In case the holiday season had caused it to slip your mind, there’s another WWE Pay Per View this Sunday! This time, it’s the Raw brand’s December offering, the final PPV of 2016, and the second Roadblock event of the year, a show that appears to have taken roughly thirty seconds worth of thought to set up, and has the unfortunate timing of occurring right as the holiday fervor reaches its peak. But, as with most WWE PPV’s, there’s still some stuff to like, and we’re going to dive in and give you some thoughts on what Roadblock has to offer!
Did They Even Remember This PPV Was Happening?
Headed into the final Raw before Roadblock, there were a grand total of three matches booked for this Pay Per View. Fortunately, someone at WWE finally realized this, and now we’ve got six. Perhaps the worst offence, although it’s not entirely their fault how the days fell, was that New Day’s booking was so focused on them breaking the record for longest-reigning tag team, that they put all the work into the night they guaranteed that they would set the record, and forgot to actually have a feud set up for the PPV happening a week later! As a result, WWE didn’t even announce a Tag Team Title match until a couple days after Raw, meaning after the final show went off the air, we were looking at a PPV with five whole matches booked! On the bright side, two of those matches are guaranteed to eat up a total of forty minutes plus entrances, so it’s got that going for it, at least. But of all the single-brand PPVs since the brand split, this has the dubious honor of being the one that seems to have the least amount of effort behind it.
Just Wait Til Next Year…Again…
After a dreadful 2015 where he got repeatedly mauled by John Cena, then stuck in a never-ending feud with Dolph Ziggler over the affections of both Lana and Summer Rae, which was then scuttled when his real-life engagement went public, we hoped that 2016 would be far kinder to Rusev. The odds were in favor of it, at least, given that it would have been hard for things to go worse. And now, here we are at the end of the year, watching Rusev relegated to the pre-show, wrestling one-half of a tag team, over the fact that the other half of that tag team really wanted to have sex with his wife. Oh, and he’s probably going to lose the match. Even if you discount the rest of the year, which featured him getting repeatedly mauled by Roman Reigns and stuck in a dead-end League of Nations stable, that’s at best a lateral move from the previous year. We’re not sure what the remedy could be in 2017, but if we could suggest not repeatedly sticking him feuds revolving around other people trying to seduce his wife, that would be a start.
What Did They Do To Deserve This?
Well, now that New Day have broken the record, there’s pretty much a short clock on their title reign continuing much longer. In fact, we wouldn’t be horribly shocked if it ended this Sunday, as the “odd couple” tag team of Cesaro and Sheamus finally get the expected climax to their feud which started all the way back in the summer. Cesaro and Sheamus, along with Gallows and Anderson, are huge examples of how WWE zeroed in on New Day breaking that record and basically put the entire tag team division into stasis until it happened, delaying angles that should have paid off long ago in the process. The whole point of forcing Cesaro and Sheamus to team up together is so they can figure out how to work together and eventually win the Tag Team Titles, but that should have happened long before now. Similarly, The Club have been calling themselves “the most dominant tag team in WWE” for months, but haven’t been able to prove it, because they’ve lost every single title match they’ve been in. In this case, we know why Cesaro and Sheamus are getting another chance on Sunday, it’s because WWE likely has decided to finally have the payoff (and to no one’s surprise, we’d bet they lose the titles to Gallows and Anderson before long). However, considering that Sheamus got pinned in the Triple Threat match on Monday, and the team has lost multiple title matches in the weeks before Roadblock, a more casual fan might actually question why they’re getting another shot.
Winning Without Actually Winning
So, none of us doubt that Sami Zayn will make it through ten minutes with Braun Strowman, right? There’s literally no point to the match and this whole weird thing with Foley otherwise. Similarly, since the match has a time limit, we’re also pretty sure Sami’s not actually going to get to beat Braun, because otherwise that would be the win condition, and not just simply “survive”. We kind of get it, because Braun’s still got a lot more work to do as a monster (although would it have hurt to let him beat up some jobbers to the point that they couldn’t continue, and not just Sami?), but the point of an underdog story is that you eventually get a big life-changing win, and managing to not die while a clock winds down doesn’t feel like a big victory to us. In our hearts, this could easily lead up to Sami getting a huge unexpected Rumble win and facing his lifelong nemesis for the Universal Title in the main event of WrestleMania, as they both deserve, but our more rational brain won’t let us truly believe that might happen. Surprise us, WWE!
Battle Of The More Important Sidekicks
Seth Rollins has done a decent job explaining why he’s screwing around fighting Chris Jericho when his true end game is supposed to be Triple H (a fact we’re willing to bet a lot of people had forgotten until he brought it back up a couple of weeks ago). And we’re only calling Jericho and Rollins “sidekicks” because, ostensibly, that seems to be how WWE views them, with their respective friends fighting on the same PPV for an actual title while their match has no real stakes beyond being a link in the chain Rollins has crafted for revenge. Honestly, though, between the fact that Jericho has been the dominant figure in his pairing with Owens and Rollins is also the more beloved of the former Shield members on Raw by a wide margin, these two guys actually have felt more important and relevant than the ones fighting over the Universal Title! Obviously this is all a stop-gap, as Jericho will probably next feud with Owens when they inevitably split for good, and Rollins’ path towards Triple H will probably skip over Owens entirely once we start on the actual Road to WrestleMania, and the match itself will definitely be good. We just wish it didn’t feel like it belonged on Raw, rather than on a PPV.
Handle This And Move On
WWE made the absolute right decision to move the Cruiserweight Title onto Rich Swann, who has enough personality to hide the fact that the entire division has been handcuffed since debuting on the main roster. Since WWE won’t let them stand out from an in-ring perspective (although 205 Live has loosened the reins a little bit), it’s going to take character work to build this division, and if that means they have to call Swann “Outlandish” and focus on his love of dancing rather than the fact he’s also a really good high-flying wrestler, so be it. Try as he might, TJ Perkins just couldn’t find a personality, and this will likely be his last appearance in a title match for a while. Kendrick, meanwhile, will slide into a position as a veteran heel quite nicely, having earned his steady paycheck from WWE, and with Swann likely remaining champion past this Sunday, we’ll get a chance to see what the rest of the division offers. Although we’re going to say it right now, if Jack Gallagher doesn’t start getting his share of PPV matches in 2017, we’re going to have strong words for someone in WWE. Fisticuffs may be involved.
End Of An Era, For Now
Yes, even though the advertising says “No Rematch Clause” Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair will undoubtedly come face-to-face again in the future, because for now the Raw Women’s Division consists of them, Bayley, a jobber, and Invisible Nia Jax. And maybe the feud dragged on a little long and featured a few too many title changes, even though few should complain about the fantastic matches we saw along the way. But when you’ve got a small division like that, you have to extend feuds so that you don’t burn out all your possible matchups within a few months. Having Charlotte and Sasha feud for nearly the entire year means that we still have new feuds available for both of them in 2017, ones that will also hopefully be long and feature good matches, so that when they inevitably meet again, it will feel relatively fresh. Plus, running with Sasha-Charlotte for so long gave time for WWE to work on picking up some reinforcements for both NXT and, at some point, the main roster’s Women’s Divisions, so that they can expand beyond the small handful of talent on both Raw and Smackdown in 2017. At this point, let’s just sit back and watch Sasha and Charlotte attempt to blow the roof off the arena in an Iron Man Match, because we absolutely know that they’re capable of it. As for a winner, well, aside from those of us who get to watch it, we suspect that 2017 will be the Year of The Boss.
The Forgotten Title
Sure, the Tag Title match got thrown in at the last minute, but at least they’re being defended. Yes, we’re going to gripe about Roman Reigns holding the US Title for absolutely no good reason, either sit here and accept it or move to the next section. When you’re running a single brand PPV, you can’t afford to not have all your titles involved in their own matches, for the simple fact of the matter that, booking title matches is the easiest way to fill out a card which, as we mentioned, was already looking incredibly thin headed into the final week before the show. The fact of the matter is that Roman Reigns holding the US Title and challenging for the Universal Title on PPV without defending the title he’s already wearing is bad for like, half a dozen different reasons. At the top of the list, of course, is that it’s keeping at least two other people from getting on the PPV, who could have a nice US Title match in the midcard while the “Big Dog” challenges for the top title, and maybe get some much-needed exposure as a result. But even if you insist on keeping the belt on Reigns, the fact that the US Title isn’t on the line in his match means that he has literally nothing to lose, because even if he fails to capture the Universal Title, he’ll still have the allegedly second-most important belt on the brand. Some would suggest that pretty much gives away the results of the main event, and we are including ourselves as part of that group. But that’s not the real bad news…
Uh Oh, Roman’s “Facing Adversity” Again
No one is less of an underdog, but still treated like one, than Roman Reigns. There’s no doubt in our mind he’ll be denied the Universal Title somehow on Sunday night, because then WWE can still pretend they’ve “throttled back” on his push, since he didn’t manage to win yet another match for a top title after having dozens of shots in the past year in a half, and three World Title runs, plus, as we mentioned, being the unopposed US Champion who stands tall at the end of roughly every other episode of Raw. The time is coming where we start making booking scenarios for WrestleMania, and one of the questions is, what are they going to do with Roman Reigns this year? Well, with no clear favorites for the Rumble, WWE obviously believing they shouldn’t give up on Reigns as their top babyface for whatever reason, and a third chance to have Reigns stand tall at WrestleMania, this time in his home state where they might delude themselves into believing he’ll get a hero’s welcome? Don’t say we didn’t warn you…
Is Kevin Owens…A Good Guy?
He’s not, he’s totally a bad guy. But the final Raw before Roadblock made us consider just why Kevin Owens is a bad guy. The last couple of weeks have featured Owens realizing that his best friend is upset at him, and doing a bunch of things to try and fix the problem, only to inadvertently make it worse. For the final humiliation, his best friend, fed up with his clumsy attempts to make up, left him vulnerable to an ambush by his worst enemy as the show ended. If he were a sympathetic character at all, we’d be heartbroken at watching his plans fall apart, but he’s Kevin Owens, so we’re not. The thing is, Kevin Owens is actually an incredibly tragic figure. He’s lonely, and wants so badly to have friends, but he doesn’t actually know how to be a friend. Even he knows, sooner or later, he’s going to do stuff to ruin whatever friendships he might have made, because he’s also a selfish guy driven by a need to be the best and a constant worry that he might not be. One day, he might figure things out long enough to actually be a babyface, and have the friends and fan support that he desires. But there will always be a ticking clock in the back of his mind, counting down to the day where he finds something that matters more to him than friendship. That’s why Kevin Owens might actually be one of the best characters in WWE right now, and we just wanted to take the time to acknowledge that.
Who’s Got Time For This?
Let’s be honest, not a lot of effort went into this PPV, and that’s because it’s very likely that not a lot of people are even going to watch it. December PPV’s are traditionally the least-watched of the year, and that’s why WWE has usually made an effort to make them happen earlier in the month than usual (or postpone them until the very end, in the case of the short-lived New Year’s Revolution shows). However, with the brand split in full effect, TLC already taking place in the early slot, and both Christmas and New Year’s Day happening on Sundays (after which the build to the Rumble starts in earnest), Raw had a limited window for their exclusive PPV. And the fact of the matter is that this Sunday will be the final day of the last shopping weekend before Christmas, and in that final push for the holidays, a lot of people are going to have better things to do than spend 3 hours watching wrestling (we’re also already dreading the TV ratings for the rest of December). The good news is, the show, for all the half-hearted effort in booking it, should feature some excellent wrestling, starting with the Iron Woman Man and going from there, and if you do have the time, it’s probably going to be worth a look.