Last week, I wrote an article talking about WWE’s risk of main event consolidation and how it would either sink or swim. After Daniel Bryan lost the strap to Randy Orton, you had two major programs going on with Bryan vs. the Establishment and CM Punk vs. Paul Heyman’s stable of wrestlers.

With the crowds cheering loudly for Bryan, management decided to go all-in with his angle while making Punk’s program somewhat secondary and stuck in the background. Despite Punk getting caned and visibly brutalized and him returning the favor to a phone doctor on RAW, it’s clear that uber-babyface Punk is playing second fiddle to Bryan.

I never would have expected it. I’m not sure WWE thought it would happen, either. However, truth can be stranger than fiction and WWE’s risk of putting Bryan at the top with Punk in the secondary slot has clearly worked. And, in one of those “only in WWE” moments, the Toronto fans were chanting “yes! yes! yes!” while Punk was caning the hell out of Heyman’s fake doctor. Not since “what?” chants during dead space in promos has a chant caught on fire with the masses.

I give WWE enormous credit for pushing Bryan’s program to the top while setting themselves up for potential backlash of Punk’s program playing second fiddle. It’s not an easy call. Punk has his fans, Heyman is a genius, but when you’re a booker your heart has to be into something 100% in order to really make it successful. Clearly, Hunter’s heart is in his current program against Daniel Bryan and he made an executive decision.

What’s Best for Business and all that jazz.

For Punk’s sake, I hope that he gets positioned for a Hell in a Cell match against Brock Lesnar in October.

The dynamics of the Bryan/Establishment program have been really simple but also clever. And the carryover of the main program into revitalizing Cody Rhodes’ career is a great step forward. Yes, Cody was one of those originally favored by Hunter… like he favored Randy Orton. However, every fan knows that Cody Rhodes has tons of potential and no one can deny the effort he puts into his work. Cody Rhodes is a babyface. He’s not a heel, try as he might with the plastic face guard of the past.

Watching the Cody Rhodes dynamic play out with Hunter antagonizing the Rhodes wrestling family is a guilty pleasure. Dusty, Cody, and Dustin are all totally different personalities and yet each brings something to the table that is fun to watch. The Randy Orton/Goldust match on RAW was predictably entertaining and had the right finish. Naturally, Goldust lost and couldn’t get Cody back in WWE. On commentary, John Layfield was dumping on the Rhodes family as being ungrateful jerks. Layfield got in a great line, claiming that Vince McMahon made Dusty Rhodes in polka dots way more popular than anything Jim Crockett ever did.

Evil Steph hammed it up backstage after the loss.

“Dustin… you must be so disappointed. I know Cody’s disappointed. His wife-to-be is disappointed. I mean, Cody doesn’t have a job any more. And that’s all because of you. I mean, you let your brother down. You let your father down. You let your whole family down. You let the WWE Universe down. I mean, how does that feel? How does it feel to be a loser? Just like your brother. So you know what? Why don’t you go join him in the unemployment line? Oh, and Dustin… tell your Dad I said hi.”

Last Friday, Hunter had his Smackdown open mic/town hall session. Damien Sandow was great in kissing ass while simultaneously celebrating Cody Rhodes’ demise. Too bad Hunter didn’t actually let Sandow get a win against Cody, but at least he still has his career ahead of him with the Money in the Bank briefcase.

The heel dynamics of the power couple have been amusing to watch. In wrestling, it helps to watch people involved who actually love what they’re doing. Hunter is excellent in his new leading role on camera. As much material as there is to dog him about in terms of who gets pushed and the obsessive need for the McMahon family to always be on camera, at least Hunter is setting the stage for a payoff with Daniel Bryan exacting revenge. The segment involving Bryan & Edge antagonizing Hunter was great. I suspect Edge said a couple of things in the 8 o’clock hour that Vince wasn’t thrilled about, but hey, the guy’s the Rated R Superstar. Hunter mocking him as having a thin stack of dimes for a neck was great, as The Shield threw out a battered Christian to needle Edge to close out the opening segment. The backstage segment was also a nice touch.

More often than not, today’s wrestling product truly misses real, genuine payoffs to angles that stretch over a long period of time. There’s always so much pressure to compress angles into a short time frame. There’s pressure to introduce new characters into the mix every week, such as Big Show entering into the picture as the “will he? won’t he?” guy for and against Daniel Bryan. However, there is an art to keeping programs simple and the go-home finish for Night of Champions on RAW was well-executed. Randy Orton appeared to exact more punishment on Bryan after Bryan beat Dean Ambrose. He even mocked the crowd with his own “yes! yes!” chant. Big Show finally refused to KO Daniel Bryan and Bryan laid out Orton after Orton had laid out Goldust earlier in the show. That’s a winning formula to heat up Sunday’s PPV. It sets the table
for Hell in a Cell and Survivor Series, both events which should deliver in terms of memorable main events. A job well done. I just hope they maintain their patience and stay the course. It’s enjoyable to watch right now.

Too bad the Rob Van Dam/Alberto Del Rio program has been so oddly booked, but nobody’s perfect.

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