In the wrestling world, what happens off camera is often far more interesting than what we see on screen. Especially in this PG era. And this past month has been one of the times when the lines between reality and entertainment have been severely blurred, thanks to CM Punk’s sudden walkout. Casual fans have no idea what is happening – they just know what happens on TV but, to the internet fans, it has been a fascinating 5 weeks.
For a while now, there has been a large section of the crowd that chants and cheers whatever they want – whether that be booing golden boy John Cena or letting the management know they like the underutilised and held-back talents such as Dolph Ziggler and Daniel Bryan. Yet some amazing things have happened lately. Firstly, Daniel Bryan has become the most ‘over’ superstar since ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, with kids and adult males combining in their love for the bearded one. The noise in arenas across the world is consistently deafening – a true case of catching lightning in a bottle.
Secondly, a hijacking phenomenon has happened at almost every WWE show. The combination of CM Punk walking out after finally having enough of the backstage bullshit and Daniel Bryan once again being overlooked as WWE Championship material has sent fans into a new level of rebellion. To see someone like Batista return, immediately be given a Royal Rumble victory and automatically main event at Wrestlemania over Bryan is insulting to almost every fan around the world.
To see a trading company so blatantly ignore the fans is ridiculous. This isn’t a case of mild disgruntlement – the WWE Universe are desperate for the Bryan storyline to conclude with a happy ending on the grandest stage of all. It makes complete sense and it takes a stunning level of stubbornness to throw money away like this. Fans are loudly hijacking many matches by chanting ‘BORING’, the deafening Bryan ‘YES!’ or random things to keep themselves amused. Anything but the Randy Orton-Cena-Batista stranglehold that people are clearly tired of.
Ahead of Monday 3rd March’s RAW in Chicago – a traditional hotbed which has escalated in recent years – the WWE fans are praying that somehow Bryan gets added to the Orton vs. Batista Wrestlemania main event. Twitter groups have formed over the past week with the sole aim of rebelling whatever WWE throws at them on Monday night, adding a fascinating sub-plot to the #1 talking point going into this show – will CM Punk return?
The recent hope has always been just that – hope. Yet words are coming out that hint that Punk has settled his differences with WWE and accepted Vince McMahon’s desperate pleas to return. You see, Punk has only one more dream to fulfil and that is to main event Wrestlemania. He has more than earned this but had been held back for so long. Since the incredible Summer of Punk in 2011, he finally achieved bona-fide main event status. His 434 day run as WWE Champion is the longest in modern-day wrestling and he was set for a high profile match with Triple H this time.
But it wasn’t good enough for him. His years in the business are rapidly whittling and, to not only miss out on another main event, but to see someone like Batista waltz in and snatch it from him is heartbreaking. Not only snatched from him but his good friend Daniel Bryan. So he quit. If rumours of his return are true, does this mean a compromise has been reached? Either he finds a way into the closing title match or realised that turning down big money is never a wise thing.
What we do know is that the electric Chicago crowd will be deafening at RAW. They always are but the expectation for this one is on a level not seen for quite some time – this is the most eagerly anticipated RAW in many years. The plans to hijack the show and dump a load on anything not named Punk or Bryan is impressive and will probably be carried out to an incredible degree. It seems like not only are the WWE aware of this but are revelling in it.
They are doing whatever they can to quell the crowd clamour. Rumours of a rare Undertaker appearance, along with the guest appearance of Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul and a rematch of the phenomenal Shield vs. Wyatts bout, are all tactics to distract the relentless wall of noise. They want a stacked show to prevent the hijacking but this is almost certain to fail. Maybe they’ll pipe in crowd noise; maybe they’ll troll the fans with Punk’s music only for him not to show (ala Shawn Michaels in Montreal, 2005). Who knows?
What we do know is that this episode of RAW will be a compelling battle between a furious fan base with a deafening voice and a company that holds all the cards, revelling in generating this huge emotional response. Fans worldwide will only be satisfied with a CM Punk return and the insertion of Daniel Bryan into the Wrestlemania main event. Logic urges the corporates to sometimes give the paying audience what they want but the WWE are often blind to the ridiculously obvious.
RAW from Chicago will be memorable, but for what reasons? I’m fascinated.