Two weeks ago in a shocking turn of events it was reported that Michele Wilson and George Barrios have been removed from their positions as Chief Marketing & Revenue officer and Chief Financial Officer respectively. Both Barrios and Wilson had been within the ranks of WWE for over a decade and have had stable presence on WWE Board of Directors, but for whatever reason a corporate restructuring was chosen and now news outlets are reporting that WWE doesn't have a plan in place for when Vince either retires or dies. Well how did we get this point?
On October 19, 1999, WWE officially went public and changed the future of the company as now there would be shareholders that needed to be heard and kept in the loop. Previously, Vince had been able to run his company the way he saw fit without interference from anyone outside the walls of the headquarters in Stamford. I know that over the years to the knowledge of fans we haven't seen much interference from shareholders that would make this out to be a bad idea. For the most part WWE going public gave the company a bit more credibility then it had before.
As Vince has been getting older and nature is taking it's course questions have been arising for the last few years about who will take over after Vince is gone. Famously, Punk even referenced this question during his legendary "pipebomb" promo on June 27, 2011 offering his opinion on the situation. In that time a lot has changed within the ranks of WWE namely seeing Triple H move up the ranks of the WWE corporate ladder and taking control of talent development specifically with NXT. Background is always important when covering something like this especially now we move forward and explore if WWE really doesn't have plan for the era after Vince McMahon.
In talking about this years Royal Rumble there is one thing that I couldn't forget to talk about and that is the continuation of Otis and Many Rose's story line. For the last few months Otis has been lusting after Mandy Rose on Smackdown and in some cases this love story has been better then Lana/Rusev/Lashley triangle. In my opinion, the main reason the Smackdown attempt is better then Raw is because it's a bit more believable and plays on more emotions as a lot of guys have chased after girl who is a bit out of there league. At this point I think that the company is going to stretch things out as they should, but it is unclear which direction they will go and how much it would effect other parties. Check out the video below of how Otis saved Mandy from elimination during the match.
One underrated performance from the Women's Rumble match was from Bianca Belair who lasted over thirty minutes and was the iron woman of the match lasting the longest out of anyone. Bianca recently won a battle royal for the right to challenge Rhea Ripley at NXT Takeover: Portland in February. In a lot of ways Bianca has been flying under the radar due to talent like Shayna Baszler, Rhea Ripley, Toni Storm, and others taking most of the spotlight. Bianca got on a lot of people's radar last year after her standout performance against Baszler during Royal Rumble weekend. Not only was this her Royal Rumble debut where she lasted over a half hour she also eliminated eight participants from the match which put her in a tie with Shayna Baszler for most eliminations in the Royal Rumble. It is insane to see how much her stock has risen in the last twelve months and she has earned every bit of it working her but off to get to where she is. In the future not only will Shayna Bazler move to the main roster, but with this performance Bianca Belair showed a move to Raw or Smackdown will be in her future.
Sunday night was the Royal Rumble match and it was full of those moments that always make the Rumble feel special and unique. One moment that we were unsure about was what exactly happened to AJ Styles during the Royal Rumble match as it seemed like he got injured off camera during Baron Corbin's entrance. As of this writing it seems like AJ may have separated his shoulder during the match and according to Ryan Satin at Pro-Wrestling Sheet the severity of the injury is unclear at this time.
Speaking of injuries Beth Phoenix left it all in the ring last night after accidentally hitting the back of her head on the ring post and cutting her head wide open. In a freak accident basically Beth reacted to a punch and in reacting she smacked the back of her head on the ring post almost immediately the blood started flowing. There isn't a lot to say about the accident last night other than the fascination of seeing Beth Phoenix and her bloody Ric Flair style hair kicking some ass for over 20 minutes during the ladies Royal Rumble. One note I would make is that one person I spoke to said that after seeing her performance one fan said WWE should've called an audible and let Beth Phoenix get the Rumble win on Sunday night.
Now with the Road to Wrestlemania officially underway the only question there really is to ask at this point is if WWE could build some momentum and capitalize on the reputation of Wrestlemania. Recently, WWE has had struggles with ratings, but after the creative change which saw Paul Heyman and Bruce Prichard named as creative directors of Raw and Smackdown respectively. The one thing that fans need to understand is that it will take time to repair both brands, and if WWE play there cards right they could set a direction now when the most people are willing to give them a chance and take there best shot at keeping fans around after Wrestlemania.
Royal Rumble Card
Men's Royal Rumble
Women's Royal Rumble
(c) “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt vs. Daniel Bryan (Universal Championship strap match)
(c) Bayley vs. Lacey Evans (SmackDown Women's Championship)
Roman Reigns vs. King Corbin (Falls Count Anywhere)
(c) Becky Lynch vs. Asuka (Raw Women's Championship)
Sheamus vs. Shorty G
(c) Andrade vs. Humberto Carrillo (U.S. Championship)
Shorty G vs Sheamus
At this point there is no official matches announced for the Pre-Show so I just picked one of the matches that have been announced already to move to the pre-show. In my opinion, this match would benefit being on the pre-show this way they can maximize the time for the match.
Falls Count Anywhere:
King Corbin vs Roman Reigns
This feud has been going on since both Roman and Corbin were drafted to Smackdown in October and even though some fans haven't enjoyed the feud it has been something fresh. I do believe that this will be the blow-off of the feud to allow Roman to begin setting his focus on a big Wrestlemania match for the upcoming event. With that being said Roman Reigns will get the victory.
Raw Women's Championship:
(c) Becky Lynch vs Asuka
For once WWE has been booking Asuka quite well during her feud with Becky Lynch to the point that Asuka is a believable challenger for the long reigning Women's Champion. At this point Becky has held the Women's Championship for the last 293 days and it might be time for something different even if it's for a short period of time. Asuka gets the win and will hold two women's championship.
WWE United States Championship:
(c) Andrade w/ Zelina Vega vs Humberto Carrillo
One of the best parts of Paul Heyman's Raw is that he has been giving the spotlight to fresh faces and some have broken through while others have been struggling to find their footing. It doesn't matter though, because the only way Paul will give up on Humberto is if he told to move on and find someone else. There is no doubting though that Andrade has finally found himself and has a ton of potential to keep growing as a star and move to the main event in 2020. Keeping that in mind I do think it'd be a little soon to make the title switch so I see Carrillo being screwed and Andrade keeping the gold tonight and continuing the feud past Royal Rumble.
Smackdown Women's Championship:
(c) Bayley vs Lacey Evans
This is the push that they should've done from the start with Lacey Evans as she has depth to her character and her earned her place in the division. Bayley has become more like any other member of the roster and less like the best as the company leaned to much on her heel turn and the shock that came with and didn't add enough to it early on like they should have. I do think that Bayley will get one over on Lacey and keep her title tonight.
WWE Universal Championship:
(c) "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt vs Daniel Bryan
Bryan and Bray Wyatt have always been the perfect match for each other having great chemistry in the ring together. Outside of the one misstep after the Hell in a Cell things have never been better for Bray Wyatt in his WWE career. It is clear though at this point that Bray will hold onto his World Title for the foreseeable future as it's time for WWE to keep holding onto a hot hand. Daniel has his moment and still needs to find his ground footing as a good guy again.
WWE Women's Royal Rumble:
One of my favorite parts of the year is the Royal Rumble and it is always interesting to see how WWE will fill up this years Royal Rumble. After how the Survivor Series match went this past year with the NXT Women winning the match it is possible that they give the win to a women as a way to call up a new star. I would like to see Sonya Deville or Mandy Rose get a chance to shine in the Rumble and maybe Toni Storm or Dakota Kai get that same opportunity. Shayna Baszler would be my ideal choice as an NXT performer that could win the Royal Rumble after dropping her women's championship to Rhea Ripley. I could see Ronda Rousey returning to win the Royal Rumble or Charlotte getting the win to add another layer to her ever present hall of fame worthy career.
WWE Men's Royal Rumble:
Not going to lie having Brock Lesnar start this year's match at entry one adds a very interesting dynamic to the match. Hopefully they will have it set up that whoever eliminates Brock Lesnar will then gain a title opportunity or at least a match with the WWE Champion. With only 26 entrants announced for the match it is pretty clear that there will be four surprises in the match tonight. After seeing Keith Lee win the North American title I don't think he will be one of them as he still has some time left in NXT, but Edge could be one of them. I think that Buddy Murphy and Ricochet will be given the chance to have a stand out performance in the match based on their rising stocks on Raw. It is always tough to select the winner of the Royal Rumble and that is fun part as it is the only unpredictable point of the WWE's year. The final four will be Drew McIntyre, Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, and Big E in my opinion. Kevin Owens will win the Royal Rumble based on the idea of them trying to elevate him as a top face on Raw and in WWE.
As a viewer of wrestling you want to know that what your watching means something other wise you may feel like your wasting your time. This lends to my favorite go to of long term booking, because having a long term plan makes it easier to make sure matches on programming has meaning. It is important that gimmick matches have meaning, because some matches like a battle royal can be use to plan for the future. In my opinion, a battle royal can be a great tool to plan for the future and add a little more depth to rivalries.
Since Takeover War Games back in November a slowly developing rivalry between former partners Dakota Kai and Tegan Nox has fans talking. The amount of aggression we have seen from Dakota since her heel turn has been adding layer after layer to her character development. Turning heel by injuring Tegan and attacking her bad knee as she knows as good as anyone Tegan's injury history. Starting the feud that way also kicks off the characteristics for each combatant with Tegan taken on a sympathetic role and Dakota taking on the aggressive role respectively. With Tegan Nox being taken out of the match after Dakota Kai pulled her off the top rope.
One of the main differences between NXT and WWE is they have always done better with keeping talent busy then they did on the main roster. Now with Shayna Baszler out of the title picture for the time being she needs something to keep her on television and after this battle royal she has unfinished business with Shotzi Blackhart and after the new comer surprised the former champion with an elimination. It is also possible that Shotzi starts with Deonna Purrazzo after Purrazzo attacked Blackhart during the match leaving some tension on the table. In the forthcoming weeks it is possible that we can see a resolution of unfinished business as WWE starts setting the stage for Takeover: Tampa the night before Wrestlemania.
As everyone knows by now earlier in the year WWE named new executive directors to handle the creative direction of Raw and Smackdown. At first Eric Bischoff and Paul Heyman were given the positions of power to operate Raw and Smackdown to take some pressure off Vince McMahon and shake things up. For obvious reasons though Bischoff was sent home as the match didn't fit and was replaced by Bruce Prichard. However, Heyman has stayed on Raw and things have begun to change and we have started to see the finger prints of an evil genius.
In recent months Heyman has attempted to push some talent like McIntyre, Alexander, Ricochet, Andrade, and various others. Even though things have seemingly fallen off for Cedric likely due to his promo skills lacking a little bit. I think that things have really hit the ground running for some guys as the fans have taken to Ricochet, Humberto Carillio, and McIntyre as they have been featured in a more prominent role on the show. Ever since the October draft WWE has had to spend time rebuilding Raw and using AJ Styles, Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio and Seth Rollins they have planted the ground work to do exactly that. One name I was surprised to his status elevate was Rey Mysterio, but I'm glad they gave him one more push on the top of the company with Brock Lesnar.
One thing that Paul has been trying to make a focus again is finishing matches with the wrestlers finishing moves instead of using them as a false finish and using jobber matches to allow certain talent to build momentum. The latter point has been a big part of the developing Aleister Black and Buddy Murphy rivalry allowing the up and coming stars to have a one ups man-ship rivalry. Another focus of Paul has been a former calling card of his which was intertwining feuds seen in ECW through the Tommy Dreamer/Raven rivalry. With Rollins feuding with Owens, then planting seeds in a feud with Mysterio which brings Styles or Orton into the rivalry as well. It will be interesting to see where the rebuild of Raw goes in 2020 with a full year of Heyman being able to build the brand to his likeness with some input from Vince McMahon. Either way 2020 will be an interesting year for Raw, WWE and Paul Heyman.
It is always surprising or borderline shocking when the WWE runs a feud for more than a few months and actually let's the talent talk instead overdoing it with matches. Normally we get sick of seeing some parings of talent after a few weeks, but this feud with Rusev and Lashley has developed into a feud that cannot be missed on a week to week basis. I don't really know what the difference between this feud and when Rusev, Lana, Dolph Ziggler, and Summer Rae had a similar rivalry a few years ago other than chemistry. Lashley has been a man without a direction since his return to WWE last year and then he turned heel and got Lio Rush on his side but that tapered out real quick and never really went anywhere to big with.
As for Rusev there was time when they had the opportunity to give him a spot as top heel and face, but didn't follow through with it either occasion. Upon his arrival on the main roster Rusev was one of the top heels in the company and had all the momentum in the world then enter his lackluster feud with Cena, and poof it disappeared. Fast forward to the debut of Rusev Day and suddenly Rusev has become the hottest face in WWE and he has another chance to be a top star, but the company kills it for whatever reason. Now after slowly building this long arch and building sympathy for Rusev after he spent weeks being embarrassed by Lana & Lashley things finally started to change.
Overall this is how a proper long term feud is built starts slow and then adds a reason to hate someone and sympathize with someone else then you're off from there. Even though this feud has it's critics and I'm still unsure about it, but I can put that aside in favor of some long term booking from WWE for once with Rusev & Lashley both bound to benefit from this feud in the long term. I just hope they know when to call it a day and move forward and then have some new planned for both guys after this feud has ran it's course.
Now with the last of the big four PPV's out of the way we now can look forward to the new year and the start of the hottest time of year for WWE. After catching up on the action and seeing who came out the winners and losers from Survivor Series there are somethings we need to question. At first I didn't understand the ending of the Women's Tag Match, but then I saw it and still have questions. Specifically about how pointless it was to have Io Shiari and Candice LeRae get "injured" mid-match only to return at the end to give Rhea an advantage against Sasha Banks. Number one Sasha is the heel and one of the top heels in the Smackdown division for that matter Io is a heel on NXT and Candice and Rhea are faces so it was really questionable booking. Now NXT winning did make the division look strong, but it could've done a lot cleaner and they didn't need to protect Sasha at all.
Other than that Survivor Series seemed like a very solid event, but is a little to repetitive in the match types and there has to be another way to battle for brand supremacy and build matches with actual depth & story to them rather than leaning on a concept a lot of fans don't care about. Mind you about a month ago both Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins were able to appear on either Raw or Smackdown, but now after the draft in October they are insanely loyal to Raw and Smackdown respectively and we are suppose to believe that without question? I don't understand it as it makes fans think that WWE thinks they are stupid. That point aside if WWE wants to make brand loyalty such a big deal then keep the brands a part from now until Survivor Series next year with no interaction between them and build off this years event have a feud or two about brand loyalty.
Overall it seems like they have finally caved in a turned Seth Rollins to the other side officially embracing the recent course of boos he had been receiving from the audience and will be one of the top heels on Raw. This could open the door for a new face to rise to the top of the red brand which could make for some interesting television the next few months. After Raw it is pretty clear that Seth Rollins could end up feuding with just about anyone after his address to the Raw roster. Later on in the week I will looking at Smackdown and NXT the same way I reasoned things out with Raw.
Survivor Series 2019
NXT Cruiserweight Championship:
(C) Lio Rush vs Angel Garza
(C) Adam Cole vs Pete Dunne
Dunne netted this chance last night winning a triple threat match against Killian Dain and Damian Priest. This is one of if not Pete's first chance at the NXT title and we won't be seeing a real finish as this will likely be the start of things to come for Pete. With that being said Adam will take the win tonight.
Women's Survivor Series Elimination Match
Raw (Charlotte Flair, Natalya, The Kabuki Warriors & Sarah Logan) vs. SmackDown (Sasha Banks, Carmella, Dana Brooke, Lacey Evans & Nikki Cross) vs. NXT (Rhea Ripley, Candice LaRae, Biance Belair, Io Shirai, Toni Storm)
I am going to use the same prediction for both of these matches because I think it's a big mistake having these type of matches as they never work and are nothing more then rushed clusterf***. In my opinion it would be better to have a triple threat tag match to cut down on the amount of people in the match and allow more time to showcase the talent involved especially for the debuting NXT stars. I believe that the fans will likely turn on both matches if they go for too long. Team NXT gets the win, because I think they'll let them win one of the matches and it is more likely they let them win the win this one instead of the men's match.
Men's Survivor Series Elimination Match -- Raw (Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Randy Orton, Drew McIntyre & Ricochet) vs. SmackDown (Roman Reigns, King Corbin, Ali, Shorty G, and Braun Strowman) vs. NXT (TBA)
I am going to use the same prediction for both of these matches because I think it's a big mistake having these type of matches as they never work and are nothing more then rushed clusterf***. In my opinion it would be better to have a triple threat tag match to cut down on the amount of people in the match and allow more time to showcase the talent involved especially for the debuting NXT stars. I believe that the fans will likely turn on both matches if they go for too long. It is kinda pointless to have Shawn Michaels announce the men's team for NXT on the day of the show, because knowing the team ahead of time would allow fans to anticipate the moments they will see in the match tonight. Either way I'm going to take Team Raw as I think the tension will be too much for Smackdown to overcome.
Champion vs Champion vs Champion
(c) New Day vs (c) Undisputed Era vs (c) Viking Raiders
WWE has a tendency to try and pack all the talent they possibly can on the big shows which always negatively effects the big shows. I know I mentioned that the Traditional Survivor Series elimination match should be a triple threat match instead of a 15 man triple threat tag match, but seeing to many multi-person matches is a bit of overkill and brings up the question of why not give more singles matches and squeeze so many people into one show. I would like to see Undisputed Era win this one as it is their main roster debut, but they don't need a win and could just give a solid performance especially if they aren't going up to the main roster for a while. New Day could get the win as they are still fresh as champions at this point.
Champion vs Champion vs Champion
(c) Roderick Strong vs (c) AJ Styles vs (c) Shinsuke Nakamura w/ Sami Zayn
So here is another problem with matches like this because everyone in this match is a bad guy and it will be interesting to see who if anyone is cheered by the Chicago crowd. Interestingly enough the North American Title is the most prestigious championship in the match which offers an indication of poorly the main roster championships are taken care of yearly. Considering nobody really gains anything from this match even though they really should as wins should matter, but they don't either way though. Nakamura gets the win as a surprise cause I think most people expect Styles to win.
Champion vs Champion vs Champion
(c) Becky Lynch vs (c) Bayley vs (c) Shayna Baszler
This is a major test for Baszler against two of the best from the main roster's women's division much like Roddy is getting his test with AJ and Nakamura. Baszler has been a dominate force since winning the Women's title on NXT getting through every test and I have a feeling a friend of hers could give her a hand tonight, but that's just me. Baszler will get the win shocking everyone.
WWE Universal Championship Match:
(c) "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt vs Daniel Bryan
This is the match that we should've seen five years ago when Bryan's "Yes Movement" kicked off following his departure from the Wyatt Family. My how things have changed in the last few years for both men with Bryan coming out of retirement and Wyatt finally finding his footing. In my opinion, early on in a new champions reign there are suppose to be some get me over feuds aka short feuds just to get the reign going. I disagree with Wyatt having a short feud with Bryan especially considering the two men's previous history. Either way though Wyatt will get the win as they continue to build The Fiend.
WWE Championship Match:
(c) Brock Lesnar vs Rey Mysterio
This by far has been the most unexpected feud in recent memory as I never thought that Mysterio & Lesnar would have a feud or end up main eventing Survivor Series. I can honestly say that this has been a solid feud and a great way to introduce Mysterio's son onto WWE programming if this is there way of bringing the kid in as an active competitor. At this point I have given up thinking much about Brock matches, because I believe that they have things planned out with Brock months in advance. With that being said they know where they want Brock for Mania at this point and it likely is with him holding the WWE Championship. Brock wins a solid match and retains the gold.
It's been five years since CM Punk walked out the door and left us with so many freaking questions and clamoring for his return. I will admit that it got to the point for me that I moved on and didn't care if he came back or not. First off CM Punk is not an active wrestler at this point and isn't even a WWE employee and is just Fox employee that's all. As he mentions he has no desire to enter the ring right now, but it could take to long to rehab and find that interest again. Basically I think one of the reasons Punk returned is that isn't a WWE opportunity and is something he hadn't done before.
Watching him get introduced on WWE Backstage gave me goosebumps. I do have to agree with Punk's opinion that wrestling could be much better and hasn't changed much since he left in 2014. Knowing that Punk had butterflies before his return meant that this is something he is excited to be able to do and that this was the right time for his return. Knowing that he isn't a WWE employee and can freely speak his opinion on the product and be as open as he wants is a great thing for the new program and could only help catch fans attention.
Sharing my thoughts, opinion, and historical facts on everything WWE both past and present