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A Sting in the tale

I’m glad I’m not the only one who noticed the set-up for a future John Cena heel turn, as The Masked Man writes on Grantland about the ‘Chekhov’s Gun’ of the erstwhile wrestling rapper’s newfound power to reinstate The Authority as ‘the powers that be’ in WWE. It’s a twist that was clearly designed to plant the seed in every Cena-hater’s mind that there may come a day when the children’s champion swerves on the good people of the ‘WWE Universe’ (I hate that phrase so much) and throws in his lot with Triple H and Stephanie and company. That it will likely never happen is completely beside the point; it’s enough for the smarks to be flattered that Creative put something in there for them to ‘get’ and feel smug about. That’s some nice misdirection, there.

I could even say the same about Dolph Ziggler going over in a big way in the main event of last Sunday’s Survivor Series. For so long the real fans’ favourite, his ‘sole survivor’ victory for his team against all the odds (from a three-on-one handicap to blatant interference by the dastardly Authority) was certainly a nice surprise, and made what was an above-average PPV that much better. But let’s be honest, it’s chum to the sharks of the Internet Wrestling Community, just like Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins headlining Hell in a Cell last month, or Daniel Bryan’s WrestleMania main event earlier this year (those are just the latest in a long list going back to Benoit and Guerrero at WrestleMania XX).

Ziggler’s been pushed to the hilt before only for the office to lose interest almost immediately, and his big night was ultimately a catalyst for the debut of Sting for the first time ever in a WWE ring. And yeah, I marked out hard for that. So what if he was always around, slumming it in TNA for years? This is different! Of course it’s an unashamed nostalgia kick for fans my age, and the signs are promising for what’s to come; he’s got a decent entrance theme for one, which is a rarity these days, and he hasn’t spoken a word yet, so they’re keeping the mystery for now.

While we’re on the subject of speaking and mysteries, CM Punk stole the show this week when he appeared on Colt Cabana’s excellent podcast to finally break his silence on his departure from WWE. Like most fans I was disappointed to see him go when he disappeared after the Royal Rumble, but hardly surprised. He wasn’t a factor in the main event picture on the road to WrestleMania, and he didn’t look that well on TV, either.

Turns out he wasn’t well, at all, as he’d been nuking his digestive flora with antibiotics for months while suffering from an undiagnosed staph infection. That’s on top of the broken ribs and knee injuries he says he’d been working through, so really, can you blame the man for saying ‘fuck it’ and going home to heal up? I certainly didn’t, and I wished him well, though I admit to being as curious as anyone as to what really went down, and feeling a little wound-up by his refusal to talk. Which is a completely selfish and unfair way to think; he’s a man living his life and he doesn’t owe me anything.

Well he gave us one hell of a Thanksgiving treat today in laying down his side of the story, which doesn’t put WWE in a good light at all. Rather than me recapping it here, have a listen for yourself. (But I will say this: firing the man on his wedding day? That’s just mean, and has Vince stamped all over it. I can even picture him now screaming his order for the FedEx, neck bulging and face red, bellowing about how he ‘made’ Punk and what an ungrateful ingrate he is and so on. I know you can see it too.)

For sure, people are going to sensationalise it, saying he’s bashing the company out of bitterness and settling grudges and whatnot. But the biggest thing that comes out of it for me? His sadness at losing his love for wrestling. Maybe he expected too much, maybe he believed he had the pull to change the system from the inside, maybe he thought if he played the game enough he could make WWE a better place not just for him but for his fellow wrestling nerds who make up the bulk of the midcard, the guys who wow on NXT week after week but you know will never get a sniff at a main event spot.

Listening to the man speak his own mind about the past year and more, there’s a wistfulness that’s undeniable. He loved wrestling, and the WWE killed that love. He tried to play the game, but The Game played him. And while he says he’s happy — he sounds happy for the most part, and he’s definitely healthier away from the ring — I get the feeling he’s had trouble getting over that.