Yes, there's more, people...
So when we last left off, Lesnar and Reigns had tangoed twice in the space of four weeks and twice Vince had teased the idea of moving on but for some weird reason thought there was more money in essentially holding Raw in what could best be described as a sort of Groundhog Day.
And I don't use this lightly. By essentially saying that Reigns had done so much better than everyone else, whilst at the same time essentially ensuring that the belt stayed on Lesnar...what was the rest of the locker room fighting for?
But anyway, the next PPV was Money in the Bank and from a booking standpoint the WWE had three options with the Big Dog:
- Have him win the briefcase against a whole lot of others that the audience would feel were more worthy and have his popularity tank.
- Have him in the MITB match but lose it, in which case you risk people laughing at him/wondering why you're not pushing said briefcase owner. Oh, and he will still probably get booed during the match.
- Segway him into another feud where you can sorta hide him down the card a little against a guy that the audience isn't that enamoured over.
So on May 7th in the Money in the Bank qualifiers, Jinder Mahal cost Roman his chance at qualifying for the MITB match. Why? Because Roman gets all the opportunities and he should have one. Soooo...he cost Roman his chance at a MITB match because he was angry at Kurt Angle it seems? And when Kurt says he'll consider it, he still attacks Roman, thinking they'll be no consequences the next week?!
Because next week there are BIG consequences. Reigns spears Mahal through the backstage, thus stopping him from being in his MITB qualifying match. So it seems that Reigns and Mahal are even, they've both cost each other something and-
Oh, we're still doing the match? Why?
If the WWE were clever about this, they could have dragged this along by having Mahal essentially scurrying out of dodge and getting the audience primed to see Reigns get his hands on the smug fucker. Have Reigns hit Singh, sure, but ensure that Mahal almost always gets out of the way until the PPV. You could have even had Stephanie say that Mahal has agreed to a match at MITB, but until then Reigns cannot lay a hand on Mahal or he will not get another title shot for the next 2 years. But instead every single week they were in matches or coming to blows or worse yet dragging Seth and Kevin Owens down with them to try and breathe some life into this.
Because the way did it, they already gave the audience its catharsis. Reigns hurt Mahal and made him look like a noob. And then we're supposed to turn around and on any level believe that a) Mahal can win and b) it will be worth watching. The only way this works is if you make the audience wait, make Reigns have good matches with various members of the Raw roster and then have Mahal poke the bear continuously.
And while we're at it with bizarro booking ideas, why the fuck wouldn't you make this a squash?! Give this 7 mins tops and have Reigns do all his greatest hits, and maybe throw in a couple of new moves in just to interest the audience. If they are in the 'cool down' spot, why not give something to help the crowd cleanse the palette (God, I'm middle class...) and not overstay their welcome? Instead they gave this FIFTEEN MINUTES where Mahal subjected the crowd to a bunch of 'rest holds'. How is this supposed to endear the match to an already hostile crowd (it's Chicago, for fuck's sake). A minute in and they are already chanting for CM Punk and the match is going at a...sedentary pace. It doesn't help of course that Jinder's move set is so...restricted that he literally gets a two count after hitting a fist drop. A. Freakin'. Fist drop.
And if you think I am exaggerating about the rest holds, last article I talked about how Samoa Joe made the rest holds at least go by faster by the fact that he trash talked and looked like he was doing something. Jinder just looks constipated. At one point he does a...spear of sorts to Roman who is on the apron but doesn't time it right so Roman has to literally jump backwards, hit the ground first and sell a...nudge onto the barricade (it looks really sad). Saxton seems so concerned about the fact that Jinder is going so slowly that he actually comments on the fact that it's good that Jinder isn't wearing himself down. If only all top athletes would learn to wrestle a more laid back style! Stuff the crowd!
By this stage the crowd are doing old John Cena chants. And rather than call an audible they just have ol' Jinder continue to hit very slow offence that looks neither that vicious, varied or cool (honestly watch Daniel Bryan vs Kofi at Mania to see the difference). And so when Roman finally, finally gets the comeback...the crowd are doing the Mexican wave. And still Jinder cuts him off for a near fall and you just want to scream at the television for them to get the hell outta there. But no they go through another sequence and Jinder gets another near fall.
I do wonder if this was supposed to be a 'career making' loss for Jinder, because every two count Roman gets he sells it like he cannot believe it. Even the commentators put over how great Mahal is doing. But he still is a very limited wrestler who doesn't excite (I think he honestly pulls off, maybe three moves during this match that aren't just knees, punches or rest holds) whose push the year before was responsible in a massive way for killing off the organic groundswell surrounding Nakamura. It was almost as if through this match, the WWE was trying to clumsily gaslight the audience into thinking that their whole experiment with Jinder the year before was valid (it wasn't). In Chicago. And they got poor Roman to carry that smoking turd of an idea.
So I'm guessing that the idea would have been to carry on the feud to Extreme Rules with a stipulation so that Reigns could win again, but after the dumpster fire that was Money in the Bank not only did they move Reigns on, they stopped any sort of semblance of a push Jinder had. Instead, Roman went to fight Bobby Lashley in what was essentially a match to see who was the #1 contender to the WWE Universal Title. And it was good! Sometimes simple feuds are the best as long as you have the workers who can back it up (they were even smart enough to tell the story of their contrasting styles to give it a real big fight feel). And these guys did in a 14 min hoss off which Lashley won clean. And sure Lashley wasn't the most popular guy on the Raw roster but we were at least getting a new challenger-
Oh wait, we having a tournament on Raw to decide it? And what's worse, we're going to give the crowd several other workers to cheer for (Rollins, McIntyre, Balor) for these guys to steamroll over so we can get to the same match? Oh and this time Roman's gonna win?!
You had four guys that you could arguably have said after Extreme Rules that were amongst the Universal Title picture (Reigns, Lesnar, Strowman, Lashley). It boggles the mind that for your second biggest show, you wouldn't inject the only player in the whole thing that had not faced the champ. You could have made it a Triple Threat or a Fatal 4-Way if you needed Reigns in there for God's sake but at least put Bobby in there! Are you so scared of Reigns being booed that you are going to do Reigns/Lesnar again?!
Now, later on in the year there was rumours that Lashley was working with a separated shoulder, so that could have put a crimp in their plans if it had been an issue since July but surely you could protect him in a 4 Way (he was still working with it in the autumn that year)? And if you couldn't, don't make poor Bobby and Roman look bad by taking a shit on all the other workers they liked more (had they learned nothing from the past 3 years).
In any case we got our match at Summerslam with the added wrinkle that MITB winner Braun Strowman was going to sit at ringside and maybe cash in on the victor. And the match was good because Strowman was there to add some spice to the 'Finisher, Finisher, kick out, Finisher, Finisher, kick out' dance I've been talking about for 3 fucking articles. And Roman won! And the next day the Shield reunited!
But from there we got a screwy Hell in a Cell match where the WWE couldn't give Strowman and Reigns the space to have a hoss fight (seriously at least six people interfere) before Reigns gave us the dreaded news.
And look, I'm not going to slam the WWE for things they cannot know. But looking back over the time between Mania and Summerslam, I can't help but feel that the roster was treading water because Vince couldn't get the perfect reaction to Reigns. Three years of booing the chosen guy had made Vince so gun-shy that he was afraid of a world without a guy who's only there a handful of the time. And rather than push stories where someone else was the champion and the roster could coalesce around them because they could react every week, the roster was defined by the absence of a worker, and thus, the absence of a direction.
And that's part 3! Next time it's the first of a couple of articles about everyone's favourite writer, Vince Russo.
See you then!
#1 Owen Hart vs Stone Cold @ SummerSlam '97
#2 December to Dismember 2006
#3 The Fingerpoke of Doom
#4 The Scott Steiner vs HHH Feud
#5 Ryback vs Mark Henry @ WrestleMania XXIX
#6 Bret Hart vs Vince McMahon @ WrestleMania XXVI
#7 The Jerry Lawler/Michael Cole Feud
#8 The Curtain Call
#9 Bash at the Beach 2000
#10 Royal Rumble 2014
#11 Warrior/Hogan II @ Halloween Havoc
#12 The Cena/Laurinatis Feud
#13 The Firing of Ric Flair From WCW
#14 The Brogue Kick of Doom
#15 Lesnar vs Goldberg @ WrestleMania XX
#16 Immortal Revealed @ Bound for Glory 2010
#17 Sting vs Hogan @ Starrcade 1997
#18 Triple H vs Booker T @ WrestleMania 19
#19 The Corre
#20 The Undertaker vs Big Boss Man @ WrestleMania 15
#21 Jeff Hardy vs Sting @ Victory Road 2011
#22 Road Wild 1999
#23 The John Cena/Kane Feud of 2012
#24 Hulk Hogan's Mancow Interview of 1999
#25 CM Punk vs the Rock @ Elimination Chamber 2013
#26 The Reign of Bill Watts in WCW
#27 The Claire Lynch Affair Part One And Two
#28 Triple H vs Kevin Nash @ TLC 2011
#29 The Cactus Jack Amnesia Angle
#30 Hulk Hogan Leaving TNA
#31 HBK vs Hulk Hogan @ SummerSlam 2005
#32 David Arquette: WCW Champion
#33 Katie Vick
#34 nWo Souled Out 1997
#35 The Vampiro/Sting Feud of 2000
#36 Once in a Lifetime, Episode II
#37 The Angle/Jarrett Feud of 2010/11
#38 The McMahon/Lashley Feud
#39 The Shockmaster
#40 CM Punk vs Ryback @ Hell in a Cell 2012
#41 Hulk Hogan vs Roddy Piper @ Starrcade 1996
#42 The WWE Championship Reign of Diesel
#43 Cena vs the Wyatts
#44 The Main Roster Run of Emma
#45 The WCW Run of Bret Hart
#46 John Cena vs the Miz @ WrestleMania 27
#47 The Lone Wolf AJ Styles
#48 Alberto Del Rio vs Jack Swagger @ WrestleMania 29
#49 The Transition of Mike Awesome from ECW to WCW
#50 The Dolph Ziggler Conundrum Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five
#51 The Rise and Fall of Damien Sandow/Mizdow Part One and Part Two
#52 DDP & Jay Leno vs Hollywood Hogan & Eric Bischoff @ Road Wild 1998
#53 Triple H vs Randy Orton @ WrestleMania 25
#54 Lord Tensai
#55 LOD 2000
#56 Sid Vicious vs Scott Steiner @ Starrcade 2000
#57 Bret Hart vs Yokuzuna (feat. Hulk Hogan) @ WrestleMania 9
#58 Royal Rumble 2015
#59 The Crucifixion of the Sandman
#60 Brock Lesnar's First Year Back in WWE
#61 Bo Dallas' Main Roster Run
#62 Vince Russo vs Booker T for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship
#63 Randy Orton vs the Big Show @ Survivor Series 2013
#64 AJ Styles vs Abyss @ Destination X 2010
#65 EV 2.0
#66 The Summer of Punk Part 1; Part 2; Part 3
#67 The Lex Express
#68 Goldberg's first WWE Run
#69 Paige's Main Roster Run 2014-2016
#70 Seth Rollins' First World Title Run
#71 Hulk Hogan vs Sgt Slaughter @ WrestleMania VII
#72 Sting vs Abyss in a Last Rites Match
#73 The Undertaker vs Big Show in the Punjabi Prison
#74 Ric Flair vs Hollywood Hogan @ Uncensored 1999
#75 Roman Reigns' Road to WrestleMania 32 Part One, Part Two. Part Three
#76 Hulk Hogan vs Sid Justice @ WrestleMania VIII
#77 Muhammad Hassan
#78 Sheamus' World Heavyweight Title Reign
#79 The Ghastly Match
#80 Bray Wyatt vs Randy Orton @ Wrestlemania 33
#81 Goldberg vs Steiner vs Nash @ New Blood Rising'
#82 The Lesnar/Angle/Big Show feud of 2002
#83 Aces and Eights
#84 Dean Ambrose vs Brock Lesnar @ WrestleMania 32
#85 Jinder Mahal: WWE Champion Part One, Part Two, Part Three.
#86 DDP & Karl Malone vs Hollywood Hogan & Dennis Rodman.
#87 Triple H vs Sting