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Posted in: Oliver's Twist
Oliver's Twist: WWE, and the Importance of Pacing
By Oliver
Jul 14, 2014 - 10:20:00 AM

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Good day, Twist fans, and welcome to another edition of Oliver’s Twist! We sit about ten hours away from another Monday Night Raw and I find myself anticipating tonight’s program like I haven’t done for a good couple of months. Now, if you’re at all like me you’ll hopefully have been intrigued by a lot of the work WWE has been doing since Money in the Bank. Whilst arguably the most interesting seed was planted in the shocking turn of Seth Rollins on June 2nd, for me it has really come alive since the most recent pay per view, with the work that both Ambrose, as the maniacal face set on revenge, and Rollins, as the smug chosen one, have done being a definite highlight.

The thing is, however, that I’m concerned about the sense of pacing within WWE at the moment. Not so much in terms of what’s going on – as I said above, I’m enthralled by Rollins vs Ambrose, but on top of that Paige vs AJ Lee is finally an intriguing women’s feud, Rusev vs Swagger is something that I’ve been anticipating for a while, and the return of Chris Jericho to face Bray Wyatt is a feud that should elevate the latter even further up the totem pole. But where’s the pacing? It slightly confuses me that, on a secondary pay per view (or special event, depending on what you want to call them) we’re getting the hottest midcard feud in years, potentially the best WWE women’s match on paper, the pay off to a hot USA vs Russia feud, and the returning legend taking on the hot new talent. That’s four potentially excellent matches, and whilst I’m primarily against using an event that some people have to pay for to build to something else people have to pay for, it feels like there should be a lot more build for each of them, pushing them all to SummerSlam rather than Battleground. Of course, it makes Battleground a pay per view that I actually want to buy – but why make that card so heavy when the bulk of the matches have only had three weeks to build them?

I think the main issue I have is that these are things people will want to see – so why here? Why now? Why not delay these matches for another four weeks and pay them all off at SummerSlam? Or are WWE going for a RematcherSlam instead? It feels odd to me to have such atop heavy card only weeks before their biggest summer event, and whilst there might well be some matches on that which we’re not due to see at Battleground (the long-rumoured Reigns vs HHH match-up, for example, or Brie Bella vs Stephanie McMahon) these won’t have the build that these matches could have. I think the solution here is pretty simple, really – WWE needn’t scrap the pay per view, but instead use it as a building block.

Look at it this way – Miz returned and was interrupted by Jericho. They have beef. So why pay that off on Raw and not delay it until the pay per view? Bray Wyatt can just accompany his boys to the ring for their tag title match against The Usos and then assault Jericho again after his match with Miz. Sure, it’s a Raw segment made into a pay per view one, but would anybody really complain on what is generally viewed as a secondary show? That way, Wyatt gets his big win over Jericho at SummerSlam, with the most eyes on him, and celebrates his debut year in the WWE with a dominant victory over a legend. Plus, we get extra time to actually build the feud and make it really worth something – at the moment, there’s little reason behind why Wyatt wants to take out Jericho, and not much of a storyline there beyond Wyatt spoiling the multi-time Intercontinental Champion’s return to WWE.

The same goes for AJ and Paige –the potential is there for this to be the best women’s match on the main roster since Mickie James took on Michelle McCool at TLC 2009. Why not give it some time to grow? Obviously, we have some history what with the debut of Paige on the night after WrestleMania, but right now we’ve gone from week one, where AJ returned and reclaimed her title, to…actually, where has that gone? Mutual respect angles work, but one tag team match isn’t really much by way of a build. The feud to date is really lacking passion and energy, and the longer build time could allow for some build on both sides, making the match feel far more important than it will at Battleground. Unlike with the above Jericho and Wyatt feud, there’s not an easy way to delay the meeting, but I think they could realistically hold off for a month without anybody batting an eyelid. I mean, nobody other than me seems to care about the Divas anyway. But if in that month they built up more of the mutual respect side of things, that would make the eventual turn of one or the other of them all the more impactful – that’s surely the way this is going to end, after all. Why not wait until SummerSlam, make us all think that Paige and AJ are actually going to be friends, and then take it away from us to create a stronger reaction?

Rusev vs Swagger is probably the one match that I wold consider as being left on the Battleground card – it’s not going to add or detract anything from SummerSlam by its presence or lack thereof. However, it’s easy to pull this out – giving Rusev an easy victory over someone parading out as a Real American that’s not Jack Swagger before the actual Real American puts a stop to a post-match beatdown is basic booking that allows for the feud to hold over to SummerSlam with ease. That allows building up Swagger as more of a threat to Rusev, giving him a few easy victories over some fodder guys before he actually gets to take on the Bulgarian Brute, which will only make Rusev look even more impressive for defeating him with ease in a month. Oh, you can bet your arse that Rusev is winning that one, too – this is just a detour on his road to the main event.

The feud that would most benefit from some time, and has undoubtedly suffered from the past couple of weeks, is easily Ambrose vs Rollins. Not only is it a match that has a lot of people interested, whether it be because they felt The Shield was the best thing since perforated bog roll or due to the history between the two that I recently spoke about, but it demands a spotlight. Here are two young guys who are set to steal any show they get on. Ziggler might claim to have been doing that for years, but it’s no doubt that there is a fire under the backsides of both the former brothers in arms that isn’t lit under a number of performers right now. But WWE seem hell bent on throwing this match out way earlier than it needs to be, theoretically dampening the impact it will have. With Rollins as Mr. Money in the Bank, and Ambrose threatening to be the TNT that blows up in his face whenever he moves to cash that title shot in, there’s potential for this to become a feud that slides well past Battleground and on to SummerSlam – potentially beyond that, even. However, WWE have settled themselves into blowing through Rollins trying to cash in and Ambrose stopping him, having had basically the same ending for the past two shows. On the first show, it felt sensible – establishing just what Ambrose had meant in his earlier promo and showing the fans what was going to happen. But why do it again last week? This is where pacing comes into it, and why I feel this match, out of all of the above mentioned, is the one that would benefit from sensible timing.

See, in order to have these moments really have an effect, they have to happen organically. It’s something that has affected every attempted cash in recently – the MitB holder turns up just because someone takes a finisher, looking to cash in, but their potential victim immediately recovers to stop it. Why? Because a finisher, just one, won’t keep the champion down for long enough. Look at how Edge cashed in the first time – Cena had been destroyed in the Elimination Chamber for 30 odd minutes and was a bloody, exhausted mess. That’s the perfect time to cash in – not right after a shitty Kane chokeslam. So Rollins can’t simply turn up every time Cena’s laid out – he needs to pick his moment. That’s why briefcase cash-ins work so well when they’re held off – Ziggler’s massive pop was as much a product of the post-Mania Raw crowd and the fact that he was coming to take the title from Del Rio as it was the fact that we’d been waiting on it for months. Imagine if Rollins had won the briefcase, but not tried to cash it in for six weeks and then Ambrose had struck? Think of the pop! WWE need to let that suspense fester, sow the seed of Ambrose being the guy to act as the party pooper for Rollins but then just let it sit there. Of course, Rollins vs Ambrose is a great story and they should have a payoff soon – but three weeks isn’t much time to really build up heat. I’d even go so far as to say they needn’t pay it off at SummerSlam, really – Rollins coming down to cash in on a beaten down Cena at the end of that event, only for Ambrose to pop up and stop him to then move on to them having a match (which could still be a couple of months down the line) would bring even more fire to the party.

It’s all about pacing, really – charging into matches that could be held off to allow for a strong build towards the major summer pay per view might be the biggest mistake WWE make this year. The card for Battleground looks superbly strong, and I’m not necessarily against a host of rematches, with stipulations, for SummerSlam , but it feels like a lot more build could be given to these four matches, getting the crowd truly invested in an event from top to bottom at SummerSlam, rather than WWE blowing their load with an instant pay off to everything good they have going right now. If they just take their time a little bit, allow things to fester and garner larger crowd reactions, they could have themselves a killer SummerSlam pay per view.

Pace yourselves, WWE – you don’t want to burn out before you get the most out of a storyline.

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