Doctor’s Notes…On Raw’s Path to ROYAL RUMBLE, Namely Jason Jordan & Balor Club, Plus The One Praiseworthy Thing on Smackdown Live

”The Doc” Chad Matthews has been a featured writer for LOP since 2004. Initially offering detailed recaps and reviews for WWE’s top programs, he transitioned to writing columns in 2010. In addition to his discussion-provoking current event pieces, he has written many acclaimed series about WrestleMania, as well as a popular short story chronicle. The Doc has also penned a book, The WrestleMania Era: The Book of Sports Entertainment, published in 2013. It has been called “the best wrestling book I have ever read” and holds a worldwide 5-star rating on Amazon, where it peaked at #3 on the wrestling charts.

QUESTION OF THE DAY #1: What is your opinion of the Jason Jordan angle to this point?

QUESTION OF THE DAY #2: Is anyone still on board with Shane McMahon dominating so much air time and, if so, why?

One week into my revised approach to watching and commenting on the WWE product and I already feel refreshed, ladies and gentlemen. Stepping away is something I’ve questioned whether or not I can even do after nearly thirty years of WWE fandom, but stepping back has been a good thing, as it is in every aspect of life, allowing us the chance to be reminded of the more constructive reasons for why we do what we do. Thank you to those who gave feedback last week regarding the new audio-column format, especially to those who mentioned that they would rather read than listen; the “Doctor’s Notes” concept is therefore evolving quickly and will now include the transcript for the audio versions (a blog, if you will), giving you both the reading and listening platforms to choose from. Expect the next Doctor’s Orders, “feature length” column to drop the week of The Royal Rumble, and The Doc Says podcast will continue to provide separate content ready and waiting for when you have more time.

Jason Jordan has quietly emerged over the past two months as the best thing going perhaps in all of WWE. I was recently debating on Twitter with’s Hulk Hogan, Mr. Tito, regarding Jordan and what he was always supposed to get from being Kurt Angle’s kayfabe son. He adamantly opposes the arc to this day because it is so unrealistic in a wrestling world that long since did away with trying to mask what it truly is but, while acknowledging the inherent risk in something so utterly ridiculous to fans like us, I staunchly believe that the point of this angle with Kurt is to give Jordan an opportunity to establish and develop a character; in that sense, how can this storyline not thus far be considered a resounding success?

Jordan, in my opinion, has been booked well from the moment that the big reveal occurred in July, and he has progressed from a talented upstart to a slightly annoying and entitled presence each week to a self-absorbed, delusional dreamer with an inflated ego. He was always a good wrestler and he has been given numerous chances to put his in-ring skills on display, but the difference-maker has been the extent to which he has taken ownership of the character being written for him. Playing off of Angle, Reigns, Rollins, Joe, and other veterans, he is excelling and I, for one, find myself as curious to see how his arc translates to WrestleMania Season as just about anybody’s. I want to see Jordan vs. Angle at WrestleMania, period.

Then, there is Finn Balor, who I do not mind sharing is one of my two favorite wrestlers on the current roster along with Seth Rollins for reasons that I honestly cannot articulate very well. I saw his entrance on his first Takeover event in NXT and quickly pledged allegiance. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to mark out more often, and it did not take long for 2018 to produce my first mark out moment when Balor was reunited with Gallows and Anderson, not because I have a strong bond with the Bullet Club, but because I want to see Balor be given the same chance to better develop his persona each Monday night that Jason Jordan has gotten for the past six months. The biggest knock on Balor was that he had become a generic modern protagonist; the past two weeks, though, have seen him start veering more toward the dark side, where in WWE most of the character development takes place.

I am hopeful that The Balor Club is a Mania Season focal point and that Finn gets the chance to craft a compelling saga on the grandest stage, and I am not prepared to rule out that he will win the Rumble match and switch brands in order to face AJ Styles; I, at this point, believe that the Rumble winner will face the WWE Champion, yet no Smackdown roster member is an obvious choice to reap such a reward come WrestleMania. At the very least, I am excited to see one of my favorites as the centerpiece of another faction (I like stables) and in the main-event of Raw for a change.

The deeper we get into the on-going conflict between Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon, the less interested I become. Since that angle has now infected the WWE Title scene like an interest-killing virus, my attention has returned to the only division on Smackdown Live that thrived in the final two-thirds of 2017. What I love about tag team wrestling on Smackdown is that, thanks to the emergence of Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin, the revolution of sorts begun by The New Day and The Usos last year has not yet ended. Over on Raw, the division has devolved back into its frequent pattern of being used as a cog in the wheel of a storyline not based around the championships, deemphasizing in my opinion the value of said championships in the process.

One of my wishes for 2018 was to avoid seeing a return to the status quo of the kind of tag team wrestling booking that has plagued WWE since the Smackdown Six Era ended. The blue team has been holding up its end of that bargain by not only making Gable and Benjamin legitimately peeved about their controversial loss in a recent title match, but then following up by giving them a spotlight segment to bring their grievances to the forefront verbally, giving the emergent duo important microphone time to get over more. The sum of the feud’s parts is a pretty compelling situation dating back a couple of months now.

Has it been Usos vs. New Day quality? No, but nothing was going to be able to follow the trendy pick for 2017 Feud of the Year. The primary aim for The Usos being challenged by the plucky grappler with the awesome amateur pedigree and his decorated veteran partner was always going to be ensuring that the momentum from the classic Usos-New Day rivalry was not squandered. As of right now, the jury is still out and that needs to be made clear; I feel like the creative status of tag team wrestling almost has to be gauged week-to-week or month-to-month and much of the over-arching, big picture success of the current tag title feud and its impact on the division is dependent upon what happens during Royal Rumble weekend.

Surely, the Smackdown Tag Title bout has got to be considered the odds-on favorite to be relegated to the Kickoff Show, right? Presuming that to be the case, how the teams respond to what I would consider a snub – and The Usos, based on a recent mother ship dotcom interview about their Summerslam Kickoff match last year, would concur – may play a considerable role in the quality of the Two-out-of-Three Falls Match. Realistically, they take the flashes of brilliance they have shown in more story-driven action, put them all together, and produce the kind of match on the Kickoff that makes everyone wonder why they didn’t make the main card. Best case, they get to make the most of even a lesser time slot at The Royal Rumble itself; if you ask me, a match three-quarters as good at the Rumble will be remembered one hundred percent more than a better match on the Kickoff show to a substantial part of the audience.

No matter what happens in the third act, so to speak, through the first two acts of the Gable and Benjamin vs. Usos feud, I have been very happy with the quality.