SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
This week in WWE programming featured Raw’s go-home efforts for Great Balls of Fire while Smackdown showcased a number of different angles leading into Battleground. Lets take a closer look at the hits and missed from each show.
RAW ALL STAR: ROMAN REIGNS
Leading into the final moments of Raw WWE had most fans convinced that Roman Reigns would be left off of television this week to sell the injuries sustained on the episode prior. While Braun was making an example of Apollo Crews, Roman shocked the crowd when he exited the driver’s side of the ambulance and absolutely unloaded on Strowman making for a very compelling segment to close the show. What I liked the most about Reigns here was how he carried himself and the way in which he laid in his offense. So often we get lulled to sleep with the 3 or 4 go-to moves that resemble a video game character more than a professional wrestler, so the change of pace here was good to see. Sure, he did still use a spear to finish off Strowman, but it was off of the stage and through a tale which made for a tremendous visual. This entire segment was meant to put over the fact that these two will need to do everything in their power to put the other one down for good and the aggression showed by Reigns leads us to believe that he has a legitimate chance to come out the victor on Sunday. Strowman getting up so quickly after the spear was a nice tough that added more intrigue. The announce team sold it very well. This is the Roman we need every week, heel or babyface.
RAW UNDER PERFORMER: BRAY WYATT
While Seth Rollins has used this feud to really start defining who he is and what he stands for, we have gotten more of the same from Bray Wyatt. In a video featuring Wyatt in the middle of the desert, he spoke in more riddles and innuendo while continuing to make little to no sense. He proclaimed that friends were now enemies and the Beast is nothing but a mere mortal all because he is now on Raw. Unfortunately, none of that is true and Bray has had absolutely no influence on any major Raw angle since joining the roster. Sure, the words might be strange and different each week, but it continues to be without purpose or reason. The biggest thing hindering the entire Bray Wyatt character is the fact that aside from a very short and mismanaged World Championship run on Smackdown, he has hardly won any major singles matches he has competed in for almost 3 years now. While his personality suggests that he cares much more about creating chaos than winning matches, this is still professional wrestling and I would like to think the outcomes of matches still mean something. Amidst all of the “chaos” Bray has created, he has not decisively beaten anyone or come out the overall victor in any program he has been involved in. For those reasons, promos delivered like the one we saw on Monday comes off as white noice more than anything else.
SMACKDOWN ALL STAR: JOHN CENA and RUSEV
My goodness it was refreshing to see John Cena back on WWE television this week. Whether you love him or hate him he always makes the show significantly more interesting and delivered in a big way on Tuesday. While we might still be very much in the dark as to what “Free Agent John Cena” actually means, he made his intentions very clear that he is willing to take on all comers from both brands. Naming some of the top stars really crystalized what it would mean if he were to step foot in the ring with any of those mentioned, especially Roman Reigns and Shinsuke Nakamura. The traditional Americana narrative that Cena tends to stick to this time of year aside, his promo was fantastic as always and the “I am not a part-timer, I am an all-timer” quote was icing on the cake. A very nice touch. Not to be lost here is the returning Rusev, who is so much better on the mic than many give him credit for. Understanding that this was a matchup we have seen before, WWE needed to add another layer to the conflict. This was executed very well with Rusev expressing frustration over Cena getting a grand welcome with video packages and social media coverage while the Smackdown authority figures wouldn’t even return his calls. I am not sure if all of this ends too well for Rusev but it was a great start to a new program that will culminate with a match at Battleground. It may not be as important as the return of Cena, but Rusev adds an entirely different dynamic to Tuesday nights. When he is finished with Cena, it will be interesting to see where he goes from there.
SMACKDOWN NOTABLE ALL STAR: CHAD GABLE
A handshake and a nod of approval from someone like AJ Styles could be just the catalyst Chad Gable needed to finally get him on the map since his call-up from NXT. While American Alpha still claim to be a team, Gable set himself apart with his performance against Styles on Tuesday and lost absolutely nothing in defeat. Gable executed his big offensive spots, proved he can move around the ring and mat wrestlae with one of the best in the business, and probably opened a ton of eyes backstage. I am not quite sure what the future holds for Chad Gable, but in the last two weeks he has absolutely made the most of his opportunities and has rightfully earned more television time for himself, and maybe his partner.
SMACKDOWN UNDER PERFORMER: LANA
If memory serves me correctly, Lana was extremely over with the crowd before her television hiatus. I most certainly had high hopes for her return with a slightly altered gimmick because I have been so impressed by her mic work and the ability to grab the audience’s attention. Since her return, she has been treated terribly and her burial continued this week in the worst way. I was convinced that there was no way back for Lana after last week’s 1 minute loss to Naomi in her Championship rematch with Naomi, so I am not even sure where to begin after the 30 second submission we witnessed this week. Completely understanding that within the storyline Lana shouldn’t be able to hold a candle to Naomi in the ring, but the decision to showcase just how much further behind she was in this manner was downright bad business. I am not even convinced she would be able to handle an enhancement wrestler now, let alone the Smackdown Women’s Division. This could all be a part of some master plan paid off months down the road, but as of right now no one is in a worse position on the Smackdown card than Lana, someone who is extremely capable of being a featured star on Tuesday nights.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: ALL-STARS & UNDERPERFORMERS 6/29: Sasha, Nia Jax, Cass, Lavar Ball, Ellsworth & Carmella, Bryan, Lana