WWE Raw Loses Its Heart with Breakup of The Hurt Business

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistMarch 31, 2021

Credit: WWE.com

The sudden, inexplicable breakup of The Hurt Business Monday night on WWE Raw left fans, analysts and Superstars alike dumbfounded and disappointed. The one consistent on the company's flagship show was dismantled for reasons no one really knows.

Adam Pacitti @adampacitti

Absolutely gutted about The Hurt Business being split up. The best thing about #RAW for almost a year now and it really felt like they were just getting going. https://t.co/Hel26JAv4c

Fightful Wrestling @FightfulWrestle

RIP to the Hurt Business. It was great while it lasted. #WWERAW

Josiah Williams is Black. @JDeanWilliams

What!?! No more #HurtBusiness?? #WWERaw

It was yet another example of the whimsical booking by WWE Creative and one that robbed Raw of its heart.

For the last year, MVP, Bobby Lashley, Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin have instrumental in carrying Raw through the COVID-19 pandemic, empty arenas and the Thunder Dome. They have remained a consistently great element of a show that had not otherwise been recognized as such.

They brought it between the ropes and on the mic, and they looked like genuine badasses as they dominated singles and tag team action on Monday nights. Their breakup creates a void on the Raw roster, leaves Alexander and Benjamin suddenly without direction and serves as yet another example of the company's lack of forethought in its storytelling.


What's Next for Benjamin and Alexander?

It is obvious that The Hurt Business was a vehicle to elevate Lashley last summer following the conclusion of his foolish love triangle storyline with Lana and Rusev, but in the process, it also rescued Benjamin and Alexander from the pit of booking obscurity.

They became bona fide stars on Monday night and, eventually, Raw tag team champions. Benjamin was back to kicking ass as he had at the height of his career, while Alexander broke free from the cruiserweight labels and showcased a personality few knew he had.

Together, they were a great team and were only building momentum until they dropped the titles, then were excommunicated from the group Monday. Their sudden fall from grace creates obvious questions about their long-term security.

Sure, they'll be tackling dummies for Lashley leading into and, probably, coming out of WrestleMania, but what is there for them after that? Do they remain tag team partners? Do they go their separate ways? Which one of them inevitably turns babyface, expecting fans to ignore the fact that they just spent the last year in the premier heel faction in WWE?

Benjamin and Alexander needed The Hurt Business and thrived under that umbrella. They made the jump from afterthoughts on a bloated Raw roster to standard-bearers. Their work as part of the group elevated it to the point that The Hurt Business became a centerpiece of the Raw creative efforts.

Now, the former tag team champions step out of relevancy and into the unknown, their prospects uncertain and their futures blurry in the name of crash booking that made no sense and lacked long-term vision.


A Lack of Forethought

King Corbin joined Lashley in a beatdown of Drew McIntyre Monday on Raw in a creative decision that had many groaning and the performers themselves attempting to justify the move.

Lashley and Corbin can remind fans of their previous interactions and short-lived alliances all they want but the fact of the matter is that it happened in an era of Raw where the shows are bloated, creativity is almost nonexistent and few remember what happens from week-to-week.

Bobby Lashley @fightbobby

#WWERaw https://t.co/XcUybe2ye7

THE KING @BaronCorbinWWE

We used to run #WWERaw, we destroyed monsters and punished everyone. Then one guy sold out and wanted to sell T-shirt’s @fightbobby made an offer and I showed up! https://t.co/RKXeqTLjfC

Using a short-term alliance to justify tearing down a faction built over a year, that won championships and was so engrained in Raw creative, is like putting a Band-Aid on a compound fracture. It doesn't solve the problem and only serves to remind fans that WWE Creative's lack of forethought extends all the way back to a story that stuck around for a few weeks before dissipating.

Worse yet is the fact that WWE had on its hands an act that fans thought was cool. The Hurt Business, its stars, graphics, marketing and appearance all looked and felt like something the fans could get behind. It wasn't forced and cheesy. It wasn't lame. It was a group of businessmen who could consequently kick your ass if you stood between them and their goals.

They were replaced by King Corbin, a character whose edge has been stripped away, who wears a crown and has not been involved in a meaningful feud of any substance in well over a year.

Worse yet, he is on SmackDown, which means there is no future for him on the red brand. He is merely here to pay off Lashley putting a bounty on McIntyre.

The Hurt Business, all of the goodwill it had created with fans, and the bond it had formed among itself, was tossed aside to highlight Corbin for two weeks.

The complete lack of forward-thinking, awareness of what has worked at a time when very little has, and recognition of Benjamin and Alexander's contributions to getting Lashley to the point that he is, is an indictment on WWE Creative.


The Effect on Lashley

There is no denying The Hurt Business was a star vehicle for Lashley.

Fresh off a potentially crippling, Crash TV-style storyline with Lana that damaged both almost irreparably, MVP aligned himself with Lashley in an attempt to rebuild his credibility. He added Benjamin and Alexander to the fold, bolstering the lineup.

As the CEO of The Hurt Business, Lashley rebuilt his stock in WWE and became one of the top stars on the Raw brand. He was a badass who had backup, not because he needed it, but because he could. It was an impressive visual, watching him head to the ring with his associates every week, championship gold draped over his shoulder, standing imposingly alongside his Superstar brethren.

Lashley may have done exactly as intended, emerging as a world championship contender once more, but make no mistake about it: MVP, Alexander and Benjamin were essential in establishing the aura that has allowed him to succeed.

MVP remains, and as Lashley's mouthpiece, he may be the most important element of his presence. Without Benjamin and Alexander, Lashley is a captain without a ship. He's instantly less impressive as the CEO of The Hurt Business when the faction no longer exists.

And, theoretically speaking, if Alexander and Benjamin were failures, does that not reflect on him for being the influential member of the faction who accepted them in the first place? 

Lashley is currently on the hottest run of his career. He is the reigning WWE champion entering WrestleMania 37, is about to headline the most important event of his career and has built up goodwill with audiences.

All because of his run with The Hurt Business.

Without that faction and all that it accomplished over the last year, Lashley is infinitely less interesting. He is a bruiser, a heavyweight champion who can beat people up. Those are a dime a dozen. What made him cool was the presentation of The Hurt Business and his role in it.

Now, it will be interesting to see if six months from now, Lashley enjoys the same momentum he has entering The Showcase of the Immortals or if WWE Creative's hare-brained decision to split up the one positive element of Raw's horrific last year diminishes his credibility and popularity.