Raw – Mid-Year Review

Updated: October 13, 2015

Well we have reached the official (unofficial?) middle of the pro wrestling season.  WrestleMania and SummerSlam have passed; Survivor Series and the Royal Rumble are coming up.  This is the time of year where new rivalries are formed, new characters/personalities are developed and new concepts are being tabulated for upcoming main events.  Where does Raw (and the overall WWE) stand at this time?  I thought I would take some time to look at some of the big storylines happening right now.

Seth Rollins – where else would I be expected to start?  Ever since winning the title at WM, this guy has been on a serious roll.  When he broke out and turned on The Shield, it seemed like a curious move (the general consensus was that Dean Ambrose was being groomed as the breakout star of the group).  But Rollins has taken the lead (and the title) and run with it.  The obvious reason is that he is fantastic in the ring.  He can just about do it all – technical wrestling, high-flying moves, different finishers (bring back the Curb Stomp!!) and the ability to tell a story all while helping to elevate multiple wrestlers (Cena, Ambrose, Sting, etc.).  He has developed the perfect scumbag, chickensh*t heel persona and it has only been helped by aligning himself with The Authority.  He can be placed in any storyline or feud and it seems to work.  The crowd absolutely hates him and the “smart” fans love him.  It’s the perfect storm.

Now if there is one thing to nitpick about Rollins’ current status, it’s this.  It seems like they are running his storyline in circles: (1) Bring one babyface into the feud that’s looking for the title. (2) Have him gain the upper hand in the feud by teasing Rollins and making him look like a petulant child. (3) Have The Authority get involved and try to help but inevitably hurt Rollins’ chances in a match. (4) Make it seem like Rollins is all alone and then have him win the main event and your next PPV. (5) The next week on Raw, rinse and repeat.

So what’s the answer?  Well I’m sure the decision-makers at WWE have this whole thing mapped out months in advance so it will be interesting to see.  In my opinion, they should mix it up a bit.  Maybe get back to more of the “assassin” mode like he was in The Shield – just take out anyone and everyone with no explanation.  Start to distance himself from The Authority a bit.  Become more of a nebulous character (sort of like a Brock Lesnar only with the ability to tell a story in the ring).  Now the rumors are that they will break Rollins off and set up a feud with Triple H, culminating in a WM match, but things are always changing.  I’m a big fan with the way he has been running with the title, and he is one of the best guys in the ring that WWE has seen in a long time.  Keep using that and let him continue to flourish.

Kevin Owens – now we move on to the second best thing going in WWE.  Owens has been fantastic ever since he got called up to the main roster for the US Title program against John Cena.  This is another guy who seems to have it all – great personality, great on the mike (on and off script) and great in the ring.  He can wrestle a physical style and can do some high-flying moves as well.  Putting the IC Title on him was a great decision – it allows them to showcase a true up-and-coming talent with the second most important title on the show (US Title can be argued but the IC Title has more prestige – plus the white belt is really cool).  The best thing about Owens is his character.  Because his personality is so strong, his character can be taken in multiple directions.  He can play the indifferent heel, the unapologetic jerk, the aloof wrestling savant, the crowd-pleasing face or the funny good guy.  I can easily see him turning into the next Chris Jericho – a guy who is comfortable in whatever role you put him and does great things with whatever character he is given (or whatever character he develops for himself).  Owens is great and should continue to be great, as long as the “guys in the back” don’t try to turn him into something he’s not.  I look forward to watching his rise.  Plus, let’s be honest – is there anything better than hearing a hyped-up crowd chant “Fight Owens Fight”?

John Cena – love him or hate him, Cena is still the biggest name and face (literally) on the card.  Cena has been in an interesting place over the past few years.  He has been in and out of the title picture and maintained his “Hustle, Loyalty, Respect” babyface for years on end.  The younger wrestling generation loves him nearly has much as older, established wrestling generation loathes him.  Regardless of how you may feel about Cena, he has been doing the best work of his career over the past 6 months.  After winning the US Title and debuting his weekly Open Challenge, he has elevated not only himself, but multiple second-tier wrestlers as well as the actual Title (Kevin Owens, Cesaro, Sami Zayn, Neville and the New Day just to name a few).  The matches have been fantastic and Cena has actually come up with several new moves (and new variations of old moves) to add to his standard skill set.  His Open Challenge matches have been a highlight on the Raw broadcast for the past few months and now that he has the title back I’m assuming that will continue, which in my opinion is a good thing.  It allows Cena to stay relevant, wrestle great matches, please his younger fans and elevate younger stars.  Throw in a WWE Title match every now and then (let’s be honest – he will have at least one more Title reign before hanging it up) and I think everyone will be happy.  Well, except for those fans still clamoring for the Cena heel turn.

NXT – Triple H’s brainchild has been a fantastic addition to the WWE (and by extension RAW) brand ever since it debuted.  Many skeptics (me included) wondered what a “minor league” wrestling system could ever bring to the main show.  After letting the system grow into itself, the answer has been provided.  It allows a place where younger (and a few older wrestlers) can come in and work on their entire skill set to see if they can cut it on the main roster.  The alumni list is impressive – Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Rusev, Neville, Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks).  Plenty of others are knocking on the door (Finn Balor, Apollo Crews, Bayley, Samoa Joe).   Add in the fact that there are several high-profile names out there that have been rumored as NXT targets (James Storm, Bobby Roode, Austin Aries and AJ Styles to name a few) and the story gets even better.  These were guys that were great in TNA but are now apparently open to any and all new opportunities.  If NXT manages to get some (or all) of those guys, there brand will continue to rise.  Here’s the dirty little secret though – the wrestling is actually really good.  The matches and storylines they have been putting on have been impressive to watch.  Now that the WWE has an established place to train, develop and promote new talent, the pipeline has been established and improved even more.  For a few years there was legitimate worry that no new talent was coming up.  We kept seeing the same old storylines acted out by the same old (and getting older) superstars.  Now that a new system has been developed that is allowing for new talent to get proper training and instruction, the sky is the limit.

Other Random Thoughts:

What exactly makes The New Day so great? Is it the dancing? Check. Is it the trombone? Check. Is it the crowd involvement? Check. Is it the way that the WWE tried to force a terrible idea down our throat, realized it failed, embraced the failure and turned it into a success? Check. Count me in.

  • I like the Divas Revolution, but I think it’s time for some more changes. Paige has been great, Charlotte is well on her way and Becky Lynch is intriguing. However, I think it’s time to cut bait with the rest. I understand the whole “Total Divas” thing is big right now, but the majority of those girls can’t wrestle at all. Can we just have the divas on the show do the show and the divas that can actually perform in the ring do RAW? That might make everyone happy.
  • Why does Dolph Ziggler keep getting stuck in these stupid storylines? Love triangle? Really? I keep thinking this guy can be a big star but every time he seems to be on the path, he gets thrown in some dumb storyline that wipes it all away. He’s still the best on the roster at selling moves.
  • Do you think Triple H purposely tells everyone that he needs airtime every week and he needs to be interjected into every big storyline? Or is that all just understood?
  • I may be the only one but I’m getting a little tired of Paul Heyman. I understand they need him with Lesnar since Lesnar can’t put together two sentences. But do we really need to hear him every week for 25 minutes?
  • Am I the only one who still thinks RAW worked better as a two hour show? Three hours just seems to drag. The popular answer is “well they have so much talent it’s hard to fit it into two hours”. Well then why do you continue to have 20 minute matches? Seems like a compromise can be reached.
  • I still miss Chris Jericho.
  • I still hate Randy Orton.

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