For a little while now, the conspiracy angle that heated up Monday Night Raw a month or two ago seems to have cooled just a bit. However, that doesn't mean dark forces aren't working behind the scenes to move the chess pieces the ways they want.
Survivor Series' final moments may have seemed to many like an outcome far too easy to book. Rock got most of the spotlight, Awesome Truth looked foolish and after an "applause battle," Cena took a Rock Bottom to end the show, but it's really the aftershocks of that victory that will be felt the hardest.
The next night, Cena's only appearance saw him lead to the breakup of Awesome Truth. Yes, Truth was written off TV due to him being suspended for a wellness policy violation, but from a storyline perspective, Cena successfully drove a wedge between his current nemeses, and rose up as a result.
The following week, Mick Foley made his return to host a "This is Your Life" segment for John Cena, which really made him look like nothing more than an ingrate without a sense of humor. Granted, even the ever-smiling, ever-proud Cena may not have been in the mood to be reminded of the greatest failures of his lifetime, but he still could have attempted to appreciate Foley's intentions better.
As if things couldn't get worse for the guy, his appearance on last week's Piper's Pit segment was likely one of the most important of his career.
After Miz laid the cards out for Cena real easy, that people in MSG actually chanted "Don't Tag Cena," Piper tossed gallons of gasoline on the fire by calling out the fact that Cena blatantly ignores the boos and ignores the negativity the WWE Universe lavishes upon him by constantly being in such rigid denial. Piper made it clear: the nature of his energy came from the fans. It was the fans that directed him, or at the very least, encouraged him.
When they cheered Piper, he did good things. When they booed him, he did bad things. It's so easy for many to see it going the opposite direction, but to so blatantly deny the fans' the respect they deserve of performing the way THEY want him to perform is such an arrogant way to conduct him.
Last night was another crucial moment in Cena's development, and I'd hate to see it passed over simply because Laurinaitis is involved.
In an attempt to keep things exciting, Laurinaitis announced that CM Punk would be defending his title against a number of potential opponents. If Del Rio, Ziggler and Miz won their subsequent singles matches, they would be entered into the WWE Championship picture at the upcoming TLC PPV.
Del Rio made short work of Daniel Bryan with the cross arm-breaker.
Thanks to distraction from Wade Barrett, Miz won his match with Randy Orton at the top of the show via count out.
Ziggler shooed away help from Swagger backstage, potentially leading to Sheamus defeating him. But that's another issue for another day.
In the meantime, Cena had a match in what Laurinaitis called a "Social Experiment," where he wanted to see if Cena was getting booed simply because Rock was there, or if Cena would get booed regardless. Thus, Cena and Zack were booked in a match.
Laurinaitis then revealed that if Zack won, he'd get his U.S. Title match against Ziggler at TLC. If Cena won, he'd get entered into the WWE Title match at TLC.
As expected, Cena won.
Ryder was livid and thoroughly upset that his friend didn't swing the match in his favor to allow him his shot at the US Belt. This enraged Cena, until he marched backstage and demanded that Laurinaitis give Ryder his chance.
Cena wasn't about to lay down and throw a match and take a loss, but he didn't seem to like the idea of being manipulated this way, either.
What happened next was key. And whether you love Laurinaitis' on-screen character or you hate it, you have to admit, it was brilliant storytelling.
Laurinaitis then said that Ryder could have one more match to give him a shot at the U.S. Title, that he needed to win to be granted said match, and could only be granted such an "opportunity for an opportunity" under one condition: Cena would have to preemptively sacrifice his spot in the WWE Championship match.
The result? Zack Ryder vs. Mark Henry in a No DQ match, where Cena delivered an AA to Henry and dragged Ryder on top of the World Heavyweight Champion.
Let's face facts: Cena's been tempted plenty over the past year and a half. He's been forced to join Nexus, manipulated into potentially screwing Randy Orton out of a world title just to keep his job, he's had Vince and Laurinaitis attempting to help him keep his WWE Title at Money in the Bank back in July.
And now this—Laurinaitis tempts Cena with what he wants most, another chance at the WWE Championship, and he gives it up.
Piper calls Cena out, slaps him in the face and demands that Cena tell people what he really feels, instead of just throwing on a smile and shutting out the boos.
In response, he hands Piper back his Hall of Fame ring, storms out and gives of himself in order to help a former mid-card enhancement talent bumming around Superstars.
To the naked eye, it would appear that Cena is sticking closely to his good guy nature. Giving of himself certainly doesn't seem like anything new to John. Then again, look at what's occurred this past year:
Cena has gotten title shot after title shot, some of them practically handed to him without needing to earn them, all as a result of the managing forces in WWE. Even the tournament Vince arranged ended with Triple H feeding a weak Mysterio to Cena in the same night as his brutal match with Miz, and Cena ended up with the belt again.
Cena succeeded then, and he succeeded at Night of Champions against Del Rio. He's had victories in spades. Of course, he's also seen more failure this year than he has in most years.
He failed to keep the belt at Money in the Bank, he failed to unite the title at Summerslam, he failed again to hold onto the belt at Hell in a Cell, he failed to recapture it at Vengeance and now at Survivor Series, he failed to even just stand out in a standard one-fall tag team match when a bigger star was present.
Hypothetically, if John Cena is a member of the conspiracy, or at least aided by them in shadow, then the conspirators need to take more drastic measures in guiding their star where they want him. If that means tempting him with what he wants most (and skunking his friend at the same time), so be it.
They'll want to do the most they can for him without directly interfering in matches. Laurinaitis and Vince tried that when Punk was involved—it didn't work.
Then again, since when have Cena's failures really meant much to the managing forces? Cena's popularity has been dwindling fast, and whoever's really in charge continues to believe Cena is needed at the top.
This assumption meshes perfectly with the quandary Laurinaitis presented to Cena last night. It's my feeling that Laurinaitis did not want Cena to relinquish his title shot for Zack Ryder, and instead take his rightful place in the title match and take the title from CM Punk.
It's no breaking news story. Laurinaitis hates CM Punk with a passion, despite all the hollow, corporate pandering to Punk Laurinaitis has been doing lately in videos posted on WWE.com. But we can bet on one thing:
If there's anyone in the company who can defeat Punk, it has to be Cena. At least, that's how Laurinaitis feels. What do you think?
Laurinaitis doesn't think Del Rio or Miz can do it. He doubts Del Rio plenty, and although he brought back Awesome Truth, Miz has seen his share of being held back in the past.
If Laurinaitis wants CM Punk to lose the title, he knows his best bet to make that happen is to manipulate Cena back into the title picture, and that's what he did for a portion of the night. He came at Cena with a counter offer that he thought would be a no-brainer. Turned out, Cena did a good deed—not uncharacteristic of Cena, but if they're going to keep up this charade, they need to do it carefully.
Additionally, in two different split seconds, both Cena and Laurinaitis made remarks to suggest that they don't have faith in Zack's abilities. I'm not one to harp on Cena's biggest points deserving criticism being his largely PG nature, however normally, he's pretty politically correct. He should be anyway, he's a company man. He needs to be PC to a degree, he has his own image as well as the image of WWE to take into account.
He can't go on drunk, anti-semitic tirades like Mel Gibson and squeak by unscathed. WWE is 150 percent about image, and if the most people know Cena's face related to the company, they're already associating it with murder-suicides, steroid scandals and other criminal charges. Cena could really do damage to the company as a result.
Thus, maybe Piper's words are starting to sink in and Cena just slipped and he was being honest. He sure backpedaled pretty fast when Ryder took offense to his comment, which gels nicely with how we know Cena to act, but the way Cena should have acted?
He should've been honest, that's what fans like. They like superstars that are honest and start trouble. Maybe it wouldn't have been very nice for Cena to say to Ryder, "I'm going to absolutely crush you under my sneakers, bro. Be ready for that," but it damn sure would have gotten an amazing reaction. Not only that, but it would've pulled Ryder's punk card, you can bet.
When Laurinaitis walked out of the room, did you see Ryder's face? He wasn't the smiling, dancing, yipping superstar he usually is. No, in that moment, he was taking Cena seriously.
I've heard lots of criticism of Zack Ryder, saying that he's too comical and goofy to be considered main-event level quality. Last night, he stood toe to toe with Cena, both in the ring and backstage, and did it with minimal joking around or being goofy. Hopefully, it put those critics to bed for at least a nap.
I really want to refrain from giving the same Cena heel turn speech as everyone else, but if you think about it, Cena's split-second backhanded admission that having a match with Ryder was a bit of a joke in and of itself, and his half-assed acceptance that he is the top of the food chain in WWE, it is fairly similar to Hogan joining Hall and Nash and forming the NWO.
Those three KNEW conclusively they were the best of the best at the time, and they wanted their dominance to mean something. But they knew they couldn't do it alone, so they actively joined forces and took over.
Does Cena believe he can be at the top of the food chain by himself? In most cases, I have no doubt that Cena believes that. Cena can beat Ryder no problem, and if the match lasted long enough, he might even be able to squeak by Punk as well.
But The Rock? Come Wrestlemania XXIII, Cena doesn't stand a chance against Rock all by himself. If Rock's incredible overshadowing of Cena (at Cena's own request), was enough to really get Cena questioning anything about himself, then like Piper said, Cena will never stand tall if he doesn't get his head right and start being honest.
And when people are honest with themselves, they're known to overcompensate. They're known to take drastic measures.
His last few lines of shirts have said "Never Give Up." His arm bands still do, while his new shirt says "Rise Above Hate." These things aren't a coincidence.
It's a conspiracy—think about it.