KELLER’S TAKE: What was wrong with Under Siege and how it could have been executed without glaring flaws

By Wade Keller, PWTorch Editor

Shane McMahon (art credit Joel Tesch © PWTorch)


Last night’s big show-closing angle on Monday Night Raw is generating fierce debate among fans. Was it a cool buzz-generating angle or utter nonsense, or is it too soon to tell?

For me, it’s utter nonsense. But the concept itself could have been done well. It’s too late to fix everything that was wrong with it last night, but not too late to try to plug some gaping logic holes.

Wade Keller, editorIt’s utter nonsense because you have babyfaces and heels fighting side by side for this imaginary “brand loyalty” that means nothing in the world WWE creates. Maybe Shane McMahon has “brand pride” or something, but what’s it based on? WWE talked a little bit about ratings when Smackdown closed in on Raw for a week or two, but otherwise there’s just no score-keeping in this regard.

Are wrestlers prideful of having “better matches” or putting on “better shows”? And how is that measured? And how are wrestler, who are typically selfish creatures acting in their own self interest to settle personal grudges and win matches and make more money, rewarded for having “better matches” or being part of “better shows”? They aren’t – not within the world WWE presents on TV.

Why would Bobby Roode suddenly fight side-by-side with Dolph Ziggler? Why would the babyfaces on Smackdown suddenly put aside everything their characters usually stand up for and partake in this mob attack, including an innocent backstage worker in a headset just going about his job? How can Becky Lynch for New Day ever stand up for fair play and honorable conduct when they were part of cheering on a gang style attack on Raw wrestlers without warning who were scattered around the backstage area, some nursing injuries (such as Jason Jordan)?

I’m in favor of the roster split, but not the unnecessary and illogical aspects of it. The Survivor Series as a concept featuring Raw vs. Smackdown wrestlers can work as an annual novelty, but it has to be handled with care, with attention paid to characters acting consistent with their moral compasses and constitutions that otherwise guide them throughout the other 11 months of the year and are the core reason we are motivated to root for or against them otherwise. Without that, an angle like this is just utter nonsense. Artistically, it’s offensive. Practically, it’s bad for business and undercuts what WWE does the other 11 months of the year.

The fact that Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn didn’t participate in an attack ordered by Shane McMahon is an acknowledgment that rivalries and grudges shouldn’t be set aside for mythical “brand pride.” But why are some grudges worth preserving and others not? Why do some heels have brand pride that rise above their disputes with babyface G.M. Shane McMahon, and not others? Worse of all, why would babyfaces act in such a way, including Shane, New Day, Shinsuke Nakamura, Chad Gable, Tye Dillinger, Bobby Roode, and Becky Lynch?

This doesn’t feel like some sort of culmination of a year of fighting for some collective cause. This feels like an annual fall booking stunt with a forced angle that makes no sense in any context.

This could be presented in a sensible way from the start, though. It’s not that a Raw vs. Smackdown five-on-five match can’t work.

On Smackdown, Shane could bring together a group of wrestlers who aren’t otherwise represented on the card in the champion vs. champion matches. He could give a little pep talk about they have this annual battle, sort of like a company softball game between two divisions of the same company, and explain that there are stakes they are fighting for. He would acknowledge in the speech that not everybody here gets along, and not everybody gathered is willing to set aside differences for a greater good for one night. At that point, to protect his character, Baron Corbin should walk off. So should Rusev. Shane can nod and or roll his eyes or sigh at that point. Some heels just shouldn’t be willing to be corralled into some locker room and listen patiently and reasonably to a pep talk by their boss. They are outlaws who have no interest in such endeavors.

Then among those left, Shane could ask for volunteers who are willing to fight for Team Smackdown, and then explain the stakes. The stakes could be several things, and the particulars aren’t important. But for the sake of illustrating the point, Shane could say that the winning brand at Survivor Series gets the sole chances at the last four slots in the Royal Rumble, and the losing brand is stuck with the first four slots. So in the random draw, heels from Smackdown could lose their chance to get the coveted no. 30 spot and their chances of getting the dreaded no. 1 spot could double. Even (some) heels could get on board with plugging their noses and fighting alongside rivals for one match for that cause, because it ultimately serves their self-interest for the team to win.

Another simple option is just to announce a fake cash prize that the winning team splits. So Shane could say he has pride in the wrestlers he drafted and he thinks they are better than the best team Raw can assemble, but to make it worthwhile for the wrestlers fight for his own pride, there is a cash prize. The winning fivesome splits a million dollar bonus. He can say this is above and beyond the usual winners payday. Even better, to raise the stakes, he could announce that the losing team foregoes their usual payday and gets nothing.

Then, let’s say ten wrestlers volunteer for the match. Shane could match five heels against five babyfaces in a Smackdown main event, winning team represents Smackdown.

The same scenario could play out on Raw with Kurt Angle. Ideally, a heel team would win on Raw if a babyface team won on Smackdown. That way when the match took place, fans would have a universal reason to cheer for one team over the other, since truth be told, there aren’t really that many fiercely loyal pro-Raw anti-Smackdown WWE fans out there, or vice-versa. When you’re trying to draw money in pro wrestling, engaging fans in battles where they care who wins and are rooting for one side against another is, with rare exception, where promoters have the most success.

While there are plenty of viable variations of the above, the core non-negotiable aspects have to be adhered to. For the sake of protecting the integrity of the characters for the other 11 months of the year, no gang warfare attacks with heels and babyfaces fighting side-by-side for some nonsense “brand pride” that doesn’t really exist and, more important, doesn’t stoke any particular strong emotion with the fans, and instead just set up the Raw vs. Smackdown rivalry in a way that makes sense. The situation should involve wrestlers acting in a way that stays true to their established motivations the rest of the year, and should result in a match where fans have a rooting interest in one team winning over the other.

Could the Raw team, for instance, end up involving an unlikely alliance of three babyface and two heels against an all-heel team on Smackdown? Sure. Could that play into the finish, where the heels don’t cooperate and blow their top at some misunderstanding, which leads to the finish and Team Smackdown winning? Sure. That works, too.

There is no justification, and real damage is done to the whole narrative structure that creates the framework for the weekly shows otherwise, having babyfaces act totally out of character, like thugs, cheering on heels beating down unsuspecting, outnumbered colleagues from the other brand, or backstage workers just going about their business. There is no moral ground that Shane McMahon can ever stand on again with credibility after being the mastermind and leader behind last night’s show-closing “siege.” It was utter nonsense.

Fans excitedly saying “That was cool to watch!” no more defines a wise booking strategy than an eight year old saying “I love cotton candy!” is a reason to serve it as a main course for dinner every night. WWE’s job isn’t just to get a buzz-generating pop; it’s to make sure what they do fits in the context of efficiently drawing the most interest from fans in sustainable ways that ultimately draws money for themselves and the wresters they employ. Last night’s clustermess was as poorly thought through and counter-productive as anything they’ve done in years.

10 Comments on KELLER’S TAKE: What was wrong with Under Siege and how it could have been executed without glaring flaws

  1. I didn’t really hate the angle. Sure, there were some logic flaws. I don’t see the faces and heels working together as being a big one, though. One thing to consider- How many people have jobs where they like all of their co-workers? If your boss asks you to work together on a big project though, you’re either going to go along to get along, or find yourself unemployed. Now the way they had the babyfaces cheer when the production guy got tossed around was a bad look, and Smackdown as a whole came off heelish. I will say though, as someone who’s more invested in a lot of RAW’s characters and stories, and who also very inconsistently watches Smackdown- the blue brand are the heels to me in essence, because I’ll be rooting for RAW across the board.

  2. I don’t hate the angle either, but I am not sure if I like it either. I will say that for the first time in a long time, I am interested in the WWE product, I am sure I am not the only one. The follow up, to me, is the key. If the follow up tonight on Smackdown is not done well, then it could ruin the whole thing.

    I understand why enemies would bound together for a common cause. That happens all the time in sports, but usually the alliance does not hold together very long. I hope they don’t go the lazy route and have one of the wrestlers “secretly” switch loyalties, but that seems like something WWE might due to bring the angle to a close.

    I kind of hope they extend this behind Survivor series. It could lead to some interesting things at Royal Rumble or Mania. It was pretty creative considering what is going on with Reigns and a few others. I would expect Smackdown to see a ratings bump at least initially.

  3. The only logic WWE could be using with heels and faces fighting along side each other in this brand feud is equating like someone might that the fights on the individual shows are family squabbles like amongs siblings or cousins but blood(show loyalty) is thicken then water and that they will put aside their differences for a common enemy. Shrug. Only thing I can come up to make it remotely make sense otherwise I agree it’s a completely Charlie Foxtrot in execution by creative yet again.

  4. This in my opinion will go down as one of the worst and most horribly booked segments in years and should be a candidate for worst segment of the year. The writers who wrote this trash deserve to be taken away in a trash truck alot more then Strowman did. This looked like the trash we use to see on TNA and I am shocked Vince would bury so much of his talent and destroy and credibility they have.

  5. Couldn’t agree more on this article. Actually, Smackdown was a show with heels only, since all of them..well almost all…took part in those cheap, mob-attacks and gloated about it on social media. And all for this artificial “brand-loyalty”. ok then.

  6. I don’t completely disagree that it could have been done better. I have a mild problem with guys in a current feud working together – but as some have pointed out, if a “bad guy” on a rival team suddenly gets traded to your team, players and fans immediately embrace that guy. That happens all the time. I think the only logic gap is a good guy cheering for bad things being done (attacking helpless or innocent people). The problem is they haven’t done a good job or been patient enough to BUILD a sense of brand loyalty. They do too many cross overs and too many massive wrestler brand switch angles each year. You get no sense that the character would see themselves as “Raw” or “Smackdown” as opposed to “WWE”. They do so little to differentiate the brands that it sort of comes out of the blue. So it’s not the execution – it’s the set up just isn’t strong enough.

  7. This stuff is more unwatchable and unbelievable than the Team Challenge Series, but nobody really cares or does anything about it because we are all trapped in the WWE Universe with no way out. Welcome to terrible 2017 fanboy reality! Keep sucklin’ at Vince’s teat!

    At least in the TCS they had a fake million dollars on the line or whatever.

    • A more accurate term would be to keep kissing Vince’s ass. Anyone who could possibly say that segment or story line is good totally belongs in Vince’s club.

  8. Keller, Ziggler’s reply to you on Twitter pretty much summed up the state of WWE right now. They’re so insular in their own world, they’ll do anything to justify what they do, even if it goes completely against storytelling 101. This nonsense about ‘grey areas’ and ‘there’s no such thing as heels and faces anymore’ – it’s all excuses for the poor storytelling and character development we’ve become so used to. Just look at recent evidence – Bayley ruined, Nakamura/Roode mishandled, Styles vs Owens botched finishes – no one knows what’s going on, and the way they handle it is by trying to create ‘a buzz’, in order to meet their company objectives. The irony being – if they actually took the time to tell the stories, build up characters over time, and forego short-term publicity gains, they might actually garner more interest and revenue than they do right now. Just imagine if Jinder was built up over time, then went to India and won the WWE Championship there? The ‘Under Siege’ segment was atrocious, there’s no point dressing it up in any way – entertaining as it will always be, there was simply no need for the likes of New Day and Becky Lynch to be there. Hell, they could have done it with Shane going heel and creating a tension sub-plot with Bryan on Smackdown. Just needed a little bit more thought and less…well, Vince McMahon and Kevin Dunn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.