Conflict and tension between authority figures and superstars are by no means new concepts in the world of professional wrestling.
The most obvious example comes in the form of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's crusade against WWE CEO Vince McMahon. That duo battled on the microphone, in the boardroom and in the ring.
Many have debated whether the ongoing CM Punk vs. John Laurinaitis issues can reach the fever pitch of McMahon-Austin. But really, these overly analytical fans need to let the past be the past and let this feud blossom into its own.
Not helping matters any is the clustered nature of the feud to begin with. Rather than allowing Punk and Laurinaitis to develop the angle on their own, other superstars and authority figures have become intertwined, muddling the scenario.
From Triple H to Kevin Nash and Dolph Ziggler to McMahon himself, too many secondary players have joined the cast of the Punk-Laurinaitis tale for it to reach its full potential.
The roots of the story - and its illogical complexity - stem from how Laurinaitis came to power to begin with. McMahon, as CEO, attempted to screw Punk out of the title at Money in the Bank. Triple H informed McMahon the Board of Directors was removing him from power and installing "The King of Kings" in his place.
When the roster showed a vote of no confidence for Triple H, McMahon returned to relieve "The Game" of his duties and install Laurinaitis as interim Raw general manager.
As if it wasn't confusing enough as to why McMahon - who had been removed from his position of power - was now representing the Board again, on Monday night's Raw the fired Triple H returned to do Laurinaitis' job evaluation.
Confused? Don't worry; so is everyone else who remembers what happened more than two weeks ago in the wrestling world.
On Monday's episode of Raw, Laurinaitis played his role perfectly, representing that mid-management boss who knows he may be in trouble. He tried sucking up to everyone around him and ran down his accomplishments since becoming interim Raw general manager.
Triple H came to the ring and engaged in a mildly entertaining war of words with a pleading Laurinaitis, but it seemed like it wouldn't be enough. "The Game" seemed intent on wishing the boss the best in his future endeavors, but then a familiar sound hit the arena.
The strike of the Undertaker's gong marked the return of "the Phenom," his first sighting since being carried out on a stretcher from last year's WrestleMania. Yet another player has been introduced into the story, which had once again strayed away from its core.
The angle, which ended with a stare in the middle of the ring, wasn't poorly executed, but it once again took the focus away from primary players.
If Triple H-Undertaker III continues to receive this level of priority, the WWE champion will be lucky to be featured in the third-from-the-top match at WrestleMania, and that would be a little saddening on many levels.
Veterans like Triple H and the Undertaker, as well as special attractions like the Rock, deserve attention and priority, but WWE would be better served for the long term by focusing on the stars of today and tomorrow, not yesterday.
*In a rare WWE television moment, WWE Champion wrestled World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan. No, it's not unusual for these unannounced champion vs. champion matches to be added to Raw. What was unusual was seeing two performers the caliber of Punk and Bryan being allowed to actually wrestle and shine. People immediately began complaining about the match's placement on the card, but it gave the show a strong start to the second hour and allowed for a dirty finish without threats of riot.
After Punk and Bryan put on an outstanding display of their abilities, Chris Jericho ran to ringside, shoving Bryan out of his way, entering the ring and hitting a Code Breaker on Punk. Jericho's actions gave Bryan a disqualification victory befitting his character and planted the seeds for a dream Punk vs. Jericho matchup at WrestleMania. I kept expecting Sheamus to emerge, evening the odds and laying out Bryan, his likely opponent for the biggest show of the year. No matter what happens in the immediate future, Punk and Bryan eventually have to cross paths again, preferably on pay-per-view, where they'll be given time and the opportunity to go all out.
* Randy Orton pinned Dolph Ziggler cleanly in a competitive match that was really good for being on free television. Ziggler had just been announced as one of the challengers for Punk's title at Elimination Chamber, so it was odd to see him take a clean loss immediately afteward. Orton, meanwhile, will collide with rival Wade Barrett on Smackdown this Friday. That's a feud that will likely continue through WrestleMania, so it will be interesting to see if WWE can keep the momentum going.
* After being built as the iron Man of Sunday's Royal Rumble, the Miz lost to fellow Elimination Chamber entrant Kofi Kingston when the latter hit Trouble in Paradise out of nowhere. The match was good, but much like Ziggler's loss, it's questionable booking after rebuilding the Miz. With R-Truth on commentary, Miz will probably blame his former tag team partner, leading to a blow-off to their feud at WrestleMania. The Miz's road there looks to be a bumpy one, though.
* Divas Champion Beth Phoenix squashed Eve to retain the title. This was a shame, as Eve looked good in the divas tag match at Sunday's Royal Rumble. The announcers sold Eve as being concerned about Kane, who showed up on the Titantron and in the ring after the match. John Cena made the save, and he and the "Big Red Monster" brawled around the ring. Using Eve as a conduit in the Kane-Cena-Ryder feud is fine, but she should also be made to look like a credible diva, as she is easily one of the most improved female talents in recent memory.
As for Cena and Kane, the former seemed to have the upper hand Monday night, as he used the ring steps to assault Kane, saying, "Every time you get up, I'll knock you down." With neither man in the Elimination Chamber match, it's likely these two will meet again on the next pay-per-view - likely in some form of gimmick match. The chances of Cena embracing the hate dwindle every day, and along with them, so does the interest of many fans in this feud. It's about time for Cena to move onto The Rock and Kane to find something else to keep him busy for a while.
* Brodus Clay once again squashed a jobber, this time Tyler Reks, which of course opened up the doors for dinosaur jokes. The Funkasaurus against the T-Reks. Get it? Yeah, it wasn't funny when Jerry "The King" Lawler said it either. Clay's opponents have been landing more offense lately, but fans are clamoring for a real competitive match. Clay can only get away with squashing jobbers for so long before his gimmick will become stale.
* Mike Tyson has been announced as the newest inductee to the WWE Hall of Fame. There's no denying that “Iron Mike” played a more significant and meaningful role in pro wrestling history than almost any other celebrity, and as a lifelong fan he has to be beaming with excitement, but the whole concept of a "celebrity wing" seems taboo. Yes, it's done in light-hearted fun, and yes, it helps garner media attention for WWE each year, but to honor celebrities ahead of deserving superstars like the late"Macho Man" Randy Savage continues to be a sore spot for many, myself included.
Randy Orton d. Dolph Ziggler
Brodus Clay d. Tyler Reks
Daniel Bryan d. CM Punk by disqualification
Kofi Kingston d. The Miz
Beth Phoenix d. Eve to retain the Divas Championship
The road to WrestleMania began at Sunday night's Royal Rumble pay-per-view, which has been a polarizing affair among fans. But Monday night's Raw put things into high gear, setting the stage for Elimination Chamber and beyond in stellar fashion. Fans were treated to the tease of a dream match between Punk and Bryan, the other matches didn't disappoint (outside the divas match, that is) and the stage looks bright for the future. If every Raw and Smackdown between now and WrestleMania can be this strong, WWE will be riding full steam into Miami come April 1.
Twitter Comment of the Night
"Guys, everyone interested in paying for Punk vs. Bryan probably would have pirated it anyways. #IWantTheft" - Will Pruett (@itswilltime)Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun