It's been a decade in the making, but a new, undisputed world heavyweight champion will be crowned next Sunday night in WWE.
Or will he?
WWE has declared that one man will walk away with two titles at the conclusion of the upcoming TLC encounter between John Cena and Randy Orton. But it has been careful not to brand the bout as a "unification" match.
Since 2002, fans have been treated to a dual world championship structure. While it might be financially beneficial for the company to feature two separate touring world champions, it ultimately devalues the strength of one world heavyweight crown.
WWE exec Triple H, son-in-law of WWE owner Vince McMahon, promises to remedy that problem on Dec. 15 when Orton and Cena collide for ownership of both the WWE heavyweight and world heavyweight championship belts at the TLC pay-per-view.
Unfortunately , for wrestling purists anyway, the match will take place under TLC (tables, ladders and chairs) rules.
Both belts will be hanging in the air, with the winner being the individual who is able to climb the ladder and successfully grab hold of the gold. (Times may have changed, but thank goodness longtime fans never had to watch Funk-Brisco or Flair-Steamboat engage in such a contest for a world heavyweight title.)
Fans shouldn't expect the quality of the match to rival that of, say, C.M. Punk and Daniel Bryan. Neither Cena nor Orton have much experience in this type of bout, but expectations are high for a strong outing between two top-tier performers who have chemistry in the ring.
Most fans expect Cena to win the title(s) and become - as Triple H puts it - the new face of WWE. It's an unofficial title Cena has held for the past several years.
It also has been speculated that there may be some type of finish where Cena and Orton take possession of each other's belts, resulting in Cena as the WWE champion and Orton as the world heavyweight champion.
But what if WWE decides to swerve its loyal fan base? What if Triple H somehow emerges with the title?
It would be the next logical step in The Authority storyline and its quest to gain complete control of the company.
Several readers, including Aaron Goins, agrees with this theory.
"Considering what WWE has done regarding the booking for the main event and (the two world titles) since the summer, it wouldn't be surprising to see Orton and Cena both drop the belts from the top of the ladder, into the awaiting hands of Triple H, who then names himself champion and 'Emperor' because that would be 'good for business.'"
Sounds like a suitable scenario to me. At least it advances a storyline that could come to a rip-roaring conclusion at Wrestlemania 30: Triple H (representing The Authority) vs. John Cena (representing Vince McMahon) for WWE control.
While the card is always "subject to change," that pairing would appear to be plausible for next year's mega-event at the New Orleans Superdome.
There also has been talk of bringing Hulk Hogan into the storyline, with McMahon calling on his old friend/enemy to help him save his company. That role initially had been reserved for "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, who reportedly turned down a seven-figure deal.
A number of readers have weighed in on the Cena-Orton match and its possible ramifications.
"A TLC match that will feature no blood. Once you've seen this sort of match from folks like the Dudleys, the Hardys, and Edge/Christian, it's hard to look at any of the rest as coming even close.
"As far as if a title should be decided in such a match, it's my opinion that the only gimmick match that should be used in a title match is a cage. Well, unless you're talking about some kind of hardcore-type title." - Chuck Green
"They haven't used the word unification to describe this match during its build yet. Do not be fooled, they're being very careful not to call it a unification match. One man will not be holding both belts to end the PPV. I can, however, see the titles switching between the two." - Jason Priester
"I think they will hang the belts above the ring, both grab a title, but it's not the belt they brought to the ring , therefore a clean title switch." - Kevin Pendley
"I wanna see the belts being vacated somehow, then making the (Royal) Rumble the most important since Flair won, and make the winner of the Rumble the new undisputed champion." - Damo Porter
"Creative is running out of napkins to write on during their three martini lunches." - Richard Boudreau
"They should be doing the title unification match at Wrestlemania 30 and doing a proper build-up to it. And maybe do an 'Iron Man' or 'best two-out-of-three falls' match rather than TLC." - Brian Westcott
"Didn't Stephanie build it up as another historic, once-in-a-lifetime match? Problem is Chris Jericho already did it, so it's not all that historic." - John Natoli
"In unifying the titles you would have to do away with the whole Raw/Smackdown roster. The well would run dry with the champion going back and forth between shows only being able to work the No. 1 contender from each brand." - Vincent Hill
"With every wrestler on the WWE roster being a 20-time champion, what good does a unification match or a tournament prove? I do agree there should be just one champion, but in today's WWE with title reigns being a 'cup of coffee,' any title recognition is just a laugh." - George Shire
Triple H muddied the waters even more during a recent sit-down interview with Michael Cole.
He called the WWE champion the "biggest and most famous" champion, while the world heavyweight champion was historically the "best technical wrestler."
While that's far from being accurate, the WWE heavyweight title has generally carried more weight and prestige than the world heavyweight title.
That's also been one of the problems with two separate world championships. The company's world heavyweight championship in the past has been associated with the Smackdown brand, not so fondly referred to as the "B" group, while the WWE heavyweight championship was linked to the Raw brand, WWE's "A" division.
The brand split, however, is now all but dead.
No big spender
There may be some big spenders in WWE, but Daniel Bryan isn't one of them.
Bryan, who recently appeared on Steve Austin's podcast, made some cogent points concerning why, unlike some other WWE superstars, he doesn't have his own tour bus.
"Quite frankly, it would be very very difficult for me to do it because the tour bus is very, very expensive," says Bryan. "I've only made good money the last two years. Randy Orton, John Cena, those guys have been making money for years. Even C.M. Punk, he has been making money for several years.
"Big Show has been making money since I was in high school, since before I was in high school. I think he started in WCW as a main eventer. His first match ever was in a PPV main event. So I mean those guys have been making money for years, so they can afford a bus."
Bryan, 32, pointed out that it wasn't financially viable for him to spend money on a tour bus at this stage in his career, although he didn't rule out the possibility at some point in the future.
"I'm not going to spend all the money on the bus until I know I'm financially secure enough to spend that kind of money. I envy those guys every single day."
A tour bus, he admits, would have its advantages.
"Randy Orton takes better care of himself than probably any wrestler in history due to the fact that he has this bus. He does real thorough warmups and everything before his match, but the nice thing for him is after he is done with his match, he ices, he goes sits on the bus as the bus driver is driving, he is stretching, and then he falls asleep."
New Sin Cara
Hunico has taken over the role of Sin Cara in WWE.
Luis Ignascio Urive Alvirde had been behind the mask, but since arriving in WWE in 2001, the Lucha star has been plagued by injuries.
WWE brass, particularly Triple H, had hoped that Cara would have made a bigger impact than he did.
Appearing under a mask as Mistico, he was one of the biggest draws in Mexico, and WWE had counted on his enormous popularity translating to major star power in that company.
The original Cara is back in Mexico, although he remains under WWE contract.
The 36-year-old Hunico (Jorge Arias), who ironically was the first to use the Mistico name in Mexico, had assumed the Sin Cara role previously in WWE while Urive, 32, was serving a suspension.
WWE creative team member Michael Hayes (Michael Seitz) returned to work at last week's Raw in Oklahoma City.
The company reported several months ago that Hayes, 54, had taken a leave of absence due to personal reasons.
WWE Hall of Famer Jim Duggan underwent successful shoulder surgery Friday in Lakeland, Fla.
"All went good," Duggan, 59, posted on his Twitter page. "More damage than they thought, but all fixed. Now recovery time."
WWE Hall of Famers Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels will serve as guest presenters at Monday night's Slammy Awards on Raw from Seattle, Wash.
Hart will present the award for Match of the Year, while Michaels will present the award for Superstar of the Year.
Match of the Year nominees include Undertaker vs. C.M. Punk at Wrestlemania 29; John Cena vs. The Rock at Wrestlemania 29; Cody Rhodes and Goldust vs. Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns at Battleground; and Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules.
Daniel Bryan is expected to pick up Superstar of the Year honors as a result of fan voting on the WWE website.
Wrestlemania 31 site
The Wrestling Observer reported that WWE will announce this week that Wrestlemania 31 in 2015 will be held at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif,
Levi's Stadium is the future home of the San Francisco 49ers. Its seating capacity is listed at 68,000 for football and is expandable to 75,000.
Reach Mike Mooneyham at 843-937-5517 or email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter at @ByMike Mooneyham and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MikeMooneyham.
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