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Posted in: Just Business
Just Business: The Performance Art Raw View ~ Characterisation Flowers in the Post-Rumble Wasteland
By Samuel 'Plan
Feb 4, 2018 - 11:31:54 AM

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Just Business: The Performance Art Raw View ~ Characterisation Flowers in the Post-Rumble Wasteland


The grind is relentless and fast moving for those living in WWE’s fictional universe. No sooner has the dust started to settle in the wake of an earth-shattering, epoch-altering Royal Rumble 2018 than we are already resetting ourselves ready for Elimination Chamber and the match to decide who will challenge Universal Champion Brock Lesnar at the Showcase of the Immortals.

So far three big wins have confirmed Braun Strowman, Elias and John Cena for the torture chamber at the end of February, and three more look set to be decided this coming week. But those are, frankly, minor events when you come to realise the important character developments that have been demonstrated over the second biggest weekend of WWE’s calendar year. From Strowman and Reigns to Banks and Cena, times certainly do seem to be a’changing; and, potentially, quite drastically so.

My name is Samuel ‘Plan, and this is the Performance Art Raw View.

Reigns vs. Strowman: A Chamber’s Not Enough

As I predicted heading into Royal Rumble 2018, despite the sheer brute force of Braun Strowman’s rage often giving him one up over the Beast Incarnate outside of their matches, it was that rage’s lack of focus, lack of direction, that once again undercut the Monster Among Men’s efforts in the Triple Threat Match for the Universal Championship. Strowman can feel free to tip as many heavy things over as he wants, and kill as many demons as he wants, but until he learns to channel his greatest strength then he’ll remain little more than a never-was. He needs a Heyman; maybe one that comes in a package of five feet of fury?

Nonetheless, there’ll be no limits to what that man’s imagination might compel him to do in a few short weeks; especially with another opportunity at the Beast that’s only just managing to survive him up for grabs. Unfortunately for Strowman and his established status quo, it seems unlikely his inevitable flailing wave of destruction will do him any favours should his old enemy, Roman Reigns, get past Bray Wyatt tomorrow night.

If that were to happen, focus of rage will be the deciding factor between these two behemoth favourites. Reigns hasn’t the raw power of Strowman, but we’ve seen in his recent frustrations opposite The Miz that the Big Dog is no longer prepared to surrender to his better inhibitions if and when the moment suits; he took a great deal of convincing to put down that steel chair six days ago, after all. No moment will suit such uninhibited instincts better, or more necessarily, than inside that torturous Chamber, where the Big Dog can feel free to get feral.

So, put simply, Strowman needs to get used to thinking real quick; otherwise Kurt Angle will need to figure out how to quell ‘Those Hands’ in the wake of dashed WrestleMania dreams.

The Boss is Back

The Boss is back, and it feels like it’s been a long time coming. From unapologetically eliminating her ‘frenemy’ Bayley, to slapping the taste out of the legendary Trish Stratus’s mouth, through to punking out the Empress of Tomorrow Asuka, The Boss capped off an impressive iron woman run last Sunday night by showing the world the very attitude that vaulted her to the top of the women’s division during her time in NXT.

Unfortunately for the Monday Night Raw (MNR) women’s division, it doesn’t seem like it was a one-time deal either. Last Monday night saw The Boss, for prolonged portions of what I believe was her first ever singles match with the Empress of Tomorrow, dominate the undefeated Asuka in a manner no other competitor has arguably ever been able to manage. She chased a submission to the Banks Statement so tenaciously it was reminiscent of the Wrestling Machine Kurt Angle’s obsession with his patented Ankle Lock, and on more than one occasion she was able to couple her experience in WWE with her blood thirsty, opportunistic instincts to brilliantly outmanoeuvre Asuka.

Against any other woman, The Boss’s performance would have certainly lent her a convincing victory such was its lasting impression. Sadly, it was not any other woman she was wrestling against. The very qualities that the resurrected Boss used to bring Asuka perilously close to defeat were the same qualities that allowed Asuka to adjust her game plan and once again emerge the victor – her counter to The Boss’s opportunistic suicide dive and the resultant offence levied to take advantage was barbaric, and her eventual Asuka Lock counter to the Banks Statement she had felt several times throughout the contest, an indicator of her evolutionary martial capability that has carried her to a three digit win / loss margin.

It was an outstanding match wrestled between them, if an imperfect one, that should rightly get spoken about for months yet to come. They have set the standard for women’s television wrestling in WWE in 2018 high indeed.

The Shallow Depths of John Cena’s Game

John Cena seems rattled, doesn’t he?

Last weekend was an interesting one for him. He made it to the final three of the Men’s Royal Rumble Match but appeared much unlike himself when there. Whether it was wrenching Shinsuke Nakamura around by the hair or forming an unholy alliance with his one-time rival Roman Reigns to lay waste to the King of Strong Style, the world saw an opportunistic, unapologetically cruel version of the 16 time World Champion that had rarely, if ever seen the light of day before.

This went even further the next night on MNR when it became clear, during his hard fought match with Finn Bálor, that the Edge-like petty cruelty emerging from Cena was hardly a singular occurrence. Cena struggled to put Bálor away; in the process, struggling to win a match that only fairly recently would have been a comfortable night’s work for him. The results were visible. It took him an AA from the top rope, so often a sight confined to the biggest matches of his career, to simply qualify for an opportunity at an opportunity. A gargantuan move, as Cole put it on commentary, to conclude what was, by necessity, a gargantuan effort.

Such a struggle on a Monday night is not a feeling Cena is accustomed to, and that much showed. He held Bálor by the throat; he enjoyed taunting Bálor at the expense of the crowd; at one stage he even demonstrated irritation at the taunting crowd he has, for so long, simply shrugged off, with an exasperated, almost outraged exclamation of “I’m just trying to get to WrestleMania!”

That moment was the most telling of all, seemingly revealing the source of John Cena’s shifting attitude: is he suddenly feeling out of his depth? Is the new generation that now refuses to relent in the face of veterans and part-timers proving to be better than he ever was? Is that why he struggled last weekend? Only time will tell, but there’s a sensation in the air that Cena, like the rest of us, might now be staring at a major tectonic shift in WWE’s very near future.

In Closing

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, or if you have any thoughts on anything I haven’t 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!

Don’t forget to pick up your copy of my book, 101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die, from the LOP Store today! Simply click here to find mine and a host of other books and merchandise on offer, all courtesy of LOP’s own!

For more of my thoughts on the rest of the show, and WWE in general, click here to add me on Facebook!

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