Well, the one thing you see on the internet today involving wrestling is story after story about the debut of Curtis Axel. I originally planned to write an article about it as well, as I already had my big pitch a little back about changing the character and repackaging Joe Hennig to build him as a star. With everyone doing that currently, I’m going to take this in another direction. I’m going to talk about the ending to Raw that seems to have angered so many fans. I may be the only person who actually is willing to admit that I actually like the ending of the show. While many feel that it crapped on the debut of the new character, but if you look at it deeper it helps to build up both Brock Lesnar as a badass and Curtis Axel as an intelligent worker.
Most people are looking at the matchup and saying that they think Triple H made himself look dominant, first by the slap during his promo, then during the match by getting the upper hand at first. While Axel looked impressive in the little offensive flurry they allowed him to break into, he didn’t quite get to take the lead and get the victory over Triple H cleanly. First off, if someone truly thought a repackaged worker was going to take down a living legend (no matter what Bret Hart thinks) in their redebut match, they are CLEARLY delusional. While I’m a fan of Joe Hennig and love that he’s getting a chance with a somewhat less absurd name selection, I’m willing to admit that putting him over Triple H cleanly right away is a bad idea. It sets too high of a bar, making it much harder to climb the ladder as his career continues.
Another complaint is that it was a fairly anticlimactic ending to a show that had been pretty damn stellar to that point, from the F-bomb, to the 6 man tag match, the debut promo with Heyman, and the final match of the night, to end the show with Triple H not being able to get back into the ring seems to boggle people’s minds. I’ll admit that I had to start searching the internet to see if there had been any reports of legitimacy to the ending, as I had been showering and missed the majority of it (although I watched it on DVR this morning) making the lines between reality and storyline blur in my mind. If I had been a new fan, just turning it, this moment would hook me in to see either Smackdown or next week’s Raw in order to see what was going on with Triple H. To someone who’s just looking on the surface, it was horrible; to me it was a massively psychological moment, one I haven’t seen on Raw in some time.
Paying attention to the announce table and the way Axel aimed when it came to his offensive flurry, the ring psychology was great. The night prior Triple H had been brutalized by Brock Lesnar in a cage match, taking a sledgehammer shot to the side of his head. Selling that, he played the concussion angle, while THAT may or may not have been the best thing to do, it worked well in my opinion. With all the issues surrounding concussions in sports, this may have been a risky sell, but sometimes you have to make a risk to get a massive reward. Axel doesn’t come off weak in this matchup as he wasn’t manhandled my Triple H, instead he got to put pressure on Triple H’s head trauma to a point where he couldn’t finish the match. Anyone who can’t see the deeper meaning to the finish isn’t looking hard enough. Unlike the horrible finish to the Ryback match the night before, this time the lack of a true finish is actually a good sign for everyone.
Following Monday night, Triple H now has the built in storyline of his family stepping in to try persuading him to stop getting in the ring and working matches. This keeps him in the game and in the running for matches during the rest of his current performer’s contract. Curtis Axel can now talk about how he was able to do something seemingly impossible, render Triple H unable to finish a match, which can help push him up the ladder. He may not have taken the match, but he’s got now got one up on a legend. Paul Heyman is getting the last laugh in his current storyline, the mad scientist is now getting his chance to step in and bring another star to the dance. While he’s got Lesnar and Punk, he now got the young up and comer to fill out the stable. Brock Lesnar has also been helped by looking even more dominant by taking out Triple H. He’s going to be put over as having been so brutal that all it took was a little work to the head by Curtis Axel the next night to achieve a “Game over.” While some choose to see it as a failed attempt to relaunch a character, if you look beyond the surface you’ll see just how big this moment truly was for all those involved.