RAW Deal: Lessons from the 2017 SummerSlam weekend

Just like that, this year’s SummerSlam has come and gone.

Welcome to a special post-SummerSlam edition of RAW Deal, the wrestling column you may or may not be reading every week. I’d normally wait until the entire week of wrestling is over, but I realized that many things will be starting anew from RAW tomorrow morning (local time), so it’s best to assess everything before the cycle begins again.

This is a quick list of 5 key takeaways of every big thing we’ve learned over the weekend in Brooklyn (which is far from being over, mind you):

WWE refuses to tell hardworking stories

But you already knew that, didn’t you? From the Cruiserweight Championship changing hands again to Finn Balor’s Demon King not really meaning much (and more, which we’ll get to in a bit), the WWE is content to sit on their hands while the views and the money roll in.

The biggest culprits from today are the John Cena vs Baron Corbin story, Randy Orton vs Rusev, and Big Cass vs Big Show. The company is more willing to punish and humiliate those who run afoul of things backstage (it’s rumored that Corbin has rubbed some important people the wrong way, and with Rusev’s treatment, it might be safe to assume that he has as well) instead of working harder and ensuring that the stars they need for the future still have a way out.

When they’re not punishing their guys, however, they’re just not doing them any better. I already wrote at length about what needed to be done for someone like Finn Balor, who doesn’t create a lot of difference with the Demon King alter ego. Someone who actually understands the nuances of fantasy and magic and whatnot should take him aside and mentor him on what he needs to do to advance that special bit of psychology. Someone like the Undertaker, who’s made an entire living pushing something as implausible as the Deadman. 

Meanwhile, Creative needs to have Balor do well as himself and only bring out the Demon when the odds are insurmountable—and doing so should be at a human cost, too. When people understand the devil's in the details, they’ll be more likely to buy in and make the character special.


Jinder Mahal and Shinsuke Nakamura got screwed out of a main event match

It’s one thing for an underachieving wrestler to not carry his weight and put out a good bout, but it’s an entirely different thing when the powers in charge of the match don’t give it the proper time and direction it needs to blossom.

While I support WWE Champion Jinder Mahal (and even more so his challenger Shinsuke Nakamura), I won’t deny that he’s still a raw prospect inside the ring. He’s still learning to keep up with the more talented and experienced guys on the roster. Though he may bore you from time to time, Mahal needs to be challenged by being tasked to carry out more complex sequences. When you don’t give him that, especially as a champion, what else is he going to do except disappoint?

The WWE Championship match today felt like a slightly longer television match, and it wasn’t even a TV main event. It was just there, and it’s like whoever produced it told the guys to give Nakamura a comeback and then quickly end it. Mahal—who moved the smoothest I’ve ever seen him move in his whole WWE career—can be excused for not fighting for it hard enough since he’s still new to the whole thing, and Nakamura as well to some extent.

I have a feeling that WWE is deliberately doing this because they want the crowd to continue booing Mahal. Of course, the moment he shows signs of being more exciting than he lets on, that’s when the audience will start to go on his side, and they can’t have that for business as modern wrestling fans will cheer whoever they feel is talented. The problem is the more they troll the crowd, the more the average fan who wants a certain way is going to get turned off. 

The truth is they don’t need to troll people any longer—fans want Mahal to lose already, so it’s time to make him earn boos and in turn, his status as a top heel. Just have him be more calculating and deliberate in the way he sends the Singh Brothers to help. If they don’t pour in more effort on Mahal, it’ll be clear that they’re really only using him to milk the India market instead of sincerely building a new star. That’ll be the cruelest joke you can play on a man who has worked so hard to rehabilitate himself and earn a look in an industry he loves.

As for Nakamura, if they wanted him to succeed as the top Japanese import of this generation, booking performances like that certainly don’t help. The King of Strong Style works best in marathons instead of sprints, and if you don’t give him the canvas to make art, you’re not getting your dollar’s worth.


Brock Lesnar isn’t going to the UFC anytime soon

The possibility of Lesnar retaining the Universal Championship was always in the back pocket, and the chances of someone taking the title from him are magnified whenever you have more than one challenger. But it turns out the fakeout was too real, and we’re going to get 6 more months of a part-timing Beast Incarnate. It’s a bit of a wasted opportunity as a fatal four-way match would have been the best way for Lesnar to lose without his credibility taking a hit, but now it’s clear that whoever does beat him one-on-one will get a monstrous rub.

The only catch is now more than ever, it’s looking like that guy will be Roman Reigns. We’ll see.


It’s true: we will be getting a Superstar Shakeup soon

On Saturday’s NXT Takeover: Brooklyn III, RAW and SmackDown Live’s respective GMs Kurt Angle and Daniel Bryan were shown watching the event. That can only mean one thing—they’re scouting for their next big NXT signing, which all but confirms that we are getting another Superstar Shakeup sometime soon. I’ve got a few ideas on who’s making the big jump soon, but all I ask is that they put a more concrete structure to the whole thing.


NXT is the new home of the indies

If it wasn’t clear yet over the past year or two, it’s now official: your independent favorites are making their way to Full Sail University.

Takeover: Brooklyn III featured all but two world-renowned wrestlers from the independent scene, and the arrival of Adam Cole (with recent debutantes Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish, also known as reDRagon) drove that last stake home. WWE is hoarding talent and it’s looking like NXT is not just a developmental territory, but an entirely different wrestling promotion under the big banner. But if those guys are who the younger wrestlers will be learning from, then I can’t think of a better place to develop your skills.

Don’t fret, though—the vast wrestling scene outside WWE means you’ll literally never run out of favorites in the indies. And it certainly doesn’t mean that they’ll all be going to WWE; some will go to New Japan Pro Wrestling, while others will leave and go to Global Force Wrestling (what was once TNA), Ring of Honor, or Lucha Underground, what else have you. Wrestling is in a boom period, and it just so happens that the biggest show in town also knows what everyone’s worth.

Also, at this point, NXT will always be a much more satisfying experience than anything on the main roster. It’s just the way it is until Vince McMahon gives up his control.

Did you enjoy this weekend’s events? Drop a comment! – Rappler.com