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Examining the post-WrestleMania state of the Raw and SmackDown titles


As we head into Raw tonight and SmackDown tomorrow with two new World champions, I wanted to look at the two title matches at WrestleMania that got us to this point: Bill Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar and Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton.

Both Titles Were Afterthoughts

Since SummerSlam, the championship pictures of both Raw and SmackDown were based around Kevin Owens and AJ Styles. Only recently were the titles moved to Goldberg and Bray Wyatt, respectively. The problem with that is because of those late switches, the titles were contested in matches that had nothing to do with them for the months prior.

Brock Lesnar and Goldberg had their Mania match booked before Goldberg had even faced Owens, whilst Wyatt and Orton were already doing a bizarre parody of Stockholm Syndrome. Not only were the titles divorced from who either show had been built around for the past eight months, but the four men involved didn’t seem to care about them all that much. When you have grudge matches that just happen to be for the title, it can't help but makes the titles feel worthless. 

Invasion Of The Insects

As I wisecracked on Twitter, “When WWE stops believing in kayfabe, they don’t accept reality: they just believe fans will accept anything”. Nothing is a better example than the Wyatt vs. Orton match where WWE projected maggots and insects on the ring canvas at various Wyatt-cued points throughout the match.

It still isn’t clear what the storyline origin or purpose of these horrifying projections and given that Orton hit the match-winning RKO immediately after another incrarnation of the insects, it doesn’t seem like they were meant to hurt him. But if they didn’t hurt Orton, but we as fans could also see them, they couldn't be sighted as mind games any more serious than a simple distraction. So rather than a demonic cult leader, Wyatt is a sublevel hacker of SmackDown’s production truck.

It was the type of nonsense that can only occur in the rare form of drama where advertising fakery rather than striving for realism is considered a sign of sophistication.

Randy Orton Is Not World Champion Material

HHH boldly gave Orton public notes during a media appearance this week, saying that Orton has all the tools but lacks the drive to put it together. And, that is undoubtedly correct. "The Viper" looks great, moves around the ring very well, and is mechanically excellent, but does nothing to really excite or impress anybody. That’s partly because he never gets out of second gear but it’s also because we’ve all seen him fail before.

It’s now been twelve years since Orton first failed to establish himself as WrestleMania-calibre headliner, and eight years since he failed the second time. There was never any reason to think this was going to be a turn for the better the third time around.

Bray Wyatt Needs To Go Away

This site's Dave Meltzer has often talked about how the cult leader gimmick usually had a short shelf-life in the territorial era. Such concern that the type of reign of terror which would fulfil Wyatt’s boasts would necessitate the babyfaces exiling the demon may have held the WWE back. But now there’s no hiding place from giving Wyatt a…erm…hiding place.

He’s lost his acolytes, been outsmarted by the babyface, and been pinned cleaned after unleashing his latest wacky tricks. The only role I could think he could now play would be to be Finn Balor’s manager during a feud with Orton. Other than that, he needs to go away and lick his wounds before returning with a fresh crew and approach. 

No…It Really Was A Bad Match

Brock Lesnar vs Goldberg, competing for the premiere title match on pro wrestling’s biggest show of the year, was barely any better than the occasional house show matches that Lesnar does.

Goldberg took some suplexes and went through the barricades, both of which pushed his body to the limit. Nobody expects Goldberg to be a five-star worker, but it’s not unreasonable to expect the World Champion to have a match worthy of the title and the stage its being defended on. Goldberg is physically incapable of meeting that standard, therefore he should never have been given the strap. 

Goldberg (Briefly) Looked Good In Defeat

As I said in my WrestleMania bemoaning column, Goldberg’s quick defeat of Owens actually hurt him because it meant fans assumed that he couldn’t do anything other than hit a Jackhammer and a spear. But, his quick defeat of Lesnar at Survivor Series went from a welcome disruption of the format to a desperate attempt to hide an old man’s limitations.

So it was no surprise that Goldberg got cheers when he took several suplexes and then delivered several spears. Fans briefly thought he could deliver a championship match to the typical standard. They were mistaken which is why Goldberg wasn’t serenaded by a heartfelt goodbye from fans when he lost Sunday night.

Brock Lesnar Is The Next Big Thing

There’s so much obsession about who should be the next face of the company that we all ignore that Brock Lesnar could easily be the biggest babyface of the promotion. He’s got the legitimate accomplishments to do mainstream media outlets, the dominant aura to wow casual fans, and the ring work credibility to impress hardcore fans.

With his second contract covering more dates and the brand extension paving the way for each brand to have brand specific world titles, the path is clear for him to be the face of WWE as a floating world champion. If that seems improbable, it’s worth noting that he and Orton have enough unfinished business to justify a unification match.

Undertaker Should Have Lost To Finn Balor 

With him laying his outfit in the ring at the end of the show, Wrestlemania 33 was clearly the end of The Undertaker's storied career. It is therefore a shame that this historic moment was sacrficed on the altar of yet again trying to get Roman Reigns over. A match with Finn Balor would have not only been a far better send off for the legendary Phenom, but passed the torch to a character that can continue Undertaker's legacy of mysticism and theatrics.

Whereas Balor beating Undertaker would have been a career-defining victory, we are all going to be shocked about how quickly we forget that Reigns beat Undertaker. 

Will Cooling writes for Fighting Spirit Magazine, the UK's biggest and best full-colour pro-wrestling and mixed martial arts newsstand magazine. This month, he interviews Travis Banks about what it takes to successfully manage the business side of the pro wrestling business. FSM is available in print from all good British and Irish newsagents, and the digital edition is avaiable worldwide