Under The Surface, Laying the Groundwork

IMAGE CREDIT: WWE.com
2012 has really said a lot about where WWE wants to go. Obviously, they're on a social media kick which has it's pros and cons, but it's nice for WWE not to be so behind the curve it's laughable as they have so often been. Now, if they could just get ahead of that curve, they'd really be rolling. I digress. On the surface, the focus of their product is more entertainment than it's ever been. It might feel that WWE are shying away from building stars in favour of building followings, but I think that's a warped view of what's really going on in the company.

But when we delve a little bit deeper under that surface, something else becomes evident. Things are changing. Or, at least, progressing. WWE are really starting to lay the groundwork for their future more than they have done in years. I know it doesn't feel that way while John Cena has so far taken precedence over everyone and everything, and WWE are giving part time names like Rock and Brock Lesnar the big bucks and the top spots. Those are things which are not unimportant, and they will probably only serve to hinder WWE. But they are only the surface of the product. Because, looking beyond those blemishes (depending how you see it), there are people being positioned to join these names at the top. Slowly but surely. Let's take a look together.

CM Punk has been WWE Champion for over eight months (no small feat in and of itself), and has brought an undeniable air of credibility back to the championship. This hot potato nonsense has ceased, and WWE have allowed Punk's main event ascension to coincide directly with this. It's as if they tasked Punk with bringing the most important title in the company back to it's former glory. Again, it may not feel like it while Punk has been, until now, denied top spots on pay-per-views because of John Cena. But the trust WWE have put in Punk, along with Punk's body of work since becoming champion belies any doubt that he is an important asset to the company and they know it.

On the other brand, Sheamus is doing the same with the World Heavyweight Championship. On the surface it can feel like the World Title means very little to WWE. But, once again, they have coincided the true rise of Sheamus as a main event player with restoring credibility back to that particular Championship. Sheamus has been a dominant, fighting champion since he won it in April. And even before him, when Daniel Bryan was running around with it, the title was the centre of the rapid rise of Bryan. That was an important story, and the title might have been instrumental to it.

While we're here, let's talk about Daniel Bryan. If you'd have told me that in 2012, Bryan would have been a main event (in some fashion) for seven straight pay-per-view events consecutively, I'd have laughed in your face. Not because Bryan isn't talented enough, but for a long while it just didn't seem like WWE had any real interest in Bryan. Right around the end of 2011, that changed. Bryan slowly turned heel, the whole “Yes!” thing started, and off to the races he went. Most telling, perhaps, is that he was entrusted with the crossover segment on the 1,000th Raw. If you understand why the crossover segment is important, you'll get why that is a tell tale note.

Alongside these three, WWE are in the process of rehabilitating a few of their other main event names. Alberto Del Rio's character needs some rehab after some outright awful booking in 2011 that did him more harm than good, not to mention some really unfortunately timed injuries. Similarly, WWE are giving The Miz some time to recuperate as he comes out of a losing streak story. Putting the Intercontinental Title on him, which WWE is bringing back to relevance lately, will help that. WWE just gave Dolph Ziggler the Money in the Bank contract, and is gradually – and it is a gradual thing – rehabilitating his character after horrendous stop start booking, and building him up for the World Title. A feud with Chris Jericho is only going to help Ziggler.

Then, there are guys WWE hope will get to that level. Damien Sandow is perhaps one of the most underrated (in terms of entertainment value) characters WWE has on the entire roster. He can also go inside the ropes, but that has really yet to be proven on the “main shows”. Despite not being all that enthralled with him right now, I have to give WWE credit for their handling of Ryback. We, as fans, always want consistency and careful logic, and so far, WWE has handled the rise of Ryback with both.

You may not be all too thrilled that WWE is pushing social media so hard. The constant plugs for Twitter, Facebook, Tout and... whatever that other one which sounds like a magicians “magic words” is, might get on your nerves. And yeah, there are a plethora of issues in need of addressing below surface level stuff. The tag team and Divas “divisions” are the victims of carelessness and laziness, Divas especially. There is probably a ton more to add to this list, but this article isn't about pointing out flaws.

Take a glance under the surface and you'll find that the company are working hard to build for their future. In some cases, they're actually re-shaping their present. They're putting people who, I think we can all agree are the right choices – Punk, Bryan, Sheamus, Del Rio, Miz, Ziggler – in place. These aren't people who are/will replace John Cena and Randy Orton (if he can hold off on getting canned through drugs). They'll be the guys, as Punk already is, rubbing shoulders with the Cena's and Orton's.

To my mind, if WWE continues the path their treading, they have one hell of a foundation to continue building on. And they're actually doing a really great job of it.