Seth Rollins defended the World Heavyweight Championship against Sami Zayn on Raw (Nov. 6) in a contest worthy of headlining a premium live event. Despite each man’s respective issues with Judgment Day, the match featured a clean finish that saw Rollins retain after rolling up Zayn to score the three-count.
But the match wasn’t without its critics, as some fans blasted WWE for giving away a marquee title match with zero build.
Immediately, comparisons were made to All Elite Wrestling, which garnered some complaints recently for giving away a world title match on short notice between MJF and Kenny Omega on the Oct. 28 episode of Collision. Others were upset because it appears to them that only AEW is chastised for such match-making decisions.
While both concepts seem identical, it’s their execution and end goal that differ and perhaps justify WWE’s decision to go with Rollins and Zayn out of nowhere.
After MJF defeated Juice Robinson on the Oct. 25 episode of AEW Dynamite, Kenny Omega challenged MJF to a world title match. Omega noted that MJF was days away from breaking his record as the longest-reigning world champion in company history. Thus, he wanted to protect his record by wrestling away the title from MJF. The champ agreed, and the match was set.
On Collision, MJF beat Omega in a match that was well-received, and they shook hands when it was over. During their title tilt, Don Callis came out to distract Omega as he was about to deliver his finishing move, the One Winged Angel. That distraction seemingly cost Omega the win, which helped further the rivalry between Callis and Omega. But the show ended without a cliffhanger to set up the following Dynamite.
In the case of Rollins and Zayn, WWE used its post-match sequence to set up its next premium event, Survivor Series, by having an all-out brawl between Judgment Day, Rollins, Zayn, Jey Uso, and Cody Rhodes. The melee led to Raw General Manager Adam Pearce declaring a War Games match between both sides at Survivor Series. It also gave fans a reason to tune in next week to see the reactions from both camps and how the two sides will interact with each other between then and WWE’s fall classic.
WWE, it can be argued, used a big match to set up an even bigger battle on a grander stage while keeping fan interest up. With AEW, one first needs to understand what their intention was in booking Omega and MJF on short notice.
If AEW owner Tony Khan was interested solely in presenting an exciting main event for his show, he succeeded. The storyline of a former champion looking to protect his record against the man about to break it is simple yet effective. However, it stands to reason that, with adequate time to promote, an encounter between two of AEW’s biggest stars may have scored a higher television rating despite competition from the World Series.
And with no post-match angle or hook beyond Khan teasing a big announcement, it’s fair to wonder if AEW missed an opportunity to improve Dynamite’s numbers.
Unquestionably, WWE and AEW each gave away significant world title matches that might have been better served on a higher platform. But considering how WWE played its hand, they look to be in a better position to prosper because of it in the weeks ahead.