It is one of those periods in the WWE Universe where things are slow. While WWE’s Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon and those close to him are probably celebrating wildly over WWE’s massive new TV deals with USA Network and Fox that will pay them over $2 billion the next four years, it’s not like WWE’s television product is hot right now.
Raw is hurting due to the lack of a Universal Champion since Brock Lesnar has been kept off television for two months with no future dates advertised. There is a belief that Lesnar is going to drop the title at SummerSlam, but many of us thought that at WrestleMania too. The best part of Raw these days centers around the Intercontinental Title, including former champion Seth Rollins having a 30-minute match with current champion Dolph Ziggler this past Monday on Raw. Most weeks, though, Raw is a chore to sit through with boring matches and repetitive promos.
I think Smackdown is the better show involving the main roster, yet there are issues there too. This past week’s Smackdown posted the lowest television audience of 2018 with 2.13 million viewers on USA Network. On the same week one year ago, they did 2.6 million viewers. What’s the reason for the decline? There’s no specific cause for it because other television in June is on reruns, but with it being summertime, a lot of people are outside more and they’re not going to watch as much television.
That’s the weird thing about the new TV deals. The WWE television audience is lower than it was four years ago when the last deal was signed, yet the Fox and USA Network contracts are worth three times as much money as the previous deals. The explanation for that is that live programming is at a premium for networks and with WWE running Raw and Smackdown live (for the most part) for 52 weeks in a year, that makes WWE valuable.
Despite the fact that things are not that interesting in WWE heading into the July 15 Extreme Rules pay-per-view, there are a few topics I wanted to address as we wrap up the first half of 2018.
The Return of Team Hell No to Smackdown means Daniel Bryan singles feuds are on hold
Daniel Bryan wrestled Harper of the Bludgeon Brothers in the main event of Smackdown this week. Harper’s tag team partner Rowan interrupted Bryan’s submission attempt, leading to a two on one on Bryan. The “yes” chants couldn’t save Bryan, but his former tag team partner could, as Kane returned to Smackdown (he was last seen on Raw a few months ago) to save Bryan. That led to Bryan and Kane, who were known as Team Hell No, getting the biggest cheers of the night as they hugged in the ring since they liked to “hug it out” when they were teaming together.
The backstory of Team Hell No is that they were unusual partners who formed a successful tag team in September 2012. Over the next ten months, they won the Tag Team Titles and took part in some of the best WWE comedy skits of the decade, and the pairing really helped Bryan get to the next level. When Bryan started teaming with Kane, he was doing the “yes” chants to piss off the fans. By the time Team Hell No was done in June 2013, Bryan was arguably the most popular guy in the company. Two months later, Bryan won the WWE Title from John Cena in a short lived reign due to a cheap Money in the Bank cash in by Randy Orton. The point is that Team Hell No was a huge success for both guys. They did have a brief rivalry in 2014 after Bryan was WWE Champion again, but it was a short feud due to Bryan’s neck injury at the time.
— Glenn Jacobs (@GlennJacobsTN) June 19, 2018
Kane’s return to television is interesting because he’s the Republican nominee for mayor in Knox County, Tennessee. It’s expected that Kane (using his real name, Glenn Jacobs) will win the election on August 2, which opens the door for some interesting questions about his future. Does that mean he’s going to wrestle for the next few months with Bryan as his partner? We have no idea. Kane is 51 years old and while he hasn’t openly talked about retiring, he’s at the point in his career where it would be easy to see him walk away from active competition due to his role as mayor of Knox County.
At the end of Smackdown, it was officially announced by Smackdown GM Paige that Team Hell No will challenge the Bludgeon Brothers for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles at Extreme Rules on July 15. Could there be a title change? I think it might happen because one more title run for Kane would be a nice way to wrap up his career. It could be a short title reign if Kane is going to stop wrestling by that August 2 election date. Maybe he’ll keep going until SummerSlam in mid-August, and then that will be it.
What I’m most interested in is where this leaves Daniel Bryan. While a Team Hell No reunion might be fun, it’s not as interesting or compelling as Bryan wrestling a PPV singles match against a top Smackdown heel like Samoa Joe, The Miz, or even a lower card heel on the rise like Andrade “Cien” Almas.
This could be WWE’s way of keeping Bryan away from The Miz for an extended period of time. Perhaps that is a match WWE might want to do all the way at WrestleMania next year. Bryan could do this tag team feud with Kane for a few months, then feud with Samoa Joe and in early 2019 that might be when we get Bryan vs. Miz.
Another thing to keep in mind with Bryan is that his WWE deal expires in September. We don’t know at this point if he’s going to stay, but I think he will because he can make the most money in WWE and face the best opponents. Plus, his wife Brie Bella is associated with WWE. I doubt Bryan leaves, but you never really know.
I’m not sure if Team Hell No is going to win, but I hope that it leads to some fun moments and good matches. Would I have done the reunion? No, because I think Kane’s best days are way behind him. This is WWE, though. They love bringing back old guys, so that’s why Kane is back for more.
Are Women’s Tag Team Titles a good idea?
If you have watched any WWE programming in the last four years or so, then you know they have shoved the phrase “women’s revolution” (or evolution?) down our throats. It’s all about giving women’s wrestlers more opportunities, which they’ve had in the last few years with the first women’s Royal Rumble, Money in the Bank, and Hell in a Cell matches to name a few. Women’s wrestlers also headline Raw and Smackdown regularly now, so it’s not seen as a big deal anymore. The fact that all of those things have happened is great. I’m all for it.
What I have some reservations about are Women’s Tag Team Titles. Currently, there are only Raw and Smackdown Women’s Titles. Meanwhile, the men have the Universal Title on Raw (when Brock Lesnar shows up with it), the Intercontinental Title, and Raw Tag Team Titles. On Smackdown they have the WWE Title, United States Title, and Smackdown Tag Team Titles. Add it all up and that’s eight titles on the main roster. That doesn’t count the Cruiserweight Title on 205 Live, the four titles in NXT, or the growing United Kingdom brand that has one title with two more coming.
The reason Women’s Tag Team Titles are in the news is because popular Smackdown superstar Becky Lynch mentioned the possibility at the Ace Comic Con last week in Seattle. According to Lynch (via Pro Wrestling Sheet), she’s “been pitching it for a year…maybe two.” Lynch added that she thought the titles would be better on both brands due to the lack of women on the main roster that would make it tough to have two sets of titles. She suggested that the champions could be on Raw, Smackdown, or NXT at any time, which would lead to unpredictability and a lot of different possibilities.
It’s a good idea in theory, but I’m not sure if WWE’s creative team is good enough to feature them enough when they already have eight other titles to worry about.
Considering that earlier this year, WWE stopped doing brand specific pay-per-view events and are putting both Raw and Smackdown talent on every PPV. That tells me that WWE is losing some faith in the brand extension they started in July 2016. At Money in the Bank two weeks ago, WWE didn’t include the US Title or the Raw Tag Team Titles on the show. If there are Women’s Tag Team Titles and they aren’t included on PPV cards, which is possible due to having so many titles, then fans are going to complain about them.
I think WWE will go ahead with the Women’s Tag Team Titles on both shows. I don’t see them doing something where champs can be on any show. Vince McMahon has shown that he wants separate titles for separate brands. That means that a team like the Riott Squad could hold the Raw Women’s Tag Team Titles while The Iiconics duo of Peyton Royce and Billie Kay could hold the Smackdown Women’s Tag Team Titles. It could be something that could lead to the Bella Twins returning to the ring on a more regular basis. Other duos, like Alexa Bliss and Mickie James, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville, and Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch, could also be factors in the division. I’m sure WWE could come up with teams pretty easily.
It’s worth pointing out that WWE did have Women’s Tag Team Titles in the past. They existed from 1983 to 1989, but the women’s division was never pushed that much in those days and the titles were eliminated.
I’m sitting on the fence with it. I think WWE will do it within the next year, but I don’t necessarily think it’s a great idea due to my lack of faith in the creative team. They just aren’t doing well in terms of creating compelling stories right now. Adding more gold to the mix isn’t going to help.
That’s all for now. Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians on Sunday (the government wants us to celebrate on Monday) and a Happy July 4th holiday for the Americans out there as well.