Quick Takes: Malaki Black's AEW Debut, Adam Cole's Contract, NXT Releases
At a time when potential stars are dropping like flies in WWE, All Elite Wrestling is doing an exceptional job of making new names on the regular. Look no further than Malaki Black's in-ring debut on Dynamite on Wednesday and how it cemented him as a true player in the promotion in one night.
WWE dropping the ball with Black when it had him has been well-documented. How he was handled Wednesday night is exactly how he should have been booked in WWE, a further indication that the promotion is dealing with some serious creative issues these days.
Adam Cole is another example of someone who could be an incredible asset for WWE for years to come but may not reach the levels of success that he should because of the company's landscape.
With his contract ending later in August, per Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful Select, there's a decent chance Cole could be on his way out before he even hits the main roster. The message that sends about the disconnect between Raw, SmackDown and NXT is concerning for fans and talent alike, especially coming off the latest round of releases from the black-and-gold brand this past week.
This installment of Quick Takes will delve into all of these trending topics as well as Ruby Riott's reported first stop post-WWE, why 50-50 booking is ruining Raw and more.
Malaki Black's Dominant Debut Immediately Established Him as a Star
The reaction Malaki Black received from the crowd the night he shockingly debuted in AEW in July was a sign that he would be on the fast track to superstardom in the company. Sure enough, with the way his premiere match was handled, the promotion proved that he's destined for big things sooner rather than later.
The decision to pair him off with Cody Rhodes from the get-go was smart. Rhodes is, of course, established by this point and works well with just about everyone. Plus, Black beating him was bound to mean something.
Not only did have Black have his hand raised upon defeating The American Nightmare on Wednesday's Dynamite, but the fashion in which he defeated him was what stood out. It was more of a massacre than it was a matchup, with Black decimating Rhodes for five minutes before putting him away with a swift Black Mass.
Some fans took issue with Rhodes' post-match promo hinting at retirement and overshadowing Black's moment, but it was clearly designed to write him off AEW programming for a bit. Black laying him out furthered that notion and, again, made him look like a true threat.
Needless to say, Black has boatloads of potential. AEW already boasts an incredibly stacked roster, but it's encouraging that it has plans in place for some of the newcomers and isn't signing them for the sake of it.
Malaki Black has officially arrived, and with that impressive performance, the entire AEW roster has been put on notice.
Why 50-50 Booking Is the Biggest Problem with WWE Raw Right Now
There are plenty of problems plaguing WWE Raw, but the constant 50-50 booking is chief among them.
On Monday's episode alone, there were three instances of it. In addition to Nikki A.S.H. avenging the previous week's loss to Charlotte Flair in the main event, Mustafa Ali and Mansoor lost their rematch with Mace and T-Bar and Karrion Kross came up short against Keith Lee after beating him the week prior.
In turn, nothing was accomplished.
Nikki's win over Flair made sense seeing as how there was no reason for her to lose to her one week earlier, but the other two results were inexcusable. Mace and T-Bar gained little, if anything at all, from beating Ali in his hometown, and Lee and Kross are both beyond directionless.
What 50-50 booking does is tell viewers there is no reason to get invested in the Superstars and that they aren't special enough to warrant getting behind. SmackDown is guilty of doing rematches from time to time, but with Raw, it's evident it's only being done to fill the show's three hours and not to generate any excitement for the storylines.
The longer it goes on, the worse off Raw will be. Even fresh faces such as Kross aren't immune to it, and when a top talent of his caliber is released a year or two from now because of "not getting over" with the audience, the company will only have itself to blame.
Adam Cole's WWE Decision Could Carve a New Path for NXT Stars
Traditionally, after anyone has won and later lost the NXT Championship, they have transitioned to either Raw or SmackDown. WWE's track record with NXT call-ups has been questionable, but virtually every NXT champion to date has made the move to the main roster at some point.
That pattern may soon change depending on how Adam Cole's contract situation plays out.
As previously noted, Cole will be free to negotiate with other companies if he doesn't sign a new deal by SummerSlam weekend, which just so happens to be hosting NXT TakeOver 36. At that show, he'll wrap up his rivalry with Kyle O'Reilly and either report to Raw or SmackDown or leave all together.
Cole fits the WWE mold to a tee, but that doesn't necessarily mean he would flourish on the company's biggest brands. In fact, the recent booking of Karrion Kross and Keith Lee should serve as a red flag for Cole and indicate that he may be more successful elsewhere, especially given how much smaller he is than they are.
He's accomplished all he can in NXT, so for him to leave at the peak of his popularity as opposed to riding that wave of momentum on the main roster is telling. That would also establish that NXT isn't as much of a feeder system for WWE anymore. Instead, it is a place for performers to go for a few years, get exposure, win a title or two and leave before going to Raw or SmackDown becomes a possibility.
In other words, it could unintentionally become its own territory, more so than it already is.
Cole re-signing with WWE would ensure that the narrative stays the same, but his departure on his own terms would send the message (or more accurately, reinforce) that Raw and SmackDown aren't where everyone wants to be after all.
Ruby Soho Will Be a Much-Needed Addition to AEW's Stagnant Women's Division
The 90-day no-compete clause for Ruby Soho, known as Ruby Riott in WWE, will be up in a matter of weeks, and according Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful Select (h/t Joseph Zucker of Bleacher Report), all signs point to her heading to AEW.
Soho was one of the many underutilized competitors released by WWE this year. In the five years she spent on Raw, SmackDown and NXT, it's a crime she never held a championship given how talented she is between the ropes.
With WWE letting go of so many stars this past year, obviously not everyone can or should be AEW-bound. The promotion needs to pick and choose who is worthy of being brought in, but there can be no doubt that Soho is an absolute must get for its stagnant women's division.
Britt Baker has gotten over in a major way this past year and is the reigning AEW women's world champion, but beyond her, the well runs dry as far as women AEW treats like a priority. Hikaru Shida has hardly been seen since losing the title, and everyone else isn't featured consistently enough on Dynamite to matter.
Soho may get lost in the shuffle like everyone else, but she's such a gifted competitor that it would be virtually impossible for them to not make her a featured face in that division and eventually have her feud with Baker for the belt. All Out on Sept. 5 would be the perfect place for her to debut seeing as how she would be allowed to appear by then.
NXT's Latest Round of Releases Sends Worrying Message About the Brand
A whopping 13 members of the NXT roster were released Friday night. Some names were more notable than others, with Bronson Reed, Bobby Fish and Mercedes Martinez being the biggest surprises.
Reed had the best chance of moving to the main roster (which was apparently in the cards based on a recent appearance he made on WWE Main Event). However, fans arguing that none of these departures were significant enough to do damage to the brand are missing the point.
A handful of those released from NXT were either extraordinarily talented or were in the process of being built up. Reed and Leon Ruff both held the NXT North American Championship within the past eight months, Martinez was a force in the women's division and Tyler Rust had just returned as a part of Diamond Mine.
Simply put, why should fans bother investing in these characters if their futures on the main roster and even in NXT are so uncertain? If everyone is expendable, what makes any one athlete more special than the rest?
A terrible precedent has been set by the recent rounds of releases regardless of the reasons behind them. It's no secret that NXT is not what it once was, but these departures are worrisome in the sense that nothing seems to matter anymore. Fans would be better off devoting their time and attention to another product.
If not even NXT can be the future of WWE, then the outlook for the coming years of Raw and SmackDown may be worse than already anticipated.