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WWE’s decision to ‘cut’ big SummerSlam matches is both egregious & unnecessary

Ratings are up. Tickets are flying out of box offices across the country. Ad revenues are off the charts. It seems almost daily WWE is touting some new record that was not only broken, but shattered.

Last night’s Raw in Houston, for example, was a legitimate sellout and the highest grossing Monday Night Raw in the history of the Bayou City. The company is white hot right now, and there’s no two ways about it.

If you’re a WWE fan, there’s plenty to be excited about these days and the future seems incredibly bright.

Typically, I’m the first person to display the positives on a pedestal in an attempt to rise above the sea of negativity that has flooded our way of thinking. Whether it’s the masterful storytelling throughout the entire Bloodline saga or the rise to prominence of the Judgment Day — 9.9 times out of 10 I will choose to lift the highlights even higher as opposed to harping on the negatives.

Today is one of those rare days where certain actions simply need to be addressed.

This week I will have the privilege of covering SummerSlam for Cageside Seats. I will be taking part in multiple events in Detroit in the run up to Saturday night, conversing with several of your favorite WWE Superstars. It’s one of my great joys in life to go to these media events and hopefully bring back some exceptional stories to you, the reader.

However, to say I’m a little disappointed by recent WWE creative decisions would be a massive understatement. My enthusiasm for the “Biggest Party of the Summer” has taken a a pretty big hit, as some of the biggest stars in the company have suddenly been booted off the guest list.

As we found out on Raw last night, Becky Lynch and Trish Stratus will not be settling their differences at Ford Field this Saturday as previously reported.

Rhea Ripley will apparently not be defending her Women’s World Championship against Raquel Rodriguez, either.

Just when it looked like WWE was about to set a record — sans Evolution — four main roster women’s matches on a single Premium Live Event, the creative team looked at a stacked card and decided that one of their top champions, a Hall of Famer and a future first ballot Hall of Famer was the fat that absolutely needed to be trimmed off the show this Saturday.

To which I ask, why?

It’s the company’s second biggest show of the year. It’s the freaking weekend, baby. Fans are there to have some fun, so go big and send the crowd home late. What’s the big deal if the show ends a half hour later than the top brass initially planned?

I’m genuinely asking. Who set the 11pm EST hard out for PLE’s and why is it so important to hit that hard out, that WWE felt it had to cut a match that has been in the works for the past several months?

Trish Stratus returned to the company on February 27th and WWE has been building to this big blow off between her and The Man, two of the all-time greats in women’s wrestling, ever since. A match that was being built up as a battle between the best of two generations, and it was pulled from the show less than a week before the payoff.

Again I ask, why?

Is it because Slim Jim signed, presumably, a hefty sized check to slap the company name on a quickly thrown together Battle Royal and have Cody Rhodes take a giant bite out of one of their (Randy) Savage Meat Sticks during the post show press scrum?

And please do not misconstrue the point here. There is nothing wrong with the SummerSlam Battle Royal, presented by the aforementioned Slim Jim. That’s a paycheck for many talented members of the Raw and SmackDown rosters, that otherwise, would have been left off the card.

That includes one of the top merchandise movers in the entire company right now in L.A. Knight.

This is also a business at the end of the day. Time must be found to get any sponsored or celebrity matches on the show. The more eyeballs on your product, the better, The more revenue generated, the better.

And to those people I saw on social media last night saying that Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler should have been pulled instead of Becky and Trish, shame on you. This is not a “what about” argument. You don’t have to tear down others while going to bat for your favorites.

Even I lost sight of that briefly on Twitter last night, and for that, I apologize.

It is more than fair to mention, that this is the second consecutive year that Triple H has made a shocking decision regarding the SummerSlam card. Not long after he took over as Chief Content Officer last July, The Game made the controversial decision to pull Mr. SummerSlam himself — Seth “Freaking” Rollins — from the show.

After initially advertising Rollins vs. Matt Riddle in Nashville, WWE scraped the match due to the Ultimate Bro suffering a kayfabed injury. While that decision justifiably did not sit well with those involved, in the end, it proved to be the right move.

Both men still made the show, taking part in a time saving pull apart brawl in lieu of an actual match. And their feud was able to pick up steam and garner more heat in the weeks that followed. Which helped make their clash in Cardiff a must see affair.

You also have to wonder if the WWE Universe would have been treated to this classic exchange if Rollins and Riddle had wrestled at SummerSlam as originally scheduled.

The major difference between these two situations, is that Rollins and Riddle was still a relatively new feud at this time last year.

As previously mentioned, Becky Lynch and Trish Stratus have been working this program for months now. There’s nothing left to say. There are no more obstacles to overcome and no more Zoey Stark roadblocks in the way. It’s time to fight.

The other issue at play is the differences in which these two situations were handled. At least in the script, WWE came up with a reason for why Rollins and Riddle would have to be postponed. One of the competitors was injured. So the match was held out until the next PLE. Which happened to be WWE’s first major stadium show in the UK in three decades. Still a huge platform, and arguably, an even bigger one than last year’s SummerSlam.

Did WWE give the fans a reason as to why Becky Lynch and Trish Stratus would not being wrestling this Saturday? The creative team, did not.

Instead, Becky cut a promo saying there’s no better time nor place for Trish to face her than last night in Houston and Adam Pearce forcibly booked Stratus into the match. Then Zoey Stark caused a DQ less than 5 seconds later, much to the dismay of everyone inside the Toyota Center.

Later on, Pearce would approach Trish and Zoey Stark backstage and inform the Hall of Famer that she would face Becky again with Zoey barred from ringside. That match is taking place... in two weeks... on Raw.

Fightful Select reported that WWE considered postponing the match until Payback on Sept. 2nd in Pittsburgh, but ultimately decided on August 14th in Canada.

Becky Lynch vs. Trish Stratus. GOAT vs. GOAT. A dream match up, albeit a rematch, is not important enough for either SummerSlam or Payback - after a five month build up.

Whether intentional or not, that is the message that WWE sent out to it’s universe of fans last night with how creative handled the situation.

Unlike Rollins and Riddle, neither of the two women’s matches that were cut, were ever advertised. So technically, you could argue that they were never cut in the first place. But still it’s a cold reminder - as far as women’s wrestling has come in the last half decade or so, there is still more work that needs to be done.

Way more often than not, it’s the ladies who are told — sorry, there’s just not enough room for you.

Hold up all the signs you want at AEW events. Continue to push for more time and storylines for their Women’s Division, but please keep up that same energy when it comes to WWE.

Despite a seemingly endless pool of talent, WWE appears to be in a back peddle when it comes to booking the women on their roster consistently, save for a few of their biggest stars.

Over the last few months WWE has already failed to find meaningful TV time for Candice LeRae, Indi Hartwell, Piper Niven, Emma, Tegan Nox, Nikki Cross, Isla Dawn, Alba Fyre, Mia Yim and others. That’s if they were lucky enough to get any time at all.

Now, the company cannot find enough time to book Becky Lynch, Trish Stratus or Rhea Ripley on a major stadium show. And this is the second time in 2023 that a big time Becky Lynch match has been cut, seemingly for time restraints, at the last minute.

Compounding the growing frustrations of women’s wrestling fans across the globe, is the fact that WWE is more than capable of creating great television when they take the time and effort to do so.

Look no further than Maxxine Dupri’s meteoric rise since joining the Alpha Academy. No one is going give her match against Valhalla last night a 5-star rating, but the audience was invested regardless. She’s over. Gable and Otis are over. That’s all that matters. And Maxxine is going to continue to improve.

The two-part interview package that was put together for Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler was Emmy-level quality, and the best character work put forth by both women in their WWE careers.

But even that feud was hastily thrown together due to Rousey’s reported hard out in her contract, and the Women’s Tag Team Championships suffered as a result.

Just a month into their reign as tag champs, Rousey and Baszler dropped the titles to Raquel Rodriguez and Liv Morgan thanks to the Queen of Spade’s shocking betrayal at Money in the Bank. Just over two weeks later, Rodriguez and Morgan lost the belts to Chelsea Green and Sonya Deville to set up Rhea Ripley’s next title challenger.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Green and Deville being the Women’s Tag Team Champions. The Complaint Department has been one Triple H’s triumphs in the Women’s Division since taking over and having them win the gold when they did was the perfect call to make — as long as it also set up a match for Rhea Ripley at SummerSlam.

It did not.

To make matters worse, WWE booked Green and Deville to lose their first match as the new Women’s Tag Team Champions in a “can they co-exist” segment on SmackDown this past Friday.

Excuse me, but can I speak with a manager?

That tag team bout featuring Charlotte Flair and Bianca Belair is a spot that easily could have gone to Isla Dawn and Alba Fyre. A team already assigned to the Blue Brand, who has not been seen since June when they lost the Women’s Tag Team Championship unification match against Ronda and Shayna.

Instead, WWE decided to sacrifice it’s newly crowned Tag Team Champions to further build the WWE Women’s Championship program ahead of SummerSlam.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that nearly the exact scenario that reportedly caused Mercedes Moné and Trinity — formerly known as Sasha Banks and Naomi — to lay down their titles and walk out of the company last year?

Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Four times in the last four months the Women’s Tag Team Championships have changed hands to help fuel singles programs and two of those programs didn’t even make the SummerSlam card.

This is not the Becky Lynch feature piece I had intended to write. This is a week that The Man should be celebrated. It was five years ago that Becky Lynch walked into the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn as the vastly underutilized, and often overlooked, sentimental favorite for the SmackDown Women’s Championship.

Lynch lost that night. Beaten by her best friend Charlotte Flair, who once again swooped in to steal her spotlight. Then came the post-match slap heard around the world that catapulted her into Superstardom and planted the first seed for the historic Women’s main event at WrestleMania 35.

The Man was born at SummerSlam. Following the birth of her daughter, Becky Lynch’s triumphant return and shocking heel turn happened at SummerSlam. The culmination of her year long feud with Bianca Belair took place at SummerSlam. A bout in which Big Time Becks wrestled nearly 13 minutes with one of her boulder shoulder’s separated and still delivered a Match of the Year candidate with the E-S-T.

Being pulled from the SummerSlam card is something you would have expected to happen to the Irish Lass Kicker, not The Man.

Becky Lynch is still one the top stars in the entire industry and I’ll gladly spar with anyone who says otherwise. Trish Stratus is a legend who overcame so much on screen, and no doubt, even more backstage to help change the perception of women’s wrestling during the early to late 2000’s.

Sincerely, thank you Trish.

In a summer that served as your sampling of the many of the great opportunities that exist today, that simply did not for the women of your heyday, WWE decided to throw it back to the days of the Divas Era and cut your match — or at least in this case, postpone it.

Examining all angles here. There very easily could be something else going on behind the scenes that led to certain decisions being made. Liv Morgan is legitimately hurt and could be out a while. Maybe Rhea Ripley or Raquel Rodriguez are genuinely dealing with something and simply cannot compete at this time. Perhaps that mask Trish Stratus has been wearing is as much about protecting a legitimate injury as it generating heel heat.

I’m willing to give some benefit of the doubt. But simply going off the information that is available to the public, the decision to yank Becky Lynch and Trish Stratus for the show this weekend is easily one of the more egregious and unnecessary one’s of the Triple H creative era.

And again — similar was said about leaving both Seth Rollins and Drew McIntyre off the SummerSlam card last year. They both still made it onto the show and received big spots at Clash at the Castle weeks later.

We know Rhea Ripley will be featured this Saturday night in some capacity as a member of Judgment Day. But what about Becky, Trish and Raquel? Will WWE let some of their brightest stars shine? Or will they once again run out of time?

As always, I chose to remain hopeful.

You can follow Rick Ucchino on Twitter and subscribe to the Bleav in Pro Wrestling Podcast Channel for more of his work.

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