LOS ANGELES, July 1, 2014 — Sunday night was the WWE’s 5th annual Money in the Bank pay per view in Boston, Massachusetts. Usually this pay per view is built around the Money in the Bank Ladder Match, in which six to eight WWE superstars vie for an automatic WWE Championship match any time, any place over the next year. A briefcase containing this “golden ticket” is suspended above the ring. The Superstars then battle each other and use a ladder to secure their destiny in the WWE title picture. Since the match’s creation by Chris Jericho, it has produced seven future World Champions.
This year would be different, as two Money in the Bank matches would take place. One would be for the traditional Title Match contract, and the other for the richest prize in the sport, the Unified WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
The reason for the second match is because WWE Superstar and fan favorite, Daniel Bryan was stripped of the title he won at WrestleMania XXX. Shortly after winning the title, doctors revealed that Bryan’s neck was injured and would need surgery immediately. The WWE and Daniel Bryan have done the right thing regarding his neck injury. Thankfully Bryan will not endanger his future wellbeing and rush back, as he is one of the WWE’s most popular wrestlers. However, the show must go on, and while Bryan is on the sidelines recuperating, Stephanie McMahon stripped him of his title.
In the opening match of Sunday night’s Money in the Bank, the tag team champions, The Usos successfully defended their titles against Luke Harper and Erick Rowan of the Wyatt Family. While some pegged the Wyatt Family to leave Boston with the tag straps, Jimmy and Jey Uso hit consecutive top rope Superfly splashes on Erick Rowan for the three count. The Usos have become great fighting champions and have done a wonderful job restoring prestige of the tag team titles. We have not seen the last of this hard hitting feud between the Usos and the Wyatts.
Current Women’s Champion, Paige, defeated challenger Naomi, while a subplot of Cameron (Naomi’s Funkadactyl dancing partner) was giving Naomi, what the kids call, “side-eye” throughout the match. Cameron openly cheered when her friend was pinned, and then consoled Naomi in ring after her loss. The Cameron Heel Turn is here, whether the fans care or not! Spoiler: They do not.
The next match featured the WWE’s version of Aldous Snow, Adam Rose taking on Damien Sandow. Aldous Snow is the character British comedian/actor Russell Brand portrayed in the 2008 film, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and the 2010 film Get Him to the Greek. The WWE is not known for striking while the iron is hot with gimmicks which have pop culture references, and this is another example of a reference from which pop culture has already moved. His opponent is not much better.
In the “Further Degradation of Damien Sandow”, he ran down the crowd as local American hero Paul Revere. Boo that man! Just think, last year Damien Sandow was the 2013 Money in the Bank winner. Granted he failed to capture the title when he cashed in his briefcase this past October, but that should have signified good things to come. Now he is dressing up as local NBA basketball players, historical figures, and Santa Claus. How the mighty have fallen. At least Sandow is getting TV time, right? The puzzling booking of Sandow continues as Rose wins via pinfall.
In the first Money in the Bank match, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Kofi Kingston, Dolph Ziggler, Rob Van Dam, and Jack Swagger fought for the briefcase containing the championship contract. The match was a grueling battle which saw most of the combatants landing on and getting hit with the multiple ladders around and in the ring while reaching for the briefcase.
The ending came when Dean Ambrose returned after leaving mid-match from an “injured” shoulder, was about to grab the briefcase when Kane’s music and pryo hit the arena. Kane came down to the ring; stopped Dean Ambrose from winning, choke slammed him to the mat, and helped Seth Rollins grab the briefcase. Rollins and Ambrose formed two thirds of the popular Shield faction. Recently, Seth Rollins turned on Ambrose and their partner Roman Reigns, attacking them in the middle of the ring with a steel chair. Rollins surprised the fans, along with Ambrose and Reigns, and allied himself with Triple H and his wife Stephanie McMahon, now dubbed “The Authority”. If you are not following, The Authority are the bad guys in this soap opera.
The next few matches before the main event championship ladder were the team of Goldust and Stardust defeating Curtis Axel and Ryback, known as Rybaxel. “The Bizarre One” Goldust (Dustin Rhodes, son of WWE Hall of Famer, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, if you will) has reteamed with Stardust, who is his half-brother, Cody Rhodes. The storyline here is that Cody and big brother Goldust were a tag team, but they had a little bit of a losing streak. Cody told Goldust he could not tag anymore with him and generally moped around for a few weeks while Goldust unsuccessfully tried new tag team partners.
Then last week, Cody channeled his “Inner-Dust” and debuted on June 16’s edition of RAW, as the face painted, body suit wearing, red eyed Stardust. Well, the Dust Brothers won. Next the “Russian Superathlet” and “Bulgarian Brute” Rusev took on Big E (formerly Big E Langston) in a battle of the big boys. Both men are pushing the scales around 300 pounds, and in the words of former WWE announcer, this was a “slobberknocker”. Both Hosses harnessed their power in a hard hitting affair, which found Big E on the losing side of it as he finally tapped out to Rusev’s version of the Camel Clutch, the Accolade.
In the main event, Randy Orton, Alberto del Rio, John Cena, Bray Wyatt, Cesaro, Roman Reigns, Sheamus, and Kane fought for the right to be crowned WWE World Heavyweight Champion. In what should have been a match with a myriad of possible champions was dashed in an instant when the SummerSlam 2014 poster was leaked online last week. SummerSlam is the WWE’s summer pay per view and its second biggest show of the year.
The poster in question featured the faces of John Cena and Brock Lesnar on it. Wrestling fans quickly connected the dots that a Lesnar/Cena match would be for the WWE title, thus meaning that Cena would be the one who captured the title at Money in the Bank. Instead of creating new stars in a time of turmoil, the WWE would go for the status quo and put the title back around John Cena’s waist.
Another clue to a possible Cena title win was the sudden drop in WWE stock mid-May. When the WWE announced the details of their new TV deal with NBCUniversal for its shows “Raw” and “Smackdown” which is worth around $150 million annually, which is about half or one third of what investors thought the WWE would earn. Investors are also concerned about the WWE’s new online streaming network and feared that it has not caught on with fans as the WWE thought it would. Vince McMahon, chairman and CEO of WWE, lost $350 million in a span of 24 hours because of this damaging news.
Since the WWE is a publically traded company, they will always have to answer to investors. The 15-time champion, John Cena, is this generation’s Hulk Hogan, and one of their most valuable and marketable wrestlers on the roster. He is the WWE’s cash cow and in times of fiscal instability, he is their go-to guy to right the ship. With the drastic drop in WWE stock, Daniel Bryan’s sudden and possibly career threatening injury, and the SummerSlam poster leak were all the clues fans needed to not be surprised when John Cena “overcame the odds” at Money in the Bank, and won the WWE Heavyweight Champion for the 15th time in his storied career.
Like it or not, John Cena is the face of the WWE and their biggest philanthropic name. Most WWE fans, specifically the children, love him and look at him as a real life superhero. The life-long older WWE fans, however, do not see him as that. While they applaud him for his charity work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation (granted over 400 wishes and counting), but in terms of a professional wrestling character, he is “stale”.
Professional wrestling is like the ocean tides. Each wrestler’s character has an ebb and flow. One moment he or she is a face (good guy), and with a simple action or reaction in a match that could easily turn them heel (bad guy). Usually, how the fans cheer each wrestler decides their face/heel alignment. Over the course of a career a wrestler will flop back and forth, depending on storylines or crowd reaction. This is where the name of Hulk Hogan comes into play.
Like the Hulkster, John Cena has been a face for most of his career. Over the years, wrestling fans grew tired of being told to “eat their vitamins, say their prayers” and be a good little Hulkamaniac. Cena is similar when he spouts his mantra of “Hustle, Loyalty, Respect” to all his young members of his “CeNation”. Wrestling pundits have been saying for many years that Cena should be turned heel in order to freshen up his character. However, Cena is a merchandise cash cow for the WWE that they cannot jeopardize that revenue flow.
Does the WWE Keep Cena “face” and continue to reap the monetary rewards while at the same time polarizing a large portion of the paying crowd, or turn him “heel”, potentially reignite an always fickle fan base, but possibly lose guaranteed revenue. This has been the WWE’s Catch 22 for years.
When Hulk Hogan’s WWE contract ended in 1993, he was wrestling’s biggest free agent. In 1994, he was signed by WWE’s rival World Championship Wrestling (WCW). While Hogan’s “Real American” gimmick took roughly ten years in the WWE before it was stale, it only took two in WCW. Then in 1996, Hulk Hogan did something he had not done in fifteen years, he turned heel.
In one of the most historical moments in all of professional wrestling, Hogan came down to the ring mid-match like a returning hero coming to make the save for WCW against the invading Outsiders, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. As Hogan got into the ring, he preceded to leg drop the fallen Macho Man Randy Savage and then joined Scott Hall and Kevin Nash in obliterating Sting, Savage, and Lex Luger. The crowd and announcers were shocked and stunned that Hogan would do such a thing.
After the match, Hogan delivered a promo, blaming the fans and WCW for underappreciating his talent and star power, and announced that he, Hall and Nash would be known as the New World Order (nWo).
In creating the New World Order at the 1996 Bash at the Beach pay per view, Hogan successfully reinvented himself with a fresh character and gimmick for the first time in years.
In the eyes of the fans, John Cena needs that same type of gimmick overhaul, but the WWE’s financial gains in this day and age far out weight their potential loss of revenue.
Catch James Ryan’s latest podcast, Time Limit Draw, where he reviews the 1996 WCW Bash at the Beach pay-per-view.