It seemed like the viral outbreak over the past few weeks had been WWE’s biggest challenge to date, but in a show of veteran savvy and the collection of the world’s greatest stars paying off, TLC went off without a hitch. In fact, it may have even been better than they envisioned it.
Of course, the original vision would have been nice to execute. For the most part, anyway. The planned Shield reunion would have been a great moment, but it’s a good thing that Kurt Angle’s return to the WWE ring – no matter how last-minute it was – ended up being enough of a draw to both casual fans and fans who may have wanted a change of pace. Everyone was ready to write off the Demon King vs Sister Abigail for sure, and the clutch addition of AJ Styles to that match, no matter how cold it was, elevated Finn Balor.
TLC is an interesting character study on the WWE as a whole. As it keeps doing so over the past few years the world’s largest pro wrestling company has been embattled, outside forces (that’s to say forces that aren’t Vince McMahon and his lackeys) have created an event and diverted whatever narrative they wanted to push into something the fans want to see. It’s not just because the fans are excitable over wet dream feuds and storylines, but also because the fans want any real reason to push back against McMahon’s whims they could sink their teeth into.
And for one reason or another, Vince McMahon himself can’t really seem to steer into that skid. He’ll do enough to give us treats like Kurt Angle returning or a dream match in AJ Styles vs. Finn Balor. But whether it’s because of spite or pure laziness, he won’t give us more than that—an actual motivation from Angle for joining the Shield (and it’s right there with the Miz), or at least a basic but solid foundation on why Balor still has to be the Demon King going up against a guy he’s never really interacted with before.
I’m not saying those little things don’t have their own merits. They do, because of the quality of talent involved, and again that’s the WWE’s pseudo-monopolizing paying off in spades. I’m just saying that there’s a lot more they can do by building on the little things, and McMahon doesn’t seem to know how to build on those little things. And it’s that refusal to work a little (or a lot) harder that turns the vocal fans sour on the old man. He can push whoever he wants to push, but he’s got to start earning the stories he wants, and if he absolutely has to, he’s got to adapt. Not only when there’s a virus going around.
What are the brands playing for?
Now we’re on the road to Survivor Series, launched very discriminately by a surprise ambush by SmackDown on RAW this week. Pretty much everything is put on hold after the blue team banded together—rivalries be damned—and attacked the fire nation.
The little invasion is a nice, arresting visual (let’s not call it a siege, because even though it sounds cool it’s not really a siege) but in the greater scheme of things it’s not too justified. Sure, SmackDown vs RAW is always a good thing to fall back on, but without anything tangible to play for in the second year of the new brand split we’re just forcing people to stick together for nothing. There aren’t much stakes to make me believe that Baron Corbin should be falling in line behind Shane McMahon, someone he’s had arguments with in the past.
If there was something like a huge corporate bonus, or even a trophy they could claim bragging rights on, I’d buy this whole thing in a heartbeat. Something we could visualize and get us to root for one team or another. As it stands, only Sami Zayn (and by extension, Kevin Owens) and Daniel Bryan have stood somewhat firm against the rash actions of Shane McMahon. When you have to build in a voice of reason, you know you’ve done something strange.
I’ll repeat what I said in the TLC part above: at this point, if you’re going to do weird things like that, you might as well start leaning in and running with it all the way. Start explaining, start working harder. It’s the least you can do for your audience.
Do you listen to podcasts? Would you want to listen to a local podcast about pro wrestling? If the answers to those questions – especially that last one – are yes, then you should check out the cleverly-named Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast, featuring PWR General Manager Stan Sy, wrestling writer and Wrestling God Romeo Moran, and all-around multimedia person and former voice of PWR Raf Camus! This week, the boys talk about the TLC fallout and the road going to Survivor Series! Listen to it here!