The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of Wrestling Inc. or its staff
Monday's show began with the four competitors in the Fatal Four Way Elimination match in the ring and cutting promos about the match. It was an interesting group of talent as far as contendership went, with Rollins and Roman Reigns being the biggest names, but WWE reportedly wanting to keep the title off of them for the time being. Then there was Owens, who is coming off a PPV loss to Sami Zayn and the development of a tag team program with Chris Jericho and didn't look like he was being pushed for a championship in the very near future.
Lastly there was Big Cass, who was the dark horse in the match because he hadn't been on the main roster for very long. WWE management is clearly very high on Big Cass as a top talent and Bryan Alvarez noted on an episode for Wrestling Observer Radio that Cass is essentially being pushed the exact same way that Reigns was being pushed while he was still in The Shield, but the fans haven't quite picked up on it yet. If Cass did win on Monday, would that be the worst thing in the world? The Universal Championship, while being pushed as an equal if not more important title than the WWE Championship, does not have the same prestige as the WWE Championship; pretty much anyone could win it. As SummerSlam showed us by having the final two matches not involving either world championship, you don't have to rely on the world champion to be a big draw or the lynch-pin of every card.
Right now, is Cass really that worse of a potential champion than Reigns? Reigns is far better in the ring right now; and Cass might be in trouble if he is asked to wrestle an extended match unless it was with a great worker that could carry him. But unlike Reigns, Cass (with a huge boost from Enzo Amore) has got the charisma, speaking and crowd support aspects down at this point. Maybe if he was pushed in the main event for months his act would get stale and then fans may begin to turn on him like they did with Reigns, but as of today, the crowd would support Cass as the Universal Champion more than they would Reigns.
Anyway, I thought they handled Cass well on Monday. He did a good job in the opening segment and flashed the charisma that has gotten him over with the audience. In the match he was eliminated first, but earned some respect by getting all his stuff in and looking strong in the beginning of the match, only to be eliminated by a couple wrestlers working together. If they want to build Cass without having him shoved down the fans' throats that was the most effective way to book the match.
The match culminated with Triple H coming out of the stands unannounced and laying out Reigns and then turning on Rollins to anoint Owens as the new champion. Michael Cole, as usual, sounded like a complete idiot by screaming "What is Triple H doing?" while Triple H was hitting the pedigree on Reigns on the outside. Of course Triple H has a grudge against Reigns, Reigns embarrassed Triple H at WrestleMania and in theory knocked Triple H off of WWE television for months. Not only is this an easy explanation for Cole to give to the viewers, it also makes perfect sense to highlight that because it helps tell a story between Triple H and Reigns.
After rolling Reigns into the ring and getting him eliminated, he turned on Rollins and shocked the fans by picking Owens to win the championship. While this would naturally indicate that Rollins will be turning babyface to feud with Triple H and Owens, an interesting theory floating around is that perhaps Owens and Triple H really turned babyface, despite the idea that they screwed Rollins and Reigns out of the championship.
Rollins turning babyface is an interesting proposition, since a couple of months ago he heroically returned from a devastating knee injury and won the WWE Championship. They gave him his own WWE 24 special where he came off as a total babyface, but instead of turning him face which he obviously would have been successful in doing, they had him be a heel. I think in recent weeks he has really stepped his heel game up, constantly being arrogant on the microphone (I really like that he laughs manically at his own jokes—it's a total heel move) and consistently bragging about injuring Finn Balor. That guy is a heel now; but all of a sudden WWE is going to turn him babyface? Seems like they really got that one backwards. In addition, RAW ended with Stephanie McMahon looking confused at her husband's actions, which leads to speculation that we could see a split between Triple H backing Owens and Stephanie backing Rollins, which would certainly lead to the fans siding with Triple H and Owens. Of course, history suggests that acting like they were not on the same page was a rouse by The Authority and that they had planned to screw Rollins the entire time.
With the dust settling, Owens ended up winning the match and becoming the Universal Champion, which was a well-received moment by hardcore fans because Owens is a beloved wrestler for his talent and dedication to the business. Owens has all of the skills to be the biggest wrestler in the world, with terrific in-ring work coupled with one of the most creative and charismatic talkers in the business. However, although Owens is a new face to be pushed into the main event, the development of his rise to the top is really just the same old storyline WWE has beaten to death over the last several years.
Once again, Triple H interfered in a big match, laid some guys out and hand-picked his champion. Assuming that he is remaining a heel with Owens, this is the FIFTH time The Authority has backed some wrestler to be their own, corporate champion to thumb their nose at the audience and the babyface wrestler chasing after it. First they did it with Randy Orton, then it was Seth Rollins, then Sheamus, then Triple H himself, and now it is Owens. I think even worse could be that Owens and Triple H are now babyfaces and will face off against Stephanie and Rollins in a struggle for the control of RAW. As much as I like seeing Owens in a major role, having play second fiddle to yet another Authority feud (because people need to remember that the McMahon family are always going to be the top stars on RAW) is a disservice to Owens.
In conclusion, the main event on RAW last week was one of the biggest matches of the year as far as long-term impact is concerned. The rating, which was a very good number coming off a nice post-SummerSlam number, actually held steady and is a great sign for further interest in the show. There are so many moving parts going on storyline wise that WWE has a lot of questions that can be answered on RAW next week, which should lead to another solid number. Although I wish that they could have taken a more unique approach to anointing Owens as the new Universal Champion, WWE did twist the audience in a way that was widely applauded, so they have a great opportunity now to continue to grow the audience for RAW.
Must Watch Matches:
The Addiction vs Michael Elgin and Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Tetsuya Naito and EVIL: **** (ROH Death Before Dishonor)
Adam Page vs Jay Briscoe: ****1/4 (ROH Death Before Dishonor)
Jay Lethal vs Adam Cole: ****1/2 (ROH Death Before Dishonor)
Drew Gulak vs Zack Sabre Jr.: **** (WWE CWC Day Seven)
Brian Kendrick vs Kota Ibushi: ****1/4 (WWE CWC Day Eight)