At the end of last week’s Monday Night Raw, a million questions were floating around the WWE Universe. Those who were expecting their answers this week were left bitterly disappointed. Those who were hoping that this didn’t portend a return to an endless slew of Triple H promos and Authority obsession and interference are likely to have been pleasantly surprised.
To subvert our expectation of Raw opening with the entrance of Triple H by instead generating some genuine intrigue over Stephanie McMahon’s involvement, as well as the bubbling tensions between her and General Manager Mick Foley, instantly paints Triple H as a far more elusive figure — a welcome relief from the camera-hogging drone that fans have become accustomed to over the years.
For a start, keeping Triple H out of the picture for a while doesn’t drain or detract from the interplay between Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens. At Owens’ end, little is being made of the fact that he required a massive assist from “The Game” to pick up his coveted championship win, and while it is true that he is likely to have become a new “pawn” for The Authority to play around with, this is something that is fueling Seth Rollins’ anger rather than the mighty political statements of WWE management.
Triple H’s absence from Monday’s Raw also demonstrates a faith in the new way in which authority figures are being presented on the program. Since the brand extension, and the pleasingly limited presence of Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley, WWE creative has shown itself to be more than capable of going back to the old-school method of wrestlers guys fighting solely for the sake of championships and an inherent dislike of one another. It relegates Foley and McMahon’s involvement in feuds to a more reactive stance — making matches in response to conflict on the show.
Meanwhile, from the management’s angle, we can enjoy a reasonably long period of frictions and mystery to emerge between the GM and the commissioner, as the resentment of a lack of answers continues to prey on Foley’s stability.
The last thing that Raw needs right now is to lose sight of the character development of its guys.
Seth Rollins has undergone the babyface turn that fans have been calling out for for years, and if this entire story were to turn out to be nothing more than yet another “wronged underdog vs. management” type affair, the fans are going to quickly grow tired of it.
Kevin Owens is also far too entertaining to simply stand there beaming while Triple H talks about himself for 45 minutes. The dynamic we got to see during Owens’ celebration, of a man holding his pride while his two superiors looked on in vague disgust, was a much more interesting thing to watch. We’ve had heel boss scowling at face champions, and we’ve had heel boss inflating the ego of heel champion, but what we’ve seldom seen is neutral bosses trying to figure out what the hell to do with such an illegitimate champion who pushes them around. They certainly can’t screw him, but they can attempt to punish him, and having a man like Owens consistently manage to dodge his punishments and win his matches to his superiors’ chagrin is a lesser used narrative which warrants some exploration.
Less is more, and as the weeks pass without (hopefully) so much as a peep from Triple H but more interplay between the wrestlers involved in that farrago, the audience gets more time to start connecting the dots between Triple H’s actions and the events as they unfold.
And, it cannot be stated enough: We might actually start to anticipate Triple H’s appearances rather than dread them.