Yeah, that’s quite the title I know, but it’s accurate. I thought for sure the viral outbreak that forced massive changes to Sunday’s WWE TLC Pay Per View event would be the toughest thing the company had to deal with this week, but I was wrong.
As usual, Vince McMahon’s worst enemy is himself.
How else to explain the mind bogglingly stupid creative decisions we’ve seen over the past 48 hours from the world’s preeminent sports entertainment promotion? Let’s just forget about Sunday’s main event, an overbooked mess that featured the second attempted murder of Braun Strowman this year, as he was “compacted” in a garbage truck.
That debacle needs no explanation, because as soon as anyone reads the words “garbage truck” in a pro wrestling recap, unless Duke Droese or Sting happen to be around, things have gone down a poor path. The start and finish of that bout were fun, but it was generally ruined by the convoluted nonsense between the bookends. Basically, when Kurt Angle was around, it was good. When he wasn’t, it went to crap.
The TLC event opened with bafflingly terrible booking, as the heavily hyped Asuka main roster debut finally came to fruition. Undefeated for over 500 days in NXT, never losing that brand’s Women’s Championship, she was basically Goldberg. She crushed everything in her path, big and small, and utterly obliterated her opposition. As a result, she was special. She was different. She wasn’t like everybody else.
Sunday, her opponent was Emma, and as big a proponent of her as I am (and I’m a huge fan), Asuka should have defeated her in about 90 seconds. That’s 90 seconds max, as I’d have been fine if it were half that. Emma hasn’t ever been pushed, has fallen out of favor with WWE on multiple occasions, and has been involved in angles this year where she feels disrespected because she can’t even get on television.
When she does get on TV, she gets squashed in no time flat by Nia Jax, or she takes the pinfall. Her talent is irrelevant to this discussion, because she’s unimportant to Vince and his writing team. She’s a preliminary performer, which is an indictment on the company, because she deserves better.
But not on Sunday, and definitely not in the rematch on Monday.
In both cases, she controlled matches with the debuting Asuka. Asuka sold more than anything else, and Emma took heat on her for at least 65% of these two bouts. Because she means nothing to creative, she means nothing to the fans. Emma is a curtain jerker in the Women’s Division. That’s all anybody has ever seen her as, which despite being a shame, is the truth.
Therefore, the single reason you book Asuka with Emma is to create a dominant squash that can put the former in as an immediate force to be reckoned with. Instead, Asuka is now just like everybody else. They’ve gone a long way in just two appearances to ruining everything NXT got right with that character.
If you’re seeing visions of Shinsuke Nakamura in your head right now, that’s because this is virtually the same thing that happened to him in feuds with Dolph Ziggler, Baron Corbin, and Jinder Mahal, except that Nak has the extra charismatic advantage that makes him stand out a bit.
This Asuka ridiculousness was incredibly imbecilic booking, if WWE has any plans whatsoever for her. And if not, why call her up from NXT in the first place? She was Goldberg, and while she’s still undefeated, she’s on the way to being Bayley if they’re not careful. Goldberg’s rise is one of the great creative moves of the past 30 years in pro wrestling, yet no one seemed to learn anything from it. And as for Bayley, that’s yet another 2017 failure for WWE, in a giant list filled with them.
Somehow, even with the Asuka mistake, WWE trumped it with what the company chose to do last night with Finn Balor. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the single dumbest thing I’ve seen all year in WWE. As pathetic as the House of Horrors match was, and as bad as pretty much everything Bray Wyatt has done all year has been, I didn’t care about Bray Wyatt. Increasingly, no one does, because WWE has turned what could have been an excellent Cajun cult leader gimmick into the worst B-movie of all time.
Seriously, Bray just asked Papa Shango to hold his beer.
Bray has become an afterthought, but Finn Balor is one of the company’s brightest stars. Even though they saddled him with Bray in an atrocious angle and wasted the potential power of his injury comeback in April, the people still love him. He’s not a great promo, but he’s undeniably fun to watch and extremely talented.
Sunday, Finn faced off with AJ Styles in a dream match for WWE fans that came about due to Bray’s illness (hopefully he’s feeling better). The two went 18 minutes, put on one of the top 5 matches this year in WWE or NXT, and guess what, the promotion actually did a clean finish in a match where both guys behaved as fighters that wanted to win. Balor went over, which makes sense on a RAW brand PPV and also considering the reported plans to pair him with Brock Lesnar as a buffer before the Roman Reigns feud to lead into WrestleMania 34.
Balor was riding high going into last night’s RAW after arguably the best win of his main roster career. It was the best match he’d had in many months, and it was exactly the boost he needed. It didn’t harm AJ, who is more established and is legitimately the best pro wrestler in the entire company. Both came out smelling like roses.
And then came WWE’s choice to take what they’d done with Finn one night previously and throw it in the trash compactor next to Braun Strowman. What could Vince possibly have been thinking in taking the ONE guy he should be protecting (other than Lesnar) and feeding him to Kane? Literally anyone else on the roster would have been a better choice, because none of them are supposedly being primed for a big match with Brock.
Worse, if you’re going to just totally destroy all of Balor’s momentum from Sunday, why bother putting him over in the match with AJ Styles in the first place? AJ will be working for the SmackDown World Championship within the next three months, and isn’t a guy that needs to lose very often. Think about this carefully. WWE puts AJ under to Finn in a classic on Sunday, clean in the middle of the ring. The next night, you absolutely job Balor out to Kane, in 2017, and thus make both Styles and Finn look worse in the process.
Kane needs to be strong so people care when he faces off with Strowman. That’s going to be the rationale. I hate to tell you this Vince, but no one’s going to care anyway. Had Kane laid out Jason Jordan last night, it would have had the same effect. But Finn Balor? Treated like a complete loser after three choke slams?
Another common WWE argument is Vince’s belief that people don’t remember what was done one month prior, and thus all decisions are basically equal outside of a few big ones. First off, this was a big one, and second off, all WWE has is its storylines. The best pure wrestling in the world is being done in Japan, the UK, or on the Independent circuit. WWE works its style, which I love, but the separator is in the characters and the stars.
If you’re going to tell me wins and losses don’t matter, why am I watching? Why invest my time in Braun Strowman, only to have him beaten after one Lesnar F-5? Why should I care about Finn Balor if you’re going to job him out like you did last night? Why are we wasting our time with this?
Seriously Vince, this is a question you need to address inside your own head. Your audience’s average age has gone up exponentially, as the kids aren’t watching the shows as much anymore, and it’s the old wrestling fan that’s still sticking around. But, we grew up on Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair, Nick Bockwinkel, Sting, Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, and so many others that were stars because they were TREATED as such. Eventually, we’re going to grow tired of meaningless cards with meaningless wrestlers and meaningless angles.
Asuka and Finn Balor are two special talents that WWE has done a good job of turning into cogs in a machine. Nothing stands out anymore. Both decisions were horrendous, harmed the future, damaged the two stars, and need to be called out.
Each was insanely dumb. The Balor-Kane situation last night, however, was completely indefensible. It was creative malpractice of the highest order and lacked any semblance of sound logic or decision making.
I’m @JMartOutkick. Hit me up there or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.