The State of WWE- The Good, The Bad, And The "What The F***!?"
*Doing my best Dr. Nick impression* Hi, everybody! Here to talk about WWE once again, and veering away from the usual Raw/SD/etc reviews for the moment to examine the State of WWE. Following a Mania card that delivered strongly, exceeding its buildup and getting generally positive reviews (ignoring that subset of the Internet Wrestling Community that like to bitch about everything), the number one wrestling fed in the world has seemed to struggle to bring the same level of excitement as they did even prior to the Ultimate Thrill Ride. While it's somewhat customary for things to fall into a lull following Mania season, I don't recall a time when the drop happened so suddenly. Typically, the PPV following Mania (Backlash/Extreme Rules) still carries some of that buzz, but we have a discontented fanbase here, and while I normally defend WWE pretty strongly against criticism, I tend to agree with a lot of it at the moment. So, let's have a look at the Good, the Bad, and the "What The Fuck!?"
- Braun Strowman's push- When he debuted as part of the Wyatt Family, and it was clear they had big plans for him, I wasn't sure about Braun. While he was doing squashes on Raw last year, I thought, "meh, monster push #35437". Then, I started to hear rumours of Strowman impressing at house shows, showing great athleticism and proving to be a quick study after only having his first ever match in December 2014. At a Sydney house show in August last year, I saw it for myself. Braun carried himself with main event level confidence, and in facing Jimmy Uso, actually appeared to be the quicker man, even doing a nip up at one point.
Fast forward to recent weeks, and Braun has shown a remarkable ability to perform in main event matches with Roman Reigns and Big Show, and has been given big time memorable moments in back to back weeks- first tipping over an ambulance in what I called the greatest feat of strength I've ever seen in WWE. He then goes on to recreate the ring explosion spot with Big Show in the Raw main event the following week. This week's Raw with the Dumpster Match was a bit of a miss, but it's at Payback where Braun can prove his worth once again in a featured bout with Roman Reigns
- The Face of America- In anyone else's hands, this gimmick might well fall flat. It's not new material, but Kevin Owens is making the most of it. With a closer shave and a nice suit, KO touts himself as the greatest US Champion ever, hailing from *with emphasis* Montreal, Quebec, Canada. There's the elements of the tired "evil foreigner" schtick in there, but Owens' humour and wit makes it work. Interestingly, while Owens is being funny, he's retaining the aggression in his voice that he showed when turning on Chris Jericho. After he beats Y2J at Payback and sends him on his Fozzy tour, Owens looks primed to be the top heel on Smackdown as Bray Wyatt makes his way to Raw.
-Tye Dillinger- The Perfect 10 finally gets his shot on the main roster after years of toiling away in NXT. Dillinger made his final appearance in Full Sail last week and finally won a big one, as he bested Eric Young (and his Sanity cronies) in a highly entertaining cage match. In an encouraging sign, the Smackdown crowds seem to be behind Tye with those "10" chants. My only worry is that they need to establish Dillinger beyond the kind of meme-y "Perfect 10" gimmick. If they just present him as is, he'll become another Emma- who came up and just started doing her original goofy dancing NXT character without explanation. However, Tye has improved immensely over the past year with character work, his promos and ability to emote position him strongly as the underdog with an unwavering belief in himself.
-The Superstar Shakeup- This didn't need to happen. Not now. The Draft happened 8 months ago. That's hardly enough time for each brand to establish its own identity, and just as it was maybe starting to form, trigger-happy Vince decides to "shake things up again!" When covering the Shakeup in my blog, I was willing to give it a chance. Unfortunately, it suffered from the same issues that plagued Drafts during the original brand split- Raw got Smackdown's major players in Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose, and The Miz, who became a legitimate main event talent in his own right over on the blue brand. Also, they're all former WWE Champions. Considering Raw picked up Finn Balor, The Hardys, The Revival and Kurt Angle as GM over Wrestlemania weekend, they hardly needed the star power.
Conversely, Smackdown are really bereft of star power. In what almost seems like a rib, two of the bigger acts they acquired during the Shakeup- New Day and Rusev- are out injured. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn are almost direct swaps for Ambrose and Miz, so that's fine. But who (WHO? WHO?) is the replacement for Bray Wyatt? Jinder? One of the Shining Stars? To just take the last reigning WWE Champion from Smackdown and replace them with the stars of Superstars/Main Event is just asinine.
- The presentation of Roman Reigns- I deliberately wrote "the presentation of" instead of just saying "Roman Reigns", because I think Reigns is a great talent. Is he the greatest on the mic? No, but I also think that's down to the character he's being asked to portray. He carries himself like a smug badass- and could excel in that role- but WWE/Vince want him to be the conquering hero. The atmosphere of the post-Mania Raw, where we booed Roman for 15 minutes straight while he just smirked, was brilliant. Then the commentary team offered the disclaimer that we were "non-traditional" fans that didn't represent the majority. Come on! He retired the Undertaker! How Vince expects fans to wildly cheer a guy that essentially ended their childhood, I have no idea.
The "What The Fuck!?"
-Jinder Mahal in the main event picture- I can't remember the last time I was this opposed to a main event push. The guy's a career jobber, and when he had chances to show more, he shit the bed in matches with Seth Rollins (for the first NXT Championship) and Cesaro (at Fastlane this year). How do you have bad matches against those two guys? Hell, I'm fairly confident they could carry my crippled ass to a decent match. Apparently one of the reasons he's getting a shot is lack of heel depth on the roster, and they want to save Baron Corbin for later in the year. Well, turn Harper back heel, he had a kind of soft face turn anyway. Or- gasp- run a face vs face feud for a month? Didn't hurt in 2007 when they did it (over multiple months) for Cena/HBK and Batista/Taker.
The other reason is that WWE want to break into the Indian market. Sure, but can't they get someone good? Fuck it, bring back Khali. He's a monster and a pro like Orton should be able to create a nice David/Goliath story. Jinder Mahal has never had a memorable match, promo, moment. I get "Smackdown is the land of opportunity", but those opportunities should be for people with talent.
And some might say, "ooh, you're mad about it, that means Jinder is doing his job and getting heat". No. Heat is when I want to see the bad guy get beat up. In Jinder's case, I'm more likely to divert my attention from the TV while he's busy sucking the life out of the room with his promos and matches.
Thank God for Styles and Owens, that's all I can say.
So, it's not all bad. Looking forward to Payback, and I will review that show. Braun will be worth watching against Reigns, the finale of the Owens/Jericho feud. Also, Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe is on- hasn't been built up terrifically, but the match itself should be fantastic. Hopefully after Payback, both rosters settle and we get back to fun shows, instead of the weird purgatory we're in right now where everyone's trying to find their footing. Fuck Jinder Mahal though.
Until next time, take care,