The first Monday Night Raw of the new year brought us some interesting things to talk about. We had a wonderful Last Man Standing match between Sami Zayn vs Braun Strowman which not only made Braun look like a vicious bad ass but gave Sami a much needed boost with the grit and determination he showed in the loss. We had an amazing, yet short, Number One Contender’s match for the Raw Women’s Championship between Nia Jax and Bayley which saw Bayley get the win after Sasha Banks’ music hit causing Nia to become distracted. Yet the end of the show is what really hit me most and not in a good way. It was the debut interview segment of The Kevin Owens Show with his special guest Bill Goldberg.
The WWE showed it’s audience in that segment how much they care about their champion. He was pretty much an after thought as soon as Goldberg entered. While I loved that Owens got in Goldberg’s face, shying away from being the wimp they’ve portrayed him to be recently, they quickly had Roman Reigns enter, getting into a stare down with Goldberg. They even sacrificed the momentum that Braun Strowman has made by having Roman Reigns and Goldberg take out Strowman with a double spear.
Yet what really stuck with me was the fact that the Universal Champion himself was outside the ring for all this. The Champion needs to be the focus of your show otherwise why should we care about him or anyone else chasing after him?
A Championship Belt in wrestling is simply a MacGuffin. An example of a MacGuffin in movies would be R2-D2 in Star Wars Episode 4. It’s the object that everyone in the story is looking for that in the grand scheme of things is really not that important. In wrestling, everyone should want to be the World Champion. (Or in the case of Raw, the Universal Champion.) As a viewer, we want to root for the competitors we like to beat the Champion. If you support the Champion, you want to see him fend off all comers to his title. Yet when the company presents their Champion as an afterthought to someone who is holding a lesser title, you have to ask yourself why should I care about anything on this show? Honestly, it would be like the Rebels in Star Wars telling the Empire they have the plans to the Death Star and Darth Vader replying that he could care less because he’s more interested in something happening somewhere else in the galaxy.
If the WWE wants to strap their company onto Roman Reigns back, they need to give him credible opponents to face. When you’re making his opponents appear to be such weak fools that the average person feels they can get in the ring and have a good shot at beating them, you're not giving the fans a reason to care for Roman Reigns. While the relationship between Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens has given us a number of laughs the past few months, having Chris Jericho assist him as much as he has in my opinion has done more to damage Kevin Owens than help him.
I think the reason most folks think back so fondly towards older eras in wrestling like the Attitude Era was because the company at that time developed their stars properly. When Mick Foley won the title, you knew in the back of your head that he wasn’t going to hold it for long. Yet they gave him the time he needed to prove himself to be a credible champion. That way, when The Rock finally beat him for the title, it meant something.
If Roman Reigns defeats Kevin Owens at the Royal Rumble, Kevin Owens loses more than just the championship. He loses his chance to be a credible main event player for some time to come in the eyes of the fans. And for the caliber of athlete that he is, that is just sad. The WWE should be going out of their way to cultivate as many talents as they can. Focusing on one star to be The Guy is just going to bring resentment from the audience and eventually apathy.
On a side note, the WWE Network debuted a show on the WWE Network after Raw called Bring It To The Table with host Pete Rosenberg. Being honest here, they ripped off the format of Pardon the Interruption from ESPN but they made it work here by talking about the topics affecting the WWE in a real way. They didn’t approach it as if it were a part of the story line and I honestly loved the format. Wrestling is scripted entertainment but it is portraying a sport. Using shows on their Network like this opens up the conversation more for fans similar to what shows like Pardon the Interruption on ESPN does and that is not a bad thing. I loved it and can’t wait until the next episode.