Quick Takes on Triple H's WWE Raw Return, Sting in AEW, Babyface Nakamura, More
In the absence of WWE champion Drew McIntyre, who has tested positive for COVID-19, Triple H returned to Raw and rekindled his rivalry with Randy Orton for one night.
The brief brawl between the two ended when the lights went out and The Game inexplicably disappeared. Despite his appearance being advertised in advance, Raw's ratings failed to improve, indicating that the program has much bigger issues that can't be solved so easily.
All Elite Wrestling isn't above bringing back names from the past, but at least their legends have largely been utilized well. Although Sting still feels special more than a month into his stint with the promotion, it's high time AEW gets to what's next with The Icon and not run the risk of overexposing him.
All signs seem to be leading to Sting teaming with Darby Allin in some fashion, but the question is when. Even if the idea is to build to a bout pitting the two of them against Team Taz at February's Revolution event, there is no need for the former WCW world heavyweight champion to appear on every episode of Dynamite until then.
On the SmackDown side of things, Shinsuke Nakamura's apparent babyface turn has everyone excited. It's been years since The King of Strong Style last embraced the audience, and this much-needed character change should be what gets him back on track.
This installment of Quick Takes will analyze all of the aforementioned topics in addition to why WWE should capitalize on Cesaro's huge win over Daniel Bryan on SmackDown, predictions for the 2021 men's Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic and more.
Bringing Back Triple H Is Not the Answer to Raw's Rapidly Declining Ratings
Triple H wasn't kidding when he said on WWE's The Bump earlier in January that he's WWE's "break glass in case of emergency" guy. He lived up to that moniker Monday, when he was brought back to Raw at the last minute as a way to make up for Drew McIntyre's absence.
There was some sense of intrigue among fans heading into the show, but the first 20 minutes of Raw indicated that there was never a meaningful plan in place for The Game. Instead, he returned in an attempt to bolster ratings against an important football game and wound up doing nothing of note.
The episode was built around whether Triple H would fight Orton, The Legend Killer, in the main event segment. Triple H disappeared when the lights went out, leaving their brawl without a proper conclusion.
It's doubtful that Triple H will be back on the next episode to resolve the angle, rendering his return a waste of time.
As many have argued time and time again in recent months, Raw is in desperate need of a creative shake-up, and having part-timers such as Triple H and Goldberg resurface to fix this problem will not work. More focus must be put on the current crop of talent and making them feel more important.
There also needs to be more effort put into long-term booking in order to fill television time. Raw hasn't been this creatively stagnant in ages and should be looking toward the future to improve its product, not the past.
Was Cesaro's SmackDown a Sign of Bigger Things to Come or Just a One-Off?
Shinsuke Nakamura isn't the only one who is on the ascent on SmackDown.
Cesaro took on Daniel Bryan in one-on-one action Friday and shockingly walked away with the clean win. It marked Cesaro's first significant singles victory in ages after having been relegated to the tag team ranks with a variety of partners.
The question is, what does it mean?
Bryan is known for being one of the most selfless Superstars on the WWE roster in that he's put over plenty of people in recent years, so it could have easily been a case of him giving Cesaro a rare win to help boost his credibility. It also may have been WWE's way of establishing the Swiss Cyborg as a threat heading into the men's Royal Rumble match.
With Nakamura also in the midst of a push, it is worth considering that WWE could be finally giving Cesaro the attention he has long deserved. Regardless of whether he's a face or a heel, he can thrive in either role and has more to offer at the midcard or upper-card level than he has as a tag team wrestler.
WWE has slept on Cesaro's potential for many years, and this may be its last chance to give him the singles spotlight. The key is following up on this high-profile victory with another as opposed to forgetting about it like when Murphy bested Seth Rollins and disappeared from SmackDown shortly thereafter.
AEW Must Get to Next Chapter of Sting Storyline
The main event of Wednesday's AEW Dynamite, which featured Darby Allin successfully defending his AEW TNT Championship against Brian Cage, deserves plenty of praise. It was an excellent match, and the two had fantastic chemistry together.
Sting thwarting Ricky Starks' interference on the outside was also logical given Sting's bad blood with Team Taz dating back to his Dynamite debut in early December. That said, all The Icon has done since then is come out to the ring or cut a promo wherein he doesn't say much of anything.
AEW is clearly building to some sort of a team-up between Sting and Allin, and it should be phenomenal. However, the company is running the risk of overexposing the industry legend before it even gets to that point by featuring him on every episode of Dynamite.
Less is more with a star of Sting's caliber. Doing the same segment with him over and over will cause viewers to lose interest in whatever he's involved in and ruin whatever mystique he has left.
His coming to the aid of Allin on Wednesday night would have meant more had he appeared so often throughout December and early January. AEW needs to get to whatever the next step of this Sting storyline and begin the process of getting him back in the ring if that is where it's headed.
Otherwise, Team Taz and Allin are stuck spinning their wheels when they should be moving on to bigger and better things.
Who Will Win the 2021 Men's Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic?
The men's 2021 Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic got off to a strong start this week. Three of the qualifying matches took place on NXT, while two more went down on 205 Live. All five contests were terrific in their own way.
The biggest highlight of the first round so far saw MSK make their electrifying debut against the duo of Isiah "Swerve" Scott and Jake Atlas and emerge victorious. MSK were formerly known as The Rascalz in Impact and are destined to go far in this tournament.
In fact, looking at the official Dusty Classic bracket, MSK should make it all the way to the final, as no one else from their side stands much of a chance. As for their opponents, three teams would make sense: Undisputed Era, The Way and Grizzled Young Veterans.
Adam Cole and Roderick Strong appear to be busy with other issues involving Pete Dunne, Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch, so they will likely be bounced from the tourney before then. Of the two remaining tandems, Grizzled Young Veterans are a better option seeing as how Johnny Gargano is still the NXT North American champion and should be focused more on that.
Grizzled Young Veterans vs. MSK in the final has the potential to be fantastic. MSK can put in a stellar showing and still fall short of victory, so considering Grizzled Young Veterans were snubbed last year, odds are they will come out on top this time around and be catapulted into the NXT Tag Team Championship picture.
Shinsuke Nakamura Has a Lot of Mileage Left as a Babyface
If it weren't already official, Shinsuke Nakamura cemented his status as a fan favorite on Friday's SmackDown when he brought back "The Rising Sun" as his entrance music.
That catchy walkout song played a significant role in his rise to superstardom early on in his WWE run. Turning him heel in 2018, altering the theme and taking away what made him special hurt his mystique big time, and he was never able to recover.
Between what we saw from him in the recent Gauntlet match and on Friday, there is a chance that he could be a top-tier face on the blue brand once again.
Even without an audience, Nakamura can still ride this wave of momentum back into the world title picture. That isn't to say it's imperative he dethrone Roman Reigns as universal champion, but a pay-per-view match with him would be enough for fans to take The Artist seriously as a singles threat.
Oddly enough, Nakamura was a heel in WWE longer than he was a babyface, including his one-year stint in NXT. He was just hitting his stride as a face when WWE opted to turn him heel at WrestleMania 34, so his reversion to his babyface roots was the right move.
It's possible that Cesaro costs him the universal title match against Reigns to set up a WrestleMania match between the two. It would be an excellent use of both guys on The Grandest Stage of Them All, but even if that's not in the cards, the booking of Nakamura so far in 2021 should give fans hope that big things are in store for him going forward—and deservedly so.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.