Steve Cook solidifies the movement happening for WWE: TV is now officially more important than PPV.
I’m not here to tell you that this past week was the biggest week in the history of our great sport. What I will tell you is that it was a fun time to be a wrestling fan. Raw had its season premiere on Monday night. Tuesday saw an AEW preview special on TNT & Impact Wrestling’s Homecoming event from earlier this year air on AXS. Wednesday… well, I don’t need to tell you what happened on Wednesday, do I?
Thursday was severely missing some wrestling content, especially considering it’s been the home of Thunder, SmackDown & Impact over the years. Somebody needs to fill that void ASAP.
Friday night rolled around and it was time for SmackDown’s big debut on Fox. I have to admit, I was surprised that everybody jumped on the “SmackDown = A Show” bandwagon so fast. There have been several periods of time where SD was superior to Raw that people still insisted on only watching Raw & giving SD none of their time. I’d get looks from people that indicated that I had two heads when I suggested that SD was actually better than Raw on a given week. Now that SD is on Fox and the WWE Machine looks to be fully behind it…of course the WWE Universe would fall in line. I should have seen it coming.
I also underestimated the impact of Fox as a network in 2019. I was told people didn’t watch TV anymore.
What I saw on Friday night was the perfect example of WWE in 2019. It showcased everything that WWE wants to be & everything they do well, while hiding the negatives. Allow me to explain…
I admit to beginning the rolling of my eyes when King Corbin came out for the first segment as part of the Wild Card Rule, but immediately realized that he was only there to get owned by somebody else. Just like the last few Kings of the Ring.
That Rock pop though…jeezus. No wonder Austin, Sting & Undertaker got bumped off the show. They didn’t want to hurt the old fellas’ feelings when they got much less of a reaction than Rock. That pop put the old Road Warrior pop to shame. Goodness gracious.
Rock is by far the biggest star in wrestling. Can’t wait until his next match.
— WWE (@WWE) October 5, 2019
How about that Fox production? It was first-rate and made WWE look even better than usual. The idea as WWE as part of Fox Sports’ opening plug alongside the Super Bowl & US Open is something I wouldn’t have thought possible a year ago.
There was really only one slip-up from the Fox involvement on Friday night, which came from Erin Andrews misidentifying Kofi Kingston as the challenger in his match later in the night. The rest of the interview didn’t go much better in my opinion and I was left hoping they keep EA on the ridiculously highly-rated shows I don’t watch in the future.
Yet, I appear to be alone in this sentiment. WWE fans were going crazy over the brand synergy and how she was so much better than any other interviewer since Mean Gene. I’m not sure I watched the same interview as these people, but hey, if the core likes it WWE might as well go with it.
Braun Strowman versus an outsider!
The Monster Among Men is certainly a visually impressive fellow and has a certain charisma about him. Unfortunately, these things don’t translate to winning championships, as Braun is approximately 0-45 in Universal Championship matches over the past two years. It’s all right though, there are other ways for one to make an impact in the world of wrestling.
We saw it during WrestleMania season with the Saturday Night Live guys. I don’t think that actually worked as well as WWE was hoping, but maybe I’m wrong since they’re going back to the formula so soon. Braun is the type of guy who draws the attention of people changing channels, and involving him in higher-profile storylines makes sense. Fox apparently wants WWE to emphasize the sports part of sports entertainment, and involving one of the best heavyweight boxers in the world is a good way to do that. Tyson Fury is a marketable character in 2019, and I see him & Braun doing big business on a future WWE event.
And let’s be honest, it’s a much more even fight than Braun vs. two SNL guys.
A Little Bit of Roman goes a long way
The main complaint about Roman Reigns’ lengthy never-ending push over the past few years was that it was lengthy & never-ending. Most of us never really disliked the Big Dog, we just disliked the Big Dog constantly being shoved down our throats. It may have taken a battle with leukemia, but WWE finally figured out that the best way to handle Roman Reigns is to leave us wanting a little more.
So now he’s doing stuff with Daniel Bryan, Erick Rowan & Luke Harper in the mid-card and it’s getting good reactions. The booking hasn’t been perfect (it’s probably for the best if we all forget the part where somebody tried to kill Roman), but the work by the individuals involved has been solid. That’s what you want out of Roman Reigns these days. He’ll go back up the card again, but there’s little need to rush it.
Brock Lesnar squashing a fool!
Why do people still act like they don’t want to see Brock Lesnar? All I ever hear whenever Brock isn’t around is that how it’s so terrible that WWE books everything around him and how it hurts the rest of the product. When Brock Lesnar is around, all I ever hear is about how awesome he is and everybody else on the roster should just step aside. I wish y’all would make up your minds, but I know that won’t happen.
Sure, I feel a little bit of disappointment for Kofi Kingston’s fans that his title reign ended in less time than it took King Kong Bundy to squash SD Jones at the first WrestleMania. I don’t feel disappointed for Kofi, simply because he seems like the kind of guy that’s down for whatever and didn’t give the match time a second thought. Also, if I was the one losing a championship, I’d like to get it done as quickly as possible. Pin me, pay me.
Brock Lesnar squashing a guy WWE spent the whole year building up, and most observers shrugging their shoulders, is peak 2019 WWE.
MMA People Get YouTube Views!
If there’s one thing we learned from WWE back in 2018, it’s that MMA people are really freaking popular. I myself tapped out on the MMA craze several years back due to growing tired of the UFC cannibalizing everything & the general fratboy culture around the sports’s practitioners & fans. It was a toxic atmosphere, one which has only grown in recent years to cover even more landscapes. I could go the rest of my life without ever watching a UFC show again pretty easily.
That being said, I’m in the minority as far as combat sports fans go. Most of you love you some UFC & can’t get enough of anybody involved in it. That’s why the two biggest stars in WWE the past two years have been Ronda Rousey & Brock Lesnar. And that’s why Cain Velasquez will be the next person to join that fraternity. His debut did huge numbers on YouTube, and his follow-up appearances should do the same.
The only downside of Cain coming to WWE to wrestle Brock? He won’t be working those cool lucha moves like he was at TripleMania. Brock doesn’t do that stuff.
The Best of WWE
From most accounts I’ve seen, WWE put on a fairly typical Network Event on Sunday. Strong opener followed by a bunch of stuff & a weak main event. I didn’t watch it, and the odds of me ever watching the whole thing aren’t great…but I don’t need to watch it.
In 2019 & the years going forward, the vast majority of your important WWE happenings are going to happen on Fox & USA. Saudi Arabia will get some matches with huge star power, and I imagine WWE will still value WrestleMania, SummerSlam & the Royal Rumble. The rest of those Network shows will be there for the hardcore fans wanting something to watch on a Sunday night. There will be some good matches, some entertaining moments & some not-so-quality content. It won’t be the end of the world if you miss the show, though. If all you see of Hell in a Cell is Seth Rollins getting Mandible Clawed by The Fiend on a Raw or SmackDown clip, it’s cool.
The weekly TV is what matters now.