Around this time of year people start to withdraw their attention from their typical obligations and apply it to the holiday season. It’s as if the world slowly comes to a stop, and then reboots in January. My coworkers and I have been thinking of ways to cram in the last of our vacation days before the end of the year, causing us to use critical thinking skills we haven’t used for our jobs in some time. My family has put house projects on hold to decorate and shop for family get-togethers. Regardless of religious practice, it’s always an interesting time of year during the holiday season. It brings out the best and the worst in people you never knew had it in them. Wrestling seems to follow suit. Having watched wrestling since a child, I have always been amazed at how things really cool off for WWE around this time. It can be both aggravating and relieving. Aggravating in that stories slow down and you can feel it is a waste of time to even pay attention until Royal Rumble time. Relieving in that everything has a chance to breathe and redevelop. This year feels different. After a very strange autumn season, WWE is telling some if its best stories in months.
Over the last few years it has belt like John Cena vs. Randy Orton was that one great rivalry they can always go to, kind of like Steve Austin vs. The Rock. However, things changed this year. Orton has been moved to SmackDown and CM Punk has become a very intriguing part of the show. The contrasts between Cena and Punk are so captivating that WWE can put these two guys in the ring together at anytime and people will watch. If The Rock was not already booked to face Cena and WrestleMania, Punk vs. Cena one more time would be a natural main event.
You may have noticed John Cena hasn’t been closing Raw the last couple of weeks, CM Punk has. Cena has managed to remain the most important piece of the puzzle without having a prominent feud, while Punk has been closing the show with his championship held high. It is a very interesting time. Those tired of Cena are getting a break from him in the main event. He is not even scheduled to wrestle at TLC. Meanwhile, Punk is able to step in and until things start to heat up with Cena once again. Having Cena not be in a big feud right now is a very good move on WWE’s part because Survivor Series is still fresh in people’s minds. People know that his match with The Rock is coming very soon. Having Cena in another feud right now would be distracting. Besides, once January comes the show will be heavily focused on The Rock and WrestleMania. Giving Cena a calm before the storm works, and yet they have still kept things going by having him interact with Roddy Piper, Zach Ryder and Mark Henry.
For the first time Punk has a title reign that could be focused on more than one or two challengers. His initial run in 2008 felt lackluster, and his 2009 run was focused on Jeff Hardy and The Undertaker. Punk has already gone through Del Rio and is also getting involved with The Miz. Should Punk carry the title all the way to WrestleMania, which gives him Royal Rumble, and Elimination Chamber, as well as several Raw episodes to go through new challengers.
One man in particular may be seeing the inside of a ring with CM Pun very soon: Dolph Ziggler. Dolph’s had a great run as United States Champion, but he is ready to move on. Even if he defeats Ryder at TLC, a surprising loss on a Raw sometime in January might be in the cards. Ziggler would then be able to bounce back by winning the Royal Rumble. Having Ziggler as the man to unseat Punk for the title would make for a great match and great television leading up to the big day.
There has been no stopping Mark Henry as World Champion. The guy has been on a tear and taking the belt off him right now would be a terrible idea. Regardless, seeing him go to war with Big Show and Daniel Bryan has pumped new life into SmackDown. Henry is a guy that has you wondering just how can beat him. Even though Daniel Bryan has a briefcase to cash in, there is also the impending return of The Undertaker. Maybe a second Mania battle with between Taker and Henry is in the works.
While Ziggler has been a great United States Champion, Cody Rhodes has done very well for himself as Intercontinental Champion. There have been rumors that Goldust is pushing for a title vs. career match with his little brother at WrestleMania. It doesn’t seem very likely to happen but it always could. Rhodes current feud with Booker T may open the door for that, assuming anyone remembers the Booker-Goldust tag team.
Not a ton of people are thrilled with Triple H and Kevin Nash feuding in 2011. While it’s not the best program going of the company, it at least is not taking up substantial amounts of television every week. Who knows, things might not be as bad as they seem once they get in the ring. They certainly surprised people with their Hell in a Cell in 2003. Granted, that was over eight years ago. Where do these two go from TLC? Nash may or may not stick around, but Triple H will likely be in town for WrestleMania, and perhaps serve an important role on the show.
Perhaps the most interesting part about this time of year is that we all know that a lot is about to happen. If you don’t care for John Cena’s direction lately, things will pick up soon with The Rock. If you don’t quite know what to make of the Mark Henry-Daniel Bryan fiasco, things will soon reveal themselves. In just a few short weeks we will be on the Road to WrestleMania. It certainly is the calm before the storm, and perhaps the most refreshing calm we’ve seen in a while.