SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Roman Reigns Debuts as Intercontinental Champ…
Recap: Roman Reigns led off the show with a promo after the announcers recapped last week’s Intercontinental Title win over the Miz. During the promo, Reigns was challenged by the Miztourage, who stated that while they weren’t in any condition to avenge the Miz, their new friend Elias was. Later, Reigns defeated Elias to retain his title, but was attacked from behind by Samoa Joe afterwards.
Evaluation: This was the first night in a very long time where I came away thinking that Reigns may actually get over as a face. His promo at the top of the show lacked the aloof “too cool for school” attitude that so often negatively colors his attempts at getting over. Even his smile seemed more sincere. He got a sizable “you deserve it” chant when speaking about winning the title, and seemed legitimately humbled when thanking the fans for it. For good measure, after the promo the cameras stuck with Reigns to catch him fist bumping Seth Rollins on his way down the ramp for his match, taking advantage of every opportunity for The Shield’s “cool factor” to rub off on Roman.
My least favorite part of tonight was excessive overuse of the “Big Dog” conceit. The announcers were particularly bad tonight. Michael Cole quoted Reigns as saying “wherever I am is my yard”, Corey Graves mentioned that the big Big Dog would be “keeping his paws” on the IC Title for a very long time, and after the successful title defense, Cole went so far as to say that Reigns was “marking his territory”.
Forecast: I honestly can’t believe I’m saying this, but if Roman can keep up the vibes he put out tonight on the mic, he may actually get over as a face. Joe’s attack after the match seems to make it clear that Joe will be his next feud. Since making Roman look good seems to be WWE Priority #1, we can see why Finn Balor was so badly dominated by Joe last week; by making Joe look strong, Roman will look even stronger when he beats Joe next.
Absolution Formally Debuts…
Recap: A six woman tag watch was set with Paige, Mandy Rose, and Sonia Deville taking on Sasha Banks, Bailey, and Mickie James. The match never took place, as the heels attacked and incapacitated Mickie and Bailey before the match, leaving Sasha alone in the ring. Paige, Mandy, and Sonia announced their stable name as “Absolution” and proclaimed that Sasha was either with them or against them. When Banks refused to join, the three took turns beating on her. Alexa Bliss, who was on commentary, quietly slipped away. Later, Absolution surrounded Asuka after her victory over Dana Brooke, but allowed her to leave the ring unscathed with no explanation.
Evaluation: My big hope with the NXT women’s callups was that WWE would cut out the pointless multi-woman matches designed to get everyone on TV, and instead use the depth to foster fresh feuds. I was therefore initially disappointed to see the six woman tag match booked. My opinion changed, however, when it became obvious the match wasn’t happening and was simply an excuse to further the invasion angle.
Early in the night, Michael Cole repeatedly neglected to even mention Mandy and Sonia, instead referring to the team as “Paige and Company”. When their names finally did come up, they came from Corey Graves, who took a long pause while seeming to forget Mandy Rose’s name before finally spitting it out. This obviously wasn’t the best way to introduce the new pair to fans who don’t watch NXT.
Forecast: Hopefully WWE develops real feuds as part of this angle rather than the typical multi-woman matches with little backstory. It will be interesting to see where the Asuka angle goes. Asuka smiled as she left. Has she already secretly joined Absolution? Or is she a recruit playing into being wooed, even without real intent to join? Either way, it was good to see Asuka protected.
Finn Balor’s Stock Continues to Fall…
Recap: Last week, Finn Balor was dominated by Samoa Joe. This week, he was dominated by Kane and played the damsel in distress role, being essentially rescued by Braun Strowman as part of Braun’s face push. Even worse, earlier in the evening Titus O’Neil looked stronger in his match against Samoa Joe than Finn did in his match with Joe last week.
Evaluation: There have been numerous reports that Finn has fallen out of favor with Vince McMahon, and tonight certainly won’t quell that speculation. Finn looks weak after being dominated by Samoa Joe last week, only to watch a low midcarder like Titus O’Neil actually have a more respectable match with Joe this week. Finn was essentially sacrificed last week to make Joe look stronger going into his feud with Roman Reigns, and was sacrificed this week to advance a storyline between Braun Strowman and Kane.
Forecast: It unfortunately seems Finn Balor will be an afterthought on the card for a while.
A couple months ago, in one of his more off-book comments, Booker T fell into a monologue about Cesaro not being happy in the tag division, but instead really wanting to become a singles champion. This was obviously not the story WWE wanted to get across, as a flabbergasted Corey Graves attempted to set Booker straight. This makes it even more bizarre that tonight Booker T seemed to double down on this theme, stating that Cesaro was in “singles mode”….
Kurt Angle again appeared not to be a regular viewer of WWE television, as he didn’t know what the “Zo Train” was. He had the explanation that his problems with Triple-H and Stephanie had him distracted from the Cruiserweight Division, but this wasn’t a great look for him considering his earlier unscripted mispronunciations of wrestlers’ names…