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For the first time since the brand extension, WWE Raw’s portion of the SummerSlam card began to take shape, but not without leaving a few burning questions to address in the wake of the August 8 broadcast.
One, in particular, revolves around the face-to-face encounter between Raw general manager Mick Foley and his SmackDown peer Daniel Bryan. How could a segment so hyped over the last three days wind up being so inconsequential by the time Monday’s broadcast ended?
Another focuses on the brightest star of the show, Cesaro. After working hard-fought, incredibly physical matches, he appears no better off than he did before his stellar performances.
Finally, there was the escalation of the feud between Roman Reigns and Rusev. After a relatively weak start a week ago, the issues intensified and did so in a manner that had the desired effect for all involved.
1. Will every cross-brand interaction between authority figures be as bland as Daniel Bryan and Mick Foley’s?
The main angle advertised for the August 8 episode of Raw was Mick Foley’s invitation to Daniel Bryan for an in-ring meeting between the two authority figures. Anticipation for the angle was somewhat high given previous examples of brand crossovers and the effects they have had on long-term storytelling.
Instead of something monumental, fans were “treated” to a verbal spar that painted Bryan as a brat and Foley as gruff and miserable before Cesaro and Rusev interrupted, leading to the night’s main event.
It was as lackluster a way to blow off an angle as imaginable. In fact, it was a waste of a segment that gave birth to a match that made zero sense given the context of ongoing storylines.
Rather than presenting a moment that defined the early days of this latest brand extension, WWE Creative produced a dud of a segment that will be forgotten by the majority by the time this sentence ends.
2. Cesaro is going to fade right back into the midcard mess, isn’t he?
Admit it, you know that Cesaro’s excellent performances in two entirely different matches will only net him a return to the deep, dark abyss that is the Raw midcard.
After another extraordinary display of athleticism and in-ring skill, The Swiss Superman should see career growth and enjoy the most substantial run of his career. Instead, he is almost assuredly heading back to the spot he has always occupied—that of the strong hand that constantly delivers but never advances up or down the card.
Watching his performances against Sheamus and Rusev on Monday night, he clearly worked two different matches, against two different workers, and delivered under both circumstances.
Why he is not currently enjoying a run atop the brand, or even on SmackDown, can probably be chalked up to his inability to connect verbally. The uneven and lackluster pushes he has received to this point suggest indecisiveness on the part of management could be his greatest undoing.
3. Is the Rusev program Roman Reigns’ best chance for fan acceptance?
Rusev is a great pro wrestling heel. Sure, he is a stereotypical foreign baddie, but his athleticism is phenomenal and the ferocity with which he competes generates sympathy for his opponents. That he is loud, obnoxious and often braggadocious only enhances the hatred fans have for him.
It was against The Bulgarian Brute that John Cena earned his most sustained positive reaction, and if Monday’s Raw is any indication, Roman Reigns will have similar results.
The former WWE champion not only unloaded a vicious Spear on his SummerSlam opponent but also humiliated manager Lana, indirectly shoving her face into a wedding cake. The boos were still there, but the response for him was, arguably, the best since his title win in Philadelphia last December.
Reigns is an explosive performer who has continuously brought it from an in-ring perspective but always needed that one program to build him some favor with fans.
After a failed main event run, this should be it.