Bad booking is a mainstay of WWE’s programming. As fans, we know this, and we accept that sometimes, the match that the bookers want to show us just can’t happen for one reason or another, so we get a second best option, or even a third best option, just depending on who’s available on the night and can fill in. This is perfectly acceptable, and we know that not every match can be a great one. What really gets us upset, however, is when a match that’s meant to be the main event becomes something no one wants to see.
Case in point, Braun Strowman vs. Dean Ambrose as the main event on Raw 21st March. On the one hand, you might think this looks like a good match; Strowman is a mountain of a man, like Lesnar, and so it makes sense to pit Ambrose against him pre-WrestleMania. It gives Ambrose a chance to show his violence against someone like Lesnar, without taking too much of the excitement away from that fight. In theory. In practice, what we got was a poorly planned match involving a wrestler no one cares about fighting a fan favourite who couldn’t even hold the crowd. Not even Paul Heyman at ringside could save this match – and that’s a damning phrase.
Now, a Philly crowd is always mouthy about what they do and don’t like out of a night, but they were given a Raw with a miserable main event, full of nothing matches that didn’t matter – the Diva’s match was the only one that felt like there was anything at stake, and that was due to Sasha and Becky on commentary, not anything happening in the ring. You only have to look at our recap to see that, because even the ‘this is boring’ chant was lacklustre. You could almost think all the hot-blooded Philly fans had headed home already, so disappointed that they couldn’t be bothered to stay and hurl abuse. The only plus of the match was Dean getting disqualified as he swung a chair at Strowman and took him down for Dirty Deeds on it – but not even this saved the match.
The main issue was Dean’s speed. He had to slow right down to work with Strowman, in a way which doesn’t help his usual style, and made the match sluggish compared to the usual rate of movement we expect to see from Ambrose, whoever he’s matched up with. The other was that in an effort not to make Ambrose look overly strong before he heads into his street fight with Brock Lesnar, they had him go down to some easy, basic moves that should never have touched him. You felt the whole arena roll their eyes as Dean lay beneath Strowman time after time, because this is a man who doesn’t ever stop moving, stop bouncing, stop fighting back – and on Monday night, that’s what they had him do.
Bad booking can be excused when it’s a match in the middle of the card, or out of necessity due to injury. But not when you book a main event that’s supposed to further your storyline for the biggest event in the calendar, and get it so wrong that people are disappointed to be watching a match with their favourite in. When you’re setting up for the biggest event of your year, booking a disappointing match doesn’t work – they wasted Jericho against Fandango, of all people, and time on the Golden Truth thing, as well as Dudleys vs. Usos, when Jericho vs. Ambrose would have been a hell of a match to see. That would have given us two speedy, stiff workers going at each other in a way that would showcase Dean’s violence and aggression ahead of WrestleMania. Instead, what we go was a slow, ponderous match that no one – including those in the ring, it seemed – cared about.
So what did you think? Was the match poorly booked, or were we just disappointed because the rest of Raw was so lacklustre? Let us know in the comments.