The Anti-Antagonist: Legends Making Legends

WWE RawIn the weeks leading up to Raw 1000, I, and many others, justifiably recognized what appeared to be the WWE engaging in a bit of a holding pattern. For whatever reason, the shows appeared to be treading water in a way that made the last month or so of programming somewhat forgettable.

The explanation given by many individuals revolved around Raw 1000…that WWE somehow was holding back on much of its content for the show. While I potentially bought this argument from the standpoint of the WWE Title picture, it simply made no sense in regard to the rest of the roster. Legends weren’t going to come back for the 1000th Raw to engage in a mid-card feud.

Against this backdrop, I have to say that I went into Raw 1000 with tempered expectations. I certainly looked forward to reminiscing, but I expected little in the way of current product development. That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t excited for the show or that I ultimately didn’t enjoy what I watched…it simply meant that an earth shattering occurrence was not on my must-see list.

For the most part, my assessment of the situation was correct. There was no “knock your socks off” summer angle and the returning legends accomplished no more or less than was expected…They had fun, made themselves and Vince McMahon money, and put a smile on the face of every long-time mark. It truly was the status quo…except for one important instance.

I wrote a few weeks back that WWE’s usage of part-time legends has consisted of nothing more than cash grabs that have provided little to no benefit for the current product. Rock/Cena was exciting and essentially was a license to print money. However, at this stage of his career, a feud with the Rock was unnecessary to propel John Cena into another echelon…that level already has been obtained.

The same can be said for the Undertaker…Although two straight years have provided epic Wrestlemania bouts with HHH, both men immediately retreated from regular programming…Likewise, following his own back to back Wrestlemania dates with the Deadman, Shawn Michaels retired…Legacies certainly were enhanced, but when the dust settled, what benefit was felt by the current roster?

It is the shadow of this recent history that made the CM Punk heel turn and subsequent interaction with the Rock one of the most important developments in recent memory. First and foremost, CM Punk needed a spark…a change of pace to reintroduce a significant level of intrigue into his character. His biting and brutally honest commentary always has been tailor-made for a heel persona and this turn will allow him to speak freely without the need to pander to the sensitivities of the crowd.

In short, WWE has been lacking a dynamic main event caliber heel for sometime…there is no doubt in my mind that Punk will fill this void to perfection while creating a fresh new chapter in what has become an impressive WWE Title run.

More importantly, however, this turn has established a feud that will go a long way toward breaking the trend of utilizing part-time legends for the sole purpose of filling the coffers. Unlike John Cena, CM Punk has room to grow professionally from a feud with a legend the caliber of The Rock. Put aside the pure gold that will ooze from every verbal exchange, the simple fact is that the hype alone behind this feud will thrust Punk into the rarified air of superstardom…we’ve known he’s had the goods, but a message cannot be heard by the masses without the proper platform.

As Punk benefits, so too will the rest of the guys and gals in the back. When the top of a roster is deep and electrifying, the buzz and work-rate surrounding every show increases exponentially. As a result, building regularly appearing mega-stars who aren’t named John Cena has to be an essential component of WWE’s plan going forward…If the pipebomb heard round the world made Punk a permanent fixture in the Main Event, a prolonged program with The Rock may help launch a legacy that is a permanent fixture in the mind of every fan.

In the end, although Punk’s heel turn made perfect sense purely from a creative standpoint, the one thought that flashed through my mind as Raw went off the air was how impressive he looked and felt in going over The Rock. For a superstar chomping at the bit to take the next step forward, the degree of rub achieved via a legitimate pairing with a legend is invaluable.

Without question, I see big things for CM Punk in the near future. More importantly, though, I hope this experience will remind WWE that proper usage of its deep cache of homegrown legends can consist of more than a one-time ratings and revenue spike…Reminiscing about yesterday is not without it pleasures, but more than anything, yesterday is best used to forge a greater tomorrow.

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