The WWE’s shows in Saudi Arabia are their most controversial and generally see a lot of public backlash from their audience, but Thursday’s Super Showdown event saw the ire of the faithful for reasons that had nothing to do with their political affiliations, rather WWE’s seemingly inexplicable decision to take the Universal Championship off of the Fiend. While some loyal apologists have seemingly tried to forgive the act, explaining that Goldberg would appeal to casuals heading into the Showcase of the Immortals and that fans would be less apt to booing likeful future champion Roman Reigns when he ultimately wins the championship, it really was an awful decision. While one has to respect the lengths that these fans will go to, it is easily the worst booking decision since Kevin Owens was squashed at the 2017 Fastlane event by…Bill Goldberg. It was at that event that the hottest act in wrestling at the time lost any and all momentum when his rival that he was going to face at WrestleMania, Chris Jericho, cost him the championship and seemingly screwed himself out of a title opportunity? It’s 2020 and Kevin Owens, one of their most popular acts, is just now beginning to truly recover from the loss.
Fast forward three years and the scene is seemingly the same: Bray Wyatt has reinvented himself as “The Fiend” and taken the industry by storm. He is the most captivating, menacing character they’ve had since the Undertaker and his aura has been protected better than anybody as he’s destroyed former World Champions Finn Balor, The Miz and Daniel Bryan. The story of the Fiend is to avenge anybody who has done him wrong, which would make sense that John Cena returns so he can go after his record 17th championship while the Fiend looks to avenge his loss at WrestleMania 30 in 2014. For Goldberg, he randomly returned 2 weeks ago after a year of not competing. His last match he dropped the Undertaker on his head, just another injury on the resume of one of the most reckless workers of all-time. While the Fiend has been the company’s top merchandise mover for 6 months now and the story seems to be full circle at WrestleMania, he was full steam ahead looking to notch a big win against a legend. Goldberg beat him in less than three minutes.
To address the opposition, if you know the guy that you’re positioning as the top baby face is going to get booed out of the building if he beats your current bad guy champion, that is a pretty strong indicator that he shouldn’t be in the championship picture to begin with. The audience does not gravitate towards Roman Reigns as a baby face, no matter how much they’ve tried to rub him for six years now. This is also an underlying issue because they never have anybody beat established legends other than Roman. Roman has beaten the Undertaker and Triple H at WrestleMania in recent years, while also defeating Drew McIntyre, who the company is trying to position as the next big thing at this years WrestleMania. In two of the recent events, he took Brock Lesnar to his limit. If it was going to work by now, it would have already worked.
Bray Wyatt lost to John Cena at WrestleMania 30 and it killed his momentum. He lost to the Undertaker at 31 and it killed his momentum. He teamed with monster Luke Harper and Brock Lesnar squashed both of them 2 on 1 at a snap of a finger. They finally fix it when he wins the elimination chamber in 2017 for his first WWE Championship. A month later, he lost to Randy Orton so that they could give the title to Jinder Mahal. Jinder Mahal, who had been released after being apart of a three man air band, could not garner any crowd reaction no matter how much they tried to use the title to elevate the guy, not the other way around. It took them another year and a half to fix it, and the moment they seemed to get it right (granted, they had bumps in the road such as the awful Hell in a Cell booking), they kill his aura once and for all by losing to a 53 year old in zero time. Eventually, he isn’t fixable. He becomes known as the monster who’s a shell of himself when it matters. Let me get this clear: Bray Wyatt just gets up and leaves, and doesn’t even care about losing the belt on top of this? It’s the same thing that happened to Kevin Owens. Hell, recently, even Kofi Kingston lost the title and the next week he was back in a tag team throwing pancakes. It devalues not only the performer, also the championship.
In recent years, whenever anybody gets over they job to people who don’t need it and then WWE wonders why they have no serious stars. Braun Strowman, Rusev, Mustafa Ali and Cesaro are just a few of many examples. Becky Lynch is currently the biggest female star in the history of Pro Wrestling and they tried to kill that, just like they tried and failed to kill the Daniel Bryan hype in 2014. At some point just relying on these legends isn’t going to be possible. While Goldberg hasn’t moved the needle recently, let’s give into the theory that it will nudge the short term a little bit. So, you get a months worth of money. But 5-10 years from now when the Undertaker literally can’t get out of bed in the morning and Goldberg is done for good, you have nobody who can make you money because you didn’t use them when you had them to build new stars, you will feel it financially.
The ratings did not spike when Goldberg returned. While the SmackDown ratings are certainly disappointing, Roman Reigns also isn’t the answer. Roman Reigns is featured more heavily than Bray Wyatt every SmackDown, so why is it that Bray Wyatt is taking all of the blame from the apologists? If Roman Reigns moved the needle, he’d move it with or without the championship. The overall picture paints the story: they’re not building stars. This can go back to not giving guys like Bray the tools to reach that next level of success.
The reports for weeks were that WWE was going to do Cena/Wyatt and Reigns/Goldberg but wasn’t sure which would have the belt. If WWE wanted a Bill Goldberg vs Roman Reigns match, it doesn’t even need the belt. Bray defeating Goldberg would’ve been huge, with Cena beating somebody to take their chamber spot. The story is obviously The Fiend wanting to avenge Bray Wyatt’s loss. But, now Bray’s character is obviously going to want the title back and Cena has no reason to pursue the Fiend. The Fiend as champion gives Cena motive so that he can break Ric Flair’s record. Bray Wyatt vs John Cena is a money match, but it makes a lot more sense with the Fiend’s aura still being there and milking the cash cow that is Cena chasing history.
When Goldberg, who isn’t even relevant in 2020, is not there for you to rely on, you won’t have anybody to rely on because he didn’t put anybody over. But, at the end of the day, it’s Goldberg and he’s known to not want to do the job for anybody. You can’t complain you have no stars but not actively try and make stars. I get that Goldberg can’t hack it for more three minutes and never could, but he’s squashed all the momentum for Kevin Owens, Dolph Ziggler and now the Fiend.
It’s the same thing with the Undertaker. The last time he lost was to Roman Reigns, and the time before that was to Brock Lesnar. Why is the Undertaker wrestling AJ Styles at WrestleMania? I love AJ and think he’s this generation’s Shawn Michaels. But, you don’t have many years left with Styles and this could be a major breakout for Aleister Black or Erick Rowan. Build that new monster or that new dark character while you have the most iconic example of it.
When was the last time Brock Lesnar lost to somebody who wasn’t an established former World Champion? He squashed Samoa Joe, Braun Strowman and ended Kofi Kingston’s WWE Championship reign in a mere 8 seconds. He’s destroyed everybody except for Seth Rollins who had one of the better WWE championship runs of the decade, Roman Reigns who’s had a number of runs and…you guessed it, Goldberg. This does nothing for anybody long-term. Granted, they’re about to use Brock to rocketstrap Drew McIntyre, which I am all for. I am excited and have been on the McIntyre hype train for a decade now.
The question I post is this: if Reigns and Goldberg does not have the title, does it make it any less high profile? I mean, if people buy it with the title, they’re going to buy it without, but not many are buying Goldberg in 2020 to begin with. Is it more high profile than Cena going after an historic title reign? I don’t think so. Not at all.
You cannot keep mortgaging your long-term future and profit for very short term monetary gain. Vince McMahon, however, does not seem to care. He’s writing for an audience of one at this point with his finger so clearly off of the pulse of the outside world. The good news for Vince is that in 5-10 years, it won’t be his mess to clean up. But, whoever takes over is inheriting a business that continues to go south in its long-term outlook.
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