The WWE Universe has made a habit of complaining about some of the repetitive feuds that have been featured on Raw and SmackDown over the past few months.
Darren Young and Titus O’Neil has been a particular point of contention among fans, as was the never-ending three month saga between Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin. That’s just the situation that any professional wrestling company is going to be in. If you’re promising that every talent is going to get the chance to shine, then you’re going to have to throw a few duds at the wall that just won’t stick. And for every minute-guzzling segment between Darren Young and Titus O’Neil, you could just as easily have something that doesn’t feature any wrestling at all.
Then there’s the program between Baron Corbin and Apollo Crews.
As far as SmackDown Live’s talent roster goes, “The Lone Wolf” and Crews are the outliers — two of the fresh new main roster talents who weren’t immediately strapped to a rocket and catapulted to the main event picture. They have both featured against the top talents, but these were mere higher-level enhancement matches — long, challenging matches booked to show that The Miz, Dean Ambrose and AJ Styles are capable of knocking down hard obstacles.
It is identical to how Sami Zayn is currently being presented on Monday Night Raw. Rather than advancing feuds by endless run-ins before matches get under way, it makes far more sense for both participants in a top-level feud to be taken to their limits by similarly hungry guys.
Now Corbin and Crews have been put against each other, more than once, and the fans are already complaining. Last Tuesday on SmackDown, a second encounter was about to get underway, before immediately ending in a no contest — WWE’s telltale sign of a further run.
But keeping both of these men in a series of matches against each other is both sensible booking and a vital move for the progression of both Apollo Crews and Baron Corbin. TPB has already repeatedly advocated for feuds to develop between people simply because they don’t like each other, but more than that, their pre-show match at Backlash generated a lively reaction from the crowd. It was the first time that either one of these guys has won over crowds during a match that either one of them could win.
If you’re putting them against AJ Styles or Dean Ambrose, the fans are obviously going to get behind them, and would probably riot if Apollo Crews beat AJ Styles mere weeks before a championship title match. But by putting the high-tier enhancement talents against each other and letting them fly, the fans actually get the chance to focus their attention on two guys and decide who they want to see go further.
If nothing else, the WWE knows when to nurture the lightning it manages to catch in a bottle, and the unexpectedly positive reaction to Crews and Corbin facing off on the Backlash pre-show showed that both men can bring out the best in each other in the ring — a revelation in terms of their wrestling talent given some of their earlier, clunkier affairs in the ring.
The Cesaro-Sheamus best-of-seven series is a classic example of how WWE can recognize two people who gel together and keep them in a long program. So-called “wrestling fans” complaining about it seem to forget that this is an age-old tactic from the territory days, and as well as serving the same purpose (to give fans multiple opportunities to see two well match competitors slug it out), it is a worth way of utilizing Corbin and Crews, bringing them up to scratch, and preparing them for a further ascension.