Has it already been two weeks since the last WWE Network special? No, it’s been a smidge longer than two weeks since the last weekend professional wrestling fans had to spend ten-plus hours consuming the WWE product. Fear not, humans who would rather spend their Sunday evenings not trying to juggle watching Sunday Night Football on NBC and the latest WWE Network special as the next standard special is Survivor Series, which isn’t happening until November 18. Rejoice!
Still, there is a special happening on Sunday evening, one of the three specials the network is putting out over a month-ish span. (The other specials being Evolution and Superstar Show-Down, of course. Serious question: Has there been a special with as cringe-worthy of a name as “Superstar Show-Down” in the WWE? Oh, right, Fastlane. What I’m saying is let’s bring back No Mercy and Unforgiven. Please?) The card is light on the number of matches, but it is heavy on the number of blood-feud matches. Very Much A Heel Braun Strowman challenges Roman Reigns for the WWE Universal championship; Very Much A I Don’t Really Know Becky Lynch challenges Charlotte Flair for the WWE Smackdown Women’s championship; Best Heel Samoa Joe challenges AJ Styles for the WWE championship; Brie Bella also tries to wrestle again. Outside of Strowman vs. Reigns and Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Alexa Bliss, the build-up to the vast majority of these matches have clicked. Mission accomplished?
Now, let’s get into some stock reports ahead of tomorrow night’s show.
Trending Up or Down: Braun Strowman
So this is it for Strowman, right? Or, at the very least, the beginning of the end for Strowman as a character who the company could still theoretically build around. It’s not that I don’t like Strowman, per se, but I have never bought into the “Braun Strowman could definitely be The Guy” argument that fans and analysts have been making for the last year or so. He lost his last blood feud with Reigns a summer ago, he lost a title match to Brock Lesnar that ended after the former delivered just one F-5 to Mr. Get These Hands, and spent this past summer in Character Rehabilitation camp, running roughshod through the main-event scene on Monday Night Raw -- Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, etc. -- only for the company to throw it all away by saddling him with the dredded “you people” rhetoric and an uninspiring heel turn. All signs point to a loss to the Big Dog here and a boxing match against Conor McGregor at WrestleMania 35.
Final Verdict: Down.
Trending Up or Down: Becky Lynch
If you’ve been reading the wrestling news this week, you may have seen that there is talk of a double-turn taking place in the Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair Smackdown Women’s championship match at Hell In A Cell -- this would be a very good idea. There will always be something naturally appealing about Lynch, so long as she’s not doing the “Becky Balboa” thing, and there will be always be something naturally about Flair. The latter, as my friend Maxwell Baumbach pointed out on this week’s episode of RBR Wrestling, there is a Triple H-ness to Flair, which maybe shouldn’t come as a surprise considering who her father associated with. Yes, she is a very talented wrestler, but she also feels like an inevitable champion, someone who the fans know will always be in the title picture and who will always be in the company’s good graces -- is that not who Triple H was to a tee? That’s what makes this blood feud over the championship work between these two -- fans know Lynch is just as talented if not more so than Flair, yet has never and may never get her opportunity to carry the brand for reasons out of her control. The underutilized will always have the support of the fans, while the overexposed will never have the support of the fans.
Final Verdict: Up.
Trending Up or Down: Samoa Joe
The Samoan Submission Machine really, really wants to put WWE champion AJ Styles to sleep on Sunday night. Since the non-finish in their WWE championship match at SummerSlam, Joe has unearthed a new passion project: Homewrecking. Joe may never get his own reality show on HGTV, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t shown over the past month that you just can’t look away when the man is doing what he loves, which, remember, is homewrecking. At this point in his feud with Styles, it’s less about the championship and more about ruining the champ’s life. But, he needs to win. Since moving to Smackdown Live, Joe has done more talking than winning. He lost to Reigns in a snoozefest of a main event to close out Backlash, and if he comes up short against Styles again here, he’ll be right where Shinsuke Nakamura was just a year ago -- all the promise and intrigue in the world, but just another guy who lost when it mattered. Did I mention Joe really needs to be Styles? Because he does and I can’t stress that enough. (See: Ciampa, NXT Champion.)
Trending Up or Down: Ronda Rousey
Does it feel like the WWE Raw Women’s Champion is a big part of Monday Night Raw? It doesn’t, right? Sure, she’s around, but does her rematch with Bliss feel like a big deal? It doesn’t, right? This is a problem, as Rousey is too good and too entertaining to head into WWE Network specials with this little momentum. Part of it, of course, is that nobody believes she is dropping the championship to Bliss here, but that’s not everything at play here. Right now, Raw is built around The Shield vs. Generic Heel Faction, which is fine, but the company could easily find ways to build it more around Rousey. If the Baddest Woman On The Planet is not working the Brock Lesnar schedule, why would you not go above-and-beyond in utilizing one of the three actual “superstars” on the roster? (The other two being John Cena and Lesnar. The rest are professional wrestlers, an important distinction.) People really enjoy watching Rousey toss other wrestlers around like ragdolls. Do that more. Let Rousey interact with other members of the Raw roster on-screen besides Natalya. Let Rousey devour Bliss on Sunday, and, for all that is holy, inject her into a compelling program ahead of Evolution.
Final Verdict: Even
Chase Thomas is a sportswriter based out of Atlanta and the host of “The Chase Thomas Podcast”. You can email him at chasethomas0418[at]gmail.com.