Welcome to Autumn, or—as it’s known in WWE—hibernation season. Sure, you’ll get the occasional big Survivor Series main event that shakes things up, but more often than not the stretch between SummerSlam and the Royal Rumble is a wasteland of wheel-spinning and break-pumping.
The reasons are varied for why few big angles ever happen in the fall months; Monday Night Football usually eats a big chunk of the TV viewership. House Show attendance dips in the school year too, as opposed to the Summertime or the Road to WrestleMania season. And speaking of WrestleMania, the Road kicks off only a few months away, so WWE’s creative team is usually hesitant to give away too many big moments that could be saved for the three-month stretch when everyone is watching.
As a result, the fall months tend to drag, with fans complaining that nothing of consequence ever seems to happen. There’s an expression I like to use, however:
“Make it a virtue.”
When you run into a problem and there’s no way to avoid it, you can either swim against the current until you’re beaten up and exhausted, or you can turn with the current and ride it out. To “make it a virtue” means to take a flaw and find a way to turn it into a positive. Writers (novelists, screenwriters, etc) do this all the time when they realize a character they’ve been presenting for a while has picked up a bad habit or two that was unintended. They will “make it a virtue” by making the flaw an intended character trait; now it’s no longer a writer’s mistake but a bit of depth to a character.
WWE has a problem every fall; fewer people watch and those who do expect nothing significant to occur. Fine: What better time to try something new? Even if it’s just a three-month test run between now and the Royal Rumble, what better time than this—when the pressure is off—to give the ball to someone you might otherwise not, just to see how they (and the fans) react.
With that said, here are a handful of superstars whom WWE might consider handing the baton to, even temporarily, during 2017’s Fall lull.
This one’s a no-brainer and even though they’ve been prominently featured on SmackDown, it’s mostly been confined to backstage vignettes. And yes, they’ve been the best thing on SmackDown but there’s so much more to be done with them. Remember in the Attitude Era, when the APA would have their poker matches interrupted by some jobber who wanted protection from a bully? The backstage segment was always hilarious but it also almost always ended up spilling into the ring.
Breezango need to leave the backstage area and compete a little more often, and not just in one-off matches, but sustained, weeks-long feuds. This whole time their segments should have been happening concurrently with a tag title storyline. Now that New Day seem to have moved on from the title scene, there’s no better opportunity to bring Breezango back in. The iron is only going to be hot for so long; strike.
Sheamus or no Sheamus, kilt or no kilt, teeth or no teeth: I’ll never be off the Cesaro bandwagon. He’s one of the most fun wrestlers on the Raw roster, with far better promo skills than he’s given credit for and a better connection to the crowd than WWE higher-ups seem to want to acknowledge. Unfortunately, because of that accent, he’s not likely ever to get a run at the top during a time when WWE has all hands on deck. But, in the slowed-down Fall months, it might be fun to let him stretch his legs in the upper tier of the roster. With the Universal Title tied up on a part-timer, Raw offers a lot more flexibility in its main-event spot week-in and week-out.
I wrote recently about WWE’s lack of a sustained babyface presence in the main-event scene. Why not let Cesaro, who never fails to get a good reaction from crowds, go solo for a bit? He can take the IC title off Miz (who won't be needing it with his Autumn feud with The Shield ongoing), bring some workrate prestige to it and feature it as the weekly title to fight for on Raw. Vince doesn’t think he can be a top guy; why not let him try for a few months and see what happens?
SmackDown’s women’s division is a bit of a mess right now. What started out as the more focused, more logical and more balanced (between storyline and ring-work) division compared to Raw’s has fallen far off its perch. It’s a hodgepodge of half-baked storylines with few ladies standing out from the pack, mostly because they’re all jumbled together when singling out two or three for a feud always makes for better TV.
Of all the female superstars on the blue show, the one who should be the glue holding it all together is Becky Lynch. She has the look, the skill, the promo chops, the earnestness, the it-factor connection with the audience and the credibility to be champion. She should be the one anchoring the whole division but instead, WWE’s “creative” team has gotten away from her in favor of an “everyone in the pot” approach to booking the division. Isolate Becky Lynch, get the title off Natalya and put her in a one-on-one feud that has a logical storyline, some exciting twists and turns and a satisfying conclusion: SmackDown’s women’s division would instantly vault back to the top.
Balor never did get that post-SummerSlam run with the Universal Title last year. And now he’s mired in purgatory wrestling Bray Wyatt (currently dressed like a Japanese B-horror movie character with Lydia Deetz’ black veil on his face). There’s still time to salvage things, though: It would require suddenly dropping the Bray Wyatt feud (few would notice; based on crowd reactions they may not even be aware it’s still ongoing) and then repositioning him as the charismatic, enigmatic main-event caliber superstar he is.
As with Cesaro, there’s not much Balor can do about Brock Lesnar’s part-time schedule, but in the months in-between Lesnar’s appearances, he could help to reinvigorate the IC division and make it a featured belt between now and WrestleMania, and a belt with more importance after Mania too (when the belt is back to being a weekly feature).
It’s pretty remarkable that New Day has managed to remain popular well past the typical expiration date of a babyface in WWE. I mean usually by this point a babyface would have had to have turned heel, right? How many guys in the modern era (post-Hogan) held onto a championship as long as they did, finally dropped it, then continued to feud over it, back and forth, while never getting stale and never losing the crowd? It’s remarkable. New Day continues to be one of the biggest reaction-getters wherever they go and I credit their longevity to their own creativity and the good sense of Vince and co. to get out of their way and just let them do what they think is good. Because what they think is good is good.
That said, the fact is they’ve done all they can as tag title holders/contenders; The next logical step, when a wrestler has hit a plateau, is to take a step up. The only place higher on the ladder for New Day is the WWE Championship.
Have we ever had a Freebird rule applied to a world title feud? I don’t think so but I’m curious if anyone remembers an example.
New Day contending for the WWE Championship—against Jinder Mahal and his duo of goobers—would be delightful. The trio’s inability to take anything seriously and their lightning-fast wit might actually make segments with Mahal tolerable, maybe even enjoyable. The amount of shade they could throw at the former 3MB member is more than enough to sustain a Fall feud.
I’m not saying they (or any one of them) should actually win the title. At this point Jinder has reached that part of his reign where losing it would be a big deal, thus it needs to be booked with the winner being a big deal. We might as well ride him until either the Rumble or—good heavens—WrestleMania. But a feud with New Day in the interim might be the most entertaining thing they could do with him in the meanwhile.
Do it, WWE. If nothing else, do it for the change of pace.
That’s my list, Cagesiders. Who would you like to see WWE give the ball to in their off-months on the calendar? Let us know in the comments below.
Until next time, I’m Matthew Martin: I love WWE, but everything sucks and I’m never watching again.
See you next Monday.