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On The Apron: Bryan, Cena, and Captain Buzzkill

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Every Tuesday, features editor Dominick Suzanne-Mayer talks about the latest developments in and around WWE.

So it goes: I write a thing about Windham “Husky [Bray Wyatt] Harris” Rotunda that gets all of you lovely people talking/disputing/berating one another anonymously, and then On The Apron ends up on an inadvertent hiatus because of personal issues. But we’re back, so let’s dive right back in, shall we?

Last night on Raw, Daniel Bryan and John Cena had, for the most part, an excellent promo exchange as the final hard sell for their SummerSlam match this Sunday. The feud has been great for the most part; while I’m not a particularly huge fan of Cena running down “armory wrestlers” just because WWE has to show all other wrestling companies where the dick goes on a daily basis, it’s still clearly coming from some kind of real place. Cena when he gives a shit is really, really good at his job, and it’s reassuring to see that he’s holding up his half of one of the most exciting title-centered main events WWE has offered up in quite a while.

The other half of the equation is Bryan, who cut one of his best WWE promos to date and expanded on the CM Punk philosophy of angry, crowd-pleasing promos. Bryan’s had all of the passion, all of the credibility and a notably lower dose of literally staring at the camera to illustrate his point. He said what most of Cena’s naysayers have touched on over the past decade: that Cena is a T-shirt factory, that he’s not a wrestler, that he’s not worth Bryan’s respect. Wisely, Cena/the creative staff behind this whole segment acknowledged the first, vehemently shot down the second and led Cena to demanding the third. Cena’s very much worth respecting under most evaluative criteria, even if him comparing his merch to the American flag was a masterpiece of unintentional comedy, and his laundry list of guys he’s beaten served a great dual purpose. It not only defined Cena as the guy to beat, but it also played into Bryan’s arc as the frustrated guy who feels passed over and neglected in conversations about WWE’s current elite.

When Cena got serious, it also carried more weight than all his preacher-man proselytizing about the WWE Universe over the past few weeks. This feud, by and large, has actually managed to introduce a new and interesting angle to the hyper-stale John Cena character, and it’s great. Cena has been around long enough to consider himself a veteran, and while he likes Bryan, he refuses to be told that he’s unworthy of respect. His open-hand slap was a perfect moment for the Cena character, because instead of playing the HHH role (more on him in a moment) of the guy who’s never upset by anything and cannot be touched by any mortal men in any aspect of his life, Cena lost his cool for a second. Bryan told him about the tradition of Japanese wrestlers slapping each other, and Cena was the bigger man by showing Bryan a violent gesture of respect even if Bryan wouldn’t give one in return. This is how you write the face of your company: a good, honorable man who takes zero shit.

The finale of the segment, alas, was another story. If there was any doubt that SummerSlam is going to conclude with some kind of tomfoolery based on HHH making himself the guest referee for Bryan-Cena, it went out the window the second he had to stroll out yet again to make himself the focus of a hot promo exchange. I’m fine with Orton being all “hey guise I am here also with these menacing legal documents,” because that makes some kind of sense story-wise. But to have HHH come out accomplished the following:

1) Ensure that everybody knows who the most important, focus-worthy part of this match is, even if it’s not either of the actual wrestlers battling for the title;
2) Suck all the wind out of the prior exchange;
3) Remind everybody that nobody can be cheered louder than a McMahon or a McMahon affiliate.

Los Angeles, I have a favor to ask of you. This Sunday, cheer for him when he comes out as referee. Cheer when he enters, the whole time he’s in the ring. Pop for every count he makes. Should he grab at his referee shirt in a menacing fashion in the direction of either man, explode like you’re watching Hogan-Rock. Maybe if we all cheer really loudly, and refer to him as a god, he’ll finally go the hell away like he should’ve after the WrestleMania 28 Hell In A Cell. Please?