The injury to Seth Rollins was absolutely heartbreaking on every level for WWE. Rollins was a workhouse that the company could rely on every week. The story of Rollins vs. Roman Reigns heading into Survivor Series was also a perfect storm, as it was a showdown between two talented wrestlers with a long rivalry and it just felt like the right time for Reigns to become the champion. That didn’t happen as Rollins vacated the title and WWE decided to go with a tournament. Reigns would win the tournament but lose the title in five minutes as Sheamus cashed in to become champion.
Fans strongly disliked how things played out. After the sadness of realizing Rollins was out, there was excitement over how a new champion would be crowned. The magic of mystery will always lead to intrigue and anticipation. There were so many interesting dynamics and fun ways to shake things up but WWE went with the most predictable outcome. They played it painfully safe with the situation that most fans guessed would happen. Past history and common sense tells us that WWE wants Reigns to overcome when he has his first true title reign but when Rollins went out, so did his story of it being the right time for him.
WWE is trying to set up Sheamus as a credible champion for Reigns to challenge but it’s failing badly. Looking at how bleak things are now, you can only second guess and imagine how much better it could have been. A vacated title gave them the freedom to be creative, but WWE failed to stray away from the predictable booking. This list will take a look at various ways the company could have improved the way they handled the crowning of a new champion. Basically any idea would have been better than what actually happened but these are the twelve ways WWE could have done a better job with the vacant title.
12. One Night Tournament
Instead of a 16-man tournament spanning over a few weeks on Raw and SmackDown, the tournament would have been a lot more effective in one night. WWE should have named eight of their top stars and had them wrestle the tournament all at Survivor Series. It would be reminiscent of the old King of the Ring where you would respect the winner for battling through three matches in one night to win the crown. The only flaw would be that it takes up seven matches on the card and with The Undertaker having a tag match scheduled, it would erase everyone else from the show. However, the result of making the title the center of attention for one night would have been worth it.
11. Only Allow Credible Talents in Tournament
One of the biggest mistakes of the tournament was the lack of star power, as they filled out the name with mid-card talent. No one believed Stardust or Titus O’Neil would have a chance at winning a single match in the tournament. For something like this to work, each wrestler needs to have some sort of credibility for the tournament to be viewed as respectable. Big Show hasn’t won a match in quite some time and no one believed he’d get a pus. Why include talent that fans clearly won’t buy into? The tournament should have featured wrestlers who are established, or moving up the card, competing for the title.
10. Make It Less Predictable
From the point the tournament bracket was released, anyone who mildly keeps up with the product could have predicted the final four of Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Kevin Owens and Alberto Del Rio. If Ambrose and Owens weren’t being considered for the title, maybe it would have been best to have them get upset early, to make it seem like anything could happen. Furthering that idea, Owens and Ambrose could have cost each other matches, which would have set up a more interesting Intercontinental Championship program. Neville winning a match over Owens or Breeze eliminating Ambrose would have helped improve their stock while letting it be known that no one is safe in each round.
9. Add A Legend To The Mix
The WWE’s roster depth is not strong enough to easily create interest in every competitor, so the addition of a legend may have been a good way to improve things. Chris Jericho and Rob Van Dam have been in and out of the company over the last few years and seem like obvious and simple choices. The tournament could have been a great way to add a name the fans care about in the final four. WWE would have found better use for them and the tournament process would have played out better. Hell, even someone like The Undertaker or Sting would have caused a big stir. Their ratings are poor with interest dwindling and putting a top tier name into the title picture would have been a temporary solution.
8. Create New Rivalries In Battle For Title
Despite the tournament playing out for weeks, nothing new was really created out of it. Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose are in a feud now after meeting in the semi-finals but the seeds for their program started before the tournament. No new feuds or rivalries were birthed from the early rounds of the tournament and that made it even less significant or relevant. With the roster as depleted as it currently is, WWE should have used it to start new storylines or rivalries for guys like Neville, The Miz, Stardust and King Barrett. The lack of purpose made their matches seem like a glorified Superstars or Main Event taping.
7. Gimmick Matches To Decide New Champ
With the way the tournament played out, it clearly wasn’t going to be storyline driven. For the most part, the tournament consisted of typical wrestling matches. Most of the matches were solid but they all felt the same. The three hours of Raw, two hours of SmackDown and the other smaller shows per week all provide so much content for WWE that it’s become hard to not look at the decent matches as all being the same. The tournament had nothing to set it up apart from the usual matches we see on a weekly basis. Gimmick matches like a Cage Match, Last Man Standing Match or even a thirty-minute Iron Man Match could have made the semi-finals and finals bigger deals.
6. Finn Balor In Tournament
The excitement for the tournament was dampened when the usual stars we see compete against each other were the only competitors. It would have been great for both the tournament and the NXT brand if Finn Balor represented NXT in the tournament, considering he was only “World Champion” in the company after the WWE title was vacated. Yes, Tyler Breeze was in the tournament but he already debuted on the main roster. Balor would have added a new dynamic with the intentions of looking to win the WWE title but keeping his NXT World Championship as well.
5. Create A New Underdog Hero
The tournament was complete chalk. Aside from Kalisto scoring an upset win over Ryback in the first round, every match in the tournament went exactly as everyone expected. We can understand WWE wanting to protect Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens by placing them in the final four but Alberto Del Rio didn’t need to be there. It would have been a great opportunity to add a new underdog with a “Cinderella story.” College basketball benefits from upset stories during March Madness and WWE should have used this to have Neville, Kalisto or someone else make it into the final four while gaining respect in a loss.
4. Elevate New Stars
Can you say anyone in this tournament benefited greatly and improved their place in WWE from where they were before? Roman Reigns may be even worse off now. Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens are in the same place. Alberto Del Rio is still met with silence (thanks to Zeb). Dolph Ziggler and Tyler Breeze are struggling to generate interest in their feud. The lesser names are still irrelevant. The tournament helped no one but Sheamus and his momentum is still extremely slow for a champion. There should have been a game plan to make sure at least three or four people would become more important after competing for the greatest prize in the industry.
3. Allow Reigns vs. Ambrose To Become A Classic
The biggest disappointment from the finals of the tournament was how lackluster the ending was. Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose could have told a stellar story of two best friends doing anything it takes to win the title, including destroying each other. The match was starting to become special, but it ended abruptly and was way too short for such an important match. If the two had a classic (and lengthy) match, it would have helped make the tournament more successful and the title a greater prize. With their current deck, WWE chose the correct two wrestlers for the finals, but they didn’t allow them to make their match a special occasion.
2. Establish Someone As “The Guy”
The worst thing about Sheamus winning the title from Roman Reigns after his cash-in is it continues pointless television. We all know Sheamus is not. and will never be, a true top guy in the John Cena echelon. He may not even be near the second tier, where guys like Randy Orton reside. Many fans wanted Reigns to lose but he’s clearly a better choice to become the next top star of the company. With the war of a long tournament, the winner would have gone through many battles to get the prize and should be whoever WWE thinks can be the next guy to replace Cena as the top star. Reigns is the obvious choice but it could have been Dean Ambrose or Kevin Owens as well. WWE decided to go for a bunt with Sheamus instead of swinging for a home run.
1. Wait Until The Royal Rumble
Maybe the problem with the tournament was that it should not have taken place in the first place. The entire premise was flawed with the current roster and it made for a failure. WWE does not have any competition in the wrestling business and that affords them freedom to do anything they please. They could have easily played things out for a few months and waited until the Royal Rumble to crown a new champion. A thirty-man battle royal would create an atmosphere for surprises, excitement and opportunity. John Cena and Brock Lesnar would be back and add more star power to the equation. The 1992 Royal Rumble is regarded as the best battle royal due to the title being on the line and that could have been matched in 2016.
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