirety of Nexus was going to turn face by genuinely burying the hatchet with Cena. I hadn't forgotten about CM Punk's promise, mind you. I just thought it would develop more at another time.
As I said earlier, Punk's new membership in WWE's biggest current entity changes things considerably. WWE is in need of a new poster boy, and with Cena generating as much hate as cheers from fans, who better than the Straight Edge Superstar to take over that role?
I suppose it's still possible. The CePunxus angle (dammit, now I'm doing it) will easily continue through Wrestlemania, and on the biggest stage of them all, it's easy to see the swerve.
Punk vs. Cena comes to a head in a match at Wrestlemania. Nexus members come to ringside and trip Punk during the match and make it look like an accident. Cena takes advantage and scores the pin. Punk yells at the guys he thought were his new friends, Nexus enters and while everybody thinks they're going to apologize or keep Cena at bay, they turn their ferocity toward Punk.
Cena removes the armband from Punk and puts it on himself, though subtracting the defeated and downtrodden look he once had when donning the accessory.
I'm not holding my breath for this twist, but as I've thoroughly appreciated what the existence of Nexus brings to WWE television, I can at least be thankful that the addition of CM Punk will strengthen the rookies and make their approach that much more focused.
Of course, if we're going to address CM Punk as either a member or a leader of a heel stable, we need to address the Straight Edge Society. Creatively, this group started somewhat similarly to Nexus, in that their initially poignant displays were something to behold.
While it started with only Punk and Gallows, taking fans (or plants who were good sports of actors) up into the ring, shaving them bald and making them recite the Pledge was pretty huge.
Whether an intentionally creative decision or a last minute rewrite, I still have a bad taste in my mouth over Rey Mysterio beating Punk at this year's Wrestlemania to effectively begin the death of the SES.
WWE is need of powerful stables and teams and Punk led the SES terrifically, to his credit.
They just dropped the ball considerably, forcing SES into an inevitably dangerous rivalry with Big Show. Now that SES is gone, and Big Show is bulldozing everyone in his path, Big Show is losing creative direction quickly, and Punk has been in danger of becoming irrelevant, at least until his injury forced him to the commentary booth.
Now that Punk has new places to go, we should ask the question: was it Punk's kayfabe leadership that ruined things, or simply a creative decision? I guess we're going to find out soon enough, though hopefully WWE has learned its lesson.
Losing Punk as the crafty leader of a heel stable was devastating and caused the balance to lean too far towards faces.
A Nexus led by Punk could change the landscape considerably.
CM Punk is looking to be the new leader of Nexus by the end of last night's Raw, and of course, conspicuous by his absence was Wade Barrett.
It's unlikely we'll get resolution on what that could mean for Wade's career (i.e., will he attempt to make peace with his former mates? Will he vow revenge? Will he still hate Cena? Would a new rivalry with his former pals turn him face?) as early as Friday Night Smackdown, though if Nexus is still around, its former leader has to be as well.
Maybe the swerve I was hoping for, to turn Punk into the new face of the company at the expense of Nexus and a new heel Cena, was a bit too much to ask for.
However, Barrett getting ousted from Nexus and starting a new group of his own, including Darren Young, Michael Tarver, Skip Sheffield, and perhaps even Bryan (it would give him something more important to do than cavort with the Bellas), isn't out of the question.
Despite a mediocre showing on NXT, Tarver has to have some level of talent. He wasn't dubbed Mr. 1.9 for nothing.
Sheffield has been compared to Batista more than a few times, and with a slick return and a bit of polish on his moves and demeanor, he could be a huge fan favorite.
Young is being written off more and more each week, though he did see success with Percy Watson in FCW. With Percy allegedly very high on management's lists, we could see this tag team reunite. There are things we haven't seen in him as well. Not a wildly mind-blowing team, but they certainly have some cohesiveness. Check this out...
Bryan? I am writing this on the internet, so I feel like buttering up Bryan is kind of unnecessary.
Then again, we also have CM Punk's involvement in Season 1 of NXT, as the pro trainer for ex-Nexus member Darren Young.
Punk was ultimately distant with Darren until the idea arose of inducting him into the SES. Darren eventually said no (I believe he received a beat down) and Punk and crew pretty much washed their hands of him.
Still, this got me thinking about previous pro trainers and the roles they've played in Nexus' fate since then:
R-Truth: David Otunga's trainer. Truth was instrumental in the build-up to Survivor Series, trying to discuss the WWE Title match with both Cena and Orton. His advice was also rather mixed, one minute telling Cena to do the right thing, the next telling Cena to just quit.
Truth is reported to be out on health issues, having been rushed to the hospital a number of weeks ago. If he reappears, things have already changed as far as the Nexus and Cena situation goes. I would like to see them address where Truth lands, and the potential for him to stand beside Punk.
William Regal: Skip Sheffield's trainer. Word spread recently of Regal voicing his desire to retire, however with a match against Bryan on Raw, clearly he's not retired entirely just yet.
Some of Regal's most impactful moments have been as a General Manager, so while Regal may not be the in-ring muscle that Punk could utilize (despite Regal's skills being top notch, no one is denying him that), his role could be more along the lines of backstage communication, perhaps.
The Miz: Daniel Bryan's trainer. Much like Nexus' relationship with Kane being somewhat distant, their relationship with The Miz is also distant. They apparently agreed with The Miz's treatment of Bryan, as they ousted him from the group.
Not to mention that Nexus helped Miz win the WWE Championship. And Miz helped Bryan get eliminated in the 5-on-5 match at Summerslam.
I still maintain that Orton made a mistake and lost the match entirely on his own, regardless of the attack, but you can fight me on that if you wish.
True, Miz's ego and push would not likely accommodate him being just a soldier in Punxus (not an official name), but he might be a sympathizer at the very least.
Chris Jericho: Wade Barrett's trainer. The guy basically took credit for everything Nexus has done since arriving on the scene. His loyalty to "Team Raw/Team WWE" has been in question since well before Summerslam.
He's been out due (kayfabe) to Randy Orton's punt. Though, with CM Punk now in Nexus, how far a leap would it be to include Jericho in the plan as well?
Christian: Heath Slater's trainer. Currently, he's billed as being on Smackdown, with Edge and Alberto. Given his speech at the Slammys, he's looking for revenge on Alberto for putting him out of action. Unless he gets traded, he probably won't affect much, but it's better for him, personally, to not get involved. He needs to grab the spotlight for himself, rather than share it with anyone.
However, Edge's loyalty to Team WWE was just as much in question as Jericho's, as it was very possible neither was going to be part of the 5-on-5 match at Summerslam. If Edge holds tightly onto his new belt, and Christian doesn't threaten his reign (or threatens it and fails), Christian may look to other opportunities to get respect.
Matt Hardy: Justin Gabriel's trainer. Another FE'd up star. Moot point.
Carlito: Michael Tarver's trainer. Yet another FE'd up star. Yet another moot point.
And that's just Season One. How about the Season Two trainers who were involved in the past with current Nexus?
Kofi Kingston: Michael McGillicutty's trainer. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Nexus interrupted Kofi's title opportunity against Dolph Ziggler. With Dolph holding onto the IC belt fairly tightly, thanks to Vickie, maybe other opportunities are in store for Kofi.
After all, people could be high on Dolph if he dumped Vickie and got with Kaitlyn.
Cody Rhodes: Husky Harris' trainer. I don't remember Cody interacting much with Nexus, but if anyone remembers something specific, feel free to comment.
As you can see, CM Punk's decision has changed everything. Everyone is now in question, but to conclude, in the interests of balance...could Punk joining Nexus be a bad thing?
Potentially. WWE Raw is really returning to its "anything can happen" roots. That's the good part. Some could say that Nexus is getting stale and will bring down Punk's star power by association. Some could say that Punk ran SES into the ground with his ego, and he'll do it again with Nexus. All are possibilities.
Personally, I think that even if Nexus brings Punk down a little, his own untapped star power brings Nexus up a bit as well, so ultimately they even themselves out. And depending on how this unfolds in coming weeks, all parties involved could look better as a result.
To conclude: I feel like this is a very good thing. It opens up avenues all over the place. Let's see what WWE has in store for us next.