It was painfully obvious that WWE had painted itself into an awkward corner heading into last Sunday’s Hell in a Cell pay-per-view.
Two of the company’s biggest stars, C.M. Punk and Ryback, both stood a lot to lose. Punk’s impressive WWE title reign, approaching a year, was on the line against the undefeated Ryback’s Goldberg-like win streak.
The bout was in a cage, with a clear-cut winner virtually guaranteed, and something had to give.
Perhaps WWE creative took the night off. Or maybe the company didn’t think Ryback was ready for the mega-star treatment.
Whatever the reason, WWE opted for a terrible finish that not only killed Ryback’s momentum, but made Punk look weak in the process.
And those shelling out big bucks to watch the spectacle on pay-per-view couldn’t have been pleased with the bout’s outcome being determined by a rogue referee who made a heel turn at the end. It was a predictable finish that Stevie Wonder could have seen coming.
The next night on Raw was proof that WWE had no idea what it was doing. Reaction to Ryback was, not surprisingly, lukewarm. Placing him on Mick Foley’s team at the upcoming Survivor Series pay-per-view did little to placate fans still smarting over the events of the previous evening.
And, basically blowing off the storyline, there was no immediate explanation for the heel ref turn or why he was even in charge of the main event in the first place. Brad Maddox, who had played a major role in the inexcusable finish the previous night, was nowhere to be found.
Then again, both Chris Jericho and even Punk himself had admitted in pre-HIAC interviews that WWE appeared to have no firm plan on how to handle the much-anticipated match.
“Trust me when I tell you, they have no idea what they’re doing,” Punk bluntly stated.
Obviously he wasn’t lying.
It has been reported that WWE owner Vince McMahon, unsure of how to handle the situation, made the last-minute decision to go with the finish.
He and other WWE officials were said to be unhappy with the general crowd reaction in Atlanta for the PPV and in Charlotte the following night for Raw.
Many fans in the Queen City were hoping that Charlotte’s own “Nature Boy” Ric Flair might make a surprise appearance on Raw. But with WWE in the midst of combating a lawsuit filed by TNA, it appears that Flair may have to wait a little longer before he gets the call.
And, on the subject of Hell in a Cell matches or any other cage matches for that matter, is there really any reason to put up the “unforgiving steel structure” when blood is no longer allowed in the PG-era WWE?
It has become almost laughable when the company hypes “Hell in a Cell,” with the promise of combatants using the unforgiving cage as a battering ram, yet not even a drop of blood is spilled.
It appears that the proverbial “crimson mask” has gone the way of the horse and buggy in the WWE universe.
-- Seven weeks ago Jerry “The King” Lawler suffered a massive heart attack while doing commentary on Monday Night Raw.
On Nov. 12, two months removed from his near-death experience, The King will be returning to the commentator’s booth.
This truly is the comeback of the year in professional wrestling.
Had it not been for the timely response of the WWE medical personnel on the scene, the 62-year-old Lawler most likely would have died on Sept. 10 in Montreal.
But miracles still happen, and The King will return to his familiar chair a week from Monday in Columbus, Ohio.
The downside is that Jim Ross and John “JBL” Layfield will likely fade back into the background after doing a stellar job in Lawler’s absence.
-- Josh Stewart reported in a Newsday article that the much-maligned Jake “The Snake” Roberts is moving in with Diamond Dallas Page in Atlanta to begin training for a pro wrestling comeback.
Roberts, 57, whose career has been plagued by substance abuse issues, is scheduled to train for his comeback as part of an upcoming documentary. Roberts already has dropped more than 30 pounds after beginning DDP’s acclaimed yoga program several weeks ago in Texas.
“Bottom line is, everybody wants the comeback story,” said Page. “Everybody wants to see Jake look good, and feel good, and not be a mess anymore. That would be great. I think there are a lot of really positive things that can come out of this if Jake really does it.”
A report, however, circulated this past week regarding an incident at a show last weekend in Texas where Roberts appeared to have been intoxicated and went to the ring early for a scheduled match.
Roberts has denied being drunk at the show, although he admitted to one reporter that he had two beers in the locker room. Roberts claimed he had a disagreement with the promoter earlier that day when asked to carry a three-foot snake to the ring.
— Condolences to Bobby Eaton on the passing of his mother, Dorothy Jean Eaton Brand, on Oct. 28. She was 81 and lived in Huntsville, Ala.
— Get-well wishes to former Georgia star Jerry Oates who is recovering from a double knee replacement.
— Old School Championship Wrestling will present its final card of the year with an event on Nov. 11 at the Hanahan Rec Center.
Former WWE star Gangrel will team with Dr. Creo to meet Michael Frehley and Steven Walters in a match to determine the No. 1 contender for the OSCW tag title.
Bell time is 5 p.m.
— The professional wrestling fraternity suffered a great loss Thursday with the passing of Brad Armstrong (Robert “Brad” James).
Brad, who was only 51, was one of the good guys in this business. One of the most underrated workers to ever step inside a ring, he was a true “Son of the South,” a member of the famous Armstrong wrestling family that included patriarch and WWE Hall of Famer “Bullet” Bob Armstrong (James) and brothers Brian (Road Dogg), Scott and Steve.
On a personal note, I don’t think I ever saw Brad without a smile on a face, a reflection of his easygoing nature and cheerful demeanor.
Nor did I ever see him in a bad match. There was, in fact, no such thing as a “bad” Brad Armstrong match.
He was an amazing wrestler and an even better person.
“To be in the ring with Brad was a gift from God,” said George South. “I always felt like time stood still for me when I locked up with him ... What I would give to take his dropkick and armdrag one more time.”
“He was the most underestimated guy in the business ... like Arn Anderson. We used to tear the house down,” reflected 16-time world champ Ric Flair.
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