The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of WrestlingInc or its staff
Following triumphs at WrestleMania that saw both Kofi Kingston and Seth Rollins crowned babyface champions of the world; WWE had some momentum for their world titles that they hadn't had in years. With Kingston and Rollins, WWE had two babyface champions that fans actually liked and both guys were over.
Wrestling, especially in 2019, can be fragile and just because someone is over at one point, it is no guarantee they are going to stay over. To ensure that, the wrestlers must be carefully booked and made to look strong and important. This is something WWE struggles with in all phases, as wrestlers routinely begin to catch on, only for that momentum to be bottled and whittled away the longer they are on television.
That is why following WrestleMania it was important that Rollins and Kingston maintain their momentum; they needed to win their matches and retain their titles, and they needed to have talented opponents to work with that could bring the best out of them. For their first title programs that was the case, Rollins worked with AJ Styles and had an excellent match at Money in the Bank, and Kingston got a boost working with the returning Kevin Owens.
The last month however, hasn't been as good to Rollins or Kingston. Instead of getting strong opponents to work title feuds with, they have been given number one contenders who aren't over with the audience and don't incite any form of enthusiasm from fans. Unsurprisingly, the show that is supposed to be anchored by two world title matches, Stomping Grounds, is struggling to sell tickets and has minimal buzz from WWE fans.
Rollins will defend the Universal Championship against Baron Corbin, a performer who has consistently been pushed as a main event talent despite possessing none of the skills required to be a main event star. Corbin is the classic case of Vince McMahon seeing a guy, believing he is going to be a big star and pushing him as such, even as all evidence suggests that he isn't a big star. The argument for Corbin as a top guy is that the fans genuinely dislike him; but it's hard to decipher if that dislike translates to people willing to invest money in seeing him get beat. Recent RAW viewership and lagging ticket sales to Stomping Grounds indicate the answer is no.
Kingston arguably has a taller task in front of him, defending the WWE Championship against Ziggler. While Ziggler is a better in-ring performer than Corbin, he has been tortured by start-and-stop pushes for more than a decade and fans no longer see him as a main event star. Ziggler returned to WWE after being missing for months, and proceeded to immediately become the number one contender despite last being portrayed as a lackey for Drew McIntyre.
Are Corbin and Ziggler the best WWE can do? How can a roster this talented, one that is constantly getting infused with call-ups from NXT, be so bare in the main event that talent like Corbin and Ziggler are being called in to headline major shows?
The center of all WWE's problems come down to the fact that the company struggles to produce main event level talent that fans are invested in. Kingston and Rollins could be that; but the company needs to make a stronger commitment to getting them over by providing them with marquee opponents. Corbin and Ziggler just won't do.
The number one problem is that it appears the longer talent remains on WWE television, the less over they become. Take your pick; whether it is Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, Sami Zayn, Andrade, Shinsuke Nakamura, Bobby Lashley, etc., many guys had the potential to be top stars, but poor booking over an extended period of time put a cap on that potential.
That has been well-documented, but another problem may be that WWE is just too conservative when it comes to certain talent. When they are trying to protect someone, they protect them for a long period of time, sometimes to the point that their popularity wanes and they end up in the mid-card anyway.
With Braun Strowman, WWE was so afraid to give him the title and let him fly, they hurt his popularity. Instead of working the main event of most PPVs, Strowman was reduced to working in the mid-card and even though he is picking up wins, he probably had his popularity stunted. WWE balked at the possibility of letting him beat Brock Lesnar, and the result was that fans to a degree stopped believing in him, and now he seems destined to the midcard, just like the aforementioned names who weren't protected.
At the end of the day, WWE has to pull the trigger on putting some of those guys in the main event. Swap Corbin out with McIntyre, and Ziggler with Aleister Black, and suddenly you have a much more interesting show on Sunday. Plus it might be beneficial to have those guys in the main event, put in a good showing and just barely lose, as opposed to being in the mid-card of the show--or being off the card entirely.
Must Watch Matches
Chris Jericho vs Kazuchika Okada: **** - NJPW Dominion
Will Ospreay vs Dragon Lee: ****1/2 - NJPW Dominion
Tetsuya Naito vs Kota Ibushi: ****1/2 - NJPW Dominion
LAX vs Laredo Kid and Rey Horus: **** - PWG Hand of Doom
Laredo Kid vs El Hijo del Vikingo: **** - AAA Conquista Total Gira 2019
Kaito Kiyomiya vs Takashi Sugiura: **** - NOAH Global Junior Tag League Night 7