One Night in Chicago: 3 Months After Money in the Bank, Has Anything Changed?
July 17, 2011.
It has been three months since Money in the Bank. The pay-per-view that was hyped as the turning point for the WWE. The weeks leading up to, and following the event had an aura of excitement not felt in years.
CM Punk began this revolution with his infamous "worked shoot" that turned the wrestling world upside down. The Straight-Edge Saviour was rallying for change. He wanted to shake up the WWE.
The CM Punk vs. John Cena match in the main event of Money in the Bank had immense expectations from wrestling fans on all levels, not just the IWC. Undeniably, the WWE had fallen into a state of complacency with their belief that they have no direct competition.
The storylines and feuds became stale leading to a declining number of fans. Say what you will about the PG Era, but the family-friendly approach places so many storyline restrictions on the writers that it's understandable that many of their ideas came across as bland.
With CM Punk came hope that the WWE were becoming edgy and unpredictable once again. The build-up to the match was unbelievable. It was a known truth that CM Punk's contract was going to expire, and that he intended on leaving.
He proclaimed that he would depart with the WWE Championship, and we bought in to the possibility of it happening. He spoke about the McMahon family in a way that would warrant a firing.
For a moment, forget about the build up. Forget how the feud ended in the months following MITB. Remember the almost hour-long main event of Money in the Bank.
Personally, I think the greatest moments in wrestling come from the intangibles. For all the pre-planning that goes into a WWE show, the crowd can make or break a moment.
I consider CM Punk vs. John Cena one of my favourite matches of all time. With the unbelievable expectations put on them by their peers and their followers, they wrestled an excellent match. Technically, it was fantastic, however as I have spoken about, the intangibles make or break legendary matches.
The emotion felt throughout that match was unfathomable. Nothing against John Cena, but CM Punk needed to win if we were to believed the WWE had made any progress. We bought into the near falls because we genuinely cared who won the match.
The match shares one key similarity with my other favourite match: Icon vs. Icon, The Rock vs. Hollywood Hogan. The crowd for both matches were insane.
From the second CM Punk entered the arena to his exit, his hometown Chicago crowd was screaming his name. The fans made that match instantly memorable. This match was on par or greater to any WrestleMania moment. CM Punk gave a career-defining performance that the wrestling world will never forget.
That's because whether you would admit it or not, it has impacted the WWE in ways we could only dream a year ago.
I understand the criticism. Many of these storylines spawned from Money in the Bank could have been better if given more time to develop, such as Punk's departure from the WWE. That's the only negative repercussion of Money in the Bank, and honestly, that's a problem the WWE has been wrestling for years.
For three months we have been left wanting to see more. The biggest storyline in the WWE has taken so many twists and turns that Raw was quite often must-see TV. Not only that, we've witnessed the emergence of new main event stars and the return of some old ones.
While they were not all directly linked to CM Punk (e.g. Mark Henry), they can all be attributed to the WWE refocusing over the last few months. It would never have happened without the buzz CM Punk vs. John Cena at Money in the Bank garnered. ESPN writers were covering wrestling extensively.
While the excitement has died down in three months, there's no doubt WWE has been refreshing to watch. The WWE is on a run of four great pay-per-views. Some were better than others, however at the end of every show, we were anticipating the fallout on Raw.
Long-term issues have seemingly been addressed. The long ignored tag team and divas divisions were reevaluated. New, exciting tag teams emerged, and most importantly, there were good stories being told in both divisions.
For the first time in quite a while, fans were given a reason to care about both the Tag Team and Divas Champions.
All this is happening with the Road to WrestleMania on the horizon. There's no doubt the wrestling industry will be in excitement over The Rock's return among what should surely be the most memorable WrestleMania in recent history.
Whether Money in the Bank has changed the WWE comes down to your expectations and your perspective. I emerged from that show cautiously optimistic about the near-future of the company. Obviously, I think positive progress has been made. If, however, you expected the second coming of the Attitude Era, you may have been disappointed.
The WWE is heading in a far more positive direction, and it can all be traced back to one night in Chicago; Money in the Bank 2011. Watch that match again, and tell me it isn't one of the most memorable in wrestling's history.
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