Happy Monday, TJRWrestling faithful! After a big weekend of numerous title changes, we’re still in Brooklyn and the image of Enzo Amore taking off most of his clothes and lubricating himself is still haunting my thoughts. Welcome to the Week In Preview for World Wrestling Entertainment, August 21st 2017.
Raw (Barclays Center, Brooklyn NY)
Announced: ‘Free agent’ John Cena is advertised to appear on Raw, although he’s not being mentioned in the WWE.com preview.
What to expect: There were so many title changes last night at SummerSlam, expect plenty of talk of rematches for a start. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, reunited, claimed the Tag Team Championships but will likely face Sheamus & Cesaro again under continued speculation about whether they really can trust each other. Alexa Bliss will seek a rematch with new Women’s Champion Sasha Banks, although it’ll be interesting to see whether Bayley makes an appearance in front of the Brooklyn crowd to congratulate her friend after the mixed crowd reactions she received during backstage appearances over the weekend. Finally, Titus O’Neil will probably seek a rematch for his client Akira Tozawa, after Tozawa’s six-day Cruiserweight Championship reign was cut off by Neville.
As noted, John Cena is advertised but is not being discussed – so his appearance may be in the form of a ‘surprise’. Brock Lesnar, still Universal Champion, is being promoted to appear on WWE’s social media channels; Braun Strowman is widely speculated to be next in line to challenge him, while Samoa Joe and Roman Reigns could both move on to new things. Similar goes for Finn Balor, Bray Wyatt and (with any luck) Big Cass and Big Show. One program from the SummerSlam undercard that’s possibly the safest bet to continue is between The Miz and Jason Jordan, although being pinned in last night’s tag match may not be the most auspicious start to Jordan’s presumed Intercontinental Championship ambitions.
On a side note, a few returns and debuts are certainly possible this week, with Darren Young signed off the injury list and Shelton Benjamin finally cleared to return to the company. NXT callups are also very possible.
Spotlight: SummerSlam 2017 is in the books – read John’s live report if you haven’t yet done so – and if you could stick with the extortionate running time it was pretty good. The main event, a wild Universal Championship match, showed Raw’s headline heavyweights in their best possible light while Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins won a strong tag match with Sheamus & Cesaro. Further down the red side of the card, however, the wrestling was at best solid if not spectacular. In fact, the only other ‘spectacular’ aspect of Raw’s offering last night was the return of Finn Balor’s ‘Demon King’ persona, last seen at 2016’s show. The Brooklyn crowd lapped it up and, speaking subjectively, it pretty much succeeded in making Balor’s match with Bray Wyatt worthwhile viewing.
Although every glimpse of the Demon is a mark-out thrill, part of the appeal is the rarity; you’d soon get bored of Christmas if it was Christmas every day (whatever Roy Wood and Wizzard might tell you). In the run-up to SummerSlam week, Balor was playing down the possibility of painting himself up, questioning in an interview with IGN the belief that “the Demon needs to come out at every pay-per-view, or at least on the Big Four”. I believe this caution is healthy, not least because Finn Balor needs to succeed on his own terms rather than risk becoming defined by his alternative attire. The default opponent for guys who cross Balor should be the diminutive and dynamic tough Irishman. The only time the Demon should come out is when somebody really pisses him off. It should be earned and not necessarily depend upon the time of year.
The purpose of the ‘bucket of blood’ segment of last week’s Raw before SummerSlam was, of course, exactly this. On the surface, last week’s WWE programming was a surprisingly bolt-shooting exercise; we got the essential things we needed – Shield fistbump, four-way brawl ahead of the Universal Championship match – but we also got an utterly perplexing Cruiserweight Championship change and, on SmackDown Live, a Money in the Bank cash-in (more on that later). We also got advance viewing of Wyatt vs Balor, but there was a clear logic: Normal Balor gets wronged against an opponent in order to set up Demon Balor returning to wreak vengeance. But if that was always the plan, why leave it so late?
The motivation for Finn Balor to bring out his Demon form came in a bit of a rush, and it’s therefore difficult to escape the conclusion that it only happened because of last night’s show being one of the ‘Big Four’. Ideally, making Balor go to these extremes is something that would take a lot of work and a lot of provocation. It would be at least one previous high-profile match, sneak attacks and mind games over more than one pay-per-view cycle. Something resembling a blood feud – which for the purposes of stating the blindingly obvious, does not mean pouring a bucket of blood over somebody. And what was going on at Raw’s last pay-per-view, Great Balls of Fire? Bray Wyatt was wrestling Seth Rollins in an entirely forgettable program and Finn Balor wasn’t even on the card. Why not start things then?
The other problem is that we’ve also now reached the logical end point of this feud. How could Wyatt continue to go after Balor now, having been beaten clean by the Demon? What’s the benefit of doing so for Balor either? How do you blow that program off a second time? So poor old Bray Wyatt must now soldier on to another chapter, having had a pretty choppy year. Lest we forget he was WWE Champion six months ago. As for Finn Balor, I continue to have fleeting hopes of him getting his match for the Universal Championship he never lost. Have him come out in his leather jacket and get utterly crushed by Brock Lesnar. Then have him struggle to earn one more shot, vow to paint himself up, sell Demon vs Beast at the Royal Rumble (or even WrestleMania) and take all of my money.
SmackDown Live (Barclays Center, Brooklyn NY)
Announced: Nothing announced at time of writing.
What to expect: Yep, there’ll be rematch talk here too. The New Day will surely get another shot at the Tag Team Championships, after The Usos reclaimed the belts at SummerSlam. For this we can be grateful, as their matches so far have been fantastic. Naomi will seek a rematch with Natalya, after what was arguably the better of the two women’s championship matches on last night’s show.
WWE Champion Jinder Mahal needed interference to win his title defence against Shinsuke Nakamura, which may lay the foundations for another match between the two, especially given how abbreviated last night’s match was and the relatively lightweight build leading up to it. AJ Styles may shape up to move on to something new, with a developing grudge between Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon being most observers’ pick as the obvious outcome from SummerSlam’s United States Championship match.
Randy Orton and Rusev could possibly tangle again. Baron Corbin will probably need to find someone new to take out his frustrations on, with John Cena switching to Raw. SummerSlam absentees Breezango, Sami Zayn and Mike & Maria Kanellis (among others) may pop back up again and the same side note as Raw on possible returns and debuts applies here too.
Spotlight: The WWE Superstar Baron Corbin hasn’t had many worse weeks than this past one. To draw an important distinction, the performer Tom Pestock hasn’t had as bad a time of it; wrestling John Cena at SummerSlam is no bad spot, irrespective of the twists and turns his career takes on the path through it (which we will come to shortly). However, the WWE Superstar Baron Corbin? A pretty awful week. Surrendering his Money in the Bank meal ticket in a massive anticlimax on Tuesday, handily beaten like a chump by Big Match John on Sunday. Chin up, Baron!
Corbin’s cash-in came as a surprise to pretty much everybody. Which I suppose is meant to be the point of the gimmick; any time, any place and all that. But this particular time and place seemed odd; WWE tossed one of its most prized modern-day MacGuffins onto the fire to add an eleventh-hour edge to a match between Cena and Corbin which seemed to have been booked out of the blue. Taking place on the go-home show before SummerSlam, there was barely any time to explore the resentment you would expect Baron Corbin to harbor towards Cena for costing him his guaranteed shot, while the ‘free agent’ himself appears to be switching tracks to Raw as of tonight – so there may also be no follow-up.
Out of all the things WWE did last week in its sudden and unexpected onset of ADHD, this may have been the one I found strangest. Holding the Money in the Bank briefcase could’ve given Corbin a rub for the rest of the year – asides from being a plot point around the WWE Championship, that is of course its other purpose – but being jettisoned for a one-match feud, even if it is against John Cena, probably won’t be writing any checks for Corbin by October. Unless the rumors of imminent roster tweaks are true, and Corbin shows up on Raw in the next couple of weeks to wreck Cena in retaliation and continue matters (and hey, if that’s the case, it would explain why he wouldn’t need a SmackDown championship contract in his pocket), it looks like a knee-jerk decision for questionable benefits.
As for the collective embodiment of performer, on-screen character and professional wrestler that we know as Baron Corbin, the outlook isn’t as bleak as one might be tempted to feel instinctively. The comparisons with Damien Sandow came swiftly and, to be fair, were understandable; the loss of Sandow’s contract, also sacrificed in the process of furthering John Cena’s aura, was a body blow the character would never have recovered from without the entirely self-propelled ‘stunt double’ work Sandow went on to do with The Miz. However, despite that being a salient lesson, Corbin is a different guy. He’s clearly still somebody the company has optimism and will find opportunities for, and nothing’s diminished in what he brings to the table since he was eliminating Braun Strowman from the Royal Rumble in January.
The new theme music and entrance graphics, the fact he’s the man WWE turned to when John Cena needed a SummerSlam dance partner, the extent to which his End of Days finisher is still heavily protected – all of these things show that Corbin still has the eye of WWE’s decision-makers. They’ve not grown out of him; quite the opposite, if anything. They still have plans for him. However the new music and entrance graphics might indicate the possibility they’re not 100% sure what that is just yet. Baron Corbin’s next steps are not clear, but hopefully he’ll avoid the pattern of many WWE heels at the moment – Bray Wyatt and Rusev, looking at you – of only ever starting things he emphatically can’t finish. So let’s not lose hope just yet. When’s Dolph Ziggler back?
Also This Week
NXT (Wednesday) follows in the tradition of post-TakeOver shows, by bringing us the dark matches from before Saturday’s show. There may therefore not be much of great consequence but the crowd should be pretty warm – and there will no doubt be backstage videos covering the fallout from TakeOver which was another awesome show. Check out Kurt’s recap from Saturday if you haven’t yet done so.
For a hot second last week, it seemed a new order was going to be established in the cruiserweight division on 205 Live (Tuesday). All Akira Tozawa had to do was make it through his contractual rematch with Neville unscathed. Ah well. The chances of Tozawa’s rematch – which one presumes he’s getting – being held over until Raw’s No Mercy pay-per-view on September 24th may be a big ask, given how far away that is and how long this feud has already been running. As such there’s an outside chance it may take place on an episode of 205 Live earlier. More clarity is likely to come on Raw tonight.
Three Burning Questions
Some of this week’s most pressing but least publicized talking points. Throw down your answers in the comments section as usual!
- What should be John Cena’s first business on Raw?
- What should Baron Corbin do next?
- Who from NXT would you most like to see debut on the main roster this week, and for which brand?
Until next week, strap in, enjoy the ride and remember to stick with TJRWrestling.net for your show recaps and analysis.