WWE’s momentum over the last month has been in a downward spiral. Ratings and viewership are hitting record-lows almost week after week and the product feels as stale and redundant as ever.
But last night at TLC, the company got something right.
Asuka won the SmackDown Women’s Championship over Becky Lynch and Charlotte in a TLC match, which was featured in the main event spot on the show. It was received top billing over Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin (in a TLC match), Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose for the Intercontintal Championship and AJ Styles vs. Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship.
On the eve of WWE chairman Vince McMahon set to supposedly make a “historic announcement” on Raw tonight, WWE felt like, for the first time, it actually made a change of direction.
The Evolution pay-per-view a few months ago was lip service. Sure, the company promoted it as a landscape-changing event, but in reality, it was to give the women on the roster a payday they couldn’t receive in Saudi Arabia. And was it an apples-to-apples comparison? We’ll never truly know, but I expect it wasn’t.
Last night was different. We know Vince can’t stand the fact that Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles have “gotten over,” but history has shown that he’s still apt to put the WWE Championship on last just because it’s the WWE Championship. He didn’t.
We know Vince loves his big men and even though it was one of the most lackluster matches on the card, would you have really been all that surprised had Strowman vs. Corbin, in a TLC match, gone on last? After all, it was for the “control” of Monday Night Raw, as Corbin would have to lose his GM role with a loss (spoiler alert: he lost).
I know for a fact I’m giving them too much credit, but the main-eventing the show with the women felt like a breath of fresh air, and maybe a change of course. They’ve done it before — Charlotte and Sasha Banks wrestled in the main event of a Hell in a Cell pay-per-view in 2016 — but while that angle was hot, it wasn’t the hottest thing on the show. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte has been the hottest angle on the show since SummerSlam, and infusing Ronda Rousey (especially as a heel) is only going to ignite that further.
If they decided to go with a triple threat at WrestleMania — Rousey vs. Lynch vs. Charlotte — could that main-event the show? It won’t have the title involved, but I believe they can build up a strong enough personal issue between those three that it would feel like a worthy main event. That would be truly historic.
Of course, this could also be smoke and mirrors. Ratings declined sharply at the same time Roman Reigns left television after his cancer diagnosis. My belief is that the two circumstances are unrelated, but McMahon could use that fact as evidence justifying his push of Reigns.
If Reigns is ready for a return by WrestleMania, he should be the main event of the show. That’s a human-interest story as much as it is a wrestling storyline. But if he’s not, WWE won’t have anything hotter than Lynch, Charlotte and Rousey. They’ve hurt the rest of their characters due to sloppy booking and poor decisions. Those three have risen from the ashes.
They deserve it.