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Due to Roman Reigns relinquishing the WWE Universal Title on Monday night in order to concentrate on his medical treatments for the recurrence of leukemia, WWE has taken a fresh look at the alignment of the Raw roster and shaken things up.
When we talk about turns in the modern era of WWE, we need to keep in mind what would have been a “turn” years ago could be portrayed differently by WWE the following week, but it appears that Elias and Braun Strowman turned babyface and Dean Ambrose joined Bobby Lashley in the heel ranks.
This sets up this depth chart for “top tier” babyface and heels…
(1a) Braun Strowman
(1b) Seth Rollins
(3) Finn Balor
(1) Dean Ambrose
(2) Drew McIntyre
(3) Bobby Lashley
(4) Dolph Ziggler
(5) Baron Corbin
(6) Jinder Mahal
(As a side note, Ronda Rousey is essentially tied with Braun and Seth in terms of being the top babyface on the roster, but I’m focusing this on the men’s roster on Raw.)
There’s a chance Ambrose explains away his actions next week as a decision to dissolve The Shield completely, in honor of Reigns, and that he’s not “a bad guy” so to speak, but just a lone wolf who doesn’t want to continue fighting side-by-side with Seth. If that’s the case, then it realigns a bit.
Raw had felt stale in recent weeks, with the battles between The Shield members and the Braun & Dolph & Drew alliance taking over the shows. Next week feels a new season for Raw.
Not having Reigns as the focus of Vince McMahon takes away the filter that every Raw storyline was put through before making it on air: How does this affect Roman Reigns?
Vince will now have to get the most out of everyone else. Braun is a challenge as a lead babyface because there aren’t a lot of top heels who are physical threats to him, but fortunately McIntyre and Lashley are, and that can occupy Braun for months. Seth is not a challenge as a top babyface as he can wrestle credibly against any heel on the roster who is built up to be a threat to him.
CHECK OUT THE WADE KELLER PRO WRESTLING POST-SHOW ON RAW THIS WEEK
I think Seth is more versatile as the long-term lead babyface champion and Braun is better off in the “Andre the Giant / Undertaker” special attraction role. If Braun remains a babyface for the long-run (and they shouldn’t damage him like they did Big Show over the years by turning him again anytime soon), then WWE should focus on developing monster heels to feed to him, starting with recruiting and training at the Performance Center and also scouting worldwide the non-WWE indy scenes.
Elias’s upside isn’t clear, but from an in-ring match quality standpoint and just how he carries himself, he’s a fourth-tier babyface at best. With the departure of Reigns, it’d be a good idea, then, to rebuild Balor into a true top tier title contending babyface, perhaps with a credible and heralded Intercontinental Title run.
When Kevin Owens returns, he can be inserted into a top heel or babyface role, depending on need. If they turn him babyface, though, they have to be ready to keep him there for years and not turn him based on “immediate need.” He is a special talent whose role shouldn’t be changed on a whim when someone grows stale or gets injured.
I don’t see any undercard wrestlers on the Raw roster otherwise who are ready to step up to IC Title level other than possible a newly turned heel Bobby Roode, who’s flat as a babyface and lower-mid-card at best in this role.
Bray Wyatt can be in this mix, and Greg Parks wrote about that possibility in his Take yesterday.