WWE is trying to make chicken salad out of chicken … feathers. The roster depleted by injury, we get the millionth iteration of the company versus the talent, the bourgeoisie squaring off with the proletariat, with the poor man’s Vince McMahon in the form of Triple H leading his team against the poor man’s Stone Cold Steve Austin in the form of John Cena.
The hodgepodge teams built around them are indicative of a WWE roster in disarray at a critical time in the company’s history. The launch of the WWE Network back in February heralded the dawn of a new era in TV programming, with McMahon bypassing the cable and satellite companies in favor of going the Internet route with the idea that he could take all the money from subscriber fees himself.
That roll of the dice was predicated on being able to build on what was then a still hot product.
Fast forward nine months, and the product is chilled. The departure of top star CM Punk wasn’t a work to give the exhausted Punk an extended vacation; if it was, he’d have come back after Daniel Bryan, who was elevated to the top of the card with the win in the main event at WM30, went on the shelf in May with a neck injury that has required two surgeries, rehab and apparently more of the same in the foreseeable future, with no return date in sight.
Then the next man in line for elevation to the top of the card, Roman Reigns, reportedly set to main event WrestleMania 31 along with Brock Lesnar, himself went on the shelf after surgery that has had him out of the mix since before SummerSlam.
The good news, such as it is, with Reigns is that he is expected back next month, meaning he will be ready to take the Royal Rumble main event that will then put him in line for the WM31 top spot. If only Reigns were at all ready for the big push; he’s clearly not top level yet in the ring or on the mic, but maybe the time off to recover from surgery has been a blessing in disguise at least in respect to the part about mic work, with WWE putting him to work in the meanwhile with acting and voice coaches to improve on that part of his game.
But that leaves us where we are now. WWE has seen only slight growth in its Network subscriber base since WrestleMania season, to the point of deciding to offer the month of November free of charge to new subscribers. It’s in that context, then, that we get the, ahem, leak of news this weekend that the long-rumored arrival of Sting in WWE is going to happen Sunday night at Survivor Series. Anything to get people to sign on, right?
Anything, indeed, except for this rather lame card, with Triple H and Cena and a miscast of characters facing off in a 10-man tag clusterfrick.
We can hold out hope that the writers will try to add intrigue to the main event by somehow injecting Sting into the mix, either playing off his kayfabe long-time disdain for New York by having him give Cena’s team a big assist at the end, or giving us a big swerve with making it appear that Sting’s arrival will be oriented toward assisting the faces, then having him join The Authority and explain afterward that his rivalry with WWE and McMahon was a career-long work.
Knowing WWE creative, Sting’s first appearance will be decidedly more low-key, probably involving some nonsense vignette backstage in the catering area, maybe even involving Grumpy Cat, if McMahon wanted to spring for one more night of this week’s special Raw guest star.
As for the final outcome of the main event, I’m expecting another Authority win, if only based on the context clues, with the face team led by Cena getting the upper hand on Monday Night Raw and seemingly ready to cruise to victory. We all know that whoever has the upper hand going in is just on the verge of a comeuppance.
The stipulations tied to the match, that the losers are essentially going to get fired, will make it a bit interesting either way, but it’s hard to imagine WWE killing The Authority storyline before WrestleMania 31.
As for the faces who face being “fired” after losing, the story will become what they need to do to get their jobs back. Which should be worth a few weeks of nonsense leading into Royal Rumble.
Match of the Night: Dean Ambrose vs. Bray Wyatt Who wins doesn’t matter in matches involving Wyatt, whose matches are becoming spectacles unto themselves, a la Undertaker.
Who cares? The rest of the card. Honestly. Let’s hope the intros for the main event start around 9:40 p.m. Eastern or so. Nikki Bella vs. AJ lee, The Dust Brothers vs. The Usos vs. The Mizzes, the Divas Elimination Match, we could put those on Main Event next week so nobody would have to watch them and be better off. There’s a reason WWE is giving this one away for free. You’re still going to want your money back.
– Column by Chris Graham