SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
•A Hook Worth Biting
The Roman Reigns-Paul Heyman moment was one worth savoring. Sure it was brief, but it was a tease worth sticking around for and exploring. Perhaps it’s the new veneers,which isn’t exactly a babyface move for Reigns, doing enough to literally change his look or just that this linkage has been clamored for by a vocal section of the viewership, but just the image of Reigns with Heyman as a potential pair looked fresh. Fresh is not a word that has been used to describe WWE for a long time, but it will give Payback a more excited viewership than any big time show has since at least the Royal Rumble.
The Intercontinental Title division truly feels renewed and that is a direct result of the infusion of credible talent that seems inspired to be working together. Jeff Hardy is doing some of his best work in years and seems to have shaken both years and weirdness off of his character and while AJ Styles on commentary recalled Jerry Lawler at times, he is focused and clearly enjoying his opponents. Add in a more urgent-moving Shinsuke Nakamura and a returning Sami Zayn for a natural progression, and I am more interested in the Intercontinental Championship than any other time in recent years.
The Bray Wyatt character feels back on track. That is great news for all involved, as the combination of the increased production values and a big show win has reignited the feeling that he is still of the top tier and not starting some slow descent down the card recalling the early runs of Vader and Mankind in the ‘90s. It was never going to be possible to maintain the immortality of the initial matches forThe Fiend, so it’s best to move on from that, but right now Wyatt is in a sweet spot and having a hot act in a returning (heel?) Reigns could be the double turn that company needs desperately to kick off a classic storyline.
The moments may be brief, but the presence of Vince McMahon will always make any show feel more important. That is pretty much both an obvious and universally accepted view. With that said, this time feels different. The past two weeks have felt like some measure of normalcy has returned to the WWE Universe with the Thunderdome presentation, and having Vince around helps to solidify that notion. I don’t expect, nor want, any more Kevin Owens-style headbutts or unnecessary bumps his way, but at such a vulnerable time to keep an audience, Vince alone continues to make a viewer more confident in their channel choice.
•The Pace of It All
We are now moving at a breakneck pace, which is in such direct contrast to how the entire last year has gone, but it doesn’t appear to be for any other reason than there is a second Sunday night show scheduled. If this was part of a concerted effort to change up the pacing of the format, I’d be all for it, but there is such an inconsistency in the presentation of WWE storylines at this point that nothing seems to be worth banking on for the long term.
Speaking of pace, just when Bayley and Sasha Banks really found their voices as a team, we are now fast tracking their demise with going from slight hints to outright flashing signs. Why? A feud between the two is one worth saving for the return of in-person crowds especially considering the high quality of the performance of Banks and Bayley recently. When Destiny’s Child broke up, they didn’t suddenly start fighting, so why does that have to be the case in WWE? Neither one would seem to benefit from a face turn unless Banks is about to be invested in as the biggest female star in the company. Otherwise this all seems to be just an excuse to get us to the next week with no long term plan in place.
•Riddle Me This
He’s one of the most unique talents to walk a WWE aisle in years. He’s got a star look that pulls focus every time he is on the screen. He reeks of relevancy in a company that is known for aggressive promotion for good looking babyface acts and he checks all of those boxes. He’s simultaneously working two minute matches with the most cartoonish acts in company and having unnecessarily wasted precious time in his breakout run. Who am I talking about?
•The Usual Suspects
The infusion of Reigns, Sami, Heyman, Adam Pearce, and actual Intercontinental storyline worth watching also provided a spotlight on the fact that we’ve been watching the same wrestlers working against each other week-in-and-week-out for far too long. While the Miz & Morrison, Heavy Machinery, Big E., and Sheamus action is fine enough and always shows good workers doing their best to keep the ship moving, it also feels completely miss-able both in the literal and figurative sense. Thus it’s a miss.