Monday Night Raw’s main event featured a bout between two men who will be doing battle at SummerSlam. Instead of the U.S. Title being on the line, as it will be on Sunday, it was Lana’s respect — or something — that was on the line when Rusev did figurative battle against Roman Reigns.
It was an odd decision to book that match for a variety of reasons. The biggest of which is not only giving fans this match six days before SummerSlam, but to have one of the wrestlers go over clean. So, now we head into their match at SummerSlam with one guy looking weaker than the other. How appealing (what is the sarcasm font, again).
That’s rare. The WWE doesn’t often use go-home editions of Raw to somewhat kill the allure of a Network Special match. Then again, this can simply be a move by the company to build a longer lasting feud between the two talents. Reigns wins on Raw, Rusev retains the gold at SummerSlam, and we head into a rubber match of sorts down the line.
Still, it is an incredibly odd decision to have Reigns win clean on Monday. Winning is fine, and it adds a level of credibility and importance to Raw shows moving forward, but to give an already booked Network Special match away for free is nearly always a mistake — especially if this ends up resulting in Reigns beating Rusev again on Sunday, as all the momentum our favorite Bulgarian brute has built up over the last few months will vanish.
The WWE appears to be quietly, if not sneakily, trying to keep Reigns in the main event picture without having him fight for the company’s biggest title.
We are meant to believe that Raw’s top title is going to be the WWE Universal Championship, but ever since that belt became a reality and Finn Balor vs Seth Rollins has been set, it has been Rusev and Reigns closing each Raw.
Think about that from a logical standpoint. Rarely — if ever — do mid-card titles take the main event spots heading into a major WWE Network Special. Yet here we are, in a post-brand split world, and while we all are under the impression Reigns has been “demoted” to mid-card status, he hasn’t actually left the main event scene.
In fact, it is the opposite.
When the vest-wearing former Shield member had the world title, and when he was chasing it, he would regularly be booked in the middle sections of Raw. Now that he’s fresh off his suspension and has been demoted, he has closed the last two episodes heading into the company’s third or fourth most important Network Special of the year.
Not only has the WWE oddly booked a clean finish to a match right before it is being had on a Network Special, but the company has tricked fans into consuming main event Reigns all over again. It has become so painfully obvious that is the case that no one should be shocked of Rusev vs Reigns closes SummerSlam.
Anyway, there has to be more to this entire decision to book Reigns over Rusev (clean) on Monday. It can’t merely be the WWE trying to give fans engaging programming on a go-home edition of Raw. There has to be some sort of evil plan behind it all.
Unfortunately, if the conspiracy theories in my head are working correctly, our worst case scenario calls for Reigns to beat Rusev — which would essentially destroy the champion’s momentum in a similar way his losses to John Cena previously did. It also means more of Reigns being force-fed to fans.
Best case? Well, we are looking at a long running feud between the two, which is actually pretty awesome on the surface, but the fact remains the same: WWE is doing all of this to discreetly keep Reigns near the very top of the company by disguising his main event status in mid-card title bouts.
This is why no one ever learns a lesson, and the WWE is that old dog that can’t learn new tricks.