Wrestling Flashback – The CM Punk/Daniel Bryan/AJ Lee Love Triangle

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Lighting up WWE television in 2012 was the “mentally unstable” AJ Lee, becoming the most popular woman on the roster since her major push began as she was the squeeze of World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan. AJ was the neglected girlfriend of the World Champion, who had started to become cocky following his World title victory at TLC 2011. Despite this, AJ still continued to stay with Daniel and even accompanied him to ringside for his big WrestleMania 28 title defense against Sheamus. Daniel requested a good luck kiss from AJ after the bell ran. After the kiss, Daniel walked into a Brogue Kick by Sheamus who pinned him after 18 seconds.

Deeming the kiss as the “kiss of death” Daniel dumped AJ, leaving her heart-broken. AJ began becoming psychologically lost in the ring, with the end of her relationship taking a major toll on her. In one particular match on SmackDown!, Natalya attempted to console AJ during their match. AJ suddenly snapped and attacked Natalya, with the match thrown out due to AJ being unable to control her emotions.

This lead to a major angle involving three men “vying” for the affection of AJ, ¬†with one of those men happening to be the WWE Champion CM Punk. Her ex Daniel as well as the “Big Red Machine” Kane were feuding with CM Punk over the WWE title, with AJ becoming the puppet-master. These tactics included kissing Kane in order to win herself and Punk a tag team match on RAW and even dressing up like Kane. After No Way Out 2012, Kane distanced himself from the feud, even calling AJ “mentally unstable.”

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Punk and Bryan continued to fight for the WWE Championship, with AJ doing her best to gain the attention of both men. AJ’s antics included kissing Punk and pushing both men through a table and even proposing to CM Punk on RAW. AJ was the special guest referee during Punk and Bryan’s no disqualification match at Money In The Bank. AJ continued to play both men before Punk eventually picked up the victory.

I really enjoyed this program between AJ, Punk, Bryan and Kane. How none of their matches never got a pay-per-view main event is beyond me, but AJ became the first diva in years to become a major part of a main event program. The thing I really liked about AJ and this program is that everybody’s actions made sense – EVEN AJ. AJ was playing as the puppet-master all along, manipulating the situation initially to get the affections of CM Punk. Punk did console AJ as soon as Bryan dumped her, so it made sense for Punk to be of AJ’s interest. Even CM Punk’s actions make sense, doing what he thought was best for AJ. He didn’t love AJ but he liked her enough as a close friend in order to take whatever craziness AJ had in store. Punk was not really made to look like a fool, as his main intention above all was to still be the WWE Champion. This mindset actually played into Punk’s heel turn at RAW 1000, with Punk doing whatever it took to protect his title reign.

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Unfortunately for Kane, he was the bumbling boob of the entire story. Kane was initially brought into the program by Punk and Bryan, in order to play them off against each other in matches on RAW. Following this, Kane interjected himself into the WWE title picture. Then AJ started messing with him, which leads to Kane eventually stepping his foot down after No Way Out. The main focus of the feud was Punk, Bryan and AJ, but Kane played a small but necessary role in this storyline. Finally, there’s Daniel Bryan. Daniel’s character in this storyline was really well written. Bryan broke up with AJ due to his selfish desires to become champion. When AJ gets involved, Bryan still insists that he has no feelings for AJ. Despite this, he still continues to try and stir the pot with Kane and Punk. Bryan’s main concern is becoming the WWE Champion, so why not mess with the guys that AJ has feelings for?

When AJ is made the special guest referee for Money In The Bank, Bryan must change AJ’s perception of him in order to try and win her influence. He gets her roses, shows concern and even proposes to her himself. At the end, Bryan’s efforts are unsuccessful as Punk retains. Bryan’s main goal was to become WWE Champion. Punk’s goal was to become WWE Champion but also support AJ. Kane’s goal was to cause destruction, with everybody else using him as their “hired gun” if you will. AJ, on top of all of this, is messing with EVERYONE but not totally evil. She’s just… mentally unstable.

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Leading into RAW 1000, Daniel still continued to court AJ and proposed to her once again. She accepts and the wedding is set for RAW 1000. However, it is revealed that AJ has accepted a proposal from Vince McMahon to become the general manager of RAW. At the end of the day, AJ gained power and now can mess with Daniel Bryan officially as his boss.

Overall, I think this was a great program. I have more Wrestling Flashbacks planned with regards to AJ but I will state that I believe that this was the best that AJ was ever written by WWE. I’ll have a lot to say as AJ’s character is so badly messed up in the last few years of her career when thinking about it in hindsight. What her character would become is nowhere near as detailed and fleshed out as what her character was like in this storyline. This storyline gained her insane popularity and it’s not like she was playing your average crazy diva. She was a sweet but calculated master manipulator… that the fans still cheered!

Wrestling Flashback – The Batista vs John Cena Feud

As much as I’m a huge fan of John Cena, so many times has Cena won feuds which he really shouldn’t have. Recent feuds with up-and-comers like Rusev and Bray Wyatt saw the potential of these monster heels prematurely squashed by the leader of the Cenation. But there was one feud in particular which I was extremely annoyed about the treatment of Cena’s opponent. It is a former multi-time World Champion that had just turned heel once more and was really establishing himself as the top guy in the company once again. But when he squared off with Cena, it was bad news for this man. The man I’m talking about of course… was Batista.

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Now don’t get me wrong. This rivalry… was good. The foundations of the entire story have been in place for years. Cena and Batista were two men that broke out into the big time on EXACTLY the same night. They both won world championships at Wrestlemania 21, honing in a new era for WWE. Their paths never really crossed each other when it came to in-ring action until Summerslam, where Batista defeated John Cena in their first ever one-on-one match. With his win, Batista had broken Cena’s neck. With Batista turning heel shortly afterwards and Cena getting involved in the animosity between Bret Hart and Vince McMahon, a program was inevitable.

For a build to Wrestlemania, this was brilliantly well done. That’s probably my biggest complaint about Wrestlemania 31 in general. The build for some of these matches were shocking. Batista and Cena’s feud on the other hand had plenty to work with considering their last meeting resulted in a broken neck. Whether it necessarily needed to be a WWE Title feud is something I’d question tough. Surely Batista vs Cena should sell on its own merit. Yeah, Batista being a heel champion is very cool and a long time coming. However, it took away from the up-and-comer heel Sheamus tremendously with him being considered nothing more than a paper champion at the time. Despite that, everything checks out so far.

Batista in this era… was OUTSTANDING. Batista’s initial run as a heel was fantastic to watch. With Batista being a good guy ever since 2005, this turn was largely overdue. As a good guy, Batista was very limited to what he had to say. But as a heel, he was golden EVERY TIME he was on the mic. In his exchanges with Cena, Batista tore Cena apart. This one below in particular was probably the best I’ve ever seen Batista promo-wise.

Their matches… do not live long in the memory. These two weren’t exactly the greatest of chemistry in the ring. You could tell by the fact that the most the commentary team cheered for in the Wrestlemania match was a Five Knuckle Shuffle off the top rope. This has always annoyed me looking back, particularly PLAYING it back on WWE 2k14. You mean to tell me that THIS was the highlight point of the match? However, what we really did hurt the match was the winner… John Cena.

If you think about it in the long-run, if the plan was to have Sheamus win the WWE Championship anyway, why does John Cena need to be champion? Yeah, it’d make more sense for a face to be the one Sheamus beats for the title. However, this would do Batista no favors at all, provided he was going to be still in the company around the time. Or at least if WWE just HAD to have Cena win the feud and the title, why did it need to happen at Wrestlemania? Surely Batista needed it more?

The thing which made these matches really suffer was the predictability of ALL of them. At least one win for Batista at Wrestlemania would shake things up a little bit. Then again if Jericho was gonna walk out World Heavyweight Champion anyway, then probably two heel champions wouldn’t be the greatest way to end the show. Unless Edge were to win the title, which I think he probably should. To be honest, that entire PPV was a mess and I might just leave that for another time!

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So where did this feud go from here? To Extreme Rules. And sadly, their Last Man Standing rematch barely lived up to the name “extreme”. The match ended when Cena tied Batista’s foot to the ropes and the ref counted the 10 with Batista not being able to escape. Now to Over Th….

Sorry I can’t get over that. Cena TIED HIS FEET TO THE ROPE and BEAT HIM. Of the potential cool Last Man Standing match finishes that you could do, you did the one that made BOTH men look incredibly weak! What kind of champion, a face champion even, would tie a man’s foot to the ropes in order to keep him down. The rules of the match are usually that you have to incapacitate your opponent so they can’t respond to the count of ten. All Cena did was wrap his feet to the rope with DUCK TAPE and got the win. How does that make him look strong? How does that make Batista look strong? It makes Dave look like a complete idiot at not being able to escape having his feet tied to the rope. To quote TeamFourStar’s version of DBZ fighter Piccolo, in this situation that makes him no doubt the big, tough, stupid one of the two. Worst last man standing match finish ever….

So the last match in this trilogy, Over The Limit 2010. The I Quit match. “The Animal” Batista’s last hurrah before leaving WWE. And he went out on more of a whimper than a bang. It was not really a fantastic end to this feud. To be fair, the Oklahoma Slam spot through the announce table was a pretty cool spot. But it’s a spot that we’ve seen before from Batista and surely they could have done something different. It ended with Batista shouting “I Quit” in fear off being AA’d off a car and through the floor. However, Cena did the AA anyway and Cena reigned supreme. The feud came to an end when Batista quit on RAW the next night having being confined to a wheel chair.

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So that about wraps up the feud between these two. I personally believe that the build to their match at Wrestlemania 26 was actually really well done. Batista was gold as a heel and was the perfect soil for Cena… until he lost at Wrestlemania. I have to say, I’ve always been annoyed at WWE for how they booked Batista after he lost the first match. In the end, he just seemed like a bumbling monster having lost to Cena three times in a row on PPV. It’s a common flaw for WWE with regards to their booking for Wrestlemanias. They always seem to struggle having put all their effort into the grand daddy of them all and the follow-up PPV/feuds always seem to be a little disappointing. I just hope in 2015, they don’t make the same mistakes they made here.