WWE often shoot themselves in the foot or cut off their own nose to spite their face with alarming regularity when it comes to their decision making. Obviously none of their plans are designed to fail (unless you're riding as high as RVD on the conspiracy train) but nevertheless, their best-laid plans can so often amount to pain for viewers and wrestlers alike that you begin to wonder how the show runs each week at all. Fan's blame runs the gamut, from the writers, to production team-members like Kevin Dunn, to the man who all decisions go through, Vince McMahon himself. But even at their worst WWE puts out enough content week to week that for every bad booking decision, there's a good one right around the corner to counterbalance it.
Some of these good decisions are surprising, or long-awaited, or seemingly fall out of the sky so randomly that you can't help but smile. The trick WWE pulls is that if they throw 16 things at the wall every Monday and another dozen every Tuesday they're going to hit you where you live with something eventually.
We may not be in a golden age where the good consistently outweighs the bad entirely, but we're far from the doldrums of a decade ago either. So we're looking at the current state and recent past of WWE to mine those instances of good and bad. Is WWE's difficulty with the Raw main event scene overwhelming the good beneath it? Is Smackdown's underdog status letting it sneak some quality great stuff onto our wrestling plate? Here are 20 recent WWE decisions that broke good and bad.
20 Hurt: The Backlash At Backlash
Roman Reigns vs Samoa Joe, a match that should've been a brutal slugfest but instead was a plodding nightmare for everyone involved. Fans were already wary of this match getting undue main event status over another AJ Styles WWE title defense, but WWE defied all logic and tried to pull a slow one and it backfired all over them.
Joe was clearly instructed to put on the brakes the entire time he was on offense in an attempt to fire fans up for Roman's inevitable comeback, but it just made the entire arena restless.
Fans left before the end of the match, chanted 'beat the traffic', and generally told WWE that this flagrant tactic wasn't going to work.
19 Saved: Instant Shield, Just Add Dean
Coming into SummerSlam and need to ramp up the spice on Raw? Might WWE suggest a splash of freshly prepared Lunatic? At the time Roman was embroiled with Braun and Seth was being hunted by Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre in their Intercontinental Championship feud. Right before the PPV Seth re-introduced a shaved, grumpy lunatic and suddenly everything was just a bit better.
Cut to the night after SummerSlam and before rumors could swirl about when and how The Shield might return, they all came together as a unit, with their old gear to boot, and ratcheted the Raw scene up a few notches in quality by mere presence alone.
18 Hurt: The Disappearance Of The Revival
There's only so many times we can say this, but the marginalization of The Revival is a continuing blight on WWE's Tag Team division. Between The Deleters Of Worlds and then The B-Team, Raw's tag scene was underwater for months on end and The Revival could have, at any time, errr... revived it.
Now, after a potential Match of the Year between The Show and The Shield for the tag belts at Hell In A Cell, we're left to hope that The Revival is inserted somewhere in the title scene to show how good they are as well. They've got direct beef with Ziggler and McIntyre who took their title shot, so fingers crossed they aren't swept aside.
17 Saved: Long-Term Miz/Bryan Feud
Everyone has been waiting forever for Daniel Bryan to get his hands on The Miz, and he did just that at SummerSlam in a singles match that could have been their one-and-done rivalry topper.
But thankfully WWE did the smart thing, realizing that there's so much more juice to squeeze from this believable rivalry.
They had The Miz take a leaf from Bryan's own mentor, William Regal, and use brass knuckles to knock Bryan out cold and claim the victory in their first battle.
Now with Hell In A Cell in the books and Miz and Maryse again victorious, the eventual payoff of Bryan making Miz scream and tap-out is going to be all that much sweeter.
16 Hurt: Paul Ellering Hits The Road
The Authors Of Pain were fresh off of a great run of continual improvement in NXT and fans were hyped for their main-roster introduction when they debuted. What they weren't prepared for was for Paul Ellering, the group's mouthpiece, manager, and seeming spiritual guide to be rejected and dropped that first night. This left the AoP drifting pretty quickly, and soon they weren't appearing on television at all for months.
All momentum for the pair was lost and all while the tag team division clearly needed them to step up. The two are far too impressive to be left in the wake, and thankfully recent developments (stay tuned to this list) should rectify some of this misstep.
15 Saved: Randy Orton Rediscovers Twisted Heel Persona
Randy Orton has come back from injury in the best way possible, as a truly sadistic and vile heel who has no compunctions about the despicable acts he's employing against opponents. He made an entire feud against Jeff Hardy out of simply going for a gross-looking bit of body-manipulation, and he's now primed to take that brand of sick and twisted against the rest of SmackDown, almost certainly WWE Champion AJ Styles.
This is the best Randy has been since he became part of The Wyatt Family, and hopefully it turns out nowhere near as lamely as it did when he broke up from The Wyatt Family.
14 Hurt: Styles/Nakamura Finishes
AJ Styles versus Shinsuke Nakamura should have been one of the great Wrestlemania matches and feuds, and that's what WWE sold it as before they made the mistake of overplaying their hand.
The problems came when the first match ended prematurely, after a slow build, leaving every fan unsatisfied.
Shinsuke's low-blow post-match signified why the match seemed to never get out of second gear, and that was because WWE was scheduling more between the two NJPW alumni, but that didn't save this match from being an underwhelming misfire.
Months of half-struck finishes followed and ultimately reduced this pairing to a muddled history that nobody could have foreseen during the insane hype leading into everything.
13 Saved: McIntyre Paired With Ziggler
Before WrestleMania, everybody was speculating that Dolph was on his last months in WWE or was beyond saving, but now he's in the central conflict every Monday night and riding high. The difference was the introduction of Drew McIntyre, the reformed superstar who gave instant credibility and intensity to Dolph's act and looks like a million bucks himself. The years away did McIntyre good and Dolph is reaping the benefits of the association. Now aligned with Braun Strowman in 'The Pack' or 'Dogs Of War' or 'The Show' (they need to lock down a name for this unit), Dolph and Drew hold the Raw Tag Team Titles and look dangerous doing it.
12 Hurt: John Seat-Filler
For years fans had John Cena as one of the last true marquee matches The Undertaker could have at WrestleMania. They expected a minimum of good drama and action, but even that was too much to ask for. Cena spent the month leading into WrestleMania cutting promos at The Undertaker with varying degrees of mediocrity, and when the big show came around it delivered on that averageness.
Cena sat in the crowd before a WWE referee gave him a heads up, got interrupted by Elias, then finally got The Undertaker to respond. A 3-minute exhibition later, and fans were left wondering why they had to sit through the previous month of wasted time at all.
11 Saved: Wacky R-Truth Is Back
Just when it seemed he had faded from WWE, he came back, looking exactly the same as ever, and picked up with his goofy, addle-brained brand of entertainment that fits wrestling so well.
R-Truth may never get another tilt at the top titles, but he's reliably entertaining and has a unique offense when he gets in the ring to boot.
His current bit about not recognizing Carmella has been good laughs, and Tye Dillinger has slipped into the 'straight-man' part of the act like a natural. Wrestling needs its laughs alongside everything else, and R-Truth is working Smackdown's side of things superbly.
10 Hurt: Carmella Was Ready For Asuka (AKA Ellsworth-gate)
WWE was skating on thin ice when they surprisingly gave Charlotte the WrestleNania streak-breaking victory over Asuka but what followed was utter garbage. With Charlotte needing time off, raising the question of why they gave her the win in the first place, Asuka went on to be humiliated opposite new SmackDown Women's Champion, Carmella. This culminated in the short return of James Ellsworth and multiple segments making Asuka look weak, ineffectual, and downright dumb.
The time Asuka stared at Ellsworth wearing her gear for 80 years until Carmella took advantage was particularly boneheaded. WWE burned Asuka's legitimacy for no good reason and deserve any rebukes they get for it.
9 Saved: A Rowdy Real Deal
Ronda Rousey's integration into the world of Monday Night Raw has been handled about as well as it could have been. She's shown great skill and adaptation in the ring and is also surprisingly quickly finding her voice in interviews and promos.
Much like Kurt Angle nearly two decades ago, she's taken to WWE like a fish to water, and fans are eating it up.
WWE managed to give her a somewhat natural progression to becoming the inevitable Raw Women's Champion, and now she's showing zero signs of losing that momentum leading into Evolution. A good showing there and WWE can consider their investment a thorough success.
8 Hurt: Out-Sanity
Could a team make less of an impact after debuting? Compared to the likes of The Wyatt Family and The Shield, notable 3-man teams of late, SAnitY has pulled a Shockmaster and tripped over themselves coming out of the gate in the most embarrassing way. Loss after loss, as a full team and in multiple duo combinations, they've systematically erased their credibility. Killian Dain's new tights exemplify this process, taking the wild, chaotic force that they are and turning them into cookie-cutter voids that nobody takes seriously. They've not been able to give their chaotic manifesto or get anything approaching character development, and it's done instant damage.
7 Saved: Drake Maverick, Manager Of Pain
Anyone who says they saw this combination coming is a liar who lies. Nevertheless, it's coincided with increased exposure for a great tandem, and gotten Drake Maverick onto Raw which is a bonus as well. These two proved in NXT that they can be a part of extremely wild and impressive tag matches, and with this development giving them direction and a capable voice to advocate for them, there are only good things in their future. If played right these two could be a staple of the burgeoning Raw tag team division for years to come, and the novelty of the diminutive Drake leading them creates more intrigue to go along with that.
6 Hurt: Nia Jax Forgets To Be A Star
WWE did an admirable job positioning the physically imposing Nia Jax as a babyface against the despicable Alexa Bliss, but they threw it all away the moment she was accepted by fans. Nia went from crying about bullying in her promos to offhandedly belittling Ronda Rousey of all people, en route to losing her title at Money In The Bank to the interfering Alexa Bliss.
Nia wasn't seen much or at all after that, not until the post-Hell In A Cell Raw, and it's for the best because WWE sank her character and any fans who were invested in her.
She needed the break to try to flush that mistake from the system, and hopefully, WWE isn't primed to make it all over again.
5 Saved: The HIAC PPV
It's only fresh in the books but WWE did so much right on this show that it warrants lumping them in together. From Becky Lynch winning the Smackdown Women's Title clean, to The Show and The Shield putting on perhaps WWE's Match Of The Year for the Raw Tag Team Titles, Hell In A Cell was a great event. AJ Styles and Samoa Joe had a second great match that promises more in the future, and Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton produced the most creative HIAC singles match in years. Miz and Maryse continuing to stifle Daniel and Brie's revenge topped off the goodness, leaving fans salivating for more... well, not from the Universal Title match, but 7/8 ain't bad.
4 Hurt: Little Finn, Big Baron
The second 'big guy, little guy' feud since WrestleMania, this was Raw's version of the common wrestling trope. Big, newly-bald Baron set his sights on Finn Balor and the two engaged in a seemingly endless series that had little going for it. Baron's taunting of Finn's size was schoolyard level, and Finn's dismissal of Baron and consistent beating of him wore the fans down to a nub. Baron picked up a solitary win in the storyline, but even then it continued and still simmers to today despite nobody being invested. Their SummerSlam encounter somehow warranted the dormant Demon coming out to settle things, and yet it still whimpers on.
3 Saved: Monster Respects The Demon
One of the most fun wrinkles in the story of Braun Strowman the last few months was his choice to befriend Finn Balor.
Among all the bodies he's left laying, most notably Kevin Owens, Braun kept returning to the diminutive demon-host as a worthy opponent, occasional friend and sometimes tag partner.
Among the many wheel-spinning feuds Finn has had the last couple of years, this little relationship has been one of the better things going on in the periphery, and hopefully, it continues despite Braun's new 'Pack' leaving Balor out of the fold. If this comes around again as a point of conflict within The Pack, it'd be even better.
2 Hurt: Little Bryan, Big Cass
The feud that accomplished absolutely nothing and ended with Big Cass being fired from the company to top it all off, this feud accomplished little good and a lot of bad. Daniel Bryan is perpetually hot with any crowd, but WWE did their best to stifle that enthusiasm by putting him in the ring with Big Cass for two months of 'he's little, haha' theater.
Big Cass took this golden opportunity and flushed it away while Bryan did his best to bring some quality out of the big man, but it was all for naught and was nothing but a drain on Smackdown and fans' patience.
1 Saved: Aiden English Is Coming
When Simon Gotch was released, fans of The Vaudevillains could rightly fear for Aiden English's future, but the months since WrestleMania have allayed that fear, where his slow-burn heel turn against Rusev has been exceptionally well done. In fact, they've shown nuance that WWE rarely goes to the trouble of, both in English's acting portrayal, and WWE's willingness to give the story time to unfold.
Both Rusev and English have proven their worth as a tandem, and hopefully, this breakup is the type that both men come out of with increased profiles. A long-term feud between the two should be the end goal, but for now, it's all been good stuff.