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 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 Road to Wrestlemania Slows for Construction

[Updated] On the Road to Wrestlemania this week, the WWE stopped for gas, a Coke, and to hit the head. The matches that weren’t already made were strongly hinted at, and any late fireworks were saved for next week and the go-home shows before Wrestlemania comes to New Orleans April 8. Because of that, this week on Raw and Smackdown Live felt a bit like killing time. 

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 Beat Downs Go On Forever

A basic rule in the WWE playbook is that if you want to build heat on a character or in a feud, go for a beat down. Time and again, heels have taken the last 10 minutes of Raw to waffle someone with a folding chair again and again, usually in a two- or three-on-one situation, just to amplify the cruel unfairness. A week ago, The Miz and the Miztourage pounded on Roman Reigns well after he’d stopped moving, going so far as starting to leave the ring and come back down the ramp to beat on Reigns’ prone body some more.

Roman Reigns Shows His Softer Side

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.

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