SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Last week, I partially focused on some big picture items and ongoing angles like the three-hour Raws, the Divas Revolution, Kane’s split personality, and Xavier Woods’s trombone, while including some specific moments from that episode. This week, I will focus more on some very specific moments that point to some of the bigger picture problems that WWE has right now.
Reigns, Ambrose, Orton vs. The Wyatt Family: This was a good six-man tag match to kick off the in ring portion of Raw. The match went over 15 minutes, but was interrupted by two commercials which was a bit much. But, it was still a good match. I liked the tunnel vision that Roman Reigns had in trying to get his hands on Bray Wyatt. That fit in with this storyline. The match was well booked for the most part and featured good wrestling action throughout.
Natalya vs. Paige: WWE is telling a story of Paige getting more and more frustrated by her losses. That led to her turning on Team PCB the Raw after Night of Champions. It has also led to Natalya getting involved. I like the fact that WWE is doing something different with the Divas than just the three 3-Divas teams that they had for a few months at the start of the Divas Revolution. Now that Natalya has interjected herself with Paige, it makes sense to give her the win to continue Paige’s journey of frustration over her losses. Their match was good. I liked the various submission moves that they used. And while the ending does make sense given Paige’s losing streak, I expected her to win, so it was a nice surprise to see Natalya get the win instead.
Owens vs. Cara: In the Misses, I include some specific and small moments that point to bigger picture issues with WWE’s presentation of pro wrestling. Here, I’m pointing out a specific moment that WWE doesn’t do enough of, but should do more of. Kevin Owens won a squash match over Sin Cara. It was a 2 minute match. It helped Owens once again establish the pop-up powerbomb as his finisher which he hasn’t been able to hit recently (winning matches with leverage pins after going to his opponents’ eyes). WWE should be using more squash matches to build up their stars while protecting other stars from taking those losses. It also gets away from their poor 50-50 booking. Cara will not get his win back against Owens.
Opening Segment: This is a minor Miss as I did enjoy the mic work from Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar is great at reacting to the crowd and what Heyman is saying. But, the two video packages that Heyman threw to during his promo took me out of the moment. I get that they needed to put the focus onto Lesnar vs. The Undertaker, but did we need to see a video for each of their matches? Heyman’s mic skills are more impressive to me in selling a match. Then, The Big Show came out and it took away from the focus on Lesnar vs. Undertaker. Lesnar’s show of power was impressive (especially the belly-to-belly suplex on Big Show), but we’ve seen plenty of these shows of power from Lesnar in the past. Did those two moves make anyone want to see Lesnar vs. Undertaker more than before? Big Show’s interruption is a specific moment that points to a larger problem with WWE’s lack of ability to focus on what’s important.
Stephanie McMahon: So apparently, Stephanie McMahon is a babyface now? She has often acted like a disappointed teacher towards Seth Rollins, so their interaction wasn’t that much of a departure for her character. But, she was certainly more of a babyface in that scene towards the sniveling heel WWE World Champion. That is a specific moment that points to the larger problem that WWE has with how they’ve presented their top Champion over the past several months. Later, we got Stephanie addressing down The New Day, again acting like a babyface. That emasculated the trio who would end up standing tall by the end of the night. She continued to act like a babyface later on in her interaction with Rollins and Kane making their WWE World Title match for Hell in a Cell and pandering to the Boston fans. But then she went back to being a heel in threatening to fire Corporate Kane as the Director of Operations. I do want a babyface authority figure (if there absolutely has to be an onscreen authority figure), but it shouldn’t be Stephanie at this point, just acting cranky and angry even when she’s being more of a babyface.
Orton’s Eye Gouge: This is a very small moment that points to a very large problem that WWE has had for a long time. Right now, WWE is trying to sell the idea that the fans should boo Kevin Owens because he raked Ryback’s eyes in order to defeat him to become the Intercontinental Champion. Then, at the MSG house show he used an eye gouge to successfully defend the Title against Chris Jericho. That is a classic heel move and should be a good way to get heel heat on Owens. That is good. But if you are telling that story, then you CANNOT have the babyface Randy Orton at the same MSG special using an eye gouge. You CANNOT have the babyface Randy Orton using an eye gouge on Raw when you are selling that story. Period.
Susan G. Komen: I’m far from an expert on the problems that have been raised against Susan G. Komen for the Cure. I suggest you follow C.M. Punk’s suggestion and do research for yourself. I will say that the organization has a mid-level rating from www.charitynavigator.org. According to that site, they spend 80 percent of their expenses on the actual program which is solid. It could be worse as The American Cancer Society and The Wounded Warrior Project are both around 60 percent (which means that 40 cents for every dollar you donate to one of them goes towards administrative costs like CEO salary and fundraising efforts). Organizations like The Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, and Bread for the World are in the 87-90 percent range with higher overall ratings from Charity Navigator. Plus, Charity Navigator gives much higher ratings to several breast cancer charities over Susan G. Komen for a Cure, including The National Breast Cancer Foundation, Breastcancer.org, and Living Beyond Breast Cancer. So, if you want to support an organization doing breast cancer awareness and research, there are some options.
This Miss isn’t for the possible problems with this particular charity. I just did a little research after hearing about Punk’s tweets and thought I would share what I found on one website that I have used in the past. The real issue is taking any philanthropy by WWE serious after Stephanie McMahon’s tweet right before WrestleMania which basically admitted that they do good things for marketing purposes. It is hard to jeer a company that is raising money for breast cancer awareness. But, they come across as so self congratulatory that it is off putting to some viewers, including myself (and I happen to be writing this article). It is bothersome how they used Roman Reigns. They are desperate to get the fans to stop booing him, so of course they put him in the ring with a group of breast cancer survivors, because how can you boo someone who would stand with those women? And the way you support Susan G. Komen for a Cure is by going to WWE’s shop website and buying stuff which is away to market their shop website. In fact, last year when my wife got on there to buy a pink Bella shirt (with the clever “Support the Twins” slogan) which went to the charity, she also bought an “I’m a Paul Heyman Girl” shirt at the same time which went right to WWE’s pockets.
End of Dudleys vs. Rollins & Kane: Here is another example of a single moment pointing to larger problems. After Corporate Kane was helped out of the arena because of his leg injury, The Dudley Boyz started to dominate Seth Rollins. When they got a table, Rollins dropkicked it into their faces as they tried to put it into the ring. The bell rang. No official outcome was announced. The match itself was ok. There was some good action and it was part of the larger storyline with Kane and Rollins. However, that moment reminds us that matches don’t actually matter. This is a huge problem in WWE. The matches and their outcomes should be very important to the viewers. But, how can they be when a match like this which had been built up as a main event type match (I had wrongly assumed it would be the main event) doesn’t get an announced ending? Were the Dudleys disqualified for trying to bring the table into the ring? Was Rollins disqualified for kicking the table into the Dudleys? Was it a double DQ? Was it a no contest? You want me to buy the Network to see a special event like Hell in a Cell to see wrestling matches, yet you send the message that the matches don’t actually matter.
Portrayal of Sasha Banks: Sasha Banks is such a natural heel and is great at being a heel. Yes, she is going to get cheered by the portion of the fans who cheer for all heels and by another portion of the fans who cheer for the best performers regardless of whether the performer is portraying a heel or babyface. But, WWE should not do anything to show her in a positive light. Two days after Raw, WWE is presenting her in the main event of the NXT Takeover special on the network as a heel against Bayley who is as much a natural babyface as Banks is a natural heel. In order to get some easy cheap pops from her local fans, WWE sacrificed her ability to get heel heat going forward. Of course, when the vast majority of the Divas featured on Raw and Smackdown each week are heels, you end up getting too many heel vs. heel matches and someone is going to be more of a babyface in those particular matches.
Main Event Hype: As I said, I expected the Dudleys vs. Rollins & Kane to be the main event. That is because WWE never announced what the actual main event would be. It turned out to be John Cena’s United States Open Challenge which is ok I guess, but why not hype it ahead of time? Yes, they mentioned that he would have one and teased possible big name opponents for Cena. But, they never said it would be the main event. Why not? They could say that The Authority knew the challenger and based on how big of a challenger it was, had decided to make the match the main event. Give the fans a reason to stick around for the end of the show and make that match a bigger deal. I get underselling it since it didn’t turn out to be Dolph Ziggler, but Big E. instead and who really wants to see Big E in the Raw main event?
Xavier Woods’s Trombone: So at the end of the show, mid-card comedy heels The New Day were shown as a seemingly unstoppable trio standing tall over Cena, Ziggler and The Dudleys. That was a bit jarring considering how they’ve always been portrayed. Perhaps WWE should be praised for trying to elevate a mid-card act like this. However, if you are going to elevate mid-carders to the main event, you need to do a better job of laying the groundwork. If you are going to start portraying them as a legit dominating heel force, then you need to cut down on the goofy comedy stuff. So then you should probably tell Xavier Woods that right after this impressive serious beat down that he shouldn’t play the trombone. This is my final rant about a small moment pointing to larger problems. The New Day is a great comedy heel team. In order to be taken seriously as an upper-card act, they need to drop the goofiness. They need to change their characters. But if you change their characters, then they won’t be over in the same way with the fans. It is a catch 22 and I don’t see it working out well.
Jon Mezzera is PWTorch.com’s WWE Hits & Misses Specialist, providing his point of view for Raw and Smackdown each week. Email him at his NEW email address – firstname.lastname@example.org.