Might be a little rusty as it's been a while or it feels like it's been a while since I've written much on the site. Either way though it's Royal Rumble season which means I had to spend sometime watching a Rumble from the past. This year I chose the Royal Rumble from 1997 and boy was it something else. One of the main things I noticed was the fact that it was a very silent crowd and a lot of that could've been chalked up to the Alamo Dome being a very large building, but it was the between time. This Royal Rumble falls in a time where WWE isn't the hottest company in the world and is actually about a month away from the lowest rated Raw in company history which would take place overseas.
Audio issues early in the match left you wondering what was happening as superstars would just appear and there really wasn't much from the fans until Ahmed Johnson appeared with an exceptionally large 2 x 4 to attack Faarooq. Even with an in fusion of AAA stars including Latin Lover, Mil Mascaras and Cibernetico it didn't drum up a reaction as I believe most WWE fans wouldn't have known who these guy were or why they should care about them. One takeaway is when Mil Mascaras eliminated himself by jumping off the top to the floor technically not going over the top rope so even though his feet hit the floor he shouldn't be eliminated.
The amount of Royal Rumble debuts within the match should how deep the transition was the company was going through at the time. For those who might not know 1997 Royal Rumble was actually Goldust's first Royal Rumble. I also couldn't help but notice the amount of praise that Vince was heaping on Rocky Maivia upon him entering the match. There was also a nice mixture of surprise performances and expected solid performances based on knowing history. Terry Funk had the most surprising performance being in the ring for a lot long then I would've expected especially being the hometown hero. The expected solid performances came from The Rock, Austin and Mankind as I would say think about the upcoming year.
Earlier this week it was reported that Vince McMahon returned to WWE's board of directors after being removed from power over the summer. Vince alongside George Barrios and Michelle Wilson returned to WWE as members of the board of directors. According to the various reports Vince made a plea to return to WWE to assist with the eventual media rights agreements and a potential sale. It isn't the first time that a conversation about WWE being up for sale has boiled to the forefront of the news cycle.
This honestly is the first that I can remember potential suitors being actually discussed and a possibility of an actual sale going through. WWE has always been a company owned by the McMahon family and the idea of the company not being owned by the family would be surreal. It is in this video where I break down the potential suitors for WWE and the likely nature of each possibly purchasing WWE. To think a sale could happen within the next three to six months is absolutely surreal.
A lot has changed since Triple H took control of WWE creative. Including a number of former stars have returned to the company thanks to Triple H correcting the mistakes made by Vince McMahon. There were some questions for the future of certain stars within the company that were among Vince's go to members of the roster. Triple H is trying to slowly recreate WWE and thus far is doing a very spectacular job of recreating the WWE in the image that he was trying to create on a smaller scale with NXT.
On Raw last week Lashley was surprised by a returning Brock Lesnar who indirectly cost him his United States Championship. This week Lashley went on the offensive and this is the first time we've seen someone dominate Brock Lesnar like this since his feud with the Undertaker a few years back. I know this match is leading to a meeting at Crown Jewel next month and thus far keeping Lashley as a threat to Brock has gone well which is something they need to do going toward Saudi Arabia. For me though seeing Brock work someone else other than Roman Reigns is a positive in itself.
Seeing Miz finally get a measure of revenge on the mysterious Dexter Lumis is a positive and unexpected way to keep the feud going without having the two in the ring. Thus far the mind games have been a go to for the mysterious Dexter who hasn't been in the ring since his return to the company. My only question is if he doesn't have an official WWE contract then why is he entering from the entrance ramp and not from the crowd or under the ring.
Last note is I like the inclusion of NXT stars looking to the main roster for help as it adds an unexpected wrinkle to the feuds on the white and gold brand. Also it allows names like Cora Jade, Cameron Grimes and others to be seen on the main roster before they officially make the move from NXT. I do think that some of the problem in the past was assuming that everyone would know the NXT star right from the start which isn't the case as not everyone watches NXT. Small windows like this are a great way to allow WWE to peak the curiosity of the fans to find more about the members of NXT.
A number of fans have been clamoring for the return of one of the most charismatic members of the WWE roster. One of the many names that stuck out from the outset after NXT changed to NXT 2.0 was the man LA Knight. Fans were excited though when the veteran was brought to the main roster only for the excitement to be cut when his name was changed to Max Dupri. The Maximum Male Model gimmick isn't a horrible gimmick as it has given both Mansoor and Mace new life and allowed both men to show there entertaining side.
Last week on Smackdown we saw it happen!! For weeks it seemed like Maxine Dupri would be taking over control of the faction from her brother Max. It seemed as though we were seeing Max slowly evolving back into his former persona. Since Triple H took over control of creative a few months ago he has been slowly correcting the mistakes his father in-law had put in place including changing LA Knight. Age is a factor for LA Knight, but if the current ageless roster is anything to keep in mind then we might be seeing one of the future headliners take his career by the horns. Let me talk to ya.... Yeah..... Yeah!!
One name has been looming no pun intended since the creative change over the summer and that man is Dexter Lumis. The former NXT star made his main roster debut a few months ago and since then has seemingly taken to a major interest in mind games with The Miz and now Tomasso Ciampa as well if last Monday is any indication. Lumis has been presented since his return as someone to be feared and someone who acts without much thought. Before his departure from NXT one half of the former InDex had been one of the most unpredictable stars on the roster. On the main roster though I think he has taken the unpredictability to a whole other level.
As often as I've preached, the importance of long term booking the art or act of presenting stars in a certain way is just as important. Recent articles have been focused on the Judgement Day and the need for the stable to be presented as winners if the company wants any hope of Rey vs Dominik being something people care about. I still believe that Dominik should be the one in the team so he can continue to work in the ring or at least put him to work on Main Event or something. The reason I bring up Judgement Day though is Dexter Lumis has been presented in such a way that the fans have learned and now are reacting. Lumis should be the example that the company follows with as the creative direction continues to change.
In my opinion, continuing to build this slowly is the ideal way to go as there is no reason to rush into a match. For example, Miz can contend that he will be hiding in an undisclosed location until the Lumis problem is taken care of which allows Ciampa to try and handle it. Could also have Ciampa with Miz for a few weeks in the undisclosed location until Ciampa wants to fight. All the options the company has for this feud makes this one of the most intriguing and underrated current feuds in the wrestling world.
Things have taken an interesting turn for the Judgment Day and momentum seems to be tracking in the right direction. Based on his booking in NXT under Triple H it's clear that Finn Balor is looked at as a potential top star. Many times in the past I have referenced the importance of long term planning and it seems likely that Triple H is developing his own long term plan. Adding Dom to the faction gave them a different type of momentum and new type of heat that they can build on. I mentioned in a past article about how important momentum would be for the faction now with Dom as a member.
This week on Raw we saw an in ring segment including Balor, Priest and Riddle. However, the entire faction needs to keep building momentum and being looked at as more of a threat to be looked at in the same regard as Matt Riddle. It seems possible that if there is a future they could be looking for ways to keep Judgment Day busy and in front of the camera, but also bring Dominik forward. I do still believe that Dom's best bet would be teaming with Priest for the time being while Balor would be the singles star and the final boss of the faction.
In my opinion, the booking of the Judgment Day faction has been subpar to this point. It can be changed and made better and it will be made better based on recent events. There is money to be made with Finn as the leader of a stable and top heel on the main roster. It's something we've never gotten the chance to see on the main roster, but Finn as a top level talent is something that NXT has had the pleasure to see. Balor leading the Judgment Day into a feud against Riddle would be an ideal way to keep the stable's momentum moving forward or Lashley would be another ideal candidate. Either way it's decision time for the Judgement Day and Triple H needs to pick a direction.
The big surprise from earlier in the year was seeing Edge attempt a heel turn to create a darker character alongside a faction. It was clear though that the faction wasn't working and Edge would soon be replaced by Finn Balor who would turn heel joining Damien Priest & Rhea Ripley. For the last few months Judgement Day has been in a heated rivalry with The Mysterio's and Edge. This past weekend in Cardiff saw Edge and Rey Mysterio reunite after nearly twenty years teaming against Judgement Day. The Judgement Day got the last laugh after the match when Dominik turned on Edge and his father.
The main problem with the Judgement Day is that they have had a tough time keeping momentum steady or gaining any steady traction. Following this weeks Raw and what seemed like the Judgement Day taking out Edge they need to gain some wins and get traction going. Especially considering Dom's heel turn and needing to build him up for the eventual match with his father, but before then he needs wins. Balor as the leader should be a featured talent and could be a top heel if given the chance to prove himself over again then he could be an asset. The best way to proceed for the company would be splitting the championships again one for each show this way someone like Finn Balor could be a featured heel challenging for the World Title.
Another idea would be Finn Balor dropping the challenge on Lashley if it's time for him to move on from The Miz. Until the World Championship is split once again the United States Championship should be the featured championship on Raw. Especially considering how well Lashley has been booked as the champion it would only help Balor, but he needs wins and some momentum before challenging anyone of prominence. In my opinion, Balor being the top singles star in the faction would leave Dom and Priest as the tandem challenging teams in the tag division. Placing Dom in a team would allow breathing room for the eventual match with his dad and take some pressure off of him to allow him to create a new character without having the spotlight. Ripley has been absent from the Women's division for long and I'd keep it that way for now as it would mean a bit more when they move her back in. The main thing Judgement Day needs is to be booked as if they were Balor's stable in NXT and not on the main roster.
Though it seems as though other matches may likely be added to the card ahead of Saturday as there are currently only six matches set for the event. It is also possible that there will not be any other matches added and the matches that are announced could be getting a ton of time. This would be the first official premium event under the creative direction of Triple H. Remember normally on the original NXT Takeover events each match especially the major matches were given a ton of time to really put on display why they are the featured matches.
An NXT inclusion is always a possibility to try and elevate the youngsters on the developmental brand. Planning and placement will really put on display the plan for the rest of the year and I expect some unexpected matches to get real time to be on display and correct more of the past damage. One name missing from the card that has been busy on Raw is United States Champion Bobby Lashley. Lashley has been busy with Miz, Ciampa, and AJ Styles in recent weeks so it could be expected to see the United States Champion featured on the card.
Honestly, I can't pinpoint one or two stars that will be elevated or are expected to put in a career making performance. It is expected that Triple H will look to elevate and or correct the career path of individuals that suffered under Vince McMahon. Riddle has been hitting his strides in recent weeks and is one many helping to create a bit more depth on top for WWE in the coming year. Based on his reign as UK Champion Gunther has the track record to become the most dominant Intercontinental Champion in recent memory and I believe Hunter will be looking to that reasonable plan. Especially the draw of Pete Dunne floating in the background as a viable challenger for Gunther if things continue with Sheamus.
Two of the most talked about matches on the card are the Undisputed Universal Championship contest with Roman Reigns defending against Drew McIntyre. The other match is Bayley, Dakota Kai, Io Sky up against Raw Women's Champion Bianca Belair, Asuka, and Alexa Bliss. Expect the spotlight to be turned up bright on this match and the biggest question will be answered will Drew McIntyre finally be the one to dethrone Roman Reigns.
At first it seemed like the yearly draft was set to take place following the upcoming Clash at the Castle event in Cardiff. However, it seems like those place might be on hold for the time being as the draft is going to happen after Clash at the Castle as of now. The timing does make sense due to the current crop of changes taking place within WWE, but at the same time the old placement of the draft made so much more sense. During the original split and for a time before Smackdown moved to Fox the draft would take place soon after Wrestlemania.
Considering the idea of brand vs brand at Survivor Series it seems a bit shortsighted to have new members of a brand competing against one another so soon after joining a brand. I would like to acknowledge the fact that with the unification matches that have taken place this year it seems like the battle for brand supremacy might be a thing of the past as they can't do champion vs champion anymore. However, moving the draft to earlier in the year would allow for talent to be a on brand for longer and create more loyalty rather then an expectation of loyalty.
In the past the draft was soon after Wrestlemania which in effect would keep the fans interest following Wrestlemania as the company would be hitting the reset button to shake things up following the "season finale." I still remember the old commercials where Vince would say "It's time to shake things up again." I know that this may put off the NXT call ups, but it would also allow for NXT wrestlers to call up during the year outside of the draft. This may end up allowing for NXT call ups to once again be a special surprise rather than something anticipated or expected.
A video has been circulating with Paul Heyman taking center stage offering advice to the recruits who hope to make themselves stick out from within the WWE. Sell me your name is what Paul Heyman implored the recruits to try and stick and get those who were running the show to remember them. Since the retirement announcement from Vince McMahon news has been spreading about the likelihood of Paul Heyman taking a more active role in creative due to his friendship with Stephanie and Hunter. In the past when Heyman was given minor control of Raw you saw a small piece of his plan to establish young stars, but he was never given enough control to allow his vision to take shape.
Heyman has always been a creative genius and an expert at getting the most out of the least. Hiding the negatives and exploiting the positives of wrestlers. Heyman isn't perfect, but being kept focused and being given a direction where he doesn't have to do everything will only make Heyman that much better. Triple H has shown what he can do on a lower level within the ranks of NXT developing the brand into something special much more than anyone expected.
For the last forty years the WWE has had one direction fixated on the simple concept of sports entertainment. At its height NXT was pro-wrestling and the polar opposite of WWE, but the reality is the main company is at its best when they find a balance. The first goal should be setting up a white board in the office with Wrestlemania and Summerslam the main points and building backwards. The amount of times that I've heard stories about Vince McMahon building backward from a Wrestlemania aka long term booking it used to be commonplace. Triple H has more of an old school approach and with that comes a likely return to long term booking.
Having multiple avenues is a perk, but micromanaging week to week is a danger to any business especially in television. A story arch is something commonplace in television and pro-wrestling having no direction or story arch makes having "storylines" pointless, because what ends up being the payoff. Wrestling still fits the simple formula: every feud ends with a payoff and the weekly television is supposed to build and give fans a reason to watch the PPVs. I have doubts especially with Heyman's help Triple H will adjust well into his new position and that by Wrestlemania next year we should be seeing a new vision for the WWE that leads the company into a brighter future.
Sharing my thoughts, opinion, and historical facts on everything WWE both past and present