With more than a week to go before Clash of Champions, and more than a month before the Royal Rumble, WWE programming has slid into something like cruise control. We’re not really into WrestleMania season yet, but the shows have to be interesting enough to keep the WWE Universe happy.
Even though we’re in a bit of a lull between big events, there are still a lot of things happening on both Raw and SmackDown. Some of them are good, and some are not so good. Here’s a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of WWE heading into the end of the year.
The Professor’s WWE Good, Bad and Ugly
New Blood in the Women’s Divisions – There’s no denying that the level of wrestling in WWE’s women’s divisions is better now than it’s ever been. The problem with that level of excellence is that it takes a lot longer to train women to compete on TV than it used to. The days of eye-candy divas thrown on the screen to fill time are long gone. Though the wrestling has been very good on both shows, the matchups were getting stale. Let’s face it, there are only so many women ready to compete at the current WWE level. The good news is that WWE breathed new life into both shows by adding a trio of heels. On SmackDown, it’s the Riott Squad, comprised of Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, and Sarah Logan. The Raw ranks grew with the addition of Absolution, which is made up of Paige, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. Six new faces could lead to a ton of fresh matchups moving forward. WWE has done a good job of making both factions look strong, and the momentum should be easy to maintain.
The Bludgeon Brothers – Luke Harper and Erick Rowan are two of the most talented big men in all of WWE. They arrived as members of the Wyatt Family, and flourished as one of the top factions in the company until the brand split sent them on their separate ways. Harper got a brief push on SmackDown before injury sidelined him, while Rowan largely floundered. Now, the two are re-packaged as behemoths with no other goal than to destroy people. If WWE keeps booking them strong, they have a chance to be what The Ascension should have been.
Woken Matt Hardy – After months of teasing the arrival of his “Broken” character, Matt Hardy finally made the jump last week. Though he’s billed as “Woken” in WWE, the character is roughly the same as it was in Impact Wrestling. That’s good news. Even better is that it appears that Hardy’s first feud will be with Bray Wyatt. If there’s a character in WWE that can stand up to the bizarre ramblings of WMH, it’s The Eater of Worlds. As long as WWE lets Hardy run with the character as much as he can, this should be pure gold. I’m looking forward to an episode of Raw in the near future that opens with 90 minutes of Woken Matt Hardy explaining the universe to Bray Wyatt. The crowd will probably have no idea what either of them is talking about, and no one will mind. This could be the first feud in WWE history that ends in an actual debate in front of a panel of judges.
Other good things: Roman Reigns as IC champion; Samoa Joe’s push; Asuka’s dominance; Owens and Zayn as a heel duo; anything to do with AJ Styles.
Booker T Needs to Go – When Booker first took over color commentary for David Otunga on Raw, it was a good change. Hearing the perspective of a WWE Hall-of-Famer added some gravitas to the announcing team. Now, Booker has devolved into a parody of himself. He spouts seemingly random catch phrases, contradicts himself and makes sounds that aren’t really speech-related. A few times, his rantings have been so far off that Corey Graves and Michael Cole have been stunned into silence. WWE needs to understand that a 2-man booth is fine.
Shane O’Mac – When Shane McMahon first returned to WWE, it was fantastic. We finally had an authority figure who wanted to make the fans happy, and a guy who was willing to back up his talk with action. Now, he’s devolving into just another McMahon tyrant. Shane’s vendetta against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn on Smackdown is slowly turning him heel and stretching the boundaries of believability. Here’s hoping that Daniel Bryan can talk some sense into him.
Raw’s Tag Team division – The Revival can’t get back a moment too soon. Watching Raw lately, it would be very easy to come to the conclusion that there are only two tag teams on the show. Aside from The Shield and The Bar, when’s the last time a Raw tag team was featured on the show? Paging Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson……
Other bad things; Missing the Miz; Jason Jordan’s booking; Mojo Rawley’s heel turn; anything to do with Jinder Mahal.
Finn Balor’s booking – For some reason, Vince McMahon doesn’t like Finn Balor. The guy performs every time he’s called upon, has a unique style in the ring, and is insanely over with the WWE Universe. (Hmmmm, sounds like a certain “Yes, Yes, Yes” man from a few years ago.) The way WWE has booked Balor, at least lately, is bordering on suicidal. Hopefully, crowd reaction will force Vince and Company to do the right thing, just as it did with Daniel Bryan.
Shinsuke Nakamura’s Hype is Fading – Even though his entrance still brings the crowd alive, some of the luster is wearing off of Shinsuke Nakamura. By making him tone down his “strong style,” WWE has robbed Nakamura of much of what made him special. It’s not too late for the creative team to revive Shinsuke, but they’d better start soon. Perhaps Nakamura could take the US Title off of Baron Corbin and eventually work his way up to the WWE Championship.
There Isn’t Much Help Coming from NXT – If you look at Raw and SmackDown on any given Monday or Tuesday, you’ll see rosters littered with NXT alums. The top of the card is very NXT-heavy. (The Shield, Samoa Joe, Bobby Roode, Shinsuke Nakamura, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and most of both women’s divisions are all graduates of Full Sail.) The main roster won’t be able to raid NXT anytime soon if it’s looking for more fresh faces. Aside from Drew McIntyre, Aleister Black, Adam Cole and possibly Ember Moon, there aren’t a ton of performers ready to leave NXT for the brighter spotlight of the main roster. Even if more performers were ready in developmental, the main office has to be careful not to pick the cupboard bare.
Other ugliness; Old guys in the main events of PPVs; Kane coming back as a monster; storyline holes.
Next time, we’ll do a preview and some predictions for Clash of Champions. Until then……