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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Triple-H As New WWE Head? More Like Triple-F

Just around the same time Internet chatter took off about the 2011 “PWI 500,” Triple-H assumed leadership of WWE’s day-to-day operations.

We can tell you that “Trips” didn’t rank in this year’s “500,” due mainly to the amount of time he spent on the injured reserve list during the evaluation period. However, if we were to analyze and rank Triple-H for his early performance as a wrestling executive, he’d appear much closer to the bottom of the list than the top.

Triple-H’s first few weeks in charge have been unimpressive to say the least. And we dare say that if the past 14 days are any indication of how Triple-H intends to run the company, WWE is in for a very chaotic future.

It’s a good thing Triple-H isn’t a baseball player, because after whiffing on his first three front-office challenges, we’d have already benched him in favor of a more reliable batter:

Strike One: Triple-H’s first blunder actually occurred months ago when he made his first WWE talent acquisition by signing Mexican sensation Sin Cara. Sure, the lucha libre star is a scintillating wrestler capable of whipping out highlight-reel maneuvers on a whim. And, yes, he appeals directly to the Hispanic and children markets WWE so covets. Unfortunately though, Sin Cara is currently on the sidelines, waiting out a 30-day suspension for a violation of the WWE Wellness Policy. Making matters worse, Sin Cara discussed the suspension in the press, which the gang in Stamford, Connecticut, couldn't have appreciated.

Of course, Triple-H didn’t cause Sin Cara’s violation, but he reportedly lobbied very strongly for WWE to do the deal. And now, there’s no way around the fact that Cara’s sins reflect poorly on Triple-H’s judgment.

Strike Two: More recently, Triple-H orchestrated the distasteful spectacle of publicly firing WWE Chairman—and his father-in-law—Vince McMahon on Raw.

Triple-H may have been acting at the behest of the WWE Board of Directors when he “future endeavored” Vince, but it takes some pretty big grapefruits to humiliate somebody who not only gives you a job, and a wife, but also the proverbial keys to the family business.

The incident not only calls Triple-H’s judgment into question yet again, but this time WWE employees are left to wonder if values such as loyalty and gratitude mean anything to “The Game.”

Strike Three: Triple-H squandered an opportunity to demonstrate his leadership ability when he completely mismanaged the WWE heavyweight championship situation on Raw.

In a scenario where then-champion CM Punk and former champion John Cena were expected to be gone from the Raw brand after July 17, WWE enters SummerSlam with both men holding claim to the same title, but no unification or elimination match announced for the PPV as yet.

Triple-H had an opportunity to restore clarity to the heavyweight title scene by making some bold and decisive decisions regarding Punk and Cena. Instead, he ordered a championship tourney on Raw that only muddied the waters further by getting Rey Mysterio involved. Triple-H has only himself to blame for the bungled mess the heavyweight title picture has become.

In fairness to Triple-H, nobody expected the transition from active wrestler to very visible front-office executive to be seamless. But while some mistakes are acceptable, Triple-H would’ve been better served by staying off of Raw and Smackdown until he saw a viable way through all the confusion.

Luckily for him (and us), however, there are some ways Triple-H can fix some of his mistakes. Senior Writer Dave Lenker expounds on them in an upcoming feature article in the November 2011 issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated (on sale September 27). Let us know what you think!

Frank Krewda

"PWI 500" Top 10 List A Fraud!

Please dismiss any "PWI 500" top 10 lists you might find on the Internet. The only people who know at this point are the editors and the pressmen at Kappa Graphics, our printer. The only piece of information that has been released is that The Miz is number one.

I have seen the list that is circulating, and it's not even close!

Stu Saks

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Miz: No. 1 In The "PWI 500"!

The man who held the WWE title for 160 days--and then suffered one of the worst slumps of any headliner in company history--has been named number one in the 21st annual "PWI 500."

The official announcement has not yet been made that The Miz was PWI's selection, but today's update of the PWI home page prominently displays the cover with the news. So I figured, Hell, we may as well get the scoop.

I invite you to visit to check out the cover and read the story that includes Miz' somewhat surprising reaction.

One note: Before anyone jumps down our throats for making Miz number one when he's clearly had a hard time of it since scoring a tainted victory over John Cena at WrestleMania 27, please keep in mind that the evaluation period for the "500" is from June 1, 2010, to May 31, 2011.

Stu Saks

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Punk vs. Cena: As Good As It Gets

The entire Pro Wrestling Illustrated  staff has been hard at work as of late, especially with the production one of the biggest issues of the year—the "PWI 500"—which will be on sale at within a week. And so, it’s been tough to find the time to update this blog. All apologies.

But, speaking at least for myself, I know I would have been remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to sound off on one particular bit of news coming out of the WWE over the last couple days. Simply put, for my money (in the bank), CM Punk vs. John Cena from this past Sunday was, hands down, the best match I’ve seen all year. In fact, it’s one of the very best matches I’ve seen in my 30 years as a wrestling fan.

It’s not that uncommon to see a terrific, four-star-plus Match of the Year contender over the course of a year. But a truly great, five-star wrestling masterpiece can be the rarest of gems in this sport. In the tens of thousands of matches I’ve watched, perhaps only a dozen or so might fall into this category. The majority of them include either Ric Flair or Shawn Michaels. One includes both.

For a match to reach the highest levels of artistry, several variables need to fall into place. Yes, athleticism is important, but it’s not everything.

It needs to have a compelling storyline that gives the bout a “big fight” feeling before the bell even sounds. Punk’s recent reality-based promos, and his looming WWE departure, took care of that.

It needs the right setting. Usually, WrestleMania takes care of that part of the equation, but in this case, 14,000-rabid fans in Punk’s hometown of Chicago did the trick.

It needs to have plenty of time to develop. At 34 minutes, this bout never felt rushed, nor did it ever drag.

And, last but certainly not least, it needs to have a solid finish. There were a lot of ways this match could have ended. But Punk's clean pin of Cena, and the jubilation that ensued, was the best.

On what is a typically an off-month pay-per-view during a lull period between WrestleMania and SummerSlam, Punk and Cena managed to place a check mark on each of the categories above and deliver an unlikely match for the ages. What’s more, they also delivered the best match of their respective careers.

Ultimately, it will be up to you, the PWI readers, to determine what 2011’s Match of the Year will be. I imagine The Undertaker’s epic showdown with Triple-H at WrestleMania 27 may give this past Sunday’s bout some serious competition. But there’s something to be said for Punk and Cena having a match as special as they did without the added boost of the WrestleMania stage. 

That’s not to say that 'Taker-Triple-H wasn’t fantastic in its own right. And so was February’s Smackdown Elimination Chamber bout, with its awesome closing minutes involving Edge and Rey Mysterio.

There's certainly some irony in the fact that, in the year that WWE formally decides to vanquish the word "wrestling," it delivers some of the best wrestling it ever has.

-Al Castle
Pro Wrestling Illustrated Senior Writer