In this day and age you can’t just “predict” a PPV anymore, you have to account for the capricious whims of WWE’s septuagenarian, sleep-deprived egomaniac owner. You can’t just “preview” a PPV…you have to preview how things should go, in a reasonable and sane world, and then add “so of course…” and explain what Vince McMahon will probably do instead.
Last time on SO OF COURSE, WWE crowned a new WWE Champion. The longest-running world title still defended on television (I made that accolade up, but it sounds impressive), and the only thing that has any legitimate prestige left in the land of midget TLC matches and Snoop Dog(g) Hall of Fame inductions, is now around the waist of this guy:
Now you’re probably watching that and thinking “but wait, there are three highly unqualified boobs in that gif…which highly unqualified boob won the most prestigious world title left in existence?”
That’s a fair question, to which I will respond with a question of my own: “Does it matter?”
Now considering what Smackdown’s doing, and how much better and more easily-watchable the blue show often is compared to the red one, I can only imagine what Raw has cooking. Next up for Monday Nit(ro) Raw is “the one night* of the year when WWE goes extreme!”
(*not counting TLC, Hell in a Cell, MITB, and such like).
Fans who love mindless carnage presented in a safe, sterile, PG and bloodless way, BUCKLE UP! and consider this your SO OF COURSE preview of “Extreme Rules!” not to be confused with me saying “no man, the band “Extreme” rules! That song of theirs “More than Words” really hit me in the elementary school feels!”
ON TO THE SHOW!
DEAN AMBROSE vs THE MIZ
Neither of these guys have been helped being away from Smackdown. As has been the common complaint for years now, everyone on Raw just spins their wheels. A feud is announced, and then for the weeks leading up to the PPV, the two men just spin their wheels (promo battles, tag matches, interfering in each other’s random matches, non-title matches to “build up” to the title match) until they “finally” meet on the WWE Network. And then, the two men either do it all over again the next month or they go their seperate ways and do it all over again the next month with someone else instead. It’s not just bad wrestling, it’s bad TV.
Ambrose and Miz already feuded on Smackdown a few months back. It didn’t set the world on fire but it was a fine use of both men. I suppose this is still a fine use of both men, but this time it’s far from being described as “not setting the world on fire.” This is setting the world on ice. This feud is colder than Castle Black in the winter. All I know is the feud started because both guys wanted a shot at Brock Lesnar’s Universal Title (pictured here during one of his recent title defenses), they settled on feuding over Ambrose’s Intercontental Title, which makes the white belt seem really important in the process. I expect an average match with a forgettable finish, four more weeks of winter and then a rematch at WWE’s Great Balls of Fire PPV (yes that’s a real PPV name, no it is not better than the stupid names Jeff Jarrett came up with for TNA’s PPVs).
SO OF COURSE!
NEVILLE vs AUSTIN ARIES
The wheels on the purple bus go round and round. This is match three, month three of the Neville vs Aries feud. Nothing has been advanced; the feud is exactly where it was in the run-up to WrestleMania. We’re just doing it over and over again. Other than Kalisto, and I don’t even know what brand he is on, I’m not sure who could be inserted into the title picture that is credible enough and skilled enough to make the weekly matches worth getting into.
Austin Aries is dynamite, Neville is a better cruiserweight champ than the WWF/E has ever had over the past twenty years, but there’s just no energy to this feud, the title or the whole division. And that’s not going to change until there are fundamental changes to the way all of Raw is booked (not just the tiny purple-rope people), especially with respect to the care put into the “storylines” (which barely deserve to be called that).
SO OF COURSE!
ALEXA BLISS vs BAYLEY
I didn’t watch Raw on Monday. Also Monday was a holiday here in the US.
Those facts are not related.
Apparently Alexa Bliss and Bayley engaged in a retread of the classic “This is your Life” skit that Mick Foley and The Rock rode to remarkable ratings heights back in 1999. Since then it’s been tried countless other times and it has failed every. single. one of them. Alexa came to WWE red hot from her run as the top heel on Smackdown and, but for this one promo, she’s maintained her momentum. Poor Bayley, however, has yet to find her footing on the main roster, and after almost a year, it’s looking grim. There’s always a fresh start on Smackdown, maybe after next WrestleMania, but in the meantime she’s dying out there, being forced to cut long-winded promos and work tired, repetitive matches and feuds with little creativity to the stories. It’s hard for even seasoned vets with creative’s full attention to get a rise out of the audience these days; no wonder Bayley is struggling.
On the other hand, Alexa Bliss has the crowd eating out of the palm of her hands (not counting the fiasco on Monday night), so some people are just savants I guess. There’s no reason to rock the boat by putting the belt on Bayley right now; giving her a title is putting a band-aid on a severed leg. Nor is it the right time to take the title off Alexa, whose momentum is defined as “cocky champ” and who would almost certainly lose a lot of steam without the gold; she should go into SummerSlam with the title.
SO OF COURSE!
THE HARDY BOYZ vs SHEAMUS & CESARO
The extent of this feud has been various matches featuring these four men. Singles matches, six-man matches, non-title matches before the PPV match (let’s call them “prematches”) and on and on. This is the second tag match between these two in a row and we’ve already seen all there is to see.
The only ray of light in all of this is that (A) the four men have good in-ring chemistry and (B) the feud is hopefully ending on Sunday. Maybe we’ll get the start of a month’s-long transition into WWE’s version of “Broken Matt Hardy” and “Brother Nero.” But if you actually expect Vince to sit back and not micro-manage and short-attention span that thing to death, well…you clearly haven’t been reading this column.
SO OF COURSE!
ROMAN REIGNS vs FINN BALOR vs SETH ROLLINS vs SAMOA JOE vs BRAY WYATT
This will be a number-one contender’s match for whoever is the world champion right now, I dunno who it is…I don’t think he’s not with the company. The winner will get his title shot at Great Balls of Fire (yes that’s a real PPV name. Yes it sounds like a PPV that would be right at home on WCW’s 1996 calendar, in between Road Wild and Slamboree).
Let’s assess the likelihood of victory for each competitor, starting with the guy “most unlikely to win because lol yeah right:”
Coming in right in the middle is the guy who should be a favorite but for numerous intangible reasons looks like the fire has gone out and might end up a perennial “guy who is not as important as commentary tries to convince you he is (but not Randy Orton; he’s on Smackdown):”
Really there are two options here: Roman Reigns or Finn Balor, and in Vince’s mind Roman vs Lesnar is the A-match, while Finn vs Lesnar is the B-match. I know that’s probably the opposite idea in everyone else’s mind, but Vince calls the shots and WWE is all about pleasing the “audience of one.” So expect Lesnar vs Balor at GBOF and Lesnar vs Reigns down the line, maybe SummerSlam, or maybe WrestleMania (wouldn’t that be a nice change of pace). It doesn’t matter, we’ll all be chanting Braun Strowman’s name whenever it happens.
SO OF COURSE!
Oh well, there’s always Smackdown!
Here’s to Sunday.
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