By JASON MARTIN (August 21, 2018)
It’s a good thing WWE had that main event angle ready to go, because much of the three hours that preceded it was forgettable filler at best. With the exception of the opening segment, where Roman Reigns lived up to the promise and the story that defined much of the past few months of television, this was not a good follow-up to one of the biggest events of the year. Roman’s entire angle centered around Brock Lesnar holding the Universal Championship hostage as a part-timer who didn’t care about the fans, the company, or anyone other than himself.
Thus, Reigns offered a chance to a major fan favorite with history in Brooklyn with that very title in Finn Bálor. While not a soul with a brain expected the challenger to win, we knew it would be a good match, and it was. Incidentally, eventually somebody needs to ask Bálor why he wouldn’t always be the Demon, considering he’s undefeated and nearly unbeatable in the paint. He gets all set for a nothing match with Baron Corbin, but he’s regular old Finn Bálor last night when he’s competing for the biggest prize in the promotion.
But I digress.
The Shield returned last night, and it was done in as unexpected and clever a way as the strategy Vince McMahon used to quell the expected vitriol towards his SummerSlam main event. The audience didn’t go nuclear to the degree of WrestleMania, not even close as a matter of fact, and the main reason was because they believed a cash-in was coming afterward, so the finish of the actual title match wasn’t nearly as grave as it could have been otherwise. It was clever, it was a little shady by WWE, but it was an angle and it was brilliantly executed.
Similarly, we escaped another potential Braun Strowman briefcase cash-in on RAW due to the re-emergence of Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose backing up their old running buddy, Roman Reigns, doing so without a hint of a smile, and leaving at least a question as to who exactly the babyface is in this scenario. It’s not a simple question to answer, because Braun was proven to be a liar, and even at SummerSlam, the way he chose to plan his cash proved he was smart, but maybe not quite as straight up as you would want that guy to be.
The main problem with Braun winning the Money in the Bank match a few months ago is it places WWE in a spot where he needs to cash differently to avoid looking weak or pathetic. Strowman is the kind of monster that should announce his move WEEKS in advance, build to a pay per view, and then win at that event. That’s dominance. What isn’t dominating is to come out and say whoever wins will have to deal with him immediately after they’ve just given their all in the match in front of them. It’s not exactly strong to say you’re cashing after your possible opponents have beaten the tar out of each other in a WWE Universal Championship match.
Then, last night, Strowman came out and indeed was going to do the surprise cash-in on Roman after a nearly 20 minute match with Finn. That’s exactly what a true monster should never do, so when Seth and Dean returned to ringside to back up Reigns, it wasn’t at all a heel. My initial thought is the Hounds of Justice are merely the Hounds of Justice, where they’re just “them.” Are they purebred babyfaces? Not exactly, but in 2018, they basically are. Is Strowman the heel now? I don’t think so. We have a variation of grey everywhere, nothing black and white to be found.
And that’s not a bad thing. The intrigue is there. Also, there’s always money in a Shield run, and the one thing this does signify is Dean Ambrose’s heel turn isn’t coming immediately. It makes sense to try and reset the Rollins vs. Ambrose WrestleMania XXXIV angle…
…for WrestleMania XXXV in New York.
That’s a lot of time to burn, so using the trio together much of the time, backing one another up, working in six-man tags on occasion, will work. It will also keep Reigns from being booed quite as strongly as he would be otherwise, but those against Roman right now are basically marks. At this point in history, the true “marks,” if the term isn’t completely useless or antiquated, are those that believe themselves to be smarter or more refined while spending all their time caring about things they can’t control. You’re not ignoring the product. You’re doing the opposite. You’re a mark.
Plus, Roman Reigns… (looks around to make sure no one can hear) is usually great in the ring, and despite being miscast and mishandled, is extremely talented and rock solid across the board in all necessary categories. If you don’t like Reigns, that’s a you problem. You’ve become the worst kind of sheep. You’re the sheep that thinks he or she is a wolf, but is under the control of the wolves.
I’ve said this before and I’ve written it before, the Shield is the best booked group of individuals since the heyday of Steve Austin and The Rock. You can include other well-crafted angles or various storylines, but the Shield is the one faction that has never been screwed up. The TLC bout six years ago was the best debut match I’ve ever seen, because it was so far above what anyone had any right to expect.
When these three are together, it’s magic.
Did you hear the reaction when that music hit and those two guys stalked to the ring? That was true main event enthusiasm. It was louder than anything at SummerSlam, even Braun walking down to interrupt Brock and Roman before it started or Becky Lynch’s post-match attack on Charlotte Flair.
If you want to hold interest as the NFL is about to get going, especially if you have a handle on strategy, you do a few things.
You put the focus on something a bit unique. Enter the all-female WWE Evolution event in October. It’s perfectly timed, because if it fails, WWE can protect the women by pointing to football. And, if it does, you can give them all the credit. It’s something a little different that might be more interesting than the rinse, repeat of the dead period that usually creeps in as soon as we hit September.
You play the hits, especially when its a reunion tour that hasn’t been done to death. Ambrose’s injury and Reigns’ illness both got in the way in 2017, so attempt number two is sitting there waiting to draw some money for Vince. You can’t keep bringing back the biggest stars and expect the current roster to elevate to stars themselves. Seth Rollins was dead right with his comments saying just that last week. So, rather than do that, give us the Shield and put those guys over big and use them to also push the likes of a Braun Strowman.
SummerSlam wasn’t the best show in the world, but most of it worked and and I’d probably rate it in the B- category. It was well-structured, well-timed (outside of Miz-DB, which was around 5-7 minutes too long), and sensible with very few exceptions (Elias and Orton appearances for example). RAW wasn’t very good at all, but it ended beautifully. Usually, if you land the plane safely, the response is positive. I can forgive much of the filler if you give me what you gave me around 11 ET last night.
The Shield is back, at least for a little while.
Never are we not going to be better off as a pro wrestling audience when that statement is fact.
I’m @JMartZone… BAY BAY. (Not original or relevant. I just think Adam Cole is a freaking superstar.)