After last weekend’s HIAC pay-per-view, I wanted to wait until this week’s television to write a review of the show and discuss the direction of the current product, mostly because a series of intriguing questions remain ahead of a pair of foreign shows scheduled for the WWE Network. First, it should be noted that this event will probably not get the praise it deserves because of the finish of the main event, but overall, this show was one of the best WWE PPVs of the year, as the event went over three and a half hours without dragging at any point during the production.
The opener of Randy Orton/Jeff Hardy was a brutal bout and the argument could be made that it should’ve closed the show, especially after the finish that was booked for the Universal title match. It was somewhat surprising to see Hardy take the bumps and the risk that he did here, simply because it was reported that he was dealing with a variety of injuries a few months ago and it was rumored that he would take time off. Granted, Hardy had his well-documented problems in the past, but even at 41 after over two decades of a high risk style, he can still go in the ring. However, considering the amount of previously mentioned injuries, you have to wonder, when will Hardy hang up the boots? On the flip side, the 38-year-old Orton worked a much safer style during his WWE career and despite a minor knee surgery this past spring, he appears to have at least another five years of his WWE career, assuming he wants to continue to compete. Usually, I don’t question the effort of performers because they work a grueling schedule, but it certainly seems like Orton takes it to another level when he’s motivated to do so. At various points in his career, his matches took a very repetitive, almost robotic pattern, but his performances go to another gear when he seems like he’s invested in the angle. He’s mentioned in interviews that he would rather work as a heel so maybe that’s why this storyline with Hardy has worked so well. If this HIAC match is the conclusion of the feud, is it possible that Orton could move up the card for a possible feud against AJ Styles at some point for the title?
The Becky Lynch/Charlotte match was solid and showcased both women very well. The title win was needed because it validated Lynch’s heel turn and solidifies her status on a different level as far as star power. Charlotte evolved as a performer during her time on the main roster and in many ways, she doesn’t necessarily need the championship to maintain her spot as one of the featured women on the roster. More than anything, it was good to see Becky get this chance to flourish as a star because she was lost in the shuffle in recent years, but definitely has the skills to be a star in the division.
The Raw Tag Team title match was a great action-packed bout and underscores the fact that the WWE has some of the best in-ring talent currently on the roster of at least the past decade. I penned an article just a few weeks ago and explained that Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose deserve better than playing second fiddle to Roman Reigns for another Shield reunion in an attempt to camouflage the hostile reaction toward the Universal champion. This match is another example that Rollins and Ambrose could easily work the main event scene on Raw. A similar statement could be said about their opponents, Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre, who have done very well as a team in recent months. Perhaps, it’s as simple as Ziggler’s history of concussions and management doesn’t want to risk investing another main event run for him if another injury puts him on the shelf for an extended period, but he’s absolutely one of the most solid performers on the roster. For McIntyre, it’s quite remarkable that he went from being a comedy act to released from the company and he rejuvenated his career to return with the potential as a main event talent. More than anything, his time away from the WWE allowed him to develop an aggressive style and a more well-rounded persona that better suits the WWE main event scene. Make no mistake about it, this version of Drew McIntyre will be ready for a main event run when he gets the opportunity to challenge for the title.
Similar to the other championship matches on the card, Samoa Joe/AJ Styles was a good match-up that showcased both athletes. I’d say the argument could be made that this contest was actually better than their match at Summer Slam last month. Obviously, the finish was done to set up a rematch for the Super Showdown event in two weeks, but do these “extra” overseas events dilute the product? Granted, financially, these shows are worth millions of dollars and that will always be the top priority of a publicly-traded company, but from a booking perspective, management will run through more main event matches in a shorter time when these “super show” events are shoehorned between the usual pay-per-views. Furthermore, will there be a point when there are too many shows and too much content for WWE brass to book effectively?
The Daniel Bryan and Brie vs. Miz and Maryse seemed to be used as a way to set up the number one contendership match for the previously mentioned Super Showdown event. The actual match was okay, nothing spectacular, but nothing terrible. However, the bigger story is that Daniel Bryan was put in a match again where he loses to the Miz. Daniel Bryan returned to the ring just a few months ago and had all the momentum to be booked in the main event picture, but his star power has almost been minimized on Smackdown. The audience reaction is still there, but he has more or less resumed his status as floundering at the mid-card, or in this situation, being used to boost Miz. The storyline with the Miz peaked at Summer Slam, as the build up to the revenge, but Bryan was pinned. Maybe I’m being too pessimistic, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was used to put over Miz to set up a title shot against AJ Styles. Hopefully, there are better plans for Daniel Bryan because it would be extremely disappointing if management didn’t fully capitalize on his popularity with the audience.
The Raw Women’s title match was decent and Ronda continues to do well despite her inexperience in sports entertainment. However, the Alexa Bliss feud has more of less had its run on TV so it will be interesting to see how Ronda is booked going forward and who’s the next challenger for the title.
The main event was decent, but the finish basically ruined the match. A non-finish in a HIAC match probably won’t get over in any scenario, and if management didn’t want to beat Braun then maybe they shouldn’t have booked the match. Brock Lesnar’s return was a surprise, mostly because it’s well known that he’s planning to fight in the UFC after his PED suspension expires at the end of the year. That said, Brock looked noticeably smaller since he had to enroll in the USADA testing pool to be eligible to fight again. As mentioned, these overseas shows are for major cash so Lesnar will work the next Saudi Arabia event strictly for the payday, not another run for the WWE. Rollins and Ziggler took risky bumps through tables during the match, a risk that was totally cheapened when they wrestled the next night on Raw. Too often, competitors take legitimately risky bumps and then the effectiveness of the spot is hindered when those athletes compete the next night. Why not get the most from the bump and allow the competitors to sell it?
Right now, the WWE product has set up well for the stadium show in Australia, but the major question is, will the results of the show have a direct impact on the storylines of each brand? Keep in mind, the Greatest Royal Rumble event after WM 34 was basically just a televised house show because nothing that impacted the direction of the product happened during the show. It will be interesting to see if there are any major title changes for the Australia show on the WWE Network.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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