RAW Deal: Calling the post-WrestleMania fallout
Because I’ve pretty much already shot my shot when it comes to actual WrestleMania predictions a couple of weeks ago, I’m going to do something a little different today.
Yes, it’s almost time for WrestleMania, but for some strange reason, a reason that I can’t quite put my finger on (okay, tongue planted firmly in cheek for those who can’t detect sarcasm in writing) this year’s Grandaddy of Them All doesn’t really feel like the biggest show of the year. Yes, we see all the preparations, we’re afraid of the giant rollercoaster on the set that people may or may not jump off of, but to us it’s become an event that’s more of a moneymaking venture than anything. And even if that’s what the WWE always does, it hasn’t been more blatant than it is during WrestleMania season.
But hey, enough about that whining. I won’t be the first nor the last guy to complain about WrestleMania being for casuals, so it’s a tired old track that I will no longer indulge in too much in this space. What I’m gonna do is outline five possible and likely (or unlikely) avenues the post-Mania WWE will explore after Sunday’s event. Let’s begin:
Finn Balor returns for a big feud, possibly against Brock Lesnar
This is the guy who was penciled in for the very top of Monday Night RAW the moment he was drafted—in fact, he was drafted way too early back in July. Considering that 1) no one ever really beat him for the Universal Championship, 2) Goldberg hasn’t signed a new deal with the WWE after WrestleMania, meaning 3) Brock Lesnar is almost 100% sure to win the title on Sunday, the best way for the floundering Red Brand to get a quick shot in the arm is for Balor to return and challenge for the title he never truly lost.
Yes, it’s going to be a hotshotting that people may not deserve, and cynics would rather wait for a bigger event to pull the trigger on this feud, but RAW really does need a hot angle to start its new season and take it through the post-Mania doldrums. Balor doesn’t necessarily have to win, too; he just needs to stand a fighting chance and get knocked down a peg so he can be built back up again. The right way, this time.
Bray Wyatt will become an anti-hero WWE Champion and take on a reorganized SmackDown main event scene
This feud was supposed to be the hottest thing on SmackDown Live, but was quickly overshadowed by the Mizanins vs. the Cenas and even AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon. It’s also kind of what happens when you’ve got two antiheroic characters that are a little difficult to write for, and you don’t try hard enough to write for them. Nevertheless, the result should be Wyatt retaining, as he needs this win more than ever.
What follows is that Wyatt will finally embrace his tweener side, opening up a lot of different possibilities for championship feuds. For one thing, he would no longer be relegated to defending the title against babyfaces; he can become a force of nature all on his own if the SmackDown creative team has enough political will to make this happen. And he might need to, because…
Trades will happen, and it’s likely that Roman Reigns and AJ Styles will be switched
Going purely on rumors swirling around post-WrestleMania brand realignments, and I think I’m okay with this. As evidenced by his tremendous SmackDown run, Styles can light up any show just with his mere presence, and he’s a wrestler who seems resistant to any waterlogging attempts—both direct and indirect—made by the creative team on RAW. All you have to do is stick him in and make him win.
Meanwhile, Reigns could benefit heavily from the more hardworking SmackDown creative team. Not to say that the Blue Show is perfect—far from—but I have full faith in them making the Big Dog more palatable. Perhaps we can finally explore the heel turn Reigns has been destined to have for so long, and he can also win audiences over with his continually underrated work in the ring, considering SmackDown places a bigger premium on solid TV wrestling.
I also expect the women’s division and tag team divisions to be switched around, mainly because both divisions on RAW have been criminally underutilized, making them appear shallower than they really are. SmackDown could use one or two tag teams from RAW, maybe some cruiserweights to build a new singles team (that’s what I’d do) and RAW could use some of the more lightly-used women to buttress their division (and send Emma over to SmackDown).
Sasha Banks will turn heel, giving us a better women’s feud with Bayley; the SmackDown women’s status quo will be radically shuffled
The six-pack challenge match for the SmackDown Women’s Championship is pretty much open season, and that lends itself well to a much-needed restructuring of their status quo. While Alexa Bliss has done great work establishing herself straight out the gate from the Draft, they need to reorganize everything and build some new stars. They did a good job with Naomi a couple of months ago, if it weren’t for her unfortunate injury that led her to take some time off. She’s back now, so we may see them resume that experiment. But if anyone else (save for Carmella and Natalya) were to win the title, I wouldn’t mind at all. In fact, my favorite to win this one and rebuild the scene around would be Mickie James, who’s always a great hand to have.
As for RAW, Sasha Banks is already set to return to being a villainous character, which I feel suits her a lot more. She does all right as an underdog, but being the Boss isn’t made for a true babyface, plus sharing that space with Bayley and forcing the latter to become something she really isn’t is doing damage to the entire division. That said, Banks vs. Bayley is one of the better rivalries modern NXT has produced (and is still trying to recapture) so if done right, this could be the feud that puts the RAW women’s division back on the map.
The Broken Hardys return to SmackDown
So many rumors have been swirling around what the reinvented Hardy Boyz will do next, and at this point, there’s no way they’re not going to WWE, regardless of what they say. Okay, there’s still a small chance that they don’t return and I’ll respect that, but what a way to cap off two surefire Hall of Fame careers, huh?
If they do come back to their home, I want them to go to SmackDown, but it’s just as likely (even more so) that they’ll head to RAW. Either brand will work, but SmackDown needs more help in their suddenly lackluster tag team division, and the controlled absurdity of the Blue Brand gives them a better space to work their broken brilliance. This is just tough to call because we just don’t know yet if they are actually signing to begin with. Personally, I think they should—and shouldn’t.
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