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RISING STAR OF THE WEEK: Finn Balor
Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose – all three of these guys have been given prime spots in the babyface main event picture and each one of the former “Hounds of Justice” have struggled in finding their footing, 60% I’d say from poor booking and the other 40% falls on the shoulders of each Shield member: Seth and Roman both from shoddy babyface mic work and Dean just not knowing when to trade the “zany” in for a little “cut-throat outlaw”. That’s where the Artist Formerly Known As Prince Devitt comes in this week: so far he’s been properly booked by winning in top of the card matches and this Monday he got a chance to rub elbows with Paul Heyman, which in turn means he also indirectly rubs elbows with Raw’s only true literal superstar, Brock Lesnar (being his advocate and all). Mix that in with his organic and humanizing “whoops” at the “final five way” slip-up and Finn’s already shown some of that natural babyface charisma. It’s really a great start for someone that talented and that engulfed in the highly-scripted, highly-micromanaged WWE Universe. It will all payoff when he wins at Backlash and turns heel champion at Great Balls Of Fire with his motley crew of Balor Clubbers.
Goldust: Dustin’s dreams of a return to relevancy sure aren’t shattered after this week. Awesome move by creative to bring back his classic persona of 1996 which I believe still has very strong legs in the upper to (yes, I’ll say it) top of the card hierarchy. I’m all ready for the appropriate Goldust curtain call that his career so well deserves.
Elias Samson: Finally, the ominous guitar strumming amounts to something – I just wish it wasn’t to some clunky pre-match crooning. I actually think Elias’s lack of vocals gave his persona a little Johnny Cash cool (sure, Cash sang, but that was his actual bag, while Samson’s is pro wrestling and developing prominent trapezoids) so putting him in the position to actually put words to tune was tone deaf on Vince’s part. Despite this, he comes out victorious against Ambrose and is positioned as someone with upward mobility.
FADING STAR OF THE WEEK: Mickie James
While one veteran sees an upward swing, another sees the sadness of a loss without any sort of fanfare. Mickie James can no doubt still be a top star in the WWE’s bunch of very beleaguered female babyfaces, but having her lose to Bliss in an unceremonious three minutes is a great disservice to the product and a talent of her caliber. Such a shame considering that several months ago I took time to invest a great deal of my wrestling fandom into the women’s matches, now they’re seeming as passable and pointless as to when the butterfly belt was flying across a “Diva’s” waist. Where’s that trailblazer Stephanie when you need her? (I kid, I kid.)
Charlotte Flair: Getting wrapped up into backstage bicker-fest with the rest of the Smackdown ladies is not a good look for the best female talent in wrestling let alone the entire division. And another Fatal Five-Way match? What kind of lazy booking is this junk? Oh, there’s that butterfly again…
Shinsuke Nakamura: Just like Bayley and Enzo, he’s someone who should never be on the negative side of this column, but already I’m seeing a pattern I’m not liking whatsoever. Shinsuke’s being WWE homogenized with segment’s like the Smackdown opener and his overextended involvement with that loser Dolph. He’s the King of Strongstyle, not “Standing Around”. Let’s see a little more of the former.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: RISING STARS & FADING STARS – WWE BACKLASH: Jinder Mahal, Sami Zayn, Breezango, Randy Orton, Becky Lynch