Mar 28, 2016

Previewing NXT TakeOver: Dallas

This Friday, April 1st, will mark a historical night in professional wrestling. NXT TakeOver: Dallas will illustrate how truly broken down the invisible wall between WWE and the rest of the wrestling world really is. We have to remember, it wasn't very long ago that WWE wouldn't acknowledge other wrestling promotions. An independent wrestler had about a 1% chance of getting to WWE, let alone get a push. Well, it's 2016 and things are drastically different. Independent talents are getting matches on NXT television. Hell, Johnny Gargano picked up a singles win on the last NXT episode going into Friday. It's a wild time to be a fan of professional wrestling.

Let's get to some of the smaller matches on the TakeOver card. Austin Aries will be making his in-ring debut for NXT taking on Baron Corbin. Aries has proven himself everywhere he's ever gone and NXT should be no different. Corbin has been improving ever since he made his debut and running as a heel has accelerated that process drastically. Expecting a solid match from these two, solidifying both as important figures in NXT.

The Revival will be defending their tag team titles against American Alpha. Dash and Dawson are the ideal old school throwback team, making an impact during their title reign. Jordan and Gable have also established themselves as a force, though. This match could be a show stealing bout, as evident by The Revival's title defense at WWE RoadBlock with Big Cass and Enzo Amore.

Also on the card is Apollo Crews vs. Elias Samson. Maybe the least attractive match at the event, but a chance for Crews to shine nonetheless. Crews hasn't had much room to shine since debuting, so look for him to try to make an impact vs. Samson.

Time to get into the meat of this card.

Bayley (c) vs. Asuka 

NXT Women's Championship Match

The women of NXT have changed everything we thought we knew about women's wrestling in WWE. Bayley has been an intricate part of it as well. Asuka fits right into the movement we've seen from these women over the past couple years. Fans of NXT know how good Bayley is. No one will ever forget her matches against Sasha Banks in late 2015. I'm not sure though, how many people truly understand how good Asuka is.

Now, I could go on and on about Asuka's career in Pro Wrestling Wave and Smash, where she wrestled under the name, Kana. The fact is, she's one of the best in the ring, man or woman, in WWE. Wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer has gone on the record saying that Asuka might be the best worker in all of WWE. If you don't know Meltzer, well, he's been around the block and he knows what he's talking about. Asuka has already become a fan favorite since debuting a short time ago. The girl knows how to get over.

Bayley vs. Asuka is going to be another huge moment in the "Divas Revolution." I'm not a fan of the term "Diva," but whatever. I can't really predict the finish of this match. That's ok though. It's good really. I can see Bayley dropping the title to move to the main roster, but for some reason it just seems too soon. She's ready, no doubt. But there's still women for her to work with and most importantly, women to learn from her. I can't wait to see this match, which is fantastic considering how women's wrestling has been billed in the past in WWE.

Finn Balor (c) vs. Samoa Joe

NXT Championship Match

The first Balor/Joe match was spectacular in London. The two have incredible chemistry and tell a fantastic story in the ring. Joe has been built up to be a monster heel while Balor has solidified himself as NXT's number one babyface. Though we've seen this match before, it's still standing up as a dream feud for wrestling fans. For so long, Joe has been known as one of the best performers in the world. We can go back a decade to Joe's series of matches with CM Punk in Ring of Honor. Believe this: Joe hasn't slowed down since that.

Finn Balor, as Prince Devitt, really broke through during his time in New Japan Pro Wrestling. There's something that people need to understand about this accomplishment. Think about this: New Japan doesn't allow just any foreign wrestler to be featured as a top act. Balor became an ultra high level babyface and heel in the promotion. He's credited with founding Bullet Club, a stable known to pretty much everyone, whether they've actually seen New Japan or not. The man has made an impact all over the world. Now he's doing it in the United States in NXT.

Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe is important for a number of reasons. Like I said earlier, there was a time when there was no chance that we'd see a non-WWE created guy featured strongly on a WWE show. Think about what we're seeing here. A guy that made his name in Japan taking on a guy that destroyed the independents and accomplished so much for TNA wrestling. They're not WWE guys and they're headlining a WWE show for NXT's biggest prize. Think about that. These guys are paving the way for future international and independent wrestlers to succeed in WWE. This match is very important and make no mistake about it, they will deliver. Oh yeah, how great would it be to see Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson pop up soon with 'ol Finn? It's an exciting time, people.

Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Continuing the theme of matches no one thought they'd ever see at a WWE associated event, we have Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn. Even though we're this close to the event and seeing this match, I still can't believe it's happening. This past January, Nakamura wrestled AJ Styles at New Japan's premier event, Wrestle Kingdom for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. If someone had asked me if four months later they'd both be wrestling for WWE, I would have said probably not. The barriers were breaking, but I still couldn't wrap my head around the future that was ahead of us. Well now they're in WWE. It's a reality that I could never imagine.

This match on paper is insane. Sami Zayn has proven himself time and time again as a major player in NXT. His transition to the main roster will be difficult considering the track record of NXT call-ups outside of Kevin Owens. He has the ability though, to make a huge splash on Raw and SmackDown. Zayn has a knack for delivering in big time situations. He has an incredible track record in Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, wrestling under the name and character of El Generico. He was a part of what is arguably the greatest NXT match of all time against Adrian Neville at TakeOver R-Evolution. What I'm saying is, Zayn is ready for this type of big-fight matchup. 

Shinsuke Nakamura is not unfamiliar with pressure as well. For New Japan, Nakamura delivered outstanding performances on a regular basis. Just looking at the past two Wrestle Kingdoms, Nakamura's matches against Kota Ibushi and AJ Styles respectively both stand as match of the year level work. If you don't know who Nakamura is now, you will be absolutely blown away by him on Friday. His charisma is unmatched and his in-ring ability is elite. WWE should feel lucky to have signed him, honestly. 

I'll throw out a prediction for this one. Nakamura will beat Zayn in an incredibly hard fought bout. I understand that Nakamura is a newcomer to WWE, but I think it makes sense. Zayn doesn't need the win and he's currently transitioning to the main roster. I mean I could be dead wrong on this. But I don't see WWE bringing in a guy like Shinsuke and beating him on his first night in the company. Regardless of the finish, expect and match of the year candidate from these two at TakeOver Dallas.

So that's it. Are you excited yet? Yeah, you didn't need any hype to get you stoked on NXT TakeOver: Dallas. The fact of the matter is, this show might outperform Wrestlemania 32. Sounds crazy, I know. But if you really look at it, you'll understand. The NXT crew is looking to prove a point. The point? They're the new blood. They're the evolution of wrestling and the WWE brand. They're all looking to steal the spotlight over 'Mania weekend and I can't wait to see them do it.

Brady Sauvageau
The Heater Wrestling

Mar 21, 2016

Seth Rollins Will Return To WWE Better Than Ever

Seth Rollins' injury last November could not have come at a worse time. In the midst of his first WWE World Heavyweight Championship reign, it seemed that he was never able to reach the full potential that his run had. Not to say he wasn't on his way to getting there, though. Rollins had classic matches with Cena and Ambrose, an intriguing battle with Brock Lesnar, and even added the United States Title to his resume on the way. But a torn MCL and ACL abruptly cut short a reign that may have been leading him to a main event match against The Game, Triple H. Guess we'll never know what would've been. But that's what makes Rollins' pending return to the ring that much more interesting.

Recently, it's been reported that Rollins has been training and is well on his way to returning to WWE. Seth isn't the only wrestler out due to injury. Cesaro, Tyson Kidd, and Neville are also on a long list of injuries that have downright plagued WWE since 2015. No disrespect to any of the other wrestlers that are out, but Rollins' return seems to be the most important, or at least most impactful one.

Keep in mind, Rollins never lost the WWE Championship. There's loose ends to the storyline of Seth as champion. So many angles could come out of this. Triple H will most likely lose the title at Wrestlemania 32 to Roman Reigns. This is a longshot, but could Rollins be involved in some capacity of that main event? Will he return and take back his spot in the Authority? Surely, Rollins will receive a huge positive crowd reaction upon his return. I know, he's supposed to be a heel. But think back to Triple H's return at Madison Square Garden over a decade ago. Full blown heel, but got one of the biggest pops of all time when his music hit. Rollins may experience something similar. That's where things get tricky. If the plan was for him to eventually feud with Triple H, does Rollins ride the momentum to become a babyface and move into that program? And what about the title? Will we see Rollins take on Reigns, assuming we know the finish of 'Mania 32? Like I said, there's so many possibilities.

There's no risk in saying that Seth Rollins will return better than ever, even though he's coming off a serious injury. He's a rare athletic specimen. Before the injury, he was really hitting his stride on the mic and as a character. The spoiled, protected golden boy was becoming a man, a real force in WWE. His match with John Cena at last year's Summerslam illustrated how good he really is. Who could forget Rollins taking the cross body from Cena, rolling though, lifting him up, and tossing him onto his shoulders for the Attitude Adjustment? That sequence alone said so much about Rollins. He can take on anyone and deliver in the most high pressure situations.

Seth Rollins is a student of the game. His rapid rise to the top of Ring of Honor and the WWE's main roster didn't happen by accident. The guy is constantly learning, training, and doing anything he can to get better. Right about now, he's itching to get back into the ring. He's desperate to show that this injury did not derail his momentum. He's ready to take it. Sometimes, for a guy to break through to the next level, it takes something catastrophic to allow reflection. Rollins has had a lot of time to reflect, to see the little holes in his work, and how he's going to get to the highest tier of WWE.

Rollins' return to WWE is going to shake things up. It's going to jump start the brand in a way it so desperately needs. With Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose currently filling the top of the card, Rollins immediately has "top guy" feuds to enter. Looming is the possibility that he will square off against his mentor, Triple H. The stars could be aligning for Rollins, and make no mistake about it, he's ready to cement his status as the best wrestler in the company.

The fact of the matter is WWE needs Rollins. His importance to the future of the company is unquestionable. What's interesting is that long term, the more important thing about 2016 might not be Wrestlemania 32, but rather the return of Seth Rollins.

That's a bold statement, but one that Rollins can't wait to prove to be true.

Brady Sauvageau
The Heater

Mar 18, 2016

Roman Reigns & WWE: Highs, Lows, & the Future

It's obvious, WWE has positioned Roman Reigns as the face of the company regardless of the negative feedback his presence has invoked in many arenas around the country. He seems destined to take the spot of John Cena as the company's flag bearer. For more than a decade, the most polarizing figure in WWE has been Cena. Many have deemed him as a corporate champion, a guy that doesn't know how to wrestle, and one that lucked-out in attaining to position he has in the company. Here's the truth of the matter with Cena: Sure, his in-ring work maybe a bit unorthodox, but make no mistake about it, the man can work. Some might say, "If he's so good, then why does half the crowd boo him while the others cheer?" I don't have a complete answer for that. But think about it this way....Whether it's 50% cheers and 50% boos, the fact is that 100% of the audience is reacting. Unlike Cena, it seems that Reigns' work as a top babyface hasn't quite matched the position he possesses in WWE. Cena has had over a decade to become what he has. Reigns has been expected to rise to an elite level in a matter of a few years, a daunting task.

It's been quite a couple of years for Roman Reigns. From debuting with the Shield (possibly the best booked three guys of the past 10 years) to rising as a singles wrestler, Reigns has had his fair share of highs and adversity. As it stands right now, he will be facing Triple for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the main event of Wrestlemania 32, his second straight 'Mania headlining match. Here's the adversity: a large, vocal majority of the audience isn't too stoked on the match, or him, for that matter. Let's take a look at the highs and lows Reigns has experienced, starting with the 2014 Royal Rumble.

Before we start, try to remember a day when you didn't flat out hate the guy. Remember how great the Shield was? He was in that. Yeah, he was. He played his role well, too. But here we go with the Rumble.

Reigns, as a member of the Shield, was working heel in the Rumble match, so until the end, the crowd reaction wasn't overwhelming yay or nay. The important part came at the end of the match. Yes, this was the year that Daniel Bryan wasn't in the match and yeah, he should've been, and you and I all freaked out at home. So when it came down to just Reigns and Batista, most of us including the live crowd, sided with Reigns. To this day I'm not sure he's ever got this positive of a reaction. Sure, this could've just been the product of a lack of D-Bry, but sometimes that's the kind of spotlight or opportunity a guy needs to be seen in a different light. This was that exact opportunity.

Batista and Reigns went at it and make no mistake about it, it was about 99% Reigns and 1% Batista in terms of crowd reaction. When I watched all of this unfold, I was convinced that this was the break Reigns needed. And to a degree, it was. Reigns looked natural in the ring. His showmanship in between spots didn't come off as overacting as it seems to now. Hell, the crowd chanted "ROMAN REIGNS." Again, I get that Bryan not being there was a huge catalyst, but the fact is that Reigns still seized the opportunity and performed well, regardless of what the planned finish was.

After that, things started to go downhill. Reigns' position was climbing, as he was featured more and more as a top star. We can debate this all day, but I believe the beginning of his downturn started with his freak hernia scare. Reigns' had to have emergency surgery, which halted his momentum. This is when it seemed like WWE started to get a bit too involved with getting Reigns over with the audience. The "live via satellite" interviews absolutely exposed him and his lack of promo experience. Maybe he wasn't ready, but regardless, it wasn't good. Then WWE seemed to get even more involved with his promos. Who could forget the infamous "sufferin' succotash" line that may or may not have been written by a certain boss within the company. At this point, it was clear. This wasn't natural and certainly not organic. It wasn't even really Roman anymore. It was WWE working their vision through a young wrestler.

In early 2015, Daniel Bryan made his return from injury, an injury that forced him to vacate the WWE World Heavyweight Title. When he came back, the fans were instantly back into his corner. Fast forward to the 2015 Royal Rumble. Bryan is eliminated early and eventually, Reigns wins the match. For Reigns, it was an accomplishment. For the fans, it seemed like a repeat of the previous year when WWE tried to strap the rock onto Batista's back. In the match, The Rock came out to save Reigns from a beatdown and in the process give him the "rub" that many felt he needed to be viewed as a true top superstar. Maybe Philadelphia wasn't the place for this to happen. The crowd initially popped huge for Rock, but once it was clear that he was backing Reigns, they turned. The look on Rock's face when he heard the loud boo was priceless. I'd hate to laugh, but the moment was a bit comical. It was the wrong place at the wrong time for Roman. The fans wanted Bryan to win again, but plans had changed and Reigns was WWE's pick. It was a tough spot to be in, but to Reigns' credit, he handled the situation well.

Soon, all eyes were on Fastlane, the pay per view right before 'Mania 31. Storylines had developed following the Rumble. Reigns vs Bryan for the right to face Brock Lesnar for the title at 'Mania was penciled in as the show's main event. Simply put, the two had a phenomenal match. Reigns ended up winning it, but it may have heightened many of the fans' disdain for him.

The fans didn't change their minds when 'Mania came. The Lesnar/Reigns main event delivered, but Seth Rollins ended up cashing in his Money In The Bank briefcase to steal away the title at the end of the match.

Now here we are again. Reigns is in the main event of 'Mania 32 and the fans aren't exactly 100% enthusiastic about it. WWE has done everything they can. They've had the Authority stack the deck against him, beat him up, screw him, everything. It's just not working the way it has with past wrestlers. WWE seems to be trying to put him in the role of Steve Austin or Daniel Bryan. One where the Authority tries to hold him down but he keeps fighting back, eventually dethroning the powers that be and accomplishing his goal. The problem is that Reigns is not Austin or Bryan. That role can't be filled by just anybody. It's no knock on Reigns. He can be the guy WWE wants him to be, it just clearly isn't through the path they've laid out for him.

It's just impossible to believe that Roman Reigns is as bad as he's been made out to be. It has to be realized that WWE got to this guy and like anyone else who had been in his position, he listened. Possibly to his own detriment, but he listened. Wrestlemania 32 hasn't happened yet and unless some kind of miracle happens, the detractors will remain unfazed after the event.

How could WWE change the minds of those unsold on Reigns? It's probably not possible. But here's what they haven't tried....and again, I'd hate to say it for the ten billionth time, but turn Roman Reigns heel. Everything has been tried when it comes to getting him truly over as a babyface. Nothing's worked the way it should have. Turn him heel, set him loose, and allow him the freedom to curse the people that have booed him during what should've been his most triumphant moments. He can look the fans in the eye and speak from his heart. He would be able to convey real emotion instead of continuing to portray the good-guy persona he's been forced to.

If the crowd wants to boo him, then let them. In the process, he'll have the chance to develop some depth to his character, which is something he desperately needs. If he's allowed to really sink his teeth into a heel run, the fans might see him in a different light. He could earn their respect and pay his dues by shedding the character that they hate so much. As time goes on, he could eventually turn back towards a babyface role while bringing the fans back with him. We as the audience would be given the chance to watch him evolve organically, instead of how his character and storylines have progressed over the past two years.

I've discussed a Reigns heel turn so many times that it's almost nauseating for me to write it again. There's just not really any more options left except for the one WWE will probably opt for: move forward as if nothing is wrong. This article isn't the product of disdain for Reigns. It's actually quite the opposite. Reigns has all the potential to be the top babyface in WWE and many of us want that for him. Just not this way. Not at the expense of his future. Whether WWE realizes it or not, there could be a major consequence to the route they've taken. The lack of audibles in the Reigns vs. the Authority storyline is a red flag to many fans that they aren't taking into consideration their feedback. WWE seems to be waiting for fans to give into this version of Reigns, and that's a slippery slope. A lot of people love him, sure. But a lot of people don't and I don't believe that it's as small of a percentage as it has been described.

Regardless of the way Wrestlemania 32 and the future plays out, Roman Reigns will most likely remain at the forefront. WWE must understand that they are rolling the dice here. Interesting that normally a top babyface heel turn would be considered "rolling the dice." But Reigns is an interesting case. A product of an era where the average fan might know too much for their own good about the way the business works. With all of this being said, it'll be an interesting 2016, maybe for the wrong reasons. The question of it all is, if the future is already laid out for you to see.......will you watch?

Brady Sauvageau
The Heater

Mar 12, 2016

WWE Roadblock Was What We Expected

Well, WWE Roadblock was sadly everything I thought it was going to be. I wish I had been wrong, I really do. But in the end it was a house show. A house show with some damn good matches, some average ones, and very little immediate importance. There were high points though, and some things that can be built on moving forward. But let's just talk about the main event, which the show was built around.

Make no mistake about it, Dean Ambrose vs. Triple H was a fantastic match. HHH looked good despite his very limited match schedule. The crowd could've shown some more enthusiasm for the first three quarters of it, but it was a great bout nonetheless. Yes, Ambrose pinned Triple H and for all intents and purposes, proved that he could beat him and win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. That's great. Here's where I have a problem with the finish: what about that match changes or adds to Wrestlemania 32? Unless I'm getting ahead of myself (which is doubtful, sadly) and this Monday's Raw sees Ambrose getting closer to a title match rather than a singles vs. Lesnar, then we're right back where we started. If we even went anywhere in the first place. There could have been a heel turn, a storyline shift to add interest to 'Mania....anything.

So, again I ask, what about this main event made me more excited for Wrestlemania 32? Unfortunately, nothing. I'd hate for this to be a completely negative article. We must keep in mind how good Ambrose looks coming out of this loss. This match will probably benefit him in the future. But what about Roman Reigns vs. Triple H? It's going to be damn near impossible for them to follow the main event we just witnessed at Roadblock. Now there's just hard evidence that the wrong main event will take place at 'Mania 32.

On Monday, we will watch Raw and hope for something to change based on Roadblock. I'd hate to give my hopes up again, seeing as how it hasn't seemed to work out too well. Believe me though, Lesnar vs. Ambrose will be one helluva match, but that doesn't feel the same as the "what if's" we had going into Roadblock.

Again, the Roadblock main event was fantastic and fun. It's just the context and the point and time we're at that leaves a bit to be desired. I'm not sure what else to say except, we'll have to wait and watch this Monday for Raw. But hey, maybe that's a good thing. At least I 'hope' so.

Brady Sauvageau
The Heater

-It should be noted though, Bray Wyatt and Brock Lesnar never really got into it during the handicap match that included Luke Harper. We'll have to wait and see if this is addressed sooner, rather than later (Wrestlemania match implications).

Hoping For A Surprise At WWE Roadblock

Ok people, we're just hours away from WWE Roadblock and I have to say, I'm scared. Not scared in a good way, either. I'm simply afraid that this show is going to be exactly what I think it is: a glorified house show. Now, WWE has put on some great random Saturday shows and some truly pointless ones. A good one? Beast In The East from Japan this past July 4. A bad one? Whatever that Madison Square Garden show was that I can barely remember. I'm going to hit the important stuff for this show, though it possesses some interesting match-ups that should keep the card interesting almost top to bottom.

Really quick, I just want to touch on the NXT Tag Team Championship match. Enzo and Big Cass are taking on The Revival, Dash and Dawson. If you know me, it's no secret that I am a huge fan of Enzo and Cass. They each bring something great to the table. Enzo has reached an elite status on the mic, while Colin Cassidy has excelled in terms of in-ring work. These guys have worked very hard and are on pace to join the main roster in the foreseeable future. Knowing the mindset of the NXT guys and gals, this one will be fun. Look for Enzo and Cass to try and steal the show, as they have many times before. Don't forget about Dash and Dawson, though. They've made great strides in this tag title run as well.

So let's just cut to the chase and hit what's really important here....Dean Ambrose vs. Triple H for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. This is what scares me. Knowing what we assume we know about the Wrestlemania 32 card, it seems that Ambrose has zero chance of stealing away the title from Hunter tonight. That being said, it's exactly why WWE should do it. Wanna inject some unpredictability and "raw" excitement into 'Mania season? Then I implore you WWE, switch the title tonight.

The whole, "Roman Reigns overcomes the Authority" thing is just too plain and simple. We've seen this far too many times to buy into it again. No disrespect to Reigns, he's doing his best with the hand he's been dealt, but any fan can see this coming from a mile away. That's why tonight is the perfect setting to shake things up. Think about the possibilities. There's so many ways tonight could go if WWE chose to go the interesting route. Ambrose could win this thing via some kind of interference. I don't think a clean win is possible at this point, nor would it further any angle that could be set up. Actually, any kind of angle that deviates from the current script would be great. Ambrose could fail in his match tonight, but as long as something happens (needs to involve Reigns) angle wise, at least the show wouldn't be completely pointless.

I've said this way too many times to believe it's going to happen, but turn Reigns heel, WWE. Give the guy a chance to add some much need depth to his character and allow Ambrose to chase the title, or Reigns, or whatever. Both guys would get over even more and then you won't have to worry about the crowd reaction Reigns is going to receive as a babyface.

I could ramble on and on about this and at the end of the night, nothing will have probably happened. But I envision a scenario where someone turns hell (Ambrose or Reigns) and eventually we end up at 'Mania with a triple threat match for the title between Ambrose, Reigns, and Triple H. Maybe even a fatal four way that adds Lesnar. It's tough to hope though, knowing that we're probably going to see Lesnar vs. Ambrose at that event. But hey, I can still dream, right?

Regardless of all this hope and wonder, the fact remains: WWE needs to do something. Anything really. I'm intrigued to a point about this Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon matchup, but that doesn't solve the problems regarding the wrestlers that deserve different positions in the company. Tonight is the night that WWE can shake things up in a huge way. I just hope they have the guts to pull the trigger.

Brady Sauvageau

The WWE Gospel & The Story of CM Punk

It's been a little over two years since CM Punk left World Wrestling Entertainment. Much has been publicized about his time in the company, as well as his departure. Surely, Punk would tell a fan like myself to move on as he has. I let go of any hope that he'd return to WWE television a very long time ago. For this subject though, Punk is the perfect person to help illustrate what WWE was back then and what it is today.

In 2011, Punk delivered his "Pipe Bomb" promo during the final moments of the June 27 episode of Monday Night Raw. In the midst of John Cena's domination of WWE, Punk spoke the truth. A truth that hadn't hit the live broadcast in many years.

("I've grabbed so many of Vincent K. McMahon's imaginary brass rings that it's finally dawned on me that they're just that. Completely imaginary.") -CM Punk, June 11, 2011

After that promo, the internet exploded. The sports world exploded. Everyone was talking about CM Punk and what he said on live television. He trashed the McMahon family. In essence, he questioned why hard work doesn't translate into success on WWE TV.

At this point in Punk's career, he truly believed that he was leaving the company the next month. There was nothing that could keep him under the WWE umbrella. But things changed. Everyone that follows professional wrestling or WWE knows the story of the conversation Punk had with Joey Mercury. In short, Mercury told him that he couldn't change anything within WWE from his couch in Chicago. Punk re-signed with the company and won the WWE Championship from John Cena at the Money In The Bank PPV in July. It was a moment that no one saw coming. It blurred the lines between script and reality. Wrestling was alive again. For many, CM Punk was the man that resurrected it.

Then things seemed to skew. Punk's momentum seemed to be halted, almost intentionally. The angle was so hot that it seemed like the only logical direction was to go with Punk. The best way to describe the rest of 2011 is WWE went with Punk, but at the same time, didn't. Inexplicably, Punk lost to Triple H in a no disqualification match at Night of Champions in September of that year. He was then involved in a tag team match, facing off against the Miz and R-Truth at the following PPV, Vengeance. Questions remain to this day. Why derail the momentum of a man that nearly turned the wrestling world upside down just months earlier? Why give Triple H a win that he didn't need against a man that was wrestling full-time for the company? Simply, many still just ask....why?

("Vince McMahon's going to make money despite himself. He's a millionaire that should be a billionaire. You know why he's not a billionaire? It's because he surrounds himself with glad handing, nonsensical, douchebag yes men, like John Laurinaitis, who's going to tell him everything that he wants to hear."-CM Punk, June 11, 2011

Punk eventually won back the WWE Championship at Survivor Series 2011, defeating Alberto Del Rio. His title reign lasted 434 days, the sixth longest in WWE history. This is a profound accomplishment in WWE and it seemed the change Punk had envisioned may have finally been in motion. Though at times during his reign, it seemed that Punk was taking a backseat in terms of positioning. John Cena was still frequently featured as the main event. In 2012, at Wrestlemania 28, John Cena and The Rock took the main event spot, while CM Punk's WWE Championship defense against Chris Jericho took place in their shadow. Punk has made it very clear that his goal was to headline the show as the main event, going on last. This never happened.

Leading up to the 2013 Royal Rumble event, Punk entered a program with The Rock, resuming another installment of his part-time run. Punk delivered what may have been his best WWE promo on January 7 of that year. After removing the WWE emblem from his microphone, he began to speak.

"The time has come to tell you something very personal. See, I keep my ear to the ground and I hear everything everybody says and for the past year and a half the words pipe bomb have been completely misunderstood and misused. It doesn't seem anybody in the 'Universe' understands what it means. Anybody in this company doesn't understand what a pipe bomb is. Basically, what a pipe bomb is in its truest form is the truth."

It's difficult to decipher truth and fiction in this scenario. But if there's a quote from Punk that's important above all, it's this one:

"Don't be mistaken. I meant everything I said when I said it....(June 27, 2011) But I was shortchanged and I was disrespected and sure, I could've just swallowed that bitter pill and accepted my position in the company like everyone else in the back. Or I could've left. Instead, I made a conscious decision and I sold out. To you, to you I sold out. To me, I cashed in. See, I created this persona, this rebel, this anti-hero that you all loved to cheer for because I knew that you all love to cheer for your superheroes."

Punk continued saying, "Here's the truth about Las Vegas, here's the truth about the WWE, is it doesn't matter if you're the best wrestler. It doesn't matter if you're the best talker. It doesn't matter if you're the best overall performer. It doesn't matter if you make the two clowns sitting to my left on commentary look like amateur hour. There is a glass ceiling and nobody is allowed to break it."

You could feel the frustration in his words. Though a part of the feud, it was easy to tell that underneath the storyline, Punk again was underlining the segment with truth.

Eventually, The Rock entered the ring. The two had a back and forth, as designed. But in Punk's eyes you could see that the situation was much more real than the show let off. It was as if he was staring into his demise. The end of his reign. On one side of the ring stood the old guard of wrestling. On the other, the new guard. A man that had somehow beat the odds and had dominated a company that didn't allow just anyone to carry their title long term.

At the Royal Rumble, the reality of WWE set in. The Rock beat CM Punk for the WWE Championship and then dropped it to John Cena at Wrestlemania 29 in their second straight headlining match at the annual event. Punk wrestled the Undertaker at that 'Mania, a match that was heralded by fans and his colleagues as the best match of the show.

In 2013, Punk had lost to The Rock, then to The Undertaker, and then to Brock Lesnar. All were part-time performers that the company valued ahead of Punk.

CM Punk left WWE following the 2014 Royal Rumble. His frustrations had come to a head. The realization of the companies' priorities had led him out the door, and though his effort was valiant, change was not achieved. The company had their champion, Randy Orton. Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson), an unlikely champion, was able to force his way into the main event of Wrestlemania 30, a spot on a show Punk so desperately wanted. Bryan defied the odds that night, beating Triple H to open the show, then defeating Orton and Batista to capture the WWE Championship. Bryan is one the few, if only examples of a non-company picked wrestler to headline the biggest event of the year and win the company's most important prize. The outcry of fans to implant Bryan into the title match did much to sway WWE in their decision. Injuries forced Bryan to relinquish the title, though it was reported that WWE planned to have him lose it Brock Lesnar at the Summerslam event later that year. The scheduled loss would've marked another example of WWE getting their way and putting the championship on a part-time worker that they viewed as more important, regardless of any outside variables.

Fast forward to now, the year 2016. Triple H is champion, while WWE's handpicked star, Roman Reigns pursues him for the gold. Regardless of many fans' disdain for Reigns, it seems he is destined to win back the WWE Championship in the main event of Wrestlemania 32 this April. Things seem to be the same as they were before CM Punk's initial "Pipe Bomb" promo. The company has its chosen one and the story remains predictable.

Will things ever change? It seems that the answer to that question is no. Declining ratings hasn't swayed WWE from what seems to have been their end goal for quite some time: Roman Reigns as champion. The storyline return of Shane McMahon and his declaration to save WWE from its pitfalls raises excitement and hope. But the past tells us that it's just a facade, a distraction in the middle of a predetermined destiny.

Many fans still clammer for change in WWE, much like CM Punk did in 2011. As he said, "After I'm gone you're still going to pour money into this company. I'm just a spoke on the wheel. The wheel's gonna keep turning, and I understand that."

Well, the wheel's continued to turn.

There are many fresh faces in WWE, but none that seem to be destined to hold the title long term. Not because of their lack of potential, but because of history. Punk did, but still, he was eventually crushed by the part-time stars of yesteryear, as well as the ones selected for success. Yet, many of us still watch, still hoping for our own hero to rise above the corporate monsters and plant his own flag atop of the WWE's peak.

Somewhere in Chicago, CM Punk has moved on. The realization that change wasn't possible within WWE's corporate structure has led him to a new chapter in his life, training as a fighter for UFC. For many of us, Punk will always be a symbol of hope and rebellion against the machine that seems to always get its way. Most likely, he will never return to WWE. The bridges have been burned. But we will still hold onto hope that somehow, someway things will change. That we won't surely know what's going to happen next.

Wrestlemania 32 may hold the answer, but the answer may not be what we want to believe.

Brady Sauvageau
-The Heater


"Unlike a lot of people I'm glad you're back. I don't care what your schedule is. I don't care if you work here 16 days a year or 365 days a year. You could be Santa Clause and have his schedule, one day a year. I'd still kick your ass. I don't care how many movies you film every year. I know how hard that schedule probably is, but every time you come back, whenever you decide to grace us with your presence, I'm gonna kick your ass. Because this isn't candy land. I'm like nobody you've ever faced before. You can make fun of the color of my t-shirt and you can talk about pie and you can sing songs and you can rhyme and you can do your tired, lame-ass schtick. I just want you to know that come Royal Rumble, and you have about three weeks to realize this, I'm gonna kick your ass 'cause I'm the best in the world. I'm the best thing going today. I'm the best guy you've ever stepped foot in the ring with. And you need to understand, congratulations, Rock, you just graduated from the kiddie table, but you just bit off more than you can chew. You're playing little league with your little insults and your rhymes and your 'millions and millions' and your 'finallys'. And I'm in the big leagues and I'm swinging for the fence. You need to understand that your little jabs and your insults, it's all kiddie games. You can't leave a mark on the champ's face. Come Royal Rumble, understand, when you step in the ring, your arms are just too short to box with God." 

-CM Punk, face to face with The Rock (January 7, 2013)