Everybody Gets a Pop in the WWE

Monday Night Raw in New Orleans’ Smoothie King Center last week made it clear that the WWE is not in the wrestling business. There was a lot of wrestling in the three-hour show, but it was also really talky, with a segment that introduced children battling cancer as part of the WWE’s Connor’s Cure initiative. Legends Triple H and Mick Foley cut promos, and after Kevin Owens destroyed Tyler Breeze with an ugly power bomb on the ring apron, he spent time in the ring explaining himself.

The WWE's Elias Walks Back to New Orleans on Monday Night

One of the storylines going in the Wrestlemania last April in the Superdome was that WWE Superstar John Cena wanted a match with the beloved, retired Undertaker, and because that match wasn’t made, the only way he could be at Wrestlemania was in the audience as part of the crowd. He sat in the second or third row at ringside, even during the dark matches before the official start of the show. At one point during the show, Cena jumped from his ringside seat, hopped the barricade, and ran backstage, making everybody think that he got word that The Undertaker was there.

The WWE Needs to Solve its Raw Problems

On Monday night, WWE Raw drew the show’s lowest ratings in its 25-year history—2.47 million viewers, down 11 percent from last week. That drop seems crazy just three months after the wrestling brand presented such a strong card at Wrestlemania in New Orleans. Still, you can look at that show and see where choices made set the company on the slide it has been on since. Here are a few examples and potential ways out.

Roman Reigns

The Effort to Get Roman Reigns Over Shows

The WWE’s efforts to get Roman Reigns over are why Reigns isn’t over. Rather than let audiences love him organically as was the case with A.J. Styles, the WWE broke up The Shield in 2014 and almost immediately moved Reigns into the main event picture rather than let him build a rep as a solo performer and work his way up the card. The sense that he was being foisted on the “WWE Universe”—as the company refers to its fans—prompted fans to reject him, but rather than stop pushing, the WWE only pushed harder.

Is Ronda Rousey Ready for Wrestlemania?

Sunday night at the WWE's “Elimination Chamber,” former MMA star Ronda Rousey signed her WWE contract, and like all such staged contract signing sequences, it was a little pokey as we waited for the inevitable. There was no question that she was going to sign the contract since she really signed one long before she appeared on WWE television. The question in those scenes is usually how they’re going to end, or more specifically, who is going to get physically punished.

The WWE's Top "Smackdown" Story is Great and a Mess

As Smackdown Live approaches “Fastlane,” its best story is also its dumbest. The ongoing drama between Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan is incomprehensible as they manipulate the careers of A.J. Styles, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. At the same time, Styles, Owens, and Zayn are three of the best performers on Smackdown Live—reliably creative on the mic and in the ring.

The WWE's MMC Makes FB Must-See TV

The WWE Mixed Match Challenge sounds like a gimmicky way for the WWE to get in on a gimmicky platform, Facebook’s new Facebook Live. Instead, it has been a pleasant surprise and a reminder of what the WWE does well. The series is a tournament of male-female tag team matches, each wrestling for a charity, and while such tag matches are often frustrating because they present non-committal wrestling, here they succeed because they’re all about personas.

Braun Strowman Buries the Opposition

Bottom line: I watch wrestling for the moments when something truly insane happens. Crazy feats of athleticism, ridiculous actions, or something so over the top that no respectable form of entertainment would do it. As I said last week, NPJW’s Chris Jericho/Kenny Omega had me when Jericho put the referee’s son in the Walls of Jericho. I’ll put up with a lot of soap opera to get to a “Holy shit!” moment. On Monday, the WWE manufactured one of those moments when Braun Strowman pulled a wall of scaffolding down backstage on Brock Lesnar and Kane.

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