One needs to look no further than the two world title bouts announced this week for the upcoming Elimination Chamber pay-per-view to see where these complaints originate and develop.
On Monday night's Raw, it was announced that CM Punk would defend his WWE Championship against
Smackdown's match, which pits World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan against Big Show, Randy Orton,
With two main event matches requiring 12 superstars, one can't expect everyone in the matches to be on the fast track to the Hall of Fame, but a closer look at this listing leaves much to be desired.
Punk, Jericho, Orton and Big Show are all established top-tier contenders in WWE. Bryan, Ziggler, Rhodes and Barrett are definite stars on the rise, and the first two have been flirting with the top of the card in recent months. Yes, Bryan is a world champion, but I cannot in good faith say he's cemented a spot atop the mountain.
Miz has been knocked down about as far as he could fall after his major push, which included headlining last year's
That leaves two men, one from Raw and one from Smackdown, who have absolutely no place in the Elimination Chamber matches.
Outside of winning the tag team titles with Evan Bourne - and then frequently not defending them because of his partner's suspensions - Kingston has done little other than handstand his way out of an elimination at Sunday's
Khali, meanwhile, has literally don't nothing in recent months. He's been off television, resting at home in India. For him to come back and less than a week later be inserted into a world title match is a ludicrous concept. No one wants to see Khali near the top of the card, as demonstrated by his previous failures as a world champion.
It's a sad state of affairs at the top of card for WWE right now, and matches like these Elimination Chamber contests highlight the real need for new stars.
But who's to blame for this ongoing plight? The WWE for continuing to focus on stars of the past - like Triple H and his apparent unprecedented third shot at ending Undertaker's WrestleMania streak - or fans for not being willing to accept new stars - like Sheamus during his first run or The Miz during title reign - on top?
Fans keep looking for the next"Stone Cold" Steve Austinor Shawn Michaels rather than letting the superstars of today develop into this generation's Dolph Ziggler and Daniel Bryan.
- Orton put Barrett away in a no-disqualification match that appears to be the end of their feud. The two worked a really good match within the confines of the stipulation without going overboard and excessive. I expected this feud to continue through a midcard match at WrestleMania, so now I'm left with a lingering fear Orton will prevail at Elimination Chamber. In some ways, that's a good thing, as it makes the outcome of that title match a little less certain. Maybe next week will be more of an indicator, as Bryan goes one-on-one with Orton.
- Mark Henry was originally announced as the sixth participant in the Elimination Chamber title match, but General Manager Teddy Long removed him from the bout. Henry then flipped Long's tie, causing the GM to suspend Henry under violation of putting his hands on the boss. They need to write "The World's Strongest Man" off TV to allow him time to heal, but this angle is a bit ridiculous considering CM Punk delivered his finishing maneuver to John Laurinaitis on Raw and wasn't punished in the least for his actions.
- Royal Rumble winner Sheamus' announcement he is waiting until after the pay-per-view to announce which champion he will challenge at WrestleMania was interrupted by Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes. The two wound up in an impromptu match, which Sheamus won with a new finisher. The match was kept short, but it was decent. These two could - and should - work a main event program together before the end of 2012. It is baffling, though, to see Rhodes lose so quickly after being announced as a Chamber contestant, much the same as happened to Dolph Ziggler and the Miz on Raw.
- Does Michael Cole endorsing his arch-rival Bryan mean the World Heavyweight Champion's transformation is complete? It was refreshing to see Bryan still not accept Cole's praise, but does bashing Cole really do him any favors in earning heat? And I love Bryan more than the next guy, but the "I'm vegan, and you should be, too" character seems like a
Dollar Generalvariation of Punk's classic, "I'm straight edge, and that means I'm better than you" gimmick. If there's an appropriate city for a meat-inspired promo, though, it's Omaha, Neb.
After Bryan cut his promo, mostly focused on his perennial opponent, Big Show, the giant made his way to the ring. The two shared words in an exchange that Bryan won, in my opinion, before Big Show attacked the champ, and half-heartedly chokeslammed him, distracted by AJ, who was sporting neck brace. Hopefully Elimination Chamber will be the final blow-off to the Bryan-Big Show angle, which has more than run its course.
- A match between Justin Gabriel and Hunico never materialized, as Rhodes, who was still lurking at ringside for some unexplained reason, assaulted Gabriel. Hunico and Comacho would join in until Khali would make the save. This is apparently what earned Khali a spot in the Chamber match. Wouldn't it have made more sense to put Gabriel in the title match at the pay-per-view? He's no less of a star than Khali, has a mini-feud going with Rhodes and could fill the high-spot role that Kofi Kingston plays in the Raw match.
- Long told Drew McIntyre he needs to find a new way of impressing the boss to keep his job. Santino Marella is doing a random partner gimmick - teaming with "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan this week. If this ends with Marella and McIntyre as the new tag team champions, it will be cringe-worthy writing at the very best. As for Marella and Duggan's match against Epico and Primo, fortunately it was kept short and relatively inoffensive. And the commentators at least pointed out the stupidity - and in some ways, hypocrisy - of the "U-S-A" chants.
- Beth Phoenix and Natalya defeated Aksana and Tamina in a tag match, slightly making up for Natalya's embarrassing loss last week. The Divas of Doom are at least winning in the ring, even if Natalya is being treated miserably outside of it (more on that below). Phoenix used her "hard-slap" tag that she used with one of the Bella Twins at the Royal Rumble to enter the match and hit the Glam Slam on Aksana. The plan seems to be building toward a Natalya vs. Phoenix feud - after Natalya finishes her business with Tamina, presumably - which would be great if WWE could be trusted to book it properly. That outlook doesn't seem promising.
- When fans ask for more edgy content, they don't mean bad low-brow comedy like Aksana's sexual innuendo about Duggan's 2-by-4 or
fartjokes like Natalya was once again treated to this week. On top of everything else, WWE couldn't find a fart noise that sounds even remotely organic or real; it's a horrible sound effect that belongs on the shelf next to Kane's foreboding background music for promos. Not only are these attempts at humor falling flat, Natalya's predicament is sending one of the most talented female wrestlers in the world down the drain of waste even further.
Sheamus d. Cody Rhodes
Hunico vs. Justin Gabriel never started
Epico and Primo d. Santino Marella and Jim Duggan
Brodus Clay d. Heath Slater
Beth Phoenix and Natalya d. Aksana and Tamina
Randy Orton d. Wade Barrett
The main event match between Orton and Barrett saved this show. Not that it was horrible to begin with, but following Monday's Raw (http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/pro-wrestling/ring-posts-blog/bal-wwe-raw-recap-undertaker-returns-adding-yet-another-player-to-the-cm-punk-vs-john-laurinaitis-feud-20120131,0,1456242.story) would be a hard task for any show. There are certainly things to still be excited about, including Sheamus' push toward WrestleMania, the fact the tag team champions continue to appear on television and the continued entertainment of Bryan as champion, especially his celebration and elaboration at the end of the show despite not even competing on the card. Overall, this was a serviceable episode of Smackdown, but hopefully we'll see it move closer to the quality we saw on Monday.
"Just noticed that Rhodes is wearing knee pads. He doesn't look like a little kid anymore!" - Terrence Ward, @tbone_terrence (twitter.com/tbone_terrence)