WWE sure gets around. Tonight, they'll be about as far away from the Texas locales they broadcasted from the past couple of weeks. Heck, they're almost in Canada! Tonight, Raw...is...Buffalo!
But will coming to us live from the home of the Bills and Sabres make it any good?
Issues with (The) Authority
Director of Operations, and THE DEMON, Kane's return foiled another of Sheamus' Money in the Bank cash-in attempts, befuddled Triple H & Stephanie McMahon, and cost Seth Rollins his rematch for the United States title before he was dragged to hell (a horrible nether realm from which you can escape a few minutes later to scamper up the ramp and run backstage).
This all because the WWE champion has always been kind of a jerk to the Devil's Favorite Demon...and because Steph was really careless with that mask she first used to bring out Undertaker's brother's dark side back when she needed to get revenge on Daniel Bryan for beating her husband and The Authority's previous handpicked champ, Randy Orton, back at WrestleMania 30.
First...phew...pro wrestling, everybody!
Second, there's a whole lot of main event plot swirling around a faction that's been around for more than two years now. Hunter turned on Bryan at SummerSlam in 2013, ushered Orton to the ring to use his Money in the Bank briefcase and kick-off what ended up being one of the best stories WWE has told in a long time.
But we probably should have known when The Authority didn't fade away after The Beard bested them in New Orleans. Or when The Shield took out Evolution over the late Spring and early Summer of 2014. Whether it's ego or reliance on the type of story that gave us maybe the best program the company ever put together, Mr. & Mrs. Game can't bring themselves to exit stage left to see if wrestling angles without a central political figure pulling (some of) the strings might be best for business.
Attempts to develop or adapt the concept have left stories half told and presented us with wildly varied versions of the characters played by the real-life heirs to the throne. In addition to Rollins, D-Bry (when he's around) and The Viper's longer arcs being heavily influenced by The Authority, John Cena has opposed them on many occasions, Brock Lesnar was brought back to deal with their Cena problem, Dolph Ziggler was a thorn in their side for a while, and it was their mission in life to end Sting...until he decided he loved Haitch, and then he might have actually had his career ended in his Night of Champions match with Seth.
Which is to say nothing of McMahon's involvement in the women's storyline, where she enthusiastically called up three wrestlers from NXT, booked Nikki Bella in a title defense before she could celebrate a milestone reign, overruled the decision that would have broken that record and then booked the rematch where she lost the butterfly belt.
Maybe it's his boss' erratic behavior that's gotten to Kane as much as Seth being a douche, or the missing mask. The corporate middleman acts like he doesn't know what the Big Red Monster part of himself is doing when he's attacked Rollins over the last week. And Haitch & Steph seem equally clueless as to what's going on, or how to stop it.
What they should do: It's time to wind The Authority down.
If they were presented somewhat consistently, or part of a more intricate plot, they could probably be a useful part of the show for a while to come. But as it is, they turn more than Big Show or your average Total Divas star. Combine that with their schemes success rate (how do you let a statue get stolen from under your noses?) and their effectiveness as antagonists makes them more David Brent/Michael Scott than Mr. McMahon.
There's no point in trying to make them seem like puppetmasters at this point, either. Sure, they could be linked back in to Undertaker & Lesnar's issues (which will need a solid Paul Heyman promo soon to explain why The Dead Man agreed to the rematch when he was willing to cheat and ride off into the sunset a couple of pay-per-view (PPV)s ago), or revealed as the forces behind a new wave of guys trying to take Cena's red, white and blue belt away (a title that should probably just go back to open challenges for a few months, with maybe Big E or Kofi Kingston as a on going challenger for big shows once The New Day is done with The Dudleyz).
But the seeds have been planted for issues between Hunter and his protege. And Sting still needs a win over Trips, in one form or another. The Authority's ineptitude in dealing with Kane's instability could be the thing that causes Rollins to doubt if he has the right patrons. There's plenty of evidence he can piece together from the last several months once he has that realization, too. Eventually, The Icon returns as a voice from the shadows, counciling the WWE champ to stand on his own and stand up to the corrupt (and borderline incompetent) power that gave him the throne.
It could be a fitting non-contact send off for Sting before (or the night after) his Hall of Fame induction, a way to get Seth back to an alignment that makes sense for the kind of worker he is and a write-off for a faction who's time has passed.
What we're afraid they'll do: While there's some fear that we'll just muddle along with the same narrative framework that's generally bored hardcore fans and sent casual Raw viewers away by the hundreds of thousands, my big concern is that they'll do Rollins vs. Triple H with Seth still as a cowardly villain, and Trips as either the same "cool dad" tweener he's been lately or an outright babyface...an approach that does nothing for anyone who isn't a Connecticut blue blood, and something I find downright Terra Ryzing.
Other stuff to keep an eye on:
- Expect a whole lot of stalling while they wait for Saturday's Madison Square Garden house show-turned-WWE Network special to disappear into the rear view. Neither Brock or Taker is being hyped for First Niagra Center tonight, and longer-term direction for Intercontinental champ Kevin Owens and U.S. champ Cena will probably wait until they're done with title defenses against Chris Jericho and Rollins, respectively, in Manhattan on October 3.
- If you're hoping for another Big Show win and promo, you'll probably be in luck, though! The Giant continues to be built for a beating at the hands of The Beast Incarnate.
- On the flip side, we'll probably get some more greatness from the tag champs and Xavier Woods' trombone as New Day head toward another title defense this weekend against New Yorkers Bubba Ray & D-Von.
- Rusev gets along well with E, Kofi & X (as does Summer Rae), while he and KO just can't make it work. He may or may not still be feuding with Dolph Ziggler. It's hard to tell...or care.
- The war between Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose and The Wyatt Family is definitely still going on, and it's picked up a Viper. Unfortunately for Randy, Braun Strowman has a bit of a history with snakes.
- She's been telling us it's her house for a while, and last week Paige set out to prove it to new Divas champ Charlotte, former pal Becky Lynch and the rest of the women's division. First, she may have to deal with Total Divas' mother hen Natalya, who entered the wrestling scene with mixed results last week.
- Ryback, Neville and Lucha Dragons are good guys. Bo Dallas, Stardust and The Ascension are bad guys. Not that it probably matters right now.
- Cesaro and Sasha Banks are the best. Also probably doesn't mean much as far as tonight goes, but it makes me feel better to type it.
Four shows until Hell in a Cell!
What do you think they should, or are afraid they will, do on Raw tonight?