SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
The fallout from the Royal Rumble was on full display this week, and wrestlers from both brands are now jockeying for position heading into Wrestlemania. There were some stand out performances and others that were underwhelming. Lets take a closer look.
RAW ALL STAR: SETH ROLLINS
As of this writing Seth is set to miss up to eight weeks after reinjuring his knee during the altercation with Samoa Joe, but his performance on Monday was stellar. Coming off a surprise appearance at NXT: Takeover, Rollins showed a much more intense side in the ring. Up until now, Rollins’ babyface run was being booked on the premise that he was upset that Triple H chose someone else over him which is not something fans could really buy into. This week’s promo on Stephanie focussed much more on his road back to the main event and proving to the world that Triple H made the wrong move. He was no longer pandering to the authority figures for attention, but rather standing in defiance against his creators. Mentioning Hunter & Stephanie’s kids garnered a very tense reaction from the crowd and made the moment all the more real. This was a facet of Seth’s personality we have yet to see as a fan-favorite, and given how poorly Stephanie has treated the wrestlers and the fans, his newly found attitude is something refreshing and a story we can really believe. There is now a much more personal issue to work off of which will play into Seth’s babyface character. The addition of Samoa Joe as Hunter’s mercenary is a great way to stack the deck against Rollins which lays the groundwork for him to play the underdog. I just hope he is not hurt so badly that he misses Wrestlemania for a second year in a row. My sincere best wishes go out to him.
RAW NOTABLE ALL STAR: BRAUN STROWMAN
Coming off a very impressive showing at the Royal Rumble, Braun Strowman followed up with a fantastic performance on Raw. Strowman’s slow build has been executed to perfection which made him a believable contender and worthy of a Universal Title shot against Kevin Owens. Braun taking matters into his own hands and hijacking Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho’s celebration promo was perfect for his character and he delivered on the mic like a seasoned veteran. It took a while, but Strowman has gotten more confident each week and it feels like he is as comfortable as ever in front of a live audience. Braun wrestled a great match against Owens and it is starting to seem like Strowman has the versatility to work against different wrestlers featuring different styles with ease. His facial expressions, verbal delivery, and the unique way he sells has all of the makings of a star. It will be exciting to see who steps up to face him after he finishes business with Roman Reigns at Fastlane.
RAW UNDER PERFORMER: RUSEV
Speaking strictly from a storyline perspective, Rusev’s pairing with Jinder Mahal has not exactly done Rusev any favors and has lead to being on the losing end of many segments over the past few weeks. After a forgettable Royal Rumble performance, Rusev was beaten by Enzo and Cass yet again leaving the Bulgarian’s momentum in serious question heading into Wrestlemania. Rusev has been quite the company man as of late, doing favors for many returning veterans while not being showcased the way he should be given his size, ring work, and ability on the mic. Knowing how talented Rusev is, it is hard to believe that he has failed to crack the main event picture during his WWE tenure. After another program where he will be ultimately be on the losing side of things yet again, it is hard to believe Rusev will be anywhere on the Wrestlemania card aside from the Andre the Giant Battle Royal, which is a shame.
SMACKDOWN ALL STAR: LUKE HARPER
It has been an interesting month for Luke Harper as he tried to figure out his place among the new Wyatt family. As the conflicts between he, Orton, and Bray came to a head at the Royal Rumble, Harper’s defiance was on full display Tuesday as he competed his babyface turn and squared off against his former family members. Harper was put into a massive situation teaming up with John Cena to kick off the show and performed brilliantly. Luke’s unique style of rough and tumble mixed with surprising agility could really help getting him over with the crowd as a fan favorite and give the company confidence to put him up against other main event stars. Luke has always been viewed as one of the most underrated wrestlers on the roster for years, and now that he has the opportunity to shine on his own he can really establish his unique character rather than blindly following Bray. Further, the way he reacted to Bray in the early stages of the match was something to be admired. The hesitation he showed to stand up to Wyatt when they told face to face helped tell the story of the spell Harper is trying to break away from. His fury of offense to finish the match cemented his separation from the family and is the first step taken to freedom.
SMACKDOWN UNDER PERFORMER: AMERICAN ALPHA
It is no secret that American Alpha’s run on the main roster has been mediocre at best, partly because of how they have been booked and the spots they have been put in. Nonetheless, they are the blue brand’s tag team champions and have a platform to establish themselves at the best tandem on Smackdown. While I enjoyed the two bringing up the fact that they have been after thoughts for the last three weeks, their attitude and smug nature almost came off as if they were turning heel. Contrary to the back stage interview, Alpha still acted as if they wanted to be cheered upon coming through the curtain. The problem here is that fewer people were aware of Jordan & Gable’s NXT success than WWE thought upon their call up, and they are still going through growing pains of establishing who they are and what they stand for. The backstage segment was clunky and a bit all over the place. They spoke about their accomplishments and skill set rather than explaining why they deserve to be taken more seriously in a fashion. This painted them in a negative light and left the fans wondering how to feel about them as they progress on the main roster. Moving forward, it needs to be clearly defined what side of the table Alpha is sitting at and it starts with them paying much more attention to how they deliver their message on a week to week basis.