The ongoing construction of the Payback pay-per-view card created a series of questions on WWE Raw.
Braun Strowman is now set to face Roman Reigns. Will the red brand allow the monster to devour the hero, or will WWE remain stubborn?
Sometimes it seems as though WWE is trying to make Strowman its top babyface by making him the most badass figure on the show. This all smells like preparation for a heel being taken to slaughter, though.
Elsewhere on Monday’s Raw, rivals poised to collide at Payback left behind more unknowns.
Are The Hardys set to undergo a major change? Will Alexa Bliss rule over Raw? Can intercontinental champion Dean Ambrose make a sequel a success?
Read on for a dive into all those questions, from the challenge ahead for Ambrose to the uncertainty of Strowman’s fate.
Can The Miz and Ambrose Thrill in Repeat Feud?
The Miz and Ambrose are battling again, months after colliding over the Intercontinental Championship on SmackDown. They have both moved to a new brand where WWE is retelling their story.
In the first glimpses of this reprisal of the feud, The Miz cut deep with his words, while Ambrose played a punch-happy jokester. It all clicked to a degree, but questions linger.
Can these two make this entertaining for a sustained stretch? Can their performances overcome the lack of freshness in the rivalry?
As Tim Fiorvanti of ESPN.com noted, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this:
Tim Fiorvanti @tim00
Wait and see mode with these 2. Great verbal sparring, but we’ve seen it before.
I would love to write the Miz/Dean Ambrose sitcom, though. https://t.co/0o6hxs4dOW
4/18/2017, 1:12:06 AM
It’s odd that WWE chose to have The Miz and Ambrose go at each other for their first feud during this Raw run.
The Miz is talented enough to sell fans on it even without the aid of novelty. He and Ambrose have strong chemistry on the mic, but not nearly as much in the ring. And The Miz has earned a higher spot on the card than the IC title chase, so placing him on this tier again is a letdown.
This should be solid, but it won’t be among Raw’s top tales.
Where Is the Raw Tag Title Feud Heading?
There is minimal bad blood between The Hardys and Cesaro and Sheamus. The former champs earned the right to face the current ones on last week’s Raw. Cesaro and Sheamus, though, have remained civil to their Payback foes.
On Monday’s Raw, Jeff Hardy knocked off Cesaro, and for the briefest of moments it looked as if a post-match brawl would break out. The situation quickly cooled, however.
There has been a strangely respectful dynamic between the teams. And The Hardys have yet to show off elements of the “broken” gimmick they worked to perfection with Impact Wrestling.
Are things set to turn more intense between these squads? Will Cesaro and Sheamus turn heel? Are the Hardy brothers going to be broken once again?
This is a case of a rivalry that promises to get more interesting as it moves along. It’s lukewarm at the moment, though. WWE would be foolish to let things remain the way they are. A dramatic change has to be on the horizon, whether it’s in the Europeans’ attitude or The Hardys’ personas.
Payback is sure to be interesting if only to see what direction WWE takes this narrative.
Will Bliss Dethrone Bayley?
Fresh off two reigns as SmackDown women’s champ, Bliss is one win away from claiming the Raw crown, too.
Bliss fought off Sasha Banks, Mickie James and Nia Jax on Monday night to become the No. 1 contender to Bayley’s title. Five Feet of Fury will now rain down on Bayley at Payback.
Is Bliss going to claim the Raw throne? Is she just a stopgap rival for Bayley?
WWE is clearly looking to highlight Bliss. Not only did the company move her to its signature show during the Superstar Shake-up, it put her front and center right away.
The smoldering issues between Banks and Bayley, however, are likely to lead to a more high-profile feud. The Boss turning on her friend, embracing her darkness and seizing the championship is a story worthy of the marquee.
Chances are, Banks vs. Bayley is the plan for SummerSlam. Bliss will test and torment Bayley until it’s Banks’ turn to take over.
That will be the focus in the short term. Bliss will re-emerge as a top contender soon after, however. Her talent is undeniable, and WWE is sure to see that.
Will WWE Ruin Strowman’s Momentum?
Reigns now has a match against Strowman at Payback thanks to Raw general manager Kurt Angle.
While Reigns recovered from last week’s assault, Strowman bragged about breaking The Big Dog before laying out other members of Team Red. The Monster Among Men clobbered The Golden Truth and frightened Heath Slater and Rhyno before dumping Kalisto in a dumpster.
He closed the night with a thriller against Big Show that ended in the ring collapsing.
Strowman looked like a megastar throughout. His momentum is building at an impressive rate. More and more, the big man has become the highlight of Raw.
But his trajectory could soon change in a hurry. The folks running the WrestleView.com Twitter account said what many fans have to be thinking:
Braun Strowman is easily the most improved guy in the company and a true force right now. They can’t feed him to Reigns in two weeks. #RAW
4/18/2017, 3:17:31 AM
Reigns has long been WWE’s top priority. He is a three-time WWE champ. He’s the man higher-ups chose to retire Undertaker.
There’s a good chance Strowman is just going to be another stepping stone for him.
That can’t be the route WWE takes. Strowman is red-hot. The only sensible thing to do is take full advantage of that, jetting him up toward the Universal Championship.
Reigns’ rise can wait.
But can someone convince WWE head honcho Vince McMahon of that? That’s not a safe bet in the least.