Background: The Repo Man—one of Barry Darsow’s many faces once the Demolition well ran dry—is, in my humble opinion, one of the great bad gimmicks of all time. (For the record, Darsow’s stint as angry golfer “Hole in One” Barry Darsow on WCW Saturday Night is another.) During this time, with Vince McMahon fresh from federal trial and casting aside the notion that wrestling was a legitimate sport to throw off the yoke of state athletic commissions, it wouldn’t be farfetched to accuse the chairman of having a persecution complex, and the things McMahon hates, loves, or finds funny often manifest themselves in his product. So in the early 1990s, he had two men running around stealing things from his good-hearted fans: I.R.S., who’d take your money, and The Repo Man, who’d take your ride. This wonderful clip should explain Repo Man’s motivations quite nicely:
Where most bad WWF gimmicks of this period (Bastion Booger, Mantaur, Phantasmo, and so on) came and went before developing a catchphrase or receiving a theme song, Repo Man came to the WWF fully formed with a truly great Jim Johnston theme song and the kiss-off line of “What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine!” Also unlike the majority of goofball jobbers the WWF would come to feature, Repo Man actually had a televised feud with “Macho Man” Randy Savage, notable for its sheer weirdness. Savage had been around the WWF block a few times by 1993, and everything he could possibly feud with another wrestler with, he’d already done. Miss Elizabeth, Queen Sherri, crowns, and championship belts were meaningless to Repo Man, who had his heart set on hooking his towing claw into the one thing he really couldn’t be without: his hat. Read more
Background: In 1992, The Ultimate Warrior, according to official WWE company line, pulled one of his stick-up jobs on the WWE. Vince McMahon, bearer of the world’s largest grapefruits, did not budge in the face of Warrior’s demands and changed the main event of Survivor Series 1992. Instead of Warrior and Randy Savage taking on the team of Ric Flair and Razor Ramon, Savage would seek help from an unlikely source: Flair’s friend and ringside advisor, Mr. Perfect. Wondering how such a thing came to pass? You’ve clearly never had Bobby Heenan antagonize you:
The Flair/Heenan/Perfect triumvirate was one of the great combinations in WWF history, the culmination of years of Bobby Heenan chasing the WWF Championship with his ever-growing Heenan Family of wrestlers. Not that Ric Flair needed a manager (let alone two), but he was the missing piece of the puzzle, and Perfect, recovering from a back injury, brought the physicality that The Brain no longer could. However, as the video above illustrates, the bonds that held Mr. Perfect and Ric Flair together were tenuous at best. In the end, all Macho Man had to do was ask for the aid of a perfect partner. When Flair informed Vince McMahon that he intended to return to World Championship Wrestling at the end of his WWF contract, the stage was set for the first match on the WWF’s new flagship program with any kind of stakes. Read more
*It’s hard to believe, but WWE’s flagship television program, Monday Night Raw, turned 20 this year. When considered alongside WCW’s Monday Nitro, which ran from 1995-2001, there exists thousands of hours of primetime wrestling content, a rich tapestry that, as is true of most professional wrestling, manages to be good, bad, and often head-scratching. With Monday Night Means Wrestling, Fear of a Ghost Planet will be diving into the history of Monday night wrestling on a week-by-week basis, bringing back only that which stands the test of time.
Background: This match comes to you from the first episode of Raw, which, in its infancy, didn’t have much of an identity. Oh sure, the commentary trio of Vince McMahon, Randy Savage, and Rob Bartlett often allude to Raw’s “uncensored” (and uncooked/uncut) nature, but beyond being a live television show filmed within the cozy confines of the Manhattan Center, there wasn’t much distinguishing Raw from, say, SuperStars or Mania—WWF shows where big superstars squashed hapless jobbers for an hour while building to the next pay per view. The first main event in Raw history pitted The Undertaker against Damien Demento, but the first good match on Raw was an extended showcase for WWF Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels. Here, he makes a defense of his championship against goofy looking intergalactic luchador of the future Max Moon.
The Max Moon character was originally created by and intended for Konnan, the future Hulk Hogan of Mexico. Before introducing lucha libre to the United States by way of Extreme Championship Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling, he came up with Max Moon, had a costume commissioned, and sold it to Vince McMahon for a sum just north of one-thousand dollars. When the gimmick didn’t get Konnan anywhere, he quit, and the suit was foisted upon Paul Diamond, no stranger to hiding his ethnicity beneath spandex bodysuits and masks. While this match is often attributed to Konnan, it is, in fact, Diamond underneath the mask, making this an extension of the long-running rivalry between Michaels and Diamond that went back to their days in the AWA as members of the Midnight Rockers and Badd Company, respectively. Their most famous encounter, the brilliant tag team match between The Rockers and the Oriental Express from the 1991 Royal Rumble, can be viewed here.
The Match: Quite honestly, it’s not much to write home about. Beyond early classics like the Ric Flair/Mr. Perfect “Loser Leaves Town” match and a number of contests involving the 1-2-3 Kid, matches like Michaels/Moon really only stand out because the competition is so dull. Though Michaels was obviously a game-changing superstar in the making, Moon, as talented as the man under the mask was, is exhibit A as to everything that was wrong about the oncoming WWF New Generation era: talented men were wasted in matches against goofy gimmicks nobody believed in or cared about, and talented men were often saddled with those gimmicks, chewed up, and spit out. That promotions like CHIKARA are able to look back at 1993′s WWF and mine a considerable amount of gold from it is a testament to the creative minds behind it and the faith the performers underneath the mask put into that creative process.
Still, if you’re able to get past Rob Bartlett’s beyond awful “impersonation” of Mike Tyson and his gags that very often give away the theatrical nature of wrestling (why wouldn’t Michaels pull a knife to defend himself against a futuristic cybertnetic organism shown shooting fire from his hands as he approaches the ring?), the Moon character was the WWF’s second attempt at dipping its toes into the waters of lucha libre. (You can read about the first here.) Though it’s Diamond under the mask, his maneuvers are very clearly modeled on the more athletic heavyweight wrestlers of Mexico. That Vince McMahon would attempt to do this without the Mexican wrestler who created the gimmick under the mask perhaps explains his later attempts to clone departed workers Razor Ramon and Diesel. The difference here, of course, is that no fan in his right mind could claim to love Moon, or particularly care who was under the mask. Those spin kicks in the corner and that seated senton off of the ring apron would both become staples of American professional wrestling, especially as the WWE became a vast melting pot of international styles in an attempt to capture as much of a global audience as it could. This match offers but a mere flash of that future and the future of Shawn Michaels, but that’s just what Raw functioned as in 1993: a brief glimpse of wrestling’s future on television.
Next Week: Mr. Perfect goes one on one with “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, and the loser will leave town.
Flipping through channels on Super Bowl Sunday is an exercise in futility. Unless you’re a fan of “counter-programming” like the Puppy Bowl or the Lingerie Bowl, odds are that, if your TV is on tonight, it’s tuned in to CBS. Advertising, football, glimpses of the summer’s upcoming tentpole blockbusters, it’s all kind of a drag. Tomorrow, an endless stream of articles will go up collecting the best advertisements, .gifs, Tweets, and plays from the game and the clock will reset: another year until the next Super Bowl, Puppy Bowl, Lingerie Bowl, and round of Doritos ads. It’s audacious to suggest that more networks run original content against the Super Bowl, but if Animal Planet has the guts to do it every year, why not, say, the USA Network?
When Beyoncé took the field to perform during the Pepsi Halftime Show tonight, USA Network was halfway through an episode of an interminable marathon of NCIS episodes. In 1999, with the WWF at the zenith of the Attitude Era, they aired Halftime Heat, a 20-minute special that butted heads against Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Stevie Wonder, and Gloria Estefan, an odd hydra of acts that served as a “Celebration of Soul, Salsa, and Swing.” The Super Bowl halftime show has grown in size and scope since then, becoming a celebration of whatever company shells out the most cash. Running a wrestling match against Beyoncé sounds like a daunting proposition, but as evidenced by Aaron Rodgers’s “discount double-check” championship belt move, scads of athletes mimicking John Cena’s “You Can’t See Me” hand gesture, and The Rock appearing in multiple Super Bowl commercials this year, the crossover potential of World Wrestling Entertainment has never been more apparent. With The Rock, Brock Lesnar, John Cena, and CM Punk on the roster, the time has come for Vince McMahon to once again sell the general television audience on the brilliance of sports entertainment. It’s an easy, three step process.
1. The Commercial
As crazy as it seems, the WWE has, at this point in time, as many unique characters as it did during the Attitude Era. Sure, Daniel Bryan, Damien Sandow, Brodus Clay, Antonio Cesaro, and The Shield aren’t as immediately recognizable as Kane, Mankind, or Sable, but they’re different from just about any other characters on TV, and against a sea of bro-celebrating beer ads, slow-mo car commercials, and This Year’s GoDaddy.com Advertisement, the WWE’s stable of characters would pop out against the mundanity of the modern Super Bowl commercial. This year, the cost of a Super Bowl ad was roughly four million dollars. That’s a lot of scratch. But an ad next year would be in prime position to promote the 30th edition of WrestleMania, the further involvement of guys like Lesnar and Rock, and perhaps Triple H and The Undertaker. It’d get the lesser-known guys before the largest television audience of the year, once again establish the WWE as a purveyor of unique pop culture moments, and legitimize the company in ways that direct-to-DVD movies, wellness policies, and celebrity cameos during WrestleMania ultimately can’t.
2. The Competitors
If The Rock vs. Steve Austin was the feud of the Attitude Era, The Rock vs. Mankind ran a close second place. At Halftime Heat in 1999, that feud was chosen to represent the WWF during their version of the Super Bowl halftime show. Though the resulting empty arena match was hardly among the best Rock/Mankind encounter that happened between Survivor Series 1998 and WrestleMania XV, but The Rock’s charisma and Mankind’s ability to withstand tremendous abuse were important things to showcase going forward, and 2/3 of the era’s triumvirate of big stars were put before a large audience in an important match.
For a rebooted Halftime Heat to work, that’s the template the WWE would need to work with. In 2013/2014, the three most important men in the WWE are The Rock, John Cena, and CM Punk. Despite his popularity, The Rock is no longer as emblematic of the WWE as he once was. Cena and Punk, whose feud in various permutations defined the bulk of 2011 and 2012, are the obvious choice for a halftime wrestling match. There are no two men on the regular roster who have the same effect on the crowd as Punk and Cena, nor is there a better main event combination going.
3. The Match
Say what you will about the empty arena match, but it signified everything about the Attitude Era, good and bad. Vince McMahon, while never the greatest announcer in WWF history, was at the peak of his abilities in terms of his evil boss character, and when he wasn’t shilling for the company, his cheerleading for The Rock is among the match’s highlights. My favorite exchange happens relatively early in the match, after The Rock whips Mankind into a bunch of chairs and incapacitates him with a barely protected chairshot to the head. With The Rock extolling his virtues to the crowd, Mankind’s Mr. Socko-clad arm rises from the wreckage like Jaws’s fin from the ocean. As Rock keeps speaking, McMahon notices the approaching Mankind and alerts his champion just seconds before the deranged challenger shoves a sock down his opponent’s gullet. Rock’s muffled screams through the play-by-play headset are great. McMahon complaining that Mankind interrupted The Rock’s “eloquent” speech is even better. In combining the brutality and comedic aspects of the WWF at the time, it’s the Attitude Era in a time capsule.
To get it right in 2014, the match would need to be taped before a live audience. Rock/Mankind taking place in an empty arena makes sense within the context of its being another in a series of increasingly crazy gimmick matches designed to test the unbreakable will of Mankind and the cunning intellect of The Rock. There’s nothing the WWE is more proud of right now than their ability to connect with their fans, who are collectively referred to as the WWE Universe and who have the ability on any given Monday to dominate the trending topics on Twitter. It’d be unreasonable from a budgetary standpoint to air the match between CM Punk and John Cena live, but an audience is almost necessary. Best case scenario, film the match in Chicago and get a crowd something like this:
If the match between the two is even half as good as their Money in the Bank 2011 match, then you’re talking about a contest that’d immediately qualify as one of the best of the year. Furthermore, it’d be a match that showcases two sides of the WWE’s product, the two they most emphasize during any given broadcast. In John Cena, you have the larger-than-life, PG, kid friendly specimen of masculinity, the unquestioned face of the company. In Punk, you have the emblem of the WWE’s so-called “Reality Era,” a dangerous man whose offense is a combination of realistic submission holds and strikes and classic wrestling showmanship.
Every Monday, the WWE produces a number of PowerPoint-style bumper graphics that promote the company as a pop culture juggernaut. They trumpet the virtues of their various public relations outreach projects, big events, and bigger personalities. With five TV shows and the occasional pay per view card, they sometimes do this six times a week. They are preaching to the choir. Signing The Rock and Brock Lesnar are good steps to entice casual fans and snakebitten diehards to watch the product again. Putting Snooki in a WrestleMania match ensures that the media continues to cover professional wrestling like the freak-show it’s been perceived as since the rock ‘n wrestling era. It’s beyond time for the WWE to marry those sensibilities and reach out to casual fans in a way that it hasn’t in over a decade. It’s time to bring back Halftime Heat, to do it bigger and better than before. The company has little to lose, and the USA Network has the time. John Cena vs. CM Punk during the Super Bowl would be a once in a lifetime event, something wrestling fans would talk about enough to distract from the ridiculous plays, overproduced pop concerts, and potential power outages the big game provides. To me, it’s not a question of when the WWE will put on another Halftime Heat, but why the idea has gone untouched for fourteen years.
And if John Cena hits CM Punk in the head with a gigantic bag of popcorn, so much the better.
Welcome to the new, hopefully improved edition of Wrestling Worth Watching. Back when Fear of a Ghost Planet started, this post was a way of looking at everything that happened in the world of televised wrestling that was good, from Chris Jericho trolling the crowd to Brodus Clay debuting as a funk-loving tubbo from outer space to a decent match on some indie fed’s YouTube channel. It was an ambitious project, and one that ultimately failed. In 2012, there is just too much wrestling out there to keep track of it all as it happens. So I’ll be forward and honest from the start of this new project: I don’t watch Impact Wrestling, as they don’t make an honest effort to make their shows available beyond airdate, and Ring of Honor doesn’t air where I live, though I’ll try to catch it whenever possible. These posts may seem like they’re dominated by the WWE, but that’s the reality of nearly every wrestling fan’s situation: the promotion who airs the most free wrestling is the one that gets watched the most. If you’d like to chime in with matches from elsewhere that should be noted, hit me up in the comments section.
Monday Night Raw (8/22/12)
Team Rhodes Scholars vs. Rey Mysterio & Sin Cara: For a month now, the WWE has done everything in its power to revitalize its tag team division, waking the dead by calling a time-tested audible in the long-running Daniel Bryan/Kane feud by pairing the two up and giving them the Tag Team Titles, running an angle where a rival team formed as a result of the champions’ dysfunction, then having a month-long tournament featuring several new teams. The only team that’s broken up as a result of not winning the tournament was the one pairing Kofi Kingston and R-Truth, the previous champions. Now there’s a power tag team (Primetime Players), a team of brothers (The Usos), a high-flying tag team (Justin Gabriel and Tyson Kidd) and these two teams, the most popular/hated and established of the bunch. Theirs was the best tag team match of the week, setting up the long-anticipated slight-letdown of a match between the Rhodes Scholars (I think putting “Team” in front of everything has been the worst part of the division’s rebuild. Team is implied!) and Team Hell No (the exception to the rule, as “team” is meant pseudo-ironically, though “Team Friendship” will forever be the better name). The only reason this wasn’t the best match on Raw is because Dolph Ziggler and Daniel Bryan would later take the floor for 15 minutes.
Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler: For a long time, the only person the Money in the Bank briefcase turned into a star was Edge, and really all his surprising title victory over John Cena did was solidify his place as a top-tier talent. The second person to benefit from the odd bump the briefcase provides was C.M. Punk, though it took two tries—and an incredibly good feud against Jeff Hardy—to get it right. Everybody else either wasn’t ready, or wasn’t given something beyond that moment of glory, but in Edge and Punk, the briefcase has found purpose: either a crafty, dickish heel cashes it in and proves himself, or a mawkish good guy cashes it in and quickly turns evil. Dolph Ziggler and Daniel Bryan are the next generation of men who’ve somehow taken that gaudy briefcase and turned it into a platform from which better careers are launched, Ziggler by taking Edge’s role, and Bryan by taking to Punk’s. While both remain a title reign away from true greatness, their match Monday on Raw was a gift from the ghost of WWE’s future, a thrilling contest teasing at the possibilities a full-blown rivalry between the two contain. The point of this was to reestablish the dysfunction between Bryan and his tag team partner Kane, and while that mission was accomplished and the work those two have done together has been very good, matches like this mean I can’t wait much longer to see Bryan on his own again, a mean little man with a nasty beard and a worse submission hold.
C.M. Punk vs. Sheamus: Though they didn’t mention it, there was a nice synergy to this contest, the 30 or so men around the ring not only serving as flesh-and-blood metaphor for the inescapability of the Hell In a Cell structure, but as closure to the mini-issue between Punk and Sheamus that started at the Raw in Chicago, when Punk bolted on a slated title vs. title match to eat at The Wiener’s Circle and hang with Paul Heyman. I haven’t seen every Lumberjack Match ever, but I feel pretty confident in claiming this as one of the best. The match is a throwback to a time when a sheer mass of humanity was enough to pique a crowd’s interest, and lately has been relegated to the typical blow-off match between Divas, the lumberjill match, if you will. Anymore, they’re confusing affairs, the lumberjacks rarely doing their job—containing the action in the ring—and instead clubbering on any poor bastard who ends up on the floor. So it was a sigh of relief when C.M. Punk landed on the floor, in a sea of humanity, and was merely tossed back into the ring. And it was surprisingly O.K. when Sheamus was thrown out there and got beat up, because he landed amongst a crowd of heels and wound up brawling back. Barroom brawls are an environment Sheamus thrives in, and lumberjack matches are a situation where crafty bad guys have to be their most cunning. C.M. Punk was just that, Sheamus was in his element, and the result was the most satisfying Raw main event in some time. The stuff with Ryback I covered last week, but having 30 men around the ring, overkill in any other match, was worthwhile just to see them split when the dude’s music hit.
WWE Main Event (8/24/12)
Dolph Ziggler vs. Ryback: There’s really no better opponent for Ryback than Dolph Ziggler, a wrestler who is, in every aspect, the second coming of “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig. If you’ve ever seen Hennig pinball around the ring for a larger, more muscular opponent, then you know what I’m talking about. Ryback’s an act only the most cynical wrestling fan doesn’t like, a monster in the Goldberg fashion who steamrolls through opponents with a variety of ridiculous power moves and stiff-looking strikes. Ziggler flopped around the ring for Ryback’s routine like a mad-man, putting over the legitimate danger presented by the monster while also showing that there’d be no escape for C.M. Punk on Sunday, even without the presence of a gigantic steal cage. The match did its job very well without tanking Ziggler. Credit for that goes to the length of the match—thus far the longest match of Ryback’s run—and to The Miz’s commentary, which pointed out that, against Ryback, everybody is off their game.
WWE Hell In A Cell (8/28/12)
The Miz vs. Kofi Kingston: The third match between these two in as many weeks, and, in many ways, the best of the bunch. Hard to believe that their issue began when Larry King’s wife threw a cup of water in The Miz’s face, but I’ve come away from their series as a fan of both men, when before I was ambivalent towards both of them. The opening two minutes or so were great, Miz and Kingston both fighting and failing to apply their finishing maneuvers, the fact that spots from previous matches evolved and became something else was a very nice touch, and the finishing struggle between the two, with Miz keeping the full nelson he uses in the Skull-Crushing Finale on as the two rolled to the ring and got back up to their feet, was tremendously exciting. Lately, Kofi’s Trouble in Paradise kick has been a devastating-looking, come-from-nowhere move akin to Shawn Michael’s Sweet Chin Music. That’s worked a lot better than the old set-up, where Kofi stands in the corner and tries to pump the crowd for it, much like Michaels did for his kick. And while you wouldn’t know it from the anemic crowd, the last three or four minutes of the match, from when Miz started targeting Kofi’s leg with a weird-looking, over-the-shoulder knee-breaker to the finish, was tremendously compelling stuff. Knee braces and leg casts are things the heel usually removes on an injured opponent, but they took things a step further here, with Miz injuring Kofi’s leg mid-match and stripping his boot and knee pad to further exploit the injury. I loved everything about it, even The Miz’s awkward execution of the half-crab.
The Big Show vs. Sheamus: For me, this was the match of the week, but I’m a big fan of Hoss vs. Hoss battles, something they featured plenty during the championship run of Mark Henry, and not enough during Sheamus’s time with the belt. Built up as a showdown between two knockout blows—The Big Show’s Knockout Punch and Sheamus’s Brogue Kick—the story of this contest wound up being much more complex, with Sheamus withstanding a number of Big Show’s past and present finishing moves, including the giant punch, and Big Show kicking out of the Brogue Kick, becoming the first man to do so in the process. The crowd—dead most of the evening—came alive when Sheamus picked up The Big Show and dropped him with a perfect-looking White Noise, and for good reason: however good Sheamus’s matches as champion have been (and however much he’s been built as the best champ in 10 years), they’ve lacked effective spectacle. The only other guy on the roster who has picked a guy like Show up on his shoulders is John Cena, but you expect that from him. This was built as blow vs. blow, a straight brawl, but that maneuver, more than Sheamus’ triumph over Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania, will be the defining moment of his championship reign. The finish, which saw Show sidestep a second Brogue Kick while throwing a K.O. Punch the champion’s way, was the best moment of the week, two semi-trucks playing chicken in the rain, only one driving away without jackknifing. This one wasn’t pretty, but boy was it effective.
C.M. Punk vs. Ryback: The most controversial match of the year, as even anti-Ryback partisans realized the risk of this match: Ryback loses the “wrong way,” and the WWE is out one potential game-changing superstar. Popular wrestling journalist (a three-word oxymoron, if ever there was one) Dave Meltzer says that he read through dozens of bad-to-middling ideas for the finish of this match, and that all of them were better than the one chosen here. Whatever. In 1998, Ryback’s ancestor Bill Goldberg defeated Hulk Hogan in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, ushering in what many felt was a new era in WCW. He was undefeated. He was slightly green. But he was at the apex of his popularity and ready for the championship. At Starrcade that year, he was defeated by Kevin Nash, who was aided by long-time running buddy Scott Hall, who used a taser to put “Da Man” (Bobby Heenan’s spelling, not mine) down for the count. It was an awful finish, an anti-climax that didn’t make a whole lot of sense (Hall and Nash were feuding, Goldberg was on the verge of reaching Hogan-esque levels of global fame), and Goldberg—and WCW—never quite recovered. The finish to the Hell in a Cell match between Punk and Ryback is similar in a way—Ryback was screwed over—but the circumstances are different. It doesn’t matter if the “GOLDBERG” chants that follow Ryback are now affectionate, if the same people who chant that stop to join the rest of the crowd in Ryback’s WWE-mandated “FEED ME MORE” chant, Ryback was not ready for the WWE Championship. To my recollection—hardly a useful tool, but one that probably feeds the WWE machine better than a photographic memory of every Ryback match—the man hadn’t bumped for move one of any opponent he faced before this match, from the jobbers named after presidents to the duet of former champions he faced leading into his main event this week. Here’s what Punk needed in order to win: the most biased official in wrestling history. Brad Maddox, last seen close to a month ago missing C.M. Punk’s foot on the ropes, stopped Ryback while he was marching around the ring with Punk on his shoulders. He low-blowed the man, slipped behind him, and quickly counted to three as soon as Punk pushed him over the ref and made the cover. I don’t want to say that it was brilliant, but it clearly shows that someone in the back learned from the essential mistake of the Nash/Goldberg issue, which was never successfully resolved. This was a FIRST TIME ENCOUNTER. That it happened in one of WWE’s most legendary matches was something of a head-scratcher, a calendar-based necessity, but really, it’s the only place it should have happened. Ryback’s destructive ways aided and got in the way of his goal. The cage provided a place where he could look momentarily weak, but also like the freaking monster he is. It allowed Paul Heyman to be at his panicked best. It meant that Punk and the referee would be unable to escape swiftly into the night. It meant Ryback would get his revenge. And he did so memorably, tossing Maddox into the cage as if he were Bam Bam Bigelow and the poor referee his Spike Dudley before chasing Punk up the cage and delivering Shellshocked 20-feet in the air. The show ended with Ryback nodding his head to his own music, foot planted firmly on Punk’s chest. Those who don’t think Ryback got his due last night, that his star was aborted rather than born, aren’t paying attention. The focus of this match, after all, was Punk establishing his legacy, finally gaining the respect of the WWE Universe. Punk is an asshole. A dick of the highest order. His legacy is that of a great, long-tenured heel champion. He stands in defiance of what the fans want to see. He makes those fans want to see his comeuppance even more. He finds and exploits the loophole and expects you to respect him for it. I’m going to come just short of calling this match brilliant, but it’s another example of why Punk’s run as WWE Champion, of late, has been one of the most effective such runs in memory. You wanted Ryback to win? You’re upset with the finish? That’s exactly how WWE wants you to feel. Tune in tonight on Raw to see that snide jerk get what’s coming to him.