Craig Wilson, Brian Damage, Russ Morgan & Jamie Lithgow
Whilst episodes of Raw, particularly this past week’s, have been an entertaining watch any sense of continuity after WrestleMania has been blown out of the water with meaningful angles simply forgotten. In today’s Sunday Sermon we look at the storyline problems since 90+k packed into the AT&T Stadium on 3 April.
Craig: WWE programming post WrestleMania has been equal parts entertaining and perplexing. Easily the biggest issue surrounds Shane McMahon. You’ll remember he fought The Undertaker for the right to run Raw but lost. Yet the last two weeks he has been in control of the show. Don’t get me wrong, there has been marked improvements – particularly this past week’s which was excellent – but based on the storyline going into WrestleMania he should be nowhere near Raw.
Yet he’s in charge. Had Vince said “son, you showed me at Hell in a Cell how much this means to you” then it would make a bit of sense, at least. But that hasn’t happened. Instead, Shane has been put in charge of Raw due to social media support. A hashtag the world seemingly missed. Also, if social media is the barometer for whether things happen on WWE or not surely there was a social media backlash against Roman Reigns becoming champ? Maybe it’s only certain social media campaigns they take not of…
The list goes on. AJ Styles. In perhaps the most bizarre piece of WrestleMania booking the powers that be decided Chris Jericho should go over. Presented with a chance to help establish Styles as a WWE star on their biggest show of the year, the WWE instead have Jericho go over. The next night, Styles beats Jericho and also becomes number one contender. Don’t get me wrong, this booking does allow Jericho to be slotted in if you need him but do we really? Does Jericho, a man that lost the other year to Fandango at WrestleMania, need to be in the main event picture these days? What is it with this 5050 booking and little, or no, emphasis on the importance of wins.
What was the point in Brock vs Dean? Brock hasn’t been seen since and Ambrose is on to another programme. Why did the WWE repeat the women’s title ceremony on Raw after doing it at Mania? John Cena’s return was one night only and what was the point in The Rock’s ceremony in the grand scheme of things. Cena and The Rock beat on The Wyatts because the Wyatts are dastardly heels, right? Wait, what, they are faces now?!
Is this the most needlessly convoluted booking you can think of and what really was the point in most of the things that happened at Mania?!
Brian: I think you are looking at this subject all wrong. Wrestlemania is really a show onto itself.While it might feature unsettled feuds and rivalries….it is indeed different from your average WWE show. Once Wrestlemania ends…a new “season” begins. To be fair to the WWE, I think we can all agree that the show probably wasn’t initially booked like that considering all the injuries.
I am not saying that the WWE couldn’t have done a better job thinking out the matches for WM 32, but all in all…I have seen worse Mania’s in the past. The Raw after Wrestlemania is really a reset button where new feuds begin and new stars emerge.
Craig: I get that new things start the next night and that a reset button is pressed. But that doesn’t explain away Shane McMahon being in charge of Raw.
I get that injuries forced them to book a show different to how they would originally have wanted but that doesn’t explain away that Payback is headlined by Roman Reigns defending against a guy that lost at WrestleMania and had been stuck in a feud with a guy who is only in the WWE cause his band isn’t touring.
I don’t believe that on day of Raw post mania the WWE first thought that Styles should become number one contender. If they did, that highlights a bigger issue.
Russ: It seems to me that the booking happens on the day, it definitely felt that way with the ‘Mania results.
Jamie: I’m with Craig. While Wrestlemania does stand apart from most ‘normal’ WWE shows, it is still a WWE show at the end of the day. I also get that WWE traditionally freshen things up after ‘Mania. As long term fans we’re all aware of this, but what about the casual viewers that WWE – rightly or wrongly – appear to value higher than their core audience? If storylines and booking logic doesn’t make sense to one group of fans then it won’t make sense to another group. While some stand-alone angles at Wrestlemania work fine in terms of adding star power and popping the crowd – The Rock/Cena/Wyatt angle as an example – it felt like damn near every match was a stand-alone attraction that did not have any connection to the main WWE timeline. In hindsight it was like watching a spin-off show and we got back on track the following night on Raw.
Two weeks on – that’s 14 days, not weeks, months or years – one could be forgiven for assuming AJ Styles, Shane McMahon and The Miz all won at Wrestlemania. I honestly cannot think of a single reason why Shane and AJ in particular were not booked to win. Granted WWE would have booked themselves into a corner regarding The Undertaker’s stipulation, but by booking him to win and ignoring the fact that Shane shouldn’t be in charge of Raw they have booked themselves into a different – and even more illogical – corner.
Brian: I get what you are saying about Shane McMahon running Raw despite losing to the Undertaker. It would have made more sense if they said the mysterious board of directors ordered the change. No doubt that there have been many changes the last few weeks…seemingly on the fly. The thing is, I am absolutely loving the changes lately.
There is no way that AJ Styles would be a number 1 contender to the WWE world title a few years ago. Kevin Owens would probably have some ridiculous gimmick and Cesaro would still be yodeling. Getting back to the original topic, Wrestlemania 32 should not be looked at as a WWE event even though it is. It is more for the casual fan as is the Super Bowl for many people here in the states.
Craig: OK I get that it is more for casual fans. But what if said casual fan leaves WrestleMania raving about how good it was – I know, tough to imagine – and decides that whilst they are in the state they might as well go to Raw and it renders nearly everything that happened the night before pointless. The fan didn’t really know who Zack Ryder was but, like the rest of the crowd, popped at his IC win but the next night he loses it. Then he sees a guy he’s never really heard of lose to Chris Jericho before getting the return win on Raw to become number one contender for the WWE title?
Surely even a casual fan would have wondered what the whole point of it was based on what happened the next night. Don’t get me wrong, considering all the criticism the WWE gets it makes Vince McMahon an absolute genius that he can still sell a show to some 90k+ fans and make millions from the gate alone. But couldn’t that all still be done with at least an element of continuity?
Jamie: Don’t get me wrong, I’ve quite enjoyed the two Raws since Wrestlemania. Shane McMahon cutting a purposeful and relatively brief promo at the start of the show is a welcome relief from Stephanie and/or Triple H talking about nothing in particular for half an hour. He’s also someone that heels – like Kevin Owens – can work off. I’m still not sure if I like Shane as an authority figure or just see him as the lesser of two evils though…
The problem I’m having is that the shows since Wrestlemania don’t make sense. WWE does not have an off-season and Wrestlemania is not marketed as a separate entity with no relation to the day to day or week to week dealings on Raw and Smackdown. One could argue that this is – or should be – the case, but that’s not the message put out by WWE. What is the traditional prize at the Royal Rumble? What is the focus of damn near every WWE show in February and March? What show does every wrestler want to be booked on? Wrestlemania is very much wrestling’s answer to the Superbowl or Champions League Final, but these are hardly stand alone games. That’s what the Pro Bowl is, or in WWE terms that’s what ‘Tribute to The Troops’ is.
Put it this way, the booking of Wrestlemania felt like WWE saying”fuck it, this will go over well on the night and we’ll worry about tomorrow when it comes”. That’s akin to the NFL saying “fuck it, it may not make sense but The Cowboys vs. The Giants will go over better than The Patriots vs. The Broncos”. Wrestlemania is a WWE show – it’s THE show – and it should have an impact on the product, but two weeks on it may as well have never happened…. not unlike ‘Tribute to The Troops’ or any other WWE house show.
Craig: I see reports today suggesting that the WWE will soon be splitting up the League of Nations with Barrett’s removal being the beginning of the end according to quoted sources. That’ll be the removal of Barrett that happened on the Raw right after WrestleMania, a WrestleMania that saw the League of Nations beat the WWE tag team champions…
Bit of disagreement in this week’s Sermon. So is WrestleMania more of a standalone show meaning that continuity isn’t that big an issue or is the WWE making a mistake by not explaining the various plot flaws? Leave your thoughts below.
You can read all previous Sunday Sermons here.