”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: Based on storylines alone, do you think it’s possible that Braun Strowman vs. Brock Lesnar II, and not Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar II, headlines WrestleMania this year?
The first-ever all-female Royal Rumble Match was always going to about two things, the first being the success of the match itself and then the second being how WWE followed up on it. Through two episodes of Raw since the highly successful Rumble, WWE has done a really good job following up via yet another very strong night in the spotlight for the red brand’s women’s division. This week topped last week, in fact, as not only did we get another Evolution-pushing feature-length match from Asuka, against Bayley this time, but we also got Alexa Bliss in her element, reminding doubters of her strength of character, as well as a dominant performance from Nia Jax en route to what I think will be the biggest test of her career at Elimination Chamber. I also like the set-up for two big women’s matches on the PPV instead of just the titular gimmick bout alone.
As will be discussed on The Doc Says podcast this week, the role that the women collectively play at The Show of Shows ranks near the top of the list of the things I am most interested in on the Road to WrestleMania 34. Jax can kayfabe earn her way to a title shot in New Orleans if she defeats the undefeated Asuka, but just as importantly she has the chance to take all of the improvements she has made since last summer, most notably on the Summerslam go-home show against The Boss and during the women’s Rumble, and put them together for her most complete singles PPV performance to date. As someone who was ready to see her advance to the top of the division last fall, I am excited to see what she can do against Asuka, win or probably lose; if she does indeed take the “L,” I hope she looks glorious in defeat.
Bliss reminds me of The Miz circa 2011; she found her voice within her on-screen persona and emotes her character’s feelings better than any other woman on the roster. In the right situation, she can get it done in the ring far better than adequately, but her ceiling for in-ring achievement is lower than some of her peers and that rubs some diehard fans the wrong way. Here’s the thing, though: until someone rises up and does what she can do as a personality better than she can, Bliss will not be going anywhere; and, if she improves on the fly faster than Miz proved capable of doing, then it may not matter. Sasha Banks appears headed toward the opportunity to take over for her as the lead heel in the Raw division and most would agree that, once she is given that evil ball, she has the potential to run further with it than any woman ever has in WWE. I’m excited to see where all of this goes.
In other events, you know who I’ve not talked about much if at all in either podcast or column form? Elias…but the artist formerly known as The Drifter certainly has come on strong in the last several months. I have always personally enjoyed the gimmick in its main roster form; it has not been until recently, though, that I felt like WWE saw as much potential in him as do some of his biggest supporters. As much as it pains me to say this in 2018, there is a big difference in roster hierarchy when verbally sparring with Finn Balor as opposed to doing so with the Golden Boy. By engaging and, thus far, owning John Cena of all people, it seems like this might be one of those scenarios in which WWE higher-ups are testing the waters of Elias’s top-end potential by having him consistently engage the 16-time WWE Champ, and those who walk with Elias can only hope that Cena comes out this experimental period with a better opinion of the wrestling musician than Superman had of Dolph Ziggler or Baron Corbin. Imagine if that feud carried all the way to WrestleMania, as did Cena’s feuds with Rusev and Bray Wyatt in recent years; what a huge statement that would make about Elias. One of the biggest surprise hits of 2017, Elias vs. Cena, presuming it was competitive, would put the 2nd year star in position to go platinum.
A speedy recovery to Jason Jordan, by the way; if Raw really is to do without him for the foreseeable future, then lost will be the best thing going on that show over the past few months. I hope he can at least make it back in time to turn heel on his “dad” at WrestleMania.
Be sure to check out The Doc Says podcast this week. It returns to a shorter and sweeter format, a compact but impactful 35-minutes that features discussion of the women at WrestleMania 34, an idea for Rollins in the wake of Jordan’s injury, and the January Wrestler and Match of the Month awards.