Remember the top of the WWE landscape in 2011? The face of the company John Cena was embroiled in a feud with CM Punk. Not only was Punk one of the best in-ring technicians of the modern-era, but he was masterful on the mic and brought a feeling of unpredictability.
Fast-forward to 2015 and the main event of WrestleMania 31 saw Brock Lesnar, a world champion who hadn’t defended his title in four months, take on Roman Reigns, a raw talent that the WWE Universe refused to accept as the face of the future. Those were some dark times.
Now, it seems as though the WWE has seen the light and captured lightning in a bottle with the main-event picture pitting Reigns, the current world heavyweight champion, against AJ Styles with Bullet Club-alums Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson lurking in the background. For the first time in a long time, there is an air of uncertainty regarding where the storyline is going, and the hosts at Busted Open Radio haven’t been this excited since Punk was running the show.
“It’s similar in this respect: the reason we were attracted to CM Punk other than that he was so good at what he did, is that he was bringing change,” Dave LaGreca said on Tuesday’s broadcast. “He brought excitement because there was change. We’re seeing a little bit of that now, it’s not the same-old, same-old. I think we’re attracted to it because we’re not used to it, we’re not used to the main event storyline being this intriguing.”
Sunday’s WWE Payback pay-per-view main event between Regins and Styles was the highlight of the night with a strong performance by both superstars. We also got interference from Gallows and Anderson, as expected. The WWE followed that up with this week’s edition of Monday Night Raw closing with a brawl that was not only entertaining to watch, but compelling from a storytelling-standpoint.
Styles, Gallows and Anderson had defeated Reigns and his cousins The Usos in a six-man tag match. Anderson and Gallows then implored Styles to attack Reigns with a steel chair, which he refused, leading to The Usos attacking the former Bullet Club stablemates. Styles turned his rage towards The Usos, igniting a fire under Reigns to brutally attack Styles and powerbomb him through a table.
Fun, right? An ending like this raises a bunch of questions: Is a heel-turn imminent for Roman Reigns? Is a breakup between Styles and Anderson and Gallows coming? Is former Bullet Club member and current NXT standout Finn Balor somehow involved, and will he be jumping to the main roster soon? Nobody knows what’s going to happen, and that is incredibly exciting.
“There are a lot of question marks, but these are all good question marks,” Doug Mortman said. “These are all intriguing shades of gray.”
Another intriguing aspect Mortman and LaGreca discussed was the WWE’s blurring of the lines between heels and faces. Both Reigns and Styles are billed as faces, but have displayed some heel tendencies during their current rivalry. It’s no longer “good guy vs. bad guy,” as the WWE Universe will cheer for whoever regardless of their billing.
“Really you gotta think of this gray-area when it comes to the WWE, as Triple H coined the phrase of ‘the reality-era,’” LaGreca said. “It really has come to that point where this gray-area is now in the main event picture.”
It’s a bit of a surprise that the top of the WWE is as hot as it is considering the company’s biggest star, John Cena, has been out of action for the past five months due to shoulder surgery. Former world champion Seth Rollins had his title-reign cut short because of a torn ACL last year. Veteran superstar Randy Orton has also missed extended time. With the WWE already trending upwards without these top performers, what will we see when they all return?
“What I do suspect because of the influx of (new) talent and with the return of some of these guys, is that you’re gonna be able to add a piece here and there,” Mortman said. “You already have Cena on the docket for the end of May, then you can add in Orton at some point. Give a sprinkle of this guy, sprinkle of that guy, and then Rollins comes back. That’s a big piece to add to the puzzle.”
Busted Open Radio airs Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays at 2-4 pm ET on SiriusXM Rush.