Hey there wrasslin fans! We are now a solid month into the new normal of wrestling, with AEW chugging along, RAW and SmackDown doing their thing, NXT continuing to kick ass, Impact receiving a new TV deal, NJPW making inroads to US markets, the NWA taking viewers back in time with Powerrr and ROH doing…. whatever it is they are doing over there.
To summarize: The new normal of wrestling is that there is A LOT of wrestling to keep up with.
So let’s dive in with a look at a few recent stories that caught my attention from the world of bodyslams and backbreakers:
NXT invades the main roster
This past Friday night I had an experience that I hadn’t had in some time: I really felt like I was missing something by not watching SmackDown.
With much of the main roster “stuck” in Saudi Arabia, a story that deserves an informed look further down the road, WWE presented a fresh take on the tried and true invasion angle with NXT stars arriving and dominating the skeleton crew of performers that were on hand from the SmackDown roster.
This event was followed up with another, somewhat less well-received, invasion of Monday Night RAW which once again presented the NXT roster as very strong and more than capable of holding their own against the main roster talents.
While this is an exciting development in terms of a WWE shared universe, past invasion angles (*Cough. The Alliance. Cough.*) have burned out rather quickly after hot starts due to WWE creative being unwilling to put the invading talent over their top stars. In this case, it’s not a surprise to see Daniel Bryan lose clean to Adam Cole as Bryan is a worker that can be relied on to put other talents over and is someone that has never been viewed as tippy-top guy despite his skills. The real proof that WWE is behind this angle will come from the interactions between the likes of Roman Reigns and the NXT roster. Will The Big Dog lay down for the like of Tomasso Ciampa or Johnny Gargano? Or, will we see a repeat of John Cena kicking out at 2 after a DDT onto concrete?
It’s very telling, at least to me, that Brock Lesnar is being booked well away from this angle as there is no way the visual of Lesnar next to Adam Cole or any of the other undersized NXT talents is something WWE wants to put out there. Yes, Lesnar will be working Rey Mysterio at Survivor Series, but Rey is a talent that exists outside of normal WWE size rules and, again, my opinion, will almost certainly be one F-5 away from a quick, clean loss at the PPV.
The other concern for me is that by incorporating the NXT talent into Survivor Series WWE risks diluting the NXT product with main roster style matches and booking. As an island to itself, NXT is finding its stride within the new 2-hour format and telling some clear, well-told stories. These stories become somewhat conflicted when characters that have every reason to hate each other, like Keith Lee who was a victim of two consecutive Undisputed Era beat downs, for example, standing shoulder to shoulder as united against a common foe. I realize that this is a minor logic jump in the world of pro-wrestling, but one of the great things about NXT is that they work quite hard to avoid making such jumps so some creative booking will be needed to make sense of it all.
This logic bunny can be further followed down its hole with the question of why main roster talents would actually care about their brands enough to defend their honour when a) the draft just happened, b) they have no leader or authority figure to follow and c) at least half of them are NXT alumni that have well document love for their former home. Triple H poses with every former NXT talent after their first main roster title win, but now we have to believe that they don’t like him and are willing to go to war against their former friends? It’s a silly wrestling plot hole, but it’s one you can drive at least a small car though so I hope that time is taken, on-screen and not on Twitter, to address it.
I want so much to be excited for this crossover, as I really think NXT deserves all the exposure it can get, but it is impossible not to look at the scorched earth of the past few years of main roster booking and feel at least a twinge of trepidation for what may become of the black and yellow brand superstars when Vince McMahon has them on his chessboard.
AEW and the road to Full Gear
After a full month and a bit of All Elite Wrestling, the strengths and weaknesses of the company and its roster are beginning to reveal themselves. I have found both Dynamite and YouTube exclusive series Dark to be enjoyable for the most part, but there are absolutely some areas that I can see becoming an issue over time if minor course corrections aren’t made.
The first thing that I have found as a viewer is that a two-hour episode of Dynamite is often laid out in a way that doesn’t enhance the overall experience of the show. A specific example would be last weeks episode that featured two, non-serious, six-man tag matches. Neither match had a story, both matches involved cosplay and due to the working style shared by much of the roster, it was hard to make the case that both matches needed to be on the same show. Similarly, the week before featured three or four tag team matches, which isn’t a bad thing on its face but when each match features so many of the same spots (ALL the dives) they begin to blend together, making each individual match less special.
The similarity of match styles is coupled with another issue up and down the Dynamite card: every match is way too competitive. I absolutely respect AEW and its desire to allow all their performers to have time to work and showcase their skills, but not every match needs to go 50/50 over ten or more minutes. Top guys need to go over clean and quick with their finish for a new audience. We need to know who to cheer and why. If Kenny Omega needs 15 minutes to beat Joey Janella, then how long is his match with Jon Moxley going to be? If it takes the Lucha Brothers two full TV segments to beat Jungle Boy and Marko Stunt, how can I take them seriously against the guys in SCU?
Give me a few 5-8 minute matches that inform me as to who are the talents to watch in this promotion and why I want to support them. I’m not an indie fan and I have no past history with anyone on this roster except the guys that worked in WWE, so I need an education. Are the Young Bucks the best tag team in the world? Is Kenny Omega the best bout machine? The commentators keep telling me this, but I’ve seen them all lose already multiple times and none of their victories has been sharp or decisive.
These are just early concerns though and don’t interfere overly with my enjoyment of the product thanks to the stellar work of top guy Chris Jericho, fantastic production and the fact that I have lots of rope to give this company in the very, very early days of it establishing itself.
Seth Rollins needs to go away
The WWE top guy grind is not an easy one. Constant travel, 4-5 nights a week of main event matches and the knowledge that you are the face of a billion-dollar company with all the history and baggage that comes with it. So, like most fans and observers, I feel for Seth and appreciate the toll that his job takes on his mind and body.
That said; the guy needs a break.
With crowds rebelling and booing him at almost every turn, Rollins is getting the full Roman treatment without the broad shoulders necessary to carry it or the drawing power to make it worth the companies while.
So send him home. Let him heal. Let him learn a new hold or walk his dog. Nobody, particularly Rollins himself, benefits from him being a constant presence on TV. Overexposure is the ultimate finishing move in the WWE with stars lined up and knocked down simply because fans are tired of them.
We wrestling fans have a really long memory, which can work against wrestlers but can also be their best friend. Go away, let us forget the things we are sick of so we can remember the things we like. It’s another article in the case I have previously made for a rotating WWE “off-season” and one that I really hope gets Rollins, one of the top performers in the world, off my TV and onto his couch for a much-needed nap.
Saudi Shows, Jordan Myles and cracks in the WWE foundation
A final, quick thought on the state of the WWE and what has seemed to be a steady stream of controversies and challenges through the past several weeks.
WWE is largely thought to be too big to fail at this point due to the massive amount of money coming in from TV deals and its 10-year partnership with Saudi Arabia. This appearance allows for things like the continued drop in ratings, the social media fallout of the Jordan Myles shirt controversy, the complete disaster that was the release of WWE 2K20 and other situations seem to be largely inconsequential. However, and please note that this is an opinion informed by my intake of wrestling-related media, I really feel like you don’t get this many holes in the dam without some water getting through.
What I mean is, although the money is still coming in, some of the lustre of the WWE brand is starting to wear off. In a business where perception is everything, I am sure that I am not alone in seeing the WWE’s recent series of unfortunate events as pieces of a puzzle that may look like a business on somewhat shaky footing. Not that they are going anywhere, not that they will fail or that I want anything less than success for the men and women that work there, but it really feels like something is in the air right now. Whether that something is a short term issue or a part of a systematic problem will be something that observers and pundits like myself can discuss for some time to come.
So, whether you’re out there selling or waiting for the hot tag, til next time; I’ll see you marks around the loop.