By Will Pruett
That’s right, y’all. I watched both Raw and Smackdown this week and, as we blast off into the good, bad, and ugly of WrestleMania season, I’m going to bring a supersized collection of thoughts on WWE moving forward. Are you ready?
– First and foremost, I’m all about this debut of Samoa Joe. Joe had been on the NXT roster for more than long enough. WWE is weak when it comes to top heels and Joe can be just that. Raw needs an antagonist. Seth Rollins needs an antagonist. Samoa Joe is a delightful one.
As I look at what Joe’s path can be going forward, I’m slightly concerned. Is Joe’s destiny to lose at Fastlane? I don’t want to see him take a major loss this soon. How does Joe stay protected, move into a major slot at WrestleMania, and become a top antagonist moving forward? WWE has to be artful in their booking of Samoa Joe as Triple H’s heavy.
– The news coming out about Seth Rollins has me in a Wednesday morning funk. If his knee is actually reinjured to the point that he misses WrestleMania, it will be quite sad. Rollins hasn’t clicked as a character since his return, but he was starting to. He had a clear path to WrestleMania that was once again interrupted. Here’s wishing Rollins the best.
– If Rollins should miss WrestleMania, I believe WWE could do some serious card restructuring. Triple H will need a match. Samoa Joe might be without a dance partner. Hopefully WWE will be better than they were last year at improvising.
– The first major WrestleMania challenge was the most obvious one. Brock Lesnar has challenged Goldberg through a fairly standard Paul Heyman promo. Goldberg will answer next week. The intrigue I currently have about this match is whether or not the Universal Championship will be involved. It seems like a better slot for this championship than with Kevin Owens (sorry, internet world).
– More than with Goldberg, while watching Raw, I actually wanted to see Braun Strowman win the Universal Championship. Pulling the trigger on Braun on the night after the Rumble might have been pretty exciting.
– Why did it take two hours of Raw to mention that Randy Orton won the Royal Rumble?
– At least Orton was in the opening segment of Smackdown. Said segment was pretty delightful. John Cena did some heavy promo lifting of AJ Styles, making sure Styles looked good in defeat. Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt continued to be the best of friends, at least while it benefits Orton. More intriguing than anything was Luke Harper’s help of Cena. The moment when Cena’s eyes widened and he saw Harper was on his side was quite fun.
– Fears of Cena vs. Orton as the WrestleMania 33 main event should be calmed by the announcement that it’ll happen next week. I don’t think Cena and Orton would clash this close to ‘Mania if they were going to close that show. This match should provide an interesting platform for the Wyatt Family drama to continue.
– Who is Luke Harper in this whole Randy Orton story? Will he simply be the guy Randy beats on his way to WrestleMania? Could Luke Harper have a bigger role than this? WWE has an opportunity to make Harper through the process of a Wyatt vs. Orton main event.
– The Elimination Chamber match participants weren’t announced in a great way, but they should create a fun match. Cena, Styles, Wyatt, Baron Corbin, The Miz, and Dean Ambrose look poised to have a delightful Chamber encounter. One benefit to the Chamber happening on the Road to WrestleMania is the way it can set up future ‘Mania encounters. Cena and Miz should have a chance for this.
– When American Alpha promised to have an open challenge, I hoped it would echo John Cena’s open challenge segments until WrestleMania (or after). Alpha is a team that shows a ton of personality through their in-ring work. Giving them a weekly showcase and possibly bringing in outside talents on occasion to make the matches feel important would be awesome. I didn’t enjoy what the segment became.
– Imagine getting a fantastic American Alpha match on a weekly basis…
– Is Nia Jax going to kill Sasha Banks on a weekly basis? It sets up Sasha to leave and come back for the 200th time in her main roster career. It establishes Jax as a monster, which I enjoy. It also gives me more opportunities to listen to Jax’s theme music (the greatest theme this side of the Royal Rumble theme music).
– I like Neville as the Cruiserweight Champion quite a bit. I’m not sure he needs to be a king, but I get it.
– Rich Swann should have a better time on a chase for the Cruiserweight Championship than he did as champion. WWE needs a defining feud in the Cruiserweight Division to build fan interest. I hope Swann and Neville can figure it out.
– Bayley should probably be sad when she loses. Fans wouldn’t feel betrayed by her sadness, it would cause people to emotionally invest in her winning. WWE doesn’t allow their pure babyface characters to feel a full spectrum of emotions.
– Roman Reigns stopping the Owens vs. Strowman match should have seemed obvious, but I didn’t think of it until it happened. This was some solid Royal Rumble follow up.
– Reigns vs. Strowman seems like another match WWE will need to protect all participants in. Undertaker vs. Reigns seems likely. Strowman should probably be a monster up to and through WrestleMania. How can both men be protected?
– Sami Zayn vs. Chris Jericho was fun. This seems like another Fastlane match in the making.
– Enzo Amore is a serial sexual harasser. Cheer for him!
– Carmella getting squash matches to build up her (and her pairing with James Ellsworth) is a worthy cause. Smackdown does a great job of keeping characters on the back-burner, but still doing something.
– Will Elimination Chamber have three women’s matches? It seems like Smackdown could put Alexa Bliss vs. Naomi, Mickie James vs. Becky Lynch, and Nikki Bella vs. Natalya all on the same show. This would impress me.
Overall, this was a pretty fun week of WWE’s two major shows. Coming out of the Royal Rumble, most segments seemed to have purpose. WWE has their Road to WrestleMania firmly established and seems to know what they’re doing at both pay-per-views before WrestleMania.
Got thoughts on this show or my review of it? Hit me up with them! Check the Twitter @wilpruett, leave a comment, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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