The first was the presentation of Roman Reigns. A few weeks ago he was a fun-lovin’ prankster, spiking coffees being carried by Vickie Guerrero so he could sneak his way into a pay-per-view main event. That wasn’t the sort of approach that was going to turn Reigns from a man with potential coming off a run as part of a popular trio into the leading man WWE needed. It didn’t play to his strengths. Worse, it made him look like every other WWE babyface.
Thankfully someone involved in the creative process seems to have realised that was a mistake. Monday’s RAW opened with Reigns striding through the crowd, to a reaction only reserved for top stars, and cutting a promo in which he displayed charisma and the ability to hit bullet points that further storylines (both necessary skills for those at the top of the WWE ladder). The response he got when addressing Kane, Randy Orton, John Cena and Triple H was a very good sign.
|I don't want to know what Joey Mercury's grabbing for.|
The good booking continued when Kane showed up and Reigns left the ring to battle him in the aisle. That he was keen to fight ‘The Big Red Monster’ made him look like the tough guy WWE needs. That he speared Finlay and then knocked Kane off the apron with a Superman punch ensured that RAW’s first segment ended with Reigns looking like a man who doesn’t back down. That’s the kind of star the promotion needs.
The show ended in a similarly positive manner. After Cena had defeated Rollins (in a non-title match) Orton and Kane appeared to duff up the world champ. Reigns showed up and immediately KOed both men with Superman punches, establishing that the move is incredibly effective. After briefly being dazed by a thump from Rollins’ briefcase (again protecting him by showing that Rollins needed to use a weapon to stun him) Reigns returned to the ring to save Cena from a choke slam by spearing Kane.
The episode went off the air with Cena and Reigns raising one another’s hands. When Reigns held up Cena’s hand the crowd booed. When Cena held up Roman’s hand the fans cheered. It was confirmation that Reigns is becoming accepted as a top guy and that he’s already preferable in the eyes of many to Cena. Which shouldn’t come as a surprise. Cena’s been on top for near enough a decade and WWE have done a terrible job of creating new stars over the last few years. Reigns is new and looks the part, so people will back him. They want change and Reigns represents it.
The second thing that stood out as being good was the booking of the non-main event names. This is something I’ve mentioned in a variety of articles over the last couple of months, my feeling being that giving people outside of main event plots something to do is what’s needed to make WWE’s weekly programming more watchable and to create new stars.
|Please note that Fandango has "Girls" written on his tights.|
The best example was Fandango. He followed up his enjoyable Money in the Bank performance with a stint as guest commentator during a Dolph Ziggler v Alberto Del Rio match. He was fun and got his character over before he leapt up on to the announce table for the planned finish: distracting Dolph with his dance moves.
But this wasn’t just promising because it gave Fandango something to do. It was clear that Fanners had a problem with ‘The Show Off’ giving Summer Rae (Fandango’s ex) a kiss and that that was his motivation for causing a disturbance. It’s not the ideal starting point for a Ziggler v Fandango rivalry but it’s at least a step in the right direction, and the involvement of Summer and Layla could allow for some tag matches to keep things interesting.
Similarly the idea of having The Miz read out fan mail was a nice touch. It got over his new wannabe movie star vibe, as did the Tom Cruise shades. I could have done without the return of his awful leather trenchcoat though. That things needs to be retired.
The Divas division was well served too. AJ Lee and Paige were paired up as a babyface team to defeat The Funkadactyls. Cameron opted to apply lip gloss instead of tagging into the match at a critical moment and was immediately pinned with a Paige Turner when she did eventually ta in. She and Naomi then had a shoving match followed by a fight. It was not impressive or multi-layered but it did get a surprisingly strong reaction, indicating audiences may be more into the Funkadactyl v Funkadactyl feud than I’d assumed. If so that’s good news. It means people can be pleased by a storyline involving performers who have only been half-heartedly pushed as long as it develops naturally.
Of course, the Paige and AJ thing was underplayed. There were no signs of jealousy or bitterness from the former champ. The closest they came was AJ flaunting the title belt a little too much, but it wasn’t pushed by the commentary crew and Paige didn’t really react to it. The long approach is being with their rivalry. That’s good.
While RAW as a whole was nothing spectacular it did several things right and indicated that the roster as a whole is being given attention. It’s a step in the right direction and I hope WWE sticks with it.