It’s a quick sprint downhill towards Royal Rumble 2018, set to kick off in just a few short hours, all hot off the heels of another massively popular success in the form of Takeover: Philly. There’s going to be large portions of the fan base expecting big things from WWE’s main roster if they are to keep up the standard that has seen some name Takeover’s main event last night an all-time classic.
Such an atmosphere makes it easy to be cynical towards that main roster, especially heading into an event we have sadly come to dread thanks to controversies of recent years, as opposed to anticipate. In spite of this, there are a number of intriguing plots bubbling away underneath the surface of the product as we approach 2018’s first of the Big Four (or is that Big Five now?), and I am here to reset the board after the raucous disruption of NXT in time for the Rumble!
My name is Samuel ‘Plan, and this is the Performance Art Raw View.
The Key to the MNR Tag Team Titles
When The Bar interrupted the Monday Night Raw (MNR) Tag Team Champions during their appearance on the returning Peep Show several days ago, they successfully incited the hot-headed and inexperienced Jason Jordan into a fist fight; this, in spite of the warnings of Jordan’s more cerebral and experienced partner Seth Rollins. The result was not pretty – miscommunication on the part of the champions resulted in Rollins blasting Jordan in the face with a knee, allowing their challengers tonight to escape with the last laugh. It seemed clear through Jordan’s body language thereafter that he cared little for the flub.
This miscommunication hints at what the difference-maker later tonight may prove to be in the MNR Tag Team Championship Match. While The Bar operated as a better oiled machine than Rollins and his brother Dean Ambrose did last autumn, it was the bond of brotherhood which always trumps partnership that allowed the Hounds their perennial victories then. Rollins and Jordan don’t just lack such a close relationship, but they lack also the hard earned team ethos of their opponents.
Should this then result in them losing the titles tonight, Jordan’s reaction will be hard to predict. Despite his being the cause of their embarrassment on Monday in spite of his partner’s protestations, and despite the chances that similar miscommunication tonight might too prove to be his own fault, the entitlement and inflated self-belief now hallmarks of Jason Jordan make it easy to assume he would blame the Kingslayer for a loss; and, quite possibly, seek to scapegoat him in one foul way or another.
It would prove a double-edged sword. While Rollins will have been granted distance from this dangerous would-be enabler of the Architect’s now defeated worst self in such circumstance, it would also see him robbed of his championship; and for Jordan, of the one man capable of preventing his slide into inequity and avarice.
Alexa’s Best Worst Chance
. Unexpected success has become something of the story of Alexa Bliss since her ascension to the main roster in 2016, yet the spectre of Charlotte continues to tower over Bliss’s small if robust frame of a career. Not only did Charlotte attain victory on the one occasion they have clashed on the main roster back at Survivor Series 2017, but on Monday Night Raw this last week she was sure to rub that in some more; the good lady Flair turned up seemingly only to taunt Bliss that “to be the Woman, you’ve got to beat the Woman” and, thanks to Charlotte’s aforementioned victory, she very much remains that Woman.
Bliss, however, may find herself in a strong, if somewhat risky position to kill two birds with one stone this Sunday.
Should Alexa’s good friend Nia Jax – who, in recent weeks, has spurned Bliss in favour of a man no longer around – live up to her status as a favourite and emerge the victor in the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble Match, Bliss will find herself faced with the unenviable task of defending her title in a match she has cleverly avoided for months, and could not possibly hope to win. That is unless she pulls off a trick even Triple H never could.
If Jax wins on Sunday, perhaps Bliss can convince her to go to SDL, challenge Charlotte, beat the Woman and, in tandem with Bliss herself, reign over the two women’s divisions. Doing so rids her of Jax’s threat and Charlotte’s ghost, and might prove her only means of escaping the ignominy of losing to her spiritual nemesis and best friend both; and both on a Big Four stage.
No Man’s Land
This last week on MNR, there emerged something of a generational war at the heart of WWE’s landscape, championed primarily by the unlikely standard bearer of the Drifter, Elias. Though it was his harsh words towards John Cena specifically that threatened physical reprisal, Elias attained the last laugh over the Franchise Player with the kind of shameless opportunism that has catapulted many a man to victory in the Rumble – from Michaels to Austin to Orton.
The Miz is no different either. His return to the fold a couple of weeks ago was welcomed by many fans, but that welcome from a fan base that once before were quick to disregard him has served only to further fuel the fires of outrage that have seen him attain new heights in WWE. Those fires, coupled with his own brand of underhanded pragmatism and loyal pair of lackeys, proved unassailable even for the now-former Intercontinental Champion Roman Reigns; and, like in the case of Elias, could serve the now eight-time Intercontinental Champion well.
But both men must be wary. John Cena and Roman Reigns don’t take such sleights lying down and will be on the hunt for revenge tonight, augmented further by the motivation of a chance of headlining another WrestleMania. Perhaps it is the only hope of either villain that Cena and Reigns meet and rekindle their own old issues; in such a situation, in such an environment as the Rumble, a victory for either could easily prove pyrrhic.
That is unless, of course, a third vengeful spirit re-emerges on a hunt of his own and the riddles uttered by The Undertaker on the 25th Anniversary of Monday Night Raw are answered with the retribution of a Roman Reigns elimination.
And who knows? It may just be John Cena left standing in the hole Roman Reigns would then leave….
That’ll do it for this week’s instalment of the Performance Art Raw View. If you have any thoughts on the events currently transpiring on WWE’s flagship show, any predictions for what you think these characters may do at Royal Rumble 2018 in a few hours or tomorrow night, or if you have any thoughts on anything I haven’t even covered, feel free to share them in the comments below, over on social media or even by signing up to our own LOPForums; just click here to sign up!