Last night, the Raw legends night featured nearly two dozen former stars, mostly in minimal cameo roles throughout the broadcast. However, after Drew McIntyre defeated Keith Lee to retain the WWE championship, Bill Goldberg, who last wrested at Wrestlemania 36 when he dropped the Universal title to Braun Strowman, interrupted the champion’s post-match address to the legends. The former WCW champion made his way to the ring and challenged Drew to a match at the Royal Rumble, which is scheduled to take place at the end of this month.
The 54-year-old Hall of Famer was originally scheduled to compete against Roman Reigns at WM 36, but because of his health history, the tribal chief was forced to cancel as a pandemic precaution. Since that time, the company has teased the showdown finally taking place, with both Goldberg and Roman exchanging verbal jabs across WWE programming and social media. This prompted many to speculate that the match initially booked for 2020 will take place at WM 37 instead, something that could give the company a bout to promote that was legitimately a year in the making.
But, with the title match with the champion of the Raw brand on the horizon, does this translate to a change in direction or simply a part of the bigger picture?
We’ve discussed it many times, Roman Reigns is the WWE’s top star and their top priority. It’s disappointing it took the office almost five years to turn him heel, but he’s doing the best work of his career with Paul Heyman by his side, and when he eventually makes the switch back, the company will finally have the top baby face star it wanted for the past several years. I’ve written about it several times, but there was an opportunity cost for Roman’s super push, with others on the roster that were more over and could’ve been elevated to more important status, but were kept at a ceiling so that nobody would out shine Reigns.
Could Drew McIntyre be another star kept at a ceiling?
I find Goldberg’s involvement in the WWE title picture puzzling because the teased match is against Roman, not McIntyre, and regardless of how this angle is booked, momentum will have to be sacrificed. On one hand, it’s possible that management abandon the potential Goldberg/Reigns match-up, but that doesn’t appear to be the situation, especially because it was teased last month. If Drew defeats Bill Goldberg at the Royal Rumble, what exactly would be the logic or the reasoning for Goldberg to challenge Reigns at Wrestlemania? If Goldberg is pinned by Drew, it would be very difficult for the company to promote him as a credible challenger against Reigns. Plus, the value in a Goldberg/Reigns bout is for Reigns to win to get the push of beating a dominate legend. If McIntyre beats Goldberg a few months before a WM match against Roman, what’s the value if Reigns beats him?
On the other hand, it’s very possible that Goldberg beats Drew to reestablish him as a champion and thus it will be a more meaningful victory for Reigns at WM. The title vs. title aspect would add more fuel to the angle, and Roman posing with both belts at WM 37 is probably the biggest push that the company could given him in this era.
The major downside of this is that if the office books Drew to drop the belt to a 54-year-old part-timer, his run as a main event talent is more or less over. If management concludes this portion of Drew’s time as champion without letting him be presented as the champion in front of a live crowd then there’s no way to truly measure how over he is with the fans. This is one of those scenarios where the office might miss the boat on Drew’s potential to be a bigger star, and if they really think he can be a legitimate draw then they should run with him as champion for a more extended period of time. If not, he will be in a category with several others that won the title, but never really got over as top stars. Sheamus, Jack Swagger, Alberto Del Rio, Kofi Kingston, Bray Wyatt, and others had reigns as champion, but weren’t solidified as truly top stars. The level they could’ve individually achieved is debatable, but the point is, it’s rare that the company fully invest in someone as a truly top star. Too often, they depends on a former star, who is still more over than the majority of the current roster to boost major events.
As mentioned, Drew hasn’t really had a chance because the reaction of a live audience could really enhance the perception of him as a top guy. In truth, the product is so stagnant from a combination of the pandemic era and the booking that it’s doubtful a switch of the belt would provide any improvement to the sluggish ratings. If the office thinks Drew can be a top star, there’s really no harm in keeping the title on him.
If Goldberg wins the title to set up a match against Roman at WM 37, management is again using nostalgia to prop up the product. In many ways, the office has overplayed the Goldberg hand, and the Saudi match against The Undertaker is an example of the results that scenario can yield. It was a completely different situation in 2016 because the fans were happy to see him again and it was great to see him get a better conclusion to his career than the dismal stint in 2003. The feud with Brock Lesnar was booked perfectly because it showcased what Goldberg did well, kept the angle entertaining, and didn’t put him in any situation that would diminish his star power, including the slightly longer match he had to conclude the feud at WM 33. Props to Bill Goldberg, he’s a real-life good guy and takes his responsibility as a recognizable figure seriously to try to help the community. That being said, he already had the comeback, fans are familiar with his limited act, and some of his star power wore off when the results were less than stellar. Sure, he had a few matches per year on his contract so let him spear The Miz in a squash match so there’s the nostalgia pop and there’s no risk of a a subpar performance. The fact that Goldberg is booked to challenge McIntyre for the WWE title at one of the major pay-per-views speaks volumes about the lack of star power in the company.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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