RAW Deal: The grand tournament
SAN DIEGO, USA - It only took the Authority around half a year to start making other people earn their title shots.
But in all seriousness, when you take the very basic formula of making most things mean something—as in give your matches legitimate, concrete implications in this case—you create a compelling story. It sounds hard to achieve, but it's so easy; it's as easy as the WWE had discovered with this episode of Monday Night RAW. We're starting a new chapter, and the champion needs a challenger, so what do you do? Make a bunch of your most deserving athletes all work for a chance to take him on.
If you're a constant follower of this column, you'll have noted that my usual chief complaint about WWE storytelling is that they tend to do things for no reason at all. The plot will advance and things will happen, but they happen for the sake of happening. Wrestlers earn championship opportunities just by defeating certain people, and such a system follows paper-thin logic that could barely be called logic.
Again, the reason why other (realer) sports successfully create drama is because there are set rules. These rules and restrictions are known to everyone, and when reality—circumstances—interact with restrictions, tension is created. Drama is created.
For those who don't keep up with me, here's an example: when you know an NBA team has to defeat 4 teams in 4 separate Best of 7 series in quick succession to win the NBA Championship, you know that they can't lose 4 times. The drama is when they teeter on the edge of taking that fourth loss, losing their opportunity at the biggest prize. If Adam Silver suddenly decides to change that rule in the middle of the Playoffs, and changes it again repeatedly, you lose the drama because you've confused the audience. Not only that, but you've lost them because you've suddenly come off as unnecessarily arbitrary.
This is what the WWE has been doing lately, which is why, again, what happened tonight was such a pleasant surprise. Not only do tournaments like these restore some semblance of order to a chaotic environment, but they are also ripe breeding grounds for rivalries to sprout organically. There's nothing more frustrating than watching two wrestlers get into a feud for absolutely no reason at all, just because; another pet peeve of WWE storytelling is that they'll have their guys clutch at straws trying to come up with reasons why they're fighting.
Now someone like Dolph Ziggler can feud with, say, Alberto del Rio over the United States Championship because he feels he screwed him out of a chance at the WWE Championship in that Fatal Four-Way. Or Cesaro can rekindle his feud with Kevin Owens and go after the Intercontinental Championship just because they faced off.
Anything can happen now, and if the WWE decided to go that route, it wouldn't feel forced. Here's to Survivor Series!
- If you asked me half a year ago, I would tell you that I wasn't exactly too thrilled to have Roman Reigns contending for the WWE Championship. Now, however, is a different story. Not only am I pretty cool with the idea of Reigns facing off against Seth Rollins, but I actually believe he's winning the Championship at Survivor Series. Of course, the shadow of a jealous Dean Ambrose is always hanging around, but I think whatever heel turn there will be is happening after the PPV. Reigns as champion might be happening now until WrestleMania, instead of at WrestleMania itself. Of course, there's always the possibility that Ambrose is screwing Reigns over so that they can feud until the Royal Rumble or so. If that happens, I wouldn't mind either. I'm just okay with the idea of Reigns being back in the main event picture.
- I mean seriously, how could you not get behind this guy?
- I don't know how anyone could be unimpressed with Cesaro. There's another guy who's wrestling like it's a contract year.
- Each match in the tournament series was worth it, actually. Even the losers were so invested in making everything look good.
- I'm definitely digging the Bray Wyatt vs. Undertaker feud right now. I love how everything was tied to his bigger story, how he satisfactorily justified his reason for attacking the Undertaker after Hell in a Cell by tying it to his loss against Roman Reigns and his failed campaign to become the New Face of Fear at WrestleMania. To be perfectly honest, the WWE has been working harder to tell better stories; while it hasn't been the best at times, when it works, it really works. Hopefully, more people appreciate what's been done here.
- +1 for the El Patron chants on RAW. You're all great.
- While I'm very glad he's back, I still don't see the complete logic of turning Alberto del Rio heel. He's had such steady momentum as a wronged face while he was away; although one can easily explain his turnaround by going back to the place that slighted him and pushed him away, it would've been a lot easier for everyone if we had a legitimate reason to cheer him. Instead they're trying their hardest to make people root against him, and I feel like they're just doing it as a power play, to show who's really boss. If that's the case, people need to stop being petty.
- Since this was a great RAW, I have no huge complaints, other than my usual 3 hours complaint. Yes, a lot of things were great, but it's still a damn chore to watch 3 hours of wrestling. This is why PPV events start feeling like second episodes of RAW.
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