... and it got him crushed by The Miz and The Miztourage this week in the WWE.
This year’s number one project in the WWE is clearly building Roman Reigns. He’s big, agile, and charismatic, and perhaps because he was picked for big things years ago, fans have been slow to truly embrace him. At the recent “No Mercy” pay-per-view, he completed a brief program with John Cena designed to give Cena a chance to tell the fans that Reigns has earned his respect.
Whether the program has got Reigns any more over is an open question. Crowds definitely pop for him, some loving him and some hating him, and Cena doesn’t seem to have affected that. Still, Reigns delivered his best promos of the year in the ring with Cena, and the week before “No Mercy,” he delivered a nice one on his own, sounding for the first time like a real person. He showed a little natural swag that was genuinely likable, and more of that came out this week on Raw when The Miz called him out to the ring. He showed the kind of casual, easy confidence you’d have if you were as big, built and athletic as Reigns is. He was casually dismissive of the Miztourage, as he should be. He was a little dismissive of The Miz—again, as he should be—but he wasn’t a jerk about it. The Roman Reigns who knows himself and enjoys himself is more interesting than the guy locked in generic tough guy promos. Since the match-up between the two that the sequence led to ended with The Miz and the Miztourage beating on Reigns with a steel chair for almost 10 minutes, it’s hard to imagine that he’ll be as casual next week, but when Reigns shows the easy confidence that he did in those promos, he is someone that the WWE hasn’t seen before.
Other Raw high and low points:
- The beatdown of Reigns ended with Miz and the Miztourage putting their fists together just as The Shield did to show solidarity. Does that mean that the Shield reunion will take place to fight Miz and the Miztourage? Monday night, the Miztourage was beaten handily by the makeshift tag team of Matt Hardy and Jason “I really really can’t get over” Jordan, so it looks like a terrible mismatch. The point of the Miztourage is that they’re jobbers that The Miz has conned into backing him. They’re the only ones deluded enough to believe that they’re players. If the WWE is going to have to build Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel and fast to believe they have any place in that match.
The one clear upside of this pairing: Miz is one of the WWE’s true heels, so Reigns will be a face for at least the next month.
- The “Enzo sucks” angle ratcheted up this week when he blew off advice from Kurt Angle to celebrate winning the cruiserweight title in the ring. The whole cruiserweight division stood angrily on the stage as Enzo mocked them all, talking about how he brings attention to them and the cruiserweight show, 205 Live. Which he does. Neville is the Cadillac worker and strongest personality on the show, but Enzo is a much bigger, broader character who remains good for merch sales despite being a punching bag in the ring. It took Enzo trying to humiliate Neville to get the crowd to treat him as a heel and celebrate when Neville crushed him. Enzo’s gimmick was being the comically annoying brains behind Big Cass’ brawn, so making him simply annoying should be easy. The question is whether the WWE will commit to it, or if it will allow Enzo to float as yet another face/heel tweener on a roster that already has too many.
- I normally prefer my storytelling in the ring and in action, but Alexa Bliss’ promo spot with Micki James was the best moment Bliss has had in a while. Instead of playing mean girl, she was hilarious as she tried to get out of telling James to her face that she’s old. I’m not sure where this is leading, though it’s hard to imagine that it will end up with Bliss versus James at a pay-per-view.
- It would be nice if Dean Ambrose against Braun Strowman this week and Seth Rollins against Strowman next week made logical sense instead of structural sense. Strowman needs some good matches to build him up after losing at “No Mercy” to Brock Lesnar, and he needs some matches that require more than him ramming opponents into the ring posts because his matches with Lesnar and Ambrose show that to be a weakness. Ambrose and Rollins need to stay out of a feud so that they can be ready for the Shield reunion, but story-wise, Ambrose taking a beating from Strowman was just silly.
Smackdown Live high and low points:
- This week’s show brought a few tired promos to their natural, sad conclusion. Jinder Mahal and the Singh Brothers returned to the ring to make more unfunny jokes at pictures of Shinsuke Nakamura, and the crowd was as dead for this spot as it was for the two previous ones (until it turned racist last week). When one photo started to move, fans saw that it was video of Nakamura standing still and finally popped at the prospect of him coming to the ring. Nakamura came running out, and the Singh Brothers tried to head him off on the ramp. He disposed of them, his Mahal with a Kinshasa and cleared the ring. An obvious payoff to a struggling angle.
- Similarly, Dolph Ziggler reprised his entrance parody gimmick for a third time (everything comes in threes), this time wearing The Undertaker’s hat and coat all the way to the ring as The Undertaker’s intro music played. Ziggler wore the hat low, and at first the crowd popped until they could see the person was clearly too short to be him. Ziggler took off the hat, made fun of the audience some more for liking wrestlers’ introductions, and talked about how great he is in the ring. For the first time in this series of promos, the audience was reasonably hot, perhaps because they were fooled at first. Then Bobby Roode’s “Glorious” introduction started (which except for the song is a bit of a rip-off the The Nature Boy Ric Flair’s introduction in his prime), and he challenged Ziggler to a match at Hell in a Cell. Wish Roode had been stronger in this promo since it was the payoff to almost of month of Ziggler whining. Still, the match should be a better introduction to Roode than the handful of squash matches he has done so far.
- All the good work the women’s division did last week trying to shape the perception of Natalya as crazy or a cat lady when out the window this week when she came out to cut a generic promo on Charlotte after Charlotte defeated Carmella.
- The Usos took on the Hype Bros with The New Day watching from the front row, and the match only seemed to exist to give New Day a chance to challenge The Usos to have their title match at “Hell in a Cell” inside the cell. Inside a cell or a bouncy castle—Usos/New Day are money, and that match promises a more entertaining use of the cell than Shane McMahon and Kevin Owens. High point of the sequence: Big E pulling his mic out a tub of popcorn.
- More Kevin Owens has lost his mind stuff this week, culminating with him powerbombing the middle of Sami Zayn’s back on the edge of the ring, then further brutalizing him as staff tried help Zayn back to the back. Wrestlers are rarely good enough actors to make ‘he snapped!’ gimmicks work, but Owens’ chilly detachment does a pretty good job. This week wasn’t as much fun as last week for Owens, but this angle is working for me solely because of him.