WWE's Big Win and Bigger Mistake and More Raw Fallout Heading into SummerSlam

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistAugust 18, 2020

WWE's Big Win and Bigger Mistake and More Raw Fallout Heading into SummerSlam

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Just six days from a SummerSlam pay-per-view that should be one of the biggest, most important and exciting on the WWE docket, Raw provided a broadcast that lacked any sense of urgency and left fans underwhelmed by its final efforts to promote the Biggest Party of the Summer.

    The disappointing lack of hype for the event was just one takeaway from a broadcast that was strangely paced, rushing through storyline development after storyline development, never letting anything breathe and creating several instances in which Superstars and angles were ignored or blatantly disrespected.

    And the transparency of the Retribution faction became more evident.

    What should have been a momentum-building broadcast for WWE was, instead, another example of WWE's creative hardships so close to a show that should be a summertime celebration of professional wrestling.

WWE Fails to Create Buzz for Second Biggest PPV of the Year

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    The biggest mistake of this week's show was the total lack of urgency when it came to hyping Sunday's SummerSlam pay-per-view.

    The show, arguably the second most significant of the year behind WrestleMania, feels way too much like just another event rather than the prestigious extravaganza it has been in years past. 

    Where was the excitement? The anticipation? The hype machine?

    All three were noticeably absent in the flagship show Monday night, rendering SummerSlam equivalent to The Horror Show at Extreme Rules and that, in itself, is horrific.

    There was more effort put into this week's Raw Underground and the early production errors in relation to Retribution (more on both in a moment) than there was the sell job for Sunday's pay-per-view. That is an indictment on a writing team whose priorities have been a mess since March and whose efforts to adequately promote pay-per-view, thus making it feel like a bigger deal than any regular ol' episode of TV, has been lacking.

    While the show-closing segment between Drew McIntyre and Randy Orton provided a bit of that intensity you hope to see from the company so close to a pay-per-view, theirs is but one match on a PPV card that was largely under-served by the booking on Monday's broadcast.

    SummerSlam's lineup is strong enough to overcome the absence of excitement but in terms of making something a must-see event, WWE Creative did a better job with Friday's debut of WWE Thunderdome on SmackDown. 

Raw Underground Continues to Be Fun Alternative

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    Raw Underground may be one of the company's latest attempts to turn around sagging ratings, but it has proven to be an enjoyable and interesting departure from the sameness that has engulfed the WWE product for the last six months.

    It as provided a platform for Superstars who may have otherwise struggled to get television time, showcased underutilized NXT talent and given some veterans a new lease on their Raw careers.

    Dolph Ziggler and Erik of the Viking Raiders are two such examples and Monday's show kickstarted what appears to be an impending program between them. Whether that feud will remain solely in the underground setting or bleed into the squared circle remains to be seen, but it at least keeps them busy at a time when they probably wouldn't have a hell of a lot to do.

    Shayna Baszler's friends Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke, as well as Arturo Ruas and Riddick Moss, are other NXT exports that have seen screen time because of Shane McMahon's latest brainchild.

    Throw in some badass Baszler brawling and Nia Jax invading the show in hopes of getting her hands on The Queen of Spades and you have an element of the show that is doing most everything right at this point.

    Of course, it is featured the perfect amount on every week and should not take up much more time than it does. Otherwise, it would very much overexpose it and ruin the appeal.

What Is the End Game with Retribution?

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    Retribution was a half-assed idea that made it on television as a result of WWE's desperation over ratings and it is becoming abundantly clear that the writing team has absolutely no idea where it is going with the chaos bringers.

    The segments are so uneven in tone.

    One minute, they are causing damage to the Performance Center by throwing a brick through a window. Sure, it's destructive, but it's largely harmless. The next? They are brutally assaulting the wrestlers around the ringside area and producing chainsaws to damage the squared circle.

    This week, they "raised hell" by...playing with some TV graphics? 

    We were no closer to finding out who is under the masks, why they do what they do and, least of all, what the hell the point of any of this is.

    It is not making for quality television. There isn't much in the way of intrigue or genuine excitement for anything involving them. Instead, it looks like exactly what it is: a ratings grab that Vince McMahon and Co. have no real plans for beyond some social media buzz.

    It is everything wrong with the WWE product right now.

An Inauspicious Return for a Future Hall of Famer

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    Mickie James is a future Hall of Famer and one of the best to ever lace a pair of boots.

    She sure as hell deserved a hell of a lot better in her first match back in over a year than to be interrupted and overshadowed by a ringside confrontation between Seth Rollins and Samoa Joe. 

    James' return to the ring, one week after the company made a big deal about her comeback, was a complete and utter afterthought. She was left to wrestle Natalya in a match that WWE made very clear, very quickly didn't matter.

    That is a disrespectful slap in the face to one of the most decorated female performers ever, not to mention Natalya and Lana, both of whom are trying very hard to get a new act over.

    Instead, WWE emphasized a Rollins-Joe argument that easily could have been sandwiched in literally anywhere else on the show (or not at all).

    James has spent her career earning better than that and it was immensely disappointing to see her return to the squared circle so marginalized.