We’ve now passed two Raws after Wrestlemania, and it’s safe to say the fans have a lot to look forward to. The actual spectacle which was Wrestlemania may not have made much sense in terms of booking, but maybe fans should start to look past that. Normally the WWE comes out on fire after their biggest show of the year, then quickly cool down until Summerslam. For some reason, that doesn’t feel like the case right now. Something in the air has changed. Of course, everything they’ve built in the past three television shows can go down the drain by next week, but we should try to be optimistic.
Let’s compare the past fews Raws before Mania to the ones following it. There’s a huge change. Credit should definitely be given to Vince McMahon, as he’s the one taking these new risks.
Apart from enhancement talent, every character has been given a clean slate, regardless of the results at Mania. On Monday’s episode of Raw, most competitors were given serious roles. Sami Zayn, AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Cesaro, and the entire tag division were great examples of this. These few superstars have easily become the focal points, and I believe that’s part of the reason the reception has been great.
Both Zayn and Owens were booked to lose on this show, however that didn’t hurt their status. Instead, it progressed their character development. Zayn proved that he could hang with the likes of AJ Styles, but not enough to beat him. Wrestlers that lose matches aren’t necessarily buried. There’s many occasions where a loss can actually elevate certain performers, like it did with Zayn. I don’t think any fan would look at him as just a regular midcarder, as he pushed the number one contender to his limits. Considering that Sami was recently called up, it means a lot. Owens is now being positioned as someone that dominated all of 2015, but is having a hard time adjusting to the idea of losing. That shows the fans that this performer is not okay with losing. I don’t believe there’s a better way to book a small losing streak than that.
Does Cesaro have a new skip to his step or is the company just putting more spotlight on him? I’d go with the latter. This type of push may not have been possible if he wasn’t injured. I see this as the WWE capitalizing on the momentum of his return and performance from the fatal four way match. That’s how all returning stars should be booked. Along with that, he was only working with relevant superstars such as Owens and the Miz. A bad example of this would be how Del Rio returned in October 2015.
AJ Styles looked like a complete threat to Roman on this show. You can even say, he’s being booked phenomenally (pardon the pun). As much as I wanted to see Sami Zayn overcome the odds, it was the right choice for AJ to go over. Styles needed to look stronger than anybody else he encountered. The announce team also deserves an applause on how well they put him over. The trio continuously talked about how he was the number one contender. I believe that’s how a championship feud should be built, where someone is simply wanting to be champion more than anything else. Keep in mind, this is the first time since November that the championship is being defended in that way, and not used as a prop for to put over a wrestler.
Has the tag team division ever felt more relevant? The tournament gimmick alone made every tag match important on Monday (excluding the main event). The WWE is riding off the success of the New Day, and they’re starting to realize that they need more for that division. There’s already been three new teams introduced.
What makes all of this click has been their ability to keep stories simple. At the end of the day, wrestling just needs compelling figures who are fighting for the top spot in the company. It’s fairly easy to understand. That way grudge matches can actually be special when they happen. Take a look at the current feuds in the script, and you’ll realize there’s nothing overly extravagant. I believe this allows the performers to put on a better show as well. None of them have to worry about delivering complex lines, or act completely out of character. Roman Reigns has been a clear victim to complex stories. Before Fastlane, he was forced to act of character, and he played someone that didn’t make sense to the audience. Well his past few promos have proven otherwise. As of now, he’s just a man that wants to stay on top of the food chain, and welcomes all challengers.