With recent news emerging that 205 Live has been taken over by Triple H, thereby shifting the tone of the show, this last week I couldn’t help but ponder whether or not there were similar shifts occurring throughout WWE’s main roster programming. Nothing as drastic as a change in management of course, but I’ve noted the general air around Monday Night Raw (MNR) in particular has felt ever so slightly different these last couple of weeks.
I love the new angular red and white production design for one, but the talking head promos filmed on what I presume are smart phones feel refreshing too. Whether they are or not, they certainly come off as more individual and less homogenously scripted. This last week’s latest introduction of kicking the show off with two such promos leading into a match very simply introduced by Michael Cole was worlds better than any twenty minute talking segment in the ring to reach the same ends – I hope to see more of that approach!
Aside from these general changes, character seems to be getting placed front and centre in simmering narratives throughout MNR’s undercard right now. What’s more, while the build to the Elimination Chamber Match itself is as generic as you might expect, the inflections going on in and around even that are jumping out, and they are all rather quite engaging; and, possibly, even a wink towards what might be waiting in the future of WWE’s fictional universe!
My name is Samuel ‘Plan, and this is the Performance Art Raw View.
Bayley’s Best Being Back at the Bottom of the Pile
Sasha Banks’ match with Asuka a couple of weeks ago turned heads; in some ways for the right reasons, in some ways for the wrong. It was the continued resurgence of the true Boss we came to know and admire in NXT that really made me go to bat for it. That same demonstration of development through regression continued this week, I felt, with Bayley’s own effort against the Empress of Tomorrow.
Bayley’s fall from grace on the main roster is well documented, but in the end might come to greatly benefit the Serial Hugger. It was her gradual clawing toward the mountaintop that served her so well during her time in NXT, and that has been sorely lacking from the narrative of her main roster career thus far. In finding herself sinking back towards the bottom of the pile of MNR’s women’s division, Bayley also finds herself confronted with the same fight for recognition that she endured so endearingly on the Golden Brand.
Matches like the one she compiled with Asuka this last week only feed into that. It’s safer more cerebral approach built the same, if not greater atmosphere of urgency as that found in the Boss’s challenge the week prior via a series of momentary breathless exchanges, while the drama in the finish was left wonderfully restrained. Bayley’s posture was noticeably more aggressive than normal – “She’s trying to match Asuka with physicality, Corey!” Cole exclaimed at one late stage – and her counters to some of Asuka’s most dangerous manoeuvres demonstrated her superior experience in the ring with Asuka than Banks’ own. Smooth, mature and intelligent, I loved everything about it, but most especially its doomed fighting spirit. For now, in conjunction with such valiant but ultimately inadequate efforts, the bottom of the pile might, ironically, be the most successful place for Bayley to be.
Asuka’s victory, then, was perhaps inevitable; history should have told us as much. Her undefeated streak continues to ratchet up the wins, but the Empress must be careful. The higher she rises, the farther she’ll fall when that first inevitable defeat comes her way. That’s just Nature, right?
What’s Next for the Architect?
The Bar’s outrage in the face of General Manager Kurt Angle’s last minute approval of Roman Reigns partnering with Seth Rollins in the latter’s outwardly acknowledged final chance to win back the tag silver from the current champions was perfectly understandable this last week. Not only did it mean the dysfunctional team of Rollins and Jason Jordan had been replaced once again by an unbreakable brotherhood not dissimilar to that of Rollins and Dean Ambrose – that overcame The Bar’s own velveteen smooth unity throughout last autumn – but Rollins and Reigns were former Tag Team Champions in their own right too thanks to their statement-making run in 2013 five years ago.
The inelegant effectiveness of Rollins and Ambrose was thus replaced by the championship calibre of Rollins and Reigns in last Monday’s MNR Tag Team Championship Match, as the hometown boy and the Big Dog quickly settled back into tandem offence like it was second nature. They were the very visage of confidence and justified swagger.
Conversely, their clash demonstrated, while The Bar perhaps lack the instant chemistry of any two Hounds, they are on a constant learning curve with their adaptability now beginning to mark what makes them such a tremendous team in their own right. Indeed, their partnership was born out of the need to adapt, and it was in adapting to the independently spirited tactics of the Hounds that they were able to hold their own in defensive posture much more successfully this time; where before, months ago, they had been overwhelmed.
Despite Rollins putting in a fiery, sublime performance even by his own standards as he once again pursued the success he so badly craves, it was thanks to Jordan’s intervening that the Hounds came up short; as they did weeks ago in six man action alongside the GM’s son. This raises the question as to what’s next for the Architect, though. Jordan was sent home until doctor’s clear him, perhaps precluding any immediate opportunity at revenge for the Kingslayer, and with Monday being his final chance at The Bar’s championships it seems another attempt with a fourth partner – such as the rumoured Finn Bálor – is out of the question.
All I know is that his failure last week, caused as it was by an outside party, won’t sit well with him, and whether it’s finding a way to attempt to qualify for the pending Elimination Chamber Match alongside his brother Roman Reigns in spite of the announced Fatal 4 Way Match set to take place tomorrow, or whether it’s lucking into an unexpectedly speedy chance at revenge against Jordan in lieu of recent emerging news on the man’s health, it seems the Kingslayer might be locked once again on another inevitable collision course with MNR’s powers-that-be….
“Anyone but you, Roman.”
In the early days of MNR, matches were quite simply announced the week before they took place and then they happened. There was no on-air match making or fake sense of due process, and there were no twenty minute talking segments to open the show. I therefore loved the old school manner in which last Monday’s show opened up, with Bray Wyatt proclaiming himself the waiting horror at the bottom of Reigns’ current downward spiral.
That’s fitting, of course. Wyatt, being the embodiment of any man’s worst fears, remains the physical manifestation of Reigns’ fears of inadequacy for the top spot he’s pursued for years now. Having lost both the Royal Rumble Match and the Intercontinental Championship in recent times, of course those inadequacies resurfaced strongly as Reigns vied for a spot in the Elimination Chamber Match; possibly his last shot at being in a top spot at WrestleMania.
It was a fight not easily won for the Big Dog. At one stage, he was a picture of defeat; sitting in symbolic position atop the top rope, he collapsed into Wyatt’s embrace as Bray proclaimed that familiar haunting truth that has dogged Reigns since 2015: “Anyone but you, Roman!” But in a sign that this was a more battled hardened and unapologetic Reigns to the one Wyatt combated back then, Reigns quickly re-emerged with a defiant roar and furious counter.
That defiance – that also underlined his words before the action – eventually saw him come out on top and silence his insecurities for a little while longer yet. Tantalisingly, though, these two will clash in the future and it might be a different story then. You saw the giddiness in Wyatt’s eyes as he came to realise how much stronger Reigns had grown, in light of Roman’s kicking out of trademark moves and finishing moves both. That’s because Wyatt has had a taste of what he could glean from this newly scarred Reigns; and, it seems, he likes it enough not to forget it any time soon.
Though there might seemingly have been little consequence emerging from this last week’s edition of MNR when it comes to the ever-closer Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, there was nevertheless a lot foundation laid for some future, fatalistic revelations. Whether that’s Rollins’ newly fuelled fires of vengeance that, perhaps inevitably, will draw him into fresh conflict with a new authority, Bayley’s growing need to once again fight her way back pluckily to the mountaintop she has so tragically plummeted off of or a fateful encounter between old rivals that gave Bray Wyatt a taste of the kind of godly power he so fixatedly craves, make no mistake that seeds were sown six days ago that could bear the fruit of drastic change in the months to come.
That’ll do it for this week’s instalment of the Performance Art Raw View. If you have any thoughts on the events currently transpiring on WWE’s flagship show, or if you have any thoughts on anything I haven’t covered, feel free to share them in the comments below, over on social media or even by signing up to our own LOPForums; just click here to sign up!
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