Some people liked the first match of the latest version of the Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose program at TLC on Dec. 16. Others, including some vocal ones in San Jose’s SAP Center, did not.
Either way, when Ambrose attacked Rollins moments after they won the Raw Tag Team championship, mere hours after they tearfully shared a stage with their cancer-stricken brother Roman Reigns, nobody was expecting to be debating whether or not their feud was boring.
Fortunately – especially considering we’re probably getting a couple more months worth of the story – there are a few simple tweaks which should heat the Shield sibling rivalry back up:
1. Don’t mention Roman
Or disease at all really, but Dean getting “innoculated” and wearing a gas mask felt like a cover for the flak WWE caught for having him allude to Reigns’ leukemia as being deserved for his kayfabe actions. They’ve mined whatever they could out of the Big Dog’s real life struggle (some say even started the feud when they did was too much). Nothing that happens in a wrestling ring or on a sports entertainment show is going to change what Joe Anoa’i is dealing with. It’s in the background of the story, but the focus now should be on the men fighting. There’s an abundance of material there without reminding us about someone who’s not around, and facing an infinitely bigger fight.
2. Fight like you hate each other
This isn’t just a Seth/Dean problem. Performers whose characters are supposed to hate each other often get hamstrung playing by the rules. But in a company where we’ve watched Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano go to war over a similar betrayal, and on a show where Becky Lynch & Charlotte Flair did things to each other that had people wondering if they were still friends behind-the-scenes, you can’t start your blood feud match with collar & elbow tie-ups. It also shouldn’t consist of long stretches of working a body part, or if it does, you need to sell like crazy to make us believe irreparable damage is being done. To that latter point, it’s okay in a regular match to have a targeted body part intermittantly “give out on you” while you otherwise use it normally, but that shouldn’t happen in a pay-per-view (PPV) WAR. In general, Sunday night’s penultimate match felt like a standard Raw main event. That’s a problem for what’s supposed to be a bitter, epic rivalry.
3. Drop the “What is Renee hiding?” stuff
Almost all WWE fans know Jon “Dean Ambrose” Good and Renee “Renee Young” Paquette are married. If you didn’t, Corey Graves has made sure you do now. In the ‘Reality’ Era, where the pair have been regulars on Total Divas and featured in Network specials abut Ambrose, their relationship had to be addressed on Raw. I was with my man Geno in digging the way the way the announcers were handling it – occassionally, and in segments analyzing the feud. But Graves’ demands that Young defend or explain her husband’s behavior took over the first half of the match at TLC. His insinuations she knows more than she’s letting on or is even influencing his actions have become a major distraction from what Seth & Dean are trying to do. Like the Reigns references, this probably isn’t going anywhere. Does anyone want Young as a heel announcer? I’m sure she can play Lady Macbeth, but will that put butts in seats? I don’t think so. And even if that is the plan, all that having Corey hound her for answers while Intercontinental title matches play out on screen will do is result in people changing channels.
There were factors out of Rollins & Ambrose’s control on Dec. 16. Mainly, they were screwed by the match placement, getting slotted in front of a similarly paced match like Daniel Bryan/AJ Styles, towards the end of a long night when the crowd just wanted to cheer the women’s main event. That doesn’t change the fact their match didn’t hit like it should have. Telling fans who didn’t like it that they’re wrong doesn’t change that. There are some simple course corrections WWE can make that will, though.
Here’s hoping they’ll try something instead of plowing ahead with more of the same.