Randy Orton's Face Turn, AOP Deservingly Get Spotlight, More WWE Raw Fallout
With Survivor Series done, WWE Raw has committed fully to rebuilding its roster. The December 2 edition of the show featured a few key acts taking a step forward in a new direction.
Randy Orton has always been integral to WWE, but his latest face turn may signal his time has come to reclaim a top spot on the red brand.
The Authors of Pain do more damage with each appearance. This week, Akam and Rezar's reign of terror still went right through Kevin Owens, who refused to accept Seth Rollins' help.
Other stars also got chances to shine; some did so more than others. It was a night of squash matches where certain names were left in the dust all over again.
The December 2 edition of Raw was dominated by a sense of growth. The red brand is evolving, and it's only a matter of time before the show feels nothing like it once did.
Randy Orton's Slow Face Turn Has Been Awkwardly Orchestrated
Drew McIntyre called out Randy Orton after he defeated Akira Tozawa. He wanted to face The Viper after the two got into it last week.
Orton wasn't interested in the Scot's frustration. The O.C. arrived to beat down The Apex Predator as The Scottish Psychopath left him alone in the ring.
Ricochet, Humberto Carrillo and Rey Mysterio made the save, setting up a six-man tag with AJ Styles' team for the main event. The Phenomenal One won with a second rope Styles Clash, but The Viper returned to hit an RKO on him.
A few weeks ago, it seemed Orton was faking goodwill as a tactic to play mind games with Ricochet. Based on how many heels have a problem with him now, though, The Viper has seemingly fully embraced his role as a hero once more.
It is an odd transition without much explanation. For much of his career, Orton has shown he is far more comfortable as a villain. It feels like he only turned heel quite recently, but that's mainly because he hasn't had much of a memorable run.
The Viper is a future Hall of Famer, but it's been hard to get excited about anything he does in recent years. This latest turn comes out of WWE's necessity to build more reliable top babyfaces, yet Orton hasn't shown he's all that reliable as a top star for many years.
These next few months could jump-start his career. Orton is seemingly in a story with three of Raw's top stars: Ricochet, McIntyre and Styles all have heat with him. He could have great matches with all of them or just let the stories drift until everyone loses interest.
The Authors of Pain Have Quickly Re-Established Themselves
Seth Rollins tried to apologize to Kevin Owens, but The Prizefighter wasn't interested.
The Authors of Pain challenged the two to a tag team match. KO declined as he did not trust Rollins. Instead, he announced an open challenge answered by Bobby Lashley. AOP interrupted to attack Owens and drag him to the back.
Akam and Rezar have a size and presence that rivals anyone in WWE. They feel legitimately unstoppable when they are booked well. Right now, they are in the perfect position. The team is used every week and a part of one of Raw's biggest stories.
It's hard to say exactly what AOP want out of all this. KO had no beef with them, but he has issues with Rollins. It makes sense to assume Akam and Rezar are working at the behest of The Architect. However, that may be too simple a story even if it works well for all involved.
Whether AOP end up aligning with The Beastslayer or not, Akam and Rezar will benefit. The tag team division needs the pair, but they must be built up first.
Eventually, The Viking Raiders vs. AOP is the end goal. It will be a physical war between four of the most athletic big men in the business. The contest cannot be wasted.
Raw Has Too Much Wasted Talent
Akira Tozawa, Tony Nese, Eric Young and No Way Jose walked into matches with Drew McIntyre, Aleister Black, Andrade and Erick Rowan where they had no chance of winning. While some fared better than others, each barely-used star was dispatched within a few minutes.
The red brand is overflowing with talent. The obvious stars are clear, but the undercard is loaded. Many of these names could be major talent for other promotions. Some were major talent for the brand in divisions that got less of a spotlight.
The problem is that moving up does not always mean a wrestler is getting what they deserve. Tozawa and Nese were two of the cruiserweight division's best, and they still have that role on occasion. As a part of the heavyweight division, they just bump well for the stars.
Young is a fascinating case of a charismatic star in the perfect role having his legs cut out from under him. As the leader of Sanity, he was in a position to succeed, but the trio disappeared after the main roster move. Now, all his charisma and talent is being used for nothing.
WWE's bloated roster will always lead to many stars suffering from a lack of exposure, but it feels even worse for them to appear on TV as glorified enhancement talent. Let them wrestle enough to prove they deserve better.
The 24/7 Championship Should Be Highlighting Underused Talent
R-Truth attempted to hide in the crowd from the charging mob looking to take the 24/7 Championship. However, he chose the wrong section. Race car driver Kyle Busch rolled him up to become the champion.
While Akira Tozawa and Eric Young struggle for TV time, WWE allows semi-celebrities to win titles. The 24/7 belt was billed as an opportunity for everyone to step up, but it has become a prop to get media press from circles outside the WWE media circuit.
Busch joins a star-studded list that includes Rob Stone, Enes Kanter and Marshmello in winning the 24/7 title. Meanwhile, Andrade, Aleister Black, Buddy Murphy, Sami Zayn and others have not won a single belt since becoming full members of the main heavyweight roster (before NXT's rise to third-brand status).
While the 24/7 Championship gimmick limits what can be done with it in the ring, WWE has hardly tried to branch out. Even in all his time as champion, Truth still seems unable to kick out of a single pinfall attempt when champion.
The wealth of possibilities is quickly disappearing as WWE forgets all the goodwill the championship earned in its first few months.