McMahon's Publicity Stunt(s), Punk/Rock, Lesnar's Failed Reign

The following is today's edition of Ask WNW. Ask WNW is the most popular feature on the website where Richard Gray answers four questions daily, Monday through Friday. To submit your question for the next installment of Ask WNW, click here.
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What are your thoughts on CM Punk feeling that Vince McMahon’s apology was a publicity stunt?

CM Punk is entitled to have that opinion. He lived it and he’s certainly allowed to feel that way. As I discussed on Wednesday, I thought Steve Austin’s interview with Vince McMahon was well done and made for compelling television.

As for Vince’s apology being a publicity stunt, I personally believe everything Vince does is a publicity stunt. Sometimes even unintentionally. You have to remember, Vince is the greatest promoter of all-time. Everything he does, he does so with hype. This is how he got into trouble with communicating WWE’s domestic TV negotiations with investors. Throughout the negotiations he did nothing but hype them, even telling an investor if WWE didn’t double their domestic rights fees, they could put him in a hammerlock.

Well, WWE didn’t double their rights fees and there wasn’t a hammerlock that I know of. But that’s what Vince does. Was he acting in ill-will trying to mislead investors? That’s impossible to know and just as hard to prove. I believe it’s in McMahon’s DNA to make a spectacle out of everything he does, always pointing it back to his business. It’s what makes him controversial but it’s also what’s made him hundreds of millions of dollars.

Is Vince sincerely sorry for canning Punk on his wedding day? I don’t know, Punk doesn’t think he is. Was the interview on the WWE Network a publicity stunt? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean Vince didn’t answer good questions or provide fascinating comments. I do not think Punk gained anything by responding to Vince’s apology in the way that he did and a better discussion about this ensued here on my Facebook.

CM Punk talked about The Rock texting him on Thanksgiving, claiming his fans were upset at him. Can you recap what was said by Punk that drew the response?

The second notable point to come out of “Part 2” of Colt Cabana’s podcast featuring CM Punk is that The Rock texted Punk on Thanksgiving to ask what happened to cause all of the negative Tweets he was getting from Punk fans. Punk told Rock about the podcast and said he didn’t recall saying anything negative about him but discussed working with him, trying to get a Wrestlemania main event out of it. Punk said he told Rock people are mad he dropped the title to him but said Rock was super cool about it.

In the first podcast, Punk recalled a conversation he had with Vince McMahon, where Vince assured him after Wrestlemania 29 that he would be the hottest heel in the world. Punk questioned how “losing to a 45-year-old man who wrestles once per year” is going to make him the hottest heel in the world. Punk said he asked Vince to explain to him how that works. He said he worked Undertaker at Wrestlemania 29 with the biggest chip on his shoulder because he knew it was going to be better than Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar and The Rock vs. John Cena.

In Wednesday’s installment of Ask WNW a spirited debate ensued about Brock Lesnar’s WWE World Heavyweight Championship reign “not working.” Do you stand by that or have any of the counterpoints changed your stance?

I stand by my remark that Brock Lesnar’s part-time WWE World Heavyweight Championship reign hasn’t worked. I explained in the comment area how it has had no positive effect on WWE’s key drivers nor has it benefitted an up and coming talent. The counter arguments range from apathy (e.g. “I don’t really care about the title anyway”) to hope (e.g. “Whoever beats Lesnar is going to get a huge rub.”) to trying to look at the glass half-full (e.g. “There’s more TV time for people like Dean Ambrose”). While I appreciate all of these opinions and fully understand the reasoning and passion that goes with them, it doesn’t mean Lesnar’s reign as WWE World Heavyweight Champion has been a success.

The idea of putting the title on Lesnar and then limiting his appearances sounds good in theory. There was a day when it probably would have worked. However, in 2014, there is simply too much content each week to take the title off TV indefinitely and expect it to remain relevant when it’s brought back. I don’t get the sense from the massive amounts of feedback we’ve received that fans are clamoring for the return of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship as much as I get that fans are annoyed over Brock Lesnar’s absence.

Look at it this way. WWE is in the process of completely altering their business by punting pay-per-view in exchange for the WWE Network. At their second-biggest show of the year (SummerSlam) they have Brock Lesnar, a part-time talent, mutilate the face of the company (John Cena). They do a dirty finish at Night of Champions in the rematch, then write Brock Lesnar and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship off TV indefinitely.

At Hell in a Cell, rather than following up on Cena/Rollins or providing a clean resolution to Cena/Lesnar, they book a No. 1 contenders match between Cena and Orton and move Rollins on to a returning Dean Ambrose. Cena wins and Bray Wyatt gets in the way of blowing off Rollins/Ambrose. Survivor Series rolls around and they need a main event that means something. So to make a long story short, it’s Team Cena vs. Team Authority, with the stipulation if the latter goes over, the team members are “fired” or if the former goes over, The Authority is removed from power. Cena can’t be “fired” because remember, that would invalidate the No. 1 contender’s match at Hell in a Cell against Randy Orton. So Team Cena wins and The Authority is removed from power. It’s time for WWE TLC, where we’ll get the resolution to Cena/Lesnar, right?

Well, no. Actually, we’ll revert back to Rollins vs. Cena but this time, if Cena loses, he’s no longer the No. 1 contender. Wait, what?

In summary, I don’t believe Brock Lesnar’s part-time title reign has worked because it hasn’t made the belt more prestigious. It’s created apathy. It hasn’t helped an up and coming talent. A another rematch with John Cena looms. It hasn’t moved the company’s key drivers. It hasn’t sold WWE Network subscriptions. It hasn’t created compelling storylines. The result of a part-time champion has left us with multiple No. 1 contender matches, with only the hope that Brock will “pass the torch.”

From the Ask WNW vault…

January 2013: How long do you think The Rock will hold the WWE Championship? - I would be very surprised if The Rock held the WWE Championship past Wrestlemania 29 in April. Vince McMahon has wanted to do Rock vs. John Cena II for the WWE Championship and that certainly appears to be the direction they are going. The obvious prediction is for Cena to avenge his loss from last year and win the WWE Championship in a public “passing of the torch.” A lot can happen between now and then but Rock vs. Cena is the plan barring a major change in direction or injury.

The next installment of Ask WNW is scheduled to run on Friday, December 5, 2014.

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