By Will Pruett
Full disclosure: To retain his sanity, Will Pruett watches the 90 minute edit of Raw on Hulu. He has no regrets.
WWE Raw, since the night after WrestleMania, has been an exciting and dynamic show to watch. It has featured fresh talent, fresh matchups, and exciting moments. It’s featured a delightful story with a little bit of mystery between A.J. Styles, Roman Reigns, The Usos, and The Club (so many thoughts about “The Club” name are being withheld currently). The upper-mid-card focus on the Intercontinental Championship build around Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Cesaro, and a revived Miz has been delightful. Heck, almost everything up and down the card is working. This is what makes the Chris Jericho and Dean Ambrose feud stand out. It doesn’t work.
On the surface, the arrogant Jericho and the oddball Ambrose should present a natural mix of conflicting personalities suitable for a decent wrestling feud. The characters involved should naturally antagonize each other. Alas, every segment of this feud seems forced. Every match involving it has lacked something. This feud, which should naturally play into both men’s strengths as performers, is severely lacking. Why?
I believe the blame lies with both men in a way. Chris Jericho has an outstanding reputation as a legacy WWE star. He’s been in the company for 17 years and has a history of entertaining matches and promos stretching long before his WWE tenure began. Jericho has reinvented himself multiple times with delightful results. Jericho has also aged and lost a step or two in the ring. It’s a natural process many wrestlers go through and I’m not even saying he’s bad. He is not compelling though. The feud with Styles (and their four matches) showed how Jericho couldn’t quite keep up. Now, we are seeing Chris Jericho flounder in an awkward Ambrose feud.
Dean Ambrose’s character makes no sense. He is literally corporate branded anarchy and he feels just as dissonant as one would expect. Sometimes he is intense. Sometimes he is wacky. Rarely does he actually produce a compelling result. While he seems to have fan support branching off from his Shield days and from not being Roman Reigns, he seems stuck in neutral as a character. He isn’t moving forward or backward. He is merely cutting up a jacket.
What happens when one places a character missing some of what made them great against a character lacking in development and determined to be wacky? One gets the awkward Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho feud we are currently experiencing. Hopefully it ends soon and I can say everything is awesome once again.
And now for some random thoughts:
– Big Cass had a standout night in the promo department despite never having to wrestle. As much as I miss Enzo Amore strutting onto my television screen, I don’t feel like Cass is currently missing a thing. Don’t get me wrong, Cass isn’t ready to be a full time singles star, but we are seeing a confident and dynamic Cass, which we never quite got in NXT. When Enzo gets well and returns, this won’t be a one-note act.
– A.J. Styles and Roman Reigns continue to tell one of the more interesting wrestling stories in many years. Last week, I was exceptionally complimentary of their work and this week I continue to be. The supporting players (The Usos, Gallows, and Anderson) are filling their roles nicely while Roman and A.J. clash in a delightful way. This is one of the more creative WWE feuds in many years.
– The crowd was absolutely perfectly hot for the Styles and Reigns segment. Omaha is the new greatest wrestling city in America.
– I understand concerns about Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson losing a bit of their aura, but I don’t believe the damage is irreparable. What happens when they betray A.J. Styles (which I assume we are building to)? What happens when their real boss shows up and they begin that chapter? Gallows and Anderson could still be a dominant force. The story they’re telling now is still quite compelling. These two aren’t main event wrestlers anyways, they’re supporting acts.
– Dana Brooke debuted on this show and, while it wasn’t included in the Hulu version (sadness), I still watched and was excited. Dana was a super hard worker on the NXT show and developed a compelling villainous character. Her path to WWE was women’s independent wrestling, but she proved she belonged in the NXT women’s division. She is a strong addition to the WWE women’s division and completely deserving of the spot. Her and Emma are a dynamic duo to watch.
– Color me surprised to see Charlotte lose to Paige. I understand why this happened, but I still don’t know if I agree to it. Paige is a confusing character without a true direction. While she still garners some fan passion, she seems less interesting by the week. Charlotte is doing well as a heel and lost because of a distraction (and to prove she loses without Ric Flair in her corner). I get all of this, but I still don’t know if Paige was the right human to win here. Will there be any followup with Paige?
– Natalya was absolutely atrocious on commentary. She made Kalisto look like Dusty Rhodes in his prime.
– Sami Zayn vs. The Miz was a very fun match. This crowd was pretty into it and Zayn was able to fight from underneath perfectly. While the outcome was never in doubt, Zayn and Miz (plus Maryse) put on a good show. Mis continues to impress at every level of his work.
– Kevin Owens vs. Zack Ryder was also fairly good.
– The New Day’s interactions with The Vaudevillains were pretty fun. The last two weeks have seen Simon Gotch and Aiden English look far better than they have for months in NXT. The Dudleys player their roles well. The WWE tag division is clicking nicely.
– The camera’s focus on Stephanie McMahon didn’t seem evil. It also didn’t seem good. I am utterly confused by it, but in a good way. I’m not sure where Stephanie and Shane’s story is going and this makes me happy.
Aside from the awkwardness of Ambrose vs. Jericho and the lack of Dana Brooke on my Hulu cut, I am really impressed with what WWE is putting out there. They’re telling a couple really compelling stories leading into Extreme Rules and they have me looking forward to that show more than usual. Styles vs. Reigns is on track to be a feud we talk about for years to come. WWE is better now than it has been in quite a while.
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.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Mister Saint Laurent, who offers passionate words about what MLW delivers that pro wrestling has been missing, addresses criticism of MLW's contracts, straying from the path that his family paved for him, discusses the MLW Saturday Night SuperFight pay-per-view event that will be held on November 2 in Chicago, and more (62:44)...