If you read this website then I think it’s safe to assume you also visit other, more news-story-heavy, wrestling pages. That being the case, I’m sure you’ve all heard by now about the angle that took place on Tuesday night at the WWE SmackDown! tapings (set to air tomorrow, Friday, May 6). For those of you who may not have heard – Randy Orton defeated Christian to become the new World Heavyweight Champion.
As someone who has happily lived and breathed the wrestling business for the better part of twenty years, there isn’t much in wrestling that really gets under my skin anymore. Pretty much everything that can happen (good or bad) already has, much of it even becoming commonplace. So, there’s not a lot that can legitimately upset me the way it could when I was a kid and still buying into the angles as real life. By the same token, there isn’t much that can get me fully invested, emotionally, like I could when I was younger.
The Christian-as-World-Champ saga, though, was able to do both.
I have been a massive fan of Christian’s work ever since his debut. For whatever reason, whenever Edge & Christian were on TV I was always drawn to C much more than E. I can remember one Summer when I spent almost the entire time away from school down in my basement playing WWF No Mercy for Nintendo 64. I was a fantasy booker and I made PPVs and feuds and storylines and probably went through a “decades” worth of 12-PPV cycles. I’d say that 90% of that time was built around “booking” the rise and reign of Christian as my top Superstar in the entire No Mercy-verse. I knew that it was pure fantasy, though. Once it became clear that WWE was going to go with Edge as the breakout star of the team, I knew that Christian would never get his fair shake at the top.
So cut back to this past Sunday, I was at my house watching Extreme Rules. The drama and emotion of the whole Edge retirement situation, and Christian’s subsequent rise as his successor, had finally done it. I was as emotionally invested in a wrestling angle as I’d ever been. Once Edge appeared at the end of the match to distract Alberto Del Rio I knew that my fan’s-dream was about to come true. Christian grabbed the title, with his best friend Edge watching from below, tears in both of their eyes. Christian was finally a World Champion in WWE. He was the main event. I was so happy for him, and for me as a fan, to finally see it all come to fruition. I hadn’t felt that good about a wrestling moment since the end of WrestleMania XX, when the show closed on Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero standing in a shower of confetti as the two top champions of WWE.
But, just like that moment would be tarnished by great tragedy, the legacy of this moment would also be sullied.
Now, I’m not stupid. I knew as soon as Christian won the belt that he would be simply a transitional champion. Especially with Randy Orton being brought over to SmackDown! there was no way that Captain Charisma could stay on top for long. I figured he would keep the belt for a month or so then either drop it to another transitional heel like Mark Henry, or lose it to Orton in a triple threat. So color me naïve for thinking that WWE may at least give the guy enough time with the strap to get his nameplate screwed on. I think it’s safe to say that he, at minimum, deserved that much.
When I read the spoilers from Tuesday’s taping, and saw that Christian wasn’t even given the chance to make it through one show as the World Champion, a single word went through my head: INSULTING.
Like I said before, not much can get me worked up or angry about wrestling anymore, but this whole situation is simply insulting, in my opinion. It’s insulting to Christian as an employee of a company to be essentially told, “We have zero faith in your ability to carry this position for even 2 hours. We just knew we had a good story on Sunday.” It’s insulting to Edge as someone who literally broke his body for a company and vouched for his lifelong best friend, only to be essentially told, “Hey thanks for all your hard work and your advice and your broken neck, but we’ve got it from here.” Finally, it’s insulting to me and you as fans for actually giving a shit about a genuine story only to be essentially told, “We’re glad you liked your little fairy tale but now that we’ve got your money and attention here’s a better idea.”
I’m not saying Christian had to become the new Edge and become the #1 focal point of Friday nights. I’m not even suggesting that he become a regular main event player after his title run ended. I have a sense of his general standing inside WWE and I know that he’s not particularly seen as a money guy by those in charge. But come on, the next PPV - Over the Limit - is only 3 weeks away. You mean to tell me that they didn’t have enough faith in him to carry one match to a PPV in 3 weeks?
Does WWE realize that they lost money on this title switch? This is a company that, just this morning, reported significant financial losses for the most recent fiscal quarter. They have a show approaching in 3 weeks time that doesn’t have the added benefit of a major gimmick like so many of their other monthly events do these days. How are they going to sell Over the Limit now? Do they really think that John Cena defending against The Miz again is going to get buys? Or John Morrison vs. R-Truth?
Christian vs. Randy Orton for the title had money written all over it. Christian was on a MASSIVE wave of momentum after Sunday night. He was experiencing, easily, the most popular period of his career and fans were legitimately excited to see someone new that they actually cared about (not Sheamus or Jack Swagger) holding the World Title. Surely that momentum could have kept going for a few more weeks. Add to that Randy Orton’s insane amount of fan support right now and you have an event that fans will gladly pay to watch. People knew that Orton was going to be the top guy on SmackDown! but they also (would have) love(d) anticipating his eventual rise. 3 weeks. 3 F’N WEEKS! That’s all they needed. Look, I’ll book it for you.
Week 1 – Christian celebrates his title win, Orton becomes the #1 contender.
Week 2 – Orton and Christian both win singles matches with the other man on commentary.
Week 3 – Final face-to-face showdown in the ring.
PPV on Sunday – People pay to see Randy Orton win the World Title. He does.
What is so difficult about that? Sure, WWE may get a ratings pop on Friday night’s episode now that people know there’s a title switch coming. But how are they going to sell the PPV now that its only major appeal has been given away? And if they were so concerned with Christian being the focal point as champion, then don’t make him the focal point of the show. Plenty of guys in the past have held the title without being the main story of the show. Let that happen for 3 weeks and then make the switch. ANYTHING would have been better than what actually transpired. Seriously, this is TNA-style hotshot booking.
I’ve been thinking about this all week. Clearly, I don’t agree with the decision. I think there was a much better, smarter, more financially beneficial alternative that WWE could have done. But I don’t work for that company so I have no say. All I can do is voice my opinion as a fan on this and other similar sites. I suggest that if you feel the same then you do the same. It probably won’t change anything in the future and it certainly won’t change what has already happened, but who knows. It’s wrestling. Stranger things happen all the time.