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Raw Roundtable: Goldberg is back

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What has been the biggest issue preventing the cruiserweights from shining on the main roster?

Daniel DeMarco: It’s WWE’s lack of patience. The cruiserweights were never going to debut on Raw and get the same incredible reception the hardcore fans gave them throughout the Cruiserweight Classic. You’re talking about two very different audiences. The standard WWE audience whose only window to pro wrestling is WWE every week on USA Network (which is the large majority of the audience) is going to require some time to warm up to the cruiserweights and the various wrestlers involved. But WWE, rather than taking it slow and letting it blossom naturally, has gotten into a rush and started using cheesy character development — throwing the meal in the microwave for something quick to feed the fans. But it’s not working. And while the six-man tag on Raw was a good change of pace that stood out on the show, WWE has not really been letting the cruiserweights use their full potential in-ring. So the result has just been very similar matches to everything else on Raw, but with characters the crowd largely does not care about.

If you ask me, Vince McMahon should go watch WCW Monday Nitro from the mid-90s on his patented WWE Network to see how WCW did it. Because let me tell you, WCW did an excellent job two decades ago doing exactly what WWE is trying to do right now.

Riley Kontek: The lack of character development and lack of time to shine the spotlight on them. Right now, the only guys getting any character development are T.J. Perkins and Brian Kendrick, while the rest of the roster is just pushed through the curtain to take on random matches. The fans can be wowed by their work, but if there isn’t any reason to invest in a wrestler personally, they will continue to be met with tepid responses.

Joseph Nardone: The overall booking, but if it is a singular thing we need to pick from, I’d go with the lack of legitimate TV time these guys are getting.

After receiving a bumbled, but still quick backstage segment, six cruiserweights were “gifted” what appeared to be a really rushed segment coming right before the Goldberg return. Given the context, coupled in with the lack of time, the WWE put them in a position where the live audience was going to be nothing but impatient with the talents trotting about the squared-circle.

Also, NO – MORE – PURPLE – ROPES! They are all on Raw. Let them function as members of it in a normal fashion.

Travis Wakeman: I believe it’s the crowds. The action in the ring is exciting and the Superstars in the division are the type we haven’t seen in years in WWE, but yet you hear the fans chanting things like “CM Punk” during the matches, as if they’re just not interested. The Cruiserweight Classic was so good because those fans appreciated the action in the ring, but from day one with the Cruiserweight division on Raw, I’ve been worried that the crowd was going to ruin it. Crowd reaction means everything in wrestling, and I don’t know what WWE needs to overcome this obstacle. I just hope they don’t give up on the Cruiserweights.

A feud between Braun Strowman and Sami Zayn is ________ (good, bad, smart, dumb, troubling, etc.)

DD: Concerning. It’s concerning because this feud is very black and white. One option is great, and the other is terrible. It all depends on who comes out on top. I get that Vince McMahon is all excited about Braun Strowman because he can’t help his nostalgic wrestling roots of the 70s and 80s, but Strowman as a talent pales in comparison to Sami Zayn — that’s just a fact. We do not need Strowman getting some major push, especially at the expense of someone like Zayn. WWE has completely underutilized Zayn over the last few months since he got his big win over Kevin Owens at Battleground. And Zayn being a natural underdog character who can basically work with anyone, this is a cool opportunity to get some momentum back on him again. Zayn can work as the small underdog who has to be clever to defeat the giant and, thus, pick up that rub from Strowman’s monster run since the brand split. Zayn is the perfect character to serve as a foil to Strowman, a la Sting taking on Vader back in WCW in the early 90s. However, Strowman winning this feud is a creative travesty, offering far more cons than pros.

RK: Really the only thing they can do. All other singles competitors that are baby faces have feuds and you can’t put Strowman in a feud with a heel. Zayn isn’t doing anything right now and the storyline with Strowman is that he needs better competition. Zayn is a great underdog babyface and will possibly make this feud with Strowman as good as a short program can be.

JN: Smart. Very much so, actually. Strowman is likely to go over. Mind you, he would be doing it while looking good in the ring thanks to Zayn’s work-rate.

On the flip side, this can continue Zayn’s character development as the guy who is forever falling just short of reaching certain goals. It is a gimmick he used in NXT, and elsewhere for that matter, and a loss to a giant humanoid should not hurt him.

I will, however, miss those local jobbers working the microphone. Be well, random people.

TW: It’s interesting, but I love Sami Zayn saying he chose to challenge Strowman because “no one else would”. The real answer should have been “because creative isn’t sure what to do with me”. Still, it will be nice to see Strowman in there with someone who is actually on the main roster, because I don’t think anyone is entertained by seeing him destroy multiple jobbers on a weekly basis. Even if he was against 20 of them, would you be impressed?

What was it like seeing Goldberg back on WWE TV after all this time?

DD: Epic and somewhat surreal.

Hell, I remember when Goldberg first debuted in WWE back in 2003. I remember him showing up the night after WrestleMania and demolishing The Rock. Seeing the WCW legend then was incredible, and seeing him make his return in 2016 was as well. WWE nailed it; absolutely nailed it. Goldberg’s return felt big. And that’s exactly what it needed to be. One of the biggest, baddest wrestlers of WCW returned and it felt every bit of it. And with the successful return also bred the eager anticipation to see the match — exactly like it needed to. Man, when wrestling booking is really good, you don’t have to think about it; you feel it. Ladies and gentlemen, Goldberg’s 2016 return was pro wrestling booking done right. In a line of good moves so far to lead to Brock Lesnar vs. Bill Goldberg II, and now hearing the epic music again, seeing Goldberg walk through the arena halls, seeing the sparks showering, and hearing the crowd go nuts for the legend, I can’t wait. WWE, you got me.

RK: It was surreal, although I didn’t get that much out of his return. Basically, he ate up the crowd reaction for several minutes, talked about how great it was to be back, plugged the video game and made a quick acceptance of Lesnar’s challenge. He then walked out, hugged kids for some reason and that was it. It was great to see Goldberg, but I didn’t get much out of it.

JN: For me, and I know I’m in the minority on this, it was jarring to hear the positive reaction he received.

I assumed — dangerous, yes — that a talent who wasn’t over during his initial WWE run would fail to be over after a dozen years away from the ring. I supposed that makes the adage “absence makes the heart grow fonder” a legit thing. Those reactions all came before Goldberg cut a sincerely solid promo, too. I would have not been as shocked of the audience took to him AFTER the promo.

My final thought: We are still really using glorified sprinklers for his entrance?!

TW: I was in Denver live for Goldberg’s return and though I have never been much of a Goldberg fan, I must say that it was quite the spectacle to see him come back. Other than Michael Cole calling him the “greatest WCW champion of all-time”, it was pretty cool. The “Goldberg” chants began in the crowd even before the show started, and even though it’s been 12 years, it was quite clear that 99 percent of the crowd was happy to see him back. My ears were ringing like never before when I got home. That said, as a huge Brock Lesnar fan, I look very forward to the impending destruction of Goldberg that I feel is sure to come.

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