5 Count: 5 Lessons For WWE To Learn From Elimination Chamber & Bayley's Title Win
1) The Chase Is Dead
I love Bayley. I cried when she won the NXT Womens Title. I cried even during her entrance for that match. I was so emotionally invested in Bayleyís chase of the title in NXT. And it wasnít an overly complex story being told or even an original story. The likeable babyface starts out at the bottom of the division, gets established in a certain position in the division and over time and has to overcome defeat and adversity before finally reaching the very top of the division. Itís classic pro wrestling storytelling and with the right person a sure fire success tale. So now that weíve established that I get emotional over Bayley and that her progress through NXT was perfection, here was my reaction to her winning the Raw Womens Title. I groaned.
This has been the case for years now in WWE and is by no means a new problem but Iím just sick and tired of every new act reaching the top of their division almost instantaneously. When Bayley won the NXT Womens Title it meant something because the story and the outcome and the title itself meant something. Winning a title in WWE doesnít mean anything. Winning the Womens Title on either brand especially doesnít mean anything. Winning a title in your first year on the roster doesnít even mean anything because itís the same path that every act goes on. Kevin Owens was a World Champion in little over a year from his debut. Finn Balor was a World Champion on his first major show. AJ Styles in less than a year. American Alpha pretty much straight away. Sasha, Charlotte & Becky all within little over a year. Can we not just have someone have to wait an extended period of time before they reach the top of their division? Can we not just go on a struggle with someone as they come up short and we see how they react to defeat and adversity. Can we not have them moments again where someone goes on an actual journey progressing up the card rather than just debuting at the top and reaching the pinnacle in barely any time at all.
And Iím not even arguing that all them names listed above should have to wait years before winning the title. And yes I completely understand that the introduction of NXT makes the chase harder to pull off in a relevant fashion because ďthe modern chaseĒ now encompasses not only a wrestlers journey through NXT but everything leading to their signing with WWE. Iím not asking for WWE to start debuting acts like Bayley and Finn Balor as enhancement talents that have to work their way up the card from the very bottom upwards. That would obviously be daft. But can we please just have somewhat of a chase so that it feels as though weíve gone on some sort of journey with our favourite wrestlers? So that when Bayley does win that title it feels like somewhat of an achievement. I miss those true feel good moments when guys like Daniel Bryan and Eddie Guerrero finally reached the very top after the journey not only they themselves but their fans got to go on with them.
2) Winning Titles Is Meaningless
Leading in from the previous lesson, the other major reason why I just didnít care about Bayley winning a slightly different piece of material to the NXT Womens Title is because none of the titles in WWE mean anything. And my use of the word ďanythingĒ is become more and more literal with every title change that happens.
Winning one of the top titles should be an accomplishment. It should be a massive deal. It should be a huge talking point. Itís not any of those things in WWE and thatís because everyone gets their turn with the belt. Being the champion of your division isnít unique. Everyone gets to hold the Womens Title at some point and if everyone gets to hold it then why should I care when one particular person gets to hold it? If Iím the only person in my class to get an A on the test then Iím feeling pretty great about myself and my parents would be super proud but if they then learned that 80% of the class also got an A what do you think happens to their reaction? The more unique an accomplishment the more prestigious it is. Everyone ďgetting their turnĒ with the belt totally kills off the prestige and the equity that belts hold and without them itís nothing more than a piece of material that someone carries around with them.
And even when people do win a title, nothing changes. Keeping with the Bayley context, what changes now for Bayley? Sheíll still be working with the exact same people she was before and the exact same people she would be if she didnít win the title, the perception of Bayley wonít change, she wonít draw more money now that sheís a champion and she wonít be presented any differently. Nothing changes. Maybe a better example to use here are Anderson & Gallows. They won the Tag Team Championships a few weeks ago now and what has changed? Being a champion doesnít prompt different booking, it doesnít place them in a more prominent position on the card, it doesnít cause fans to change how they look at them. Nothing changes. So whereís the value in being a champion?
And thatís the reason why I donít get anyone reacting to Naomi or Bray Wyatt winning their respective titles like itís a thing of consequence. Itís just their time to carry around that piece of material. Naomi will have some time holding that piece of material and then sheíll pass it on to the next person whose turn it is and her career will be the same it was before. You look at the Bray Wyatt vs Randy Orton match for Wrestlemania and how many people feel that because itís now for the title that Bray and Randy have been elevated up the card?
Titles need to matter and you do that by raising prestige and equity in them. If winning a title isnít unique or a game changer then why should people care about who holds a piece of material?
3) Smackdownís Tag Team Division Needs Credible Teams
Not that we needed the Tag Team Turmoil at Elimination Chamber to prove this point but it really did make it abundantly clear just how deep the mess that is Smackdownís tag team division is in. Itís not a quantity issue. Six teams is on the thin side for sure but itís something you can work with. The issue is who those six teams are.
American Alpha are a great talent for sure but they havenít gotten over on Smackdown and thatís because thereís no teams with any credibility for them to beat (that and their personalities havenít been showcased at all). The only credible team theyíve even faced are The Wyatt Family and the only reason they beat them is because Harper and Orton couldnít get along. They did have a good opportunity to finally showcase them at Survivor Series against credible teams but completely passed that one up.
The Usos should be a great team in this division with tons of credibility, especially coming off their heel turn but they never beat anyone since turning. The greatest indicator for the failure of their act is how credible an act can look wrestling in street clothes. For a credible badass team itís cool but for anyone else they just look like schmucks. At the start of their run it gave them a bit of a swagger but watching them at Elimination Chamber they had totally lost that swagger and were schmucks in that ring gear.
Slater & Rhyno are a comedy team. A comedy team that had a run with the belts and kept on beating The Usos but regardless of all of that theyíre a comedy team and a non-comedy team beating a comedy team doesnít do anything for them. Itís fun when they win but it never means anything for someone else to beat them. And then we have The Ascension, The Vaudevillians and Breezango....
Best case scenario you have American Alpha and The Usos that you can run with in a credible program but theyíve completely diluted that potential rivalry since the brand split by taking the poor hand they were dealt with the tag division and making it an even weaker hand. Remember coming out of the brand split when an Alpha vs Usos series had people excited. Now who is excited for that match at all? So the one good hand you had to play now means nothing.
The fix isnít easy. Raw has a similar problem at least in terms of depth with their tag division too. But the neat thing about tag teams is that anyone can be in one. Itís not like a womenís division where you need to have a vagina in order to compete in it. Yes thereís teams in NXT that could be called up to reinvigorate the division but Iím not even going to entertain that as a solution because itís not happening, just like how Smackdown wonít get to raid Rawís tag teams. NXT needs their own tag division because NXT also needs to draw and thatís a third division thin on tag teams.
What Smackdown can do however is redirect directionless singles wrestlers into the division. Guys like Kallisto and Apollo Crews are totally directionless and likely will be for the foreseeable future, why not make them a tag team in the division. Ok they wonít be the stars of the division but you have American Alpha and The Usos heading up the babyface and heel sides of the division, what theyíre in need of is credible support acts for each to work with.
4) Nikki Bella Wrestling Just Isnít Worth It
Ok let me preface this by saying that I somewhat like Nikki. Her matches arenít memorable but theyíre watchable and far from terrible. But that being said if the reports about her health since returning from neck surgery are to be believed then she should really just retire because frankly, it just isnít worth her wrestling. Nobody really benefits from it. I mean sure sheís popular and she has the benefit of being known to a somewhat different audience through Total Divas/Bellas but thatís as a personality not as a wrestler. She doesnít need to be wrestling in order to stay relevant.
The concept of risk vs reward has been pretty much tossed out the window in the modern wrestling landscape but with Nikki, the risks are so much higher. Neck fusion surgery is no laughing matter and not an injury to be just shrugged off as ďoh sheíll get surgery and come backĒ. The risks here are life changing. If sheís already feeling constant numbness and pain and she continues wrestling then thatís not a remedy for improvement. Compare that to the rewards from Nikki Bella wrestling. She isnít all that good of a wrestler. Sheís like a ** match kind of wrestler that can vary a star here or there depending on her opponent. She is somewhat of a draw but not in a way that people are coming to see Nikki Bella wrestle matches. Itís a oh we know Nikki Bella off of E! and we like her. Itís the sort of pop you get for appearing but isnít maintained past that. And you donít need to be wrestling matches in order to get that pop.
Is it really worth her being in constant pain and anguish just moving around the house before sheís even 40 so that she can have more ** matches with Natalya and Alexa Bliss. Is it really worth her not being able to run around the park with her kid if she ever has children? It really isnít. It isnít really worth it if youíre Daniel Bryan and youíve just reached the peak of the industry and about to make more money than youíve made before, let alone Nikki Bella.
And Nikki Bella retiring from wrestling doesnít mean you lose all the benefits that she brings to the table. She can still be an on air personality. Make her a GM, a manager, a brand ambassador, thereís plenty of roles that she can fill where she can still be ďNikki Bella: Role ModelĒ and continue to be a relevant part of Total Divas. Or if for some reason wrestling is an itch she just canít leave be then have her work a no bumps schedule where she only works tag matches, comes in, hits her moves and gets out. At the very very very least please letís not have her taking a superplex spot that barely gets a reaction.
5) Naomi Isnít A Good Wrestler
I know that opinions on wrestling quality are subjective and there are people who will read that and shake their head that someone could think such a thing. What it would probably read more accurately as is ďNaomi Isnít A Good Ring WorkerĒ. Sheís athletic, can jump high and can do gymnast shit. Ok cool. But thatís what makes her an even bigger danger inside the ring and why Naomiís shortcomings are a lesson that WWE need to take on board.
This isnít a new thing with Naomi off the back off a fluffed ending to a match at Elimination Chamber. Iíve been saying that sheís terrible for a while now and the worrying thing is, sheís not improved since she started in WWE. But the match with Alexa Bliss really drove home the danger that she can be in the ring. Now donít get me wrong she isnít alone in this category. Carmella is a really raw act inside the ring too but the difference is that the danger level on the moves that Carmella is doing compared to the moves Naomi is doing is much safer. Because Naomi is such a great athlete and can do these more visually impressive spots sheís allowed to do them and for as fancy as they look, theyíre also dangerous, especially if the person doing them isnít a great in ring worker. A split legged moonsault for instance is a fine spot to do in a match between two experienced and polished workers but when the person doing the move isnít either of those things, moves like that become reckless and really dangerous for both wrestlers involved.
There were two occasions on Sunday where Naomi did the split legged moonsault spot. The first time she was supposed to miss as Alexa rolled under it but ended up catching Bliss cleanly with it and caused a weird moment of confusion. Now Iíve seen some people blame Bliss for not moving quick enough but if you watch it back Naomi gives her no time at all to get firstly into position and then secondly to roll under it because she rushes to the spot a million miles an hour. And itís not just a case of her rushing, itís a lack of ability in doing the things between the spots. Once she has Alexa set up for her finish, she needs to let that moment breathe. Let the fans realise that sheís about to hit her finish and possibly win the match and the title. Let that feeling sink in for a few seconds first. Let the emotions of the match takeover. And in doing that you give you and your opponent more time to properly set up for what is a high risk spot. Instead she rushes through a high risk spot which then turns into a dangerous and reckless spot.
Same case for the second split legged moonsault spot. And this one was all on Naomi. First off her setup for the spot was horrible, leaving Bliss knocked down halfway across the ring. Which fair enough, it happens. But donít just leave her that far out of position and race over to the ropes for your next spot. Itís like robots at work and if something goes wrong theyíre not programmed to react accordingly. So already youíre making your opponent look silly for having to roll herself back into position to take a move she should be avoiding. If she can roll towards the spot then why doesnít she roll the other way out of danger? So once again she rushes the spot, doesnít check to see that Bliss is in the correct position and ready to take the move, and this time she ends up hurting both herself and her opponent doing a high risk move which turned into a reckless move because she isnít a good enough ring worker.
The lesson isnít that WWE need to tell Naomi to stop wrestling. The lesson is that if sheís going to do these high risk spots then she needs to become a much better, smarter and safer worker inside the ring in order to take better care of both herself and her opponent.