The Lack Of Hype For Stomping Grounds

This weekend, the Stomping Grounds pay-per-view is scheduled to take place without much buzz after an uninspiring build to the event in the past few weeks. The draw to the recycled Seth Rollins/Baron Corbin Universal title match is the yet-to-be-named special referee, which attempts to sell the potential of a shady title switch. Unfortunately, a Corbin championship victory would probably be met with less of a reaction than the build up to this pay-per-view. Side note, Corbin was portrayed for months as the flunky for the Authority that was “blamed” for the lackluster ratings so how exactly is he supposed to be perceived as a possible main event star now? This isn’t meant as a jab at Corbin, but rather to point out that maybe management should consider how the booking decisions affect how a talent will be presented later on. Remember, earlier this year, Corbin had more TV time than most of the roster, and the sum total of that investment of TV time puts him at a lower mid-card position at best in terms of star power because he was made to look like a nobody when he was deemed “the reason the ratings declined” on TV after his stint as general manager. Despite the illogical nature of the 50/50 booking on Raw, those decisions make an impression beyond just a weekly basis.

Becky Lynch made history as the winner of the first women’s main event at Wrestlemania, but it seems like a distant moment, even though it was less than three months ago. In fact, the argument could be made that Lynch is less over now than she was prior to the victory at the biggest event of the year. The infamous botched pin fall made the finish flat, and the discussion post-WM was more about Ronda’s shoulder clearly being up than the potential of Becky Lynch’s run as a double champion. Don’t get me wrong, Lynch is very talented and deserves a better angle for the biggest exposure of her career, but ultimately, she hasn’t had a compelling storyline to follow up the WM win. Perhaps, it was the lack of a one-on-one match with Ronda Rousey or any type of rematch. There just wasn’t anything booked to continue the momentum of the main event win since WM.

Unfortunately, it’s very possible that any momentum that Becky Lynch had from the Wrestlemania win might conclude at Stomping Grounds.

Lacey Evans, a former marine that started wrestling in 2014, signed a WWE deal just two years after she started in the sport. She spent a rather undistinguished year and a half on the NXT roster and didn’t generate the following of other mainstays on the brand. When she debuted on the main roster in late-2018, she was more of a new commodity than a competitor with a background from NXT to build upon, which isn’t necessarily a negative, but rather another aspect to the booking process because there wasn’t previous hype to use to propel her to Raw. For several weeks, Evans randomly walked down the ramp before she returned backstage without any specific point to the appearance. In theory, it was used to get heat and it could’ve been effective, but that type of gimmick is inherently short-term. When it was overused, it became stale and her character was one dimensional.

According to The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer, one of the reasons that Lacey Evans is a priority for WWE brass is because her background makes her a good representative of the company. If her military service is one of the reasons for her push toward the title picture, it’s certainly not being highlighted as a major selling point on TV. Granted, she’s a heel, but if the plan is to make her a star so she can be a good representative for the company then maybe she should be a baby face instead. Her background as a marine was only mentioned as a side note, with more of an emphasis on the nickname of “the sassy southern belle,” but what exactly does that translate to for her persona? She’s a heel that wears Kentucky derby hats?

Similar to her random appearances before she had matches on Raw, her promo style might be designed to get heat, but the robotic monotone deliver grinds the momentum of the show to a halt. It’s possible that she can cut good promos, but with how those segments are scripted, it’s more cringe worthy TV on a show that already has cringe worthy segments. While one of the reasons the WWE is the global company it is today is because of its ability to market different aspects of the product, the “branding” of the “sassy southern belle” is just a moniker they want to put on a t-shirt without any substance to add to her character.

Evans’ match against Becky Lynch at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view was subpar, and her match with Charlotte on Raw a few weeks ago was a disaster so maybe she should’ve been given more time to develop on the NXT brand before she was rushed to the main roster. In theory, if she’s a priority for management then it would make sense for them to try to book her in scenarios that would camouflage any potential weaknesses that might go along with her inexperience. However, at this point, she was booked in situations that more or less exposed the flaws in her in-ring ability.

At 29, the prime of Lacey Evans’ career appears to be ahead of her, but as mentioned earlier, booking decisions can affect how the audience reacts to a performer later on. Essentially, Lacey Evans will make an impression based on how she does in front of a global television audience, and if she flops, it might be difficult for her career to rebound to be considered a star, which is why it’s important that she’s not put in scenarios that expose any possible flaws in the ring.

Since Lacey appears to be a project for the company, there’s always a chance that they book her to win the title at Stomping Grounds, which more or less puts an end to Lynch’s current run, as it was based on the “Becky two belts” gimmick. Lynch as a double champion with the ability to show up anytime to defend the title against anyone would’ve added to the fighting champion character. If Lynch drops the title, where exactly does she go from there? Sure, she won the main event of Wrestlemania, but she didn’t main event another pay-per-view after that, and she might drop both championships after just two pay-per-views. In retrospect, WM 35 might be known as “Ronda Rousey’s main event” if it’s not used to propel Becky Lynch to a more prominent role in the company.

The common theme is that management didn’t put these athletes in the best possible situation to be successful. You can’t book Baron Corbin as “the reason ratings declined” then expect the fans to consider him a serious challenger for the Universal title. Lacey Evans might’ve been brought to the main roster too early and the walk out segments probably went on too many weeks so the fans tuned out when she was on stage. Plus, she was immediately booked in the title picture without a major push to establish herself as a contender for the champion. How many wins did Lacey Evans get on TV before the title match at the MITB pay-per-view? Becky Lynch was one of the most over on the roster prior to Wrestlemania, but hasn’t been booked for too many major segments on TV so the momentum wasn’t used effectively from the title win. There’s a lot of criticism about the 50/50 booking, the scripted promos, and some of the storylines, but the lack of hype for the Stomping Grounds seems to be the result of an overall mismanagement of the product.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

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