Lessons Learned from Cain Velasquez Mistake and More WWE and AEW Quick Takes

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured ColumnistMay 3, 2020

Lessons Learned from Cain Velasquez Mistake and More WWE and AEW Quick Takes

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    Cain Velasquez's WWE run ended almost as quickly as it started.
    Cain Velasquez's WWE run ended almost as quickly as it started.Credit: WWE.com

    The cuts kept coming this week in WWE, as it was announced that Curtis Axel and Cain Velasquez, per Wrestling Observer Radio's Dave Meltzer, had been let go.

    Neither departure should come as a major surprise to fans, if only because of how infrequently both men had been seen on WWE TV in recent months. However, each man is a glaring example of how bad booking can ruin a career.

    Meanwhile, Jinder Mahal is on the ascent once again following his return to Raw on Monday night. Although he likely won't be a part of the men's Money in the Bank ladder match May 10, it's possible he will be setting his sights on his former friend Drew McIntyre sooner rather than later.

    Speaking of the WWE champion, his contract signing with Seth Rollins was exactly what it needed to be in setting the stage for their upcoming encounter at Money in the Bank. Despite no fans being in the building at the moment, McIntyre has been one of the best parts of the program since WrestleMania.

    As for All Elite Wrestling, its premier pay-per-view, Double or Nothing, is right around the corner, but only one match has been officially confirmed for the card. The next three weeks' worth of shows should hopefully give fans a better idea of what to expect May 23.

    In addition to projecting the rest of the lineup for Double or Nothing, this installment of Quick Takes will delve into the updated rules for the men's and women's Money in the Bank ladder matches, the roles of McIntyre and Mahal on Monday's Raw and the top takeaways from Velasquez's unceremonious WWE release.

WWE Cuts Cain Velasquez; What Went Wrong?

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    Cain Velasquez had everything going for him when he arrived in WWE during SmackDown's heavily touted premiere on Fox in October, yet he seemed to fall out of favor with management almost immediately.

    Where did the two-time UFC Heavyweight champion go wrong?

    As logical as it was for him to target Brock Lesnar (whom he defeated inside the Octagon at UFC 121 nearly a decade earlier) straight out of the gate, WWE shouldn't have rushed him into that spot. Although all eyes were on that SmackDown show, it would have been better to ease into the rivalry and allow Velasquez to get in some more training.

    His injured knee didn't help matters, either, as it led to him getting squashed by Lesnar in a matter of minutes at Crown Jewel. That was the last time he appeared on programming before being released by the company Tuesday.

    Above all else, WWE should have held out on having him debut until he was in-ring ready. At the very least, it could—and should—have built up the bad blood between him and Lesnar over the span of a few months and not given their rematch away on such short notice.

    Not every former UFC fighter WWE brings in is going to be a blockbuster the same way Lesnar and Ronda Rousey have been, but Velasquez had more to offer than WWE allowed him to showcase. Among the major lessons learned was that the company needs to take its time with inexperienced prospects in the future.

    Just as importantly, WWE shouldn't give up on people who don't live up to expectations as quickly as it would like. It's safe to assume Velasquez's release was a cost-cutting measure in light of the coronavirus pandemic, but it's sill a shame he wasn't given another another opportunity to prove himself.

Jinder Mahal Makes an Impact Upon Raw Return

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    It was three years ago this month that Jinder Mahal shocked the world when he won the WWE Championship from Randy Orton. He reigned as champion until November 2017, and as soon as his time on top ended, so did his main event push.

    Mahal never again featured in the world title picture, and rightfully so. It was too soon for him to be thrust into the spotlight when he was, and his string of subpar promos and pay-per-view matches merely exposed him as a midcard player at best.

    Sure enough, he hasn't gone anywhere above the midcard scene in the past two-and-a-half years. The closest he came to anywhere near that level of success was when he held the United States Championship for a brief period in April 2018.

    Getting hurt last summer may have been a blessing in disguise for him, as it allowed him to come back feeling fresher than he has in years. He looked impressive upon his return to Raw against Akira Tozawa, but it remains to be seen whether it's a sign of something more or just a case of WWE wanting to have him win his first bout back.

    Although Drew McIntyre vs. Mahal wouldn't work as a SummerSlam feud, it would make total sense for them to fight on an upcoming episode of Raw, possibly with the WWE Championship up for grabs. There's a simple story worth telling there given their history as members as 3MB, but it will take time for Mahal to be reestablished as a serious threat in the eyes of the audience.

Drew McIntyre Continues to Shine in Empty-Arena Environment

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    If there were only one reason for fans to watch Raw, it's Drew McIntyre.

    The WWE champion has been a recurring highlight on Monday nights since claiming the title at WrestleMania 36. It's been refreshing to not only see a world champion in action on Raw so regularly but also to see him booked so strongly week after week.

    That continued on the latest edition of Raw when McIntyre met his Money in the Bank opponent, Seth Rollins, for a contract signing. The gimmick has been done to death over the years, but both men made it worth sitting through with their terrific promos and short-and-sweet physical altercation.

    McIntyre, in particular, was phenomenal because of how he came across as genuine with everything he said. That type of realness is what WWE needs more of from all of its performers—but specifically its top babyfaces.

    Despite not having a capacity crowd to work in front of, McIntyre is doing the best work of his career, and it couldn't be more apparent that he's enjoying himself. He's been firing on all cylinders, and thus his outing against Rollins at MITB should be nothing short of stellar.

    That said, here's hoping he holds the title long enough to have the chance to wrestle in front of fans as WWE champion. He deserves that much after being the best part of Raw in the empty-arena era.

Projecting the Rest of AEW Double or Nothing Card

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    With their respective wins Wednesday on AEW Dynamite, Cody and Lance Archer are set to collide at Double or Nothing with the AEW TNT Championship on the line. It's bound to be an incredible outing, but nothing else is confirmed for the card.

    Part of that is due to AEW working with a limited roster for the past month while taping most of its shows in advance. The safety of the performers should take precedence, but it has come at the expense of what is supposed to be the promotion's biggest show of the year.

    Not even AEW world champion Jon Moxley is in the midst of a high-profile program. He recently retained his title against Jake Hager on Dynamite and will be facing Frankie Kazarian in non-title action Wednesday, but his next challenger is unknown.

    Worse yet, the AEW World Tag Team Championship is in jeopardy of not being defended at Double or Nothing if Adam Page remains in quarantine. If he does return, there are a long list of tag teams he and partner Kenny Omega could wage war with, including The Young Bucks again and Santana and Ortiz.

    Best Friends and Orange Cassidy vs. Death Triangle, Nyla Rose vs. Hikaru Shida for the AEW Women's Championship and Matt Hardy vs. either Chris Jericho or Sammy Guevara have also been teased lately. All of those matches would be quality additions to the card, but the key is making them matter before May 23 rolls around.

Men's and Women's Money in the Bank Matches to Occur Simultaneously: Yay or Nay?

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    It was revealed during Friday's SmackDown that not only will this year's men's and women's Money in the Bank ladder matches take place at WWE Headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, but both bouts will also be happening at the same time.

    As cool of a concept as this is, it could end up being a train wreck. But if they take place at the same time, if it fails, at least fans won't have to suffer through a second one later on in the show.

    Then again, there is the worry that there will be too much going on between the 12 Superstars that the action may be hard to follow. The success of these matches is dependent on how much screen time each individual receives and if they can keep things interesting.

    It is worth giving the gimmick a chance, and even if it falls flat, the company's attempt to try something new for a change should be commended. If nothing else, it's better than the alternative, which would entail holding the ladder matches inside of an empty Performance Center.

    Cinematic matches, as seen at WrestleMania 36, have potential when done sparingly. Additionally, intergender matches are a rarity in WWE, so the mixing of the men's and women's Money in the Bank matchups should at least make for a fun spectacle.


    Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.