Having gone solo, Raw and SmackDown are very slowly finding their feet in terms of how their mid-card feuds are booked.
If nothing else, the booking at the very top of the card has been a masterclass and a firm indication that the WWE still has it. Rollins and Balor really ought to be competing in matches with other people, but they are at least being kept away from each other until SummerSlam. Ambrose and Ziggler, meanwhile, are crossing paths without actually entering into singles competition with each other. The tension is high, the curiosity is piqued and fans genuinely have no idea how each man is going to fare against the other.
Which is why it makes no sense whatsoever why the lower card feuds are being booked to lose the interest of the WWE Universe. In particular, the rivalry between Cesaro and Sheamus, and Darren Young and Titus O’Neil, are being handled atrociously.
While Sheamus’ intervention in preventing Cesaro from picking up the U.S. Championship on Monday was a strong way to stir the pot between the two, we kind of already know that Cesaro is the man who will come out on top come bell time. Why? Because they already faced each other a twice in two weeks, and in both clean fights we saw Cesaro come out on top.
Meanwhile, Darren Young and Titus O’Neil have also faced off against each other twice in as many weeks, and while in this instance the finishes were at least more than a little screwy and produced no real winner, the fans are surely going to head to the popcorn stands during what is inevitably going to be a match between the two on the SummerSlam pre-show.
Because, in both of these feuds, we haven’t seen any man build themselves up outside of each other. In an ideal feud, you’d have two guys going against each other who have an impressive track record of recent victories against other competitors. This isn’t to suggest that two guys must first crush 196 consecutive jobbers and go over The Undertaker at WrestleMania before they’re allowed to feud with each other. But, one of the things that neither Raw or SmackDown is doing particularly well is putting on several reasonably sized wrestling matches on a show. If the point of the brand extension is to offer more exposure to lower and mid card guys, then would it really kill the WWE to put underused talents in matches to take the likes of Cesaro and Sheamus to the limit?
It would be an ideal tool to make a guy look strong, and in recent years the WWE has been severely limited in the options it has taken to develop feuds. On a weekly basis, we can expect at least two DQ finishes and a match that never gets underway due to a wrestler being beaten up on their way to a ring. This all comes at the expense of regular, competitive wrestling matches.
It’s not like the WWE has forgotten the superior option. The match was directly related to Orton’s impending match with Brock Lesnar, as Del Rio mercilessly worked Orton’s injured shoulder and left us wondering if there was going to be anything left of him come SummerSlam. The encounter culminated in Orton hitting an RKO, and overcoming a serious threat to his credibility against Lesnar.
Wrestlers tell their best stories with their bodies, and so long as at least one competitor in a TV match has heat with someone else on the roster, his match has meaning. It isn’t “wrestling for the sake of wrestling” for two guys to have an ad hoc match; it is simply giving the fans what they want.