WWE programming was iffy this week. Monday Night Raw was trying to balance key title matches with a lot of unnecessary backstage nonsense, and SmackDown’s go-home show to TLC was filled with less urgency than the lady working behind the desk at the emergency room.
Instead of the continued small talk, let’s jump right to rebooking the latest week of WWE.
Telegraphing Sasha’s Title Win
What Actually Happened
To be fair, the WWE tried to make Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks for the Women’s Championship a big deal on Monday. However, it is in how WWE attempted to do so where the company failed.
In their first match (there were two, obviously) of the evening, a back-and-forth battle, with Dana Brook interfering often, resulted in a double count-out. Mick Foley then came out and announced that the two would headline Raw in a no-DQ match for the title.
Sasha and Charlotte put on one heck of a performance to close Raw. Honestly, it might have been their best match during their lengthy feud.
There was a problem in the WWE’s booking. By having the first match (or having a first match of any kind at all, really) leading into the announcement of the second to close Monday Night Raw, we were convinced Sasha was going to win. It took all the drama away from the main event.
Huge credit to both Sasha and Charlotte for putting on such a wonderful match, but having that little thought of “knowing” — whether tangibly real or not — the outcome of the match took away from it just a wee-bit.
The fix would have been to eliminate the first convoluted match completely. Their feud was pretty long as is, didn’t need any extra build to it, and merely having a straightforward — and advertised — main event of Charlotte vs. Banks for the Women’s Championship would have been enough.
Is that nitpicking? Maybe. I suppose it depends if you felt, as I did, that the first match’s ending made the main event’s outcome a given.
Kane Defeats Luke Harper
What Actually Happened
Despite JBL trying to argue that Harper might be the most dangerous member of The Wyatt Family, the oft-injured big man has been jobbed — when not hurt — for the majority of the post-major push the Wyatts received a few years back.
This was Kane and Harper’s second match (in recent history). The first was at Survivor Series.
The match on SmackDown itself was shockingly long and surprisingly solid, as Harper put on a clinic and showcased why he’s special, but it ended with Kane winning with a chokeslam.
In theory, though rumor only at this point, there’s the idea that this is leading to Harper being on the outs with The Wyatt Family. To be clear, that’s just IWC gossip, but it might help in explaining why 97-year-old Kane is walloping someone with not only as much promise as Harper, but is also a member of a stable that’s currently being pushed. You know, because if a three-man stable is being pushed, you don’t generally see one of the three men losing all the time unless there’s going to be a rift.
Let’s get the gossip part out of the way first, because it’s the only area where any of this makes sense. If the WWE wants Harper to turn on Bray, or the other way around, it doesn’t have to be at the expense of Luke’s credibility. Let him win, but still disappoint in other areas.
Moving on from Internet hearsay, if this was strictly Kane defeating Harper, shame on the WWE. Harper has limitless potential and Kane no longer has value, needs victories, or has a relevant bone left in his body.
Normally, when we “rebook” the WWE we try to keep it within the framework of the actual outcome. Keeping with the tradition, if Kane had to win, a non-clean finish would have worked best in this situation.
Have Bray or Orton inadvertently cost Harper the match. Whatever you do, don’t let him lose clean.
Without yet knowing where this angle, if it is even truly an angle, is going yet, it could have been something as simple as one of the turnbuckles being exposed, with Harper hitting it face first, aiding in explaining his defeat.
The Close Of SmackDown’s Go-Home Episode
What Actually Happened
How often do go-home episodes end in backstage segments? This author could be wrong, but it doesn’t seem like it is all that regular.
Regardless, SmackDown closed its go-home show leading to TLC by having a backstage interview with Rhyno and Heath Slater turn into AJ Styles interrupting them, culminating with Dean Ambrose running in to attack the champion while the tag team champions cheered him on.
I’m not a fan of 99 percent of backstage segments as is, because they almost always come across as less intimate, but it was a real risk to close SmackDown the way the WWE did. It also failed, at least in my opinion, in creating any extra excitement to Styles vs. Ambrose.
Why couldn’t this have taken place in the ring? That’s my biggest issue with the entire debacle.
The fix would have been for the tag team champions to come out, after finding out they were facing Orton and Bray, but only after the challengers left the area, to discuss their title defense. Styles could have still come out during it, and Ambrose after that.
Really, the entire thing could have happened exactly as it did, but in front of the live audience in the ring.