WWE's Post WrestleMania Shake-up Review
I attended WrestleMania 34 at the Superdome this year, and also attended WrestleMania 33 in Orlando the previous year. Both experiences were vastly different. There was an energy to WrestleMania 33 in Orlando; maybe it was the outdoor venue, maybe it was the crowd, maybe it was the surprises that took place, for example, the Hardys coming back home.
Although this year's WrestleMania had a stacked card, the show itself was underwhelming. The women stole the show. Big kudos to Asuka and Charlotte Flair for putting on a classic, while Ronda Rousey made a roaring debut. I can't say how much crow I've eaten with Rousey's performance.
Not only did I think this would be the worst match of the night, I thought this would be the end of the Rousey experiment. I was wrong! I can't say enough about Stephanie McMahon who was the conduit to an excellent debut and one of the best matches of the night. But the women aside, the rest of the show was a bit of a mess.
I usually try to stay away from booking criticism because there's a variety of factors when you review a booking. But, why did Lesnar go over on Roman? I don't always agree with Vince McMahon, but he's the puppetmaster and more often than not, I appreciate the strings he pulls, even if it's a long tail game.
But a few questions: Why have Lesnar break The Streak (something that still stings), build towards this moment, to only have Lesnar take the win at WrestleMania? Let's say Reigns wins at the Greatest Royal Rumble, so what? It seems like a wasted investment. The big moment, the crowing of the successor, is supposed to happen at WrestleMania.
The most disappointing match at WrestleMania was Styles vs. Nakamura. Maybe I was expecting too much; maybe the build didn't generate the excitement it deserved; maybe it was the placement on the card; maybe the guys didn't bring their 'A' game, but the match... well, it just wasn't very good.
But there's a silver lining here, the Nakamura turn. Sitting in the Superdome, it seemed like an absolutely terrible decision, but a couple of weeks removed, it's looking bright. Nakamura is embracing his inner bad boy, and he's made the transition in a way where it's piqued my interest. The feud might end up serving Styles and Nakamura in the coming months, elevating our commitment to the story.
Raw scores big with strong heels
In the Superstar Shake-up, I think Raw made some great moves by bringing more heels into the fold. For instance, Jinder Mahal was a good move. Say what you want about Mahal, but he's such an old-school heel and provides a breath of fresh air in a somewhat stale face vs. heel dichotomy. Everyone hates Mahal, and that's why I enjoy him.
Roode is now on Raw, and although he's a face, I just can't help but think this is a guy that is way better as a heel. I can't wait for the turn. Then there's Baron Corbin. I feel about Corbin the way most people feel about Mahal. I just don't see his appeal, he doesn't look threatening, and he's not interesting enough on the mic or in the ring, but hey maybe in time I'll have a different opinion.
I'm really stoked about Drew McIntyre being on Raw. He brought his 'A' game to his Raw debut, but he needs to shed the dead weight of Ziggler. I realise that Ziggler's another fan favorite, but I've never gotten behind him. His in-ring skills are OK, his mic skills are terrible, and he has a bit of a punchable face. He doesn't have that 'it'. His charisma is definitely lacking.
This reminds me of the time when Shawn Michaels confronted Rollins and said, "I've heard it all before, this guy is the next Shawn Michaels."
I feel that's what everyone wants Ziggler to be (including himself), but he just isn't Michaels. The rub that they are anticipating by the pairing McIntyre and Ziggler is going to falter. Unless the play here is for a turn on one another, creating a feud that ultimately serves McIntyre.
And, then there's Seth Rollins. I'm really surprised they didn't move Rollins to Smackdown as he seems to be stuck - even though he is very talented - he's always going to be stuck in Roman Reigns' shadow. But let's face it, Rollins is way better as a heel.
I can't wait until he makes his way back to The Architect that he is. There's nothing better than a heel who outsmarts everyone else; it's reminiscent of Edge in his prime.
Strong SmackDown roster with the arrival of Jeff Hardy and The Miz
So how did SmackDown fair? Let's start with the move of Jeff Hardy. Having Jeff win the US title was the cherry on top. Absolute gold! Vince McMahon still sees money in Jeff Hardy, and I'm not angry at it.
Jeff has always been an A player with A+ demons. Let's all hope he can keep things in check so we can see him rise to the top again.
Let's be honest, the big win for Smackdown was The Miz. He is an underrated Superstar who has made the best of every second of screen time he gets. I can't wait for the Daniel Bryan-Miz feud. I anticipate this being a long feud. Who knows maybe one of the matches will provide us some blood (come on Vince, how 'AWWWESSOMME' would it be to see Bryan make Miz bleed!).
And then there was the surprise move of Samoa Joe to Smackdown. I really thought they would utilize Joe as a destructive heel against a Regins championship run (similar to Edge and Cena). I'm guessing they want something meaty to cut into on Smackdown. Again, I'm not opposed to the move, especially is Joe is allowed to be the beast that we all know him to be.
Here's my scorecard (A+, A, B+, B, C+, C, D, F)
Jinder Mahal (A): Jinder has upside as a heel. He's someone everyone wants to beat up.
Ruby Riott/Sarah Logan/Live Morgan (C): As a unit, these ladies are pretty dull. Unless we see something ruthless from this faction, break them up and let them find a spot on a very competitive women's roster.
Kevin Owens: (B) I think Owens is a decent heel, but he's not a top guy. Something tells me WWE insiders might view him as one. Both he and Zayn are overexposed. I'm hoping that they break these guys up and give the viewers at home some breathing room.
Sami Zayn: (C) Poor Zayn, he's not an interesting face. And he's just a tad more interesting as a heel. Zayn only sees significant airtime when he's paired with Owens. Let's give him a shot on his own. His fate is destined for lower mid-card.
Zack Ryder (D): Who? Poor Ryder. A couple of years ago he seemed like he would break through, but he hasn't. They've wasted the Mojo Rawley feud, so it seems Zack will be left to linger in dark match purgatory.
Fandango/Tyler Breeze (B+): These guys are over in a big way! They are extremely talented in the ring. Now, if they were only given a real opportunity. If Rhyno and Slater can wear the straps, why not these guys?
Natalya (C): (Disclaimer: I've never been a Natalya fan) I don't see the technique others swear by and she is not as charismatic as the other Harts. Dull better said. She plugs her cat better than she plugs herself.
Dolph Ziggler (C): Another guy that just doesn't do anything for me. He barely registers. And now that we know for certain he's just there to collect a paycheck I'm even less inclined to root for the guy.
Drew McIntyre (A): I nearly gave this an A+ acquisition but time will tell, creative has taken these absolutely wonderful gems and reduced them to rubble before.
Baron Corbin (B): I don't particularly care for the current packaging or in-ring performance of Corbin. Maybe this is an example where talent rises under competition. Raw gives Baron some opportunities to carve his own little place he may not have found on Smackdown.
Konnor/Viktor (D): Who? These guys were big time NXT guys who just had the big stage swallow them. It's an example where AAA ballplayers fail to hang with the Major Leaguers. Sorry guys, maybe a trip down the NXT would help reinvigorate whatever didn't translate up.
Bobby Roode (A): One word. You know it. GLORIOUS!
Mojo Rawley (B): There's room for Mojo to become a real player. He's not going to get a lot of screen time but if he makes the most of his time ala Elias, there might be something there.
Mike Kanellis (D): WWE got a package deal when they acquired Maria and Mike Kanellis. But let's be honest, WWE was only interested in Maria and got a 2 for 1 special on the acquisition.
Chad Gable (B+): Chad might be a dark horse. He probably should have gotten the Kurt Angle/Son storyline, but instead, his former partner received the rub. Something tells me that Chad will get a less interesting storyline, but he'll find a way to move mountains with it. He's got a lot of upside.
Jeff Hardy (A+): Jeff has always been a star. His own worst enemy has always been himself. If he can stay out of his own way, this might be the crowning moment all fans have been waiting for.
Mandy Rose/Sonya Deville (B): These ladies have a lot of talent. They are interesting, and their connection to Paige could make for a devilishly good time.
Samoa Joe (A+): Samoa Joe on Smackdown is a huge get. The fact that Samoa Joe has had matches in TNA with Jeff Hardy and AJ Styles has true blue wrestling fans foaming at the mouth!
Big Cass (B): Big Cass was riding high with Enzo Amore, but now that his little buddy is gone, there's a question about his trajectory. Will he fall in the waters of other big men like Test?
Asuka (A+): After unofficially moving to SmackDown prior to WrestleMania, this wasn't a real surprise but still a huge acquisition. Asuka is by far the most talented female wrestler on WWE roster not named Charlotte Flair. This woman can go!
Luke Gallows/Karl Anderson (B): Since their debut, these guys have never hit their stride. Much of this has been really bad booking and the failure to not immediately pair them up with their former Bullet Club leaders. It seems like there might be some room for an AJ pairing and that rub alone could do wonders for this otherwise aimless tag team.
Cesaro/Sheamus (C): Many notable retired wrestlers love this tag team. I've never warmed to them. I feel like these are two guys that the creative team has no idea what to do with. But Cesaro and Sheamus can go in the ring and that's enough to book them. I'm hoping these guys break up. I think they are far more interesting on their own.
R-Truth (C): I love R-Truth, but he's going to get even less screen time now that he's on SmackDown. He's a journeyman near the end of his journey.
The Miz (A): The Miz is a real heel. He knows how to be swarmy and get under your skin. He can go at it alone or run a faction. The Miz has earned his spot and I think he'll provide some really interesting matches, especially with Daniel Bryan in the near future.
Overall, the shake-up provided a few surprises, a few expected moves, new faces, old faces and if played correctly could provide some much-needed freshness. My only plea to the puppetmaster, "please, for the love of the wrestling gods, keep Zayn and Owens apart."
These two deserve their own, separate legacies. And with that, I bid you adieu, until my next opinion column - stay off the gossip boards, enjoy the stories and let escapism take hold.