Let’s be honest – it hasn’t been a great week for WWE TV programming. Raw and SmackDown both fell well below par as far as I was concerned, neither show bringing enough to the table to even be called satisfactory let alone good.
Let’s be honest for a second time though and say we all know this is very little to do with the wrestlers themselves – they are undoubtedly a hugely talented group, probably top-to-bottom the most talented roster WWE has ever had. They are just spread far too thinly to provide enough depth and as other writers on TJR have alluded to this week, are being placed in far-too-familiar situations with far too predictable outcomes.
There’s not been a lot that has been new or original on Raw or SmackDown to write about this week.
It would normally be my modus operandi at this stage to start pointing out everything that’s wrong with WWE programming (well…actually I just did, but let’s gloss over that) but being a contrary, strange Englishman, when the chips are down is when I start seeing potential. When the garden is rosy there’s nowhere for the product to grow to – when it’s untended and shabby like this week’s WWE TV has been, then I can sit back and say “well, can’t be any worse next week can it, so what are they going to do better”?
So in that vein, here are my five reasons to be cheerful as a WWE fan for after Summerslam.
1. The recruitment drive…
…which will hopefully continue apace. I wrote a whole article about how thin the rosters were (I don’t think it’s too early to judge that, still) a few weeks ago, and pleasingly they’ve decided to add a few bodies to what they had then in Rhino, Shelton Benjamin, Jinder Mahal and all of the cruiserweights that end up signing full-time contracts. I think it would be great to see Goldberg back for at least one match as well – whether you like him or not, he has star power. If Kurt Angle, Rock and Triple H end up fighting ‘Mania matches as well (I’m not saying they will) then ‘Mania suddenly becomes a very veteran-heavy show, but that’s for down the line. Right now, WWE needs a shot in the arm and any of those guys appearing would do that.
The thing is, there’s a number of guys WWE could bring in tomorrow if they really wanted who would make a difference and you have to think that the one thing the brand extension brings is a better chance of that happening. Bringing guys like Joe, Nakamura, Bayley, Aries and Bobby Roode up from NXT would add more shots to another arm (their debuts should be staggered). Then you have guys not currently with the company who could easily be snapped up in the Young Bucks, Jay Lethal, pretty much any of the women currently featured in Shimmer, in fact any number of indie wrestlers. I’d personally love to see a Motor City Machine Guns run in WWE but as I never, ever see that mentioned as possible, I’m not sure it will ever happen.
The future, if they choose to expand the rosters with old and new alike, actually excites me. But more than that – they need to do it, and quickly.
2. Dolph Ziggler
I know he’s going to lose at Summerslam. I know he has a lot of detractors. But I’ve been a fan of the guy for years and was one of the ones who genuinely marked out when he cashed in to become champ in 2013. I also genuinely marked out when he was the sole survivor ousting the Authority in 2014.
The guy rocks – he does things differently in the ring, which is something I genuinely appreciate in the days of multiple dives over and through the ropes, corkscrew twists (what does that add to the damage inflicted to an opponent?) and overly set-up spots. I think he’s another wrestler who would really benefit from the addition of a really good-looking submission move, rather than a sleeper hold, but otherwise I think his offence is surprising and can be innovative. I’m glad to see him in a top spot and I’d actually have him win against Ambrose at Summerslam (and then probably lose it back at the next PPV) leading to a Christian-style storyline of wanting one more match.
Or whatever. I just hope they don’t waste this and shove him back into another series of matches with the Miz, or Apollo Crews, because he’s good at the top and he’s better with gravitas.
3. Bray Wyatt going solo
The Wyatt Family thing has stopped making sense. I loved it and I think they could have done much, much more with it, but if they’re not going to win feuds and/or bring more acolytes into their fold regularly, then it’s not something that makes sense to last for much longer because there won’t be anything more to do.
I think Bray on his own opens up a whole series of much more interesting storytelling, if they let it happen. Of course, it would be even better if being targeted by Bray Wyatt, even if you win against him, changes your wrestling character forever, but I don’t think WWE will ever be brave enough to have constantly evolving characters like that. Even so, there’s plenty they can do with Bray on his own, whether that’s establishing him as a dominant heel, a crazed anti-hero babyface or continuing with being the guy who gets into your head, there’s more opportunities for us as fans to enjoy Bray when he’s not just on the sidelines of every match Rowan and Harper lose.
4. New Day losing the tag titles
There’ll be a lot of people agreeing with me on this one, I think – because I think a lot of people will want the tag titles on The Club, but I’m not in favour of New Day losing for that reason. Much like the Wyatt family, I’m not sure where else New Day go if they retain the titles. If they keep the group together (and they should, for at least another year) then there’s much more mileage in them chasing the titles or getting involved in feuds away from the titles than there is in placing yet more challengers in front of them for them to beat.
The Club are the right team to beat them, there’s no doubt – but once they’re done with losing the Summerslam match and the following rematch, New Day will be able to turn their focus to more interesting storylines for their characters. At this stage, I think the titles have started holding them back as a group rather than helping them because the titles keep the group stuck in the same position and whenever that happens for any character or group, it’s the right time to try something new.
5. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor
This is simple. Plain, simple and easy. Balor vs. Rollins is going to be great.
I’ve hated almost all of the build-up. I loathed the “Demon King” repetition, stomping the familiar WWE boot down my throat on Monday. I don’t like the fact they haven’t had him wrestle enough on TV since bringing him up to the main roster.
I do like the match. I know that already, without seeing it. It’s a match with a simple but effective storyline – both guys really want the WWE Universal Championship and neither guy respects the other. Someone is going to win and be happy and someone is going to lose and be sad. We know they both want it. We know they both will do anything to get it. Neither man has it, meaning it’s a mad scramble to the top to get it rather than one trying to take it off the other, so it’s a rarer scenario.
I love that. Could it have been executed in a superior manner? Sure. But this match at Summerslam is going to be good enough to mean that doesn’t quite matter as much as it would normally, but it will for the rematch. For now though, I’m just going to enjoy it.
So there you have it. Do you agree with my reasons to be cheerful? Have I missed anything you guys are looking forward to?