”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.
(Doc’s Note – If any of you miss the audio format, let me know, but otherwise I’m back in the saddle, feeling better about wrestling, and will continue on without Anchor)
QUESTION OF THE DAY: Did you think that Braun Strowman’s deviation from character norm benefited him, hurt him, or made no impact whatsoever?
Braun Strowman’s change of pace last night struck me as something that will likely be polarizing; there will be as many people who think that it damaged the mystique that WWE has built by allowing him to simply throw stuff around and move giant objects as there will be people who, like me, thought it was a smart move to test the waters of what more his character can bring to the table beyond roaring and destroying things with “these hands.” Anyone who has shared with me their opinion that “Strowman won’t make it as a protagonist because he “doesn’t have sufficient personality” must never have seen anything that he has done for WWE beyond their weekly programming and monthly pay-per-views. The man behind the TV persona is a goofball (and was originally cast as one of Adam Rose’s party-goers because of it) and, in dotcom efforts, Strowman has put on display how entertaining he can be. Remember this about comedy in WWE: most of it is stupid and not the least bit funny, but the very few who can pull it off become some of the most beloved figures in the game; the even fewer who can be funny and intense often become all-time greats. Personally, I thought Strowman’s musical segment was hilarious.
Moving onto other topics, this weekend someone told me on Facebook that they still found Smackdown to be the better show compared to Raw; I cannot wrap my head around that opinion despite respecting it. People love to talk about how Monday nights would be so much better if Raw were two hours long, but do you remember Raw being all that much better before it became three hours long? Scale back to two hours and we have the same bland, formulaic writing without one of the best things about the three-hour format, which is that we get a lot of really good TV matches because of it; the matches on Raw may not all matter and, frankly, the ones that do not hook me with a defined purpose get skipped over anyway, but the ones with stakes that I do watch are very good, PPV-quality performances like the Fatal 5-Way this week, Cena vs. Miz, Banks vs. Bayley (another step forward taken in 2018 for the women’s division), and Reigns vs. Sheamus (which hooked me for reasons I cannot readily explain). In this day and age, all you can hope for as a WWE fan is that someone like The Miz comes along who can earn enough clout to go off script, stay within the PG box, and still have something interesting to say. Shorten to two hours and you get more mundane to outright bad promos and less good matches, or such is how I see it.
The most noteworthy occurrence from Raw this week for yours truly’s tastes was that Finn Balor and Seth Rollins are both going to be in the Elimination Chamber, making this year’s version the first ever to feature more than six talents. I am doing my best to strike a better balance between purer fandom and analytical column writing and podcast hosting, an exercise made much easier by my two favorite wrestlers of the current generation simultaneously earning the chance to be in the upcoming pay-per-view’s main-event.
Overall, I have generally been impressed with how WWE has booked the Elimination Chamber build for the men’s match. Reigns is the prohibitive favorite based on rumors, but Cena and Strowman have certainly made strong cases for being legitimate game-changers for the long-presumed Roman-Brock rematch, Miz has done a great job, as usual, talking himself up to the point where at least someone out there would buy him winning, and Elias has been given stronger presentation on TV in recent weeks than ever before. We’ll see what Rollins and Balor do next week to amplify the hype, but while we know that their addition likely does little to change the WrestleMania main-event landscape, what their addition does do is make it probable that the Chamber match will be great. Rollins has made a habit in his career of taking part in modern masterpiece gimmick bouts and, after Balor’s inspired Ironman run in the Royal Rumble, it would certainly be no stretch to expect a repeat performance in the Chamber.
Last week on The Doc Says, I made clear my desire to see Rollins vs. Angle, so I would be remiss if I did not mention the potential foreshadowing that I noticed when they shared the ring for a promo segment and were both featured together from multiple camera angles with the WrestleMania sign in the background; if Angle is going to wrestle, please let it be against The Architect! Do it for me, WWE, and we’ll call it even for Jinder, alright?