With GBOF (I’m not ever spelling that name out again) in the books and Battleground on the horizon, WWE is working its way down the road to SummerSlam. The biggest show of the summer will feature both brands, Raw and SmackDown, and should be one of the best PPV events of the year.
If you look at each year in the WWE like a college course, SummerSlam would be the midterm. WrestleMania would be the final exam. Like any good professor, I have some thoughts to share with you as we close in on the midpoint of this “semester.”
The Professor’s WWE Summer Discussion Section:
GBOF was a very good show: While the name still makes me shudder, WWE did a great job with the GBOF PPV last weekend. There were no ridiculous booking decisions, and the right performer went over in just about every match. There were a few rough patches. Roman Reigns tried to kill a guy. Curt Hawkins and Heath Slater were put into a match that no one saw while officials tried to find out if Roman Reigns succeeded in killing a guy. The announcers went wild as Jeff Hardy tried to get a pin to tie the Ironman Match for the Raw Tag Team Championships at 4, even though they’d already told the audience that if the match ended in a tie, Sheamus and Cesaro would retain the belts. Oh, and Finn Balor didn’t have a match. In the grand scheme of things, this was a fantastic effort. It makes you wonder why Raw and SmackDown aren’t like this every week.
WWE thinks Roman Reigns is Steve Austin: When Reigns backed that ambulance into a semi-trailer at high speed Sunday night, I thought that WWE had finally decided to make the obvious move and turn him heel. Then, Reigns comes out on Monday night, and was “punished” for his actions by having to wrestle Samoa Joe for the right to be the No. 1 contender to the Universal Championship. This makes no sense. Kurt Angle is supposedly worried about losing his job. Instead of suspending or outright firing a guy who tried to kill his opponent after losing a match, Angle instead makes him fight for a main event spot at SummerSlam.
(It needs to be noted that Reigns simply declared himself the No. 1 contender a few weeks ago.) Here’s the problem. The crowd loves Angle. The crowd would rather cheer Braun Strowman, the assault victim, than Reigns. (The crowd would probably rather cheer root canal surgery than Reigns.) This isn’t Steve Austin destroying Vince McMahon’s Corvette by filling it with cement. Austin could do just about anything, and the crowd loved him. How did WWE respond to that? They tried to turn him heel. The crowd loves to boo Reigns at every turn. The response? Make him the No. 1 babyface in the company. Someone in creative just doesn’t get it.
It’s not time for any NXT debuts: I’m as big an NXT fan as you’ll find in the WWE Universe. I love to talk to my son Jake about the show each week, and why the booking on NXT usually outshines anything you’ll see on Monday or Tuesday nights. We both wait anxiously to see which of our favorite NXT stars will show up on the main roster next. Typically, WWE brings up an NXT star or two following WrestleMania and at SummerSlam. This year, they should resist the urge in August. While there are a number of performers ready to come up (Bobby Roode, Drew McIntyre, Asuka, and Aleister Black come to mind), the time isn’t right. Roode might get lost in a crowded main-event scene. (Remember, Finn Balor didn’t even have a match at GBOF). At best, his presence would make it harder for guys like Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura and Sami Zayn to get some time in the spotlight.
Right now, Roode is the best male performer in NXT. That brand needs him until it has a worthy replacement. McIntyre runs the same risk, and Black needs a bit more time. There’s an argument that Asuka could make an impact on the Women’s Division, but her debut needs to be handled carefully. Ideally, Asuka should simply decide that there’s no viable competition left for her in NXT and depart for the main roster. (Possibly vacating the belt in the process.) She’s already announced that she’ll return to NXT when they find her some competition. When Asuka comes up, she needs to get the Paige treatment. She should win a belt on her first night, and go on to extend her record winning streak for a good long time. WWE seems to be protecting Alexa Bliss as the heel champion on Raw (an excellent decision), so Mondays are out. It would be fine for Asuka to replace Naomi as the champ on SmackDown, but it’s doubtful that WWE is going to let Charlotte Flair go a year or more without the title.
That’s all for this week. I still have some thoughts on 205 Live, the departure of Austin Aries, the tag team division, and Big Cass’ future, but those can wait for another day. Next time, we’ll take a look at the next SmackDown PPV in our Battleground Study Guide.