Pruett's Pause: WWE Raw - John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar proves less is more, Kane has a mask off dance off, Roman Reigns keeps being Roman Reigns, Stephanie and Brie continue being unabashedly great
By Will Pruett
When the Monday Night Wars began in 1995, wrestling changed. It went from television being built around stars beating nobodies and promoting larger shows to stars wrestling stars in order to keep viewers engaged. It's funny, because wrestling companies didn't care about fan engagement on their weekly television shows before 1995, but when they were suddenly confronted with each other, they cared. They have cared ever since.
This caring has lead to things like the WWE Champion appearing on television every week. It's lead to matches between top stars often happening on Raw. It made watching WWE television more entertaining on a week-to-week basis, but it also hurt the major events.
If I see John Cena wrestling on Raw every week, why should I pay to see him wrestle?
On Raw over the last three episodes we have gone from not seeing John Cena, to hearing a top-of-show John Cena promo, to only seeing Cena in a major video package. We aren't seeing him in the ring for more than a segment. We aren't seeing him wrestle every single week. We aren't being overloaded on Cena. We're seeing just enough to keep us engaged, but not too much.
Brock Lesnar is presented this way and it works perfectly for him. Remember, Lesnar isn't a guy you want holding a live microphone. Lesnar is not a guy who comes across as a monster when he's given too much time to talk. Lesnar is not Lesnar when he is given too much to do.
The video package between Lesnar and Cena presented them both perfectly. Cena was the WWE Champion acknowledging the fight of his life was in his future. Lesnar was the beast who would tear apart anyone in his quest to be the best. It presented both characters in a unique way.
The entertaining part is how WWE discovered this promotional technique back in 2012 for Brock Lesnar, but they have waited until two years later to break it out again. Less is more. Lesnar and Cena will do everything it needs to do in the ring. It'll be the most anticipated WWE match of the year and it will be darn-near perfect.
And now for some random thoughts:
- I really hope Lesnar does not leave John Cena in a pool of blood, urine, and vomit.
- Stephanie McMahon and Brie Bella continued to be the main event angle on this show and they continued to deserve it. Brie's promo was a little long, but she seems far better on the mic than she did even two months ago. Stephanie McMahon, when getting physical looked great and sounded fantastic in her verbal exchanges. I would have never expected this match to be the second biggest thing on SummerSlam, but now that I've seen it, I believe it.
- Contrived as it was, I enjoyed the table spot with Triple H trapping Brie in the corner. More than that, I enjoyed the way Triple H sold a slap from Brie.
- The feud between Chris Jericho and Bray Wyatt just isn't working. I was excited when it began, but it feels like WWE has never given them a true story to tell and both performers have not come up with one. Jericho and Wyatt are great on the mic, but their promos are unimportant and skippable. They're good in the ring, but their one past encounter was clunky at best. This is a case where expectations seem to have been much higher than reality. Hopefully this program improves.
- Roman Reigns was able to look like an unbeatable freshly-showered fighting machine in the opening Last Man Standing match with Kane. Putting Reigns in a weapons/big spot match is another way to protect him, but it still required him to sell. Reigns wasn't falling asleep like he did last week against Orton, so I'll call it improvement.
- I don't see any way Reigns isn't the guy main eventing WrestleMania, aside from Reigns getting injured. They've already gone too far.
- The story between Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose was advanced nicely. Rollins and Ambrose are both connecting with the crowds and playing their roles really well. Ambrose surprised me by having a long match against Alberto Del Rio, but it told the story well. Rollins' match against Heath Slater was a pretty fun contest, especially with Slater getting the surprise win.
- Don't sleep on Slater.
- I wasn't bothered by the constant plugging of "$9.99" throughout the show. I don't know if it will help the WWE Network, but it's something for them to do.
- This may sound crazy, but maybe only 700,000 people want to pay for professional wrestling.
- Zeb Colter's babyface act kind of jumped the shark with me this week. It's far too nationalistic. It's far too geared towards the lowest common denominator.
- Brawls between Rusev and Jack Swagger continue to rule.
- What was the point of all the Goldust and Stardust packages if they were just going to do the same thing when they came back?
- Where were a Jimmy and Jey Uso?
- Kane's mask is off again. Goodbye Kane-mask.
There were two key angles on this show and they built up the number one and number two SummerSlam matches. Sometimes, those are all a show needs to be good. Don't get me wrong, this was an exhausting three hours to get through and it would have been much-improved by being shorter. Since I cannot just cut out parts of Raw (well, unless I DVR and fast-forward) I have to live with the length. Since the Lesnar and Cena video package was fantastic and Stephanie and Brie delivered, this show gets a mild thumbs up.
So, what did you think of the show? Agree? Disagree? Either way, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to follow me and interact on twitter @itswilltime.
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