Last week’s Monday Night Raw was headlined by one of the best TV matches we’ll see all year in WWE. The Miz, Seth Rollins, and Finn Balor battled it out to determine the new Number One Contender to Dean Ambrose’s Intercontinental Championship and it was fantastic. All three are great performers, so it shouldn’t have been surprising that their chemistry was so good.
The Miz won the match, setting up his challenge to regain the title that Dean currently holds. His win came at the hands of some fortunate interference by Samoa Joe and Bray Wyatt. By the time the show went off the air, it was very obvious what three of the most important feuds for the red brand are, even though only one of them is something brand new. Miz vs. Dean, Joe vs. Rollins, and Finn vs. Bray are the rivalries to keep your eyes on going forward. Personally, I look forward to each of these, but which one do I look forward to the most?
Throughout this article I will break down each matchup and weigh the good and bad of each. I will start with the pairing I’m looking forward to the least, then work toward the one that has me stoked out with maximum giddiness. I recently engaged in this very topic of conversation on my weekly YouTube show, so if you also want to hear my thoughts while seeing my face then simply click HERE. I’ll also leave the video embedded below. But as long as I have your attention, here are my written thoughts on these feuds…
Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz
First and foremost, I absolutely adore The Miz. He owns every segment he’s in and knows how to bring out passionate responses from any audience. He’s been putting in the best work of his career for the past couple of years and it’s earned him the respect of even the toughest crowds. It’s great that Dean Ambrose has been working with him because his babyface favor from the crowd has been waning over the past 6 months or so. He could use a reason for the fans to rally behind him again, because otherwise he might stray into the dreaded realm of wrestlers that have almost completely lost their crowd support (…a land currently occupied by Dolph Ziggler).
Having said all of that, this is the feud I’m currently least excited about. Both of these guys came over to Raw during the Superstar Shakeup, so it doesn’t feel very fresh. I was looking forward to seeing these guys mix it up with the Raw roster and that’s not exactly what we’re getting. This is a former SmackDown guy versus another former SmackDown guy. That’s not really a shakeup.
Also, WWE is sort of ignoring the fact that they’ve tangoed many times in the previous year. The most recent instance started involved their spouses several months ago. Miz was possibly the first person to acknowledge Dean & Renee’s relationship on air during an in-ring interview, which ended with a slap to the A-Lister’s face from the new Mrs. Lunatic Fringe. That angle was abruptly ended when Miz & Maryse’s focus shifted towards John Cena and Nikki Bella. Are we supposed to ignore the Maryse/Renee involvement that was suddenly dropped not too long ago? I’m probably the only one who will have those unresolved issues in the back of my mind, but I do want a some follow-up.
Being The Miz, I’m sure I’ll find plenty of enjoyment with this Intercontinental Championship feud. However, it feels the least fresh to me at that’s why it’s at the bottom. Plus, the unresolved issues from stop/start WrestleMania builds give me a few nagging questions that I’d like addressed.
Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe
Samoa Joe came to Raw as a henchman of Triple H, injuring Seth Rollins on his first Monday night on the job. After Triple H faded out of the post-WrestleMania picture, Joe continued the fight in the McMahon-Helmsley name. The two fought at Payback and Seth won when he was able to get Joe’s shoulders down during a Coquina Clutch. The next night on Raw, Joe spoiled Seth’s attempt at becoming the IC Number One Contender when he interfered to hit him with a uranage. That’s where we’re currently at with this feud.
What I don’t like about this rivalry is the fact that Joe seems to be still motivated to stand up for Hunter & Stephanie. I understand that he was brought in as their heavy and he wants to do right by the people he works for, but I just don’t care enough to see that element continue. There’s been more than enough of the Authority over the past few years – I still feel like the lingering aftertaste needs more time to get washed out.
After Payback and Raw, I’m hoping that their storyline anger is rooted more from the actions they’ve committed towards each other. Joe should be mad that Seth beat him while he had his submission locked in at Payback. He would’ve gotten a tap out win if it wasn’t for that. Also, one of his shoulders wasn’t down for that fall, so it was a bad call that he should want overturned. As for Seth, he should be mad at Joe because he cost him a title opportunity on Raw.
As can be seen, there’s plenty to dislike about each other that has nothing to do with Triple H. Let’s not mention him for a while, okay? Their match at Payback was only okay for me but I’m still optimistic with what they could do in a more aggressive match. If they competed in something more physical like a Street Fight, they’d undoubtedly tear the house down. I’m not totally sold on their motivations for battling each other but that’s okay. Their future matchups have my intrigue piqued.
Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt
This is the feud I’m most looking forward to. There’s something obvious about their personas that could be a ton of fun to see play out. Bray Wyatt is a backwoods cult leader who sometimes has mystical powers and Finn Balor is lego-loving underwear model who moonlights occasionally as a possessed warrior… or something close to that description is what’s going on.
Bray Wyatt is coming off of a feud with Randy Orton that he ultimately lost, but racked up a few important victories along the way. He is now a former WWE Champion thanks to that feud, which is a gigantic plus. He also experienced a revival in fan interest for a short time. Everything definitely dropped off big time by the time they were wrestling on projections of bugs at WrestleMania, but up until a few weeks beforehand this was a hot feud. Wyatt showed that with the right booking, he can still be captivating.
Finn Balor is the right guy to book Bray against. Finn’s very long injury robbed him of any real chance at a reign as the first Universal Champion and there are plenty of people that want to see him ascend to that level again. He’s stated his intentions to go after that belt and has planted the seeds for an inevitable showdown with Brock Lesnar. Balor’s got big things in store for his future and I think a feud with Wyatt can help establish the Demon alter-ego as something far more than what it’s been presented as so far.
The Demon body paint makes an appearance during the special occasions like Pay-Per-Views, but what does it really do for Finn? It’s not like he busts out a different moveset or acts extra heelish. It’s just Finn looking slightly cooler than normal. The Eater of Worlds can challenge this side of Balor. He can beg for the fight with The Demon and make the same threats he’s made to guys like John Cena in the past – Bray should want to push the boundaries of whatever dark place Finn goes to when he dons this persona.
Comically heightened violence and anger would be how I would cast The Demon. Whereas Finn wants to wrestle and win his matches, the painted up version of him should be more concerned with hurting his opponents. I’d like to see him utilize weaponry or at least wrestle a far more physical style. I remember a time when Bray was fairly new to the main roster that he begged John Cena to hit him with a chair but John refused because he didn’t want to use those tactics. This should be done with no-paint Finn, who chooses to take the high road like Cena. Bray should later beg for a chair shot from The Demon who wouldn’t hesitate to brutalize him with the foreign object.
Casting a clear contrast between regular Balor and The Demon King needs to be a priority in this feud. I’m optimistic that we’ll get this type of character development, or at least something similar to this. Balor should need to become something more than who’s been to be able to go toe to toe with The Beast Incarnate and Bray Wyatt is the transition for him to get to that place.
These three feuds all have something to be excited about, but after laying it all out I realize that I’m mostly excited about the stuff that feels the newest. Finn vs. Bray is something I haven’t seen before. I think there’s important stories to be told there while the feud between Miz and Dean has already planted seeds that haven’t delivered (…and to be fair, that was John Cena and Nikki Bella’s fault). I adore The Miz, so I’ll still find reasons to like their work even if I rave about the other feuds more.
Those were my thoughts on these matchups but what do you think? Are you just as amped up as I am over Balor vs. Wyatt or is there something else you’re looking forward to even more? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below or you can hit me up directly on Twitter @MitchNickelson.
Since you’ve made it this far, please check out my conversation similar to this as well as thoughts on Shinsuke Nakamura’s debut and the House of Horrors Match by clicking on the embedded video below. And be a pal and give me a subscription on my YouTube channel. It costs you nothing and it’ll increase an arbitrary sense of self-worth that I’ve assigned to myself…