The Brand Extension back in July was supposed to bring about a “New Era”. It was supposed to be the start of change in WWE. It was supposed to be an opportunity for people who didn’t normally get much of the spotlight to be centre stage. So far, it’s easy to pick out faults in that ideology. So far, fans could be forgiven for thinking that the separate shows have mostly been a case of the same old same old, but with new puppets in the well-worn shoes.
I would argue differently.
I think there has been a mentality shift in WWE since they decided to split up the roster. And it’s not about personnel, even though the roster is largely unrecognisable from that of five years ago. It’s not even that there is more in-ring action – last night’s Raw was a rarity. We have had some special moments, but I don’t think they’ve been any more frequent than they were beforehand.
It’s the entire approach to the storylines. I think we live in an immediate society – people want things, and they want it now. If they don’t get an instantaneous payoff they lose interest. You can see that by the crowd chants. There were Bayley chants months before she debuted – now I’m not saying that’s not without reason – but did any of us really consider the possibility that WWE actually had a plan that would be better than bringing her out purely for the pop?
I had a moment of this again watching Raw this week. And again it just happens to focus on Bayley. In her post-match interview after defeating a jobber, I was really hoping and anticipating that Paige would come out and attack her, setting up a proper secondary women’s rivalry on Raw. Obviously that didn’t happen.
But maybe WWE have a bigger and better plan for Paige than just wheeling her out because her suspension is up. And yes, she may also still be injured.
Let’s move over to SmackDown for a second. Pretty much ever since the first live show post-draft, I have been expecting Dolph Ziggler to turn heel. He has been showing a lot more fire than he had been previously, and as his losses keep piling up in big match scenarios I think it is inevitable eventually. But it hasn’t happened yet.
Back to Raw, and the current storyline revolving around the Universal Champion Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, and Triple H. I wrote on Sunday about expecting Triple H to cost Rollins the match, and when the ref got knocked out I fully expected that to be the direction WWE would go in. That, again, did not happen.
What we got instead, was a short clip on WWE.Com after the show (it was then also shown on Raw) with Triple H greeting Stephanie, and them leaving. Considering the buzz surrounding HHH’s return a month ago, this was surprisingly reserved from WWE’s point of view.
It must have been tempting to cash in on a hot product, and do what they have tended to do over the last few years – oversaturate it. It seems that anything that becomes organically popular, whether through WWE design or not, it quickly gets shoved down our throats more than Roman Reigns.
And even the Kevin Owens/Chris Jericho bromance, which I believe will eventually descend into a title feud, will be a storyline that could have been developing for months before they are finally on opposing sides at a PPV or two.
I honestly believe this could be the start of a new type of booking from the creative team. One that is happy to drip-feed us clues as to where they are going, without being as trigger happy as, well, seemingly any police force in America.
Think about it. It would have been easy for Triple H to open Raw the week after screwing his former protégé out of the Universal Championship, and explain his actions. That he hasn’t even appeared live on TV since means that it will be a bigger moment when he does.
Dolph Ziggler will likely turn heel. But each loss until then will hurt him even more. I don’t mean that from an analytical perspective, I mean that Dolph Ziggler should be more and more upset every time he chokes in a big match situation. And the more upset he is, the more violent his reaction should be when he does eventually lash out, which should make him more of a threat with his newfound aggression.
Paige will return to TV eventually. But if she was just going to fall back into the mix next week, why not give the uber-popular Bayley a chance to address her defeat the previous night before moving on to something new. And that’s even assuming the two will be linked, I could also see a scenario where Paige is the one to give Nia Jax her sternest test yet.
For years, WWE fans have been calling for better sculpted stories. I wouldn’t say it applies across the board yet, and it is arguable whether it even should be evident in every facet of WWE TV. But if they are giving more thought to storylines in advance, surely that can only be a good thing? It should force the creative team to be more creative, as they will be able to see repetition well in advance.
There will always be spanners in the works thrown at them like Finn Balor’s injury, but all things considered Raw rebounded impeccably. If storylines are planned out and executed properly, we should see a higher quality of, and far more logically sound, rivalries on TV. We know that the current roster has more than enough talent to entertain us. Now give us a reason to care.