By Will Pruett
Full disclosure: To retain his sanity, Will Pruett watches the 90 minute edit of Raw on Hulu. He has no regrets.
At this point, I’m almost exhausted with the discussion of Roman Reigns. He returned on this show to a chorus of boos from fans who haven’t seen him in weeks. He was set up to be presented as a conquering hero getting the sweet vengeance he deserves en route to WrestleMania. He came off like an angry man attempting to injure a competitor who already had a match on the show with any and all objects.
WWE continues to get Roman Reigns wrong and it continues to be the biggest issue with their show.
What can WWE blame at this point? The audience was not super tired because this wasn’t the final segment on the show. Triple H came out earlier in the evening and delivered a long monologue putting down the fans to ensure they would boo him. Roman has not been overexposed. Roman has barely been mentioned for a couple weeks. What can WWE possibly look at as the cause for Roman Reigns’ severe lack of popularity?
Last year, the storytelling going into WrestleMania was frighteningly bad. It ended with a tug-o-war over a prop. It began with a series of long, weak matches featuring Roman Reigns vs. Big Show. This year isn’t exactly going better for Roman’s road. It began with a crazy series of events switching the WWE Championship from Roman to Sheamus to Roman to Triple H. It will end with a whimper in a likely disappointing segment where Roman is booed out of Brooklyn.
It’s hard not to be despondent about this story. It’s hard to have any confidence in WWE when it comes to Roman Reigns. WWE got Roman right for two nights (TLC and the Raw immediately following it), but then proceeded to throw all goodwill concerning him away.
The only way to salvage Roman at this point is to make him an antagonist, which he honestly already is. He isn’t the protagonist. The story isn’t about him. Roman Reigns is the force standing in Triple H’s way, despite the story WWE believes they are telling. While I have seen some crazy things in wrestling, I’ve never seen the totality of an audience rebel for this long without WWE listening. It’s absolutely mind blowing.
And now for some random thoughts:
– Undertaker is not the family counselor I would want to handle a therapy session. He did a terrible job cooling off tensions and trying to reconcile Shane and Vince McMahon. Also, what kind of therapy session involves theme music?
– The Vince, Shane, and Undertaker segment was puzzling. It seemed like Shane didn’t know his lines (Sorry, Shane. I still love you though), Vince was rambling through a script, and Undertaker may have been acutely aware of how little sense this all makes. Don’t get me wrong, Shane vs. Undertaker is still the most exciting thing about WrestleMania, but it loses a little mystique with every segment. Less is more.
– Kicking off Raw with a match was a delightful change of pace.
– The League of Nations vs. The New Day feud should be engaging. Kofi, Xavier, and Big E make up for so much of what Sheamus, Alberto, Wade, and Rusev lack. They’re entertaining. They’re fun. This should be a fun feud to watch take shape.
– Dean Ambrose didn’t even look uncomfortable while hiding a crowbar in his jacket. Good on him.
– Paul Heyman was noticeably off on this show. He has been more hit-or-miss lately and this was a good example. He still says all the Heyman-lines one would expect, but it doesn’t click sometimes.
– Ambrose receiving the barbed-wire bat from Mick Foley was a nice backstage segment.
– Triple H hates the way you hope for things. Good on him.
– Dolph Ziggler is being used as a representative of what fans enjoy a couple years too late. Maybe if he hadn’t turned himself into metal-Dolph or had a weird affair with Lana, people would still like him. It’s too little too late for Dolph and standing up to Triple H does nothing for him.
– Sami Zayn vs. The Miz was a decent way to continue hyping the Ladder Scramble Fiasco match at WrestleMania. It’s good to see Zayn getting wins on Raw, but a promo before or after would do him a world of good.
– Why doesn’t Lana like Brie Bella? This confuses me. Everyone enjoys Brie Mode and the activation of said mode.
– Was Triple H vs. Ziggler really 17 minutes? Wow. It felt shorter than that.
– Is everyone ready for Triple H and Roman Reigns, after months of trying to cripple and kill each other, to settle in a grab a hold to start their WrestleMania match? Get ready. It’s happening. Watch the main event of WrestleMania 25 for an example of this.
– Neville’s injury is a huge bummer. WWE needs more guys like him on their main roster and they wasted Neville for months. Hopefully with his recovery, he is able to return in a better slot than he left with.
– Shane McMahon should not dance when he is trying to beat up The Undertaker. He should dance in almost every other situation.
– I am thoroughly not ready for the discussion of Stephanie McMahon “emasculating” Ziggler on this show. Masculinity, even in wrestling, is not that frail. Her character did nothing wrong here.
This was not a very good show going into WrestleMania. Despite it filling out the card (Who’s excited for Dudley’s vs. Usos? Aren’t you glad we don’t have meaningful mid-card matches, but an act from 1999 get one?), it didn’t leave me looking forward to much. This is a disappointing Mania season with one real hook WWE isn’t doing a good job of using to its strengths.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.