Craig Wilson, Brian Damage and Jamie Lithgow
As we move beyond the half way point of 2016, it seems as good a time as anyway to cast our eyes back on the last six months and share our highs and lows from 2016 so far in the WWE. That’s exactly what we do in this latest Sunday Sermon.
Craig: It’s been a mixed bag so far in 2016. Wasn’t terribly keen on the Royal Rumble and Triple H winning it not was I that pleased with the culmination of WrestleMania. That said, I’m intrigued when it comes to the future with Dean Ambrose on top and it’s good to have Rollins back.
Continuing the positives, New Day are still excellent, I’m glad it’s now the women’s title and no the divas one and NXT is still a hot, hot show. Brand split and SmackDown going live is intriguing and I’m keen to see who goes where post split.
What’s everyone else’s highs and lows and hopes for the rest of 2016.
Brian: While the beginning of the year for the WWE didn’t start off all that great, there is somewhat of an excuse. A host of injuries sidelined many of WWE’s top stars. It forced the company’s hand to change things up leading into Wrestlemania 32.
With that said, this second half has the potential to be one of the best yet. The brand split will see a lot of new and perhaps old familiar faces. It certainly may freshen things up considerably. Also, the Cruiserweight tournament is something that truly intrigues me a great deal. The talent level is also at an all time high. Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, Cesaro are just a few names that can put together a 5 star match with just about anyone.
Craig: Of course, the cruiserweight classic is something very much to be excited about. Like you, I’m intrigued too. Does it mean an annual standalone tournament? Does the winner get a contract with the company, ala Tough Enough? Does it mean the WWE are turning their hand to a cruiserweight division going forward? If the latter is true, that’s grim for TNA with one of their few USPs being their x-division.
I agree re the talent, too. A stacked WWE that can remain, largely, injury free bodes well for the coming weeks and months’ TV and PPVs. I’d like to see the continuation of the Owens and Zayn programme, possibly involving a title further down the line. I also hope Cesaro is giving a more prominent role in the company going forward. Also, a title programme between Seth and Dean Ambrose would be one that excited me.
Brian’s right, a lot to be excited about. What about on the flip side, what about concerns for the rest of the year?
Jamie: The brand split could be a double edged sword. Done right we could see three distinct WWE brands (including NXT) without the current over exposure of talent. While WWE have done a good – not perfect – job of building certain names up in the first half of the year (Ambrose, Zayn, Owens, Styles, Cesaro) I’m still a little worried that this good work could be undone by a badly executed brand extension. I say badly executed because there is a reasonable chance that both Raw and Smackdown will come across as the same, only with different wrestlers. Adding extra titles would only emphasise this. The shows need to be different from each other, like how NXT is different from the main roster. If WWE don’t bother to distinguish each show then what will have been the point?
Thankfully, the first half of 2016 has largely filled me with optimism to the point that I can’t realistically see WWE dropping the ball – at least initially – with the brand extension heading into the second half of the year. This is WWE though, they’re never too far from misjudging what their fans want…
Brian: As far as concerns, John Cena being the top dog again is one of them. I realize that Cena generates a lot of heat both negative and positive but damn I really think it is time to start lowering him from his mantle and let him be a guy that helps other get over. I realize, to a degree he is doing that, but I have my doubts it’ll stay this way. We shall see. It’ll also be interesting to see how Roman Reigns gets used after his suspension is lifted. Will he just continue where he left off or will the WWE change his role?
Craig: Jamie is totally right, it won’t make enough of a change to simply swap wrestlers about. THe brand split is a great chance to refresh both brands. Perhaps bring Renee onto announcing one of the shows giving it a distinctly different sound, change the format of the show perhaps? Move away from a long promo starting each show type affair. As long as they look and feel similar, Smackdown will always be a b show, the brand split and a refresh would allow the WWE to elevate Smackdown as a brand.
I also agree with Brian, the treatment of Roman Reigns when he comes back will be interesting. Will it be business as usual? A slap on the wrist and slotted back into the top of the card? Or is the Battleground main event, Reigns’ last taste of the main event scene for a while?
Jamie: Brian makes a good point about Cena. This half-term report is being conducted largely without him being around, but the end of year report will…… I wonder if we will have the same levels of relative optimism then? For what it’s worth, where he is on the card right now is perfect. He’s a special attraction near the top of the card, but the younger, hungrier lions are at the very top. It would be a massive step backwards for Cena to be pushed as the top guy in 2016. I’m not against the idea of him being involved in title feuds, but at the age of 39 I feel like a caveat to his feuds should be ‘has he still got it?’ Of course he has, but WWE should emphasise their ‘new era’ by first acknowledging that Cena will not be around forever. Until they do that I can’t get carried away with what has, on the whole, been a good first six months of 2016.
Oh, I assume nobody is counting Wrestlemania among their generally optimistic views on the year so far?
Brian: I am Jamie, I really can’t fault Wrestlemania as being a sub par show because of all the injuries leading up to it. I actually liked the show…it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible either. What is terrible is when a holiday falls on a Monday. It seems the WWE lets a skeleton crew write the show for that day and it is simply a throw away show.
Craig: A show that, as this week proved, gets disastrous ratings as well as being an abysmal watch. I can agree with Brian’s point about injuries in lead up to mania but it was still a poor show.
Jamie: I can understand that they had injuries so some big names were missing and in that respect the company did all they could to present fans with a half decent looking card. I was more referring to the booking of the show, because I don’t think the writers or bookers put much thought into it at all. But hey, that was Wrestlemania. It’ll be the same the next year and the year after that. Aside from Mania though, and perhaps the inconsistent booking of AJ Styles, I don’t think I have any major gripes with the first half of 2016. Roman Reigns playing the babyface that everybody hates even worked to a degree due to the absence of Cena. Hopefully Big Match John’s return facilitates the necessary change in that situation heading into the second half of the year though.
So there you have the highs and lows from the team here. What do you think? Got different views on the year so far or expectations for the rest of 2016? You know what to do! Leave them in the comments section below.
You can read all previous Sunday Sermons here.