SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
We are less than two weeks away from the Royal Rumble pay per view and wrestlers on both shows are jockeying for a position on the Wrestlemania card. Smackdown undoubtedly won the week but there were some high and low spots on both shows. Lets dive into who shined and who missed the mark.
RAW ALL STARS: THE MAIN EVENT ROSTER
The dumpster fire that was this week’s episode of Raw was sandwiched by two very entertaining and thought-provoking segments which opened and closed the show. In recent years, smart fans were likely able to foresee the top two or three potential Royal Rumble winners and can start putting the pieces together to accurately predict the top half of the Wrestlemania card. Every wrestler involved in the opening and closing segments delivered short promos and intertwined many different conflicts that could all lead to marquee matchups at Wrestlemania. From the stare down between Lesnar and Strowman, to Seth standing up to Roman, Jericho proclaiming he would win the rumble and Owens standing tall to end the show, we were treated to absolute mayhem that not only made sense, but got us thinking. Fans romanticize the Attitude Era for many reasons, and one of the things I liked most about it was that so many wrestlers had multiple conflicts playing out at once. This kept the audience in suspense, added to the unpredictability of the product, and kept so many matchups in play that WWE could narrow down based on crowd reaction and the wrestlers’ performances. All seven of these men involved performed extremely well and started to force the fans to rethink their preconceived ideas of how the Rumble and Wrestlemania may play out. The main event match was a good one and a nice cherry on top was seeing Kevin Owens deliver the final blow to end the show after not looking like a strong champion in quite some time.
RAW UNDER PERFORMERS: CHARLOTTE & BAYLEY
In what felt like a recreation of the unbearably long Rusev & Lana promos that were intended to force the crowd to pop when Roman Reigns’ music hit, Charlotte mocked and belittled Bayley on Monday for what felt like forever. From poking fun at Bayley’s life-long affection for WWE to reading poems that she had written when she was a kid, Charlotte delivered her worst promo to date in a very backwards and failed attempt to get Bayley further endeared to the crowd. Flair was clunky and uncharacteristically timid which made the crowd very restless. When Bayley finally came out to stand up for herself the WWE had a tremendous opportunity to save the segment and show a different and much more confident young woman. Instead, Bayley professed that she was proud that she was (and still is) a fan-girl and thought that reciting 3 poems to poke fun at Charlotte was valid retribution. It was not, and the crowd let her know it. Had Bayley hit the ring and mercilessly attacked Charlotte out of anger, or even grabbed the mic after Charlotte exited the ring and demanded her to return to get what was coming to her, we would have had a much more believable challenger for the Raw Woman’s Championship. Instead, we are now building to a match that pits the most dominant female in the division who has never lost on pay per view against a proud and bubbly fan-girl that is just happy to be here. That is just not something we can sink our teeth into after watching the ferocious program between Charlotte and Sasha that preceded it.
SMACKDOWN ALL STAR: THE MIZ
While AJ Styles and John Cena did a fantastic job to open the show on Tuesday, The Miz proved that he belonged in the main event scene on Smackdown. While every word that came out of his mouth may have been scripted, the A-List film star (kidding, obviously) gave us a masterful performance and let us know of his intentions to walk out of Wrestlemania with the World Championship. It was believable, delivered with the utmost confidence, and did not come off scripted one bit. Miz talking about beating up John Cena before it was cool and his influence on the Intercontinental Championship had fans nodding along and probably wondering why they agreeing with one of the true heels WWE currently has. The short match that followed with AJ was well executed and the athletic maneuvers these two showcased was a testament to Miz adapting and being able to work with anyone in the company. Unfortunately a lot of that did not make the television screen because WWE was more concerned with showing Cena on commentary, but a brilliant performance nonetheless. Miz is a definite long-shot to win the Royal Rumble or even the Elimination Chamber match, but this week he planted seeds that may have some of us thinking otherwise.
SMACKDOWN UNDER PERFORMER: DOLPH ZIGGLER
Most people watching Dolph Ziggler’s segment with Jerry Lawler were probably confused and a little uncomfortable. Yes, it is standard practice in WWE to bury a local star or legend for the sake of cheap heat but this one may have gone a bit too far. In an attempt to change Dolph’s character, we saw a more serious version of the show-off speaking very softly with a hint of crazy. Without saying it directly, Jerry spoke about how Dolph was essentially turning heel to get more wins which triggered Ziggler to break his silence and threaten the life of a man he is now proud to say had a heart attack due to his actions. The overacting of Ziggler was further exposed and the notion that WWE would think that fans can believe that Ziggler would like to kill Lawler for asking him challenging questions is absolutely absurd. I completely understand what they were trying to do here, but the start of the new Dolph Ziggler persona is off to a rocky start and this did not help. We are still seeing the same guy with the same expressions, catch phrases, wardrobe and move set that we have watched for years. The WWE will have to book Dolph to do more than attack two mid-card babyface and outlandishly threaten an out of touch WWE television personality to make us believe this is a change for the betterment of his career.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S ARTICLE: ALL-STARS & UNDERPERFORMERS: Who shined and who under performed on Raw and Smackdown this week? Undertaker, Foley, Cena, Ziggler