Pro Wrestling

10 Ways Raw Continues To Kill Time Until The Brand Split Source:

While WWE has given the main event a breath of fresh air with Dean Ambrose as WWE World Heavyweight Champion, for however long that lasts, there is a decided air around the show that seems to indicate that not much in WWE is going to progress until after the brand extension resumes on July 19th. Which should make it harder to build a Pay Per View that will happen immediately after WWE splits their roster in two, especially when the guy you spent the last two years pushing as the new centerpiece of the promotion fails a drug test and has to be suspended, but it seems they’ve got a plan for that. Of course, that plan seems to involve having a bunch of “dream” matches between opponents who will likely end up on different brands, and extending midcard feuds that nobody was particularly interested in the first time, but at least they’ve got something. And hey, we got some pretty good matches and a fairly fast-moving show last night, so it’s not all doom and gloom, right?

10. He’s Not A Good Looming Problem, He’s Not A Bad…You Get The Idea

So, Roman Reigns was suspended for 30 days for violating the WWE Wellness Policy, but WWE still put him in the main event of the next PPV. We’re not sure the message we’d want to deliver here is “if you violate our stringent drug policy, but you happen to be the guy we planned to build the future of the company around, your punishment is to take the next month off the road and come back just in time for a World title match on Pay Per View”, while also pointing out that if someone like Zack Ryder had failed a Wellness test, we’d never hear about him ever again on WWE programming. Then, WWE had Seth Rollins actually address Reigns’ Wellness violation on Raw, which bothers us both for what we just talked about, in addition to the fact that, as entertaining as it was to listen to Rollins repeatedly hit Reigns with sick burns, it’s lazy writing. What happened to the days of at least faking an injury to get someone off TV? Are they hoping Reigns will get sympathy heat because he failed a drug test? That seems like a terrible plan. Plus, this marks the second feud this year where Reigns won’t be on TV at all for the build, and it seems like someone who’s supposedly deserving of this relentless main event push should at least occasionally be around on regular programming. Source:

9. A Wild Austin Vs McMahon Feud Appeared!

Apparently the closer we get to the brand split, the less Stephanie feels like she needs to pretend that she’s not the same evil character she’s always been. Oh, and she hates the fact that Dean Ambrose is champion, because he’s even more embarrassing to the company than Roman Reigns. Sure, that seems irrational, because Dean is beloved, didn’t fail a drug test, and is actually working even harder to make up for Roman’s absence, and is the first babyface champion in a very long time that the crowd actually loves, but it’s a story, so we’ll go with it. With that said, it seemed a little abrupt to suddenly go full “Austin-McMahon”, after Stephanie has basically shown nothing but mild discomfort for Dean Ambrose until this week, but now hates him with the fire of a thousand burning suns. The good news is, Ambrose’s devil-may-care attitude about unfavorable fights is a good dynamic if you’re going to once again try and resurrect the feud that defined the Attitude Era, because he’s made it quite clear he’ll fight everyone and anyone for whatever reason. We just wish this felt like a more natural progression, rather than “somebody flipped a switch and now Stephanie hates Dean as Champion”. It probably would have helped if this had happened on the Raw immediately following Dean’s title win and not a week later, because for someone she hates that much, it seems odd that she waited a whole week to start messing with him. Source:

8. The Reason Why She’s The Boss

Sasha Banks is like this giant pot of money that WWE decided to sit on rather than actually use for anything that could have earned them more money as a result. There’s a leprechaun joke about Vince McMahon in here somewhere, but we just can’t quite work it out. With that said, despite basically vanishing from the company the day after putting on the best match of WrestleMania 32, it’s pretty clear that the fans, at least, have not forgotten about her, and still have hopes that she will dominate the Women’s division and raise it to even higher glory. The good news is, Sasha’s obviously up to the task, and while we’re pretty sure we’re getting another Dana Brooke-assisted delay to Sasha’s inevitable title reign (or a screwy ending that results in two Women’s titles after the brand split, which is not the direction we want things to go) at Battleground, at least the hope for the future of WWE women’s wrestling, which had taken a severe nosedive during the unending post-Mania period involving way too much Ric Flair and Natalya as the #1 contender, is on the rise again. We’d tell you that you could Banks on it, but that seems like a terrible pun, and we’re normally above that sort of thing. Source:

7. Giving The Heel What He Wanted

If you could list the things that we never particularly wanted to see on WWE programming, “a lame duck feud that spans multiple PPVs and heavily involves Titus O’Neil challenging for a title he’ll never win” would probably be on there somewhere. Look, a one-time thing on PPV that helps re-establish Rusev as someone who enjoys crushing people was fine, but the whole world knows that Titus is not going to be the guy to unseat the Bulgarian Brute, so stretching this futility out for an additional PPV makes it obvious that WWE is just killing time until the brand split. But more importantly, we feel like we have to point out the ridiculous logic gap which occurred during the match on Raw, which apparently earned Titus another shot at the US Title. During the match, Rusev decided to take his title and go home, taking the count-out loss, which didn’t particularly matter to him, because he’s still US Champion. However, in the grand tradition of babyfaces everywhere, Titus ran outside the ring and prevented Rusev from leaving, beating him up for a bit before rolling back into the ring and forcing Rusev to take a loss…by countout. Which, you might recall, was what Rusev was trying to do in the first place! Source:

6. She, Robot

We had hoped that a heel turn might freshen up Natalya’s attitude and character, allowing her to explore a new personality and play on the other side of the line, something she hasn’t done in a long time. Unfortunately, the Nattie who appeared on commentary this week (briefly, before Becky Lynch made the smart decision and decided to attack her enemy instead of bother with a meaningless match against someone else) was pretty much the same Nattie we saw as a face, only instead of stilted, unconvincing statements about her cats and her uncle, we got stilted, unconvincing statements about needing a change and how tired she was of being the good girl. From what we’ve seen, Natalya and Dana Brooke are pretty much opposite ends of a spectrum, as Brooke can’t wrestle, but has a pretty great character, while Natalya is a really good wrestler, but thanks to her consistently flat, robotic delivery when she talks, we’re pretty sure she wouldn’t pass a Turing test at this point. At some point, could we get John Connor to show up and teach Natalya about the complexities of human language? Source:

5. Wait, Why Does This Need To End Again?

So, despite their eternal blood feud not being directly referenced since Owens beat Zayn straight up at Payback, WWE has decided that they need to give Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens a definitive end to their war, which seems like an impossible task, but we’ll let them make the effort. And hey, don’t get us wrong, we will watch any and every Zayn-Owens match that happens, because it is as close to guaranteed awesomeness as you can get in wrestling. With that said, this kind of seems like it came out of nowhere, and is only happening because WWE is planning to split the two up in the brand split (which is a move we’re okay with, actually). It seems like ending a feud that has been going on for fifteen years overall and nearly two years in WWE itself requires a little more than the two of them just suddenly deciding to end things forever on a random episode of The Highlight Reel. Also, this isn’t just going to be a normal match, right? Because they already had a couple of those (the good one at Payback and a way-to-short one last week on Raw), and again, ending something this epic would seem to require some sort of stipulation. We will, however, give credit for Zayn and Owens briefly uniting to kick down Jericho. Source:

4. A Tale Of Two Kanes

We feel like someone needs to point out a simple, undeniable fact to WWE, so they will stop making this constant mistake. Non-wrestling, hyper-motivated, Corporate Kane is a great character that we would actually love to have around more often, and would even accept as a General Manager of a brand. Active wrestler Kane, in the “Demon” persona, is incredibly played out, offers almost nothing important or new to the product, and wrestles the same Kane match we’ve seen for two decades now. But hey, WWE decided to stick the Demon Kane in a feud with The Miz for the Intercontinental title, rather than practically anyone else on the roster, who might actually have good matches in the process. The fact that we might have to watch Kane wrestle for a title on Pay Per View in 2016 irritates us for so many reasons, with the only possible bright spot being that at least it’s not Kane wrestling for the WWE World Heavyweight Title on Pay Per View, which happened in both 2014 and 2015. At this rate, WWE should have given up on Kane as a constant main event threat right about the time the sun goes nova. Source:

3. So, Which One’s The Good Guy?

Despite showing literally two months ago why they should never work together, Alberto Del Rio and Sheamus formed a tag team to fight the pairing of Apollo Crews and Cesaro, who we’ve decided to award the team name of “Ridiculously Misused”. It’s not very catchy, but it’s so very appropriate. Why are neither of those two fighting Miz for the title instead of Kane, for instance? At any rate, this isn’t about them, this is about the former League of Nations members once again imploding as a team, as Del Rio kicked Sheamus off the apron and abandoned the team. So, which of these two incredibly unlikable characters just turned face? Is it the guy who hates this New Era of wrestling and is generally off-putting in appearance, or the Mexican aristocrat whose most (and only) likable quality is a long-departed ring announcer? Well, assuming that this wasn’t just a pointless segment to show that bad guys can’t work together, but WWE would never script a meaningless segment in the bottom half of the third hour just out of lack of ideas, right? Source:

2. Xavier Woods Ain’t Quite Right

Well, it appears as if Xavier’s brief hypnosis last week might not have been an act, as he seems noticeably reticent about directly confronting The Wyatt Family. Not enough to stop dressing up as a hillbilly jug band in mockery of their opponents (which was actually outdated, with Woods playing the injured Luke Harper. Come on, New Day, you’re better than that), but there’s definitely something up there that his teammates haven’t caught onto yet. We’re not going to say that this is leading to Woods flipping to the Family, because a world where The New Day breaks up is not one we care to think about, but it would be interesting for the Wyatts to actually be successful at subverting somebody for once in their existence. That said, there’s a good chance this is still a long con by Xavier, because we’re not sure that the end of New Day’s WWE Tag Team title reign is going to come at the hands of Erick Rowan (who has apparently upgraded to an impressive ram mask this week) and Braun Strowman. The good news for the Family is that the brand split is probably their next best opportunity to completely refresh their act and become somewhat important again. Source:

1. Matches We Should Have Paid For

This is going to sound like we’re arguing against getting to see incredibly high-quality matches on Raw involving top stars like AJ Styles, John Cena, Dean Ambrose, and Seth Rollins, and in a way, that’s exactly what we’re doing. Maybe it’s just a bit of the old school that’s stuck with us over the years, but it seems ridiculous that in the same night, WWE gave away not only a Seth Rollins-John Cena match, which main-evented SummerSlam a year ago and theoretically could still draw money as feud today, but also the very first meeting between AJ Styles and WWE World Heavyweight Champion Dean Ambrose, on an episode of Raw, rather than as a Pay Per View main event. Perhaps this only bothered us this week because those particular pairings seemed incredibly fresh and new, which led to us asking the question why they weren’t ongoing feuds, but in reality, it seems like this is the way things will go now that the WWE Network exists as the home for PPVs (which we’ll presumably have to find a new term for at some point). Now that WWE is no longer tied to PPV buyrates as a measure of financial success, their mega-deal with the USA Network for Raw and Smackdown seems to have assumed more importance in the grand scheme of things. Thus, while WWE won’t stop putting big matches on their PPVs (of which there will now be many more, thanks to the the brand split, they likely won’t shy away from also having matches that probably could be PPV main events on Raw (and maybe Smackdown) in order to try and draw extra viewers and keep the network relatively happy. It’s not a perfect arrangement, but in the meantime, we got two PPV-quality main event matches on Raw last night, so enjoy it while it lasts! Source:
Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.