RAW Deal: Important takeaways from Extreme Rules
Extreme Rules was by no means a perfect event, but it was a good enough setup for where RAW will be for the rest of the summer.
As the dust from its main event cleared and settled, at least there was one thing the Red Brand established: the Universal Championship picture is now cut and dry, and it looks to be the best they’ve done lately, given the circumstances. Samoa Joe came from out of nowhere, from a pack of better-known would-be contenders higher on the totem pole, to challenge Brock Lesnar at, uh, Great Balls of Fire (yeah, that’s what the next PPV’s called).
Joe wasn’t the guy you were expecting to get the opportunity, but the more you think about it—and after the confrontation between he and Lesnar’s infamous advocate, Paul Heyman—the more it makes sense that this is one of the best things they could do right now. Heyman addressed in said confrontation that Joe is Lesnar’s worst-case scenario, and he’s right. Out of the 5 in that Extreme Rules main event, Joe looks the most credible, physically imposing, and threatening. Bray Wyatt’s mystical mumbo-jumbo won’t work on a Beast. Seth Rollins and Finn Balor have a glaring size disadvantage. Roman Reigns has already gone up against Lesnar and got destroyed. Samoa Joe is sure to give Lesnar the biggest fight of this late-career run so far.
Of course, all of that is if they stick by the playbook most people are expecting. Because on the other hand, there’s also a precedent for Brock Lesnar just destroying people. Fans loved it when it happened to John Cena, because they knew they wanted to see Cena get destroyed after a dominant career. It was all right for Randy Orton, because not many cared for Orton. People really do care about Samoa Joe—he’s a wrestler they want to see succeed in a company that’s never given him the time of day until really late in his career.
That, and the Lesnar-squashing-everyone gimmick is starting to get really old. It was fun once, but it’s not going to help the perception toward the WWE roster as a whole if a dominant part-timer doesn’t make the full-timers look any competitive. RAW’s actually gaining some momentum now as a more decently-written show than it was earlier this year; all they have to do, really, is to write and book things that make sense, and matches that are actually competitive. It’ll make the 3-hour watch slightly more bearable.
There’s another problem that comes with a Brock Lesnar reign, however: everyone knows Lesnar is just going through a rogues’ gallery of contenders, because the rumored endgame is still Lesnar vs Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 34. If everyone’s going to lose—and everyone knows they’re going to lose—then all those first-time-ever matchups are going to lose their edges. It’ll be fun, but they won’t be as great as they could be.
At this point, I can only hope that the dirt on the grapevine is merely red herring for the internet fans. There’s no point in booking a main event a year in advance, with everything that could happen in between. There’s still a lot of time to change things up and surprise people. RAW’s been doing some of that lately, but not as much as SmackDown Live has, and not as much as the Blue Brand has committed to it. It’s funny; they’ve got the bigger star power, but they try their hardest to maintain the status quo. That’s probably why Extreme Rules didn’t really feel so extreme at the end of the day.
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