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The September 11 episode of Raw continued the steady and effective build to No Mercy with a show that positioned high-profile stars in a favorable position.
It was the franchise star, though, who irresponsibly made a single and unnecessary comment that led to his status as the night’s biggest loser and, potentially, tainted the content of his No Mercy opponent’s character.
John Cena, master of the mic and one of the greatest Superstars of all time, made an irresponsible remark about Roman Reigns’ past Wellness Policy failures that was not at all needed to build heat for their WrestleMania-worthy main event.
Luckily, not everyone on Monday’s show was as careless.
Braun Strowman enjoyed another monumental night while Jason Jordan continued to prove himself worthy of a high-profile spot on the card.
At least from an in-ring perspective.
Emma, on the other hand, continued to find no mercy at the end of WWE Creative’s collective pencil.
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There is still cause for concern regarding the eventual end game of Jason Jordan’s ongoing string of matches against high-profile opponents but Monday night, he wrestled another strong match against Roman Reigns that kicked Raw off on the right foot.
Jordan, again, was competitive and nearly upset Reigns on more than one occasion.
Just as he nearly did John Cena and Finn Balor before that.
By portraying Jordan as this ultra-competitive wrestler seeking to earn his own reputation rather than coasting on that of “Kurt Angle’s kid,” WWE Creative has set him up in a better position to succeed.
That does not mean it is without flaws.
Having wrestled so many big stars and lost, the eventual payoff of a victory over someone less credible than a Cena or Reigns will only be disappointing. Then there are the issues surrounding Jordan’s complete lack of character development, which will doom him sooner than a disappointing conclusion to this ongoing story arc.
Still, another strong performance against an elite performer only demonstrates that, between the ropes, the former collegiate wrestler has the tools to make it at the top of the roster on Monday nights.
Now, he just needs some help from WWE Creative.
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If anyone thought for a moment Emma was not eating the pin at No Mercy when she, Nia Jax and Sasha Banks challenge Alexa Bliss for the Raw Women’s Championship in a Fatal 4-Way match, that possibility became all the more real Monday night when she lost to The Boss via submission.
Emma has not been presented as anything remotely close to a legitimate threat to any of her three opponents to this point and clean losses to Banks will not help solve that issue.
It has felt like Emma was entered into the September 24 match to eat the pin from whoever leaves with the title from the moment she was announced for the bout. WWE Creative has done nothing to help her build credibility with the audience, further suggesting her role in the match will be one dimensional.
That is the shame of it all: Emma is a superb in-ring performer whose claims to igniting the Women’s Revolution are not unfounded. Her and Paige proved to the entire WWE Universe that women could compete in long, hard-fought matches and keep the audience’s interest.
She was essential to the early acceptance of women’s wrestling in NXT and to see her cast aside, a placeholder of sorts in a match in which she is, at the very least, the second-best wrestler is a major disappointment.
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Braun Strowman continued rolling heading into No Mercy on September 24 this week.
First, he planted universal champion Brock Lesnar with his mighty running powerslam. Then he raised the title high overhead as if to send a message to the typically indestructible Beast Incarnate. The Monster Among Men will not be intimidated, let alone stopped.
He followed that display of destruction up later in the night as he battled John Cena in the night’s highest profile match. Though he did not win, thanks to a disqualification via the use of the ring steps, Strowman obliterated the franchise star with his trademark slam on those same stairs.
By laying waste to the two most recognizable stars on the WWE roster in the same night, Strowman was the beneficiary of a massive push that announced to the fans that he will not be the flavor of the month victim for Lesnar come No Mercy.
His Monday was as impressive as any single night of his massive push to this point.
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Scripted or not, designed to draw heat or not, there is no reason for John Cena to bring up Roman Reigns’ failed Wellness Policy test in the context of an on-screen storyline.
Even if it was written before the show and both parties were absolutely aware the line would be used in the course of the verbal back-and-forth, there was no place for it on Raw. Cena should have been smart enough to call into question the idea of labeling the top star in WWE a potential druggie, which is exactly what happens the moment you mention he cannot pass a drug test.
Whether it is pain pills or steroids, you create a negative image of your supposed top babyface that extends beyond the squared circle.
When you trot Reigns out at a charity function or a meet and greet, you open him up to criticisms that did not need to be dredged back up. You also call into question his morals, something investors may not be all that excited about considering the effort, time and energy being put into ensuring Reigns eventually replaces Cena.
And for what?
A one-off match that does not need such cheap heat to draw interest?
It was wholly unnecessary and something Cena, as the franchise star whose input creatively is valued, should have fought against including. He did not and the result was a single line that may have popped Twitter for a hot second but in the long-term, could do damage to the content of Reigns’ character.