The Night WWE Jumped The Shark

Last month, I penned an article and explained that the rumored match of Seth Rollins vs. Bray Wyatt at the HIAC pay-per-view could be WWE management booking themselves into a corner. I explained that I thought it was too early to thrust “The Fiend” into a title match, simply because he only had one actual match since his return, and the writing team would have to figure out how to book him on a weekly basis while maintaining the mystic that renewed Wyatt’s career. Unfortunately, the bout was eventually booked and it will probably be known as the night that WWE jumped the shark.

In many ways, considering the reaction that The Fiend was getting ahead of the contest, it was either he won the title and WWE brass figures out how to book that persona as champion or it would be somewhat of a letdown. As we saw, the booking of the match was a total letdown and arguably damaged the status of both performers as a result.

The portrayal of Seth Rollins this year, specifically his promos for the Brock Lesnar feud presented him as a whiny baby face instead of a fighting challenger. That along with his social media missteps, including his jabs at New Japan’s Will Ospreay for the rave reviews of the Jr. Heavyweight champion’s performances that devolved into Rollins citing his bank account as proof of quality matches. Quite simply, the winner of the Universal title at Wrestlemania this year isn’t majorly over with the audience.

When the HIAC main event took the ring, the red lighting that remained throughout the match should’ve been a clue that something wacky was going to happen. Wyatt seemingly no sold much of Rollins’ offense until the champion got the advantage and hit nearly a dozen curb stomps to the challenger, but Wyatt kicked out of all of them, making the concept of the stomp as a finish totally useless. I understand that in the modern era finishers are used for high spots instead of actual finishes or to attempt to sell a false finish, but the overuse of the curb stomp here was completely ridiculous. How exactly are the fans supposed to buy it as a devastating move after this? More specifically, what does is say about the caliber of a competitor if they are pin from one stomp now? Most importantly, how many iconic finishes were ever used this often in a match? When did Stone Cold have to use a dozen stunners to win a match? Did the Undertaker have to use five tombstones to get a victory?

The extended beat down that went on for several minutes and saw Seth use chairs, ladders, a toolbox, and a hammer not only went on too long, but it turned the crowd against Rollins. Seth was beating a defenseless opponent with several objects, who is the heel here? When you consider that his opponent is one of the most over acts on WWE TV, what did management exact to happen?

The finish that saw Seth use a sledge hammer, prompting the referee to call for the bell was where the WWE jumped the shark to get out of the corner they booked themselves in when they scheduled this match. It doesn’t matter if the “official decision” was a DQ or a stoppage, the entire selling point and history of the cell match is that anything goes and that there must be a winner. Ultimately, management didn’t deliver what was advertised with a HIAC stipulation. Again, what did WWE brass expect the reaction to be to this? The obvious example is that Mick Foley was thrown off the cell and put through the roof, but the match continued so it’s difficult to credibly sell any stoppage for this stipulation.

While the concept of sports entertainment allows for the limits of logic to be stretched for certain angles, the WWE took it too far in this scenario and it made them look foolish. It’s often said that when you insult the audience’s intelligence you can sour them on the product and this situation might be the prime example of that. I’m guessing that Bray’s post-match attack was designed for him to get his heat back or make him look strong before the show went off the air, but the entire structure of the match might’ve ruined some of his character. With any time of sinister gimmick there’s a fine line between something that’s too cartoonish too be taken seriously and something that has a unique aura that draws money. The Undertaker’s ability to make his persona quite possible the best portrayed character in the history of the industry is the best example. At HIAC, Bray Wyatt went from sinister to silly with a comeback that was too over the top because the beat down was too over the top. Similar to when Braun somehow got smashed in a garbage truck, Bray’s virtual no sell of a 12-minute assault makes the audience shake their head.

Possibly the most ridiculous aspect of all of this nonsense is the fact that Bray’s ability to no sell such offense doesn’t fit with any narrative that was presented on Raw prior to the HIAC pay-per-view. The Fiend is supposed to be Wyatt’s alter ego when he’s pushed over the edge so it’s well-established that Bray is made of flesh and blood. When exactly did he get super powers to no sell a sledge hammer? The whole thing is so preposterous that it makes the product look silly, not brutal or dangerous. The angle and the response to it could do more to hinder Bray than anything else, and the hostile reaction could taint his character. In many respects, this event was counterproductive to any progress that was made to get Bray over again after his potential was wasted for much of his original run.

Obviously, management knew about the lackluster feedback from the pay-per-view because there was no follow-up to the Rollins/Wyatt match on Raw. Who knows where Wyatt goes from here, but if the writing team wants to maintain any of his momentum then he has to be booked for a meaningful angle.

At a time when WWE has legitimate competition for the first time in nearly two decades, it’s tough to understand why decisions such as the finish for the HIAC main event was made because it’s a way to directly sour fans on the product. Granted, I know that most of the point is moot because the company is already going to generated record-setting revenue because of the new TV contracts, but at some point the lack of stars being made now will affect the company in the future. There’s only so many nostalgia acts that can provide a boost of star power for signature events. The booking fumbles of today could come back to bite them in five years, especially when you consider that John Cena is still the most recent money-drawing star the company made in the modern era.

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

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta