WWE Fooled Me and I Loved It by Mike Sanchez

Congratulations WWE, you fooled me once again.

Having watched the brand split, the evolution of the women’s division and the plethora of NXT talent forge their way onto the main roster, for a moment there I really believed that we were about to bear witness to the new era of professional wrestling…sorry, sports entertainment.

I believed that things were changing, that the old tired programming and booking was gone, but experience told me not to be so naive. Years of watching WWE told me that the norm would return once again. The new talent would fade away as quickly as they’d appeared on the roster. Their hope, promise and freshness quickly quelled as Cena, Reigns and the Authority took their place as the stars of the show. I wanted to believe the product had changed, I really did, but my brain overruled my heart and told me to get real. I wasn’t going to see Zayn win lots of matches. I wasn’t going to see Kevin Owens become anything more than a talkative mid-carder and I certainly wasn’t going to see Finn Balor get a sniff of gold when he arrived on Raw. In fact, I thought he’d be dropped onto Smackdown and have a meaningless feud with Dolph Ziggler for six months. Then he may have moved on to a tag feud for a few weeks, likely leading to participation in an eight man battle royal for the US championship. Obviously he’d be eliminated first.

But no WWE, you fooled me again.

You took all those sensible, sure-fire storylines of the last few years, gave me a glimpse of them, fully expecting my head to tell my heart ‘I told you so’ and then whoosh, you pulled the rug from right under me.

Well played.

This week’s Raw saw the crowning of the new WWE Masters of the Universal Heavyweight Champion of the World. As soon as I saw the final contestants, my heart began to whisper ‘Hey, look, Kevin Owens…’ to which my brain slapped the thought down. My rationale took over. Sure, Balor had won not days before, but in WWE’s eyes, that was surely a mistake. A mistake proven to them by the Gods of Wrestling by having him injured that same night. Thereby proving that the norm should prevail. That the decision to crown the Demon King (why, oh why, did they keep pushing that name?) was an error. One quickly addressed by divine intervention. No, a higher power knew better. The old method was the best. Such a prestigious title couldn’t go to an ‘indie darling’. I mean, the old ‘darling’ was just berated and humiliated by a true WWE guy in the Miz. Those indie guys can’t be top guys. That’s not right.

I’ll be honest here; I fully expected Reigns or Rollins to walk out as champion. Then we’d be right back to where we were. I believed the safe option was going to be utilised once more. Put the belt on a former champion and go from there. Have some defences on the new Raw PPVs and amble our way to 2017 and see what happens from there.

On a quick side-note, I was both surprised and pleased to see Big Cass in the mix, but when he was eliminated first as expected, I settled down and awaited the inevitable. I was brought back to the end of the last Royal Rumble. Ambrose staring across the ring at Triple H. My heart raced a little at that sight. Surely not? Surely they won’t have Ambrose topple a giant of wrestling? Surely they wouldn’t do it? Triple H wasn’t going to be thrown out by this upstart?

No, he wasn’t. The normality returned. Whether you think that had more to do with Reigns losing than Triple H winning is your call. I would’ve loved to have seen Dean get it. But, it was what it was and history will remember the Game coming out on top.

Back to Raw and I grumbled as Reigns and Rollins slug it out. True, the match was of a high standard, but it was like watching a blockbuster movie in the cinema on opening night. There’s excitement in the air, but you’ve been privy to a spoiler. You know how it turns out. All the energy has been sapped and you’re cursing yourself for knowing too much.

I envied my daughter’s enthusiasm when she was bouncing on the couch, hoping Kevin Owens would get up and fight. My brain told me I knew better. Then Owens got involved. I sat up, interested. My heart found its voice, the childhood hope and wonder sprang forth once more. Surely not?

Then Triple H came out and threw his weight about. My heart quickly quietened as my brain chuckled to itself. Damn it. Here go; beat up the fan favourite, help the status quo. Just like it was at Survivor Series except this time Sting wasn’t going to show up.

Then the unexpected – something I’ve missed so much in WWE over the last few years – shone brighter than any star. Triple H took his favourite pet that couldn’t perform any more, out behind the barn and put him down right in the middle of the ring. His new favourite thrown forward to reap the reward. I sat stunned as Owens took full heel advantage and covered the fallen former champion. My daughter leapt up and down, the couch groaned much like my humbled brain. I loved it. They didn’t go with the tried and tested. They gave us another new champion. Another indie darling. Another surprise.

Well played WWE. Well played.

What do you think? Has the corner truly been turned in WWE or is this just building up to a return to the status quo? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for reading.