It was going to be so easy. John Key would stand down as Prime Minister and while the caucus was still in the state of stunned mullets it would obediently go along with his plan to install Bill English and Paula Bennett into the leadership positions.
Alas, poor John, an ominous rumbling noise started in the bowels of the party's massive backbench rump. It could not be ignored.
Retiring MP Jono Naylor scoffed on Twitter about media trying to remember the names of all those National backbenchers. "#suddenly relevant" he ended with.
And weren't they loving it.
There are 35 of them, and that well outnumbers the 24 in the ministerial ranks, most of whom are backing English.
In a glorious show of anarchy after 10 years of doing Key's every whim, all but two of the backbenchers refused to say they would vote for Bill English. Of course, that does not mean they will not come to heel eventually, but this was a revolution by National's standards.
Hoping to take advantage of it Jonathan Coleman and Judith Collins put their hands up. Like birds of paradise they started shaking their tail feathers.
The campaign began with subtle sledges at dawn. The common target was English in a bid to neutralise his primary asset: Key's endorsement.
Coleman was first out of the blocks, highlighting English's long tenure in Parliament compared with his own by pitching himself as "not a professional politician" and representing "generational change".
The Unprofessional Politician then pitched himself as having "relative youth". Things have come to an odd pass when a 50-year-old is campaigning on a basis of "relative youth".
That is even more so when the man he was relatively youthful to was 54-year-old English.
Coleman offered "regeneration". The backbenchers heard that, and they heard "significant reshuffle".
Being able to say "I am voting for regeneration" is a virtuous-sounding way of saying "I am voting for self-interest".
As is her wont, Collins opted to speak truth to power -- or truth to pear, in English's Southland accent. She said National did not have a show at winning the next election if it campaigned on the platform of the John Key Government without John Key.
She said shock and awe was required and who better to deliver than herself?
Soon after the sledges at dawn came the policy on the hoof.
English did not engage in this. But for the others, bugger process and Cabinet approval. This was war.
Collins and Coleman unilaterally announced they would not go ahead with the tax cuts the Key regime had planned.
Collins treated it all rather like a bridal march, promising something old, something new, something borrowed and something very, very blue.
The old was keeping to Key's pledge not to raise the age of super. Collins is not stupid. National has lost its biggest election asset -- it can hardly afford to add liabilities into the mix.
The new was ditching planned tax cuts and spending up on infrastructure instead.
She also pledged to review National's own recent health and safety reforms because they were too hard on business.
The blue was going ahead with boosting the thin blue line, blaming Key and English for stalling her bid to boost police numbers.
The borrowed was Winston Peters' campaign line: "Help is on the way". In the interests of showing she could work with Peters, she even shamelessly flattered him by calling him the Real Leader of the Opposition.
Meanwhile English sat back, worked on trying to reverse eight years of work on his Finance Minister's boring drone and collected deputies who wanted to attach themselves to his name.
A more exciting leader than English might well be a tantalising prospect -- but it is also riskier.
Key had one reason for choosing English as his successor. English was trusted by the voters.
Key has assessed that if National is to have any chance of winning a fourth term, trust is critical and English was the only one who could pull it off with less than a year to go.
Many of those backbenchers had never been through a leadership change before. More worryingly, many had also not known the horror of Opposition.
Despite the excitement and power surges in the backbenches, Key is hoping the backbenchers will take some time to reflect that his political instincts have served the party well for a long time. He is betting they will realise this and opt to trust those instincts again.
They likely will and the fireworks of the past few days will subside. The big problem for National then will be trying to close the Pandora's Box that the contest has opened.