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*Bayley's victory on RAW to win the RAW Women's Championship for the first time was another sign of a path that WWE is going down, one that significantly bucks the trend of what has shown to be historically successful. In the past, if you were looking to crown a babyface champion for the first time, they would chase the title for a long time before winning it in dramatic fashion, on a big show. Recently, WWE has elected to instead either immediately push stars into the championship, or seemingly randomly selecting times for them to become champion. For example, Bayley lost during her first challenge for the title at the Royal Rumble, but on the rematch, which took place just on an episode of RAW, she reached the mountaintop and defeated Charlotte to win the title. Since Bayley's character seems like one that requires a chase for the title before finally winning it, rapidly switching the title onto her seems like a counterproductive move because you no longer have the ability to structure a long storyline around the fact the she is gunning for her first championship.
Bayley isn't alone in this regard, Sasha Banks also won the title for the first time by defeating Charlotte on a random episode of RAW in July. American Alpha captured their first SmackDown Tag Team Championships from Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt in December on a random episode of SmackDown and Finn Balor won his first world title after barely even appearing on RAW. This probably speaks to the scatterbrained booking of WWE and that there are very few solid long-term plans; but it seems like a waste of a lot of potential star-building to have these top babyfaces leap-frog the "chase for the championship" a formula that has been effective for generations at elevating wrestlers into some of the biggest stars in history.
*SmackDown's viewership for Tuesday's show was down from the previous week, which is notable because Tuesday's show had a main event of Bray Wyatt vs John Cena vs AJ Styles for the WWE Championship. Under any circumstances, that is a huge match, one capable of main eventing any PPV of WWE's choosing. Yet, it didn't move the needle at all for SmackDown, actually causing a slight dip in total viewership from the previous week, one which did not have nearly as big of a match as the main event.
Why is that? It is because WWE did not promote that match until the day before on RAW. That means that unless you happened to see the advertisement on RAW, or you were tuning into SmackDown, or you saw it on social media during the 24-span it was relevant, you wouldn't have known that it was taking place. This is a very correctable issue, all WWE had to do was announce the match for NEXT week's SmackDown and spend the rest of the episode hyping it up, pelt social media with promotions for it and do something on RAW to sell it even more. That way you make sure that anybody who has even the slightest interest in seeing the match is very aware that it is going to take place. This is a basic strategy and WWE used to be very good at it, but recently it seems like they favor surprising fans by announcing matches on the show for later that evening. That strategy has its strengths, but it hasn't really helped ratings at all.
* Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho's relationship came to a crumbling end on RAW during a terrific segment that led to Owens turning on Jericho. The segment got over really well and now Jericho can become the fan favorite that he already basically was, but now fans will have no excuse to not cheer for him and say his catchphrases. It also gives Owens his best opponent to work with and he got real, old-fashioned heat after destroying Jericho, something that has been lacking for his entire championship run.
The issue now is that it looks like Goldberg is going to beat Owens at Fastlane for the Universal Championship. Considering WWE needs to maintain the aura of Goldberg (and the fact that Goldberg is a very limited performer) the match will likely be a short and decisive victory for Goldberg; basically a squash match. WWE is committed to having the biggest match possible at WrestleMania, which in their current state of affairs is going to be Goldberg vs Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship; but it is going to be very unfair to Owens. Owens finally has found real heel heat and his next step is going to drop the title to a guy that may not even wrestle a match after WrestleMania. The angle on RAW was so successful that Owens has a chance to become a true top star in wrestling but because WWE has boxed themselves into committing to Goldberg, his growth following the angle is going to be stunted because he needs to be killed by Goldberg. That isn't fair to Owens and it isn't productive to the long-term health of the company and is a perfect example of why they have so much trouble creating new stars.
Elimination Chamber Review:
Bray Wyatt vs John Cena vs AJ Styles vs Baron Corbin vs The Miz vs Dean Ambrose ****1/2:- A very good match that accomplished everything that they needed to do. They changed the chamber around a bit to make it safer, particularly with a different surface for the bottom of the chamber that made it a lot easier for the guys to take bumps in it. At one point I thought this was going to be Styles' last match ever because of how many big bumps he took, but that is just a testament to how great of a performer he is. They also teased Corbin vs Ambrose, which looks like the Intercontinental Championship match for WrestleMania.
The story of the match is how big Wyatt was put over. He pinned both Styles and Cena with Sister Abigail to win the match and the WWE Championship and then successfully defended it on SmackDown, again pinning Cena with Sister Abigail. Although Randy Orton is positioned to be the babyface in their feud, there is no reason for Wyatt to not go over at WrestleMania. After years of start-and-stop pushes by WWE, Wyatt finally seems like he is ready to be a full-fledged superstar and WWE would be wise to not pull the rug out from under him (again) by having him lose to Orton on the biggest stage in wrestling.
Luke Harper vs Randy Orton: ***½-- Fun match that was paced very well that turned into a lengthy and entertaining brawl between two of the better performers in the company. Harper's offense is so solid and because of his size he comes off so well and Orton is a good seller when he wants to be and he worked well with Harper. With Orton so far refusing to wrestle Wyatt at WrestleMania, a number one contenders battle-royal is set to take place on SmackDown. An idea could be for Harper to win the Battle Royal forcing Orton to accept his title match at WrestleMania to ensure Harper doesn't win the WWE Championship, setting up a Triple Threat match at WrestleMania. This wouldn't really take away from Orton or Wyatt and would be a tremendous opportunity for Harper.
Alexa Bliss vs Naomi: **-- Naomi won the match for her first Women's Championship and actually got a very positive reaction from the live crowd. The idea here is to have Naomi win the title and defend it at WrestleMania and since she is from Orlando she can appear on local newscasts as the hometown champion. The match was okay with some notable botches by both women. Bliss has a good character that is over with the audience but she isn't ready to have long matches unless it is against a skilled veteran like Becky Lynch.
Tag Team Turmoil: ** -- This wasn't very good for most of it. The problem was that SmackDown's only semi-serious team right now besides American Alpha is The Uso's. They shot an angle with The Uso's beating American Alpha down after being eliminated, which in theory opened the door for the final team to steal the championships from American Alpha. Unfortunately, the only team left was The Ascension which everybody knew would never win the tag titles, thus ending any drama the angle created. This is a division that really needs The Revival to come up and work with American Alpha.
Becky Lynch vs Mickie James: *** -- A good match with James still showing that she is a solid worker inside the ring. Lynch doesn't have a the charisma that Charlotte, Banks or even the charm that Bayley has, but undoubtedly she is the best worker and a strong babyface for the division. I would have had James win this match to further the feud; although James did defeat Lynch on SmackDown Tuesday.
Nikki Bella vs Natalya: **½ -- Considering what it was this was a good match. WWE managed to do a good job building up the feud after a lame start, and Nikki really had to wait for a while to get her hands on Natalya and the finish set up another match well, although the crowd didn't really care for it.
Dolph Ziggler vs Apollo Crews and Kalisto: **-- Tough sledding for Kalisto and Crews; they finally get put into a feud but because they have made to look so bad for so long the crowd cheers for when the heel abuses them. The athleticism was great in the match, which saved it from being a total disaster, but it wasn't good. One thing that bugged me was Kalisto got thrown into the stage, then lied on the ground forever and then limped his way to the ring selling every part of his body. Then he got the hot tag and immediately stopped selling and did all these crazy high-flying moves that nobody could do if they were not completely healthy. WWE has agents work on laying these matches out for a reason, you would think someone would catch onto that.