wrestling / Columns

Csonka: WWE Fortunes Can Really Change in 6-Years

December 25, 2017 | Posted by Larry Csonka
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WELCOME back to column time with Larry! Today, I am going to take a look back into he not too far away past, six-years ago to be exact. Six-years may not seem like much but in the wrestling business, which moves so fast, it can at times feel like an eternity. Today we take a look back on a time when Punk, Bryan, Cody, Zack, Kofi, Evan, and Beth ruled the WWE title scene. It was new, it was fresh, it gave fans hope; it felt like a whole new world back in 2011. Today I am going to take a look back on where they were then and where they ended up, and we have some drastically different destinations to discuss. Anyway, I hope that you enjoy today’s preview, and feel free to share your thoughts. It’s wrestling, we love it and will disagree. The only rules are “have a take, be respectful of other’s opinions and don’t be a dick.”

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Beth Phoenix: Beth Phoenix is a former four-time WWE Women’s/Divas champion, and a WWE Hall of Famer. The above photo shows her with her final WWEW title run, which lasted from October 2011 to April 2012. After losing the title, and disappointing Vickie Guerrero, she was “storyline” fired, which was a cover for her departure. Depending on who you believe, she had given notice several months prior due to a family issue, or she didn’t re-sign with the company. Whatever the case was, it was her decision to leave. Since her departure, she seems completely happy in life, and that is all that counts. She is married to Edge, has two daughters and, I believe either earned or is working on earning a college degree. Beth is one of the most loved women from a time when the wrestling wasn’t the best, because she worked her ass off to be a good wrestler, and I love that she has found so much happiness in life after wrestling. I could see her popping up in the women’s rumble as a surprise.

Matt Sydal: During this time, Matt Sydal was known as Evan Bourne and was half of the tag team champions with Kofi Kingston. But two wellness violations and suffering a severely broken and dislocated ankle in a car accident eventually led to a WWE release. When “Evan Bourne” was released by WWE back in 2014, he fell off the radar for many people, and that’s a shame. Sydal was been great on the independent scene; a rock in ROH, being part of several awesome tag and multi-man matches and also serving as a mentor of sorts to younger talents like ACH. His veteran leadership was invaluable to ROH, and his tag team in NJPW with Ricochet was also great as they were one of the most exciting teams going due to their speed and highflying abilities. His run in the BOTSJ tournament was very good, showing that he could go just as well on his own as in the tag environment. But Sydal, Ricochet and Kojima were stripped of the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship due to Sydal failing to make a scheduled title defense after it was revealed that he had actually been arrested upon entering Japan with 2.12 grams of liquid marijuana hidden within an electronic cigarette. This ended his NJPW run after he pled guilty to the charges and accepted three years of probation as his sentence. He signed with Impact Wrestling this year and has been a fun part of the roster.

Kofi Kingston: Kofi was one half of the tag champions here with Evan Bourne, and after losing the tag titles to the Colons, and eventually had another short term tag team with R-Truth. Kofi then largely became just another guy, but did rack up some IC & US title win. But it wasn’t until the middle of 2014 when Kofi finally found what he was looking for, stability in the form of The New Day. New Day has become one of the most popular acts on the roster, and are not only over big time, but they have found championship success and become merchandise movers for WWE. Kofi is the elder statesman and mentor of the group, finding his place in the company along with success. He kept working hard, and was finally rewarded for that and made the most of the chances given to him.

Zack Ryder: 2011 saw Ryder do exactly what WWE asks their talent do to, take initiative and get yourself over, and he did so online with the creation of Z! True Long Island Story.But while he seemingly did what was asked, he got himself over too much, and while the WWE fans embraced him, management seemingly fought back. While he did win the US title, it was short lived and he was shuffled down the card and WWE threw away everything Ryder built. He as made to look like a fool as he chased Eve Torres, made to look like a total geek by Kane, and Torres even turned on him at WrestleMania. He became just another guy and even took a trip to NXT to work with Mojo Rawley as a tag team. Things seemed to turn around for Ryder as e won the IC Title at WrestleMania 32. He got his WrestleMania moment, but lost the title the very next night to the Miz. The company teased pushing him after that, and then he and Rawley became a main roster tag team. A knee injury killed the teams momentum, and when he returned, the company did a long burn on the team breaking up, with Rawley turning on Ryder. Ryder is back to square one, and I highly doubt that the company has any real plans for him moving forward. To me, he is a guy that could have been and should have been so much more. I will never claim that Ryder should have been a multiple-time world champion, but he should have been a reliable mid-card guy, holding the IC & US titles more often and been a guy that could have conceivable been used as an upper mid-card guy and occasional world title challenger.

CM Punk: CM Punk was a guy that many had high hopes for in WWE, but also a guy that may feared would never get the chance in the company. During his run in WWE, he won the ECW title, the World title 3 times and WWE title 2 times (one for 434 days), picked up a tag tile run as well as an IC title run and two MITB wins. In all honesty I think Punk accomplished way more than anyone expected in WWE, not due to lack of talent, but due to the fact that he was not the prototypical WWE guy. He was brash, outspoken and reportedly “had heat” with a lot of management, but it couldn’t have been that bad considering the 434-day WWE title run. He even got to face the Undertaker in an excellent WrestleMania match, and that is seemingly where his issues with WWE really started. He felt the match should have main evented, and even though WWE called it a main event, Punk felt betrayed after being paid less than the other wrestlers in the three biggest matches of WrestleMania 29.This also led to claims that he felt neutered creatively and after doing favors for the company was never rewarded after being told he would. And it got worse. Punk was in the 2014 Royal Rumble, but after his elimination, was chokeslammed through a table by Kane. He then didn’t appear on raw or Smackdown and rumors stared that he walked out on the company. In the summer he said he was never coming back to wrestling and in November, he appeared on Colt Cabana’s Art of Wrestling podcast, breaking his silence and going scorched earth on WWE. He revealed he walked out, was suspended, was officially fired on his wedding day, said he wasn’t properly paid for royalties, and was working through an untreated and potentially fatal MRSA infection, broken ribs, injured knees, and multiple concussions including one at the Royal Rumble. He basically claimed that WWE’s Dr. Chris Amann was guilty of malpractice; this led to Amann filing a lawsuit for defamation against Punk and Cabana, which is still ongoing. Punk transitioned his star power and love of MMA into a deal with the UFC. After several delays, and training under Duke Roufus at Roufusport MMA, Punk finally debuted at UFC 203,losing to Mickey Gall at in 2:14 of round one via decision. It may have been a humiliating loss, but Punk made a disclosed salary of $500,000 is rumored to have cleared $1 million for the fight. There have been rumors that he will fight again, but as of today, no fight has been announced.

Daniel Bryan: I loved Daniel Bryan and was a big fan of the guy; while he won the US Title, and a great run with Team Hell No and was part of the programming, I never expected much else. He had his great matches, he cemented his legacy to me, and now I was happy that the guy had the chance to make some great money while his body could still hold up. Thankfully he was going to do more than just hang in the midcard and put on good matches. He got a run with the world title, he had a damn-entertaining run with Kane as a tag team, and Daniel Bryan and Friends vs. The Shield made for some amazing WWE TV matches. Bryan grew in importance within WWE, and while I was still not thinking he’d be “the guy,” I was more than happy to watch his rise and hope for the best. But again, the journey wasn’t over and there were bigger accomplishments to come. The fact that he got to main event a Summerslam with John Cena was an accomplishment that I felt would be the culmination of his WWE career, and then he beat Cena clean as a sheet. Bryan did something that is a rarity in WWE, and the popularity he had and the fact that the “WWE Universe” did not want to be force fed Randy Orton, Triple H, the Authority or a returning Dave Batista led to one of the coolest stories for this wrestling fan. The man I saw so many times have these great and even classic matches in front of a few hundred people at best became the focus of a WrestleMania. Not only was he the focus and not only did he put on two excellent matches, he beat Triple H, Randy Orton and Dave Batista on that show to walked out as the champion. It was a great moment as a fan of Bryan’s to see the victory, to see the reaction and be part of the rise of someone I had watched for so long. It was something I never thought would happen. But for Bryan, it was a culmination of a journey, one where he wanted to prove that he was not only the best, but that in the land of the giants and a world full of no, he said yes and proved that he could do it. Unfortunately the journey did not continue, the king did not reign long and there was only uncertainty for Bryan and his fans. After fifteen years of blood, sweat, tears, injuries and a collection of some of the best matches I ever got to see, Bryan’s body finally started to give in. Shortly after his victory he announced he would have to undergo neck surgery as he was losing strength in his arm. I can only imagine the pain and frustration; he finally conquered Everest and was basically having it taken away from him. But he got one of the greatest WrestleMania moments of all time, and one his fans will never forget. But he had his future to worry about, he had a new wife, and fans had no idea if he would return. While he did return, it was short-lived as a concussion took him out of action. Bryan was forced into retirement by WWE due to concussion issues, but has stayed part of the WWE family through Total Bellas, Total Divas and his GM role on Smackdown. Bryan loves wrestling, but not exactly the thing he’s doing right now. He wants to go back in the ring, Brie supports him and he seems to have done a ton of research and gone to all the right places to try and do it safely. If WWE doesn’t clear him to wrestle, Bryan will wrestle when his contract ends. likely for CMLL, NJPW, & ROH. By all accounts, he’s happy in life, and has a beautiful wife and daughter; if he comes back I hope he does so as safe as possible and with a renewed style that will hopefully limit head trauma as much as you can in pro wrestling.

Cody: Cody was the IC Champion here, and looked as if he was finally on the cusp of becoming a singles star. He brought back the classic IC title design, but unfortunately, his run as IC champion was more about him carrying around a prop as the title really didn’t mean much as he feuded with Randy Orton, Orton largely beat him like a drum but never cared about winning the title. Shortly after that, Cody aligned with Damien Sandow as Team Rhodes Scholars. They had a largely fin run together, which ended when Sandow fucked over Cody to win the MITB match. Cody stole Sandow’s chocolate briefcase as they feuded, trying to ruin his cash in attempts. But he really didn’t have to do so as Sandow cashed in against a weakened John Cena and lost anyway. In what may have been the best run of his career, Cody would reunite with brother Goldust, battling against the Shield and Authority. They had some great matches, had a tag title run and had a great reunion on screen with father Dusty Rhodes. The run had great matches, made you emotionally invested, and was just flat out fun. But the run of the Rhodes boys ended prematurely, and after a losing streak, Cody became Stardust, in tribute to his father and a different take on the Goldust character, with a comic book villain twist. While Cody worked really hard at the character, it never really connected with me. This eventually led to a split from the brothers, and a feud that ended up being nothing. Stardust eventually teamed up with the Ascension, but it was a dead end and he tried to get out of the character, especially after Dusty died, but after several months of pitching ideas, and nothing happening, he requested and was given his release from WWE. If I am being completely honest, I think that Cody orchestrated one of the best modern WWE departures; it was smart, well planned and it worked to make him feel like a bigger star than he was in WWE. Cody was not happy with his role in the company, wanted out and planned very well for it with his list. Many thought that the list was silly, but he created a buzz by listing some of the most popular indie acts and events. Cody reportedly priced himself smartly, picked up a ton of bookings right away and did it on his terms; he didn’t want to be a contracted talent, and wanted to basically “work the territories” as much as possible. This led to him working TNA Bound For Glory, ROH Final Battle and then NJPW WrestleKingdom following his release, which is a hell of an accomplishment. He got locked in with NJPW & ROH and most importantly, the Young Bucks. Love them or hate them in the ring, those boys know how to market themselves, get booked, and most importantly make money. Cody is completely happy post WWE, it having the time of his life and has done extremely well for himself. I still find him completely average in the ring, because he’s never found his own identity. He’s a great character, carries himself like a star, but doesn’t come across like a main event guy in between the ropes. It’s not that he can’t deliver, because he can, but I feel at times things get lost in translation in what he thinks he’s doing in the ring and how it comes across. But he’s certainly found success and did so on his own terms.

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– Thanks for reading.

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“Byyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyye Felicia!”