Before we dive into the major issue with this Sunday’s Stomping Grounds, the first PPV of its name, I’ll acknowledge that WWE can address it. Sure, the matches are mostly repeats. But if they give us story moments, turns, reveals and other things that make this show matter, they can avoid it being another Super ShowDown.
In a sheer booking sense, that’s been the biggest knock on all of WWE’s Saudi Arabia shows: they’re not important and seem to exist in an alternate reality. Nothing matters. If the company wants to raise fan morale, they’d do something about that - and not have the next show fall into the same trap.
But yes, let’s talk about the big on-paper problem with Stomping Grounds.
As of right now, there are seven announced matches for Stomping Grounds, and 5 of them are rematches of bouts which happened very, very recently:
- Seth Rollins (c) vs. Baron Corbin (Universal championship)
A rematch from June 7’s Super ShowDown, ostensibly for those of us who don’t watch Saudi shows
- Kofi Kingston (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler (WWE championship)
See above, but add a Steel Cage
- Becky Lynch (c) vs. Lacey Evans (Raw women’s championship)
May 19’s Money in The Bank
- Bayley (c) vs. Alexa Bliss (SmackDown women’s championship)
Happened on the April 8, 2019 Raw
- Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre
Wrestlemania 35 (April 7, 2019)
- Tony Nese (c) vs. TBA (Cruiserweight championship)
Might be a rematch with Drew Gulak - a rivalry 205 Live fans actually care about
- Samoa Joe (c) vs. TBA (U.S. championship)
Tonight’s Braun Strowman vs. Bobby Lashley vs. Cesaro vs. Ricochet vs. The Miz #1 contender match gives us a rare chance for a fresh matchup
And the card just offers a glimpse at the problem.
Raw has continued to lean so heavily on Baron Corbin’s weathered vest that I can’t tell if he’s boring or a victim in his own right. Corbin’s the kind of heel whose losses don’t matter at all, and that’s supposed to infuriate us. Instead it’s made his presence mean so little that I will turn the channel if and when he shows up on TV. I’m trained to know he doesn’t actually matter.
Corbin’s not even the real biggest threat to Seth Rollins’ title run. That’s Brock Lesnar and his Money in the Bank briefcase, so far not scheduled for Sunday in Tacoma, Washington. You could involve Brock in this, but he’s a pricey get who’s demands probably aren’t worth meeting for this show - the kind of thing which makes Stomping Grounds as easy to mock for being a ‘B’ show as it is for name.
The Corbin Situation has started to bleed over to SmackDown, as Dolph Ziggler’s association with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn is a ho-hum reminder of the depressingly boring heel trio of Drew McIntyre, Bobby Lashley and Big Bad Baldy Baron which plagued Raw earlier this year (Zayn and KO also allying themselves with Corbin doesn’t help). Dolph and Kofi could have a barn burner of a match series, but unless the anti-New Day trio start to mesh in ways that feed into their personalities and don’t just lean on Dolph’s IT SHOULDA BEEN ME stuff, it just feels like filler. At least this has a steel cage.
Also, Becky vs Lacey ... like, OK? I have zero ... concern about this. Neither should Becky in kayfabe. I know Asuka is supposed to be a Kabuki Warrior now, but hot damn wouldn’t she be better used in a months long feud with The Man? She has a gripe after being shown the door from the title picture so WrestleMania 35 could be for all the main roster women’s division’s marbles.
On the other side of the coin, Bayley vs Alexa Bliss is — as of this moment — the most important match on the card, and the one I have the least shit to talk about. Are there any other Bayley fans who are still seeking an appointment with Dr. Shelby to repress memories of the Kendo Stick On A Pole Match these two had at Extreme Rules 2017? The match that sent Bayley’s career to the sunken place? This is possibly a redemption moment for Bayley, though the story is currently more focused on how Miss Bliss is manipulating Nikki Cross.
And then we come to the Shane match of the night, which The Blergst In The Burp is not even wrestling in, as Roman Reigns takes on Drew “I’m A Lackey for Shane to Atone For How I Was Anti-WWE On The Indies” McIntyre. Here we need to see something big happen, or a turn in this heel duo. The longer McIntrye works for Shane, the longer he gets stuck without agency in the henchman zone, like some inverted version of the J & J Security task force from Seth Rollins’ Authority days. Their match at ‘Mania was a decent preview of a potentially good match, but again, Stomping Grounds needs to give this program a big story beat. And after Roman Reigns lost to Shane McMahon (words that should cause my word processor to crash) at Super ShowDown, I assume El Grande Perro is going to pick up a W here. Or, I guess they’ll find a way to Keep Shane Strong, LOL.
As it was recently noted on David Shoemaker’s The Masked Man podcast, the whole idea of “stomping grounds” comes from the phrase “return to as your old stomping grounds”. Are they returning in order to close out feuds and advance stores, making this show to Super ShowDown (remember that WrestleMania-equivalent-PPV?) what Backlash used to be to actual WrestleManias? Or are the returning just to go through the motions again.
Once those last two TBA slots are filled in, and we see if WWE again forgets to make title matches for its tag belts, we’ll begin to see how relevant Stomping Grounds actually is.
So, am I being too pessimistic? What say ye, Cageside readers?