THE SPECIALISTS TUCKER'S RAW INSTANT REACTION: WWE limps toward WM Play Button, but what bright spots can WWE build on?
Mar 3, 2015 - 12:09:07 AM
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Instant Reaction - WWE Raw 3/2
By Ben Tucker, PWTorch TV specialist
Overall Score - 6.5
Last week's Raw highlighted the babyface dilemma in WWE, namely the inability for any good guy in the company to act like a good guy. This week's Raw accomplished the same result as last week in a different way. WWE didn't just present the good guys as heels, they actually encouraged dissent.
The first example of this is John Cena. Faced with yet another polarizing anti-Cena town, WWE did not avoid the antagonism; rather, they embrace it. Stephanie McMahon fed into the crowd's jeers, creating a raucous response when saying that the crowd doesn't want to see Cena wrestle at WrestleMania. Before he could give a true rally to these responses, he was cut off by Curtis Axel, the new goofball heel whose cluelessness has become endearing to a large vocal minority of the audience. Cena reacted to his appearance by threatening his well-being and squashing him in two minutes.
Roman Reigns's Road to WrestleMania, meanwhile, will apparently be spent pointing out all of his weaknesses. WWE is not building up Reigns as a definite credible threat to WWE champion Brock Lesnar. Instead, WWE is spending the weeks leading up to the show with heels asserting that Roman can't wrestle before beating him in the middle of the ring. Roman looks like an incapable fool who's in way over his head but obliviously acts like he's the coolest guy in the room.
In a way, booking these characters in these situations can be seen as smart. WWE is certainly not ignoring reality, but wrestling shouldn't be based on reality. Wrestling needs to be based on stories told by the WWE writers that satisfies the audience. Catering to us with acknowledgements that their characters haven't been portrayed in a positive light doesn't further any story that's being told.
And that's the big problem with WrestleMania this year. Over half of the matches set up for the biggest wrestling broadcast of 2015 feel cobbled together. Daniel Bryan, the most popular star of 2013 and 2014, is being presumably thrown into a ladder match with four-plus wrestlers who he has not extensively feuded with in at least two years. Roman Reigns's title match is being built on whether or not he is even worthy of being in the match in the first place. Cena-Rusev is on the right track, but is constantly hitting road bumps due to Cena's inconsistent character. The Divas division is still in a re-run from back in December with face A.J. once again giving chase to the Bellas. WrestleMania Play Button (because 31 sounds too old) continues to be built in a way that highlights all of WWE's booking problems.
That said, in a vacuum, tonight's Raw was solid. A large surprise was Jon Stewart, who delivered one of the best guest host performances in Raw history. Incredible how a celebrity knowledgeable about the product can actually enhance a show, am I right? Paul Heyman was on fire tonight as well, delivering an all-time great promo that made me want to see a straight-up brawl. Despite my misgivings with Cena's attitude coming across negatively, it cannot be denied that his segment with Stephanie McMahon was entertaining. Curtis Axel is surprisingly developing leaps and bounds on the mic with this opportunity and it is a pleasure to watch. Bray Wyatt's newest promo on The Undertaker was also relatively engaging, with Bray doing an excellent job of hyping such a match all by himself.
Less successful tonight was the ongoing Intercontinental Title saga. I'm not sure why these Superstars suddenly want the Intercontinental Title, nor why they think stealing the belt is going to do anything, but the situation as a whole comes across as contrived and phony. As usual, the three-hour format made the broadcast feel like a slog, especially with Seth Rollins taking up three of the four opening quarter-hour time slots (including the final quarter-hour).
It's becoming apparent that WWE is limping to the finish line for this year's WrestleMania, but this broadcast was not a total dud. Triple H was strong, the main event was solid (if not a tad dull). and there is at least a lot of intrigue in the mid-card. That said, WrestleMania continues to feel like a $9.99 version of the Show of Shows. Will I be wrong? We can only hope.
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