Chair Shots: WWE banking on Cena-Punk to carry Raw versus NFL

With the kickoff of the NFL season right around the corner and more competition coming for WWE on Mondays and one Sunday a month, the powers the be seem to be going full-steam ahead with the one program involving two active, full-time competitors they know can get people talking for the bulk of the fall season.

CM Punk seemed to complete his heel turn last night. But then again, I thought that a few weeks ago too. Punk was given the opportunity to name his next opponent for the WWE Championship, and he chose John Cena, on the condition that Cena admit that Punk is the "Best in the World." Cena wouldn't, and proceeded to absolutely own Punk on the microphone over the next few minutes as he explained his rational.

Cena made a lot of strong points. Whoever put that promo together did a great job. Cena said he couldn't call someone else the best in the world, because the day he stops believing that he himself is the best is the day he he retires (in so many words). He referenced how he talked for a year about how he would beat the Rock at WrestleMania, and lost, and if he gets another shot, he's going to say he'll beat him again. He also mentioned that no one really remembers anything about Punk's reign except that one night at Money in the Bank last year. That's not entirely true, but yeah, Punk hasn't been able to replicate anything close to that moment in the past year.

Cena closed by saying he might be costing himself a shot at the title by not calling Punk the best, but he has confidence that he'll get another shot at the title if Punk chooses someone else. He then puts over Night of Champions in his hometown and that if Punk could beat him there, that would be a defining win. He closed by saying if Punk didn't pick him, then he'd prove that he doesn't respect the championship or himself, then left.

In typical heel fashion, Punk chose to ignore everything Cena just said and called out Jerry Lawler, with whom he was ridiculing before Cena came out. He called Lawler into the ring, demanded an apology for Lawler saying he turned his back on WWE fans at the end of Raw 1000 and then, when Lawler did that, demanded the King call him the best in the world. When King refused and went to leave, he took a kick to the head from Punk. The show ended there with a cascade of boos for the WWE Champion.

So while I expect there to be another twist or two on the road to Night of Champions, it's obvious the main event is going to be Cena vs. Punk, with Punk as a full-fledged heel (something I think they needed to do to get a majority of the Boston crowd on Cena's side. It would've been pretty awkward to promote him having a title match in his hometown and half the crowd chanting "Cena sucks!"). From some reports that surfaced online, it looks like Punk-Cena is going to be the main feud for live events as well, all the way through December.

Noting that Night of Champions will take place in Boston, I think it's also worth noting that Raw will be broadcast from Chicago's All-State Arena where Punk won his first WWE Championship at Money in the Bank in two weeks (Sept. 3). I expect something major to occur in this program there, and I think it will be interesting to see how the Second City treats its prodigal son upon his return.

It's also worth noting that a match pitting Punk against Lawler seems to be on the horizon, possibly as soon as Raw next week. Beating up Lawler is a good way to get Punk heel heat with the general audience. ...

Brock Lesnar is gone again. After Paul Heyman opened Raw with a promo putting over Lesnar as the new King of Kings and ruler of the WWE Universe as a result of his decisive victory over Triple H at SummerSlam, the two sent out a Tout with Lesnar saying he has done all he needs to do in WWE, and that he was quitting.

What an absolute disaster Lesnar's return has been. I'm curious to see the SummerSlam buyrate, which would have to be at least partially attributed to Lesnar, but the buys for Extreme Rules when he faced Cena were good but nothing outlandish that justified his monster contract. Otherwise, what has he really done? I get that Lesnar is supposed to be a special attraction, but I think they've wasted his appearances on Raw in recent weeks by having him stand there stretching his neck and doing his stupid little jumping in place thing while Heyman does all the talking. He said two words last night on TV -- "good job" -- to referee Scott Armstrong. They are paying him an obscene amount of money to basically stand there and look tough.

And now, he's quitting again? I didn't expect to see Lesnar wrestle again until Survivor Series, but figured they'd at least set something up like they did with Triple H the night after Extreme Rules. I have no idea what Lesnar's contract exactly calls for, but it's clear that it is very limited. Maybe all it called for 3 to 5 matches in the next year. If so, I hope WWE thinks they are getting their money's worth. The match with Triple H on Sunday sucked and if Lesnar was just going to go away, Triple H should've just beat him. Now, we'll likely have to sit through another Triple H-Lesnar match in a few months, wasting two matches on Vince's son-in-law.

If the 20 to 30 appearances were factual, and there's nothing distinguishing him wrestling in those appearances or simply standing there and saying two words, then WWE is flushing their money down the toilet. He should've been running through the WWE roster to build him up for Cena and Triple H, and I'm guessing, the Undertaker at WrestleMania.

As far as Triple H goes, if what we got from him Sunday is what we're going to get from him going forward, then he just needs to retire. He's been very protected in his last half-dozen matches by making them "no holds barred" type matches where he can rely on gimmicks because he's not the wrestler he used to be. I really hope that those who are predicting Shawn Michaels to come out of his retirement because of his "live via satellite" promo last night are wrong. As much as I love HBK, he and Hunter won't be able to recreate the magic they did 10 years ago when Michaels came back from forced retirement then. Triple H owes us one more big match, and that's putting over CM Punk. ...

Chris Jericho didn't get the big send-off Triple H did at SummerSlam, but that's about what you expect from Jericho. He wouldn't want that moment to be about him, he'd rather it be about Dolph Ziggler going over a top star clean. Besides, Jericho has already said he's planning to come back to WWE again once Fozzy is done touring. By then, Ziggler should be a World Champion and Jericho would make an excellent challenger, picking up where they left off.

Their match on Raw didn't compare to the one at SummerSlam a night earlier, and was actually kind of disappointing. WWE has been making a point of giving us longer matches on TV, especially the main events. This got, what, 10 minutes, with maybe seven getting on the air? Maybe instead of showing a movie trailer or a dull 15-minute six-man tag at the beginning of the show, or the latest chapter in the no-one-cares about Jinder Mahal vs. Ryback story, they could've given a little more time here. Just saying.

By the way, I've already read a lot of criticism on Twitter and online that it didn't make sense for either man to accept AJ's stipulations of Money in the Bank contract versus Jericho's employment contract. Last I checked, she was in charge and had the final word. Could one of them have pitched a fit about it -- yeah, but it's sort of like Cena said at the end of the show, if you don't think you're the best and going to win every single night, well, don't let the door hit you on the way out. ...

I didn't like that Jericho acted like a sore loser and hit the Codebreaker on Ziggler after the match. Brodus Clay did the same thing after losing to Damien Sandow. At least in that situation, Sandow kind of cheated by grabbing a handful of trunks, but that's not super egregious. Ziggler won completely clean. These guys are supposed to be babyfaces, right? ...

At least Kane is unstable and has anger management issues, so you get why he continues to treat Zack Ryder like his personal Wrestling Buddy (now called Brawlin' Buddies). I thought the tag match putting Ryder and Kane together against Daniel Bryan and Miz was an intriguing idea, but this one was more of an angle than a match. I was hoping Kane would just go crazy on Miz, then chase Bryan away, allowing Ryder to pin Miz and set up an Intercontinental Championship feud. No such luck though. ...

Kane is beating up babyfaces and Big Show is beating up heel David Otunga. Did they both turn again? (It's worth noting that Kane started getting booked like a face the same Raw Show turned heel after Over the Limit). ...

I did enjoy the Randy Orton-Alberto Del Rio match and the story that went into that, with AJ saying she doesn't have power over the World Championship, since that's Smackdown's title, but she could book a match for Del Rio. You knew it was only a matter of time before Orton was added to this program. While the last thing I want to see is another Triple Threat match for a championship, it's better than Del Rio vs. Sheamus one-on-one again. ...

Kaitlyn is the new No. 1 contender for Layla's Divas Championship. They must've realized that all titles need to be defended at Night of Champions, since that's the gimmick, and trotted the Divas who were backstage out. Apparently they forgot to tell Kelly Kelly and Beth Phoenix, who for much of the past few years, have been the only Divas that mattered. I think Kaitlyn is gorgeous, but she's still very green in the ring. ...

Not a very good episode of Raw in my opinion, with the exception of the final segment. Triple H, Brock Lesnar and Chris Jericho -- all of whom have been marquee names involved on major angles since WrestleMania season -- are now gone, and I'm curious to see how Raw is booked moving forward. Clearing them from the roster means more opportunities for younger Superstars to step up. My fear, however, is WWE will just give Cena, Punk, Sheamus and Orton more time than they are already getting.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun