CRAIG’S MUSINGS: Mae Young Classic and Vince McMahon-Kevin Owens angles – what worked and what didn’t

By Craig Elbe, PWTorch contributori

Mae Young Classic Finals

Neither Shayna Baszler or Kairi Sane got anything resembling a decent reaction until Lilian Garcia guilted the sparse audience into it. Smackdown had louder pops from the same audience for more over and established people. I think this is a result of the binge formula they tried with the tournament, and the short window to watch all eight episodes. In his most recent conference call, it was nice to hear Paul Levesque say it was an experiment. Hopefully this will go into their database. Binging may be trendy, but when there isn’t room to breathe and absorb and build anticipation between single episodes, a lack of retention is always a possible side effect.

Regardless, the Las Vegas audience that did show up, and knew they’d be there, should have immersed themselves in the tournament to have more excitement upon Baszler’s and Sane’s music and walks to the ring. It would have made it more enjoyable for themselves too. I don’t buy an argument that says the Smackdown closing segment killed the audience. More on that later. There was enough time and table setting for the match after Vince was helped out of the ring. This crowd failed themselves and WWE. I don’t watch the show, but I can only imagine how 205 Live went.

The right woman won. Sane is on her way to a match for the vacant NXT Women’s Title at the Takeover show in the embattled city of Houston, the day before Survivor Series. She is very talented and will have a great run there. Her opponent or opponents have not been named. Baszler will be elevated through whatever the Horsewomen factions do so she didn’t need the win. Ronda Rousey and her celebrity status is there to carry her lesser-known stablemates. Heck, Baszler wouldn’t have made it to the finals if it weren’t for the Rousey association and, hopefully, money program.

However, she does a terrible Brock Lesnar impression from the ramp to the ring. Baszler has some fighter charisma, but no wrestler charisma nor a personality that translates to the wrestling genre. In the ring, she is still green but solid. I look forward to seeing if she realizes the potential she has even though I think her ceiling is about mid card high.

The match itself told a good story but wasn’t all that great or memorable. My favorite part was the selling, during and after the match. The fallout has already been established for Sane with her already inserted in the NXT Women’s Title picture. For Baszler, the loss could be great fodder for promos when the time comes for the Horsewomen feud. By the way, where was that? Despite Sasha Banks not in the arena, I would have loved to see something of a cliffhanger to end the show. Then again, we may not have seen the post-match sportsmanship between Baszler and Sane. Overall, what I’d like isn’t always what’s best and having the focus on Sane at the end was the right choice.

Owens and Vince

Anytime Vince McMahon appears on TV, I wish a crowd would crap on him with boos, or worse, silence. He deserves a lot of praise for his place in history, but these days it’s a chore to watch his product. Even when it’s good, staying optimistic is difficult. Optimism is rarely rewarded, so is paying attention to detail and continuity. He does tend to appear when negative reactions or silence will not likely happen. This was the only thing worthy of the main event of Smackdown tonight. Clever booking Vince!

Vince’s performance was better than his last series of segments, where he was trying to get Roman Reigns over in late 2015 and early 2016. For this appearance, he knew his physical limits and played to his verbal strengths. His billionaire comments and a lawsuit bankrupting Kevin Owens was heel-like, but also, to me, a direct message to Phil Brooks a/k/a C.M. Punk. Vince was there to play the face, so I am guessing he had that ulterior motive to briefly divert from his intended role.

Vince must love Kevin Owens. He only lets the ones he loves and sees money in put their hands on him. I would imagine at this stage in his life he’s especially picky. He, of course, just had to get in a body remark about what Owens sees in the mirror.

I loved the beatdown Owens gave Vince, blood and all; planned or unplanned. My love isn’t blind, though. The presence of the referees that still gave Owens a clear path to Vince was dumb. So was Adam Pearce moving out of the way or not moving Vince pre-frogsplash. Even dumber was Vince trying to convince us he’s never lost a lawsuit. That’s too easy to find out. The man behind the WWF has definitely lost at least one lawsuit.

Owens made sure to make his offense look good while protecting Vince. The possible exception was the headbutt. It made me cringe and reminded me of Katsuyori Shibata’s headbutt to Kazuchika Okada during their match from New Japan’s Sakura Genesis event, going back to April of this year. I didn’t hear the thud of skulls like I did with Shibata and Okada, and I’m certainly hopeful Vince won’t suffer the same fate Shibata did and is still dealing with. It ended his career and briefly threatened his life.

No matter what, Vince showed us he sees Owens as a major player going forward. The Hell in a Cell match with Shane isn’t something to look forward to, so I’ll fast forward to the aftermath. Similar to A.J. Styles and his WrestleMania 33 program and match with Shane, Owens’s program with Shane will be a launching pad for Owens to more solid booking going forward. Unless he really hurt Vince with that headbutt.

Vince’s selling and walk up the ramp was a great visual and put some steam behind the McMahon’s vs Owens feud. Stephine’s face was something I’ve enjoyed off my TV. She didn’t need to be there, nor after Kairi Sane won later that night, or anywhere quite frankly. Her character carries too much resentment with me. Oh wait, her character belongs on TV when she finally gets the years of comeuppance it’s earned for too many years of looking too strong and claiming credit for the Women’s Revolution. If she is going to be anywhere near a match with Ronda Rousey, in any capacity, I might go insane.

Follow Craig Elbe on Twitter @CraigElbe

NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: CRAIG’S MUSING: Reigns still coming up short despite attempts last two weeks to give him more of a realistic edge against Cena



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