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Brock Lesnar’s absence is a blessing for RAW’s main event scene

Tuesday’s Rude Awakening looks at what RAW is up to without Brock, Braun Strowman rumors, and Miz’s “earned” victory.

We publish a whole lot of content here at Cageside Seats. We’re also [looks around and whispers so the bosses can’t hear] not the only place producing wrestling content on the internet. So, as a service to you on the weekdays, we’ll be producing a wrestling newsletter, "Rude Awakening." Well, it will be a newsletter eventually: for now, it’ll just be part of your experience here at Cageside, collecting the news, recaps, and social moments from the greater wrestling universe daily so you won’t fall behind, with a newsletter format to come.

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Something SmackDown Live has done well since the brand split is to blur the lines between its mid-card and main event. It hasn’t diluted the main event scene so much as helped bolster the mid-card: the Intercontinental Championship and those feuding for it got real time to shine, performers like Dean Ambrose went from WWE World Championship matches to IC bouts, and guys like Baron Corbin who started out in the mid found their way into the main when necessary. All of it was believable given how well those performers (and the titles) were treated week-to-week.

RAW has recently been able to achieve a similar effect with Brock Lesnar, the Universal Champion, not showing up for promos, segments, or anything. RAW can showcase their mid-card more, and devote more time to stories featuring talents we already consider main event performers such as Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, Bray Wyatt, and Samoa Joe. Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns are feuding about the Universal Championship, sort of, in the sense that their feud spawned out of an earlier spat surrounding it, and the winner might eventually get to face Lesnar for the belt. That feud is about more than that, though, as these two hate each other and won’t stop until the other is destroyed. And we get time to make that both obvious and enjoyable.

The Intercontinental Championship was the focus of RAW’s main event on Monday, with Balor, Miz, and Rollins vying to become the number one contender. That’s a former Universal Champion and two former WWE champs going for the belt held by someone who is also a former WWE champ. That match split off into three separate feuds — Miz vs. Ambrose for the strap, Balor vs. Wyatt for demon supremacy, and Rollins vs. Joe continuing their feud — and we managed all of that while also building on the RAW Tag Team Championship feud and showcasing the entire RAW women’s division in an extended opening promo and follow-up tag match.

Brock Lesnar being around isn’t a bad thing, but his absence is a boon to these times in between the major events. RAW has time to play with the rest of their performers, time to build them up and tell stories we care about, and to spend time telling those stories without necessarily attaching a championship to them. That’s all good news, and even though the payoff for some of it will inevitably be a match against Brock, the vanishing act makes sense in the present.

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