After losing the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championships to Cody Rhodes and Jey Uso over a week ago at Fastlane, Judgment Day is back on top of the mountain, as Damian Priest and Finn Bálor defeated the makeshift duo on Raw to reclaim the gold.
But the decision to hand the titles back to Bálor and Priest after just nine days is not without controversy, given WWE’s recent booking of Roman Reigns and his three-year campaign as the Undisputed Universal Champ and GUNTHER’s near 500-day stranglehold on the Intercontinental title. Some fans online are understandably asking questions, most notably, why. As one Cageside Seats member wrote:
“Then what was the point of (Judgment Day) losing the belts in the first place? Sometimes I wonder...”
It’s a fair inquiry, considering WWE’s past creative choices. However, that was under the previous regime of Vince McMahon. Following the company’s sale to Endeavor, Endeavor founder & CEO Ari Emanuel has seen fit to keep McMahon away from creative while placing it all in the hands of Chief Creative Officer Triple H.
Conceivably, it might be time to give WWE the benefit of the doubt moving forward, especially as feedback to recent programming has been favorable, leading to increased ticket sales, record gates, and an uptick in viewers.
Perhaps the question shouldn’t be why did WWE make this decision. Instead, a better question might be, what did it accomplish?
For Cody Rhodes and Jey Uso, this was the payoff to Rhodes getting Jey Uso traded from SmackDown to Raw. The American Nightmare advocated for “Main Event” Jey, saying he was a changed man who deserved a second chance to make up for his past sins. Rhodes put his money where his mouth is by trusting Uso as a partner, and it paid off with a title win that proved Jey was now an honest man.
However, Rhodes’ endorsement of the new Jey Uso hasn’t been well received by all, as Drew McIntyre continues to hold a grudge against him for the many times he was cheated out of championship glory by the Bloodline. As spectators saw on Raw, Sami Zayn also has issues with Uso showing up on the red brand since it got his friend Kevin Owens deported to SmackDown, a move Owens called “bittersweet.”
But perhaps the most significant thing to come from Rhodes and Uso’s brief run was the face-off it produced between Rhodes and Roman Reigns. Their intense staredown on SmackDown may have teased a potential WrestleMania rematch between the two as WWE seemingly moves on from a proposed showdown between Reigns and The Rock at next year’s extravaganza.
As for Jey Uso, he’s out of a title, thanks to his twin brother Jimmy, whose cheap shot on Jey helped Bálor and Priest regain the tag crowns, which furthers the developing rivalry in the Uso Penitentiary.
In total, WWE elevated future storylines while planting seeds for other potential tales among seven different superstars, at a minimum.
And then there’s Judgment Day.
Since the summer, WWE has slowly been teasing Damian Priest’s separation from the faction. WWE moved that plot along after the group temporarily lost its hold on the tag team division, as Priest took issue with Bálor’s buddy, JD McDonagh, who accidentally cost Judgment Day the titles at Fastlane. Priest also has tension brewing with Rhea Ripley, who has kept Priest from acting on his impulses to cash in his Money in the Bank contract. Ripley has also forced him to stand down against Drew McIntyre, who interfered with Priest’s plans to cash in his title opportunity more than a week ago.
Finally, there’s Rhea Ripley, the glue holding Judgment Day together. She has quickly asserted herself as the leader of the gothic quartet, playing the role of Paul Heyman and Roman Reigns as the brains and the brawn of the operation. Ripley, who has done little wrestling on-screen during this stretch, has seen her star power dramatically rise, which may help set her up as the company’s next major attraction.
From that perspective, it’s hard to consider what WWE did in playing hot potato with the tag titles as a failure. Ultimately, it’s all about execution. As the saying often goes in pro wrestling, let’s see how it plays out.
So far, though, it seems to be playing out rather brilliantly.