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KELLER'S TAKE
KELLER: Why Ziggler should not have lost to Cena on Raw, and what it says about WWE's flawed booking philosophy

Nov 29, 2012 - 2:41:51 PM
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By Wade Keller, PWTorch editor

Yesterday I wrote about Titus O'Neil jobbing to Ryback, made a case for why it hurt Titus unnecessarily, and proposed how it could have been presented more effectively.

Another finish on Raw on Monday had even more people questioning WWE's booking - John Cena pinning Dolph Ziggler. Despite distractions outside the ring and a bum knee, Cena pinned Ziggler in a showcase match on Raw.

Most people, myself included, believed the match should have been saved for a pay-per-view, not given away on Raw. But even more so, I think almost everyone thought Cena pinning Ziggler decisively was the worst idea. A double-countout, a DQ, interference leading to a Ziggler win, even interference backfiring and costing Ziggler the match all would have been better finishes.

Normally, clean finishes are worthy of applause. Bookers tend to get too cute with finishes, too worried about "damaging" a wrestler or bruising an ego or sending a message to fans that a wrestler who loses isn't any good. Like all rules of thumb, though, context is vital and exceptions are warranted.

In the case of Ziggler, he is a wrestler fans are embracing as a potential future main event star because of his incredible athleticism and blossoming heel personality and promos. Yes, the mainstream WWE audience boos him and, if WWE is doing its job, wants to see him lose as often as possible. However, fans have to see him as a star and as a threat for his losses to mean something.

Think of your favorite sports team. If they are .500 and they beat a team below them in the standings, it's nice but not thrilling. It's "expected." But if they beat the first place team ahead of them in the standings, it's a "statement win" and much more satisfying. Same thing if they beat a rival. WWE needs more Celtics-Lakers 1980s rivalries and fewer Bulls-TrailBlazers 1990s rivalries where one side always wins.

Ziggler has yet to be fully established as a heel who can not only hang with a top tier babyface, but be in the running to beat him. Losing to Cena defines him down, cements him as something other than a main event heel. WWE needs Ziggler to be seen as a main event threat. He needs to be built up so when a babyface does beat him, it really means something. He's not there yet.

I understand WWE's desire to keep Cena strong in general, but the finish Monday night indicated they are exclusively worried about keeping Cena strong, while content to let Ziggler be used as a means to an ends, relying on his incredible athleticism and growing personality to make up for his diminished credibility. WWE could find a balance, and with Ziggler they should. He's worth being treated better than Jack Swagger or Ted DiBiase or Drew McIntyre were when they were jobbing out on TV to top-tier stars week after week.

There is also the theory that Cena won on TV because he's going to lose on PPV. It's WWE's even-steven booking philosophy that at times is counter-productive to business. If Cena beats Ziggler in front of five million people clean with a pinfall despite interference helping Ziggler and a bum knee, but Ziggler beats Cena in front of a fraction of that viewership on PPV in a gimmick match, Ziggler ultimately is damaged. That's not even-steven booking at all, despite the 1-1 record between them in those two matches. It's a false attempt to protect Cena. The better way to strengthen Cena is to line up credible heels for him to overcome.

What good does it do Cena to have no tough competition? Or, to beat someone who always loses, but takes great bumps while losing? In a sports-like environment, the home team (babyface wrestler) needs big wins over tough, credible rivals to have a successful season. Ziggler losing on TV in the manner he did was a bad call that did everyone harm - Ziggler, Cena, the fans, and WWE's bottom line.

WWE's booking makes it more difficult than it has to be to create new stars, especially when it comes to heels. Given that Cena had an injured knee, he should have lost on Raw on Monday. Then the announcers could tell the story that a healthy Cena surely would have a better chance to beat Ziggler. Meanwhile, Ziggler should make sure fans never hear the end of his victory over Cena, ignoring and denying that he had an unfair advantage because of the knee injury Cena suffered and aggravated in their locker room brawl last week.

(Wade Keller founded Pro Wrestling Torch as a newsletter in 1987. Issue #1281 will be published digitally and a print copy mailed worldwide to thousands of subscribers this week. He also hosts the daily PWTorch Livecast on Tuesdays and Fridays. He interviews live former WWE Creative Team member John Carle this Friday at 5:30 ET at www.blogtalkradio.com/pro-wrestling-torch.) 



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