In what we were repeatedly told was one of the most historic nights in the history of Raw, WWE actually lived up to that hype by making some history: Bobby Lashley became the new WWE Champion and only the third Black man to hold the title after The Rock and Kofi Kingston.
Well, let me amend the above statement: they kind of lived up to that statement. There were shenanigans prior to the historic moment that nearly prevent it from happening.
To put it another way, was the payoff of seeing Lashley as the new WWE Champion worth the bait-and-switch booking on WWE Raw?
Look, at least we did get this amazing image and moment. Just look at the pure emotion on Lashley’s face as he holds his newly won WWE Championship above his head.
It’s also heartwarming to see just how many of his peers have congratulated Lashley through Twitter. Tweet after tweet after tweet just keep pouring in for Lashley. His former manager, Lio Rush, also tweeted his congratulations to the new champ.
Of course, M.V.P. had his say, too.
Now, with all that being said, the path was a meandering. cumbersome one that may have detracted from the historical moment a little.
Let’s first remember that this dates back to last week’s episode where The Miz said he needed a little more time, one more week to give Lashley his already agreed-upon WWE Championship match.
Last week was Lashley’s best night on the mic I can remember, capped by this: “You’re wasting my time, Miz. If you’re wasting my time, you’re wasting my money.” It fits so well with The Hurt Business persona since they’re all about, well, business and making money.
That laid the context for tonight, where it was announced that the match would take place at the top of the second hour.
Then this happened:
Mind you, Lashley was already in the ring waiting for The Miz to enter. In a subtle move that showed Lashley’s intelligence, rather than decimate The Miz in the back, he merely grabbed him, sent a message, and left.
If there’s no match, there’s no title change after all.
At the top of the third hour, the match happened!…Kind of.
As The Miz told Shane McMahon and Adam Pearce later, the match technically counted and was technically a title defense. However, even though it fits The Miz’s character, it was “bulls**t” to use M.V.P.’s uttered adjective.
Later, The Miz was apoplectic that McMahon threatened to strip him of the title if he didn’t have a legitimate match. McMahon ensured there would be an definitive ending by making it a lumberjack match.
Kudos to WWE for having The Hurt Business members and Tag Team Champion Cedric Alexander & Shelton Benjamin not only lead the lumberjacks, but be the ones to throw The Miz back into the ring the last time before Lashley won the match.
So…was it worth the payoff?
As with most situations, that depends. If you’re taking a narrow view and looking purely at the result, then sure, it was worth the squeeze. If you look at it from a larger contextual lens that extends beyond this feud, it’s probably going to veer toward no.
WWE loves their swerves, after all; it’s just too bad too many of these end up as negatives rather than positives. It’s to the point that WWE knows we’re expecting a swerve, so they’ll swerve the swerve of the swerve of the swerve, well, you see what I’m saying.
The only good swerve is if we’re discussing the abilities of one Isaiah “Swerve” Scott.
Because of the lack of boundaries between kayfabe and real life in modern wrestling, coupled with the high rate of information being disseminated, I can understand the desire to have swerves in the short-term.
Long-term, it just makes nothing feel important or unexpected since we’re already expecting it to happen.
Honestly, until Lashley hit his beautiful one-armed spinebuster on The MIz, I was waiting for Morrison jumping in to get his partner disqualified. The Miz even tried starting the match by being disqualified, only the thwarted by Lashley.
WWE also probably wanted to draw more viewers (or have them stick around) for their third hour, usually their lowest viewed and rated hour . It’s a cheap ploy that isn’t worth the gamble.
It will be interesting to see how much of a decline there was from hours one to three. Not all of that can be attributed to the bait-and-switch, but I would hazard a guess to say a a good portion can.
Congratulations to the new WWE Champion Bobby Lashley! It’s not his fault WWE strung him along so much with the bait-and-switch, but it was rather cathartic seeing him whoop The Miz so decisively and become the new title holder.
Let’s just hope the swerves don’t make their way into Lashley’s reign…but they will, won’t they?