Did anyone really think John Cena was going to Smackdown?
WWE, which began its annual draft show on a high note with the surprise move of Cena from Raw, finished on an equally low one when it moved Cena back to Raw.
It was a cheap false finish on part of WWE creative to tease fans for a couple of hours before uncreatively finding a way to return WWE’s top superstar back to the Monday night fold.
Cena has conveniently escaped the draft for the past decade, so it was probably a little unrealistic to believe that WWE would actually pull the trigger and give its Smackdown division such a boost.
Not to mention that WWE needs to reconsider its highly uncreative, randomly generated, lottery-style draft. A more conventional selection process with officials from both brands making educated, though-out decisions regarding their picks would seem to be a much better way to conduct a draft. At least it appeared so this past weekend with the NFL.
But alas, this is pro wrestling where those special moments are finely crafted by a creative team whose purpose is to sell the fans on what they’re producing.
This brain trust seems to particularly thrive on producing artificial “feel good” moments for Cena, who the company regards as the face of the promotion, but whose fan support remains split between demographics.
WWE pulled a similar stunt a few months ago when it built a storyline around Cena’s feigned “retirement.” It lasted less than a week, but not before a love fest was scripted on behalf of the nine-time WWE world champion.
It’s doubtful that WWE ever considered shipping Cena off to Smackdown. He’s their flagship performer, and Raw is their flagship show.
As for a hue and cry among certain segments of the industry wanting to see Cena turn heel: Don’t count on it anytime soon.
Cena remains a merchandising bonanza for the company, and WWE is reluctant to threaten that revenue source.
Cena’s also a stand-up guy outside the ring. He’s arguably the company’s hardest-working performer and, in addition, is one of the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s top ambassadors, having granted the wishes of more than 200 children with life-threatening medical conditions.
Smackdown recently took a big hit with the sudden retirement of Edge, the top active star on its roster, but did receive some help by landing Randy Orton in Monday night’s draft.
Smackdown scored a 1.87 rating last week, down nearly nine percent from a 2.05 rating on April 15 for Edge’s retirement sendoff. The show’s numbers were down six percent from the previous week.
Smackdown’s overall rating was the lowest since Feb. 11 and the second-lowest of the year.
With both Cena and Orton added to the Friday night lineup, those numbers would have increased dramatically, which would have made the brass at the Syfy network very happy.
Realistically, though, a move by Cena to Smackdown would have necessitated the emergence of a top babyface on the Raw brand. And that doesn’t appear to be happening in the near future.
Without Cena, Raw would have been left with a shortage of star talent on that side of the ledger, leaving only Rey Mysterio, John Morrison, Big Show and Kofi Kingston leading a relatively weak pack.
Cena’s top heel opponents post-draft now include The Miz (minus Alex Riley), Alberto Del Rio, C.M. Punk and the emerging R-Truth.
WWE’s challenge will be to keep things interesting for the next 11 months as Cena marches toward his Wrestlemania 28 showdown with The Rock.
-- Raw is looking to draw big numbers on Monday night with Raw built around The Rock’s return.
The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) will celebrate his birthday in his hometown of Miami on the show, and WWE is promising “the most raucous, entertaining and electrifying birthday celebration in history of Miami.”
WWE also is hinting at a few surprises: WWE divas promise to give The Rock a birthday present he will never forget. Will The Miz spoil the celebration and blow out The Rock’s candles? Who will pop out of the cake? Who will sing “Happy Birthday?” Will John Cena give The Rock a present; if so what could it be?
-- Johnson recently signed on to produce and star in a film on the life of black country music legend Charley Pride.
Trade industry publication Variety reports that Johnson’s ex-wife, Dany Garcia, will serve as a producer, along with American Idol’s Randy Jackson and Pride’s manager John Daines.
Pride remains the only African-American singer to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.
Terrence Howard had originally been slated to play Pride in the film, but he dropped out as the production stalled.
Pride has given Johnson his full backing after initially having doubts about his ability to play the role.
“Terrence is no doubt a more in-depth actor academically, but Dwayne is such a force on screen,” Pride told Canada’s Telegraph-Journal. “It startled me a little at first, but he flew down to Dallas and spent a day with me just sitting, talking recently. And when he left it was like parting with an old friend. We had such similar views on so many things.”
Johnson’s latest movie, “Fast Five,” got off to a fast weekend start at the box office with an estimated $3.7 million earned during the midnight showing of the film in 1,104 North American theaters.
Deadline.com reported that early returns were more than twice what the previous installment in the street-racing series, “Fast and Furious,” did in midnight showings, and that the film set the record for a midnight screening released by Universal.
-- Variety also reported that WWE reached the coveted one million buy threshold for Wrestlemania 27.
It marks the first time in three years WWE has reached its goal after 960,000 buys in 2009 and 885,000 buys last year.
The final buy total is still being tallied, but the event is up 30 percent domestically and 15 percent internationally, according to WWE.
-- Wonder if Jim Ross got a warm tingly feeling pummeling Michael Cole bloody during their Raw altercation last week?
It’s probably not enough to shut the mouthy announcer up for long, but it undoubtedly made the night for a number of Cole detractors throughout the viewing audience.
Ross may have broken his hand in the process, but says he’ll be OK for tonight’s Extreme Rules pay-per-view where he’ll team with Jerry Lawler against Cole and Jack Swagger.
“My right hand is somewhat banged up and the X-rays were not overly encouraging Tuesday but it won’t keep me from doing what I need to do on Sunday at Extreme Rules,” Ross said in his blog on jrsbarbq.com.
“Cole’s tooth went to the bone on my fist. Not an artistic masterpiece,” he added.
The quarter-hour featuring Ross and Cole, by the way, drew the highest number on the show.
-- C.M. Punk may be considering his options when his contract comes up for renewal later this year.
Pro Wrestling Insider website reported that Punk has become increasingly unhappy with his spot in the WWE pecking order, and feels that his upward mobility may have peaked as a top mid-card performer rather than as a member of the company’s upper echelon.
His options, though, appear limited to TNA and his former stomping ground at Ring of Honor.
-- Business should pick up in the WWE divas division with the imminent debut of Awesome Kong (Kia Stevens). The monster heel hopefully will reprise her feud with Gail Kim from a few years ago in TNA.
The two were largely responsible for the success of TNA’s Knockouts division, and if WWE allows these gals to show their stuff, its Divas division should get a much-needed boost.
-- Michelle McCool, wife of The Undertaker (Mark Calaway), is expected to be leaving the WWE roster following tonight’s “loser leaves WWE” match with former LayCool teammate Layla at the Extreme Rules pay-per-view.
-- WWE is adding a former soap opera writer to its creative crew.
Tom Casiello, a 10-year veteran of the soap opera industry and a Daytime Emmy Award winner, has worked on The Young and the Restless, Days of Our Lives, One Life to Live and As The World Turns.
-- Former WWE creative team member Sean Conaway recently wrote a script for the popular Fox TV show “Raising Hope.”
Conaway is a lifelong wrestling fan who interned at WWE Studios and got his first writing job with WWE at the age of 21.
-- Former WWE champ Batista (Dave Bautista) recently told TMZ that his Strikeforce deal fell has fallen through.
Batista left WWE last May after he was unhappy in the company.
Trish Stratus was named 2010 Businesswoman of the Year by Top Choice Magazine in Canada.
-- “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase said in a recent interview that he will soon have to have both knees replaced and also needs a hip replacement.
-- A benefit will be held for “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff on May 8 at the Southern Comfort Bar in Conley, Ga., with proceeds going towards Orndorff’s hospital bills as he wages a battle with cancer. Scheduled are auctions, live music and a variety of wrestlers on hand to support their friend.
Orndorff, 61, recently was diagnosed with melanoma.
-- “Almighty Thor,” a take-off movie on “Thor” that features Kevin Nash, will premiere on Syfy at 9 p.m. May 7.
The movie stars Richard Grieco, Cody Deal (The Castle) and Patricia Velasquez (The Mummy),
-- A nice overview of last week’s Scott Hall column was posted on a vlog by Standing Bear Thunder Heart. Check it out at http://vimeo.com/22903517.
-- Reid Flair, son of 16-time world heavyweight champion “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, will make his local debut on an OSCW card May 15. The young Flair will meet “The Manscout” Jake Manning in the main event of a show at the Hanahan Recreation Gymnasium, 3100 Mabeline Road, Hanahan. Other top bouts include John Skyler vs. Bob Keller in a hair vs. career match. Bell time is 6 p.m.
Adult admission is $10 (cash at door); kids 12 and under $5. For more information, call 843-743-4800 or visit www.oscwonline.com.