Pro Wrestling

10 Ways WWE Shook Everything Up On Raw

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The new year has dawned and with it, WWE decided to show that they actually can still surprise us. With a series of deft booking decisions (and a timely rumor), WWE shook things up dramatically and left fans everywhere intrigued about what the future might hold for WWE. How did they manage this miracle, coming off a string of mediocre and/or disappointing shows? Read on and find out exactly what WWE did on Raw that could have completely changed the game going forward.

10. Two Crazy Guys Try To Kill Each Other

Okay, that’s actually not that new, especially considering who we’re talking about, but when Kevin Owens is in killer mode, you need to find a guy crazy enough to try and take him out head-on. Fortunately, WWE has Dean Ambrose, who is known for throwing his body into the fray willy-nilly and is unlikely to be intimidated by Owens turning lesser wrestlers into a fine paste, as he did with Neville last night (and last week). The two have an interesting dynamic, with Owens as the cold, brutal killer and Ambrose as the slightly insane and determined hero who just keeps going. Then, in a spot that usually signifies the end of an episode of Raw, Ambrose drove Owens through the announce table during the aftermath of the first match of a three-hour show! Talk about setting the pace early. We’re just disappointed that it’s too late to make jokes about how Owens and Neville had the best WWE match of 2016 at that point. Actually, it probably still is, but it’s less funny than it would have been in the moment.

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2016/01/05/neville-vs.-kevin-owens-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=15 Source: pl.wwe.com

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2016/01/05/neville-vs.-kevin-owens-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=15 Source: pl.wwe.com

9. Brock Is Coming

You can clearly tell that Monday Night Football has ended, because WWE is back in the business of advertising their big returns. Last week, it was John Cena, whose return match was announced a week ahead, and the entire Raw leading up to his appearance advertised his triumphant return. This week, we’re already being warned that The Beast Incarnate has once again woken from his slumber and will be making his return to WWE just in time to get involved in the build for WrestleMania. It’s a smart move by WWE, Brock is one of the few Superstars left whose appearances still feel special, and if anyone can bump a rating, it’s probably him. The popular theory as the night began was that Brock will probably be announcing his entry into the Rumble, which would have (and probably still does) made him the prohibitive favorite to win, but after Raw was over, his impending return and Rumble participation takes on a whole new dimension.

http://www.businessinsider.com/wwe-brock-lesnar-facts-wrestling-2015-4 Source: businessinsider.com

http://www.businessinsider.com/wwe-brock-lesnar-facts-wrestling-2015-4 Source: businessinsider.com

8. Charlotte Makes A Choice

The biggest open secret of the Divas division finally resolved itself last night, when Charlotte, as expected, chose success over friendship and turned on her purported best friend Becky Lynch after Becky dared to use Charlotte’s own cheating tactics against her and defeat the reigning champion. With Becky now a threat to Charlotte’s title (and indeed, the win got her a title match on Smackdown), Charlotte took steps to beat down her Irish compatriot and make sure Becky won’t be 100% the next time the two face. This has actually been a fairly well-booked angle between the two, with real motivations and the added benefit of a fairly good match just before the inevitable split. Becky actually finds herself in the enviable position of top face Diva in WWE, with a crowd sympathetic to her situation and more than ready to get behind her in the search for revenge. The only downside is that Sasha Banks continues to be essentially MIA despite beating Becky last week, but with good wrestling and decent booking going on in the Women’s division, how can we complain too much?

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2016/01/05/becky-lynch-vs.-charlotte-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=11 Source: pl.wwe.com

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2016/01/05/becky-lynch-vs.-charlotte-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=11 Source: pl.wwe.com

7. Giving A Bunch Of Guys Something To Do

Apparently WWE has decided to cash in on Heath Slater finishing eighth in the voting for Superstar of the Year, and they’ve done so by giving him a stable of similarly directionless but socially active Superstars to hang around with and apparently beat Dolph Ziggler somehow. Yes, welcome to the age of the Social Outcasts, featuring Slater, Bo Dallas, Curtis Axel, and Adam Rose, talented wrestlers who might as well be poster children for massive WWE Creative failures over the past few years (the fact that they’re all massively underutilized graduates of various forms of the NXT program is also interesting). Whether or not the group takes WWE by storm or just ends up as a moderately successful reboot of the infamous J.O.B. Squad, the point is that it’s four guys who suddenly have a purpose, something that hasn’t been the case for a large part of WWE’s non-main event roster. One of the biggest successes of the Attitude Era was the fact that everyone had a character and a story line, even if most of them were forgettable or pretty bad, and it’s something WWE has needed to get back to for the longest time. It may not lead anywhere special, but it’s a promising sign of WWE recognizing that they have one of the most talented rosters in their history, and perhaps they should at least attempt to give everyone a reason to be on TV.

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2016/01/05/dolph-ziggler-vs.-heath-slater-photos;jsessionid=2D10161836951F9455DC536394115CA5?r30_r1_r1:page=14 Source: pl.wwe.com

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2016/01/05/dolph-ziggler-vs.-heath-slater-photos;jsessionid=2D10161836951F9455DC536394115CA5?r30_r1_r1:page=14 Source: pl.wwe.com

6. Chris Jericho Returns Again, But It’ll Make Sense Later

Chris Jericho returns have pretty much become the ultimate form of diminishing returns, and last night’s segment was no different. Jericho came out in his “cool dad” outfit of the day, made awkward jokes about The New Day, ran through his catchphrases, and then entered himself in the Royal Rumble, all to intense crowd dinterest. At this point, everyone knows that Chris Jericho is going to make “surprise” returns and put somebody over. Frankly, it’s a little surprising that they didn’t make him a surprise Rumble entrant, because that might have gotten a better crowd reaction in the heat of the moment, but at the same time, WWE clearly wanted to throw in a few surprises to try and entice some extra viewers. Jericho isn’t really important enough to advertise his return, like Brock or Cena, but is still enough of a surprise that somebody might tune in to see it happen on the fly. Also, he’s a multiple time World Champion being added to strengthen the Rumble field, for reasons that would become apparent by the end of the night.

http://wrestlingnewspost.com/chris-jericho-explains-why-wwe-should-give-wrestlers-more-freedom-with-promos/ Source: wrestlingnewspost.com

http://wrestlingnewspost.com/chris-jericho-explains-why-wwe-should-give-wrestlers-more-freedom-with-promos/ Source: wrestlingnewspost.com

5. You Mean We Don’t Always Need John Cena?

WWE got John Cena back last week after a long absence, and to the shock of nobody, they immediately had him main event Raw. This week, however, WWE’s flagship character was nowhere to be seen, and was barely even mentioned. Apparently WWE felt that Cena’s presence would take away from Reigns’ story line and position as Champion, which, again, is why we were so against WWE delaying Roman’s title reign from Survivor Series until just before Cena’s return. To their credit, leaving Cena off TV in order to make Reigns seem more important is absolutely the right call, especially since Cena doesn’t really have a feud right now, nobody wants to see him effortlessly beating up guys like Alberto Del Rio if there’s no plan to put the US Title back on him, and after Raw ended, we all pretty much know what Cena’s plans are for the Rumble anyway.

http://www.cagesideseats.com/wwe/2016/1/2/10701928/wwe-raw-youtube-rankings-dec-28-2015-john-cena-returns-vince-mcmahon-arrested Source: cagesideseats.com

http://www.cagesideseats.com/wwe/2016/1/2/10701928/wwe-raw-youtube-rankings-dec-28-2015-john-cena-returns-vince-mcmahon-arrested Source: cagesideseats.com

4. An Apology For Sheamus

Listen, WWE knows that Sheamus was not an ideal choice for WWE World Heavyweight Champion, and the idea of him getting the upper hand on Roman Reigns one-on-one is laughable. That’s why he had to assemble a stable of goons and only won the title by cashing in Money in the Bank, after all. But in their fifth match (yes, fifth) in roughly a month or so since Survivor Series, WWE finally openly admitted that Sheamus was never a credible opponent for Reigns, and pretty emphatically ended the feud by having Reigns basically kill Sheamus dead several times and send him back to the midcard where he was ensconced for the part of 2015 that happened before the incredible Survivor Series mistake. We don’t hate Sheamus, but we didn’t like him winning Money in the Bank, and we thought having him cash in on Roman was a terrible idea. Between this match and the events that followed, it would appear that WWE has finally agreed with us, and basically ended any chance of Sheamus moving back up to the main event in the near future.

http://ambreignsfans.tumblr.com/ Source: ambreignsfans.tumblr.com

http://ambreignsfans.tumblr.com/ Source: ambreignsfans.tumblr.com

3. Wow, That Escalated Quickly

Seriously, one minute we’re in another re-run of the Austin-McMahon feud and Roman Reigns is celebrating getting one over on Vince McMahon, and the next minute it’s 1992 and the WWE World Heavyweight Title is on the line in the Royal Rumble and the entire wrestling universe just started to mutter excitedly to each other. There were vague rumors back when Roman was first knocking out Triple H and Vince and expecting punishment for his actions that a possible revenge could have been this exact situation, but we’re pretty sure nobody thought that they’d actually do it. Suddenly, Chris Jericho’s return and Rumble entry not being a surprise makes sense, because he’s a former World Champion. Brock’s inevitable entry in the Rumble next week will make similar sense. This decision allows WWE to stack the Rumble match with a number of potential surprises and one-shot returns, all vying for the title (as opposed to a nebulous “shot at the title which you could potentially lose before ever reaching WrestleMania”) which will help disguise the fact that their current main event roster is full of injured guys and Sheamus. It also means that…

http://pl.wwe.com/broadcasts/raw Source: pl.wwe.com

http://pl.wwe.com/broadcasts/raw Source: pl.wwe.com

2. Everything You Think You Know Is Wrong

Heading into 2016, it seemed pretty clear that the ultimate plan for WrestleMania was probably Brock Lesnar winning the Royal Rumble and facing Roman Reigns in a re-match from last year, where Reigns goes over once and for all. However, in an instant, infinite WrestleMania possibilities have been created. Will WWE put Roman Reigns over (basically) the entire roster and give him a second Rumble win? Will they have someone (Triple H) screw him out of the win and not have Reigns in the title picture at all come WrestleMania? Is Brock still the favorite to win? Okay, he is, but there are so many other potential options besides him now. WWE has given the Rumble back the thing it has been missing for a while now, which is unpredictability, and that’s a great thing. And the whole thing gets even more complicated when you find out that…

http://www.tumbnation.com/tumblr-tag/Joe%20Anoa'i Source: tumbnation.com

http://www.tumbnation.com/tumblr-tag/Joe%20Anoa’i Source: tumbnation.com

1. Meanwhile, In Japan…

This last bit is still unconfirmed, in that way where WWE hasn’t officially said anything, but it’s totally happening. While Raw was on the air, news broke that WWE has signed several of NJPW’s biggest stars in a massive talent raid, with the potential that at least some of them might even debut in the Rumble match. AJ Styles is probably the most familiar name in the group of allegedly incoming stars, due to his long-time and high-profile stints in TNA and Ring of Honor in North America, and he is apparently expected to skip NXT and go straight to the main roster. The real big name, however, is Shinsuke Nakamura, one of the biggest wrestling stars in Japan and internationally, a man who is considered one of the best wrestlers in the world, and who WWE has reportedly been desperately trying to sign for years. Rumors have him signing a massive contract with WWE, and if they’re paying him a lot of money, it’s almost certain he’ll be on the main roster sooner rather than later. Of all the things that could shake up WWE in the near future, these signings have the potential for an immediate impact not seen since the days of The Radicalz (Benoit, Guerrero, Malenko, and Saturn) jumping from WCW in 2000.

http://www.cagesideseats.com/wwe/2015/4/28/8511649/wwe-releases-kliq-t-shirt-possibly-firing-a-shot-in-their-trademark-war-with-bullet-club Source: cagesideseats.com

http://www.cagesideseats.com/wwe/2015/4/28/8511649/wwe-releases-kliq-t-shirt-possibly-firing-a-shot-in-their-trademark-war-with-bullet-club Source: cagesideseats.com

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