By Will Pruett
Full disclosure: To retain his sanity, Will Pruett watches the 90 minute edit of Raw on Hulu. He has no regrets.
It is not my wish to turn this Pause into a political argument, but something struck me as results poured in from the Iowa Caucus (easily the worst first sample of voting possible) while Raw was on the air last night. In many ways, Bernie Sanders reminds me of Dean Ambrose. It’s not just the vaguely homeless appearance, either.
Dean Ambrose is not the establishment choice as the top babyface in WWE. He doesn’t look like a top protagonist in WWE should. He isn’t built like a top protagonist. He isn’t really treated like one on TV. The same goes for Bernie. He isn’t the establishment democratic choice for this election. He’s a little old. He’s a little challenging to cope with. He doesn’t seem coached perfectly like Hillary Clinton and so many of the potential republican nominees. Bernie Sanders brings something different and it’s what people are responding to.
Bernie Sanders coming out with a virtual tie in Iowa is a big political deal. Dean Ambrose having more crowd support than Roman “Hillary Clinton” Reigns feels natural, but it isn’t. While the establishment is not behind Bernie and seems to be attempting to ignore his popularity, WWE is being forced to roll with Ambrose’s.
Roman Reigns can’t carry a promo segment standing across from Brock Lesnar the way Dean Ambrose can. Roman is not a practiced orator (unlike the political parallels I am drawing today). His weaknesses are exposed when someone like Ambrose can make simply interrupting a Brock Lesnar/Paul Heyman pep-talk and bounce session a compelling segment. Roman could never do what Dean did here.
Dean Ambrose has more organic and passionate fan support. Like supporting Bernie Sanders, supporting Dean Ambrose doesn’t feel like settling for the eventual winner. One of the keys in both politics in wrestling is making fans (or humans) feel like their support is necessary. Roman Reigns doesn’t need your support. He is going to win anyways. He doesn’t need you yelling for his comeback, he’ll make it anyways. He is not reaching out to you like Dusty Rhodes begging to touch your hand. He is passive.
Fans aren’t connecting with Reigns, because he seems obvious. Six months ago, Hillary Clinton winning Iowa felt obvious. In 2008, Clinton winning the democratic nomination felt obvious. Now, as 2016 looks to repeat some of the near-fatal errors of 2015, we are left to wonder if Reigns being the obvious choice is truly what hurts him.
Is Dean Ambrose the Bernie Sanders of WWE? Does Dean unconsciously undermine Reigns? Does WWE even have an option here? Is there any chance WWE chooses to #FeelTheBern?
And now for some random thoughts:
– Please don’t ask me who the Ted Cruz of wrestling is. My only option would be Dixie Carter.
– Brock Lesnar is not Martin O’Malley.
– “Take me to Suplex City, baby” is a great line. It’s also a great first track off of Ambrose’s next spoken word folk album.
– Sasha Banks broke away from “Team BAD” on this show, which is a very positive development overall. Sadly, it highlights the frailty of relationships involving women in WWE. The Summer was built around establishing three key groups of women and developing a rivalry between them. As forced as this effort was, the groups had some potential. WWE has now broken up two of the three groups in a matter of months. How are we supposed to invest in anything in this division when WWE can’t follow through with any direction?
– I am ultra-enthusiastic about Sasha Banks’ potential as a singles star in WWE. I do want to pose one question: Did she need to debut prior to the Royal Rumble? My answer: nope.
– My fear with the current WWE women’s division is that Becky Lynch will end up lost in the shuffle. Running two or three different stories in this division would be beneficial.
– A.J. Styles continues to get an opportunity to impress in WWE without being forced to leave his comfort zone. This is beneficial for him. Hopefully he does get to deliver a comfortable sports-like promo at some point. His segment with The Miz was fine for what it was and the idea of them meeting on Smackdown was a nice bit of cross promotion.
– The Triple H and Brock Lesnar backstage discussion was pleasant.
– Big Show getting killed by the Wyatt Family gave me a nice flashback to the classic 2014 Stairs Match Show had with Erick Rowan.
– Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler was a fun match. I don’t mind Ziggler and Owens continuing a program going into Fastlane. I assume Owens would win in the end and go on to something major at WrestleMania.
– The opening segment made me want to see Ambrose vs. Lesnar at WrestleMania, which I’m sure won’t happen.
– New Day vs. Ambrose and Reigns was a fun tag match the fans didn’t seem into. There was a noticeable silence all through the main event, even as hot tags were occurring. I don’t blame the crowd for being tired. It’s a long show.
This was a fine episode of Raw to begin the build to Fastlane which will begin the build to WrestleMania. I still question the dependability of the popularity of Roman Reigns, but that’s what makes wrestling a fun medium to analytically think about.
Got thoughts on this show or my review of it? If they aren’t super annoying thoughts (and please don’t ignore this and post super annoying thoughts), hit me up with them! Check the Twitter @itswilltime, leave a comment, or email me at email@example.com.