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Five Thoughts on the Road to WrestleMania 34

As unlikely as this may seem, I made a mistake in last week’s post. I said that we’d do a Royal Rumble preview and predictions this week. For some reason, I thought this week was leading into the Rumble. Maybe it’s because it seems like 42 weeks since the last PPV offering.

So, NEXT week will be the preview and predictions. This week, I wanted to share some things that have been on my mind as we mosey down the Road to WrestleMania.

The Professor’s 5 Thoughts Heading into the Royal Rumble

 Can Reigns Still Win? – It was announced this week that Richard Rodriquez, arrested for his part in a $10 million steroid ring, listed Reigns as one of his customers. Reigns categorically denied the allegation, as can be expected. The problem for WWE is that it’s very likely that Reigns is slated to face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania in April. The question becomes whether the company has enough faith in the denial to carry out that plan. What if Reigns is arrested between now and WM34? Even worse, what if they pull the trigger on the Reigns/Lesnar bout, and Reigns takes the title, only to be arrested later. Now, the top titleholder in the country will be in jail on drug charges. It will be very interesting to see how the storylines progress in the next few weeks.

Curb Stomp Reinstated? – Last Monday on Raw, Seth Rollins defeated Finn Balor in a strong match to close the show. There’s nothing unusual about that. What is intriguing is that Rollins put Balor away with the Curb Stomp. The move was banned by WWE because of the danger of concussions and because the term Curb Stomp is often associated with white supremacist activities. Announcer Cory Graves did refer to the move as “Blackout,” so maybe WWE will resurrect the finisher, but not the name. The bigger question is whether Rollins will be allowed to utilize the move on a regular basis going forward. After the Curb Stomp was originally outlawed, he adopted HHH’s Pedigree as a finisher. That made sense when Rollins was associated or feuding with Hunter and The Authority. It made less sense after that program ended. In any case, Blackout is a better finisher, and here’s hoping that The Architect can use it for the foreseeable future.

Strowman Must Prevail – Braun Strowman, while red-hot right now, is in danger of entering the “Bray Wyatt” zone. Wyatt, possibly the victim of the worst booking in recent memory, has become known for huge buildups and strong performances that ultimately end, usually in a bizarre way, when the stakes are highest. The same is becoming true for Strowman. How many times will the audience watch the Monster Among Men destroy everyone and everything in his path on Raw, only to ultimately lose title matches at pay-per-views? Right now, the crowd still buzzes whenever his entrance music hits, but another big loss or two, and it might be too late. Strowman, particularly with Reigns’ future in doubt, needs to win the Universal title at the Royal Rumble.

Who’s Next? Goldberg – WWE announced this week that Goldberg will be the first member of the 2018 Hall of Fame class. I think it’s a joke. Speaking of jokes, I realize that the WWE Hall of Fame isn’t a “real” thing. Besides the fact that there’s no actual hall, the process is utterly arbitrary. Much like everything else in WWE, the final say lies with Vince McMahon. (Amazingly, McMahon hasn’t put himself in the hall just yet. Shouldn’t hall of famers be legendary? The honor should be saved for those who were incredible in the ring, or important factors in some other aspect of the business.  While Goldberg was undeniably one of the hottest acts in wrestling during the late ‘90s, he doesn’t feel like a legend to me. It can be argued that he wasn’t even the hottest act in his own company – that honor would probably go to the NWO. Also, Goldberg didn’t have longevity. His debut was in 1997. He quickly became white hot. However, his impact only lasted until roughly 1999. A legend needs to have more longevity than that. Goldberg’s two WWE runs were less impactful. The first lasted about a year while his latest was about six months. Compare that to the runs of Bruno Sammartino or the Undertaker, and you can see that Goldberg doesn’t measure up. Lastly, should Goldberg be in any wrestling hall of fame that doesn’t include The British Bulldogs, the NWO, Owen Hart, Vader or the Rock? I didn’t think so.

Joe on the Move? – While AJ Styles is arguably the best performer on the planet right now, SmackDown live is a bit short of star power at the top of the card. Aside from Styles, and the pair of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, there aren’t a lot of credible contenders on the blue brand. Bobby Roode has massive potential as a heel, but just won the United States title last week. The company probably won’t have him drop the belt so soon. Baron Corbin once looked like the badass heel in residence, but he’s disappeared since losing his first-round match in the tournament that ultimately crowned Roode. Jinder Mahal has improved dramatically in the ring, but last year’s experiment proved that it was too soon to push him to the top of the card. Meanwhile, for reasons unknown, the company refuses to push Shinsuke Nakamura. If there’s anyone on the roster that fans would accept as a replacement for Styles, it’s Nakamura. There’s also the matter of Rusev, who has somehow transformed into a huge babyface, despite being saddled with a horrible gimmick. Even with better booking for Corbin, Nakamura and Rusev, WWE needs to shift some star power from Monday to Tuesday nights. Raw has an abundance of top-flight talent, both babyface and heel. Maybe have Samoa Joe turn up on SmackDown when he returns. You could even have Joe win the Royal Rumble as a surprise entrant, and then declare that he’s already beaten everyone he needs to on Raw, so he’s taking his talents to SmackDown live. (If John Cena can declare himself a free agent, why not Joe?) The addition of the Samoan Submission Machine to the Smackdown roster would give writers a bevy of fresh feuds, and Joe can be the monster heel the brand needs while the company builds up Rusev, Roode, Nakamura and other younger talent like Mojo Rawley and Tye Dillinger to feel some of the heel slots.

Next week, I’ll hit you with my preview and predictions. Until then…..

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Bob Garman

Bob is a Writing professor in California and for a major online university. He’s been a wrestling fan since the early 80s, when he used to watch the AWA on Sunday mornings in Minnesota, where he grew up. Bob has written for AOL, Bleacher Report, and other online sports sites. Currently, Bob enjoys watching all the WWE product with his son, Jake. Bob has a BA in English from Ellis College, and an MA in English from National University.

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