Wrasslin' Wroundup (Pre-Extreme Rules State of the WWE)

For this edition of the Wroundup, let's talk about intent and stakes. these are three things that make wrestling matches better.

Intent means that the match is happening for a reason beyond the behind the scenes reasons of "we need to fill three hours" or "we need to give X some ring time to remind fans he exists".

Stakes means that the outcome of the match matters. There's something at stake for the winner that makes him want to win, or something at stake for the loser that makes them not want to lose.

When a match has intent and stakes, that gives the match meaning. When a match has meaning, the viewer cares about the match. When the viewer cares about the match, they're more entertained.

This is why wrestling shows love tournaments. Tournaments give intent and stakes by default. Why are they wreslting? They've been paired together in a tournament. What's at stake? Advancing in the tournament or winning the tournament's prize. Title matches also have meaning, by default. But not every match can be for a title, or part of a tournament. And so, especially in WWE and NXT, a lot of times, matches are just thrown up there to fill time or introduce characters. The last few weeks have been better in that regard, though.

For example, WWE has been working hard to attach meaning to Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho's technically not announced yet Extreme Rules match, which is a good idea, because the match itself won't be anything special. The feud has gone from being about who has an in-ring talk show to being about the destruction of props, with Jericho smashing Mitch The Potted Plant over Ambrose' head, followed by Ambrose attacking Jericho and destroying Jericho's "415,000" light-up jacket. This is a little dumb, but it's the good kind of dumb. It's the kind of dumb both Ambrose and Jericho can get you to buy.

They've also done some good work around the Intercontinental Fatal Four Way. They gave Sami Zayn a match against Miz to turn it into a four-way in the first place. They gave Owens an otherwise meaningless time-filler against Zack Ryder some oomph by making it for Owens' spot in the match. Unfortunately, we've also had a lot of the standard "four guys make two tag teams who don't get along" filler matches with standard booking. Oh no, Sami Zayn accidentally hit Cesaro with the Heluva Kick! What will this mean at Extreme Rules!"

Of course, matches with a horrible meaning are sometimes worse than a match with no meaning. You may find this hard to believe, but the whole R-Truth / Goldust thing is still going on, with Goldust teaming with Fandango and Truth teaming with Tyler Breeze in some sort of weird jealousy over tag partners story that makes you weep for the death of the spirit and the soul.

The big belt picture is a good story being wasted on bad characters. In some ways, it's almost a Greek tragedy, with a series of misunderstandings and bad choices escalating the feud between Roman reigns and AJ Styles into increasingly darker territory, largely fueled by the malicious intent of Gallows and Anderson and the dumb stubborn pride of Reigns and the Usos. The problem is, this kind of storytelling is beyond the abilities of at least four of the six guys involved here, and Styles is barely hanging on by his fingertips to keep from being out of his depth. Only Karl Anderson seems to be relishing his role here.

The Women's Title is at least trying to get back on a solid footing by banning Flair from ringside at the Charlotte-Natalya match. And Becky Lynch is involved in a secondary feud with Emma and the newly mainrostered Dana Brooke that's decent, although how many times can Becky Lynch be poked in the eye? She has a look that would totally support an eyepatch. MAKE IT HAPPEN.

I suppose I should mention Kalisto-Rusev for the US belt, but it's just a retread of Ryback-Kalisto with a much, much better wrestler in the Ryback role now that Ryback is likely on his way out the door. Maybe next month we can give Kalisto a smaller opponent and let them tear it up a bit?