Wrestling Column: WWE Raw’s struggle for main event babyfaces

Tom Beasley, editor of The Popcorn Muncher, loves wrestling almost as much as movies. Here’s the first of a (hopefully) weekly column about all of the goings-on in the world of grappling…

Triple H congratulates WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens on Raw
Triple H congratulates WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens on Raw

The world of wrestling spent most of this week dealing with the fallout from the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view event, which was headlined for the first time by two women. The rest of Raw was a rather lame Halloween show, whilst SmackDown packed in its fair share of interesting moments as the road to Survivor Series got into full throttle.

As usual, SmackDown was a much better show and one particular issue with Raw stood out to me, along with a few other key issues in the WWE as a whole.

 

Where have all the good men gone?

Kevin Owens is, without a shadow of doubt in my eyes, totally the right choice to be leading the Raw brand as the Universal Champion. His partnership with Chris Jericho has really helped to add credibility to his title reign in the absence of Triple H, who sensationally handed him the title back in August. Owens has been embroiled in an incredibly entertaining feud with Seth Rollins, which resulted in a solid match between the two inside the ‘Devil’s Playground’ at Hell in a Cell. But, in the immortal words of Goldberg, who’s next?

Raw has an enormous problem when it comes to main event babyfaces following the loss of Finn Balor due to injury. Rollins turned face a month or two ago after a wonderful stint as a heel and Roman Reigns is the United States Champion. Other than that, it’s tough to think of a single babyface worthy of challenging for Owens’ belt. WWE seems to agree, as it’s being heavily rumoured that Owens will indeed clash with Reigns at Raw‘s December pay-per-view event Roadblock.

 

 

This shows just how poorly Raw has used its roster since the brand split. The three men best placed for a main event push on the red brand right now are Jericho, monster Braun Strowman and Rusev. All of those men are heels, which makes a face-off with Owens very unlikely. The only other option is to elevate Brock Lesnar into the main event picture following his Survivor Series scrap with Goldberg, but this creates the problem that Owens is very unlikely to beat Lesnar and therefore there would have to be a title change or a screwy finish of some description. Neither of those things sound particularly exciting.

Raw has talented babyfaces on its roster; it’s just unwilling to do the necessary work to elevate them. Cesaro, who can get over in front of just about any crowd, has been saddled with a weird tag team title storyline alongside Sheamus, Sami Zayn is languishing in a rather directionless midcard state and the immensely gifted Neville can’t even make it on to television most weeks. Raw needs to devote serious time to creating credible babyfaces if it hopes to give Owens the title reign his talent deserves.

 

High-flying, but not flying high

The cruiserweight division has now been a part of Raw for a good while and it has absolutely failed to make any sort of impact. WWE has repeatedly resorted to booking the high-flying talents who made their names in the Cruiserweight Classic tournament in meaningless multi-man tag matches. This gives the likes of Cedric Alexander and Lince Dorado ample opportunity to whip out plenty of innovative hurricanranas and stiff kicks, but it doesn’t leave much room for anyone to really get over.

 

 

Even the central feud in the division, between TJ Perkins and former mentor Brian Kendrick, has left crowds cold. Their solid title match at Hell in a Cell played to the sound of silence, despite the strong work of both men in the bout. The problem is not with the performers; it’s with the presentation. WWE is doing everything it can to separate the cruiserweights from the rest of Raw, with the unique purple ropes and different canvas. This creates a disconnect in the minds of fans who see it as something separate and, therefore, skippable. If WWE did more to include high-flying guys like Neville and Zayn in with the cruiserweights, they might make it a little clearer that these guys can compete with established talent.

Cruiserweight wrestling is amazing and, if done right, it could do a lot to heat up Raw. The fact that these guys can do astonishing stuff in the ring differentiates them enough. Don’t make it easy for people not to care.

 

Follow… the viper

A few weeks ago, Randy Orton seemingly joined the Wyatt Family when he turned on Kane. This week on SmackDown, he beat Kane in a No Disqualification match after interference from Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper. After the match, he helped the Wyatts to beat down Kane, who was left lying after taking Sister Abigail from the Eater of Worlds. Later in the show, we saw Orton being formally inducted into the family and telling Wyatt that he’s a god.

This is a really interesting direction for Orton as he moves into the later stages of his career and it’s even more interesting to see Wyatt actually assembling something of a cult. It’s almost a dead cert that Orton will break away from the Wyatts at some point soon, but this is currently one of SmackDown‘s most compelling stories and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

 

 

What do you think about Raw’s main event scene? Is WWE doing right by the cruiserweights? Where do you think the Orton/Wyatt story is going? Let me know in the comments section and come back next week for a new wrestling column.

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