This past Sunday’s slate of NFL games featured the much anticipated rematch of last season’s Super Bowl XLVII as the Denver Broncos traveled to Seattle to take on the defending champion Seahawks. Considering the brutal 43-8 beating the champs gave the Broncos in their previous meeting there was every reason to believe that the matchup would supply at least some of the key pieces of what will become the narrative of the 2014-15 NFL season. For three quarters it looked like that was exactly what would happen as the Seattle defense held the explosive Bronco offense without a touchdown en route to a 17-3 lead. All of that was washed away, however, when a combination of Seahawks miscues, a few timely plays by the Denver defense, and a late game resurgence by Peyton Manning tightened things up considerably at 17-12 midway through the fourth. Just when it looked as though the Broncos were going to give this game a much different outcome than their Super Bowl embarrassment, the old narrative of Peyton Manning Big Game Choke Artiste reared its ugly head as a pass intended for Wes Welker, which can only be described as the lamest of ducks, was picked off by Seattle's Kam Chancellor with a little more than two minutes remaining in the game. This would be quickly cast aside as well as Manning's offense would get the ball back and he would lead them on an 80 yard scoring drive, complete with two point conversion to send the game to overtime where Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson would out-Manning Manning and lead his squad to the game winning touchdown. It was a well played, defensive football game, but I’m not sure we learned much beyond the fact that these are two good football teams whose fan bases both would wake up Monday morning feeling good about their team’s championship hopes.
As WWE's Night of Champions pay-per-view drew to a close later Sunday evening, I couldn’t help but be struck by the parallels between it’s own main event championship rematch and the football game that had wrapped up just a few hours earlier. NFL football isn’t scripted, of course, but professional wrestling is, so it’s safe to say that one has considerable reason to expect more in the way of narrative development with each episode of television and certainly each pay-per-view event. The vicious and intense manner in which Brock Lesnar destroyed John Cena at Summer Slam to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion was a new a direction for the company, the kind of match we haven’t seen them put on in quite some time. As initially skeptical as I was about a Lesnar title run, there’s no denying that the man is a legitimate beast who brings a verisimilitude to the WWE Title that no one else on the roster is capable of presenting. Now that we’re on this road, Lesnar shouldn’t lose cleanly until WrestleMania 31 (if even then). A Money-in-the-Bank contract cash-in or some type of swerve is one thing but a clean pinfall or submission would only serve to undo some of the best work WWE has done in 2014. The next logical plot point on this narrative arc would’ve been another instance of total annihilation by the one in twenty one and one.
Which is what makes the booking of the Night of Champions main event so curious and I’m not only referring to the Dusty finish. Despite looking dominant early in the match, Lesnar found himself on the business end of 3 Attitude Adjustments before being saved by Seth Rollins who then made an aborted attempt to cash in his Money in the Bank contract. If that doesn’t make any sense to you, don’t worry, you’re not alone, and that’s without getting into the absurdity of these contract cash-ins that don’t actually count because the timekeeper is slow to ring the bell. The main problem here is that they’ve spent the better part of a year building Lesnar into an unstoppable steamroller of destruction only to waste it by having him look weak in the waning moments of the championship rematch. And for what? To continue the feud? To restore confidence in Cena?
If continuing the feud is the endgame (and I’m not sure it should be) then let Cena take things too far in his quest to regain the title and get himself disqualified. Let him go away for a while and search himself for the inner strength to defeat this monster. Even Hulk Hogan had moments of doubt, particularly with The Earthquake. Even if Cena took two brutal back to back losses to Lesnar and tumbled down the card a bit, it would only serve to strengthen the mid-card not weaken main events. If it’s always just Timex Cena taking a licking and Keeping Calm and Never Giving Up you aren’t presenting enough drama to even keep long time adult fans watching much less drawing new eyeballs to a product that badly needs them.
Furthermore, allowing Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose to get sucked into the John Cena vortex seems like doubling down on a mistake. The days of Cena cleanly putting over newer talents like CM Punk and Daniel Bryan seem like eons ago and it now appears that he has a toxic effect on younger performers. Bray Wyatt was WWE's hottest commodity coming out of WrestleMania 30 and the failure to allow him to get one clean win over Cena led a drop so precipitous that the Eater of Worlds wasn’t even booked for the Night of Champions pay-per-view. There’s a reason that wrestling has a long tradition of older veterans putting over new, young talent. It opens up storytelling avenues in ways that the alternative only closes off. Ambrose and Rollins have the hottest feud going in WWE right now despite Ambrose missing a month, just keep John Cena away from it.
Oh, and not booking Paul Heyman for Raw on Monday was the equivalent of the NFL not giving Richard Sherman a microphone at post-game press conferences.