Fresh off the heels of a very successful Survivor Series PPV, the WWE is now settling in for that stretch of the year known as The Road to WrestleMania (TRTWM). Though the official start of TRTWM isn’t until Royal Rumble, discerning fans can see the pieces are already falling into place for April 8th in New Orleans.
With that in mind, I’ve been keeping a close eye on both Raw and SmackDown live to see if I can pick up any hints as to what might happen between now and the official start of TRTWM at the end of January.
The Professor’s Road to Wrestlemania Progress Report
Bray and Matt may need to be Broken to be saved – Bray Wyatt, who holds the WWE record for worst-booked superstar, had an interesting promo on Monday’s Raw. It was interesting because it didn’t seem to make any sense. After about four minutes of normal Wyatt creepiness, he proceeded to tell the audience that they were all dead. About 14 times. For some reason, this inspired Matt Hardy to come to the ring. The two had a solid match, and Wyatt emerged victorious. (Usually that means the two will feud until the next PPV, where Wyatt will lose.) The most interesting part of the segment came after the match, when a defeated Matt Hardy sat in the corner and made the “Delete” gesture several times. Could we finally be seeing the WWE debut of “Broken” Matt Hardy (BMH)? The gimmick would be an instant hit with the fans. Also, Wyatt is the ideal foil for the utterly weird BMH. The two could get into 45-minute promo wars where no one would understand anything that was said, and everyone would be entertained anyway. Let’s hope that BMH is on the way (with or without Brother Nero). Hardy has been lost since Jeff went out with an injury, and Wyatt needs a foe who can match his creepy demeanor.
New Arrivals Boost the Women’s Divisions – Just as it started to feel like WWE had tried out every possible combination of foes in both the Raw and SmackDown Women’s Divisions, help unexpectedly arrived from NXT (and wherever Paige keeps herself when not travelling with the main roster). Raw saw the rise of Absolution, a faction made up of the returning Paige, Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose. While I don’t really understand the name choice – absolution means forgiveness or formal release of obligation, guilt, or punishment. The women of Absolution don’t seem ready to forgive anyone in WWE for the sin of overlooking Paige. They want everyone to know that Paige was the impetus for the current Women’s Evolution, and they’re going to beat up everyone in sight until they get tired of it. On SmackDown, the less-creatively-but-more-accurately-named Riott Squad (Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, and Sarah Logan) arrived to shake things up on Tuesday nights. It’s unclear at this time why Riott and her minions decided to show up, but three fresh faces make things more interesting on the blue brand.
Reigns is becoming the next Cena – Just when you were starting to think that the WWE Universe was never going to get behind Roman Reigns, no matter how well he performed, WWE reconstituted The Shield. Not only does this bring one of the greatest factions in WWE history back to Raw, it has elevated Reigns in the eyes of the fans. Now, the “cool” fans don’t know what to do. It’s fashionable to cheer the Shield, and not as chill to boo Roman. There were even dueling “Let’s go, Roman…Roman Sucks!” chants on Monday. It’s actually conceivable that Reigns could be a babyface in his inevitable war with Lesnar.
Samoa Joe is always angry – After a lengthy period rehabbing an injury, Samoa Joe has returned to Raw with a vengeance. Joe is carrying on just as he was before he was on the shelf. After destroying a couple of midcard acts (Titus O’Neal and Apollo Crews), Joe set his sights on the current Intercontinental Champion – Roman Reigns. There’s no telling how long this feud will go on, but it might be a good way to eventually pry the IC title away from Reigns before his anticipated program with Brock Lesnar headed into WrestlMania.
Braun Strowman is a star – Even though his act never really changes, Braun Strowman is one of the best things on Raw, and has been for months now. Fans wait for the roar of “Braun” that signifies his arrival, and utter roars of their own at the carnage that always results. The only downside is that Strowman is running out of people to beat up. The latest feud is with Kane, who looks more like a politician than a demon these days.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn are super heels – Even though WWE seems determined to render Zayn and Owens irrelevant, their heel work is keeping them at the top of the heap. Seeing Kevin Owens on his knees begging for his job didn’t make sense. The KO that we’ve come to know in WWE would have arrogantly told Daniel Bryan that he didn’t dare fire him, and would have been right. Shane McMahon’s digs about Zayn, calling him the “Paperboy from Newsies” actually do more to damage McMahon than Zayn. The snarky remarks make McMahon seem like a bully. On the bright side, this conflict has caused the leadership of SmackDown to book Owens and Zayn in “punishment” matches against top-flight foes. Hopefully, this leads to a good program for the dastardly duo heading into WrestleMania.
Next time around, we’ll talk about possible feuds heading into WrestleMania. Until then, as Booker T. always says, keep your head on a swivel.