Back in January the plan was for Roman Reigns to win the Royal Rumble and go on to face The Fiend for the Blueniversal Championship at WrestleMania. Things didn’t quite work out that way, though. Because remember, changing plans last minute isn’t just something WWE have had to do in the Steve Corino crisis. It’s how they just operate generally.
Instead of that plan, Drew McIntyre won the Royal Rumble. Goldberg beat The Fiend for the Bluenieversal Championship in February because Bill popped a rating! And Reigns was just randomly announced as Goldberg’s next challenger, with the two set to clash on the seven seas at WrestleManiarrrr 36.
But then Steve Corino happened.
Despite both Reigns himself and Triple H revealing that Roman had pulled out of WrestleMania over fears of his health – having only just recovered from his second bout with leukemia just the year previously – Goldberg vs. Reigns was still being advertised as late as the night before the show. Until, very unceremoniously, Michael Cole just said on commentary Braun Strowman’s facing Goldberg now. And then Braun won because Goldberg didn’t want to work anymore dates this year.
Goldberg has since revealed WWE were trying to get Roman back into the match up until the last minute, which is why they held off for so long on announcing the change. And ever since WWE were forced into the position of putting Braun in that spot, Reigns’ name hasn’t been uttered once on WWE TV. All of a sudden, the company’s top star was missing without any onscreen explanation. And ever since then, more and more ludicrously specific measures have been taken to wipe Roman’s existence from the product.
It was reportedly Vince McMahon who banned commentators from mentioning Reigns on TV. And then Dave Meltzer noted in last week’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter that Roman has been entirely removed from WWE’s Make-A-Wish promotion, replacing him with pictures of previous golden boy John Cena on their website – although I can’t see him – and on last night’s episode of Raw, where Cena again narrated the Make-A-Wish video package, with no footage of Reigns whatsoever.
And that wasn’t the only notable absence of Roman on yesterday’s show.
Like Triple H’s Top 10 career moments that were played throughout last Monday’s episode, WWE padded out last night’s Raw with the Top 10 Money in the Bank highlights. Which was topped by Seth Rollins’ brilliant WrestleMania 31 cash-in.
Seth pinned Roman in that match, but as Punk Justice has pointed out on Twitter, you wouldn’t know if from WWE’s editing.
Instead they played Rollins hitting the Stomp on Brock Lesnar, a blank screen, and then Seth celebrating with the title.
Although management reportedly told talent there would be no consequences if they felt uncomfortable working their TV tapings, it’s being speculated that there is backstage heat on Roman for pulling himself out of WrestleMania.
At the same time, however, this could just be a situation that noted control freak Vince McMahon can’t control, so he’s responded by completely removing it from the narrative – with no explanations or mentions of Roman’s absence. Especially because it’s unknown when Reigns will safely be able to return to work.
What do you think of the latest removal of Roman’s name from WWE? Let me know in the comments, because I’ll be replying to people FROM OUTTA QUARANTINE!
WWE are seemingly starting to panic over the lack of big names on weekly TV right now, which has reportedly prompted them to bring back wrestlers ahead of plans…
Last Friday’s Smackdown was the least watched episode since its move to Fox, dipping under 2 million viewers – not only down from previous weeks, but almost half the audience that tuned in for the first episode on October 1st. And the downward trend, likely because of Steve Corino forcing no-fans shows, has spread across the industry.
Ratings are one of the most important factors to WWE and their investors, as the company’s deals with Fox and USA Network make up a huge part of their revenue, so they’re reportedly calling all hands on deck. Because pirate themes aren’t just for WrestleMania.
This is speculated to be why WWE brought back AJ Styles for last night’s Raw. Original plans called him to be kept off TV a lot longer to sell his literal burial from the Undertaker at WrestleMania’s Boner Yard match. WWE have also announced the returns of Randy Orton, Edge and Becky Lynch for next week’s episode – which Meltzer claims is WWE’s attempt at brining viewers back who might’ve tuned out during Steve Corino.
Brining back part time stars rather contradicts what Vince McMahon noted in the Q1 investors call just two weeks ago, where he outlined how the company were investing time in getting over new faces like Drew McIntyre and Apollo Crews, who’ve been with the company for almost a decade and six years respectively.
But it’s not just underutilised main roster wrestlers. In typical post-Mania fashion, we also got some NXT call-ups in The Forgotten Sons, who debuted on Smackdown after WrestleMania 36 – and will now be competing for the Smackdown Tag Team Championships at Money in the Bank against The New Day, Lucha House Party and Miz & Morrison.
According to Meltzer, though, this wasn’t always the plan. And the real reason the Forgotten Sons were called up wasn’t because of WWE trying to get new faces over, but because of Jimmy Uso’s injury suffered at WrestleMania, which might see him – and therefore The Usos team – out for the rest of the year.
Speaking of Money in the Bank, it’s now time for the 4th May no, I totally didn’t forget it’s the pay-per-view this Sunday episode of Monday Night Raw… in about 4 minutes.
MVP opened this week’s Raw just like how he opened last week’s show – just this time, with ladies! Inviting all the Raw women’s Money in the Bank participants down to the ring, Asuka, Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax – the latter of whom didn’t want to sit on next to the other two because she’s badass and cool… and ended up appearing neither by choosing to sit awkwardly on the table between them, somehow making her look like the smallest, least intimidating person there despite being the biggest.
Asuka yelled in Japanese, and her and Baszler kicked Jax over the table and out the ring. This was a pretty rubbish portrayal of Jax.
With Apollo Crews being pulled from Wrestling Die Hard last week, Raw staged a gauntlet match to decide his replacement. Which initially was just an excuse for Bobby Lashley to squash people like they’re nothing more than giant tires! Beating Titus O’Neil (obligatory reminder Titus once kissed his son on the lips), Akira Tozawa and Shelton Benjamin in quick fashion. I bet they’re all glad they risked their health to work Raw during Steve Corino!
But even Bobby can’t defeat WWE’s lame cop-out finishes, where he was disqualified against Humberto Carillo for beating Carillo too much? Humberto then beat Angel Garza and Austin Theory with fluke roll-ups that did absolutely nothing for anyone.
The match was all building, however, to a huge return… babyface AJ Styles surprising a family as part WWE’s new partnership with Dairy Queen.
It was a rather baffling, totally avoidable placement. This wasn’t just a badly timed commercial in the break. It was integrated into the actual programme of Raw, meaning someone in WWE signed off on undermining the surprise of AJ’s return, and presenting him as a corporate babyface just minutes before he heelishly beat up Carillo around the ring. This was a shockingly poor construction of a TV show.
AJ cut a victory promo afterwards, promising that now he’s already got one WWE Cinematic Universe match under his belt with the Boner Yard, he’ll be uniquely placed to throw someone off the top of a building.
Later in the night, Aleister Black and Rey Mysterio would cut their own promos in reply to AJ’s threat, giving the same level of seriousness as competing in an Elimination Chamber or Hell in a Cell to being thrown off the top of a building. For those stipulations, these kinds of ‘it’ll take years of my career’ promos have a certain degree of verisimilitude. In that those stakes make sense and are believable in WWE reality. There aren’t any Chamber or Hell in a Cell matches in real life for us to compare them against. Much like knives, or guns, though, being thrown off a building jumps the wrestling shark.
But, you know what? Wrestling sharks sounds kind of awesome.
To hype Money in the Bank even more, WWE played the gimmick’s Top 10 moments as filler content – reminding us all that yes, Brock Lesnar did win a match he wasn’t even in.
Caruso Alert! Seth Rollins reframed his feud with Drew McIntyre as him trying to save Drew, unburden him of the WWE Championship, which isn’t his destiny. This was more terrific promo work for Seth’s character – where he justifies his own selfishness as trying to save his opponents.
It turns out Shane Thorne and Brenden Vink just needed some advice from MVP, as they beat Cedric Alexander and Ricochet in a decent match – further proving WWE see absolutely nothing in one of the most talented high flyers of this generation.
The Street Profits wanted the smoke. So The Viking Raiders channeled the Smoke Monster from 00s sci fi drama series Lost, and kneed them a lot in the face to win. This was a really fun match, crowd or not, setting up a tag title match between the teams.
Liv Morgan seems to have found her character! It’s her old character, the Harley Quinn that we all liked already. She had a pretty good showing against Charlotte Flair here, with several near falls, but Flair made her tap in the Figure 8. Say what you will about NXT call-ups to the main roster, but man, they’re pushing Charlotte really strongly!
And the main event was a very physical encounter between Drew McIntyre and Murphy, with Drew somehow never looking in trouble – with lots of kickouts at 1 – but still making Murphy look great. Seth watched on from the ramp as McIntyre countered Murphy’s Claymore attempt with his own to win, and him and Rollins scuffled to go off the air.
That was this week’s Raw in about four minutes. Let me know what you thought of the show in the comments down below, and by clicking the ‘i’ above my head to give your rating.
The women’s division has really taken a backseat in the last few weeks in Becky Lynch’s absence, meaning we just get Charlotte beating people we like a lot. But the rest of Raw was really, really solid. Great in-ring wrestling and Drew continues to be a simultaneously likeable and badass babyface champion. What a concept! This week’s Raw is a high AvRAWge.
A special one-shot episode of our wrestling dungeons and dragons series is now live on partsFUNknown set in the Year 3000! Click the video on the right to watch Adam Blampied essentially be Tony Stark. And Rey Mysterio’s WWE contract is reportedly expiring soon! Click the video on the right to find out what might happen! And make WrestleTalk.com your homepage to stay up to date with the latest wrestling news. I’ve been Oli Davis, and that was wrestling.